I am a Western liberal. I believe marijuana should be legalized, that gays should have the right to marry, that euthanasia is valid for medically hopeless cases, that women should have an unfettered right to abortion, that evolution should be taught to our children unimpeded by religious claptrap, that access to sex education and contraception should be strong and vigorous, etc.
And I believe that war should be waged on authoritarian states. Like Myanmar, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Iraq. And I believe this is a great liberal instinct that I have.
Please note something about my four examples: the most intransigent of cases only, where authoritarianism is longstanding, where change from within- bloody or bloodless, is near impossible, and where the actual amounts of atrocities committed by the kleptocracies are worse than the reasonable amounts of suffering caused by invasion. So there is no slippery slope. I am being very cautious in my determination. I am talking about those regimes, and only those regimes, where the illegitimacy of the government is well-agreed upon, by both those outside, and inside the country, by a large majority. It is "invade, only in the most hopeless and horrible and longstanding of cases", not "invade, at the slightest hiccup". I do not mention Iran or China for example. Change from within is a real possibility in those countries, and the suffering is abstract, not concrete.
I believed in invading Iraq before 9/11. And I believe that the balance of the American middle have come to see what I see only after 9/11 because a simple truth was demonstrated by that event: suffering somewhere is suffering everywhere. This is a liberal notion. The great middle in other rich Western countries have not come to see the war on Iraq as valid, because they were not the direct targets of 9/11. They are targets of plenty of similar atrocities, but none so great and sudden, and so there is no momentum behind the desire and reason to fight for the extension of their democratic principles to places where such principles are not enjoyed.
No one realizes that suffering somewhere is suffering everywhere until they actually start suffering. This is the blindness of selfishness. 9/11 demonstrated this to the American people: their happiness is tied to the hopelessness of nondemocratic regimes in the Middle East. They didn't see that before. So the odds of invading Iraq were zero on 9/10, but were much better than zero on 9/12. The inevitable was demonstrated to the American people. It wasn't demonstrated to the Danes, so the Danes didn't invade Iraq. But this doesn't make the Danes' anti-war stance smarter, just more inert. The moral authority always was, and always will be, with those who will fight to relieve the suffering of others. The moral authority does not belong to the Americans, but simply to those who act. It has nothing to do with the United States. It is a global, moral, and liberal ideal in play here, not a geopolitical one.
Unfortunately, in this world, it takes the collusion of your own selfish interests to bring that moral authority to bear. It is a shame then that no one except the USA and its coalition acted. However, others who defied the USA in 2003 would act with the USA, undeniably so, should their own suffering be increased greatly by suffering elsewhere in the world in a cataclysmic event similar to 9/11 in their own land. But right now, the Germans and the French just don't have a 9/11 style event yet to demonstrate to them how suffering in Zimbabwe or Myanmar or North Korea relates to suffering in France or Germany. Sure they have horrible events propagated on their countrymen related to foreign suffering, but nothing of the scale and suddenness to focus their attention like 9/11 focused the attention of Americans.
I don't think anyone will act unless their immediate selfish interests can be demonstrated. I'm just saying that everyone's selfish interests are tied to suffering elsewhere, even very far away, whether they realize it or not. It is a shame then that it takes something like 9/11 for people to realize this, but the fact that the necessity to act on Iraq existed before 9/11 is indisputable. Just like the need to act on Zimbabwe, North Korea, or Myanmar is indisputable right now, but won't happen, until the truly atrocious happens because of the suffering in those places that is happening right now. Welcome to human shortsightedness: problems don't get fixed until cataclysms occur, no matter how many warnings you get. Misery breeds more misery, it grows and spreads. You will either fight it now, in its weaker state but when how it affects you is not clear, or fight it later, when it is stronger but how it affects you is clearer. Wisdom, learning from history and not wanting to repeat our past mistakes, that is what motivates my liberal global notion to invade truly bottom-of-the-barrel basket case regimes where the chance for internal change is hopeless (and ONLY those regimes).
Global Concerns, not American Concerns
I don't want the USA to be the world's policeman. Because I don't care about the USA. Fuck the USA. I repeat: fuck the USA. I care about an idea, not a place. The idea is that those who benefit from democratic principles and freedoms should extend them to those who don't. This is a liberal idea, this is a moral idea. And it has nothing to do with the United States whatsoever.
