In discussions at this blog I will generally employ the word “liberalism” to refer to a political-philosophical doctrine, rather than to liberalism as restrictively understood in contemporary American politics. In short, I am using the historically expansive but conceptually narrow definition of “liberal” to describe the doctrine of rights or freedoms of the individual human being as crystallized by early modern metaphysics, but under a practical awareness of the evolution of politicized liberalism to include “liberal democracy,” “social liberalism,” and “welfare state liberalism” as well as the pure or pre-socialized liberalism of “libertarianism” and the de-socializing orientation of “neo-liberalism.” American “constitutional conservatism” and “neo-conservatism” also lie within this same historical horizon, though they, like all other “real existing” liberalisms if perhaps sometimes more self-consciously, often seek to integrate diverse pre- or extra-liberal contents, such as traditional religion or a quasi-religious American nationalism, within a broadly liberal, modern, and democratic project: In the present era even those who seek to situate themselves beyond the liberal and chiefly liberal democratic horizon, but within the horizon of the evolving international system, must do so in relationship to liberalism, not merely as a philosophical or intellectual task, but in response to the political-economic and cultural influence of the liberal democratic states.
On, appropriately enough, July 4 of this year, via Twitter as @hhassan140, Hassan Hassan (“HH” below) offered a provocative summary of an article on Islamists and the Arab Spring by Hussein Ibish (@ibishblog, “HI”). A colloquy between Hassan, Ibish, and myself (“CM”) ensued, its terms anticipating the same arguments, and the same situation, that informed that tweet of Hassan’s at the head of my “1st Précis.”
Michael Neumann, Professor of Philosophy (emeritus), writing at his personal blog “Insufficient Respect,” has put together an unusually thoughtful and balanced discussion of the Egyptian situation: “Has Morsi overthrown the rule of law?” Neumann explains the fundamental constitutional problem in clear terms (without relying on references to controversial German legal philosophers), and also notes in passing the contradictory positions and conduct of the self-styled liberal democratic forces – the proponents of rule of law and consensual decision-making who have responded to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood with vitriol, maximalist demands, and the torching of political offices.
Forcing or persuading Morsi and his movement to compromise will not by itself solve the Egyptian problems. It may however help to constitute a new Egyptian sovereignty along broader lines than purely Islamist ones, supply the deficits in the Islamist theory of the modern nation-state, and preserve a liberal democratic opening.
One could easily – the liberalist Twitterati have shown little hesitation on this one – compare Morsi’s assumption of the right to rule by decree with acts by Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, or a wide range of autocrats including Morsi’s immediate predecessor. If inclined, however, to support or excuse Morsi, one might instead invoke Franklin Roosevelt after or even before the 1941 American Declarations of War, or Abraham Lincoln suspending the Constitution to save constitutional order: Each was called tyrant, traitor, dictator by his political enemies, even amidst undoubted states of emergency. Now they are, generally but not universally, called “great.”
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.
We are hostages to the decision, including our own collective decision on one “decider” as opposed to another. Articles like Lewis’, if they reinforce our confidence in the existent rather than the ideal executive, help us to accommodate ourselves to a void in the law and its effects: The existence of this void can serve our needs; or it can be hemmed in politically – which is to say partially and provisionally; or it can be survived until the day it happens to kill us – but it cannot be legislated or reasoned way. So we can expand our general observation on liberalism – including the liberalism that advertises its libertarian purism or its republican virtues or its partisan conservatism, with or without the tri-corner hats and Minuteman costumes: As we know, it has nothing interesting to say about these issues. It does, however, very much like to pretend that it does.
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.
If conservatives are wrong about everything else, they may be right about this one underlying fact: A certain idea of American greatness may be slipping into the past. From that perspective, "steady incremental decline" may even begin to look like one of the better open paths.
With less and less semblance of temperamental conservatism, ever more self-destructively, nominally conservative Americans have sought in vain to immanentize as eschaton the non-immanentization of eschaton.
The alternative resolution or the other Islamic state, the one that avoids the tyrant’s despair – or, put more politically-philosophically, allows for a liberal-Islamic assimilation that would also be integrative or unitary rather than irrecuperably conflictual – would appear to rely on modes of idealization of religion that would evolve simultaneously and bi-conditionally, or, as Fadel or Fadel’s Khaldun puts it, “organically.” Their current impermissibility is a reflection of the same problem.
[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.
So, does Mitchell make any money on the work, which has been shared so many times? He uploaded a high-res image of the symbol and granted permission for anyone to use it personally for free. But for those who want to support his work or simply want something readymade, you can also buy T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, and journals emblazoned with the symbol through Threadless.“I really just want to spread the image as much as possible and cement it in history,” Mitchell says. “In all honesty, the amount I’ve made from my Threadless shop so far is still less than my hourly rate, so I don’t really see it as a big deal. If you look at my Twitter, half the replies are people wanting to know where they can buy a shirt. Threadless is happy to help them out with that, and so I’m happy to let that happen.”Now that the symbol has flooded our streets and our timelines, Mitchell just has one request: “Impeach this idiot already,” he says.
This is a Waterloo moment for Trump, the tea party and their alliance. They have been stopped in their tracks not only by Democratic opposition but because of a mutiny within their own ranks. Although never particularly liked or respected, it is now clear that they are no longer feared. The bankruptcy of their ideas and their incompetence have been exposed. Their momentum has been dissipated. Their rejection of political norms has itself been scorned. Our long national nightmare may finally be coming to an end.