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Waiting for the Advent of the Sunset Poet

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I see it in the Greyhound buses with porta-potties for bathrooms. I see it in the service on our airlines that would be considered subpar, even shameful by most of the industrialized world. I see it in our near total lack of high speed rail (AmTrak’s Acela being the only one), despite the fact that it is a proven technology and can turn a profit. Perhaps I see it most often in the Americans I see overseas; from what I’ve seen in Asia, if there’s a white guy who’s dressed shabbily, he’s almost certainly American. I certainly see it in the idea held by many politicians that it’s somehow in America’s best interests to suppress the vote.

America is now unable to put a man on the moon. We depend upon the Russians to get our astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The most American-made car is the Toyota Camry, closely followed by the Honda Accord. Our merchant marine fleet is almost nonexistent. Our universities are still the best in the world, but our K-12 school system is lamentable. Worst of all, we lack the national will to correct any of these.

How did America reach this unenviable position? Many would blame partisan politics, but that’s like blaming a baby’s cry on a poopy diaper when the real problem is the parent sitting at the computer ignoring the crying baby.

As a nation and as a people, we’ve stopped trying, we’ve stopped competing. We’ve stopped striving for greatness, for achieving an ever higher standard of living; indeed, there’s a significant section of the population who believes that projects on a grand scale are somehow unpatriotic. Gone are the days when the people of a city or a state would band together to support great works like the Space Needle, or the St. Louis Arch or Mount Rushmore which become indelible landmarks, instantly recognizable symbols. Unless it’s a sports stadium or something related directly to the business community, such great projects are viewed with scorn as wastes of taxpayer money, never mind that each of these have since brought in many times their construction and operation costs.

For some time it’s been my opinion that since America was #1 for most of the 20th century, we learned to rest on our laurels, and learned to assume that if an idea didn’t come from America, then it must not be a good idea. When I was growing up, it certainly seemed that we were taught that we could only be happy if we lived in America, that America was special, that Lincoln was right when he termed America as Earth’s “last, best hope.” When our soldiers went overseas during Vietnam, they sometimes referred to coming home to America as going back to “the World,” and laughed when the locals were offended at the idea that they and their nation were somehow not part of the World. Witness the ongoing debate about American exceptionalism; despite the fact that (along with fifteen other nations) we’re twentieth on the list of nations by literacy rate, and thirty-sixth on the list of nations by life expectancy; a rank that we share with Denmark and Cuba.

I suspect that the idea of American exceptionalism exemplifies our endemic arrogance and complacency, and the willful ignorance that are their constant companions, and I would submit that these are precisely what brought down every great empire of the past. After a society and culture has spent a few generations at the top, it becomes a societal presumption that it’s number one, and that’s the natural order of things. And the people of that society become ever more resistant to ideas and concepts from outside that society, even when those ideas and concepts are crucial to the improvement and longevity of that society.

One of my favorite poems is Kipling’s White Man’s Burden. Certainly not for its apparently racist undertones, for such was the context of the times, but for how precisely it captured the passing of the torch of global supremacy from England to America. In the final verses Kipling warns us that at the end, when our time of supremacy is fast becoming a matter of history rather than of currency, we will be judged to see whether we truly belong in the first rank of the great empires of human history.

For centuries England ruled the waves, and for a time held the greatest empire the world had ever seen, an empire where the sun never set. But they had the foresight and courage to recognize and accept America’s ascension foreseen by Kipling and made official by the Great War. But America’s supremacy is coming to a close, whether due to the faster pace of the times or our own cultural failings or, more likely, both. We are fast coming to the last stanza of Kipling’s poem:

Take up the White Man’s burden!
Have done with childish days–

The lightly-proffered laurel,
The easy ungrudged praise:
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!

Our peers? The great empires of the past: China, Rome, and above all, England. Their empires lasted far longer than our own, but I would submit that the reason their empires were much longer-lived is due to modern technology and the faster pace of change in the world of today.

Will we have the great good graces that England had when she passed that torch of supremacy to us? Will we have a poet with the foresight of Kipling who will help us understand the irresistible march of history? Poetry is the truest of arts, and perhaps the sunset of America’s supremacy will be heralded by another form of art, whether in song or in film; but the artist must have the soul of a poet, and I say the time of this sunset poet is now at hand.

I suspect we can all agree that the next nation to take on the mantle of world leadership will be China. If China does take the torch of supremacy from America, then that is a new thing, for it has been the pattern over the centuries that once a people has known the greatness of empire, when they have stood at the pinnacle of power for generations and ruled not only by might but also by cultural and educational influence, once they descend from that summit, they never again ascend it. It looks as if China may be the first to break that pattern. But how many centuries did it take before they as a nation were ready to do so? That is indeed a macrosociological question that begs to be addressed, for the answer just might give a glimmer of hope that America may one day rise again.

But the America of today is falling, and Robert A. Heinlein illustrated in four sentences what I’ve taken an entire article to say: “The two highest achievements of the human mind are the twin concepts of ‘loyalty’ and ‘duty.’ Whenever these twin concepts fall into disrepute, get out of there fast! You may possibly save yourself, but it is too late to save that society. It is doomed.”

Loyalty without a true sense of duty is misguided. Duty without a true sense of loyalty is blind. Without these true senses of loyalty and duty, we cannot have a national will strong enough to compete or achieve, much less maintain a position of real leadership in the free world. Our decline will probably not be sudden; we’ll still be the largest economy in the world for years to come, and our military will be second to none for at least two more decades, but we will nonetheless diminish to a modern equivalent of Italy, forever looking back at those glorious days when all roads led to Rome. The best we can hope for now is the advent of a sunset poet to help us face with courage, with the trademark stiff upper lip of our English forebears, our descent from supremacy.

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About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • Clavos

    A couple of your indicators exist for reasons having nothing to do with the decline of America, Glenn:

    The lack of high speed rail hinges oin the fact that America is an auto-centric society, and despite predictions to the contrary, not likely to give up its cars in favor of trains, no matter how fast they go. And for trips greater than 500 miles, the airplanes are much faster.

    The merchant marine is almost nonexistent thanks to the maritime unions, who made it too expensive to operate American flagged ships. Many of the current fleets flagged elsewhere are, in fact American-owned; especially the cruise lines.

    America is declining, I agree; but our population’s increasing dependence on the largess of the government for their sustenance is, in my opinion, the primary reason for the decline.

    Americans have lost their gumption and spirit; we’ve become a nation of whiners.

  • Anarcissie

    There is already a poet of American decline who has come and gone: Allen Ginsberg, whose oeuvre includes Howl, Wichita Vortex Sutra, and The Fall of America. Ginsberg, of course, did not locate America in industrial power or imperial might, but in culture, especially moral culture. Kipling made a similar point in ‘Recessional’ in somewhat more traditional language and meter. It’s too bad only hippie intellectual types ever listen to these people before it’s too late.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    I think you missed my point – again, the root cause is not partisan politics, it’s not unions or the lack thereof, or the fact that we’re a nation of whiners or a nation of “your problem is not my problem” adherents. The poopy diaper is not what’s really causing the baby to cry.

    It’s the hubris of supremacy, and willful ignorance is ever its developmentally-disabled offspring.

  • John Lake

    Our problem is not in a lack of railroads. It is in a growing immoral culture, and in the devolving of our religions. The “Stranger, in a Strange Land” grows stranger still with every passing day.

