Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Realism as Extremism

Realism as Extremism
P. Schultz
April 7, 2015

On Wed, Apr 1, 2015 at 8:14 PM, Peter Schultz wrote:
An excellent piece laying bare the bullshit of the “moderates” who are in power. 

PB responds:
"Real peace cannot be imposed; it can only emerge as a consequence of the resolution of conflict. " What does that mean? 

It seems guns appear as surveillance cameras ...hum. I gotta say you seem take the line that "militarization...[is] our entire way of life," and project onto the whole piece excellence. The article strikes me as incoherent as Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's comments, and that is my worry. Both sides don't get. –P

On Sat, Apr 4, 2015 at 9:09 PM, Peter Schultz

Please identify the two sides of which you speak, as I must ask: What does that mean?   

I really don’t know how to explain the sentences you quote, other than to quote them again. Seem clear to me. And I was pretty clear about what I thought was excellent about the article, but perhaps you didn’t get that.

Are you actually questioning that our way of life in the US today is militarized? If so, I would imagine we would have little to talk about usefully. Gee, I wonder what you would make of the fact that the Wake Forest baseball team, yesterday, wore camouflaged jerseys for their game against B.C. Why was that, if not some genuflection toward the military that we are all expected to make these days? And I cannot remember the last major sporting event that did not have some military types around to display and told us, as if it was something to be proud of, that this event is being watched by those who are “defending our freedom in 175 countries"? You really don’t see the “militarization of our entire way of life?” Really? Wow, that would be something. 

Hey, OK, so you don’t like the article. You disagree. OK. It is “incoherent.” Gee, I didn’t notice that but then I am not a philosophy professor so its incoherence probably passed me by. But you are “worried.” Wow, at last we agree about something; it is time to be “worried.”  

On Apr 6, 2015, at 4:07 PM, Paul

The two sides to which I referred were the one expressed by the author of the article and the one expressed by Gov. Nixon. Yours is a fair question about the "two sides" though. My expression makes it sound like there is some kind of debate or position that are neatly oppositional.

I agree with the militarization point and I think Bacevich is spot on when he talks about fly overs, nods to our heroes at sporting events, the perfunctory "thank you for your service," and yes, camo uniforms are part of the "deal" we Americans makes in order to keep our perpetual warring at arms length.

The thing that worries me about the article is the "Why can't we all just get along" aspect to it. Human beings are violent and have always been violent. Human beings devoid of violence are not human beings. The suggestion that we have to engage in conflict resolution, let's talk this out, is as silly as let's go to war and fight this out. One can be hopeful about nuclear arms treaties in the Middle East, but I am not. Any resolution banning proliferation is a pipe dream practically speaking. AQ Khan is not an aberration. --Paul 

Peter Schultz responds:

Well, I can see where we disagree better now. I don’t equate the point of view of the article with “we can just talk things out,” as if we all got together and sang “Kumbya” all would be all right. In fact, as I understand the point of view of what you take to be one side of this “debate,” without naming it [more below], is in fact as far from this as one can get. The argument, as I understand it, is that the arrangements we have in place fuel war, always have and always will, regardless of how many people are at Woodstock or singing folk songs. Institutional frameworks define us and our institutional frameworks make us, the US, warlike. Or in the terms you used: our institutions rest on the assumption that peace MUST BE IMPOSED and cannot be RESOLVED. And this is just a reflection of an older debate, which surfaced around the ratification of the constitution. 

By this, I am referring to the fact that some of those who opposed the ratification of the Constitution, known collectively as the Anti-Federalists, saw clearly that if the proposed constitution was ratified that it would lead to a warlike nation, a nation that liked, wanted, and needed war. As near as I can tell, they were and are correct. As Herbert Storing put it, in his little volume, “What the Anti-Federalists Were For,” the Federalists had, to quote him, “the stronger argument.” But the “stronger argument” is not necessarily the “better argument.” In fact, because the stronger arguments are stronger because they appeal to the passions, not to reason, they almost always are not the better arguments. Storing was a careful writer, so I am assuming he knew what he was and was not saying here. The arguments for war and imperialism and empire are always stronger than those against war, imperialism, and empire because they appeal to the passions. To wit: 

Aristophanes accused Socrates of trying to make the weaker arguments stronger and he was correct. Only he might not have realized that the stronger arguments were not always the better arguments. I think Aristophanes was correct: But Socrates was trying to make the better arguments the stronger arguments and, not surprisingly, he failed, at least with the Athenians, and he failed precisely at the time that his arguments made the most sense, when Athenian imperialism had suffered humiliation and defeat. And this is a phenomenon that, it seems to me, repeats itself over and over and over, because not only are human beings, as you say, violent, but they also think that violence “works.” They not only like violence; they defend it!! All the more reason to look for institutions that try to moderate this all-too-human tendency to violence. The Anti-Federalists, or some of them, were as aware of this as anyone has been and, hence, they opposed the creation of a potentially powerful national government meant for greatness. They lost the argument and we are paying the price today…and what is worse, we think that we are doing something “noble” or “just” or “virtuous.” 

As far as your not naming the two sides, this is why I asked the question in the first place. When at Assumption, I use to talk with a colleague named Jack Crutcher and we would debate foreign policy. And we got nowhere. Then I realized that this was in part due to the fact that he labeled me an “isolationist,” and I also realized that once he did this, I might as well shut up because he was structuring an argument that I could not “win.” I also realized later that if someone labeled, say, Henry Kissinger a “realist,” I might as well not debate them but just go home because for me, Kissinger was and is a war criminal. And there was little to be gained in arguing with someone who didn’t see that “realism” was just a cover for “war crimes,” as in, “well, violence is all we can expect from human beings, so get ‘real’ you naive twit!”  

When Nadine and I were in Spain, we went to Cordoba where Muslims, Jews, and Catholics actually lived together in relative peace for about 3 centuries. How did that happen? Was that any less “real” than the violence, which the Catholics eventually perpetrated on the Muslims and the Jews? Along similar but far less important lines, when I asked my mother about a priest who was banished from our parish when I was young for some sexual offense, of which I only had a glimmer, she said: “Priests are just men,” thereby excusing him because she was being “realistic.” But I know now that many men are not like that priest; in fact, most of them are not and most priests are not. 

Could it be that “realism” is just a cover for “extremism?” Seems to me a good case can be made in this regard - consult your Machiavelli. And this is why I liked the article and said it cut through the “bullshit” of our alleged “moderates.” They aren’t moderates at all; they are extremists and when their extremism fails, as it always does, they turn to violence to maintain it, ala Ferguson, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc., etc., etc. And that, my friend, is something worth worrying about. 


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