Friday, March 30, 2012

What's It All About, Alphie?

What’s It All About, Alphie?
P. Schultz
March 30, 2012

            I have been bothered by the question: Why can’t Obama [and others] see that it is time to get out of Afghanistan? Answer: Because it isn’t about Afghanistan. Similarly, it was obvious that the Bush Administration changed its rationale for invading and occupying Iraq rather shamelessly. Why or how could it do this? Well, because that invasion and occupation was not about Iraq. And going back to an earlier time, why didn’t LBJ [and others] pull out of Vietnam when they knew “defeat” was almost guaranteed? Because it was not about Vietnam.[1] Nor was it about “winning” in Vietnam, just as it was not about “winning” in Iraq and is not about “winning” in Afghanistan.

            It is often said, and I have often said, that Bush was playing “hardball” in Iraq as he and his cohorts were trying to remake the Middle East, to create a “new order” there, one that would be “democratic” and Israel friendly. Well, now I think this is about half right. Bush was trying to create “a new order” only that “new order” was not to be located in Iraq but here in the United States. And this was and is what the “war on terror” is all about as well. It is said, often, that war cannot be waged on a “strategy” like “terrorism” and, once said, this is so obvious as to be undeniable. Why does it not deter our policy makers? Because the war on terror is not a war on terror but rather is a war directed at us. Bush and his cohorts, and even the Democrats, used the war on terror and the alleged “existential” threat of terrorism to try to remake our own political order, to impose on us policies that could never gain the acceptance of the American people except as responses to this “existential threat.” This is what our politicians do all the time: They create situations, presented to us as “crises” that have arisen over the course of time and despite efforts to deflect them, which call for certain measures which under any other circumstances would be rejected outright by the American people.

[1] That the Vietnam War was not about Vietnam is supported by the phrase “the Vietnam syndrome,” which President Bush I said had been dealt with by Desert Storm. Obviously, this “syndrome” did not have anything to do with Vietnam but had everything to do with the American people. Our “defeat” in Vietnam was not all that important to our politicians, Republican or Democrat. What mattered was that the American people (a) resisted the “government” and rejected its war and (b) threatened to reject the “activist, interventionist foreign policy” that underlay the power of our “power elite,” whom we the people needed to wield power to live safely in this dangerous world. People constantly say that LBJ had to let the generals fight in Vietnam in order to get his “Great Society” without realizing that (a) the generals were not all than enthused by a land war in Asia and (b) that the war was part and parcel of the “Great Society,” just as WWII was part and parcel of FDR’s New Deal.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bureaucracy and The Terminal

Bureaucracy and the Terminal
P. Schultz
March 29, 2012

            Because I have teaching about the bureaucracy in my American Government class, I showed the class the film, The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta Jones [or whatever her name is]. Whenever I teach about the bureaucracy, I seem to get involved and find it hard to stop. Wondering why, I think I now know, which I put to the class in the following way.

            We are unlikely ever to confront or be confronted by the Congress or the presidency or the Supreme Court. Those institutions we view from afar, as spectators. But not so with the bureaucracy. We are, all of us, enmeshed in bureaucracy. I am and you are, we all are and so it behooves us to try to understand “the bureaucratic world” or, as my favorite book on the subject has it, “the bureaucratic experience.” And as I tell students, this world is a strange place and it requires that we learn how to navigate it or be destroyed by it.

            The film, The Terminal, does a decent job of illustrating what this world is like, how strange it is, how hostile it is or can be. Hanks plays one Viktor Navorsky, who because of a revolution in his home nation of Krakozhia, gets stuck in Kennedy Airport near New York City. There he confronts and is confronted by a bureaucrat named Dixon who makes his life something like a living hell in order to try to get Viktor to leave the terminal and become, as Dixon puts it, “someone else’s problem.”

            There is too much to discuss to discuss it all here so I will comment on two examples that illustrate the weirdness that is bureaucracy. First, at one point, Dixon points out to Viktor that “his country no longer exists” and, hence, “the United States is closed.” Now, of course, countries don’t just disappear and Viktor’s country still exists but from the bureaucrat’s perspective, it does not. And the bureaucrat actually acts as if the country does not exist, which means he is being delusional. And yet, when you watch the film, the bureaucrat’s delusional thinking and behavior do not strike you immediately. He is, as the students say, “just doing his job.” And, of course, if a person is just “doing his/her job” they are not, cannot be delusional. Or so we like to think. However, as a bureaucrat, Dixon is required to think and act in a delusional manner. It is a job requirement.

