Henry Kissinger At CapX: ‘Chaos And Order In A Changing World’

Full piece here.

A rundown on global politics led by a comparison with what was facing British leadership under Margaret Thatcher, as applied to Russia, China, and the Middle East.

Kissinger:

‘She put forward challenges which, in their essence, are even more urgent today:

  • Should Russia be regarded as a potential threat or a partner?
  • Should NATO turn its attention to “out of area” issues?
  • Should NATO admit the new democracies of Central Europe with full responsibilities as quickly as prudently possible?
  • Should Europe develop its own “defense identity” in NATO?’

Click through a brief analysis of each of the ‘out of area’ players.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

He finishes with:

If the West stays engaged without a geo-strategic plan, chaos will grow. If it withdraws in concept or in fact—as has been the temptation over the past decade—great powers like China and India, which cannot afford chaos along their borders or turmoil within them, will gradually step into the West’s place together with Russia. The pattern of world politics of recent centuries will be overthrown.

Kissinger has been consistent in applying a lifetime of experience in diplomacy and the halls of power, profound Kantian-influenced idealism, and high ambition in providing grand visions and strategies of world players and events.

As he points out, each ethnic group, nation state and civilization has its own history, character, internal struggles and challenges.  It would serve American decision-makers well to have some awareness of who we’re dealing with, as many of these players have interests in direct conflict with American, Anglosphere and Western interests.

Imagine you are getting the daily intel briefings describing Russian meddling and constant attempts to destabilize American institutions (Cold War games go on, comrade), or the constant state-sponsored Chinese attempts to probe and hack American business and national defense interests.  It’s par for the course and everybody does it!

Imagine someone’s advising you of Iranian regime-support of nuclear black-market technology-swapping and terrorism against American assets and interests throughout the Middle-East (wow, there are some nasty people in Tehran).

The Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment West is probably still in an export phase of influence, but others do not necessarily think as we do, and the world can be a pretty dangerous, lawless and challenging place.

As previously posted: On Niall Ferguson’s new Biography (Kissinger’s probably such a bogeyman to some on the Left because he has an aroma of the heretic, or someone who broke with the ideals, or compromised)- ‘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:

A good background and synopsis of American/Iranian diplomacy, and of the Iranian regime’s likely aims to become a Shia-led, anti-American/Western Islamist Republic dominating the Middle-East with deliverable nukes:

‘Some adjustments are inherent in the inevitable process of historic evolution. But we must avoid an outcome in which Iran, freed from an onerous sanctions regime, emerges as a de facto nuclear power leading an Islamist camp, while traditional allies lose confidence in the credibility of American commitments and follow the Iranian model toward a nuclear-weapons capability, if only to balance it.

Future generations’ prospects and American blood is still on the line.

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?’

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’

How does America lead or pursue its interests in this new landscape?:  We need to confront the rise of Islamism and the realities of many Muslim societies through our policy.  Putting women’s rights and international institutions front and center when you’re dealing with Al Qaida and the Taliban, assorted enemies, a suspicious China and a weaker adversarial Russia has serious problems …Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill…Daniel Deudney tries to build a global raft partially upon Kant’s idealism and says the global institutions we’ve got are better than nothing: Repost-Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: ‘Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy’

Some Links On That ‘Community Of Nations’-North Korea And The Use Of Force

From Millenial Transmissions-‘John Stuart Mill Predicts Soviet Communism’

Well, predictions are hard, especially about the future…:

I’ll just pull part of the quote:

‘The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it; and a State which postpones the interests of their mental expansion and elevation, to a little more of administrative skill, or of that semblance of it which practice gives, in the details of business; a State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything, will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred to banish.”

Mill provided a fairly comprehensive underlying moral philosophy as to why to individual liberty should be championed; deep reasons as to how you should live and what you should do towards these ends.

It’s odd that some in the West look upon the post-ish-Communist landscape (China, Russia, North Korea) and merely see States not sufficiently included within ‘the community of nations.’  This, rather than seeing States with vastly different, and often competing traditions and interests than oursand who are still often crushing individual liberty underfoot.

