Dear friends of mine, Leon and Chris, have begun blogging about Malaysia in recent weeks for The New Ledger. Whatever the original spring of this collective series (it remains elusive and even a touch eccentric to me), the series itself is a fine read indeed. Both talented lawyers, my friends write forcefully and informatively to call attention to, among other facts, the arresting public moderation shown by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and the common tiresome perfidies of the opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim.
The course to success or failure of moderate Muslims, properly so called, must not be a matter of disinterest to any opponent of the Jihad. Moderation (again properly so called, as against that imposture of the same so often on the lips of demagogues) is a natural buffer against the Jihad; it sets itself against its madness by native inertia, much of the breath of fanaticism stifled. Moderate statesmen are rarely aggressive warmongers.
American foreign policy has been a hopeless muddle so often that lines of consistently are hard to spot. However, the commitment to commerce, to interaction by intermediate institutions seeking peaceful mutual gain, may possibly pass as an example of one of the few continuities in American relations with the world.
The bonds made by commerce and trade have moderating qualities. Compromise and trust often undergird them. They are no guarantee of virtue or friendship, as reckless libertarian and liberal boasters all too often imply, but there is abundant evidence that, as Publius predicted, the commercial interest can work as a vital emollient against more truculent relations. Even straight tribute given to spare a people may be an act of high statesmanship. King Alfred paid off the Danes many times.
In Publius’ day, the cynic replies, commercial interest was more nearly coextensive with the middle class: Industrialists had not yet begun their plunder; plutocrats had not yet accomplished their larceny of labor. Nor did Publius anticipate the rising Slave Power, which back then worked its poison by sly and squalid compromises, but soon would assert more reckless preachments concerning the right for you to work and me to eat.
Yet free soil and free labor is certainly no less American, and probably rather more American, than plutocracy and slavery. Publius had the better of the argument even despite what he managed to overlook. And that argument is the one about commerce encouraging moderation, compromise, friendship, and peaceful relations.
Prime Minister Ruzak’s holds out in a speech the ideal of “a just and equitable peace predicated on the rule of law,” which men of good will everywhere can cheer.