4:31 PM, Sep 26, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Secretary of State John Kerry writes in his hometown paper, the Boston Globe, about how with U.S. leadership, "the world" will defeat the Islamic terrorist group ISIS. Kerry, who voted for the Iraq War in 2003 and later withdrew his support,tries to draw a distinction between the military actions of his current boss, Barack Obama, and those of Obama's predecessor by appealing to a conservative authority:
I am proud to work for a president who asks questions before using military force because, after all, I remember the words of the conservative Edmund Burke: “a conscientious man would be careful how he deals in blood.”
It's nice to have a liberal like Kerry quoting Burke. In fact, we'd encourage the secretary to consider some more words of wisdom from Burke, quoted by the distinguished historian Gertrude Himmelfarb in a recent issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
“There is a courageous wisdom,” Burke wrote in his “Letters on a Regicide Peace,” but “there is also a false reptile prudence, the result not of caution but of fear. Under misfortunes it often happens that the nerves of the understanding are so relaxed, the pressing peril of the hour so completely confounds all the faculties, that no future danger can be properly provided for, can be justly estimated, can be so much as fully seen.”
And there's more:
The rules and definitions of prudence can rarely be exact; never universal. I do not deny that in small truckling states a timely compromise with power has often been the means, and the only means, of drawling out their puny existence; but a great state is too much envied, too much dreaded, to find safety in humiliation. To be secure, it must be respected. Power, and eminence, and consideration, are things not to be begged. They must be commanded: and they who supplicate for mercy from others can never hope for justice through themselves.
Here's Himmelfarb's comment:
It is an odd argument to come from Burke, and perhaps the more telling for that. If there is any one political principle associated with Burke, it is prudence. “Letters on a Regicide Peace” was written in 1796. Five years earlier, in his “Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs,” he had pronounced prudence the first of all virtues. “Prudence is not only first in rank of the virtues, political and moral, but she is the director, the regulator, the standard of them all.” But prudence was associated with a corollary principle, “circumstances,” which determine what is wise and prudent in any particular situation. On this occasion, in a war with an implacable enemy, a misplaced prudence was not a virtue but a fatal flaw.
Given Kerry's newfound appreciation for Burke, we'd encourage him to read Himmelfarb's entire article, "From Robespierre to ISIS."
Edmund Burke’s war on terror—and ours.Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By GERTRUDE HIMMELFARB
The war on terror is over, the president assured us a year ago. Now, we are told, that war is very much with us and will be pursued with all due diligence. The president was obviously responding to the polls reflecting the disapproval of the public, but also to critics in his own party. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sadly commented on his admission that he had “no strategy yet”: “I think I’ve learned one thing about this president, and that is: He’s very cautious—maybe in this instance too cautious.”
3:49 PM, Mar 31, 2014 • By ADAM J. WHITE
In The Great Debate and elsewhere, Yuval Levin describes the fundamental difference between conservatives and progressives, rooted in the debates of Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine:
How the Revolution, and two thinkers, bequeathed us ‘right’ and ‘left.’ Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By GERTRUDE HIMMELFARB
Hard cases, it is said, make bad law. So, too, extreme situations make bad policy and worse philosophy. The French Revolution was just such a situation; compared with the French, the English and American revolutions are almost unworthy of the title of revolution. No one took the measure of the extremity of that revolution better than its contemporaries Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. And nobody drew the most far-reaching, antithetical, and enduring political and philosophical lessons from that revolution.
The 2012 election is about far more than our pocketbooks.Oct 8, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 04 • By YUVAL LEVIN
Everybody knows that this election is supposed to be all about the economy. Employment, income, growth, and America’s credit rating are too low, while spending, borrowing, deficits, poverty, and gas prices are too high, and voters must decide whether President Obama is responsible for all of that or whether Mitt Romney could do better. Polls certainly suggest that these questions are highest on voters’ minds.
What are yours?3:14 PM, Mar 19, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
No matter how this weekend's vote turns out, we're going to need to take a break from health care reform. Like government spending, health care has crowded out the market for political discussion. Glance at the news, and you would have no way of knowing that other things are happening.
A special series worth reading6:33 PM, Mar 17, 2010 • By KATHERINE EASTLAND
Via Matthew Milliner's terrific post yesterday, I came across a seven-part series about the relationship between beauty and conservatism, Art and Beauty Against the Politicized Aesthetic, by the young scholar and poet James Matthew Wilson. He studied under the late Thomist scholar Ralph McInerny, whom Jody Bottum kindly remembered in our pages, and is largely inspired by the thought of Jacques Maritain, who, as Milliner points out, is becoming a bit more in vogue these days. Katie Kresser, for instance, has argued for a Maritainian approach to making art in IMAGE. (A good place to start in reading Maritain is Art and Scholasticism, a book Flannery O'Connor read and reread and had several copies of to give to those who visited her for tea and discussion at Andalusia.)
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