A 2015 Mearsheimer Lecture On Ukraine And A Few Thoughts

Via a reader: John Mearsheimer applies his offensive realist view to Ukraine back in 2015 (there are no friends, only alliances….regional powers will aim for hegemony in a lawless, fundamentally anarchic world).

He offers a step-by-step look at Ukraine.

On that note, how do I see the American landscape? Well, I don’t know, exactly. Conservative, traditional and religious Americans have likely moved from a majority to a plurality/minority in most cultural/political spaces (more requiring of minority protections, also more conspiratorial). These are the people more likely to defend home and hearth and more likely to join and support the military during the Cold War (along with higher Southern representation).

I understand Neo-Conservatism as the drive to extend American military and global interests by advancing humanistic ideas and secular humanism (liberals/secular humanists mugged by ‘reality’). Such folks are more likely to have been in influential policy/intellectual positions, not necessarily doing the warfighting.

Cold War patriotic liberals, just as were many old school liberals, have been increasingly challenged from the activist Left, and that activist Left now has a lot of cultural/political influence. Old school Democrats were generally about unions and a certain amount of patriotism (Cuban Missile Crisis). Many New Democrats are about pronouns in the postmodern soup and the Green New Deal. This presses upwards upon the liberal international and global worldview. This dynamic seems to occupy the folks in charge at the moment (dovetailing with elements of the Eurocracy), pivoting from the Health/Safety COVID worldview to defending human and Western interests.

It’s been…strange to see Susan Glasser at the New Yorker become rabidly pro-Ukraine and a war hawk, but…here we are.

Additionally, I see an increasingly aged and brittle American political system, with increasing disorder and much lower public trust (for many good reasons). From Elder Bush–Clinton–Clinton–Younger Bush–Younger Bush–Almost a Clinton/Obama–Obama–Trump—Biden (Obama’s VP), I’d argue a calcification has clearly occurred. This is why I see a fair amount of regular folks and intellectual folks checking out, or seeking alternatives.

What might I have gotten right? Wrong?

Conservative To Neo-Conservative To Liberal-A Few Thoughts & Links

Maybe I’m off?: As much as there are truth and knowledge claims, about ourselves and the world, embedded within our ideas about ourselves and the world, it seems we’re often arguing over who should be in charge. Agree on some ‘is’ questions, surround yourself with like minds, and then pursue the ‘oughts’ through education, politics and law.

Oh, there will be authority.

Something like the conservative position-One Nation Under God. Defend home and hearth, and the Constitution. The country was born of revolution, yet not the French, nor the Russian revolutions. The country wasn’t built upon the utopias proffered by Marxist radicals, nor anarchists, nor even the anarcho-capitalist libertarian types (perhaps something more like the Euro-project, built on economic allegiances).

Something like the neo-conservative position-At some point, get mugged by reality, and start questioning many truth and knowledge claims of the liberal idealist and secular humanist project. Defend homes within communities, and use the American military to advance secular humanism and humanistic ideals around the globe. Use law and policy, and the American military, to spread many elements of the Western project in which you pursue your highest goods (Many in China and Russia, and many Muslims and Islamists disagree).

Something like the current Liberal position-Defend houses within the community and ‘societal’ interests in our ‘modern’ world, but America itself may not be worth defending as it is and has been. Many activists and radicals in the party do seem to be co-opting many academic, institutional and bureaucratic positions. Become somewhat invested in the ‘Hitler-Year-Zero’ Marxist conception of conservatives, traditionalists, and religious believers as potentially ‘evil.’ Standing against progress is certainly morally questionable, and clearly against (H)istory.

The positive visions (environmental/globalist/Health & Safetyism) lead us all into a Statism and authoritarianism present all along.

In the meantime, Johnny, get your gun and fight for Ukraine.

—On that note:

What about a good ‘ol Humanities education?

Interesting paper presented by Erika Kiss, beginning about minute 32:00 (the whole conference is likely worth your time for more knowledge on Oakeshott).

According to Kiss, Oakeshott’s non-teleological, non-purposive view of education is potentially a response to Friedrich Hayek, Martha Nussbaum, and Allan Bloom, in the sense that all of these thinkers posit some useful purpose or outcome in getting a liberal education.

