Civilization and Barbarism
ADVANCE EDITORIAL from the April 29, 2013 issue.
10:30 AM, Apr 19, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Appalling. We have a White House spokesman who seems incapable of saying: We regret any inadvertent killing of civilians in Afghanistan, but American troops fighting there are not engaged in terrorism. We have a White House that lacks moral clarity about the world in which we live. Moral clarity by itself isn’t sufficient to produce a successful national security strategy, or for that matter successful domestic policies. But a degree of moral clarity and candor is surely necessary. A political leadership that cannot speak of barbarism with the same confidence with which medicine speaks, for example, of cancer, cannot understand political phenomena for what they are and cannot deal with the threats to civilization as they exist.
In the 19th century, liberals like John Stuart Mill could write of civilization and barbarism. In the last half of the 20th century, as liberalism degenerated, it fell to conservatives like Reagan and Thatcher to call the evil empire by its proper name, and to stand up to it. Do we in the 21st century have what it takes to confront and defeat today’s barbarians? It’s not a sophisticated question. But it’s a real one.
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