From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And Pakistan

Full speech here.

Revisiting that speech from over a year ago.  The main reason we are there:

“So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal:  to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.”

It’s of vital national security interest.  Our troops in Afghanistan didn’t often have the resources nor equipment to do the job effectively, as they were being deflected to Iraq.  Our mission wasn’t as clear, and this speech and re-direction of policy was supposed to change that.  Obama focused on garnering European and international support (which is still lukewarm at best), and has tried to have our troops work more with the people.  But in Afghanistan, we know that the people are very tribal, geographically isolated, very poor (as well as having gone through decades of armed conflict), and united, generally, around Islam, with often notoriously corrupt governance. There is also free-flowing border with Pakistan, over which Bin-Laden likely slipped across, and which is key (AfPak) to any success we should have.

This brings us to another main reason we are there:  to promote our ideals and values, and so often the reasons that groups for aid, peace, human rights, NGO’s etc. are there, and I think an approach that Obama is more committed to, and of course, could lead into other long-term conflicts:

“For the Afghan people, a return to Taliban rule would condemn their country to brutal governance, international isolation, a paralyzed economy, and the denial of basic human rights to the Afghan people — especially women and girls.  The return in force of al Qaeda terrorists who would accompany the core Taliban leadership would cast Afghanistan under the shadow of perpetual violence.”

The women and girls thing is a nice touch (important, I think to garner political support at home) and Obama also seeks to recognize that many European countries and others have some ideological interest and deeper reasons to be there in Afghanistan (if not financial, strategic, nor security, though European countries have a security interest).

So, where are we now?  How does AfPak fit into Obama’s new Security Report?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site: What is the plan for Kandahar?  Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’From NPR: ‘U.S Troops Fill NATO Training Gaps In Afghanistan’From CSIS: ‘How the US Must Expand and Redefine International Cooperation in Fighting Terrorism’From Newsweek: ‘Meeting Of The Diplomats’

Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”…Sarah Chayes On Afghanistan In The Boston Review: Days Of Lies And Roses

Also:  From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington…what about our ideas in India, as it pursues stable democracy?:  From YouTube: ‘Commotion Over India’s Women’s Bill’

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Tunku Varadarajan Reviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Nomad’ At The Daily Beast

Review here.

“Of Somali birth and upbringing, Hirsi Ali fled to the Netherlands as a young woman to escape marriage to a much older man, forced upon her by her father; there, she learned Dutch, became Dutch, and was elected to parliament, only to leave for America after her forthright criticism of Islam made her too radioactive for the disappointingly timid Dutch to handle.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali suggests that in Islamic cultures, there really hasn’t been anything like the Enlightenment.  Honor killings, women kept apart from men, women kept under religious garments and in the home is not a matter of debate, but rather, a mandate from God and the only way to run your society.   Islam demands that you submit your will in faith to God, and well, that’s usually the end of the discussion.  In this vein, Hirsi Ali might be something of an Islamic reformer and has garnered skepticism, dismissal, anger and death threats from the Muslim world.

As mentioned, Hirsi Ali’s main target is Islam, and the injustice done against her by Muslims in the name of Islam, and she does so while using Western ideas and criticizing excessive relativism and multiculturalism as inadequate defenders of those Western ideas.   Muslims immigrate but are never fully integrated into their new, European societies.  They languish in generational ghettoes, maintaining their own cultures and languages and customs, and a wall of anger, resentment, injustice, xenophobia and suspicion builds.  Whatever injustice she argues Islam delivered upon her, misunderstanding dominates in this environment and many guiding political ideas are simply not profound nor accurate enough to get over that wall.

If you’ve read the book, please share your thoughts.

Also On This Site:  Many libertarians stand firm on freedom of speech:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra LevantFrom Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’Christopher Hitchens At Slate: Yale SurrendersYale concluded that the risk of violence and the potential consequences that stemmed from their decision to publish a scholarly work about the Mohammed cartoons (reprinting those cartoons) was not worth the risk.  Hitchens is not a fan of religion.

Does Hirsi Ali really want to court the darker tendencies of the hard European right…or point out the flaws of the re-sentiment filled left?:  Repost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea: From ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’

Is Islam incompatibile with freedom as we define it here in the West?, and is this a particularly British, Church Of England, problem?:  From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

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From CBS-Fareed Zakaria Reviews Charles Murray’s ‘What It Means To Be A Libertarian’

Full piece here. (link broken, email me if you find one…this is a high-class operation)

First published 13 years ago now.

Addition:  It’s been floated that the libertarians thrive in contrast to a liberal White House…part of a current trend…something larger?

