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Not enough... or too much?

By Owen Paine on Tuesday June 20, 2006 10:34 PM

Listen to these thoughtful fellows at tompaine:
Beinart does bring a positive contribution to the progressive debate on foreign policy by recalling the philosophy of Reinhold Niebuhr, the Protestant theologian whose worldview inspired the vanguard of the 1960s civil rights and social policy movements....
Hold it. Reinhold Niebuhr "inspired" the civil rights movement? I'd love to hear what Stokeley, or Rosa, or Martin, or Medgar, or Malcolm, would have to say about that.
Unlike the conservatives of the Reagan and Bush II eras, who promote the virtuousness of America, and thus its authority to act unilaterally to imprint its values on other countries, Niebuhr believed that it was America's doubt in its own virtue, and the restraint that such a lack of confidence instills, that in fact enhances America's legitimacy in the rest of the world...
"Restraint"? "Doubt "? Not the barriers to intervention I'd want to rely on. Let's poll the world to see who that passage relieves of their "doubt" about Uncle.
Beinart's book quotes President Hoover as saying, in the spirit of Niebuhr, "We all have to recognize-no matter how great our strength-that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please."
We're really in the Twilight Zone now. Herbert Hoover, master of the food-aid-as-weapon, channeling the future thoughts of Cold War theologian Niebuhr? Think I just had a stack overflow. I'm going to lie down for a while.

Comments (3)

Tim D:

You know I have been trying to bill myself as an anti-interventionist for a while now, but when I think about it, intervening is really a hard habit to kick. That is, it's a paradigm I can't escape. I know that if I were king of America for a couple of days, I would be bent on promoting regional development - you know the "schools and hospitals for all!" kind of thing. One thing I liked about the Soviets was they did work to train many doctors and engineers in third world countries...

But all that is really, for all intents and purposes, intervening, no?

Sorry just thinking out loud here...

I am with you (I think).

As crestfallen as I feel when I see people like Coulter/Limbaugh/etc. saying things that should make them untouchable pariahs in a decent society, I feel ten times worse when I read/hear a "liberal" going on in these absurd constructs.

E.G. Iraq is a disaster because the people in charge didn't do it right. They should have done it like Kosovo.


Everything was great in the U.S. until Bush took office, we need to return to that.


Our country's rich tradition of liberty, truth, and freedom for all has been unbelievably compromised by Bush and it is unprecedented and disastarous and I am going to explode in indignation. (Not counting Latin America, Vietnam, Couintelpro, Civil Rights, Slavery, Indians, Womens rights, etc.)

Over and out.


Tim D -- I think maybe it's in a slightly different category if the recipient really has the choice to take it or leave it.

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