All ‘Dangerous Men,’ Beware

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“Saddam Hussein was dangerous, and I’m not gonna leave him in power and trust a madman. He’s a dangerous man,” asserted George Bush in 2004. And of course, since the Constitution orders every president to rid the world of dangerous men, hundreds of thousands had to die for Bush’s secular crusade.

Reflecting on this canard brought to mind the Straussian writer Harvey Mansfield, Jr. During the Bush years, Mansfield published a book called “Manliness.” I’m not sure Saddam had a chance to read it, but the Bush Administration was full of Straussians, and surrounded by countless more who cheered on Bush’s Manly War Against the Dangerous Man.

In a word, Mansfield’s “Manly Man” is exuberantly confident even when he is dead wrong. The key to this dialectical magic? There is no metaphysical basis for right and wrong, so “right” is whatever the last Manly Man standing thinks it is. Neoconservatism and Straussianism are not identical, but there’s a vast swamp of elitist overlap.

Of course, Real Men can send armies to kill hundreds of thousands, confident that the innocent blood will be “worth it,” as Manly (and Mad) Madeline Albright observed of the half-million Iraqi children who died because of U.S. sanctions. “Muy Macho,” as the Mexicans say. Hence,  Stalin and Hitler were also “Manly Men.” Like all of Mansfield’s Manly Men, they faced countless “risky situations, ” and killed millions  of innocents with supreme confidence.

Somehow, all this reminds me of the saint who was taken on a tour of Hell by her Guardian Angel. To put her observations in Mansfield’s language,  death is a “risky situation,” and most people she saw in Hell were “quite confident” that Hell didn’t exist at all — until they got there.

11:33 am on November 10, 2010