It must be said that such folks in the West harbor deep sympathies with Communist collectivist ideological constructs themselves, or at least a kind of one-world secular idealism which sees any use of force as illegitimate (often on the way to radical and revolutionary freedom, or perhaps…something more like a global collective).

As you’ve noticed, there’s still a thoroughly bankrupt, totalitarian regime on the path to deliverable nukes in North Korea (yes it still possesses a reasonably competent military seeking all aspects of nuclear delivery…for all the worst reasons).

Force and the threat of force are still on the table, but now there appear to be fewer good options in the halls of American power.

From The Atlantic (complete with a standard underlying suspicion of all ideas realist and nationalist):

‘Kim Jong Un must be made to understand that, under no uncertain terms, can he ever use his nuclear weapons; doing so would mean the end of North Korea. Whether the United States likes it or not, the country now poses a clear strategic threat, and it must be treated as such.’

America has a soft and hard power game to play in the Asian theater in order to foster the kinds of freedom that lead to greater trade, understanding and knowledge, as I see it.  Self-interest is often a reasonably honest, and reliable guide.

For even if we apply Mill’s thinking to the South Koreans, the Japanese, and the Chinese, depending on circumstances, individuals with whom we deal may not return the favor, especially with their own interests and obligations to the traditions, governments, and institutions of which they are a part.

In the meantime, the mess that is North Korea sits on their doorsteps, after all, and seeks to increase its scope to our shores.

A previous piece here.

Via Readers-Two North Korea Links

What are some things China might have to gain and lose from a still-existing North Korean regime?

Some people have a lot of experience with this problem:


Even if there were a global collective and community of nations honoring every single human-rights bill and charter it would still use force and the threat of force…I should think.

So much for ideals of peace and harmony promised? (delivery from history and much of our own natures).

Where are we headed, here?

As previously posted:  Richard Epstein ‘Barack vs. Bibi:’ takes the classical liberal, non anti-war libertarian position (regarding Obama):

‘In the end, it is critical to understand that the current weaknesses in American foreign policy stem from the President’s adamant reluctance to commit to the use of American force in international relations, whether with Israel, Iran or with ISIS. Starting from that position, the President has to make huge unilateral concessions, and force his allies to do the same thing. Right now his only expertise is leading from behind.  The President has to learn to be tough in negotiations with his enemies. Right now, sadly, he has demonstrated that toughness only in his relationships with America’s friends and allies.’

From Malcolm Greenhill: ‘I believe my good friend, Jeff Hummel, has made the best attempt so far at solving the public goods problem of national defense:’

http://mises.org/document/274/National-Goods-versus-Public-Goods-Defense-Disarmament-and-Free-Riders

On this site, see: George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Update & Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Full piece here.

Sandall reviews Robin Fox’s book “Tribal Imagination: Civilization And the Savage Mind”.

‘New political understandings are being launched each day, it seems. From one quarter comes what we might call Praetorian Realism, an acknowledgment of Samuel Huntington’s scenario for the military disciplining of civil chaos in modernizing lands. From another comes Matrix Realism, emphasizing the army’s role in the institutional order of the Arab countries. In this expansive intellectual climate, with its growing range of options, perhaps there’s room for one more entrant. Let’s call it Tribal Realism, the aim being to bring anthropological insights to bear on our political prospects abroad.’

So, where do the social-sciences and foreign-policy fruitfully meet? Sandall argues Fox’s then new book can point out quite how we often misunderstand other parts of the world as we project our own traditions, definitions of freedom, and democratic ideals upon it:

‘Fox knows what Tierney and most other educated Americans apparently do not: that tribal communities are the default system of human social nature. Humanity evolved that way for millennia after exiting the hunter-gatherer band stage of social life. Many of the planet’s diverse societies have since moved on toward becoming modern states, but not all of them have. And even for those that have, the shadowy emotional residues of the distant past remain.’

Fox puts his thinking into a framework of evolutionary theory (as opposed to, say, religious doctrines).

‘Fox sees the European habit of viewing society as a loose aggregate of autonomous individuals as a barrier to understanding. It prevents us from seeing the truth of Ernest Gellner’s argument in Muslim Society that, under Islam, “the individual acts toward the state essentially through the mediation of his kin group.” It equally prevents us from seeing that in ancient Greece (meaning the Greece of legend that long preceded the reforms of Cleisthenes and the rationalistic speculations of Plato and Aristotle), both autonomous individuals and the state itself were problematic.’

