Repost-A Cold Dose Of Realism-‘Americans Play Monopoly, Russians Chess’

Full piece here. (originally posted eight years ago now….perhaps worth re-considering as to who’s got accurate intellectual maps)

Neo-cons, humanists, human-rights advocates…religious and secular idealists, missionaries of all stripes who want to see more freedom and democracy cast in our image…it’s good to get other points of view:

David Goldman wrote the following back in 2008, a few years after Ukraine’s Orange Revolutionjust as Georgia was flaring up, and when Putin stepped-in (to Georgia) to maximize his advantage:

‘The place to avert tragedy is in Ukraine. Russia will not permit Ukraine to drift to the West. Whether a country that never had an independent national existence prior to the collapse of communism should become the poster-child for national self-determination is a different question. The West has two choices: draw a line in the sand around Ukraine, or trade it to the Russians for something more important.

My proposal is simple: Russia’s help in containing nuclear proliferation and terrorism in the Middle East is of infinitely greater import to the West than the dubious self-determination of Ukraine. The West should do its best to pretend that the “Orange” revolution of 2004 and 2005 never happened, and secure Russia’s assistance in the Iranian nuclear issue as well as energy security in return for an understanding of Russia’s existential requirements in the near abroad. Anyone who thinks this sounds cynical should spend a week in Kiev.’

The argument is pretty clear:  Putin is looking at demographic decline, and he’s an ex-KGB ethno-nationalist looking to keep the empire together:

‘Russia is not an ethnicity but an empire, the outcome of hundreds of years of Russification. That Russification has been brutal is an understatement, but it is what created Russia out of the ethnic morass around the Volga river basin. One of the best accounts of Russia’s character comes from Eugene Rosenstock-Huessey (Franz Rosenzweig’s cousin and sometime collaborator) in his 1938 book Out of Revolution. Russia’s territory tripled between the 16th and 18th centuries, he observes, and the agency of its expansion was a unique Russian type.’

Worth a read.

Related On This SiteRobert Merry At The National Interest: ‘Spengler’s Ominous Prophecy’“Spengler” At PJ Media: ‘Lessons From Europe’s Winners And Losers’

Is Barack Obama A Realist?From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

Kasparov, Kerry, Putin & Obama?-Some Links On Ukraine

To See Them Driven Before You-A Few Links

Via Mick Hartley, via Jack Watling at the Jewish Chronicle:

The promise of de-communisation was rather more personal for Putin. While he admired the power of the Soviet empire, he and many other intelligence officers who had lived in the West harboured little respect for communist ideology. Indeed, for Putin, Lenin’s revolution was not a triumph, but the infiltration of Russia by a German-sponsored agent who had destroyed the Russian Empire. Now facing the threat of contagion from a revolutionary democratic government in Kyiv, the threat of de-communisation speaks to a pervasive fear of subversion through “colour revolution”.

Maybe there are elements of Peter the Great, the Russian Revolution, and the Cold War experience all at play. As for Putin’s intentions, I’ll go by his actions in Georgia, Belarus, and now, Ukraine.

Notice it’s the older, Eastern empires which went and imported Marxist code, possibly because Marxism leads to a kind of tyranny of the autocrat (more endemic to the human condition and Eastern empires).

Other Western exports could have conceivably saved tens of millions of lives.

Ah, well.

In the meantime, many radicals in the West harbor similar dreams (the Revolutionary’s righteous action is much preferable to, say, George Washington after victory).

Everything must go!

The below is probably worth reposting, as to why elements beneath Western liberalism bear much more resemblance to Marxist doctrine (identity politics and collectivism) than J.S. Mill.

Many mainstream publications (NPR, The Atlantic, The New Yorker) are in constant negotiations with activists and radicals (driving the change they’d like to see, leading to a kind of utopian ideal). They tend to be most comfortable with visible enemies who are oppressing them, as I suspect the light of liberation and resentment of ‘the oppressor’ is a primary motivation (not necessarily real freedom and the responsibility that come with freedom). This, of course, leads to deeply undemocratic outcomes and the kinds of law and order breakdown we’ve seen in cities like Seattle, Portland, NYC and San Francisco.

Many folks have explained why Communist revolutions begin in violence and end in such misery, and why so many followers cling to these doctrines (in our universities) with a sort of religious fervor, selectively blind hope, and continued loyalty.

