I’ve always believed in holding people accountable for their actions before looking around to see if anyone else might be partially responsible. Last week, I disagreed with one of the Wizbang Blue posters who wrote about Communist China selling chemicals that contained poisonous materials (something that is happening with frightening regularity these days) in Panama. Mr. Hamilton chose to blame the deaths on “corporate greed,” not the fact that the Communist government itself is the seller of the toxic materials, and therefore has a vested interest in NOT imposing objective standards on the chemicals in question.
It’s a common theme for me. Personal responsibility. Responsibility lying at the feet of those who are most liable for the results.
For example, the Iraq War. Yes, President Bush pushed hard for it, but everything he did, he did within the system of checks and balances. Saddam Hussein helped tremendously, by repeatedly violating the terms of his 1991 surrender, granting a legal justification for removing him from power. And Congress, with votes of 296-133 in the House and 77-23 in the Senate, gave Bush the authority to do so. (It’s remarkable how many “honorable” members are frantically trying to distance themselves from their votes — I think Hillary Clinton’s latest excuse is “I misunderstood the bill, interpreting the title — ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002’ — as a demand to let weapons inspectors back in, not an actual authorization to use military force against Iraq.”)
So yes, it can be argued that Iraq is “Bush’s war,” as it was by and large his decisions and his determination that made it happen. But he hardly acted alone and in a vacuum. Saddam committed the numerous acts of war, and Congress carried out its Constitutional obligations by going along. To foist all the responsibility on Bush is to exonerate Saddam’s bellicosity and Congress’ complicity.
It’s not just a political issue. (Or, at least, a “political” issue in the traditional sense.) Suppose two college-age people go to a party and get seriously tanked, then end up in bed together. In the eyes of the law, the intoxication of the female half of this equation removes all her legal liability for the encounter, shifting it entirely on the equally-intoxicated male. They’re both drunk, legally and factually, but the consequences of their shared intoxication are guaranteed to get him charged with sexual assault if she so chooses.
And Dafydd’s examples are equally apt. The onus of the civilian deaths in Iraq ought to lie solely at the feet of those who do the killing. To blame the United States for the actions of those who we are actively seeking to kill or capture, in the hopes of preventing them from killing more, is to deny them the respect they are due as sentient human beings, fully able to make their own moral choices — and be held accountable to them.
A long time ago, I heard a phrase that lodged itself firmly in my mind as summing up an essential truth about human nature: “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” A little research has shown me that it’s been a catchphrase of the Bush administration, but apparently it did not originate there (nor have I seen any claims from them that they did coin it.)
People tend to live up to — or down to — our expectations. If we make it clear that we expect certain standards, most will try to meet them. If we say that we do not expect very much from them, we are pretty much guaranteed to get just that little — or less.
And if we excuse that shoddy behavior, we can expect more of it. Every time we dismiss some atrocity as saying “they’re only acting out because they’re victims of X,” we might as well start planning on dealing with the next atrocity committed by the very same people — and this one will probably be even worse.