  • jamminsue

    Glenn,

    Excellent, your poopy diapers comment shows the true face of partisanship beautifully.

  • jamminsue

    John – whose morals?

  • Igor

    Anarcissie,

    Thanks for mentioning Ginsberg. It’s probably difficult for the typical modern American to understand how shocking and revolutionary “Howl” was in it’s day.

    Clavos takes the opportunity to trot out the same old tired rightist talking points propaganda. One might well wonder when he will tire of sucking up to the Perfumed Princes he tries to sell overpriced boats to by constantly muttering words of encouragement and justification in their ears, or whatever part of the anatomy he is closest to at the moment.

  • Igor

    That last phrase should read “…whatever part of their anatomy his lips are closest to at the moment”.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    It should be noted that people have been predicting the decline and fall of America for generations…and I guess now it’s my turn. Time will tell if I’m right.

  • Clavos

    One might well wonder when he will tire of sucking up to the Perfumed Princes he tries to sell overpriced boats to…

    As long as they keep selling: never.

    That last phrase should read “…whatever part of their anatomy his lips are closest to at the moment”.

    Usually their anuses, but sometimes their penises.

    Whatever it takes…

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    “a growing immoral culture, and in the devolving of our religions.”

    Right. Ever since the kids starting doing the jitterbug, it’s been all downhill

  • Glenn Contrarian

    El B –

    No, our descent began when we began having the mindset that “if it’s not an American idea, then it must not be good for America”. I’d say it began in the 1950’s in the afterglow of our victory in WWII, and cemented itself in our national psyche when we landed on the moon.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Shoot, I thought El Bicho was dead serious.

  • Clavos

    EB is never dead serious…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Not when he’s dead. Perhaps when he’s alive, sometimes….

    And Roger – this article is partially because of your encouragement a few months ago. Thanks.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I haven’t read it yet, but now you perked my interest.

    That would be quite a step for you, Glenn. But it’s no reason to be pessimistic. All Empires reach their zenith and then suffer a decline. I don’t see why America should be an exception.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Gave it a quick read, Glenn. You really surprised me.

    But here’s where I disagree with you. It’s not the American people who have failed, it’s our government and the rapacious economic system to which our government is beholden. We’re still have the penchant for innovation, initiative and spirit, but it has to be channeled along different lines. IMO, capitalism is done with America, squeezed it dry, which is why business is no longer investing here. But we still have the best technology that money can buy, our greatest asset. But we better start making a move soon and stop being dependent on government dole.

    I posted a link on my OWS, the prospects, thread, showing how the idea of owners-workers enterprises is gaining momentum. Take a look at it. I find it very encouraging. That’s one direction the people can take. But again, we can’t be dependent on the government doing anything for us, because once we adopt this posture, we’ll have lost all the edge.

  • Zingzing

    I work for three companies at the moment, one that is almost wholly dependent upon gov’t money, and another two that have embraced multinational strategies, although based in the USA. Needless to say, the gov’t sucking one is floundering, while the other two are thriving. being tied to the gov’t in the middle of a recession is a bad situation, although in better economic times, it can be a boon. This company trains kids in vocational careers. Both of the other companies i work for have strong ties to Asia, one in Korea and India (a cosmetics company) and the other in Japan and china (a media company). Capitalism is not dead, although it’s having its struggles right now.

  • Zingzing

    Stupid iPad. Anyway. I don’t quite know what my point is, but spreading the risk among various economies and not tying yourself to one gov’t source of revenue seems to make things easier.

  • Igor

    17-Roger: I disagree with you on this point:

    “But again, we can’t be dependent on the government doing anything for us, because once we adopt this posture, we’ll have lost all the edge.”

    But then you have surrendered the initiative to the banks and financiers who are ALWAYS and incessantly demanding attention. And they GET attention, from the generously bribed politicians and everyone they deal with.

    Your policy says “I’m finished.” Maybe that’s OK for you, but what about all the other people who will suffer because of your easy surrender.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    I don’t think I’m being pessimistic – just objective. I see what I see…and I really don’t think it’s a direct result of our economic system or our government, for as you know, we’ve had significantly worse of each before in the 20th century.

    Our government and our economy doesn’t force us to reject science, to reject what works very well in other nations, to reject any attempts at great achievements as a nation – unless it’s war, that is.

    No, Roger, I’m referring to a sea change in our national psyche, and I believe that change started when we were on top of the world and America could do no wrong and everyone wanted to BE American. At one time it was very special to BE a Roman citizen, or to BE a Union Jack-waving citizen of the British Empire.

    As history shows us, all empires fall, and all our national hubris eventually becomes only an Ozymandian dream. Such is the march of history, and we are now beginning our decline.

    And from what I understand, Mandarin is easier to learn than is English.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @20

    I’m suggesting precisely the opposite, Igor. Formation of co-ops, whether in manufacturing or finance, has precisely the effect of by-passing the business sector which is not going to deliver.

    Again, my argument is that the people are not helpless. We all have skills, it’s just a matter of pulling together.

    Again, I’m making reference here to the link on the OWS thread — which, to my mind, is setting an example.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m not arguing, Glenn, that we’re not in the period of national decline. That’s rather plain to see. My concern is with the people.

    I suppose the connection between national prosperity and the people’s prosperity has been more or less an illusion for quite some time.

    Do I make any sense?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Whatever the case, though, I think it’s rather premature for Obama to claim he’s one of finest presidents in American history:

    see clip.

  • zingzing

    kim jong il is dead. crazy.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    Oh, there’s plenty of times I am dead serious. Though it’s not likely to happen when I see nonsense like Johnny’s written.

  • Igor

    Roger,

    There have been many co-ops in the USA (after all, we have a long history of socialist societies like the Fourier societies of the 18th and 19th centuries) and Karl Marx thought that the Communist revolution would begin in the USA (it almost did in the 1920s and 30s but FDR saved capitalism with reform) but the established system is good at undermining and overcoming co-ops, just look at the history of the farm co-ops in the 20th century. They do it by surrounding and overwhelming. Basically, monopoly tactics to capture markets.

    IMO co-ops are another good idea that works well in microcosm, like communism and capitalism, but doesn’t scale up into national (or even state) size without destroying itself and all around it.

  • Igor

    So, I guess that Clavos confesses that he’s a cocksucker? And a brown-noser? Even seems to be proud of himself.

    Whatever it takes.

    10 – Clavos
    ..
    That last phrase should read “…whatever part of their anatomy his lips are closest to at the moment”.

    “Usually their anuses, but sometimes their penises.

    Whatever it takes…”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    C’mmon, Igor, that’s rather uncalled for.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And re: your #27, perhaps we ought to start thinking along micro terms so as to rebuild from scratch.

    And as to my concerns with national or state interests, I’m convinced the sooner we disavow ourselves of such notions, the better.

  • Clavos

    @#29:

    Not to worry, Roger, he’s just pixels on a screen, albeit childish ones.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    One wonders, though.

    Was everything prior to the advent of the internet and email a stuff for the storybooks? What of all the correspondence and letters between people who have never set eye one upon another? Pure junk?

  • zingzing

    no, roger, they were specifically meant for one another, while this is meant for everyone. igor’s comment was rather crass, but that’s it these days. we live in rapidly changing times, if you haven’t noticed. before long, you’ll be able to shoot my face through the internet. i hope you use abilities wisely. as uncle ben said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” spider-man, dude. stan lee is a philospherrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Of course they were, zing, but why should the present environment take away the quality. Many past correspondences, if only for lack of travel, were between pixels, a modern day term. What’s wrong with restoring a measure of dignity?

