'Live and Let Live': The West Does Neither
Here we are again, watching a tragedy in Paris.
Again, innocent citizens of a broadly liberal, secular West, die at the hands of those who self-identify as Islamic purists, but are rejected by most of the rest of their faith.
Meanwhile, innocent citizens of other parts of the world – including the Muslim Middle East – die at the hands of those same “purists” - but also under the bombs dropped by that liberal, secular West… bombs dropped so incessantly that Pakistani children, for example, now prefer cloudy skies to blue ones - because America’s drones, or flying death robots, drop their lethal payloads only from clear skies.
How many Westerners who changed updated their Facebook profiles with a Tricolore on Friday updated them with the Lebanese flag the day before, when dozens of Lebanese were killed in Beirut in another Islamo-extremist attack?
If you did the one and not the other, don’t feel bad. You – like they – are victims of the Western media, just as much as of Western foreign policy.
With all the usual (but nevertheless important and true) qualifiers that those who bear all the moral responsibility for the recent deaths in Paris are those who pulled the triggers and detonated their suicide vests, it must be said that we, the West, are collectively doing nothing to help ourselves.
On the contrary, we continue to make it worse – in two main ways. And importantly, the reason we cannot stop doing making it worse, it seems, is that across the West, the political Left are committed to making things worse in one way, and the political Right are committed to making things worse in the other.What are these two things we are doing to exacerbate the actions of extremists against us?
The first is the one already mentioned – favored by the standard neo-con sensibility (Bush, Hillary Clinton, et al.) – to go pound the hell out of (or into) cultures and countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya etc. ) that we don’t control, to affect the dynamics of long-standing conflicts that we don’t understand, in ways that do damage that we cannot contain.
Ron Paul for years warned us about blowback. It’s a real thing - and, it always has been, throughout history – because human nature is largely constant.
Don’t take my (or Dr Paul’s) word for it: take the word of the United States' own Department of Defense, which commissioned a study, headed by Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, that collected and analyzed huge amounts of data on suicide terrorism -- which is 12 times more dangerous than other forms of terrorism when measured by the number of people killed per act.
In this U.S. government study, speakers of the local languages of the families of suicide bombers were sent to speak with family members of the terrorists to gain as much information as possible about the context and the people involved. The database thus obtained on suicide terrorism is, as far as we know, the most comprehensive in the world.
The most astonishing conclusion of this work was as follows; 95 percent of all suicide terrorist attacks -- going back to the 1980s -- are against countries that the terrorist deems to be occupying (in the sense of a military presence) physical territory that the terrorist regards as a homeland.
The reason this is astonishing is that this 95 percent figure includes all those radical Islamic groups who have attacked Israel and the USA, but it explains why the U.S., for example, has only experienced such attacks (such as 9/11 itself), from citizens of countries in which it has a military presence: that's why, says the DOD study, we were hit by Saudis on 9-11, but not Iranians, Sudanese or representatives of other countries with a large radical Islamist contingent.
So one way of helping to protect ourselves from extremists might be just to stop with all those self-righteous “Freedom bombs” that kill children in places whose names we cannot even spell.
Of course, one might object that France is hardly intervening globally on the scale that America does, so isn’t the fact that Paris is getting hit more than, say, New York or D.C., evidence against the thesis?
No – because not imposing one’s will on others in their homes is only half the story: it’s only the “Let Live” part of “Live and Let Live.”
In the West, we have also forgotten that “Live and Let Live” has a first part, which is usually overlooked: that is simply “Live.”
The same Western polities that feel perfectly (and illiberally) righteous in intervening with physical force in other countries are paradoxically caught up in a faux progressivism at home that prevents them from defending their own.
It’s an absolute contradiction that goes like this: “we must attack them over there because they are dangerous and evil – but we don’t need to monitor and control those who flow across our borders because to do so would be intolerant, prejudicial and even racist.”
In other words, “they” are dangerous enough that we need to kill them where they cannot hurt us, but not so dangerous that we need to stop them coming to hurt us.
Only ideological (or power-driven) politicians could maintain that kind of contradictory nonsense without painful cognitive dissonance.
The first responsibility and primary justification of government is the security of its own citizens – to whom it is accountable. And the first line of the security of a nation is its borders, which must be controlled to prevent the entry of those who wish to do harm. That is a moral good. In contrast, hurting innocents who are nowhere near one’s borders is a moral evil.
Making a real assessment of the risk associated with largely or partially unmonitored immigration – and in particular, making a proper distinction between genuine refugees (from messes that we helped to create) and economic migrants to whom our moral responsibility is clearly different – is not intolerant, prejudiced, or racist. It is reasonable, sensible, and just.
Here’s a thought experiment that doesn’t take much imagination at all.
If you were an ISIS fighter and you wanted to attack the West – and there were thousands of folks who looked like you pouring through the borders of that part of the world you wanted to be in, unseen and undocumented, why would you not enter among them? You’d frankly be stupid not to.
And since I write for an American audience, if you were an ISIS fighter, how would you get in to the US to launch an attack? Of course you’d walk over the Mexican border because you can.
Mark Steyn insightfully observed that:
"... multiculturalism is a unicultural phenomenon".
He might have overstated there, but if we add one word, he is painfully accurate: pathological multiculturalism is a unicultural phenomenon.
So what makes multiculturalism pathological? I’ll offer a definition: pathological multiculturalism is the over-accommodation by one culture of others by denigrating or hiding its own values, its own history, its own identity, and its own self-celebration.
Why is it that we in the West are so bad at overtly celebrating our history, our values, and our culture. We don’t even teach any of these in our schools in any serious way in the developed West.
I hate to give a cliché as an answer, but it just fits so well – especially in Europe. Our white Liberal guilt has gotten the better of us. Because we did bad things in our history, we don’t celebrate the good things we did. Because we have oppressed people, we don’t point to the thousand-year long march of history that has freed millions. Because cultural minorities in our countries find it harder to get mainstream exposure (inevitable by virtue of their numbers), we stay quiet about our own culture, lest we cause offence.
Live and Let Live is - as it has always been and forever will be - the right motto for our times. But the West, in a kind of vicious cycle of fear, has (at least since 2001) been doing the opposite: “Kill and Let Be Killed.”
For those who prefer concrete political concepts to four-word idioms, the problem and its solution can be framed it in terms of self-determination – a concept right there in Article 1 of Chapter 1 of the United Nations charter.
Self-determination demands that we respect the sovereignty of other self-identified communities, nations, and cultures. But it’s the very same self-determination that leaves us with the responsibility of respecting and protecting our own from those who would infiltrate to disrupt our own communities, nations, and cultures.
In short, the fundamental question for the West at this time in history seems to be: must our open societies tolerate the intolerance that seeks to destroy our tolerance?
The answer is No – because that is what self-determination means.
When we understand that, we might be able to make two existential changes: the first will be to stop hurting others where they live – which requires us to recognize and end our self-righteousness and arrogance. The second will be to start protecting ourselves where we live– which requires us to recognize our cultural guilt and be able to talk about Western values as something worth proactively, even preemptively, protecting and asserting – but not exporting.
If we in the West must feel so guilty, let’s feel guilty about the children we’ve killed in Muslim lands – rather than about protecting ourselves from “Muslims” - and others - who would kill us in our own.