Food for thought, as I always think it’s important to point out that secular post-Enlightenment ideals can suffer many of the same problems as religion when sailing into contact, conflict and engagement with other parts of the world, as that world can be a dangerous place.

I like how Kenneth Minogue came at the problem of Western civilization vs what he argued exists in much of the rest of the world:  ‘One-right order’ societies, or civilizations much more hierarchical and limited in individual freedoms and economic opportunities to which those in the West are accustomed.

Minogue also highlights what he sees as important differences between libertarians and conservatives during his critique of political idealism in the video below. On this site, see: Where The Libertarian And Conservative Often Part Ways-Arnold Kling On Ken Minogue’s ‘The Servile Mind’

Related On This Site:  Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily (R.I.P) says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’.

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

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’

Let Me Know Just How Much I’m Missing-Face The Nation’s Interview With Defense Secretary James Mattis

Here’s a May 28th, 2017 interview with the Secretary about current American foreign policy being coordinated through the Departments of Defense and State, under the direction of the President (it still feels a little strange to write….President Trump):

My takeaways below.

  1. Regarding ISIS: ‘Accelerate’ confrontation and engage ISIS where they are, ‘clearing’ them once engaged and isolated (no longer allowing them either maintain territory, disperse and/or regroup).  Let the people on the ground pursue this strategy with a fair amount of latitude. ***As to the psychological, ideological, social, political and religious reasons individuals seem to be joining ISIS…from Molenbeek all the way to Raqqa, worry about that later, I guess.  No more territory and the legitimacy/revenue that comes with territory, seems to be the current plan regarding ISIS, which will require more resources.
  2.  Regarding Turkey’s NATO membership and internal pressures from the Kurdish PKK (Kurdish [Communist] militiamen who are Turkish citizens fighting ISIS), it seems Mattis is more committed to NATO obligations despite Erdogan’s autocratic moves.  The fact that Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish militias/leadership have been primary anti-ISIS combatants, means that Kurds should probably expect to receive some arms/logistical/tactical support during the fight against ISIS, but should probably expect to fend for themselves on any grander scale/later on.
  3. North Korea: While maintaining the DMZ, and honoring South Korean obligations, consulting Japanese leadership and leveraging Chinese influence, the goal is to try and hold the North Korean regime to some account in continuing the process of marrying ICBM technology with nuclear capability to fulfill its presumed ideological supremacy/destiny.  This will also be an attempt to reassert more of a leadership role for American hard and soft power in the region, while trying to deny the North Korean regime’s economic channels.
  4. Try and deal with Russia as it is, which is to say, Russian leadership continues a divide and conquer strategy in Georgia/Ukraine, and also continues the cold logic and vague threat of force with former Soviet satellites in the Baltics, testing the resolve of European and Western leadership and organization.  They’re not playing nice and pursuing a deeply anti-Western strategy (low birth-rates and Russian nationalism is being solidified around an assertive, kleptocratic regime heavily reliant on natural resources).
  5. NATO is not going to be abandoned, but it probably won’t hurt to have members pony-up some dough to realize the fundamental mission of security NATO offers to its members.  You may not need to change the by laws, but let’s make sure the members have reasonable skin in the game and review the membership rules from time to time.

Domestically, I suppose the plan is to maintain as much political/cultural unity in the American Republic as possible (a serious issue, indeed), while reaffirming American alliances abroad around this basic strategy.

Interestingly, Dickerson asks Mattis about Iran, and why post-1979 Iranian revolutionaries always seem to have a hand in all kinds of guns/money/terrorist activity throughout the Middle-East, so often aligning against American interests (Hizbollah in Lebanon, current uprisings in Yemen, meddling in Israel/Palestine etc.).

Mattis attributes this to the nature of their 1979 Islamic revolution, the beliefs and ideals of the people who grabbed and still maintain power in Iran (suppressing political dissent).

This reminded me that some in the West and the Middle-East will argue exactly the same about moral legitimacy since the American revolution (some with better reasons and understanding than others).  Why does America (and not so much Canada, Australia etc.) go around and keep trying to re-make the world in its image?

