Barack Obama, Ironist of American History

Reinhold Niebuhr was a great appreciator of “the irony of American history.” Barack Obama is a great appreciator of Reinhold Niebuhr. Reading this, I can see why.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Obama called for an end to the firing of missiles into Israel by militants inside Gaza, saying “there is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”


  1. Stephen Zielinski November 18, 2012 at 8:02 pm | #

    Obama sees a bit of evil in the world (rockets flying into or near to Israel) and then affirms a greater evil because of it.

    Is this not close to being a bizarro world morality?

  2. Scott Preston November 18, 2012 at 8:15 pm | #

    Inadvertent ironist, perhaps trapped in the general dynamic of Late Modernity which is undergoing ironic reversal itself.

    Thanks for the reference to Niebuhr’s book. I’m just beginning a study into the process of ironic reversal as the fate of eras and this might be useful (eg, Parsifal, the fool who becomes a knight, marks the beginning of an era, which ends in Don Quixote, the knight who becomes a fool once more — in a sense Parsifal and Don Quixote bookend an era. The modern era, similarly, begins in the image of Faustian man — Prometheus (forethought or foresight), but terminates as his brother, Epimetheus (afterthought or hindsight)). At least, this is an apparent pattern I’m exploring as the theme of “ironic reversal”, and I suppose that in a sense it corresponds to Nietzsche’s formula for nihilism — “all higher values devalue themselves”, and to Carl Jung’s description of the process of enantiodromia

  3. Stephen K. Mack (@StephenKMackSD) November 18, 2012 at 8:50 pm | #

    If you thought that Billy Graham was bad, please read Richard Wrightman Fox’s friendly biography of Mr. Niebuhr. Moral/political/theological hypocrisy Reinhold Niebuhr is thy name! Check out this new book at Cambridge U. Press, titled Reinhold Niebuhr and His Circle of Influence.

  4. Bart November 19, 2012 at 10:33 am | #

    “there is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”

    We use easily tolerated “freedom parachutes”

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