Dexter Fillkins At The New Yorker: ‘Endgame’

Full comment here.

Filkins offers a few thoughts:

‘In strategic terms, the U.S. has swung between counter-insurgency and counterterrorism. Or, put another way, between enlightened self-interest and a more naked kind.’

And the problems still aren’t really solved.  We likely can’t build a nation with our military and without the will of the people toward their own aims, yet the threat of terrorist figures meeting, planning, taking advantage of/having some collaboration with the locals and perhaps attacking us is still very high.

Addition: The Afghan military isn’t looking so good.  U.S. public opinion against the war is high and anti-American AfPak sentiment high at the moment.

Another Addition:  The WSJ has a piece on Andrew Bacevich, which is not favorable.  It seems Bacevich has lost sight of what can and can’t get done in war, and perhaps in human nature.

Related On This Site: From CSIS: ‘Turmoil In The Middle-East’Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’…perhaps Bacevich is turning inward upon religious belief, and doesn’t have a larger analysis to put the war within, despite his insight: From Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

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From The National Interest Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rawls Visits the Pyramids’

Full post here.

“So the deepening divide in Egyptian political life can help if it forces Islamists and non-Islamists to sit down at the table and hash out a deal. At this point, there may still be enough that they can agree on—in terms of a more open, democratic and pluralist order—that a document can be written. The problem right now may be practical.”

I’ve still got my hand on my wallet.  The conditions that can support stable, non-Islamic and Islamist institutions may not be conducive to having a strong enough presence in the public square, and the institutions that are not Islamist rely on much foreign aid and influence.  The ‘middle-class,’ or those who are well enough off to maintain some order, regardless of deeper beliefs (however many idealists in the West would like to see them) may not be able to hold their ground.

Related On This Site:  Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

From CSIS: ‘Turmoil In The Middle-East’Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

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From Foreign Affairs- ‘Agreeing On Afghanistan: Why The Obama Administration Chose Consensus This Time”

Full piece here.

Some discussion of how procedure affects outcomes in the White House decision-making process, and how the new strategy was arrived at.

Related On This Site:   From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanRepost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Monday Quotations-Henry Kissinger

Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

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From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

Full discussion here.

A summary of chapters in a reading group presentation:

‘Jerry has argued throughout the book that the conception of the person employed within public reason liberalism and liberalism broadly speaking must move in this Hayekian direction. If public reason liberals follow Jerry’s lead, the fundamental structure of public reason and even the nature of the social contract theorists’ project must substantially change. In short, political justification must not begin with deriving the rationality of rule-following from a teleological conception of practical reason. Instead, it must begin with an understanding of the nature of human beings who are already rule-followers and the nature of the moral emotions and cooperative activities that accompany such rule-following. It is in this way that Jerry moves most forcefully away from Hobbesian conceptions of public reason. He goes further by arguing that even the Kantian conception of the person he endorses cannot be constructed out of practical reason alone. Instead, human nature contains Kantian elements for thoroughly Humean-Hayekian-evolution reasons. Our rule-following nature is contingent on our social development (though no less contingent than our goal-seeking nature).’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Addition: Public Reason also has an audio interview here.

Related On This SiteJesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads...

Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

..A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantSome Friday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

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Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Allan Bloom (wikipedia) wrote the Closing Of The American Mind in 1987.  It is a deep book, and an interesting one.  It is also, I believe, following a vein of thought that continues to affect American life…with mixed results.

There is a direct Nietzschean influence flowing through Martin HeideggerLeo Strauss (wikipedia), and Allan Bloom…not to mention much 20th century art and existentialism.  In Bloom particularly, it is guided partially by Strauss’ project of recovering and reclaiming the Greeks from Nietzsche’s assault upon Christianity.

Strauss, of course, has Nietzsche succumbing to historicism, having followed historicist logic to its nihilistic consequences (or simply continuing what was started earlier in more Continental strains of thought).  Here’s Strauss on Nietzsche:

‘The theoretical analysis of life is noncommittal and fatal to commitment, but life means commitment.  To avert the danger to life, Nietzsche could choose one of two ways: he could insist on the strictly esoteric character of the theoretical analysis of life–that is restore the Platonic notion of the noble delusion–or else he could deny the possibility of theory proper. and so conceive of theory as essentially subservient to, or dependent on, life or fate.  If not Nietzsche himself, at any rate his successors adopted the second alternative.’

