Repost-Some Links On Robert Kagan’s New Book: ‘The Jungle Grows Back: America And Our Imperiled World’

Our author reviews Robert Kagan’s new book ‘The Jungle Grows Back: America And Our Imperiled World.’

The piece contains liberal pushback (the search for a center?) against what’s argued to be Kagan’s proselytizing neo-conservatism.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t advocate for too many young people to join a military run by the current institutional leadership without serious thought. You may have your reasons, but think twice:

That is precisely what today’s moment cries out for: Kennan’s humility rather than a new crusade against a new Evil Empire. It cries out for a skeptical liberalism that sees the world as it is rather than going looking for new monsters to destroy.’

Our ideological troubles spring, I have argued before, from liberalism’s lack of perceived legitimacy. Authoritarianism emerges as a symptom either where the liberal approach to organizing society has failed to take root, or where an established liberalism is seen to be overreaching unopposed. We ought to be on the lookout for these failures of liberalism—for “the appeals to core elements of human nature that liberalism does not always satisfy,”

There’s lots of stuff in the piece for regular readers of this blog (Mention of Edmund Burke, Isaiah Berlin etc.).

The author finishes with the area of most shared agreement [between himself] and Kagan (a view of ‘teleological’ progressivism as dangerously narrow and very authoritarian itself; delegitimizing and destabilizing Western liberalism from within).

It’s going to be harder to deal with the rest of the world when these core elements of debate rage within Western hearts, minds and institutions:

The Jungle Grows Back is an important book insofar as it contains all the debates outlined above within it. And Kagan opens the space for these ideas to breathe a little by rightly dismissing teleological progressivism in his book’s opening pages—a great service that makes reading the book a richer experience than it otherwise might have been. But a more moderate, and therefore much wiser, conclusion is passed over by an author whose commitment to his priors prevents him from seeing what a gem he might have had on his hands. It’s too bad.’

Kagan discusses the book here with what I’d describe as an evolutionary psychologist/soft-ish Marxist:

Also On This Site: Taking on the telos of progress and questioning  modern liberal assumptions with a largely nihilistic approach (progress is learned but doesn’t stay learned in human affairs; the lesson of various 20th centry writers and one of the main purposes of a humanities education): Repost-John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’…Repost-John Gray Reviews Francis Fukuyama At The Literary Review: ‘Destination Denmark’…Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

People on the Left and a more moderate middle, and from libertarian conservative backgrounds are increasingly challenging core ideological assumptions of far Left doctrines having crept into so many institutions.  They must defend their own disciplines and be of exemplary character: Repost-Moving Towards Truth And Liberty, But What To Conserve?-Some Thoughts On The Bret & Eric Weinstein Interview…Jonathan Haidt At Heterodox Academy: ‘The Blasphemy Case Against Bret Weinstein, And Its Four Lessons For Professors’…Charles Murray From ‘The Happiness Of People’…The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Charles Murray On ‘Coming Apart’

Repost-Looking For Liberals In The Postmodern Wilderness-Jordan Peterson & Stephen Hicks

A restatement of Anglican, British conservatism with deep Kantian, Hegelian roots: Repost-Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’…Link To Roger Scruton’s First Of Three Charles Test Lectures Hosted By Princeton University

The Religious Conservative American right advocating a step back from a common Constitutional project?: Two Links To Rod Dreher On How To Live And What To Do... Another view of the 60’s radicalism on campus: Repost-A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

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: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

Kant chopped the head off from German deism and the German State has been reeling every since…is value pluralism a response?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Some Links On Robert Kagan’s New Book: ‘The Jungle Grows Back: America And Our Imperiled World’

Our author reviews Robert Kagan’s new book ‘The Jungle Grows Back: America And Our Imperiled World.’

The piece contains liberal pushback (the search for a center?) against what’s argued to be Kagan’s proselytizing neo-conservatism:

‘That is precisely what today’s moment cries out for: Kennan’s humility rather than a new crusade against a new Evil Empire. It cries out for a skeptical liberalism that sees the world as it is rather than going looking for new monsters to destroy.’

Our ideological troubles spring, I have argued before, from liberalism’s lack of perceived legitimacy. Authoritarianism emerges as a symptom either where the liberal approach to organizing society has failed to take root, or where an established liberalism is seen to be overreaching unopposed. We ought to be on the lookout for these failures of liberalism—for “the appeals to core elements of human nature that liberalism does not always satisfy,”

There’s lots of stuff in the piece for regular readers of this blog (Mention of Edmund Burke, Isaiah Berlin etc.).

