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2. The Political Crisis 
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Grim wrote:
This goes against what I would previously defined a liberal as, I always assumed that to be a liberal was to accept things as they are and to move forwards to a more accepting social order for the benefit of all people.

That is what I think of as a progressive. I think we get all confused with our labeling because to historians or political philospophers, the terms liberal and conservative have more of a fixed meaning, whereas today they label two ends of the political spectrum, almost regardless of what the actual content of belief is. Our present-day conservative, G. Bush, fights for the extension of liberalism in the world. Our seemingly left-wing writer, Andrew Bacevich, tells us his loyalties are with conservatism. The terms just aren't much good, unless we keep the older meanings in front of us. I think a conservative is basically distrustful of anyone who claims to to be able to change either human nature or the world through whatever new program or idea. The more things change, the more they stay the same--essentially a conservative idea. Liberals will believe more in the possibility of fundamental change, seen in the heralding of new epochs or in the dawning of new philoosophies that will sweep away old barriers of human nature.
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However, does Bacevich, a former army official, ever debate the necessity of war under appropriate situations, or of protecting American freedoms? Not directly he talks rather about his great concern that the notion of exceptional America responsibility/legitimacy to act out of turn with the rest of the world has gone beyond the limits of the system by which it was created, especially considering the results and consequences. A liberal would feel that any action is necessary to spread the democratic form of freedom and realize the ideological ends of the system.

Bacevich is talking like a true conservative, who will always be skeptical of any kind of millenialism or talk of entering a new phase of history.
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When he talks of "the crisis of profligacy," he never actually denies that the people had the rights do do as they wish all along, rather that the results of their blinded and unleashed inhibitions should have been rationally moderated. Again I feel that the liberal would advocate freedom for the members of his ideological group at any cost to the outsiders.

Interpreting freedom AS the right to accumulate as much as could be accumulated is Bacevic's criticism of America here.

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"...neoconservative hearts certainly beat a little faster, as they undoubtably did when he went on to declare the United States to devote itself to 'ending tyranny in our world.' Yet Bush was simply putting his own gloss on a time-honoured conviction ascribing to the United States a uniqueness of character and purpose." (Limits of Power pg 18 )

A conservative would think this is all bosh. No single society has ever really had such a role; it is all delusion wherever it comes up. Neoconservatives are therefore liberals.
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Finally, and most importantly in my view, he shows concern that as a result of recent American history the people have lost a measure of their freedoms, where in fact the defense of the required yet unintended loss of necessary freedom is what I see as a motivating rational behind his entire book. The end of American Exceptionalism ie The end of American Freedom as we Enjoy it. I believe that this is technically a conservative arguement: that the loss of certain freedoms currently taken for granted will be a necessary yet acceptable result of the current atmosphere.

Not sure if I understand you, but my reading of Bacevich is that the loss of our freedoms while acting to protect them is a consequence of our belief that we can do anything necessary for our security. Bacevich follows the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who would have labeled this effect part of the irony of American history, i.e., we become less secure and less free while pursuing security and protecting freedom.
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"Liberals therefore reject any design or plan for society - religious, utopian, or ethical. Liberals feel that society and state should not have fixed goals, but that 'process should determine outcome'. This anti-utopianism became increasingly important in liberal philosophy, in reaction to the Communist centrally-planned economies: it anticipated the extreme deregulation-ism of later neoliberalism."

My comment is that this definition of liberal does not agree with the current use of the word. Liberals today are likely to believe that governments can design societies and that they should.
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To respond quickly to another comment it is to my imperfect understanding that market liberalism is typified by the free-market rather than conservatism which would favour regulations.

Today's political liberals wouldn't be in favor of the unrestrained market, whereas conservatives would be more likely to be. To my understanding, this is just about opposite of the original sense of these words.



Sat Feb 07, 2009 9:22 pm
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Folks:

Thanks for this very interesting discussion. Would any of you be interested in starting a new thread in the Politics/History section, to discuss U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, and the Palestinians (i.e., the Holbrook and Mitchell areas)? I ask because I see that you've been discussing U.S. foreign policy towards these countries to some extent in light of Bacevich's book, and because these seem to be the key hot-button foreign policy issues that the U.S. will likely face in the coming months. We could discuss, for example, the principles that we think should guide U.S. policy toward each country, the principles that the Obama administration identifies for its policy toward each country, how the Obama administration's actions square with its stated principles and the principles we think should govern, the complications arising from the legacy of the Bush administration's conduct toward each country, etc. If anyone is interested, here are some suggestions for beginning discussion:

* The new Haass & Indyk article on Middle East policy in Foreign Affairs, http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20090101f ... genda.html ;

* Jim Hoagland's "warning" column about Afghanistan in yesterday's Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 02512.html , arguing, among other things, that the Karzai government may soon fail, and there is no individual or group favorable to U.S. interests to replace him;

* Today's news, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/world ... ?ref=world , that Pakistan has ceded a portion of its country to the Taliban, and officially permitted the Taliban to exercise Islamic law there, giving more evidence of the weakness of president Zardari, and raising the possibility of a simultaneous collapse of both the Afghan and Pakistani central governments to the Taliban, with consequences for Iran and India;

* The Obama administration has begun to reach out to Iran, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/16/world ... ran&st=cse , while Iran's president Ahmadinejad has been substantially weakened by falling oil prices and a worsening domestic economy, see Laura Secor's New Yorker blogpost, http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/n ... r-kha.html ;

* Israel is in the process of a change of government, with many commentators predicting that Likud will form a coalition government with a conservative party, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/14/world ... 009&st=cse . The U.S. has in the past found it difficult to work with Mr. Netanhayu, so if he becomes prime minister, Sen. Mitchell may find it tough going.

Thanks for considering this.



Mon Feb 16, 2009 6:05 pm
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Pretty broad topic, we may be better off reading Hegemony or Survival or similar and discussing that. Why don't we focus on one nation and deal with that? I suggest Pakistan.

:book:



Mon Feb 16, 2009 6:38 pm
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Grim:

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Why don't we focus on one nation and deal with that? I suggest Pakistan.


Thanks for your message. I see your point, but nonetheless I think it would be useful to have a discussion embracing all of these countries, because our policies toward them are interrelated. Here's the rationale: Bacevich and others say that the U.S. must deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan together, because we are in fact simultaneously engaged in armed conflict in both countries, against the same enemy, the Taliban; Iran borders both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and our conduct in those countries directly affects Iran's national security; Iran aspires to be the major power in the Middle East, and strongly influences politics in Israel, because it arms Hamas and Hezbollah, and because its nuclear arms will be directed at Israel; and so any peace efforts in Israel must deal directly with Iran.

I'm proposing a discussion not tied to any particular book. Any book or article could be discussed in relation to these issues.



Mon Feb 16, 2009 7:37 pm
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I still a bit cautious about linking so many causal countries to such a potentially immense discussion. Limiting the talk to just American involvement is an astoundingly huge undertaking to do properly, especially considering the interconnections involved, not to mention a whole host of other important causal factors. Afghanistan alone has at least 3 decades of history directly tied to America, Iran is a country that derives its identity from foreign occupation, and Israel and Palestine are involving discussion in their own respective right. I suggested Pakistan due to the complications of its recent history and the current evolution in its relationship with America that I am only vaguely aware of in detail. How do you expect this type of discussion to remain coherent when its subject is essentially the modern history of the middle east?

The alternative is doing all countries separately one at a time defining exactly what is of interest then attempting to bring them all (the separate nations) together in a unifying thread. Of course I think we should establish a selection of "required readings" and a least one book to help focus the topic, but these text should not be considered mandatory for involvement.

Great idea though, you can certainly count me in. I am assuming a more historical look at the relationships within the holistic frame of current events, what is you perspective? And how long would you like to spend doing this project?

:book:



Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:11 pm
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Grim:

Thanks for your message.

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I am assuming a more historical look at the relationships within the holistic frame of current events, what is you perspective?


My original idea was for discussion focused on the present, which is why I think the discussion would be manageable. Folks are free to discuss the history if they like, but my suggestion is to focus on the current situation: what are the U.S.'s current interests respecting each country?; what policies should we pursue respecting each country now?; is the Obama administration currently doing what we think is best?; if not, what should they do differently? How should the U.S. prepare for possible crises in the immediate future?

For example, it looks like we need to prepare for the simultaneous collapse of Zardari's government in Pakistan and Karzai's government in Afghanistan. What steps should we take to prepare for that? (for example, how many troops and other armed forces should we be willing to commit to each country, and for how long? Should we send more than the 30,000 extra troops already provided for to the region, and for a longer time than initially planned? Or should we follow Bacevich's advice and just exit immediately and leave both countries to the Taliban, and be done with it, and take our chances respecting the possible effects on Iran? If we choose to send more troops for a longer time, how should we discuss that with Iran (since it affects them directly)? Should we prepare to use that increased military presence next door to Iran to put more pressure on Iran to end its nuclear program and stop arming Hamas and Hezbollah? Should we prepare for a possible Israeli preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, and possible retaliation by Iran against our forces in the region?)

I propose an initial two week discussion, and then seeing where we are and if we want to continue.



Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:41 pm
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Ok now I see what you are getting at, current events are not really my flavor but I'm willing to try anyway. The question of recommended reading. Was reading Bacevich enough, or do you have other books in mind? Honestly I would have to pull The Limits of Power out again and reread it to do the book its deserved justice. Be aware that much of it does not have to do with the Middle East, and I don't recall him advising any type of reckless pull-out the troops strategy. Are you aware of Jimmy Carter's new book? I like the idea of a unifying "manual" to help set the perspective, something to quote from as a moral authority. Two weeks seems an awfully short time especially if a foundational book is recommended. How about four?

Your providing internet links to articles of particular interest and relevance will obviously be important at the start. Perhaps also some of the keywords you use for searching or wish to have emphasized during the discussion?

The difficult question now becomes what to name the thread?

:book:



Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:57 pm
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Grim:

Thanks for your messages. Actually, there doesn't appear to be much interest, so I've decided not to pursue the discuss on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, Palestine.



Thu Feb 19, 2009 9:17 pm
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Yeah it wasn't a very good idea to begin with. Maybe to CNN'y for some? I know it was getting close for me. Sorta like following the headlines or something and being able to comment rationally on. A task which many people are not very interested in. It's sorta like TV programs, you are given enough information to be able to follow along and discuss these events intelligently, but not enough information to be able to make a realistic decision. Your meant to watch the news not make it.

:book:



Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:16 pm
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