Anthro on Logic

Hegel "Let’s look at the logic of the "Hegelian compromise" vs. "Zero-sum" game – particularly it’s history. In both cases, the point of diplomacy is to investigate the results of direct application of power (ultimately violence), and then come to that settlement without having to actually take the losses of violence. It’s like rams butting heads – they can discover which one would win an all out fight while avoiding that fight. Now, in cultures derived primarily from imperial Rome, like the Eastern Christian world and the Muslim world, there’s an assumption that the world is composed of a singular hierarchy, where equality is equality of submission to a higher entity. Negotiations would then obviously be negotiations of surrender once it was ascertained who would "naturally" win an all-out battle. This come from the experience of millenia under unified empires. In the West where centuries of competing hierarchies and anarchy held sway, the heathen Greek idea of Dike survived. A balance of power is understood to be a natural state, where equality is one of a dynamic tension between two parties which can not destroy the other without mutual annihilation. So diplomacy is often, but not always, "Hegelian" because both parties understand that neither can win, and no third party can dominate both of them. What does this mean about Cheney and his ilk? They are monotheists in a political sense. They assume that all fights have a winner and a loser – that stalemates only come about due to a lack of will. If that’s true, democracy makes no sense: it’s simply a utopian delusion with no grounding in the hard reality of power and war. At best, it’s a useful tool to quiet the herd. Their approach to science reflects this, their approach to diplomacy reflects this, their approach to war reflects this. We’re not so different – what differs is a lynch-pin understanding of how politics naturally settles out. History says that both understandings are stable, if a critical mass of players agree on the nature of reality. Sumeria survived for millenia as a "Heathen" system, and so did Rome as a "Monotheistic" system. We may be on the cusps of a change here. Cheney and his fellow travellers have created a zero-sum reality in American politics. They have played hard-ball with the civil service and the military. The opposition will have a difficult time not acting as if we are under a winner-takes-all system. If they fail to do that, the professional employees who have been completely replaced by ideological players will undermine them; but if they do clean house, the imperial pattern will become entrenched. Something similar may happen on the international front. Since we’ve abandoned the post-WWII idea of building up our defeated adversaries, it would be foolish for our adversaries, once they have us down, not to try to finish us off. The idea that international politics is multilateral will be sorely damaged if Cheney gets his chance to push his "advantage" to the hilt. Even Buchanan fears this in a recent op-ed piece!" Anthro

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35 Responses to Anthro on Logic

  1. Walrus says:

    I like this thinkpiece because it appears that at least some people are now dimly comprehending the scale of the damage that has been done to the cause of secular humanism by a variety of actors of which Cheney is only one.
    I say that secular humanism is the victim here because the “great experiment” that was the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, is founded on secular humanist beliefs – that is that man is capable of organising his affairs through rational, fact based scientific experiment, argument and debate.
    That means without the aid of appeals to Deities, Gods, Shamans, Priests or flying spaghetti monsters.
    That also means without the aid of Kings, aristocrats, nobility or other hierarchical or god anointed upper classes.
    Cheney, Bush and the entire NeoConservative movement, plus their acolytes and supporters, have shat on the founding fathers and then used the Constitution as toilet paper to wipe their backsides. there is simply no other way to put it.
    Not one of them has any respect whatsoever for secular humanism. It’s also why commentators, the President, Cheney and their Administration engage in convoluted double speak to justify their actions – there is no rational secular humanist justification for anything they have ever done.
    Despite the fashionable NeoCon view that Washington creates its own reality, in actual fact reality can not be mugged. Washington is not Rome, and their are limits to American power.
    Cheney may well succeed in attacking Iran, but the outcome is uncertain and I fail to see how an attack could possibly be to America’s advantage.
    I don’t believe America can recover from Bush and Cheney. At best I think you are going to wind up with a bankrupt economy and civil unrest. At worst, you will have all that plus a police state.

  2. R says:

    Col. Lang:
    The lack of paragraph breaks (and a gigantic block of text!!) make this quite difficult to read. Especially on a small screen.
    Please have mercy on us faithful readers.