Friedrich Hayek’s profound epistemological attack on rationalist thought is still a system itself, and attaches learning to market-based processes which eventually drive freedom and new thinking in universities. The two are mutually dependent to some extent.

Martha Nussbaum attaches liberal learning to ends such as making us ‘Aristotelian citizens of the world’, or better citizens in a democracy, which has struck me as incomplete at best.

Allan Bloom is profoundly influenced by Straussian neo-classicism, and wants love, classical learning, honor and duty to perhaps be those reasons why a young man or woman should read the classics. This, instead of crass commercialism, the influences of popular music, deconstructionism and logical positivism.

Via A Reader-Isaiah Berlin’s Lectures On The Roots Of Romanticism.  Romanticism–>Modernism–>Postmodernism–>Wherever We’re Heading Now

Maybe it all started with Beethoven:  Everyone’s a (S)elf.

Isaiah Berlin pretty much blackballed Roger Scruton, so it’s not all roses.

Scruton had some keen insights:

“The works of Shakespeare contain important knowledge. But it is not scientific knowledge, nor could it ever be built into a theory. It is knowledge of the human heart”

“…in the days when the humanities involved knowledge of classical languages and an acquaintance with German scholarship, there was no doubt that they required real mental discipline, even if their point could reasonably be doubted. But once subjects like English were admitted to a central place in the curriculum, the question of their validity became urgent. And then, in the wake of English came the pseudo-humanities—women’s studies, gay studies and the like—which were based on the assumption that, if English is a discipline, so too are they.”

Quite importantly:

“And since there is no cogent justification for women’s studies that does not dwell upon the subject’s ideological purpose, the entire curriculum in the humanities began to be seen in ideological terms.

Terry Eagleton, British Marxist and professor in the humanities, debates Scruton below.

Will Marxism & continental philosophy become further guiding lights for the humanities here in America as we find much more so in Britain?

See Protein Wisdom for a discussion about language and intentionalism, and how it gets deployed.

-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

The nihilist claims are deeper than you may think, and the Nietzschean, and Will–>Will to Power German influence is also deeper than most people think; offering profound criticisms of the scientific project, liberalism, liberal institutions, and a secular humanism which is the air many folks breathe these days.

Here’s a somewhat similar vein of thought.  From friesian.com:

Although Anglo-American philosophy tended to worship at the feet of science, the drift of academia to the left has led to characteristically totalitarian political attacks on science itself — this despite the leftist program to use “climate science” to impose a Sovietized command economy on energy and the tactic to smear climate skeptics, i.e. “Deniers,” through associaton with Creationism or Neo-Nazi Holocaust denial. None of that has stopped the “post-modern” move…’

Tornadoes, ‘Nine Hours’ Of Beatles Footage & Inflation-Some Links

One minute you’re in bed, the next…

God Bless all the victims.

The conditions for such F4 and F5 monsters to track on the ground for so long, and cause this much destruction, are rare.

This is cold comfort.

Maybe over 100 dead.

Are most of the modern doctrines constantly misunderstanding human nature, contemporizing and politicizing reasons for disagreement into (C)auses and (C)oalitions?

Are committed ideologues a necessary feature to be found in the postmodern fog, and do you trust liberal idealism to protect your property, life and opportunities against such true-believers?

Where shall meaning be found?

Well, in the immortal words of ‘Rasta Dale,’ founder of Peace Pavilion West:

Eat of my body of bug-paste.

Relax your body and mind. Center your heart-space.

Drink with me Gaia’s wine.

Are you ready?

Let’s go out there and give these fuckin’ animals nine hours of Beatles’ footage. $500 for a fuckin’ early release package. Jesus Christ.

Dale gets salty with his language, sometimes.

Another question about which I wonder: Are many secular humanists, liberal idealists, unitarian universalists and progressive do-gooders mostly just former W.A.S.P.’s and good Catholics without the fortitude to preach what they practice?

Some, definitely.

Do you agree with Charles Murray about preaching what you practice?:

Would you rather have the W.A.S.P.’s and good Catholics back in charge?

