I usually don’t read the off-topic board, but I did for some reason, so I’ll respond…
alltaken - you’re a New Zealander, right? Good for you. I mean it. Really. I’ve speculated a couple of times that if for some reason the US went to hell in a handbasket or blew up or something, that I’d consider NZ or Australia as an alternative home for the Hess family. You’ve got a lot of things going for you. A relatively small, homogenous population with a really low population density and tons of pretty scenery to keep everyone calm and happy. Wait a minute, that sounds like almost all of the US about two hundred years ago! You could do that stuff here then, too. Walk around all night anywhere you pleased. Sleep in the woods.
A lot of the freedoms you’re talking about seem more a function of the particularly benificent geographic and demographic conditions under which you live - not your political system.
Also, NZ has going for it that you really don’t have anyone gunning for you. If you’re a small island-based nation that really doesn’t have too much of anything that anyone wants to realistically take by force, and you don’t really stand for anything that a whole lot of insane violent people hate, then of course you don’t have to worry about guns or nuclear weapons or invasion. I’ll definitely agree with you on that. During our Cold War with the Soviet Union (which, BTW, we won, and there’s tens of millions of people who are SIGNIFICANTLY more free in the world because of our efforts there) the threat of nuclear war was real, and it was definitely always a background anxiety. Sometimes a jet would go overhead, and the thought would cross your mind - are those the missiles this time? I don’t think it did me any lasting damage, but it would have been nice to grow up without having to think that. I’m glad, though, that because we went through that small discomfort that, once again, tens if not hundreds of millions of people, including yourself, do not have to live under that threat today.
As for Bush being the leader of the free world… I’m not saying that I necessarily agree. But the logic goes like this. The free world is the conglomeration of those nations that value democratic republics and, to a lesser extent (hello France!) a free market economy. In that respect, the US is easily the most powerful of all of those nations. Maybe not the best (though I personally think it is). In the unsupervised playground that is the world political scene, the most powerful IS the leader. Hence, the US is the leader of the free world. George W. Bush, being the elected leader of the US (though some goobers still dispute this, though due process was followed), could by some be considered the leader of the free world. I don’t know if I agree with the last step in that chain – he doesn’t speak for everyone in our country, just the US government, let alone in the rest of the free nations. But I think it’s more of a newsman’s term than anything else. I don’t think you’d find a whole lot of Americans willing to refer to Bush as the “leader of the free world.”
Also, how do you feel about the poor people of Afganistan now? What were the final civilian casualty rates? How did that compare to the death rate under the Taliban? I’m sure that all of the women who can have jobs again and go to school again and not get stoned to death for wearing the wrong clothes or being in the wrong place are very upset now. Life will not be easy for them or their children. Things might go crazy over there again and devolve into tribal violence. But now, at least, it might not. Maybe ten or twenty years from now, life can start to get better for these people. BTW, the Afgan people were not fighting FOR the US. We were giving them material assistance in their fight againt an occupying totalitarian regime. They were fighting for themselves.
I am glad that your life in NZ is good and easy. I am willing to accept the danger that comes from my country acting as a lightning rod for the people who would attack the institutions of freedom and personal liberty. We are strong. We can take it. So YOUR country hopefully doesn’t have to.
Of course, no one asked us to do this. So we don’t expect any thanks. In fact, we expect people to hate our guts. Because we’re trying to change things, and that upsets people. Even some good, intelligent people. But that’s okay with us, because we’re all about eveyone having their own opinion. Different points of view. Fifty years from now, though, I think that more people in this world will enjoy the freedoms that you and I take for granted. A whole lot of the Middle Eastern Muslim world lives under despotic rule - are kept truly destitute while their leaders live an opulent lifestyle unknown in the history of the world. They will be better off, hopefully, thanks to the efforts, sacrifices and risks of the US.