  3. JohnH says:

    Yes, they truly believe that might makes right. Democracy is just a brand to be managed by the strongest, a noble name for whatever system of government they choose to impose.
    Drunk with power, they fail to consider the consequences of using their might. Bin Laden understands this very well and has to be delighted to see the US attack one muslim country after another. Playing the game on the opponents’ home court is always difficult and extremely costly, unless you are truly willing to finish your opponents off via genocide. Bush and Cheney should have learned this from Korea and Vietnam as well as from the Soviet experience in Afghanistan and the British one in the American colonies. Like other imperial rulers, Bush and Cheney obvious feel that their case is exceptional and their experience will therefore be different.
    But as more countries get invaded and victories continue to be more apparent than real, the odds increase dramatically that the weight of those “victories” will ultimately be pyrrhic.
    But that will be Hillary’s problem…

  4. johnf says:

    Admittedly this has to be seen within a European (heathen/balance of power) prism, because the European series of superpowers – Spain, France, Britain – all tended to bobble above their adversaries in a sea of balance-of-power alliances.
    Some, at the end of their economic and military strength, have gone out with quixotic snarls – the Spanish in the Netherlands – some, like the British, quietly waited, then handed their empires over to their successors.
    I have always seen America within this prism – the latest in a line of European Empires, each gradually succumbing to an alliance of rivals.
    Perhaps the closest parallel is with France. Gradually, gracefully slipping into decline, then suddenly gone mad under the Revolution and Napoleon, plunging into the worst aspects of total war, before being smothered by an alliance of counterpowers led by its successor, Britain.
    Although Cheney et al might see themselves as wannabee Zerosummers, the rest of the world seems to be acting as though it believes in a Hegelian balance of power.
    Until the end of the Reign of Emperor Clinton, the world did come to Washington to kiss the purple toe and at least appear as though it was asking permission to do things before it was doing them. But since the Lurch of Tough Guy Cheney it seems to me the world, after some momentary disarray, has decided to pursue its policies, agree its trade terms, barter its arms, carry on generally as though the United States, as it destroys itself, is not there.
    There is a new world arising in China, India, Russia, Brazil, even partly Europe, in which the US does not figure.
    Cheney might be playing ZeroSum, the rest of the world (except losers like Britain and Israel) are playing Hegel – the continuation of balance of power diplomacy.

  5. jlcg says:

    Actually the transition, in Hegel, from the ethical substance that is the Greek polis to the equality of everyone under a Master occurs not in the Eastern Roman Empire but in Rome itself. One of the most splendid paragraphs of the Phenomenology is the one in which the necessity of acting is reached and because we cannot have an objective view of nature, because we are part of it, the result of our actions is unpredictable and their failure or success is later on explained away through language that, is spin. A lot of scorn has been heaped upon the guy that said that we create our own reality but he was onto something, because creating our own reality is our constant exercise, but the result may not be and usually it is not what we expected.

  6. bstr says:

    The 21st century may see the begining of truly endless war. Non-state actors becoming more obvious in their various roles as, insurgents, terrorist, global corporatist, private armies’ and some yet to be developed. Our consummer society is, through the instruments of promotion, feeding on greed and evacuating fear.No wonder so many find a refuge in the arms of the Unitary Executive. The concept of a war having a single victor will not be possible.

  7. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    An analysis of the Cheney-Neocon network, which serves a broader imperial faction (Ike’s “military-industrial complex”), would take into consideration their imperial ideology, or “mindset.”
    Some components I find rest on the German Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt and his pupil Leo Strauss. This is a Nietzschean mindset, and a form of Caesarism.
    Another element in the construction of the current Bush regime would include Max Weber’s concept of the “charismatic leader.”
    To which add, Spengler’s concept of “Second Religiousness” as a counterpart to Caesarism:
    “The Second Religiousness is the necessary counterpart of Caesarism, which is the final political constitution of Late Civilization… The material of the Second Religiousness is simply that of the first, genuine, young religiousness– only otherwise experienced and expressed. It starts with Rationalism’s fading out in helplessness, then the forms of the springtime become visible and finally the whole world of the primitive religion, which had receded before the grand forms of the early faith, returns to the foreground, powerful, in the guise of the popular syncretism that is to be found in every Culture at this phase…”
    It is not as if Strauss, Irving Kristol, and all that crowd haven’t studied their Schmitt, Nietzsche, Weber, and Spengler now is it?
    It is worth noting that their imperial strategy, resting in some ways on the so-called “hegemonic stability” theory is not just their personal fantasy. It is the official policy of the United States as outlined in the official “National Security Strategy” of the United States (2002).

