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Neoconservatives and Altruism

91 posts in this topic

I was giving you the benefit of doubt. Because there are so many things wrong with your post, I wanted to give you an opportunity to think about it and maybe revise your comments.

You say,

In fact, compared to the way things looked in the beginning of the 20th Century I would say that America has been thriving lately.

Maybe, if you are a big government conservative

The Objective Standard, Fall 2006, p. 16

Here are some hard facts. Government spending has increased faster under George Bush...

And what has been the cost of this thriving? In particular, lets look at what the War in Iraq is doing to our military.

Robert gates, last month recommended...

Over the past 4-5 months at a steady rate I have gained about 10 lbs from lifting weights. However recently after doing Jiu-Jitsu one night I lost probably 4-5 lbs of weight, and then gained it back over the next day. Should my conclusion be that overall the general trend is towards me gaining weight, or should I conclude that I'm dangerously near a downward spiral of unhealthy weight loss?

What I'm talking about here is looking at the big picture, not examining a few random negative facts with tunnel vision. Rick, when I said "compared to the way things looked in the beginning of the 20th Century I would say that America has been lately" I was referring to the overall trend over the last 40-50 years of the 20th Century as compared to the first 40-50 years, yet you brought up facts and figures from the last year. Yes, a poorly run War on Terror and a bloated budget may be bad, but compared to how dire civilization looked for the first half of the 20th Century, I think life has been looking pretty darn good for quite a while now, and I'm very excited and optimistic about the future. If America was able to hurdle the Progressive Era, FDR and two World Wars, I think Iraq and the 2006 Budget aren't so scary anymore.

You ask,
Do you really think that Lieberman or Giuliani want to, or are going to, destroy America?

Lieberman and Giuliani may not want to destroy America but their ideas will.

Any politician is going to be a mixture of good ideas and bad ones, I think the important distinction is how strongly they advocate which ideas, and how successful they will be at pushing those particular ideas. Case in point, a Lieberman Giuliani ticket actually sounds interesting to me, because I don't think there is a great chance of either of their bad ideas being successful, whereas their good ideas could be.
Finally you state,
From what I've seen so far, I honestly feel like a culture of doom and pessimism has developed amongst some Objectivists lately, with Leonard Peikoff being at the forefront of it.

I find the charge of pessimism the most ironic statement of all.

If the political trend of the world remains unchanged, the same fate– collapse and ultimate dictatorship–is in store for the countries of Western Europe...And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you konw for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. (2) (Bold is mine.)

(The Ominous Parallels, p. 300-301)

A culture of doom and pessimism? I think not.

To save you from spending time digging up any more quotes like this, I place little to no weight on Peikoff's judgment of the future of Civilization (but I do love OPAR and some of his lectures!).

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What I'm talking about here is looking at the big picture, not examining a few random negative facts with tunnel vision. Rick, when I said "compared to the way things looked in the beginning of the 20th Century I would say that America has been lately" I was referring to the overall trend over the last 40-50 years of the 20th Century as compared to the first 40-50 years, yet you brought up facts and figures from the last year. Yes, a poorly run War on Terror and a bloated budget may be bad, but compared to how dire civilization looked for the first half of the 20th Century, I think life has been looking pretty darn good for quite a while now, and I'm very excited and optimistic about the future. If America was able to hurdle the Progressive Era, FDR and two World Wars, I think Iraq and the 2006 Budget aren't so scary anymore.

It is painfully obvious to me, that you have not familiarized yourself with the sources that I provided at the beginning of this thread. The facts and the sources I pick have a reason and a purpose. They are not random. At some point in time, I will connect the dots and you will see that in terms of understanding the big picture I think I know what I am talking about.

In the mean time, you might want to take the time to take a look at

The Bush Administration's Disdain for Nation-Building p. 503-504, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by

Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor.

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Any politician is going to be a mixture of good ideas and bad ones, I think the important distinction is how strongly they advocate which ideas, and how successful they will be at pushing those particular ideas. Case in point, a Lieberman Giuliani ticket actually sounds interesting to me, because I don't think there is a great chance of either of their bad ideas being successful, whereas their good ideas could be.

Would you consider the following one of Lieberman's good ideas or bad?

Set America Free

Divergent political camps have found common ground in support of “energy security” and “energy independence.” As high gas prices and intensifying conflicts in the Middle East focus attention on U.S. dependence on petroleum imports, progressives and conservatives are organizing to reshape U.S. policy based on their own views about what the terms “energy security” and “energy independence” mean.
National security hardliners are also attempting to put their own spin on the concepts of energy security and independence. The neoconservative Center for Security Policy (CSP), headed by Frank Gaffney, working closely with the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS), is cosponsoring the “Set America Free” coalition, which brings neoconservatives together with liberal groups like the Apollo Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The coalition's slogan: “Cut dependence on foreign oil. Secure America.”

