Defending Ideals: War, Democracy, and Political Stuggles

Defending Ideals: War, Democracy, and Political Stuggles

Defending Ideals: War, Democracy, and Political Stuggles

Defending Ideals: War, Democracy, and Political Stuggles

Synopsis

In Defending Ideals, Cornell looks at the crisis on the left and asks how we can turn back toward more left wing ideals. The book addresses mainstream critiques of idealism and ideals, and studies the meaning of freedom though various lenses as well as the dissolution of feminism. Cornell threads and critiques Amartya Sen, Adorno, Martha Nussbaum, John Rawls, Richard Falk and Paul Berman, among others, as she reclaims a more liberal America, and looks at the future of freedom, and the meaning of equality and global development.

Excerpt

The essays in this book defend ideals such as freedom, equality, and peace. We need ideals more than ever after September 11, 2001. This hardly seems like a controversial claim, for who would disagree with it? Both proponents and critics of the United States wars in Afghanistan and Iraq claimed that they defended their respective positions on the basis of ideals. To argue over ideals in politics means that we defend not only their theoretical importance, but also how they are applied in actual political situations and struggles on the ground. If the peace movement in this country is going to convince people that the ideal of peace is vitally important, it must make arguments against the Bush administration's appeals to freedom as the basis for its recent preemptive military strikes and protracted military occupations. Remember that the Bush administration said that we needed to attack Iraq because of its weapons of mass destruction and strong links to Al-Qaeda. It was only when no evidence for either could be marshaled that the discourse of freedom was deployed to shore up the legitimacy of the United States military campaign in Iraq.

So the questions arise. Does this fact alone show the infinite manipulability of ideals? Is the battle over ideals just the battle for power dressed up in fancy clothes? in this book, I do not want to argue that anyone who defended the war in Iraq from the standpoint of enduring freedom was simply insincere. Rather, I want to suggest that configurations of ideals that, for example, represent freedom and "shock and awe" as compatible are, however, flawed. We can still make judgments about competing definitions of ideals. Certain actions and practices are not compatible with respect for those ideals, even as understood as allowing for a range of interpretation. Freedom cannot be brought at the point of a gun. But not everyone appealed to ideals to defend the actions of the government of the United States. After September 11, a new discourse of political realism arose that not only justified the Bush administration's military actions in the war on terror, but also supported legislation that curtailed basic constitutional liberties in the irresponsible name of an idealized form of national security. Often cast in the guise of irresponsible liberals, idealists were

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