  8. markf says:

    I personally believe in the laws of Physics. A tree which falls in the forest makes noise, even if there is nobody there to hear.
    I also believe in the basic insights of Game Theory: that some strategies on average work significantly better than others, in give situations. It follows from this that a process of natural selection will increase the frequency of actors who use good judgment, over the long run.
    None of this tells us what our personal, or national, fate will be, but we can try to be wise.

  9. I’m afflicted with an optimistic nature. This doesn’t mean I saunter down the road whistling a tune and ignore the death and destruction these morons have unleashed. It does mean, however, that I don’t initially jump into the doom and gloom scenarios, predicting total destruction of the Republic because some idiots ran the show for eight years. We will survive these two clowns and their cohorts. We’ll still have an election next year. It will be fairer than some in the past, less fair than others. There will be nasty politics as always – even our Founding Fathers weren’t immune from that. There will be election fraud. There will be greed, and lies, and backstabbing. There will be abuses of power. There will be corruption. The mass media will be controlled and manipulated. The next president will have an enormous amount of work to do, trying to make up for the terrible things we have done the last six years.
    As if these things have never happened in the USA before?
    One thing I always had to explain to my Imperial British Cousins is that America is the land of extremes. The pendulum perpetually swings. There rarely is a middle ground on anything for very long. We’ve swung into the Unitary Executive with the likes of Dick Cheney. It is slowing down as gravity pulls us back towards the center.
    I do believe we are a power in decline. But it isn’t because of Bush and Cheney alone. They have simply accelerated the process through their foreign policy fiasco and fiscal overreach. No, we’re in decline because our corporations put profit before country and our citizens are disengaged from politics. Our corporations are forcing us into a race to the bottom. Only half of eligible voters actually show up on Election Day and probably only 30-40% of those are fully engaged. My guess is that no more than 20% of eligible voters are actually paying attention day in and day out. We get the government we deserve.
    We’ll survive and become a former empire. Personally, I don’t think that will be a bad thing. Life in Britain, Spain, Italy and France is pretty darn good. Being the Big Dawg is a lot of work…work that our Founders never intended us to do. Maybe then we can concentrate on what’s best for us citizens rather than playing empire.

  10. JohnS says:

    Also note that in Game Theory, there are cooperative games and non-cooperative games.
    In cooperative games, groups of players form coalitions that enforce cooperative behavior. The game becomes a competition between coalitions of players.
    In non-cooperative games, the players can cooperate, but that cooperation must be self-enforcing.
    Cheneyism is a zero-sum, non-cooperative game.

  11. Duncan Kinder says:

    An important factor in one’s ability to negotiate effectively is one’s credibility, or – in strict financial terms – one’s credit rating.
    Nations, like individuals, have variable credit.
    This ultimately affects one’s ability to exercise raw power.
    A classic example is the 18th century struggle between England and France. Because of the South Sea Bubble, an 18th Century financial panic, France but not England defaulted. England, meanwhile, through the Bank of England, built up a sound financial structure. As a result, throughout that century, England enjoyed a much higher credit than France. Therefore, although until the Industrial Revolution England had a much smaller economy than did France, nevertheless it could through borrowing raise more funds to wage wars. This, in turn, enabled it to have better logistics than did France.
    Somewhat similarly, the Soviet Union in the 1980’s lacked the United States’ credit. The much criticized Reagan deficits were actually a brilliant exploitation of the United States’ superior credit to overwhelm the Soviet Union. “How many divisions does the Pope have?” Stalin once asked. By the late 80’s the Soviets discovered their credit to have been so drained that the Pope did not need any.
    Bush / Cheney, in contrast, are depleting the United States’ credit. They can indeed rush around, issuing signing statements and immunizing Blackwater, but in the process they are making all of us grab our wallets. The deficits are but external signs of this decline in credibility.
    The federal government now lacks the effective moral authority to levy a draft or to raise taxes. I am surprised that foreign governments remain so willing to lend to us and am certain that, in the intermediate future, this will end.
    As a result, with all due respects, I regard Col. Lang’s writings about the need to revamp the military post Iraq as academic. We ain’t going to be able to afford anything like that.

