Monday, June 12, 2006

Civis Americanus
I've used this West Wing quote before. Bear with me—when you're done reading it, I'm going to makea point:

President Bartlett: Did you know that two thousand years ago a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world free of the fear of molestation? He could walk across the Earth unharmed, cloaked only in the protection of the words civis Romanus — I am a Roman citizen. So great was the retribution of Rome, universally understood as certain, should any harm befall even one of its citizens. Where was Morris's protection, or anybody else on that airplane? Where was the retribution for the families, and where is the warning to the rest of the world that Americans shall walk this Earth unharmed, lest the clenched fist of the most mighty military force in the history of mankind comes crashing down on your house?! In other words, Leo, what the hell are we doing here?!

Leo: We are behaving the way a superpower ought to behave.

Bartlett: Well our behaviour has produced some crappy results, in fact I'm not a hundred per cent sure it hasn't induced it.

Leo: What are you talking about?

Bartlett: I'm talking about two hundred and eighty-six American marines in Beirut, I'm talking about Somalia, I'm talking about Nairobi-

Leo: And you think ratcheting up the body count's gonna act as a deterrant?

Bartlett: You're damn right I-

Leo: Then you are just as stupid as these guys who think capital punishment is going to be a deterrant for drug kingpins. As if drug kingpins didn't live their day to day lives under the possibility of execution, and their executions are a lot less dainty than ours and tend to take place without the bother and expense of due process. So, my friend, if you want to start using American military strength as the arm of the Lord, you can do that. We're the only superpower left. You can conquer the world, like Charlemagne! But you better be prepared to kill everyone. And you better start with me, because I will raise up an army against you and I will beat you!
Now read this story about an American teen kidnapped by Palestinian gunmen:
An IDF source said that Fishbein's US citizenship had saved his life since the "last thing the Palestinians want is to open a new front against the Americans." Had the kidnappers succeeded in abducting an Israeli national the outcome, the source said, would have been very different. "Their decision to release him was because they didn't want to deal with the hot potato otherwise known as the US," the source added.
Ha'aretz adds:
"Apparently, the kidnappers did not want to end up like Zarqawi," a defense official said.
Maybe ratcheting up the body count could accomplish something after all.

You know, it's really starting to drive me a little nuts how quickly most people now condemn the Iraq war as a foolish distraction from what's really wrong with the world. If we weren't in Iraq, Katrina wouldn't have killed people. If we weren't in Iraq, we could be devoting more money to discover alternative energy sources. If we weren't in Iraq, we could have captured Bin Laden.

Well you know what? If we weren't in Iraq, Zarqawi would still be alive and aiming to torture and kill innocent people. Same for Saddamn, and any number of his stooges and henchmen. If we weren't in Iraq, there would be one fewer democracy in the world—another country who cannot stand up for herself and her people. Sure it's a fledgling democracy at best. And no, we don't yet know how this will turn out. Sure, it could turn out that we've wasted our efforts. It may even seem likely at this point.

But is that really an argument that we shouldn't even try?

Let's look briefly at the flipside. Suppose—just suppose that more and more groups decide not to target Americans for fear of retribution. Suppose that the teetering Iraqi democracy learns to stand on its own two feet eventually, and sets an example of freedom that arab countries have never before seen. In fact, read the cartoon at the left (click on the image for a larger view) by Chris Muir at DayByDay, which makes this argument better than I could ever hope to. Anyway, suppose that logic works out—a possibility that no one I've met has been able to disprove, which makes me wonder why they are so quick to dismiss it—wouldn't this all have been worth it? Won't we have done far more to protect Americans and defeat the insidiously evil monsters who would slaughter as many innocents as time allows if they could than withdrawing from the Middle East and trusting them to leave us alone?

You think on that. And anyone who wants to give me an intelligent alternative way of approaching the situation please do.

Obnoxious emails (i.e. calling me an idiot, etc.) and comments will be deleted.


Satiric Phenomenologist said...

Zarqawi was indeed a vicious murdering thug and Saddam, a brutal and bloodthirsty dictator. I agree. But to use their capture/death as evidence that the "War on Terror" is working, is to dangerously simplify a complex situation. Thanks to our "shoot first and ask questions later (if at all)" approach to diplomacy we have transformed Reagan's vision of a shinning city on the hill into a place that makes you squint when you look at it. Yeah... people still flock to our shores. That's true. But it's not for our founding fathers' great experiment. Not anymore. People come here for the cash.

In the land of the "drive through" restaurant and the "drive by" shooting, perhaps our current "drive past" world awareness via cable news channels is nothing short of inevitable. It is the path of critical inquiry, however, that creates a knowledgeable citizenry. Sadly, we prefer the easily digestable and repeatable sound bite.

Worse yet, for a majority of Americans, political affiliation seems to have morphed into something quite similar to religious affiliation. Once a person aligns with either the democrats or the republicans, faith begins to exclude reason.

A free society demands otherwise. I gave my vote to Clinton during the 90s. Yet I am fully aware of his central role in the deaths of thousands of Irais through his support of the UN sacntions spearheaded by the Bush 1 administration. I would have preferred more choices - real choices - not the kind that serve as a wasted vote.

