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Eunomia and Foreign Affairs

In the affairs of nations, the American conservative feels that his country ought to set an example to the world, but ought not to try to remake the world in its image. It is a law of politics, as well as of biology, that every living thing loves above all else—even above its own life—its distinct identity, which sets it off from all other things. The conservative does not aspire to domination of the world, nor does he relish the prospect of a world reduced to a single pattern of government and civilization. ~Russell Kirk

As the orange flags of the criminal Yushchenko carry with them the seed of uniformity and the terrible, leftist urge of liberal democrats to impose their brand of rationality and reform to every corner of the world, and as still more Americans die for the fruitless cause of imposing the same in unwilling Iraq, it seemed a good time to offer the reminder that those prattling on about anti-terrorism in Iraq and democratisation everywhere are completely alien to the respect and love of variety that Prof. Kirk described and possessed.

This is an important reminder, because it puts the lie to the frequent claims that our brave soldiers are somehow dying for freedom, whether ours or someone else’s, when their sacrifice has the effect of fueling the increasing homogenisation and uniformity of nations, the erosion of all those particularities and customs that help bar the way to multiethnic, totalitarian megastates. This homogenisation, because it is the foe of decentralisation, is the antithesis of freedom–it stifles the environment in which all real freedom flourishes. A multitude of kinds of regime in the world is healthy and normal–the profusion of one type of government suggests general cultural and political collapse on the part of the others and promises a weak and shallow foundation for the political monoculture. As in any monoculture, it can all be stricken by a single blight and all will suffer from the same flaws without any alternatives to provide correction or balance. The goal of global democratisation is not only a recipe for medium-term destabilisation on a massive scale, but a promise of permanent, significant instability on a global scale.

Our soldiers are not only wasting their genuine patriotism on the shallow utopianism of hegemonists who dream of the Pax Americana–minus as much of the real Americana as possible–but paving the way for the spread of an Americanism that is as hostile to the identity of their own hometowns and countrysides as it is to the identity of the nations subjected to “liberation.” The “liberation” of Iraqis is like the liberation of peasants who are torn from all that they have known, all the ties that had meaning for them, and who are subjected to a massive effort of reeducation, dislocation and deracination aimed at turning them into easily-led proletarians, cannon fodder for the modern, industrial monster states. That these proles get a say about who gets to send them against the cannons or which cannons they are going to be charging into ought to be irrelevant in the extreme: their society and almost everything that holds meaning for them has already been lost. As in Europe and, to a lesser extent, even in this country, the realisation of the unfulfilled promises of the liberal dream will come later and will foster bitter reactions that will convulse the affected nations severely. All this because the drive for uniformity ignores the nature of things, and consequently ignores the good order that is in harmony with nature.

Because this uniformity of political culture is abnormal, and because it has been pursued with no regard to the prior goods needed to foster any successful regime, it will fail. Perhaps then the reasonableness of minding our own business will once again prevail upon us. Without eunomia, no political system can succeed and endure, and eunomia is not something that can be imposed from without. As with the type of regime itself, the particular form that eunomia takes will be determined by the circumstances and needs of each society. Our society does not have the answers for Iraqi society, not least because we have forgotten the basic lessons of our own civilisation as to how to fashion a successful and healthy polity.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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