Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Bernard-Henri Lévy, the 'Last Liberal Interventionist'

A phenomenal, wondrous interview, at Bari Weiss's Substack, "A Conversation With the Last Liberal Interventionist":

Do you think the U.S. was prudent and principled to invade Afghanistan?

Yes. Doing so was the essence of prudence. It was necessary to prevent another 9/11. To do that, it was necessary to destroy the regime. Afterwards, it will not have escaped your attention that the “invasion” turned gradually into a symbolic, very light, noncombatant presence that nevertheless served as a shield behind which a civil society came together. Let’s not fall for the propaganda of the Trumpists and their de facto allies on the so-called far left. Contrary to what the world says, the United States could have stayed far longer at a cost many times less than what their other deployments cost.

Is it paternalistic to assume that people around the world crave Western democratic norms? According to a Pew study from 2013, 99% of Afghans—men and women—desire to live under Sharia law.

I am aware of that poll. The same words do not necessarily mean the same things. When a woman in Kabul refers to Sharia, she is not advocating for the right to be stoned in the event of adultery. By the way, a real liberal, an interventionist worth his salt, would never deny that broad principles are flexible. We know well that they obviously cannot be applied identically in Afghanistan or Burma, but that they must be adapted.... 

The Covid-19 pandemic has made travel exceedingly difficult and even taboo. Moreover, many environmentalists (Greta Thunberg is one example) discourage air travel in an effort to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint. Travel has been instrumental in your life. And you sort of ignored the lockdowns and traveled around the world during Covid. What is the importance of travel and why should we encourage it?

For the same reason. The world of Greta Thunberg, a world without travel, a world where we closed ourselves off from others, would be an impoverished world. Spiritually, of course. Civilizationally, no doubt. But also, in the most trivial sense of the word, economically. Globalization must be reformed. The ecological battle must be fought. And to correct the damaging effects of technology, we need much, much more technology. But the tragic error would be to try to undo everything...

Read the whole thing. It's worth your time.