Our Man in Paris is Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis. His weekly columns appear here and often in a slightly different version the next day on his site from Paris, with photographs.
Right now MetropoleParis has paused publication for maintenance, so posts there, and here, will be somewhat occasional, as Ric is rather busy.
week Ric offers something that will not appear on his general site, a view of America from abroad. Ric, born in Canada, a
journalist for many years in Germany, and now a chronicler of Paris, sees things here we may not see.
PARIS - Thursday, January 19, 2006 - Since
9/11 I have been astonished at the seeming ease with which fundamental elements of the constitution have been trashed and
overturned in the name of a 'war' against an enemy of ideas.
For what is behind Islamic-based terrorism directed against
western targets other than a 'war' of ideas, of ideals?
The defense against ideas does not require laws for dealing
with your own citizens as if they were potential terrorists. After all your own citizens are supposed to be on your side.
So it seems, in this 'war,' that the United States has gone about it in the wrongest ways possible. This was something
the government decided to do - not the people - and the government decided it needed extraordinary powers for - for the 'defense
of the west.'
As we have seen the government's policies and actions, instead of 'defending the west,' have produced
an opposite result. Afghanistan invaded for scant purpose. Iraq invaded for even less purpose. Civil liberties reduced at
home, based on a fictitious 'war.' Fictitious because it has no plan, no purpose, and is conducted against the wrong people
- that is, mostly ordinary people who are not engaged in a 'war' with the west.
As a reminder, this is how the 'battle
with world communism' was fought. It was assumed that communism was a danger to the west because - what? It was dangerous?
It was stronger? It was a better idea? Its ideals were attractive?
Some people would say that communism collapsed
as a result of the onslaught of Coca-Cola. In reality communism fell down because of its own internal contradictions. While
attractive socially as an ideal, communism doesn't work because people aren't ideal. There is no way to achieve 100 percent
full-time idealism by everybody. So that all-powerful enemy bit the dust, not thanks to being surrounded by iron, but by history.
Here it is useful to also recall that communists were not considered to be stupid or uneducated. They had a wishful
ideal that didn't work, and turned out to be indefensible. The west 'won' by default.
It was not a sure thing, according
to the politicians. There was a constant fear that communism would prove so irresistible that Americans would forsake Disneyland
for the considerable charms of the Black Sea. More wishful thinking that didn't happen.
Today's situation is radically
different. There is a small group of people in the world who have declared 'war' on western ideals. This is not based on the
notion of economic unfairness or envy, but on a moral stance that has decided that the west is rotten and corrupt from top
to bottom - that the west is in moral error.
For all anyone knows it may be true. But that it is proposed by people
who are religious fundamentalists, that it proposes that all of mankind adopt the same religious attitude - that of the 15th
century - one of ignorance and intolerance. It is not one that is likely to find many takers unless they are still, already
in the 15th century.
As such it hardly seems that its message could be compelling. How do you convert folks back to
the past? Wilder versions of the Christian right seem to have this as a goal too. But look at it. If it worked in the 15th
century we nevertheless grew out of it and we are wherever we are today. We aren't going back.
So, then, there still
is this 'war.' Does anyone think it will be won with guns? Bombs, smart bombs, missiles, atomic submarines, bombers, laser,
radar, satellite positioning, bam, bam, bam, rata-tat-tat?
The bad news is that the west is going to have to think.
This is a 'war' that will be won with ideas. If the west is all so superior, ideally and morally, it is not only going to
have to defend itself with ideas, it is going to have to have ideas that are better than theirs in order to prevail.
tell me this is impossible. Don't tell me the only way to do it is to junk the constitution. Don't tell me you have to suspect
all Americans of being on the enemy's side. Don't tell me to fear - stop telling me bullshit.
Most of all, stop telling
me that GW Bush is the supremo in this war. Tonight's TV-news reported the story of a new audio taped message by Bin Laden.
In the middle of the news another story was interrupted to say that the CIA had confirmed the authenticity of the tape. Audio
tape is yesterday's technology. Bin Laden just tossed a 50-cent bomb at the west and hit a media bull's-eye. The guy isn't
even afraid to think.
It may be late, but it's never too soon to wake up. Light the fucking lightbulb!
Copyright © 2005 - Ric Erickson,