Thursday Poem-Emily Dickinson

It sifts from Leaden Sieves – (291)

It sifts from Leaden Sieves –
It powders all the Wood.
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the Road –

It makes an even Face
Of Mountain, and of Plain –
Unbroken Forehead from the East
Unto the East again –

It reaches to the Fence –
It wraps it Rail by Rail
Till it is lost in Fleeces –
It deals Celestial Vail

To Stump, and Stack – and Stem –
A Summer’s empty Room –
Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,
Recordless, but for them –

It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
As Ankles of a Queen –
Then stills it’s Artisans – like Ghosts –
Denying they have been –

Emily Dickinson

Via Richard Dillman at Althouse.

Edward Hopper, Deconstructionists, The NY Times & Postmodernism-Some Links-Where Are You Headed?

Via Althouse via the NY Times, applying decontructionism to the works of Edward Hopper:

They’re coming for your ‘myths’, America.

Some of them, anyways:

“Yes, there’s a lot of talent and beauty and all that,” said Mr. Shadwick, who remains a big Hopper fan, “but there’s also a very conscious awareness of his place in history, and of the purported Americanness of the scenes he was painting.”

Althouse:

I think the “awareness” he’s referring to is in the minds of people who value Hopper. Maybe those minds are full of delusions and mythology. They’re only half-aware. Not… woke.

It’s not as clear to me a deconstructionist would go after obvious ‘woke’, so much as interrogate other things, driving towards (S)elves without myth nor national character in an increasingly flattened landscape.

From the author’s site, where he is making a career out of ideas about ideas about Hopper:

This relation of Hopper’s works to their broader social history will underpin an interrogation of the development and cultivation of Hopper’s Americanist persona, challenging notions of Hopper’s quintessential ‘Americanness’ and deconstructing the implications of such rhetoric in relation to the artist’s canonical reputation.

Hmmm….as to choices artists must make. From the NY Times piece:

In rendering his pioneering views of everyday life in average America (or, as Mr. Shadwick would say, in the America Hopper helped define as average), Hopper chose an everyday style that brings him closer to the modest commercial illustration of his era than to the certified old masters.

The arts can be one lens with which to look at these problems and places…

Repost-Ah, Look At All The Lonely People-‘Jeff Koons Is Back’ Via Vanity Fair

-Banksy’s website here. Newsweek’s piece: ‘See You Banksy, Hello Invader.

When it comes to the Old Masters, I can’t help but think of Auden:

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

W.H. Auden

The Fall Of Icarus

Discussed in the video: James Lindsay’s cogent account of his experiences in the Atheism movement, and the emergence of Atheism Plus. He attempts to use moral psychology (he mentions Jonathan Haidt) to explain many religious-seeming elements of the woke, social justice crowd.

Also, the two touch upon Critical Theory, and the next generation of post-post-modernists, reacting against the previous generation.

I doubt movements like this ever really die, especially ones committed to the logic of radically standing apart from all institutions of authority, traditions, systems and social arrangments; the lone, brilliant artists and the academic poseurs cloaked within the glamour of nihilist jargon and bad epistemologies.

Lindsay also mentions the Stephen Hicks/Thaddeus Russell debate: ‘Postmodernism Is Necessary For A Politics Of Individual Liberty

Related On This Blog:

Martha Nussbaum on Judith Butler: ‘The Professor Of Parody

Postmodern generator here, via David Thompson.

Simon Blackburn revisits the Sokal hoax.

The Sokal hoax:

“…in 1996 the radical “postmodernist” journal Social Text published an article submitted by Alan Sokal, a mathematical physicist at New York University, with the mouthwatering title “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” Sokal then revealed the article to be a spoof…”

Sokal has been busy ruminating since that paper, and Blackburn, a Cambridge philosophy professor, reviews his ruminations.

