Truth and reconciliation

Last week, President Obama gave an interview to the Dubai-based network Al Arabiya. The interview was conciliatory and Obama tried to signal a new direction in U.S.-Muslim relations. He promised a foreign policy more about “listening” than “dictating.” It was a good interview with a good message.Taking the high road, Iranian President Ahmadinejad responded by demanding that the U.S. apologize for past crimes before a new chapter in relations could begin.Needless to say, Ahmadinejad’s reluctance towards peace, as well as his views on homosexuality and the Holocaust, have few friends at the University. However, I have met some people whose perception of America isn’t particularly different.Angered by Bush’s black-and-white treatment of Western/Mid East relations, many university Chomskyites simply flipped the issue on its head. They portray the U.S. as the indisputable villain and our enemies as brave soldiers against neo-imperialism. That’s a dangerous and incorrect oversimplification.It’s certainly true that few directly condone terrorism, but liberalism has always had an underdog fetish, and the far-left can be unfairly lenient toward all kinds of scumbags from Hamas to the Iraqi insurgency.They’re frequently justified by an allegedly “scientific” method; Terrorism is an inevitable consequence of “oppression.” Our involvement in the region created the forces of terrorism; it’s cause and effect, simple as that. Fair enough. But the same cause and effect paradigm can work the other way around. The greatly heightened U.S. military presence in the region was certainly an inevitable consequence of Sept. 11. If we are to judge morality on cause and effect analysis, it becomes impossible to untangle the web of culpability, and leads to the death of moral standards. The acts of terrorists in the 21st century have been unequivocally wrong and blame can only be placed on those who carried them out.Of course, America has done its fair share of unequivocally wrong things, but we’ve actually given back tangible benefits to the Third World. No terrorist organization has ever been able to say that.We liberated Afghanistan from a regime that was almost incomprehensibly repressive. We protected Kuwait from its invaders. Even Iraq, the crown jewel of American overextension, is facing a potentially bright future. A country once ruled by the Butcher of Baghdad just pulled off a peaceful election with results that point toward added trust in secular government. These involvements were hardly disinterested, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t produced benefits for Middle Easterners.I’m in no way suggesting that America deserves a free pass, but the myth of an oil-and-torture-loving-empire versus the virtuous downtrodden is entirely fictional.