Isn’t it all just morally relativistic, anyways, man?

And more broadly: Do moral relativism, value pluralism and all manner of modern liberal projects run aground upon the rocks of nihilism?

Correspondence here.

Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:

‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extent that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.

Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘

and about providing a core to liberalism:

‘Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’

And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:

‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘

Are libertarians the true classical liberals?  Much closer to our founding fathers?

What Henry Kissinger still has to offer:

On Burkean Conservatism:

‘The billiard table is a seductive analogy. But in real foreign policy, the billiard balls do not react only to physical impact. They are also guided by their own cultural inheritances: their histories, instincts, ideals, their characteristic national approaches to strategy, in short, their national values. A realist foreign policy needs a strong value system to guide it through the inherent ambiguities of circumstance. Even Bismarck, the supreme realist, emphasized the ultimate moral basis of realist statesmanship: “The best a statesman can do is to listen carefully to the footsteps of God, get ahold of the hem of His cloak and walk with Him a few steps of the way.’

and a partial look at ideas underlying his multipolar vision:

‘The distinction between idealism and realism rejects the experience of history. Idealists do not have a monopoly on moral values; realists must recognize that ideals are also part of reality. We will be less frequently disillusioned if we emphasize a foreign policy designed to accumulate nuance rather than triumph through apocalyptic showdowns, and our values will benefit over the longer term.’

Related On This Site: Isaiah Berlin, as a youth fled a well-integrated family of Latvian Jews to Britain (for his life), subsequently spending more time with Marx than any man should…but also Mill, is value pluralism a response…or does it just lead to the same relativism and nihilism?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray is criticizing many claims to progress in ethics and politics in the Western World, with a heavy Nietzschean influence (man is still capable of great barbarism & achievement) Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

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?’

Michael Totten At The Tower: ‘Why Arming The Kurds Is Worth Angering The Turks’

Full piece here.

‘Two years ago, Eli Lake published a quickly-forgotten Bloomberg View column about a U.S. weapons airdrop in Syria supposedly intended for the Syrian Arab Coalition. The problem is, the Syrian Arab Coalition isn’t real. It’s a made-up front group that exists solely on paper so the Obama administration could say it was arming Arabs when it was really arming Kurds. An unnamed U.S. official admitted to Lake that the group is a “ploy,” and Syrian Kurds confirmed that they received weapons and ammunition.’

Hmmm…so far restoring old alliances seems high on Trump’s list, at least on the surface:

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.

Related On This Site: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

The Same Old Quote From Samuel Huntington While Watching Current Events In Syria

Perhaps now, after eight years, we’ve returned towards some semblance of what came before, but now with many changes in the American cultural/political landscape duly reflected in foreign policy.

The more liberal internationalist and humanitarian discontents (neo-neo-conservatives?) seem ok using American military force to draw clear lines against the use of chemical weapons.

Or perhaps better said: Some liberal internationalists are ok using American military force and patriotism right now for these aims if the international institutional authority to which they are predisposed isn’t forthcoming.

While Donald Trump has triggered many into foaming domestic mistrust, weirdly, he may end-up uniting many humanitarian realpolitikers and pro-military, anti-terrorist, anti-Islamist types with this strike.

Subject to change.

Syria, you’ll recall, was teetering early-on during Obama’s tenure (when Libya involvement was chosen instead), and soon devolved into the horrendous civil conflict we see today:

Many in Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are paying pretty close attention and strategizing accordingly.

In other words, we’ve gone from Peace-Activist-In-Chief back towards the center with a more pro-union, pro-military and socially liberal New York excutive-in-chief making strange bedfellows while also shaping and seeking public sentiment.

A quote from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”

Are we back here again or someplace like it?

My two cents, dear reader.

From Via Media-Obama’s Syria Play A Failure…Michael Totten On The Problem From Hell In Syria

Related On This Site: More Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

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

Via Readers-Two North Korea Links

From Mick Hartley: ‘At The Mausoleum Of The Dear Leader

Take a trip to the Hermit Kingdom:


Via another reader-

Christopher Hitchens on North Korea: ‘Visit To A Small Planet

What about value pluralism…positive and negative liberty?: 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”

Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

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