From Via Media: ‘Dispatches From The War That Nobody Wants’

Full post here.

It’s still a war on terror.  We’re still using our military, security, and intelligence agencies to kill violent groups of people who want to kill us here at home:

No doubt all the respectable and enlightened people who are working so hard in the government and the media to prevent public opinion from connecting these dots and drawing the conclusion that the war on terror is still real, still global and still going on have good reasons for doing so. They fear that talking too much about the threat would hand propaganda victories to those we would call our enemies if we were calling spades spades. They also fear that whether they speak of a global war on terror, a global war on radical Islamist terror, or even a global war against fanatical religious terror groups without specifying the religion they will polarize the world and make the whatever-it-is that much worse.’

The Afpak region is still an inflamed mess, which likely requires some involvement to prevent the Taliban from gaining power again and harboring Al Qaeda more than it is now.  The surge and timeline are questionable.  Yemen is a few steps away from chaos, with many Al Qaeda operatives on the ground.  The Iranian government is run by a violent theocracy and the Iranian State sponsors Hizbollah and other terrorist groups.  We’re seeing a rise of Islamism over decades throughout the region.

Whatever your stripes, we may be in a different kind of war, but it’s still a war:  asymmetrical, a war against insurgents, against people who in the name of Islam are training and targeting us here at home.

Here’s are two quotes from Henry Kissinger:

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems.  A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution.  If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation.  Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”


“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at.  Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”

Food for thought.

Related On This Site:  From CSIS: ‘How the US Must Expand and Redefine International Cooperation in Fighting Terrorism’

And:  Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And Pakistan

From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

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From NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory: ‘NASA Rover Finds Old Streambed On Martian Surface’

Full piece here.

The first real ‘direct’ observation of water:

“From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep,” said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. “Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we’re actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it.”

Apparently, it’s sedimentary conglomerate.  Rounded rocks smoothed by water and deposited in a cement like structure, which is now jutting above the surface as it lays in a large alluvial fan bed.  Comparison photo from Chile, back on Earth, of what appears to be a similar phenomenon.  The Rover is still headed towards Glenelg.

Video comparison on alluvial fans between Las Vegas and L.A. and on Mars, where the Rover sits:


Thanks to everyone in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory living on Mars time!

Related On This Site:   Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission AnimationRepost: Richard Feynman at NASA

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From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Haidt’s Vindication of Fusionist Conservatism and Aristotelian Liberalism’

Full piece here.

Larry Arnhart continues his careful reading of Jonathan Haidt’s work, to which Haidt, a psychologist venturing into the realms of politics and political philosophy, responds:

“As always, you have done a very close and fair reading of my work. And as before, you see things in my work that I was not fully aware of, but which I agree with. I think you’re right to call me on some potential contradictions. I am indeed a Darwinian, and I am indeed sympathetic to both classical liberalism and Burkean conservatism — more so than to modern leftism or 1970s liberalism. So I’ll have to think about this, and about the conundrums of tolerance and nested incompatible moral matrices that you raise. Thank you!”

An interesting discussion.  Comments are worth a read.

Related On This Site:  From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Jonathan Haidt’s Darwinian Conservatism’

From Edge: ‘Re: What Makes People Republican? By Jonathan Haidt’…Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

Morality in the emotions? Jesse Prinz argues that neuroscience and the cognitive sciences should move back toward British empiricism and David Hume…yet…with a defense of multiculturalism and Nietzsche thrown in:  Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”From Bloggingheads: Tamar Szabo Gendler On Philosophy and Cognitive Science

Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’

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Eli Lake At The Daily Beast: ‘U.S. Officials Knew Libya Attacks Were Work of Al Qaeda Affiliates’

Full piece here.

The intelligence officials are anonymous as of now:

‘Within 24 hours of the 9-11 anniversary attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, U.S. intelligence agencies had strong indications al Qaeda–affiliated operatives were behind the attack, and had even pinpointed the location of one of those attackers. Three separate U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said the early information was enough to show that the attack was planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya.’

If this is true, I suspect it is because the current administration knows how much of a powder keg the Middle East is at the moment, and a direct military response, even if highly targeted, would have threatened Obama’s foreign policy further as well as any fruit the Arab Spring will have produced.

