It is the most difficult concept for modern Americans, and indeed, most in the west, to comprehend: evil exists.
There are people and organizations that engage in terrible acts not because they are “misunderstood,” or in response to some ancient oppression. They have freely selected a path contrary to the principles of human rights because they simply don’t believe in that idea.
Entities such as ISIS in Iraq, or al Qaeda, or the Iranian mullahs, or the nightmarish leadership in North Korea, completely reject thoughts such as equality for women, religious freedom, and the dignity and inherent rights of each individual human being. Their philosophy is not the result of some perceived wrong. It is a totally different way of thinking.
Similarly, western liberals cannot accept the reality that certain governments, including that of Vladimir Putin in Russia and the Communist regime in China, have every intention of using force of arms—war—to achieve their goals. While America and its allies slash defense budgets and pretend that world wars are a thing of the past, Moscow and Beijing are rapidly gearing up for combat on a global scale. Both have already engaged in hostile acts that a clear-eyed examination could only describe as acts of aggression no different than that committed by Hitler in the opening phase of the Second World War.
Consider: Putin has dramatically enlarged and modernized his armed forces. He has invaded two nations in recent years. He has clamped down on political freedom within his own nation. He has shot down a civilian airliner. He has resumed sending nuclear-armed bombers and submarines to the American coast. He has returned to cold war bases in Latin America.
China has engaged in the most rapid arms buildup in human history, unlawfully proclaimed ownership of extensive portions of international seaways, and stolen resources from its neighbors. In the Middle East, Iran moves quickly towards gaining a nuclear weapon, and supplies terrorist organization with rockets to launch against civilian targets.
Russia, China, and the Islamic extremists reject the western desire for peace, and perceive it as a weakness to be exploited.
No amount of appeasement or negotiation would have prevented the Nazis from launching World War II or running concentration camps. It was simply who they were. Only a strong show of strength would have stopped them in their tracks, a path that was rejected due to the same wishful thinking emanating from the US and its allies today.
The current crisis in Iraq, where ISIS has taken great swaths of territory and is engaging in unspeakable acts of brutality, could have been prevented if the Obama Administration had not chosen to prematurely withdraw U.S. forces. Now, Russian aggression in the Ukraine has been encouraged by the weakness of NATO and the ridiculous concessions given to Moscow in the 2009 New START arms treaty. China’s theft of Philippine off shore assets went unpunished, and they are now prepared to continue that practice. These are evil acts that should be labelled, treated, and responded to as such.
It is one of the great disappointments of the post-war era that the United Nations, founded to combat the evils committed by the Nazis, has wholly surrendered its principles and continues to allow dictatorships and governments that are openly oppressive, or bigoted against ethnic and religious minorities, or aggressively hostile to other nations, to continue as members in good standing and even serve in leadership positions. The U.N. is loath to admit that Communism, Islamic extremism, and the practices of many tyrannical governments throughout the planet are evils that should be isolated, ostracized, and dealt with.
The entire paradigm of moral equivalence, which portrays those governments as having equal legitimacy to functioning democracies is a betrayal of both common sense and common decency.
A true exercise in intellectual honesty would condemn regimes that engage in repugnant or offensive practices, and this should be practiced by all free nations. But that would require an admission that evil does, indeed, exist. That is a philosophical leap the prevailing “progressive” milieu cannot seem to abide.
Edmund Burke famously noted that “all it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” Unfortunately, evil is, indeed, doing quite well, largely because too many fail to believe it exists.