Moral Clarity in a Murk of Corruption?

Today, the President gave a commencement speech at the U.S. Military Academy (more commonly just called West Point). It’s unfortunate, but it continues to show a juvenile understanding of foreign policy that depends on the absurd notion of “moral clarity,” something which is, of course, flexible to the polls of politicians—-one day we support Iraq against Iran, then we’re bombing it.

The President seems to be under the mistaken impression that this “moral clarity” brought about the end of the Cold War, when in fact, there is substantial evidence that the undermining of the Soviet Union was performed by out-spending them, and effectively building the largest debt in U.S. history. I quote:

Yet moral clarity was essential to our victory in the Cold War. When leaders like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan refused to gloss over the brutality of tyrants, they gave hope to prisoners and dissidents and exiles, and rallied free nations to a great cause.

This is such a simplistic view, because at the same time that Ronald Reagan was “refusing the gloss over the brutality of tyrants” he in-fact and deed supported many regimes which tortured their own citizens with full backing from the United States. For example:

Systematically, the Contras have been assassinating religious workers, teachers, health workers, elected officials, government administrators. Remember the ‘Assassination Manual’ that surfaced in 1984? It caused such a stir that President Reagan had to address it himself in the presidential debates with Walter Mondale. They use terror to traumatize society so that it cannot function. — John Stockwell , 13 year CIA veteren, in Nicaragua

Reagan called these people “freedom fighters” (note this is the positive spin of the more common word terrorist, at least when we “support” them), and “[…] the moral equivalent of our founding fathers.” Somehow, I don’t believe Jefferson systimatically assasinated priests.

The difficulty is that the United States behavior does not represent moral clarity, at least as anyone who could be considered moral would define it. I believe that Thomas Jefferson best described freedom when he said:

When the people fear the government you have tyranny; when the government fears the people you have liberty.

How can a country claim moral authority when it executes more people than any other Western country, and when its incarceration rate is higher than any country in the world. Before we can claim the “moral authority” to lead the world, we must surrender our crown of hypocrisy.