At the risk of belaboring what one would hope is an elementary distinction, it’s worth saying something about the connotations of saying someone has “invited,” say, a terrorist attack. John Tabin thinks defenders of Ron Paul are contradicting themselves:
Larison seems to think that saying that American policies invited 9/11 is somehow different from saying that America invited 9/11. How does that work? Elected officials of the American government, representing the American people, do things that invite a terrorist attack. If that isn’t America inviting 9/11, what would be? Paul’s non-response when asked if he’s objecting to “bad American policies” suggests that he has no real answer.
I suppose if we merely use “invite” as a synonym for “provoke” or “give rise to,” we can say American policy “invited” 9/11, or at least served as one component of the invitation. But nobody ought to be enraged and offended by that suggestion. Rather, people are outraged and offended because to say one has “invited” something implies that one “has it coming,” that one can scarcely complain when the invited guest arrives.
To pick up a theme from one of last week’s posts, I think it’s basically unobjectionable to say something like: “As a result of having passed out at that frat party, she was at greater risk of rape.” It is quite another thing, and grotesquely offensive, to say: “When she passed out at that frat party, she invited rape.” People will sometimes get upset about statements of the first sort because, though distinct, they’re easy to confuse with statements of the second sort. And when people get upset about statements like Ron Paul’s, I think it’s for essentially the same reason.
An American intervention might be as well justified in itself as you please and still have the consequence of inflaming hatred. However necessary and just the dropping of a bomb might be, it’s a bit much to expect that the cousin of the “collateral damage” will be objective about it. Or, indeed, an American intervention might be unjust and provoke a response that’s even more unjust. Both sides can be wrong, after all. In either case, the language of “invitation,” to the extent it implies a legitimation of the response, is inappropriate and distracting.