Dictators, Bullets, Consequences, Peace

> With the possibility of a peaceful resolution to this crisis at hand, we
> cannot allow a few men to push the world to war.  Send a message to
> President Bush and Congress to let the inspections work at:
> 
>     http://www.moveon.org/winwithoutwar/
From the left, I strongly disagree. I'm open to discussion, but here's how I see it.

I am a maximally liberal political animal; I believe in virtue and goodness and all ways of carrying those out in the political sphere I support; therefore I consistently vote the most leftwing alternative. If government can do something to improve things, by all means let's try. Let's not sit on our hands with wrongs unrighted. That is the moral authority of the left for the last 70 or 160 years, depending on if you count from Roosevelt or the Paris Commune, and it is my moral authority.

But goodness in an imperfect world is not spineless and meek. Goodness in the world is not just wisdom but wisdom with strength, with the backbone to destroy oppressors.

At the same time, I am a strong supporter of the prospective war in Iraq: immediate, violent, and permanent removal of Saddam Hussein and his family- and tribe- based government from power in Iraq, preferably followed by strong, long-term, democracy-building activities by a trustworthy occupying power. Followed by the same in Korea. Followed by replacement of support for dictatorships worldwide with support for democracy-building activities in those countries. It looks to me as if this is George W.'s intended path, and I certainly hope that it is.

To support footdragging in Iraq is to support the continued maintenance of a cruel and evil dictator who has evidently exceeded Stalin's sophistication in setting people against each other, with for example multiple mutually-monitoring secret services. Does anyone support Saddam Hussain? Has noone read Machiavelli? Can noone recall the real and horrible effects of Chamberlain's coddling of Hitler's aggression?

Dictatorship is unjustifiable violence. Dictators use it, dictators deserve to receive it, and a moral world citizenry must demand they receive the consequences of their evil actions. Abandonment of commitment to delivering consequences to evildoers gives up the world to evildoers. Abandonment of entire nations to the violence of a dominant few under the pretense of international stability is support of violence against the people of those nations.

Our desire to keep our scented and powdered noses out of the business of dictators cannot meet with the moral approval, for example, of the Korean or Iraqi peasant who happens to express his opinion about something to which a dictator may have an inordinate and childish sensitivity, and who then is imprisoned or killed or tortured for his honesty, or for his membership in a non-dominant ethnic group, or for any other capricious and arbitrary thing. Do we hasten world peace by turning aside and allowing such violence to continue?

No.

Dictatorial governments demand overthrow, and if the people are prostrate at the feet of such a government the international community should rise up and strike that government down, and help that people to build a safe, just, democratic society and government. Deliver justice to evildoers and much future evil will be averted. That is the right path here. Footdragging against Saddam merely strengthens his hand, and those of other dictators who use international respect for "nation" to allow them the freedom of unrestrained authority, in a Satanic playground of intimidation, arbitrary arrest, torture, and execution.

I strongly disagree with this petition. Those who sign it take what is in my view an immoral and unjustifiable position. I encourage Americans not only not to sign it but to be activist in persuading others to take a stand against MoveOn.org's position.

Thomas C. Veatch, Ph.D.
January 18, 2003

Democracy versus Dictatorship
The Task and the Burden of Our Generation

Since the end of the Cold War, American, and more generally, Western, foreign policy can no longer reasonably base itself on the over-simplification that everything is about the fight against communism. That over-simplification allowed American foreign policymakers to justify supporting many dictatorships around the world for their mere symbolic allegiance to the anti-communist crusade and for confining themselves within inherited territorial borders. I was against that over-simplification during the Cold War, and today I call out that We Have Won, We Are Free of that idiotic over-simplification itself, which so heinously was used to justify support for so many cruel dictators. Now we can finally make some real progress!

Inter-national peace is not the same thing as world peace. Not until the peoples of the world are free to govern themselves peacefully, instead of being violently crushed under the boots of dictators, can we imagine we have world peace. A dictator doing violence in his fenced backyard to maintain his power is no part of a world peace that I would wish to bequeath my children. And only during the Cold War could America's policymakers imagine that supporting such dictators was acceptable. It is not acceptable.

Now is the time for the world, not just the US, to step beyond the Cold War, to step up to our moral duty to strengthen democracy: to firmly remove the dictators of the world from positions of unconstrained, irresponsible power, violence, and oppression.

From a Cold War perspective, we now live in a new world, and the fundamental argument can be changed from capitalism vs communism to the real issue of our generation and our century which is: Democracy versus Dictatorship. It can and should be our country's new and permanent foreign policy to encourage democracy and stand against dictatorships. That includes the unconstrained autocracies and oligarchies of China, Iraq, Libya, Cuba, N. Korea, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the mostly dictatorship-controlled Arab world, among others. If a country has democratically selected its leaders through an open process, we must respect it as a nation. But if it has falled under the boot of a Stalin, it is our duty as a moral world citizenry to amputate Stalin, one way or another.

And if we move forward one at a time, with firm resolve, at least some of the weak ones will fall like dominoes. Only with resolve and strength on this path is the goal of world peace achieveable. Otherwise dictators will connive and divide those powers that could threaten them against one another, and they will retain the cruel and arbitrary power for which they are rightly hated by the majority of their people.

