Monday, July 30, 2007

Gus Van Horn Rounds Up

Gus Van Horn has put up a great roundup post including a discussion of what intellectuals should be advocating for regarding the war in particular and politics in general:
... The next obvious question the becomes, "What do we Objectivists do to affect the political debate?"

Tracinski's answer is "Take what you can get." This seems an acceptable answer, except that what he seems to mean is "Gauge what concrete measures you can 'get away with' advocating and base your arguments on that."

This is, in fact, not enough, for it leaves too many bad premises unchallenged and, in the case of Tracinski's war arguments, makes it appear that what Bush is doing instead of fighting ruthlessly is acceptable. (Actually, I may be overly generous here. Tracinski and company seem to actually believe this.) This is a grave mistake, for it allows the "welfare-state 'warriors'" to retain credibility for longer than they deserve and forestalls the debate about whether we as individuals and as a nation have the absolute right to defend ourselves -- a debate that will be the inevitable alternative to our ultimate defeat.

Conversely, I suspect that Tracinski would regard advocacy like that of John Lewis as futile. What concrete guidance does it offer us now, after all?


But Lewis et al. are doing what intellectuals do. In Lewis's case, a recent example of this is: compare the present war to a past one we fought and show how we once knew how to fight (and win) a war. Point out how and why we are failing now. At least get the rationale and the blueprint for the right approach "out there" so when the public is prepared for a real debate, the right approach might finally get some consideration.

I would even add that those in charge of military strategy -- if Lewis's argument got even wider currency today and they accepted it -- would understand that we would have to endure a period of strategic adjustment before we could really fight the war. But they would understand that we couldn't magically and instantaneously begin aping the[editor] our old, World War II selves.

And yet it it is Tracinski who faulted the other Objectivists generally and Leonard Peikoff in particular for being pessimists! Pardon me, but whose whole approach seems premised on the notion that Americans can't grasp arguments beyond the concrete level here, anyway?
In the same roundup Gus also links to this excellent column by Richard Ralston on socialized medicine. Don't miss it!


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