Brian O'Connell

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06/09/2002 - 06/16/2002
06/16/2002 - 06/23/2002
06/23/2002 - 06/30/2002
06/30/2002 - 07/07/2002
07/07/2002 - 07/14/2002
07/14/2002 - 07/21/2002
09/15/2002 - 09/22/2002
09/22/2002 - 09/29/2002
10/06/2002 - 10/13/2002
10/13/2002 - 10/20/2002
10/20/2002 - 10/27/2002
12/29/2002 - 01/05/2003
01/05/2003 - 01/12/2003
01/12/2003 - 01/19/2003
01/19/2003 - 01/26/2003
01/26/2003 - 02/02/2003
02/23/2003 - 03/02/2003
06/22/2003 - 06/29/2003
06/29/2003 - 07/06/2003
07/06/2003 - 07/13/2003
07/13/2003 - 07/20/2003
07/20/2003 - 07/27/2003
08/10/2003 - 08/17/2003
08/17/2003 - 08/24/2003
08/24/2003 - 08/31/2003
08/31/2003 - 09/07/2003
09/07/2003 - 09/14/2003
11/09/2003 - 11/16/2003
11/16/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/23/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/30/2003 - 12/07/2003
12/07/2003 - 12/14/2003
12/14/2003 - 12/21/2003
12/28/2003 - 01/04/2004
01/11/2004 - 01/18/2004
02/01/2004 - 02/08/2004
03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004

Response to Prominent Americans (Not in Our Name)

Complexity and Universal Truth

From Multiculturalism to Anti-Americanism in Six Easy Steps

Andrew Sullivan

A Nickel's Worth of Free Advice

Armed and Dangerous

Asymmetrical Information

Beauty of Gray

Belmont Club

Bjørn Stærk blog


Cinderella Bloggerfeller

Cold Fury




Dr. Weevil

Eject! Eject! Eject!



it comes in pints?


Little Green Footballs

LILEKS (James)

Man Without Qualities

Matt Welch

Michael J. Totten

My Two Cents

Natalie Solent

Oliver Willis


Public Nuisance

Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing

Shadow of the Hegemon

Steven Chapman

The CounterRevolutionary

The Machinery of Night


The Truth Laid Bear

Tim Blair

Twisted Spinster

USS Clueless


Winds of Change.NET


Power and Responsibility

There's a strain of thought that informs us that with power comes responsibility. When we're children and have little power, our actions have few consequences of any weight and we tend to be shielded from those consequences. As we gain more power to affect our own lives, we discover that our actions do have consequences, both good and bad, and we learn that we must live with the very real results of our actions. Teenagers, given incrementally increasing power over their own lives are usually able to meet the challenges of greater responsibility that such power entails. We've all gone through this process, or will, and the vast majority of us learn to accept responsibility for what we do. The key is self-restraint. We learn that what we say or do affects what happens down the line.

When a person or a group of people has no power, there are few consequences to mediate words, thoughts, and actions. We see this in political parties. Extremists on the left or right can advocate the most outrageous things in part because they know, if only at a semi-conscious level, that such advocacy will have no consequences. Greens can advocate that we stop buring fossil fuels today and libertarians can advocate an immediate end to all government regulations. And if by some freakish turn of events, they were to get their way, the consequences that result would cause a good number of them to change their minds or at least moderate their views.

This dynamic has been invoked in the debate over European commitment to Western security during the Cold War (and to some extent in this new war). The line is that Europe had, in a relative sense, little power to affect the outcome of the conflict because the United States wielded most of the power. Realizing that the actions or positions it took didn't matter too much, Europeans were free to advocate any manner of defeatism, such as unilateral disarmament or other flavors of appeasement. US policy would determine outcomes, not European policy, so European policy could afford to be irresponsible.

This dynamic can also be applied to the populations of nondemocratic countries. Here I'm talking specifically about Islamic ones. Ordinary Egyptian, Saudi, and Palestinian "citizens" can afford to hold outrageous and extremist views because none of these places are democratic, and the will of the majority has few direct consequences. Islamic extemism can flourish in segments of the population because the consequences of Islamist rule aren't felt. Not until a revolution, anyway.

