Friday, October 27, 2006

Americans in Turbans

For those who slavishly hang on every pronouncement from George Bush, who support his attempt at fashioning those Americans in turbans known as Iraqis even further into our likeness, I have for you some food for thought:

1. Does the president have a constitutional mandate to "make the world safe for democracy?" If so, someone point it out to me, as I cannot find it in that hallowed document. Are we in any way obligated toward aiding Iraq in the institution of a republican government? If you answer "Yes!" to these questions, then why should we stop with Iraq? Why not liberate the bullied peoples of North Korea, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, China, Middle-Earth, and a veritable host of other dictatorially run countries and lands? If we embrace this nation-building concept, it seems that we also embrace U.S. involvement in a war somewhere on the globe into perpetuity; or at least until everyone is brought around to our way of thinking. Make no mistake: Bush's primary argument for staying in Iraq for quite some time has focused on building a representative government in that unhappy place. Fighting the "War on Fright" is a side issue in the pursuit of this grand cause.

2. What is the likelihood of long-term success in Iraq? This cobbled-together nation exists in a region with no history of freedom. Its people grow up in a culture with no history of freedom. They follow a religion that is the very antithesis of freedom. In fact, the more devotion one gives to Islamic teaching, the greater an enemy of freedom one becomes. This is a stark contrast between Islam and Christianity, which our leaders shrug off and relegate to scorn.

Our current administration needs an understanding that Iraqis are not products of Western civilization. They do not share a history or tradition with us in building upon the edifice of liberty, brick by brick, over the course of time. Nor do they share the Christian background conducive to such freedom. It is their different background--particularly the influence of Islam--which leads me to the conclusion that a lasting support of representative government in Iraq is remote. The Iraqis, themselves, already have made the first move in proving me correct, by insisting upon an Islamic basis for their constitution. That does not bode well for freedom of any significance in a future Iraq. American weakness isn't the issue; having unrealistic goals at the outset is.

3. "Every man, woman and child wants to be free." I'm sure you've heard this before, or some variation thereof. Rush Limbaugh frequently says that liberty is the natural yearning of the human heart. Our illustrious president has made comments to this effect, as well.

It may amaze you that I agree wholeheartedly with such sentiments. But they're missing one crucial element, one tiny proviso: the definition of freedom.

Without getting too complex, the average American defines liberty as living his life as he sees fit, unless his actions infringe upon the God-given rights of his neighbors. Others born into Western civilization probably have similar outlooks, and that's well and good.

The problem is that those outside this tradition don't extend the same definition to freedom. For example, a devout Muslim defines freedom as the institution of sharia--Islamic domination of the political, the economic, and the social (particularly the religious) realms. This entails proselytizing the religion to others, and forcing their capitulation to it if the former has no success. So the Islamic conception of liberty is absorption into the Muslim worldview, or submission to Muslim control. Sounds peachy for us infidels, right?

Devout Buddhists define freedom as the achievement of nirvana and the extinction of consciousness. In other words, oblivion. How does that fit in with the old capitalist "can-do" spirit?

Hindus consider a permanent, non-transcendable caste system an integral facet of freedom.

All men have in common the longing for freedom. No one wakes up and greets the day with: "Man, I sure hope someone enslaves me, this morning. I need a good whipping." No one goes through life depressed because he can't get anyone to imprison and torture him to death. But outside such shocking specifics, general understandings of liberty vary widely.

So the next time someone hands you the line that "All men want to be free," ask them if they think that all men share the same definition of freedom.

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