Saturday, October 30, 2004

It's The Final Countdown

Belmont Club has two excellent posts up. The first is an analysis of the recently released UBL tape. Wretchard at Belmont Club observes:

It is important to notice what he has stopped saying in this speech. He has stopped talking about the restoration of the Global Caliphate. There is no more mention of the return of Andalusia. There is no more anticipation that Islam will sweep the world. He is no longer boasting that Americans run at the slightest wounds; that they are more cowardly than the Russians. He is not talking about future operations to swathe the world in fire but dwelling on past glories. He is basically saying if you leave us alone we will leave you alone. Though it is couched in his customary orbicular phraseology he is basically asking for time out.

The American answer to Osama's proposal will be given on Election Day. One response is to agree that the United States of America will henceforth act like Sweden, which is on track to become majority Islamic sometime after the middle of this century. The electorate best knows which candidate will serve this end; which candidate most promises to be European-like in attitude and they can choose that path with both eyes open. The electorate can strike that bargain and Osama may keep his word.

The other course is to reject Osama's terms utterly; to recognize the pleading in his outwardly belligerent manner and reply that his fugitive existence; the loss of his sanctuaries; the annihilation of his men are but the merest foretaste of what is yet to come: to say that to enemies such as he, the initials 'US' will always mean Unconditional Surrender.

In the second post Wretchard teams up with Chester for an analysis of the order of battle shaping up in Fallujah. It looks like there will be an assault sometime next week, probably soon after the polls close, and it doesn't look good for the insurgents. There's good stuff to be found on the military situation in Fallujah at both of these links.

Imposing Our Views Upon Others

A friend recommends this article in Commonweal for readers interested in John Kerry's position on abortion (at least as of today). The article is actually a critique of Mario Cuomo's 1984 Notre Dame speech on the subject which has taken on the authority of holy writ for many Democratic politicians, most notably John Kerry.

The article is authored by Ken Woodward, long time religion editor at Newsweek, and is an excellent analysis of the Cuomo/Kerry argument that one can be personally opposed to abortion, that one can accept the Catholic teaching that abortion is a ghastly crime against human life, and still strive heroically to do everything one can to prevent this offense from being restricted or ended.

There is a link to a reply by Cuomo to Woodward's essay at the end of the piece. In Viewpoint's opinion Cuomo's response, though articulate and tart, falls short of being a satisfactory defense of his position. We'll leave it to the interested reader to pursue the arguments for him or herself, but the general theme of the Cuomo/Kerry apologia is the oft-heard claim that no one has the right to impose his/her morality on another person. This concern, however, being founded on several errors, is quite misplaced.

We'll mention only in passing Woodward's point that it's difficult to name legislation which does not impose somebody's morality upon the rest of society. Everything from desegregation to affirmative action to welfare regulations to environmental regulations to laws prohibiting gambling, prostitution, public lewdness, drug use, capital punishment, bribery, and so on all presuppose moral values that might not be shared by many of those who are subject to the pertinent laws.

Beyond this objection, however, there are a couple of other difficulties with this concern about saddling others with one's moral values or one's religious views. First, it is a concern, oddly enough, that only theists can logically express. If an atheist were to object to a theist that he should not impose his beliefs on others the appropriate reply would be to ask "Why not?"

If the atheist is correct in believing that we live in a world without God then a man has a "right" to try to do whatever he wishes. In a world without God might makes right, so anything one is able to do one has a "right" to do. If the atheist objects to this, he might be asked what it is, exactly, upon which he bases his conviction that I have no right to impose my values. Is it the law? But if I can change the law then that objection fails. Is it that a right to impose one's will upon others robs the other of his worth and dignity as a human being? But in a world without God human worth and dignity are arbitrary and chimerical. They have no real existence in the first place, and even if they did, why would it be wrong to deprive someone of them?

The fact is that the only constraint upon anyone's "right" to do whatever he is able to do is God's proscription, but for the atheist that limit does not exist and for the secularist it is illicit to invoke it. In a Godless universe, or in the naked public square, we are all morally autonomous, free to do whatever we have the power to accomplish.

A second problem with the affirmation that it's improper to seek to impose our beliefs upon others is that the claim itself is a moral assertion. The person who makes it believes that it is wrong to engage in the particular behavior he is condemning. But the problem with this is that he is himself seeking to impose upon others his moral conviction that it is unjust to impose one's moral convictions upon others. In other words, he's violating his own principle in the very act of voicing it. He is attempting to inflict this particular moral principle on the rest of us.

The truth of the matter is that few people who argue that it transgresses some moral standard to impose one's beliefs upon others really believe it deep down. What they believe is that it's wrong to have others foist convictions and values with which they disagree upon them. They have no trouble burdening others with their own values, and that's why Cuomo and Kerry sound so insincere on the question of abortion. They claim to believe that abortion is a sin, but they are prepared to fight tooth and nail to perpetuate it. It is not, mind, that they promise to adopt a stance of political neutrality on the issue. It is that they promise to do everything in their power to see that neither legislatures nor courts nor any expression of the popular will diminishes a woman's right to kill her unborn child.

Surely this is an odd position to take. They certainly wouldn't suffer similar psychological dissonance over slavery. They would hardly say that they believe slavery is an offense against God and man, but since many people disagree with them about this, they promise as President to only appoint pro-slavery justices to the Supreme Court. If such reasoning is unthinkable with respect to the issue of slavery, why is it not equally unthinkable with respect to abortion?

When someone says they don't want to impose their values on others, they're really just trying to walk on both sides of the political street simultaneously. They are tacitly acknowledging that they're really not committed to at least one of the values they claim to hold. If Cuomo and Kerry really believed the Catholic Church's teaching on abortion they would scarcely oppose efforts to end it, much less would they actively fight to keep it legal.