THE PATH TO WAR

soldier.pngHere of late our president has been making big speeches on foreign policy — talking about peace (or war) — upsetting even his staunchest supporters, those at The Washington Post.

PRESIDENT OBAMA has retrenched U.S. global engagement in a way that has shaken the confidence of many U.S. allies and encouraged some adversaries. That conclusion can be heard not just from Republican hawks but also from senior officials from Singapore to France and, more quietly, from some leading congressional Democrats. As he has so often in his political career, Mr. Obama has elected to respond to the critical consensus not by adjusting policy but rather by delivering a big speech.

In his address Wednesday to the graduating cadets at West Point , Mr. Obama marshaled a virtual corps of straw men, dismissing those who “say that every problem has a military solution,” who “think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak,” who favor putting “American troops into the middle of [Syria’s] increasingly sectarian civil war,” who propose “invading every country that harbors terrorist networks” and who think that “working through international institutions . . . or respecting international law is a sign of weakness.” (continued here)

Ironically, our president gave what the Post‘s Editorial Board considered an awful speech at West Point, an educational institution of considerable renown. Considering how much our society values education, is it not strange that being wise does not depend upon how much we know?

wise (adj.) Look up wise at Dictionary.comOld English wis “learned, sagacious, cunning; sane; prudent, discreet; experienced; having the power of discerning and judging rightly,” from Proto-Germanic *wissaz (cognates: Old Saxon, Old Frisian wis, Old Norse viss, Dutch wijs, German weise “wise”), from past participle adjective *wittos of PIE root *weid- “to see,” hence “to know” (see vision). Modern slang meaning “aware, cunning” first attested 1896. Related to the source of Old English witan “to know, wit.”

A wise man has no extensive knowledge; He who has extensive knowledge is not a wise man. [Lao-tzu, “Tao te Ching,” c.550 B.C.E.]

Wise man was in Old English. Wise guy is attested from 1896, American English; wise-ass (n.) by 1966, American English (probably a literal sense is intended by the phrase in the 1607 comedy “Westward Hoe” by Dekker and Webster). Wisenheimer, with mock German or Yiddish surname suffix, first recorded 1904.

Is our president a wise guy or a wise man? After four years we should have known, yet we elected him again. Are we wise? The wise know how to use appropriately what knowledge they do have. Therefore, I suppose that means great wisdom involves knowing how to use much knowledge with understanding. Yet our schools emphasize packing our little brains with much knowledge and little understanding.

Are the lessons of the past a good indication of the future? Are we on a trajectory towards war? From where would we gain wisdom about war? For wisdom of all kinds, Americans use to turn to the Bible. What does the Bible have to say about war? Want some examples?

10 thoughts on “THE PATH TO WAR

      1. No mind-reading needed: just watch his actions. They fail the “reasonable person” test, almost every time.

        No need to decide between malevolence or incompetence: either is just as dangerous as the other.

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        1. Think about it. We cannot decide whether he is malevolent or incompetent, and we elected him twice. That’s why I write so little about him these days. I am more worried about the state of the people who voted for him a second time. What would possess anybody to do that?

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