The governments in these 4 countries alone: Myanmar, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Iraq, are (were) not legitimate in the eyes of their own people, or anywhere else in the world, for a long time, even as great atrocities are (were) committed by these governments on their own people. It is not valid to wage war on China, for example, simply because the yardstick of great suffering, for a long time, unpopularity in the eyes of its people, etc., has not been met. That may change for China, and if it does, peaceful change from within is superior, and patience should be allowed to see if such internal resistance is fruitful. Likewise with Iran. But in many places, like North Korea, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Iraq, the callousness of the authorities precludes (precluded) the possibility of change from within. The world cannot and should not stand by, but it does, simply out of inertia. Events like 9/11 wake the people up from such inertia.
The world should act on clearly, well-established illegitimate governments. Ideologically, this idea is a liberal one. But if the will of the world is not as one, the liberal necessity to act does not go away. When the will of one country, such as the USA, to act, goes against the conventional wisdom and inertia of others, it does not invalidate their right to act, because they are married to a principle that is still sound, even if the will of the world is not with them. The rest of the world is simply not focused on what really matters. And even if other agendas are the impetus for the action, such as conservative ones in the USA, that a liberal cause is served should still prevail as the overriding indication.
I believe that fighting for those suffering under clearly corrupt, illegitimate, nondemocratic governments is a noble, liberal cause. I believe that the extension of democracy is a valid reason to wage war, for liberal reasons. And yet I am a drop in a sea of liberal opinion that flows the other way. I believe though that my position will only grow over time, and eventually, rightfully, gain steerage of liberal causes again, and take control away from liberal thinking that is driven more by disillusionment and malaise than any real ideological conviction.
The Ivory Tower
There is a school of thinking that says you never have to lift arms against anyone to improve this world in terms of peace and prosperity. But the American middle understands the truth: progress is a struggle. It's messy and ugly, and replete with good intentions gone bad, innocent bystanders hurt, and choices between plans of action that are subtle shades of grey in difference between the negative effects of both. There are no clean choices. This observation is independent of ideological intent. Whether you have a leftist agenda, or a rightist agenda, these observations apply.
There is no valid leftist school of thought that says the leftist agenda is served by not fighting at all. Because there is no such thing as a plan of action that is simple and hurts no one. If your standard for action is exactly that: only act when it's simple and hurts no one, then you will never act on anything, ever, and you will not serve your agenda, or any other agenda for that matter, ever. In fact, in a world where a lot of leftists think their agenda is served by not fighting at all, you get exacty what is happening in the world: the rightist agenda gets served and expands in influence, the leftist agenda withers.
It is simple naivete and ignorance to think that peace and prosperity in this world for the downtrodden is achieved by doing no war. You either really don't care about Iraqis or Burmese, or North Koreans or Zimbabweans, and you use their struggle as a shallow propagandistic prop to those already indoctrinated into your worldview, or you really believe in helping Iraqis, etc., and you simply don't understand that the world is actually populated by people with bad intent who will easily repel you.
Of course those in the ivory tower in the West will look down on those in the mud in a bitter ugly struggle and bemoan all of the struggle, both sides of it, simply because it is ugly. Such a position makes sense to them because life in the rich Western ivory tower is all they know. The real world isn't as cut and dry and simple as it is up in their hermetically sealed, climate controlled ivory tower. But they don't know that. So they open their mouths with great conviction and high holy withering caustic contempt. Just like any teenager knows the answers to all the problems in the world simply because they don't know what real life is like at all.
Such rich Western coccooned individuals aren't helping anyone in the Middle East, at all, in any way whatsoever. And yet these are the first people to appeal to the suffering of Iraqis. This phenomenon: appealing to the suffering of the downtrodden to justify not helping the downtrodden is inconceivable, but very common. It's alternatingly humorous and maddening, such loud, righteous ignorance of the reality of the dynamics of real progress in the real world.
I Fucked Her, and Made Her a Virgin
It is a frequent refrain: "You can't fuck for virginity" as a call against waging war for peace. Except that, you CAN fuck for virginity. The real world is replete with phenomena that appears to be logical contradictions or enigmas on the surface, but make sense when you understand the dynamics of how the real world and real human nature works. In other words: you abort unwanted fetuses to help children. You allow gay marriage to strengthen family values. Both of these statements are true, and are liberal notions, and yet, are surface contradictions.
A mother who can't support an unwanted and therefore unloved child should be allowed the option to abort an unwanted fetus so that she can arrive at a more economically and emotionally supportive environment to bring into this world a wanted, loved child. She shouldn't be forced to support an unwanted mistake, while the father is simply unseen and allowed to get away with impregnation and then desertion. Likewise, a loving gay couple can raise an adoptive or alternatively conceived child in a superior fashion to plenty of heterosexual couples who, for many common reasons, make awful dysfunctional parents. Why should one be allowed to exist and the other denied? The bottom line is the raising of healthy, happy, well-loved children, not simple biology of conception.
And so the surface contradiction goes: peace is achieved by the outward exertion of ideologically superior ideas. Peace is not achieved when ideologically repugnant ideas like authoritarianism are allowed to exist and blossom unopposed. An ideology exerts an outward pressure, and blossoms, or it doesn't exert an outward pressure, and it dies. In other words, believe it or not, peace is served by war. You can fuck for virginity. Virginity is not a stable state of existence: you eventually have sex, just like never fighting for your beliefs is not a stable state of existence: your beliefs will be challenged some day, and you must fight for them, or change your mind, or submit to inferior ideas. People who never fuck die leaving no children, and fade from the earth. Just as those who don't fight for what they believe leave no ideological offspring, and fade from the Earth.
Bush: the Liberal's Tool
9/11 simply made it apparent to people in middle America that peace and prosperity in the Middle East affects them as well. Let those in the ivory tower bemoan the fact that there are people suffering and struggling for peace and prosperity in this world. But standing on the sidelines, and proclaiming that you will do nothing for or against the struggle in the Middle East, simply means you don't matter to that struggle. The American people: they matter, and they know it.
That is why we had 4 more years of Bush in 2004: Bush is a retarded fratboy, but he's a retarded fratboy who will fight. Those who oppose him offer nothing superior, because they offer nothing at all. That is why Bush won 4 more years in the eyes of those who voted for him. 10,000 geniuses, whose sum total of their intelligence amounts to "do nothing" are worth less in this world than one retarded fratboy who says "we should fight". Because acting MAKES A DIFFERENCE, and making a difference is what matters. In this world, there is being right, and there is acting. Being right and acting in this world are positions that are often at odds. But the unfortunate truth of reality is that acting always defeats being right.
If your intent is good, even if your intelligence is lacking, you matter more in this world than 10,000 geniuses who have no intent at all. Because good intent can be reeducated. What can you do with no intent at all? Nothing. You're irrelevant. So dear left: do you want to control the White House in 2008? Then have the backbone to fight. Fight for what? YOUR OWN AGENDA. There is no left or right struggle in the Middle East? You don't want to matter to it or think you can't matter to it or shouldn't matter to it? Well there are bad intentioned people in the Middle East who think they can matter to the left or right struggle in the West: they flew airplanes into buildings on 9/11, they try to influence. Don't you think influence flows both ways? Or is it your position that it is ok for bad ideas from the Middle East to try to influence the West, but that the West, for good or bad, shouldn't try to influence the Middle East, that is a sin. Huh?
The American people know that there is a fight in this world, and they matter to it, and they will suffer for it: the lessons of 9/11. Simply proclaiming to them that all the American people should do is retire from the world and go to sleep is a line they don't buy. So try a new line: fight, but fight for (these) ideals, and fight in (this) way. Then the American people will listen to you, and vote for you. But saying "don't fight" simply dooms us to 50 more years of conservatives in the White House. Do you like that idea? No? Then FIGHT damnit!
Do you want to defeat conservative assholes? Then proclaim an alternative course of action. But proclaiming that no action in the Middle East at all is a superior position is something the American middle does not buy, and they would be correct not to buy it, because it's an invalid position, no matter WHAT your ideology. Ideology exerts an outward pressure on the world, or it withers.
