Monday, May 10, 2004

The Great Fallacy

[T]he outrage among Arabs and Muslims seems hypocritical when most of them live under regimes that are guilty of far worse abuses. But to say that we're better than brutal dictatorships is not saying much. This isn't a standard by which we should measure ourselves.
--Cathy Young, "Cruelty cuts across nationality, gender lines"

The one anti-war argument that, in retrospect, I did not take seriously enough was a simple one. It was that this war was noble and defensible but that this administration was simply too incompetent and arrogant to carry it out effectively. I dismissed this as facile Bush-bashing at the time. I was wrong. I sensed the hubris of this administration after the fall of Baghdad, but I didn't sense how they would grotesquely under-man the post-war occupation, bungle the maintenance of security, short-change an absolutely vital mission, dismiss constructive criticism, ignore even their allies (like the Brits), and fail to shift swiftly enough when events span out of control. . . .Shock has now led - and should lead - to anger. And those of us who support the war should, in many ways, be angrier than those who opposed it.
--Andrew Sullivan, "The Inexcusable"

The great fallacy is our tendency to recognize when others do evil things and then to assume that anything we do in response is Good. I've certainly been guilty of thinking this way. Every time there is a terrorist attack in Israel I become so filled with righteous indignation that I think that "we"* can do no wrong. Then something happens to remind me that my faith in "us" is misplaced.

Righteous indignation is not enough to guide us in these difficult times. We must tread lightly.

*A typical American Jew, I tend to identify with the United States and Israel interchangeably.

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