Monday, September 17, 2007

Bush and Blair's Big Mistake

Historian Michael Howard says the human condition makes us want to belong - not to be free.

President Bush and his neo-con supporters are in the habit of saying that since the desire for freedom burns brightly in every human breast, it is the duty of the United States to spread democratic freedom throughout the world. He sent his army (along with what he perversely called the "Coalition of the Willing") into Iraq in order to do this; with the results we see today. Two centuries ago the leaders of the French Revolution did very much the same thing, and unleashed a quarter of a century of war on Europe.
In fact, what is hard-wired into every human being is the need, not to be 'free', but to belong: belong to a group, whether it be a family, a juvenile gang, a football crowd, a tribe, or a fully-fledged nation.
This is the instinct that has inspired humanity throughout its history and been the cause of most of its wars. Very few of us have either the inclination or the courage to separate ourselves, from our own judgments and battle against the crowd. Those who do so are regarded at best as odd-balls, at worst as traitors - not least in the United States.
What is hard-wired into every human being is the need, not to be free, but to belong.

The concepts of 'liberty' and 'democracy', as the West understands them, are the result of a long process of social, economic and political development in our own part of the world. Even here they can flourish only within a framework of security provided by a historic community that commands our instinctive loyalty. If they are brought by foreign troops, wrapped in a foreign flag, they will be seen as the ideology of an alien tribe and resisted accordingly.
In their well-meaning effort to bring democracy to Iraq and the Middle East, President Bush and Tony Blair may have let us in for an even longer war than that which was unleashed by the French Revolution, two centuries ago.

Liberation or Catastrophe? by Michael Howard (Hambledon Continuum) is out on September 28

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