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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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."





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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

MORE RESPONSES TO COMMENTS

I have been sitting here at my desk with my absentee ballot in front of me, meditating on the important choice I must make: whether to vote for Biden or for Trump. The exercise of the right of suffrage is the most important responsibility confronting a citizen in a democracy and I must give this careful thought. Weighed down by the gravity of the matter, it occurred to me that I might take a break from these citizen labors to respond to several of the comments provoked by my story about having tea with Bertrand Russell.

 

I love the Douglas Hofstadter story. I have my own Douglas Hofstadter story in a manner of speaking and it is a very odd one. I told the story 10 years ago on my blog as part of my online autobiography but 10 years in cyberspace is an eternity so I thought perhaps I would reproduce my little account here. This is part of what I had to say about my first year teaching at Columbia, which was 1964 – 65.

 

“The third outstanding student from that year is a real mystery. I taught a graduate course on Political Philosophy, in which I unpacked my "Fundamental Problem of Political Philosophy" paper and set forth the argument of what became In Defense of Anarchism. There was a brilliant student in the class who is listed on my hand-written grade sheet simply as D. Hofstadter. He was far and away the best student in the class, and earned an A+. For thirty years, I have thought that student was Douglas Hofstadter, Pulitzer Prize winning author of GÅ‘del, Escher, Bach. But when I Googled him to check, it turned out that he went to Stanford. What is more, I sent him an email, and he replied that it was definitely not he. So there were apparently two brilliant D. Hofstadters at the same time. Would the real D. Hofstadter please check in?”

 

Someone else mentioned Henry Kissinger. I knew Kissinger 60 years ago when I was a young instructor at Harvard and he was a prominent young Government Department professor. I hated him even then, though I was hardly alone in that feeling. I was very vocal in my opposition to nuclear weapons and he was rather condescending and dismissive of the views of those of us who were pushing that point of view. Still I will have to say, he invited me to make a presentation on the subject to his seminar. This was a seminar he taught every year and it actually came to play, in later years, a significant role in American foreign policy because a steady stream of young men from prominent and powerful families in third world countries came to Harvard to study and took the seminar. Some years later when Kissinger became Nixon’s national security advisor, his professorial relationship with these young men who in the intervening years had become important people in their own countries gave him an outsized influence that he used to his advantage. I did have the pleasure of scoring one little point on Kissinger in the seminar. He had written his doctoral dissertation on Bismarck, I believe, and although he put himself forward as possessing expert knowledge in the new field of deterrence theory, he actually had no grasp at all of the Game Theory that deterrence theorists drew on to give their ruminations an air of science. I had been learning up the mathematics behind the work of people like Herman Kahn (a real fool) and Thomas Schelling (a genuinely distinguished thinker), and I thought in my talk to the Kissinger seminar that I would make some reference to it. Kissinger had, some weeks earlier, published a scornful letter in the Harvard Crimson disparaging the work of disarmament proponents like myself by saying that this was a “very serious subject.” When I met with Kissinger in his office before the seminar meeting began, I asked whether there was a blackboard that I could use. Kissinger asked why I would need one and I explained that I wanted to put some math before the students. Kissinger got a kind of nervous and squirelly look and said “is that really necessary?” “Well,” I said with a very sober look on my face, “it is a very serious subject.” I went on to teach for a while at the University of Chicago and Kissinger went on to oversee the Vietnam war and win the Nobel Prize so I don’t think I can view my exchange with him as an unalloyed victory.

 

But the most remarkable part of Eric’s lovely comment was the revelation that he started studying the organ when he was four. How on earth did that come about? The organ? The drums, maybe. Certainly, especially if one is Jewish, the violin. And of course the piano. But the organ? Are there quarter size organs like quarter size violins? There is surely more to that story than Eric has given us.

 

Finally, Jordan asked whether I have ever thought about writing fiction. Since I love telling stories one might think that that was a natural direction in which I might turn but in fact I have not ever tried my hand at fiction and I am absolutely certain that I would be simply awful at it. I could imagine writing a didactic novel in which the main character is transparently my mouthpiece spouting the views that I hold on this or that, but I do not really think of that as fiction. Real fiction writers create people, scenes, interpersonal interactions and crises and resolutions. Real fiction writers clearly love their characters and inhabit them as they write. I have on several occasions read statements by novelists who describe their characters as coming to them demanding that their stories be told. Nothing remotely like that has ever happened to me. I suspect that being a real writer of fiction requires that the author give himself or herself up to the characters and their lives in a way that I cannot imagine doing. On the other hand, I could in my fantasies imagine myself as a sort of philosophical Garrison Keillor. 