This could explain Secretary Of State Hilary Clinton’s PR tour across the region, the insistence on the video as the source of the attack (Susan Rice as well), and the lengthy, slow and visible, investigation.  A plurality, if not a majority of Americans, and a vast majority Muslims it seems, are not where Obama wants them to be:  woven together under a banner of liberal internationalist doctrine, with him bridging the divide.

Don’t get in the way:  He’s threading the needle.

Addition:  Yes, there is a certain amount of facetiousness in this post.  Libyan president in a television interview says it was a planned, coordinated attack.  Is it incompetence, a lack of communication, an inability to manage so many disparate interests and lack of leadership?  Is it a failure or success of the liberal internationalist doctrine?

Related On This Site:  From The BBC Via Michael Totten: ‘Libya: Islamist Militia Bases Stormed In Benghazi’

Via Reuters: ‘U.S. Ambassador To Libya Killed In Benghazi Attack’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanFrom The New Yorker: ‘How Qaddafi Lost Libya’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Remember Libya?’A Few Thoughts On Watching Operations In Libya

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

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Nancy Okail At Freedom House: “‘Muslim Rage’ and the Politics of Distraction in Egypt’

Full piece here.

No great surprise.  Look for U.S. and Israeli relations with Egypt to deteriorate as Morsi consolidates power further.

‘In a more visually symbolic move, two days ago, Morsi’s government ordered that all of the revolutionary graffiti on the walls surrounding Tahrir Square should be wiped clean. For many families of those who have died during and since the 2011 uprising, the faces posted on the walls were the only recognition they received after the loss of their loved ones. For many other Egyptians, this graffiti was the only remaining evidence that a revolution had even taken place.’

The State Department is getting a little testy having to defend the party line on the Libyan embassy attacks.

Obama cancels bilateral Morsi meeting.

Related On This SiteFrom Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

Ross Douthat At The NY Times: ‘Washington Versus America’

Full piece here.

Douthat arrives at a Beltway party, of sorts:

‘In reality, our government isn’t running trillion-dollar deficits because we’re letting the working class get away with not paying its fair share. We’re running those deficits because too many powerful interest groups have a stake in making sure the party doesn’t stop.

When you look around the richest precincts of today’s Washington, you don’t see a city running on paternalism or dependency. You see a city running on exploitation.’

I can’t blame the folks who’ve moved to D.C. to seek their fortunes, to go where the the jobs are, to go where their spouses are as part of a larger demographic trend, but it’s a company town, and that company’s business is politics.

I don’t know for sure if America is in decline or just in a depression, or near-depression with a very polarized politics at the moment.  Perhaps we’re in relative decline compared with other emerging nations as some have argued, and it’s possible that everyone focusing upon our politics may be a sign of of decline.

Since 1988:  George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton for two terms, George W. Bush, almost Hilary Clinton, (still out there for 2016?).  Maybe our political life has calcified, as though we stopped looking forward in a way, directing American idealism and opportunity instead through Washington as a means to other ends.

The less people have, and the less they’re confident in having enough of something, in my experience, the more they focus on what’s there, and fight over it.

Just to be contrarian, too, there may come a time when fighting to maintain what’s in Washington, and what’s here, and what can be, becomes just as important as riding the public wave of sentiment building against it.

All of this said, these are some darker thoughts on a Monday morning, which have little analysis and probably even less predictive value.  Obviously, as Douthat points out, Washington’s grown enormously of late.

Related On This Site:  The NY Times op-ed writer and a practicing Catholic? William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’…Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’

Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

Did the same thing happen in higher ed..ever more inclusion and divvying up the pie until we can’t any longer?:  On this site, see: Louis Menand At The New Yorker: ‘Live And Learn: Why We Have College’..
 Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.  He has a big vision with some holes in it, but it’s one that embraces change boldly.
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From The BBC Via Michael Totten: ‘Libya: Islamist Militia Bases Stormed In Benghazi’

Full post here.

Michael Totten’s post here.

