In a recent interview President Obama, I think, was logically trying to say that practical hurdles and costs in the real world mean that we cannot simply force other countries to chose a wiser form of consensual government than their own. Instead, he suggested that, “The message I hope to deliver is that democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion — those are not simply principles of the west to be hoisted on these countries. But, rather what I believe to be universal principles that they can embrace and affirm as part of their national identity, the danger, I think, is when the United States, or any country, thinks that we can simply impose these values on another country with a different history and a different culture.”
So I’m not sure what Obama ended up saying, or rather, as usual, I think he is trying to say everything and thus nothing:
- Democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. are welcome universal aspirations, regardless of culture and are all without a particular cultural pedigree?
- They are largely Western principles that need not be emulated by others, especially through the use of coercion?
- Under the right circumstances, such universal principles can properly mesh into Muslim national identity?
- In fact, these principles cannot mesh into other cultures with different histories and cultures without an undue and improper amount of coercion?
I think Obama’s multiculturalist postmodernist answer would be something like the following: “Democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion are not properly Western principles as much as universal aspirations, but unfortunately we in the West claim them to be exclusively our own and to be superior to other narratives, and thus we try to force countries with different cultures and histories to embrace them when in fact they are not so universal or so superior after all — at least to the extent that their artificial spread requires anything other than a sort of natural osmosis.”
So if Saudi Arabia beheads apostates, or the Sudan practices genocide, are we to understand that these are epiphenomena of indigenous history and culture, in a practical sense properly immune from antidotes like Western-inspired rule of law, human rights, and democracy?