  12. chimneyswift says:

    This is nitpicking, I admit, but is the statement, “in cultures derived primarily from imperial Rome, like the Eastern Christian world and the Muslim world” accurate with regards to the Muslim world? I guess I never would have thought that.

  13. Martin K says:

    The tragedy is that Afghanistan alone was doable. As was Iraq, if the Bremer admin hadnt been so amazingly corrupt, and the Phase IV nonexistent.
    Why dont the democrats drag Bremer for a hearing, by the way? Those Hercules-airlifted moneybricks, what happened to that history?

  14. Martin K says:

    BTW, check out Malcolm Nance over on Small Wars journal concerning waterboarding. He sets the tables straight.
    : waterboarding-is-torture-perio/index.php
    Sorry, the linking thing doesnt function on Mac.

  15. VietnamVet says:

    One only has to listen to Norman Podhoretz, Foreign Policy Adviser to Rudy Giuliani, godfather of the neoconservatives, on last night’s NewsHour to realize we all are screwed. The USA is led by nutcase ideologues who are intent on overthrowing the Iranian government by bombing the Iranians to back to the Stone Age. What is more horrible is that neither Hillary nor the Democratic Congress are attacking these ideologues. Apparently Democrats are content that the most radical elements in Iranian society will seize control as America bombs away; that the federal government goes bankrupt; not to mention, endless gasoline lines nor world revulsion at American Bad Guys, the Cowboys of the Apocalypse.

  16. anna missed says:

    “Now, in cultures derived primarily from imperial Rome, like the Eastern Christian world and the Muslim world, there’s an assumption that the world is composed of a singular hierarchy, where equality is equality of submission to a higher entity. Negotiations would then obviously be negotiations of surrender once it was ascertained who would “naturally” win an all-out battle.”
    I think it is here, that a critical conflation between religion and politics has occurred in U.S. society and is a major source of our woes. There is a parallel in the rise of both the new republicanism and the current reconstructionists religious right where both have used the other for political gain. Both entities have of course, always been latent in American culture, especially the Puritan/Calvinist/Scots Irish zero-sum theological branch, along with the manifest destiny predilection for authority worship and empire. But it hasn’t been until recently that the two have been merged into a full symbiosis. Where these religious (worship) structures such as irresistable grace, obedience to faith, or unconditional election (T.U.L.I.P. in Calvinist speak) have been templated into the quasi-authoritarian nationalism where obedience to god is replaced by obedience to country and is as paramount to it as it is inflexible to question. Reduced a tad more, we’re living in a “you’re either with us or against us” world, which because of the doubly deep entrenchment of religion, is going to be one hell of hole to dig out of.

  17. Jose says:

    Col, maybe we need to look beyond Hegel and “Zero-sum” to something more innate:
    “Since the time of Homer every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.”
    – Edward Said
    This is the only way I can explain the lack of empathy of the American people to what our actions in the Middle East are causing.
    Are we really “winning the hearts and minds?”

