Some good analysis on what Assad’s departure means for Iran, the balance of power in the Middle-East, and for the Shia and Sunni tensions:
‘Otherwise, America’s best policy option seems clear: more of the same. Push Assad downhill, press Iraq for a fairer internal policy and a more non-aligned external one, support a factional rebalancing in Lebanon that encourages Hezbollah to transition from a revolutionary arm of Iranian foreign policy into a Lebanese political movement with a strictly domestic agenda, tighten sanctions and hold the line on nukes.’
That is, if the Civil War ends with Assad’s death/and or departure, as most interested parties are still making bets, and trying to steer possible outcomes towards their own interests.
Is that the Republican line these days? Mr. Black has a lot of suggestions:
‘What is needed is a colossal reorientation of the country away from consumption and toward investment, the cleaning out of the morass of the plea-bargain justice system and attendant vacuum cleaners of the legal and prison industries (and the gigantic fraud of the War on Drugs), drastic education reform, genuine health-care reform, a redefinition of U.S. national interests in the world to what is essential and defensible, and then restructured alliances to reflect shared interests. Until those issues are addressed, all talk of the American superpower is rubbish. Obama’s is the fourth consecutive failed administration, and each succeeding one will make the festering problems more dangerous and difficult.’
That’s a lot to ask of politics, but points taken. Is history to be used in order to craft statemanship, or should we aim higher than such a Zinn-like state? As always, one concern is not necessarily moral, but practical: What are the harms that idealism can do to the efficacy of public institutions?
Addition: Yes, there’s a little facetiousness regarding Howard Zinn.
‘NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity during a two-year prime mission to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater ever offered a habitable environment for microbes. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.’
-Unlike Earth with its dynamic interior and tectonic plates, relatively strong magnetic field, thick and dynamic atmosphere etc., Mars is a bit like a time capsule. With just over 50% the diameter of Earth, about 38% the gravity, and less than 1% the atmosphere we’ll be able to get a much better picture of what happened during the formation of our solar system about 4 1/2 billion years ago as it’s much less disturbed. The trip up the rock face in Gale Crater over the next few years is like a trip back through time. What happened to Mars? Did the Earth and Mars have common experiences?
Kotkin offers an interesting demographic, cultural and political analysis, with some harsh words for Republicans. The ideas have to be amongst the people, and the economy is changing.
‘Of course, the blues have one inestimable advantage: a perennially stupid Republican party and a largely clueless, ideologically hidebound conservative movement. Constant missteps on issues like immigration and gay rights could keep even disappointed minority or younger votes in the President’s pocket. You can’t win new adherents by being the party of no and know-nothing. You also have to acknowledge that inequality is real and develop a program to promote upward mobility.
Unless that is done, the new generation and new Americans likely will continue to bow to the blue idols, irrespective to the failures that gentry progressivism all but guarantees.’
Progressive Convention, 1912. Moffett Studio & Kaufmann, Weimer & Fabry Co. Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-USZ62-116075
Current liberal establishment thinking under Obama is naturally reacting to Obama’s leadership. I’d argue that it’s getting more difficult to appreciate self-reliance as a result, and to maintain a healthy respect for the limits of government. A healthy respect for the limits of government reflects a healthy understanding of human nature, its limitations, and the fact that all politics is local. Power ultimately rests with “We the People,” after all.
Obama’s activist brand of local politics benefits from a lack of self-reliance in people, otherwise the need for the activist is lessened. Activists become adept at organizing and inspiring (if not inciting) people to collective action under collectivist principles. Once organized, the people’s interests can be aimed toward broader goals, some quite productive, but many often extracting money from businesses as well as federal and local governments. Activists can be rabble-rousers, or they can be high-minded, but the model they’re using relies on redistributive logic (getting other people’s money redistributed to themselves and their constituents).
Political power is too easily the currency and the reward.
