Tilting At Windmills Across The Anglosphere-Some Links

James Kirchick at Tabletmag–Corbynism Comes To America:

The people who could really use some help must often choose:  Hitch one’s  cart to revolutionary ideologues who assist in liberation but don’t believe in liberty, or find some other political channel.  Or maybe get serious about religion.  Or maybe just hunker down.

Let’s hope it doesn’t get that bad:

‘American Corbynism also takes after its British provenance with hostility toward Jews. Over the past few weeks, Rep. Omar has made a succession of crude anti-Semitic statements, intimating that U.S. support for Israel is due to the influence of Jewish money and that American Jews are guilty of “allegiance to a foreign country.”

The intellectual debates often lead the cultural and political ones.  The rise of Corbynism in Britain can partially be explained by the below debate if the debate is, in fact, a leading indicator (Terry Eagleton’s Literary Marxism vs Roger Scruton’s Hegelian-influenced Conservatism):

Moving along, Douglas Murray has been predicting that many current failures of Western intellectual and political leadership to properly account for much basic human nature is clearing the ground for more conflict within the West.  We still have time to be more cold-eyed and realistic about mass migration, economic incentives, much of our own basic human nature and our own traditions, but the clock’s probably ticking.

On the Christchurch shooting (behind a paywall).

Last but not least, it’s possible that whole Russiagate thing just wasn’t true, though it sure moved a lot of soap units and celebrity operas.

Despite all the other considerations: If that’s how you behave when you lose, I’d rather not see you win.


Michael Totten: ‘Syria’s Bogus Election’

Full piece here.

Interesting take:

‘In the world we live in, however, where the world’s only superpower is a liberal democracy, elections are considered the norm. Political freak-shows like Moammar Qaddafi didn’t even pretend to believe in elections (he argued in his ludicrous Green Book that elections allowed 51 percent of the country to oppress 49 percent), and look at what happened to him. His regime was finally bombed into oblivion, and not by a cowboy like George W. Bush but by the dovish Barack Obama.

Even blood-soaked tyrants like Bashar al-Assad think they’ll benefit at least somewhat by pretending to adopt our political structure. Russia might even pretend to believe Syria’s election results. The Iranian regime and its state-run media will surely pretend to believe’

One of the main reasons the United States won the Cold War, and has such enormous influence wasn’t just because of a belief in the eventuality of peace and/or mostly non-interventionist democracy promotion.

It was a Cold War, which occasionally got hot, and where points around the globe could become part of a chessboard with nuclear consequences.

The Korean War, the Cuban Missile crisis, the Vietnam War, or even the Yom Kippur war all had this larger backdrop at play, whatever your thoughts on those conflicts.

North Korea and Iran are still trying to join the club with deliverable nukes.  Russia and China are not necessarily seeing themselves as part of an ‘international community.’ (these are complex relationships to manage, indeed).

From my perspective, the human-rights crowd puts too many carts before too many horses, and despite having the brakes of realpolitik on human rights idealism, the pursuit of these ideals on a global scale often leads to relatively dysfunctional institutions and international laws that still require, of course, force behind them (which the U.S. is still largely bankrolling and providing).

Human rights activists, progressives, secular universalists etc. often tend to believe their ideals are universals, and thus ought to form the foundation for global cooperation and the pursuit of mutual interests under international institutions usually designed by themselves (issues like global warming, human rights abuses., the campaign for women and girls come to the fore).

As I currently see it (my opinion and $1 gets you…$1), the idea of pure, equal democracy doesn’t exist, nor can it exist, nationally, nor globally, except as an ideal. As I also see it, we live in a Constitutional Republic, with a functioning democracy, as we gaze out at a dangerous, ever changing, often poorly understood, world.

We need alliances and strategies, and probably to maintain low-level conflicts in order to maintain security enough to prevent worse outcomes and threats of bigger conflicts.

Other goods can come out of that, of course, genuine and arguably vital goods. That said, a little more realism would be nice, not merely the realism that is claimed to grounding the quite Left-liberal peace activism and idealism of the current U.S. administration, which has its own ambitions and dangers, and threats to freedom at home.

I don’t know exactly what you do with a loon and a thug like Gadhafi, but long speeches at the U.N. only highlight some of the ill-designed incentives and current problems with international institutions:

Related On This Site: Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

I received a copy of Totten’s book, Where The West Ends, and it’s good reading.

Ross Douthat At The NY Times: ‘The Liberal Gloat’

Full piece here.

Despite the title, it’s reasonable.  Are we in decline, and just fighting over the spoils?:

‘Or consider the secular vote, which has been growing swiftly and tilts heavily toward Democrats. The liberal image of a non-churchgoing American is probably the “spiritual but not religious” seeker, or the bright young atheist reading Richard Dawkins. But the typical unchurched American is just as often an underemployed working-class man, whose secularism is less an intellectual choice than a symptom of his disconnection from community in general.

