“Intellectual debate” is the maid-servant of interests

By Ted Belman

Iranian University Chancellors Ask Bollinger 10 Questions

These are obviously legitimate questions as were Bollinger’s. In both cases, the answer’s are obvious but not what you would expect. All countries pursue their interests and not justice or democracy or human rights or anything else that these questions raise. If we debate these issues, it is not to reconsider our policies but to score debating points. Our interests do not change, though our policies to achieve them do.

The purpose of dialogue is to balance interests and not to arrive at truth or justice. The dialogue I speak of here is the attempt to cut a deal. It is sometimes better to abandon some of our interests to secure the rest. But the stronger one is the less likely one is to compromise. If you are not prepared to compromise there is no reason to have dialogue other than for atmospherics.

Intellectual debate serves no purpose. Debate at the UN is all about posturing and propaganda. Power politics is all that matters. Cutting deals in the back room is where it is at.

Freud said, “Intelligence is the maid-servant of the emotions”. Similarly “intellectual debate is the maid-servant of interests.”

The Columbia faculty is dominated by the liberal left who invited him in order to buttress their attack on Bush. Both on content and atmospherics i.e. giving him respect. The outcry was so great that Bollinger, following someones marching order, had to take away the legitimacy he had offered Ahmedinejad. So he called him evil, a dictator and a thug. Name calling is not part of intellectual debate. It was designed to lessen the damage he had done by inviting him. i.e to show him disrespect.

This should be kept in mind when it comes to all the criticism levelled at Israel. Israel does what it has to do to pursue its interests namely to stay alive. Everyone else levels criticism at Israel in order to destroy Israel. That is why there is a double standard when it comes to Israel. The critics don’t want to destroy the other countries so criticism is muted. Israel is wrong to adjust the pursuit of its interests to accommodate these criticisms.

International law of war which developed after WW II was designed to outlaw war. It is used as a club to inhibit small or weak powers but it is never used to inhibit the big powers. No one would dare. Furthermore there is no law without the means of enforcing it. Thus all permanent members of the SC can protect themselves with their veto.

September 27, 2007 | 5 Comments »

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5 Comments / 5 Comments

  1. 1. To understand the reason for a nation’s attitudes and policies, especially in the geopolitical sphere, one should look first to a particular nation’s interests and not lose sight of that core measure of understanding as one strives to analyze the intellectual/moral arguments that seek to justify a particular policy or attitude. I have made that argument many times.

    2. I like your comment Ted:

    Freud said, “Intelligence is the maid-servant of the emotions”. Similarly “intellectual debate is the maid-servant of interests.”

    3. Another maidservant for pursuit of self interest is the major inarticulate premise found in the crass and crude principle “might makes right”. Western nations in particular being sensitive to how they perceive themselves and are perceived by others do all they can to divert attention from this premise that underlies many of their policies and modes of implementing these policies.

    The ME despotic world are also become sensitive to image, however instead of straining at intellectual gymnastics, they are given to lies and deceptions to justify their views to themselves and the West.

    4. In the West, oil has a great deal to do with defining nations’ self interest. Much of Western self interest is borne of oil dependence, dependance on a stable oil economy, greed for oil profit and collateral profits through trade with a 350 million people ME and of course fear of the consequences should their oil interests be compromised by their angering the powerful and wealthy OPEC nations which could start a fire of anti-Western rage that could burn out of control throughout most of the 1.4 billion Muslim world.

    5. It is not just pursuit of interests that have aligned so many Muslim and 3rd world nations as well as many Western nations against Israel or which accounts for the double standard the world imposes on Israel. One also has to look to anti-Semitism that still influences the thinking of many. That double standard weighs on every Jew and not just Israelis.

    6. Israel too seeks to adjust her own self interests or priorize them knowing that to survive, Israel will have to submit to the power of the mighty.

    Those that speak out against Olmert’s attitudes and policies as well as past Israeli administrations on the issue of concessions do so not because they believe Israel can and should pursue her own best interests to the exclusion of the interests of all others, but rather because they believe Olmert like past Israeli administrations have conceded more of their own self interest then they should have.

    These critics of Israeli concessionary policies believe Israel has overestimated the power of the world to force Israel to submit and underestimated Israel’s own power to resist submitting to that world will for Israel to make concessions nearly as much as she has.

  2. I suggest that the world operates on both principles and interests. The “interests alone” world died last century. In that world, public opinion was a minor actor (if at all) in the political decision making of states. Now, public opinion — channelled through various institutions — plays a significant role in upholding principles, although the validity of the principles it upholds is sometimes questionable.

    It is definitely in the interest of the U.S. to conquer Canada, and well within their capability. Risks are minimal; advantages are huge. Yet, it doesn’t cross the mind of American politicians to contemplate this action. Why? An even sharper case could be made for Italy absorbing San Marino!

    On Israel: you recognize its right to Judea & Samaria but you say that “there is no court in the world to go to to uphold that legal right”. But then you hypothesize: “[what if] the world demands that Israel abandon J & S failing which it will impose severe sanctions.” Who is “the world” in this hypothesis? If “the world” is unwilling to uphold international law and yet it is capable to eradicate a state, with no regard to public opinion, then we are back to the 1800s. I thought we were past that period.

    If Israel’s legal rights are not as upfront as they should be it’s because Israel itself did a lousy job in that chapter, while letting its enemies grab the power of public opinion with their distorted principles. It is precisely these distorted principles that are shaping Middle East policies, far more than any “interests”.

  3. In any law suit one has to understand the probabilities. The more you think you will lose all, the more you compromise. Lawyers rarely advise their clients that the odds are 100 to 1 that they will win. Therefore, depending on the odds, as both sides view them, a compromise solution is sought for. The first quote simply recognizes that everything has risks.

    The second quote is not in contradiction at all. In fact it reinforces the first. While the pursuit of interest may necessitate a compromise of them, one should not compromise them because moralists criticize your actions. You do what you have to do to protect your interests.

    Are you suggesting that the world operates on principles rather than interests. If so make your case.

    Let’s take a case in point. It is in Israel’s interests to keep Judea and Samaria though some argue otherwise. Israel is in possession of it though that possession is troubled by acts of terror. Israel also has the best legal claim to it but there is no court in the world to go to to uphold that legal right. And possession, as they say, is 9/10 of the law. Possession is what counts. People criticize Israel for the occupation and demand it retreat. I say Israel should ignore the criticism and keep the land because it is in its interest to do so and not because it has the best legal case to keep it.

    Now if the criticism turns to action our interests may be affected. Let us say that the world demands that Israel abandon J & S failing which it will impose severe sanctions just like it is attempting to do with Iran. Israel would have to determine whether it could survive the sanctions in making its choices. The fact that it has the best legal right is irrelevant.

    Now suppose instead, that the world gives Israel a choice, end the occupation on the Saudi terms or be annihilated. Israel would then have to decide it it is worth fighting a war of annihilation or whether it should capitulate.

    This has nothing to do with law or principles or criticisms. It only has to do with serving your interests.

  4. Ted, I would like to comment on your piece but I should first understand what you meant.
    You say:

    It is sometimes better to abandon some of our interests to secure the rest.

    But you also say:

    Israel is wrong to adjust the pursuit of its interests to accommodate these criticisms.

    So, what do you mean, really?
    Are you not confusing interests with principles? Or, do you believe that “truth and justice” are irrelevant principles?

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