Wednesday, January 23, 2008

America, Empire, Rick Steves and the mommy problem

Rick Steves was ambushed in San Jose, California by a Marine wanting to know if Rick took back his negative comments about the Iraq War now that peace and security had returned to the country. Rick replied that he "[sees] our nation acting like an empire."

It is an interesting argument and has generated 120+ comments at his blog. I don't completely disagree with Rick. But his argument brings up a fundamental problem with liberalism of the 21st century. The inability to come up with a solution for evil in the world. Rick details the sins of America with:
We maintain military bases in 130 countries as if it’s our right to do so. In many foreign lands, the biggest and most fortified building in the entire country is the embassy of the USA. Only we can declare the natural resources of another nation on the opposite side of the globe (e.g., oil in the Middle East) “vital to our national security interests.”
And he's got good complaints, but he doesn't deal with the reason America has bases in 130 countries or why our embassy is fortified. It is because there is evil in the world.

You'd think Rick, in his litany of sins, would address the problem of evil and how to solve it. Yet, Rick (nor I or most liberals) doesn't have a socially tolerable answer for what to do to when people want to kill you (or others) in cold blood.

The traditional answer is "talk to them", which makes the basic assumption the killer is rational and begs the question, "and if they won't talk..." or "and if they won't stop..."

The liberal answer of keep talking rings hollow as evil continues to march forth.

That is why the Democratic Party is percieved to have a "Mommy Problem": the belief that while Democrats are seen as likable and polled well on social and domestic issues, they are weak on national security issues.

That may be something Rick doesn't know because he seems grumpy about the current crop of politicians running for office when he says:
Our country, with four percent of the planet’s population, spends as much on its military as every other nation combined (and, these days, it’s tough to get elected without promising even more).
Talking may be the best option or the moral imperative, but it certainly doesn't garner votes in times of insecurity.

So what can liberals do? I don't know. It seems the dedication to discourse and tepid interest in armed conflict is rooted in liberals basic view of human nature. We believe that people are basically good and won't use violence unless they have no other avenue. For liberals to embrace war as a method of conflict resolution strategy seems likes a betrayal of our own DNA. The revulsion of using arms may just be a fundamental weakness of liberalism.

[sidenote]: This isn't to say that people should be conservatives, either. The slavish adherence to free market principles by conservatives makes them appear to be uncaring and callous. It gives them the "daddy problem" of being the party one runs to when they need protection, but not the party you ask for milk money from. Should the 2008 election be about an economic downturn, then this daddy problem will be fatal to the Republican party.