The Pope, Ahmadinejad, and Chavez
One might wonder why I included the above trio in one sentence - it is merely a case of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The waves created by the speeches of all 3 over the last week reflect the latest advance in the jihadist zoids' ability to pervert the hallmarks of the West into potent weapons of their own - civil aviation, media, and now, free speech itself.
The Islamic fundamentalist imperialists have now managed to turn the free speech of their opponents into an albatross, while simultaneously using the citadel of the West itself as a platform to demonize the President and worse yet, to disseminate silver-tongued skullduggery. This is the common thread of the events of the last week-and-half.
The Pope's eloquent speech on faith and reason has been twisted beyond recognition. His academic argument that faith and reason should work together and not at crosspurposes (as he notes has occurred in the divorce between Protestantism and science) was an elegant philosophical polemic on the necessity of the West to return to its roots - where Greek logic informed and suffused Christian faith. His point on Islam was that Islamic doctrine brooks no restraint of love or reason on God, fostering fertile ground for acts in the name of God without love or reason. Need I say that the reaction to this argument proved the point? While I might add that the Catholic Church in its history has done much to drive science from its bosom, as do the evangelicals of today, that is another post. The Pope's point remains valid and beautiful: faith and reason are like a pair of shoes, and you can go farther with both rather than one. The West needs to strengthen and restor the consonance of these 2 pillars.
The rantings of Chavez and the appropriation of leftist rhetoric by Ahmadinejad in the service of his pulling the wool over others' eyes just goes to show even more how much we need to leave the UN. History teaches that events abhor a vacuum, and that unipolar colossi are counterbalanced by other opponents. What is happening now is an alignment of a rogues gallery: Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuala all acting in various capacities to distract and sabotage America. One can make a serious argument that China and Saudi Arabia covertly do the same. And of course there is France. For those who grew up with cartoons in the '80s, the Legion of Doom has presented itself. It is time for the Superfriends (or Justice League) to coalesce and assemble. Why Bush has failed to yet have the vision to summon an Alliance of Democracies is beyond me. Each day we wait, our position continues to erode. As I wrote previously in the Way Forward , an alliance of the US, Britain, Australia, Japan, India, Canada, Germany, Brazil, and other democracies would bestow both moral legitimacy and street credibility to US efforts. It would be a far easier panel to push foreign policy agendas through. It would provide backbone and stability to fragile democracies, and give a beacon for other states to follow in the footsteps of democrats everywhere. It would be a powerful way of linking economic progress to political and social progress, which while united in fact by dint of history, is not a link easily perceived by most of the world. Eastern Europe would join in a heartbeat. Spain, Italy, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey, Indonesia, Bangladesh could be kept from falling off the cliff into loony-liberal nihilism or Islamic fundamentalism. The presence of Third World democracies like India, Brazil, Argentina, Ghana, and Kenya would make it obvious this is not about Western oppression (fuzzy-wuzzy stuff to be sure but nonetheless vital to the media information war). Military defenses and free trade agreements would be conditioned on the ideals of freedom.
In short, a powerful ideological weapon based on positive idealism to turn back the erosive acid of loony liberal self-loathing married to toxic Islamic fundamentalism.