Issue 50 (2012)

Communitarian Observations

From My Diary

Israel‘s defense Minister Ehud Barak stated recently that in the case of an attack by Iran, “There will not be 100,000 [Israeli] casualties, and not 50,000 casualties, not 5,000 casualties and not even 500.” In December 2011, he predicted that Assad, the president of Syria, will be out of power within weeks. One more piece of evidence that predicting the course of armed conflict is not a reliable business. Barak should have listened to the scripture (“Since the Temple was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from prophets and given to fools and children” –Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Baba Bathra, 12b).

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Those who seek evidence-based medicine take note: While visiting a hospice I learned that the average stay of a patient before they die is less than 20 days. When I asked why the length was so short, I was told that one hospital in town—a rather inadequate one—ships its patients to the hospice when they have a few days, sometimes hours, to live. In this way, the hospital can charge for procedures until the very end, but still show a low mortality rate.

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David Brooks is easily the most informed member of the mass media about communitarianism. However he seems to have found out that when he uses the term, it does not communicate well. This must be the reason that when he wrote a highly communitarian essay on February 13, he called it—liberal sociology. Hah.

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A wit calculated that as the costs of building fighter planes for the Pentagon continue to rise, by the year 2020 the whole defense budget will go to buying one F35. The way the newspapers are increasing the size of their font, by 2020 there will be only one word per page. And, given the inane illustrations—“look, this is what a light bulb looks like”—every second page will be a drawing. No wonder people are canceling their subsections.

We have a number of free copies of My Brother’s Keeper: a Memoir and a Message (click here to read an excerpt) to be shipped, first come first served. To receive your complimentary copy, please send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “My Brother’s Keeper.” Be sure to include your shipping information in the body of the email.

Stop Social Engineering Overseas

The United States and its allies have been having great difficulty pacifying Afghanistan and suppressing opiate farming—and hence the illegal drug trade—in that faraway country. This recent news contains an important lesson conservatives should be the first to tout, but it somehow escapes them.

A major insight of the neoconservatives was that social engineering in the United States often failed. Liberals argued that if their programs were just allotted more funds—whatever their budgets already were—they would lick poverty, win the war on drugs, make homes for the homeless and otherwise cure what ails us. The neocons demonstrated that social problems were too resistant to change by civil servants and instructions from Washington.

Read the rest at the National Interest.

Can a nuclear Iran be deterred?

There is a growing interest among U.S. foreign policy officials and scholars in deterring Iran; that is, in tolerating a nuclear armed Iran but keeping it at bay by threatening it in kind should it use its nuclear weapons. Although the Obama administration has not embraced this position, some observers believe this is the direction it is headed.

One indication comes from Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser. In a speech late last year, he remarked, “We will continue to build a regional defense architecture that prevents Iran from threatening its neighbors. We will continue to deepen Iran’s isolation, regionally and globally.”

Read the rest at CNN.

No Revolution at the Pentagon

Later this month, the Obama administration will present the details of its FY2013 defense budget to Congress, the broad outlines of which the president unveiled during a January speech at the Pentagon. The plan calls for cutting $487 billion over the next ten years. Republicans criticized it as a sign that the Democrats are again (or still) weak on defense; Democrats and several independent experts hailed it as prudent and suitable for an age of tight budgets. Both sides may well be wrong, because they assume that the strategy will be implemented. But Congress may alter the trajectory of this major defense policy, as it has with most others. Here are four areas to watch as the debate moves to Capitol Hill…

Read the rest at The National Interest.

Stop Enabling Pedophilia

While leaders of the West repeatedly declare that they are out to make Afghanistan into a society free of corruption, with a stable democratic government and one that respects human rights, they turn a blind eye to such moral basics as protecting children from systemicsexual abuse.

At the time the West helped liberate Afghanistan in 2001, pedophilia had been largely curbed by the Taliban. However, since then, numerous Pashtuns have abused the new freedoms to revert to a long tradition of molesting young boys…

Read the rest at The Huffington Post.

Recent Publications

“The Case for Decoupled Armed Interventions.” Global Policy 3.1 (February 2012) p. 85-93.

This article suggests that if the humanitarian goals of armed interventions are decoupled from coerced regime change and nation building, they can be carried out effectively and at rather low costs. In addition, the standard for justifying a humanitarian intervention must be set at a high level (to be specified below). We shall see that this high level is justified by strong normative reasons and not merely prudential ones. The thesis for narrowly crafted armed humanitarian interventions is supported in the following pages by showing that a mixture of idealism and hubris drives the West to assume that it can achieve much more, and that its repeated failure to accomplish these expansive goals is leading to calls to avoid armed humanitarian interventions—including those missions whose normative standing is strong and which can be carried out effectively. The observation that nations can employ non lethal (normative and economic) means to promote human rights and democracy further supports the thesis that the use of force should be reserved to large scale saving of life and not to be allowed to morph into coerced regime change, not to mention futile attempts at nation building.

“Lessons of America’s ‘Decline’.” International Journal of Contemporary Sociology 48.2 (October 2011) p. 173-187.

Pointing to the burden of coping with two lengthy wars and a rapidly mounting national debt, some have argued that the U.S. has overextended itself and is now in decline. The validity of and appropriate response to this claim must be examined on an empirical, constructive, and normative level. After outlining the viability of various predictive models, this paper concludes that while U.S. power has waned, resignation to an inevitable decline is premature. Instead, the U.S. should narrowly focus its resources on achievable security goals and avoid the costly yet historically ineffective strategy of pursuing nation-building policies.

The Best Government Money Can Buy

profile of Montana Representative Denny Rehberg, who is currently competing for Jon Tester’s seat in the Senate, sheds light on his close ties with the mining industry. Throughout his six terms in the House, Rehberg has consistently fought attempts to more closely regulate the mining industry, including preventing the enforcement of a rule intended to combat black lung disease. As one miner commented, “He is more a spokesman for the industry than a lawmaker.” Over the past two years, mining interests have donated nearly $100,000 to his campaign.

About Us

Click here to read Ambrose Evan-Pritchard’s discussion of our China position in The Telegraph.

Mandarin readers, click here to read a commentary on the U.S.’s pivot towards Asia in the Shanghai Morning Post.

I Read

Peter Skerry’s article in National AffairsThe Muslim American Muddle, examines how to handle the conflicting challenges of addressing the troubling Islamist ideology espoused by some American Muslim organization and leaders while still encouraging Muslim Americans to actively and freely participate in American society and discourse.

The Washington Post reports on an experiment conducted at the University of Chicago in which rats learned to free one another from restrictive cages, despite any ulterior incentive to do so. The rats also saved food for their compatriots. The researchers concluded that the results of the experiment gave credibility to the idea that empathy is not a purely cultural construct, but has biological roots as well.

In a review of two books about the current state of American conservatism, Timothy Noah notes that Tea Party members aren’t opposed to all government benefits, only those they considered “unearned” (like affirmative action and concessions to undocumented immigrants). This presents a problem, he notes, to those Tea Partiers who seek to lower the deficit, as “it’s the ‘earned’ benefits like Social Security and Medicare that are mainly responsible for runway government spending.”

New York Times article about a recently issued World Economic Forum report cites severe income inequality and fiscal imbalances as the top two risks for 2012. John Drzik, of the consulting firm Oliver Wyman, discussed how these risks could lead to wider instability: “When it becomes clear that promise can’t be met, you could have social unrest increasing widely…People aren’t happy when they think they have something and they’re told that it’s not there anymore.”


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Edited by Julia Milton.