  18. sheerahkahn says:

    And what will it matter, to whom will care?
    The actors are in their places, the curtain is up, the play is on…there is no stopping it now.
    No, this must play out now, for to many in the US have bought into the Republican lie, to many harbor the same thoughts as Cheney, the NeoCons, and many have thought the way Bush has thought about “just do it!”
    Unilateralism, the hobgoblin of all international relationships, and our mastubatory foreign policy has finally been revealed and we are now faced with the consequences.
    Like a train wreck, we can see the engine from the back cars slamming into the mountain, and though we have not felt the impact yet…we know it’s coming.
    Yes, things are only going to get worse, but hopefully, hopefully when it’s all over with we can reshape our national collective thought process and realize that the constitution, with it’s many gaps, still had at it’s core the idea that people should be treated with respect and dignity. Also, that people in government are still people who are tempted by the same thing that has tempted Emperors and Kings throughout history and that a robust Congress, Judicial Branch, and Executive branch will check the accumulation of power of the others.
    I await the rebirth of our Republic.

  19. JohnH says:

    Once again the lemmings have been convinced to march into the sea. Of course, real lemmings are not that stupid (it’s an urban legened). But apparently a majority of Americans are just that stupid, despite having been fooled before–52% favor bombing Iran:
    No wonder politicians regard “the people” with contempt, an amorphous force to be ordered according to their needs.

  20. TR Stone says:

    How fortunate, that there are only certain families capable of leading governments. This phenomenon is playing out here, in Argentina and Russia. The people need leaders and obviously only heredity, or certain individuals (with skills or skills transferred by injection) are capable of supplying that leadership.

  21. DeLudendwarf says:

    CW Zoomie:
    You might enjoy Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 1816.
    Does what Jefferson was describing then sound familiar?

  22. Jim Schmidt says:

    “I await the rebirth of our Republic.” sheerahkahn
    Isaac Asimov, in his 1940’s Foundation Trilogy published in “Astounding Science Fiction” and later as three novellas, tells of the Mule, a human mutant with telepathic powers, who arises spontaneously to upset the studied statistical mechanical tinkering of the Foundation Psychohistorians and casts the Empire into disarray against all forecasts. My mental image of the Mule back when I read this series was along the lines of Ghengis Khan, an image echoing the point made by Edward Said in the quotation provided by Jose. Of course, the current period did not suffer from want of other, more brutal savants, but Ghengis Khan, exotic in historical distance, sufficed.
    However, if I were to recast the Mule today selecting from contemporary personalities, I’d choose someone less brutish, someone smoother, someone cleverer, someone more singular in point of view, someone socially charming while ruthlessly insidious and deadly effective in undermining the existing order. I’d pick Dick.
    But, I’m not about to despair. I read the ending.
    Dick, like the Mule who triggered the downfall of the fictional Empire, has damaged our republic, but the extent and residual is unknown. It might take a long time to even figure out what he and his self-righteous, self-saved fool of a boss did these last several years given the intense secrecy, lack of written and electronic records, enforcement of personal fealty and a dawning awareness of personal liability that keeps lips sealed. But, what he didn’t do — and this is his lasting legacy — was permanently silence and cow all his critics. Now, he faces an awakening congress, public servants with horrors to tell and a critical, aroused public. Cheney and Bush’s revolutionary theories of the unitary executive, of the unaccountable monarch, will, I think (I hope), end with this presidency.
    The Mule was neutralized, leaving the pre-existing order in shambles, but, chaos breeds opportunity, the galaxy both survived and thrived, and my hope is, after what may be a VERY long final year of this dangerous nonsense, we will analyze the microstate of Dick Cheney’s worldview, learn from it, and then relegate it to a probability state approaching zero where it justly deserves to whither in shameful disrepute.
    Long live the Republic.

  23. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"Both entities have of course, always been latent in American culture, especially the Puritan/Calvinist/Scots Irish zero-sum theological branch.">
    Anna Missed,
    I would suggest that one ideological strain we see in the contemporary “Religious Right” is what some refer to as “Neo-Calvinism” a late 19th and early 20th century development imported from the Netherlands in the 1920s.
    As I am working on a book on the “Christian Right” for a London publisher, I have had to go into all this with some precision.
    The interesting aspect is the relationbship to the Michigan Dutch-American community and also to such figures as the Rev. Carl McIntire (Presbyterian extremist) of the 1920s-60s era.
    Specifically, the ideology emerges from one Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), an extremist theologian who created his own political party. I suggest that his political party is a model for some in the current “Religious Right.” [It is not just a Falwell Baptist thing or a Robertson Pentacostal thing by any means.]
    The owner of Blackwater, for example, started out in this Neo-Calvinist milieu in western Michigan. And you have the Amway folks and etc….

  24. anna missed says:

    Clifford Kiracofe,
    Another good reference is “Calvinists Incorporated, Welsh Immigrants on Ohio’s Industrial Frontier” by Anne Kelly Knowles. It covers the Welsh/Calvinist influence in Ohio’s early iron ore production 1840-90. An area that today is 98% white, has a 30k average income, median house value 70k, and remains over70% republican. Can we say lingering influences?

  25. JohnH says:

    While you all have been waxing philosophical, Michael Schwartz has shown the economic side of the zero sum game.
    At one point someone familiar with the thinking of the administration said that it was their belief that every drop of oil China got was one less for us. The result? Control the oil and distribute it according to whether the country in question had been behaving according to US dictates or not. The mother of all imperial power grabs.

  26. taters says:

    Dr. Kiracofe,
    I eagerly await your book’s release. it promises to be a fascinating read. I live in Eastern Michigan – Detroit.
    Then again, we had good old Father Couglin here.
    Yes, the Amway/DeVos’….

  27. Thanks DeLudendwarf. Enjoyed reading that letter.
    There is truly nothing new under the sun.
    One point that popped out to me was this…
    I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.
    The idea of debt shackling the people was something that came up in Michael Moore’s movie about healthcare. Moore was interviewing a British lefty politician (I think the guy was a Lib Dem) and the pol said exactly the same thing about debt!
    A socialist, no less!

  28. paladin says:

    They assume all fights have one winner? The basis for that beleif resides in ……?
    Safer to say they beleive that some fights should only have one winner.

  29. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Thanks Taters,
    Chuck Colson functions as a key operator working with the Holland, Michigan Dutch Reformed crowd and the Pat Robertson and Falwell Fundies. The extremist Dutch Reformed circles key on the work of Neo-Calvinist theoretician and politician Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920).
    The project is the construction of an imperial theocratic state which Kevin Phillips well outlines, and documents, in his book “American Theocracy.” The extremist Dutch Reformed crowd provide a level of sophistication lacking in the Robertson and Falwell circles.
    For contemporary examples of such extremist Neo-Calvinist theology and politics one can examine the influence of a Kuyper follow on, Hermann Dooyeweerd, who was influenctial in South Africa in the apartheid era.
    A key interface between the extremist Dutch Reformed circles in the Netherlands and US academic and church circles was Cornelius van Tyl (1895-1897).
    Where they are heading seems to be, one might argue, toward the transformation of the US Republican Party into a variant of the extremist Dutch Reformed party in the Netherlands in the late 19th and early 20th century.
    The extremist party in the Netherlands was styled the “Anti-Revolutionary Party” and was led by Kuyper who even became Prime Minister. For which see,
    I would appreciate any information SST readers may have on the relationship between this Dutch political party and the German National Socialist Party during the late 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s and between this party and other European Fascist parties and movements.

  30. I wonder what Cheney’s core beliefs are at the philosophical level having to do with ‘who gets to rule’.
    One might put this in more formal terms via one of the fundamental questions of politics: What justifies and legitimizes the power to rule over the citizens of a state?
    If somebody ONLY believes in might makes right, they are a kind of nihilist.
    (Ironically, and superficially, this is a version of a naive evolutionary perspective by dint of its law of the jungle flavor.)
    Whereas, the classic conflict is between the justified and legitimate claims of the superior to rule (wisely, prudently, virtuously) over the inferior, and, the modern idea that, at least, any such claim is contestable because the inferior may in fact have the superior claim.
    No longer does a ‘modern’ unwittingly accept that a ruler (interposed between commoner and God) rightly claims legitimacy due to this positional superiority in a so-called chain of being.
    Yet, the problem of the inferior-mob-commons, is woven deeply into our individualistic ethic and tends to resolve in the direction not favorable to Jeffersonian values.
    Todd Gitlin: “Faludi reminds us of another weird demonization pattern. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Bill Bennett, Ann Coulter and Camille Paglia agreed that (in Faludi’s words) “women’s liberation had ‘feminized’ our men and, in so doing, left the nation vulnerable to attack.”
    We live in extremely ironic times. If you listen to CSPAN call-ins you’d be apprised of the currency of ‘taking the gloves off’ and see Cheney’s 20% support to represent the push back against the darn ‘feminine’ (!) Constitution.
    …longstanding is the wish for a potent daddy, no? Fear-mongering so security anxieties trump anxiety over the deprivation of civic democracy?
    Yes, Pat, Cheney is royalista but I would guess he’s not much concerned with prudence or virtue; if he;s not, he is literally a “post-conservative” and an “anti-traditionalist.” perhaps too: a nihilist; (‘anything goes as long as me and my own survive.’)
    Where does one stand?

