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The Real Long War Another Fine Mess

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The World Of "They're Just Kids"

by Christopher Chantrill
August 06, 2007 at 4:24 pm


LAST WEEK a liberal mother called into the Hugh Hewitt show and guest host Dean Barnett asked her what she thought about the accusations made by the New Republic’s Baghdad Diarist: Scott Thomas Beauchamp. Did she think his accusations made against fellow soldiers in Iraq were credible?

The caller responded, as we all like to do when we don’t want to answer a question, by dodging the issue. They’re just kids, she said.

But surely, prompted Barnett in his dense Boston accent, we should think of these soldiers as men, not boys?

I’m a mother, the caller insisted, and they’re just kids.

The woman’s response neatly sidestepped the question of the veracity of the New Republic’s reporter and the accusations of un-American callousness explicit in his reports: soldiers making fun of a disfigured woman, soldiers dishonoring dead children, and soldiers killing dogs on the road for sport.

Instead she seemed to assume that the acts had occurred, but that our young soldiers in Iraq did not bear responsibility for them. No doubt it was the neocon politicians that bore responsibility. The soldiers that Bush had sent out to Iraq were just kids.

But just who is called to responsibility in the progressive world?

Our liberal friends insist on the highest standards of accountability from the US armed forces. For them the eternal shame of the Vietnam-era My Lai massacre requires that every reported lapse of conduct in the armed forces be investigated to the utmost. In this, they are joined by conservatives.

Our liberal friends also insist of the highest standards of accountability in the conduct of business and finance. Malfeasance and even accidental error in business execution demand the severest penalties. In this, they are joined by conservatives.

Our liberal friends are so impressed by their fitness to judge the military and the private sector that they believe themselves competent to judge everything.

There is a great division between the self-correcting world of accountability, the world of the commercial middle class, and the world of “I am a mother; they are just kids.”

We experience the liberal argument of omnicompetence in all sorts of ways. I am a social scientist; they are victims. I am a professor; they are students. I am an artist; they like kitsch.

“The self-conscious being casts judgement upon himself,” writes conservative British philosopher Roger Scruton in An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy. The self-conscious person judges her actions against a high moral standard, and willingly judges her actions both when they meet that standard and when they do not.

Our liberal friends, dwelling in the flatland of a material world, do not enter into this democratic community of judgment. They believe in a world that is non-judgmental. They mean by this, of course, that they are not to be judged. They are called instead, by virtue of their education and their compassionate understanding, to judge others.

But Scruton has news for them. When an individual refuses the culture of judgment, one that usually involves submission to the judgment of a higher power, that individual substitutes a culture of self-transcendence, “the overcoming of human nature, in that higher and stronger version of it, which is the √úbermensch.” of Nietzsche.

That is the self-validating assumption of “I am a mother; they’re just kids.”

We all promote our own judgments beyond their warrant and too easily judge others. But the liberal mother goes further. In her need to “support the troops” she demotes US soldiery in Iraq from responsible men to non-responsible “kids.”

There is an assumption, Scruton says, in our ideas of freedom, right, and duty, that “every player in the moral game counts for one, and no player for more than one.” But not all humans can be accounted full players in the game; the law has long recognized that some people must be counted as having diminished responsibility and not be counted as full players.

Should we count twenty-year-old soldiers as having diminished responsibility? And what does it say if we do?

Half a century ago, led by liberals, America confronted its Race Question, and began to take full responsibility for the original sin of its founding. Today it is time to confront the Liberal Question.

We must have a national conversation to discover why it is that liberals often exempt themselves from the democratic community of self-conscious beings that cast judgment upon themselves, and count themselves as more than one in the “moral game.” We must ask whether America can reach the sunlit uplands of peace and justice unless we confront this question. And we need to confront its corollary: why do liberals exempt so many people, by reason of diminished responsibility, from the great “moral game?”

We are self-conscious Americans, committed to freedom, rights, and duty, and we would like to know.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990

Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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