May 17, 2010
Posted by Jay Livingston

“Unintended consequences.” The term comes from sociology – it was coined by Robert Merton 75 years ago – but it has of late has become a favorite weapon of free-market economists and other conservative and libertarian types. They use it for bashing liberals and their government programs designed to limit harm and promote the general welfare.

Conservative policies too may suffer from a similar effect. Anne Coulter famously announced, in the days following the 9/11 attacks, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” The National Review fired her for her intemperate comments, but the Bush Administration, in its policies, seemed to take her proposals to heart.* Well, two out of three ain’t bad. Invading countries and killing leaders proved not to be too difficult. But that third one:
Since the U.S. invasion, Iraq's Christians have been mostly driven out of the country by violence directed against them for their religion. . . Relentless waves of bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, extortions and rapes have triggered a mass exodus of Christians from Iraq over the past seven years. Since 2003, over half of the estimated 1.5 million . . . have fled
So writes Nina Shea at the Washington Post’s On Faith page. Ms. Shea is identified as “director, Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.” The Hudson Institute is a neo-conservative think tank that, although Ms. Shea doesn’t mention it, strongly supported the invasion of Iraq. Surely the good conservatives there did not intend that their favored policy should wind up limiting religious freedom, certainly not the religious freedom of Christians. But that’s what happened.

* The Bushies even adopted Coulter’s view that it didn’t really much matter who “they” was. Any Muslim state would do. “This is no time to be precious about locating the exact individuals directly involved in this particular terrorist attack. Those responsible include anyone anywhere in the world who smiled in response to the annihilation of patriots . . .”

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