I am willing to tolerate higher levels of gun violence in America in exchange for having a Second Amendment. We don’t often hear our fellow rightists state the case so explicitly, but most probably have arrived at this cognitive consonance.
(It is true that more guns means less crime in general. It is also true that America has the highest rate of mass shootings and other gun violence of any industrialized country, and this is due at least in part to the wide availability of firearms. America’s unique history, culture, legal environment, and demographics all contribute to these seemingly contradictory realities. The quote above is the position of this blog, and we also believe that the best way to counter the threat of Islamist terrorist attacks like the Orlando night club shooting is to facilitate more people being armed.)
The alternate universe in which the U.S. never had a Second Amendment, in which there were not hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, in which the police have all the firepower, and in which mass shootings and other instances of gun violence were extremely rare, is easy to envision. That’s the situation in the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and most other industrialized countries (as well as in most police states). Count ours as one vote in favor of the American status quo.
The left doesn’t really possess the vocabulary to present its own arguments about the trade-offs associated with gun rights (or most other issues). We rarely hear progressives espousing the values of individual liberty anymore—except in a few specific scenarios that turn the Bill of Rights on its head—and they are even less sympathetic to the concept of individual self-defense. The left apparently isn’t able to comprehend the main reason why the founders included the Second Amendment to begin with: protection from government tyranny. We will have a social contract in which only the benevolent government will have guns, and in exchange the citizenry will trust the government to use them to protect citizens’ liberty and well-being is also not a scenario that liberals articulate very often, even if this is what they believe.
It is a legitimate political stance to try to persuade the American electorate to move our country in that direction, although we don’t see the left doing so very often: as opposed to openly arguing for repeal of the Second Amendment, they usually use stealthy Federal and local legislative, regulatory, and judicial actions to end-run around it. Fortunately democratic means couldn’t succeed nationally at this point.
The debate about Muslim immigration, or immigration in general, similarly seems devoid of a discussion about trade-offs. We would like to hear Donald Trump state, Of course in principle I don’t like the idea of banning an entire group [Muslims] from visiting or immigrating to the U.S. Such a ban would certainly affect some innocent people who don’t intend to harm the country. However, we are in a time of war, so we need to accept this trade-off in order to reduce the number of Muslim terrorists we admit. We presume that Trump feels this way—and he has implied an understanding of the trade-off in his call to pause Muslim immigration until we “can figure out what’s going on”—but it would be nice for him to make it explicit.
Similarly, it would be nice if President Obama, Hillary Clinton, or other liberals made explicit their own views of a trade-off. The U.S. is the most multicultural, open country in the world. I want to accept more Muslim immigrants, and in fact all types of immigrants, because they make America better. I acknowledge that, in so doing, we might inadvertently admit some people who will go on to commit terrorist attacks, but a few hundred or a few thousand dead Americans is a reasonable price to pay for the vibrancy that immigrants contribute to our society. We have little doubt that Obama, Clinton, and most of the cosmopolitan left, including the mainstream media, feel this way. (Though even this may be a charitable portrayal of their views: the hard left, like President Obama, has demonstrated that it thinks that traditional American culture is an anachronism that should be replaced by a culture that is more collectivist, authoritarian, and brown.)
Obama believes that the clash is taking place within a single civilization, and that Americans are sometimes collateral damage in this fight between Muslim modernizers and Muslim fundamentalists.
Taranto rightly expresses puzzlement at the phrase “collateral damage” as it relates to Americans being killed in a “fight between Muslim modernizers and Muslim fundamentalists.” One way to reconcile this apparent misreading of the current state of the world—there doesn’t seem to be much of a “fight” pitting Muslim modernizers against Muslim fundamentalists, especially on American soil—is to speculate that Goldberg misinterpreted Obama’s statement.
Obama possibly seems himself as the “Muslim modernizer”; inasmuch as he is not actually a Muslim, he could be fairly called a “‘Muslimist‘ modernizer,” to use Steve Sailer’s term. Obama may not identify precisely as a Muslim, but he was raised in a Muslim environment and considers himself an enlightened exponent of the Muslim faith (as does Hillary Clinton).
Goldberg posits that “Obama sees the problems affecting parts of the Muslim world as largely outside American control,” though he cites the president asserting that the way we address Muslims around the world talking about the problem of radical Islam—including his infamous refusal to label the motivations of terrorism as such—plays an important role in addressing it. And Obama has strongly condemned Trump’s call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration to the U.S. while increasing admission of people who claim to be Syrian refugees. Obama probably sees himself as playing a righteous, central role as a “Muslim modernizer,” by importing more Muslims to the U.S., by his imposition of political correctness on all government discussions of terrorism, and by the virtue-signaling language he insists on using to assert solidarity with Islam. If these accommodations carry some costs, then it’s worth it.
So, if Goldberg is accurately portraying What Obama Actually Thinks about Radical Islam, then it appears that what Obama is really saying is, The United States can play a role in the clash between Muslim modernizers and Muslim fundamentalists, by, among other things, welcoming Muslim immigrants to the U.S. A few dead Americans as collateral damage is a price that I am willing to pay to promote Muslim modernization. Such a viewpoint would fall within the bounds of legitimate debate within our political system—as taking sides in any war involves the conscious sacrifice of American lives—though we assume that vast majority of Americans would vehemently disagree with it and would redeem their disagreement through all democratic mechanisms available. Let’s have the debate.