Psychology Helped Create Our Moral Malaise. It Can Also Help Cure It

To Paul Vitz, the widespread revelations of powerful men committing sexual offenses against women are but a symptom of a larger crisis of morality, which modern psychological theories played a part in bringing about. But now, he writes, newer psychological research is affirming age-old notions of virtue:

The problem began in the early 1950s, when the first signs of the coming sexual revolution emerged. After the Great Depression and World War II, the country turned toward prosperity and consumerism. At that time, psychological problems were commonly interpreted as arising from sexual repression and moral prudishness. The understanding of personal problems as caused by moral failings or weak character was on the way out. Among the signs of this change were the Kinsey reports, Playboy magazine, and the rise of advice columns offering psychological answers.

Already in the 1950s, and more so in the 1960s, psychologists emphasized “self-actualization,” where the self—presumed to be all good—should break from all inhibitions and choose its own values and way of life. The goal was to be without restrictions, and even without interpersonal commitments. . . .

Fortunately, since its heady days in the 1960s and 1970s, psychology has become wiser. Newer theories have emphasized strong and supportive interpersonal relationships throughout life as necessary for psychological health. Even the importance of forgiveness has been introduced into psychology, de-emphasizing the isolated autonomous person. Still more significantly, the field of psychology has discovered—really, re-discovered—the importance of virtues and character strengths to a flourishing life. . . . There is now good evidence that the character strength of self-control, or self-regulation, . . . is more important than IQ as a predictor of academic performance. Indeed, self-control has been found to be a long-term predictor of what is termed “a flourishing life.”

Our culture needs to recognize again what we once knew, an insight that is found in all the world’s major cultures: that the good man and the good woman are persons of good character. For men especially, this means regaining control over their sexuality and aggressiveness. And this time around, psychology can probably be of help.

Read more at First Things

More about: History & Ideas, Morality, Psychology, Sexual ethics

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy