Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Senior Humility Seminar, Final Exam

Jean Arthur in Buster Keaton's Seven Chances (1925).
Question 1

David Brooks has recently written,
We are now living in what we might as well admit is the Age of Iraq. The last four presidents have found themselves drawn into that nation because it epitomizes the core problem at the center of so many crises: the interaction between failing secular governance and radical Islam.
In the light of Brooks's views, consider the following instances of some of the four most recent presidents finding themselves drawn into Iraq:
  1. In August 1990, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, accusing the emirate of Kuwait of stealing Iraqi oil by slant drilling and apparently under the impression it had a green light from the US government, occupied Kuwait, and the Bush I administration responded seven months later by invading Iraq and forcing it to withdraw.
  2. In April 1993, relations between Iraq and the new Clinton administration got off to a bad start when the Kuwait administration claimed (apparently falsely) it had foiled an Iraqi plot to assassinate former president Bush, and the US responded with a cruise missile attack on the Iraqi Intelligence Service compound in Baghdad, setting a pattern of conflict that climaxed in 1998, when Congress passed and Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act instituting a policy of "regime change" in the Middle Eastern nation, marked by economic sanctions, sporadic air attacks, and the bankrolling of various grifters billing themselves as a political opposition to Hussein.
  3. In March 2003, on the basis of fabricated evidence of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs, and with the sense that "they" (a group of radical Islamists hiding out on the Afghan-Pakistani border some 1,400 miles from Baghdad) had attacked "us" first, the Bush II administration attacked Iraq with a show of "shock and awe" that destroyed that country's ability to govern itself for the next 11 years and counting, among other things.
How do these cases illustrate the "interaction between failing secular governance and radical Islam"? Discuss with examples. Answers such as "It shows that secular governance in the United States has failed" will not be accepted.

Question 2

President Barack Obama has recently been suggesting a motto as representing the cornerstone of his foreign policy doctrine: "Don't do stupid shit." Explain the errors of this position, focusing on its repudiation of the American tradition of doing stupid shit, the consensus of the best thinkers (such as former secretary of state Hillary Clinton) on stupid shit as the animating principle of bipartisan policy over the past 65 years or so, and the fact that not doing stupid shit is merely tactical, while doing stupid shit is strategic and therefore much better in the long term.

Driftglass was drawn like a moth to the same two ahistorical horror sentences as I was, and our friend Redhand showed up, eloquently, in the comments.

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