  31. Jim Schmidt says:

    I heard the most amazing thing today on PBS Newshour. Rich Lowry, who writes for the National Review, made the following statement as a rebuttal to several points made by Mark Shields that waterboarding is torture:
    “I don’t think waterboarding, just to go back to that issue, I don’t think it’s torture. And the thing is you’ve had people like Chuck Schumer on the record, in a 2004 hearing, endorsing torture in a ticking time bomb sort of scenario. Bill Clinton has endorsed torture in a ticking time bomb. So has John McCain.”
    Rich Lowry
    National Review
    PBS, OnLine Newshour Reports
    Waterboarding isn’t torture?
    The rationale offered by Rich is based on Consequentialism: that the ends justify the means. This rationale has several criticisms:
    First, it depends on an all-knowing, neutral judge, that is, someone who knows all the consequences and can weight each outcome to make a moral decision. Second, it assumes an omniscient understanding of the mind of the victim to know a priori that the victim processes the answers sought. Third, it defines any means as good as long as the subjectively judged ends are good. Fourth, since ends can only be judged after a gross assault has produced a measured outcome, no prior restraint exists to prevent a ghastly action against a victim found retroactively innocent.
    Unfortunately, these complications are all swept aside by the simplicity of the ticking time bomb scenario. The time bomb scenario is oft cited as a general justification for torture, but is so narrow and implausible it may never have occurred or will never occur.
    But, ask any of the smart people who support torture and you will be hearing about the ticking time bomb rationale, or some other tough guy sophistry framing torture as interrogation as long as no organ failure or death occurs.
    So, what’s up with this kind of thinking where we now have the smart crowd apologists vouching for torture as an OK method of interrogation counter to a preponderance of moral precedence, settled law and treaties stating the exact opposite?
    How has the boat so slipped its’ mooring that an American citizen can seriously assert that waterboarding isn’t torture, and even if it was, it is justified, reasonable and method of choice by the smart, tough operator?
    Torture is evil and a grievous offense against the fundamental principles that govern our society. Why are some of us so anxious to excavate and crawl back into the septic pit so rightfully filled, roped off and marked as a hazard by the Nuremberg court, other war crimes trials, our own laws and treaties?
    Rich Lowry and his fellow travelers who spew the argument that waterboarding isn’t torture and torture is OK need to be vigorously opposed.

  32. johnf says:

    Stephen Calhoun
    >(Ironically, and superficially, this is a version of a naive evolutionary perspective by dint of its law of the jungle flavor.)
    Social Darwinism from Herbert Spencer onwards, “survival of the fittest”, really hit its stride with late C19th imperialism, spread through marxist-leninism and fascism and nazism, and, according to Ian Burama, still festers in areas of South-Eastern and Eastern Asian politics.
    The real smoothe successor to it, however, so much more stylish and sleek, so much more fashionably anti-Christian and anti-religion, is Richard Dawkins magic phrase, ‘The Selfish Gene.”
    Amongst our new super-rich financial elite it is the silver phrase of self-justification. Jeffrey Skilling at Enron was particularly fond of it.