The author finishes with the area of most shared agreement [between himself] and Kagan (a view of ‘teleological’ progressivism as dangerously narrow and very authoritarian itself; delegitimizing and destabilizing Western liberalism from within).

It’s going to be harder to deal with the rest of the world when these core elements of debate rage within Western hearts, minds and institutions:

The Jungle Grows Back is an important book insofar as it contains all the debates outlined above within it. And Kagan opens the space for these ideas to breathe a little by rightly dismissing teleological progressivism in his book’s opening pages—a great service that makes reading the book a richer experience than it otherwise might have been. But a more moderate, and therefore much wiser, conclusion is passed over by an author whose commitment to his priors prevents him from seeing what a gem he might have had on his hands. It’s too bad.’

Kagan discusses the book here with what I’d describe as an evolutionary psychologist/soft-ish Marxist:

Also On This Site: Taking on the telos of progress and questioning  modern liberal assumptions with a largely nihilistic approach (progress is learned but doesn’t stay learned in human affairs; the lesson of various 20th centry writers and one of the main purposes of a humanities education): Repost-John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’…Repost-John Gray Reviews Francis Fukuyama At The Literary Review: ‘Destination Denmark’…Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

People on the Left and a more moderate middle, and from libertarian conservative backgrounds are increasingly challenging core ideological assumptions of far Left doctrines having crept into so many institutions.  They must defend their own disciplines and be of exemplary character: Repost-Moving Towards Truth And Liberty, But What To Conserve?-Some Thoughts On The Bret & Eric Weinstein Interview…Jonathan Haidt At Heterodox Academy: ‘The Blasphemy Case Against Bret Weinstein, And Its Four Lessons For Professors’…Charles Murray From ‘The Happiness Of People’…The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Charles Murray On ‘Coming Apart’

Repost-Looking For Liberals In The Postmodern Wilderness-Jordan Peterson & Stephen Hicks

A restatement of Anglican, British conservatism with deep Kantian, Hegelian roots: Repost-Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’…Link To Roger Scruton’s First Of Three Charles Test Lectures Hosted By Princeton University

The Religious Conservative American right advocating a step back from a common Constitutional project?: Two Links To Rod Dreher On How To Live And What To Do... Another view of the 60’s radicalism on campus: Repost-A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

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: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

Kant chopped the head off from German deism and the German State has been reeling every since…is value pluralism a response?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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

Full piece here.

The gist: Trump’s apparent defining of America’s interests more narrowly and nationally, transactionally even (quid pro quo), will further re-shuffle a deck already being re-shuffled by many forces outside American control (I still think America is uniquely positioned to adapt to many changes afoot).

American relative power has been declining, and we have some serious fractures within our body politic. Arguably, there’s less appetite for the soft and hard power reach of the America experienced during the past few generations.

Trump’s potential withdrawal from the international order the United States has been upholding with blood and treasure will likely signal significant change, and perhaps not always change for the better, Kagan argues.

What to change and what to keep?

What direction might Trump give on what to change and what to keep?

Kagan from his intro:

‘In recent years, the liberal world order that has held sway over international affairs for the past seven decades has been fragmenting under the pressure of systemic economic stresses, growing tribalism and nationalism, and a general loss of confidence in established international and national institutions. The incoming U.S. administration faces a grave challenge in determining whether it wishes to continue to uphold this liberal order, which has helped to maintain a stable international system in the face of challenges from regional powers and other potential threats, or whether it is willing to accept the consequences that may result if it chooses to abandon America’s key role as a guarantor of the system it helped to found and sustain.’

Repost-From Bloggingheads: Robert Kagan Discusses The U.N. Security Council…Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy…Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’

Here’s an interview with Trump on Donahue from 1987:  Back then, it was the Japanese who were poised for imminent takeover, buying up New York City real-estate before the 1992 recession (both the Japanese and Chinese are looking at serious demographic challenges).

His appeal to national pride and trade protectionism was apparent then…as well as the self-promotion:


As previously posted:  Some other models to possibly use:

Interesting article here on Samuel Huntington.

It’s likely you won’t agree with all of Huntington’s ideas, but he maintained a deeply learned understanding of the animating ideas behind Western/American political organization with keen observation of what was happening on the ground in foreign countries.  Here’s a brief summation from Robert Kaplan’s article:

“• The fact that the world is modernizing does not mean that it is Westernizing. The impact of urbanization and mass communications, coupled with poverty and ethnic divisions, will not lead to peoples’ everywhere thinking as we do.

• Asia, despite its ups and downs, is expanding militarily and economically. Islam is exploding demographically. The West may be declining in relative influence.

• Culture-consciousness is getting stronger, not weaker, and states or peoples may band together because of cultural similarities rather than because of ideological ones, as in the past.

• The Western belief that parliamentary democracy and free markets are suitable for everyone will bring the West into conflict with civilizations—notably, Islam and the Chinese—that think differently.

• In a multi-polar world based loosely on civilizations rather than on ideologies, Americans must reaffirm their Western identity.”

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

Huntington’s page at Harvard here.


That train may have already left the station:  Which organizations/allies/partners do we back with our military?  Which alliances do we form to protect and advance trade/security/national/broader interests?

Which ideas are universal, or should be aimed for as universal in the world of practical policy and decision-making?

Which kinds of contracts do we enter into? With whom and for what ends?

I’d like to see how this has held up:

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

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

Both men wanted to see more leadership out of the Obama administration. They both argued that there needed American led involvement of some sort in Syria. It’s a bad neighborhood, and we’ve got to provide leadership and side with the rebels as best we can.

Hill pushed further to suggest that if America doesn’t lead onto a new set of challenges that now face the West, then Europe surely isn’t capable of leading either. If we don’t strike out on our own as Truman did with bold leadership after World War II, we will end a generations long experiment in American exceptionalism. If we don’t lead, someone who doesn’t share our values, probably will.

I wanted to contrast this vision with Francis Fukuyama’s then new piece, entitled ‘Life In A G-Zero World,‘ where if I’m not mistaken, Fukuyama is ok with such a diminished role for the U.S:

‘It is clear that no other power is going to step in to fill this role of structuring world politics on a grand scale. It does not necessarily imply, however, that the world will turn into a chaotic free-for-all. What occurs after the retreat of US hegemony will depend critically on the behavior of American partners and their willingness to invest in new multilateral structures. The dominant role of the US in years past relieved American allies of the need to invest in their own capabilities or to take the lead in solving regional problems. They now need to step up to the plate.’

and:

‘The regional military balance has already shifted toward China more than many American allies would like to admit. Moreover, while the basic American commitment to Tokyo under the US-Japan Security Agreement remains sound, the willingness of the Obama administration to risk military conflict with China over some uninhabited islands in the middle of the Pacific is not at all clear.’

————————–

To some degree, I think both analyses are right, in that we either renew our ideals and pursue exceptionalism, confronting and pushing against those who don’t share our ideals and interests as we have in the past (including the threat and potential use of military force), and/or we re-adjust and recognize the roles of others, but also recognize that they don’t necessarily share our ideals and interests and we can’t necessarily trust anyone to look out for our interests.

This requires us to cooperate and rely on international institutions to some extent, but also institutions which have serious design flaws, poor incentives, and can bind us in treaties and obligations for which our interests can be poorly served.

What I don’t want to see is a continued squandering of our leverage and our strength, mainly at the hands of what I see as a rather utopian and naive worldview, held aloft by tempered, but still rather Left-leaning democratic radicals and activists, who claim peace but see many of their own worst enemies in the West itself, and who still must deal with the world and its political base as it is.

What’s the best way forward?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

***Addition: I’d also prefer not to see the continued squandering of American resources that came about with the promise of military action to remove Saddam Hussein.  The promise was democracy in the Middle-East, the results are apparently much less, with many serious consequences likely still to come.  Hubris and overreach is easy. Strategy and good policy is hard.

Right now, I tend to favor ordered liberty at home, a reduced role for the Executive branch, and the aim of strategic re-alignment based on a more realist understanding of alliance-making abroad.  Trade and sovereignty, patriotism tempered with patience, humility, and moral decency would be better than some of what I fear may be in the cards.

Let the math, science, trade, study and friendships form as much as possible without the silly seriousness of politics entering into daily lives, and the issues of potential conflict handled with courage and wisdom.

—————-

Addition: Walter Russell Mead thinks Fukuyama gets Japan right.