This would be good news, and I think a possibly important success for Obama’s foreign policy. It was made possible, sadly, not only by the planned assassination of ambassador Chris Stevens, but by his life’s work. He was there for many Libyans, working alongside them in the bitter struggle against Gadhafi, when it counted. It’s also made possible by the people who stormed Ansar-Al-Sharia’s base. This has been a primary goal of Obama’s foreign policy; to isolate and highlight the extremists, the radicals, the Islamists, especially Al Qaeda affiliates and try and find a sweet spot of Muslim sentiment on the ground to push them aside. ‘Moderate’ Muslims may be a chimera in my limited experience, and they may not, but a group of Libyans apparently giving the thugs a run for their money is a good start.

Totten’s new book: Where The West Ends.

Addition:An emailer points out that such hope reveals my hand as a neo-con. Look around at Egypt, the rise of Islamism generally, the gathering threats on the horizon. They are there, dear reader.

Another Addition:  Beyond Jimmy Carter, Obama believes he will bridge two worlds.  That’s quite a risk for Americans at home and through our foreign policy.  This is a bright spot amidst a real mess.

Obama’s still pushing the video-started-the-riots story?  Was he really willing to be so nebulous on free speech?

It’s more about the Free Libya group getting tired of the lawlessness rather than Ambassador Stevens.

Yet Another Addition: NY Times has an interview with Morsi.  Still ‘optimistic.’  CNN, of all places, releases information from Stevens’ diary after promising the family they wouldn’t, because they thought it pertinent.  The NY Times has a piece critical of the administration’s handling of Iraq, where basically, we’d be lucky to get a strong military and strongman leadership.

Why did the Obama administration claim there was more security when there likely wasn’t for Stevens in Libya?  Why did it blame the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video for the attack in Benghazi for so long?  Did the administration’s actions during this time potentially put other embassies and other Americans at risk?  Did it fail to meet a fundamental defense of the first amendment by trotting out Nakoula to placate the actually rioting Muslims across the Muslim world, and shift the responsibility to Google, and individual American citizens in order to ultimately save Obama’s foreign policy and belief that he can bridge two worlds?

Those are big risks to take.  A little explanation would be nice.

Another: MSNBC reports on CNN reporting despite the State Department’s to ‘protect the family.’

Related On This Site: Via Reuters: ‘U.S. Ambassador To Libya Killed In Benghazi Attack’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanFrom The New Yorker: ‘How Qaddafi Lost Libya’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Remember Libya?’A Few Thoughts On Watching Operations In Libya

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

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From Reason’s Hit And Run Blog: ‘Celebrating Roy Childs, A Lost Libertarian Great’

Full post here.

Interesting quote:

‘Childs was the autodidact with the nerve to tell Ayn Rand that Objectivism implied anarchism and to tell Robert Nozick that his “invisible hand” argument for the moral creation of the state collapses around itself. The essays in which he does this are both contained in Anarchism and Justice.’

Worth a read as Reason revisits libertarian thinkers of note.


And now, just to shake things up a bit:  Briton Roger Scruton answers (45 min long) a series of questions about libertarianism, individualism, the State, Hayek, free markets, conservatism, our moral obligations to one another, contractualism, Christianity as he sees them etc.:


It’s the safeguarding of a traditional order that is the real concern of conservatives

Scruton mentions this quotation a la Edmund Burke.  Such is an order that stretches across time, full of more spontaneously and freely entered into arrangements and contracts between people, but also duties and moral obligations that people have to one another, and sometimes to the State. Such arrangements often form institutions which are much stronger than any planned institution on Scruton’s thinking (and I’d argue often stronger and more stable than institutions defined with positive definitions of justice upon a rationalist framework, as I think promising to distribute and redistribute wealth is an over-promise that overlooks human nature and limits our institutions’ real world effectiveness. Such a view wants to extend liberty to ever new groups of people by granting “rights” to them, often without the duties and moral obligation).

Our constitutional republic, too,  grants ‘rights’ to people, and they are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Clearly, people in the U.S have quite differing views on what the role of the State ought to be, in relief especially at the moment as we wade through the effects of excessive individualism through modernism, postmodernism, moral relativism, certain strains of Continental thought (Neo-Marxism in the academy) and those who define freedom, the individual, and the State in very different ways.

Some thoughts on conservatism, its limitations and challenges, its blind spots and strengths.

Don’t call Scruton a man of the right, at least by British standards, anyways.

Also, the connection between political and economic liberty is highlighted, as it should be.

