Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Double standards and cowardice

Christopher Hitchens has an excellent column in Slate in which he excoriates the left for ignoring the plight of Iraqis after three decades of brutal dictatorship and the current terrorist insurgency.
How can so many people watch this as if they were spectators, handicapping and rating the successes and failures from some imagined position of neutrality? Do they suppose that a defeat in Iraq would be a defeat only for the Bush administration? The United States is awash in human rights groups, feminist organizations, ecological foundations, and committees for the rights of minorities. How come there is not a huge voluntary effort to help and to publicize the efforts to find the hundreds of thousands of "missing" Iraqis, to support Iraqi women's battle against fundamentalists, to assist in the recuperation of the marsh Arab wetlands, and to underwrite the struggle of the Kurds, the largest stateless people in the Middle East? Is Abu Ghraib really the only subject that interests our humanitarians?
Do read the whole thing. On a similar note the (London) Times recently ran an outstanding column by Mathias Döpfner which has been making the rounds since it originally appeared in Die Welt in November 2004 (via Davids Medienkritik).

Instead of defending liberal values and acting as an attractive centre of power on the same playing field as the true great powers, the US and China, it does nothing. On the contrary, we Europeans present ourselves, in contrast to the supposedly arrogant Americans, as world champions of tolerance, which even Otto Schily, the German interior minister, justifiably criticises. Where does this self-satisfied reaction come from? Does it arise because we are so moral? I fear it stems from the fact that we Europeans are devoid of a moral compass.
For his policy of confronting Islamic terrorism head on, Bush risks the fall of the dollar, huge amounts of additional national debt and a massive and persistent burden on the US economy. But he does this because, unlike most of Europe, he realises what is at stake is literally everything that really matters to free people.
While we criticise the capitalistic robber barons of the US because they seem too sure of their priorities, we timidly defend our welfare states. “Stay out of it. It could get expensive,” we cry.
So instead of acting to defend our civilisation, we prefer to discuss reducing our 35-hour work week, improving our dental coverage or extending our four weeks of annual paid holiday. Or perhaps we listen to television pastors preaching about the need to reach out to terrorists, to understand and forgive. These days, Europe reminds me of an old woman who, with shaking hands, frantically hides her last pieces of jewellery when she notices a robber breaking into a neighbour’s house. Appeasement? That is just the start of it.
Europe, thy name is cowardice.

The author is the CEO of Axel Springer AG, a large German publisher which owns Die Welt and Bild (Europe's largest circulation newspaper), and has just acquired ProSiebenSat.1, a television station. Considering the utter garbage that even high-brow German newspapers and magazines publish it is heartening to see that at least some people still have their head screwed on right (also see this excellent article).

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