    Or are you admitting now that we live in a world increasingly populated by trolls?

    And don’t you worry now. I have no intent on shooting anyone, whether in real life or virtually. Not unless it’d be a matter of crime passionelle,

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    … take off “of” – not idiomatic

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    The President scribbling “Barack Obama” at the bottom of the National Defense Authorization Act, allowing for ANYONE accused of being a terrorist to be kept indefinitely without trial: there’s your sunset poet at work, Glenn.

    Maybe the popular movements, some against corruption in big government, some against corruption in big business (the most effective being against the collusion of both) will be such that he and his ilk won’t get away with KEEPING the US an Empire, where conquest means more than the rights and freedoms of people outside within its borders.

    And if those popular movements are successful, and the US is returned to its non-militaristic, non-Imperialistic moorings (from which it broke free, unfortunately, generations ago), I will not mourn at all the US’ transition to what you describe as “… a modern equivalent of Italy, forever looking back at those glorious days when all roads led to Rome.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Fair number of points to argue with, Glenn, as you’ve already discovered. Nevertheless, this is one of the best bits of writing you’ve submitted to Blogcritics. Kudos.

    For my part, I’ll disagree with you that China is set to be the first “revived” historical empire. The early Christian Church gained control of almost all of Europe by simply superimposing itself on the remnants of infrastructure left behind by the empire it replaced. All roads, in fact, continued to lead to Rome until the late Renaissance.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Irene –

    Except for the period between 1776 and 1789 when our present constitution was ratified, there has never been a time when America was neither militaristic nor imperialistic. Witness our century-long westward expansion and our genocide of Native Americans – that required both. So did the Civil War, Pershing’s pursuit of Zapata into Mexico, the Spanish-American War, and so on.

    When it comes to jailing people without trial, Woodrow Wilson may not have strictly done that, but he DID jail people for up to ten years for the ‘crime’ of speaking out against our involvement in WWI – merely speaking out against our role in the war was considered ‘giving aid and comfort to the enemy’.

    I daresay a case can be made that we’ve been arresting people and holding them (and sometimes executing them) without trial for a long, long time…and the only difference now is that we know about it.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not condoning any of this. I’d much rather we weren’t so militaristic and imperialistic, and I truly hate the policy that we can be arrested simply by being deemed an ‘enemy of the state’. But in reality, I really don’t think things have really changed that much – it’s just that we’re more aware of them now.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    Thank you very much – coming from you, I consider that high praise.

    I’d have to disagree with your observation about the Catholic church – I’d consider that a continuation of the Roman Empire since Constantine officially adopted Christianity (though whether he actually believed is a matter of debate) and decided at the Council of Nicea in favor of the trinitarian priests and against Arias and his followers who believed that Jesus was not God.

    A strong argument can be made that Constantine did so only because the Catholic faith was growing ever stronger in the Empire and he was doing what he could to keep the Empire from falling into internecine religious strife. And as a result of Constantine’s actions the Catholic church became much stronger, and eventually the power and influence they wielded spread across Europe even while the military might of Rome diminished and crumbled.

    In a somewhat convoluted way, that can be compared to America today – not in terms of religion, but in terms of cultural influence. Catholic influence spread as far as it could, first as part of Rome and later by the efforts of the Spanish and the French (and others, of course)…but the seat of the Catholic church was always Rome. Likewise, American cultural influence has truly spread worldwide and is now being perpetuated by the efforts other nations – as is evidenced by the ubiquity not only of the English language in almost every nation, but also of the presence of Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Starbucks, etc. I think you get my point.

    On a side note for my fellow gamers out there, in Sid Meier’s “Civilization” games, this was called a “cultural victory”.

  • Igor

    “C’mmon, Igor, that’s rather uncalled for.”

    Not at all.

    I’m NOT a person who swears or uses foul language carelessly (as you may have observed). And I’m not very interested in the personalities of disembodied characters on internet forums.

    I said what I said not to intimidate anyone with aggressive language, but to abbreviate my judgement of a correspondent.

    In my experience c*cksuckers and brown-nosers make their way in the world with flattery, cajolery and deceit rather than through their accomplishments and work. IMO they can’t be trusted; call me old-fashioned.

    I steer clear of them, and I don’t credit their words or ideas, except as a warning about themselves.

  • One Americans Rant

    Glenn,

    I hadn’t gotten around to commenting on this piece, but I do like it.

    @38 I have long thought that the gist of this “…I really don’t think things have really changed that much – it’s just that we’re more aware of them now.” is true. When people talk about how much worse the weather is now, I suspect that it has, in times past, been much worse – but it only affected those near by (See this link. I think diseases are this way as well – 1,000 years ago an entire population could have been wiped out and who would have known? We think that the Black Plague killed 1/4 of the European population in the 15th century, but who knows how accurate that was?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @40

    It’s rather odd, Igor, since you were the one who seemed to have made the insinuation in the first place and Clavos merely playing along.

    Besides, I don’t see what’s particularly disturbing about the one percenters doing what they do, I mean, frequent the luxury market. That’s rather expected. And since we’re not about to change that, let the boys have their fun and games.

    What’s more important, I think, we don’t have to follow in their footstepts but rather, develop forms of social organization, political and economic, which fly in the face of the established patterns.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    You are mourning American’s fall from its imperial heights, Glenn. I, and millions like me, are not.

    There are and always have been Americans who have joined in protest against militarism, and they’ve been arrested for generations, too. Unless something marvelous happens, though, President Obama will distinguish himself by being the first to make PERMANENT detentions, without legal recourse, legal.

    Dr. Dreadful, there have always been Christians who protested the militarization of the Christian church way back to the Early Church Fathers. You should know by now that I’m as heartsick as I am infuriated by the fact that the same thing has happened in the US. I as a Christian stand in protest to that, too, as do many US Christians, and of course Christians around the world.

    I also wonder what motivates those who, on one hand, defend the US’ meddling in Libya and Europe (e.g., the Balkans) and the Middle East, and then, on the other hand, criticize Christians in the US, and in the “Holy Roman Empire” for doing the same type of thing.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    If Clavos was playing along, then why do you think he needed you to come to his defense, Roger?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’s called escalation. At some point, the boundary was crossed, I’d say, and the game is no longer fun.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    We think that the Black Plague killed 1/4 of the European population in the 15th century, but who knows how accurate that was?

    In the case of the Black Plague we can actually be fairly confident of accuracy. Europe wasn’t an isolated population, so there are numerous lines of evidence. Besides contemporary accounts, we have written records, our modern knowledge of the behaviour of pathogens, and data from archaeology and genetics that allow us to build up a pretty comprehensive picture.

  • Zingzing

    Irene, when Glenn just got through saying he wishes the us would be less militaristic, and then you say, somehow unlike Glenn, you wqish the us would be less militaristic, you’ve missed something. Or maybe I have.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    You have missed something, Zing: whole paragraphs of the article, which conflict with the claim in Glenn’s comment that he wishes the US were less militaristic.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    And as to illogical nature of his comments, if he claims in #38 that the US has always been militaristic, why the call for a funereal dirge in the article?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    I’ll leave you to ponder that Big Question on your own, Zingzing. I have door-hangers to pass out.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Irene –

    I am not at all ‘lamenting’ the decline of America – I’m simply stating my observations. Empires rise and empires fall. The only sadness I have concerns those who get in the way and are crushed by our downfall.

    Nowhere in my writings will you see me claim that America is ‘exceptional’ – indeed, if you’ll read my article more closely, you should detect more than a little disdain for the idea of “American Exceptionalism”, and you should see how I decry our national tradition of willful ignorance and refusal to learn from others. That in and of itself should refute your assumptions that I’m so pro-American-Empire.

    There are many times that our tradition of military adventurism has been downright criminal and has long gone unpunished (Spanish-American War, the Indian wars, Vietnam, Iraq); however, there are also quite a few times that our military intervention worked to the good of all: WWII, Korea, Bosnia, and Libya are examples. If you want to debate these, start a new article and I’ll debate you on them – but I warn you that you should be aware that just as many of our military actions have been wrong, there have been military actions that have been right. To think otherwise is quite naive.

    I recommend that you stop assigning those traits to me that you think I must have since I often disagree with you.

  • Zingzing

    I dunno, Irene. Seems to me you’re positioning Glenn on the other side of a black or white issue, while Glenn seems to be saying it’s not a black or white issue. Of course it seems illogical if you shoot right past the point and create another…

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    You “WARN” me, Glenn? You “recommend” that I “stop assigning traits to you?” Well I’m not afraid of you.

    Glenn, you’ve consistently seen people in black and white: “cons” and liberals. You see wars in black and white: bad ones started by Bush, and good ones started by Obama and Clinton. (And don’t pretend that supplying NATO with drones is not an act of aggression.) If you were as against militarism as you claim to be, you’d criticize all such aggressive actions. As it stands, your objections are merely based on politics, not morality. Your failure to see both kinds of aggression as equally lamentable is part of the problem.

    You’re waiting for a Sunset Poet, Glenn. My claim stands: you have one in Obama and the unprecedented assault on rights he plans to make by signing the NDAA, after which no one will be safe criticizing ANY war, for their permanent incarceration will be legal. While you are waiting for your Sunset Poet, Glenn, others are trying to hasten the dawn of a New Day.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    This is not exactly the clip I want, but Glenn and coterie would do well to look into the life of Vaclav Havel who just passed away.

    If he was ineffective as politician, it’s only because he insisted that you can’t have politics without morality. When I find the right link, I’ll post it.

    Keep on pluggin’, Irene. Perhaps one of these days some of the people might get it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Irene –

    Are you really paying attention to what you’re writing?

    Glenn, you’ve consistently seen people in black and white: “cons” and liberals.

    Like when I pointed out in one of my early articles the benefit the developing world has reaped as a direct result of Reaganomics? Reaganomics has been terrible for America, but a great financial boon for much of the rest of the world.

    Or perhaps you’re referring to how I’ve consistently referred to Reagan as one of the five greatest presidents, or how I’ve NEVER denigrated Bush 41 or Eisenhower for their conduct in the Oval Office. Or maybe you could see how I’ve held Bill Clinton every bit as responsible for the Great Recession as Bush 43 (because he signed off on the repeal of Glass-Steagal, and it was under his watch that our businesses kicked offshoring into high gear).

    Yes, I’m SO black-and-white, huh?

    You see wars in black and white: bad ones started by Bush, and good ones started by Obama and Clinton. (And don’t pretend that supplying NATO with drones is not an act of aggression.)

    Did you ask me what I thought of the war began by a certain Democrat named Kennedy, and expanded by another Democrat named LBJ? Or how about the very worst president of the twentieth century – Woodrow Wilson (D)?

    Nah, I’m SO one-sided, I guess – and HOW do I know I’m so one-sided? BECAUSE YOU SAY SO!

    If you were as against militarism as you claim to be, you’d criticize all such aggressive actions.

    I am against militarism when it is UNNECESSARY, and especially when it is CRIMINAL. You’ve NEVER seen me post otherwise. Ah, but I forget – you’ve already convicted me, so I really have no right to argue in my own defense, do I? Because YOU are always right!

    As it stands, your objections are merely based on politics, not morality. Your failure to see both kinds of aggression as equally lamentable is part of the problem.

    Riiiiiiight. According to you, my objection to the Iraq war was purely political, and not based at all on morality. I only pointed out that our illegal and unprovoked invasion resulted in 100K+ dead innocent men, women, and children for purely political reasons – yeah, that’s it! I USE DEAD KIDS FOR POLITICAL GAIN!

    Ya…GOT me, Irene! I’m just soooooooo terrible, just a waste of human flesh, huh?

    Who, really, is painting things only in black and white? Hm? Irene, I’ve pointed out the GOOD things that every president since Hoover has done – Republican AND Democrat. If a president was an ignorant tool (as Bush 43 was), I said it – but I also pointed out the good things that he did (pushed much greater assistance to Africa for AIDS, resisted Cheney’s push for attacking Iran, and reacted to the coming Great Recession quickly enough that our economy didn’t crash all the way (although he didn’t require the accountability that was needed)).

    But that’s all a lie – it MUST all be lies because YOU have already convicted me in the court of your own opinion, for which there is no appeal to any higher court of common sense.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    This is the clip I was looking for, Irene, the transcript as well as podcast.

    It says it all.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Thanks for the link, Roger. Vaclav Havel led a successful bloodless revolution against a totalitarian regime, but his struggle against corruption in the government of the Czech Republic continues even after his death. The Czech Republic’s government remains more corrupt than almost any other in Europe. Hopefully someday soon the anti-corruption efforts will be effective, but they will be speaerheaded by the people and the rare sterling individuals like Havel who represent them, not by pols on the make.

    I know we both hope that happens in the US, too. Glenn and cotezingerie have that hope as well, I’m sure; they just have to get over their partisanship to help the process along.

    (I got the message you were asking about. It’s going to be hard to have a Merry Christmas, but I wish for at least a peaceful one, full of comfort and good memories.)

  • zingzing

    “I know we both hope that happens in the US, too. Glenn and cotezingerie have that hope as well, I’m sure; they just have to get over their partisanship to help the process along.”

    and thou must come down from thine horse most high. you support ron paul. you may have a good end point in mind, but i don’t think ron paul is the way to get there. i may have the same wishes you do, but i don’t think getting there takes the path you want it to take. so don’t talk to me about partisanship… because you’ve got the dreaded disease as much as anyone.

    havel’s something of a hero of mine. i wrote my history minor thesis on him and charter 77 and plastic people of the universe. pretty amazing story.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Even an atheist, Irene, should recognize the force of morality, the indispensable aspect of being. If they don’t, they’ll never function on all four. They’ll be forever destined to live the rest of their lives as truncated, tragic human beings.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And yes, re: your #57, I sent some links about C S Lewis, A Grief Observed, but there isn’t much one can really do.

    The good thing is, time heals all wounds.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Glenn, I’ve listened to enough of your trademark patronizing sermons on how a military background is required to understand how Realpolitik justified and justifies the carnage of innocents in the Balkans, Libya, and Pakistan but not in Iraq. Yes, you do have blind spots and inconsistencies when it comes to defending wars that are fought for any other reason than the legitimate one of defending Americans who are under direct and unprovoked attack. You’d probably need to hear it from another vet, though. (Your even-handed defense of the bloating of federal programs in other spheres by Republicans and Democrats alike is neither here nor there.)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Zing, the moment I start promoting any unprovoked aggressive foreign act authorized by Ron Paul, having condemned those by Obama, you will have earned the right to call me partisan.

