Moral Confusion in the New American Century_Barnabas-Is Iraq first on a list?
"When you've got the power, you don't need permission"
- from Ordinary People
Those who follow this column know that I saw the Iraqi crisis as a continuing war in which terms of cease-fire had been egregiously violated. This perspective made an escalation of hostilities a possible ethical response. Accordingly, I thought that President Bush gave a pretty good speech when he told Saddam and sons they had 48 hours "to get out of Dodge." While I wasn't cheering, you could faintly hear the sound of one hand clapping.
That reason for attacking still holds, and I am glad that the military campaign is successful to this point (March 23). But you won't hear any more applause from me. Since the President's speech I have read "The Statement of Principles of the Project for a New American Century." It is relevant to Operation IraqiFreedom because, of the 25 who signed it in 1997,
- one is the President's brother,
- one is now his Vice-president,
- one is now his Secretary of Defense,
- and one is now Deputy Secretary of Defense.
In The Statement of Principles they have put on record their conviction that the global leadership of the United includes a moral obligation to shape the world in its own image. This is for the world¡¦s own good, of course, provided we further our own interests in the process. It made me afraid that Iraq is not a special case, but first on a list. The Statement puts it like this.
- "we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future;
- "we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values;
- "we need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad;
- "we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles."
The full statement (just 574 words) is online at www.newamericancentury.org
It goes on to claim moral clarity for the above goals, There is no moral clarity, however, in laying conflicting interests side by side and then claiming a equal devotion to both; specifically, claiming a commitment to political and economic freedom abroad, then trumping it with an assertion of goals of security and prosperity for yourselves. That is called "talking out of both sides of your mouth" — an announcement to the world that you can't be trusted. Guess which will prevail when economic and political freedom abroad conflict with security, prosperity, and principles at home. You will need just one guess.
If we believe in economic and political freedom abroad, we believe in it, period. Such freedom includes the freedom of other nations not to follow our lead. If we don't believe in it, then it's fatuous, cynical, or just plain devious to suggest that we do.
In this case, as smart as these guys are, I hope they are being fatuous. Fatuity is morally superior to cynicism and deceit; it is also less likely to mean that Iraq is first on a list of projects for a new American century.