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Fisk Me! And Me!

Steve Antler over at Econopundit gives a pretty good fisking to this horribly misguided Robert Reich column. I don’t have much to add, other than to really go after the paragraph below.

Yet many liberals have been silent about patriotism. They seem wary of it or, at best, embarrassed by it. Perhaps that’s because, in recent decades, patriotism has so easily morphed into crass “America first” chauvinism. But that’s not the only form patriotism can take. Liberals must promote a “positive patriotism” that stands tough against terrorism and genocide, yet doesn’t need a foreign enemy to define itself or in order for it to flourish. At its best, the American tradition of liberal internationalism has reflected our drive to expand our founding ideals of liberty, equality, and democracy.[emphasis mine]

Let me get this straight, it’s chauvanism for our leaders to put the concerns of America before all other concerns? We should let the concerns of the rest of the world bend our policy and keep us from making decisions that are the best choice for America? Apparently Reich has no concept of the social contract, nor the obligations and duties of government. The American government is elected by and for Americans and as such has exactly no duty to citizens of other nations. This transnational progressivism will not stand!

  1. Danimal says:

    Tim, I haven’t read the Reich piece beyond your sacrificial paragraph, but I think you’re blowing that line all out of proportion. I think the point is not that it’s crass to put America’s needs first, but to decide what is best for America without any due consideration of its effects on international relations.

    This doesn’t mean bending over for foreign interests — as you say, the government owes exactly no duty to them. All it means is not making decisions on what America’s best interests are in a vacuum.

  2. Timothy says:

    Olly: That paragraph is certainly more obnoxious in terms of its wild speculation, but I do find the bit about “‘America first’ chauvanism” to be fairly obectionable. To me that implies that it’s somehow crass to put the needs of America before all other needs.

  3. Olly says:

    Perfect sense if you’re willing to concede that American concerns should not be prioritized above all other concerns by American political leaders…

    Well, no. But that’s not what Reich’s saying, either. I’m actually a little surprised you chose that paragraph to pick on; I don’t find it objectionable.

    On the other hand, Reich is having lots of fun with straw men, as when he lays out the simplistic moral universe in which his “radcons” live:

    [Evil] exists within America in the form of moral deviance — out-of-wedlock births, homosexuality, abortion, crime. It potentially exists within every one of us in the form of sloth and devastating irresponsibility. It exists outside America in the form of “evil empires” or an “axis of evil.”

    We just went from homosexuality (yay!) to the USSR (boo!) in two sentences. I’m amazed he didn’t find time to accuse anyone of racism.

    Reich has invented (OK, wildly exaggerated, pace Paul Weyrich) a political movement, and now he’s worrying himself into a decline over it. The punishment fits the crime.

  4. Timothy says:

    Perfect sense if you’re willing to concede that American concerns should not be prioritized above all other concerns by American political leaders. Further, the negative connotation of chauvanism shows that the author thinks it is always bad to place American concerns first. That’s the attitude to which I object. Where interests cannot be separated, I do expect our politicians to play the game to our strategic advantage: conceding enough to get what we want, but not so much as to weaken our position. Some games are cooperative, sometimes you bargain, but there are ways to do this so that we “win” in some sense, and that’s what I want from our government.

    Furthermore, America’s interests can, in large part, be separated as far as I’m concerned. The stategic interest of France and Germany might be different than the strategic interest of the USA. For instance, nations on the take from a corupt UN Oil-For-Food program might, I dunno, oppose a war to depose their cashcow while a country not involved might want to be rid of the dictator for any number of reasons.

    Are the strategic interests of Syria, The Congo, Sierra Leon and Argentina the same as those of each other, let alone the United States? I hightly doubt it. Beyond a certain point my strategic interests, particularly in goods that are competitive in consumption (IE most of them), are incredibly different from my next door neighbor’s…this is true for nations as well as individuals.

    In an economic sense, particularly vis-a-vis trade, there are common interests among nations and certain amounts of cooperation are needed to acheive our goals there. However, in a purely political arena, there are interests that we have which other nations do not share. Oddly enough much of Europe does not seem concerned with our major shared interest: beating back the forces of Islamofascism. In the case of needing to achieve unshared goals, we really only have two options:

    1) bring other nations to a point where they share our goals through some means, hopefully without too much expenditure of resources.

    2) Ignore them.

    In many cases the second option is easier and costs less. Whether or not that will have consequences depends on the nature of the game we’re playing and what sort of strategies all parties are likely to pursue. What happens in the rest of the world *may* affect America, depending on what nations are involved, but that only really needs to be considered in the context of consequences on our nation’s general welfare. Again, of course, depending upon the nature of the game being played*.

    Now, I could go into a long treatise on the social contract and federalism as it applies to US foreign policy, but I think I’ll save that for later. Also, I don’t think it’s fair to say that my partisanship for America is “extreme and unreasoning”** it’s not like I haven’t thought about these sorts of issues, or that I don’t derive these conclusions from a distinct set of axioms. Also, as a note, I expect the governments of other countries to play the game the same way and I think they do tend to display this sort of behavior. France’s power grabs in the EU are one good example.

    Yes, yes this is quite long.

    *note that I don’t mean this in any sort of funny or dismissive way, but rather in the context of game theory.

    **Yes, I know that’s not a characterization that you made, but Reich would probably consider me a “radcon” and thusly I feel the need to dispute the charge. And what sort of name is “radcon” anyway? Sounds like a bug spray to me.

  5. lauren says:

    1. I do not believe that “the best choice for America” can be separated from “the concerns of the rest of the world” in the way that you seem to imply. America does not exist in a vacuum and the things that happen in the rest of the world WILL affect it and therefore need to be considered.
    2. Chauvinism, according to the lovely wikipedia: “extreme and unreasoning partisanship on behalf of a group to which one belongs.” And, “The origin of the term and early usage indicate that it was coined as a term for excessive nationalism or patriotism.”
    You probably know that, but maybe you don’t.
    And in any case I think the above definition makes perfect sense in the paragraph you cited.

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