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Dr. Richard Benkin  Bio
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American liberals are far removed from reality

Has American Lost its Moral Authority?

 By Dr. Richard Benkin  Friday, April 25, 2008

How many people remember US Senator John Kerry’s “global test” remark?  During his unsuccessful bid for the presidency, Kerry said that US troops must be used only if “that passes the global test…and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.” To be sure, the comment was one of many that Kerry made that showed just how out of step he was with American voters—and he paid the price at the polls.  But more importantly, it was a comment that was not his alone but stemmed from one of the basic articles of liberal faith:  that under President George W. Bush, the United States has lost its standing and moral authority in the world.  It is an article of faith that 2008 presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama return to again and again.

It is based, however, on a fallacy; a fallacy that shows how American liberals are as far removed from reality as their 2004 standard bearer was.  And here’s why.

For the most part, when they speak of us “losing the rest of the world,” they are referring to Western Europe.  To be sure, there is a certain compelling logic to it since Europe has been seen as a great ally over the last century and in two world wars—wars fought mainly part against Europeans, too.  But the strength of the argument is only apparent.  It is a vestige from a “white man’s burden” world; one in which Europe was seen as the only arbiters of taste and international politics; a world that no longer exists except in the minds of some European chauvinists.  A world that still sees relevance in vestigial racial and cultural ties, and an argument that reflects the elitist and racist perspective of those (primarily on the Left) who make it.

US and European interests have been traveling divergent paths for several decades now.  It was anything but a match made in heaven to begin with.  Charles De Gaul and other European leaders demonstrated their contempt with numbing regularity.  But concrete interests began diverging in 1973.  While the United States defended Israel against a combined Arab assault, armed and funded by the Soviet Union, Europe backed down.  Threatened with the same Arab Oil Boycott that the US was facing, European governments genuflected to their new potentates.  They signed the European-Arab Dialogue that year, which formally opened the door to massive Arab immigration and a decidedly anti-Israel tilt to its foreign policy.  Do people remember how France was once Israel’s major arms supplier?  Eighteen years later, the Soviet Union collapsed.  For 45 years, the only thing that stood between a prospering Europe and a massive Soviet invasion was the American nuclear umbrella.  Now, Europeans were free of that annoying dependence.  The anti-US rhetoric grew louder and louder; and more and more anti-US policies took hold.  Today, the two entities are direct economic competitors and have been charting diametrically opposed courses in the realm of domestic policy and morality.  And that had far more to do with US-Europe relations than either George W. Bush or Iraq.

We cannot say we “lost” the Saudis; I doubt that we ever “had” them.  Today, however, they are bolder and more openly contemptuous of the United States whenever it shows its new capacity for self-effacement.  But there are Arabs and Muslims all over who eschew the anti-democratic monarchies and the Islamists alike.  They see the United States as their best hope for freedom and prosperity.  And we can be just that, but only so long as we recognize their cries and our moral obligation to defend them.  In 2004, I was fighting for Bangladeshi journalist, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.  A Muslim, Shoaib was imprisoned and tortured for exposing the rise of Islamists in his country, urging relations with Israel, and advocating real interfaith dialogue based on religious equality.  He is unrepentantly pro-Israel and pro-US.  While he was in jail, my primary contact in Bangladesh was his brother Sohail.  It was a difficult and lonely battle often beset with danger; but we continued fighting side by side.  After one particularly nasty incident, he thanked me for my intervention.  I told him that what I do comes directly from my basic American and Jewish values.  Then, he said:

“I can tell you that in Bangladesh—all over Asia—whenever people are oppressed and are looking for someone to fight for them, they look to the United States.  Only the United States is the one true friend of the people.”

During my trips to South Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere, I heard the same sentiment time and again.  They do not look to Europe; not to radicals like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Hugo Chavez; and certainly not to Osama Bin Laden.  We have not “lost” our moral authority among the people of the world; only among the elites.

This past February, I traveled to India intent on helping Bangladeshi Hindu refugees in that country.  They are victims of Islamist terror and have been subjected to all sorts of terrible abuses.  But when they fled to India, instead of being welcomed as terror victims by their co-religionists, they were placed in camps; some legal, most not.  In one camp in particular, I was struck by the spirit that a group of teenaged girls displayed.  They were proud of their people and wanted to help them reclaim their rights.  They were strong and resolute; confident and committed.  They saw their people’s current state as something they were obliged to rise above.  One of them said she intended to become a school teacher so she could help Bengali children grow up with the same spirit.  She told me she had never seen an American before and said,

“I think the people in the US are very considerate.  They think for the “Mankind” and [for] the democratic rights of all human beings. Of the men who are deprived of political rights, US people are the main soldiers who are working against communist terror, all over the world. As a Hindu, I offer my pranam [blessings] to the people of the US.”

Now, that’s a global test I am proud to pass!

Posted 04/25 at 07:52 AM   Email  (Permalink

 This piece is in Category: Previous Covers

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