Or at least some folks held their ground and documented the mess:

Robert Conquest At The Hoover Institution: ‘When Goodness Won’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’

Michael Moynihan takes a look at how some in the Western media and in positions of influence have handled the death of what is essentially, a brutal dictator:

Still Stuck On Castro:

‘The preceding days have demonstrated that information peddled by Castro’s legion of academic and celebrity apologists has deeply penetrated the mainstream media consciousness, with credulous reporting sundry revolutionary “successes” of the regime: not so good on free speech, but oh-so-enviable on health care and education.’

and:

‘And how does Reuters describe Castro? After 50 years of brutal one-party rule, to apply the appellation “dictator” seems a rather contentious issue: “Vilified by opponents as a totalitarian dictator, Castro is admired in many Third World nations for standing up to the United States and providing free education and health care.” And again, we return to education and health care.’

Democratic socialism, and social democracy, are often just the distance some folks have migrated from their previous ideological commitments (tolerating market reforms and ‘neo-liberal’ economic policy out of necessity, not necessarily a change of heart nor mind).

For others it may be the distance they’ve unconsciously drifted towards such ideas more recently.

For other brave souls, it may be the distance required to stick one’s fingers into the political breezes which blow over the floor of the EU, in order to ‘stay engaged’:

Remember, this is the non-elected President of the EU Commission. 

With the death of #FidelCastro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many. https://t.co/u0ULZoG8Fl

— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) November 26, 2016

Michael Totten relays an anecdote here:

He told me about what happened at his sister’s elementary school a few years after Castro took over.

“Do you want ice cream and dulces (sweets),” his sister’s teacher, a staunch Fidelista, asked the class.

“Yes!” the kids said.

“Okay, then,” she said. “Put your hands together, bow your heads, and pray to God that he brings you ice cream and dulces.”

Nothing happened, of course. God did not did not provide the children with ice cream or dulces.

 “Now,” the teacher said. “Put your hands together and pray to Fidel that the Revolution gives you ice cream and sweets.”

The kids closed their eyes and bowed their heads. They prayed to Fidel Castro. And when the kids raised their heads and opened their eyes, ice cream and dulces had miraculously appeared on the teacher’s desk.’

As previously posted:

Michael Moynihan reviewed Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ which praised the Cuban Health Care System.

Christopher Hitchens took a helicopter ride with Sean Penn, and that tracksuit-wearing strongman of the people, Hugo Chavez-Hugo Boss:

It’s a long way out of socialist and revolutionary solidarity, which continually occupies the South American mind. One more revolution: Adam Kirsch takes a look at Mario Vargas Llosa. The Dream Of The Peruvian.

——————

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

Related On This Site:  What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some LinksSandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

Two Links To UnHerd-John Gray On Western Universalism And Matthew Crawford On Safetyism

Up First: John Gray speaks to Western Universalism, and a ‘convergence of divergence’ when it comes to separate thinkers positing a liberal telos. Of course, philosophers never agree about the roots of things. When one comes to understand a few thinkers, they can seem like trees, awkwardly growing atop a plain, dug into differing soil.

Is it all the same soil?

Russian and Chinese interests and leadership, as well localism within interconnected networks, might be evidence working against many Western Universalist claims. Distance-shortening technologies won’t simply manifest a world any one of us, alone, or in groups, might be working towards.

It looks to me more like liberalism in the U.S. has been heading towards rule with technocratic elements, bureaucratic elements, liberation elements, and a rather authoritarian hand.

Freedom is next!

Now, what about Safetyism? Might it be a sub-category of above described liberal thinking?

For the case: Rationalist rule, and rule by something which appears like the scientific method (soon softening into mild corruption), is kind of meek. It tends to eschew honor, viewing codes of honor, nationalism, and local traditions as relics blocking an historically emergent Global Order.

Results vary.

The radicalism in the ‘liberal church’, so endemic, I think, to human nature, seems to be forming powerful new quasi-religious, moral movements.

Such ideals must unite vastly differing groups, often both identity and individualist, radically collectivist and pro-market, into political coalitions seeking power and influence.

Wear a mask! Don’t go outside! Cars are dangerous! Put that helmet on, mister.

No, really, put it on.

Matthew Crawford discusses:

Via A Reader-Link To 60 Minutes Australia On China In The South Pacific

Hmmm…that could be worth watching.

If you live in a society which hasn’t developed a profound and enduring concept of the individual in relation to the group, moral philosophies dedicated to the defense of individual liberty, laws emerging from the free association of individuals entering and leaving contracts with authority and with each other, well…,you might be living under a post-ish Communist centralized party apparatus laid atop a few-thousand year-old hierarchy laid atop a rapidly changing chaotic civilization.

Christopher Balding (via Marginal Revolution) has some thoughts about China during his nine years living there, and the turn taken under Xi:

‘I want to make perfectly clear that any complaints I wrote about in any forum are reflective only of my concerns about the illiberal, authoritarian communist government of China and not the Chinese people. Most professor colleagues, even those I would consider pro-Party, were good colleagues whom I enjoyed talking, debating(yes, it happens behind closed doors and I learned a lot from them)…’

As posted:

Tyler Cowen from his blog: ‘The Rise And Fall Of The Chinese Economy

============

From a George F Kennan article written in 1948 on China.