But did Strauss actually endorse Platonic idealism, not finding fault with the metaphysics of Plato, as Aristotle so obviously did, and as have most modern thinkers have done?  Surely, Strauss’ esoteric approach to Plato likely has issues:

‘Allan Bloom (1930-1992), although valuable as a critic, often seems merely to be promoting the ideas of Leo Strauss (1899-1973), whose own approach strikes the editor as a very idiosyncratic version of esoteric textual hermeneutics: to argue that Plato’s Republic was not a serious political theory and that Plato and Aristotle really didn’t disagree on fundamentals perhaps nicely reaffirms the views of the Neoplatonists and early Mediaeval philosophers like al-Fârâbî, but otherwise it must seem positively perverse in its strained counter-intuitiveness.’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.  Benjamin Jowett’s translation of Plato’s Republic can be found here.

Addition: Bryan Magee’s series available on youbtube is useful:  Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…

Another Addition:  While I may not agree with Bloom’s formulation, I suspect that from a purely administrative standpoint, working toward “diversity” and toward a “meritocracy” only seems to satisfy the ideals of some people driving change within our universities.  Despite the benefits (and there are many) such ideas seem to me more ideal, and less practical when applied to how people actually behave (self-interested, self-sacrificing for their children, forming social networks, bending toward nepotism etc.).

See Also:  Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgements apart in the humanities: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To JudgmentRoger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’   What alternatives are there to the postmodernists…some vague nod to Aquinas, Teresa Of Avila…Gerard Manley Hopkins…piety and religious belief distilled into fine poetry? See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

Martha Nussbaum is using Aristotle, the utilitarians, and Enlightenment ideals to broaden a platform for feminism, and is not much of a friend to religion, nor using religious belief and thought to guide laws…:  From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’… From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.

Strauss and the Chicago School figure in modern conservative thought as well and the current libertarian resurgence: Two Monday Quotations From Keeping The Tablets

Allan Bloom -Photo here from Dr Clifford Brickman

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Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Full piece here.

Sandall reviews Robin Fox’s new book “Tribal Imagination: Civilization And the Savage Mind”.

‘New political understandings are being launched each day, it seems. From one quarter comes what we might call Praetorian Realism, an acknowledgment of Samuel Huntington’s scenario for the military disciplining of civil chaos in modernizing lands. From another comes Matrix Realism, emphasizing the army’s role in the institutional order of the Arab countries. In this expansive intellectual climate, with its growing range of options, perhaps there’s room for one more entrant. Let’s call it Tribal Realism, the aim being to bring anthropological insights to bear on our political prospects abroad.’

So, where do the social sciences and foreign policy meet? Sandall argues Fox’s new book can point out quite how we often misunderstand other parts of the world as we project our own traditions, definitions of freedom, and democratic ideals upon it:

‘Fox knows what Tierney and most other educated Americans apparently do not: that tribal communities are the default system of human social nature. Humanity evolved that way for millennia after exiting the hunter-gatherer band stage of social life. Many of the planet’s diverse societies have since moved on toward becoming modern states, but not all of them have. And even for those that have, the shadowy emotional residues of the distant past remain.’

Fox puts his thinking into a framework of evolutionary theory (as opposed to, say, religious doctrines).

Fox sees the European habit of viewing society as a loose aggregate of autonomous individuals as a barrier to understanding. It prevents us from seeing the truth of Ernest Gellner’s argument in Muslim Society that, under Islam, “the individual acts toward the state essentially through the mediation of his kin group.” It equally prevents us from seeing that in ancient Greece (meaning the Greece of legend that long preceded the reforms of Cleisthenes and the rationalistic speculations of Plato and Aristotle), both autonomous individuals and the state itself were problematic.”

Food for thought, as I always think it’s important to point out that secular post-Enlightenment ideals can suffer many of the same problems as religion when sailing into contact, conflict and engagement with other parts of the world…as that world can be a dangerous place.

Related On This Site:  Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily (R.I.P) says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’.

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

Francis Fukuyama uses some Hegel and Samuel Huntington…just as Huntington was going against the grain of modernization theory…:Newsweek On Francis Fukuyama: ‘The Beginning Of History’Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

Romantic primitivism in Australia: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’

Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?:  Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?:  From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit

Michael Yon At The NY Daily News: ‘Afghanistan Is Making Undeniable Progress, But It Could All Unravel’

Full piece here.

‘The bottom line is that there are unmistakable signs of progress in Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus is about to make a very important recommendation.’

And the sitting President has to be re-electable, and appeal to his base, and a possible pool of voters, which can be one of the biggest determining factors in the decision.

Addition:  Obama says he is aiming for a surge pullout by the end of next summer.  Obama’s speech here.  I can’t really say I agree with Obama’s apparent vision of an American dream fiscally (last lines of the speech), in terms of government involvement, and in a lot of foreign policy, so it seems pretty transparently political to me.

Addition:  And as he mentions, there’s got to be a smarter way to fight terrorism.

Related On This Site:   From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanRepost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

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