Liberalism applied to foreign policy: “If you treat a mass murdering monster like a statesman, he’ll be a statesman.”

As Jim Kalb discussed at VFR last year, liberals believe that all human beings seek what is right and just and fulfilling, therefore all human beings, including jihadists, including cannibals, are at least aspiring liberals. Just include them in the liberal system, just treat them as though they are liberals, and they will naturally begin to manifest their essential liberalism.

Here is a perfect—and perfectly horrible—example of that liberal belief in action. In 1999 Susan Rice was a leading advocate in the Clinton administration for initiating a “peace process” with the insanely murderous, hand-chopping Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, led by Foday Sankoh. The basis of the Clinton policy was: “If you treat Sankoh like a statesman, he’ll be one.” In other words, no matter how evil and monstrous a foreign group may be, they want the same thing that we Western liberals want, a right and just and fulfilling human life for everyone. So we will ignore their monstrousness and treat them as though they were our fellow liberals, and—poof!—they will turn into liberals. The liberal belief that everyone is a liberal, just like us, doesn’t just make it unnecessary to acknowledge the existence of evil and of enemies, it precludes it. It thus empowers evil and enemies.

I quote below the most relevant passage from “The Other Susan Rice File: How to embrace psychotic murderers and alienate a continent,” by Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal (I read at the time the 1999 article in The New Republic by Ryan Lizza about Sierra Leone that Stephens quotes, so finding out now about Susan Rice’s role in pushing a peace process with these monsters is eye-opening):

… In January 1999, six months before Ms. Rice’s Senate testimony, the RUF laid siege to the capital city of Freetown. “The RUF burned down houses with their occupants still inside, hacked off limbs, gouged out eyes with knives, raped children, and gunned down scores of people in the street,” wrote Ryan Lizza in the New Republic. “In three weeks, the RUF killed some 6,000 people, mostly civilians.”

What to do with a group like this? The Clinton administration had an idea. Initiate a peace process.

It didn’t seem to matter that Sankoh was demonstrably evil and probably psychotic. It didn’t seem to matter, either, that he had violated previous agreements to end the war. “If you treat Sankoh like a statesman, he’ll be one,” was the operative theory at the State Department, according to one congressional staffer cited by Mr. Lizza. Instead of treating Sankoh as part of the problem, if not the problem itself, State would treat him as part of the solution. An RUF representative was invited to Washington for talks. Jesse Jackson was appointed to the position of President Clinton’s special envoy.

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Jim Kalb writes:

I agree that’s a good example.

I suppose another thing it shows is what happens when you make academic credentials the standard of knowledge. Good sense based on experience of what people are like and how things work goes out the window, and you get mindless application of schemas for doing things that are based on whatever assumptions go down most easily in academic settings.

Mindless liberalism goes with mindless academic thought in a variety of ways. Both lack common sense. Liberalism idealizes the lack and academic thought justifies it. Also, you couldn’t pass off people like Susan Rice as qualified if academic background weren’t considered equivalent to competence.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 12, 2012 04:09 PM | Send

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