Saturday, June 12, 2010

Paving the Road to Hell: Espousing Peace ≠ Creating Peace

Somewhere in Progressive Paradise, standing on a traffic island, a band of intrepid social activists are holding up a banner demanding peace. Some days, the banner proclaims a general yearning: "Honk if you want peace." Other days, the activists have actual conflicts on their minds, most recently, the one arising from Big Bad Israel's supposed maltreatment of Peaceful Little Gaza and their cuddly friend, Iran. Certainly I'm not the only one who drives by these displays wondering why the activists don't take their banners to traffic islands in the Gaza Strip or Tehran, to give others the benefit of their "war is not the answer" sentiments. But mostly, in my little corner of Progressive Paradise, these activists have strong support.

In my mind, one of the most dangerous assumptions underlying the Progressive inclination is that good intentions produce good results. The Progressives that I know intend that Gaza transform into a 21st century garden spot; that Iran recovers its dignity as Persian Empire, this time with Western technologies powered by nuclear produced electricity; and that oil rigs are shoved so far out to sea that the unsightly consequences of using petroleum products to transport Peace Now! banners to traffic islands, make Gaza into Gotham, and power Iran's central air conditioning systems need never be considered. The flaws in this assumption are far from obvious to all.

So I was happy to find an article on the subject by Walter Russell Mead, a U.S. foreign policy expert. He titled it, "Goo-Goo Genocidaires: The Blood Is Dripping From Their Hands." Here's a bit of it:
Of all the mass murderers, genocidaires and enablers of the twentieth century, one group of collaborators does not get its fair share of condemnation and moral loathing. Unfortunately Americans have never really come to terms with the terrible things they did, we have never really named and shamed them, and we have never diagnosed and exposed the bad ideas that led to some of America’s most fateful and costly blunders.  Until we do, our society is at risk of repeating these errors.

The people I have in mind are the ‘goo-goo genocidaires,’ the willfully blind reformers, civil society activists, clergy, students and others whose foolishness and ignorance was a necessary condition for tens of millions of deaths in the last hundred years.  Unreflective, self-righteous ‘activists’ thought that to espouse peace was the same thing as to create or safeguard it.  As a result, tens of millions died.  Unless this kind of thinking is exposed and repudiated, it is likely to lead to as many or more deaths in the 21st.

We all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; this turns out to be particularly true when it comes to the road to foreign policy hell.  Over the years good people or at least people who wanted to be good or thought they were, motivated by what seemed to them to be the highest of motives, have taken political stands and made policy proposals that helped mass murderers gain power in their own countries and launch themselves on international careers of conquest and mayhem.  At other times, fortunately, they’ve failed to change policy; still, they wasted a lot of people’s time and made life significantly more difficult for those whose plans to help the world ultimately worked.

The most notorious example is the peace movement of the 1920s and 1930s.  This movement enjoyed the enthusiastic backing of college professors, idealistic students, respected journalists, the union movement, and the mainline clergy.  If you didn’t join in, you were criticized as a warmonger, a throwback, someone lacking the broad social vision and high sense of ideals that modern times required.
Sound familiar?
The American peace and disarmament movement almost destroyed human freedom. The peace movement gave intellectual and moral respectability to the cause of isolationism: the belief that the United States could safely ignore the unraveling of the world’s fragile economic and political order as British power waned after World War I. But these idealistic professors, students, preachers and general all-around-good-guys were naive, self-righteous, and smugly sure that arms cause war.

Armed with a set of wrong headed prejudices (they called them ‘convictions’ and ‘ideals) that made it impossible for them to recognize deadly dangers staring them right in the face, they minimized the difference between imperfect friends (like then-imperialist Britain and France) and flamingly wicked mass murdering thugs (like Stalin, Hitler and the militaristic governments of Japan). Worse, they used all their considerable intelligence, power and media access to prevent Franklin Roosevelt from taking effective action to support the western democracies and China until it was far too late to prevent World War Two, and almost too late to win it. Even then, because the pathetically and self-righteously foolish and irresponsible ‘peace activists’ of the 1930s let the Axis get so far, we could only beat Hitler with Stalin’s help; the oppression of central Europe and the Cold War were the fault of the clergy, professors and civil society activists of the 1930s as well.
You'll want to read the entire piece here, I think. 

Hat tip: Brian J. Dunn at The Dignified Rant; Dr. Seuss cartoon from Dr. Seuss Went to War: A Catalog of Political Cartoons by Dr. Seuss.

1 comment:

  1. Criminals thrive on the good intentions of the naive. It's the same for individual criminals and criminal governments