Vacillation Update — You'll notice

Vacillation Update — You'll notice that I don't say a hell of a lot about the war. That's mainly because I don't know what to think about it. Well, I know what to think about it; that's the function of having an ideology: to tell you what to think without having to do much thinking. My ideology tells me to oppose the war. War is the health of the state, and so forth. And it's true! It is. I do not want John Poindexter to know which brand of condom I prefer. However, my heart's not really in it. I can't convince myself that invading Iraq will be a disaster. But neither can I convince myself that it won't be. Actually, I'm disoriented by the strident confidence on all sides of this. There seems very little to warrant confidence.
I am confident that there are a great many people who hate the US, and wish to do us harm, or to see us harmed. A history of bad foreign policy decisions on the part of the US is partly to blame for that. But it's really just a small part, I think. There is a spreading mythology about US power, and the malign influence of our culture, our markets, our military might. As preparations for the war have ramped up, and as the anti-war movement has ramped up, I have become increasingly amazed at the breadth and ferocity of hatred for the US, and what I take the US to stand for. And although I am nominally anti-war, I find it impossible to identify with those who cannot manage to see that Islam, as it is practiced throughout most of the Middle East, is straightforward misanthrophic tyranny, not one among many acceptable ways of life. My breath leaves me when I contemplate the moral atrophy of those who seriously propose that American values, or, say, George W. Bush, is a greater threat to humankind than a malignant ideology of mystical authority, institutionalized violence, and the systematic dehumanization of women and non-believers.
Those of us who hold our Enlightment heritage dear can feel nothing but horror at the resurgence of pre-modern irrationalism and disgust at the willingness of those who enjoy the blessings of reason and freedom to declare solidarity with this undiluted hatred for the human. I don't consider opposing the war as important as opposing a doctrine and a culture that effectively enslaves millions, stunts the expression of creativity and intellect, and treats women like dogs. The case against the war is mildy convincing. The case against radical Islam is damning and airtight.
It has repeatedly struck me that, after the relative successes of the civil rights and women's movements, the left has been casting about wildly for something at which to aim their righteous, moralizing fury. Well, how about the folks who take the heads off their daughters for getting raped? How about the folks who murder Americans en masse, and promise to do it again? How about the ideas that animate them? But no. Instead we are given to believe that the problem is our failure to understand and appreciate the complex and fascinating beliefs, mores, and folkways of the fundamentalist Islamic peoples. And that George W. Bush is Hitler incarnate. Something has gone wrong.
If I thought the invasion of Iraq was a sure first step toward eradicating the politics of radical Islam, then I think I'd be for it. It may be that in my heart of hearts I hope for Paul Wolfowitz's wildest dream. But I remain unconvinced that we won't make it worse, as we are so very capable of doing. Still, I have little wisdom, and don't know the way forward. My libertarian soul wishes we could just shut up and keep to ourselves, but I'm afraid we can't.
I envy almost everyone. You all make it look so easy.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center