LIBERTY FOR ALL? (via Mike Daley):

October 20, 2003

The Soul of a Nation (Vaclav Havel, October 12, 2003, Washington Post)

There are many politicians in the free world who favor seemingly pragmatic cooperation with repressive regimes. During the time of communism, some Western politicians preferred to appease the Czechoslovak thugs propped up by Soviet tanks rather than sustain contacts with a bunch of dissidents. These status-quo Western leaders behaved, voluntarily, much like those unfortunate people who were forced to participate in the massive government rallies: They allowed a totalitarian regime to dictate to them whom to meet and what to say. At that time, people such as the French president, Francois Mitterrand, and the Dutch minister of foreign affairs, Max van der Stoel, saved the face of the Western democracies by speaking and acting clearly. By the same token, politicians such as Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Philippine Foreign Secretary Blas Ople redeem the Asian reputation by not hesitating to speak the truth. The regime in Burma is, as a matter of fact, the disgrace of Asia, just as Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus is the disgrace of Europe and Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba of Latin America.

In Burma, thousands of human lives have been destroyed, scores of gifted people have been exiled or incarcerated and deep mistrust has been sown among the various ethnic groups. Human society is, however, a mysterious creature, and it serves no good to trust its public face at any one moment. Thousands of people welcomed Suu Kyi on her tours, proving that the Burmese nation is neither subjugated nor pessimistic and faithless. Hidden beneath the mask of apathy, there is an unsuspected energy and a great human, moral and spiritual charge. Detaining and repressing people cannot change the soul of a nation. It may dampen it and disguise the reality outwardly, but history has repeatedly taught us the lesson that change often arrives unexpectedly.

“To talk about change is not enough, change must happen,” said Suu Kyi during a tour among her people. The Burmese do not require education for democracy; they are and have always been ready for it.

This is certainly what we on the Right believed of Eastern Europe all through the Cold War, but the docility, even resentment, of the post-war Iraqis has to shake your faith at least a little, doesn’t it? Might people whose faith does not demand freedom in fact tend to become apathetic under tyranny? Or is the desire for freedom, as we’d like to believe, the birthright of all men? On the answer to these questions will turn the decision of whether we can just wait for the end of history to work itself out or whether it will be necessary to forcibly convert sufficiently divergent cultures to our Western faith in liberal values. That’s a decision of awesome moment, so we’d do well to get it right.

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NEW DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH:

October 19, 2003

What It Takes to Be a Neo-Neoconservative (JAMES ATLAS, 10/19/03, NY Times)

Among the enduring legacies of the earlier [Vietnam] era was the split between liberals who opposed the war and the small splinter group that would become known as the neoconservatives. The group’s decision to support the Vietnam War — or at least to oppose those who opposed it — was a shift that would lead them to a new level of power and influence.

The war in Iraq has shown signs of a similar split: a pro-war faction of the liberal intelligentsia has rejected a reflexive antiwar stance to form a movement of its own. The influence of these voices isn’t to be underestimated. The marginality of intellectuals is a myth; even in the resolutely hermetic world of Washington, their voices are heard.

For the liberal intellectuals of this generation, the war in Iraq has required nuanced positions. Michael Ignatieff, director of the Carr Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a self-styled “liberal centrist,” focused on the human rights issue: if liberating Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein saved opponents of the regime from torture or death, that in itself justified the war.

The political philosopher Michael Walzer, the editor of Dissent magazine, was ambivalent, but directed much of his anger at the rigid politics of the anti-interventionist left in the face of Sept. 11.

Christopher Hitchens, a columnist for Vanity Fair who had disapproved of United States intervention in the first Persian Gulf war, was excited about Americanization as a revolutionary force. Calling himself a “Paine-ite,” he saw the new war as an uprising against an illegitimate state.

The writer Paul Berman forcefully expressed the opinion that not only was President Bush justified in his prosecution of the war but that he had dragged his feet. Terrorism, Mr. Berman wrote in his book “Terror and Liberalism,” is a form of totalitarianism; the war in the Middle East is a war to defend liberal civilization. […]

In the early stages of their ideological development, neoconservatives saw themselves more as reformed liberals than as true conservatives. Mr. Bell, who predicted “the end of ideology,” identified himself as a socialist; Mr. Kristol identified himself — in a famous formulation — as a liberal who has been “mugged by reality.”

Yet in the end, all were liberals who, by the 1970’s and the midpoint in their careers, were proud to identify themselves as neoconservatives, who were not the heirs of classical conservatism but rather had discovered the limitations of liberalism. A neoconservative, it might be postulated, is one who read and repudiated Marx; a conservative, one who read and embraced Hume, Locke and Hobbes.

This generation of liberal intellectuals, like its precursors, prefers to see itself less as a political coalition than as an assemblage of writers with diverse views — which of course it is. Ideological labels are always provisional. Yet however much their attitudes toward the war in Iraq differ from those of such contemporary neoconservatives as William Kristol and


LEGITIMCACY ALONE:

October 10, 2003

The US and the UN (Criton M Zoakos, Oct 21, 2003, Asia Times)

The current tension between the United States and the United Nations arises from the fact that the UN as an organization is based on a legal principle that is continental European in origin and not ecumenical, as is usually and mistakenly assumed. This is the principle of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia which asserts that sovereignty is superior to legitimacy. It is a principle that the United States not only never accepted, but actively opposed throughout the course of its formation from 1620 to date. […]

Until the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), the Western world believed that the legitimacy of government derived from one source, namely the concept of “universal Christian monarchy” embodied in the person of the “Holy Roman Emperor” in the West, and the Roman Emperor in the East (Constantinople). The style of the “Holy Roman Emperor” in the West was instituted by Charlemagne in the year 800 AD, presumably in protest over the fact that the office of the actual Roman Emperor in Constantinople was occupied by a woman.

By reason of direct succession, the Roman Emperor in the East had been in continuous possession of all the legal titles and regalia of the Roman emperor ever since Constantine the Great designated Christianity as the official “cultus” of the Roman Empire in 313 AD, and transferred its capital from Rome to Constantinople in 330 AD. Yet despite the fact that from the year 800 AD onward the legitimizing principle of “universal Christian monarchy” was embodied in two different emperors, this split was a matter of contest between two claimants to one and the same legitimizing principle. The legitimizing principle itself had remained one.

This ambiguity ended with the collapse of the Roman Empire in the East and the capture of Constantinople by Muslim armies in 1453, leaving only one claimant to the legitimizing principle of “universal Christian monarchy”. This claimant was whichever potentate the Pope chose as “Holy Roman Emperor”. By the time of Martin Luther’s Reformation in 1517, this title had securely settled on the head of the House of Habsburg, the largest landlords on the Continent. (The Roman Catholic Church was the second largest landlord, with 25 percent of European landownership, mostly prime farm and grazing lands).

The Thirty Years War was a war of Protestant princes against the legitimizing principle of the “universal Christian empire” and its representative, the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor. These Protestant princes were joined by numerous Catholic princes (most notably the King of France), who saw profit in challenging the legitimizing principle of the time. Some of the profit was political – freedom from Papal political interference in their administration. Some was economic – freedom to expropriate and secularize vast church lands.

Since both Papacy and Emperor were too weak at the beginning of the Reformation, a temporary compromise was struck in the 1555 Treaty of Augsburg which for the first time abandoned the legitimizing principle of “universal Christian monarchy” and settled on “cujus regio, ejus religio”, roughly translated as “whoever reigns imposes his religion in his realm”. In plain English: “Might makes right.” The compromise failed when the Catholic Church gathered forces and launched its Counter-Reformation for the purpose of restoring the original
legitimizing principle of “universal Christian monarchy”.

This led to the Thirty Years War, which devastated all sides. Drained of resources by the war, near collapse but still roughly equally balanced and without hope of decisive victory for either side, the exhausted adversaries settled on the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. In it, the parties agreed that if they were to survive, the sovereignty of each was far more important than any legitimizing principle on which that sovereignty rested. “Cujus regio, ejus religio” the old principle of 1555, was finally enforced.

Seen against this background, the history of the formation of the United States – from the Mayflower Compact of 1620, the revolution of 1776, the ratification of the US Constitution of 1787, George Washington’s admonition against “foreign entanglements”, American neutrality during the Napoleonic Wars, the Monroe Doctrine of 1821, the expansion to the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico Coasts – is best viewed as a contrast to the Westphalian system, sometimes as opposition, sometimes as mere counterpoint. The original English and Dutch settlers of North America were men and women who rejected the Westphalian agreement that gave the local prince – the State – sole right to establish and dis-establish religion. When these settlers eventually wrote their constitution, its First Amendment and anti-establishment clause was a clear, explicit rebuff of cujus regio, ejus religio: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

In fact, and contrary to the Westphalian system, the formation of the United States affirmed a new principle from which government derives legitimacy: the inalienable rights of the individual human being, including the inalienable right to be governed by their consent. The assertion of this new legitimizing principle is evident from the Declaration of Independence through the entire process of ratifying the Constitution, in the course of the Federalist debates and in the evolution of the Supreme Court under Justice John Marshall.

While the Westphalian system is strictly and absolutely agnostic on the matter of legitimizing principle – in order to give primacy to the principle of sovereignty of the State – the founding of the American republic asserts the supremacy of its legitimizing principle (inalienable rights of the people) over the sovereignty of the State. In the Westphalian system, sovereignty trumps legitimacy. In the American system, legitimacy trumps sovereignty, with legitimacy embodied in the US Constitution. The only sovereign recognized in the American system is the Constitution, ie, the legitimizing principle itself.

So is traditional sovereignty literally un-American.