The Challenge of Freedom
posted at 12:39 am on December 30, 2009 by Doctor Zero
Writing in the U.K. Times Online, Michael Binyon asks if Iran is approaching the tipping point of revolution. It’s a revolution observers in the West have anticipated for a long time. Ever since the massive protests against the stolen elections of early 2009, when a murderer’s bullet slammed into Neda Soltan’s chest, we’ve wondered if the Iranian people would stand up and overthrow their sinister regime. Neda’s name became a prayer in the West, and many of us thought it would soon become a battle cry ringing through the stale air of Tehran.
New demonstrations are under way, and there have been fresh atrocities, but the regime remains in power. Charles Krauthammer has encouraged the Obama Administration to declare the regime illegitimate… but by the time that happens, the lumberjacks of liberty will already be shouting “Timber!” as the dead regime comes tumbling down.
The melancholy truth is that tyranny is extremely difficult to overcome. Every successful revolution has been a desperate struggle, conducted in the defiance of inevitable defeat. As a religious and spiritual people, we have a tendency to regard the triumph of the righteous as assured, and see victory as the destiny of virtue. The evidence of history says otherwise. No one would have given the American patriots winning odds at the outset of the Revolutionary War, fought against the most disciplined and well-equipped military force of the era, by men who marched through the snow in the tatters of disintegrating boots.
Even patriotic Americans of today don’t always appreciate how special our achievement is… not just in its success, but its endurance. Most victorious “revolutions” end with a new class of slaves cleaning up the victory celebrations, beneath the whips of a new set of tyrants. As Binyon points out in his Times Online article, grisly regimes like North Korea remain in power, despite decades of poverty and manifest failure. The image of a lone, unarmed man standing against a line of tanks in Tienanmen Square hangs proudly in the gallery of Western memory, but it is virtually unknown to the people of China, its rightful owners. Brutal oppression works. That’s why humanity is still sick with it, after thousands of years.
Freedom is not a gift, or even a prize to be taken in battle. It is a challenge, and it is frightening. Modern Americans are born with the greatest inheritance of freedom enjoyed by any children of mankind, but they don’t guard it jealously. Too many of them view it as a currency to be exchanged for benefits. Freedom implies responsibility, and choice is meaningless without the risk of failure. We’ve come to define “fairness” as “everybody wins.” To build that rickety and doomed variety of “fairness,” freedom must be melted down into nails.
Our current government does not provide a rousing defense of liberty to those battling oppression in Iran, and elsewhere. What do those people think, when they see an exhausted West that wallows in self-loathing? What conclusions do they draw, when they hear the grandchildren of the Greatest Generation meekly concede that freedom is a burden, and life depends on the subsidies and control of the State? What encouragement can they find in the example of a nation that racks up debt as if it doesn’t expect to survive long enough for the bills to come due? Should the Iranian resistance be eager to fight and die, to replace mullahs with swindlers who steal trillions with midnight votes?
Capitalism is the practical expression of freedom. The two concepts are inseparable. Freedom of speech without property produces nothing but serfs with active social lives. Our current President was pleased to accept a politically-motivated Nobel Prize from a committee that honored Yasser Arafat, a murderous totalitarian thug. He visited Copenhagen to receive polite applause from people that gave socialist dictator Hugo Chavez a thunderous ovation for his anti-capitalist ravings. Could anyone in this Administration deliver a heartfelt endorsement of capitalism to the hungry ears of the Iranian protesters? Would any of them even be willing to try?
President Obama’s belief that America’s standing in the world would improve with his election, because he’s a “good listener,” is the exact opposite of the truth. Wise people, and nations, are always listening carefully… but the world improves when America speaks with confidence. Obama’s cherished Indonesian childhood, and the travels through the Muslim world he boasts of, have proven to mean nothing to the forces of Islamic fascism. He should have spent more time learning what his American heritage means to the people dying on the streets of Tehran, and those like them around the world.
Iran’s future remains cloudy. Even if the rumors about the Ayatollah Khamenei preparing to flee the country are true, a great deal of butchery may separate us from the moment when the wheels of his plane leave the tarmac. The wildest dream of democracy would have the Iranian people put the rest of the theocracy on the next plane behind him, with no blankets or pillows, and strict instructions to remain seated during the last hour of the flight. Even if the story took such an incredible turn, we should be under no illusions that the people of a liberated Iran would automatically love us… but we should love them anyway. The American flag was not raised solely for the benefit of those who are blessed and honored to stand beneath it. It is a challenge to all the tyrants of the world.
I dearly hope that, before his time in office is done, President Obama comes to understand that the challenge of freedom was not meant to be mumbled, or cloaked in the false vanity of regret. It should be bellowed in the faces of butchers and dictators. America has a moral obligation to remain strong, brave, and confident. No one on Earth should ever have to face a disaster and wonder if the Americans will be able to help. No victim of oppression should ever look at us and wonder if we still think freedom is priceless.
Cross-posted at www.doczero.org.
Recently in the Green Room: