Neocons and Kant: A Comment on Abdullah Andalusi’s Article on Kantian Ethics

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Is Kant better than the Koran? The Dark Secrets of Immanuel Kant’ Ethics

In the article linked above, Muslim researcher Abdullah Andalusi responds to a piece laden with arrogance, and discusses the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

It triggered a point which I have been meaning to address in the context of neoconservatives. Specifically, Andalusi notes in his conclusion that

“[s]ome Liberals may hurried respond ‘Kant was a man of his time’ however this does not remove the problem that Kant wasn’t merely stating his personal opinions and tastes, but producing ethical rulings derived from the ethical system he had constructed.”

It can be legitimately argued that Kantian foreign policy is the root of neoconservative propensity for perpetual war. The neoconservative Project for New American Century outlined a militarist vision of American global dominance, or Pax Americana, where American values are to be projected internationally. Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and the trail of violence and destruction which has culminated in the present situation in the Middle East to the battle cries of freedom, democracy and Western values are the bitter fruits of this poisoned tree.

The roots of this “noble lie” are thoroughly modern.

Canadian political scientist in her book The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss, elucidating the connection between Kant and neocons pertinently notes,

“Contributing to the sheer hubris and blindness of the [Project for the New American Century] is a dash of modern idealism, which has its roots in the Enlightenment philosophy of Immanuel Kant and serves as a noble delusion to inspire a foreign policy that is self-righteous and aggressive”.[1]

The Kantian ideal espouses that the spread of Western values such as reason, freedom, law and so forth would lead to the homogenization of the world and therefore the end of war. In his work, Idea of Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose,[2] he explains that ‘our continent’ will ‘probably legislate eventually for all continents”.

British neoconservative Michael Gove in his book Celsius 7/7, similarly writes,

“If we believe in the superiority of our way of life, if we believe in, as the anti-apartheid movement the civil rights movement believed… then we should believe in, and want urgently to work for, the spread of democracy across the globe.”[3]

US neoconservative Max Boot, in an article justifying “state building” and “regime change”, cited Bosnia as a successful form of US imperialism.

When arrogance intermingles with the misguided notion of being at the pinnacle of civilisation, imperialism, colonialism, and its contemporary manifestations of spreading democracy through bombs and imposing Countering Violent Extremism agendas of ideological domination globally become easily pursued and “rational”.

In short, the Enlightenment dream of Kant has found its reality in the neoconservative nightmare and colossal failures of neoconservative foreign policy.


References:

[1] Drury, S.B. The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2005, p.xliv

[2] Kant, I., in Political Writings, edited Hans Reiss and translated H. B. Nisbet, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991, p.52

[3] Gove, M., Celsius 7/7, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2006, p.136

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