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Friday, December 03, 2004


the return of realism

michael young at reason posts the most interesting article i've yet read of his, detailing the reassertion of machiavellian realism of the sort practiced by henry kissinger and brent scowcroft in the ongoing fallout of america's neoconservative misadventure in iraq.

mr young, in offering critical questioning of realism, perceives the decline of nation-states upon which realism and the doctrine of 'balance of power' is predicated, and ultimately discredits 'the management of power' as alone insufficient to address human needs.

but he also notes the brilliance of realism: it is the antidote to hubris, currently that most american of traits. for that reason, despite its wholly western ethos of relativistic amorality, it is to be welcomed.

mr young, as might be noted by the sensitive reader, is an democratic idealist -- wilsonianism, whatever its flaws, he finds progressive:

Wilsonianism (and, today, neoconservatism) are its contradictions, but also its stepchildren, as they seek to move beyond the management of power to ponder how foreign affairs can also disseminate humanistic values.

Scowcroft apparently doesn't recall how Eastern Europe, denied democracy for generations, saw communism collapse in a historical millisecond under his boss's "watch." If that wasn't proof of an ingrained longing for liberty, then Scowcroft is as dim as a Soviet light bulb.
however, "ingrained longing for liberty" is, i think, less ingrained than conditional of our times. not to be esoteric, but western european history from the antonines to the depths of the dark ages is hardly a longing for liberty -- it's a social, philosophical and mystical flight from disaster. it is impossible, imo, to explain the advent of the dark ages as a pursuit of liberty; therefore, to consider liberty to be the primal drive cannot be sufficient.

there is also a drive for safety in community -- one that, admittedly, the west has devalued to the point of absurdity over the course of the second millennium, as can be seen in the prominent philosophies of our age (socialism, objectivism, relativism and their kin).

while i think mr young's analysis is pertinent to our western era of emancipation -- which echoes throughout the east as well -- it is not human nature to desire freedom over all things. this point is, i think, extremely relevant to understanding the error of neocon utopianism and deeply conservative opposition to the western agenda.

the typical hit-and-run comment thread may be of interest.

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