            Second, at another point in the film, Dixon says that Viktor is “a threat to national security.” By virtue of his bureaucratic perspective, of course Dixon is correct, Viktor is “a threat to national security.” This is how the rules define Viktor and a bureaucrat is not allowed to look beyond the rules. But from any other perspective, it is simply madness to classify Viktor as “a threat to national security.” It is insanity given that the only thing Viktor wants to do is to go to a local Ramada Inn and get a famous jazz saxophonist’s autograph and then go home, to say nothing of the fact that Viktor is, as is obvious to almost all persons except Dixon, about as decent a human being as is imaginable.
            As I like to point out to students, bureaucracy is part of a project, a rather large project, a project that seeks to rationalize the world. This project is not benign, not by a long shot. It has implications, even immense implications for us as human beings. Usually, I ask classes after we have viewed The Terminal why Dixon was so angry, so unhappy. They come up with different reasons, all of them correct to some extent. But then I offer them my opinion in answer to this question and it is this: Dixon is not a happy person and cannot be a happy person because he is not allowed as a bureaucrat to be a human being.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Santorum and Catholicism

Rick Santorum and Catholicism
P. Schultz
March 25, 2012

            Here is something that recently occurred to me. I have this friend who is very Catholic and whenever I write things about Santorum or how other issues, such as abortion, are being used today, he responds as if I were writing about the Catholic Church. But here is why this is an inappropriate response.

            Let me use an illustration, viz., education. Now Catholics have always had a healthy respect for education, even or especially a Catholic liberal arts education as in Villanova University, the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University [run by the currently dreaded Jesuits!], the Catholic University of America, the University of Dallas and, of course, the pinnacle of all of these institutions, Assumption College. On a different level, few realize that what we call “public schools” were begun by Protestants who were trying to offset the many Catholic schools created by immigrants coming to this country in the 1800s.

            What does this mean? Well, it means in large part that Catholics have never seen the world as a place where one could live as well as is possible merely by following a catechism. Or, to put this differently, it means that Catholics were not convinced that one could be properly educated by one's parents as in “home schooling.” There are certain questions, certain issues that are best treated outside the home, even in a place called a “university” or a “college” where there is a premium placed on inquisitiveness as opposed to, say, the acquisitiveness that informs a capitalist social order or to, say, familial loyalty.

            Rick Santorum likes to present himself as something of a maverick because he and his wife – I imagine it is largely done by his wife – home school their children. But this is not really all that “radical” once one gets beyond what we take to be “normal” today, viz., a bureaucratized education meant to socialize human beings so they fit neatly into a particular society. I mean such a concept of education, socialization, is quite old and, hence, quite common. Home schooling, it seems to me, may be faulted for failing to recognize just how powerful is the desire to call socialization “education” and how it alone is incapable of denting this leviathan.

            Catholics were not under a similar delusion and, hence, established schools, elementary, high school, and colleges and universities in order to build a “firewall” against an education that merely socialized without, let us say, spiritualizing. But this seems to me a dimension Santorum does not possess or even recognize. And insofar as this is the case, why aren’t Catholics protesting the identification of Santorum with Catholicism? Or perhaps I should ask, why aren’t more Catholics protesting the identification of Santorum with Catholicism? To me, this seems like it would be a fertile ground and one that might even bear some fruit of more than passing – i.e., political - interest.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review of Christians as Political Animals

Review of Christians as Political Animals,  by Marc Guerra
P. Schultz
March 21, 2012

            OK, first things first. Apparently, in reviewing work published by ISI it is customary and perhaps obligatory to compliment the author. One of my previous reviews was criticized as “mean spirited” and it was not so intended. But, apparently, because I did not say that Daniel J. Mahoney had written an immensely thoughtful and provocative book, as he always does, my review was “mean spirited.” Of course, I could be wrong here and the comment might reflect little more than an ego that resembles that of teenage girl. Nonetheless, let me praise Guerra at the outset for writing an immensely thoughtful book, even a provocative book, a book that all serious people ought to have in their libraries. And just so there is no confusion, I do now have it in and intend to keep it in my library.

            I do not intend to write, because I cannot, a lengthy review. Rather, I just want to raise a couple of questions that occurred to me as I read and thought over Guerra’s argument.