My how times have changed!:

‘From the analysis in this paper of demographic and economic factors it is concluded that for years to come China will probably be plagued by (1) an implacable population pressure, which is likely to result in (2) a general standard of living around and below the subsistence level, which in turn will tend to cause (3) popular unrest (4) economic backwardness, (5) cultural lag, and (6) an uncontrolled crude birth rate.

The political alternatives which this vicious cycle will permit for China’s future are chaos or authoritarianism. Democracy cannot take root in so harsh an environment.

Authoritarianism may be able to break the cycle by drastic means, such as forcible “socialization”. At best, such measures could be put into effect only at heavy and long protracted cost to the whole social structure; at worst they could provoke such rebellion as to recreate a state of chaos.’

As previously posted:

=========================

Interesting piece here.

Our author reviews Evan Osnos’ book about his 8 years spent living on the ground in China:

‘For its part, the government seems to be making efforts to get a grasp on public opinion, though they stem more from its need to buttress its own chances of survival than from any democratic instinct. Attempts at opinion polling have not gone well, mainly because most Chinese are wary about voicing criticism of the government to a stranger on the phone. Nevertheless, there is the sense that the leaders are aware that the ground is shifting. They just don’t know where it is shifting to—and no one else does, either. There is an obsession with establishing the “central melody” of the current culture, but the tune keeps slipping away.’

What’s life like in Beijing for an American editing an English-language Business Magazine?

Interesting quote on author Eveline Chao’s censor:

‘I understood then the mundane nature of all that kept her in place. A job she didn’t like, but worked hard to keep. A system that would never reward her for good work, only punish her for mistakes. And in exchange: Tutors. Traffic. Expensive drumming lessons. They were the same things that kept anyone, anywhere, in place — and it was the very ordinariness of these things that made them intractable.’

Also On This Site: TED Via Youtube: Martin Jacques ‘Understanding The Rise Of China’From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Geography Of Chinese Power’From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’Repost-From The American Interest Online: Niall Ferguson on ‘What Chimerica Hath Wrought’

A Few Syria Links-Walking The Current American Libertarian-Conservative Line

Michael Totten on the Syria attacks: ‘The Case For Bombing Assad:’

‘The Assad regime won’t disappear or suddenly turn into a model of good government by a couple of punishing strikes, nor will the number of Syrian dead in the future be reduced even by one. Those are not the objectives. The objective is (or at least should be) making the use of a weapon of mass destruction more costly than not using it, to demonstrate not just to Assad but also to every other would-be war criminal that the norm established in 1993 on behalf of every human being will not go down without a fight.’

Richard Epstein: ‘Trump’s Forceful Syrian Gambit’

‘There should be no doubt, however, that taking a strong stand against a determined enemy will always raise the stakes of foreign policy—such as when John F. Kennedy faced down the Russians in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which was precipitated, in large part, by the weakness America displayed at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. A systematically passive military strategy points in only one direction: down. Today, the policy is shifting in a more favorable manner. Obama summarily fired General Mattis as head of Central Command in January 2013. He is now Trump’s Secretary of Defense—I count that as progress.’

Walter Russell Mead: ‘Trump’s Realist Syria Strategy’ (behind a WSJ paywall):

‘The tangled politics of last week’s missile strikes illustrate the contradictions in Mr. Trump’s approach. The president is a realist who believes that international relations are both highly competitive and zero-sum. If Iran and Russia threaten the balance of power in the Middle East, it is necessary to work with any country in the region that will counter them, irrespective of its human-rights record. The question is not whether there are political prisoners in Egypt; the question is whether Egypt shares U.S. interests when it comes to opposing Iran.’

As previously posted:

Many years ago, now, Charles Hill to some extent, and Fouad Ajami more so, argued for some action in Syria, as part of a larger strategic vision, a bolder, Trumanesque step that would define a new age of American influence (addition: or at least maintain our influence. We are signaling to the world that we are no longer leading and pursuing our interests, supporting freedom as we understand and want to see it, and we probably won’t like the world we’ll see). Agree or disagree, they’ve got some things right:

————————-

A quote from Hill’s forward to Ajami’s new book on Syria as discussed in the video:

“[The] greatest strategic challenge of the twenty-first century is involves “reversing Islamic radicalism”‘

What is our mission here? What is the larger strategy?

Related On This Site: …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

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

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

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).

Totten:

‘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.

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’

Passed Along By A Reader-Robert Satloff’s 10 Questions For Obama On Iran

Jeffrey Goldberg has reproduced the questions without comment at The Atlantic.  Some of them are pretty good.

Click through.

Here are a few concerns I’ve produced in the last 20 minutes:

In working to constrain the use and threat of military force to the strict conditions of the deal (the terms of which have gradually grown more lax), are you prepared to deal with the continued fallout of rewarding the Moscow-Damascus-Tehran alliance, traditionally adversarial to U.S. interests?

In setting such narrow conditions for the use of American force, have you not inherently given Putin leverage in Ukraine and possibly increased the likelihood of raised tensions in the Baltics and a flare-up along old Eastern boundaries?

Do you envision a longer-term American strategy regarding the bitter Syrian civil war, Assad’s regime still clinging to power (and chemical weapons), and the subsequent growth of Daesh/Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, which also can threaten U.S. interests?

By riding a wave American isolationist sentiment at home, funneling foreign policy decision-making through a smaller group of like minds and executive branch management (away from State and a lot of experienced, principled men and women), have you not weakened American foreign policy by splitting the parties and country along partisan lines in order to achieve your objectives?

Add your own!

Another Addition: Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill  Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft of perpetual peace?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

Putin, Labour & Meta-Mod

What do you do when you’re an ex-KGB guy running a deeply corrupt, post-Soviet petro-State by stoking the flames of Russian nationalist identity to cement yourself and the country around your rule?

Kirk Bennett at the American Interest: ‘The Failures Of Putin’s Ukraine Strategy:’

‘Besides working sympathetic European leaders, Moscow has also cultivated a motley array of right- and left-wing extremists, people often of diametrically opposed political orientations united only by their hatred of Washington and Brussels. However, even where such groups attract a stable portion of their national electorates and can reasonably aspire to enter governing coalitions, they tend to have only a marginal influence on policy, particularly foreign policy’

Brendan O’Neill at Spiked on the British elections as he sees them: ‘Election 2015:  Social Democracy Is Dead. Don’t Mourn:’

‘This collapse of Labour in Scotland and growth of Labour in London is about so much more than last year’s independence referendum (some are blaming Labour’s decision to align with the Tories in that referendum for its poor showing now) or the fall of the Lib Dems everywhere (which created the space for Labour gains in London). It tells a bigger, longer, more historic story about what is becoming of Labour: it is shifting from being an outlet for the expression of trade unionist and working people’s interests to being a kind of encampment for the chattering classes, a safe space, if you like, for a secular, pseudo-liberal clerisy.’

Check out this tweet:

I keep putting it up, but if you don’t get ‘The Critic Laughs,’ then I’m not sure if I can get you:

From ABC News: ‘US Navy Fires on Ship in Persian Gulf, One Dead’

Full video and piece here.

It was NOT an Iranian vessel, but tensions are high:

‘The Navy official said it’s not uncommon for Iranian speed craft to harass U.S. ships in the region, but in this case the boat wasn’t Iranian.

“I can’t emphasize enough that this has nothing to do with Iran,” the official said.

A little journalistic sensationalism, perhaps.  Walter Russell Mead has a post on Iran here.

Also, at the American Interest, Sohrab Ahmari has a very interesting piece:

‘First, the ideology. Whether they call themselves “principlists” or “reformists,” Iran’s leaders are Khomeinists before anything else. They are still burning the initial reserve of revolutionary fuel tapped by the regime’s founder, the Ayatollah Khomeini.’

and:

‘It is this catastrophe that stares back at Khomeinism’s standard-bearers today—including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—as they survey the regime’s moral and historical legacy. Their domestic repression and defiance abroad have left them isolated on both fronts. The circle of loyal citizens gets smaller by day. “It is an undeniable privilege of every man to prove himself right in the thesis that the world is his enemy,” Kennan wrote of Soviet leaders’ paranoia. “For if he reiterates it frequently enough and makes it the background of his conduct he is bound eventually to be right.” The observation applies equally well to Tehran, where paranoia and messianic fervor combine to create a dangerously neurotic leadership class.’

Some more of that Cold War analysis proving useful.

Addition:  More on the incident.

Related On This SiteFrom The NY Times: ‘U.S. Adds Forces In Persian Gulf, A Signal To Iran’

 From Reflections Of A Rational Republican: ‘Are Airstrikes Imminent In Iran?’From Reflections Of A Rational Republican: ‘Will Israel Attack Iran This Spring?’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Iran: Keeping The World’s Oddest Couple Together’…Materialism and Leftism Paul Berman On Bloggingheads: The Left Can Criticize IranMichael Totten Interviews Rick Francona At World Affairs: ‘From Saigon to Baghdad’

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