Let me say that again: ideology exerts an outward pressure on the world, or it withers. Do you disagree with that? Do you dislike this fact? I'm sorry. You're also going to die someday. I'm sure you don't like that idea either. But not liking the fact that you will die someday still won't change that simple truth. Likewise, no matter how much you don't like the fact that you fight in an ugly struggle for your ideology or your ideology withers, does not change that simple truth of reality. I'm sorry you don't like to fight war, I'm sorry it's ugliness repels you. Guess what: there's no valid alternative.
So please, condemn me, shoot the messenger. It does not matter. By doing so, you simply wall yourself off some more from reality in your high holy ivory tower, where you can simply snap your fingers and everyone lives in peace and harmony. But when you actually want to make a difference to the great struggles in your world for progress, listen to me, a fellow liberal, and fight. I don't lose if you don't listen to me, you do. Your position on fighting in the Middle East: do nothing, simply means that you are irrelevant to what you say you care about. I think you want to matter. So wake up.
The Ancient Liberal Tradition
Who am I? I am a liberal. A real liberal. A liberal in the mold of the great liberals who cut their teeth in the 1800s, in the struggles for the right of women to vote, against slavery, against aristocracy and class structure and unfettered predatorial social darwinistic capitalism, etc. Great struggles that the left has won against the right in times past.
Unfortunately, the left wasted it's energies in the struggle for a bad liberal idea in the 1900s: communism, and so a lot of them are filled with disillusionment and malaise about fighting for anything today. All of that effort for nothing but some laughing Reagan worshipping conservative assholes who won the fight against communism not so much because they fought the fight well, but because the basic idea of communism is flawed. Communism as an idea goes against a simple, ugly, but undeniable fact of human nature: greed. However, the malaise of those on the left who can not or will not fight for leftist ideas because of the (deserved) defeat of communism I believe is a temporary state of affairs.
I believe the great liberal thinkers and actors of times past are an inspiration to me, and the left will rise again. And to do so, there has to be more liberals like me: those who will fight. And so me, a liberal, I find myself in an absurd situation. On the issue of war in Iraq, I hitch my wagon to retarded Bush in the White House. Conservatives are evil, but conservatives are a known quantity, easily defeated. The left has trounced and defeated stingingly and mopped the floor with the right in eras before, and we can do it again. Fuck the evil conservative right I say.
But I know what I am fighting for in the Middle East: the extension of democracy, the defeat of theocracy and authoritarianism. That is a noble, liberal, conviction. And unfortunately, in this world, my closest allies are assholes on the right who will fight for their convictions. Why? Because they will FIGHT, and so they are closer to me than the naive on the left who will simply not fight, and think that their position somehow is supposed to matter in the real world outside their insulated rich, Western ivory tower.
When the sleeping great left wakes again, I will celebrate. Until then I must suffer the deluded ignorant teenaged fools who are liberal by classification, but not truly liberal by intent. This is the great victory of conservative propaganda and right wing demagogues: that pessimism, nihilism, indifference, and cynicism are liberal notions. Oh how I wish we could jettison the pointless uncaring unknowning cynics, and how I wish real liberals could recognize how little they have in common with these empty malcontents.
I write these words after drinking a strong espresso. Forgive my bombastic words. But Lenin and Marx and Trotsky would nod knowingly and roll their eyes and smile, as the same enervating brew fueled their exaltations in coffeehouses so many decades ago. At the dawn of the 1900s ideas that were brewed in Vienna's Cafe Central started some of the greatest struggles of that century:
A well-known story states that an Austrian politician, asked about the possibility of a revolution in Russia, remarked sarcastically: "Who is going to make a revolution? Perhaps that Trotsky from the Café Central?"
We are still feeling the ripples of thoughts that started in a few great liberal's minds in the early 1900s and late 1800s and cascaded across continents and billions of lives. The great liberal struggles of this century, let it begin in the same coffee-fueled humble ways. The communists of the 1900s made a difference, unfortunately founded on a bad liberal idea. Those in the 1800s made a difference, and on good ideas: suffrage, emancipation. Let the liberal struggles of the 2000s be the same as the 1800s.