Mentioned In The Review: Kant, Karl Popper, Einstein, postmodernism, a sympathetic account of the academic postmodernist climate, Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, (T)ruth, Richard Rorty…


Daniel Dennett from 1998: Postmodernism and Truth

‘When I was a young untenured professor of philosophy, I once received a visit from a colleague from the Comparative Literature Department, an eminent and fashionable literary theorist, who wanted some help from me. I was flattered to be asked, and did my best to oblige, but the drift of his questions about various philosophical topics was strangely perplexing to me. For quite a while we were getting nowhere, until finally he managed to make clear to me what he had come for. He wanted “an epistemology,” he said. An epistemology. Every self-respecting literary theorist had to sport an epistemology that season, it seems, and without one he felt naked, so he had come to me for an epistemology to wear–it was the very next fashion, he was sure, and he wanted the dernier cri in epistemologies. It didn’t matter to him that it be sound, or defensible, or (as one might as well say) true; it just had to be new and different and stylish. Accessorize, my good fellow, or be overlooked at the party’

Worth a read.

The arts and humantities can be given a seriousness of purpose, I’m guessing, but must that purpose necessarily be scientific?

Do creative musical/artistic geniuses really need to understand particularly well how the sciences advance? How much does it matter that a theater major understands how the sciences come to say true things about the world and predict with high accuracy how nature behaves beyond a science course or two?

I could be wrong.

Clearly, one problem is that out of the postmodern malaise comes the nihilism, moral relativism and general desperation where many can be found clinging to the sciences, or some standard of rationalism and reason that doesn’t seem sufficient in answering all the questions religion claims to answer, nor doesn’t seem sufficient as a platform to understand human nature, history, tradition, the wisdom in our institutions, and the experience past generations can offer beyond its own presumptions.

Lots of people can thus make ideology their guide and political change their purpose, or the State their religion and their own moral failings or moral programs everyone’s moral oughts through the law and politics.

Who has the moral legitimacy to be in charge?

Quote found here at friesian.com (recovering Kantian idealism through post-Kantian philosopher Jakob Fries):

‘Oddly enough, it is the intellectual snobbery and elitism of many of the literati that politically correct egalitarianism appeals to; their partiality to literary Marxism is based not on its economic theory but on its hostility to business and the middle class. The character of this anti-bourgeois sentiment therefore has more in common with its origin in aristocratic disdain for the lower orders than with egalitarianism.’

John M. Ellis, Literature Lost [Yale University Press, 1997, p. 214]


Using quite a bit of German idealism (Hegelian) to get at the problem:

Roger Scruton here.

Book here.

‘While I am complaining, I will also note that Scruton has nothing to say about how several of these figures—especially Žižek and Alain Badiou, along with Jacques Derrida, who is barely mentioned here—have played a role in the so-called “religious turn” of humanistic studies, in which various movements generally called “postmodern” find a significant place for religion in their reflections, if not in their beliefs or practices. This marks a significant departure from the relentless secularism of most earlier forms of European leftism, and that deserves note. Nor does Scruton account fully for Jürgen Habermas’s reputation as a centrist figure in the German and more generally the European context. (Habermas too has spoken more warmly of religion in recent years.’

I’ve heard Scruton’s rather sober vision of the good society referred to as ‘Scrutopia’ by dissenters:

On this site, see:

More Scruton here.

So, what is all this Nothing-ness about? ‘My view’, says Scruton, ‘is that what’s underlying all of this is a kind of nihilistic vision that masks itself as a moving toward the enlightened future, but never pauses to describe what that society will be like. It simply loses itself in negatives about the existing things – institutional relations like marriage, for instance – but never asks itself if those existing things are actually part of what human beings are. Always in Zizek there’s an assumption of the right to dismiss them as standing in the way of something else, but that something else turns out to be Nothing.’

Steven Pinker piece here.

Pinker boils his argument down to two ideals:

‘The first is that the world is intelligible. The phenomena we experience may be explained by principles that are more general than the phenomena themselves.’

and:

‘The commitment to intelligibility is not a matter of brute faith, but gradually validates itself as more and more of the world becomes explicable in scientific terms.’

