Freedom from Attack as a Civil Liberty

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I'm still fighting a cold today, so this will be brief ....

A short while ago, I saw protestors making hay about the Abu Ghraib scandal while ignoring many worse things and was angered by what I saw. Today, at Jewish World Review is a Daniel Pipes editorial well worth reading about exactly the same type of bias vis-a-vis media coverage of the possible torture of Abu Ali (or relative lack thereof of the plot to assassinate Bush). From the editorial, which provides links to several examples:

These liberal analysts evince no concern that an American citizen trained by the Saudi government in Virginia will stand trial for plotting to assassinate the president. They decline to explore the implications of this stunning piece of news. They offer no praise to law enforcement for having broken a terrorism case. Instead, they focus exclusively on evidentiary procedures.

The article raises more questions than answers and indeed starts with the biggest of these, namely, "For a free people in the age of terrorism, what is the proper balance between civil liberties and national security?" But Pipes's focus is on the general failure of liberals to appreciate the danger posed by the militants who are trying to use the freedom of our society as a weapon against us. The -- ahem -- limitation of their approach is put quite well by Tony Blair: "[T]here is no greater civil liberty than to live free from terrorist attack."

The crucial connection made here for the liberals is this: we cannot enjoy our individual rights without existing in the first place. And social conservatives sometimes need reminding of the converse: we cannot live lives proper to man unless our individual rights are protected by the government. Indeed, the dilemmas posed by this war can only be solved by bearing in mind the relationship between the individual's rights and his life.

Another thing I wish Pipes had said is this: that the Bush administration should act quickly to ensure that we have a sound legal basis for dealing with "Americans" who choose to become enemy combatants, like Jose Padilla. This is a question that can bite us where the sun don't shine if it isn't addressed. (Though some might say it already has....)

-- CAV

1 comment:

Curtis Gale Weeks said...

I think that the liberal bias in the media (outside of Fox, etc., which have a Republican bias) is apparent to any thinking individual who isn't too wrapped up in ideological liberalism to see it. One question I'm prompted to ask is this: even given what Abu Ali has done, should we overlook the [supposed] torture committed by our nice friends [????] the Saudis? Of course not. I'm tempted to believe, however, that the most partisan liberal journalists are a bit gleeful at the prospect of Bush's assassination: this is not something I want to think about, but it does enter my mind.

Nothing to fear but fear itself? The problem with the dichotomy suggested by Daniel Pipes (though not endorsed by him, it seems) is this: the assumption that we will need to either become much more of a police state in order to protect our remaining liberties, or that we will have to let the Jihadists win if we don't limit our liberties on our own—in which case, we won't have any, when the Jihadists are done with us. It's a circular argument in favor of increased security measures which might eliminate what we think of as "civil liberties" if those measures are carried too far. That's why Pipes poses his questions. The answer, I believe, is this: No, we do not need to forsake some of our liberties in order to win this fight against Jihadism; rather, we should use our liberties to defeat them: our ingenuity, our self-determination and perseverance, our passion for freedom. Any other approach would be defeatist, ending—as the circular argument suggests—in a terrible loss of civil liberties. (The idea that we must forsake some liberties is really demeaning to our liberties: as if liberty doesn't produce the best results, on the whole.)