In addition to Gaffney, other prominent neoconservatives and conservatives in the Set America Free coalition include Gary Bauer of American Values, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), former national security adviser Robert McFarlane, Clifford May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), Thomas Neumann of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum, James Woolsey of the Committee on the Present Danger, and Meyrav Wurmser of the Hudson Institute. Among the advisors to IAGS are Woolsey, McFarlane, and Eliot Cohen.

In its “open letter to the American people,” the coalition calls for breaking U.S. dependence on Mideast oil, asserting that “at the strategic level it is dangerous to be buying billions [worth] of oil from nations that are sponsors of or allied with radical Islamists.” In ending oil imports from the Middle East, America would “deny adversaries the wherewithal they use to harm us.”

By adapting their political agenda to include a focus on energy security, the national security hardliners at CSP, IAGS, and other affiliated groups such as the fervently pro-Israel FDD and JINSA have made common cause with appropriate-technology groups, environmental firms, and nongovernmental organizations—at the very time when public disenchantment with U.S. Mideast policy is deepening. The Set America Free coalition also includes representatives from outfits such as the Coalition Advocating Smart Transportation, the California Cars Initiative, and the American Council on Renewable Energy—groups not normally associated with militarist organizations like CSP and JINSA.

One of the proponents of the Set America Free camp is leading congressional hawk, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT). “It is time to set America free,” says Lieberman, “Cutting our dependence on oil will strengthen our security, preserve our independence, and energize our economy … We must diversify the fuels that power our nation, or risk ceding our nation's power to rulers separated from us by a world in geography and by centuries in values.”

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Would you consider the following one of Lieberman's good ideas or bad?

Come now Rick. Any Objectivist knows that this is a bad idea. Why the straw man?

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Would you consider the following one of Lieberman's good ideas or bad?

Come now Rick. Any Objectivist knows that this is a bad idea. Why the straw man?

Based on Carlos' statements in this thread, how is my question inappropriate?

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...

There are real dangers, both short and long tem, in believing that if only the public saw more directly the implementation of government policies by politicians more strongly imposing them that there would be a backlash leading to lasting or important change as people "catch on". That notion of a strategy has been fallen into by the frustrated for many decades at least, but it does not work and never has.

...

Counting on backlash may be a strategy that doesn't work, but I can think of one good example of a bad politician being in office, and the mess he made of things setting the stage for (and greatly helping) the election of a much better man.

I'm thinking of the presidency of Carter leading to the election of Reagan.

Carter was perhaps the most sickeningly altruistic man we've had as a president for a long time - incessantly lecturing Americans about how we needed to sacrifice more and put up with privations. Also, in not responding to direct aggression against Americans (in Iran) he brought our foreign policy of appeasement to a new low.

The man was an embarassment. Heck, I knew many Democrats in 1980 who were ashamed of him. His antics weren't enough to convince people that there's something wrong with altruism, but they sure knew there was something wrong with Carter.

This dissatisfaction was one reason Reagan not only won in 1980, but won by a huge margin. So huge that, when I went to watch the election returns at 5PM on the West coast, there on the TV was a picture of Carter, already conceding the election. During the campaign, Reagan had masterfully kept exposing Carter's ineptitude, asking people, for example, if they were better off now or four years ago. Though the people voting didn't fully realize it, Carter's presidency ended up placing the blame for failure and stagnation squarely on the statism Carter had been pushing.

Would Reagan have been able to win if he had followed, say, Gerald Ford? Maybe, but the election debate would not have been cast in as much contrast, so I don't know. And even if he had, he probably would not have won by such a wide margin. (It was his big margin that gave him such a mandate to get things done, and also, as I remember, gave the Republicans control of the Senate.)

I don't remember anybody advocating, in 1976, that one should vote for Carter with the idea that it would mean Reagan would win in 1980 - so I'm not claiming this as an example of a "backlash strategy" that worked. But what I am arguing for is that here's a case of political backlash: a very bad politician getting elected, and this fact leading almost directly to the election of a much better man, who then had a mandate to change things.

I think Reagan would have beaten Carter 4 years earlier if he had been able to win the nomination away from Ford, even though the margin would not have been as great because Carter was an "unknown" without the baggage of his record 4 years later. If that had happened, the better elements of Reagan would have occurred sooner without the destruction of Carter.

But it is true that there are backlashes as power shifts between the parties after the one in power develops a record of screwing up and people look for "change". That is why politicians put so much effort into spin and exploiting the power of incumbency in order to manipulate public perception while avoiding fundamental principles. The problem is what principles govern the standards of what is a good change, and when is one jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Pragmatism isn't enough. After four years of Carter, almost anyone could have beaten him and it could have gotten much worse. Reagan was the Republican front runner because of who he was and what he had done four years earlier, not because of Carter. Fortunately, Reagan had something better to offer (although he did not have enough of it to prevent some major debacles of his own).

