A Conversation with Yaron Brook and Elan Journo

Yaron Brook
From the Winter/Spring 2012 edition of the Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations:

How should the U.S. respond to the events that have gripped the Middle East over the past year? This question has been debated countless times by the media, academics, and politicians alike. Will the toppling of authoritarian regimes unleash a wave of democracy and individual freedoms across the region? Or will the power vacuums created allow darker forces to come to the fore? For a unique answer to these questions, the Whitehead Journal looked to Dr. Yaron Brook and Elan Journo, both of the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) in Irvine, California. Founded to promote the philosophy of twentieth-century novelist Ayn Rand—Objectivism—ARI advocates for the principles of reason, rational self-interest, individual rights, and laissez-faire capitalism. In the 2009 book Winning the Unwinnable War, both of these scholars argue for a revised U.S. foreign policy—one based on the principles that Ayn Rand stood for. To examine just what a foreign policy based on Objectivism would mean for the U.S., the Whitehead Journal’s Christopher Bartolotta and Jordan McGillis spoke with Dr. Yaron Brook and Elan Journo on the Arab Spring, American interests, Iran, China, and much more.

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(Photo Courtesy of Gage Skidmore)

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6 thoughts on “A Conversation with Yaron Brook and Elan Journo

  • April 24, 2012 at 11:50 am
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    I’m not sure I agree with any (if at all) of the arguments made by these indivudals. “Islamic totalitarianism” is a phrase coined and used solely by Ayn Rand Institute and “jihadist watch” groups. It’s a misnomer, it’s over-generalized, and it’s false. Conspiracy theorists can eat this up, but I doubt a political science, international relations, or even international security conference would lend credence to the term. In fact, an EBSCO search for “Islamic Totalitarianism” yields a whopping 4 results, none of which are about the topic…

    Islam and “the West” do have shared values: accountability, productivity, honesty, and justice. To equate the (false) Islamic clash with the West–and moreover the (false) assertion hat Iran is the masthead of this clash–is a dangerous message to promote.

    In this issue, both sides share the duty to recognize that democracy and Islam are compatible, that democratic institutions can, in fact, become wedded with Islam. I disagree fully with these two “experts”, as their view is a simplistic over-generalization of Islam and it’s interactions with modernity, democracy, and the United States.

    Personally, this is just wrong.

    Reply
    • April 25, 2012 at 11:25 am
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      great opinion…agree with you…many experts say about islam and islamic term in minor perception is too far and not argueable….most of them in fact based on hate and imagination planted many times by the anti islam group

      gamis katun|gamis kaos

      Reply
  • April 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm
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    That you (Samuel) refer to Islamic totalitarianism as a misnomer and deem it over-generalized, yet provide no alternative whatsoever–let alone a rational one–is quite telling. What it reveals is an inability and an unwillingness to think on the conceptual level. You’re only capable of dealing with concretes and you refuse to exert the mental effort necessary to identify conceptual common denominators. Sadly, you are not alone. Your decrepit way of “thinking” dominates our culture. It’s pervasive in academia and in policy circles alike.

    Unlike you and your cohorts, Brook and Journo are true intellectuals. They have not only analyzed the concretes, they have also exerted the tremendous effort necessary to identify the commonalities between seemingly diffuse phenomena. Additionally, they have had the courage to make the bold assertions that reality demands, yet everyone else has shied away from. That you should condemn them for being the first do so is actually quite comical.

    You are correct, I must note, in recognizing that this is a matter of right and wrong. In your three short paragraphs, you’ve made it abundantly clear that you represent the latter.

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  • April 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm
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    Regarding Uganda, American troops aren’t “fighting” in the sense you suggest, they’re providing assistance to local troops. Historically this has been how Special Forces have been used. This blog post makes clear what it actually entails http://tachesdhuile.blogspot.com/2011/10/us-troops-and-lra-what-exactly-is-your.html. Among the many reasons for such a mission (including moral, which I’m guessing the interviewees don’t see as a valid reason), removing the LRA would remove a negative force that has been destabilizing a large region of Africa for years. Surely this is worth sending a few dozen American troops in a support capacity?

    The assertion that the “general consensus” is Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon is incorrect (see here http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/23/world/la-fg-iran-intel-20120224). Even if Iran were seeking a nuclear weapon, it is still years away from getting one. It isn’t clear that Iran has made the decision to produce a nuclear weapon. The distinction between intent and capability is an important one. After suffering from harsh sanctions and seeing their nuclear scientists die mysteriously, they may be dissuaded that the costs of obtaining a nuclear weapons simply aren’t worth it. Journo is very vague when it comes to policy recommendations, not spelling out what ‘military action’ would actually entail.

    Finally, the assertion “Iran’s funding and ideological inspiration for the movement is crucial”, is laughable. While Iran is an important backer of Hezbollah and Hamas, they are antithetical to groups like Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba. The latter groups are much more dangerous to America, while the former are more concerned with Israel.

    But kudos for the question on KSA, Journo makes good points about how that country does support Islamic extremists. The role of Saudi Arabia in supporting extremist groups is one that too many ignore. However I agree with the previous commenter that “Islamic Totalitarianism’ is a pointless phrase. When you lump in all Islamic groups you miss out on the myriad differences between them that can be exploited.

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  • April 25, 2012 at 3:22 am
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    This quote says it all: “Underlying the chaos that passes for U.S. foreign policy are commonly held ideas in morality that are at odds with the goal of protecting the lives and freedom of Americans.”

    Nowhere else will you hear experts urging people to reexamine the moral ideas behind specific policies and how those ideals lead to those destructive policies.

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  • April 25, 2012 at 1:04 pm
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    Samuel, pay heed to what Jordan wrote to you – he’s spot on.

    And you’re right, Islam and democracy *are* compatible. Thankfully the U.S. is not a democracy, but a constitutional republic that respects individual rights (though this has been eroding for decades). Neither Islam nor democracy are compatible with either of those two things.

    Reply

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