Tuesday, April 30, 2002

"WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT. LET'S START ACTING LIKE IT": That's the last line of a wonderful essay by Brendan Miniter introducing "The Western Front," a new Monday column on OpinionJournal. Miniter argues that WWI cast the West into self-doubt and moral-equivocation, and that WWII and the Cold War cast us still deeper. Reagan- and Thatcher-ism began a revival, by championing the Western virtures of democracy and individual freedom as superior, not equal, to those of other cultures. The war against Islamo-fascism is the next stage of our cultural re-awakening. And this time, the cultural battlelines are starker, because arrayed against us are the worst sort of thug-states, the Hussein, Saudi, and Arafat regimes, who in their overt racism and nationalism can't even pretend to the universalism and "social democracy" of the Marxists. Miniter writes that these states reject precisely those virtues we attempt to live by: "individual sovereignty, freedom of conscience, free interaction among men and the right to the fruits of one's own labor." But Miniter's most important point is the moral justification for war against these states:
As the American founders understood, a government that oppresses its people and extends violence to other nations lacks the consent of the governed and therefore the insulation of sovereignty, a point Sen. Jesse Helms made to the United Nations in a thunderclap of a speech a few years ago. It is morally justifiable and sometimes imperative for sovereign nations to stand up to rogue states, and in some cases even dismantle them and liberate their people. That is not equivalent to rogues attacking anyone.
Miniter's argument traces back to the Framers' argument for war against their own sovereign: all men are created equal, but all states are not equal to the task of governing freemen. Soveignty derives from the consent of the governed; having withdrawn their consent, the people as of right may overthrow their sovereign and constitute a new one. As Miniter argues, this principal logically and morally also applies to relations between states: if the governed may reject their sovereign because he is a tyrant, so may other truly sovereign states. This does not yet appear to be a principal of international law, though the war against Serbia was one step toward making it law. War against Iraq will be the next step.

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