Monday, October 16, 2006

A Tale of Two Countries

This aerial nighttime satellite photo of the Korean penninsula sobered me. To my way of thinking it starkly illustrates the need for personal liberty, free markets, and the unshackling of the human spirit from the constraints of dictatorship. Two countries made up of the same people, with the same resources, divided by nothing more than the political system they use, one with the blessings of technology and civilization, with ample electricity to light their homes and the other doomed to darkness except for the city of its overlord.

Although I disagree with the methods of the neoconservatives in virtually every way, I share their fundamental idealism that it is through liberty and freedom that the very best in humanity can come (literally) to light. They've gone about spreading that philosophy in almost the worst imaginable way, but I still maintain the basic position is correct, and like Rumsfeld I think this photo illustrates it with astounding clarity.

(Original photo and article from The Daily Mail.)


Anonymous said...

Wow - what a sobering photo. I agree that unless people are allowed to see the light and to flourish, they are doomed to live in the dark ages, both intellectually and philosophically. Unfortunately, there are quite a few countries like North Korea where ignorance reigns. There's got to be a better balance, and I think that humans' ability to reason and think needs to be fostered and encouraged. That's a really sobering photo. -- Denise

Geopoet said...

I believe it was in National Geographic where the statistics were published showing the stark difference in health between the two countries. It is like a perfect lab where genetically and ethnically the subjects are the same and we can witness the devastating effects of a nation's policies on its own people. Thus, it's not so much about technology as it is about human rights. By the way, "neo-conservatives" are not "neo" just by throwing a label at them since they reflect, by definition, long-held positions that are rooted in terms of ideas and belief. It is the left that has moved light years from the center. (Just had to throw that clarification in.)

Jeff Hebert said...

By the way, "neo-conservatives" are not "neo" just by throwing a label at them since they reflect, by definition, long-held positions that are rooted in terms of ideas and belief.

I don't even know what that's supposed to mean. By that reasoning you can't use a label to describe anything.

Perhaps you are reading the term as a pejorative, which honestly I hadn't realized was even one of its possible connotations until I read the Wikipedia entry on neoconservatism. I certainly don't mean it that way. I use it to refer to the philosophy that military force is the primary preferred method of spreading democracy, coupled with domestic fiscal policies considered anathema to traditional conservatism -- radically larger government, ballooning deficits, massive entitlement programs, etc. The Bush Administration certainly doesn't meet the criteria a Republican of even Reagan's era would consider "conservative" in terms of fiscal policy. Hence the modifier "neo". "Conservative" is left in because, as you say, it has its roots in traditional conservative/Republican philosophy, but I think it's disengenuous to pretend there's no difference between modern Republican political practice and that which went before, say, the mid 1960's at least.

It is the left that has moved light years from the center. (Just had to throw that clarification in.)

A term as vague as "the left" can mean almost anything, and thus means almost nothing. Here, let's try it the other way: "The right has moved light years from the center." I believe both those sentences have exactly the same informational content -- zero. And by definition, if half the country (or more) holds a position, you can't say they're "light years from the center", that doesn't make sense. They may be light years from YOUR center, but that's an entirely different thing. From my perspective, for instance, it's the right that has moved light years away from what it used to be, but considering they got (barely) more than 50% of the vote in the last election, objectively speaking that can't be true.

Jeff Hebert said...

Also, for an interesting take from someone who considers himself a Republican who also feels he's been abandoned by the Bush Administration's charge to the far right, see this column by the Johnson County Sun in that bastion of liberal baby-eating, Kansas. A brief quote:

The Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally.

You almost cannot be a victorious traditional Republican candidate with mainstream values in Johnson County or in Kansas anymore, because these candidates never get on the ballot in the general election. They lose in low turnout primaries, where the far right shows up to vote in disproportionate numbers.

To win a Republican primary, the candidate must move to the right.

This is a man who has not only voted exclusively Republican since 1968, but who has used the bully pulpit of his newspaper to endorse, with very rare exceptions, Republican candidates.

It's just one data point, but I think it is worth pointing out that it's not only Democrats who feel the Republican Party has moved quite far to the right over the last six to twelve years.

If you had told me when I was a teenager voting in my first election (for Bush Senior, no less) that in 2006 the only place a fiscal conservative could place a vote and feel good about it would be with a Democrat, I'd have laughed in your face. And yet, here we stand.

Jeff Hebert said...

By the way, I read this quote today from Richard Perle, one of the leading neoconservative thinkers. He uses the word himself:

Richard Perle: "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad.

I think if members of the administration are using the word to describe themselves, it's not "throwing a label at them". It's using their own words to accurately describe what they themselves proclaim to be the case. Here's how Kenneth Adelman, another key neoconservative thinker, describes the term:

"the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world"

I try not to use language sloppily. I take pride in writing cautiously and carefully, and using the right word for the right concept. I know it's late to come back to this, but it's been bugging me for a while and I wanted to set the record straight.