            First, for Guerra, there is a crisis in modernity. That is a given, which I accept. And, apparently for Guerra, at least a part of this crisis has been caused by the displacement of Catholic theology and the Catholic faith by the forces of relativism and nihilism that infuse, according to Guerra, the modern world. Also, it seems that a return to classical political philosophy would not be a sufficient cure or palliative to the crisis. It is necessary to reinvigorate Catholicism, both it theology and its practice. OK. Let me accept this argument. Leaving the theology aside, let us say that Catholicism is reinvigorated. Let us say that many more Ave Maria universities are established, contraceptive devices are made illegal [as they were in some places prior to Griswold v. Connecticut], gays and lesbians go back into the closets, pre-marital sex is considered immoral and shameful as is co-habitation, people do not talk about abusive priests or nuns, abortions are made illegal again, and Catholics go to church again and young men look forward to becoming priests.

            OK. All done. What happens? Well, what happened before? I have just described the world I grew up in, basically, as a youngin’ in the 50s and 60s. And that world disappeared! Why did it disappear and why does Guerra think that if were recreated it would not disappear? Did it disappear because Heidegger wrote and published Being and Time? Did it disappear because more people read Nietzsche? Or did it disappear because it did not “speak to” people any longer? Or did it disappear because, like all human institutions, it got old and decrepit?

            I suspect that the hand that wrote had moved on and having written and moved on, all efforts to erase the writing are vain. There is a aphorism about this and perhaps this provides an explanation for our current situation. In any case, Guerra provides no reason to think that were he to get all he wants, that the result would not be the same as it was previously.
            Second, Guerra spends time perusing the works of Leo Strauss, who wrestled with the theological-political problem but as a Jew or apparently as a Jew. It is not clear to me from reading Guerra what we are supposed to make of Strauss. That is, are we to think of Strauss as an ally of the proposed Catholic reinvigoration or as an opponent? As I say, it is not clear to me what Guerra thinks. And believe me, I could have missed this. But, assuming I did not, what does seem pretty clear to me is that Strauss did not throw his lot in with those who would reinvigorate Catholicism or with anyone who would reinvigorate religion.

            Strauss argued that there was an indissoluble tension between philosophy as a way of living and religion as a way of living, the former requiring an unashamed consideration of all questions and the latter requiring an adherence, even a humble adherence to a will and/or law considered divine. But Strauss himself spent almost no time later in his life dealing with religion or theology, except of course in the context of classical political philosophy. This could lead someone to think that Strauss was willing to be “nice” to religion and religious types because he thought they would serve as allies in his quest to save philosophy. That is, to put it crudely, Strauss was willing to use religion as an ally in same way that some politicians have used religion and the religious as allies in their pursuit of power and glory.

            Anyway, it would be good to have what Guerra thinks about Strauss expressed more clearly than it is in his immensely thoughtful and provocative book. But then perhaps Guerra would use philosophy in the same way as I have argued Strauss used religion, as an ally in an attempt to reinvigorate Catholicism.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


P. Schultz
March 18, 2012

            Many years ago now, I remember that once I said in a class, I believe it was an American Government class, that what had adversely affected this country was an underdeveloped sense of sin. This was not a planned assertion; it just came out of my mouth I know not from where. The students looked at me as most would, with that look of utter disdain or shock that is reserved for those who are, not to be sophisticated about it, loco. I myself thought that perhaps this was true.

            And I am still of the latter opinion. But when I read articles such as the one above, from today’s New York Times, on the what war does to human beings, I begin to wonder anew: Are we really aware of what we are doing? That is, are we really aware of what war does to the human soul?

            We have these categories like post traumatic stress disorder that allow us to think that we know what is going on, but one should wonder about the adequacy of these concepts for understanding the affects of our actions. A man deployed four times to places utterly foreign to him, where he thinks and must think that almost anyone would like and even try to kill him, is said to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. And then he seems to confirm this by massacring 16 people who are sleeping, including children.

            Post traumatic stress focuses our attention on the mind, not the soul. This could be too intellectual, but not surprisingly for we moderns who tend to embrace Descartes’ maxim, “I think, therefore I am.” [One of my favorite authors, Tom Robbins, has a Catholic priest say in one of his novels, correcting Descartes: “I stink, therefore I am.”]

