Magazine article Free Inquiry

Enlightenment vs. Proliferation. (Op-Ed)

Magazine article Free Inquiry

Enlightenment vs. Proliferation. (Op-Ed)

Article excerpt

It is fortunate that the world's timeline worked out such that Attila the Hun and his rapacious hordes were long dead prior to the dawning of an age in which they might have gained access to nuclear weapons. It is also fortunate that Albert Speer thought nuclear weapons so long-term and speculative a project that he scuttled Nazi Germany's program. It is yet fortunate again that, when the Soviet bear got its paws on the A-bomb, the United States was there to counter. For Cold War-era U.S.A. was not just a garrison of advanced weaponry; it was the world's greatest sanctuary of a set of virtues elucidated by Locke during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, virtues that all humanists should hold dear.

These virtues--individualism, freedom, and reason over collectivism, authoritarianism, and superstition-- and what Locke termed natural rights--were the basis from which America's Founding Fathers exalted "inalienable rights" and forged the new nation's plans. These virtues and rights, vital to human posterity, are in danger as never before.

The good fortune of our timeline has run out. The United States presently finds itself the primary target of Islamic fascists. Third-world fetishism and envy of the United States' affluence and power are largely to blame, but more important, what made the United States great is the essence of the Islamo-fascists' discontent. Over two centuries ago, our forefathers spoke of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and went on to create what is arguably the greatest Enlightenment document to date: the Bill of Rights. Our nation largely followed through to make this great experiment succeed. Our good life and prosperity demonstrate to the world that America's embrace of Enlightenment virtues, our fierce commitment to individual autonomy and rights, yields something far better than what those opposed to Enlightenment have to offer. When we peel back a few layers of the onion, we find that Enlightenment philosophy--and its demonstrable validation via America's incomparable success--forms the core of why the USSR hated us, and why today's Islamo-fascists hate us. America's Enlightenment values are a grave threat to the perverted values they yearn to see metastasize.

Today's enemies present a different threat than did the USSR. The Cold War's delicate counterbalance of deterrence succeeded, albeit with some close calls, for a number of reasons--not the least being that, since nuclear stockpiles existed on only two sides, neither side could strike the other anonymously.

Although the nuclear standoff is becoming a many-body problem, humanity can still arrest widespread proliferation throughout the nations opposed to Enlightenment values. But if we allow those nations to possess nuclear weapons alongside a robust community of terrorists eager to act as anonymous weapons delivery systems, we will be living amidst far greater peril than any Cold War-era game theory scenario.

"Kumbaya" campfire singers respond that we have no right to condemn North Korea, Pakistan, Iraq, et al. because of our own nuclear arsenal. What they fail to understand is the distinction between Enlightenment and anti-Enlightenment nations and the bearing that this has on whom is likely to wage indiscriminate nuclear war. Despite many differences, viable modern democracies (in other words, Enlightenment nations) have never gone to war against each other, nor even threatened to. The thought of the United States and Great Britain crossing the Channel to invade France is the stuff of late-night comedy. But Egypt has warred with Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and Iran has warred with Iraq. Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia; Syria invaded Lebanon. Red China had "border conflicts" with USSR. A few decades earlier, Nazi Germany fascist Italy, and imperialist Japan declared war on the world, and so on.

If one loves humanity and wishes for a great posterity, the difference between Enlightenment and anti-Enlightenment is not just relative. …

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