The amazing storytelling of J. R. R. Tolkien and the masterful cinematography of Peter Jackson have captivated millions of Americans. But if one examines the background of Tolkien’s classic, he will catch the undertones of World War II, when the world and civilization were under siege by the dark force of totalitarianism. The situation parallels today as various forces of hate, oppression and backwardness threaten the very core of representative government, free markets and individual rights found in the West.
Facing certain doom, Aragorn tells his followers, “This day we fight! And for all that is dear to you in this world, stand your ground, men of the West, and fight!” For the sake of our future, we should heed these words and stand up for the Western tradition, casting off the trappings of multiculturalism, moral relativity and the like that have so minimized the achievements of classic liberalism.
Those who opposed the war on Iraq point out the problems we are now having trying to bring freedom to that country, but they present no alternative. In their moral calculus, they equate the oppression of Saddam Hussein with the United States. The moral relativism about representative government versus tyranny needs to end. It is time ivory tower intellectuals looked at the best indicator of where life is better – immigration. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people vote with their feet against the backward nature of oppressive dictators, communist oligarchies and Islamist theocracies by fleeing those countries for the haven of the West. For these immigrants, there is no comparison; the Western system is better.
Those who hold to the liberal philosophy of free markets, representative government and individual liberty need to stand up now for those values on the world stage. There can be little doubt that there is a growing threat to these freedoms from the forces of oppression and hate that have simmered not just in Islamic extremism but also in other areas, where they despise and envy the cultural tradition that has been so successful throughout the world.
The Bush administration is right in liberating Iraq, saving countless lives and creating the first genuine opportunity for hope in the Middle East for some time. There is a tough road ahead, and every soldier lost is a tragedy, but the cost of liberty is always expensive. The effort cannot stop there, though, as we must, like Aragorn, take the fight to the enemy in their strength. Iran, North Korea, China and others are all bulwarks against liberty, but American diplomacy must be set on pushing for reform in all these countries. Only in the most extreme cases will we need to use force. Already in China, we have seen the powerful forces of the markets and ideas loosening the grip of tyranny and opening up hope for more than a billion Chinese citizens.
The biggest battle, though, must be fought in the United Nations, and it will be one that will sadly divide those countries that should be natural allies, the West. The United States must push to marginalize tyrannous dictatorships and put them on notice that the U.N. General Assembly and non-governmental organizations will no longer be their microphone for hatred and oppression. Expanding the Security Council and mandating certain political reforms for membership will only strengthen the cause.
In the end, liberal governments based on the Western tradition are at war with those that oppose our freedom and prosperity. Those poised against us are fighting to the death for victory, and unless the West takes up the same determination, all of our progress and success will evaporate in terrorism and anarchy. Aragorn was right; we must take up arms “(and) for all that is dear to you in this world, stand your ground, men of the West, and fight!”
–The writer, a freshman, is chair of GW Young Americans for Freedom.