Given recent discussions about strong crypto in the wake of the WTC/Pentagon attacks, I want to reprise my September 10 comments about the SSSCA. For reasons that should be obvious, those comments were not posted on this page for very long. But I believe they are important. You can read them over here. I was going to reproduce some highlights, but I think the whole thing is worth reading.
For many years I have been struggling with the following dillema: how to talk about history without appearing lefty. Whenever I bring up historical details in political debates, I am accused of being “liberal.” Now, I self identify as a progressive, and I consider being labeled either a Democrat or a Republican equally insulting, and liberal is an offensive, stinky word. However, talking about history doesn’t necessarily require a leftist stance. Henry Kissinger is a notable example of a right-wing wacko who makes historically informed policy arguments. I’ve tried for a long time to find a way to make historically based arguements in non-political terms — this was especially important when I was teaching classes with titles like “Political Sociology” and “Social Problems” but is still important when I try to make logical statements in non-political terms. I’ve come to the conclusion that in an anti-intellectual culture such as ours, it is relatively easy for the right to make a short-hand connection between history and “liberal” that somehow has stuck (I don’t pretend to have my finger on the mechanism of how this happened). All of this has recently become an issue as “the left” is being criticized for making statements about the September 11 attack that appear to be blaming the US for those attacks. David Clark has written an op-ed piece for The Guardian on just his issue:
…it is absurd to claim, as some commentators have, that any attempt to set these events in a wider political context is tantamount to saying America “had it coming”. A mature debate will depend on our ability to separate issues of cause and effect from questions of moral responsibility. Historians have correctly identified the punitive terms of the treaty of Versailles as a factor in the rise of Hitler. That does not turn them into Holocaust deniers. We will need to understand and address the deep-rooted alienation from which terrorists derive legitimacy and support in order to deny them their life-stream: tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism, if you like.
The U.S. needs to take a hard look at the causes of the virulent hatred with which many in the Muslim world view us, and we need to ask hard questions about the role our own foreign policies have played in that hatred. Reasonable people are then free to decide that the benefits of our policies are so great that the hatred is worth it (a position I personally disagree with) — but making that decision in the absence of information is not only stupid, it is foolhardy.