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Why We Should Give A Damn
Commentary Magazine ^ | April 11, 2011 | by Peter Wehner

Posted on 04/11/2011 9:44:28 AM PDT by library user

“Why should we give a damn about the Afghan people?” Andy McCarthy asks. Our presence in Afghanistan, he says, is “pointless.”

Now, this is different than saying we would like to help them but the ability to do so is beyond our reach. It’s also a separate matter from saying that there are countless claims on our conscience, but because of inherent limitations on our resources, the suffering the Afghan people are experiencing doesn’t warrant our assistance. And it’s a different argument from saying we shouldn’t continue to expend American blood in a 10-year-old war.

No, what McCarthy is arguing, in intentionally provocative words, is that we shouldn’t give a damn about the Afghan people at all. The argument, presumably, is that Afghanistan is an impoverished country located on the other side of the world, inhabited by people who are not worthy even of our concern, let alone our care. If the Taliban retook control in Afghanistan and returned to their barbaric practices should be a matter of complete indifference to us. A similar argument could apply to the Coptic Christians in Egypt, the dissidents in China, the orphans in Romania, the earthquake victims in Haiti and Japan, and the children with malaria in Nigeria.

So why should we give a damn?

The answer is an important one, since it helps shape a world view. And the answer to it depends on the premises from which we begin—in this case regarding teleology, the purpose and design of human nature, and the rights we are owed simply and only because we are human beings. For many of us this inevitably leads to the subject of theology—whether there is a Creator and if so, whether we are made in His image and precious in His sight. Assuming we are, certain rights are deemed to be unalienable, and willful indifference to human suffering is contrary to the mind and heart of God.

This is what Lincoln was getting at, I think, when he said, in his meditation on the words in the Declaration of Independence,

This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by his fellows.

For me as a Christian, McCarthy’s question is answered on the road to Jericho. It was in parable in Luke in which a Samaritan—who was viewed as a hated foreigner and a spiritual half-breed—showed mercy to a wounded stranger. What Jesus was teaching is that love and mercy are not restricted by national boundaries, that to “love your neighbor” means caring for strangers in need, and that as recipients of grace, we ought to demonstrate it to the outcast, to those deemed to be the “other.”

Now this ethic is not only intensely difficult to uphold in our daily lives, it’s extremely unclear how to translate it into public policy. A nation of limited resources cannot help everyone in need. We need to prioritize our commitments, including what we owe to our fellow citizens. And the compassion we might act on as individuals should not always express itself in action by the state. So it would certainly be wrong to draw the conclusion that mercy self-evidently demands that we remain in Afghanistan. But this ethic does, I think, begin to answer McCarthy’s question.

After reading McCarthy’s words I pulled from my shelf Something Beautiful for God, a short book on Mother Teresa in which Malcolm Muggeridge writes,

Either life is always and in all circumstances sacred, or intrinsically of no account; it is inconceivable that it should be in some cases the one, and in some the other. The God Mother Teresa worships cannot, we are told, see a sparrow fall to the ground without concern. For man, made in God’s image, to turn aside from the universal love, and fashion his own judgments based on his own fears and disparities, is a fearful thing bound to have fearful consequences.

That may not provide us with a governing blueprint. It doesn’t specify how mercy should manifest itself. But it is at least a reason we should give a damn.


TOPICS: Current Events; General Discusssion; Moral Issues; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: afghanistan; mccarthy; teleology; theology

1 posted on 04/11/2011 9:44:31 AM PDT by library user
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To: library user

I am a reborn Paleocon and agree with McCarthy. Fortress America is sounding pretty good right about now.


2 posted on 04/11/2011 9:48:09 AM PDT by MattinNJ (Will a hero rise in 2012?)
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To: library user

What Afghanistan needs from us is about 50 planeloads of napalm on their Poppy fields.


3 posted on 04/11/2011 9:49:29 AM PDT by Venturer
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To: library user

Sure, we can care and pray for Afghanistan. But, using Gov’t to fix and solve problems is at the root of the issue.


4 posted on 04/11/2011 9:53:15 AM PDT by Palter (If voting made any difference they wouldn't let us do it. ~ Mark Twain)
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To: Venturer
Amen ...

Tha's wheh the hehwin come from.

5 posted on 04/11/2011 9:54:02 AM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true ... I have no proof ... but they're true.)
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To: MattinNJ
"Fortress America is sounding pretty good right about now. "

Better by the day. We can't borrow enough money from China to be world policeman. In fact world policeman should be the first policeman to be laid off.

6 posted on 04/11/2011 9:58:34 AM PDT by ex-snook ("Above all things, truth beareth away the victory")
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To: MattinNJ

Actually Fortress America is as stupid as it always was.

How did this moron come to believe that this intervention was for the Afghani people? Never was, never will be.


7 posted on 04/11/2011 9:58:52 AM PDT by arrogantsob
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To: library user
Wehner is a typical liberal. Harbors sympathetic sentiments so he can feel self righteous, but doesn't do squat himself. When I hear he has gone to Afghanistan personally to minister to all those precious members of the family of man, then I will maybe believe he "gives a damn" even a little bit more than the rhetorical McCarthy.
8 posted on 04/11/2011 10:00:20 AM PDT by hinckley buzzard
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To: library user

Never wrestle a pig. You both get filthy and the pig likes it.

This is beginning to sum up Afghanistan, and most of the “Third World.” If they cross us, butcher them until they understand their mistake, then go home. If we want something they have, buy it at market price; if we need to secure the supply, colonize and to heck with the locals. Trying to help them is stupid; it just creates a dependency. Even trying to get them to help themselves is mostly futile. How many nations can anyone name where foreign assistance actually produced any forward progress?

If people want to spend private money to help them, fine. Otherwise, stop wasting coerced taxpayer dollars on these holes.


9 posted on 04/11/2011 10:03:30 AM PDT by Little Ray (The Gods of the Copybook Heading, with terror and slaughter return!)
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To: Little Ray

We didn’t learn a thing from Charlie Wilson’s War. Either go old Testiment on them or get out.


10 posted on 04/11/2011 10:13:51 AM PDT by 70th Division (I love my country but fear my government!)
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To: hinckley buzzard
Wehner is a typical liberal. Harbors sympathetic sentiments so he can feel self righteous, but doesn't do squat himself.

I guess I don't get the vitriol seeping out here. He makes that clear point that we should give a damn, but that sympathy is not a clear prescription for policy. To paraphrase Bismarck, Afghanistan is not worth the bones of one paratrooper. That does not mean that we must necessarily be callous to their suffering and their plight.

11 posted on 04/11/2011 10:30:24 AM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets (Somewhere in Kenya a village is missing its idiot)
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To: MattinNJ

Why do we keep fighting long protracted wars in places where the natives don’t give a damn? It took 4 years, and alot of American blood before the Iraqi people started to take responsibility for their own country. Hell, at least they did it. We have been in Afghanistan for 10 years and the Afghans can barely tie their own shoes. We spent 15 years in Vietnam with very little support from the ARVN.

We went into all three countries with a purpose, and ended up getting bogged down because we over reached with our goals, or our politicians tied the hands of our warriors.
I believe Afghanistan is a hopeless cause.
The people do not want to join the rest of the world in the 21st century, and they damn sure aren’t interested in helping themselves.
On the other hand I have hope for Iraq. They have stepped up to the plate and put their own asses on the line. But there is a huge elephant in Iran lurking in the room. It will be interesting to see how we(the US and Iraq) deal with that.


12 posted on 04/11/2011 10:53:32 AM PDT by sean327 (God created all men equal, then some become Marines!)
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To: Venturer

I’d prefer that DC was the target. We need a major housecleaning and DC is where to start.


13 posted on 04/11/2011 10:55:27 AM PDT by B4Ranch (Allowing Islam into America is akin to injecting yourself with AIDS to prove how tolerant you are .)
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To: arrogantsob

It’s about an oil pipeline, isn’t it?


14 posted on 04/11/2011 10:57:13 AM PDT by B4Ranch (Allowing Islam into America is akin to injecting yourself with AIDS to prove how tolerant you are .)
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets

I am willing to include Afghanistan in my evening prayers under the words “world’s poor”. That’s as far as I’ll go. My cash is reserved strictly for America’s needy.


