Sunday, January 02, 2005

Objectivists in the Reality Based World?

An opinion expressed over at the Any Rand institute extolls about the evil of foreign aid:

As the death toll mounts in the areas hit by Sunday's tsunami in southern Asia, private organizations and individuals are scrambling to send out money and goods to help the victims. Such help may be entirely proper, especially considering that most of those affected by this tragedy are suffering through no fault of their own.

The United States government, however, should not give any money to help the tsunami victims. Why? Because the money is not the government's to give.

The USA is spending $5 Billion a month nation-building in Iraq. The $35 Million of aide proposed by the Bush administration at the time of the above op-ed amounted to seven hours of Iraq funding. With the increase to $350 Million, now we've committed funding sufficient to maintain our presence in Iraq for three days, though hopefully, we haven't also offered two or three American lives that go along with the $350 Million of funding. At $350 Million, we've committed to 0.3% of the funding we've committed to war in Iraq.

I can't quite figure out the Ayn Rand Institute's position in our war against terror or in particular to our war against Iraq . Some of the objectivists seem to think we've botched things up, but the botching seems to be that we haven't asserted our force sufficiently to demonstrate our will to enforce our rationalist (god-given ?) right to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. There generally seems to be some confusion about who the enemy is - a recognition that our first war in Afganistan failed because we didn't target the terrorists, but a breakdown of reason by jumping to the conclusion that states are the primary sponsors of terrorism. States, in the plural, no less.

Another interesting bit of surreality is the conclusion that the US, in pursing state sponsors of terrorism, must lose its inhibitions about collateral damage to innocent civilians in other nations, as well, apparently, as our concerns about casualties among our own soldiers, since we must fight a war to the finish and winning that war (eradicating ALL of the individuals in those nations that support the hypothetical governments that support terrorism) will require a serious ground war, not just a remote-controlled war.

But I digress. I'm not trying to fully understand how objectivists think about the US government's war on states that sponsor terrorism, or about the US government's actions in providing foreign aid relief for a disaster about 50 times the scale of 9/11 and 100 times the scale of the Florida hurricanes of 2004. I'm looking for a connecting thread of logic or reason between the two, instead.

If war is diplomacy by other means, and foreign aide is a form of diplomacy, and wars against states that sponsor terrorism put the USA into a position in which we're killing many more innocent civilians than the terrorists that sponsor terrorism - putting the US into a position of building nations in our image - shouldn't we also concerned enough about our image in the world, and particularly among Islamic nations, about the positive aspects of US policy? A carrot and a stick, perhaps?

At $350 Million for tsunami disaster relief, we've got a one-inch carrot compared with a 35 foot stick ($200 Billion and no apparent exit strategy for Iraq).

Perhaps the US government shouldn't be offering carrots, or helping hands, for tsunami relief at all. Perhaps in our enlightened self-interest, our government shouldn't be engaging with the world with that sort of diplomacy. But if not, then perhaps we should reconsider the much larger committments of force against the ozymoron of "states that sponsor terrorism", since no state sponsor of terrorism has ever attacked the USA.

If we can't see the comparatively low cost rational benefit of the US government taking a leading role in providing disaster relief in Indonesia, perhaps the USA would be best served by withdrawing from the world stage, rather than trying to remake the Middle East in our own image.


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