Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"The Foreign Policy Difference"

In an article in today's Wall Street Journal, which was highlighted in Paper Clippings, Fouad Ajami has an interesting take on The Foreign Policy Difference between the two candidates. While I am not particularly enamoured with the sweeping scope of the article, I think the Paper Clippings observation about it relating how our elite universities teach people "science", that is, "empirically-oriented knowledge directed at problem solving," to the neglect of "philosophy," which entails "grappling in a systematic fashion with questions of truth and meaning," is spot on.

Indeed, for too many educated people, value is derived from sentiment and preference, not rooted in reason and consistent judgment. We see this in Sen. Biden's classic emotovist "personal and private" response to the question about when life begins. This pervasive attitude only serves to demonstrate what the Holy Father asserted in his speech that he was to give at La Sapienza university, namely that in late modernity, known also as post-modernity, humanity has surrendered before the question of truth. Such an outlook reduces questions of truth and meaning to mere opinion, thus giving us no measure, no canon, against which to judge our choices, or with which to make choices. This view is ultimately paralyzing and makes every value judgment nothing more than an arbitrary preference.

He is certainly correct in writing that
"the Obama candidacy must be judged on its own merits, and it can be reckoned as the sharpest break yet with the national consensus over American foreign policy after World War II. This is not only a matter of Sen. Obama's own sensibility; the break with the consensus over American exceptionalism and America's claims and burdens abroad is the choice of the activists and elites of the Democratic Party who propelled Mr. Obama's rise."
I daresay that issues of judgment and criteria also rear their head on the other side, the so-called conservative side, which very often seeks to divide and conquer, to pit us against them, putting self-interest and national interest, even when matters of security are not at stake, before the common good. This leads, among other things, to an abdication of power by states in favor of corporations. I could stand to read a little on that in Ajami's piece. The closest he comes to something like this is when observes that Sen. McCain is not "particularly articulate" on how he plans to build bridges to rest of the world. He is accurate in asserting that McCain may not have to do this at all. If his choice of Gov. Palin as his running mate is any indication, he he has clearly determined that all he has to do is talk and act tough, thus blatantly re-asserting American exceptionalism, demonstrating that
"he shares the widespread attitude of broad swaths of the country that are not consumed with worries about America's standing in foreign lands. Mr. McCain is not eager to be loved by foreigners. In November, the country will have a choice between a Republican candidate forged in the verities of the 1950s, and a Democratic rival who walks out of the 1990s."

No comments: