Philosophie im tragischen Zeitalter der Griechen: the young Friedrich Nietzsche hones his philological and rhetorical prowess on the Pre-Socratics, and in doing so intimates his future course as philosopher. So for instance in his exposition of Heracleitus we find the roots of his later attacks on the self-identical and the concepts of good and evil. Damned fine writing. Maybe I'll do a translation with commentary one of these times.
A smattering of books touching on post-colonialism and the CIA. In The Shock Doctrine, Noami Klein makes the case that you usually hear from the right, viz, that barbarity follows when the abstractions of university intellectuals are imposed upon living cultures. Just as the brain-erasure techniques of MK Ultra amount to instruments of violence, Klein argues, so too did the free-market fundamentalism of Milton Friedman and his epigones at the University of Chicago turn the ostensibly tabula rasa economies of South America into bloodbaths. But Paul Johnson (Modern Times) tells a very different story. So do we attribute the economic turmoil and political repression of Argentina to Juan Peron's efforts in nationalization and welfare, or to what followed? Did Thatcher rescue a foundering economy or spoil an equitable society? Was the Bandung generation largely a collection of savages, political dilettantes and intellectual poseurs, or did they represent an ernest and justified hope for self-determination outside the ambit of the two great superpowers? To what extent were the heavy-handed methods of the US and Britain justified? Stephen Kinzer, in The Brothers, seconds Klein's basic moral indictment of the CIA in the early years of the Cold War: on his telling lack of oversight, lack of accountability, stakeholder involvement, a basic disregard for the lives of third world peoples, along with Manichean anti-communism of Allen and John Foster Dulles, all converged to create a series of human rights outrages the world over. But is this a problem with intelligence per se, or does it stem from the specific configuration of the CIA and the haste with which it was launched? And how much of the problem lay, not in too much intelligence but from not enough intelligence? Kinzer briefly observes that the agency knew so little about their enemy that they missed the glaring fact: in the wake of WWII Russia was in shambles. How much of the Dulles brothers' missionary zeal rested on a gross overestimation of Russia's capabilities? Or, as Tim Weiner puts it in Legacy of Ashes, how would history have played out had the early American cold warriors known that the conflict was to be settled economically and not militarily? We need intelligence, Weiner argues, but we've been going about it all wrong, to which the long string of CIA fiascos attests. OK, he as much as admits, there was the ouster of the communists in the 1948 election in Italy, which the CIA backed. And the long standing anti-left politics of Japan, another CIA coup. And other successes, such as, well, I guess I don't know what they'd be, and nor would Weiner--or Johnson, Kinzer or Klein--because CIA operations tend to be only visible to the extent they fail. CIA people--so I've been told--tend to shake their head with an "if only they knew" when they look at the headlines. But they can't let us in, because that would blow covers and entire operations. So the question is, how much should we be willing to trust? It's an awful question to have to ask.