Sunday, September 23, 2007

FTW. Mark Steyn complains about Fred Thompson's characterization of America's goals in World War II:
FDR didn't take America to war in 1941 with the "disinterested intention of liberating others". He took America to war not to end the Holocaust or free Belgium or build a democracy in Japan but for reasons of hard-headed national self-interest. All the rest was the happy consequence of victory. Likewise, America didn't topple the Taliban because it was suddenly overcome by a burning desire to see more women legislators in the Afghan parliament: That, too, was a happy consequence of a war waged for selfish reasons.
This is an interesting admission because many, many conservatives automatically discount the idea that opponents of the Iraq war might also be putting America's welfare first and foremost, and accuse us of other loyalties. In fact Steyn himself does this regularly. In 2003 he discounted antiwar protestors as "enthusiastically subscribed" to the proposition that "whatever the problem, American imperialist cowboy aggression is to blame," and earlier in 2007 he characterized the "Slow-Bleed Democrats" as more interested in embarrassing Bush than in winning "America's war."

Hatred of America, or of Bush, has been always been their default explanation for the astonishing fact that some Americans disagree with them, and as the number of dissenters increases Steyn begins to think that the war party just hasn't explained it properly:
An awful lot of Americans see Iraqis waving purple fingers at the polls and shrug, "Nice. But not worth dead Americans." To sell this struggle to the electorate, you have to frame it in terms of the national interest. It has to be a war consistent with American ideals but fought for selfish reasons.
The Administration actually did present a compelling, self-interested causus belli -- remember "one vial, one canister... to bring a day of horror like one we have never known"? But it turned out to be bullshit. The Happy Iraqi stuff was just the sweetener. The current Iraq explanation boils down to we're here because we're here.

Like the new-edition Steyn, I care much, much less about other countries than I do about this one. That's why I retroactively endorse America's go-slow approach to the Cold War, which left hanging an awful lot of Soviet subjects who might have been more quickly liberated -- or incinerated -- by a more aggressive strategy. I think it's terrific that Israel provides a homeland for the most persecuted race in the history of the world, but I mainly support it because its existence suits America's interests. I think it's neat that Nelson Mandela went from prisoner to President of South Africa, but for me the money shot was the establishment of a viable democracy in a continent riddled with kleptocracies. Our interests demand a world that is increasingly less likely to blow up in our faces, and the hornets-nest we have aggravated in Iraq seems to me a giant step in the wrong direction.

Go ahead and call me selfish. Patriots have endured worse.

UPDATE. Much contention in comments as to whether our support for Israel suits American interests. I think a better policy toward Israel would be helpful, but withdrawing support would be catastrophic, and whatever reasons obtain, we have enough catastrophe as it is. The subject will be worth revisiting.

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