In a post back on February 26, I recommended a pair of lectures and an article by John Mearsheimer, going on to make a series of inferences from them about the aims and character of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On reflection (and under some fair criticism), I’ve now come to think that Mearsheimer’s claims, though essentially right, were overstated and misleading, as were my inferences from them. Hence this follow up to that post, intended to clarify what I still think is right about Mearsheimer’s thesis, what I now regard as wrong, and what I take to be as-yet unclear.
I’ve also added links to material on the invasion that I found worth reading, mostly (though not entirely) in confirmation of my own views. I encourage others to post other readings, videos etc. in the comments, regardless of how those readings square with anything I say. I also encourage PoT authors to post anything they find worth posting, again, regardless of how their claims square with mine. Continue reading →
In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt famously described Eichmann as embodying “the banality of evil.” I think of contemporary American life as embodying the banality of injustice, as witness the video below. Warning: it’s eighteen minutes long, and absolutely devoid of dramatic interest. That’s precisely what makes it an instance of the banality of injustice.
In part 1 of this mini-series, I mentioned David Potts’s comments on China from an earlier post, promising to respond more directly to them. DP’s comments on China fall into three parts: a condemnation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on grounds of its systematic disrespect for human rights; an accusation of hypocrisy against activists for their relative indifference to China’s human rights record; and a skeptical shrug of the shoulders about collective action against China.
I put my summary response to his argument this way in part 1:
Either his remarks are meant to rebut my claims or not. If they are, I don’t see how they do; if they’re not I don’t see why they’re there.
I’m going to focus here on the first of these conditionals, assuming that his remarks were intended to rebut my claims, and arguing that they don’t. Continue reading →
Though I realize that this lecture is currently in vogue among people on the extreme Right of American politics, I highly recommend it anyway. I’ve previously cited Mearsheimer and Walt’s work on Israel, and Mearsheimer’s now-famous lecture on Ukraine has the same clear-eyed quality about it. It is not a defense of Putin, and not to be construed as apologetics for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But it puts things in context far, far better than anyone is doing in the mainstream media. The title is a little misleading, and probably best interpreted as asking, “What is the explanation for the part of the Ukraine crisis that is not Russia’s fault?” The lecture was given in 2015, hence doesn’t directly address the 2022 invasion. But if you listen carefully, you’ll hear Mearsheimer predict and explain the invasion in the same breath. (Here is the print version of Mearsheimer’s lecture in PDF.)
BUCK: Mr. President, in the last 24 hours we know Russia has said that they are recognizing two breakaway regions of Ukraine, and now this White House is stating that this is an “invasion.” That’s a strong word. What went wrong here? What has the current occupant of the Oval Office done that he could have done differently?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, what went wrong was a rigged election and what went wrong is a candidate that shouldn’t be there and a man that has no concept of what he’s doing. I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, “This is genius.” Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.
So, Putin is now saying, “It’s independent,” a large section of Ukraine. I said, “How smart is that?” And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s strongest peace force… We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy… I know him very well. Very, very well.
By the way, this never would have happened with us. Had I been in office, not even thinkable. This would never have happened. But here’s a guy that says, you know, “I’m gonna declare a big portion of Ukraine independent,” he used the word “independent,” “and we’re gonna go out and we’re gonna go in and we’re gonna help keep peace.” You gotta say that’s pretty savvy. And you know what the response was from Biden? There was no response. They didn’t have one for that. No, it’s very sad. Very sad.
BUCK: Do you think the southern border is just gonna continue to deteriorate?
In a belated attempt to join the twenty-first century, I’ve created a Policy of Truth Facebook page. This will allow me to promote PoT on Facebook, presumably winning it a wider audience, and potentially sparing my Facebook friends my constant harping on philosophical and political topics that alienate and bore them, when what they’re really interested in is gossip, chit-chat, and the latest photos of me being attacked by my housemate’s rooster. The resulting division of labor will doubtless intensify the alienation and boredom of PoT readers, while carving out a dedicated, private space for consumers of rooster-attack porn.
In his post critiquing my original post on cancellation, David Potts has a long passage about the politics of our dealings with the People’s Republic of China (the PRC). Instead of quoting it at length right now, I mention it as preface to what I want to say about China in this post; I’ll respond directly to DP’s comments in part 2 of this post. For now, suffice it say that one of the things I find puzzling is how DP’s discussion of China relates to, or rebuts, anything I’ve said in defense of cancellation. Either his remarks are meant to rebut my claims or not. If they are, I don’t see how they do; if they’re not, I don’t see why they’re there. But let me save the development of that thought for part 2. For now, I want to say something more directly about the idea of cancelling the PRC. The tl;dr here is: I’m all in. The PRC is on my list of countries that badly need to be cancelled. Continue reading →
I realize that I’m very late on responding to comments, but my plan is to press forward with all the cancellations on my initial list (still a handful left), then double back to respond to comments. I wish I had the time to do both things at once–post and comment–but I don’t. Cancel me.
In a pair of earlier posts on cancellation, I described “cancellation” (as currently used in specifically ideological disputes) as an “anti concept” designed to cast unwarranted aspersions on the concept and practice of moral accountability outside of legal contexts, and defined “cancellation” (in a broader, and to my mind more legitimate sense) as “the nullification of a prior arrangement or expectation on grounds of justice.” The existing understanding of “cancellation,” as conceived by its critics is, in my view, tendentious and question-begging: it identifies ill-conceived or badly executed cancellations with cancellations as such, then insists, by repeated iterations of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, that no cancellation qualifies as a “true” cancellation unless it’s ill-conceived or misapplied by the critic’s standards. Continue reading →