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Comments on The Fall of America's Middle East Empire

26 February 2011

The following are selected commnets on the article How America Will Handle the Fall of Its Middle East Empire published on


Time for the Europeans to organise a credible, united and coherent defense instead of relying on the USA for protection. The pro-western rulers are falling fast in the Arab world and whether or not they will be replaced by peace-seeking democracies is anyone's guess. Morocco and Spain's coasts are virtually joined!



Until America falls into deep pain - and it will, it will not change. The real danger is that America will lash out at other nations, like an angry giant that has been severely wounded (and blinded), taking down as many as it can, as it suffers crushing defeat of one kind or another (economic, military, all of the above).

美国这个国家,除非被打得满地找牙这也是早晚的事 - 要它放下屠刀立地成佛,门也没有。最大的危险是美国破罐子破摔,死也要拖几个垫背的,像一头受了伤的瞎了眼的野兽一样,横冲直撞,直到受到最后的一击倒地而死,这一击可以来自经济、军事或二者皆而有之。

J.P. Craig-Weston:

There no longer exists the same kind of economic imperative for slavery (and hasn't been since the industrial revolution,) … I take the view based on my own experiences and the insight gained from my natural curiosity about the world and about history that the idea's and the ideals expounded by Jefferson and co do in fact represent a high water mark of civilization. I probably accept the notion of cultural pluralism ... at some length and with such conviction. What I do not accept is that all such, takes, on morality are of equal legitimacy or merit.



I couldn't agree more. But it doesn't make sense to speak of "moral progress" in the same way as material progress. As Berlin says, approving the sentiments of Vico, "we ... have our sciences, our thinkers, our poets, but there is no ladder of ascent between the ancients and the moderns". This principle is clearer still if we apply it to the arts: could we say, for example, "that Racine is a better poet than Sophocles, that Bach is a rudimentary Beethoven, that, let us say, the Impressionist painters are the peak which the painters of Florence aspired to but did not reach"? I don't think so.


I'm not sure that the absence of slavery from industrial and post-industrial societies - where there is no longer, as you say, any "economic imperative" for that institution - is a reliable indicator of moral, as opposed to material progress. If there were some kind of catastrophe, and we had to return to pre-industrial conditions, then I'm sure human ingenuity would find some way of rehabilitating the institution of slavery.


Well, I take the view that the "high water marks" of Western civilization were Classical Athens, Renaissance Florence, and Augustan England. The American constitution is just a rag-bag of second-hand ideas, borrowed from original thinkers like Locke and Montesquieu, and of course, that enterprising mountebank, Thomas Paine. But the grotesquely disproportionate relationship between America's economic and military might and its comparatively puny contribution to intellectual culture serves to illustrate the fallacy of speaking of moral or artistic "progress" in the same way as material progress.


Human nature is fallible: it is therefore possible for us to make mistakes, as it is possible for us to learn from them and from those of others (although it is not always easy to learn the right lessons). But this doesn't mean that it makes sense to talk about a linear model of "moral progress". Indeed, as the moral philospher Bernard Williams has argued, it is even possible for "ethical knowledge" to be "lost", as our changing beliefs about the world undermine established moral codes without suggesting credible alternatives.


In short, we do not stand in the same relation to Socrates as the microprocessor to Archimedes's screw, and, therefore, returning to my original point, we must reject the "idea that there must exist any kind of objective, immutable, and universal truths, applying equally to all men at all times".


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