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The World Must Be Made Safe for Democracy. Wilson, Kennan, & Niebuhr Political Science 110EB.

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Presentation on theme: "The World Must Be Made Safe for Democracy. Wilson, Kennan, & Niebuhr Political Science 110EB."— Presentation transcript:

1 The World Must Be Made Safe for Democracy. Wilson, Kennan, & Niebuhr Political Science 110EB

2 Woodrow Wilson – Declaration of War Speech (1917) The present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind. It is a war against all nations… The challenge is to all mankind. There is one choice we cannot make, we are incapable of making: we will not choose the path of submission and suffer the most sacred rights of our Nation and our people to be ignored or violated. The wrongs against which we now array ourselves are no common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life. 2

3 Our object now, as then, is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up amongst the really free and self- governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth insure the observance of those principles. 3

4 We have no quarrel with the German people. We have no feeling towards them but one of sympathy and friendship. It was not upon their impulse that their government acted in entering this war. It was not with their previous knowledge or approval. It was a war determined upon as wars used to be determined upon in the old, unhappy days when peoples were nowhere consulted by their rules and wars were provoked and waged in the interest of dynasties or of little groups of ambitious men who were accustomed to use their fellow men as pawns and tools. 4

5 Now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretence about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included: for the rights of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience. – The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them. 5

6 The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them. 6

7 But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts - for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own Governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. – To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other. 7

8 George F. Kennan - Sources of Soviet Conduct (1947) Easily persuaded of their own doctrinaire "rightness," they insisted on the submission or destruction of all competing power. Let it be stressed again that subjectively these men probably did not seek absolutism for its own sake. They doubtless believed -- and found it easy to believe -- that they alone knew what was good for society and that they would accomplish that good once their power was secure and unchallengeable. But in seeking that security of their own rule they were prepared to recognize no restrictions, either of God or man, on the character of their methods. 8

9 In these circumstances it is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies. It is important to note, however, that such a policy has nothing to do with outward histrionics: with threats or blustering or superfluous gestures of outward "toughness. – Containment 9

10 But if the ideology convinces the rulers of Russia that truth is on their side and they they can therefore afford to wait, those of us on whom that ideology has no claim are free to examine objectively the validity of that premise. – It is clear that the United States cannot expect in the foreseeable future to enjoy political intimacy with the Soviet regime. It must continue to regard the Soviet Union as a rival, not a partner, in the political arena. Two communities of belief that cannot be reconciled 10

11 Exhibitions of indecision, disunity and internal disintegration within this country have an exhilarating effect on the whole Communist movement. At each evidence of these tendencies, a thrill of hope and excitement goes through the Communist world; a new jauntiness can be noted in the Moscow tread; new groups of foreign supporters climb on to what they can only view as the band wagon of international politics; and Russian pressure increases all along the line in international affairs. 11

12 The thoughtful observer of Russian-American relations will find no cause for complaint in the Kremlin's challenge to American society. He will rather experience a certain gratitude to a Providence which, by providing the American people with this implacable challenge, has made their entire security as a nation dependent on their pulling themselves together and accepting the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history plainly intended them to bear. 12

13 Reinhold Niebuhr Labor activist Pacifist in youth Anti-communist Theologian & public intellectual Christian realism & just war theory Critic of Vietnam war 13

14 Core Themes Original sin Humility The inevitability of war Morality + politics = responsibility American history characterized by irony Christian realism – Vs. realism – Vs. idealism 14

15 Key Terms Pathetic Tragic Ironic Sin Bourgeois liberalism Communism 15

16 The pathetic Pathos Pathos is that element in an historic situation which elicits pity, but neither deserves admiration which elicits pity, but neither deserves admiration nor warrants contrition. (xxiii) – Pity the appropriate response of the spectator – No positive or negative moral attribution Pathos arises from fortuitous cross-purposes and confusions in life for which no reason can be given, or guilt ascribed. Suffering caused by purely natural evil is the clearest instance of the purely pathetic. (xxiii) – No reason – Cancer, earthquakes, etc. 16

17 The tragic Tragōidia The tragic element in a human situation is constituted of a conscious choices of evil for the sake of good. If men or nations do evil in a good cause; if they cover themselves with guilt in order to fulfill some high responsibility; or if they sacrifice some high value for the sake of a higher or equal one they make a tragic choice. (xxiii) 17

18 The tragic Tragedy is a choice between conflicting goods – Lesser evils, only bad choices An admission, not a denial, of guilt – A realization that the lesser evil remains evil No such thing as a tragic flaw 18

19 The tragic Tragōidia – The tragic element in a human situation is constituted of a conscious choices of evil for the sake of good. If men or nations do evil in a good cause; if they cover themselves with guilt in order to fulfill some high responsibility; or if they sacrifice some high value for the sake of a higher or equal one they make a tragic choice. (xxiii) Tragedy is a choice between conflicting goods – Lesser evils, only bad choices 19

20 The tragic An admission, not a denial, of guilt – A realization that the lesser evil remains evil No such thing as a tragic flaw Tragedy elicits admiration as well as pity because it combines nobility with guilt. (xxiii) – The appropriate response of the spectator to tragedy is pity for the agent in the tragic situation, admiration for its moral responsibility, and condemnation for its guilt. – For Niebuhr, the Cold War is tragic 20

21 The ironic Eirōneía (feigned ignorance) Irony consists of apparently fortuitous incongruities in life which are discovered, upon closer examination, to not be merely fortuitous. (xxiv) – An element of the comic, but more than comic. Laughter, but also realization & insight. Different from pathetic situations in that the actor involved bears responsibility for the situation. Different from tragedy in that the responsibility is due to an unconscious weakness rather than a conscious decision. 21

22 The ironic Strength becoming weakness due to vanity of strength = ironic – Realization of ironic complicity must lead to abatement of pretension, which means contrition; or it leads to a desperate accentuation of the vanities to the point where irony turns into pure evil. (xxiv) Niebuhr understands Christianity as inherently ironic. – Ex) The Crucifixion as the final victory of Christ 22

23 Sin More than just doing bad things. Doctrine of original sin, roots in Augustine Humans inherently, not just tendentially, corrupt. Resultantly, all human efforts must be imperfect Humility thus a necessity 23

24 Bourgeois liberalism Capitalist Competitive elections Rights-based legal system Tendency to embrace the perfectibility of humanity, rejecting universality of sin Tendency to pretend innocence 24

25 Communism For Niebuhr, this means Soviet communism Claim to possession of absolute knowledge, and thus mastery, of historical processes. Led by the vanguard, a group that best understands the historical dialectic, and thus by definition acts for the benefit of the proletariat Historical processes make final victory of communism inevitable. 25

26 The limits of freedom Extravagant emphasis on individual freedom – For Niebuhr: The freedom to completely make oneself is a falsehood Humans occur within societies, and are partly made by them In our culture, emphasis on overt, rather than covert, forms of power. Since property is a form of power, it cannot be unambiguously a source of social peace and justice. For every form of power, when inordinate or irresponsible, can be a tool of oppression or injustice. (104) – Thus, too much emphasis on voluntarism 26

27 The limits of control Despite the constant emphasis upon the dignity of man in our own liberal culture, its predominant naturalistic bias frequently results in views of human nature in which the dignity of man is not very clear. (6) – Science as a worldview – The human as creature The acknowledgement of the reality of the free self introduces an unpredictable and incalculable element into the causal sequence. It is therefore embarrassing to an scientific scheme. (8) – The measurable as the real – The human as object, not subject. Humans not essentially different from molecules. – Too much emphasis on control 27

28 For Niebuhr, each of these things is bad – Denies limits of human condition, which for his both as creature and creator – Both fantasies of total control, ignoring the limitations of human power and knowledge Fortunately for Americans, their creed is incoherent, and these two positions counteract each other, leading to pragmatic adjustment – Equilibrating power The menace of communism is in its coherency, which enhances the power of its dogma Niebuhr sees in Communism a kind of atheistic religion, with Russia as its holy land. 28

29 The Problem with Communism For Niebuhr – Communism describes property (ownership) as the sole source of power – Political power (government) is a front for this power – Thus, only the property-less class (the proletariat) is disinterested, and can act in the universal interest Since property is for Communists the only form of power, the property-less have no particular interests to defend The vanguard are the first group to achieve revolutionary class consciousness, comprehending the laws of history Thus, they act in the interest of all humanity. Moreover, they act freely: finally understanding the laws of history, they can act in understanding of true reality – N. sees here a contradiction: if everything is historically determined, how can action be free? 29

30 The Problem with Communism Thus, the Soviet government must adopt an attitude of hostility toward all other forms of government, denying their legitimacy and viewing them as destined for overthrow The basic problem of the Soviets, for Niebuhr, is pride – Believe in the absolute truth of their dogma – Embrace vanguard (Soviet govt) as infallible Moral reasoning by definition is for Niebuhr inherently problematic, reflecting pride. A too confident sense of justice always leads to injustice. (138) 30

31 The Problem with Communism America shares these messianic impulses, but they have been checked by historical contingency – Ironically, America is less free at its moment of greatest power than it was in its fragile infancy – But pretensions to innocence, to newness, remain Realists, Idealists 31

32 Against Realism Cold War realists argued that any means was justified in combating Communist nations – Vanity, a pretense that America is so good as to legitimate any means – Loyalty to the community is... Morally tolerable only if it includes values wider than those of teh community. (37) – For Niebuhr, communities cannot be moral, cannot transcend themselves. 32

33 Against Idealism For Niebuhr, the idea that the nation can withdraw from the world, or that all disagreements can be talked out. – The first prizes moral purity over moral responsibility – The second is naive in its refusal to acknowledge the Communist threat Moral behavior requires responsible engagement w/the world, which will sometimes mean compromised morality – To be good, one cannot be pure. 33

34 Niebuhrs Religious Validation of Politics Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. – Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. – No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness. (63) A critical dimension not only on politics, but on the self. Morality not relative, but our understanding of it is flawed. 34

35 Strangely enough, none of the insights derived from this faith are finally contradictory to our own purpose and duty of preserving our civilization. They are, in fact, prerequisites for saving it. 35

36 Strangely enough, none of the insights derived from this faith are finally contradictory to our own purpose and duty of preserving our civilization. They are, in fact, prerequisites for saving it. If the US is destroyed, the primary cause would be that the strength of a giant nation was directed by eyes too blind to see all the hazards of the struggle; and the blindness would be induced not by some accident of nature or history but by hatred & vainglory. (174) 36


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