There is, however, more to consider. What had happened to this man’s soul during and as a result of his four deployments? What sin had he witnessed? What sin had he committed? How did he seek redemption, if he did at all? After all, redemption is not really one of our common concepts, a concept, for example, that the military would take seriously enough to structure a man’s service around.  We think that talking, therapy, is the way to go and perhaps it is. But what of silence? What of prayer? What of getting in touch with the all inclusive ALL, sensing our place in a universe that is at once mysterious and magical? What of meditation?

Yes, I know. There is that look again, the look of disdain and surprise, accompanied by the thought: “This is what happens when people spend too much time in school!” But I can take it. I even smile. And I do because I know that some where in you, deep in you, there is a doubt, there is a place that is saying to you: “He could be right!” After all, this isn’t anything new. A long, long time ago, a man named Socrates tried to wake the Athenians up, to get them to see what they were doing to their souls because, as even Billy Joel knows, “It’s All About Soul.”

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Abortion? Not so much

Abortion? Not So Much
P. Schultz
March 17, 2012

            Well, it is becoming ever clearer that the current legislation that is allegedly concerned with abortion is not. Of course, this should have been clear to anyone before now but it seems to escape them. Nor is this surprising as often, even as a rule, policies that are sold as being for certain purposes actually serve other purposes. Does anyone really think that the power brokers in D.C. (a) think Afghanistan can be democratized and (b) that they really care one way or the other so long as Afghanistan does our bidding? If you do, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I will sell you cheap.

            The subtext, as some like to call it, of the abortion issue is sex in general and women’s sexuality in particular. Liberating women’s sexuality scares the crap out of a lot of people, as Rush Limbaugh’s rants made clear. In the attached article, the governor of Pennsylvania said in defense of a “far-reaching” abortion law – I love the euphemism “far-reaching” – that women should just “shut their eyes.” Now why is no one proposing legislation regulating men when they want Viagra for “erectile dysfunction?” Well, it has something to do with the differences between women’s sexuality and men’s sexuality, the former apparently needing to be restrained while the latter needs to be reinforced and prolonged! Unless of course the men in question want to have homosexual sex! Someone should ask governor Corbett if he thinks gay men ought to be allowed to have Viagra. Now that would be an interesting question and maybe an interesting answer.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Politics and Evil

Politics and Evil
P. Schultz
March 13, 2012

Here is a question that has occurred to me recently more than once: How is it that those humans who set out to eradicate evil end up creating more of it? 

It was once pointed out to me that in Plato's Republic or Aristotle's Politics that injustice comes to sight before justice. Could it be that injustice is more prominent than justice? Hence, it could be that we don’t have to look for injustice; it finds us soon enough. But justice is another story. We have to look for it and we don’t even know it when we see it. Justice is not, in this way, like what Justice Potter Stewart said of pornography: We don’t know it when we see it.

Of course, this in no way helps to answer the question posed above. But it might provide a clue. All political projects, all political actions, involve injustice. Take this as a given, as a natural law, if you will. To see why it is a possibility, try to think of a political project, of a policy that does not involve injustice. You will discover that it is very hard to do that. Our criminal justice system, any criminal justice system results in injustices being committed, willy nilly as it were.

Now, if this is the case, if in fact all political projects involve injustice, are unjust to some degree, then the greatest political projects involve the greatest injustices. You say you want to “police” the world? Well, be my guest but recognize that such policing will involve great injustices; that is, to police the world you will have to engage in great injustices. There is no way around this phenomenon. Perhaps one of the most interesting demonstrations of this phenomenon occurs in Plato’s Republic, where Socrates undertakes to construct the perfectly just society and ends up committing the most egregious injustices, such as suppressing the poets and poetry, endorsing communism of women and children, and banishing every one over the age of 10 from the city.

And, of course, in his real life, Socrates could see all too clearly that the Athenian quest for greatness, its quest to have and be a great empire, one to be remembered through the ages as if it were immortal, led to injustice. He could not have been surprised by his trial and its verdict. Perhaps Socrates was more surprised by the fact that he was allowed to live until he was 70 years old. But Socrates also saw what these injustices did to the souls of the Athenians, who sought to lay up wealth and power and beauty while ignoring their souls. A politics of greatness, which the Athenians and we Americans take for granted as desirable, is deadly for the human soul as understood by Socrates. And hence as a result of seeking to be great, humans commit great misdeeds and great injustices. A politics of goodness seems more humane, even or especially more human.

