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mattbrowne's avatar

War on evil, religious intolerance or transhumanism - What are the world's most dangerous ideas?

Asked by mattbrowne (31633points) May 19th, 2009

The World’s Most Dangerous Ideas is a September/October 2004 special report published in Foreign Policy magazine. Eight notable intellectuals were asked to issue an early warning on the ideas or ideologies that will be most destructive in the coming years.

* War on evil (Robert Wright)
* Business as usual at the U.N. (Samantha Power)
* Transhumanism (Francis Fukuyama)
* Free money (Alice Rivlin)
* Undermining free will (Paul Davies)
* Spreading democracy (Eric Hobsbawm)
* Religious intolerance (Martha Nussbaum)
* Hating America (Fareed Zakaria)


Transhumanism: The Most Dangerous Idea?

In his Foreign Policy article, Fukuyama identifies transhumanism as “a strange liberation movement” that wants “nothing less than to liberate the human race from its biological constraints.” Sounds ominous, no? But wait a minute, isn’t human history (and prehistory) all about liberating more and more people from their biological constraints? After all, it’s not as though most of us still live in our species’ “natural state” as Pleistocene hunter-gatherers. Human liberation from our biological constraints began when an ancestor first sharpened a stick and used it to kill an animal for food. Further liberation from biological constraints followed with fire, the wheel, domesticating animals, agriculture, metallurgy, city building, textiles, information storage by means of writing, the internal combustion engine, electric power generation, antibiotics, vaccines, transplants, and contraception. In a sense, the goal toward which humanity has been striving for millennia has been to liberate ourselves from more and more of our ancestors’ biological constraints.

What is a human capacity anyway? Biologist Richard Dawkins has propounded the notion of an extended phenotype. Genes not only mold the bodies of organisms but also shape their behaviors. Some of those behaviors result in the creation of inanimate objects that help organisms to survive and reproduce, such as beaver dams and bird nests. Our ancestors had no wings; now we fly. Our ancient forebears could not hear one another over 1,000 miles; now we phone. And our Stone Age progenitors averaged 25 years of life; now we live 75. Thanks to our knack for technological innovation, humanity has by far the largest extended phenotype of all creatures on planet Earth. Nothing could be more natural to human beings than striving to liberate ourselves from biological constraints. But Fukuyama would undoubtedly respond that Pleistocene hunter-gatherers are still recognizably human, no different in their innate capacities than people living today. What transhumanists seek is very different. They want to go beyond current innate human capacities. They want to change human bodies and brains.

Let’s say that future genetic engineers discover a gene for suicidal depression, and learn how to suppress the gene, or adjust it. Would fixing it make subsequent generations non-human beings? After all, most people today do not fall into suicidal depressions, and those happy people are no less human than, say, Sylvia Plath. Depression can already be fixed for many people by means of Prozac or Paxil. Surely, taking serotonin re-uptake inhibitors does not make people other or less than human. Sufferers of depression will tell you that the drugs restore them to their true selves. It seems unreasonable to claim that in order to qualify as human beings, we all must have the capacity to succumb to berserker rage or religious ecstasy.

“The first victim of transhumanism might be equality,” writes Fukuyama. “If we start transforming ourselves into something superior, what rights will these enhanced creatures claim, and what rights will they possess when compared to those left behind?” Fukuyama seems to be entertaining an X-Men-like fantasy in which enhanced posthumans seek to destroy unenhanced naturals.

What do you think are the world’s most dangerous ideas?

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25 Answers

mcbealer's avatar

• xenophobia
• religious zealotry

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I wrote a paper on Fukuyama in college
in some ways, I disagree with him
Ideally, transhumanism is something I’d support if I could be guaranteed that people won’t take advantage of the situation and be, well, human

mattbrowne's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – Thanks, Simone! Great new avatar. Looks like your little one is doing well ;-)

GAMBIT's avatar

It seems the world is always afraid of anarchy.

oratio's avatar

Well, I agree with some of what he writes, but I don’t agree with his ideas in the “End of history”. His work is important and has good points and aspects, but it needs to be challenged. I used to think of him as an intellectual dick head, at the same level as Samuel Huntington.
But that’s unfair. Huntington is not intellectual.

