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Patriotism GOP Style November 29, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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Republican Richard Luger, a foreign policy expert and one of the few rational Republicans left in the Senate, is urging his Republican colleagues to ratify the New START treaty. “Please do your duty to your country” he implores. Apparently, his colleagues led by Senator Kyl  are not listening.

As Mark Kleiman reports:

Brent Scowcroft, another solid Republican, says he can’t figure out what goal Kyl & Co. might be pursuing by their opposition to the treaty other than the goal of denying the President a foreign policy victory. (A secondary goal might be squeezing Obama for even more wasteful government spending on warheads we’ll never actually use.)

If the START treaty is not ratified the U.S. will have no means of verifying the nature of weapon systems in Russia and the Russians will have no incentive to work with us on our policy with Iran or Afghanistan.  There is no U.S. interest served by holding up this treaty.

Kleiman continues:

If patriotism means the willingness to put, in John McCain’s words, “country first,” then the party that just won the midterm elections may be the least patriotic party since … well, since the Republican isolationists almost let Hitler win World War II.

I perfectly understand why the few remaining moderate Republican politicians don’t switch parties. They’ve made their choice. What I don’t understand is the persistence of moderate Republican voters. Your party is irrevocably in the grip of a group of reckless, cynical, and largely ignorant extremists. Time to go. Noisily

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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The Road to Imperial Ruin March 31, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, Political Philosophy.
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Cross-posted at Reviving the Left..

One of the main themes of Reviving the Left is that the ethics of care is relevant in the political arena in areas such as foreign policy.

Unlike moral theories that strive for universality, and thus focus on what human beings have in common, the ethics of care rests prescriptions on knowledge of particular persons, their circumstances, and their differences, and the cultivation of empathy and perceptiveness to gain such knowledge.

Matt Yglesias makes a point about our approach to Pakistan that implicitly reinforces the importance of an ethic of care.

In responding to the argument that we may not be able to trust the Pakistanis to root out the Taliban and Al-Quaeda from tribal areas he writes:

“This sort of thing is, in my view, really the achilles heel of the American imperial project….And when we get involved in things like the internal politics of Pakistan, or political reform in Egypt, or wars in the Horn of Africa, and so forth we’re dealing in situations where the level of understanding is incredibly asymmetric. If you go to pretty much any country in the world, you’ll find that educated people there know more about the United States than you do about their country. Nobody at highest levels of the American government speaks Urdu. Or Arabic. Or Amharic or Somali or Pashto or Tajik.

Lots of people at high levels in the Pakistani government speak English….they have a vast bounty of media outlets to peruse to gather intelligence. And year-in and year-out Pakistan cares about the same smallish set of countries—Pakistani officials are always focused on issue in their region and issues with the United States. Our officials dance around—the Balkans are important this decade, Central Asia the next, Russia and the Persian Gulf flit on and off the radar, sometimes we notice what’s happening in Mexico, etc.

In other words, in a straightforward contest of power between the United States and Pakistan, we can of course win. But in a scenario where we are trying to manipulate the situation in Pakistan in such-and-such a way and Pakistani actors are trying to manipulate the situation for their own ends, the odds of us actually outwitting the Pakistanis are terrible. They’re in a much better position to manipulate us than we are them.

This is one reason why so many of our foreign policy and foreign aid initiatives go wrong. We assume that other people are like us. We assume they share our interests, habits of communication, and ways of looking at the world because we assume our way is simply the human way.

And these assumptions are encouraged by our dominant moral theories (e.g. Kantian or utilitarian theories) that enjoin us to act only on prescriptions on which it would be rational for anyone to act. Our moral reflection tends to take place on a very general and very generic level.