Critical reflection keeps my mind open to new perspectives. It motivates me to seek the questions neither party wants us to ask. To me, the evidence of Bush's failed leadership across a vast spectrum of issues is astounding (I believe that ultimately, history will be unkind to him and his leigons will undoubtedly change the subject whenever it comes up). Yet for unknown reasons (my guesses include: insecurity, feelings of powerlessness, and downright fear) conservatives (or those who used to be conservative and have silmply kept the name) have been unable to realize that he has failed the great majority of them as well.

I confess. I use my blog as a place to rant and rail against the right. But in the end, I must admitt I just don't understand republicans. I just wish that more republicans could admid that they don't understand most democrats either. Just like you, we want to live in a strong and free country. Just 'cus we don't lob bombs quite so indescriminantly doesn't say a thing about our patriotism. Personally, I'm tired of squinting. I'd like to have the shining city back again.

RFTR said...

I appreciate your honesty, though wish you'd addressed the points I raise more directly.

I am not trying to use Zarqawi's death as evidence that the policy is working—merely as evidence that perhaps there's more to the policy than most on the left are willing to admit. It goes directly at your admission that you don't understand Republicans.

Too many on the left dismiss the idea that setting up a democracy in the Middle East might be a worthwhile endeavor, and reject offhand the idea that it could ever be accomplished—underestimating both American resolve and the right of a people to live in freedom and self-rule.

As far as wishing that there'd be more of an attempt to understand the other side... well, I'll admit that there's plenty of intolerance on my side of the aisle. But you should also be sure to look to your own house. I've spent most of my life in a liberal world—first at very liberal high school, and then at one of the most liberal universities on the planet. I have plenty of experience with and understanding of modern liberalism.

I'll admit, I like some of what I've seen, and I've adopted some of it—but not once have Democrats done anything to cause me to modify my underlying philosophies, despite numerous opportunities.

I also spent a solid year and a half regularly visiting and posting on DailyKos, trying to explain what I believe and to understand those who disagreed with me. I was regularly attacked with vitriolic hatred, and eventually banned. I assure you that nothing I did warranted that. They may not have liked what I had to say, but they still should have opened up to maybe learn something about the opposition—about another way of viewing the world.

Either way, I agree that there's a lot to be done to expose each side to the other. At the same time, I think you're probably barking up a tree that doesn't much care. I've given and continue to give the other side opportunities to engage in tolerant debate. I've had some takers, and become quite close to many of them—I even dated a Deaniac in the spring of '04, if you can believe it. I hope to find more from whom I can learn and whom I can teach.

Maybe you'll join that stable. I invite you back, and will check out your blog. Thanks for commenting.

Jenn of the Jungle said...

You're an idiot!!!


Great writing. Miss our chats.... the least you could do was e-mail me occasionally to let me know you're still alive.

As for Satiric.. at least he admits his "Righty hatred".

But he needs to understand the fact that I, as a REPUBLICAN, do understand most Democraps. That's why I am a Republican in the first place.

And if he thinks any country, let alone ours, was ever a "shiney city", he's smoking crack, and needs help.

RFTR said...

So, it turns out that Satiric Phenomenologist simply cross-posted from his blog over here. It was nice how his post dove-tailed with my own—but still frowned upon throughout most of the blogosphere.

Also, when he says he "rants" at his blog, he isn't kidding. I'm just not sure how someone can claim to long for a "shining city" and then post the kind of crap that he does. I invited you, as an example to read this post. I think you'll find that he isn't nearly as worthy of your time as you may have originally thought based on the above comment.

Jenn of the Jungle said...

That's just wrong. In my world we call people who that "attention whores".

Exile said...

to more directly address the point of your post:

I remember that WestWing episode well, and I remember the first time I heard bartlett deliver that rousing speech and thought how great it would be a have a president with that desire to protect america and the erudition to express himself passionately AND articulately.

BUT, as I have grown a bit older, I realize why Leo says what he says. he is not 100 percent correct, but overall he is correct.

case in point, Israel, which regularly "rachets up the body count" deals with far worse from Palestinians. For certain terrorists fear Israeli retribution, but their fear is apparently not strong enough to deter expressions of hatred.

I think the reticence that was expressed to harm an american citizen is more sensibly explained as a combinationo of things - 1) that america directly or indirectly controls the purse strings of much of the foreign aid given to peoples like those in Palestine and 2) fear of military strength 3) realization that their succes partiually depends on public opinion that seems to tolerate isaeli death fairly well, but not the killing of americans, or EU citizens

As to your point about Iraq, I agree that too many people are too quick to dismiss the possibility of a favorable outcome. BUT you CANNOT 1) call the iraqi government a "working... democracy" unless you are willing to define a working democracy as one that
1)does not have a monopoly on the exercise of force
2) is still not fully past the debate about whether or not to dissolve the nation

and what that jenn person says goes double for me. its all fine and dandy for you to be busy with work, but sometimes your pals need to know that you are okay and maintaining a good ideological equilibrium (which if it gets out of balance makes you an intolerable wretch). besides I might be in the same state as you and might be throwing a party and you might have been invited