Responding to the charged debate surrounding the war in Iraq leading up to next week’s midterm elections, conservative author Dinesh D’Souza resolutely defended America’s right to pursue its self-interest in an on-campus speech last night.
Speaking to a packed audience in Harvard Hall, D’Souza did not shy away from taking a strong stance on controversial issues.
A fellow at Stanford’s public policy research center, the Hoover Institution, and former senior policy analyst for the Reagan administration, D’Souza has often generated criticism from the left for his controversial views, including his critique of affirmative action and his defense of colonialism and slavery [SEE CORRECTION BELOW].
In his speech, D’Souza attacked what he called the “irrational prejudice against America,” arguing that many Americans judge their country against the standard of perfection rather than historical precedent.
“Everywhere in the world it is accepted that countries act in their self-interests,” D’Souza said, asking why America should be judged differently.
According to D’Souza, the Iraq war should not be viewed as a moral effort to spread democracy everywhere, but as a self-interested endeavor.
D’Souza criticized liberals who argue that America will ultimately lose the war, claiming that Sunnis, composing only 20 percent of the Iraqi population, are the only base of insurgency in Iraq.
Given that the insurgency is limited to one ethnic group, D’Souza concluded that “there is no way that the United States can lose this war except to lose it in the American mind.”
After his speech, audience members peppered D’Souza with questions about the hypocrisy of America’s actions.
D’Souza said that moral hypocrisy is permissible if it advances America’s strategic interest.
He also argued for the legitimacy of using torture in certain circumstances, again using self-interest as a justification.
D’Souza defended the U.S. practice of “water boarding,” a method of interrogation that simulates drowning. Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney said in an interview that dunking terrorist suspects in water was a “no-brainer,” sparking debate over whether he had endorsed “water boarding”—a practice prohibited by the Army and considered torture by many human rights groups and international courts.
“By historical standards, these [tactics] aren’t even torture,” D’Souza said.
The event was sponsored by the Harvard Salient and the Harvard Republican Club. D’Souza contacted the students about speaking, according to Adam D. Hilkemann ’07, the Salient’s managing editor.
“I think he really enjoys working with Harvard students,” Hilkemann said.
Last night’s event was the second of three speeches D’Souza is scheduled to give at Harvard. He will be speaking on Nov. 6 at Harvard Business School on “The Moral Implications of Technology and Capitalism.”
The Nov. 3 news article, "D'Souza Defends Torture," inaccurately described Hoover Institution fellow Dinesh D'Souza's views on slavery. He does not defend it; in fact, in his book "The End of Racism," he writes: “Whatever its functional relevance in a world utterly different from our own, slavery was a moral crime. People should not own other people.”
The Crimson regrets the error.