Iraq & Bin Laden

Instapundit summarizes a wealth of information in his main post and more, including an e-mail from one of the staffers, on the reports from the 9/11 commission. The staffer suggests readers refer to the documents themselves.

These documents appear to argue we did not (or at least should not have) invaded Iraq thinking Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. I didn’t think we did, but I may have missed something. My impression was that Cheney (the most outspoken) always used words like “connection” in a broader sense, not specifically related to 9/11. People have argued he was misleading, but when they cite quotes, his words have been qualified and clear. The fact that NPR viewers believe there was no connection may be countered by Fox’s viewers belief that there was. Isn’t the question what kind of connection if we are going to assess the savy of listeners? Neither or both can be right.

Re: Mr. Rummel’s Entry & the blight of capitalism

I would rather not reinforce Mr. Rummel’s opinion of the academic life; it sorely needs minds like his–willing to face facts and begin with experience. Still his argument on June 2 reminds me of a favorite anecdote.

Last spring, my husband read a paper to a group of colleagues. Influenced by Darwinian literary criticism he examined various expressions of “human nature” in a work he loves because of the interplay of individual character with social values. It was not theoretical, but assumptions of universality underlay his argument. In some ways the approach resembles old-fashioned character studies, since both begin with assumptions (pretty much a given a century ago) that there is a human nature. Recent books draw on evolutionary science to give ballast. Joseph Carroll in Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature advocates its use in literary criticism, but the approach is most broadly defined in Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate.

That evening is recalled for Mr. Rummel’s example has the starkness of one of Pinker’s graphs (p. 57) in which “percentage of male deaths caused by warfare” is illustrated; in primitive societies it ranges from 10 to 60%, while in twentieth century Europe and North America, the percentage was miniscule (even in what many of us consider a bloody century). And such thoughts were in the back of my husband’s head as he wrote the paper.

That evening, my husband spoke of a poet who champions Victorian values, embodied in traditions that molded man’s competitive and aggressive nature to fit that century’s definition of strength and restraint, reinforced by their admiration for that “manliness”. We find such traits compelling and attractive (after all, they signal a man able to defend his wife, child, tribe) but potentially destructive.

After he finished, one of his colleagues (who earlier contended Rumsfeld was a war criminal) said, well, yes, man has become competitive and violent because of the rise of capitalism. He ignored my husband’s reference to Pinker’s chart, seeming to think it supported his interpretation. I’m not sure when he thought capitalism began to misshape man. He certainly ignored facts that throw a dark shadow on the twentieth century.

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Return to: Voting Against Their Interests

Josh Chafetz on Oxblog links to his review of Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? (published by Metropolitan Books). While his take is quite interesting (and I think true), Ken’s posting on Chicagoboyz on June 2 took specific aim at the economic thesis; he pragmatically points to variables Frank leaves out. These writers share a generousity of spirit lacking in Frank. I appreciate their assumptions that those of us in flyover country are rational; we make decisions based on real values even if they differ from those of Lewis Lapham—who published an article based on the book in the April 2004 Harper’s–and Thomas Frank. (I am inclined to say “real and so different from” but that is uncharitable.)

Since Ken’s posting, I’ve thought of some examples that argue against Frank’s thesis. This is probably from guilt and nostalgia – but I don’t think it ignores the tough core.

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