Notable & Quotable –

March 4 | Posted by mrossol | American Thought, Obama

Notable & Quotable –

Don’t be afraid of the “big words”… =:)


Leon Wieseltier writing at the New Republic on March 2:

As the dictators fall, the clichés fall, too. Cairo and Tunis and Tripoli are littered with the shards of platitudes about what is possible and what is impossible in Arab societies, in closed societies. Civilizational analysis lies in ruins. Idealism, always cheaply mocked, turns out to be a powerful form of historical causation, as disruptive of the established order as any economic or technological change, and even more beneficent. Stability, the false god of hard hearts, has been revealed to be temporary, chimerical, provisional, hollow, where the social arrangements are not decent or fair: the stability of injustice, though it may last a long time, is essentially unstable. It is delicious to see realists convicted of illusions, to hear them utter the words on which they used to choke. (If there is one thing that realists know how to do, it is pivot.)

The Arab uprisings have been heuristically useful: they have exposed a lack of intellectual preparation, a lack of historical imagination, a lack of moral aspiration, here at home. I count the president among the Americans who are sunk in stereotypes and dogmas, even if the good people at the White House want you to know that he is somehow a hero of this springtime. By now—after Tehran, Tunis, Cairo, and Tripoli—a presidential pattern has been established. Obama’s reluctance to lead, and to establish the United States ringingly and incontrovertibly as the ally of the freedom movements, is owed to many things, but most of all, I think, it is the result of certain conventional assumptions about the historical agency of the United States in the developing world. In almost his every pronouncement about the valiant accomplishments of the liberalizing crowds in “the Arab street” (now an honorific!), Obama keeps insisting that we had nothing to do with this, that they did all this on their own, that Arab democracy must not be the work of the United States or any foreign power. He dreads the imputation of our influence. All his assurances of a new world notwithstanding, he is haunted by the ghost of imperialism.


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