  33. I watched Lowry yesterday evening on Lehrer trot out the trifecta of dead on arrival waterboard spin: the argument by example; the two wrongs make a right; and the novel ‘if journalists subject themselves to it how can it really be torture?’.
    I note the 5 minute scenario is ridiculous just as a matter of structure because the captives goal is to stop the torture This can be accomplished by: telling the truth; telling the truth that turns out incorrect; telling a lie. Of course even if the captive doesn’t know he or she will say something, anything. There’s a fantasy about human behavior underneath this ill example used by the pro gloves-off crowd.
    Reflect on consequentionalist assumptions as they crop up on the underside of much so-called “realpolitik.” In the ‘our bastard’ ethos the means disrespect virtue and innocence where necessary.
    More irony: many times on the surface tis realism, underneath is often magical thinking, delusion, ignorance. It’s hard to force someone to share one’s own differentially cultured interests.
    My own (psycho-anthropological) prejudice compels me always to wonderment when I encounter the assumption held by many that another person’s mind is simply a lesser version of one’s own.
    A lot of ships have been launched because of this.
    Radical neoconservatism is very liberal in its call for the development and better fitness of the Other.
    johnf, see David Sloan Wilson, Beyond Demonic Memes.

  34. anna missed says:

    Then of course, there is the other American maxim of “pragmatism”, invented by C.S. Peirce and William James – that asserted that utility is a truth factor, and was (immediately, in its own day) subverted into subjectivism and idealism; What works is true, or what gives satisfaction is true. Or in our own time, perhaps the assumption that “might makes right”. In the political realm being a “pragmatist” is distinctly American, as a birthright, and as an icon of empiricism and objectivity, but like so many “Americanisms” is easily subverted in service of shortsighted “utility”.

  35. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Stephen Calhoun and johnst,
    The issue is a serious and accurate analysis of Cheney’s, and his Neoconservative circle’s, mindset. They are Straussians which is a technical term and is precise though complex.
    It is important to note the “Jacobinism” dimension as my friend Prof. Claes Ryn at Catholic University does in his excellent work (“American the Virtuous”). We must also include more explicitly the Straussian factor in Neoconservatism. Strauss’s mentor in Germany was Carl Schmitt, the Nazi legal theoretician. The mindset is Nietzschean. And, if you wish, contains esoteric elements from Spinoza say as it relates to the role of an initiated elite.
    Rumsfeld and Cheney have been in these Straussian circles since their days in the Ford Administration. The principal vector at this time was the Straussian Robert A. Goldwin of the University of Chicago whom Rumsfeld and Cheney adopted as their intellectual guru.
    1. There is an extensive academic literature developing on Leo Strauss, Neoconservatism, and so on. So this ideological/mindset issue has been under analysis for some time now.
    I would suggest as a point of departure:
    Shadia Drury, Leo Strauss and the American Right (New York: St. Martins, 1997). Professor Drury is thorough and she has two other related books out. She is a professor of philosophy.
    2. On the Social Darwinism theme, the source for Carl Schmitt and the German geopoliticians was in the work of the Austrian General Gustav Ratzenhofer (1842-1904). He developed a theory of racial conflict which the Nazi’s assimilated.
    Serious analysis of this ideological/mindset issue is important but it requires some work.
    The main point is that there has been a systematic effort to alter the traditional principles of the Republican Party (in particular) and the Democratic Party through the well-financed Straussian-Neoconservative penetration.
    Is it any wonder that the current Republican Party, and Lieberman Dems, have the rank smell of the European Fascism of the 1920s and 1930s? As a Republican staffer, I watched this (Neocon) penetration during my years in the US Senate in the decade of the 1980s.
    The matter is much bigger than Cheney or a few Neocons as it relates to the ideological transformation of the US political and economic elites. [And educational elites in Higher Education particularly those in departments of Political Science and Philosophy].
    It is self-evident, at least to me, the central thrust and objective of the transformation is to turn a cultural and political commitment to traditional American values as expressed in our Constitution into a commitment to their polar opposite and the destruction of our Constitutional order. Jacobin objective with Straussian methods one might say.

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