Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: ‘Groundwork Is Laid For New Troops In Afghanistan’

Full post here.

“Officials in Washington say that while the general’s classified report did not request additional American troops, it effectively lays the groundwork for such a request in coming weeks.”

The Atlantic has a roundup here.

Also On This Site:From Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”  From CSIS-Anthony Cordesman On “The Afghanistan Campaign: Can We Win?”  Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”

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From The Economist: Losing Afghanistan?

Full article here.

As of August 27th:

“A civilian surge is also needed, to help Afghanistan build a government worth voting for. If the fortune spent allowing Afghanistan to hold this election has helped highlight that need, it may not have been totally wasted.”

As of August 20th

“Taking even the rosiest view, the war in Afghanistan is likely to get more expensive, and worse, before it gets better. The mini-surge this year to enable the election to take place in most of the country will probably be followed by another to try to contain the growing insurgency.”

Better?  But what’s the strategy?  Karzai’s government has corruption problems.  And with such a lack of infrastructure, political unity (especially in the more tribal south), education etc. the lures of corruption seem to be far from counter-balanced and stabilized.

Seth G Jones wrote a book and discusses it here (we pulled resources out of Afghanistan to fight Iraq at a crucial time, we have been trying to build a democracy with the budget of counter-insurgency):  In The Graveyard Of Empires

American and British support is still on the wane.  Wikipedia has a roundup here.

See Also On This Site:  From Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”  From CSIS-Anthony Cordesman On “The Afghanistan Campaign: Can We Win?”  Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”

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From Big Hollywood: ‘The National Endowment For The Art Of Persuasion?’

Full post here.

What is the NEA’s mission?  Our author claims he was invited to participate in a new program:

“Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” 

Where freedom, the state, and art meet.  Yet, shouldn’t there be some public funding of the arts?

Reason just put up a post as well.

Also On This Site: From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story

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From Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: What Should Colleges Teach?

Full post here.

Fish reminds us of a simple idea:  college writing courses ought to focus primarily on writing…:

“…the students spent much of their time discussing novels, movies, TV shows and essays on a variety of hot-button issues — racism, sexism, immigration, globalization.”

Perhaps at the cost of their writing skills.  Yet, is Fish just going after the easy targets (where political and ideological aims often take precedence) in quoting the ACTA report?:

“Thirty-five years ago there was no such thing as a gay and lesbian studies program; now you can build a major around it. For some this development is a sign that a brave new world has arrived; for others it marks the beginning of the end of civilization.”

“It probably is neither; curricular alternatives are just not that world-shaking.”

Perhaps not.  He highlights what he seems to consider the most insightful bit of wisdom the report (with its own aims) has to offer:

“An “important benefit of a coherent core curriculum is its ability to foster a ‘common conversation’ among students, connecting them more closely with faculty and with each other.”

He seems pretty pragmatic.

Addition:  Of course, as Camille Paglia points out, movies, T.V., popular music etc. arguably is the culture for a great many Americans.  Fish also feels the need to defend his justification of writing in the post.

Another Addition:  Fish responds to his critics.  If we were all held to such standards in our writing…

See Also On This Site:  Conservative Briton Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Fish suggested keeping politics out of academia during the Ward Churchill affair:  From The Stanley Fish Blog: Ward Churchill Redux

Martha Nussbaum tried to tackle the humanities problem a while back: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

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Anne Applebaum In Slate On The Afghanistan Election: August 19th, 2009

Full post here.

Missed this one.  Interesting quote:

“And if, for any reason, a legitimate president does not emerge? Then the tangled webs will once again unfurl themselves, the clans and the tribes and the paid mercenaries will start choosing sides, the people who blow up polling stations will have gained credibility—and we will have to think hard about whether to stay in Afghanistan.”

We already know the Taliban gains by faulty elections, or by no elections at all.  Why else threaten to kill voters?

The National Post talked with Abdullah Abdullah on the phone, the previous Karzai government’s foreign minister running for president, who claims there ‘s been a lot of vote-rigging.

See Also On This Site:  From Informed Comment: On The Afghan Elections So FarFrom Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

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A Few Responses To Kant’s Transcendental Idealism

There is a world out there, and your senses do give you an impression of it which yields genuine knowledge of empirical objects, according to Kant, but what empiricists fail to take into account is the apparatus that we depend upon to make sense of that world:

“Kant thought that Berkeley and Hume identified at least part of the mind’s a priori contribution to experience with the list of claims that they said were unsubstantiated on empirical grounds: “Every event must have a cause,” “There are mind-independent objects that persist over time,” and “Identical subjects persist over time.” The empiricist project must be incomplete since these claims are necessarily presupposed in our judgments, a point Berkeley and Hume failed to see. So, Kant argues that a philosophical investigation into the nature of the external world must be as much an inquiry into the features and activity of the mind that knows it” 

As mentioned, The American thinker W.V.O Quine has a dispute with the way in which Kant arrives at his answer to that problem. 

From a paper by Arthur Sullivan here:

“There do not exist two distinct types of reality in the world which require two distinct modes of expression. This leads Quine to conclude that the analytic-synthetic distinction is a purely logical convention that is ontologically unnecessary and empirically superfluous. In this respect, Quine agrees with the radical empiricism of Mill, with its claim that there is no a priori knowledge. The fact that something is the case, or even the fact that something seems to be necessarily the case, does not imply the reality of a priori truths. Quine goes so far a to refer to the notion of a priori knowledge as a “metaphysical article of faith.”

