Monday, September 19, 2005

Not As I Do?

This weekend, I finally managed to finish a bit of home improvement in between listening to long stretches of the Christopher Hitchens vs George Galloway debate.

Personally, I preferred the tediousness of caulking, tiling, and pipe-fitting. At least, when writing about that, I can make it vaguely sound like porn.

Suffice to say, there was very little to be learned from this debate. Mr. Hitchens came loaded with facts, and Galloway came loaded with opprobrious paragraphs full of invective delivered in his characteristically sonorous Scottish slur.

Galloway's entire argument, it seemed, was that Christopher Hitchens opposed intervention in Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, thus supporting it now nullifies anything to be said on the topic. Similarly, Galloway's answer against the present war on terror seems to rest entirely on the realpolitik practices of the U.S. and Britain during the 1970's and 1980s. We helped create the situation, you see.

To oppose these various regimes now makes us hypocrites.

For many on the Left, hypocrisy is quite possibly the greatest crime one can ever possibly commit. Are the demogogues ever more gleeful than when a William Bennett has a gambling problem? If it were limited to personal failures, that would be something. However, to base an entire anti-war philosophy on the surface hypocrisy in an ever-shifting foreign policy?

It is a mark of the rank unseriousness and shallowness of thought that infects much of the anti-war left in our country. It is a teenager throwing a parent's past drug use in their face, as if it is a stand alone piece of logic. Whether or not the drug is harmful and the parent correct, it seems some people believe the hypocrisy in and of itself is adequate to nullify all arguments against its use.

To the adult mind, hypocrisy is a tool of great use and a mark of personal experience. A heroin addict warning school children against it is a hypocrite. He is, however, also correct. His experience lends a credibility. He is there. He knows. What better way to make amends and scavenge some meaning from his life than to use that experience to warn others, even if he is still in the grips of personal horror?

Similarly, 9-11 proved to the American government that the Middle-Eastern policies followed over the preceding three decades were seriously flawed. They believed they could put a lid on a pot of boiling water, and the smallest jets of steam might fire harmlessly off to the side. They did not expect it to blow up in their face.

Who now would know better the consequences of their follies? Who now would be better positioned to admit to having done wrong and doing their best to remedy it? Who now has the most responsibility to return to that region and make some atonement by undoing decades of policy which supported quasi-controlled dictators? If we are in fact guilty on any level for the oppression and fascism which permeates the Middle-East, is it not in fact a moral imperative that we enable and promote democracy when and how we can?

Instead, the anti-war movement believes this to be hypocrisy. A paralytic hypocrisy that must stall any attempts to take action in the Middle-East. In a similar vein, we often hear "If we cannot remove all dictators, we must remove none." For, in their eyes, removing one and not all is also a form of hypocrisy.

This is, quite simply, wrong.

Someone like William Bennett might very well be a hypocrite for countenancing a gambling addiction. However, his advice on character building is not necessarily incorrect as a result. While the hypocrisy certainly signals that we look at his words with a more studied eye, it is ultimately the words and arguments themselves which must endure the light of scrutiny.

America may now be behaving differently than it has in the past and recommending a course of action that is at odds with how foreign policy was conducted decades ago. However, the current arguments must be addressed on their merits. What we have done in the past is nothing more than experience, a guide, a history book we must read and understand. It is not a negating argument.

The hypocrisy argument is a dodge, a pass, a bob and weave against making serious arguments for or against the Iraq war. When one does not have reasonable or rational arguments, they must find some baser flaw that would seem to undermine the logic. Many believe hypocrisy is always effective as this flaw.

It is not. When hypocrisy is your main argument, it is because you have no others.