Department of Useless Intellectuals

I’ve decided against starting a regular feature, or worse still a contest, to treat the question of who are America’s most over-rated intellectuals, because if you answered “All of them,” it would be difficult to gainsay such a common sense conclusion.

It would of course be hard to top someone with the megaphone of Tom Friedman, who writes in his column today:

ISIS operates just like an “invasive species” in the world of plants and animals. It is not native to either the Iraqi or Syrian ecosystems. It never before grew in their landscapes.

I find it useful at times to use the natural world to illuminate trends in geopolitics and globalization, and this is one of them. The United States National Arboretum website notes that “invasive plant species thrive where the continuity of a natural ecosystem is breached and are abundant on disturbed sites like construction areas and road cuts. … In some situations these nonnative species cause serious ecological disturbances. In the worst cases, invasive plants … ruthlessly choke out other plant life. This puts extreme pressure on native plants and animals, and threatened species may succumb to this pressure. Ultimately, invasive plants alter habitats and reduce biodiversity.”

I can’t think of a better way to understand ISIS.

Come to think of it, “invasive species” is a pretty good way of understanding Tom Friedman.  But that that would be to bury the lede.  The solution for the Obama Administration in the Middle East is obvious. Who needs air strikes, or boots on the ground, which is the invasive species equivalent of spraying some Roundup.  But since Roundup is suspect with the Green Weenies of the world, just get the EPA on the job, maybe in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. No need to wring their hands about strategy any more: the Obama Administration delights in extending bureaucratic power through its agencies. Problem solved. I’m sure a restraining order from a federal judge and a few new regulations will do the trick.

Nussbaum in full.

Nussbaum in full.

But my nominee for the most over-rated intellectual has to be Martha Nussbaum, the celebrated philosopher at the University of Chicago. I’ve always found her a crashing bore. And then there are gems like this, from her 2010 book Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities:

“[President Obama’s education] produced a person who knows how to think critically, who thinks with rich information about a wide range of world situations, who repeatedly displays a robust ability to imagine the predicaments of many types of people—and its corollary, the ability to think reflectively about himself and his own life story.”

By the way, in the catty gossip department, Cass Sunstein dumped Nussbaum for a younger model—Samantha Power. Isn’t the Obama power elite just great?


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