Christians as Political Animals, II

Christians as Political Animals, Part II
P. Schultz
March 13, 2012

Marc Guerra writes: “Unlike modern social science, Socratic philosophy squarely opposes ‘crypto-materialistic’ accounts of statesmanship which seek to explain political actions on merely ‘hedonistic or utilitarian grounds.’ The actions of true statesman are guided by a genuine concern for the common good and cannot be reduced to mere calculations of self-interest.” [pp. 30-31]

            That this view of statesmanship is problematic is evident insofar as even the most inhuman of rulers have been motivated by “a genuine concern for the common good.” That is, those who are most ambitious see themselves as “statesmen” in this sense, as having “a genuine concern for the common good.” In fact, such a concern with the common good, unrestrained, leads human beings to commit the most inhuman acts imaginable. Certainly a genuine concern for the common good has led many American presidents into situations that result in inhuman acts, such as dispossessing Native Americans, enslaving millions of Africans, killing millions of Vietnamese, thousands of Iraqis, and thousands of Afghanis, many of them innocent civilians, not to mention the use of atomic weapons in Japan and other heinous acts.

            To the extent this is accurate, modern social science doesn’t understand the “depth” of political ambition. It sees it as, say, the pursuit of “success” whereas it is actually a desire to achieve “fame,” or a kind of immortality. It is then a desire to god-like. Hence, modern social science does not grasp what might be called the political phenomenon of the greatest importance: How to prevent tyranny by “deflecting” those who are drawn into politics to do great things and, thereby, achieve everlasting fame, to be deemed god-like.

            And this helps to make sense of Guerra’s next observation that, based on Socrates' view of “the right ordering of the soul,” “Socratic political philosophy replaces the prudent statesman with the wise philosopher as the highest human type.” [p. 31] The philosopher is “wise” in that he knows that “a genuine concern for the common good” needs to be restrained, that it can – and will – lead human beings into inhuman acts. The “wise” philosopher challenges all political, social, and divinely based orders/regimes, challenges all political actions but especially the those political actions that seek greatness. The “wise” philosopher is always a “gadfly,” that is, his behavior resembles an irritating pest, and those genuinely concerned for the common good just want him to go away.

            “A genuine concern for the common good” blinds human beings to the injustice that is always present in the political arena. Hence, what might be called “Socrates’ mantra,” “Do no injustice,” changes the character of political life as it acts as a deterrent to action and especially to great actions.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Christians as Political Animals

“Christians as Political Animals”: Brief Review of Marc Guerra’s Monograph
P. Schultz
March 11, 2012

I now have a copy of Guerra's "Christians as Political Animals" and am wandering through it, here and there, and I came across this sentence: "The limits natural or divine law places on human freedom are seen not as revealing the cosmic foundations of human freedom but as direct affronts to human dignity." [p. 157]

Guerra speaks as if the contents of "natural or divine law" are self-evident and, therefore, beyond dispute. How can this be? And if they are not self-evident then his argument is, it seems to me, a house of cards and bound to fall down. Who gets to say what is "divine law?" And do those who "know" this law get to enforce it against the rest of us? Without our consent?

More generally, Guerra says that modern liberal democracy needs "moral foundations." OK.  This seems pretty unremarkable to me and, I think, to most people in the US. Even those who argue for "same-sex" marriage often argue that this is required by their conception of the "moral." And, of course, Noam Chomsky is really just an old fashioned moralist. But Chomsky's intensity feeds on this morality, and of course he is not alone. Appeals to morality often inflame and prove to be incendiary and even deadly.

All of this is meant to raise the question: is morality part of the solution or part of the problem? And when morality is understood to be based on "divine law" or imitation of the gods, does this exacerbate the problematic character of morality or not?

Last point: Those who have committed the greatest crimes against humanity have based their actions on their notions of morality and even natural law. Hitler comes to mind, as does Stalin [laws of history], and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. To imply that these monsters were "relativists," motivated by a technological project, resting on a rejection of "morality" or moral standards is simply not persuasive to me. They did reject some moralities but they did not reject morality itself. And perhaps the same can be said for modernity itself: Its flaw is that its relativism and/or nihilism provides no corrective to the appeal of morality, which resurfaces with a vengeance after its apparent exile or which comes in through the back door after being thrown out of the front door.

