Monday, August 15, 2005

Situational Libertarianism

Charles Krauthammer is difficult to fit into a political pigeon hole. He's a psychiatrist with an MD from Harvard Medical School. He has written highly-regarded medical papers, served as a science adviser in the Carter Administration, wrote speeches for Walter Mondale, and won a Pulitzer Prize for political commentary. Some consider him a conservative, and he often aligns himself with people who are considered to be neo-conservatives. However he's classified, though, his thoughtful opinions are worth considering.

In writing about the inherent conflict between tolerance in a democratic society and internal threats to the security of that society, Krauthammer said:

Call it situational libertarianism: Liberties should be as unlimited as possible -- unless and until there arises a real threat to the open society. Neo-Nazis are pathetic losers. Why curtail civil liberties to stop them? But when a real threat -- such as jihadism -- arises, a liberal democratic society must deploy every resource, including the repressive powers of the state, to deter and defeat those who would abolish liberal democracy.

Those are the words Krauthammer used to defend Prime Minister Tony Blair's crackdown on the UK's violence-prone radical Muslim immigrants. He continued:

Blair's proposals are progress, albeit from a very low baseline -- so low a baseline that the mere announcement of his intent to crack down had immediate effect. Within three days, the notorious Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, a Syrian-born cleric who has been openly preaching jihad for 19 years, skipped the country and absconded to Beirut.

Not only had Bakri been allowed to run free the whole time, but he had collected more than 300,000 pounds in welfare, plus a 31,000-pound gift from the infidel taxpayers: a Ford Galaxy (because of a childhood leg injury).

It took 52 dead for at least the prime minister to adopt situational libertarianism. Or as Blair put it, "The rules of the game are changing," declaring his readiness, finally, to alter the status quo in the name of elementary self-defense.

The British people have tolerated and supported radical jihadist Muslims for a long time. Now they've paid the price, and more than likely they will continue to pay. The situation they find themselves in, despite their best efforts to maintain a tolerant and open society, requires them to make realistic adjustments.

Americans have paid, too, suffering attacks from Muslim jihadists and even home-grown terrorists. Despite objections from those on both the left and right who would see no freedom lost and no new government scrutiny of private affairs, the reality of these times is that we must balance those valid concerns against serious threats to our very lives.

Any erosion of the freedoms that define us bothers me. But nothing, including freedom and tolerance, can be absolute.


Post a Comment

<< Home