“no uplifting realist”

Leon Wieseltier, in “Obama Was Wrong[:] The Era of Humanitarian Intervention Is Not Over”:

Barack Obama believed that he could preside over the end of humanitarian intervention, which he called simply war. He was momentously wrong… History, whose course he thought he knew, has trapped him. Obama can no longer get away with his routine as the uplifting realist. There is no such being.

Rhetorical treason against the American Idea: If Americanism is right, then it represents the uniquely both realistic and uplifting idea, the means for the real attainment of what good can really be attained, while recognition of that good as both real and really good ought to be uplifting, or authentically and therefore all the more uplifting. Americanism is not just pragmatic but pragmaticist: It does not accept that its actualizability must be diminishing, or that its endless perfectibility, or imperfections, and extensibility, or limitations, are spiritual defects. It demotes all other utopianisms, all eroticizations of lesser because merely imaginary “rights,” as relatively defective and dangerous unless understood realistically for what they are: things that never can be.

History, whose course Wieseltier often seems to think he knows, has trapped him: The failure to maintain the romance alongside the reality and the reality alongside the romance leads to transparently one-sided recitations of facts as thought known but obviously neither fully thought through nor truly known, in which whichever realized “nightmare” is purely the result of  a president’s failure of courage and vision, when, as everyone knows or ought to know, the dreary realism of the chief executive was and still remains as it could only have been: an adequation to the mood or thought or shaken will of a nation taught skepticism by the unhappy results of its last Wieseltierian fling. It is not in the nature of emotions, individual emotions or mass emotions, for any particular state of them to persist forever. In the meantime, to insist there is no such being as an uplifting realist is pure pessimism – reality as inherently depressive – and completely contrary to the yearnings that Wieseltier, as best friend of the historically lovelorn, or like Ahab to the “sanely woeful” Blacksmith, wishes to encourage in us once again.

8 comments on ““no uplifting realist”

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  1. I don’t know if Obama has it right or not. But it seems that those who say he has it wrong, that it is not enough, don’t quite say what is right, what is enough. I will take this sort of thing seriously when it says “the US and allies should invade Iraq/Syria with x number of troops, be committed for a minimum of x years at a cost of $x to be raised in the following manner. After that, I/S will be (select where on the continuum of tolerable to glorious), ruled by (select us or them).” Or something.

    The point is not to assert one knows the course of history, but to be clear about what one’s goals and intentions are.

  2. Am tempted to make light of Biden’s “Gates of Hell” plan, but since everyone’s taking pot-shots at it, I’ll refrain. I don’t know though that we can require – and certainly we can’t expect – a higher level of specificity from O critics. Some honesty and a refusal to seek or assert partisan advantage, or at least an acknowledgment that cause and effect doesn’t get re-set every election cycle, would be enough for me.

    • Quite so. I do think what you suggest entails at least a ballpark, or at least a part of town level of specificity for at least 2 of the quantitative specifics.

      So what I’m suggesting might be satisfied by the advocates of war saying “we need a million troops and a shitload of $”, Or, “we needs boots on the ground for 50 yrs”. There probably are some single condition statements that would make the point. “We need a war tax to do this.” “We will need to start drafting people into the military to do this.”

    • With a big ol’ sword I guess, at least for the special cases.

      Timely of THE STRAIN to give us a brand new horde of implacable monsters who merely look human, and of THE LAST SHIP to give us plain evil Russkis of a type possibly not seen since the early days of the Cold War. Will be interesting to see if THE AMERICANS whenever it returns shows the pressure of events somehow.

  3. the Strain was published four years ago, DelToro was working on as a screenplay for years before, you know how that works.

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