Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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French Bread at an Afghan Restaurant: Not a Good Meal for Americans

This NYT article on Afghanistan and the French involvement over there is amusing--not in itself, so much in how it is likely to be used by the left.  A liberal friend of mine posted it on Facebook by way of imagining, I suppose, that he had  thereby made a point in his efforts to prove the efficacy of welfare/statist programs as an indisputable good.  See:  the French have stabilized a sector of Afghanistan by establishing a functioning and generous welfare system, therefore, welfare is (obviously) a good way to govern human beings.

Is that not utterly revealing?  Do we want to be like dirt-dwelling Afghans mollified by a few pieces of cake?  Honestly!  I think this is what Peggy Noonan was getting at with her column last week  in which she opined that one reasons the American electorate is reacting so vehemently against the Obama/Pelosi agenda is that they are concerned about the kind of character these programs are likely to spawn.  Do we want to be that kind of a people?  Thank God, the answer still seems to be "No!"

Our objection to lefties is that they seem to want to view us through a lens that we find de-humanizing.  They want us to act like grateful Afghans.  But the truth is that these Afghans are only happy because they now have a benevolent tyrant instead of an evil and violent one.   Do we want to be like that?  Should we be grateful when decisions (and the money to implement them) concerning the most basic functions of ordinary life come down to us from on high?  Eat your cake!

Constantly pushing this kind of benevolence on us, what they seem to miss is the implication in their words and actions that we don't know what's good for us.  We ought to listen to them and give up our silly dreams of self-government.  Self-government is too darn messy and difficult.  If the Afghans can't do it, we probably can't either.  This is what they think the failed experiment in nation-building has proven.

I am fairly certain that the next charge leveled at me from the peanut gallery will be one of jingoistic arrogance . . . I think Americans are better than Afghans.  Well . . . yeah.  I do.  (Though I also think Afghans are capable of being Americans--though, perhaps not all at once or while they're still in Afghanistan.)  Amazing to me that the reverse--thinking we're just like Afghans (or the Greeks!)--is not the damning charge!

I asked this friend of mine what will happen when the Afghans in this story become accustomed to looking to their government (and France) for care and support and then begin--as inevitably, they will--to want MORE.  What happens when there is no "MORE"--because we know from reading our own Bill Voegeli, that there is "Never Enough!"  I suppose they will take a cue from their French betters and riot.  That's what.  Except theirs will likely have a bit of an Afghan/Taliban twist to it . . .

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 2 Comments

I'll cop to being Julie's liberal friend. (And for the record, I enjoy Julie's friendship -- and her challenges to my point-of-view.) I'm afraid, however, I didn't think much more deeply about the point than the 140 characters I tapped out to post that link. It's dangerous to be glib, sometimes.

BUT: If we're going to combine thoughts on war-fighting and the welfare state, I do think it's interesting that much of Western Europe's social democracy arose in the early days of World War II -- with the full support of the United States. That structure comes in for a fair amount of sneering from pure free marketeers now, but back then it was seen as a necessary method of winning the support of populations who still, at the point, considered Communism a viable alternative. We understood then that social democracy was a defense against tyranny; now, I guess, many of us understand it as a form of tyranny.

More to say on all this, I suspect. I'll return to this topic later!

Joel, yours is not an unreasonable point. I actually have nothing to say about whether or not that particular plan is a good one as it is being applied in Afghanistan by the French. I would have to have a lot more information than I have at my disposal--and probably would want to be over there and engaged in it--to have a worthwhile opinion about that.

It may be the best that can be hoped for over there--as it may also have been the best to be hoped for in much of Europe at the end of WWII--especially when confronted with Communists. That is a prudential/judgment question. European social democracy is certainly preferable to Soviet-style Communism. But I think neither, in the end, befit the character of the American people. We are not Europeans (or Afghans) . . . and the best of Europe is now in the process of discovering that they aren't that kind of European, either.

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