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« Chucked up | Main | Before and after »

Jul 17, 2007


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The CA

"Political leaders can only play a tiny role in transforming a people, especially when the integral fabric of society has dissolved."

Tolstoy's argument against liberalism. If one believes this to be true, then one must reject liberalism and institutions as agents of change.

To which do you subscribe, Bush or Tolstoy?

Danny Wright

Er, Tolstoy's argument against "liberalism" would have been the "liberalism" of the 19th century, which was pretty much an economic and political philosophy similar to what today's conservatism claims as its own (free markets, guarantee of constitutional rights / liberties, etc.) and not synonymous with today's American political "liberalism" to which you are trying to attach it for the sake of this argument.

Tolstoy was "conservative" in that he was an agrarian aristocrat who was directly threatened by the advancement of liberal (free market, natural right-seeking) ideas in 19th century Russia.

Danny Wright

Pardon -- "natural-right seeking" in that last sentence is an incorrect attribution. "Constitution-seeking" would have been more appropriate due to his distrust of the state.

Ed Cone

Beyond Danny's learned response, I don't think Iraq is as simple an equation as Bush v Tolstoy. Leaders and institutions can play a big role in effecting change, but societal change is a mass endeavor that takes time and systematic effort. The flaw in the great-man theory -- the flaw in Bush's plan for Iraq -- is overestimating the impact of a vision unmoored from that great cultural mass, and underestimating the time and effort need to bring about change at a societal level.


".....picking up on this week's emerging theme of truthful fiction......"

As if you've actually been validated on your "The Quiet American" analogy.

Give it up.

It doesn't work, for the reasons stated in the other thread.

Ed Cone

Greene's novel accurately predicted the outcome of Vietnam, and illuminated some of the underlying reasons that things would go they way they did.

Your shoot-the-messenger comments about Greene have not even suggested otherwise.

You may disagree that Iraq is an analogous situation. Why not just say so?


"Greene's novel accurately predicted the outcome of Vietnam, and illuminated some of the underlying reasons that things would go they way they did."

How I do love politically themed revisionist history statements like that!

You are trying to simplify something that can not be simplified in regard to both Viet Nam and to the situation in Iraq.

You're no political scientist nor are you some kind of magician that can wave a magic wand to make things come out in perfect harmony with the point you want to make.

One more thing.....the entire premise about "The Quiet American" as foreshadowing for Viet Nam must have been the theme for hundreds of other articles over the years, each of which was no more convincing than your article was.

Why would you rehash such an old worn-out theme, and then try to apply it to Iraq?


"Your shoot-the-messenger comments about Greene have not even suggested otherwise."

Greene wrote his piece for propaganda purposes, regardless of how you and others refuse to place the work in context with who he was and the way he lived his life.

I am not responsible for your failure to understand that.

Your "shooting the messenger" line doesn't work.

The CA

So, do you think the nature of man and politics is any different now then in the 19th century? The philosophy of Tolstoy's quote is still very much in play. Either you believe that politics and the state play a large role in movement of society, or you don't.

The great belief of modern liberalism- and even liberalism, dare I say Communism of the 19th-20th centuries was the belief that government could transform human nature. If this is indeed Bush's philosophy in Iraq and he is misguided, then so too are those who believe in the same fundamental concept when applied elsewhere. Modern liberalism/progessivism is at its core a top down philosophy with government as the agent of change.

Ed Cone

I don't think this is a discussion about changing human nature, but about changing culture and institutions.

Leaders can make a difference, but...It's a little like the old joke about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb -- one, but first the light bulb has to want to change.

I have conservative views on the immutability of human nature. But I recognize also that the Swiss and the Iraqis alike are humans. The differences lie in history and culture, and no leader is going to change those things quickly.

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