I believe it’s self-evident we need virtue, honor, and a lot of layers of self-control, as well as proper incentives, to maintain decent leadership. For much of my life, out in the public square, the refrain has been something like ‘freedom is next, this will all work out.

Or maybe, ‘explore your Self and be good to others.

Yeah, well…

As for inflation:

This started around Spring 2020. The debt and deficit problems have been around a lot longer. Maybe you’re comfortable with softly corrupt, fairly incompetent leadership, managing ballooning debt while placating an activist wing. Managed decline. Or maybe you just want to pay more for gas and milk; your time and effort frittered away.

Welcome to the meritocracy, I suppose.

A deeper American idealism may be reforming before our eyes.

Is Trump coming back? Isn’t it really Trump (or something like him) vs Bernie (or something like him)? Is something worse on the horizon?

Something better?

A Few Links To Afghanistan & Thoughts On American Leadership

Part of the American response to 9/11 was emotionally driven, defensive but deeply focused. Practical, even: That horrible attack left a scar, and at the time, it hurt bad enough to know it would leave a scar. More scars might be coming.

The lawless FATA region in Northwest Pakistan, and Afghanistan under the Taliban, were harboring globally acting Al Qaeda terrorists, who’d planned and carried out the 9/11 attack. They had training camps to prepare and plot their next moves.

Afghanistan also has some strategic importance relative to Pakistan, Pakistan and India, and China (Belt and Road), to name a few. But, largely, it was about hunting down the bastards who did the deed.

Afghanistan is deeply poor, deeply backwards relative to the West, and deeply divided geographically and culturally. Pakistan and their ISI played American interests from the start (given their interests, I wouldn’t expect too much more).

Not long after invading Afghanistan, our American political leadership directed American military resources to Iraq. The mission of keeping the coalition in Afghanistan together lost a lot of focus and resources. Semi-occupation also required all kinds of misapplied military protectionism, and ridiculous rules.

From the child-buggery, to working as poppy protection, to seeing some of the dysfunction and brutality up close, our servicemen saw a lot of shit. This is where my primary loyalty lies.

So, we can’t really hold Afghanistan together and it may become costly, indeed, to again have the Taliban keeping Afghanistan together at some point in the future.

As for here at home: The cultural tides of equality at high prices, putting so many carts before so many horses, checking all the diversity boxes…now affects a lot of American military decision-making.

We might not be done with failure, here.

Just to cheer you up.

A pretty worst case: Using the Platonic model from The Republic, there really aren’t that many models of governance in human affairs, or perhaps, the more things change, the more they stay the same:

(Timarchy (military honor is the highest good)–>decay into Oligarchy (the City’s coffers and wealth are the highest good)–>decay into Democracy (freedom is the highest good as the Demos come to rule)–>decay into Tyranny and a return to the tyrant’s order as the highest good (the tyrant being the worst master of his passions).

Rinse and repeat.

I look around and see people, with good reasons, convinced our leadership deserves little to no authority (once much of the trust and competence is gone, leaving institutional strivers and pole-climbers…it’s tough to make the case).

So many emperors, so little clothing.

I doubt I could do much better.

Alas, Dear Reader, everyone takes the limits of their field of vision for the limits of the world.

Help me see anew.

Benjamin Jowett’s translation of Plato’s Republic can be found here.

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

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.… Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Adam Kirsch on Heidegger & Niall Ferguson on China-Let’s Not Discuss You-Know-Who

Adam Kirsch on Martin Heidegger, as well as three contemporary poets in ‘The Taste Of Silence:’

Ours does not promise to go down in literary history as a great age of religious poetry. Yet if contemporary poetry is not often religious, it is still intensely, covertly metaphysical.

and:

For Heidegger, more than any other philosopher, looked to poetry as a model of what thinking should be. He used individual poems, especially the hymns of Hölderlin, to help explicate his own ideas about nature, technology, art, and history.

As posted:

Ed Driscoll at PJ Media discusses ruin porn extensively (you pesky nihilists are leading us to Hitler!), and quotes Robert Tracinski’s ‘Why The Oscars Were So Bad.’:

‘This is the dead end of Modernist culture, which sought to break down traditional values and rules but was unable to replace them with anything better. It left us in a cultural void where, as the New York Times piece puts it, everyone is afraid that “serious commitment to any belief will eventually be subsumed by an opposing belief, rendering the first laughable at best and contemptible at worst.” In the second half of the 20th century, this corrosive Modernist skepticism brought us the ruling concept of contemporary popular culture: the “cool.” Remember the original meaning of the term. To be “cool” is to be emotionally cool, to refuse to be caught up in enthusiasm. Early on, this could be taken to mean a kind of manly reserve, the ability to be calm, cool, and collected in the face of strife, or to refuse to be carried away by momentary or trivial emotions. This is the sense in which James Bond was “cool.” But by the end of the 20th century, the culture of cool increasingly came to mean a studied lack of response to values. It meant refusing to be carried away by enthusiasm about anything.’

You’ve seen the game some people start playing when they don’t have other things in which to believe. They play the everyone-is-Hitler-game. They share ‘literature’, torch courthouses and deploy violent individuals within mob anonymity. They don’t believe in legitimate authority.

Liberal leadership doesn’t seem to have a strategic response, other than keep pushing the ‘liberation’ narratives while accruing more authority.

Niall Ferguson deploys Isaiah Berlin and Henry Kissinger lore. When it comes to Beijing’s Taiwan policy, their reunification plan and the long game, the Americans may not have a good strategy.

Zhou’s response was that of a hedgehog. He had just one issue: Taiwan. “If this crucial question is not solved,” he told Kissinger at the outset, “then the whole question [of U.S.-China relations] will be difficult to resolve.

As posted:

Some interesting takeaways from the interview above (Kissinger was a young man whose family fled the Nazis and who not long after served in the American military, helping to free a concentration camp).

-In writing an entire undergraduate thesis on Kant’s transcendental idealism, Ferguson sketches a Kissinger who bypassed the historical determinism of the Hegelians and the economic determinism of the Marxists.  Freedom has to be lived and experienced to thrive and be understood, and Kant gets closer to championing this conception of individual freedom than do many German thinkers downstream of Kant.

-According to Ferguson, this still tends to make Kissinger an idealist on the idealist/realist foreign policy axis, but it also likely means he’s breaking with the doctrines which animate many on the political Left, hence his often heretical status.

***I’d add that unlike many thinkers in the German philosophical and political traditions, the Anglosphere has economic idealists and various systematists battling other systematists, yes, but there are looser networks of free, civic association and more avoidance of top-down organization and fewer internalized habits of order.

Perhaps such looser civic associations, broad geography and rougher, cruder practices of freedom help keep power and authority dispersed.  Kissinger came closer to being ‘America’s Metternich‘ than have all but a few other actors, and Kant was quite serious in the scope of his metaphysics.

Interesting piece here:

‘The most original and interesting aspect of the biography is Ferguson’s ability to engage with and analyze Kissinger’s ideas as set forth in the voluminous letters, papers, articles, and books written by Kissinger as a student, academic, and policy adviser. According to Ferguson, Kissinger the political philosopher was closer to Kant than Machiavelli. While he admired the brilliance of Metternich and Bismarck, his ideal statesmen (e.g., Castlereagh) sought to construct international orders that did not depend upon a guiding genius for their stability.

He was not, however, a Wilsonian idealist—idealism based on abstraction instead of experience, he believed, was a “prescription for inaction.” “The insistence on pure morality,” Kissinger once told a colleague, “is in itself the most immoral of postures.” Statesmen must act under a cloud of uncertainty and often their decisions reflect a choice among evils.’

As previously posted: – ‘Kissinger: Volume I: The Idealist.1923-1968:’

FT review. 

The Economist

Previously on this site:

Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft here, long before any Iran dealing.

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Francis Fukuyama uses some Hegel and Samuel Huntington…just as Huntington was going against the grain of modernization theory…:Newsweek On Francis Fukuyama: ‘The Beginning Of History’Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

Robert Nozick merged elements of Kant and Locke in a strong, libertarian defense of the individual A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”