January 24, 2013

Balancing Human Rights and Geopolitics

Robert Kaplan, Stratfor

AP Photo

In 1755, an earthquake devastated Lisbon, killing tens of thousands of people. The French philosopher Voltaire, 60 at the time, "protested in the name of reason and the intellect against" the "scandalous dereliction of nature" that flattened three-quarters of the Portuguese capital. You may think Voltaire absurd for announcing in the course of several literary works his opposition to an earthquake. But as a character in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain (1924) famously explains, Voltaire's denunciation of a natural event had a serious moral purpose: Voltaire would not accept that humankind must give in to fate. "Nature is force; and it is slavish to suffer force, and to abdicate before it..." For the acceptance of any kind of force -- natural, geographical, cultural, economic -- over...

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TAGGED: Thomas Mann, Berlin, Lisbon, The Magic Mountain, Magic Mountain, Foreign Policy, Syria

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