Related On This Site:  Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Defusing The Debt Bomb’Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’

Are we going soft and “European”… do we need to protect our religious idealism enshrined in the Constitution….with the social sciences?…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

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Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’

Full piece here. (passed along by a reader).

According to Jaffa:

“Strauss’s critique of modern philosophy, as it seemed to me, was directed above all towards overcoming what he often called the self-destruction of reason, so that the authority equally of classical philosophy and the Bible, with respect to virtue and morality, might be restored. This restoration, I am convinced, is also nothing less than the restoration of the perspective of the American Founding.”

Is this analysis unnecessarily drawing philosophy into the political realm as Strauss was careful to argue against?  As Jaffa might argue:  is it freeing philosophy and religion from the passion of politics?…or at least from one of the main targets, which is the fusion of reason and revelation into states that can sink into potential tyranny these past few hundred years?

Here’s a quote from a letter Jaffa received (included at the link), which I think attempts to highlight one of the roles of Plato’s metaphysics (providing a metaphysical foundation for moral instruction and knowledge):

“In Plato (and still more in Aristotle) one can see the philosophers replacing the poets (and/or the sophists) — and the gods of the poets (and/or the sophists) — as the source of a non-contradictory moral instruction. Of course, the philosophers will not rule directly but through the new breed of sophists and poets resulting from their influence upon education; or, as in the case of Aristotle, through the gentlemen whose education they will supervise. But the God of the Bible is immune to Plato’s critique of paganism, for reasons I have already (I think) made sufficiently clear.”

Does the analysis lean too heavily on philosophical idealism?  Can Plato do all that heavy lifting for our times, or is that asking too much of philosophy as well?

Also On This Site:  A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”Via An Emailer: Some Criticism Of Leo Strauss?

Nussbaum is a deep thinker, drawing on Aristotle among others, how would the analysis above see her?:    From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

From Bloggingheads: Adam Frank And Eliezer Yudkowsky Discuss The Epistemology Of Science When revelation and reason go hand in hand?  Should math be non-instrumental, and free of such Platonisms?

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Repost-From Becker And Posner: ‘The Controversy Over the Milton Friedman Institute’

Post here.  (You will then have to navigate to get to Becker’s post)  From Posner.  Originally posted Oct 2008:

“There is a whiff of the 1960s in the effort by faculty (joined by a number of students) to move the University of Chicago leftward.”

I suppose if Friedman’s work is deep enough (which it often seems to be), it will outlast the current disagreements.  From Becker:

“A university names an Institute after a former professor because of 1) his contributions to the university, 2) his contributions to scholarship or science, and 3) his intellectual honesty and character. On all three grounds I believe Milton Friedman eminently deserves having this Institute bear his name.”

See Also:  How Would Obama Respond To Milton Friedman’s Four Ways To Spend Money?Dissent Review Of Naomi Klein’s Book-The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism

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A Few Sunday Quotes From ‘Problems From Kant’ By James Van Cleve

I was asked if it would be foolish to demand of Einstein that his laws conformed directly to his experience, or to claim that his thought experiments had their roots in our theory of direct experience of objects?  Or why even try to place him within the towering metaphysics of someone like Kant?

Why not just let a 20 year old student of mathematical physics rigorously learn the equations necessary to allow him a useful arrival at pondering a great problem, and to maybe crunch the numbers at CERN and work through a functioning theory, rather than routing him through either Hume, Kant, or any other profound philosophers of the natural world?

I’m not sure I know.

Here’ a question I can better answer with some quotes from James Van Cleve’s book Problems From Kant Pg 31.  What led him out on his limb of synthetic a priori reasoning, and does it hold if you follow it?:


First a reconstruction of Hume’s argument, and how it may have looked to Kant:

1. If a proposition is a priori, its denial implies a contradiction.

2. If a proposition implies a contradiction, it is inconceivable.

3. The denial of the causal maxim is conceivable.

4. Therefore, the denial of the causal maxim does not imply a contradiction (from 2 and 3).

5. Therefore, the causal maxim is not a priori (from 1 and 4).

We may add to this that the causal maxim is not knowable empirically, either.  As a universal proposition (every event has a cause), it outruns what experience could ever establish…

…So, if Hume is right, the causal maxim is not knowable at all–a result that Kant thought would be disastrous for science and knowledge.  Such is the problem Hume posed for Kant…

…In Kantian terminology, the short way to say that the denial of a proposition p implies a contradiction is ‘p is analytic’.  From Kant’s point of view, therefore, the argument amounts to this:  the causal maxim is not a priori because it is not analytic (step 4), and only the analytic is a priori (step 1).  A similar argument, Kant perceived, would show that not even mathematics is a priori-an assertion from which Hume’s “good sense would have saved him” (B20).  This is why the category of synthetic a priori judgments was so important for Kant:  if they are possible, the Humean argument above can be evaded.

