Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Friday, October 30, 2009

DO WE WANT AN IMPERIAL PRESIDENT?

David Brooks writes a column today in the NY TIMES puzzling over whether Obama has the "determination" required of a "war president." [Am I the only person who thinks that Brooks looks like one of those fat-faced smug little boys, all dressed up in a suit and being fussed over by his mother, who is being pushed forward to ask the four questions at a seder?] The subject, of course, is Afghanistan, and Brooks longs for a Churchill [whom he references] who will doggedly pursue wars to "victory." As columnists often do, he attributes these thoughts to unnamed "military experts," but the opinions are transparently his. [Brooks, of course, like almost everyone else pontificating about matters of war and peace, has never spent a day in uniform, and wouldn't know which end of a rifle to put the ammunition in, but that does not stop him from speaking with calm self-assurance about sending other people into harm's way.]

This set me thinking about what the so often invoked Founding Fathers wanted in a president. By a delicious irony, Obama actually comes very close to what those slave owners had in mind -- someone who seeks to work cooperatively with Congress, who takes a limited and modest view of the title "Commander in Chief," who shuns "entangling alliances" and focuses his energies on the domestic needs of the country. Brooks acknowledges condescendingly that Obama is "intellectually sophisticated" and "is capable of processing complicated arguments and weighing nuanced evidence." But, Brooks says, what really matters is whether Obama possesses "tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity anjd confusion."

Now, let us think. What recent president exhibited that trait, so much more important, accoridng to Brooks, than mere intellectual sophistication and the ability to weigh nuanced evidence? Ah yes, I remember -- George W. Bush.

If it weren't for the crossword puzzle and Frank Rich, I would cancel my subscription.

3 comments:

Experiment: said...

Hi Mr. Wolff,
This is a bit unrelated to your most recent post, but I wanted to tell you that I came across an old dog-eared edition of 'In Defense of Anarchism' in a second hand bookshop in Montreal and that I'm actually writing one of my college application essays about it.
I googled you out of procrastination and found your blog!
Have you changed your opinions at all since 1970? Do you have any new Utopian glimpses of a world without States? Please write back, I'd love to know.

nearly forty years later, thanks for your book.
Noah

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Hi, Noah,

Good to hear from you. I haven't changed my ming at all in the past forty years, but I am afraid that I am a good deal more pessimistic about the future, except for one thing: The Internet. The internet is the most subversive underminer of top down authority ever invented. This is the first generation in the history of the human race in which the young have to explain to the old how things work. That is a true revolution.

It is up to your generation to turn that into something good.

Cheers

Experiment: said...

We're working on it.

Have you come up with a legit way to reconcile autonomy and authority in the past 40 years?

Also, how do you think the world should work?

Thanks for writing back!

Noah