Slander Noted

Mr Kuznicki, a normally level headed respectful and insightful blogger, offered some slander the other day (and I’m just getting around to defending the object). In an essay on Nationalism, he offers:

The whole discussion might benefit from some methodological individualism. This name is given to the approach to social sciences that ascribes intention, moral agency, and causality only to individuals, and never to groups. A methodological individualist will not deny the existence of groups, and will not deny that people often feel powerful allegiances or antipathies to them. But he will say that ultimately, “the Fatherland” isn’t asking anything. Only individuals make demands, because only individuals have agency.

After that, there’s no sense sugar coating the truth. Other people — other individuals — are asking you to die so that they may parade down the streets in triumph, award themselves fat pensions, and live on your orphaned children’s tax money. That’s what nationalism is, no more and no less. To make it all cohere as a political platform, these people, these other individuals, are trying to co-opt the feelings that you have for your very own family. [Emphasis mine]

In my recent discussions with Mr Sandefur, he seemed to never understand the notion of what “state” means if one is, in Mr Kuznicki’s terms, a “methodological individualist”, for he kept asking if this state or that state “acted wrongly.” This made no sense, because only people act rightly or wrongly. However, the notion emphasized above, seems to directly and emphatically offer slander to our armed services and their officers. That is somewhat offensive. Who does he think is asking this “offer your life so they might parade down the street?” It seems to me, by his remarks, the most obvious candidate might be take that he would imputed that remark on a majority of our generals and higher ranking officers are those who are asking/ordring our sons and us into harms way were some die for them, in the name of Nationalism.

So I’d ask, put this on an individual level, name some names. Does Mr Kuznicki think that David Petraeus is one of the “other people”? Is Petraeus asking his men to die for his fat pension? If one is working on a notion of methodological individualism, so it seems likely one should be able to name some names, some individuals. What percentage of the armed services commissioned officers are in it for the “fat pensions and the parades”? If it is, as I suspect, a number very close to zero, then why make such slanderous remarks about them?

Does he think it’s not the generals, instead the politicians. Now, I make fun of and mock the antics of our Congressional leaders as much of the next fellow. And it seems to me, everybody else does such a bang up job of mocking the President, that I need not chime in. But does Mr Kuznicki really think that our Congressmen, by and large, are not sincere? It seems pretty clear to me, that with a few notable exceptions, our politicians are earnest. Mr Bush for example, right or wrong, clearly really felt that invading Afghanistan and Iraq was best for the security of our nation. I think that there was nothing in that decision a notion of “sending children to die so he could parade down the streets in triumph.” Again, if the count of politicians who are motivated to satisfy their personal glory over the blood of their nation is vanishingly small, again … why make such remarks if they aren’t applicable?

And if soldiers and politicians aren’t motivated that way, who is left to accuse? All of us in some amorphous collective fashion … but if that were the case how is that “methological individualism”?

That isn’t to say there never have been leaders like that, e.g., Napoleon. I just don’t think the zeitgeist of our age in our nation has that motivation at all. I think that for this age, this culture, the idea proposed by Mr Kuznicki as the motivation for nationalism is akin to blasphemy.

Nationalism fueled the desperate stand by the Soviets in Stalingrad and the end result of the absolutely horrific slaughter finally and decisively turned the tide of Hitler’s forces. Few and far between were those in that carnage that were being asked or were in the thick of it fighting and dying in order to “die for fat pensions and parades.” In the light of that example, one wonders what Mr Kuznicki is talking about?

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  1. You’re so quick to jump to conclusions… my goodness.

    To the extent that anyone advocates war for national greatness, they are guilty as I have charged them. You, and not I, made this insinuation about David Petraeus.

    But, to the extent that military or civilian national leaders sincerely advocate war out of self-defense, they are exonerated.

    And, to distinguish between the two, sometimes gold scales are needed. In principle, these questions are easy. In practice, they are difficult.

  2. Mark says:

    I mentioned Petraeus because he’s the current general leading the troops, the likely candidate for your claim of “doing it for the parades.” I also think it’s pretty clear he is not.

    In bringing him up, I was trying to put it in the context of the current conflict in Iraq. If you’re talking “methodological individualism” you’d think it might be possible to point out some “individuals”.

    I think that historically speaking there were ages where this is an issue where a “gold scale” might not have been needed.

    But, if this is not such a culture and age, then perhaps the idea which has any use today.