Hilary Putnam and Bryan Magee discuss the ‘treasure chest’ vision of science, where you just keep filling up the chest with more and more knowledge.

————————

Pinker’s second ideal is as follows:

‘The second ideal is that the acquisition of knowledge is hard. The world does not go out of its way to reveal its workings, and even if it did, our minds are prone to illusions, fallacies, and superstitions.’

One of the other debates here is about where meaning shall be found, in politics, in ethics, as a foundation for the humanities, and religion, as all manner of other ideas fill the void.

Addition: I guess I’m trying to say that I remain skeptical the sciences can properly scale. Many people claiming to have a scientific worldview are curiously more committed to ideas downstream of scientific inquiry. This can involve an idealized or popular, mummified vision of ‘science,’ (the science is clear, it’s on on my side, we must act together or vote for x) or even ‘anti-science’ nihilism and destructive cultism (the universe is a meaningless void, you’re utterly alone, here’s exactly what the scientists don’t want you to know, so join us).

Related On This Site: From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

From Darwinian Conservatism: Nietzsche-Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.… Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

More here from the Times Literary Supplement.

I suppose ‘anarcho-syndicalism’ and/or ‘libertarian socialism’ is better than the dead-ends of socialist doctrine. Noam Chomsky actually had enough computational/scientific training to be dismissive of postmodern thought. Perhaps after Kant’s transcendental idealism, Chomsky really does believe that morality, like Chomsky’s innatist theory of language, is universal and furthermore hard-wired into the brain. This could lead to a political philosophy of either universalism or nihilism, or at least his retreat into anarchism or anarcho-syndicalism away from such idealism. There’s little to no room for the individual in such a vision. Perhaps Chomsky has never seen life, liberty and property and the individual except from such a vantage point: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

What about value pluralism…positive and negative liberty?: The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Martha Nussbaum criticizing Chomsky’s hubris in Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

Problems Of The Minority-Cross Your Heart

Via Althouse on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

‘That’s the line up in American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the case about the 32-foot cross on public land that honors soldiers who died in WWI. The American Legion won — the case is reversed and remanded. It will take me a little time to find my way through those opinions. The precedents in this area of the Establishment Clause have been very confused, and (as someone who taught those cases for many years) I want to know how the Court puzzled through them this time.’

As posted many years ago now:

Strausberg Observers post here

Sometimes a cross isn’t just a cross, as Stanley Fish notes.  All parties involved didn’t think it’s a good idea to strip the cross from it’s religious meaning in law.

Aside from an interesting comparison on a specific legal question, perhaps there are underlying currents as well.

Full post here.

‘The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rendered by 15:2 in Lautsi v Italy (App. No.: 30814/06) on the 18th March 2011 that it is justifiable for public funded schools in Italy to continue displaying crucifixes on the classroom walls.’

Here’s a quote from The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy:

“The philosophy of human rights addresses questions about the existence, content, nature, universality, justification, and legal status of human rights. The strong claims made on behalf of human rights (for example, that they are universal, or that they exist independently of legal enactment as justified moral norms) frequently provoke skeptical doubts and countering philosophical defences.”

And further on down the line, some humanists are pretty ‘aspirational’ as well as having a logo and a revised manifesto.

Martha Nussbaum argues profoundly for more equality but also removing religion as a source for the laws:  From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

…Sometimes a cross isn’t just a cross, as Stanley Fish notesFrom Law At The End Of The Day: ‘Torn Between Religion And Law In Spain’

Low European Birth Rates In The NY Times: No Babies?

I’ll repost the below again because, in America,  I believe we’ve likely tipped from a majority religious civic fabric and culture to something more like a majority secular culture.   This likely brings a lot of European problems over (people searching for meaning, membership, group belonging).  We’ve got less frontier and more hierarchy and more reactions to inequality and the same old socialism gaining deeper representation in our politics.