I guess Fukuyama is considering a Gattaca world possibility. I agree, It is not only possible but likely if we are not careful.

But in the end we will have to discuss where the line is drawn between abuse of advance or hindering it.

I think the biggest problem we have in the world politically is the nation itself. The nation is a socio-political construct that by it’s own existence promotes xenophobia and jingoism.
The nation is not a culture, as cultures are transnational, but we try to confine culture inside the nation.

I believe that the dissipation of the nation – as it is considered today – into something else, is needed for the stability of the world. It had it’s purposes and has had great importance in shaping the world into what we see today, and today, it’s an idea that begins to suffer from arthritis.

So, I guess I think that the most dangerous idea in the world is total devotion to the nation.

covedude's avatar

Democracy lmao I’m so sick of this country and it’s fake ideolagy

covedude's avatar

This so called democracy is Going to be a splinter in mother earths ass untill we change things

covedude's avatar

Time for the average American to learn what comunists actualy stand for…...oo no not the “c” word :)

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know what Fukuyama’s area of expertise is, but it sounds to me like he’s way out of his league. First of all, humans have been trying to improve themselves since forever. To date, our best tool has been choosing mates. Soon we may be able to manipulate our genome to help improve desirable traits and to eliminate undesirable traits. As always, these things will be a matter of personal taste.

Second, I believe it will be impossible to separate human beings from their bodies. We will never be uploaded into machines. We will never lose our biological constraints. We will never be godlike. Transhumanity is a fantasy and it belongs in science fiction novels where readers understand that it really is a metaphor for power.

As to depression—we have already identified at least one of the alleles involved. 21 more to go. Interestingly, this allele is also involved in many other forms of mental illness. It would be interesting if we found out, that on a genetic level, we can’t distinguish between the various mental illnesses. I don’t think that will happen, but it’s interesting to think about.

I would say the most dangerous idea is “Greed first.”

Jack_Haas's avatar

- Moral equivalencies. The idea that intention doesn’t matter, that context doesn’t matter: That collateral damages in Iraq are morally equivalent to planned ethnic cleansing is Bosnia, for example.

- War as a game of tit-for-tat. That if your enemy lobs rusty old rockets at you you should only reply with similarly rusty and old equipment.

- Losing a war = being a victim of genocide.

- The US should become more like Europe.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Jack_Haas – Could you elaborate on the dangerous idea of ‘the US should become more like Europe’? I’m not aware of anyone spreading this idea. Or is learning from each other and copying best practices (or avoiding actions based on lessons learned) included in this dangerous idea? Does the US become more like Europe when Obama and the auto industry make a deal to limit the average mileage of cars? Does Europe become more like the US when introduces Green Cards (also called Blue Cards)?

Jack_Haas's avatar

Matt, sorry but I wouldn’t know where to start, it’s live we live in parallel universes lol!

There is an undeniable push to Europeanize the US by powerful factions previously considered to be on the fringe of the Democrat party before finding a mainstream appeal thanks to the Iraq war’s unpopularity and the financial crisis.

Universal health care, massive expansion of social services, wealth redistribution, massive cuts in defense spending, appeasement of rogue regimes, cap and trade, Kyoto, abortion on demand, sex ed, and countless other concepts that are staples of European societies have strong support in sectors of the Obama camp. Just google Kathleen Sebelius or Rosa Brooks (2 members of the Obama admn) and Naomi Klein,a perfect example of left-wing “thinkers” that are en vogue right now on the left.

It’s not about isolated measures. The Bush administration expanded government but what’s going on now is very different. Context matters. Intention matters. I lived through the Mitterrand years and it’s like deja vu all over again. Now I’m not saying Obama will go all the way, he’s shown signs of wising up lately (notably his reversal on releasing butt pyramid photos) but there is strong support inside his own camp for turning America into a European-style nanny state that uses sociolism to keep power in the hands of the liberal establishment.

oratio's avatar

@Jack_Haas You know, the US will not turn into europe, and europe will not turn into the US, but we still look at each other and learn from each other. A system that work in one country can’t be implemented exactly the same in another. There is a cultural difference.

Any ideas imported into the US will be american style. Like your taco. The US needs to change as time changes and so do all countries. If you want to be conservative, be it for the right reasons and with the right issues, not against all change.

Everything can’t be perfect in the US, as there are many things not don’t work perfect in europe. I am sure there are several things you would like to see change.

All the things you listed as something bad are meant to help people. Maybe it is the wrong way for the US. The fact is that it works very well in europe for europeans, and it’s not questionable to think that it might work well in the US.

The US is an amazing country, but not without flaws. If your government doesn’t constantly try to improve things, and consider other ideas, I don’t think it does it’s job.

Maybe you are right in some aspects, and maybe you are wrong. Please consider again why cuts in military spending and sex ed is a problem.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Jack_Haas – Different universes? We are neighbors my friend. Some would even say Germany and France are twins (probably fraternal ;-)

Just because some values of the Democratic party are shared with some of the European parties cannot lead to the conclusion that there a dangerous idea of ‘the US should become more like Europe’. I see a fundamental flaw in this logic, but maybe I’m misunderstanding what you mean.

Opposition to the Iraq war is not European. What about the African or the Asian (majority) view?

Kyoto is European? Again, what about the rest of the world?

Finally: Do you know the definition of socialism?

Jack_Haas's avatar

@oratio Actually I’m not American I’m french, closely familiar with both systems and immune to Eurocentrism.

Re your first point: American liberal elites are similar to their British and French counterparts in that they are not true socialists. Basically, limousine liberals are carbon copies of our very own caviar left. Socialism is just a utopia that they couldn’t afford to let become reality in order for them to stay relevant but they need it to keep the public hooked to “free” security and money.

Re 2: America needs to solve its problems, just like about everyone else, but Europe is in far more dire need of emulating their founding principles of freedom, personal responsability, opportunity for all, free enterprise, small and unintrusive government (even though they themselves steered away from these principles a little), than they are of emulating our principles of sclerotic soft tyranny through debilitating nanny state overprotections, fiscal oppression, individual helplessness through strict gun control laws, unrestricted freedom of aborting innocent kids but care and understanding for criminals. Oh and and let’s not forget peace through submissiveness and appeasement.

Re 3: I strongly believe that the US isn’t a perfect country but it’s by far the most perfect of countries. It’s Europeans that need to wake up and get their heads out their asses, stop pretending like armies are obsolete, that if we show love and understanding to terrorists everything will be alright, that individuals can’t get out of their bed unless they know that their neighbor will pay their health bills should they catch a cold, that Russia leaves us alone because they like our submissiveness and not because of America’s missiles on our soil.

I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but the only reason we can afford to be so generous with our successful people’s money (and our future generations’ money) is because we don’t have to pay for our defense. Socialist medicine works well for Europeans? Let’s raise military budgets to a level that would make us able to defend ourselves without having to rely on Uncle Sam. I mean, seriously, we’re like teenagers living rent-free out of our parents basement. Because we don’t pay rent, we can afford to go to the gym everyday while our parents can’t because… well they have to work to pay the mortgage. Guess who are the clueless ones? Europeans live in a fantasy, not the real world.

@mattbrowne Matt, your take things too literally! I meant your outlook is so different it’s like we don’t get our information from the same planet!

Look, yesterday I saw this segment on a political program I like, and it was so frustrating because had I seen it before validating my comment I could just post the link instead of clumsily trying to get my point across. So here’s a video of it that I found of Youtube. It’s all there.


oratio's avatar

Ok. Your nick, the majority of Americans here and the way of language used in your comment – that is very similar to that of fundamentalist American conservatives – lead me to believe you were one. Your comment on Mitterrand made me think you were one of many Americans living in France. Jack Haas is not very french. I realize it’s a pun for jackass. Sorry for the confusion, and for the lengthy reply.

Your views on socialism seem to be very subjective. Socialistic ideas – as well as democracy – is, and needs to be, implemented in different ways in different cultures. In time, the culture itself decides how. Look at functioning democracies over the world and tell me if two are the same. As I said, the system of Sweden can’t work from the box in the US, and the American political system can’t work the same in sweden.
We all belong to a big cultural west world bubble. But we have different cultures none the less. Not to mention how much more complex the US than any European country.

The wonderful thing with our democracy is that opposite views can be heard, however subjective. Some might see Hernán Cortés as a hero, some as a despicable mass murderer.

I am also sorry to hear that they stop you from getting a gun, because we all know how much you need a gun in today’s France.~

Saying that the US is the most perfect of countries, is also quite subjective. I am sure you think there is a most perfect chocolate too. And we both like chocolate. I agree wholeheartedly that the US is an amazing culture, but i don’t think that the political system of the US is even close to perfect. But what is perfect?
What is the Utopia of democracy? Certainly neither the US, France nor Sweden.

More to the heart of the issue.
■The US is not spending almost ten times the second biggest spender – China – to protect the world and Europe. It spends it to protect it’s global interests. Not their mainland, not europe.

■Europe certainly doesn’t need the US to protect them. You seem to be unaware of that France is the third biggest military spender in the world, with both a nuclear arsenal, a most powerful air force and very strong navy. And this is just France. Then include GB, Germany, Spain and Italy. If you look at mere figures, the EU region spends half of what the US does. And maybe you don’t realize that but that is a huge number. Five times china, and Russia isn’t even close.

■Maybe you believe that the US nukes protects us. If anyone nation launches their nukes, all will be fired globally, one nation by one. But you would be right in that if only one nation had nukes, they would dictate the terms. They all had to have them though, because the other fellow had it.

Q. I don’t understand what you mean by love and understanding of terrorists. Please explain. Is it trying to open a dialogue with Palestinian representatives?

Maybe the question you should ask yourself is

“Who wants to invade Europe and France?”

Would that be Russia? You actually believe that if the US wouldn’t control NATO, Russia would throw itself on the Union? Or is it Libya, Iran, China they protect us from? Where is your enemy lurking? Are they conspiring together to take our riches and lives? Or maybe you want the US military to protect us from terrorist attacks and suicide bombers? That seems to work out so far for themselves.

Your impression of things seems similar to the one who said an American in Iran would be whisked away in the night and killed, being oblivious to the fact that there are americans who live in Iran, as do Europeans, and that the reports of Iranian atrocities in this aspect are quite absent.

Please, Russia is not our enemy. Not always love lost between us, but not our enemy. They need us more as a friend than an enemy. And there can be no closed war between Russia and Europe. That would be something included in a World War III. I just don’t see it. But then again, I am just a surrender monkey.

Maybe you can help me out of my views. Maybe I live in a fantasy world. That could be.

Maybe we both are.

Jack_Haas's avatar

@oratio Just to get that out of the way, let me reword slightly the statement that had you confused: America is not perfect (it should have been a hint that I wasn’t about to say it was a perfect country), but it’s the least imperfect of nations which is pretty much evident to even its harshest but fair-minded critics.

About European military budgets, here’s why it is a very bad idea to put country-specific figures together and come up with a “European defense budget”: it can’t be compared to America’s, as each country plans its own defense spending and strategy regardless of what the other members do so you can start by cutting that number just because of unavoidable redundancies. There’s also like a dozen small countries with tiny budgets whose “military” can be best described as a marching band. Some countries include in their budgets things that are not military in nature to artificially inflate their perceived strength. Sweden, Germany, France and a few others focus on safe activities like peace-keeping, training, support, so they stack up on masseusesyoga instructors and accordion players and beef up the “paramilitary” part of their military budgets. More seriously their idea of defense includes reconstruction and nation building capability. Oh and you can also forget about France’s military budget, because army or not we both know how that story always ends.

By the way, you mentioned france as a shiny example of a strong and committed European defense. It’s quite the opposite: It shows how pathetic the budgets of the rest of Europe are. France doesn’t spend enough to maintain its existing equipment, let alone upgrade it. Stratfor had issued a very clearly detailed analysis after the sordid condition of french equipment was fully on display near the coast of Somalia last year, unfortunately I can’t find it so this will have to do:


When it comes to Europe I adopt the opposite view: the American culture has the best of the Northern European culture (strong work ethics and Christian values) without all the baggage. On the other hand, America and Europe aren’t not united in one bubble. Europe was caught between America’s and the Soviet Union’s bubbles until the USSR’s demise and it has now become a bubble of it’s own. Ironically, this bubble now fluctuates between America’s and Russia’s bubbles.

And it’s the disappearance of the Soviet Empire, followed by the unification of Europe and its emergence as its own bubble that has created a rift between American and European attitudes. Europe’s reconstruction after WW2 has been paid for by the US. Europe’s security has been paid for by the US. I’m not talking about nukes because only Iran and the Taliban would ever think about using them. I’m talking about Persshing missiles, the 100k+ troops stationed in Germany and the prospect of having Uncle Sam show up at a would-be aggressor’s doorstep. We Europeans have enjoyed an era of prosperity while having nothing to do for it. Most Western Europeans alive today were born after WW2, and only know comfort and security, have no clue about what sacrifice and hardship mean because cowardly governments slashed military spending and soaked the wealthy to fund lavish entitlements and shield their constituents from the realities of life. That’s why today, when you say terrorism and war, french, Germans and others cover their ears, their eyes, and scream as loud as they can so they don’t have to face reality. Europeans don’t want to grow up and act like adults. There is no significant cultural difference between the US and France, mostly a huge maturity gap. Unfortunately in most Europeans’ mind Europe is the old and wise continent while America is the young and stupid. So we don’t understand why they don’t listen to us and do as we say, but we can’t hear them if they don’t say what we want to hear.

And I save the best for last. Russia. It would be extremely naive to believe that Russia isn’t trying to rebuild its empire, what with the KGB clique that runs it messing with Georgia and Ukraine and pushing the limits of European quasi autistic naivete every day. No one in the West understands the Russian mentality. In this day and age of sophistication, the Russians are still a mistery to even the most highly regarded scholars. But what’s sure is that they don’t need to have Europe as a friend but as a captive customer and a spineless neighbor. They need to be considered a friend by China and that’s it. I mentioned Stratfor earlier and I highly recommend their extensive analysis strictly based on facts, free from the spin and inaccuracies you usually find in the media. I suggest you check their website for a comprehensive study of the struggle to control natural gas lines to Europe and the roles Russia, Germany, the EU but also Turkey play in this important matter. Then you’ll judge whether the term “friend” is compatible with the KGB guys that run Russia.

Oh I almost forgot: what do I mean by “Europe’s belief that you need to cuddle terrorists”? Simply Europe’s serenity when the most despicable acts when conducted by mass murderers and terrorists and its hysterical outrage when said mass murderers and terrorists are not afforded the highest standard of civility and comfort by the US. I’m, of course, referring to the phony outrage over Club Gitmo and America’s extremely mild version of waterboarding.

oratio's avatar

◘ The US didn’t help build up the ruins of Europe with aid and loans because it was nice. It was in it’s own interests. We owe a debt of gratitude absolutely, but hadn’t the soviet union been on the doorstep, it’s doubtful that they would have been that generous. It was a part of what came to be known as The Cold War.

◘ War is not what it used to be. It used to be about who had the biggest army, and best strategy. Today, in many parts of the world, it’s about economy and interdependency. Undeveloped nations still live in the old world, but even in a war like that it affects an interdependent attacker, like the US.

◘ I agree that Russia should always be kept an eye on. It is not to be taken lightly, and be treated like a harmless or inept country.

I agree that the rhetoric of Russia has become more and more classic soviet jargon, and that the military intervention in S.Ossetia and Georgia apparently was planned and not a sudden reaction to Georgian politics.

Similar plans exists without a doubt about every scenario and country in the Russian neighborhood. It would be a poor excuse of a military if it didn’t have that, just as most military do. Putting that plan in action was a demonstration to scare Georgia, and the NATO allies and the cooperation. I would say it worked.

There are NATO troops as we speak in Georgia on maneuver, but a membership seems far away, and other regions might have second thoughts about similar interests. It’s not excusable, but it’s understandable.

◘ When it comes to Russia, it is an old empire comprised of many peoples, in a similar manner as the US. But you are referring to the Soviet one, and I agree. There are many who dream back to that, and they want to keep influence in the old republics. I am quite sure though many in the west understand Russian mentality, though you are right. They are often underestimated. Russia may be a part of Europe, but it is another Europe. I believe the mystery is that they are just like us on the surface, but don’t act just like us. But if a scholar don’t understand Russia, he is in the wrong field. You can never predict what the US will do exactly either.

That we need a military goes without saying. I don’t agree the slightest that the US is protecting Europe. It’s presence here is only in their own interest. And even IF we couldn’t defeat Russia in a war, we don’t need to. We would only need to make it cost them to much. Your worries about Russia is a concern for a WWIII. I don’t see that happening, but you do.

An interstate war today is to costly. It is not only the nukes. They just don’t have much to gain in a war with Europe or a World War. Their whole economy is getting more and more interdependent. Europe, Russia, the US has to much to lose. The counter investments between the biggest economic powers of the world is massive. This is the reason the economic depression has spread like it does. If you want to know what countries that has too much to lose in a war, look at which ones has been hit hard by the current crisis.

◘ Russia has never and will not be in a while, a friend of China. It’s a rival, politically and economically.

◘ The gas line struggle is a matter of economic threats, not military. It’s a form of sanction similar to economic threats made by many states, including the US. I am not saying it is good, or excusable, and I agree in some sense. Energy is the only real economic tool they can threaten with, and it’s a bluff. We need each other.

◘ You are quite right. Countries like Sweden cannot defend their territory anymore. What I want to see happen is a dissolvement of NATO, and a instead a European Co-operation, or even a Union military. If you are a fan of the US, I would think you would support a European federation. I suspect you don’t. Conservatives are often too nationalistic.

► Your concerns about Iran is not entirely wrong, but your comment on that Iran would use nukes is quite unfounded, but that is a very, very different discussion, even if you don’t think so.

◘ I am not sure how you propone that the war rhetoric of the US has been mature compared to the concerns from europe in the same matters. I let that be. That’s a matter of opinion.

You seem to be right about inferior equipment. That is not good at all. But the US isn’t a shining example on top notch equipment for their troops either. It varies too.

■ What you have done here, is that you have chosen sides. I applaud you for being conscious about current affairs and up-to-date, probably more than me, but your world view is classic in the fashion of Political Realism *, and very conservative. Choosing sides – when none needs to be chosen – is in my opinion, contra productive.
I assume, you feel that position to be naïve.

What you and me have, is a disagreement the classic conflict of political world views. Interdependency and Realism. It is a part of how things should be. That’s why we have democracy. I will not change your mind totally, and you won’t change mine. However, discussions like this are productive, and helps showing the weakness of arguments and aspects not known by either before. In that sense, it is possible for both of us to amend to our positions, and also agree in synthesis.

Jack_Haas's avatar

It doesn’t matter why the US did what it did. They fought to defeat Hitler, ordinary Americans had to forgo basic necessities so that we would have a roof on our heads and enough to eat.

What made America the greatest force of good the world has ever know is that it changed the way a superpower behaves: America invented a revolutionary concept to manage the world: doing good to itself by doing good to others. Every major power before them applied the following rule: doing good to itself by invading, ransacking, pillaging, mass-murdering, raping and enslaving others.

When hitler decided to act up, Americans had several choices:

Let Hitler have his way with us or bail us out. They made the choice that saved us.

Set up military governorships and substitute Hitler’s rule for theirs or politely say goodbye and go home. They choose to do what would have been unthinkable in the pre-America world. They left us alone.

They could have decided that it was much sacrifice already to send their kids die for us but instead they chose to make sure we had everything to get back on our feet.

At the end of the day, it’s that they did what they did that matters, not why. It’s been over 60 years now. I guess we can safely say there wasn’t a nefarious conspiracy behind their attitude. It also shows us that no good deed should go unpunished.

America has been Europe’s ally when it mattered. It’s also a free society. In fact it’s a place that provides endless possibilities to anyone that bothers to show up. In exchange, all they require is to abide by the law and be loyal to the country when it needs it. When it waged wars outside its borders it was to fight communism, an evil as great as naziism, and oppressions of all kinds. To say that the American soul is a mystery to Europe and that the US can be as volatile as Russia is just nonsensical at best. 60 years ago America saved over 100 million people from a bloodthirsty dictator. 6 years ago they saved 50 million people from another bloodthirsty dictator. Looks pretty consistent to me.

How exactly does that make it as impenetrable and unpredictable as an ultra-secretive soft tyranny like today’s Russia is beyond me. Russian dissidents are still casually poisoned anywhere in the world, independent journalists are severely beat up or killed every week. Would-be political opponents to Putin are jailed through bogus legal proceedings. The Russian media is a puppet in Putin’s hands. There is ZERO freedom of speech there. Occidental businessmen are routinely murdered and the police doesn’t even try to put on a show, but no one every criticizes that. And finally, just like with Hitler, no one knows anything about their military capability. Concerning Putin’s Russia there are simply so many parallels with Hitler’s Germany before the war

So no, I just didn’t choose a side. Or if I did, it was to look at reality for what it is, not what I would like it to be. And despite what you seem to believe I’m not a conservative, just a news junkie and a fan of intellectual honesty. 16 years ago I started reading papers online everyday. I spend 2 hours everyday doing that no matter what. My news sources are on both political sides. From leftists to conservatives and everyone in the middle. For the best part of the last decade I’ve read, daily, the LA Times, NYT, WaPo, The Nation, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, National Review, The Wall Street Journal, The telegraph, The independent, The Guardian, Le monde, Liberation, and a couple others. I watch Fox News and sometimes NBC News and CNN. I’ve dropped all french media outlets from my daily roll-call in 2004 though, when the collusion between the government and journalists reached a Soviet like level too laughable to ignore, and I dropped British papers a couple years because of redundancies with the US left-wing media and their bizarre way to write English (I kid). But I always check out what the European press says from time to time.

So no, I didn’t choose a side against the other. The only choice I made was to steer clear of comfortable but judgement-clouding concepts like ethnocentrism and moral equivalences, and to avoid choosing a camp in order to make sure that I believe what I believe because it’s right, not because of what side I belong to.

oratio's avatar

You have my sympathies. Ethnocentrism is one of the things that make this world full of problems, and something that is all to common.

What are the 50 million you are talking about? Iraq? They are 31 million. Was that what you meant? It doesn’t matter much, I was not really sure what that pertained too, though.

Where did I say that the US is like Russia? You were talking about Russia as some kind of mystery nation. Quoting from Churchill more or less. I have lived in Russia, not visited, lived. It’s not much of a mystery. But they are different. We are westernized all of us here. They have their ways.

dissidents are still casually poisoned
A Russian spy in London? Maybe. Yes, there is a maybe there. I wouldn’t put it past them though.

Sure, Russia has a big problem with democracy. It doesn’t make it yearn to eat our flesh. There are problems, deep ones. This is an eighteen year old democracy. Your frantic world view make you scared of ghosts though. It is not ZERO freedom of speech in Russia. They have big problems with that, yes. But you are overdoing it. This is not Stalin’s Russia. There is censorship, yes, but I assure you, criticizing the government is what Russians do very well. They are not whisked away for speaking to much. But you are right about reporters that has been killed, and threatened.

Yes, Putin is a problem. The whole Russian political culture is a democratic problem. But it’s important to understand that this is not soviet with another name. And it doesn’t automatically make them want to attack us. Not yet. We don’t know what tomorrow is. China is a communist state. Now, when do you gather they will attack Japan? Soon? Next year? Democratic problems don’t equate a coming war.

But let’s just agree to that they have deep democratic problems.

Where in your flowery, harp playing American world does operations with Allende, Pinochet and Chile fit? El Salvador and Noriega? The Vietnam war? The nukings of civilian cities of Japan? These are just some obvious examples I disagree with.

You demonize Russia and give the US a Hail Mary. Why is everything black or white with you? You are more US patriotic than an red neck American, and I have a hard time understanding why you deify the US international politics. It is an amazing country, and has an amazing culture and history. But come on. You can find maybe a handful of Americans on this site that would agree with you about their own country.

■ Being a conservative is not something a person decides to be. It’s where peoples opinions put them. I don’t know you enough to know if you are conservative or not, but the views you have expressed are conservative views, and that’s where you land at the moment. If you want to call you that or not is another and personal choice. Your choice to drop what you call left wing media just makes it harder to not see you as a conservative.

Jack_Haas's avatar

Yes, my mistake! I had in my head the number was 50 and I didn’t bother to look it up.

Russia might not have rebuilt be the soviet empire yet but it doesn’t mean they wont try, if for no other reason that the Russian population is dwindling at an alarming rate and that they need to either bring people to migrate there or annex territories. Considering their former satellites have ethnic Russians you can see imagine what would be their preferred solution. Looking back at their intervention against Georgio, their harassment of Ukraine and their threats to Europe it’s hard not to think they’re up to something.

Now, again, dissidents are still killed (or there are attempts on their lives, and it’s not just 1 guy), would-be political challengers are thrown in jail or forced to exile, foreign companies (BP for example) see their assets seized arbitrarily without warning, foreign businessmen who invest in Russia are routinely killed and injured. What am I overplaying? Sure, Putin and his goons can’t afford to be Stalin. They have to walk a fine line and letting people vent a little in a tightly controlled setting is much preferrable to having a revolt to repress but it doesn’t mean people have meaningful freedoms.

When it comes to the US making bad choices, sure, but in the context of the fight against communism there were lots of bad and worse choices. Arming Bin Laden in Afghanistan doesn’t seem like the smartest thing to do… now. But at the time it was the right thing to do. Ronald Reagan didn’t just wake up one morning and think hum maybe I should go ask the Soviet to surrender. It was the result of decades of outspending the USSR military, through proxy as it was the only solution to make sure the nukes would remain underground. And yes, the least bad guys were often terrible but it wasn’t a time to be picky in their choices of friends. But again, it was freedom vs tyranny.

Again, I don’t demonize Russia, everything isn’t black or white, I don’t deify the US either but there is a vast amount of information out there, and I keep to credible sources only. I just have the opinion of a fair-minded news-junkie without preconceived ideas And yeah you’ll find a pretty alarming number of Americans ready to trash their country every chance they get, including on this site but you know, just because someone is American doesn’t mean he’s smart and well informed. How many young Americans cite Jon Stewart’s show as their main source of news?

Oh by the way, it might seem trivial, but I never said I ditched the “leftist” news sources. I said the British and French ones, and the British because of redundancies, not because of their bias (the LAT, NYT, WaPo, Nation and New Republic are left-wing, the Nation being pretty hardcore and the WaPo being relatively balance. But I make sure to have both left and right viewpoints on an equal footing.

oratio's avatar

I agree. The cold war’s international politics were not easy, and understandable compromises were made. I just see acknowledge that the international political balance is about geopolitics and not that centered around the possibility of military threats. I am sure that most americans on this site are very proud of their country in many aspects, but have aversions against a variety of it’s political policies. I am proud of many things my culture stands for, but there are many things that can be done better. Not the same, but in the same neighborhood.

Well, it’s good that you vary your sources. You are probably much more in the loop than me. We just have different views on how things should be interpreted.

I am sure you won’t agree with me, but in the end I think we both know that we would be alright without the US covering our ass.

Jack_Haas's avatar

I would agree if I had any confidence that our leaders could take their heads out of their asses. Unfortunately they haven’t learnt. They still have a pre-1939 mindset, when history clearly shows that strength is the only sure way to maintain peace.

oratio's avatar

History also shows that strength is the only sure way to start a war.

We disagree. That’s what we can agree on.

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