Friday, June 30, 2006

Imperfect and Unsatisfying Solutions

Charles Krauthammer reminds us that the Republican position, especially from the White House, is that Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki’s plan to grant amnesty to insurgents is a good idea. No surprise there, really. Bush does seem to go for amnesty, eh? Terrorists and invaders get a free pass. To say that the legalization plan for illegals is not an amnesty is technically true – “amnesty” after all means no consequences, and there is a consequence here, of a nominal fine by which they buy themselves to the front of the line and through the door. No, it’s not amnesty – it’s a bargain. But the Iraqi amnesty plan is just that – no consequences for past bad acts. Amnesty and amnesia are practically the same word.

The inconsistency comes from the Dems, who want American law and borders flouted, but cannot bear the idea of the Iraqi insurgent terrorists slipping away from the presumably fine Iraqi justice system. Any terrorist who has been involved in the deaths of Americans must be punished. Such is the sentiment that certain Dem senators mouth.

If only we lived in a world where iniquity was punished with swift wrath. But perhaps we might concern ourselves with future peace, rather than past atrocities. There is talk from the Left about the Iraqi um quagmire being unwinnable. Oh. But, uh, if it’s unwinnable, how could the terrorists ever be punished? My practical solution is that we can do business with some Hitlers. Not very ethical of me, is it. But we have to compromise, in the real world, on everything up to the very most vital principles, whatever those may be for each of us. We cannot hope to convert all adversaries to our way of thinking. We can hope to find some common ground of shared power. I speak, of course, of the situation in Iraq.

There are Sunni tribal and guerrilla leaders who had power that they have no more. Being petty and selfish men, they cannot bear the loss, and stand against the order that Bush and al-Maliki stand for. They fight not for principle, but for power. In other words, they are hack politicians. Fine, make a place for them in the new government. Let them put away their bombs and take up briefcases. Our thirst for justice is strong, but we have more of the camel in us than might be suspected.

Consider Chile, where the crimes of the former authoritarian regime were overlooked, that wounds might be bound and the nation move forward. For the most part, this practical benevolence was a blessing to their society. The same sort of thing occurred in South Africa, with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And, most telling for us was the policy of Abraham Lincoln, who wanted the Confederacy to rejoin the Union under the most lenient of conditions. The South had brutally enslaved a race, and started a horrifically bloody Civil War. What does justice demand, for these crimes? But Lincoln would have received them back as wayward brothers -- had he lived. All that would have been required was an assurance of future loyalty.

The United States will underwrite the Iraqi Constitution. The bad-faith of the Palestinians is not the only model from which we draw our expectations of Middle Eastern leaders. Not every leader is an Arafat, steeped in corruption and functional insanity. I do not, of course, speak of the ideological Islamist monsters -- they should receive a Russian solution. But when the blessings of relative stability bring a prosperity to Iraq that it has never known, something of the more- than- merely- material greatness of the West will impress itself upon the Middle East. They need not absorb our culture, but let them enjoy the blessings of some of our institutions, such as a government that promotes liberty rather than slavery. Totalitarianism is a Western invention. But so is freedom. We cannot have a voice in the spiritual forgiveness that the crimes of the past cry out for, but the proudest traditions of our fading Christian culture teach us that there is a way to find mercy even where justice has a claim. Shall the Moslems learn nothing of this? We might consider it a first evangelical step to a deeper sort of forgiveness.

We live in a world were tomorrow is not promised. All creation groans under the suffocating burden of injustice. No imprecatory prayers against unjust judges may be relied on to bring relief. But in the entirely secular world, I know of no finer words that might apply to this question, than these: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.” Every once in a while I manage to be humble. Lincoln humbles me. It's just that I admire wisdom.


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