15 posted on 04/11/2011 11:01:24 AM PDT by B4Ranch (Allowing Islam into America is akin to injecting yourself with AIDS to prove how tolerant you are .)
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To: library user

Peter W. should put on his sackcloth and ashes and hop the next plane to Kabul to enlighten and uplift that beknighted people.


16 posted on 04/11/2011 11:03:33 AM PDT by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: library user; Lonesome in Massachussets; Little Ray; Palter; knarf; MattinNJ

I see a problem with proclaiming humanitarian rights as the, and not a, reason to be in Afghanistan, because of the way in which our humanitarian involvement has been defined for this country. Eleanor Roosevelt defined U.S. criteria for war on international humanitarian issues within commitment to U.N. collective security. She wrote that equal and inalienable rights for the human family encompass rights to life, liberty and security of person. John Kennedy reinforced this commitment saying, “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Finally, Ronald Reagan said we cannot escape our destiny as the last best hope of afflicted mankind. All described a universal commitment to natural rights, and all Presidents should answer for deviations from that principle. Those principles do not fit because Afghanistan becomes, as George Orwell said in “Animal Farm”, more equal than the Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, and Uganda.

However, accomplishing Afghan stability means thwarting efforts to turn a nuclear Pakistan into a feral state. Such a country would then fuel the ambitions of Islamic regimes determined to wage a War of Terror regionally and internationally.

Afghan stability also encourages the actions of African, Oriental and Asian Islamic countries which bring victory in the Global War on Terror. Their actions can frustrate plans, break alliances, and fracture Islamic jihadist organizations into ever less effective units. Without cities, countries or armies bin Laden, and successor sociopath prophets live out unnaturally shortened lives as pariahs.


17 posted on 04/11/2011 11:05:49 AM PDT by Retain Mike
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To: Retain Mike
"Afghan stability also encourages the actions of African, Oriental and Asian Islamic countries which bring victory in the Global War on Terror"

THAT, sir, is pure bullshit.

18 posted on 04/11/2011 11:16:40 AM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true ... I have no proof ... but they're true.)
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To: Retain Mike

If Eleanor Roosevelt liked it, its probably a really, really bad idea. Ditto for JFK. Even Saint Ronnie can be wrong sometimes.

Afghanistan has never been stable by any definition we understand. Its a tribal society and their people lack both the ability and inclination to govern themselves outside of that frame work. If you want stability in Afghanistan, you’re going to need a sociopath to run it, because he’s going to have to crush a lot of people to make the central government work. Iraq works (sort of) because we had Saddam to prepare the way.


19 posted on 04/11/2011 11:22:31 AM PDT by Little Ray (The Gods of the Copybook Heading, with terror and slaughter return!)
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets

Yes, we should be callous to their suffering and their plight. They created most of their problems. They seem to be refusing to take responsibility or ownership of them. IF they won’t help themselves, we sure as hell shouldn’t be wasting time helping them.


20 posted on 04/11/2011 11:26:32 AM PDT by Little Ray (The Gods of the Copybook Heading, with terror and slaughter return!)
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets

Yes, we should be callous to their suffering and their plight. They created most of their problems. They seem to be refusing to take responsibility or ownership of them. IF they won’t help themselves, we sure as hell shouldn’t be wasting time helping them.


21 posted on 04/11/2011 11:26:49 AM PDT by Little Ray (The Gods of the Copybook Heading, with terror and slaughter return!)
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To: knarf

The African/ Oriental/ Asian allies we seek, or adversaries we hope to influence, need assurance of unflinching action along a continuum of covert and overt political and military operations, for moderates to become leaders and not victims. Moderate constituencies, which could include a majority of Muslims, envision their religion supporting primary allegiances to family, tribe, culture and ethnicity, but surrender to terrorist domination, when only submission can provide any degree of security. Without our steadfast support the individuals who would promote stable, representative governments are eliminated from the political scene through the murder of them and their extended families as was the case in Iraq.

The free world cannot compromise short of international victory in the Global War on Terror, because Wahhabi Jihadism focuses on objectives requiring no human or material remnant from current world systems. George Kennan advocated containment of Soviet power, because the country was sensitive to its material and cultural national heritage. In the Long Telegram, he also noted its ineffectiveness against the adventuristic, Gotterdammerung specters of a Hitlerite regime. In Wahhabi Jihadism we face the latter and must summon the political courage and military capabilities to risk victory in a long war, because we face maturing capabilities needing only benign or supportive national environments to accomplish incalculable miseries.