Overall, I have nothing against Guerra's argument that what is needed today is to "rediscover the necessity, desirability, and nobility of humanizing limits.' Absolutely nothing. But (a) who needs to learn this lesson more, citizens or those who wield power, including popes and priests? [I think the latter.] And (b) is "divine law" the best way to inculcate these limits? How about what I like to call "small minded politics"? [As Aristotle follows the Ethics with the Politics, I am inclined to believe that he too thought the way to establish limits among humans was politically, not philosophically or theologically.]

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Santorum on Separation

Santorum on Separation
P. Schultz
March 6, 2012

“[Justice] Stewart was fond of citing Justice William O. Douglas’s pronouncement in Zorach v. Clauson (1952) that “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a supreme being.”

This quote is from a Stanley Fish column in today’s New York Times arguing that Rick Santorum’s views on the separation of church and state are not beyond the pale of our political discourse on the question of the separation of church and state. Fish argues that church and state or religion and politics have always been intertwined in the United States and cities academics and Supreme Court Justices to prove his point, such as the one above from Justice Douglas.

Of course, Fish can cite all the sources he wishes but the issue is not whether church and state have been separated but rather what should be the relation between church and state or religion and politics.  That is, to argue as Fish and others have that this separation has been less than complete or “absolute” as Santorum asserted does not actually address the issue: Which should prevail, religion or politics, when push comes to shove, as it always does? Fish is not the only one who confuses these two issues; in fact, most people on both sides of the issue do so.

The interesting phenomenon during the Founding era was not the degree to which the American people were religiously inclined but rather that some of those who influenced the Founding were of the opinion that religion was dangerous. James Madison in a letter to Jefferson written about the time of the constitutional convention and in the Federalist argued that religion, so far from helping to offset “majority tyranny,” often facilitated such tyranny/oppression. And, of course, Jefferson rewrote the gospels in order to remove what he considered to be the “stuff” that fed religious wars and fanaticism.

See, this is what Santorum does not entertain, the possibility that religion is a source of oppression and fanaticism and that, for this reason, it must be regulated by “the state” and certainly cannot be trusted to regulate “the state.” Stanley Fish argues, based on certain Supreme Court cases, that accommodation is more prevalent than separation, even that separation is a historical myth – citing Chief Justice Rehnquist as one of his sources. He, Fish, is correct about the prevalence of accommodation. But what his column obscures is that it is the Supreme Court, which is after all a part of our civil government, that is doing the accommodating. That is, it is the government that decides how far religion will be accommodated; it is the government that regulates religion and not religion that decides how far government can regulate it. Or to put this differently: Justice Douglas may be correct that our “institutions presuppose a supreme being” – although I doubt this – but it is our civil institutions that decide how far the will of this “supreme being” will impact our society. To be blunt: The separation of church and state means the subordination of religion to politics and not the subordination of politics to religion. And this is where Santorum has it wrong, basically and fundamentally wrong.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Obama "Versus" Netanyahu

Obama “versus” Netanyahu


This is a headline in today’s NY Times. Notice how this posturing serves both men’s interests. Obama pretends to “press” Netanyahu which comports with his image as an alternative to the more warlike image of almost all Republicans. And when Netanyahu resists and even ignores Obama’s alleged “pleadings for peace,” he pleases those in Israel he wished to please and himself. And when he does this, then Obama can claim either that “he tried” or that the Iranians left Netanyahu no choice but to attack. 

And for anyone who thinks this take is overly cynical – which of course it might well be – just remember or recognize that this would not be the first time a president pretended to protest war while embracing it. The names Wilson, FDR, LBJ, and George W. Bush should be enough to illustrate this recurring phenomenon. 

Obama Presses Netanyahu to Resist Strikes on Iran

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Escape Artists?

Escape Artists?
P. Schultz
March 4, 2012

This is a link to a review of a book entitled The Escape Artists, which claims to be a book explaining how the Obama administration “repeatedly failed” during the recovery from the great recession. Well, I guess this might work but what if the Obama administration did not fail at all in its approach to the recovery? That is, suppose, just for laughs perhaps, that what this author takes to be “failure” the Obama administration takes to be “success.” What is lacking, my addled brain tells me, in the accounts of the Obama administration is any kind of political analysis. That is, there is no analysis that factors in what might be called “political variables,” or how the Obama administration approached the recovery in a way that preserved the power of those elites, those groups who had power before the great recession. It is as if our analysts think of political people as “problem solvers,” as those who sought and use power to solve problems rather than as political people who want to rule.

When Aristotle looked at human beings, he noticed that it was rule or ruling that defined human beings. That is, he distinguished between “democrats” and “oligarchs,” for example, both of whom wanted to rule and to rule to achieve certain ends. Democrats wanted equality and oligarchs wanted inequality. Hence, democrats wanted the many not wealthy to rule and oligarchs wanted the few wealthy to rule. But whatever the details, the desire to rule is what motivates human beings as Aristotle understood us. This is surely part of what Aristotle meant when he wrote that human beings are political animals: human beings desire to rule and this desire is at least as basic as our sex drive or the desire for self-preservation.

But you would never know this from almost any political analysis today. As noted above, if one views Obama’s measures as meant to facilitate a recovery, then one can say he and his administration “failed.” However, if one views Obama’s measures as political, that is, as measures that would allow Obama and his ilk to rule, then one should not, at least not yet, label them “failures.” What looks like “failure” from what is called “an economic point of view” need not look like failure from “a political point of view.”

Hey, this is probably crazy but then “it just might be a lunatic you’re looking for.”

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Iran and the Bomb II

Iran and the Bomb II
P. Schultz
March 1, 2012

My friend George sent me a link to an article in the NY Times on the apparently upcoming attack on Iran, ostensibly to take out its nuclear capacities. This was on facebook and George did not write anything in addition to the post. This is my response to the article, the link for which is below.

“Interesting article. But my objections are: (a) It does not raise the question of whether it is just to attack another nation for building what the attacking nations already possess. It is, not surprisingly, all about the logistics of attacking, not its justice. The justice of the action is just assumed and with good reason: Because its justice is built on arguments that the Iranians, I guess because they are governed by Muslims, are not entitled to the kind of treatment the Israelis are entitled to. And this is a hard argument to make openly.

(b) And, of course, it never even hints at the argument that this is about regime change in Iran, not about nukes. To think this passes for analysis does not surprise me - it is what we get from the NY Times all the time [remember those articles in the Times greasing the skids on the way to the war in Iraq?] - but it is worth noting that what passes for analysis ignores, completely as near as I can tell, the political/strategic agenda behind an attack on Iran. Are we really expected to believe that an attack on Iran is not aimed at regime change? And this raises, for me, a question for me that is easily answered: Do we have the right to determine how other nations govern themselves?

So, thanks for the post. But I am unwilling to buy into the same kind of hysterical rhetoric about nukes/WMDs that was used by the Bushies to make a disastrous war in Iraq, a war that cost billions, took 4000+ lives of American soldiers, left thousands of those soldiers maimed for life, killed tens of thousands Iraqi civilians, and accomplished one thing: Increased the power of Iran in the Middle East. And isn't it interesting that this is being done by the Democrats, illustrating once again that all the crap about "two parties" divided by deep ideological differences is really just that, crap.

Iran and the Bomb

Iran and the Bomb
P. Schultz
March 1, 2012

Here is an exchange I had on Facebook with a friend from high school.

George:  So... are you comfortable with Iran having the "BOMB"?

Peter Schultz Two responses: (a) As comfortable as I am with Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia, and India having nukes, and (b) all of these countries except N. Korea lie in proximity to Iran so that if I were Iranian I would want nukes. I would be most comfortable if these countries, plus the US, had no nukes. Reagan had an idea like that. One of his best. But the "realists" said no.

Besides, the real project is not Iran's nukes but its regime. That's what the imperialists in D.C. and Israel want to change. They don't like the Islamic republic. A Christian republic? A Jewish state? Fine with us, but no Islamic states allowed. Just as in Iraq, they are using the nuke issue [WMDS] as a cover for regime change. Gee, we already did that in Iran and look where we are today. [Why do our "realists" fail so often? And why given this failure rate do we still call them "realists?"]

But my point here was: Attack Iran or let Israel attack Iran, because they could not and would not do it without our approval, and then when the Iranians attack back, one way or the other, don't go around playing the victim of "mad Mullahs." What goes around, comes around. And we in the US go about the world, "projecting our power" everywhere, and then when the shit hits the fan, as it always does, we think: "Oh, they hate us. Poor us. Why are they attacking us? We are so good!" 9/11 did not come out of the blue......"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves."