The Anxiety of Freedom

Paul A. Rahe, author of Soft Despotism: Democracy’s Drift relates political behavior to human nature. Rahe argues that governmental policies regarded by some as manifestations of a tyrannical, overbearing “nanny state” inducing individuals to happily succumb to a state of servility are primarily caused by a disturbing sense of anxiety or inquiétude associated with social freedoms.

It’s a rather charming theory, but one that I suspect works quite painfully backwards from a preconceived ideological conclusion.

As usual, the complete discussion is available here.

A Tortured Plea

I know this sentiment likely goes against the grain of conventional “liberal” thought, but I have to admit that I’m absolutely bored to death with the incessant interrogations of government officials of late by the media and opposition MPs about the issue of torture.

While it may represent a serious character flaw on my part, I have to confess that I simply don’t care. Likewise, I’ve been utterly wearied over the past several years to the point of complete disinterest by all of the mawkish rhetorical hand-wringing on the part of our liberal American friends about the alleged torture of “detainees” captured in their farcical “Global War of Terrorism.”

Here’s International Trade Minister Stockwell Day trotting out a mundane litany of “good news” from Afghanistan, describing all of the so-called achievements virtuously realized by our presence in that country, most of which simply beg to be mocked for their ridiculous fraudulence; but instead, he’s put in the relatively comfortable position of coolly deflecting the tenacious questioning of reporters about… alleged torture of some putative Taliban fighters captured and detained several years ago.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I condone torture by any means — or “enhanced interrogation” (if that’s how one wants to more politely describe simulated drowning, intimidation with vicious dogs, extended sleep deprivation, degrading acts of humiliation, enforced stress positions, not to mention all manner of psychotic mind-games) — especially in the case of probably witless, hired “insurgents” or even, as frequently seems to be the case, perfectly innocent civilians inadvertently swept up from the countryside in the fray, but this obsessive focus on “torture” (of which there’s little doubt it occurred in horrifically mismanaged Afghan jails staffed by sadistic thugs) really seems to take away from the broader questions regarding the vastly more important issues concerning the nature of our involvement in this shabby little war.

The media and the opposition parties are like a ferocious pack of dogs in pursuit of an irresistibly meaty bone when it comes to the matter of “torture” (if nothing else, the very word itself is an arrestingly sensational attention-grabber). But enough already! Why not simply admit that mistakes were made, evidently corrected to the best extent possible in a laudably professional manner by our military forces on the ground and move on to more substantive issues about the highly dubious purpose and utterly misguided objectives of the war itself. This constant, microscopic focus on the treatment of a handful of prisoners several years ago and the subsequent bungling and/or possibly deliberate cover-up of potentially embarrassing information surrounding it by Conservative hacks is not only pointless, but beyond tiresome.

I seriously hope that when parliament reconvenes after the holidays, Ignatieff can sharply refocus the Liberals’ offensive to press the government in such a way as to gain an absolute, unwavering assurance that our relatively small military presence will indeed be withdrawn entirely in 2011 rather than persisting in the current line of futile inquiry about allegations of “torture” that are all too easily prone to being characterized as willfully impugning the moral integrity of the Forces for partisan advantage.

In other words, please get a little more politically savvy… If the Conservatives have so much fabulously “good news” and terrific “gains” to report about our efforts in Afghanistan, well then run with that — declare “victory” and get the hell out of that abysmal sinkhole at the first available opportunity.