It may be that "President" Bush is a hypocrite and liar, and that his seeming to move toward overturning dictatorships is merely a way to maximize American oil and business interests, which in a short-sighted American pig businessman's view, may be best optimized with lucrative contracts with "friendly" violent dictators, in the past and even in the present: that may well be true. But it is possible and it is my hope that moving against Iraq is moving toward real world peace, towards a proliferation of democracy, towards the amputation of evil from the world in our generation. I believe that is the true historical task of our generation, and any step in that direction is a step that I fully support.

Thomas C. Veatch, Ph.D.
February 3, 2003

March Update

Now world public opinion is crystallizing strongly against my own. The fact is that power is frightening, power is ugly, power is typically corrupt. Wise free peoples should and do have an allergic reaction against power. Just as I myself have not a meek tolerance, but a burning hatred of dictatorship.

For that very reason in America we replace our leaders after only four years, long enough to settle into their work and be productive for a while, but no matter how benevolent or wise or popular, the principle that power corrupts is stronger than the goodness of any man and therefore America tosses out its leaders after four or at most eight years.

Now we see that America is the lone superpower in an increasingly dangerous and chaotic world. Since September 11 it has become clear that very small groups of people through modern communications and organizational capabilities can strike tremendous blows against their perceived enemies. Power can be projected by even the least powerful among us. In such a world all of civilization is in danger from the poor and powerless. Even a great superpower is now vulnerable to the smallest and weakest enemy, provided only with small weapons and motivation.

We also must acknowledge the unpopular but blunt fact that America IS the keeper of the peace. For fifty years the basis of international peace has been American military power combined with America's willingness to defend its allies and deter and reverse border-violating aggression throughout the world. With that unique and sole power comes heavy responsibility. The paradox is that power both is corrupting and also, in a one-superpower world, carries a burden of responsibility.

So we face the question, What does one, in a position of power and responsibility, do with that power, and what position does everyone else take who stands in a position of vulnerability not just to the mad terrorists but also to the superpower itself. The first should take its responsibilities seriously as long as its intentions are honorable, while the second in keeping with the corruptness doctrine, should oppose the first. That is what is happening.

I understand all you smaller countries dragging your feet. You want there to be no vulnerability, no superpower, just peace everywhere. And in fear of the corruption of the superpower, you oppose, reasonably so, the possibly corrupt intentions of this superpower, which holds you in some ways vulnerable to its overwhelming force.

But I for one believe in the honor of America's leaders. Our "president" has shown me nothing to change that view; even his legalistic electoral victory is only disputable, not dishonorable. Is all leadership to be rejected? Is there no such thing as a just war? Those who reject all power take a consistent position, I understand you and I am your friend. But in this world of incalculable dangers, someone must keep the peace, root out the small implacable enemies, overturn the violent dictators, and tend this garden of a world so that it doesn't burn. Otherwise we will surely burn in the summer drought of police non-protection, because the small agents can hurt us now, it is all too clear. Better that it be a superpower with a system that limits its own powers, hamstrings all its own movements with counterweights of divided power, turns over its positions of highest power regularly, that at least tries to get support from the rest of the community of nations, and is therefore at least less corruptible than the dictatorships and cults to which we are now, all, so vulnerable.

I understand the opposition to American intervention in Iraq. Wisdom counsels that power corrupts and American power has often proven to be corrupt, so why trust it now, why not fight it, limit it, protest it, drag your heels against it, come up with sympathetic inspectors and committees who share the agenda of limiting the power of the strongest, even if that means allowing the little dangers to grow, since that keeps the biggest danger in check. Believe me, I understand your good intentions.

I myself used to hate the police. I see only corruption in the LAPD that beat Rodney King. "I had better keep my nose clean because the thugs with the badges are even worse than the muggers without." The system is ugly when your neck is under its boot.

But then I lived in the ghetto of Philadelphia for seven years of graduate school. And I learned that a neighborhood without police is a neighborhood in chaos. That the power vacuum pulls in its own power, and if it's not a power subject to the bureaucratic rules and administration of responsible government, then it is the power of the drug dealer, the small time con artist, the thief, yes the rapist. They will spring up in their perceived self-interest in just a few weeks or months of unmonitored freedom. Why not? The citizens are vulnerable, the bullies get something out of it, and noone stops them! Now I am a believer in the importance of an active police force. Ideally cops would be Maytag repairmen, without any trouble to break up, and if but one policeman in a world is effective enough to deter the troubles that could arise, then that's wonderful, but if there is no policeman, then the neighborhood will go into just as much chaos as the maddest lunatic among us.

Therefore, a responsible person in the position of the world's policeman should, and truly must, stop the bullies, intervene against the domestic violence, and disarm the thugs. The superpower must and should project power so effectively, and under principles that limit its own corruption, that the citizens of our fair garden world can go about their business, peaceful and untroubled by those urgent and terrible threats that could be unleashed without the policeman's power playing its crucial role.

At this point, the international debates about Iraq have shown that the point of the objections is the principle of opposing power. Further debate, even endless debate, is just fine, because we want everyone to know their opinions matter. That's the kind of world I want to live in. But in the end, the policeman cannot, must not, shirk his responsibility.

March 13, 2003