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Moral Equivalence – Really?!?

I actually wanted to write this post about two weeks ago, but I have held back so I could calm down and be reasonable (OK, MORE reasonable). Over the last few weeks, events have led people with interesting points of view to make claims of moral equivalence between actions in and by the United States and actions by others. This is always a dubious exercise, but in the two examples here, it really gets a bit “out there.”

The first is between the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki by a U.S. drone strike and the planned assassination of the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the U.S. by agents of Iran. Come on folks, one target was a SELF-declared combatant in a Jihad against the United States and its citizens. The other is an accredited diplomat of a country that at this time has NO belligerent relationship with Iran. One has incited, planned and equipped his followers to kill U.S. citizens. The other has never done anything hostile to Iran beyond representing a regional rival.

So how can any reasonable person (editorialist, cartoonist, etc.) suggest that since the United States took out Awlaki, we have no business criticizing Iran for plotting to kill the Saudi Ambassador? I understand how Ahmadinejad can reason that way, but he is a wing nut, and nearly everyone in the world recognizes it. How can educated people make the comparison with a straight face?

The second situation is the multiple occurrences of comparing the Occupy Wall Street movement with the Arab Spring uprisings. The brave people going to the streets to overturn brutal and entrenched dictatorships at the risk of their own lives seem to deserve a little more credit than the OWS crowd. I do not begrudge them the anger and dissatisfaction with the economic situation in the United States today, and I am not completely discounting their aims or motivation. That said, they have elections, free newspapers, accountable government officials, and even the protection and support of municipal governments (toilets, potable water stands, permission to camp on public property, etc.). The heroes of the Arab Spring had none of these. Many gave life and limb to make their points, comparing the two cheapens the one, and greatly exaggerates the meaning of the other. OWS may bring about some changes, but is it NO Arab Spring, because America is no Egypt, or Libya.

I praise our Founding Fathers and God that we have the rights we do in the United States, but for goodness sake, let’s make accurate comparisons and proper analyses as we evaluate events here and abroad. Hyperbole and false equivalence does little to add to the quality of discourse.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More