Conrad Black At The National Review: ‘Decline, But Not Inevitable Decline?’

Full piece here.

Is that the Republican line these days?  Mr. Black has a lot of suggestions:

‘What is needed is a colossal reorientation of the country away from consumption and toward investment, the cleaning out of the morass of the plea-bargain justice system and attendant vacuum cleaners of the legal and prison industries (and the gigantic fraud of the War on Drugs), drastic education reform, genuine health-care reform, a redefinition of U.S. national interests in the world to what is essential and defensible, and then restructured alliances to reflect shared interests. Until those issues are addressed, all talk of the American superpower is rubbish. Obama’s is the fourth consecutive failed administration, and each succeeding one will make the festering problems more dangerous and difficult.’

That’s a lot to ask of politics, but points taken.  Is history to be used in order to craft statemanship, or should we aim higher than such a Zinn-like state?  As always, one concern is not necessarily moral, but practical:  What are the harms that idealism can do to the efficacy of public institutions?

Also On This Site: Repost-Lawrence Lessig At Bloggingheads: ‘Fixing Our Broken System?’From A Brief Review At Newsweek: Andrew Bacevich’s ‘The Road To Ruin’Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

Where are the conservative voices?:  Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

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P.J. O’Rourke At The Weekly Standard Via The A & L Daily: ‘The 72-Hour Expert’

Full piece here.

O’Rourke visits and talks with some Afghans:

‘The problem in Afghanistan is really not so much land as water. It’s a dry country with ample amounts of water running through it but not to good enough effect. “We have a law to distribute water but not to manage water,” the Turkmen said. This lack of management combines with the age-old conflicts between nomads with their need for watered pastures and farmers with their need for irrigation.’

Also On This Site:  From Michael Yon: ‘General Petraeus Letter’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Greg Mortenson On Charlie Rose: Afghanistan And PakistanFrom Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?

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Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘A Test Of Tolerance’

Full piece here.

Well, I think there is question of religious liberty, but there’s also a question of politics, and expanding the lens of equality within our ideas that would have benefits and drawbacks.  As Hitchens points out:

“But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism. We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind.”

…’Let us by all means make the “Ground Zero” debate a test of tolerance. But this will be a one-way street unless it is to be a test of Muslim tolerance as well .’

A reasonable suggestion.  There are clearly political and ideological gains for those that advocate living up to our ideals of tolerance and equality, and those advocates clearly aren’t addressing all the concerns that reasonable people can have surrounding the matter.

Also On This Site:  Ebrahim Moosa At Bloggingheads Discusses Islamic Reform

Hirsi Ali has her own agenda, and will use the political right in Europe to frame the debate (and she’s on a personal mission against Islam), but notice non-Muslims are notthe ones threatening her with death:  Tunku Varadarajan Reviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Nomad’ At The Daily BeastRepost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

Fareed Zakaria points out that terrorism and the Pakistani state have a close relationship: Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’

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

What happens when a Canadian imam uses the Canadian Human Rights Commission of Alberta to get as much mileage as he can out of his own absolutist and illiberal tendencies…we don’t need that here:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant

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From A Brief Review At Newsweek: Andrew Bacevich’s ‘The Road To Ruin’

Review here.

‘Bacevich is right to ask if our militaristic approach to the rest of the world is the best and only way. But he rehashes lessons learned from Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.’

If you’ve read the book, please share your thoughts, as Bacevich makes some interesting arguments, as the one found here:

‘Today, an altogether different question deserves our attention: What’s the point of constantly using our superb military if doing so doesn’t actually work?’

C-Span interview with Bacevich here in October, 2008.  Recommended.

I would humbly point out that the ‘Road To Ruin’ is not license to trade the politicization of the war by the ‘military-industrial complex’ for the politicization of the war (and anti-war) by the Left to my mind (and Bacevich might agree).

And to further make the point; Newsweek, having become irrelevant due to the Web, also suffers from having painted itself into a parody of knee-jerk, moralizing, climate-change advocates, and as their editor Jon Meacham showed a few weeks ago, rather short-sighted apologists:

‘Leaders from different backgrounds and perspectives are likely to be just as flawed and as susceptible to error as any other human being (though it is hard to see how they could be worse than the white men who have reigned for so long)…’

Not exactly a forum for non-partisan discussion, but that’s another story.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome, as Bacevich points out the dangers of becoming imperial (and not by colonial definition) has to our liberties here at home.

Addition:  A reader comments that Bacevich does some very useful outside the box thinking, he just doesn’t have an entire box of his own to put it in.

