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World opinion be damned

By Alex Epstein
web posted June 7, 2004

It is a testament to the perverse priorities of our politicians and journalists that the biggest American outcry over Abu Ghraib has been not about the gruesome decapitation of American Nicholas Berg by terrorists, but about the fact that many Arabs and Europeans are mad at us.

"We are the most hated nation in the world," laments Ted Kennedy, "as a result of this disastrous policy in the prisons."

The alleged solution to this alleged crisis of "world opinion" is to show more deference toward the rest of the world. Otherwise, we are told, the world's anger will bring more terrorist attacks and less "international cooperation" against terrorism.

All of this evades one blatant truth: the hatred being heaped on America over Abu Ghraib is undeserved. Throughout the Middle East, torture -- real torture, with electric drills and vats of acid -- is official policy and daily practice. Yet there are no worldwide condemnations of the dictatorships that practice such atrocities -- let alone the Arab-Islamic culture that produces so many torturers. But when, during a war, a handful of American prison guards subject a handful of Iraqi POWs to comparatively mild humiliation -- which the U.S. government denounces and promptly investigates -- "world opinion" proclaims itself offended and condemns America.

Abu Ghraib is just the latest example of the injustice of "world opinion." Since September 11, the United States -- the freest nation on Earth -- has been ceaselessly denounced for any step in the direction of self-defense against terrorism, while terrorist regimes Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority get a moral free pass.

So-called "world opinion" is not the unanimous and just consensus that its seekers pretend. (Observe that the phrase never includes the many pro-American foreigners, such as freedom-fighters in Iran.) It is the irrational and unjust opinion of the world's worst people: the Islamists who seek to subjugate the world to Islamic rule, the socialists and pacifists who seek to subjugate U.S. sovereignty to U.N. rule, and the legions of "moderate" followers who support or sympathize with these goals. These people oppose us not because of any legitimate grievances against America, but because they are steeped in irrational doctrines like Islamic fundamentalism, collectivism, and pacifism -- which lead them to oppose and resent American freedom and individualism, and our resulting wealth and power.

The proper response to the anti-American voicers of "world opinion" is to identify them as our ideological and political enemies -- and dispense justice accordingly. In the case of our militant enemies, we must kill and demoralize them -- especially the Arab and Islamic regimes that support terrorism and fuel the Islamist movement; as for the rest, we must politically ignore them and intellectually discredit them, while proudly arguing for the superiority of Americanism. Such a policy would make us safe, expose anti-Americanism as irrational and immoral, and embolden the world's best elements to support our ideals and emulate our ways.

President Bush, like most politicians and intellectuals, has taken the opposite approach to "world opinion": he has tried to appease it. Instead of identifying anti-American Muslims as ideological enemies to be discredited, he has appealed to their sensibilities and met their demands -- e.g., sacrificing American soldiers to save Iraqi civilians and mosques, and striving to make the Iraqi occupation not look "too American." Instead of seeking to crush the Islamists by defeating the causes they fight for -- such as Islamic world domination and the destruction of Israel -- he has appeased those causes, declaring Islam a "great religion" and rewarding the Palestinian terrorist Jihad with a promised Palestinian state. Instead of destroying the terrorist regimes that wage war against the West -- including Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority -- he has sought their "cooperation" and even cast some as "coalition partners."

Such measures have taught the enemies they appease a deadly lesson: anti-Americanism pays. "Denounce and oppose America," they have learned, "no matter how irrationally and hypocritically, and American leaders will praise your ideals and meet your demands." "Attack America via terrorist proxy," terrorist states and movements have been taught, "and America will neither blame you nor destroy you, but redouble its efforts to buy your love." Is it any wonder that anti-Americanism is gaining prominence, and that the "War on Terrorism" has no end in sight?

Every attempt to appease "world opinion" preserves, promotes, and emboldens our enemies. Every concession to angry Muslim mobs, every denunciation of Israel, every consultation with Prince Bandar or dictator Assad gives hope to the Islamist cause. Every day we allow terrorist regimes to exist gives their minions time to execute the next September 11. America needs honest leadership with the courage to identify and defeat our enemies -- world opinion be damned.

Alex Epstein is a writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Send reactions to reaction@aynrand.org Copyright © 2004 Ayn Rand® Institute, 2121 Alton Parkway, Suite 250, Irvine, CA, 92606. All rights reserved.

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