Ack, mutter, so much German theory and deep, metaphysical maps:

I’m sure some will be eager to note that this took place in Budapest, Hungary, a country currently under politically right leadership, out from under tradition and institution-destroying Communist bureaucracy, in the news these days for refusing many Middle-Eastern refugees.

I recommend the video, as Scruton spent many years behind the Iron Curtain, working with folks to help chart a course out of Communist rule.

Moral Relativism is actually quite hard to define:

========

A quote that stuck out:

‘There’s an attempt to produce a universal, objective morality, but without any conception of where it comes from.’

Where does the moral legitimacy come from to decide what a ‘human right’ is? A majority of ‘right-thinking’ people? A political majority? Some transcendent source?

As this blog has often noted, such secular idealism can lead to an ever-expanding list of human-rights, demands, and obligations; these in turn leading to rather sclerotic, over-promising, under-delivering, deeply indebted European states and poorly functional international institutions. It can also produce a kind of liberal bien-pensant worldview, which can catch a radical cold every now and again, but which generally supports political leaders claiming such ideals and causes. Oh yes, most folks nowadays believe we’re progressing, but where was that we were progressing to, exactly? How do you know this to be true?

Many Christians in the West tend to see such secular idealism and humanism as being birthed from Christianity, and as being unmoored from the duties and obligations that come with religious belief in a transcendent God. People haven’t changed that much, after all, nor has human nature, they often subtly argue, pointing out the many consequences such secular humanist claims have in the world by placing all kinds of laws, duties, and obligations upon us all.

Ross Douthat made similar arguments some years ago while promoting his book ‘Bad Religion:

‘…what is the idea of universal human rights if not a metaphysical principle? Can you find universal human rights under a microscope?

===============

As previously posted:

Part 10 of a discussion between Douthat and Will Saletan here.

Natural law, Christian theology and metaphysics meet liberalism, gay rights, and a more rights-based definitions of liberty. Saletan and Douthat are discussing Douthat’s new book Bad Religion and having a back and forth.

Douthat puts forth the following:

‘Indeed, it’s completely obvious that absent the Christian faith, there would be no liberalism at all. No ideal of universal human rights without Jesus’ radical upending of social hierarchies (including his death alongside common criminals on the cross). No separation of church and state without the gospels’ “render unto Caesar” and St. Augustine’s two cities. No liberal confidence about the march of historical progress without the Judeo-Christian interpretation of history as an unfolding story rather than an endlessly repeating wheel’

Perhaps modern American liberalism can claim other roots for itself. Here’s a quote from Leo Strauss, who has influenced American conservative thought heavily:

“Strauss taught that liberalism in its modern form contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards extreme relativism, which in turn led to two types of nihilism. The first was a “brutal” nihilism, expressed in Nazi and Marxist regimes. In On Tyranny, he wrote that these ideologies, both descendants of Enlightenment thought, tried to destroy all traditions, history, ethics, and moral standards and replace them by force under which nature and mankind are subjugated and conquered. The second type – the “gentle” nihilism expressed in Western liberal democracies – was a kind of value-free aimlessness and a hedonistic”permissive egalitarianism”, which he saw as permeating the fabric of contemporary American society.”

And another quote on Strauss, which seems more compelling to me:

“As Strauss understood it, the principle of liberal democracy in the natural freedom and equality of all human beings, and the bond of liberal society is a universal morality that links human beings regardless of religion. Liberalism understands religion to be a primary source of divisiveness in society, but it also regards liberty of religious worship to be a fundamental expression of the autonomy of the individual. To safeguard religion and to safeguard society from conflicts over religion, liberalism pushes religion to the private sphere where it is protected by law. The liberal state also strictly prohibits public laws that discriminate on the basis of religion. What the liberal state cannot do without ceasing to be liberal is to use the law to root out and entirely eliminate discrimination, religious and otherwise, on the part of private individuals and groups.”

