“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.

Home Page  Public Email  Twitter  Facebook  YouTube  Github   

Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

Posts in this series

8 comments on ““no uplifting realist”

Commenting at CK MacLeod's

We are determined to encourage thoughtful discussion, so please be respectful to others. We also provide a set of Commenting Options - comment/commenter highlighting and ignoring, and commenter archives that you can access by clicking the commenter options button (). Go to our Commenting Guidelines page for more details, including how to report offensive and spam commenting.

  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.

Commenter Ignore Button by CK's Plug-Ins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

Comment →

Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

Comment →

[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

Comment →
CK's WP Plugins


Extraordinary Comments

CK's WP Plugins