Monday, November 03, 2003

There are two interesting City Journal pieces that Front Page links to today; the first is Victor Davis Hanson on the Europeans, and the second is a look at the new conservative hip media. Check them out.

You want moral equivalence? Here's some really shocking and extremely stupid moral equivalence from El Periodico last Friday. the author is one Jose Ovejero, billed as a "writer". The title is all you need to know: "Not All Violence Is Terrorism". In case you're a masochist, though, and actually want to read it, check this out.

In recent years a strange and repetitive consensus has been developing in the Western world, according to which all violence not generated by democratic states is intrinsically condemnable. Paraphrasing the Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, in his recent speech before the UN, the nobility of a cause cannot serve as an alibi for the ignominy of the act--terrorist--an affirmation which not only the great majority of politicians support, but also Western commentators and columnists. Let me quote Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the UN: "No goal gives anybody the right to kill innocent civilians..."

Violence seems to be only a legitimate recourse in the hands of democratic states; then the cause does justify the ignominy of the act: Aznar himself, to defend Spanish participation in Iraq, affirmed with noticing any contradiction, that "guaranteeing the security and the freedom of the world...seems like a noble cause to me": the civilian victims, a priori unacceptable, become in this way the painful but necessary price of a noble objective, at least if anybody still thinks that a war can be fought without causing casualties among the civilian population.

We should not think that those who say things like terrorism is everywhere, violence is never justified, or that the Zapatistas and ETA are the same thing, as a Socialist politician said after a visit to Mexico, have become pacifists overnight and repudiate all violence. What is rejected is terrorist violence, which seems to be defined as that directed against the democratic states, their citizens and their companies. Which gives us at least two problems.

The first, the definition of a democratic state. Is it enough to have elections and a theoretical freedom of the press and of expression to talk about democracy? Do countries like Bolivia, Colombia or Mexico live in democracy, which makes any use of violence to achieve social or legislative gains condemnable? We must suppose so, because otherwise we cannot understand that Western countries sell arms and give logistic and intelligence support to the Government of Colombia, or have friendly--and economic--relations with those of Bolivia and Mexico.

Well, yeah, Mexico, Colombia, and Bolivia are all countries striving to move toward greater democracy and better social conditions, and the fact that there are a bunch of communist guerrillas running around each of the three countries is not helping a whole hell of a lot. Is this guy saying it should be OK to use violence to weaken those governments? If so, just who elected those people who are killing others in order to "achieve social and legislative gains"? Oh, by the way, the biggest difference between the ETA and the Zapatistas is that the Zapatistas aren't nearly as proficient at killing people.

The fact that in one of those countries 85% of the population lives in poverty (presumably Bolivia, per capita GDP 1999 about $3000, literacy 82%, unemployment 11%--so it's poor but not that awful, not comparable with Africa. Says the World Almanac, "Since 1985, Bolivia has implemented economic changes that have been phenomenally successful. Still at the bottom of the South American economic ladder, its economy has steadily improved over the last fifteen years. Political stability has helped."), that the Government of another is pushing the civilian population to implicate themselves in the war--creating networks of civilian informers and with its plans to recruit peasant-soldiers--and in which the connivences between the army and the paramilitaries are obvious (that means Ovejero doesn't have to prove this, he just says it's "obvious"; also, what's wrong with encouraging the population to do their civic duty?), and another in which numerous crimes are planned and protected by a corrupt system, does not seem to make Western politicians and businessmen uncomfortable, although many more people die the victims of those false democracies than because of terrorist or guerrilla--if that distinction is permitted--actions. (Well, no, the distinction is not permitted. What this guy is saying is that it's OK for people to organize private armies, beholden to no one, in order to overthrow the imperfect governments of Mexico, Colombia, and Bolivia, and presumably the rest of the Latin American countries, in order to "achieve social and legislative gains", whatever those may be. I imagine they are similar to the gains Fidel Castro has made.)

The second problem is posed by the fact that the democratic countries are only democratic within their own territory, but they use reprehensible and even criminal means in the territories of others. They have no problem with allying themselves with dictators that defend their interests (false; the US has never supported a dictator unless he was the lesser of two evils, as during the Cold War, and it's never enjoyed doing so), they sell weapons and military technology to countries that are far from being democratic, even with the knowledge that they might be used against their citizens (the only nondemocratic countries I know America is supporting are precisely in the Middle East where they are still the lesser of two evils; I won't vouch for the French, though, with their network of client states in Africa and their deals with Saddam and Assad and, well, everybody else with money who wanted to destroy Israel), and they bribe corrupt bureaucrats so that they will approve projects that are often damaging--and even fatal--to the population of the country in question, that, for example, is expelled from its lands to give room for exploitation of forests or petroleum or the construction of a dam. (Give me one example of the US government doing this, please. I thought the last place they built a huge dam and made like a million people move was China.) While they pretend to fight terrorism with one hand they feed it with the other. (Here's his real point. Those goddamn Yankees are just reaping what they sowed and deserve whatever happens to them.)

So, deciding that all terrorism--all non-state violence--is the same, that is, persisting in ignoring its causes and its distinctive characteristics, is not only stupidity; it is also a subtle way of leaving aside a crucial question: how the political and economic interests of the First World are responsible, often directly, for the appearance of violence in the Third World. And not accepting that responsibility is a way of perpetuating the violence we are supposedly condemning.

Wow. That sure is some moral equivalence there. We're even WORSE than the terrorists because their violence is OUR fault. I would estimate that the majority of Spaniards who read the papers or watch the news on TV believe this stuff, because this is a common message in the Spanish media. It's not usually stated quite so bluntly, but it's a very common belief. I'd say most Spaniards who don't vote for the PP believe this line and actively parrot it. Fortunately the PP is going to win again in 2004, so we won't have to worry about these demented fools coming to power again until 2008.

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