I’m more interested in the many people who are claiming that more freedom is necessary to reach a liberal ideal as they go about extending it to another group of people. They aren’t just asking for a little more freedom, for as we humans do, they are striving to make their ideal the highest thing around, as well as a source for the laws, and a way to organize people and a path to political power and influence. That seems to be part of the deal, but rarely discussed and I think should be open for debate a la Strauss. Christianity certainly has a lot of experience in that realm.

Related On This Site: While politically Left, Slate used to be a bit edgy, thoughtful, occasionally more of a haven for artists, writers, creative thinkers and iconoclasts (Christopher Hitchens was a good example). At least Saletan thinks pretty deeply From Slate: William Saletan’s ‘White Men Can’t Jump’

Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’

Nussbaum argues that relgion shouldn’t be a source for the moral laws From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum…More on Strauss as I’m skeptical of his hermeticism and his strong reaction to Nietzsche and some things he may have missed about the Anglo tradition: From Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’From The Selected Writings By And About George Anastaplo: ‘Reason and Revelation: On Leo Strauss’

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?

Some Tuesday Modernist Links-Empire State Plaza Again

Full post here (from Althouse, with photos).

It looks like the ‘International Power Style’ of the 50’s and 60’s landed its mothership in downtown Albany.  I appreciate Robert Hughes’ near hyperbole in describing the Empire State Plaza:

———————

What if there was a Wisconsin motor court/supper club with global ambitions?  What if you fused a local motel with the U.N. internationalist style, you ask?

Click here to experience ‘The Gobbler.

After taking the photo tour, I remain convinced that ‘The Gobbler’ exists in its own realm of awesome badness.  Such a shag-covered, abandoned love-child of the late 60′s and early 70′s is challenging just what I thought I knew about American culture.

———————-

Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism.  From the banner of his blog:

The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’

They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

Check out the ‘Socialist Cybernetics‘ of Salvador Allende.

In working towards a theme, check out Buzludzha, the abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, which still draws up to 50,000 Bulgarian Socialists for a yearly pilgrimage.  Human Planet’s Timothy Allen visited the structure in the snow and took some haunting photos.  You will think you’ve stepped into a Bond film and one of Blofeld’s modernist lairs, but with somewhat Eastern Orthodox tile frescos of Lenin and Marx gazing out at you, abandoned to time, the elements and to nature.

Repost-From Thirty Two Via Althouse: ‘The Fall Of The Creative Class’

Full piece here.

Thirty Two is a Minneapolis based publication, where our author ended up after looking for “the creative class,” which has to do with Richard Florida’s economic theory:

‘When I asked if he could show me a city that had had mea­sur­able eco­nomic growth as a result of an influx of cre­ative indi­vid­u­als, Florida said there was “wide con­sen­sus” that migra­tion of cre­ative indi­vid­u­als had taken place, and named some places like Wash­ing­ton DC, greater Boston, greater NY, and greater San Francisco.’

Putting the cart before the horse?  Here’s a previous quote from Florida:

“I grew up in that culture. My father worked his entire life in a factory. I spent my high-school summers doing factory work. Sexism and racism ran rampant. Fights were almost every day occurrences: Working class disagreements almost always end in them.”

A creative, non-sexist, non-racist, non-classist future awaits.  Be liberated!  There will be lots of community gardens and bike paths, I imagine.  Williamsburg doesn’t need Wall Street!

Many artist-types, the bookish, the literary, the ‘creative class’ post-moderns and hipsters, along with the increasingly tech/science-inspired cultural influencers, naturally want certain cultural amenities and opportunities.  Naturally, they’re going  to pay for these amenities, and they’re going to find their ideas have limitations when it comes to economic scarcity, human nature, politics, and life in the city.  It’s about trade-offs.

The blurred line where the arts, humanities, and the ‘creative class’ are meeting conservative/libertarian traditions and political philosophy in contemporary American life has become a strongly recurring theme on this blog. 

