August 20, 2003

Humility is a Dish Best Served

I am not frequently accused of being humble, or of keeping my opinions to myself. OK, I'll wait for a moment while friends and family get in their laugh at the understatement. Better? Fine. Anyway, I suspect that this is likely true of most bloggers. However, it is always wise to not get too steeped in one's reputation.

Phil Carter of Intel Dump is well-recognized and well-read for his analysis of and insights on military policy. He has written for several rather well-regarded papers. However, he got a bit ahead of himself today:

I should be clear: I allege no plagiarism or dishonesty here. I borrowed from Fehrenbach, and I certainly didn't come to my own conclusions about everything I wrote about. The accepted norm is to borrow good ideas where you find them, whether it's in the Washington Monthly or the Weekly Standard.

Therein lies the irony. Sen. Hutchison's politics are quite different from mine, and probably quite different than the average Washington Monthly reader. I find some irony in the fact that a Republican senator from the President's home state would seize on ideas in a liberal magazine to criticize the foreign policy decisions of the Bush Administration. But I guess that truth is often stranger than fiction.

Given that the Senator has been arguing in favor of expanding the military since well before Phil's March article - indeed, since well before 9/11 - this statement is a little over the top. Isn't it just possible that Senator Hutchison, who is quite involved in defense policy in the Senate, came to the quote independently, particularly given its wide usage? Somehow, the idea that one has to read "a liberal magazine" to recognize that the force was cut too deeply is annoying to me. Good ideas can come from all over the place, and the fact that two people who think differently come to the same conclusion is not really surprising, assuming that the conclusion is logical.

Posted by Jeff at August 20, 2003 06:04 PM | Link Cosmos

Humility is a badly misunderstood quality, Jeff. It doesn't mean self-effacement, or keeping your opinions down. It means recognizing and admitting to:
1. The worth of others,
2. One's capacity for error.

From these postulates flow a wealth of good things: deliberation, generosity, consideration of the views of others, restraint in expression, and the willingness to forgive. Humility and justice together are all anyone could ask of his fellow man.

Humility does not preclude having standards, nor does it preclude rigorously excluding others who willfully refuse to meet them. But it does make room for the earnest effort that falls short, for he who tries and refuses to give up might yet succeed, to the delight and applause of all.

The smartest and most knowledgeable of us can learn from others. The smartest and most knowledgeable of us is fallible. With those two precepts firmly in mind, go thou forth and blather to all nations. It works for me!

PS: As for Mr. Carter, perhaps he was just having an off day.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto on August 21, 2003 05:46 AM
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