Related On This Site:  Kant is a major influence on libertarians, from Ayn Rand to Robert Nozick:  A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

Anarchy and hierarchy: Repost-Youtube Via Libertarianism.Org-David Friedman: ‘The Machinery Of Freedom’…Anarcho-capitalism:  Pro-market, anti-state, anti-war…paleo-libertarian: Link To Lew Rockwell Via A Reader…Anarcho-syndicalist, libertarian socialist and sometime blind supporter of lefty causes:  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of KnowledgeTwo Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

New liberty away from Hobbes…toward Hayek…but can you see Locke from there?: Repost-From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

Scruton points to the Romans as the beginning of the separation of Church and State, or civil law, as opposed to Islam: From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & AtheismFrom The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”/Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism

Scruton’s father was a socialist, and he wants to redirect the impulse to save the environment, and the daily lives of people from central planning back toward human aims and away from top down abstract surveys in Britain:Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?

From romanticism to modernism to postmodernism to….?:  Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment…The conservative/libertarian tradition in the Anglosphere meets the arts: Robert Hughes-R.I.P.Denis Dutton suggests art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public

Yes, Edmund Burke opposed the French Revolution: Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution..At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes

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From Michael Totten At The Gatestone Institute: ‘A Raw Salafist Power Play’

Full piece here.

The longer a power vacuum goes on, usually the worse people there are to fill it.  The kinds of people who are willing to sacrifice themselves to build the institutions necessary to maintain democracy (as the West envisions it) are a minority in Egypt, and across most of the Muslim world.

‘Rather than a spontaneous outburst, what we saw last week was a raw play for political power by radical Salafists. We have seen things like this before, most notoriously in Tehran after the Iranian revolution.’

Perhaps we’ve got some leverage:

‘There is nothing we can do to stop the radical Islamists from framing the United States when they need a wedge issue, but we can — and certainly should — make it clear to the likes of Mohamed Morsi that we can make his job and his life a lot more difficult than the Salafists can.’

Addition:  Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s piece in Newsweek suggests that Islamism is gasping, and will ultimately be defeated if Americans don’t bend on our liberties and principles.  Islamist governments deprive their citizens of political and economic freedom.  She gets the comments going.

Related On This Site:   From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

From Ed Driscoll: ‘Interview: David Gelernter on America-Lite’

Full interview here.

Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale, laments the loss of what he sees as America’s popular identity as a Judeo-Christian nation, an exceptional nation, and an openly patriotic nation (all once popular even in academia according to his book). He claims it has since been replaced with ‘America Lite.’

Throughout the interview, he traces the rise of ‘imperial academia,’ which he argues has dismantled the previous WASP culture and replaced it with something lesser which has trickled down and become American culture, helping to produce the Obamacrats. He traces these changes through the radicalism of the 1960’s and the rise of the New Left, drifting to where we are today, about which he is not happy.

I will say that one can’t be complacent if one’s guiding ideals and principles aren’t in power, and conservatism is not enjoying success in academia at the moment. There’s also a lot of populist anger amongst conservatives, often directed at the mainstreaming and institutionalization of the 60’s generation in academia and government. This includes the rise of feminism and multiculturalism, moral relativism, an often flabby but sometimes militant atheism, and the more radical individualism and continental collectivism that seem to be ascendant now and likely into the foreseeable future. Where are we headed?

Has Gelernter made the case that if we follow the right principles, ideas and beliefs, maybe America can regain the exceptionalism and patriotism of the past, but it can build the present for the future?

If you’ve read the book, please drop a line.

Chronicle Of Higher Ed Review here. I can’t imagine the secular humanists would like it.

Commentary review here. National Review here.

Related On This Site: Ever more inclusion until we can’t any longer. On this site, see: Louis Menand At The New Yorker: ‘Live And Learn: Why We Have College’..

Once you take apart the old structure, you have to criticize the meritocracy you’ve helped create: David Brooks At The NY Times: ‘Why Our Elites Stink’

The anti-intellectual’s intellectual: Repost-Via Youtube: Eric Hoffer-’The Passionate State Of Mind’

Leo Strauss:From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

A deeper look at what education “ought” to be, which is remarkably like it is now: A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.

How dare he?: Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?From The Harvard Educational Review-

Still reliving the 60′s?: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

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