Courage as an Intellectual Virtue and the Puzzle of President Trump

American academics have much to lament about President Trump: his break with civility, his vilification of Mexicans and Muslims, his indifference to truth and to conflicts of interest, his hostility to science, his devaluation of diplomacy. Directly on campuses we recognize the vulnerability of undocumented students and dwindling numbers of international students. As a result, many faculty members and administrators have responded harshly to his presidency.

Yet President Trump retains the enthusiastic support of his base. This support stems to some degree from his courage, which contrasts so prominently with normal party politicians. Trump is a fighter who speaks his mind without constraint, mocking political correctness, challenging the Washington establishment, threatening North Korea, and pulling no punches even against allies. Trump himself has elevated this virtue. His campaign posters announced: “It’s easy to stand with the crowd; it takes courage to stand alone!”

But Trump is the opposite of courageous if one has any meaningful concept of this intellectual virtue.

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The Ambiguity of Sacrifice in a Post-Heroic Nation: A Military Perspective

Most people think that the military is all about killing other people. I, on the contrary, follow van Creveld. He states that serving in the military means more to be prepared and willing to risk one’s life then to endanger other lives. You could argue that military technology provides tools that have kinetic effects over huge distances without any risk for one’s personnel. Drones, for example, are such weapons. However, can you win a war with only drones? We have relearned the lesson that it takes “boots on the ground” to win “the better peace,” as Clausewitz carefully worded it. It takes soldiers on the ground to control an area, to protect the population, to de-escalate a situation, and to win hearts and minds.

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