Saturday, August 05, 2006

When to Intervene

Bill Buckley has a good column on the tipping point for old-line conservatives (except maybe George Will) on when US intervention becomes crucial:

The old injunction about minding your own business has always been a little problematic, because carried to formal lengths it distresses other laws, laws that have to do with being one's brother's keeper. From large-scale national perspectives, there are the laws that translate into maintaining balances of power. You can try to ignore it when you hear that Hitler has ultimate solutions about how to deal with Germany's Jews, but meanwhile it makes sense to maintain your fleet in good condition, never mind if regulating German Jews is other people's business.

There comes a point at which horrific behavior ceases to be local--if it ever was truly local for anyone who believes in a moral code. For example, should your neighbor be able to beat his wife and kids as long as you and your home are not threatened?

The threat that is looming for Buckley is Shariah law:

Much hangs on the development of Muslim practice in the 21st century. It can't remain somebody else's business exclusively if organized communities take to chopping off people's hands. The Times article describes the arrest of three women in Aceh. Their crime? They were sitting in a secluded section of a hotel corridor without their headscarves. Inasmuch as the Shariah is being developed, restored, revived, evolved, it matters greatly in what direction it is developing. We know that cheek by jowl in the Middle East we have had developments along the lines of the Taliban, with torture and death, and along different lines, as in Turkey and Egypt. It is precisely an urgent moral concern what practices will govern life and law enforcement in Iraq—and Lebanon and Syria.

What was supposed to work, short of going to war, was that the people who thought there was such a thing as cruel and unusual punishment were supposed to get together at the UN and take a stand via moral pressure, boycott/interdiction of trade or military intervention.

Unfortunately, that seems only to work if nobody wants anything that the people responsible for the infractions have--like in Rwanda, Kosovo and maybe (a huge maybe) Darfur. It didn't work well in Iraq because lots of people, including major powers, wanted what Saddam had more than they cared about what he was doing to Kurds, Shiites and anyone else causing him or his sons inconvenience.

At this point international intervention is broke. With UN peacekeepers liable to rape rather than protect, and the UN seemingly unable to come to agreement even on Darfur, let alone Hezbollah and Lebanon, there aren't a lot of choices.

One can do a "coalition" action, as is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, but short of major US involvement, apparently no one else can get anything done.

The spread of Shariah law is not a traditional state kind of problem. But, for Buckley, the spread of Shariah law is a matter of international concern.

It has been a matter of huge reluctance even to think of, let alone refer to, a great religious-moral collision approaching, setting Islam against the Judaeo-Christian world. The old counsel is to be permissive about what other people do, especially if they are self-governing. But, in present circumstances, these do not consolidate as purely local matters. What happens in Aceh, when Islam is reviving throughout Indonesia, is exactly as reported, a matter of profound international concern.

But, what to do about it? I don't think the major problem is that the US has its hands full in Afghanistan and Iraq (not to mention Germany, South Korea and Japan). The major problem is a lack of will among US political leaders, especially the "loyal opposition" to do much of anything. When the trumpet does not sound a clear call (I Cor. 14:8), it's no wonder that the public is questioning and uncertain about any kind of intervention anywhere. We saw a real crystallizing of national will after 9/11, but it has dissipated. And the "me first" mood not only infects the international scene but the national scene. Why should California care about Oregon or vice versa? Hey we got our own problems.

Unless we choose wisely in caring about other people's problems, they will start to be our problems too. If Shariah law can prevail in Indonesia, why not France, or why not a US city?

What to do? Buckley doesn't give an answer. But, he recommends the first step: really care about what is happening to others and not just say, "It ain't my problem." Only then can we start to think of effective ways to help.


George Berryman said...

Unless we choose wisely in caring about other people's problems, they will start to be our problems too. If Shariah law can prevail in Indonesia, why not France, or why not a US city?

Bingo. And then the ACLU would complain, and then the Islamofascists they've defended with such fervor would cut their heads off. It's a shame that your typical American leftist doesn't realize this.

terrance said...

Yep. They seem to be blind to the danger of terrorist and totalitarian movements whenever those movements are anti-American. It's an amazing blind spot. You have a few like Peter Bienart frantically waving their arms in warning, and even those people are ignored.