The truth about di­ver­sity

Free­dom and democ­racy may not be ev­ery­one’s cup of tea

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Clif­ford D. May

In the­ory, we Americans are great pro­po­nents of di­ver­sity. In prac­tice, how many of us stop to se­ri­ously con­sider the mean­ing of the word? If peo­ples re­ally are di­verse — if we dif­fer not just about clothes and cui­sine, but over ideas, val­ues, in­ter­ests, moral­ity and hu­man rights — that im­plies there is no “in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” cer­tainly not one that em­braces “in­ter­na­tional norms.” For years, we’ve told our­selves the world is a “global vil­lage.” As it turns out, it may be more like the “sev­eral re­mote na­tions” to which Gul­liver trav­eled.

Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ists of the left are most likely to mis­con­strue di­ver­sity. There also are those on the right, though, who be­lieve all hu­man hearts yearn for free­dom. By now, I think, it’s be­come ap­par­ent: Free­dom may not be ev­ery­one’s cup of tea.

The Ira­ni­ans who took to the streets chant­ing “Death to the dic­ta­tors!” in 2009: I am con­vinced they did — and still do — want free­dom which, at a min­i­mum, would mean lib­er­a­tion from theoc­racy and lim­i­ta­tions on the power of the bil­lion­aire mul­lahs, as well as the Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards and the Basij thugs, who have op­pressed or­di­nary Ira­ni­ans since the Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion of 1979.

Those protest­ing in Hong Kong right now are risk­ing life and limb to pre­vent Beijing’s Com­mu­nist Party bosses from en­croach­ing on their free­doms. Un­der the 1984 dec­la­ra­tion that paved the way for the Bri­tish Crown colony to be turned over to China, Hong Kong was promised “a high de­gree of au­ton­omy” for the half-cen­tury fol­low­ing the trans­fer of sovereignty in 1997. The idea was not that when 2047 rolled around, the peo­ple of Hong Kong would ac­cept dic­ta­tor­ship with bovine pas­siv­ity. Rather, it was as­sumed that by then, dic­ta­tors would have been rel­e­gated to the dust­bin of his­tory. At this point, that seems rather a long shot.

In a di­verse world, there will be those who be­lieve in peace­ful co­ex­is­tence and those who be­lieve in what Franklin Roo­sevelt called “philoso­phies … based on con­quest and the sub­ju­ga­tion of other peo­ple”; those who be­lieve that lib­eral democ­racy is the best form of gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion and those who pre­fer au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism or to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism; those who re­gard the in­ten­tional killing of other peo­ple’s chil­dren for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses as wrong, and those who kill other peo­ple’s chil­dren for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses, as well as moral rel­a­tivists, who say: “One man’s ter­ror­ist is another man’s free­dom fighter.”

Ad­dress­ing the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly last month, Pres­i­dent Obama as­serted that “the fu­ture be­longs to those who build, not those who de­stroy.” First: That’s a hope, not a fact. Sec­ond: The hun­dreds of young Mus­lim men (and some women) flock­ing to the Is­lamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) in Syria and Iraq see no con­tra­dic­tion be­tween the two.

As they de­stroy an­cient Christian, Yazidi, Kur­dish and “apos­tate” Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties, they also are in­tend­ing to build a caliphate for the 21st cen­tury, an em­pire in the im­age of what they imag­ine Muham­mad founded in the 7th cen­tury, what my col­league Reuel Marc Gerecht calls “a new con­quest so­ci­ety.” Mr. Obama may not think that’s a use­ful thing to con­struct but, in a di­verse world, he can hardly ex­pect ev­ery­one to con­cur.

Sim­i­larly, Ha­mas wants to build “an Is­lamic state in Pales­tine, all of Pales­tine” as Ha­mas Po­lit­i­cal Bureau mem­ber Mah­moud al-Za­har said last week. That would, ob­vi­ously, re­quire the de­struc­tion of Is­rael, a goal to which Ha­mas has al­ways been openly and un­equiv­o­cally com­mit­ted.

Some of the Americans and Euro­peans who hold up signs read­ing “Free Pales­tine” ig­nore that. Oth­ers are just not trou­bled by it. Many turn a blind eye to this, too: Wher­ever Is­lamic mil­i­tants rule, free­dom is limited to a choice be­tween sub­mis­sion and death. In Gaza, as in the Is­lamic State, as in the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran, no one gets up on a soap box in the pub­lic square, speaks his mind, crit­i­cizes those in power, and then goes home for a quiet din­ner with the fam­ily. In a di­verse world, some peo­ple are tol­er­ant — oth­ers jail or slaugh­ter those who dis­please them.

There is di­ver­sity among Is­lamists. For ex­am­ple, Ha­mas, al Qaeda and Iran don’t rec­og­nize the le­git­i­macy of the Is­lamic State in Iraq and Syria. Over the week­end, how­ever, the Pak­istani Tal­iban de­clared its al­le­giance to Caliph Ibrahim, as the en­tity’s ruler, Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi, now calls him­self. That must have come as a dis­ap­point­ment to al Qaeda leader Ay­man al Zawahri, who is al-Bagh­dadi’s ri­val (not his en­emy; there’s a dif­fer­ence).

There are Rus­sians who value free­dom. Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin is not among them. George W. Bush was mis­taken when he looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes and thought he saw an as­pir­ing demo­crat, just as Barack Obama was wrong to think he could “re­set” re­la­tions with Rus­sia based on mu­tual re­spect, and a shared com­mit­ment to peace and in­ter­na­tional law.

If the polls are to be be­lieved, more than eight out of 10 Rus­sians support Mr. Putin. An anal­y­sis by Ra­dio Free Europe-Ra­dio Lib­erty leads to the con­clu­sion that most Rus­sians value na­tional pride and power over free­dom and democ­racy. That’s di­ver­sity for you.

Within the United States, di­ver­sity is most loudly trum­peted on our cam­puses — ironic be­cause a scholar with un­fash­ion­able ideas has about as much chance of get­ting ten­ure as win­ning the lot­tery. Peo­ple for­get that ten­ure was sup­posed to pro­tect in­tel­lec­tual di­ver­sity, not abol­ish it.

While many Americans con­tinue to trea­sure free­dom, oth­ers are more con­cerned with equal­ity of out­come. There is a ten­sion be­tween the two be­cause when in­di­vid­u­als with dis­sim­i­lar back­grounds, habits and tal­ents com­pete in a free mar­ket, they in­evitably wind up in dif­fer­ent places. But that’s not the kind of di­ver­sity most of those who claim to be cham­pi­oning di­ver­sity are will­ing to de­fend. Clif­ford D. May is pres­i­dent of the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies and a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY LI­NAS GARSYS/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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