Last week, on my radio talk show, I received a call from Jeff, a 21-year-old in North Carolina. I have abridged it and edited it stylistically.
JEFF: I wanted to respond to your question about America being feared in the world. You brought up Syria. I think it’s a little naïve, and maybe that’s not even the right word, to boil down such complex international issues into just good and bad. Like to say that America, for you, represents good. And to just boil down the Syria situation into good and bad is to underestimate the complexity of the situation. Because if the United States were to get involved there, you know, there might be consequences for us in that region that I think would be definitely more bad than good.
DP: Like what?
JEFF: If we were to depose Assad, there could be a power vacuum and that could create more problems than we intended.
DP: There are two separate questions here. One is: Should the United States be feared by bad regimes? The other is: What should the United States do? They’re not identical. So let’s deal with the first: Would you acknowledge that it would be good if countries like Putin’s Russia, Iran, or North Korea — though I don’t compare Putin to North Korea — feared us? And do you think they do?
JEFF: I think that’s a really good question. If I had the answer to that I think I’d be secretary of state.
DP: It’s not that tough a question. What we should do is a tough question. But whether America should be feared by bad regimes is not a tough question.
Let me just throw in a tangential comment that I think is important: I presume you went to college.
JEFF: Oh, yeah.
DP: The reason I presume that you went to college is that you were taught — and this is no knock on you whatsoever since anyone who takes liberal-arts courses, in political science in particular, is taught what you just told me: You can’t divide between good and bad, because it’s too complex.
But that’s not accurate. There is a good and bad. Yes, sometimes there is bad and worse — in Syria today, for example. But between Syria and the United States the difference is between bad and good. Would you agree that it’s between bad and good between Syria and the United States?
JEFF: As an American, absolutely.
DP: Wait a minute. That’s a terrible answer. I don’t want you to answer me as an American. I want you to answer me as a moral human.
JEFF: I can only answer you as an American. I can’t answer you as anyone else.
DP: That’s not true. If I asked you how much 2 and 2 is, you wouldn’t answer me as an American.
#page#JEFF: Here’s my only comment, I would just, you know, hesitate to boil down international issues of such complexity, with multiple variables, to “It’s simply good or bad.” And that’s my only comment.
DP: Thank you for calling.
What Jeff said is what I was taught at college. It is heartbreaking to hear how effective left-wing college indoctrination continues to be, with its morally obfuscating concepts such as “too complex.”
The morally obvious fact is that the United States is overwhelmingly a force for good both in the world and within its borders, and Syria is overwhelmingly a force for evil both in the world and within its borders. Yet colleges have taught for at least two generations that such judgments are illegitimate.
If you want to judge whether Sweden or Denmark is better, that’s complex. Or whether Iran or Syria is more evil. That, too, is complex. But between Denmark and Syria, there is no moral complexity.
The other revealing comment my caller made was that he could only say “as an American” that America was a better country than Syria.
This, too, reflects a fundamental left-wing doctrine taught at colleges — that there are no moral truths and we can only subjectively observe the world as members of a group. There are, therefore, black truths, white truths, rich truths, poor truths, male truths, female truths. Accordingly, for example, since men do not get pregnant, they cannot morally judge abortion.
To Jeff’s credit, he listens to a radio show that so differs from what he was taught in college.
There is therefore some hope that he will eventually realize how much nonsense he was taught at college. Dangerous nonsense.
— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His most recent book is Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.