Blogs > Liberty and Power > Cabinet Shuffle

Nov 16, 2004 4:56 pm


Cabinet Shuffle



Lileks makes two very insightful, yet amazingly economical, observations today. The first, regarding the reports that Condi Rice is likely to become the Secretary of State: “I want her to go to Saudi Arabia, and I want her first words upon getting off the plane to be ‘I’ll drive.’” Yes. At some point, these medievals need to brought into the 21st century, or at least the 20th. Then he says: “As for the Department of Education, I’d like to see an experiment: let the position go unfilled for four years and see if it has any impact on the educational abilities of the nation’s youth.” I was wondering the same thing myself.

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Aeon J. Skoble - 11/22/2004

"Medieval Islam was far advanced beyond both medieval and early modern Europe in wealth, individual freedom, and religious tolerance."

Too bad they've forgotten about all that. And I deny that they have ever had any conception of individual freedom for women - which was the context of my post. The post was specifically about their relentlessly pre-modern treatment of women. Comparative levels of barbarity in the 14th century aren't of interest to me; the question is whether they have even remotely decent standards for women's rights, and they don't. (Ditto homosexuals, FWIW) Indeed, I'd argue that they don't really have a robust conception of individual freedom even for men. No theocracy can, and no tribal monarchy can either.


Charles Johnson - 11/22/2004

"Yes. At some point, these medievals need to brought into the 21st century, or at least the 20th."

Medieval Islam was far advanced beyond both medieval and early modern Europe in wealth, individual freedom, and religious tolerance. "Medievalism" should be a term of praise, not abuse, with regard to Muslim societies; the problem with folks like the Taliban and the Wahabis of Saudi Arabia is that they hearken back to a past that (fortunately for the Muslims of the 14th century) never existed.

It also seems a bit odd to me to portray either the Saudi monarchy or politicized Islam -- both of them fabrications of the 20th century and its worldwide wars -- as needing to be brought into the 20th century. Better that we urged them to get out of it as quickly as possible.


Aeon J. Skoble - 11/17/2004

"Lileks and the rest of you Wilsonians" Excuse me? You don't even know me! Normally I only take this sort of abuse from my friends. All I said was that I found Lileks' point both amusing and interesting, the latter in reference to the fact that a visit from a female Secretary of State might make a nice cognitive-dissonance moment for the medievals in Saudi Arabia. Then you started in with the if-they-have-a-violently-illiberal- theocracy,-that's-none-of-our-business line. You are imagining a world with no foreign intervention, I'm imagining a world in which Arabs have rights. It's actually not obvious which is the more naive. In any case, my endorsement of Lileks' tongue-in-cheek suggestion doesn't imply anything violent, only something offensive to a cultural tradition that should be there in the first place.


Matt Barganier - 11/16/2004

"Are you here implying moral relativism?"

I'm implying the sort of foreign policy the Founders envisioned. How you got moral relativism out of non-intervention is beyond me.

Yes, it might be interesting for the leaders of a non-interventionist US to "encourage" liberalization around the world. That's beyond the night-watchman state libertarians supposedly believe in, but perhaps it would have some good effect. But we'll never know, because our hyper-interventionist policy renders every suggestion a threat.

"I'm not saying we have to bomb them all into submission ..."

I love that "all." Lileks and the rest of you Wilsonians dearly wish the US could provoke the Saudis into giving us a justification to bomb them. That's what I oppose.


Aeon J. Skoble - 11/16/2004

"US officials qua officials have no authority to strut around as universal legislators."
Are you here implying moral relativism? Saudi misogyny and homophobia are contrary to the liberal individualism that this country is allegedly founded on, and I would prefer that US officials encouraged those values as much as possible - who knows, they might come to accept them too - as opposed to being relativist enablers of whatever illiberal values it happens to be expedient to condone.


Aeon J. Skoble - 11/16/2004

It's not the job of our diplomats to encourage them to liberalize? I'm not saying we have to bomb them all into submission, but surely it's not wrong to promote liberal values diplomatically, symbolically. If Country X has stringently misogynist policies, and our top diplomat is a woman, sending her there seems like a good (and non-violent) way to advertise the wrongness of those policies. Just because they have different cultural norms doesn't make them right.


Matt Barganier - 11/16/2004

The US govt. has no business telling them what to do, either -- as soon as they quit taking our money, anyway. That said, US citizens qua citizens certainly have a right to protest Israeli or Saudi oppression. Send me a petition and I'll sign it. But US officials qua officials have no authority to strut around as universal legislators. This absurd Saudi idea is not meant as an alternative to violence, but as a prelude to it.


Matt Barganier - 11/16/2004

If you think this would accomplish anything besides fanning hostilities, then my apologies -- you're merely naive. I still seriously doubt you or anyone else on this board would make the Africa recommendation, and that's good. The job of the secretary of state is to deal with other countries' policies toward us, not to antagonize other countries over their domestic policies.

http://www.antiwar.com/blog/comments.php?id=P1458_0_1_0


Aeon J. Skoble - 11/16/2004

"But you'd never suggest that, would you, because some backwards peoples are more equal than others to American p.c. sensibilities"
Don't know what I said to warrant that. I'm neither a fan of PC nor do I think some backwards peoples are more equal than others. It's precisely the same cultural norms that bar women from driving that condone their mutilation and other abuse. The beauty of Lileks' suggestion is that it _doesn't_ require troops or bombs. It would be like sending a black diplomat to apartheid-era south africa. As to other nations' affairs -- why are human rights abuses less significant just because a political border is between us and them? If there's any such things as human rights, all humans have them, including Arab women.


Matt Barganier - 11/16/2004

Yep, let's teach them medieval Ay-rabs how to behave! Woo hoo! It's working so well in Iraq now, ain't it?

Maybe when Ms. Rice finishes doing this, she could take a tour of Africa, demonstrating at every stop that she hasn't undergone a clitorectomy. But you'd never suggest that, would you, because some backwards peoples are more equal than others to American p.c. sensibilities.

Perhaps Ms. Rice should do the best thing she could possibly do for America's standing in the world -- stay home and butt out of other nations' affairs.