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Jewish World Review Oct. 19, 2001 / 2 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Michael Long

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Questions for the Anti-War Crowd, Part II

What if someone took them seriously? -- If you want to see contempt for both America and reality itself rolled up into one, check out the anti-war crowd. Differences between themselves and other Americans are far more than disputes over policy. The questions I myself have posed to the protesters (see "Questions for the Anti-War Crowd") represent a step-by-step procedure to expose their fundamental hypocrisy and startling na´vetÚ.

The anti-war crowd is dangerous less for their ideas (which are dangerous enough: demanding that the U.S. forego retaliation; cutting off Israel-as if appeasement would purchase peace; and abandoning anti-Taliban rebels) than for their toxic irresponsibility. That is, the arguments they make are offered with the tacit understanding that no one will take them seriously.

One can best appreciate the bankruptcy of even their most detailed tirades with a little thought experiment: What if someone in charge actually did what the protesters said?

Consider the situation point by point. How serious can an armchair president be if he opposes the Afghanistan's Northern Alliance-the leading opposition to the Taliban-because, as one poster to Mother Jones online magazine put it, "the Northern Alliance is not necessarily remembered with fondness"? Who would defend our right to be free from terror if no one fought terrorists? Who would protect dissenters from physical violence if no one stood against regimes that deal in such violence?

Anti-war protesters reject that there is any virtue in American power, though they are quite happy to bask in its protection.

Here's a flash for the anti-war movement: politics is rarely a matter of pure choices between good and evil. The protesters are afraid of moral imperfection, so they damn anything less than the ideal. And while they wait for that ship to come in, innocent people pay the price; lately in the form of greater exposure to terrorism.

Because she is imperfect, the protesters cannot stand the thought of supporting her. But the question is not of America's perfection. She isn't perfect. The real question is this: Is America-or any other nation, for that matter-good enough and tolerant enough to merit defending against her enemies?

And the answer is obvious. Look around-the greatest tolerance anywhere in the world is found right here. Not in middle-eastern theocracies, nor in socialist "utopias," nor in Fidel Castro's front yard, nor in a cave in which a psychotic bully legislates the lengths of beards that can be displayed under the Afghan moon.

Reasonable Americans across the political spectrum instinctively understand this, and thus we find no ideological monopoly of any kind on standing up for America. Those who favor action come from the Democratic Party; the Republican Party; the ranks of independents; the occasional claque of Nader voters; the remains of the Perot crowd. Nearly everyone senses in their bones that something sacred is at stake, something not easily replaced, something that is worth fighting for.

Both liberals and conservatives recognize that our differences are a matter of degree. That is not to say that we differ on only trivial things-far from it. But we hold in common something far more important than our differences: we understand that civilization itself-and civilization is another word for systematic tolerance-breathes deepest in the American system. We are invested in it, and we will protect that investment for ourselves and for those who come after.

On the other hand, the anti-war crowd has no system to defend, no place to go home to. Their passion for relativism has cut loose their anchor. They are intellectually cornered and morally paralyzed-they are marginalized and growing trivialized-because of a crushing inability to identify and acknowledge right and wrong in a world where such a capacity is the key to survival.

When will they learn that when someone kills six thousand innocent people, he forfeits his right to be understood? Anyone who sees terrorism as a reasonable means to a political end is an enemy of civilization, utterly incapable of defending or even recognizing even the lowest walls that separate us from chaos and anarchy.

Put another way, apologists for terrorists are terrorists themselves.

They preach tolerance, but they don't really understand it. Tolerance is a kind of love, but what good is love if it is not also expressed through justice? Love without justice is mere license, like a parent who refuses to say "no" to a child because he or she "loves" the child too much.

That's not love, that's immorality. What a shock-and what a pity-that some folks still don't know.

JWR contributor Michael Long is a a director of the White House Writers Group. Comment by clicking here.


10/16/01: Questions for the anti-war crowd: If they question you, ask these back
10/12/01: The Jason Problem: Sometimes they only look dead
10/08/01: A little hindsight: A letter for readers in the future
09/28/01: Calling Bono: A plea to the pop culture elite to speak out
09/20/01: Encouragement from the Heartland, by mail
09/13/01: Bleeding time
09/07/01: The trailer-park taste of the public radio catalog
09/04/01: BRAVE NEW FREUD: Internet-based psychiatry may mean relief for those who have shunned treatment
08/17/01: First Amendment: Chickens home to roost
07/27/01: Dispatch From The Front: The Gun Control War
07/20/01: Summer song
07/03/01: It's a Wonderful Recount

© 2001, Michael Long