Related On This Site:  Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

It’s the 60’s, don’t you know.  The Arts can also be united with a Left-of-Center political philosophy as they are at NPR for popular consumption…after going mainstream.  On this site, see: From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Well, art doesn’t need to be in service of a socialist vision, but it can:  Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’

 —————————–
What if you’re economy’s already depressed?  Don’t make a maze of laws and build stadiums and museums on the public dime…get new industry: From Reason: ‘Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey’…Reason also suggests that if such creative/entrepenurial spirit gets off the ground, it will have to get around the public sector in Detroit.  From Reason Via Youtube: ‘Is Harrisburg’s Nightmare America’s Future?’

 
Is the same definition of ‘community’ connected with one that can stifle economic growth through political means?: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?
 
 
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From Eli Lake At The Daily Beast: ‘Exclusive: Libya Cable Detailed Threats’

Full post here.

‘Just two days before the 9/11 anniversary attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, two leaders of the Libyan militias responsible for keeping order in the city threatened to withdraw their men.’

Why is this important?  There appears to be a large gap between what our President is saying, and some of what he is doing through policy.   Here is a summation of what I posted at Althouse’s blog, and I think it’s worth repeating:

‘Admitting Al-Qaida is still active and gaining ground in Afpak is admitting the reasons we went there are still valid, and will require continued military presence. We are, in Bush’s words, in a war on terror.  Admitting that this attack was perpetrated by Al-Qaida in Libya means we’re still in a war on terror. It’s global and ongoing. 

Hence the drone strikes, the surge in Afghanistan, and the continuation of most of Bush’s policies, including all kinds of abridgement of liberties here at home.  

Let’s talk about the War On Terror. Let’s talk about the drone strikes. Let’s talk about Al-Qaida. Let’s talk about where America is in this war, and what policies the President has put in place and what we’re actually doing about it.’

Libya was supposed to have been billed as a success for Obama.  We toppled a tyrant in the name of freedom (albeit a different definition that Bush envisioned) but let the Libyans do it themselves.  It cost much less than Iraq, tried to appeal to international institutions as we did work with Britain and France, and there was less risk involved.  We now have kind of a client state in Libya, and there was genuine support to get Ansar Al Sharia out after Stevens was killed.  In the administration’s defense, this was just the kind of flower he promised to grow with his vision.

So how does Obama’s foreign policy vision line up with the policies he’s kept in place from the Bush administration?  Just what are the threats facing America?  How are Obama’s liberal internationalist policies working out there in the real world?

I’d like to think I would do the same for any other President.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

————————

Addition: After the VP debate, I came away with the following:

1.  Ryan correctly pointed out that Obama’s policy in Syria is not peace through strength.  We ended up  hemming and hawing through the U.N. and ceding too much of our interests to Russia, Iran, and other bad actors, who do not share our interests and actively work against our interests (though it’s not clear what to be done in Syria).  We’ve changed ideals guiding our foreign policy, and these are clearly some downsides which can always possibly cause more conflict in the future.  I believe that if we don’t stand up for our interests, no one will, and our interests don’t necessarily align with European interests either (and we’ve had limited, but much appreciated, support from allies).  We don’t necessarily need to guide our foreign policy with these ideals to be successful.

2.  The reason we went to Afghanistan, and the reason we’re still there is not to avenge 9/11 (though there’s some truth to that), but to secure our national interest.  There are groups of Islamic terrorists and sympathizers who will actively plan and carry out attacks against us, and they will hole up in this area.  There’s more and more Al Qaida on the ground as we speak.  As hopeless as it looks (Pakistan actively working against us and supporting terrorism, the COIN results, the seemingly impossible task of nation building, the ungovernable FATA region, the very untrustworthy Afghan Army, Karzai’s weakness, the fact that the Taliban can probably wait us out and the over 2,000 Americans who’ve sacrificed their lives for our safety), our objective has always been to prevent more attacks on our soil.  A timeline and withdrawal may please the base at home, but may not meet this objective.  I don’t think any sitting U.S. President can allow this to happen, hence the drone strikes, Obama’s surge, and the continued war on terror.  We’re still at war.

