Tim F at Balloon Juice today writes on a New Yorker piece on Ms Rice and Mr Scowcraft. He concludes:
When it comes to online debate I usually dismiss somebody who frames their opponent as ‘evil.’ Yes, this applies as much to liberals as to conservatives. It’s intellectually lazy and it gets in the way of understanding the real and often rational reasons why people do things. Further, in a fight not understanding your opponent usually goes along with losing. There’s no reason why that same rule shouldn’t apply equally well to politics.
This is just plain well wrong. Hitler wasn’t evil, just misunderstood? The Rape of Nanjing, a understandable cultural misunderstanding? Stalin’s purges? Oh, Josef was just just working out a little personal insecurity issue? Wrong. All of these are examples of evil. Evil is not a term which need necessarily be left out of debate, political rhetoric, and discourse. Calling your opponent such, it is true, might be intellectually lazy and a way to dismiss the opponent. It might also be the correct term to use when describing your opponent after you understand him.
It is a major blunder most often committed by the modern Academy and liberal intellectuals who have convinced themselves that there is nothing but misunderstandings of our “rational” reasons for our actions and that evil is not alive and at work in the world. Apologizing for and reducing the horror inherent in the Evil that is in the world … well if not evil, it certainly is wrong. And sometimes the correct companion to bring to a conversation with evil is wears a steel jacket with cordite accompaniment.
And guess what? Choosing to frame your political discourse by engaging in random acts of terror against a civilian populations is … you guessed it. Evil.
There however, is a small grain of truth buried deep in what Mr F would claim. It is good at all times to recall that your counterpart “on the other side”, while he may be evil:
Nobody thinks of his actions as evil. All (without exception) choose to act in accordance with that which they perceive as good.
That however is not the same thing as “not being evil”. If my intentions are “good” (in my mind), but my actions evil … guess what? Well, that is left as an exercise for the rest of the world to straighten out.