~Published in the Daily Illini on April 10th, 2006. This was published as a dual defense of the Iraq war - the first from me, a conservative, the second from Brian Pierce, a liberal. I have posted both, beginning with mine.
I am left wondering whether anything, even democracy for 30 million Iraqis, can be worth the 35,000 dead and the countless in pain. Is an enduring democracy worth this extreme suffering?
No one can earnestly deny or trivialize Bush's repeated mistakes. But we should not allow disappointment or hatred toward him to blind us while answering the distinct question of whether creating liberty in Iraq is worthy.
The United States was right to invade Iraq for three primary reasons. First, spreading democracy is the only long-term solution to dictators and violent Islamism. Second, the world has a moral obligation to intervene when human beings arbitrarily die by the hands of a dictator or mob. Third, just as our Founders believed, liberty is worth the pain.
We have always known freedom. Both of my grandfathers fought. They suspended their freedoms with the belief that evil exists among men, but that good can only lose if it remains passive and blinded by illusions of peace. I have been spoiled by their sacrifices. It is easy for me to forget how often the delicate life of human liberty has nearly been ended by kings, Nazis, or Communists. My grandfathers fought for human liberty - the instinct of every person to carve their unique paths to happiness. Let us use the hammer of liberty to remind evil that so long as America thrives, they never shall.
I honor those living and dead, Allied and Iraqi, who believe as our Founders did, that freedom among humans is not easily gained and that the blood of the brave is often necessary. Those brave understand that some things in our world are greater than their lives - that eternal freedom for millions is worth their sacrifice and they make that sacrifice daily. They believe a human life without liberty is not human at all.
Was it necessary for the 13 colonies to create a war with the world's greatest power for freedom? Was it necessary that thousands of our Founders died? They believed it was - why do we doubt them now? Iraq's founders believe it is - why do we doubt them now?
Democracy is not supposed to be easy or quick. It is much easier, as we know from the Cold War, to prop up dictatorships or to leave them in place. Things seem calmer and less messy. Sure, that's nice, our hands have no blood, at least none that we notice. We don't have to hear about the daily deaths. But the people still die, they still hear the midnight knocks from the government-licensed murderers upon their doors, they still live in fear.
It might be true that the U.S. is wrong about democracy. That it is not worth the necessary pains to establish it. But the majority of the world does not think so. If liberty is not worth our fight then nothing is.
Our greatest weapon against terrorists, just as it was against Communists, is the allure of freedom. Every man, every woman, has an instinct to be free. Someday democracy will warm the earth as the realization of humanity.
That day when freedom and prosperity cover all humans is not far. But it grows further with sentiments that run counter to the entire foundation of this country. When we in the free world sit back and relax, seeing that our fight is over, we then slow the final wave of democracy.
Is it necessary for people to die in the Middle East? It isn't necessary if we wish to leave them dangling in tyranny, but if we wish for them to join us in knowing the liberty and creativity of democracy then I say yes it is necessary, and it is worth it. The Iraqis agree. You go tell them that the lives of their family and our soldiers are not worth their lasting liberty - you go tell them.
Billy Joe Mills is a senior in LAS. He is an optimist. His column appears on Mondays. He can be reached at opinions@daily illini.com.
On liberals and liberty
I am a liberal, and thus stand in staunch opposition to any number of things my fellow columnist, Billy Joe Mills, advocates. I am pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, pro-nationalization of health care, and anti-privatization of Social Security. I wept uncontrollably the night President Bush won the 2004 election.
I stress my bona fides as a blue stater to emphasize why I applaud Billy for his column last week defending the Iraq war and fully agree with his position. Intervention in Iraq is a liberal cause, and thus I have no shame in supporting it.
To a certain extent, I feel like the wool has been pulled over the eyes of the Republicans who have supported this war. They've been tricked by the fact that Bush is waging it, and thus believe it must be a war representative of the values of Bush voters.
It is actually more representative of the values of Woodrow Wilson voters. It was Wilson who once said, "No man can sit down and withhold his hands from the warfare against wrong and get peace from his acquiescence."
Yet today's liberals have sadly turned away from their noble roots. Democrats used to believe that America should have a strong presence internationally, and that sometimes that presence must take the form of military force. Now the long shadow of Vietnam looms over the left, and we have replaced our idealism with cynicism.
I acknowledge that our effort in Iraq could end in failure. This war has been waged recklessly. I write this column not to express my certainty that we will prevail - history will be the ultimate judge of whether this was the right war at the right time waged in the right way.
I write instead to the overwhelming majority of liberals on this campus who share my values and yet turn their backs on them. I ask you not necessarily to change your minds, but merely to open them.
Liberals should not blind themselves from a noble cause simply because they have distaste for the man engaging in it. Hostility toward President Bush is justified, but not toward the ideal of using America's influence confidently in freedom's cause.
It seems arbitrary to me to watch the slaughter of 400,000 Sudanese and summon moral outrage at the injustice of doing nothing, then cry out that America has no place imposing its way of life on Iraq, as if Saddam Hussein's brutal oppression is nothing more than a quirky cultural difference that must be tolerated in the interests of peace and national sovereignty.
Must we stifle our moral outrage in the face of unambiguous human rights violations unless those violations take the form of genocide? Has civilization evolved so little that the only thing we can collectively agree is crossing the line is the systematic slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents?
We cannot go everywhere there is injustice, but our inability to go everywhere ought not preclude us from going anywhere. We cannot stand down in the face of evil under the pretense that there's too much evil to stand up against. We will stand up against as much as we can, and have faith that free states will serve, as they always have, as beacons to their neighbors. America's influence does not extend everywhere, but it is considerable enough that it can extend to both Iraq and Sudan, especially if the rest of the world can find the integrity to stand up with us in defense of the oppressed.
John Stuart Mill once wrote, "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
If history has taught us anything, it is that liberty is worth the fight, and we must be willing to defend it not just for ourselves, but for all those who are entitled to its blessings.
Brian Pierce is a junior in LAS. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at opinions@ dailyillini.com.