Freedom must run deeper than the free flow of capital. Freedom must mean more than the free trade of goods and services. The world will be free when we have freedom of speech for every nation. The world will be free when there is freedom to worship for everyone. The world will be free when we finally shake off the rusted chains of tyranny. Whether in the guise of facist dictatorships, or economic slavery, or ethnic hostility, or the crushing yoke of Islamic fanaticism. Andrea Wyatt, Night Five, West Wing Season 3
I have a thing for quoting The West Wing. Season 2 was some of the greatest TV ever made. Then from Season 3 it lost its innocence. 9/11 saw Isaac and Ishmael as the response by the show. But the series took a darker twist as the USA responded to the newfound threat of danger at home.
They’ll Like Us When We Win. Said by Toby in response to his ex-wife’s protest at some lines in a speech the President is going to give. The west has shrunk from intervention, from proudly staking our claim to be the beacon of civilisation. Shrunk because we’re ashamed of our history, too indebted to pay for more intervention, unwilling to stand up for the idea that free speech, democracy, equal rights, pluralism, are good ideals. The election of Donald Trump won’t help, isolationism will dampen that beacon and put it further out of reach.
I’ve made the case for liberal interventionism before. The West should not be afraid to stand up to the evils in the world and say enough. It would require Germany and Japan to shake off their past and proudly state that they were willing to stand up to dictators and despots.
There’s nothing wrong with saying our morals are better. We don’t crucify people for protesting. We don’t hang people for being gay. Let’s impose our morals on people who disagree with us until they agree. Because our morals are better. Simple.
It’s an extreme reaction to an extreme problem. The problems in the Middle East and the rest of the world become our problems when people flee civil war and persecution. Despite our tarnished post-Iraq reputation they still come to us. Extreme reactions work. I will recognise that democracy can’t be dropped from 40,000 feet but you can kill the people who prevent democracy from happening from 40,000 feet. ISIS have been nearly destroyed (despite all the takes from a year ago saying it could take 25 years). Finish the job, destroy ISIS and then say to the rest of the Middle East and every unstable region of the world ‘don’t worry, freedom and democracy will be coming to a polling booth near you very soon’.
Dictatorships are naturally unstable. There are tensions constantly bubbling, and all it takes is one fruit vendor to self-immolate and suddenly you have uprisings and civil wars from Tunisia to Bahrain. My suggestion. Let’s institute a Nuremberg for the Middle East.
‘President’ Assad – you have been found guilty of indiscriminate bombing of civilians. Sentence will be carried out immediately.
‘King’ Salman – you have been found guilty of the oppression of minorities to make money, the oppression of women and the murder of homosexuals. Sentence will be carried out immediately.
Our morals are better. This isn’t complicated. I cannot square this idea that somehow we should shrink from telling the Middle East that crucifixion is wrong. That we should shrink from telling Uganda that homosexuality shouldn’t be a crime. That we should shrink from ensuring slavery is abolished in Mauritania. That we should shrink from telling Myanmar to protect their Rohingya Muslims from Buddhist attacks. It isn’t colonialism to tell countries, even former colonies, that they need to do better by their people or they’re next.
Apply the same set of morals globally. Free speech – containing religious freedom and freedom of the press, equal rights for minorities and women, democratic reforms (though not along the lines of the US system), pluralism. Globalism may be in retreat, but the minorities in those countries will still look to the West to be the shining city on the hill. Instead of stopping them coming to us, let’s bring the city to them.
Ken Clarke said of Michael Gove “If Michael was PM we’d be at war with three countries at once”. Maybe, it doesn’t have to be military power, but we ought to be far more muscular in promoting our worldview. Because we’re right. They’re wrong. They’re strong. We’re much stronger.
They’ll like us when we win.