"The irony of fate," states one literary reference work, means "a strange fatality which has brought about something quite the reverse of what might have been expected." Or might have been intended. Irony in politics is uniquely and intimately linked to the law of unintended consequences. The term irony itself is rooted in the Greek eiron, or "a dissembler," or liar.
Altruism, or the moral code of sacrifice and living for others, has produced a larger number of ironies or unintended consequences than any other species of good intention. Its ironies cannot be fathomed except by reason coupled with a questioning of its morality. They become evident only after honest and extended questioning of altruism's practicality. The irony of altruist policies leaves some of their practitioners and observers baffled and ultimately discouraged. Others learn nothing from the failure of altruism; they just try harder to make it work.
Let us cite a few of the most recent and notable ironies.
The democratic election by Palestinians of HAMAS, a terrorist gang dedicated to the violent destruction of Israel, is an irony of the first rank. The election results received the blessing of our own Pope of Humility and Sacrifice, ex-president Jimmy Carter. However, even if it could be proved that the election was rigged in HAMAS's favor, it would not make a difference. American and European observers had hoped, in fact, had intended, that one of two things would emerge from those elections: a mellowed HAMAS that yearned for "peace" and was committed to negotiating with Israel; or, a slate of "moderate" Palestinians who wouldn't be as terrifying as the Koran-sanctioned, ski-masked gunmen behind them. After all, if they wear three-piece suits and pass a frisk for weapons before entering negotiations, then they must be civilized and open to a peacekeeping deal.
Or so our pragmatic policymakers believe. The White House has sworn never to deal with HAMAS, but pledged to continue "humanitarian" aid to the Palestinian government for schools, medical services, and food, even though little of it in the past has ever been used for those purposes. Our State Department and intelligence services know this. But altruism trumps reality and truth every time. HAMAS is synonymous with homicide. "Democracy" was supposed to work like alchemy and render the homicidal benign. HAMAS burst that illusion immediately upon being elected to power.
Competing for first rank in terms of bringing democracy to tribalist barbarians is the election of a nascent theocracy in Iraq itself. President Bush intended that Iraqis discover the blessings of liberty, and thousands of Americans have paid the price for his good intentions. The horrible truth is that he has accepted the verdict that it is a theocracy most Iraqis have chosen to govern them.
The U.S. military, particularly the Navy, has been sent by the White House to help victims of recent natural catastrophes: the tsunami, the Pakistani earthquake, and the Philippine mudslide. This meant the expenditure of manpower, time, and billions in aid matériel in repeated bids for goodwill. However, such "humanitarian" generosity is not purchasing the U.S. the love of either the stricken populations or their governments, as is intended. To earn their love, the U.S. must show evidence of pain. The U.S. to date has shown no pain in giving. The generosity earns us no merit or credit. How Kantian! Those ragged-looking mobs on our TV screens, accepting our bottled water, blankets, and bags of grain one day, will the next demonstrate against us with curses and flag-burnings. This suggests that they are wiser to the irony of altruism than is George Bush or Tony Blair.
It is another kind of fatal irony that while Third World countries (remember that derogatory but apt term?), including all Arab countries, are exercising their "self-determination," the nations of Europe are surrendering their own to the super bureaucracy of the European Union. What began long ago as the "Common Market," ostensively dedicated to lowering or eliminating protectionist trade barriers for the sake of increasing every nation's prosperity and well-being, has morphed into a bizarre, wealth and sovereignty consuming alliance of the inept against the able and the still prosperous. Particular animosity is reserved for Britain, which has one foot inside the Union and one out of it.
Now a new surrender of sovereignty is in the making: obeisance to the sensitivities of Muslims residing in Europe. Franco Frattini, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security, remarked in response to the anger against the Danish cartoons, that Europe "was aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression." Which is as much as saying: We are willing to gag our press in exchange for your not burning more cars, killing cartoonists, or going on a rampage.
But, there is hope for Europe yet. The French shot down the lumbering, politically correct EU constitution, probably to the relief of most Europeans. What would sentence the bureaucracy in Brussels to sure death would be an act of secession by one or two of the more prosperous members of the Union. This welcome development may occur. But those countries must first reject altruism and its partner in politics, collectivism. They must first learn that individualism and free speech cannot coexist with their antipodes within or without their borders.
