Maybe we can rotate positions as president and secretary-treasurer of the Larison Fan Club, but I'm still left to wonder what he's really about. I may make a post out of this if I ever run across a definitive positive statement of his on his own "ideals." He describes himself as a "religious conservative," but never seeks to articulate his views explicitly in relation to his religious beliefs or to some kind of sectarian interest - not that he's obligated to do so, but it raises questions. At some point every realism, even a Machiavellian realism, supports an ideal, a thing most precious that may have to be concealed or disguised as something else, and that more often is simply presumed, taken to be unquestionable. Von Metternich did not go to negotiation uncertain about the validity of the Austrian cause.

Does Larison believe that a less interventionist policy would be more Christian? If so, then that would make him as idealistic and missionary in his approach as anyone, and his "realist" argument becomes something like a surreptitiously idealistic appeal to the self-interest of the secular-democratic tyrant, an attempt to make him/them/us see that hurting people and breaking things doesn't do us any good either from our cravenly self-interested perspective, or from our benightedly humanitarian perspective either. A parallel logic train that eventually reduces to the same thing arises if the most important thing to Larison is not that foreign policy be more Christian in the moral sense, but that the United States of America, his home, remains a good home for his community of fellow believers. A third possibility would be that there is no coherent relationship between his "religious conservative" identity and his "realist" advocacy, that the latter is something he pursues because it appeals to him merely intellectually or by custom or habit - he had a realist teacher or some other such banal and uncritical explanation for why he does what he does and says what he says. If we take the view that, in the absence of a clear statement, there might or must still be clear connections between his preferences or ideals and his practice, then we can begin to see his critique as a kind of self-mortification of the political sensibility, a constant reminder that the world is either unsalvageable or finally dependent on miracle. There was one post of his that seemed almost to acknowledge this last possibility. I'll see if I can find it, though whether there's a good explanation or any explanation at all for why he writes as he writes may not be the most important thing about the usefulness of his writing to us.

Am now seeing Libya, or its name, in a new way, but could be I should enable comment-editing for visitors.

I'm not convinced that there weren't good arguments, real, ideal, or both, that survive the Larison counterargument, but I'm much more open than he is to the R2P and democratist cases on their own terms. Certainly at the time a failure to act would have made the preferred pro-Arab Spring stance more difficult to pull off while looking away from Bahrain and maintaining freedom to act, or not act, elsewhere. I'm also not convinced by the "imperial presidency" arguments made by some legal idealists. Maybe I'm too much of a pushover.