Thursday, January 20, 2005

American Motivations, Self Interest and Self Preservation

Jonah Goldberg's afternoon analysis of the President Inaugural address seems to relate loosely to the themes discussed in this post (including the comments) and this one - both concerning motivations and concerns of aid workers in the Tsunami region. However, in Goldberg's piece the question concerns why American is doing what it's doing - why our country should be concerned with the welfare and freedom of other countries.
Now [Woodrow] Wilson has long been a villain to conservatives — and deservedly so. The superficial similarities between Bush’s rhetoric and deeds and Wilson’s has caused some to worry. Wilson’s idealism and incompetence unleashed or hastened many of the horrors of the 20th century, abroad and at home. But there’s a key difference between W and Wilson. While Wilson rightly championed liberty, he refused to ground his messianic zeal in American self-interest. Time and again he insisted America had “no selfish ends to serve” and that the U.S. was going to war solely because “the right is more precious than peace” — as if Americans should be ashamed of their self-interest. This made WWI a war of choice and do-gooderism more similar intellectually to Bill Clinton’s efforts in Haiti and Bosnia than George W. Bush’s in Iraq and Afghanistan.

George W. Bush grounds his doctrine in the soil of American self-interest. “We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.” And: “For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny — prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder — violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat.”

This has the priorities in the right order. We fight tyranny because it is in our interest to do so. We are morally justified in our task because the fight against tyranny is a noble cause.

This is exactly right. It may seem small of America to help others not just because it is good and nice for them, but because it is good for us, but at least it's also responsible and intellectually honest. When the individuals of American's military join up, we say they are brave to "serve and protect." We say they are putting their lives on the line for us, for our freedom and safety. Anti-war protesters complain that our Armed Forces in the Middle East are dying for a country that doesn't care, for a region that doesn't like us, for purposes that are not true to those of "freedom and safety of the United States." But when we look at America's involvement abroad in the way that President Bush explained it today, we see that spreading freedom abroad does indeed protect our freedom.

There's nothing wrong with American self-interest in these instances. I doubt that many of the Iraqis that are no longer suffering under a murderous dictator care why America came their to help, they are just relieved that they did.

Our military men and women should be proud to know that wherever they serve, in every country and on every ocean, they are doing their duty to protect the lives of Americans and the freedom of America.