In Iran, where they have lived with the consequences, views have moderated considerably. The consequences of the unmediated power first exercised in 1979 have led to an understanding among most that restraint in self-governance is necessary. Iranians have learned that their actions in 1979 had consequences that they are all experiencing today.

Terrorism can flourish among Palestinians in part because Palestinians have no power. And not just with regard to Israel, but they have no power when it comes to their own nominal government. With majority rule, they will be able to make the connection between what actions they take today and the consequences they must live with tomorrow. This is why it doesn't matter if they re-elect Arafat or elect someone from Hamas. In the short term it would matter of course, both to Israelis and Palestinians. But long term, they would come to recognize that they had power, and to realize that with power comes responsibility. Self-restraint, currently missing from the Palestinian side in that conflict, would grow all on its own.

Responsibility for their own lives and societies is precisely what's missing from much of the Islamic world. The solution is democracy, because democracy is power to the people. And with great power comes great responsibility, and the moderation and self-restraint that most of the rest of the world already understands.

Also see Andrea Harris and Steven Chapman.


Apres Moi...

Jonah Goldberg, writing in, mentions a central problem with two of Gore's campaign issues (link via VodkaMan):

I think Gore would lose in the primaries, even if he weren't the weird man he is. His only two issues -the war on terrorism and the ongoing business scandals -are great for any Democrat but him. Unfortunately, both al-Qaida's rise and big business' irrational exuberance for financial chicanery took hold while he was the No. 2 man in the White House.

And now Al "Apres moi, le deluge" Gore is back and complaining about how Bush is handling the war and corporate crimes. He has the right to complain (or to dissent, which is one of the Holy Sacraments of the Church of the Left). But it's like Louis the XV bitching about Louis the XVI's handling of the economy. Well, to be fair, it's more like the Vice-Louis the XV doing the bitching.

Many observed during the 2000 campaign that Gore put a lot of distance between himself and the Clinton administration, forgoing credit for things they did well in order to avoid the tarnish of the various scandals. After two years' worth of deluge, there's even more tarnish for him to avoid.

Naturally, Gore is trying to pin all this on Bush. But almost no one bought that 9/11, because it happened on Bush's watch, was his administration's fault. Most people are satisfied with his response so far. And while it's still early, most people aren't buying that Enron or WorldCom is his fault either. It's not for Gore's lack of trying though. This campaign, expect to hear those magic words "Enron" and "WorldCom" as often as we heard the now-dreaded "lockbox" during the last campaign. Oy.


Germany vs. Brazil

Daddy Warblogs misses the point somewhat in response to an Instapundit reader's comments on the significance of Americans' perceived overwhelming support for Brazil over Germany in the World Cup. Says the Daddy:

...the idea that anyone whatsoever within the EU countries gives two monkeys which way American support is going in the World Cup final is a peculiarly solipsistic (not to say laughable) one.

The World Cup isn't the point. It's that in some ways the US no longer considers Europe to be its closest allies. Politically, militarily, and economically, the US remains closer to Europe than Latin America (BTW, is Brazil officially considered part of Latin America?). Some of Latin America is still snared in old political strongman autocracies, and those that are reasonable democracies need to put more distance between themselves and that same past. Politically speaking, the US will have more in common with Western Europe for some time. Militarily, Europe still has the edge on technology, perhaps making Europe closer to the US, although the efforts of the two continents is about the same (the UK excepted, naturally).

Economically, Latin America is poised to surpass Europe in US trade. US economic ties to Latin America are increasing, and with the nearly inevitable hemispheric open trade agreement, trade betwen the US and Latin America will only increase faster.

Culturally, the US may now already perceive itself as having closer ties to Latin America. Interestingly, this may be due to a shift in the US towards Latin American culture just as much as, if not more than, a cultural shift in Latin America towards the US. The Hispanic population in the US is large and famously getting larger, and on the whole, if I may generalize, Hispanics do well in the US, and the US is strengthened by their presence. (Compare this situation to Europe's own large southern immigrant population.)

So it's more than what team we liked in the World Cup. It's that Americans are beginning to look south for more than just bananas. On the other hand, maybe it's because no one likes Germans (kidding!).

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© 2002-2004
Brian O'Connell,
for what it's worth.