Is there any way to make genuine debates — sustained back-and-forth exchanges, meeting high intellectual standards but still widely accessible — part of our political culture? (I leave to historians the question of whether there are historical precedents— like the Webster-Hayne or Lincoln-Douglas debates.) Can we put our politicians in a situation where they cannot ignore challenges, where they must genuinely engage with one another in responsible discussion and not just repeat talking points?

~ Gary Gutting from,



Is our patriotism moral?

Certainly, patriotism can take an explicitly amoral form: “My country, right or wrong.” But even strong traditional patriots can accept moral limits on the means we use to advance the cause of our country. They may agree, for example, that it’s wrong to threaten Canada with nuclear annihilation to obtain a more favorable trade agreement.

But the moral problem for patriotism arises at a deeper level. Suppose the question is not about blatantly immoral means but simply about whether our country should flourish at the expense of another? Suppose, for example, that at some point Saudi Arabia, now allied with China, threatened to curtail our access to its oil, thereby significantly reducing our productivity and tipping the balance of world economic power to China.

~ Gary Gutting from,


First off, I want to be clear that I support our troops. They should have the best training, the best commanders, the best weapons and the best physical/psychological support during and after their service. If we’ve committed our people to a mission, right or wrong, our people deserve our unqualified support.

It’s the administration, and the highest levels of the military, of which I am critical.

I know a lot of people who cheered patriotically when our troops invaded Iraq and Afghanistan — I stared in disbelief thinking: That’s bad. We just invaded a sovereign country. Yes, it was certainly a run-down, backwards country led by an explitive — but a sovereign country none the less.

I hope no one decides we need to be straightened out… oh, wait, the cold war. We narrowly dodged that bullet didn’t we. Oh, and now China, . . . maybe we should get our own stuff in order before we nationally act as if we know what’s best for the world?