Daniel Pipes, one of the most intransigent and prodigious sources of information about Islam, terrorism and the jihadist agenda, and whose knowledge of the creed and its blood-thirsty players is encyclopedic, denies that the "cartoon" war is "clash of civilizations" or a "war of cultures." Ironically, he claims that Arabs should realize that "disengagement" from the West in the form of boycotts against Danish or Scandinavian products will only cause the Arabs to suffer and experience further alienation from the West and its values, which could be said to ensure happiness on earth for the living.
The irony here is that most Arabs -- of "the street," of the diplomatic, of jihadist suasion -- place happiness on earth last in the list of their means and goals. Muslims are forbidden to make moral judgments of their creed. Period. Their acceptance of the whole cloth of the Koran and Hadith -- Shi'ite, Sunni, it little matters the sectarian version of the creed -- must be total and without reservation. Most of them are willing to sacrifice lives, wealth, and liberty to achieve Islamic hegemony on earth, or at least see the more activist among them achieve it in their name with beheadings, IEDs, suicide bombings, and fatwahs on Western cartoonists. They never grow tired of the U.S. saying it is sorry, and derive obvious, unspeakable pleasure in seeing a giant grovel, stumble and stammer.
We must thank Western news services for rushing to show us just how angry the "Arab street" is and how joyful it can be when the West offends it or suffers a setback. All those televised forays into Cairo coffee houses, alongside Iraqi funerals, and in the midst of gunfire-punctuated Palestinian demonstrations to solicit and broadcast the average Arab's opinion of the U.S. are intended to drive home to Western viewers lessons in moral equivalence.
Actually, they work to achieve just the opposite: a contempt for maliciously medieval minds, regardless of whether their owners wear traditional garb or Nike baseball caps. The average American must ask himself, when he sees Arab men and boys beating themselves on their heads with swords, or dying by the hundreds in stampedes to throw pebbles at a rock: Is this what we're sending our troops to protect? For whose country or what values are our troops dying and being maimed for life? This is what we're supposed to respect? Why aren't we doing something about Iran, and Syria, and Saudi Arabia? Aren't they our real enemies? What are we waiting for? Another 9/11?
Americans do not realize that President Bush and his ilk are waiting for tolerance and altruism to work their "magic."
The multiculturalist philosophy that denies the West any degree of superiority over demonstrably inferior cultures is not advancing the gospel of "equality" in the pestholes of the world, which include Iraq and Afghanistan. One may include Pakistan and any other nation with a Muslim majority. Quite the opposite. It has given those pestholes, each ruled by a tripartite philosophy of mysticism, stagnation and corruption, leave to declare war on the West.
Of course, the latest irony is President Bush's stubborn, reason-defying defence of a plan to hand over management of American ports to an Arab firm based in Dubai. Would FDR have proposed handing over management of American ports to a German firm during World War II, because it was more "efficient"? Don't worry about it, say the press secretary and the news anchors. Look at Dubai's skyline, it's so modern! They're even planning on building the world's tallest skyscraper here. And the U.S. Navy calls on Dubai hundreds of times. But, one wonders how much all that is costing the U.S. taxpayer in oil prices and expenditures to maintain our military in a war the White House refuses to prosecute.
However, if we can't trust the Pakistani intelligence and military to hunt down the Taliban and bin Laden, or the Iraqi government not to turn against its sponsor, the U.S., why should we trust the interlocking Arab connections that would profit from Bush's folly to not let Al Quada or the Muslim Brotherhood or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to sneak a WMD into the U.S.?
Didn't Dubai only last week agree, at the behest of Adolf Ahmadinejad, to stop anti-Iranian broadcasts? With allies in the "war on terror" like Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Afghanistan -- whose president planted a Judas kiss on Bush by demanding that the Mohammed cartoons cease -- who needs enemies?
Altruism delivers a Judas kiss every time it is embraced in foreign policy. All we need do is turn the other cheek to receive it. It has been the premier liar and traitor of Western history. Sometimes the unintended consequences are immediate; at other times, long in fruition. We are witnessing a soufflé of both. But its practitioners have never been the ones to pay the price. When men begin to tire of being lied to and betrayed and sacrificed in the name of an unearthly ideal, when reason rules men's means, ends and values, that will be the end of altruist irony.