Politics goes in cycles (including "backlashes"), but follows longer term trends independent of that. Deliberately voting for bad candidates does nothing to improve public understanding of a better political philosophy but does cause more damage.

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Would you consider the following one of Lieberman's good ideas or bad?

Come now Rick. Any Objectivist knows that this is a bad idea. Why the straw man?

Based on Carlos' statements in this thread, how is my question inappropriate?

I honestly don't really understand what the purpose of your question was. Were you implying that this is an example of bad ideas being successful, which would be contrary to my optimistic claim? If so, I would prefer that you state your argument, rather than pasting on more and more reading for us to infer something from. This also a reply to your comment about realizing that I haven't been reading the material you posted. I honestly don't find it to be either relevant or interesting, and I'd much rather a FORUM member put all their arguments and information concisely in the post rather than to expect me to turn my FORUM activities into a miniature research project to finance the information for the other member's argument.

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I honestly don't really understand what the purpose of your question was. Were you implying that this is an example of bad ideas being successful, which would be contrary to my optimistic claim? If so, I would prefer that you state your argument, rather than pasting on more and more reading for us to infer something from. This also a reply to your comment about realizing that I haven't been reading the material you posted. I honestly don't find it to be either relevant or interesting, and I'd much rather a FORUM member put all their arguments and information concisely in the post rather than to expect me to turn my FORUM activities into a miniature research project to finance the information for the other member's argument.

My purpose for the question is that I want to know what you think about the idea. Do you think that Set America Free is a good idea or not? I would also like to know if you have discovered the answer to your original question that brought you into this thread?

Couldn't Neocon almost be considered an Anti-Concept? Because the only time I've ever even heard of the term is from snarling hateful Leftists who use it as some kind of infinitely damning smear-word with no specific meaning. I'm skeptical that a significant amount of people who would identify themselves as Neoconservatives exist, or that a "Neoconservative movement" even exists.

The sources I provided were an attempt to provide information to individuals interested in this topic. Whether or not you decide to use them is your business. At the moment, I haven't presented an argument on the subject other than trying to provide information. In fact, when I started participating in this thread it was to discuss the article in question, not to present an argument. It you notice the beginning of this thread was a discussion about the meaning of "Neoconservative." Both Betsy and EMV pointed out that they, at that time, had not read the article in question. At that time, I had not either. But I did know about the Neoconservatives. I also think that what I know and have to say about the Neoconservatives is interesting and important to know. If you don't think what I am saying is relevant or interesting that is fine. I am not asking you to participate.

I would also like to know. Have you read the article, Neoconservative Foreign Policy: An Autopsy? This is the actual article in question and is the subject of this thread. Would it be unreasonable of me to expect you to have at least read that particular article? If you haven't read the article, why are you participating in this thread?

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Carlos,

One more question. JRoberts made the following post.

Come now Rick. Any Objectivist knows that this is a bad idea. Why the straw man?

By your own standards, would JRoberts statement "Any Objectivist knows that this is a bad idea" be a valid statement or is it an Argument from Intimidation?

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Rudy Giuliani aligns himself with the Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy.

Neoconservative Podhoretz Picked as a Foreign Policy Adviser

The former New York City mayor announced last week that he had assembled a team of foreign policy advisers featuring several prominent neoconservatives, including one of the movement’s founders, Norman Podhoretz. In addition to being an unwavering supporter of the war against Iraq, Podhoretz, a former editor of Commentary magazine, has grabbed headlines in recent months as one of most vocal proponents of American military action against Iran.

The eight-member advisory panel also includes several figures with experience in Israeli affairs. Giuliani’s chief foreign policy adviser, Charles Hill, served as a top aide to Secretary of State George Shultz in the Reagan administration and once served as political counselor to the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. The team also includes Martin Kramer, who is an expert on Islam at Harvard University and a fellow with both the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center.

Norman Podhoretz' son, John Podhoretz has this to say about Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged,

'A' for Absurd

It's 'Atlas Shrugged' for the Loony Left.

In Atlas Shrugged, the message of liberation is delivered by a faceless figure named John Galt, who commandeers the nation's airwaves to deliver a speech proposing a nationwide strike against the state. The John Galt of V for Vendetta is a man wearing a mask bearing the likeness of Guy Fawkes, the instigator of the early 17th-century plot to blow up the House of Commons. The masked man, known only as V, takes over the British airwaves in 2020 and promises to blow up Parliament.

