First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Anti-Americans, Paradise, and Cheap Tuition
Of course the fundamentalist Muslims are calling for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq immediately.
In the power vacuum that would ensue, these heavily armed parties -- dripping with Iranian money -- would easily seize power, and with Iran's military to back them up against foreign intervention, the bordering Arab states would sit on their hands and let them do it.
The result would be a fanatical terrorist state along the lines of the Taliban, completely in Iran's pocket. It would reinvigorate Islamicist repression inside Iran as well, and the rule of the ayatollahs would once again seem like the wave of the future.
Immediate U.S. withdrawal is, however, their only hope of seizing power, because if free elections are actually held, these Islamicist parties will be utterly repudiated by the people. Despite years of Saddam's Ba'athist rule, the Iraqi people remain some of the most westernized, educated, and freedom-loving people in the Arab world.
If it comes to a vote, fairly administered, honestly counted, and without systematic repression by Islamicist "militias" (i.e., terrorist thugs), Islamicism will be revealed to be a minority sentiment -- with fewer votes than expected.
After all, under Saddam the people weren't yearning for a chance to fully express their Muslim beliefs. Saddam wasn't interfering with religion in any significant way.
What they were yearning for was freedom and prosperity. They're not likely to give that up in the first election. And that's what a vote for Islamic fundamentalist parties always means -- it's a one-way street, and once you go down that road, there's little chance of going back without revolt.
In particular, the women if Iraq are under no illusions. If Islamicists seize power, they will not only lose the right to vote, they will lose the right to choose their own clothing, become educated, drive cars, divorce bad husbands, and hold jobs.
How many women do you think will vote for the fundamentalists? Some, of course -- but if we thought there was a gender gap as American women inexplicably voted for the worst sexist exploiter to run for President since Kennedy, the anti-Islamicist vote among women will absolutely offset whatever following that philosophy might have among Arab men.
Our job, therefore, is to stay right where we are, protecting Iraqi women from a violent, self-righteous, tiny, but determined minority of Iraqi men -- and all those Iranian petrobucks and weapons they're getting.
Worth risking the lives of American soldiers?
It's the only way to keep democracy alive in Iraq -- and to keep Iraq as a staging area for anti-terror operations in that region. I'd say it's well worth the risk, because it's part of the struggle to restore peace and security to America's shores. Democracy in Iraq will go a long way toward providing an example to the whole Middle East of what is possible if they just get rid of their dictators and hold on fervently to their human rights.
If European behavior -- especially that of France and Germany -- has you baffled, spend eighteen bucks on Robert Kagan's slim book, Of Paradise and Power ... or check it out from the library.
Kagan is a former State Department thinker who is now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, but don't let those creds make you think that he's going to be soft on Europe. Nor, however, is he particularly angry with them.
Instead, he makes a good case for the reason why France and Germany seem to live on a different planet from America, and why they have such contempt for our work as the policeman in a world of international gangsters.
You see, they really don't live in that world. They live in Europe, a place where ancient enmities have been buried, where once-bristling and often-bloody borders are now virtually invisible, where negotiations seem to accomplish all good purposes, and where peace prevails without anybody having to spend all that much money on defense.
The trouble with Europe is that they forget that every speck of this newfound peace and harmony they live with is paid for by America -- either through our military expenditures that make it unnecessary for them to spend any serious public money on defense, or through the presence of American troops, which makes belligerency between western European nations unthinkable, or the fact that as a matter of national policy we support the European union -- even when they cheat on the rules of international free trade.
"Oh, but we no longer desire war," they would say. "American troops have nothing to do with it. And America has nothing to do with the success of the European union."
They believe this, of course, because it suits their governments and their media to disguise the ridiculous degree to which they depend on American patience, support, and defense. If there were no America, both their peace and prosperity would be in grave jeopardy in the far-more-dangerous world that would ensue.
France's long history of coups-d'etat and Germany's series of love affairs with blustering imperialist dictators are not so far in the past, and they have plenty of politicians eager to lay hands on the old tools of these dubious political traditions.
But for now, they live in "paradise" and think that they created it themselves and need no one else to sustain it. And, ironically enough, Kagan makes a strong case that it generally serves American purposes to have them continue to believe it's so.
Those who favor blocking the children of illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition rates at North Carolina colleges make two main arguments:
1. They don't deserve to have their education subsidized by the hard-working taxpayers of North Carolina, and
2. They shouldn't be here in the first place, and therefore any policy that gives them benefits only encourages further illegal immigration.
The second point is rather a silly one. When Mexicans plan to enter the United States illegally, do you seriously think that they would have a conversation like this first?
"Maria, I'm going to cross over the border, work like a dog at jobs Americans hate to do, get paid a pittance, and live on nothing so I can send money back to you. Someday maybe I can bring you and the children to America as well."
"But wait, Pablo! Fifteen years from now, when our children are old enough to go to college, they will have to pay much higher tuition rates in North Carolina!"
"I did not know this, Maria. Very well, we will stay here and starve in our abject poverty, for without lower tuition rates at North Carolina colleges, it is not worth sneaking into America."
As to what the children of illegal immigrants "deserve," let's keep something in mind:
We don't fund free schools and cheap colleges because children "deserve" it. We support them because public education provides benefits to all North Carolinians far out of proportion to the cost.
That's why people who have no children at home -- or never had children at all -- pay taxes to support public education at exactly the same rate as people who have lots of children. Because other people's children will grow up to be taxpayers and consumers, keeping both government services (like social security) and the general economy flush with money.
And if other people's children get a good education partly or entirely at public expense, they will repay that investment many times over.
Even the children of citizens who pay no taxes, or who are on welfare, receive these benefits. So do the children of criminals. Indeed, it is precisely these high-risk children of poverty and crime whom we most want to educate so that they will move up into the productive, law-abiding working class.
Which parts of this reasoning don't apply to the children of illegal immigrants?
Yes, their parents decided to break the law in order to have a chance to create a decent life for their children. We're not talking about murderers, thieves, and drug-runners here. We're talking about people who dreamed the American dream but knew perfectly well that there was zero chance that they could get a visa. So yes, they broke a law.
But their children didn't.
And since they are here, just how stupid do we have to be to go out of our way to exclude their children from the chance to become tax-paying consumers with a good education?
What if, after getting a North Carolina public education, these kids are deported -- or voluntarily return to Mexico?
Why, then, there'd be that many more Mexicans who are well-educated and feel strong ties with America. They will be far more likely to press for democratic change and good government in Mexico, and will help strengthen the Mexican economy, thus reducing a bit of the pressure that leads to illegal immigration.
Remember, too, that any children of illegal immigrants born after they illegally immigrated are, in fact, completely legal citizens of the United States. So to bar them from their legal entitlement as citizens because their parents committed a nonviolent crime by entering this country is to punish the children for the crimes of their parents.
Blocking the children of illegal immigrants from in-state tuition rates will bring no noticeable benefit to North Carolina -- except for letting a few angry xenophobes pump their arms in the air and say, "Yes! That'll show 'em!"
Show them what?
How short-sighted people can be even after, as citizens, they got all that cheap public education.
Copyright © 2003 by Orson Scott Card.
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