Kaplan: Morality a Threat to National Security

Robert D. Kaplan, well, sort of disgusts me:  

Never-say-die faith, accompanied by old-fashioned nationalism, is alive in America. It is a match for the most fanatical suicide bombers anywhere, but with few exceptions, that faith is confined to our finest combat infantry units—and to specific sections of the country and socio-economic strata from which these “warriors” (as they like to call themselves) hail. They are not characteristic of a country in many ways hurtling rapidly in the opposite direction. This is not the 1950s, when Americans felt a certain relief in possessing “the bomb.” Fifty years later, most Americans feel a certain relief in never having to even hear about “the bomb.”

Faith is about struggle, about having confidence precisely when the odds are the worst. Faith is the capacity to believe in what is simultaneously necessary but improbable. That kind of faith is receding in America among a social and economic class increasingly motivated by universal values: caring, for example, about the suffering of famine victims abroad as much as for hurricane victims at home. Universal values are a good in and of themselves, and they are not the opposite of faith. But they should never be confused with it. You may care to the point of tears about suffering humankind without having the will to actually fight (let alone inconvenience yourself) for those concerns. Thus, universal values may pose an existential challenge to national security when accompanied by a loss of faith in one’s own political values and projects.

In other words, if you care about the well-being of poor people in other countries more than restoring ROTC to Princeton, you’re flirting with treason. You would think that if “our political values and projects” are in competition with universal values, then that’s a problem with our political values and projects. Perhaps we may wish to reconsider projects like unjustly invading and occupying foreign lands, since it does not seem that this kind of thing makes us less likely to be a target of foreign aggression. Yet Kaplan genuinely seems to believe that truculent fanatic nationalism makes us safer. I fear this kind of mad emotive commitment to America uber alles, this “faith” of which he speaks, almost certainly makes us worse as a people and a culture, and therefore less worth believing in, and fighting for. And more worth hating. 

Are Robert Kaplan essays an existential threat to national security?