Foreign Policy

From The Mildly Specific To The Wildly General-Three Links On Erdogan’s Turkey, Douglas Murray And Liberal Idealism

Michael Totten at World Affairs: ‘Turkey Takes Its War Against The Kurds Into Europe

At the same time he’s [Erdogan] been rolling up the Gulenists and the deep staters he’s been mounting a breathtakingly draconian campaign against supposed Kurdish terrorists and their supporters, so far jailing and indicting thousands of civilians—including a Wall Street Journal reporter—on nonsense charges. Hasip Kaplan, once a member of parliament, is facing a 142-year prison term, and the court won’t even let him attend his own trial. As of the end of 2017, the state has arrested more than 11,000 members of his avowedly secular People’s Democratic Party (HDP).  

Well, it reminds this blogger of that Turkish/Armenian demonstration erupting into violence a while back.  Right in front of the White House, no less:

I see Erdogan’s Islamic populism, and the broader Islamic resurgence towards notions of religious purity and ideological conformity, as quite obviously not leading Westwards nor towards any kind of moderation.  Such a man, riding such a wave, towards an authoritarian and rather thuggish consolidation of power could likely yet draw other powers towards conflict.

Modernity and the West (and increasingly the East) have been pressing upon Islamic civilizations, and many of these civilizations have responded by turning inwards, reinforcing the old rules, and continuing to try and synthesize the products of modernity and the West within the Quran.

On a slightly deeper level, I think one of Douglas Murray’s central arguments is that civilizations are actually rather fragile things, requiring the continual consent and contributions of those governed, and a continual re-evaluation of what’s important and what isn’t; what’s true and what isn’t.  Europe, through history-weariness, has produced inadequate political and social leadership as of late.

Personally, I see a rather backed-into economic union in theory, and a somewhat authoritarian and bureacratic labyrinth in practice, made from many good impulses and reasonable fears, but with poor design and many bad impulses and a lot of guilt.

Islamic radicals and genuine terrorists uniting with Western identity-radicals who’ve worked their way into many influential positions (academy, media etc) does not a healthy civilization make.


Perhaps even a little deeper?

Ken Minogue framed it thusly, and he believes there’s going to be some authority in your life, but you’ve got be particularly careful about which kind, and which rules govern that relationship with authority:

Full piece here:

‘Olympianism is the characteristic belief system of today’s secularist, and it has itself many of the features of a religion. For one thing, the fusion of political conviction and moral superiority into a single package resembles the way in which religions (outside liberal states) constitute comprehensive ways of life supplying all that is necessary (in the eyes of believers) for salvation. Again, the religions with which we are familiar are monotheistic and refer everything to a single center. In traditional religions, this is usually God; with Olympianism, it is society, understood ultimately as including the whole of humanity. And Olympianism, like many religions, is keen to proselytize. Its characteristic mode of missionary activity is journalism and the media.’


‘Progress, Communism, and Olympianism: these are three versions of the grand Western project. The first rumbles along in the background of our thought, the second is obviously a complete failure, but Olympianism is not only alive but a positively vibrant force in the way we think now. Above all, it determines the Western moral posture towards the rest of the world. It affirms democracy as an ideal, but carefully manipulates attitudes in a nervous attempt to control opinions hostile to Olympianism, such as beliefs in capital or corporal punishment, racial, and other forms of prejudice, national self-assertion—and indeed, religion.‘

Perhaps what many dark-webbers, some New Atheists, and various other liberal idealists and institutionalists can miss is the following:  The very products of reason, the mathematical and natural sciences, advances in political science and material progress, for example, have also helped to create the conditions for many post-Enlightenment ideological, social and artistic movements to emerge.

Some of these ideological movements are simply totalitarian at their roots, and lead to disaster in practice. We’re still seeing their ruins around us (North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba) while their practioners, priests and adherents continue to colonize and cluster in relatively free Western institutions (orgs and academies, especially).

Some of these post-Enlightenment social movements can provide enough to live a truthful, moral, and decent life, but don’t stop the very human impulse to forget how little one knows, to proselytize and well…form coalitions of believing humans full of various talents and flaws.  There’s a lot of idealism (naive) and utopianism.

To my current thinking (and this really may be more about me), these movements often fail in providing a deep enough moral framework to provide the stability necessary to account for much in human nature and how hard it can be to provide moral legitimacy in positions of authority.

See Also On This SiteFrom The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”/Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism/

Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

Roger Scruton On Moral Relativism And Ross Douthat On Bill Maher

Ayan Hirsi Ali in The NY Times: Lee Harris’s ‘The Suicide Of Reason’

Free speech and Muslims From ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’…  Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks Headbutted

Repost-John Gray Reviews Francis Fukuyama At The Literary Review: ‘Destination Denmark’

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

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’

Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

Part Of The Design? A Few More Thoughts On Events In Iran

What if the Obama administration aimed to take away the leverage propping-up the Revolutionary Guard and the mullahs; clearing the slate of past American financial obligations, thus holding Iran’s leaders much more accountable to their people?

This assumes quite a bit of competence and intent that may not have been present, but if it is a consequence (however intended/unintended), I’d likely support it.

I have been pretty much against the Iran deal, because I’ve been thinking the costs outweigh the benefits:  It yields much American/Western leverage against a rotten regime, it puts what I think is a kind of idealistically misplaced faith in ‘international institutions’ (bankrolled by the U.S. taxpayer), and it may keep those controlling Iran (come what may) on the glide-path towards deliverable nukes.

The following responses to the below tweet might give some demographic insight into who protested in 2009, and who might be doing doing so now in Iran:

Some factions have gone all in for Civil Rights solidarity because it likely throws them a line in from the West (often wealthier, educated people in the suburbs around Tehran).  There are a lot of poorer Iranians with few job prospects, however, who may be fed up with the same old revolutionary rhetoric.

Protests Within Iran, Donald Trump, And Visions Of Political Order-A Few Links And Thoughts

Why I didn’t support the Iran deal (see here)

Carlos Lozada At The Washington Post On Samuel Huntington

Lozada takes a look at some of Samuel Huntington’s work: ‘Samuel Huntington, a Prophet For The Trump Era:

‘Huntington blames pliant politicians and intellectual elites who uphold diversity as the new prime American value, largely because of their misguided guilt toward victims of alleged oppression. So they encourage multiculturalism over a more traditional American identity, he says, and they embrace free trade and porous borders despite the public’s protectionist preferences. It is an uncanny preview of the battles of 2016. Denouncing multiculturalism as “anti-European civilization,” Huntington calls for a renewed nationalism devoted to preserving and enhancing “those qualities that have defined America since its founding.”

Worth a read, though the comments are sadly predictable (Democracy Dies in Darkness!)

Here is Huntington, before his death, discussing ‘The Clash Of Civilizations:’

A few central quotes from this article on Huntington here:

Huntington was instinctively a conservative because he valued an ordered society, but he also championed conservatism as a necessary instrument to defend liberal institutions against communism. In many of his books he attacked idealistic liberals for holding such institutions to impossible, utopian standards that undermined their effectiveness in the world.”


“An iconoclast to the core, Huntington never threw his lot in with left or right. He was too statist to be a libertarian, too realist to embrace neoconservatism, and too sympathetic to nationalism, religion and the military to identify with liberal Democrats. As a conservative Democrat, then, he is an intellectual rarity.”

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’

Political Order In Changing Societies info here, a book likely worth your time.

Repost-Gathered Over The Years: Some Quotes On Multiculturalism

See Also:  Google books has  ‘Who Are We?:  The Challenges To America’s National Identity‘  (previews) available.

From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’Update And Repost-Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’

A Sniper In Syria, Jerusalem, & Radical Campus Chic-Some Links

Via The Atlantic video, via Youtube:

Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest: ‘If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem? Not A Chance

‘…Pretentions of Iranian regional hegemonism have altered Arab state calculations at a time when faith in U.S. protection has waned. Especially if Israeli power can be concorded with Sunni Arab efforts to thwart Iran, selling out the Palestinians would be a small price to pay for that benefit, especially if it could be made to look like something other than a sell-out. And here we have the origin of the aforementioned strangeness.’

Radical campus chic meets a taste of reality.  From the Harvard Crimson, a graduating student reminds of the horrors of Communist ideology, shared from her family’s personal experience:

‘Many in my generation have blurred the reality of communism with the illusion of utopia. I never had that luxury. Growing up, my understanding of communism was personalized; I could see its lasting impact in the faces of my family members telling stories of their past. My perspective toward the ideology is radically different because I know the people who survived it; my relatives continue to wonder about their friends who did not’

All of us, I think, are subtly influenced by not only our own direct experiences, especially while young, but often imperceptibly by those around us, consistently, all throughout our lives; people interested in ideas no less than people who use their hands.

‘Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres’  is a common Spanish phrase, and I’d even heard it a few times in actual conversation while there: ‘Tell me the company you keep; I’ll tell you who you are’.

Whatever your moral lights, there is much activism and radicalism claiming liberation, but often coming with dangerous, collectivizing and totalizing elements harbored within, shaping the perceptions of the people and institutions wherein it can be found.

If these are the people and ideas left to defend liberty (people to whom Communism is radically chic), we’ve got serious trouble.

Some Links On The Kurds And Where Some Moderate U.S. Political Ground Might Be Found

Russia appears a post-ish Communist, revanchist, fairly corrupt petro-State run by a ex-KGB guy. Russian leadership is actively paying individuals, groups and orgs to undermine Western interests and U.S. sovereignty.

If you believe in institutions which promote various conflicting, but often shared, Western-man-on-the-street beliefs in Western secular humanism (democracy promotion, the use of U.S. military force, the use of the U.S. military to preserve liberal world order, expansion of global liberty as residing within individuals, Constitutional and/or Westphalian-style state promotion, working for human rights etc.) then you likely don’t want to see Russian leadership gaining much tactical advantage.

The terrorist-sponsoring, post-1979, expansionist deliverable nuke-seeking gang in Tehran, the clinging, chemical-weapons deploying Assad in Syria, and our ‘friends’ in Moscow all share common interests; undermining U.S. strength and inhibiting Western influence are tops on the list.

Maybe Erdogan, consolidating his power autocratically and riding a deeper wave of Islamic resurgence and sentiment, will keep looking Eastward and continue to play both ends more than he’s doing now.

A lot of moderate political ground is now occupied in the U.S. by people lamenting the major rifts within both U.S. political parties, the celebrification of high office, and the lack of institutional stability, social trust and decently functioning politics. I suspect Trump has become a symptom of, and a lightning rod for, the changes occurring within and without our Republic.

As for the Kurds, well, they have some potential to reflect more of what most Americans would generally like to see out in the world (conveniently found in Israel and in many States having emerged from the Eastern Bloc).


‘The Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis is poised to emerge victorious in the Syria war, stronger than ever, thanks to military assistance from Russia. Assad is surviving the biggest threat to his family’s rule since it seized power four decades ago. Short of political revolutions in Tehran and Moscow, he’s likely to die an old man in office. And he’ll have no incentive whatsoever to change his ways. He’ll continue exporting terrorism all over the region, and the next war between Israel and a now far-stronger Hezbollah will likely make the last one look like a peace process. The Kurds in Syria—our only true friends in that country—are likely to lose everything they have gained without American backing.’

I suppose we’ll see what happens, as the wise Kurdish position appears to be lobbying the hell out of anyone for support while recognizing they’re still on their own, scrambling to survive…

Ofra Bengio At The American Interest: The Kurds’ Proxy Trap
As previously posted

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

The Categorical Imperative And Some Links On Saudi Arabia and Iran

Via Edward Feser via BBC Radio 4–Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason…

Kantian metaphysics can lead to problems in the public square, or at least something of an aesthetic retreat, by individuals, from the public square.  Part of the Anglo-talent for governance has roots in the Humean empiricism Kant was to synthesize within his own platform, and I’d argue this empiricism is culturally much deeper within the Anglo-sphere.  There is often more deference to the uniqueness of each of our experiences and the uniqueness each that case can bring within common-law jurisprudence.

Repost-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Inside every Iranian is a Western peace activist waiting to get out…Via Mick Hartley via The National-Iran’s long-cherished Tehran to Beirut land-bridge moves closer to reality.

From Intelligence Squared: Two people on either side debating whether ‘Obama’s Foreign Policy Is A Failure‘ (some rather unsurprising anti-Trump sentiment is expressed by the panelists at the outset, to some applause by the audience in NYC).

What just happened in Saudi Arabia?  Adam Garfinkle: ‘The 1002nd Arabian Night?

‘Contrary to what the vast majority of Americans seem to think, Saudi Arabia is not a traditional Muslim country. Saudi Arabia is an attenuated neo-fundamentalist country from having been taken over, by force of arms in the early 20th century, by a “revitalization movement”—to use Anthony F.C. Wallace’s classic 1956 description of the type. The Wahhabi movement’


The Trump Administration, just possibly, had one sensible idea in foreign policy: stop playing footsie with the Iranians and organize the Sunnis to confront the real threat—creeping Iranian imperial recidivism—and to whack ISIS at the same time. But having a decent idea and knowing how to make it happen are two different things. The Saudis did not whack ISIS; if any locals did, it was the Kurds, and look where their efforts have got them.

And more broadly: It’s quite possible to bring the problems of other parts of the world into your own neighborhood along with the people you are bringing in.  This can, and and unfortunately, sometimes does, include the worst elements.

Right now, service members and special forces are acting in your name as a U.S. citizen abroad, and local and federal law enforcement officials here at home, and there are many good reasons why.

When we focus on these harsh truths and bear some of the burden they carry, the conversations about freedom and responsibility tend to go better.

Wahhabism in the Balkans?:

With whom can we do business against these worst elements?


Previously on this site: Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

How’s That Iran Deal Going, Exactly?

Perhaps the Valerie Jarrett connection, and the idea that inside every Persian is an activist yearning to bend with the arc of history towards peace, are both at work.

Perhaps too the idea that ‘colonial’ oppression has generally been a force for ill: American military strength is only really morally justified by bending it towards international institutions and ideals of peace activism.

But, what do I really know?

From afar, I recall thinking our foreign policy was being driven by a rather naive grab-bag of Western secular humanism, activism and Model UN-type inexperience during the Obama years.

The logic led to empowering many who displayed adherence and allegiance to the ideas and the policy vision. Or maybe just more than usual.

We could well end-up having removed much ‘will’ of the international community by removing the economic sanctions in place against Iran; emboldening a deeply corrupt, dishonest regime seeking deliverable nukes, running guns, money and terrorism around the region.

We could make the likelihood of an arms race (in an unstable place where we really don’t want a nuclear arms race) as likely, potentially kicking the inevitable conflicts over deeper issues down the road.

What have we as American citizens gained in terms of security, economic interests and influence?

What have we lost?

Repost-Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

Friday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill

Sent in by a reader a while ago now:

In his essay Representative Government, Jon Stuart Mill identified three fundamental conditions which the Carter administration would do well to ponder.  These are: “One, that the people should be willing to receive it [representative government]; two, that they should be willing and able to do what is necessary for its preservation; three, that they should be willing and able to fulfill the duties and discharge the functions which it imposes on them.”

-From Dictatorship And Double Standards.

Repost-Christopher Hitchens & William F Buckley On Anglo-American Relations


Subject: ‘Is England Still Influencing America?’ on Hitchens’ book ‘Blood, Class, & Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies‘ when Hitchens’ was pushing the idea that ’empire’ was the primary transmission, apparently due to his ideological commitments at the time. America must have seemed a classless paradise with institutions well-functioning and ripe to achieve justice and equality for the whole world…for some folks in the Generation of ’68.

*Includes the Firing Line opening theme of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (those damned Germans influencing us) followed by a Michael Kinsley introduction (founding editor of Slate, which has since gone more progressive under recent management).

Here Is Hard To See-A Discussion Of Foreign Policy And Some Possibilities For Trump: Eliot Cohen On ‘The Big Stick’

Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

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

A Few Links On Afghanistan & AfPak

Via Soundcloud, throwing some ideas out there:  Stefan Molyneux talks with Erik Prince about strategy in Afghanistan (~25:00 min). Prince has self-interest in highlighting the bloat and waste once the Pentagon gets involved, but you know, once any organization get as big as the Pentagon (inviting policies of inclusiveness and equality and diversity, potentially above mission), then there’s bound to be a lot of waste.

My basic takeaway:  Underlying American strategic objectives can and should be met with sleeker design: This would include targeted training of Afghan Army batallions and more counter-insurgency targeting of the kinds of people flowing back and forth over the Pakistani border.

Privatization, basically, means paying people with skills to do the dirty work.

As Prince points out, if coalition forces withdraw entirely, the Taliban could likely take control within a year, and remnants of IS, Al Qaeda and militant terrorist and nuke-seeking types could easily find safe-haven, battling for power amongst themselves in a mostly lawless region, posing serious risk to American and Western security once again.

**Strategically, East Asia and Eurasia seem to be gaining greater importance.


It’s almost like there’s a war of sorts going on:

As posted:

Robert Kaplan makes the argument that geography and history are destiny in Pakistan’s case:

‘Pakistan encompasses the frontier of the subcontinent, a region that even the British were unable to incorporate into their bureaucracy, running it instead as a military fiefdom, making deals with the tribes. Thus, Pakistan did not inherit the stabilizing civilian institutions that India did. Winston Churchill’s first book as a young man, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, wonderfully captures the challenges facing colonial border troops in British India. As the young author then concluded, the only way to function in this part of the world is through “a system of gradual advance, of political intrigue among the tribes, of subsidies and small expeditions.’


‘The term AfPak itself, popularized by the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke, indicates two failed states — otherwise, they would share a strong border and would not have to be conjoined in one word. Let me provide the real meaning of AfPak, as defined by geography and history: It is a rump Islamic greater Punjab — the tip of the demographic spear of the Indian subcontinent toward which all trade routes between southern Central Asia and the Indus Valley are drawn — exerting its power over Pashtunistan and Baluchistan, just as Punjab has since time immemorial.’

Related On This Site:  18 million people and growing: Via Youtube Via Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘VICE Guide To Karachi’

Related On This SiteFrom March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanStephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Running Out Of Time For Afghan Governance Reform’

Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Monday Quotations-Henry KissingerTom Ricks Via Foreign Policy: ‘American General Dies In Afghanistan; An American Lt. Col. Goes Off The Reservation

Pauline Baker At The American Interest: ‘Unraveling Afghanistan’