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1 freetoken  Sun, Feb 12, 2012 4:16:32am
If the balance of power shifts in the direction of other nations, the world order will change to suit their interests and preferences.

But that doesn’t answer the question of whether such change would be “good” or “bad” in some objective sense.

And, I think the article over-sells the fall of the Roman Empire, especially since it was more of a slow fade, and historians have been busy trying to redeem the reputation of the Medieval period.

2 freetoken  Sun, Feb 12, 2012 4:20:17am

Kagan also writes, with an apparently straight face:

Take the issue of democracy. For several decades, the balance of power in the world has favored democratic governments. In a genuinely post-American world, the balance would shift toward the great-power autocracies. Both Beijing and Moscow already protect dictators like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. If they gain greater relative influence in the future, we will see fewer democratic transitions and more autocrats hanging on to power. The balance in a new, multipolar world might be more favorable to democracy if some of the rising democracies—Brazil, India, Turkey, South Africa—picked up the slack from a declining U.S. Yet not all of them have the desire or the capacity to do it.

He totally ignores that the US too, for almost a century, supported dictators from Central America to South America to Africa to South and Southwest Asia.

Kagan is beginning to sound a bit like like that faux-historian Dave Barton.

3 Bob Levin  Sun, Feb 12, 2012 4:48:49am

re: #1 freetoken

But that doesn’t answer the question of whether such change would be “good” or “bad” in some objective sense.

I really don’t think that there is a way to get to a conventionally defined objectivity when it comes to right and wrong. The only way that I know of is to postulate the objectivity of certain texts, usually called holy books (and you know me, I’ve done that). Otherwise, the word that needs defining is ‘objective’. After that you can work on ethics and morality.

However, even if you take the step with holy texts, there is still great debate within those disciplines on any number of things—even ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

Possibly the best short span framing of this issue can be seen in the film Judgment at Nuremberg. We see the complexity, the slippery slope, the dotted lines of responsibility very clearly. The picture is held together by Spencer Tracy’s ability to articulate the visceral feeling identifying evil. Even then, the final verdicts are followed by a dissenting opinion.

historians have been busy trying to redeem the reputation of the Medieval period.

How so?

4 Bob Levin  Sun, Feb 12, 2012 4:59:52am

re: #2 freetoken

I hear what you’re saying—that many statements ring hollow. I think this is due to the choice of writing an article, as opposed to a longer scholarly article, or a book.

In a sense, there is so much US that it’s impossible to make a statement beginning with—the US feels…..

After all, studying the US is studying conflict, internal conflict and lots of it. I think it’s interesting that the part of the US that has backed the dictatorships, specifically the State Department, is the only part of the US government that is completely impervious to the waves of democracy every two, four, and six years. Congress has very little say in the way we conduct foreign policy—and if they do try to step into this arena, the executive branch tries to kick them back to Capitol Hill. The President usually follows the lead of the State Department. If not, that’s another conflict.

Still, for all of our faults, I believe we do a better job of balancing realpolitik with morality than virtually every other nation that has a global scope.

5 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Sun, Feb 12, 2012 5:04:31am

Leaving aside the issues of jingoism etc., the world does need America. More specifically, liberal, democratic, non-isolationist America. It is one of the supports of democracy.

Which is why I pay so much attention to the US politics. And one of the reasons why I oppose the wingnuts. Because the things they do actually undercut the liberal, democratic factor in the US, and thus in the world.

6 Decatur Deb  Sun, Feb 12, 2012 5:24:41am

Offshore Jefferson. Occupy Harbin.

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