What unites all of these stories is the growing failure of America’s local associations — civic, familial, religious — to foster stability, encourage solidarity and make mobility possible.’

Are we leading ourselves down the garden path towards old Europe?  Which ideas will lead the way, at least in our politics?

Related On This Site:  I find myself attracted to the slow decline, realism model, whether or not it’s correct:  Ross Douthat At The NY Times: ‘Washington Versus America’  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’

Charles Murray is trying to get virtue back with the social sciences: Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

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.
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”

Still reliving the 60′s?  With all these drivers of change, with what we are replacing the Church and civic associations…a belief in Reason, and progress…where can that lead?: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”….Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

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Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘NYT, WaPo Get It Mostly Right on Egypt, Libya’

Full piece here.

‘As regards Egypt, both the New York Times’ and the Washington Post’s main stories corroborated and detailed the gist of what I have been saying over the past week or two: the military is negotiating the results of the presidential election. It is trying to work a deal in a situation where it holds most, but not all, of the leverage.’


‘The way things stand now, Morsi is supreme over the façade of the Egyptian state, but the SCAF rules the “deep state.” This resembles in some ways the situation in Turkey from the mid-1920s all the way into the 1990s (not that Egyptians deliberately modeled the current mess after the Turkish experience). Thus arrangements like this can last a long time—or not. Time will tell’

And as Garfinkle points out, the U.S. has almost zero say in what happens.  A previous post on here was perhaps giving the Muslim Brotherhood (out of fear of dealing with a Brotherhood led Egypt) too much credit.  Perhaps also the leading edge of Western involvement to change Egypt (however much it could) was a more liberal internationalist, coalition-based, often hopelessly protest-based vision of liberal democracy coming to Egypt.  This will validate, for some, such an approach (the Arab Spring worked!…the Arab world has tilted toward greater freedom and human rights) come what may.

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’

From The Economist: Losing Afghanistan?

Full article here.

As of August 27th:

“A civilian surge is also needed, to help Afghanistan build a government worth voting for. If the fortune spent allowing Afghanistan to hold this election has helped highlight that need, it may not have been totally wasted.”

As of August 20th

“Taking even the rosiest view, the war in Afghanistan is likely to get more expensive, and worse, before it gets better. The mini-surge this year to enable the election to take place in most of the country will probably be followed by another to try to contain the growing insurgency.”

Better?  But what’s the strategy?  Karzai’s government has corruption problems.  And with such a lack of infrastructure, political unity (especially in the more tribal south), education etc. the lures of corruption seem to be far from counter-balanced and stabilized.

Seth G Jones wrote a book and discusses it here (we pulled resources out of Afghanistan to fight Iraq at a crucial time, we have been trying to build a democracy with the budget of counter-insurgency):  In The Graveyard Of Empires

American and British support is still on the wane.  Wikipedia has a roundup here.

See Also On This Site:  From Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”  From CSIS-Anthony Cordesman On “The Afghanistan Campaign: Can We Win?”  Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”

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Anne Applebaum In Slate On The Afghanistan Election: August 19th, 2009

Full post here.

Missed this one.  Interesting quote:

“And if, for any reason, a legitimate president does not emerge? Then the tangled webs will once again unfurl themselves, the clans and the tribes and the paid mercenaries will start choosing sides, the people who blow up polling stations will have gained credibility—and we will have to think hard about whether to stay in Afghanistan.”

We already know the Taliban gains by faulty elections, or by no elections at all.  Why else threaten to kill voters?

The National Post talked with Abdullah Abdullah on the phone, the previous Karzai government’s foreign minister running for president, who claims there ‘s been a lot of vote-rigging.

See Also On This Site:  From Informed Comment: On The Afghan Elections So FarFrom Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

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From Informed Comment: On The Afghan Elections So Far

Full post here (a good round-up).

Not so positive:

“Violence that left some 50 dead, and a relatively low turnout in some provinces marred Afghanistan’s presidential election on Thursday.”

Hillary Clinton’s Pre-Election Statement:

“Presidential candidates have debated each other in public and travelled throughout the country to talk to voters. The Afghan media and Afghan leaders have made politics accessible to Afghans in new ways.”

True, and it’s taken a lot of courage to do so.  But can this mission overcome the vacuum in national identity, lack of education, and very weak economy (a vacuum which fills quickly with corruption, the Taliban, and poppies? ).   I’m probably observing this through the current lens of waning U.S. public support for the war, but how far is our interest in protecting from another terrorist attack and creating stability in the region from a sustainable Afghani government?

How to proceed?

CSIS has more here.

Also On This Site:  From Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

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