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It's Not a Difference of Opinion; It's War
by Peter & Helen Evans
5 December 2003

By allowing our internal debate to embrace as "equally valid" the opinions of the enemies of freedom and democracy, we're blurring the lines between a sincere debate among friends and a compromise with enemies.

So many Americans expressed astonishment after 9/11.  "Why do they want to kill us?"  We, in America, have become so accustomed to the open debate made possible by freedom of speech (the cornerstone of democracy) that we forget where to draw the line between "just a difference of opinion" and an ideological threat to that freedom.

David Horowitz, a red diaper baby and a proclaimed left wing radical until he saw the light in his thirties, explains how Communists used to hide their identity, their methods and their goals.  That is, until the early 1970's, when they realized they could exploit the very strength of the American Constitutional right of free speech and convert it into America's weakness.  They didn't need to hide anymore. In fact, they could come out in full regalia and proclaim their desired demise of America and her values while at the same time being protected by her constitutional right of freedom of speech and assembly.

It hasn't always been an easy line to discern, but it's becoming increasingly blurred and we have to draw the line more clearly.  Let's take the example of 'political correctness' vs. free speech.  Most would agree that deliberately insulting someone is inappropriate; it's just plain bad manners.  Someone with such bad manners is usually reprimanded and/or shunned and eventually gets the message.  We could debate forever whether any given remark was a deliberate insult or not but, when activists want legislation that makes it a crime to insult someone, then we're talking about different ideologies.  There is a clear-cut distinction between freedom of speech and dictating how someone must speak.  The outcome of this ideological battle will have a profound influence on the society we live in.

Let's take another example.  The war in Iraq.  We can debate for hours and days whether we should have prosecuted this war now or later or continued with containment.  However, when the conversation turns to whether we should protect our nation, it's a battle of ideologies.  Also, we can debate whether we should include allies in our plans for national defense, what role to give to allies, how much counsel to give to allies, but when the subject changes to giving up our sovereignty to the United Nations (which includes nations who have no intention to be our allies, but rather seek our demise), it's a battle of ideologies. 

It seems, as a society, we're used to speaking of battles, but we seem reluctant to acknowledge that battles are an aspect of wars.  Wars to gain territory are a thing of the past. Wars to win minds and hearts are the norm these days.  Culture wars are raging all around us, and these have long term implications for our society as a whole. 

It has been said of John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, that he was just expressing a difference of opinion. That's putting it too mildly.  In fact, he was siding with our enemies and fighting for the downfall of the United States.  It has been said that, with the greatest military strength on earth, no nation will defeat us militarily, but that our downfall will come from within.  By allowing our internal debate to embrace as "equally valid" the opinions of the enemies of freedom and democracy and the very foundation of the United States of America, we're blurring the lines between a sincere debate among friends and a compromise with enemies.  This is exactly what the enemies of freedom want.

Peter & Helen Evans, international teachers and authors, write articles and teach a philosophical approach to conservatism. Their website is http://peterandhelenevans.com.

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