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Quidnuncs

The weblog of Austin Bramwell and Sarah Maserati.

Friday, February 28, 2003

Now, back to that post that I lost earlier.

In this month's First Things is a convincing argument against Hauerwassian pacifism, by Daniel P. Moloney, entitled "The Tribunal of Mercy." It rebuts the view that Justice and Mercy are opposed, a belief at the heart of Christian pacifism. He argues that 1) To judge is usually the most merciful thing one can do and 2) That one can love an enemy and still treat him as an enemy, even if that involves killing him. To do so, he uses a though experiment:

George's brother has a mental breakdown and comes to live with him. His condition worsens, and George and his wife discuss in private putting the brother in an institution. Unfortunately, the brother overhears the discussion, and gets raving mad. As the family is preparing to go to church, he comes out with a butcher knife and attacks George's daughter on her arm. George rushes up and tries to get him to stop, but the brother continues his violent behavior, going after other members of the family. George rushes upstairs to get his rifle, and shoots into the air to get the brother to stop--to no avail. Then he shoots his brother in the leg, to see if that will calm him. Finally, he shoots his brother to kill him.

In Moloney's words: "This example reveals how one can love an enemy without ignoring that he is an enemy, how the demands of responsibility can put a limit on how merciful an action can be without limiting the mercy in one's heart. In this case, where killing is the action that accords with justice, mercy does not stay the hand, but it does soften the heart. The action appears harsh, but the intention mitigates the harshness of the act."

.: posted by Sarah 6:58 PM


Sarah: That reminds me of a Sportscenter clip in which a wideout named Emanuel dropped a ball in the endzone. Saith the ESPN broadcaster: "And Emanuel... Can't."

.: posted by Austin 2:02 PM


I don't know if I'm happy that Muslims are moving to Canada, Sarah. Canada, being more decadent and further along in the "Suicide of the West," is much more unwilling than we are to go after terrorists. I'd rather have all the killers hiding out Parisian suburbs (or languishing in U.S. jails) than right next door to us.

.: posted by Austin 2:01 PM


*&#%!!! I just lost a post... I'll have to write it later. Stay tuned . . . it's an answer to Hauerwas, from First Things.

.: posted by Sarah 11:32 AM


Thursday, February 27, 2003

Samuel Johnson said, "Clear your mind of cant." I wondered not a few times in freshman philosophy class whether we could amend that, lightly, to read, "Clear your mind of Kant."

.: posted by Sarah 4:41 PM


Here's the best news I've heard in a while: "Muslims Make Run for Canada."

.: posted by Sarah 4:18 PM


This Catesby Leigh flashback on NRO today dovetails nicely with our Libeskind posts.

.: posted by Sarah 3:42 PM


I have always liked it, because I find it daring, bold, and patriotic. The tower climbs 1776 feet in the air, and every September 11, the sun will hit and reflect the first tower at the same time as the first plane hit, and there will be no shadows from that moment until the time that the second tower fell.

.: posted by Sarah 2:35 PM


What to say about the Libeskind plan... nothing so far. It leaves me more bewildered than anything else. Where is the concinnity of shapes, lines, and proportions?

.: posted by Austin 1:04 PM


Also in NYC news, the Libeskind plan was chosen for the WTC site, which of course doesn't mean that we'll end up with anything even vaguely resembling it.

.: posted by Sarah 12:31 PM


Private clubs are banding together to fight the new smoking ban to take effect March 30 in NYC, according to the New York Sun.

.: posted by Sarah 12:24 PM


His Right Reverence, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is enthroned today.

.: posted by Sarah 12:11 PM


Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Kudos to Jonah Goldberg for defending Joseph McCarthy in his column today. In truth, the entire focus on Joseph McCarthy is misplaced: the House Un-American Activities Committee, for example, existed long before McCarthy adopted the cause of anticommunism. The real question is whether America, or any other polity, is to be allowed to defend itself against those who would subvert it. That liberals do not think so themselves is why James Burnham called one of his last books "The Suicide of the West."

.: posted by Austin 5:11 PM


Stanley Hauerwas is a philosophic ignoramus. His argument isn't even coherent: if we were to eschew all reference to evil, we could not even engage in just war theory, which, after all, is in the business of distinguishing good from evil in the case of military affairs.

.: posted by Austin 3:50 PM


The inestimable Jamie Ewing points out that Blair is fighting to get a Commons vote in favor of action against Iraq, and that perhaps Bush should go back to Congress. He writes,

"So far, Pres Bush has been relatively disinclined to go repeatedly to Congress for resolutions/approval in the Iraq case, but this may be a great opportunity. Little/no risk of Democrats thwarting the bill, and it would show the rest of the world that a) we in America are actively debating the issue, and b) that we in America ultimately stand in favor of compelling (military) action in favor of topelling Saddam. Makes it tougher for the anti-war camp to villainize Bush and the cabinet (something that's been all too easy of late).

I think a commanding declaration from our legislative body, which represents all of the country, in favor of the use of military force, would send a clear message to those who think that Bush is acting irrationally."

I agree with this. Democrats in Congress are getting a really easy pass on this--they don't have to put their name to a bill supporting war against Iraq, so they can still act as though they're on the sidelines and critique Bush's every move, gaining points with the anti-war crowd.

On the other hand, it is an important principle to uphold that they don't need another congressional vote. Acts of Congress, especially war acts, are not just nice, confidence-affirming things. They are legal acts. Furthermore, it might set a bad precedent, so that the next president involved in war would have to get repeated resolutions, etc. This is our line in the U.N., and I believe it's the Bush administration's line in Iraq, as well.

.: posted by Sarah 2:42 PM


Tuesday, February 25, 2003

A quote from Stanley Hauerwas's Time magazine article against war: "Bush's use of the word evil comes close to being evil--to the extent that it gives this war a religious justification (which Christians should resist). . . . It is God who deals with evil, and it's presumptuous for humans to assume that our task is to do what only God can do. Advocates of 'just war' should be the first to object to the language of evil because that characterization threatens to turn war into a crusade."

Where to begin?

.: posted by Sarah 4:49 PM


Besides, the South today is the most conservative region in the nation. As my friend Brian would say, what's the use of kicking it in the face?

.: posted by Austin 4:43 PM


Mac Owens's article in NR today criticizes both the "Blue-Gray reconciliationist" and "Lost Cause" interpretations of the Civil War. There is no doubt that there is something mythopoetic in both these interpretations, but, on the other hand, there is also no doubt that, even if we are grateful that the South lost, we can't be entirely grateful that the North won. No matter how you look at it, at the beginning of the Civil War we had a Constitution; by the end, we were governed by constellation of absurdities. The best we can do is identify heroism on both sides (and heroism there was aplenty).

.: posted by Austin 4:41 PM


I had a long, and rather annoying political discussion with a Frenchman last night--a man I love dearly. Here are my reactions.

1. The French seem to be very, very upset about the contretemps between their country and ours. They see it as a most regrettable rift, created by the media on both sides of the Atlantic. What saddens me about this is that Americans don't feel this so acutely. Nor should we. The French have always been the most self-interested and weasely of countries, and we've put up with that for decades now. We'll put up with it longer, but we've never been attached to them the way they are to us. One pities them the way one pities the man in the break-up who's still heartbroken about the fight. The girl is not callous when she looks around at other men, she's just not that perturbed by the fact that they're not together any longer.

2.It is said that the French are not a religious people. Not so: I have never seen the French as religious as when they are talking about the United Nations. Here's Villepin: "In this temple of the United Nations, we are the guardians of an ideal, the guardians of conscience." In this U.N.-centered universe, Process plays the role of the Holy Spirit, sanctifying world relations. My frenchman kept insisting that we all agree before we do anything. That's the first and greatest commandment, I gather.

3. These people have great distrust of their politicians, and assume that ours are just as corrupt. There is a bothersome moral equivalence in all of this, that runs deeper. Many times he said that "You don't know what will happen. You don't know what the truth is. And therefore you can't force anyone to do anything." We are all ignorant, so we must not act. He asked who had the greatest power to destroy in the world--the answer, the U.S., of course. I made the argument that we are a responsible nation. He said "YOU think you're a responsible nation. But we do not think so." And then: "Hitler was elected democratically." There you go, from Bush to Hitler, in one French swoop.

.: posted by Sarah 4:18 PM


Emmy Chang, my fellow associate editor at NR, showed me this. Amusing...

.: posted by Sarah 3:53 PM


Here's Mike Potemra's response to the snowy-phallus saga, impossible not to paste here:

"It’s one of those things where neither side has anything interesting to say—preppies exulting, “look! We have a penis!” and neo-pseudo-feminists whining, “we’re being oppressed!” The bright side is, when the two sides get past the fact that they are both very boring, they will stop their endless argument, and get down to the real purpose of college: having sex.

The result of that, in turn, will be J. Barrington “Trip” Worthington III, who will participate in the same tiresome debates twenty years later..."

.: posted by Sarah 3:42 PM


This week's New Yorker has an interminably long article on Kofi Annan. Turns out the world's favorite Ghanaian doesn't ever get angry, something even he cannot explain. Why does this not surprise me? This is not a good thing, as Sir Brian Urquhart is quoted as saying in the article: "Why he doesn't get angry, God only knows, but he doesn't, and up to a point that's a great thing. . . . I mean, for example, if I was him, I'd be furious with Saddam Hussein, after the way he monkeyed with him in 1998." [Why an English diplomat born in 1919 and educated at Westminster and Oxford says "If I was him" is a separate issue...]

.: posted by Sarah 2:45 PM


Monday, February 24, 2003

The Harvard Crimson has an illuminating story on some students who erected a giant snow phallus, only to have it torn down. I especially liked how some women studies professor opined that "The ice sculpture was erected in a public space, one that should be free from menacing reminders of women’s sexual vulnerability." I suppose erecting a giant vulva would have been perfectly acceptable.

Also, the girl who destroyed the snow phallus told the Crimson that her experience as a rape survivor was in part what motivated her. Geez. Rape victims deserve our deepest sympathy, of course, but I must confess that I am amazed at how freely she advertises her status. Does she really think that her impudicity will reduce violence against women? That which is private is either sacred or shameful, which is why the Israelites would not utter the Lord's name, and also why we do not defecate in public. Similarly, open discussion diminishes the horror of sex as much as its sanctity. I would say, in other words, that the girl who tore down the snow penis has more in common with its sculptors than one might have thought.

.: posted by Austin 8:15 PM


Human shields? Anyone who volunteers to become a human shield becomes ipso facto an enemy combatant--and in turn violates the laws of war, which stipulate that combatants must wear military uniform. Let's prosecute them for violating international law! Perhaps we could have them arraigned in the Hague...

.: posted by Austin 5:35 PM


Re human shields. I don't have a problem with bombing them to the core of the earth . . . But there's another option: Bomb around them, have our forces go in and arrest them, and then bring 'em back to the States and try them for treason. They will have put our armed forces at risk. The will have cost U.S. lives. That's treason, in anyone's book.

.: posted by Sarah 4:01 PM