Victor Davis Hanson often writes brilliantly about foreign affairs. His latest is exquisite. After detailing the incoherence of the Left’s pronouncements on Middle Eastern policy over the past decade—an incoherence that, were he willing to write something much longer, could be extended back many more decades—Hanson writes,
Hillary was right about her 3AM slur, and Obama is acting as any 2-year Senate veteran might in such a crisis. There is no consistent support from the left for democracy movements overseas. Strongmen like Gaddafi, Ahmadinejad, and Assad are weirdly seen as either untouchable or genuine in a way a Mubarak or a Jordanian king is not. And the latter are vulnerable only when it looks like they may fail; if they seem stable, we hear not a peep from Obama about their human rights records.
In short, the left has not yet sorted out its adherence to multiculturalism and its supposed support for human rights, which are usually antithetical.
I think there’s a deep truth here that Hanson undersells. Multiculturalism and respect for human rights are incompatible. Period.
Multiculturalism insists on respecting other cultures as equal to our own, and prevents us from insisting on our own culture’s superiority or even exceptionalism. Often it takes the more extreme form of insisting that all cultures are equal—except maybe our own, which is actually worse. But even in its more moderate form, it requires respecting other culture’s disregard for human rights. Plainly, many cultures don’t respect human rights. They allow the detention, torture, and execution of political and religious dissidents. They disallow political participation or allow it only under restricted and largely meaningless conditions. They discriminate against people on grounds of race, sex, religion, national origin, and sexual preference. They allow honor killings and genital mutilation.
Even if actual cultures didn’t disrespect human rights so blatantly, multiculturalism would be committed to winking at them if they did. The questions are old: Should we tolerate intolerance? Must we respect disrespect? Must we respect rights to violate rights? The answer is supposed to be No.
It’s interesting that Europeans much farther down the multiculturalist road are finally seeing the incompatibility to which Hanson points. Andrea Merkel and David Cameron have recently pointed out the failure of the multiculturalist project. European nations are living with the consequence, including high crime rates, featuring crimes such as honor killings, genital mutilation, rape, violent sexual assault, and verbal and physical attacks directed at Jews and gays. But it emerges dramatically in the context of a situation like the one in Egypt, where the Left is eager to throw aside a dictator like Mubarak even if it leads to a government with even less respect for human rights.