36 comments:

LFC said...

Two factual errors here, though the first is probably just a momentary lapse: (1) Kissinger came to power as Nixon's natl security adviser in 1969, not Johnson's; (2) Kissinger wrote a long article-length study of Bismarck, but Bismarck was not the subject of his doctoral dissertation; Kissinger's diss., published under the title _A World Restored_, focused on Metternich and Castlereagh and the Congress of Vienna and surrounding diplomacy (following the defeat of Napoleon). I have read only bits and pieces of it.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

The first was a lapse, the second was really a mistake. I always thought he wrote on Bismarck. Thanks for the corrections. I will edit the first one but leave the second, since it is not a lapse.

Michael Llenos said...

I know very little about Dr. Henry Kissinger, but he has been a hero of mine for winning the Nobel Prize and for dealing with North Vietnam. Plus, he served in the Battle of the Bulge--which was saved by General Patton. That was one Battle of WW2 romanticized by Hollywood over the years.

Here is an altered quote of his:

"North Vietnam: too big for South Vietnam, but too small for the rest of Asia."

And here's a true quote of his:

"You can't win through negotiations what you can't win on the battlefield."

Dean said...

Very likely Dan Hofstadter, who graduated from Columbia in 1966, at least according to one excerpt from a Google search: https://g.co/kgs/hSx8BK

David Palmeter said...

Off Topic: Brian Leiter reports that David Hume has been "cancelled" at the University of Edinburgh. Hume Tower will now be known as George Tower because of Hume's views on race and slavery.

What are your views on this question? I'll confess my own: They are, as my daughter would put it, the views you could expect an old white man to hold. I think a balance needs to be found. Do we change the name of the nation's capital because Washington was a slave owner? I don't think so. Should the Jefferson memorial be taken down? He was a slave owner, but he also had moral capacity enough to be troubled by it. He engineered the exclusion of slavery from the Northwest Territories, along with supplying the language that inspired millions to oppose slavery? I have no trouble with Robert E. Lee and his ilk. They were guilty of treason, as it is defined in the Constitution, and, as they said in the '50s, attempted to "overthrow the authority of the US Government by force and violence." But the others are more complicated. Churchill the racist imperialist, or Churchill the savior of Europe? Plato? Aristotle,strolling with the other peripatetics strolling along, living off the labor of slaves in his silver mines? Lincoln?

Michael Llenos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LFC said...

@ Michael Llenos

Books about Kissinger are legion and keep getting published, so perhaps, as a respectful suggestion, you should learn a little more about him and his record before deciding what your view of him is.

Two very recent books are probably o.k. places to start, although having glanced at their contents (and a review of the latter one, the Gewen) I think they are insufficiently critical of HK: Thomas A. Schwartz, Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography and Barry Gewen, The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and His World. More critical is Greg Grandin, Kissinger's Shadow, published several years ago.

Among other things, Kissinger's (and Nixon's) policies toward Chile (1973), in the Bangladesh crisis (1971), and the way they exited Vietnam (i.e., a prolonged, v. costly (in human and other terms), and futile search for so-called peace with honor) are, imo, stains that no accomplishments on the plus side, such as the opening to China and arms-control agreements w USSR, can compensate for. On the Bangladesh crisis, see S. Raghavan, 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh and Gary Bass, The Blood Telegram.

(And totally off topic of HK, Jill Lepore's new book If Then, just released today it appears, looks interesting.)

Anonymous said...

Michael,

How can you self identify as a Christian, AND revere Kissinger, since surely, if anyone is going straight to Hell, it's the man who oversaw the mass bombing of 150,000 (that's a small estimate) innocent Cambodians? I cannot imagine Jesus Christ ever condoning this man's actions.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/04/khmer-rouge-cambodian-genocide-united-states/

https://www.vox.com/2016/5/9/11640562/kissinger-pentagon-award

https://www.salon.com/2015/11/10/henry_kissingers_genocidal_legacy_partner/

How does just earning a prize make him a hero? Shouldn't the actual record of his actions, and not some arbitrary appeal to authority, be the criteria by which you judge the man?

Then again, Christians have no problems being full blown hypocrites who ignore the New Testament.



LFC said...

Anonymous @6:56 p.m. rightly says that Kissinger shd be judged by the record of his actions.

I would point out that Kissinger's and Nixon's actions in the Bangladesh crisis are as deplorable as their actions in Cambodia.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/03/opinion/nixon-racism-india.html

The only problem w this linked Gary Bass column is that it says Nixon/Kissinger handed India "the opportunity to rip Pakistan in half," which ignores by implication that many of those in what was then East Pakistan *wanted* independence from Pakistan.

Michael Llenos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Llenos said...

Anonymous,

From my own personal 'relative experience' I look up to him. Just as Cambodians also look down on the man from their own 'relative experience.'

I believe some Hindus in India probably think I'm just as good as 'torture food' after I die since I have eaten a lot of steak and hamburgers in my lifetime. Where as I kind of, maybe, believe I have a good chance of being saved by Christ.

Opinion is based by everyone on 'relative experience.'

So 'what is truth?'

What is truth in our universe can never be absolute since all the finite universe is governed by probability. But truth can be almost as good as absolute in many things. And I'm sure it is the same for beyond death. And although I believe Christ may save me from Hell that doesn't mean I will not enter some hellish nightmare after I die. For the truth is what will truly happen when I die and not what I think will happen when I die.

Some think the Zombie Apocalypse is inevitable. I think it probably won't happen. But these opinions won't make it happen or not happen. There are probably worse ways of dying: like by lion or tiger attack, by shark attack, by asteroid fallout, by wicked men acting stupidly etc. It is more scientifically likely Zombos won't try to kill and eat me. But it doesn't absolutely mean it won't happen. Believing it will happen takes a very pessimistic opinion about Fate and Life for anyone. I am pessimistic but not that much.

LFC said...

@ Michael Llenos

Are you aware that Kissinger and Le Duc Tho received the Nobel Prize for an agreement that Kissinger himself had to be aware would only work, or have a chance of working, in the unlikely event that Congress agreed to keep spending large sums of money to prop up the S. Vietnamese govt? Are you aware that K & N's search for "peace w honor" cost untold thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodian lives, plus about 25,000 (if my recollection of the figures is right) lives of U.S. military personnel killed in the conflict after Nixon took office?

Read, via the fairly short column I linked above, the disgustingly racist and misogynistic comments made by N & K during the Bangladesh crisis. Whether K believed all that garbage or was just sucking up to Nixon is irrelevant. At one pt K says something about the Indians being skilled at sucking up to their superiors, or some nonsense along those lines. To which one might respond: Pot, kettle, black.

Michael Llenos said...

LFC

I'm not aware of such things. Censure will follow all men--especially politicians. The only difference is who does the censuring. All American lives lost in Vietnam were a grave tragedy that shouldn't of happened. But to be fair to politicians they cannot act on impulse alone but must take affairs of state slowly. Even President Obama said that affairs of state are like the small nautical movements of a cargo ship that must be taken slowly.

Anonymous said...

This seems timely, though I don’t know that I have much of a story to tell.

I had the occasion, in 1984, to have dinner with Joe Biden in a small group. This came about as a reception of sorts after a talk he gave at a series of seminars that were ostensibly to consider how close we had come, in 1984, to George Orwell’s dystopian view. These took place in downtown Akron, Ohio, probably sponsored by the University of Akron, which I was attending at the time.

He and Thad Cochran (then senator from Mississippi, now deceased) shared the stage and both spoke for a time and then took questions. Biden was obviously rehearsing a campaign speech as he was gearing up to seek the Democratic nomination in 1988. He railed against Ronald Reagan’s use of language, saying that dubbing the MX missile “peacekeeper” was Orwellian doublespeak. (Those old enough to remember those days will recall that nuclear weapons and strategic arms treaties were big political issues in the 80’s.) Thad Cochran clearly had nothing prepared: he brought some letters from his constituents and read them to the audience. It’s not clear to me why he bothered to be there at all, but he produced the most entertaining moment of the evening. During the Q&A session a woman rose to rather heatedly accuse him (mind you, Senator Cochran’s remarks were too completely empty of substance to have been offensive to anyone) of “leading us down the primrose path to Auschwitz and Dachau.” He replied, in an almost apologetic southern drawl, “I don’t recall doing that.”

After the talk, the audience was invited to have dinner with the senators at a nearby restaurant. (The talk was held in a good sized auditorium, but was sparsely attended.) Perhaps a dozen or so people total came to dinner, divided into two groups, one with each of the Senators. I was able to secure a seat at the dinner table with Senator Biden, along with a couple local reporters and a perhaps three other conference attendees. Biden was game for discussion, which meandered between him telling us anecdotes of what it was like to be a U.S. senator (while annoying the reporters by repeatedly asking them to go “off the record”) for example, getting used to the Capitol Police stopping traffic so he could cross the street unimpeded (presumably to ensure that senators wouldn’t be late to cast their votes) and talk of various subjects near and dear to democratic hearts like civic education (one of the people at my table was a high school civics teacher).

Perhaps the most remarkable thing was that such a discussion happened at all. We weren’t political donors, nor were any in attendance (that I recall) individuals of any distinction. Merely for the price of sitting through a speech and agreeing to an open invitation, I was able to spend a couple hours across from Joe Biden.

Tim Badonsky said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to post as "Anonymous above. I'm the guy with the "Dinner with Joe Biden" story

Tim Badonsky

Danny said...

'people like Herman Kahn (a real fool) and Thomas Schelling (a genuinely distinguished thinker)'

Well, 'a real fool' sounds like a terrible fate, but just so we're all in the loop, Herman Kahn was the heavyweight of the Megadeath Intellectuals, the men who, in the early years of the Cold War, made it their business to design the game plan for nuclear war. The bases of his work were
systems theory and game theory as applied to economics and
military strategy. His IQ is said to have been 200. When he was inducted into the Army during World War II, he is said to have scored 181 out of a possible 182 on the military intelligence test.

Hooray for an insightful reconstruction both of an era -- the Cold War -- and of an entire school or mode of strategic thinking. Hooray even, I suppose, for rehashing disputes of the past -- hooray for speculating on what might have been.

I'll skip attempting a discussion of thermostats, hockey helmets and the game of musical chairs, but briefly, Thomas Schelling, our supposedly genuinely distinguished thinker, is associated with the "stable balance of terror" school, as one of its main proponents. To Schelling, one may contrast the school informed by Herman Kahn, who favored strategic defenses and strategic superiority as a more effective and safe deterrent.

In any case, the stable-balance-of-terror model of deterrence soon came to dominate U.S. nuclear strategy.

Danny said...

'although he put himself forward as possessing expert knowledge in the new field of deterrence theory, he actually had no grasp at all of the Game Theory that deterrence theorists drew on to give their ruminations an air of science.'

Henry Kissinger wrote two early, influential books on the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957) and The Necessity for Choice (1960). Kissinger’s concerns resonated greatly at the time. Surely then, Henry Kissinger studied game theory as a young man at Harvard, given that both the United States and the Soviet Union quickly saw its value for forming war strategies, the atmosphere was tense, and also, while in office, Kissinger attended game theory conferences and sought advice from leading game theorists, such as Thomas Schelling, and he participated in many think tanks with forming Cold War strategies. -- 'an air of science'? Game theory, with the Nash equilibrium as its centerpiece, is rapidly becoming a general theory of social science and actually, is becoming the most prominent unifying theory of social science. The notion of a Nash equilibrium has become a required part of the tool kit for economists and other social and behavioral scientists in the last 20 years. So well known that it does not need explicit citation.

We might pause to muse, then, that the bi-polar confrontation between the Soviet Union and the USA involved many leading game theorists from both sides of the Iron Curtain: Oskar Morgenstern, John von Neumann, Michael Intriligator, John Nash, Thomas Schelling and Steven Brams from the United States -- and, Nikolay Vorob’ev, Leon A. Petrosyan, Elena B. Yanovskaya and Olga N. Bondareva from the Soviet Union.

Game theory *can*, I think, help work out what will happen in an interaction between two parties. It can also assess the best strategy for winning.


At the same time, I'm not sure it's much more than you can work out intuitively, if you ponder such as kids fighting in a schoolyard, or animals vying for scraps of food. I dunno, maybe you want to imagine there are 100 people playing Rock-Paper-Scissors. Each with a different set of secret payoffs? Each depending on how many of their 99 opponents they defeat etc.? Using Rock, Paper or Scissors?

At first, you play a pattern that gives you the upper hand, but then your opponent quickly catches on and turns things in her favor. As strategies evolve, a point is reached where neither side seems to be able to improve any further. A mix of strategies always exists where no single player can do any better by changing their own strategy alone. This is how the field of game theory got revolutionized, altering the course of economics and changing the way everything from political treaties to network traffic is studied and analyzed.

Eric said...

@DavidPalmeter, what's your view on Herbert von Karajan? Should he be celebrated as one of the greatest 20th-century conductors, or condemned as a Nazi sympathizer, who lied after the Nazis' defeat about when he had joined the Nazi Party and who often included the Nazi anthem "Horst Wessel" in his programs?
I think we can respect the positive contributions people have made in the world without needing to put them on pedestals or name buildings after them. Why are some so willing to disregard the contributions prominent historical figures made in perpetuating the horrors of enslavement and genocide?

@Danny, wasn't Herman Kahn the inspiration for the character in the novel "Fail-Safe" that was played by Walter Matthau in the film adaptation?

@TimBadonsky, Thad Cochran had an interesting sense of humor. He made a splash in the news in his last Senate race when he fondly recalled the good ol' days of his youth in Mississippi, picking pecans and doing "all kinds of indecent things with animals."

@MichaelLlenos, Barack Obama, Aug San Suu Kyi, and Henry Kissinger show the Nobel Peace Prize is not all it's cracked up to be. Besides, Kissinger was awarded the Nobel in 1973, many years before the world would be able to read declassified files documenting the numerous crimes he was orchestrating in direct contrast to the lies he was feeding Congress and the American people. If Kissinger deserves a Peace Prize, surely Trump deserves some kind of prize as well for having avoided a military conflict with North Korea.

R McD said...

I like Philip Green's "Deadly Logic: The theory of nuclear deterrence" (1966). He does a pretty good job, I think, of showing up the intellectual shallowness and political bias of all those mentioned here--Kahn, Schelling, Kissinger--and a whole lot more.

As to Michael Lienos's attempt to base his adulation of a war criminal on his personal relative experience, when he goes on to defend himself by saying "I'm not aware of such things" he just makes clear that he hasn't explored the matter deeply enough. His isn't "relative experience", it's ignorance.

David Palmeter said...

Eric,

I don't know that much about Karajan. But the problem for me is when does the bad out-weigh
the good? I assume that no one is perfect, and that something negative can be found in the background of most people--often a negative they've overcome. Another possibility is that we don't honor anyone.

LFC said...

Schelling wrote about a lot more than nuclear strategy. His work has its flaws but some of it is v. insightful. (On the other hand he was apparently involved, at least tangentially, in the initial formulation of Rolling Thunder (according to sources like Fred Kaplan which I can't dig up right now). I think a full intellectual biography of Schelling has not yet been written; in the right hands, it would be a good way into the history of this period. The historian who attempts it would have to learn some economics and game theory, enough to discuss it knowledgeably.

I'm not a fan of Herman Kahn. As for how much Kissinger knew about game theory, I'm not sure. He did, I believe, take some positions in _Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy_, e.g. about "limited" nuclear war, that he later reversed.

There is a kind of coldness or sterility, an unwillingness to acknowledge what they are actually talking about in terms of possible death and suffering, that marks a lot of the literature on nuclear strategy and deterrence. I think that is partly what drives some of its critics up the wall, so to speak.

LFC said...

Some of the most interesting writing of the period is not about the details of strategy or game theory but about the broader implications of nuclear weapons. A classic example is John Herz's _International Politics in the Atomic Age_ (1959).

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Per usual you didn't answer anything I asked, and proceeded into a series of unnecessary, unenlightened, and overall jejune red herrings.

I'm also American. I don't revere Kissinger at all, so even from a 'relative' perspective, you need a stronger justification than just "I'm not an indian", followed by a intro level question like 'what is truth'?

I repeat, this man MURDERED over 150,000 innocent lives. As far as I know Christ, God, whatever or whoever you want to identify here, does not value American lives over Cambodian lives. Each is God's child (if you believe in that sort of thing).

So how can you revere a mass murderer? Don't point to relativism, because no one on this blog reveres him, and we are all Westerners and most of us are American.

J. Fleming said...

Michael Llenos,

Regarding your anxiety about being "saved" perhaps you would consider perusing "Father of Fathers"(7th Ecumenical Council) Gregory of Nyssa's final conversation (Life and Resurrection) with his sister Macrina... or Andrew Jukes' The Restitution of All Things (apokatastasis)... or even Hosea Ballou...it might assuage your conscience!
Kissinger (among others) should be tried for war crimes!

Michael said...

J. Fleming:

Your comment about salvation-anxiety is a welcome surprise in an unexpected place. You seem very knowledgeable on the topic, so I'm wondering if you have any recommended reading for me as well.

One of the last books I finished was 'That All Shall Be Saved' (TASBS) by David Bentley Hart. I'm not really religious and not especially knowledgeable about the history of Christian teachings, and I haven't yet made up my mind on the whole business; mostly I decided to read TASBS as something of an aid to conversation with a loved one who recently went through an acute mental health crisis. Call this person 'S.' S is a lifelong Catholic who is sometimes overwhelmed with the sense that S's eternal damnation is imminent and inevitable, due to S's having long ago committed some mortal sin (undisclosed to me, for privacy's sake).

It's a delicate topic, however, and I offered for S to keep my copy of TASBS, but S declined. I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps S figured it'd be best not to purposefully approach the topic of life after death, for fear of "triggers"; but perhaps S also found it too difficult to sympathize with the author, given his demeanor as someone with practically zero patience for anything conservative.

It's an odd request, so I'll understand if nothing readily comes to mind, but I'm curious if it occurs to you that S (or I myself) would benefit from reading any particular works, or studying any particular topics, or anything else.

Thanks! - Michael (a different Michael)

LFC said...

I've just spent a little time perusing my copy of Kissinger's _Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy_ (hardcover first edition, bought some years ago in a used bookstore).

The book lacks an index, but as best I can tell from this perusal there is no discussion of game theory per se in the book, at least not in the formal, jargony sense. The basic problem he appeared to be addressing is how nuclear weapons can be used to achieve specific foreign-policy goals other than or in addition to the deterrence or prevention of all-out war, and his answer at the time was to advocate developing a strategy of limited nuclear war as one option. I think he later reversed or modified his view on this.

Since I don't have time to say more now and am just responding to Danny, above, I'll stop here.

Michael Llenos said...

Anonymous,

If Kissinger is a mass murderer then I suppose many political advisors and politicians are mass murderers too. Although we need politicians or we're in trouble big time soon.

What I was trying to point out, in a relativistic way, is that a leader (or any person) can be viewed as a hero by one group of people and as a murderer by another. E.g. many generals of Ancient Rome can be considered the heroes of the Roman people but the genocidal murderers of the so called barbarian peoples. The same can be said of Grant, Mussolini, and Truman. And yet there is a commandment in Exodus that says 'Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.' Many would probably say that the Torah does not apply to them. Well that's just what I mean by relativism: some judgements (& people) apply to some people and some don't.

But the commenters are probably right; I should read more about Kissinger. I've been thinking about Walter Isaacson's bio for sometime. I've already read most of Isaacson's Einstein, and I liked it a lot.

And I would like to ask the people that judge Kissinger this question. What would you do so differently in his shoes that would save all those lives you said he was responsible for? But when anyone says they would not be a presidential advisor in the first place that sounds like they're either avoiding the question or that they never thought much about the subject themselves. Of course, if you say you are a peacemaker instead I'll support that belief since Christ said "Blessed are the peacemakers..." However, think about how you would be a peacemaker, and how you would do a better job than other politicians. However, their are many who think Kissinger was a peacemaker too and that at the Paris Peace Talks his job was very, very tough to do...

Michael Llenos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Llenos said...

BTW, when I said, The same can be said of Grant, Mussolini, and Truman, I'm not saying President Grant was a bad guy. I like Grant. It's just that many others may not like him.

Anonymous said...

"If Kissinger is a mass murderer then I suppose many political advisors and politicians are mass murderers too."

Obviously. You say this as if it's somehow a refutation of my view, and a vindication of yours. Instead, it's just an attempt to justify reverence for mass murderers.

"Although we need politicians or we're in trouble big time soon."

Obviously. But again, so what? That we need politicians doesn't mean that we need everyone who is a politician. That some politicians are complicit in mass murder doesn't mean they all are. So we can't just conclude, in a knee jerk way, that we need mass murderers in our lives. This is sloppy thinking.

Your point about relativism was too obvious to need further explaining, and too shallow to be taken as a statement worthy of revering Kissinger. Moreover, if you are a Christian Theist - as you claim and as your blog suggests - relativism is inherently wrong, since God's decrees, existence, etc, are not relative (e.g., does God poof into existence when you pray, and poof out of existence when a random person in East disbelieves? Come on, be serious). That two people see something differently doesn't entail that the thing seen *is* different.

"And I would like to ask the people that judge Kissinger this question. What would you do so differently in his shoes that would save all those lives you said he was responsible for? "

Are you fucking serious? Here's what NON-MASS-MURDERERS do, that MASS-MURDERERS don't do: we don't murder. Period. Case closed. Everyone here would not drop bombs on 150,000 innocent people, who showed no signs of aggression towards us, and were not a threat to use. The bombings were not self defense, they were offense. How can you seriously ask 'what would we do differently' - how is a Christian, who is supposed to model himself off the new testament, literally this daft, to not recognize that some of us, including your main man J fucking C, wouldn't mass murder innocent people?

You're a horrible, shallow, and inconsiderate human being by the way. yet I promise, I will not drop a bomb on you, and suggest others not do so also.

LFC said...

I would take a somewhat different approach to answering Michael Llenos than Anonymous @6:24 p.m.

I'm (very) critical of Kissinger's and Nixon's actions in Indochina (since that seems to be the focus here at the moment) but I doubt it's necessary to relitigate all the details of the bombing and the ground invasion of Cambodia, something I'm not presently equipped to do in any case, in order to reach the general conclusion that their approach was morally obtuse and practically deficient, to use the language of understatement. At the same time I acknowledge that N & K inherited a difficult situation: Nixon had pledged, without offering many specifics, to end the war, but N&K did not want to be seen as simply abandoning an ally, and the U.S. faced, to some extent, the psychological problem of sunk costs (which I won't elaborate on). [Btw Nixon and Kissinger secretly and illegally interfered, for political/electoral reasons, w the peace negotiations that were underway during the Johnson admin before the '68 election, but we'll put that to one side for the moment.]

So what could have been done differently? In the very unlikely event that N & K had been able to question their own basic assumptions and worldview, one can imagine an alternative scenario in which Nixon, a couple of months after his inauguration, went on TV and said something like this:

"After a thorough review of the situation in Vietnam and the region, I have concluded that the present government in South Vietnam has lost the support of a majority of its people. We have no moral obligation to continue to support, at very significant human and material costs to ourselves, a government that has lost legitimacy in the eyes of its own population, if indeed it ever possessed such legitimacy in the first place. Some will say that our credibility will suffer if we end support for a government we have supported militarily and economically for years, but our credibility in the world will suffer even more if we continue an involvement that has distorted our whole foreign policy, embittered our domestic politics, and strained our relations with our European allies in particular. Given these circumstances, I have informed Pres. Thieu that in addition to a phased and steady withdrawal of our soldiers and military personnel from the region [something N & K were actually doing under the label 'Vietnamization'], all U.S. support for his government will end effective six months [or ten months, or whatever] from today."

The end would still have been messy and N&K would have faced criticism, but this wd have been much preferable to the approach they actually took, imo.

Michael Llenos said...

We can be more civilized than insulting one of the founders of an Abrahamic Religion.

"Moreover, if you are a Christian Theist - as you claim and as your blog suggests - relativism is inherently wrong, since God's decrees, existence, etc. are not relative (e.g., does God poof into existence when you pray, and poof out of existence when a random person in East disbelieves? Come on, be serious)."

