American Idealism, American Identity – Thread by @dhnexon, with Brief Comments

The main counter to Pillsy’s last tweet points beyond the Twitter fences as well as the framework within which Daniel Nexon was working: From my point of view such lower-level identities are not authentically identities unless they are identities experienced as worth the giving or giving and taking of lives. Otherwise, expressions of supposed “allegiance” would be inauthentic: not truly significant or seriously recognizable, and would in this sense reflect mere affinity, if not affectation, possibly as delusion to be exploited or unmasked or ignored, but in any event not worthy of an irrevocable stance “unto death.” Though further discussion could lead us in many different directions, I’ll just submit here that the problem is implicit in the invocations of “thymos” and, in America, “Jacksonianism” in attempts to explain the rise of the Alt-Right and possibly similar movements.

Tweetstorm re-posted with permission of Daniel [email protected]

Notes:

  1. (Pillsy []
  2. (Pillsy []
  3. (Pillsy []

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4 Comments on "American Idealism, American Identity – Thread by @dhnexon, with Brief Comments"

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pillsy
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pillsy

I think it’s a common liberal desire, and one that isn’t at all easily obtained, to allow people to commit to those identities without ever having their commitment tested to the point of destruction. One of the great triumphs of American liberalism (mostly accomplished before left-liberalism was a distinct thing) was to allow Christian sectarian identities to peacefully coexist without the “unto death” part.

Viewing this as some sort of anodyne state of nature is where, I think, left-liberals tend to veer into “hollow universalism”. It’s a wonderful and rare form of freedom, and to quote from the more traditional American right (ctrl-right? Top 40 right?), freedom isn’t free. It’s taken a lot of work, sacrifice and care to make it possible.

As an aside, I wonder if the reason jihadists seem to pose a challenge to liberalism wildly disproportionate to any level of physical threat (relative to, say, communism in the 20th century) is because jihadism is maniacally focused on mass murder/suicide as a demonstration of authenticity.

Kolohe
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Kolohe

I’m not sure if the prism Nexon is using here works. Not the least reason is it’s tough for me to put Ike, Reagan and both Bushes on the same plane even if one is trying to draw out a distinction with Trump.

I also remember a lot of Soros haterade from the ‘traditional’ right on the internet during the Bush II administration, in the vein of ‘he’s not promoting liberal democracy, he’s promoting an international progressive socialist agenda’

To me, it still comes down to that the foreign policy establishments, left and right, have never really come to grips with the ‘what ought to be’ questions that emerged in the aftermath of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Defeating Nazis and other fascists was easy and straightforward. Defeating Communism was a longer slog, but eventually accomplished (with a lot more people taking credit for it than they deserve). Then after a decade of just operating in the moment, a whole lot of people thought they found their new lodestone after 9/11, but Bush went on a disastrous neo-Wilsonian adventure, and Obama couldn’t decide whether to fish or cut bait.

wpDiscuz

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And this programmer suggested a way to avoid user input all together:

Eventually, programmers on Reddit started making fully-functioning, interactive versions of the awful forms, like this and this and this. Someone even created one out of the classic game Snake. The meme hasn’t stopped for weeks now, and iterations of it seem to be growing more detailed and elaborate.

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Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey’s citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome. This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin on a successful referendum result in Crimea if that event had been held in 2017 rather than 2014.

Public disquiet and behind-the-scenes pressure on key illiberal allies is an imperfect policy position. It is still a heck of a lot more consistent with America’s core interests than congratulating allies on moving in an illiberal direction. In congratulating Erdogan, Trump did the latter.

For all the talk about Trump’s moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it’s time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts:

  1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States;
  2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works;
  3. The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values.
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He sensed that the public wanted relief from the burdens of global leadership without losing the thrill of nationalist self-assertion. America could cut back its investment in world order with no whiff of retreat. It would still boss others around, even bend them to its will...

There was, to be sure, one other candidate in the 2016 field who also tried to have it both ways—more activism and more retrenchment at the same time. This was, oddly enough, Hillary Clinton... Yet merely to recall Clinton’s hybrid foreign-policy platform is to see how pallid it was next to Trump’s. While she quibbled about the TPP (which few seemed to believe she was really against), her opponent ferociously denounced all trade agreements—those still being negotiated, like the TPP, and those, like NAFTA and China’s WTO membership, that had long been on the books. “Disasters” one and all, he said. For anyone genuinely angry about globalization, it was hard to see Clinton as a stronger champion than Trump. She was at a similar disadvantage trying to compete with Trump on toughness. His anti-terrorism policy—keep Muslims out of the country and bomb isis back to the Stone Age—was wild talk, barely thought through. But for anyone who really cared about hurting America’s enemies, it gave Trump more credibility than Clinton’s vague, muddled talk of “safe zones” ever gave her.

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State of the Discussion

bob
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+ Wade, your last paragraph is crucial to your argument. Certainly it expresses economically the source of the weight of a country's foreign policy, and [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
CK MacLeod
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+ Not sure where you got the idea that I ever wrote “[President Trump] doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!" - bob's idea for a possible rallying [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
Wade McKenzie
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+ The conversation that you and Bob were having at the time that I wrote my comment had everything to do with the recent missile strike [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic

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