The Great Liberal Future
The left is not dead, only disillusioned and temporarily drained of strength. Let it find the will to fight again. The deluded ones on the left who believe in not fighting have the strongest signal today, simply because liberals like me are divided and drained. That will change. As the corpse of communism withers away, a new liberal strength will emerge, with its energies focused on true, valid global liberal causes in this world, unfettered by the corpse of the bad dead liberal idea of communism and the disillusionment and malaise it delivered on the validity of the call to liberal action.
Keep laughing Conservatives. But make it last, because you won't be laughing long. I know what delight and glee it fills you with to see so much of the left so hopeless and nihilistic and easily defined by your own stereotypical propaganda. I know how successful you've been in equating pessimism and cynicism with liberalism, mainly because so many pessimists and cynics actually believe themselves to be liberal, and so many liberals believe nihilists and hopeless helpness cases are of their kind... when none of this is true. Your propaganda has been very effective at attaching these sycophants to the definition of liberalism in the minds of the great middle. But the spirit of true liberalism is not dead. I will fight you. I will wage the war you know how to fight. I will use your tactics. I will grow in influence.
And I will defeat you. As I have done so in so many decades and centuries past. Conservatism is evil and immoral. Unlike many of my liberal brethren, I know the conservative agenda does not have a monopoly on the definitions of or the conceptions of good and evil, morality and immortality. I know how your aristocracy-creating, common man-punishing policies and simplistic social precepts and fundamentalist religious edicts are evil, in the true sense of the word, and immoral, in the true sense of the word.
This world is populated by doers, and talkers. Let the dead weight of the talkers be lifted from liberal convictions, and let liberal doers prevail. Ideology is war. Rich western liberals don't know what I am talking about when I say that. Global liberals, those suffering and fighting in Zimbabwe, Myanmar, North Korea, Iraq, they know who I am and what I am talking about. Leftists in Bolivia and elsewhere in South America know what I am talking about. Che Guevara would know what kind of liberal I am.
The moron Bush frequently talks about the fight for freedom. Have we forgotten what a great liberal dream that was? Are we so overwhelmingly cynical? The conservatives do not own the word freedom, it is a liberal notion. Let us wrest that notion back from their empty propaganda, and give birth to the real global fight for freedom, free of the many local idiocies, "liberal" and conservative, that mire a true interpretation of the word. Neoisolationism, provincialism: these are conservative ideas, so let us real liberals free ourselves of the do-nothings who are supposedly liberal, but only make themselves busy with domestic affairs. Liberal and global and freedom-loving. Willing to fight for liberal beliefs on the global stage. The REAL anti-Al Qaeda.
Viva La Revolución
I believe that the solution to the world's problems lie in people's citizenship being to that of the world, not to a particular country. I am not an American citizen, I am a citizen of the world. Therefore, I don't see it as Iraqis or Americans fighting tyranny, but human beings fighting tyranny.
If Canada invaded the American state of New York, and an army battalion from Texas rushed to the aid of New York, would it matter that the army battalion came from Texas instead of New York? No. All citizenship within the borders of the USA is the same. So why should it matter, if the world were a truly just place, whether or not those who aid Iraqis fighting Saddam are their fellow Iraqis, or Americans, or Danes, or Guatemalans, or Filipinos, or anyone? It should make no difference. Do human rights end at the Rio Grande or the Rock of Gibraltar or the Straits of Bosporus?
I know that nationalism does make a difference though, in today's world, but I don't think anyone is going to tell me that today's world has no room for improvement. I also believe that the arc of history is on my side, that nationalism grew from tribalism, just as my brand of liberal globalism will grow from nationalism. The EU and ASEAN and the UN are protohistorical examples of this crystallization at work. Time and history are on my side. The salvation of the world lies in globalization, and not globalization as defined in the bogeyman nightmarish ways those who fight the IMF or the World Bank or the WTO or multinational corporations imagine, but globalization meaning the universalization of truly liberal notions, and a willingness to fight for them, regardless of a country's borders. Liberal ideals are stateless, and depend upon no nationality.
For the only morally or intellectually defensible position, on any issue in the world, in an age of jet air travel and the Internet and cell phones, is a global one. And we are all just beginning to realize that as a human race. Celebrate with me then the great liberal movements to come in the decades and centuries ahead of us, only now beginning to wake up and rumble.