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.: July 2006 --> Progressive Realism

Progressive Realism

» NYT: An American Foreign Policy That Both Realists and Idealists Should Fall in Love With. Robert Wright, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, outlines his approach to foreign policy: progressive realism.

This sounds harsh, but it is only acknowledgment of something often left unsaid: a nation’s foreign policy will always favor the interests of its citizens and so fall short of moral perfection. We can at least be thankful that history, by intertwining the fates of peoples, is bringing national interest closer to moral ideals.
Harnessing this benign dynamic isn’t the only redemptive feature of progressive realism. [Hans] Morgenthau emphasized that sound strategy requires a “respectful understanding” of all players in the game. “The political actor,” he wrote, “must put himself into the other man’s shoes, look at the world and judge it as he does.”
This immersion in the perspective of the other is sometimes called “moral imagination,” and it is hard. Understanding why some people hate America, and why terrorists kill, is challenging not just intellectually but emotionally. Yet it is crucial and has been lacking in President Bush, who saves time by ascribing behavior that threatens America to the hatred of freedom or (and this is a real time saver) to evil. As Morgenthau saw, exploring the root causes of bad behavior, far from being a sentimentalist weakness, informs the deft use of power. Realpolitik is reality-based.

 [ 07.17.06 ]


The statement "trying to understand why terrorists kill" basically sums up the Progressive Realism article. This is point where the article becomes worthless. I understand why some terrorists disagree with America's values, but we should not even try to comprehend why they kill. They kill for the same reason why many of them won't let their women vote or become part of the society. They are fanatics that will do anything (even kill) for their religion/beliefs.

Which terrorists are you talking about? Clearly not every terrorist around the world and throughout history has been motivated by religious fanaticism. For example, England and Ireland were locked in a terrorist struggle for decades, and little if any of that was motivated by religious belief.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that 50% of all terrorists alive in the world today are religious fanatics. And lets define a religious fanatic as someone who is willing to kill for their religious beliefs.

So, in the US, you have a sizable number of fundamentalists—people who believe in a literal interpretation of their religious text—but who would never, say, bomb an abortion clinic. That's something only a fanatic would do. Thankfully, this is still a very rare occurrence here.

And through the history of our country, there really haven't been a lot of attacks on the US or on US holdings, especially by non-state actors—this is something fairly new.

So that leads to the question "What makes this behavior (terrorism) suddenly acceptable (to the individual)? How did it suddenly become a choice? How did it suddenly become more widespread?" If the answer is "Now there are more religious fanatics" then obviously you're going to want to investigate where these fanatics are coming from: are they new converts, or are religious moderates suddenly becoming fanatics, or is it the fundamentalists, and what is causing the change?

And this is where the "moral imagination" comes into play. You have to understand the "why" of the situation before you can take effective action.

Duelly noted. My belief ,for the reason terrorism is perceived to be more widespread, is that the world is shrinking or becoming flat. The Middle East has been mired in unrest for some time, while attacks on America, as you stated have been occurring only recently. I believe that the information age has helped unite members of terroristic organizations. Information sharing and fund raising are all made easier with the information age, which benefits everyone including terrorist orgainizations. I do not know if there are more terrorists, just stronger and more unified organizations. Therefore, they can strike in other locations (U.S.), where they are not as prominent, a little easier in this day and age.

When actor Willem Defoe was asked whether he preferred playing heroes or villains, he responded: "Ain't no difference. Everybody thinks they're righteous".



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