If Charles Krauthammer is to be believed, the proliferation of statues of various foreign *liberators* (Ireland, India, Uruguay, Ukraine, Bolivia, among others) not only makes Washington unique as a capitol (the only negative comparison he mentions is–hold on to your hats–France) from the rest of the capitols of the world, but it also shows “America’s devotion to liberty. Liberty not just here but everywhere. Indeed, liberty for its own sake.”
That we love liberty for its own sake–whatever that means–can hardly be demonstrated by statues of specific individuals littering our nation’s capital. As we have seen with our own eyes, other nations decorate the plazas, streets, and parks of their capitals with similar statues (but they’re not devoted to liberty–since they’re not Americans). Besides, the mere fact that the figures mentioned were “liberators” hardly means that they loved American style *liberty* (whatever one means by that).
The weird thing about this argument is that since real deeds of real American leaders have posed rhetorical challenges greater than which Krauthammer can conceive, he hopes patriotic sentiment generated by a Lee Greenwood (“I’m proud to be an American) guided tour of monumental Washington (and New York) demonstrates the purity of our intentions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But don’t just listen to the statues, listen to the “the overwhelming majority of Americans” who “refuse to believe” that our motives are anything but pure and [w]hatever their misgivings about the cost and wisdom of these wars, they know how deep and authentic is the American devotion to liberty.”
We do love liberty, but many find our devotion to it deeply mysterious. To them our intentions demonstrate nothing–they see only what we do. Perhaps rather than insisting on the goodness of our intentions, we should wonder about the wisdom of our actions.