So one of the somewhat common refrains I’ve heard about our country’s actions against Afghanistan is that we’re hypocrites for taking this action when our own government has committed various atrocities against civilians of other countries. This baffles and angers me, because I don’t feel that people who make that statement are actually advocating any meaningful course of action. They’re just being scolds, and the statement comes across as a schoolmarmish “well, those people have reasons to hate us.” What exactly are we supposed to do with that alleged understanding? Not fight the Taliban in the pursuit of Al-Queda? I don’t see a meaningful alternative, or even any form of advocacy at all other than “feel bad.”
This same sentiment was well-publicized during the Gulf War, the notion that it was a war fought merely for the sake of America’s interests in oil. I had the exact same reaction then: so what? Opposing Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was the right thing to do. If our leaders were prompted to do the right thing for the wrong reason, does that mean they made the wrong decision? In other words, does the fact that we failed to act in other similarly outrageous situations (such as Rwanda) mean that, for the sake of consistency, we shouldn’t have acted there either?
The ultimate point of that general concept seems to be that two wrongs make a right. Having acted wrongly once (by omission or commission), we should act wrongly again because at least we’d be acting wrong for the right reasons. My impression is that the people making these statements would rather we hadn’t fought Iraq, and let them take Kuwait, because that would be morally superior to fighting Iraq for the sake of oil. I think the rightness of the act itself trumps the equivocation of its impetus.
The choice this idea offers looks to me like a choice between cowardice and hypocrisy: do nothing and at least be consistently isolationist, or do the right thing some of the time when it’s in our selfish interests. Well you know what? I’d rather be a hypocrite. At least hypocrites are right some of the time.
Or as one commentator put it: the last time I checked, the cruise missiles we sent into Sudan a couple years ago weren’t packed full of screaming, innocent people.