Related On This Site:  From Bloggingheads: Adam Frank And Eliezer Yudkowsky Discuss The Epistemology Of Science

Hilary Putnam On The Philosophy Of Science:  Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On YouTube

From YouTube Via Sound Politics: NASA-Mt St Helens: Thirty Years Later

(Original Sound Politics post here)

Mt St. Helens National Monument is still definitely worth a trip.  The crater is active, and the size and scope of the blast is awe inspiring.  57 people lost their lives and many others were affected for years to come.

Here’s what I think is some of the best footage of the towering ash cloud and force of the blast, and what might go through a man’s mind as something like that happens: Dave Crockett from Komo4 news was there.  The Elk herds in the North Fork Toutle River Valley are coming back strong and the recovery of life after the eruption is potentially the most carefully studied in human history.  The Johnston Ridge Observatory is among the best of our National Park System, and they have some volcano cams.

Brief timeline here, as the mountain gave many signs of impending activity.

Related On This Site:  Seattle Earthquake-January 30th 2009-4.5 On The Richter Scale

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Libertarianism In The Mainstream?: Rand Paul In The Spotlight

Full post here.

Rand Paul is having to answer some questions surrounding civil rights:

‘Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul scrambled to explain his criticism of the landmark U.S. Civil Rights Act, which outlawed racial discrimination, saying he agrees with its goals but questions the federal government imposing its will on businesses.’

Are you comfortable with?:

-The Federal Government enforcing legislation that seeks to protect and extend rights of citizens who were formerly held by the laws in slavery, so that they may have access to public resources and education, and be regarded as equal under the law? Do you think it’s the business of the state?

-Paying your taxes (property, especially) to state, local and federal entities so that they may maintain the schools and roads and law enforcement where you live? What about when they harbor unions?

-The Federal Government overseeing and enforcing legislation that would potentially require every citizen to acquire health insurance, and vastly extending its influence over the private insurers to reach its goal? (I think this is one of Paul Krugman’s key arguments:  the profound inefficiencies, irregularities and inconsistencies of our health care delivery system have led to spiraling costs that can only be corrected by the Federal Government which is the only entity large enough to do it…such an argument has won the day).

-The Federal Government passing and enforcing legislation to influence the economic activity of those who discover, refine, produce and consume fossil fuels due to the threat of the Climate Change interests?


I can be fairly sure that one reason Rand Paul was elected was to counter the liberal direction of the current administration and Congress, as well as the spending spree they’ve gone on, and their aims to increase federal authority.

I don’t know if I’m fully libertarian because I’ve worried that a narrow group of people would suddenly have political power and a lot bad policy at least could be the result.  I don’t find libertarianism necessarily dangerous (any more than any other set of ideas), nor a threat on the merits as many liberals now feel it necessary to claim.   Rather, it just seems that perhaps libertarians are now more mainstream and having to answer to the current mainstream (and there are important issues in the Civil Rights grilling that Paul should have to clarify).

I have noticed that libertarians grow particularly well in the soil of California (with big labor and big government and big business, perhaps less of a sense of fixed place and much more socially liberal attitudes) and I would posit not necessarily as well in the more socially and religiously conservative areas of the country (though Paul is in Kentucky).

I figure many conservatives haven’t moved all that much in worldview, and are still shocked and getting fatigued living under an Obama White House, and find the libertarian message more attractive.

Addition:  I should add that conservatives might be happy to just let the libertarians do what they do in California:  fight against liberalism.

Another Addition:  Is it fighting, arguing, or agreeing?:  David Bernstein at Volokh has more.

Also On This Site:  Liberaltarianism?:  Will Wilkinson And Jonah Goldberg On Bloggingheads: Updating Libertarianism?From Reason’s Hit And Run: What Kind Of Libertarian Are You?

Milton Friedman applies economic libertarianism to education. Trade Unions try and adapt to globalization.

Kant is a major influence on libertarians, from Ayn Rand to Robert Nozick:  A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…Are we going soft and “European”… do we need to protect our religious idealism enshrined in the Constitution….with the social sciences?…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Nussbaum argues profoundly for more equality, but would this require enshrining ideals in State authority?:  From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

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Repost-Two Thursday Quotations: Emerson and Lincoln

“Public opinion, I am sorry to say, will bear a great deal of nonsense. There is scarcely any absurdity so gross, whether in religion, politics, science or manners, which it will not bear.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. He who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or decisions possible or impossible to execute.”

Abraham Lincoln

Maybe wisdom can be spun out of quotation sites.

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