Invasions of Liberty?

Whatever happens at the end of the day, the debate about a possible war with Iraq has brought to the surface fundamental issues on which no agreement exists, even among friends, but which will not go away and cannot be ignored. Indeed, if they are not resolved among those who cherish liberty, the price will be high.

Three issues stand out. First, the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington of 2001 reminded us (in case we had forgotten) that there is a union of values called "the West." These enlightened values form the basis of the constitution of liberty and link the countries of North America, Europe, and some other parts of the world.

If a gap opens up between these countries insofar as the interpretation of Western values is concerned, this is bad news. Perhaps this has happened between the US and many Europeans; if so, the challenge now is to close that gap rather than exploit it, either for unilateral American interest or for enhancing European unity.

Second, defending our values requires instruments of power. Power may have become more diffuse in the contemporary world. Some even speak of "governance without government" because economic fortunes are in part determined without identifiable rulers. Yet traditional power has not gone away, and it is something more than the size of populations or their gross domestic products. Ultimately, power remains the ability to coerce.