Monday, March 13, 2006

Stupid Means Never Having To Say You're Not Sorry

Victor Hanson has an essay an apologetics.

With all this public contrition, we risk debasing the once-noble protocols of apology.

First, there is no reason to apologize repeatedly — especially when one has done nothing wrong. Campuses exist for the free exchange of ideas. So what was so terrible with President Summers opening up debate about why one gender excels or does not in a particular discipline? Summers' serial apologies came off not as contrite, but as obsequious — as desperation to keep his job and mollify bullying critics.

Second, don't apologize for the sins of others long past. Clinton in a few words can hardly himself atone for centuries of the tragedy that was slavery. He'd be better off apologizing for things he could have controlled — such as forbidding vulnerable American forces in Somalia to use tanks or ordering missile strikes against a probable pharmaceutical factory in Sudan.

Third, money or personal enhancement should not factor into public acts of contrition. Pat Robertson said he was sorry for claiming Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for the Israeli pullouts from Gaza — but only after furious Israel officials threatened the reverend's role in a $50 million Christian tourist center in Israel.

Fourth, it is a bad idea to apologize for one's country while overseas. In today's globally connected media, there is really no need — unless apologizers wish to ingratiate themselves with hosts or find easy resonance with anti-American foreigners.

So if Clinton really wished to apologize for America's past support for the Shah of Iran, he could just as easily have done so at a veterans' convention in Memphis or Salt Lake City. But when proclaimed at the World Economic Forum in chic Davos, Switzerland, Clinton's regret seemed cost-free and aimed at wining applause at the expense of his countrymen back home. And like Gore's one-sided confessional, Clinton's remorse did not mention that the Islamic fascism that followed the Shah was at least as odious — and wholly indigenous.

Fifth, war is the wrong time to start apologizing. Gen. George Marshall did not tell the Germans in 1943 that we were sorry for previously harassing German Americans in 1917. Nor during the Cuban missile crisis did President Kennedy offer Nikita Khrushchev remorse that we tried to subvert the Russian revolution in 1918-20. There is a proper occasion for voicing collective regret, and wartime is not it.

In the old days, apologies — said once, without an agenda and involving one's own sins — revealed character. Now too often they reflect just the opposite.

©2006 Tribune Media Services

Italics Mine


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