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August 31, 2013


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Matthew Bates

I have rarely seen this better put. To exist in a 'western' society today is to live in a utopian dream for most of the current worlds population and 99.9% of human beings who have come before us. It needs constant nurturing and attention to remain in this state and is closer than most people realise to reversion to the mean. Thanks even lucky start you have every time you wake...

Edmund Burke

Welcome back, Marbury.

This quote seems apt: "May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right." - Peter Marshall


It's not often that I agree with everything that a post says, but this is the exception.


You're a marvel when you're curious, Ian, but crikey you can be sloppy once you've made up your mind.
I personally encountered no approval of this Government's decision that talked in terms of delusions of grandeur, not one. Even Galloway wasn't arguing that. All seemed to simply agree that an attack would probably make things worse. Maybe that was just me. You're arguing that there can be no Freedom without Violence, but I just can't follow it. Isn't this just correlation standing in for causation? Specifically, you write "this week's anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech reminds us that a century later, more had to die so that America could become free." How? That speech specifically proscribed "protests degenerating into violence," so how - Oh I see, because he was shot, is that it? King himself is the one who "had to die".
No. He died. There was no "had to" about it. This isn't the New Testament.
And is it the opponents of freedom or its proponents who have to die? Since you reference both Assad and King I guess you mean... We have to be kill them both?
I'm sorry this is so sarcastic, but you've had lots of love in these comments to make up for it, and I'm sure not all three are non-Westerners whatever Samuel Huntingdon says.
Here, if I may, is my own unsupported quote (from Ursula LeGuin):
"It is a durable, ubiquitous, specious metaphor, that one about 'the veneer of civilization'... It can conceal a dozen fallacies at once. One of the most dangerous is the implication that civilization, being artificial, is unnatural: that it is the opposite of primitiveness... Of course there is no veneer, the process is one of growth, and primitiveness and civilization are degrees of the same thing. If civilization has an opposite, it is war. Of those two things you have either one or the other. Not both."
I would say it's *this* that "Westerners" forget and "non-Westerners" find themselves constantly reminded of, not the how-the-West-won-the-world thing.(What's that to do with Freedom anyway?)

Matthew - How are you and Ian talking about the same thing? He's talking about fighting for the freedom of other countries. You're talking about keeping the West above "the mean"... in other words, at their expense.

Edmund - "Freedom is the opportunity to do what is right." Imagine that on a banner. Terrifying. And fruitless. Freedom is waste. Civilization, in fact, is waste. The printing revolution would have been nothing without all that discarded underwear to turn into paper.


I don't believe it. It posted!
Parenthetically, non-rhetorically and hopefully non-querulously: What does "a commitment to a free society" mean? Every country has laws. I suppose it means countries whose laws we wouldn't mind abiding by. Or countries whose punishments we wouldn't mind enduring?

Ian Leslie

Simon - Re. 'delusions of grandeur' arguments, I link to one in the piece. It's by someone normally quite good at capturing the sentiments of her tribe. But I'm also taking aim at the 'Let's just stay out this stuff, not our concern' line which is prevalent especially on the right. As for King, yes, his genius was to see that the best strategic response to the violence in the South was organised non-violent protest, though that was partly as a way of forcing the federal government to deploy its military resources to enforce the laws of the nation. King wasn't the only one to be killed in the cause of Civil Rights - see http://www.splcenter.org/civil-rights-memorial/civil-rights-martyrs for starters - and yes, there really was a kind of 'had to'; he knew was likely to be killed ("I may not get there with you..." wasn't a reference to death by natural causes). As for 'free societies', well there is no tidy definition, but broadly speaking I mean societies where you can vote and say what you want and associate with whom you want without fear of government retribution.

Mark (see comment below, some odd ordering going on), you are right insofar as I'm not making the case for or against a specific intervention in Syria or anywhere else, in this post.

Mark Barratt

Freedom does rest on violence, real or potential, but that doesn't mean any well-intentioned violence will defend or create freedom. You make the general point very well but ignore the argument that we wanted to do something, anything, in response to a horrible assault on human rights and western strategic interests and that this may not be the right thing or, if it is, the right time to do it.


I'd love to know what you think about Putin's op ed in the NYT today, Ian.

Ian Leslie

On Putin, well I think it's specious and misleading. First of all, while he's correct in pointing out that many of the anti-government forces are terrorists, he somehow neglects to mention that by far the biggest aggressor in this conflict is the Assad government; it's they who have done by far the majority of the killing. Second, nobody serious believes that the chemical weapon attack was anything other than a government act. The antis just don't have access to this stuff and we know that Assad has big stockpiles of it. Constructions like "reports cannot be ignored" are a good indicator that he's indulging in pure rumour-mongering. The emphasis on international law is all very well but Putin is quite capable of ignoring it when it suits him (and of course, the simple fact is that action against Syria wouldn't be illegal if didn't veto it). I do rather like his last paragraph though.


Ha, yes. I was eye rolling most of the way through while still quite liking most of what he said, or at least how he said it, but then that final bit about the dangers of portraying yourself (and by extension your actions) as exceptional, oh I just loved him.

automatic waterer

always i used to read smaller posts that as well clear their motive, and that is also happening with this article which I am reading here.

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