And just like Atlas Shrugged, V for Vendetta is an exercise in didactic propaganda in the guise of an adventure story meant to appeal to teenage boys and their narcissistic fantasies about being at the very center of the universe. Both works prominently feature a cool, beautiful, and skinny chick …

One more item of interest concerning the Neoconservatives. William Kristol talks about duty and the national interest.

The Turn

Defeatists in retreat.

So here is where we are: In terms of U.S. national interests--and in terms of its own political well-being--the Republican party faces a moment when, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, honor points the path of duty, and the right judgment of the facts reinforces the dictates of honor. General Petraeus will deliver the facts in September. If Republicans can keep their nerve under media and elite assault, then they will have the honor of following the path of both duty and the right judgment of the facts. I suspect all will come out well. Americans can sometimes be impatient and short-sighted. But when a choice is clearly presented, they tend to reject the path of defeat and dishonor.

As long as the Republicans represent the Kantian anti-concept of 'Duty' to God and Country, I will not fought for them.

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As long as the Republicans represent the Kantian anti-concept of 'Duty' to God and Country, I will not fought for them.

Bold should be 'vote.'

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Defeatists in retreat.

So here is where we are: In terms of U.S. national interests--and in terms of its own political well-being--the Republican party faces a moment when, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, honor points the path of duty, and the right judgment of the facts reinforces the dictates of honor. General Petraeus will deliver the facts in September. If Republicans can keep their nerve under media and elite assault, then they will have the honor of following the path of both duty and the right judgment of the facts. I suspect all will come out well. Americans can sometimes be impatient and short-sighted. But when a choice is clearly presented, they tend to reject the path of defeat and dishonor.

As long as the Republicans represent the Kantian anti-concept of 'Duty' to God and Country, I will not fought for them.

George Washington's amazing resolve and stamina in the American Revolution came from a steadfast belief in honor and duty to what he called "Providence". From what I've read he believed that Providence, or God, or whatever, had given him the opportunity to be the Commander of the Continental Army, and it was such a supreme and noble honor to him that he felt it was his utmost duty.

And from what I've learned so far, if anything it was the Rebel's (and largely Washington's) stamina and resolve that won the war (because in any other parameter we were hopelessly outmatched). Is this the "Duty to God and Country" that you dislike so much?

Rather than flinch at the word Duty and to instantly lump it in with the likes of Kant, I think it is appropriate to ask first "Duty to what or whom, and why?" If Republicans view "God and Country" as the most supremely holy thing in existence, then why be bothered that they feel it is their duty to reverently serve such a sacred thing?

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Norman Podhoretz' son, John Podhoretz has this to say about Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged [...]

Quoting somebody's son/parent/cousin etc. does not necessarily say much, or anything, about what the person in question believes himself. It would be much more interesting to know what Norman Podhoretz says about AS than his son, unless his son is also going to be part of Giuliani's administration (if there is one.)

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The short Wikipedia article on Norman Podhoretz has this paragraph:

He asserts that the War on Terror is a war against Islamofascism, and constitutes World War IV (World War III having been the Cold War), and advocates the bombing of Iran to pre-empt their acquisition of nuclear weapons.[2] A book on that subject is scheduled for 2007.

Beats having a friendly chat with them.

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Given Yaron Brooks' excellent analysis of the history and current status of the "neocons", I think it's clear that they won't properly defend America. My one sentence summary is that the neocons are essentially the Old Left with a little more dignity than the New Left. That that isn't saying much, is why they've screwed up so badly in response to 9/11.

But here's the thing: their failure to use the proper principles in defense of America (rational self interest) is hardly new. There were plenty of American nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 60s, but they were not used in either the Korean or Vietnam wars, or anytime thereafter. Both were also examples of American self-sacrifice. Indeed, Ayn Rand considered WW2 itself to be a massive example of American self-sacrifice, and that we should have let the Nazis and Soviets pummel each other and then kill off whichever weakened dictatorship was left.

The simple fact is that there is no current political party, or figure, that's going to do the right thing and use all-out American force to beat down the Islamic theocracies. Not yet anyway. It is worthwhile understanding the history of the neocons, but I don't see it as significantly different than any part of American political history since the New Deal: differing degrees of altruism applied in different concrete ways, by all parties. I am not optimistic about Giuliani because his power-lusting history of persecuting businessmen indicates a deeply altruistic hatred of self-interest and egoism, which would be consistent with his apparent alignment with the neocons. Will he be "tough" and bring back the draft and double the deployment in Iraq (and make the airports suck even worse than they are now in terms of pseudo-security)? That would not surprise me. Does anybody know his position on the draft and continued Iraq troop deployment?

I don't expect anyone including Giuliani to be pro-active regarding America's enemies - I still think it will take a massive emergency on the order of a biowarfare attack or nuclear detonation in an American city to stimulate whatever is left of the American sense of life into finally destroying the Islamic dictatorships.

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