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Obsequious Deference

Professor Susan Dunn writes at CNN:

By attacking our closest allies and their leaders and displaying obsequious deference to the virtual dictator Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump has repudiated American global leadership. He has replaced it with a hyper-nationalism and unilateralism that are less of a foreign policy and more the bullying tactics of a would-be strongman.

Trump’s “America First” isolationism is fast weakening and isolating the United States, undermining the stability of long-standing alliances, and allowing dictatorships to thrive unchallenged around the world.

Read the whole thing. But I confess to some confusion. Isn’t one of the central lessons of the last few decades that sometimes (often? always?) “allowing dictatorships to thrive unchallenged” is the best option among the set of bad choices? Does Dunn think it was a good idea to challenge the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi or Bashar al-Assad? Those actions by prior US presidents seem, to me, to have resulted in immense human suffering. Wouldn’t most readers agree that, however monstrous Hussein/Gaddafi/al-Assad were, we should have not gone to war with them? Honestly curious!


A Heads-Up …


It must have been difficult for the Bourbons to go from Louis XIV The Sun King and cited expounder of “L’État c’est Moi” to devolve to Louis XVI The Restorer of French Liberty who died by the guillotine as plain old Louis Capet.

I think Williams Professor Susan Dunn‘s book The Deaths of Louis XVI and her course Sister Revolutions in France and America would be interesting to read and take during this time when an American President can equate the raid on his lawyer to an attack on America.

The Bourbon timeline from XIV to XVI was 149  years.  How quickly things may work in our time and without the guillotine.


Eph Bookshelf #6: Dominion of Memories

Dominion of Memories: Jefferson, Madison, and the Decline of Virginia, by Susan Dunn (Preston S. Parish ’41 Third Century Professor in the Arts and Humanities)

Critics of the President’s statist policies are often dismayed to see policy discussionsrapidly devolve into speculation about their motivations, with their critiques ultimately equated with racism. Their complaints themselves go awry, however, when they attribute this to a political “playbook” concocted by the White House, or the Democratic party. In truth, it’s a trend with much wider roots in our society and is frequently most visible in academic scholarship, as otherwise interesting studies are short-circuited by facile connections between racism, bigotry, and ideas the author disagrees with. Sadly, Professor Susan Dunn’s Dominion of Memories is one work that so strays.

Despite a couple of intriguing starting points in the sociology of slave ownership and the effects of the moral ambivalence of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Dunn ultimately ends up attributing every “non-progressive” policy imaginable to the racism of slaveowners. As a result, what could have been a forceful, if narrower argument devolves into little more than an interesting collection of stories and quotes. Dominion of Memories begins by outlining a simple, but interesting question: For 32 of the first 36 years under the Constitution, the Presidency was filled by a Virginian. Influential Virginians of the early Republic also included Chief Justice John Marshall, George Mason, Patrick Henry, and numerous others. Yet since then, only John Tyler has been President, and after Marshall and the three other Virginians of the early Supreme Court, the state produced only one Justice between the 1840s and 1971. So what happened? Dunn’s answer is economic decline, driven by slavery. Dominion of Memories explores how that decline unfolded, and it initially seems likely to give that story a personal feel, by connecting it to Jefferson and Madison, early supporters of some of the intellectual ideas relied on by southern secessionists on the road to civil war.

Read more


All the President’s Meddling

An op-ed in today’s NYT from Professor Susan Dunn:

It is not yet clear how extensive President Obama’s plans are for intervening in party primaries. Nor is it yet clear if his criteria for picking favorites are based on ideology, as Roosevelt’s were, or if the White House is simply focused on choosing the most popular candidates and winning a few more elections. So far, the president’s support for Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and his desire to dump Governor Paterson would seem to indicate that his approach is purely pragmatic. But in either case, by meddling in state and local politics, he risks fueling the same indignation that Roosevelt did in 1938.

Read the whole thing here.

(thanks to Parent ’12 for the link)


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