Also On This Site:  From Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”…and you can be relatively apolitical and still make a difference in Afghanistan: Greg Mortenson On Charlie Rose: Afghanistan And Pakistan

Is America in Decline?  Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set… If Fukuyama got a lot wrong, does Bacevich as well?: From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Are we headed toward 19th century geo-politics?:  Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

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Repost: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The Jar

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

Wallace Stevens

Throw something at it and see if it sticks.  I like Helen Vendler’s interpretation….

What do you do with an uncivilized, wild land?  Import European learning and literature “atop” it?

The nature/culture divide?  Nature is wonderful but it is to culture where we must return.  If you are an artist, you turn towards direct experience in this land, but…you also turn to that which inspires you…European learning and thought….the products of other cultures.

Here’s a previous quote, or one way to approach it:

“Thus any spectator who beholds massive mountains climbing skyward, deep gorges with raging streams in them, wastelands lying in deep shadow and inviting melancholy meditation and so on, is seized by amazement bordering on terror, by horror and a sacred thrill.  But since he knows he is safe, this is not actual fear:  it is merely our attempt to incur it with our imagination, in order that we may feel that very power’s might and connect the mental agitation this arouses with the mind’s state of rest.  In this way we feel our superiority to Nature within ourselves, and hence also to Nature outside us insofar as it can influence our feeling of well-being.”

Immanuel Kant

So, direct experience and nature are important, but what will we think about that experience, and how can we know nature?

Addition:  I’ll try and get beyond Nietzsche‘s big gamble, Emerson’s transcendental perfectionism (and even Santayana‘s aesthetics) if you do too.   I also promise not to rest blindly upon Kantian transcendental idealism or Platonic idealism in epistemological or political affairs either.

Addition:  I should just post the poem.

Another Addition:  The work that Emerson did, and the depth of his arguments are not fully appreciated nor discussed in this post.

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From Boston.Com Via The A & L Daily: ‘The Surprising Moral Force Of Disgust’

Full article here.

It may not be that much of a surprise:

“Where does moral law come from? What lies behind our sense of right and wrong? For millennia, there have been two available answers. To the devoutly religious, morality is the word of God, handed down to holy men in groves or on mountaintops. To moral philosophers like Kant, it is a set of rules to be worked out by reason”

Only two available answers?  There’s also this:

“Psychologists like Haidt are leading a wave of research into the so-called moral emotions — not just disgust, but others like anger and compassion — and the role those feelings play in how we form moral codes and apply them in our daily lives. A few, like Haidt, go so far as to claim that all the world’s moral systems can best be characterized not by what their adherents believe, but what emotions they rely on.”

The ideas are now getting dispersed more popularly;  below might be some useful links on this site:

From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.

A reasonable summary?:  Nussbaum argues that disgust should not be used to make laws. It is an emotion that is potentially irrational.  It is also a way to project our own irrationality regarding the body, weakness and mortality onto others. In so doing, often we maintain unjust laws, or inequitable legal, social, and political structures.

She might argue that J.S. Mill’s harm principle is a better tool to maintain freedom and equality than the moral doctrines of Christianity…not only, but especially when, disgust is used to interefere into the lives of others through the laws (Gays and Lesbians in America, Outcasts in India…Bahai, for example, in Iran perhaps).

An example of Nussbaum’s hubris regarding the Elliot Spitzer case (those Puritan Roots can’t be done away with quickly enough):  Martha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Jesse Prinz argues that morals too, have roots in emotions, and argues that evo-psy/cog-sci should get back to British Empiricism, with some Nietzsche thrown in, among other things-More On Jesse Prinz. A Review Of “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” At Notre DameJesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads. Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”

Jesse Prinz’s page.

Prinz’s book here.

Full diavlog here.


A dig at over-eager psychologists as Haidt may himself be:  Repost-Is Psychology A Science? From Richard Feynman’s ‘Cargo Cult Science’

It will be interesting to watch as this passes through popular thinking, and through the political realm.

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From Foreign Affairs: ‘Q & A With Stephen Biddle On Afghanistan’

Full piece here.

“But Afghanistan is unique as a base for destabilizing Pakistan. And Pakistan is a unique national security threat to the United States. It is a nuclear-armed state with al Qaeda’s global headquarters on their border. And it has an ongoing, internal war that — by lots of indicators — isn’t going very well for the Pakistani government.”

Also On This Site: Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’From Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”From Michael Yon: ‘General Petraeus Letter’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”…Sarah Chayes On Afghanistan In The Boston Review: Days Of Lies And Roses

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