You're not getting what I'm trying to say about the Universe. The entire Universe is finite. (which is an axiom of mine) We are finite as creatures of the Universe. (another axiom) We only have finite minds. (another axiom) So the Universe and us creatures of the Universe are finite. We do not have an infinite and absolute mind. Only one being has a infinite and absolute mind: The Creator or God. Only the Creator knows what is called Determinism. Only the Creator knows everything. We as human beings can only judge by Probability. Our knowledge is only Relative. There is only one person who knows the complete Truth: and that is the Creator. So we can only guess about things. Only the Creator doesn't need guessing. Who is the Creator? Jewish people call him The Lord or Adonai; Catholics call him God the Father, and Muslims call him Allah. Fellow Catholics may think that I don't have a totally Catholic view of the Trinity. That's true. I don't. Mine is based on scripture. But maybe I do. Look up the CCC on the internet (or the Catechism of the Catholic Church) #841. It says as a stated law of belief that Catholics and Muslims worship the same God. Some Catholics believe that was just put there for Political Reasons. But since it is a law of the Vatican 2 Council, I'm still safe from being kicked out. If they kick me out of the Church for not believing in the full philosophy of the Catholic Trinity, I don't really care. There are always other Protestant Churches I can go to. There are many monks and nuns who believe that not being baptized and not being still lawful in the Catholic Church will send you to hell after death. I don't believe that, so I am liberal in my viewpoints. If you're a good Muslim, Jewish person, Mormon, Protestant, Orthodox, Buddhist, follower of Confucius, etc. I don't think you're going to hell. (And if you honor Fortuna & Wisdom I don't think you'll burn either.) If you're ethically bad in deeds you might burn. Now I think the reasons there are so many contradictions in Religious Values is because God likes a variety of religious people on Earth and that contradictions help keep good religions from disappearing. For I believe God loves both Virtue and Faith in him in various religious people. Sometimes I think he may like virtue even more. If you've read Benjamin Franklin's auto bio then you know he believes that God loves virtue and religion in people--but mostly virtue. What are the best acts of Virtue? I believe they are summed up in Matthew 25:31-46.

Now it's not my place to judge Dr. Henry Kissinger. "Judge not, lest you be judged." So the saying goes. I don't think he's bad, nor anything like Stalin or Hitler. (And you'll probably cherry pick and attack this statement I just made.) But why should I continue to defend myself just because I like Dr. Kissinger? Why should I go on and continue to argue back and forth about my liking Dr. Kissinger or my religious viewpoints? The problem with bigots is that they will literally try to destroy you (or at least verbally abuse you) unless you agree with their belief system. I've seen it everywhere I've been to FORUMS on the internet. I don't know what the name for it is but there should be a name to call it. And the bigots should be called something too: maybe, posters of bigotry, or post ragers. As long as I post Anonymous will keep on attacking. It will be the same whether I speak wisdom or folly. The only way Anonymous will stop is if I stop posting or agree totally with him. I cannot agree.

Anonymous said...

Second paragraph remains a giant red herring.

"Now it's not my place to judge Dr. Henry Kissinger. "Judge not, lest you be judged." So the saying goes. I don't think he's bad, nor anything like Stalin or Hitler. (And you'll probably cherry pick and attack this statement I just made.)"

of course it's going to be picked apart, because you're contradicting yourself! "It's not my place to judge HK" is immediately followed by "I judge him to be less bad than Hitler/Stalin". Okay, keep contradicting yourself.

"But why should I continue to defend myself just because I like Dr. Kissinger? Why should I go on and continue to argue back and forth about my liking Dr. Kissinger or my religious viewpoints?"

You have no obligation to defend any opinion, but then you need to recognize it's just an opinion. If your opinion has justifications, reasons, arguments, etc, to back it up, that's what matters. You've provided not a single reason for liking HK, or really much of anything.

You think I'm a bigot because I'm asking you to defend why you publicly praise a mass murderer? From my perspective, what are you then, the cheer-leader of a mass murderer, who admits he also hasn't done his homework, and feels no obligation to defend his cheering? Close minded is a start, so is myopic.

Michael Llenos said...

Read and learn...

"And, as the chief ends of conversation are to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning, sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat every one of those purposes for which speech was given to us, to wit, giving or receiving information or pleasure. For, if you would inform, a positive and dogmatical manner in advancing your sentiments may provoke contradiction and prevent a candid attention. If you wish information and improvement from the knowledge of others, and yet at the same time express yourself as firmly fix'd in your present opinions, modest, sensible men, who do not love disputation, will probably leave you undisturbed in the possession of your error. And by such a manner, you can seldom hope to recommend yourself in pleasing your hearers, or to persuade those whose concurrence you desire." --Ben Franklin

Michael Llenos said...

You wrote:

"of course it's going to be picked apart, because you're contradicting yourself! "It's not my place to judge HK" is immediately followed by "I judge him to be less bad than Hitler/Stalin". Okay, keep contradicting yourself."
--------
I didn't say Kissinger was less bad than Hitler/Stalin. I said I don't think he is anything like Stalin or Hitler.

My Quote:

"I don't think he's bad, nor anything like Stalin or Hitler"

So whose doing the contradicting now?

Michael Llenos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.