The Politics of Altruism
As widespread unrest throughout the Muslim world continues, A Case for Democracy by former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician Natan Sharansky is a must-read. Almost prophetic in nature, he outlines and expertly presents multiple arguments and counterarguments relating to the building and maintaining of a free society. He authoritatively concludes that the power of freedom can overcome tyranny and terror.
In the introduction to the book, Sharansky arguesthat the Nixon/Kissinger Realpolitik approach to handling the Soviets was in fact fundamentally flawed:
“The term détente, a French word meaning “relaxation” was used during the cold war to describe a policy approach that was supposed to ‘ease tensions’ between the superpowers. Its detractors saw it as a euphemism for appeasement. ”
It was Reagan, he says, who got it right, in understanding the fundamental weakness of a society whose population lives in fear. He pursued “an activist policy that linked the Soviet Union’s international standing to the regime’s treatment of its own people.”
Upon reflection, it seems that political policy is very much a manifestation of the specific worldview of those individuals who are responsible for its implementation.
Nixon and Kissinger practiced the politics of realism, seeing the world for what it was; their primary concern was how to maintain the status quo and preserve their interests, hence the implementation of policies such as ‘containment’ and ‘détente.’ These policies were largely reactionary and pacifist and ultimately self-defeating as Sharansky continues to explain in his book.
Reagan, on the other hand, was a forward-thinking visionary, who practiced the politics of altruism, seeing the world for what it could be. He demanded more from friend and foe alike. Decisions were implemented based on what was right and moral, not on what was safe and predictable. It was Reagan’s policies that facilitated the unleashing of the power of freedom on the Soviet regime and hastened its demise.
Today as history repeats itself once again, this conceptual view has renewed significance. But as many turn towards the leader of the free world to take a stand for morality and justice, they will be disappointed to find that President Obama seems to be more concerned with the politics of realism.
Obama has displayed repeatedly that what is right is not the determining factor; what is moral and just is not the priority. Failing to utter a word of support in favor of anti Islamist movements in Iran and Libya and rallying against a staunch ally in Mubarak, he has hedged his bets, and congratulated the winner.
As Jeffrey T. Kuhner points out in the Washington Times:
“Even today, as brave Iranian democrats battle the forces of tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president cannot muster the indignation he demonstrated toward former Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Obama refuses to demand that the Persian strongman step aside – as he did with the Egyptian pharaoh.”
This week saw one of the administration’s more morally perverse moments. Ambassador Susan Rice sided in principle with a UN resolution that condemned Israeli settlement building as she sat alongside a Libyan representative, whose government was indiscriminately massacring unarmed dissenters in Tripoli.
Under president Obama the United States has lost its moral standing, trust, and status as a voice of freedom in a world of tyranny and terror. For now, the politics of altruism is all but lost.
Perhaps this also explains why the relationship between the Obama administration and Israel has been under constant strain. Belief in a better future and in the altruistic nature of human beings is fundamental to the Jewish worldview. The concepts of striving towards a perfect world and the belief in the innate goodness of man are ingrained in Jewish tradition and thought. Judaism demands altruistic politics and America was founded on Jewish values.
It may be up to America’s Jews to lead this country back to its roots.