Quote of the Day: Debate and Dissent are American Strengths, Not Weaknesses

 

“Our enemies have often assumed that we are soft and vulnerable, that we love luxury and tolerate dissent and argument to the point that it weakens us, They are mistaken. In the Cold War we persevered for almost fifty years (1946-1991), often against strong domestic opposition. It is because our democratic institutions tolerate — no encourage — debate and dissent that we found the resolve and the will to prevail.” — Hans Mark, from An Anxious Peace: A Cold War Memoir

This quote is from a book by Hans Mark that I am reading for review. Mark is best known for his work at NASA, but he spent a good chunk of his career developing nuclear weapons. Mark dedicated his life to fighting socialism, especially that of Communism. He viewed National Socialism through the same lens, seeing it as a second head of the two-headed monster. His family fled Austria when Mark was nine after the Nazis took over that country. He came to the United States as a refugee and became a citizen seven years later. He served in the US Navy in the 1940s.

The quote struck me because it contradicts the sentiments of several conversations posted earlier. Mark cites debate and dissent — even vigorous debate and dissent as a strength, not a weakness.

I believe he is right. It was not just the Soviets (and now the Chinese) who believe the United States to be soft and vulnerable because of our wealth and willingness to encourage debate and dissent. So too, did Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan. So, too, did the Kaiser’s Imperial Germany. In a sense, so too did 18th-century Great Britain in confronting its fractious colonies.

Vigorous debate and dissent is our strength. Our willingness to engage in fractious political debate tempers the United States, in the same way, that hammering on steel strengthens it. Vigorous debate and dissent reveal the strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the issues debated, and all other things being equal leads to the adoption of the stronger solution.

It is not vigorous debate and dissent that weakens us. It is suppression of vigorous debate and dissent. The United States was weakened by the Wilson Administration’s fascistic clamp-down on debate and dissent during World War I and by governmental attempts to quash debate ever since. It leads to lies being valued over truth.

Elsewhere in his book, Mark claims a key Soviet weakness was it was a society built on lies. We know what happened to the Soviets. Demographics, combined with the shackles of a command economy and intolerance of dissent threaten to send China to the same end.

What is alarming today is not the differences in opinion held by Americans today. It is the willingness to shut down debate, to shout down dissent as treason, and to declare debate on certain topics as taboo. This is not just unAmerican. It is an evil that threatens to put us on the same path as the Soviet Union and today’s China.

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There are 14 comments.

  1. Mim526 Member

    Seawriter: Vigorous debate and dissent reveals the strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the issues debated, and all other things being equal leads to the adoption of the stronger solution. 

    Reminds me that what’s been going on past 2+ years is essentially a refusal by the losers of a debate (aka an election) to acknowledge the debate winner’s right to implement or “adopt” his solutions.

    Wonderful, timely post reminding Americans of one of our most precious inheritances, bought and kept through generations at great price.

     

    • #1
    • May 18, 2019, at 3:44 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. I Walton Member

    Great quote and comment. Absolutely true. Think of the excessive partisan and personal debates among Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton et al.

    • #2
    • May 18, 2019, at 5:22 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Front Seat Cat Member

    How did we get here? Because we don’t teach civics anymore in school? Instead of history, and how to learn from it, they’re teaching how many genders you can be at once, how words can be changed at a whim (especially by technology like spell check) to mean other than intended, creating overly sensitive people who seek safe spaces and wouldn’t think of rushing into a battle against evil…..

    I look forward to your book review(s)!

    • #3
    • May 18, 2019, at 6:11 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Steve C. Member

    Reminds me of how the Bolsheviks claimed to represent the majority and used their argument to justify violent suppression of their opponents.

    • #4
    • May 18, 2019, at 6:27 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Vectorman Thatcher

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    How did we get here? Because we don’t teach civics anymore in school?

    The original goal of public schools during the major immigration period (late 1800’s till WWI) was to establish a common culture to the immigrants. Among others, John Dewey was major proponent of this strategy, even though he was was a leftest, believing more in democracy than a republic. But he wasn’t as idiotic as the modern SJW thoughts of transgender, etc. In the end, we need a common moral system based on Judaeo-Christian principals along with the Constitution.


    The Quote of the Day series is the easiest way to start a fun conversation on Ricochet. We have only 3 days left on the May Signup SheetWe even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    • #5
    • May 18, 2019, at 7:22 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Django Member

    Someone, I believe it was WFB, Jr., said that the point of an open mind is to eventually close it on certain subjects, that in a civilized society some subjects are no longer worthy of debate, barring introduction of new evidence. Buckley was not proposing shutting down debate by force, but rather saying that anyone who raised some arguments should simply be either laughed at or ignored. His example, IIRC, was George Lincoln Rockwell.

    The problem I see is that today no one is willing to say, “We had the debate, and our side lost.”

    • #6
    • May 18, 2019, at 11:48 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Allan Rutter Member

    Dr. Mark was UT Austin Chancellor from 1984 to 1992, and signed my LBJ School graduate degree diploma even though I was finished with classes by 1983. This Alumni publication article is also a nice review of his peripatetic career. He maintained the momentum begun by Governor White and Pike Powers in creating the MCC semiconductor research center up in NW Austin near the old IBM facility, and this also attracted the Sematech research lab. So much of the foundation for Austin’s hardware and software companies began as a process of broadening Austin’s economic base beyond just being a college town and state capital.

    • #7
    • May 18, 2019, at 11:49 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. David Foster Member

    Seawriter: What is alarming today is not the differences in opinion held by Americans today. It is the willingness to shut down debate, to shout down dissent as treason, and to declare debate on certain topics as taboo. This is not just unAmerican. It is an evil that threatens to put us on the same path as the Soviet Union and today’s China.

    Yes. And it moves us far in the direction of ‘a society built on lies.’

    • #8
    • May 18, 2019, at 7:27 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    I am not always sure everyone wants “vigorous debate and dissent” on the right. 

     

    • #9
    • May 20, 2019, at 12:46 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter Post author

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I am not always sure everyone wants “vigorous debate and dissent” on the right.

    There are always some seduced by the dark side of the Force.

    • #10
    • May 20, 2019, at 3:27 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I am not always sure everyone wants “vigorous debate and dissent” on the right.

    There are always some seduced by the dark side of the Force.

    I am not sure everyone wants “vigorous debate and dissent” on Ricochet. 

    • #11
    • May 20, 2019, at 6:16 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter Post author

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I am not always sure everyone wants “vigorous debate and dissent” on the right.

    There are always some seduced by the dark side of the Force.

    I am not sure everyone wants “vigorous debate and dissent” on Ricochet.

    As I said . . .

    • #12
    • May 20, 2019, at 6:42 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. The Reticulator Member

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I am not always sure everyone wants “vigorous debate and dissent” on the right.

    There are always some seduced by the dark side of the Force.

    I am not sure everyone wants “vigorous debate and dissent” on Ricochet.

    Ahem.

    • #13
    • May 20, 2019, at 8:26 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I am not always sure everyone wants “vigorous debate and dissent” on the right.

    There are always some seduced by the dark side of the Force.

    I am not sure everyone wants “vigorous debate and dissent” on Ricochet.

    Ahem.

    Do you need a cough drop?

     

    • #14
    • May 21, 2019, at 4:37 AM PDT
    • 1 like