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September 24, 2002

Moral Imperialism Paul Krugman smells

Moral Imperialism

Paul Krugman smells a "definite whiff of imperial ambition in the air once again." Of course, to Paul that's a bad smell, worse than a fart in the elevator, and certainly as rude.

Of course the new Bush doctrine, in which the United States will seek "regime change" in nations that we judge might be future threats, is driven by high moral purpose. But McKinley-era imperialists also thought they were morally justified. The war with Spain — which ruled its colonies with great brutality, but posed no threat to us — was justified by an apparent act of terror, the sinking of the battleship Maine, even though no evidence ever linked that attack to Spain. And the purpose of our conquest of the Philippines was, McKinley declared, "to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them."

It's probably sarcasm, though if so it's certainly well concealed, but does it strike anyone else as odd that the first thing Mr. Krugman says about the new Bush Doctrine is that it is "driven by high moral purpose"? Of course, that's not enough. The fact that Spain was a brutal oppressor was not enough because Spain did not threaten us. All Spain was doing was killing little brown people, so what's the problem? Forgive me, but when did a high moral purpose cease to be sufficient as a cause for action in the Left? If a high moral purpose forces us as a nation to feed the starving and heal the sick citizens of the world, then it certainly suffices as a reason for action against despotic regimes. Without a high moral purpose behind the British Empire, suttee and thuggee would not be eliminated in India, and the caste system plaguing that country would be even stronger. The fact that it took the explosion of the Maine to propel us into war with Spain is our eternal shame, but not for the reason Krugman thinks it is.

If our purpose in the Philippines was to educate, uplift, civilize and Christianize, then we did a bang up job.There was one other major island in Spanish hands, if you recall. Cuba. The Philippines today is a functioning democracy. Cuba is not. The Philippines has a per Capita GDP of $3,500. Cuba has a per Capita GDP of $1560. What happened in Cuba was that we failed in our Imperial responsibility to the people of that nation after we removed a despot. We did somewhat better in the Philippines. Yes, lots of civilians died, but not at the hands of The United States Army. They died due to starvation and disease, conditions endemic in that country due to its previous rule by Spain, not because of the removal of that rule.

Let's see a show of hands;

How many of you would trade the life of one sadistic thug to end clitorectomies?
How about two thugs. Is it ok to kill two male oppressors so that little girls can avoid having their clitoris dug out with a piece of heated steel?
Ten?
As many as it takes?

You can sign me up for the last one, because I'm not a cultural relativist, despite my anthropology major. Some things deserve to be extinct, and if you can look evil in the eye and then tell me that it is not evil then you are best an apologist for it. At worst, you are its quisling. If the argument that Saddam is evil is not enough for you, then no argument will be. The idea that he must first demonstrate that evil, not simply on other human beings, which he has already done, but on Americans and with incontrovertible evidence, before we can take action against him, is racist, cowardly and despicable. How's that for a trifecta, Paul? If a person still insists on that chain of events, then they should be willing to admit that the murder of 6 million Jews would have troubled them not a whit in the 1940's, and that the Cambodian genocide would have engendered a similar lack of feeling.

If genocide is only a problem to you when it kills white people, or Americans, then you have no right to call yourself a moral being. America is not perfect, but to insist that we must be before proceeding on any course of action is to provide aid and comfort to those demonstrably evil, to give yourself a false curtain of morality to hide behind. Yours is not the hand that holds the knife at the throat of an innocent, yours is the hand that holds the gun that could kill the owner of the knife hand. But you refuse to fire it, because you're not perfect. I've got news for you. You'll be even less perfect after the throat is slit.

Posted by Bigwig at September 24, 2002 01:06 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.
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