Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Über-Bush

For those who supported George W. Bush's treatment of foreign tyrants and terrorists it's hard to criticize President Obama's treatment of the same, except for his hypocrisy. After campaigning as the anti-Bush and blaming the "failed policies of the past", i.e. Bush's policies, for America's diminished standing in the world, Mr. Obama has pretty much transformed himself from the anti-Bush into the über-Bush.

He stayed with Bush's plan in Iraq, ramped up the predator strikes on terrorists in Pakistan and surged troop strength in Afghanistan. He has retained both the Patriot act and, as far as I know, Bush's policy of prisoner rendition. He has refused to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and has recently resumed military tribunals for terrorists there. Next we'll be reading, perhaps, that he's given the go-ahead for "enhanced interrogations".

There's rich irony in all this. Having persuaded over 50% of American voters in 2008 that he was the avatar of hope and change, American families are less hopeful after two years of Mr. Obama than they've been in thirty five years, and the only change we've seen is in our national debt, the unemployment numbers, and the cost of fuel. Everything else, including our forays into the Middle East, seems to have remained the same.

One wonders where the anti-war left is now that Mr. Obama appears to be preparing to wage war against Libya. If George W. Bush had no justification for going to war with Iraq, as most on the left claimed, surely President Obama has far less justification for going to war with Libya. Who does Libya threaten other than the rebels who are seeking to depose Moammar Qaddafi?

Perhaps the justice of a war, in the eyes of the left, is a matter not of the actual circumstances leading up to a conflict but rather of who is in the White House giving the order to commence hostilities. I suppose we'll soon find out if that's true.

Premarital Sex and Monogamy

Russ Douthat has a fine column on "premarital" sexual behavior at the New York Times. I put premarital in quotes because Douthat makes an important distinction between different kinds of premarital sexual behavior. I'll let him explain:
[T]here are different kinds of premarital sex. There’s sex that’s actually pre-marital, in the sense that it involves monogamous couples on a path that might lead to matrimony one day. Then there’s sex that’s casual and promiscuous, or just premature and ill-considered.

This distinction is crucial to understanding what’s changed in American life since the sexual revolution. Yes, in 1950 as in 2011, most people didn’t go virgins to their marriage beds. But earlier generations of Americans waited longer to have sex, took fewer sexual partners across their lifetimes, and were more likely to see sleeping together as a way station on the road to wedlock.

And they may have been happier for it. That’s the conclusion suggested by two sociologists, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, in their recent book, “Premarital Sex in America.” Their research, which looks at sexual behavior among contemporary young adults, finds a significant correlation between sexual restraint and emotional well-being, between monogamy and happiness — and between promiscuity and depression.

This correlation is much stronger for women than for men. Female emotional well-being seems to be tightly bound to sexual stability — which may help explain why overall female happiness has actually drifted downward since the sexual revolution.

Among the young people Regnerus and Uecker studied, the happiest women were those with a current sexual partner and only one or two partners in their lifetime. Virgins were almost as happy, though not quite, and then a young woman’s likelihood of depression rose steadily as her number of partners climbed and the present stability of her sex life diminished.

When social conservatives talk about restoring the link between sex, monogamy and marriage, they often have these kinds of realities in mind. The point isn’t that we should aspire to some Arcadia of perfect chastity. Rather, it’s that a high sexual ideal can shape how quickly and casually people pair off, even when they aren’t living up to its exacting demands. The ultimate goal is a sexual culture that makes it easier for young people to achieve romantic happiness — by encouraging them to wait a little longer, choose more carefully and judge their sex lives against a strong moral standard.
There's more to reflect upon in Douthat's column, particularly the trends that are showing up in studies of teenage sexuality as well as why so many social conservatives find the underlying philosophy of organizations like Planned Parenthood to be antithetical to women's long-term mental well-being. Check it out.