First, Russia deploys warplanes and tanks to Syria to prop up its closest ally in the Middle East, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Now, Russia is coordinating a new coalition with Syria, Iraq and Iran to fight the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.
But why should any of this come as a surprise? Russia is simply taking advantage of a leadership vacuum in the Middle East, provided by President Obama’s strategy of reducing and limiting American power in the region. Six years ago, this strategy seemed like a prudent response to the Bush administration’s destructive overreach. Today, with ISIS on the march, a refugee calamity extending into Europe, and America’s global and regional adversaries emboldened, it seems dangerously out of touch.
It is high time for the Obama administration to acknowledge that its minimalist approach to the Middle East has failed, and to begin devising new American-led efforts to address the chaos that has engulfed the region on its watch.
The writer teaches American foreign policy and international security at Columbia University.
The American college campus has become one of the least open, least free places in the nation—and with respect to many subjects, not just a few. Genuine debate about abortion, affirmative action, feminism, gay marriage, global warming, gun rights, hate crimes, illegal immigration, Islam, Israel, racism, sexual assault, and transgender identity has been rendered difficult, if not impossible. And we are awash in new euphemisms for censorship: trigger warnings, safe spaces, free speech zones, fill-in-the-blank-phobic slurs, micro-aggressions, and verbal “violence.”
A substantial portion of this vocabulary derives from feminism, which has succeeded in making its anti-intellectual agenda academic dogma. Criticism of feminist concepts is recast as patriarchal, hurtful, or “violent,” obliterating the distinction between psychological discomfort and physical injury. And that erasure has inspired a thousand other complaints, delivering us to this new land where any speech that offends someone’s progressive sensibility is now deemed too “hurtful” to be uttered. Those who cross this line, deliberately or even accidentally, face vitriol, emotional bullying, and sometimes physical attack.
I had a good month on the bike. I rode 13 times in 30 days for a total of 440.2 miles. That gives me 3,554.5 miles for the year, which is now three-fourths over. I'm on track for my second-best mileage year ever (of 35). Today I had to use the brakes to avoid hitting a large bobcat on the trail. The bobcats in River Legacy Parks are slow moving and oblivious to humans. I saw a coyote the other day. No snakes lately.
A fifth criticism of utilitarianism is that it is unable to account for certain facts of common moral experience. I do not appeal to generally accepted value judgments; that would beg the question . What I mean is that common moral experience includes distinctions between the good and the better and between the good and the heroic. A utilitarian theory suggests that an act is justified by good consequences, by the net benefit it will yield compared with alternative possible acts. However, in many cases there are many alternatives that would be accepted as right, and all of us admit that it is possible for men to do better than they are obliged to do.
Almost any act causes some benefits and some harms. The utilitarian is committed to justifying the harms simply by the weight of the benefits . The procedure, if it were possible, would perhaps seem reasonable as long as one maintained that only the maximum net good can rightly be sought. But if he wishes to maintain this position, the utilitarian will be forced to deny the facts just mentioned . On the other hand, if he admits that something less than the maximum good may rightly be sought, we are entitled to ask him by what principle he justifies this departure from the standard of good consequences. His only answer must be that the generality of mankind do not do better; therefore, he cannot demand more. The result is that utilitarianism approaches very near to that morality which simply determines right and wrong by taking a vote, and judging the issue by the opinion of the majority.
Note from KBJ: The problem Grisez is discussing is known as the problem of supererogation. Most people believe that it is possible to go above and beyond the call of duty. Utilitarians cannot accept this, for they demand that individuals do the best that they can (in terms of maximizing utility) at all times.
There will be no shortage of critics and self-appointed pundits sounding off on Speaker John A. Boehner’s tenure. They can say what they like about him, but while I rarely agreed with him on policy issues, I believe that he served the office honorably and did the best job he could to control his caucus—one third of which is bent on dismantling the very institution they were elected to serve.
To the Editor:
John A. Boehner’s announcement of his retirement offers him an opportunity to pursue the capstone of his career—to allow the Senate bill on immigration to come up for a vote in the House. This has long been delayed, and perhaps is what Pope Francis whispered to Mr. Boehner in Congress. It would, no doubt, bring tears to Pope Francis himself.
Incest and sexual violence are hardly the only sorts of topics that might trigger panic attacks in students. The same can happen with readings about racism or readings critical of abortion or affirmative action, which may give some students the panicky feeling of being attacked. Even depictions of love and success may induce panic in students who fear that they will never have these goods.
Here’s why I don’t use trigger warnings: I’m a teacher, not a therapist, and I teach young adults, not children. Rather than second-guess what might cause panic attacks in students, I favor a general statement that some students may find some course material upsetting, each student should deal with that in his own way, and my job is to provide intellectual thrills, not therapy.
FELICIA NIMUE ACKERMAN
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University.
Note from KBJ: Why would you even provide "a general statement that some students may find some course material upsetting"? Life is upsetting. Get used to it.
The World Championships are in the United States this year. I'm watching the men's road race live on CNBC as I type this. It's on the streets of Richmond, Virginia. The winner gets to wear the rainbow jersey for the next year.
Addendum:Peter Sagan of Slovakia, a fan favorite even in the United States, is the new World Champion. Here is video of the final six kilometers. Sagan averaged 26.01 miles per hour for 162.4 miles. As a cyclist, I find that mind-boggling.