    Campaigning is a horse of a different color. Bipartisanship that extends to the point of distributing door hangers for more than one presidential candidates seems a bit outré to me.

    I happen to consider heroic the efforts of those as diverse as Rand Paul and Al Franken in countering the NDAA and its dread detention clauses that, it turns out, were specifically tailored to Obama’s specifications. What say you, Zingzing? You had a lot to say about Brian Wilson’s (admittedly praiseworthy) SMiLE, but not anything at all about that, unless I missed something.

    (Roger, Surprised by Joy, is another good one of his. And yes, I agree, atheists can be and are enriched when they recognize the existence of something beyond than the material.)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    bWe’re always on the same page, Irene, all appearances and my occasional bitterness to the contrary.

    It’s always the spiritual thing, ain’t it? however one cares to define it.

    What else is a human otherwise?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    One could well think of another title, Surprised by Kindness.

    A funny thing happened to me of late on the way to the forum.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The perfidy is, such as Glenn or zingzing, are so much in awe of the authority that unless and until Mr. Obama declares it’s safe and about time to pull out of Iraq, neither can think for themselves.

    This kind of mindset qualifies them to be true Koreans, the worshiping lemming of the departed leader.

    What a joke, what a parody masquerading as independent thought?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Always on the same page? Even THIS one? *hands you the only ROn Paul door hanger remaining after today’s distribution effort * LOL!

    But yes, you and I are, more often than not “agin'” as they’d say in Kentucky, the same political trends.

    The spirit? Why yes. That’s what’s left, even after the bones have rotted into the ground or have been cremated and scattered to the wind with the soul. The soul is what connects us to other people, through such things as language, and art and music. Everyone has a spirit. That’s the part that connects us to God, who is always trying to wake it up. That’s what I believe, anyway.

    Merry Christmas, Roger.

  • zingzing

    “The perfidy is, such as Glenn or zingzing, are so much in awe of the authority that unless and until Mr. Obama declares it’s safe and about time to pull out of Iraq, neither can think for themselves.”

    roger, that’s just more bs from you. obama didn’t really “declare it safe,” the army got their ass kicked out. i’m glad they’re out, but it doesn’t change anything about my stance on the issue. we shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but our leaving is going to open up all sorts of problems, and we can see them playing out already. it always was going to cause problems, so i guess now is as good a time as any, but whatever. you can’t grasp the fact that i’m of two minds about it. ambivalence is, seemingly, beyond you. you’re so entrenched in your simplistic bullshit that you could never grasp such a thing.

  • zingzing

    irene: “I happen to consider heroic the efforts of those as diverse as Rand Paul and Al Franken in countering the NDAA and its dread detention clauses that, it turns out, were specifically tailored to Obama’s specifications. What say you, Zingzing? You had a lot to say about Brian Wilson’s (admittedly praiseworthy) SMiLE, but not anything at all about that, unless I missed something.”

    i haven’t said much about it, that’s true. still kinda waiting on that one and on sopa. even if he does sign it, that’s not the end of it. it goes directly against our constitutionally guaranteed rights. so i think a great big court battle will result. but who knows. he hasn’t even signed it. we’ll see what gets amended to the bill and what happens with the other legislation moving through congress that would negate it. i see no reason why the obama i think i know would sign such a bill. what he does with it will affect my opinion of him, one way or another.

    the wording of the bill is not clear to me. i’ve seen versions that say american citizens are exempt, others that say they are not. the one i’ve seen that says americans are not exempt does include the phrase that they can be detained without trial “until hostilities cease,” which, although a nebulous spot in the future, does suggest that this “permanent detention” thing people are claiming may not be the aim of the bill. i don’t know.

    people seem so certain that this bill is the end of freedom. i think that sounds a little far-fetched and am waiting for something concrete to happen (the bill is passed and signed, or not), with final wording so we can all know what this thing is. right now, i’m ignorant, and i’m not pretending otherwise.

    besides, i see that no one has addressed the fact that THIS HAPPENS ANYWAY. the fact that it happens anyway, without a law that can be challenged backing it up… well, right now, they’re doing it anyway, without having to play the game in court. now they just might. that’s why we have courts. i dunno. such a law might actually open the doors to putting an end to such abuses. that may be wishful thinking (and i’m not for this law in any way, before roger whips his dick out), but we just have to wait and see. i’ve signed multiple petitions against this (and sopa), just so you know. i’ve written my congresswoman and my senators.

  • zingzing

    irene: “Zing, the moment I start promoting any unprovoked aggressive foreign act authorized by Ron Paul, having condemned those by Obama, you will have earned the right to call me partisan.”

    blowing right by the point again. you’re partisan in that you think ron paul is the answer. i don’t think he is. i think he’s a bit dangerous. he’s fine as a senator. being an ideologue is great when you don’t have the final say. but that strictness is rather troubling at the top. there are many ways it can go wrong. plus, i disagree with him on a great many things.

    that you would take his side in this makes you partisan. just saying.

    on the militaristic front, i think obama has been rather disappointing. he didn’t get out of iraq and afghanistan fast enough. gitmo is still open. the drone war in pakistan and other countries is overstepping the boundaries. he inherited all that and i’m not quite sure that he has the power (and definitely not the will) to stop it. these things are disappointing. the thing in libya… hrm, i dunno. that he gave up control to nato so quickly is a plus, and the fact that it was a bilateral decision puts my mind at rest a bit. there was a massacre going on and now that massacring dictator is no longer in power. these are good things. i may not like the way things went down too much, but i’m somewhat happy with the end result, although things have really yet to be settled.

    and it was the beach boys’ smile. and i was ambivalent about that as well. ambivalence! it’s a strange thing.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Irene, oh…Ireeeeene –

    Glenn, I’ve listened to enough of your trademark patronizing sermons on how a military background is required to understand how Realpolitik justified and justifies the carnage of innocents in the Balkans, Libya, and Pakistan but not in Iraq.

    And I’ve heard enough of you MAKING UP CRAP. WHEN have I EVER said that a military background is “required to understand realpolitik”? I NEVER HAVE – nor have I ever implied such! A military background does indeed give certain advantages…but understanding realpolitik is certainly not one of them! If that were the case, the majority of the military would be something other than hard-line conservative.

    But a majority of them (at least of those with several years in) ARE hard-line conservative…and haven’t a clue what realpolitik is. Okay? I would NEVER have made such a statement or implication – that’s your imagination (and your spite) running away with you again.

    That’s simply you making up crap – just like Arch claiming with zero evidence and zero indication that Obama’s a narcissist (he’s apparently never known someone with the clinical disorder), you’ve decided that I have such-and-such shortcomings…and you make your claims with zero evidence and zero indication…

    …that is, other than your own opinion.

    I really, really don’t like being accused of something I’m not guilty of…and that’s what you’re doing again and again and again. Try backing up your accusations, willya? Because so far in this thread, you can’t…and sadly, I strongly doubt you’ll even try.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Your #67, zing, is so pathetic and riddled with contradictions, it merits no reply.

  • Clavos

    Glenn, you’ve consistently seen people in black and white: “cons” and liberals.

    QFT

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And Merry Christmas to you all.

  • zingzing

    roger, if you replied, then i guess you replied. good job! i guess you couldn’t name a contradiction that would prove your point. i noted that i’m of two minds about it. maybe that’s the source of your confusion. as for “pathetic,” aw well. i’ll take it like i take all your other incredible displays of narrow-mindedness, and put it straight into the toilet where it belongs. your inability to understand anything is no longer a surprise.

    to say it again. i don’t like the american military presence in iraq. never have. but it was there. and leaving iraq would create another set of problems. it has, but fuck it. i’m glad our military is out of iraq. the end. where’s the contradiction?

  • zingzing

    and a happy holidays to everyone. except the corporate con artists that turned a simple celebration into a debt-inducing deathtrip. my own mother told me to bring an extra suitcase to bring back “all [my] loot.” good god, just give me cash if you give me anything at all.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    “QFT”? So back it up by replying to comment #55 and THEN show me where you or any other BC conservative has complimented Dems as much as I have Republicans.

    Oh, but silly me – I forgot that it’s ME and not you and your fellow cons that sees things only in black and white, huh?

    Back it up, Clavos – but you, like Irene, won’t even try. Why? Because you can’t, and you know it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Merry X-mas anyway, zing. See, I’m full of contradictions too.

    Have a good one.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Only one person gets to be president, Zingzing. If you intend to vote, you are going to have to be narrowing the field down to just one. That act alone will not make you partisan.

    “Ambivalent” won’t be one of the options on the ballot.

    If you were recommending your candidate as Supreme Dictator, then one would have reason to say that you considered that candidate to be “the answer.” That’s not what you’d be doing, though. You’d be recommending him for the office of President, where his influence would be balanced by that of the Legislative and Judicial branches.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Glenn, I really doubt Clavos is as conservative as you make him out to be. For one thing, he’s not too enthused about America, and that should count for something, don’t you think?

    In any case, Merry-Xmas to both of you.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Clav is an equal opportunity cynic.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Ambivalence comes to the fore again, my goodness.

    Hope it ain’t moral ambivalence we’re talking about, because that’s awfully close to moral cowardice or indecision.

    But heck, I’m supposed to be of a forgiving and kind spirit tonight. Enough of this nonsense.

    Good night and Merry-Xmas to you all.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’d rather he’d be an equal opportunity employer. I could sell a yacht or two for him and I wouldn’t even flinch.

    As I said to Igor before, let the rich have their fun. They’re gonna do it one way or another, with my encouragement or without. So I may as well get my commission while at it.

    Merry X-mas.

  • Clavos

    Clav is an equal opportunity cynic.

    QFT

    And on that note:

    Everyone enjoy the upcoming homage to capitalism and consumerism.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Everyone enjoy the upcoming homage to capitalism and consumerism.

    I don’t know about that, Clav. We gave everyone socks.

    Except for my wife’s brother-in-law. He got a self-inflating whoopee cushion.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Exhibit A:

    #36 It’s obvious that you haven’t been in the military – otherwise, you wouldn’t be making broad-brush accusations and assumptions that ANYone (conservative OR liberal) with significant military experience would know are ludicrous

    Later that page…
    What you are doing – and sucking in Irene and Roger along with it – is dressing up idealism and calling it realpolitik. But I won’t let you get away with it.

    I could spend the time looking for Exhibits B and C, but I don’t really think you want me to do that, Glenn.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Merry Christmas to anyone who wants one, and a peaceful December 25 to anyone who doesn’t.

  • zingzing

    irene: “If you intend to vote, you are going to have to be narrowing the field down to just one. That act alone will not make you partisan.”

    alright, so why am i a partisan and you’re not?

    what are the rules?

    roger: “Glenn, I really doubt Clavos is as conservative as you make him out to be. For one thing, he’s not too enthused about America, and that should count for something, don’t you think?”

    being accused of anti-americanism, or saying you’re not for everything “america,” is old hat. i’ve been accused of hating america many times. i’ve been accused of backing everything america does. that’s politics, not reality.

    being none too enthused about america isn’t a good thing, but it’s not a bad thing. and it doesn’t make you a liberal or a conservative in any way. everyone’s got their positives and negatives about america. balki doesn’t exist. being totally pro or totally con makes you a cartoon, nothing more.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Good Zingzing. I’m glad you admit I’m not partisan. You suggest that the way Obama responds to NDAA will affect your opinion of him. That’s also good.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Irene –

    WHERE in that post #36 did I claim that military experience give an advantage on understanding realpolitik?

    Nowhere. But that’s what you accused me of.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    AND I pointed out to you that you were dressing up idealism and calling it realpolitik…because you were NOT discussing realpolitik. You really need to straighten out your thoughts before you make accusations, Irene.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I suppose I can understand the logic of Realpolitik when employed by statesmen — it’s their job, after all, their sacred if not solemn duty. But what I can’t for the life of me understand is the appeal to Realpolitik on the part of all the amateurs who would like to be statesmen, in short, our resident would-be statesmen.

    Actually I do, but since my explanation would be far from complimentary, I will yield to the spirit of X-mas and consign the rest of my thoughts to silence.

    So again, Merry X-mas to you all, whether you like it or not.

  • Zingzing

    No, Irene, I still think you’re partisan, if you think me partisan as well. Them’s your words and rules. And I didn’t “suggest” anything, I stated it.

    So what are the rules of partisanship? I don’t agee with everything Obama does. If I did, I’d be Obama, or he’d be me. Do you agree with everything Paul?

    If you don’t, good. But why would you label me partisan and declare yourself innocent of a similar crime? I don’t understand your reasoning.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    You ask for the “rules of partisanship,” Zingzing. What you really need is a definition. No, partisanship–in its negative connotation, that is–does not mean full agreement with the platform of the favored party or elected official.

    Merriam-Webster: PARTISAN a firm adherent to a party, faction, cause, or person; especially [emphasis mine] one exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance

    Note the terms PREJUDICED and UNREASONING. A partisan person will excuse–or even applaud– actions by the favored party, and condemn the opposing party for the same actions.

    Again, in the unlikely event that (a) Ron Paul conducts drone attacks on a nation that has not attacked us, and (b) I defend him, saying it was NATO’s doing, not his, or some such nonsense, AFTER–and this is key–I’ve criticized Obama for doing the same thing, THEN you will be using the negative sense of the word “partisan,” properly, to describe me.

    I’m not troubled at all when people call me Paulite, Paultard, Ronulan. Am I a supporter? Sure! Have I condoned positions of his that I’ve condemned in others? I don’t think so.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    “Ronulan”. I like that. :-)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    It’s actually growing on me, too! Be lookin’ for it, with his image, on T-shirts sometime next summer.

  • Zingzing

    Irene… So you’re not partisan, and I am. Because I presumably exhibited “blind, unreasoning allegiance” when condemning the drone attacks and admitting that obama’s action in Libya troubled me less because it was a bilateral, NATO-lead thing, not an act of imperialism. Fine. Now that we’ve got your reasoning sorted…

    Have you ever even half-assed supported a president? You can’t have…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    I suppose I can understand the logic of Realpolitik when employed by statesmen — it’s their job, after all, their sacred if not solemn duty. But what I can’t for the life of me understand is the appeal to Realpolitik on the part of all the amateurs who would like to be statesmen, in short, our resident would-be statesmen.

    I think I found the root of our collective misunderstanding of the word ‘realpolitik’, since there are significant differences offered even by The Free Dictionary:

    The American Heritage Dictionary:
    A usually expansionist national policy having as its sole principle advancement of the national interest.

    Collins English Dictionary:
    (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a ruthlessly realistic and opportunist approach to statesmanship, rather than a moralistic one, esp as exemplified by Bismarck
    [German: politics of realism]

    Oologies and Isms:
    realism in politics, especially policies or actions based on considerations of power rather than ideals.

    Wordnet 3.0:
    politics based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations

    My personal definition is closest to the last (and IMO ‘softer’) definition – for practicality is more definable and applicable to all, whereas moralities and ideologies differ wildly not only between groups, but between individuals.

    OTOH, I suspect that Irene (and possibly you) take the second (‘harsher’) definition as the more accurate definition of ‘realpolitik’.

    And that is probably the real root of our disagreement – we were talking about the same word…but our definitions of the word were significantly different.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    There is no misunderstanding of terms, Glenn.

    What I was alluding to, however, is that the term has become a catchall for you, trumping all other considerations.

    As I said, I might go along with this kind of practice and speech in certain restricted contexts. I find it odd, however, that an ordinary mortal would keep on invoking this principle of high-level politics and diplomacy on so many occasions, especially when other, more important principles of individual conduct appear to be in conflict with it.

    It tells me a great deal about that person, and all I’m saying you should give it some thought.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    When a politician makes a decision, yes, it is his duty to prevent injustice and enhance opportunities for the individual, right? Of course it is. But the politician must also consider the population as a whole. In other words, which is more important – the one or the many?

    There’s nothing wrong with trying to understand why a politician must do this or that when it comes to high-level diplomacy…because high-level diplomacy almost always involves not the one, but the many. I would not want to be a politician – my temper’s too short and I’d be played like a fish by others as a result – but that doesn’t stop me from understanding on a visceral level why certain decisions must be made even when they’re unpopular…and sometimes even deadly.

    The many are more important than the one…for each individual of the many have individual lives that are every bit as important to each of them as is the life of the one is to himself. That doesn’t mean that I ignore the life, the freedom, or the rights of the one – of course not! It simply means that if a choice must be made, I’ll normally err on the side of the many rather than the one.

    That is my understanding of realpolitik, and why I referred to the ‘softer’ definition – the pragmatic over the moral or ideological – as I did. And I don’t regret it for a moment.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Roger –

    Perhaps to you there was no misunderstanding of terms, but it’s hard for me to think there wasn’t when even the simple reference I gave shows four different definitions, each of which referred to a different kind of pragmatism – three referred to ‘power’ or ‘national interest’ (of three different degrees of the same), whereas the one I preferred (and still do) refers to pragmatism – which does not necessarily include such base goals of ‘power’ or ‘national interest.

    IOW, perhaps mine is the least accurate definition of the word. I’ll have to mull that one over for a while.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    As usual, Glenn, you managed to completely ignore the import of my comment. You do have a unique propensity for sticking to your and only your kind of thinking.

    I don’t care whether your definition of Realpolitik is soft- or hard-boiled. What I said with respect to it applies just as well to your so-called principle of pragmatism.

    It is very revealing to me. Too bad it isn’t so to you.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    That’s a good idea Glenn, to look at definitions. In choosing your soft definition for Realpolitik, you claim that “practicality is more definable and applicable to all, whereas moralities and ideologies differ wildly not only between groups, but between individuals.” I agree that everyone understands “practical.” It means “doable.” I would disagree that there is not a common understanding of “morality.” What differs across the board are standards for “goodness,” or “idealism,” which go beyond adherence to the bare minimum for decent behavior, which is “morality.”

    Judicial systems worldwide bear witness to a common understanding that to be “moral” means to respect the rights of people to their lives and property. Standards for goodness, however, vary. For instance, how much of one’s discretionary income (i.e., what’s left over after bills, taxes, and common sense savings) should one spend on charity before spending it on luxuries? How much will an “idealistic” person give: a tenth, a half, all of it? It’s easy to see what’s moral and what’s not. It’s harder to say what is good. It’s certainly PRACTICAL to give 100% of one’s discretionary income to charity, simply because it is discretionary. Is it immoral not to give 100%? Clearly, no.

    We’d agree that a “soft definition” of Realpolitik should at least contain the requirement that a policy be practical. I gather, Glenn, from what you’ve said, that you and I could agree that it should also require that the policy be “moral” but not “idealistic.”

    One policy that I think you’d agree would fail the requirements for that “soft” Realpolitik is: “Our need for natural resources justifies our waging war against another country to get them.” Surely that’s practical (albeit only in the short-term, because of blowback) but the fact that it’s immoral is plain to anyone but those who see corporations as people and nations as something else.

    Here’s where I think our disagreement is: my view is that another policy that fails the requirements for the soft definition of Realpolitik is “we should fight in any war, anywhere in the world, that we can win.” That’s idealistic, and not practical. It’s also dumb. What a bonanza that policy creates for War Profiteers (that’s the Military Industrial Complex, Glenn, our common enemy) who know that if they can create propaganda that demonizes one side of any civil conflict, anywhere in the world, all systems are go! Especially encouraging to them is the knowledge that it is no longer in vogue to require that, per the Constitution, Congress evaluate the validity of that demonization before war is waged. Only one man, the Chief Executive, needs to agree to their plan. The propaganda will work its magic on the rest of us.

    Now, Glenn, if you’ve just read this civvie’s views on Realpolitik, and can disagree with them without resorting to vulgarity (never your style anyway) or patronizing (including saying Riiiiiiiiight), then any instance of your “pulling military rank” with me or anyone else here will be but a rapidly fading memory.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    I gar-on-TEE it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Irene –

    my view is that another policy that fails the requirements for the soft definition of Realpolitik is “we should fight in any war, anywhere in the world, that we can win.”

    That’s not at all what I’m saying. What I am saying is that IF military action is truly necessary, IF there’s solid indications that we can succeed in the mission, IF we can safely and sanely get out of the situation when we’re done (which is why Bush 41 refused to go to Baghdad in the First Gulf War)…then and only then should we proceed.

    Our actions in Bosnia, Libya, Panama, and Korea met these requirements. Vietnam and Iraq obviously did not. But every once in a while a situation comes along where the reasonable chance of victory is not considered – “WWII” was one such situation.

    BTW – “Riiiiiight” was not patronization, but sarcasm. I consider patronization an insult and I won’t use it. Sarcasm, OTOH, I do not consider an insult, but a tool to use in a disagreement…because sarcasm depends upon the recipient having the intelligence to see the purpose and meaning behind the sarcasm. Patronization, as I understand it, assumes the recipient isn’t smart enough to see through it, and that’s why I consider it an insult.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And yes, I also consider the MIC a threat to our economy and our freedom and to peace in the world – that’s why a certain Republican president (Eisenhower) sternly warned us against allowing them to have too much power and influence.

  • Clavos

    I consider patronization an insult and I won’t use it

    The hell you say. I’ve mentioned this before as well. Maybe it’s not consciously done, but you do it.

    All the time.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Okay – show me where I’ve done so. It should be easy for you to do so since I do it “all the time”.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Well Clavos is right, Glenn, and it’s possible that you’re not aware that you often speak to people here as if you were giving them orders from on high. It’s possible that you got into that habit during your career, and it is done without your making a conscious choice to be that way.

    Anyway, #104 was free of anything like that, so I’d be pleased to see that trait continue to become, as I said, a rapidly fading memory, and not identify it as “the real you.”

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Now back to politics. Glenn, you’ve often commended Eisenhower for his warning about the MIC. That’s how I know you and I see eye-to-eye on that.

    Do you see, then, that the practice of bypassing the Constitutional requirement for debate and authorization by Congress before the US sends its sons and daughters to spill their blood, and having a “President knows best” attitude with regard to making such huge national commitments, are what gives the MIC such great opportunities?

    Also playing into the MIC’s plans is the arrogant conviction that the United States has the wisdom to be The Decider in conflicts all over the world, to decide who the villains are, to decide what the new regime will look like, even to decide which puppets to put in place as leaders. (Ironically, we sometimes take THEM to war in a generation or two.)

    What do you think we should be doing to heed Eisenhower’s warning, Glenn?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    What I’m wondering about, it’s a rather tough job for any one person not only to know what’s the right thing to do, not to mention doing it.

    And in light of that, I find it kind of presumptuous for any individual to know what a nation-state ought to do, because that’s surely a far greater responsibility.

    So unless any such person is endowed with unique abilities and talents, I’m rather inclined to think they’re in the habit of doing so for no other reason than the fact they don’t bear the burden of responsibility.

    In plain English, talk is cheap.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    For all –

    It is said that the more one knows about war, the more one hates war. I’m certainly no combat vet, but I’ve studied it all my life…and as terrible and wrong and evil as war certainly is, it’s sometimes necessary.

    But any leader who would send our troops in harms way should remember this warning by the Duke of Wellington:

    Next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle won.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    You’re right that it is dangerous for any one individual to presume that he knows when to send troops in harm’s way. That’s why our president is supposed to get approval from Congress first. For while there are times that the president has taken unilateral action that turned out to be a good thing – like Bosnia, Libya, Panama – the times that we’ve been led into wars that were wrong and even criminal (Iraq, Vietnam) obviate the danger of any one person being able to order our troops into battle.

    Problem is, in today’s world, the president doesn’t always have the time that it takes for Congress to get into session to take a vote on the matter. That’s why the president was given a 30-day window before sending a request to Congress.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I was going make the requirements stringer yet by re-instituting the draft. Then if we are going to go to war, then let the entire nation go to war (if we’re so dead certain it’s a “justified war”). As things stands, I don’t trust either the president or the congress to make that judgment. The people must make it.

  • Clavos

    …the times that we’ve been led into wars that were wrong and even criminal (Iraq, Vietnam) obviate the danger of any one person being able to order our troops into battle. (emphasis added)

    From dictionary.com:

    ob·vi·ate? ?[ob-vee-eyt] verb (used with object), -at·ed, -at·ing.

    to anticipate and prevent or eliminate (difficulties, disadvantages, etc.) by effective measures; render unnecessary: to obviate the risk of serious injury.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    my mistake – thank you – I really do appreciate it.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    “These days the president doesn’t always have the TIME?????” What’s that? “So sorry, folks in your teens and early twenties. We’ve tried to save, though legislation, the odd one or two dozen of you who might die in car-crashes because of the distraction of cell phones….but *looks at watch* I’m really in a dreadful hurry, the MIC is breathing down my neck, and I need to deploy a few thousand of you…AGAIN.”

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    That wasn’t sarcasm. It was….irony?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Irene –

    You can be sarcastic all you like…but a single day or even a few hours can make all the difference in stopping a terrorist attack, don’t you think?

    And when was the last time you saw Congress get together within one day?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    I’m talking about the need for a national debate before we make decisions to get involved in foreign conflicts that have been going on for months, even generations.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    One need only to look again at the accomplishments of US involvement in Iraq. The sectarian violence is on the verge of erupting. Much good have we done for these people.

    I still say draft is the only way to go. It must be the people who decide whether to put their lives on the line in defense of their country. But of course our politicians won’t have that. They don’t want the repeat of the sixties.

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    I don’t follow your argument, Roger.

    Firstly, although democracy MIGHT be the least worst form of government from the centre, it is certainly the domination of minorities by majorities.

    Given that, why should people from that part of voters who opposed a particular war be required to take part in it by the imposition of a draft?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Conscription is slavery. No. The threat of it might choke a chickenhawk, though.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @121, 122

    There’s also a caveat of conscientious objection. It’s precisely the draft and the opposition to it that turned the events against the establishment and changed the complexion the Vietnam war.

    I look at it as a safety mechanism which prevents the state from exercising its absolute powers whenever the elites decide to go to war.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Conscription is opposed by most militaries today on the grounds that it’s better to have a small, modern, lean, well-trained, professional defence force than one filled with the unschooled, the unskilled and the unwilling.

    The exception to this is probably the US military, which seems to think it dominates the entire universe anyway so every inhabitant of said universe might as well join up.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Of course it would be (opposed), as per Rumsfeld’s doctrine. Efficiency is a common enough excuse to argue on behalf of a multitude of sins.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Glenn, a strong defense is vital. In Dr. Who’s “Christmas Invasion” terms, we could be sending the message the world a proud and peaceful message: “This is a day of peace on planet Earth…we extend that peace!…but…we are armed, and we don’t surrender…It is DEFENDED!”

    Instead, we’ve slipped past “Don’t you think she looks tired?” and, if we’re not careful, we’ll have created a Sycoraxian hell.

    (Have yourself a merry little…New Year’s, Glenn.)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    sorry – never was a Dr. Who fan and have no idea what you’re talking about.

    But yes, any nation who would lead the world must maintain a strong defense…but it must be a defense, and not subject to military adventurism.

  • Igor

    As for the poet, what’s wrong with Bob Dylan or Springstein? I’m not promoting either one, but it seems to me they are both candidates. One could even nominate Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger.

    My preliminary vote would go to Pete Seeger, who suffered constant de-rating through his life consistently and has risen above it. Even when I was young 50-60 years ago the hip as well as the public disregarded Seeger and never gave him his due, either as a musician or as an activist. He was excluded from TV for 17 years (IIRC) and the first thing he did when he got back on was sing the song (“Waist Deep In The Big Muddy, And The Big Fool Said To Push On”) that got him barred!

    And he wrote a lot of great songs that made other people rich, like Roger McGuinn. And one of the greatest childrens songs EVER: “Abiyoyo”, which I used to put 5 of my own kids to sleep at night, and a bunch of other kids, too.

  • http://oneamericansrant.blogspot.com/ One Americans Rant

    Irene,

    I’m not above using popular TV as reference, but I Wiki’d the episode “Christmas Invasion” and still don’t get it. Could you elaborate some?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    One American: Entire screenplay is online; ep is on Netflix. Quite seasonally a propos. You’ll get it. Gotta do the Christmas Evish thangs nowm, though.

  • Cannonshop

    Glenn, as a culture, we’re not England, in the old Soviet’s term, we’re “Nekulturny” in the extreme. Don’t expect great poetry from a nation whose education has been declining through most of the last century.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    I haven’t seen that term since reading Clancy…and yes, as a culture, you’re quite right – we’re largely uncultured.

    But that’s why I said our version of the sunset poet may likely not using poetry, but in the form of song or film…and you’ve gotta admit that our songwriters/singers are every bit as good as theirs. They brought us the British Invasion – and we answered with Rhythm and Blues (and, on a sadder note, disco)…

    …and when it comes to film, Hollywood is world-class. Sure, we concentrate on special effects far too much, but that doesn’t lessen the emotional impact at all. The Hurt Locker is a great example.

  • Adam Scott

    It’s our mind set. What you think Glenn. If America decline the whole world will decline too.