Addition:  Al Qaida is on the rise in Afghanistan, and our objective has not been met.  Just ask Lara Logan from 60 minutes who’s been watching the war.

Related On This SiteEli Lake At The Daily Beast: ‘U.S. Officials Knew Libya Attacks Were Work of Al Qaeda Affiliates’ From The BBC Via Michael Totten: ‘Libya: Islamist Militia Bases Stormed In Benghazi’

Via Reuters: ‘U.S. Ambassador To Libya Killed In Benghazi Attack’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanFrom The New Yorker: ‘How Qaddafi Lost Libya’

Just how far Left is this administration anyways? Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

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From Althouse: ‘The Atrocity That Is Empire State Plaza’

Full post here. (with photos)

Of course, it may not be an atrocity in your opinion (and could be quite nice), but it is presented as a top down, anaesthetic, or compromised aesthetic, piece of architecture placed there by the government in the name of the people…regardless of what came before.

It reminded me of Brasilia:  Brasilia: A Planned City

Also On This Site:  Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?

Le Corbusier’s work here, examples of Modern Architecture here.

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From Althouse: Ann Althouse And Dayo Olopade Discuss Health Insurance

Full post here. (Click on the 2nd video for more.)

Has the moral case been made by the left for a universal plan that would overcome the opposition?  Does such moral reasoning transcend the economic arguments,political talking points, and ideology of those who seek a universal plan…uniting Americans around the problems we have?

So far, I don’t think so.

I’m still willing to grant Obama leeway in overcoming partisanship,  which I think is a worthy moral goal, though it’s a goal with its roots in the day to day, messy realities of politics (pork, personal attacks etc.).  As the discussion above highlights, if it means granting this much leeway to leftism as Olopade represents that it does, then it’s not enough for me.

See Also On This Site: Obama is losing me as an independent:  Barack Obama President Elect: A Few Hopes From An Independent… From The National Journal: Jonathan Rauch’s “Obama’s Fate Depends On Perot’s Voters”

Is Health Care a Right?:  From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”

Locke by stnastopoulos

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Ann Althouse On The Scope Of Frank Rich’s Imagination-From The Comments Section

 

Full post with comments here.

Here are a couple of quotes from the comments I found myself sympathetic to (the argument is that the media has a center left bias, and looks at politics through this bias)…up to a point.

“the concept of government officials (presidents in particular) as “leaders,” which chips away at individualism and liberty and promotes the state’s power.”

Well, they are leaders, but in this case I think the reader means a submission to authority which alligns with one’s unchallenged beliefs, as though those beliefs couldn’t be reasonably challenged.  Aside from political concerns, it’s intellectually lazy.  I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

Here’s another one:

“…terms such as “the Hispanic vote” or “the black community.” This one is easy, of course: It presents American society as a batch of blocs, rather than as a country of individuals, and again plays into the leftist idea that all relationships are about power, etc.”

 

Identity politics can potentially reward loyalty to groups and fiefdoms and erode individual, and other deeper, unifying national identities.  But if you’re a strict libertarian, how far do you take individualism?  After all, the schools, the roads, the collection of taxes, the military, even civic life itself rests upon some sort of social contract.   Can you stay reasonable?  Maybe he should look at the work of Robert Nozick,  as opposed to say…John Rawls.

Perhaps one can imagine in the not too distant future the fiefdoms, identity groups and races potentially uniting (if we’re lucky) in a common national cause under a national banner against a common enemy…with say…an unwise war resulting.

But I’m not so sure, it’s tough to say.

See Also On This Site: From Andrew Sullivan: A Brief Discussion Of John Rawls..From The City Journal: The Roar Of Justice-Philosopher Raymond Geuss, An Idealist In Realist’s Clothing..From Prospect: Eric Kaufmann On ‘The Meaning Of Huntington’..From The Hoover Institution: Stanley Kurtz On Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington