Kantian Courage: Advancing the Enlightenment in Contemporary Political Theory

Kantian Courage: Advancing the Enlightenment in Contemporary Political Theory

Kantian Courage: Advancing the Enlightenment in Contemporary Political Theory

Kantian Courage: Advancing the Enlightenment in Contemporary Political Theory

Excerpt

I’ve come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around
the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth
that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they
overlap, and share common principles—principles of justice and progress; tolerance and
the dignity of all human beings.

—BARACK QBAMA, “On a New Beginning”

On January 27, 2009, US President Barack Obama announced that the War on Terror was over. Appearing on the Al Arabiya news network for his first official interview as president, Obama explained, “The language we use matters.” The language of war on terror perpetuates a Manichaean dualism between good and evil, the West and Islamic violent extremists. We need new terms of art, according to Obama, to distinguish between those who seek the violent destruction of the United States and those who make thoughtful criticisms of American foreign policy in the Middle East. Obama’s new concept for the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan was “overseas contingency operations.” The advantage of this term is that it avoids the inflammatory rhetoric that arguably helped contribute to atrocities in such places as the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq or the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. The disadvantage of this term, however, is that it does not contain much descriptive or normative force. Who are we and what are we fighting for? Obama’s impetus is admirable, but he is grappling with a question that consumes many political actors and theorists on the left: How . . .

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