Hegel and our times.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was thinking the other day about a number of different things when driving back from having lunch with the AirMarshal in DC. During lunch the AirMarshal stated that he didn’t think that Ronald Reagan’s historical legacy will be as glowing as the recent outpouring of funeral tributes would have us believe. Your Maximum Leader disagreed. But it caused him to think some more about it.

Recently Jonah Goldberg wrote a column on NRO discussing how in retrospect certain actions look more important to us now than they did at the time they happened. Goldberg mentioned Reagan’s pullout of the Marines from Lebanon as one of these actions. At the time it seemed like the reasonable thing to do. But in retrospect, it may have shown Arabs that the US didn’t have the resolve to fight when confronted by terror. Goldberg quoted historian R.C. Collingwood’s assertion that each generation must redefine its own history.

This caused your Maximum Leader to think about Hegel and his musings (if a German philosopher can be properly said to “muse” about anything) on history. If you remember, Hegel wrote, in his treatise “The Philosophy of History,” that history is an upward cycle of progress through a form described as thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. (That is to say an idea arises - the thesis, its opposite arises - the antithesis, and the conflict between the two causes a new thesis - the synthesis to be created. Hegel does not use this terminology, but instead refers to the Aristoliean dialectic.) History is a cycle by which the “World Spirit” evolves over time in what Hegel supposes we would define as progress. The ultimate goal of history being the realization of the “Spirit;” which is Freedom.

Hegel saw the world as progressing from days when the world spirit was limited by ignorance, despotism, and the constraints of religion. But, with optimism uncharacteristic of a German, Hegel saw that the spirit was manifesting itself in his time more greatly than in any previous epoch. He likely assumed that this progress would continue into the future.

In 1992, Francis Fukuyama wrote a controversial book in which he declared an “end to history.” Of course, if people had read more than the title of the book on the dust jacket they would have not thought the work to be so controversial. Fukuyama is a Hegelian. In his book he theorized that since anglo-western liberal democracy had triumphed over communism/fascism in the battle of ideas commonly called the 20th Century we had reached an “end of history” in the sense of a new synthesis had been developed and we were entering a new age. A new age, in a Hegelian sense.

Of course at the time it was hard to guess what the antithesis of the triumphant thesis of anglo-western liberal democracy was. We still may be too close to our present world situation to adequately identify the antithesis Fukuyama was looking for.

This is the point that your Maximum Leader has been pondering. Is Islamo-fascism the antithesis to anglo-western liberal democrcy. And if it is, does the world risk falling back into a new dark age. Made more sinister by the likes of theocratic Nazis?

Unless your Maximum Leader missed something, the goal of people like Usama Bin Laden, Al-Zharqawi, and their ilk is to redress the grievances suffered by Islam and restore the true faith to its place atop the world stage. Restoring a lost time when Islam was the beacon of the world.

So the choice on is asked to make is one between liberal western democracy, or Islamic fascism. Humm… What a choice.

If the antithesis of liberal anglo-western democracy is in fact near-eastern Islamofascism it would seem, if we viewed things like a Hegelian, that the world-historical forces advancing the Spirit would be destined to win. But assuming that advances in the Spirit (remember, the Spirit is human freedom) are not inevitable, doesn’t that mean we must soberly examine the courses we must take in our actions.

By this your Maximum Leader means shouldn’t we carefully examine our national foreign policy (among other things) and see how we must act.

This now brings your Maximum Leader on to the subject at hand, Iraq. Wow! Did you catch that handover of power today? Who’da thunk that we’d be so sneaky and give them control over their country two whole days early? What does this transfer of power mean really?

Not much for a while. But it is an important first step. Iraq is now one of the primary battlefields in the war against Islamic extremists. It is a battlefield that was created by the US liberation. How we proceed now, and how the Iraqis proceed is of outmost importance. We must continue to fight against our enemies in Iraq. We must go into Fallujah and the other cities that we have allowed to descend into a Hobbesian state of nature and crush the resistance there. But we must also continue to work with sensible Iraqis (and the interim government seems to have enough of them) to help them advance the world-historical Spirit against forces that would shackle them to a past that did not exist the way our enemies think it did, and shouldn’t be allowed to come into being.

Carry on.

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