Of course, so also did Schopenhauer have a problem with Kant (wikipedia summary here).

This quote was found here:

“Empirical concepts are ultimately based on empirical perceptions. Kant, however, tried to claim that, analogously, pure concepts (Categories) also have a basis. This pure basis is supposed to be a kind of pure perception, which he called a schema. But such an empiricist analogy contradicts his previous rationalist assertion that pure concepts (Categories) simply exist in the human mind without having been derived from perceptions. Therefore they are not based on pure, schematic perceptions.”

Just some thoughts on a Sunday, as it was requested by a friend.  If you can refer me to a more comprehensive critique, I’d appreciate it.

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From Informed Comment: On The Afghan Elections So Far

Full post here (a good round-up).

Not so positive:

“Violence that left some 50 dead, and a relatively low turnout in some provinces marred Afghanistan’s presidential election on Thursday.”

Hillary Clinton’s Pre-Election Statement:

“Presidential candidates have debated each other in public and travelled throughout the country to talk to voters. The Afghan media and Afghan leaders have made politics accessible to Afghans in new ways.”

True, and it’s taken a lot of courage to do so.  But can this mission overcome the vacuum in national identity, lack of education, and very weak economy (a vacuum which fills quickly with corruption, the Taliban, and poppies? ).   I’m probably observing this through the current lens of waning U.S. public support for the war, but how far is our interest in protecting from another terrorist attack and creating stability in the region from a sustainable Afghani government?

How to proceed?

CSIS has more here.

Also On This Site:  From Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

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Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

Full essay here.

Fashioning a coat to fit the times?

Nussbaum may be trying to address waves of Muslim immigrants that have poured into European, and Western societies.  She also seems to be asking a central question:  How do you create a civil society that does not place religion above a concept of the moral good, yet that also does not pursue the moral good while zealously excluding religion? 

She tells the story of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, who held deep religious beliefs, yet, Nussbaum argues, was someone who cast his moral thinking deeper than those beliefs, drafting the Rhode Island charter on the idea ‘individual human conscience:’

“Conscience, for Williams, plays the role that the directive faculty of moral choice plays in the ancient Stoic authors whom he studied: it is a faculty of searching and choosing, although for Williams it includes imagination and emotion as well as ethical reasoning. It is, Williams holds, the main source of our identity as agents: it is “indeed the man.””

So, WIlliams tempered his religious beliefs with classical learning and a certain political pragmatism…yet he also tempered that political pragmatism with his religious beliefs (avoiding a true, hard-hearted Stoicism).  Nussbaum further suggests that some of Williams’ thinking even pre-sagedImmanuel Kant:

“Just as Kant asks a person to test the principle of his or her conduct by asking whether it could without contradiction be made a universal law for all human beings, so Williams’s critique of the leaders of Massachusetts and Connecticut is that their idea cannot pass a test of that sort: they love freedom–but only for themselves.”

“For both, the source of moral principles, and of all moral worth, is ultimately in our own freedom, and that freedom must be respected.”

I’m not convinced, though it’s an interesting connection to make in the wake of the Iraq war: Freedom is a universal idea, yet how one pursues that idea can be taken into account, and potentially meet such moral maxims (if only it were that simple).  Nussbaum goes on to contrast John Locke with Roger Williams, and points out how Williams was more sympathetic to the idea that:

“…different religious doctrines meet and overlap in a shared moral space. Each religious person will connect this moral space to his own higher religious goals and ends; but within that space we are all able to speak a common language and share moral principles. As I have argued, this idea of overlap is ultimately more fruitful than the idea of separation.”

But upon what moral principles?  I’m hoping it’s more than the Jesse Prinz’s recent work (deep arguments for morality based on the emotions, but also a Nietzschean extremism and defense of moral relativism).  Nussbaum has done a lot here, and while I don’t share her political views, I very often respect the depth of her thinking.  

Related On This Site:  Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West BengalMartha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionAnother Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”…and what to do with the Native Americans?:  Roger Sandall: Marveling At The Aborigines, But Not Really Helping?

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From Chris Colose: Lindzen On Climate Feedback

Full post here.

A response to Richard Lindzen at Watts Up With That on Climate Change and the data that supported the gas pedal analogy.

See Also: From Watts Up With That: Richard Lindzen On Positive Climate Feedback

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Christopher Hitchens At Slate: Yale Surrenders

Full post here.

Reason post here.

NY Times piece here.

Old news I know, but it seems that the Yale Press was genuinely afraid that publishing this book could potentially lead to violence, and that they are responsible for the consequences of such potential violence:

“…Yale had consulted a range of experts before making its decision and that “[a]ll confirmed that the republication of the cartoons by the Yale University Press ran a serious risk of instigating violence.”

One might even argue that politically, it will be harder to get Muslims to the table when knowledge of this kind of publication is used and misused to inflame the the Arab street…if it inflames the Arab street…

…but seriously?

Cartoons here.  The cartoonist is still in some danger.

See Also:  If you thought the cartoons were bad, more on the Fitna movie here.  From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”  Libertarians love this issue:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant  

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