22 posted on 04/11/2011 11:47:46 AM PDT by Retain Mike
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To: Retain Mike
Where do you get this stuff ?

The first paragraph indicates there's nothing we can do because the ragheads are savages and the second seems to say that we should try anyway, because of someone's theory.

See ... I'm no scholar ... just a guy that knows enough English grammer to get himself into trouble.

23 posted on 04/11/2011 1:58:42 PM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true ... I have no proof ... but they're true.)
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To: knarf

I think the key sentence in the first paragraph is: “Without our steadfast support the individuals who would promote stable, representative governments are eliminated from the political scene through the murder of them and their extended families as was the case in Iraq.”

True those who are most likely to win without our help are the religious or secular savages. However, there are constituencies such as those in Turkey, Pakistan, and Indonesia who push in the direction of representative government. The same people are most often anonymous and powerless in other Islamic countries.

George Kennan was the central architect of our policy of containment in regard to the Soviet Union. People make the error of saying the same policy can be applied to Muslim countries. Supposedly, we just need to have the patience to allow them to naturally evolve into peaceful states. I say we do not have a choice but to support the emergence of representative governments, because dominance by governments motivated by Wahhabi Jihadism plunge the world into a new Dark Age.

We might have lived in a safer world when the Soviet Union and its allies were ultimately controlled by MAD. Now weapons technologies and inventories, previously held within a few countries, can be found globally. Fifty-year-old technologies and stockpiles reside worldwide for weapons comparable to the Davy Crockett missile that fired from a jeep a 51-pound nuclear warhead yielding 0.02 kiloton, and Astor the torpedo carrying a Hiroshima size warhead. F.B.I. Director Mueller reports enough highly enriched uranium worldwide to arm thousands of nuclear weapons, and to fuel a seller’s market in the so-called atomic bazaar.

Chemical and biological agents emanate from dual-use facilities and cottage industries. The biological pathogens, that decimated Europe still reside one step away in our food chain ready for exploitation. Insecticides and pesticides provide the precursors for chemical weapons just as cough syrup does for methamphetamines. The entire chemical or biological weapons program of the Soviet Union can now be carried within a Ford Club Van.

Open societies provide excellent delivery means for chemical and biological agents where 2,000 to 20,000 people work and travel within closed HVAC systems. The complex fresh water and food distribution systems found in first world countries invite lethal chemical and biological intrusions. Human ingenuity, available resources, and receptive environments present the terrorist opportunities greater than any threat our nation previously faced.

Yes, we need to try because the most devastating war against these adversaries would only make them more confident of spiritual victory.


24 posted on 04/11/2011 2:46:44 PM PDT by Retain Mike
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To: Little Ray

In a practical sense it seems humanitarianism can never be our basis for consistent international action, unless we had begun in 1945 by substituting the military for entitlements. Reagan certainly came the closest of anyone to achieving the goal when he picked a fight with the “Evil Empire”. The U.N. has moved far from that concept as demonstrated by placing Libya on the Human Rights Council.

I really appreciated Obama claiming human rights as criteria for Libyan action, when he considered preventing genocide inconsistent reasoning for maintaining troops in Iraq; pointing out our un-involvement in the Congo and Darfur. See http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19862711/ns/politics-decision_08/

I would agree that Afghanistan would not achieve a stable government as we would define it. Application of counterinsurgency tactics within Afghanistan would increase momentum among local religious, tribal and political leaders to reject Taliban jihadists and accept a national government. The objective would be to help them make pragmatic, consistent decisions recognizing utility of and alignment with Kabul.

Afghan and NATO combined units would clear jihadists from marginal regions, retain military forces, and allow reconstruction team entry. Locals would assume authority as behavior confirmed commitment to national goals. In rebellious regions attacks would disrupt Taliban units planning offensives, until regular presence expanded from adjacent pacific areas. Some areas would never be pacified.

The desired leadership would not be sociopaths according to their definitions, although we Westerners would probably always have doubts. The British managed to achieve a functioning India, but continually campaigned against the hill tribes, so some “political discussions” would always involve warfare.


25 posted on 04/11/2011 3:40:33 PM PDT by Retain Mike
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