In the long run, obviously, there’s only so much of other people’s money to go around. In the long run, there’s always a nagging question of how much the activist is really doing for his constituents by gaining all that political power for himself. In the long run, we’re all more likely to have a few ruling the many under such a model, through an erosion of self-reliance. In the long run, we’re more likely to end up in “tyranny of the majority” scenarios.
While still being one of the best, and most thorough, news-gathering services, NPR generally cleaves to a Left-Of-Center political philosophy. I suspect many folks at NPR aim to be like the BBC in Britain, or the CBC in Canada: Not only the national standard in news but perhaps the nationalized cultural gatekeepers as well. According to their lights, they see themselves as having a duty to promote and fund the arts, education, and knowledge.
That said, NPR is guilty of what many Americans have been guilty of, something which seems to transcend politics: They’ve followed the national greatness model and assumed that American greatness, economic dominance and good times are a guarantee.
Here are two problems with NPR’s approach:
-NPR usually putsenvironmental interests above business interests.
The dangers of environmental policy can be seen in California, where environmental regulations can stagnate the economy. These policies shift the cost of land management onto individuals and landowners, while creating laws whose oversight those citizens must finance, often inefficiently through a system of taxation and regulation. Politicos have every incentive to keep taxpayer money flowing to themselves and a few companies, pressured by the green lobby and riding waves of green public sentiment, always with an eye on reelection. This has actively driven many individuals and families out of the state.
Perhaps even some conservationists realize that activism generally leads to big money and big politics, and that everyday people can suffer the most, especially those who aim to be self-reliant.
Californians can leave California, but on the national level, sadly, the rest of us have few options.
-NPR has promoted multiculturalism and diversity often as the highest ideas around.
Unfortunately, multiculturalism creates a system of incentives which rewards racial and identity politics, and at its worst, a kind of modern tribalism where group membership and loyalty come first.
Identity groups can remain Balkanized, and treat the public treasury like a piggy bank, politics like a system of patronage, and the laws like bludgeons in order to gain and maintain political power. This is especially true of big-city machine politics, where the corruption is baked-in. “Government’s the only thing we all belong to” does, in fact, reflect a gaping hole at the center of modern liberal establishment thinking. If such thinking continues to follow Obama’s brand of activism, that hole will continue to be there.
Monticello. Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-F8-1046
In response, it might not be a bad idea to promote a more agrarian Jeffersonian liberalism instead of the California or the current NPR liberal establishment models. It’s a little worrying that California has traditionally been a cultural bellwether for the rest of the nation. There’s a fiscal crisis in the Golden State, and enough multiculturalism and environmentalism that Californians may well keep voting for the model until it crashes, or they are forced to act otherwise.
I’d humbly ask that Northeastern and old school Democrats, the classical liberals, the Jeffersonians, the self-reliant, and the reasonably skeptical to reconsider where the current liberal establishment is headed under an Obama administration.
It’s affecting all of us.
Addition: NPR has roots in 60’s Civil Rights activism, and thus is often most sympathetic to 60’s type coalitions of protest models including feminists, environmentalists, race and identity politickers etc. They can get criticism from their Left for being too mainstream, and they can attach these 60’s coalitions to mainstream liberalism, politics and culture. I’m guessing you’re not going to find nakedly partisan or activists behind the scenes, really, but rather people so embedded in their own worldview (that of secular liberal humanism and progress) that they presuppose such a worldview when reporting on events.
Liberal, Left-liberal and Center-Left statists are words that seem to apply.
Another addition: I should add that I don’t believe we either can, nor should want to return to an agrarian society, but rather, contra Hamilton, we should aim for institutions that promote the individual, his family, and the free associations he makes above political activism, lobbyists, big government and big corporations in bed together, which is where ideas like environmentalism and multiculturalism most often lead. It’s the political philosophy that lies behind, and beneath what’s become of current establishment liberal thinking in that has not yet figured out how to protect the individual from the big money and big politics that are a result of such thinking in practice.
‘But what’s so public about public art? Is it “public” simply because it’s stuck in public places? And who asks for it? In a recent interview with Manner of Man Magazine, Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland, hits the nail on the head.’
Click through for some good quotes. Why is public art often so bad? What happens when art gets attached with money, and yes, also money through grants?
“We’ve been clear that we have seen the regime in Syria use Scud missiles against its own people, and that continues,” a senior State Department official told the New York Times.’
Assad and the Alawite minority loyalists are still planning a retreat to the coast, but as the opposition gains enough strength this is likely to come to a bloody end for Assad, even after the retreat. It’s the drawn-out, civil conflict spilling over Syrian borders that was feared, with possibly over 50,000 dead so far. Regional instability is still the primary concern.
Some in the current U.S. administration started out in human rights campaigns and then moved to security and diplomatic positions. Many have adopted realpolitik, pursuing U.S. interests relentlessly and accepting limitations. The overall framework, however, still seems to be liberal internationalist, which brings human rights to the fore, and seeks to defer U.S. interests to international laws, courts, and institutions.
The neoconservative model, which advocates the use of military force to advance our interests on our own, as well spreading our ideals of freedom and democracy through that force, ran into serious difficulties in Iraq, and is on the ropes.
The Libyan intervention was offered as a successful alternative: Rid Libyans of the tyrant to advance freedom, but do so with a light footprint and as much international support as possible. There has been some success, but it’s not clear at what current costs (ambassador Stevens, 3 Americans and a hit to freedom of speech as well as a projection of weakness) as well as future costs to American interests and security (though to be fair, this can be said about pretty much any operation).
Syria was argued as too complex, and too complicated a country for the same Libyan model to work. There’s been a Western retreat into watching Syria devolve into civil conflict, offering mild and belated support to the opposition (still betting on horses, like we did with the insurgence against the Russians in Afghanistan back in 1979), and hoping the U.N. would be able to muster something (which it really hasn’t). We’re offering some arms and other support inside Syria, and aid outside of it, but it continues to burn and molder.
The overall Obama doctrine remains unclear: Do we continue to prosecute Bush’s War On Terror with drone strikes, special operations, Navy Seals, and intel operations, while simultaneously trying to appeal to non-terrorist and ‘moderate’ Muslims?
Can we reasonably expect Russia, and China, and other Muslim nations to align with our interests through international laws and courts?
Are we making our economy strong so that trade, business and educational interests can put our better foot forward?
Are we leading by example through our commitment to our freedoms, including the freedom of speech and the political and economic freedoms that allow the human rights folks and NGO’s to flourish?
My belated condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Roger Sandall, who passed away on August 11th, 2012. He was an Australian thinker and critic of cultural relativism, romantic-primitivism and the Noble Savage. He was a keen observer of the ways in which certain strains of Western thought interact with the non-Western, and often, tribal worlds.
While not as strong as in Australia, we’ve seen the rise of multicultural apologetics in the U.S. regarding the native population: “Well, we robbed this land from the Indians, anyways.” Sandall highlights the problems and hubris of such sentiment, and what can become the “Disneyfication” of the natives and the historical record.
VICE takes a hipster, counter-culture view on things, but this is an interesting and raw video piece on the Mormons who fled to Northern Mexico mostly in the 1880’s, the colonies they settled there mostly for reasons of polygamy, and are now defending against increasing drug violence and ruthless narco-traffickers. It’s a glimpse of life inside Mexico, the Mexican Federal government’s role in patrolling a main drug highway into America, the poverty and danger, rational incentives and endemic police corruption over the border. American laws, public policy and money have a lot to do with what goes on in Mexico.
The drug gangs are pretty much ruthless. Gun prohibition in Mexico prevents the Mormons from protecting themselves (so the criminals have all the guns), but they have found ways around that.
Addition: What, if any, moral obligation does America have to Mexico to help it get its house, economy, police force and federal government out of the depths of corruption and weakness now that there’s new leadership? Will a wall work? Do we listen to the border state Republicanism guest program paths to citizenship?
What’s politically possible with the current administration in office, and the California style movement of the Democratic party towards another amnesty and the DREAM act?