MORAL CLARITY….Today in the Weekly Standard we hear a common complaint about the left:

Because it may make the United States appear good by comparison, [liberals] excuse, downplay, or omit completely evils committed by others. Not a word from them on Saddam’s atrocities; not a word on the arms and oil deals between Saddam’s Iraq and the “peace-loving” governments of France, Russia, Germany, and Canada; not a word on the anti-Semitism rampaging through “peace movements” in Europe (as well as at home in America).

Did I blink and miss a decade somewhere? It is fashionable among conservative writers today to condemn tyranny of all kinds and to pretend that liberals, in contrast, are somehow vaguely in favor of brutal dictatorships, but hardly anything could be farther from the truth.

It was a Democratic president ? Jimmy Something, I think ? who first introduced the idea that respect for human rights should be a cornerstone of American foreign policy. And while this may have been honored more in the breach than in the observance, conservatives of the time roundly assailed the very idea of concern for human rights as idealistic and naive ? despite the fact that Ronald Reagan picked up the human rights cudgel a couple of years later and used it very successfully in his campaign against the Soviet Union.

Since then it has been lefty-dominated groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that have led the way in exposing vicious human rights violations across the globe, in both left and right-leaning dictatorships, often to the annoyance of whoever happened to be in power at the moment. These groups didn’t support the war against Iraq, but like it or not, they laid a lot of the groundwork for it.

So how about we knock off the tedious arguments about “moral clarity” that seemingly apply only to countries that annoy us at the moment, and instead discuss a comprehensive foreign policy based on intelligent use of force, respect for international alliances and multinational institutions, and a realistic view of how much can actually be accomplished on the ground. The goal should be progress toward safety and stability, not juvenile debating points.