Evil is a word which does not have a lot of mainstream resonance. It is confined to the outskirts of public life: seen only as the mot juste by the inarticulate religious, and nasty Twitter whores – such as pseudo-journalist Sunny Hundal. We need to reclaim the word, not just in a figurative sense – but for use in the very real world; where terror and violence and horror are visited on the innocent by psychopaths, brigands and thugs across the globe.
Assad in Syria is content to demolish nominally rebel cities from afar with his heavy artillery. Putin in Russia is happy to condemn homosexuals to lonely, criminal lives merely to sate the slavering jaws of extreme Orthodox Christianity. Mugabe in that basket case of Africa, Zimbabwe, lives out his wretched little life in splendour as his people starve – and his henchmen vie for power, preparing for his inevitable death.
These men are evil. There are no two ways about it. They are not merely ‘freedom fighters’, or engaged in admissible displays of ‘maintaining order’. There is no way in which Assad or Mugabe could be seen as lovely people. Putin, and ex-KGB killer, will never be successfully depicted as cuddly.
These tyrants – for that is what they are – exist as they do by harnessing the overwhelming power of the state to persecute, to maim and to brutalise. The boundless moral depravity it takes to deploy chemical weapons of mass destruction in a civilian area; or to invade and annex a sovereign nation; or to arrange the murder of opposition leaders and their families: this is the moral yardstick of our times.
It is not melodramatic to call these despots out as monsters. Nor is it unreasonable to at least speculate about ways we can work, either as a nation or independently, to combat the worldwide forces or illiberal thinking and oppressive government. Assad, Putin, Mugabe and many others are part of a special classification: terrifyingly powerful men, who are decided enemies of peace, freedom and liberty.
In short, they and their ilk oppose everything libertarians and freedom-lovers are supposed to hold dear. They are the physical manifestation of the enemy: cockily brandishing excessive state power, using brute force to terrorise and extort the population – everything which those who value liberty fear.
And yet they are free to do this, as free to kill and falsely imprison as their subjects are forced to obey. And we, in the West, are free to sit back and lazily watch as the wider world outside of our bubble slowly implodes.
As Andrew Gillian demonstrates in this thought provoking report, there are dangerous links between “pacifist” organisations, and allies of the murderers. I have come under criticism in the past for my views on Syria, and I appreciate that they are not the go-to response from self-described libertarians.
But violently radical situations demand an equally radical response, and sometimes compromising is the best way to bring about the change we want in the long run. A good deal of the comments I have received on Syria have been centred on financial matters. People just do not like the thought of their money going towards something which does not come directly under Britain’s “interests”.
To those doubters I would contend that promoting and safeguarding liberty around the world ought to be in our interests. If there is a violent dictator in the world, then that means the UN is not doing its job. It means NATO isn’t getting fighty enough. While the “world police” straw man is freely thrown about, hundreds are being massacred per day. Surely it is not immoral to at least consider action to save lives?
But I am increasingly confronted with the notion that the outside world just isn’t the concern of the United Kingdom, and this represents a great isolationism, which I believe to be irreconcilable to a generally internationalist – and truly libertarian – foreign policy.
While I appreciate that there are plenty of nuanced responses against intervention - I would say that in my experience, a huge number of comments on my pieces and elsewhere are written by people who just cannot abide the idea of aiding Syrians.
I greatly admire those who take an intellectual stance on the proposed intervention, like Owen Jones for example. But I am saddened every day by the unthinking, knee-jerk, tap of the national wallet whenever actions abroad are considered.
It is depressing to see Labour congratulating themselves on scuppering the government’s tepid motion on possible intervention. It is even more dispiriting to think that they are merely following the insular attention of the British public.
If it takes emotive language to alert people to the despicable things being done elsewhere, then so be it. It that means bringing a term out of exile for that purpose, I am willing to do that too. So, everyone, say hello to ‘evil’. If Ed Miliband and his backers get their way, it may just be here to stay.
James Snell is Contributing Editor for The Libertarian. This article originally appeared on his Huffington Post blog