The End of “Moral Equivalence”, and the Moral Bankruptcy of the Left

A common refrain among the Left can be summarized as “moral equivalence” – i.e., comparing the negative events that the US is involved with (i.e., Abu Ghraib) or the inherent difficulties involved with attempting to turn a despotic state such as Iraq or a “failed state” such as Afghanistan into a functioning democracy with the horrors of the Russian invasion of Chechnya or the Chinese armed suppression of Tibet and then concluding that “we are all the same”.

While the individuals here at Chicago Boyz never bought into the “moral equivalence” model it is true that the US had to prop up and stand by some odious regimes for quite a while in order to win the Cold War. While South Korea today is a vibrant democracy and certifiably free country it wasn’t always this way and while that is the ideal there are other countries that are at varying steps along this path.

With the “Arab Spring” the US is looking at things differently. While we supported Egypt and Tunisia it was clear that we weren’t giving them unlimited support against their people; our contacts (the military) in fact minimized the violence in the overall situation and now at least these countries have an opportunity to have a democratic society.

On the other hand you can see how the former Soviet “client states” are treating the uprising – with unimaginable brutality against unarmed civilians protesting peacefully. Libya and Syria behaved (and are still behaving, in the case of Syria) with insane behaviors such as opening fire with anti-aircraft weapons and tank fire against peaceful citizens which is a slaughter. This type of behavior of course is perfectly acceptable to a Russian style client state trained military, which use all means of oppression available to preserve the power of the ruling class against the will of the people. There is no “state” or “populace” of value; there is only the power of those in control (Gaddafi or Assad’s clique, or Putin’s clique, for example) and thus an ever escalating chain of violence is OK in their interpretation of events if that is what it takes to control power.

As a country the US certainly has made mistakes but we LEARN from mistakes and are now on the side of freedom and voices for the people. And it isn’t only the US; France and Britain led the Libyan intervention much to the dismay of THEIR left wing.

And yet Russia today shows why moral equivalence was NEVER correct; they are fundamentally anti-freedom and supporting regimes with the same core values of their own. One of the best description of the former USSR was that they were just “third generation gangsters” and it is clear that Assad is just a “second generation gangster” (Gaddafi’s second generation were mostly hunted down and killed or about to stand trial, something Gaddafi would never have done for his opponents).

Russia continues to veto resolutions that would support unarmed citizens against Assad; their logic is clear – the goal of a regime is to CONTINUE TO EXIST and all means necessary to do this are OK. The will of their own populace is irrelevant, and the doctrine of “do not interfere in country’s affairs” provides the justification. There are obvious parallels to the situation in Putin’s Russia in that he will do everything to retain power (stuff the ballot box, threaten violence, blame foreign powers, or actually deploy violence in ever escalating levels if needed).

Whatever the sins of the US in the modern era there are no equivalents of using anti-aircraft weapons and tanks against unarmed citizens, and using scorched earth tactics against civilians. This never happened. Instead the US took great pains to shield civilians and grow nascent democratic institutions, although the outcome of this is never certain.

China too waits in the wings; the “third generation gangster” label could be applied there but they are more circumspect in the use of violence and do seem to believe that their goal as a regime does include raising the overall standard of living and giving people freedom (except to criticize the government, of course). Since Russia will block all effective sanctions against Syria, China has an out. This doesn’t stop China from crushing dissent where it suits them (Tibet) in a way that Western nations could never pull off; and a Beastie Boy concert or two obviously hasn’t dissuaded them a bit from their activities.

And yet there are no protests outside Russia or China’s embassies by the Left; this isn’t a battle that concerns them (Syria or Libya), because it doesn’t fit their narrative that all the governments are oppressive and of moral equivalence. There are no angry posts on left wing blogs about these issues. It doesn’t fit their pre-defined agenda that the US is an oppressive place since birth and that we are all the same.

That is the definition of moral bankruptcy.

7 thoughts on “The End of “Moral Equivalence”, and the Moral Bankruptcy of the Left”

  1. More than 30 years ago a sociologist wrote in the WSJ that the closest model to the governance of the old Soviet Union was not feudalism, but the American Mafia. In a 500 word essay he drew some stunningly concise parallels between several core aspects of Soviet government, such as the Politburo’s division of power among Technology, Education, Military, etc. and the Mafia Council’s allocations of loansharking, prostitution, drugs, etc. It’s unsurprising the moral heirs of Lenin and Stalin, like Mafia gangsters, should deem obtaining and preserving personal power and wealth to be their moral compass. Nor should it have ever been difficult for an honest man to detect the difference between American morality and Marxism’s amorality.

    I wonder what comment that old sociologist would make about czars in the White House?

  2. Comment on Assad from Al Jazeera English

    Our correspondent said Russia’s support for Asad’s government remained crucial. “What we understand is until he feels Russia will stop backing him, Bashar al-Assad will tough it out,” she said.

    Putin and Russia are his last backers, the last backers of deploying tank fire against unarmed civilians and similar scorched earth tactics.

  3. Remember the Assad family are from a small Shiite sect that is not recognized elsewhere. I imagine other members of that sect, which is about 15% of the country, will support Assad.

    Egypt is going to get the “Arab Spring” hot and hard. The government t-bill auction failed in spite of 16% interest offered. Money is fleeing the country. Egypt cannot feed itself and has no currency to buy food. Half the country will starve. The Islamists, who won big in the election, will scare away all tourism. Similar things are going on in Tunisia. They will be missing the old corrupt dictators very soon.

    There were reasons for colonialism that made sense.

  4. Syria as a country never made sense. It is a conglomeration of tribes that were put together by the colonialists in the first place.

    I think that the majority of Syria has been remarkably calm in avoiding tit for tat killings so far.

    I would hope for the best.

  5. The Alawi are the core of Assad’s support and 15% is about right but considerably more people than that support him.

    The western spin is not accurate, for obvious reasons.

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