Thursday, January 20, 2005

Where have all the post-colonialists gone?

At Liberals against Terrorism, Praktike writes of Bush's emphasis on liberty (or freedom, depending on your taxonomy):
...I do think Bush is sincere or at least, he thinks he is sincere about spreading liberty abroad. But I think his utopianism is crazy and dangerous, frankly....I just want to point out, repeatedly, that his approach is the wrong one and is likely to backfire and lead to more problems for the world as well as many more dead Americans at home and abroad.
I agree with Praktike on the major point here: Bush's emphasis on freedom is both reckless and overly nebulous; to be more specific, the former derives from the uncertainties inherent in the latter. Whether or not Americans will suffer is a question I'd bracket for the time being, but good arguments could probably be made for it.

To reconstruct Bush's logic (loosely speaking; it's more of a mythology than anything): the creation of political freedom, the right of the People to self-determination via democracy, somehow awakens a desire for substantive liberty, which would include things like freedom of religion and speech, minority rights, due process, etc. What absolutely needs to be explored is this nebulous somehow mechanism. On the face of it, I flat-out don't see why the formal political freedom leads to substantive, classical-liberal liberties. To the contrary, my post-colonial spidey sense tells me that we have to be verrrrry careful when the concept of freedom - as culturally loaded a concept as one is likely to encounter - is deployed. There are several different senses, and not all of them are compatible with Western models of a good State.

So, to refine Praktike's post, Bush's endeavor is not so much crazily utopian as it is philosophically naive and politically reckless.