Tag Archives: robert wright

Ego, Noble Cause Corruption, and Julian Assange

12 Jun

Noble Cause CorruptionI take for granted that pundits and the U.S. intelligence community will engage in character assassination, but perhaps, as Alex Gibney argues, we should knock down whistle blowers, like Eric Snowdon, and public figures, like Jeffrey Toobin, all as narcissists. Then, the field leveled, we can have a real debate, one which I doubt Toobin wants or could hold his own in. I doubt any American media figure has the intellectual chops or moral courage for that sort of unprofitable activity. It’s easier just to tar one’s opponent, and, ultimately, this line of argument is beneath us.

Alex Gibney in the above-linked Bloggingheads. tv diavlog brings up a notion, that if we consider, would guard our own opinions against self-righteousness: “noble cause corruption“.

Noble cause corruption must be distinguished from traditional corruption. Traditional corruption is defined as the use of one’s official position for personal benefit and gain. Personal benefit and gain may refer to accumulation of more wealth or getting sexual pleasure or simply deriving pleasure from doing bad or evil things. Contrary to noble cause corruption, a person who is traditionally corrupt does things only for himself. He does not seek to achieve any noble purpose but only seeks to pursue his own interest.

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Trouble In Shangri-La

4 Jun

Hagel's Pastel ImpotenceAnnoying pastel colors are in fashion, and the United States and China are determined to set a collision course in the world. That’s what I gather from Joshua Kurlantzick’s summary of the 12th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore on June 1, 2013.

All in all, though the Shangri-La Dialogue serves a useful purpose of getting Asia-Pacific leaders to talk to each other and establish the kind of personal links that could be necessary in averting crises, the region’s arms buildup and tensions continue to rise. Though some observers are hopeful that the current head of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Brunei (the chairmanship rotates each year), will be effective in moving ASEAN and China toward real negotiations over the South China Sea, this is doubtful.  It is true that Brunei is a contestant in the South China Sea, and that it has some experienced diplomats, and is also small enough to be viewed as an impartial mediator. But as the subtext of the Shangri-La Dialogue showed, no one in East Asia seems to be in any mood for real concessions on anything.

In the context of the pivot to Asia and the mess in the Middle East, is this collision with China a product of nostalgia?

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The Iraq War, If David Frum Were God

22 Mar

David FrumI was for the Iraq War, after the former secretary of State, Colin Powell, lied to the United Nations with his vial of powder, and then I realized that I had been wrong. So, I can speak about the folly of emotion and take my contrition, to run with far more radical criticisms of war than obviously David Frum can entertain.

First, though, Robert Wright quotes Paul Pillar:

Pillar, like me, hopes Iran doesn’t get nuclear weapons, for reasons he spells out. But the common belief that war would be preferable to a nuclear Iran looks weaker when you do what he recommends, and try to think clearly about what threats a nuclear Iran would actually pose.

That belief looks weaker still when you think clearly about the consequences of war. Pillar does a good job of explaining why conceiving of air strikes as surgical is confused, given the many reasons to believe they would lead to a wider war and/or the invasion and occupation of Iran.

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