Monday, February 21, 2005

Sharansky and Democracy, among other things.

Terribly sorry about the long absence. School, and other things, have been kicking my butt lately. Anyway, on with the post.

Like I said in a previous post, I've been reading Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky's book "The Case for Democracy." The book's basic premise is that democracy is for all peoples, regardless of ethnicity or region. Sharansky believes that the world is currently split into two spheres: free societies, which are countries that pass the 'town square' test: its citizens are free to enter the town square, speak their mind, and criticize the government; and fear societies, which are countries that do not pass the town square test. Free societies are the way of the future, while fear societies only breed terror and conflict.

While we may have what seem like unbridgable political divisions in the free world, these divisions are nothing compared to the chasm between free and fear societies. In the free world, while ideologies differ sharply between Republican and Democrat, and between France and the United States, we agree, for the most part, that civilized discourse is the way to solve differences and understand each other; opposing someone politically in a free society will, at worst, earn you a sharp retort, and maybe a nasty attack ad in the next election. In a fear society, differing in any way from the ruling group’s (be it government or a terrorist group that is control of an area) position will at best earn you prison time; at worst, it will end with you appearing on al-Jazeera begging for your life before your head is sawed off.

The reason I bring this up is that so many in the West, particularly on the left, and particularly in Europe, fail to grasp this basic concept. One only needs look at the various polls in Europe which say that Europeans feel that George W. Bush and the U.S. military are a bigger threat to world peace than Islamic extremism, or Sen. Kennedy’s statements that U.S. soldiers are the cause of the violence and insurgency in Iraq, and that the sooner we leave, the better. I am not sure whether it is incredible stupidity or political hubris that compels people to make these arguments, but they are deadly: deadly to themselves, to others, and to Western civilization as a whole. These statements put the defeat of your political opponents over the defeat of the despicable ideology that wishes to destroy our civilization. If this point of view is allowed to take hold, there can be no victory in the war against Islamic extremism.

Even more despicable than those who value the defeat of their political rivals more than the Islamofascist murderers are those that intentionally side against the security of their nation for political gain. Sadly, most of the Democratic Party currently falls into this category. While there are numerous exceptions to this, the most notable being Sen. Lieberman’s principled stand on foreign policy and Sen. Clinton’s recent statements regarding security in Iraq, the embrace of “minuteman” Michael Moore and the election of Howard Dean to party chair show the true colors of the Democratic Party: as long as the Republican Party is for the security of America, they will be overtly or tacitly against it, as the situation permits, in order to gain politically.

The last group of people who fail to, or choose not to, grasp the difference between free and fear societies are those who make moral equivalency arguments. Those who say that we had it coming on 9/11. Those who say that the United States has done as much bad in the world as Islamic extremism. Those who say that al-Qaida has legitimate grievances. This kind of idea is even worse than the ideas listed above, because this idea goes so far as to make free societies and fear societies equal. Losing moral clarity makes waging a war against this evil impossible.

When you get down to it, the basic premise of the current war is one of free societies versus those who wish to sustain fear socities. Islamic extremists view the war in exactly the same terms; the only difference is that the roles are reversed. In our model, there will be peace only when free socities have triumphed and fear socities have been vanquished to the dust bin of history. In Osama's model, the world is divided into two spheres: Dar al-Islam, the House of Islam, and Dar al-Harb, the House of War. Dar al-Islam is the sphere where Islam reigns supreme, where there is peace, and where sharia law is implemented. To put it bluntly, think Afghanistan under the Taliban. Before Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan was the epitome of Dar al-Islam. This is what Osama and his merry band are fighting to implement. In their dream world, the entire Middle East would be a greater caliphate; the realization of Dar al-Islam. Dar al-Harb, on the other hand, is the rest of the world. In Osama's worldview, this sphere of the world will be in eternal conflict until it is assimilated into Dar al-Islam. To Osama, there will only be "peace" when the entire world is in Dar al-Islam.

Which means that to Osama, there is no peace until the entire world is united under extreme sharia law. Something to consider the next time you hear a talking head on tv talk about 'engagement' with the extremists.

Well, that's all I have time for now. Expect the continuation of this post in a few days.