Regardless of where we come down in the end on the wisdom and justifiability of the administration’s war policies, criticism that does not take the full debate and its real subject into consideration, that merely repeats what we already know – that war is awful and morally, culturally, and politically deforming; that it exceeds the terms of normal, lawful policy; that it makes us act like “barbarians” all on the way to Hell – does not deserve to be and likely will not be taken seriously.
Foreign policy is theology by proxy, not merely because all important modern theories of the state are secularized theological concepts, nor merely because the relationship of the citizen to the modern nation-state is a sacrificial commitment, but because a stance implicitly on the fate of all humankind, on the world state of states and its possible purposes, and on the right relationship of each and all of us to each and all of us, is divined before it can be analyzed or expressed.
Any opinion we form on the exception is an opinion we form about and for ourselves, of and in our own interest. Non-dialectical political science is purely pseudo-science on this matter that would be most important to it, if only it could ever remove itself from the inquiry, but every attempted movement away from the center of discussion converts necessarily and immediately into a new problem for the selfsame discussion, a new proposition of the included, the excluded, and the difference. The discussion is the tracking of this motion: We continue it for the sake of putting our prejudices to tests for them to fail. Suspicion or resistance on the part of the reader must also vary with his or her own also inextricably compromised position.
We seem to be moving gradually toward a more sustainable spheres of influence structure, an uneven geopolitical web to be intermittently traversed by ad hoc coalitions acting on interpretations of their own particular and joint interests, or regional interests, or global economic or ecological or humanitarian interests. In some ways, this result is what conservative opponents of American internationalism (whether liberal idealist, hegemonist, or just imperialist) have always wanted, but, as those same internationalists have often warned their critics, escaping global-governance idealism may not equate with more conservative outcomes. Less political globalism does not necessarily mean less global activism, least of all for a maritime military-economic power like the USA.
Unger still wants to answer the young Marx’s call upon philosophers not just to understand the world, but to change it. Wills wants to walk the same path that Unger, with impressive clarity, has marked out – for instance in the six minutes of the YouTube that few even of the mediating intellectuals will consider – but Wills wants to walk it more slowly and carefully, lest America take a detour into Rick Perry’s Texas, perhaps never to emerge, perhaps to dwell there needlessly long at needless cost. The President… has appointments.
Expressed as mere opinion, as mediocritism strongly asserted, what Strauss or any honest human being has to say about certain not-possibly-true possible truths may become effectively indistinguishable from the views of cranks, lunatics, provocateurs, and traitors. To approach such not-possibly-true possible truths at all may mean asking to be counted a Nazi, for example – or even, if not worse than as a clearer and more nearly present danger, a “neo-conservative.”
The overall dysfunctionality of a political discussion can be the product of countless such lesser dysfunctionalities, though the overall dysfunctionality of that discourse may in turn be what makes it manageable, or manageable enough. We dislike things the way they dysfunctionally are, and that is how we like things.
Though Robin sometimes seems to intend to incriminate Hayek and others by association, as with the likes of Pinochet, perhaps as a way to emphasize his continued membership in good standing on the political Left, there is nothing in the core of his argument, as opposed to its trivial polemical decorations, that a Hayekian ought to find embarrassing. To the contrary, Robin attributes "profundity and daring" to Hayek and his marginal siblings. Thought through, Robin's arguments may present at least as many difficulties to a leftist, including one operating from Robin's own presumptions, as to a conservative or to a libertarian.
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.
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.
[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.