Related On This Site: From The Wall Street Journal: ‘Charles Hill: The Empire Strikes Back’Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

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’Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’…Is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

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

Some Friday Links-Your Data Has Been Massaged & Foreign Affairs

The Hoover Institution looks at the late Fouad Ajami’s book of essays:

‘Writing on Iraq, he suggests that many troubles in the Arab world can be linked to America’s limited understanding of the region, thirst for oil, and need to deal with terrorism. He provides a chilling look at the life of 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah, asserting that “the very normalcy of his upbringing and the old hedonism giving way to a sudden need for absolution are much more unsettling than the warning signs and the zeal of a true believer.”

——————–

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg, Obamacare inflates its numbers. I feel sick:

When reality doesn’t line up with political promises, massaging the data to the point of absurdity becomes necessary.

‘The administration counted stand-alone dental plans in order to claim that 7.3 million people had signed up during the first open enrollment period. Without the addition of the dental plans, enrollment would have very slightly missed its target of 7 million enrollees. Moreover, simple arithmetic indicates that it is still counting them in its current claims about enrollment.’

Perhaps even some big data folks and (S)cience driven realists are realizing that when it comes to ideology and politics, technocracy and bureaucracy, the pursuit of truth is often left to bad masters.

—————————-

Andrew Michta At The American Interest: ‘Putin Targets The Scandinavians:’

Not a Cold War, really, but let’s have some strategy:

If you’re in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, you’re looking at Georgia, Ukraine and you’re own Russian populations, Putin’s actions and you’ve probably been thinking a lot lately.

‘As 2015 approaches, NATO finds itself confronted with the urgent need to address the fundamentals of deterrence and collective defense in general, and to go beyond the important symbols of “persistent rotations.”

Things Are Heating Up In Ukraine

Lilia Shevtsova At The American Interest ‘Putin Ends The Interregnum:’

‘What a mess Putin has gotten us all into! But let’s also give him his due: He has paved the way for the emergence of new trends—or at least he’s called the existing ones into serious question. He has also facilitated the formation of Ukrainian national identity, ensuring that the country will never again become a mere extension of Russia. He has thus undermined his own dream—that of creating the Eurasian Union. He has precipitated a crisis in his own country, making its future path completely unpredictable. And finally, he has reminded NATO of its mission and prompted the liberal democracies to reflect on their own principles.’

It seems there’s a Russian ethno-nationalist core Putin’s playing to aside from the clear interest in Crimea and a corridor that means splitting Ukraine in two.  Just how Putin defines that core in order to play-up to Russian pride, nostalgia and national security via his own power via a cagey ex-KGB, authoritarian, petro-Czar ruling-style is up for debate.

Over at the New Republic, they’re going to have to work harder to figure out how to maintain humanist, Left-liberal ideals in the face of such meddling and aggression (they might have to think about rebuilding the Peretz wall separating a kind of liberalism from full-on Lefty activism that new ownership has since removed):

Putin Will Never, Ever Admit That Russia Has Invaded Ukraine

‘The Kremlin will continue to deny its involvement in Ukraine, and the U.S. and E.U. will take their time calling this an outright invasion. Russia has made its objectives in Ukraine clear, and has signalled its resolute unwillingness to participate in military negotiations while its political concerns go unresolved.’

It’s pretty clear the Georgia model is in play, to some extent.  Ukraine’s economy is weak, and its civil institutions very corrupt, but Putin’s aims are pretty clear.

An interesting interview with an American volunteer with Army experience and Ukrainian roots who’s joined the fight.  A surprisingly reasonable-sounding guy via VICE:

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Via a reader: George Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram’ back to Washington in 1946.

From Vlad’s pen to NY Times readers’ eyes.

Also On This Site: Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

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

James Baker At The NY Times: ‘3 Presidents and a Riddle Named Putin’

Nearly three years ago now: Eric Posner At The Volokh Conspiracy: The Bear Is Back!

Anne Applebaum At The Washington Post: ‘Can The West Find The Energy To Deter Russia?’

Full piece here.

Some sensible suggestions:

‘A European Union thinking strategically about its future would create an energy union, as some have already suggested, and begin to bargain collectively for its gas. Europeans should also step up construction of the infrastructure needed to import, transport and store liquefied natural gas (LNG). The United States should step up its own efforts to export LNG. At the same time, the United States should take advantage of the shift to shale oil and build the Keystone XL pipeline. A low international oil price is not only bad for the autocrats who run Russia, Venezuela and other petro-states; it’s also good for American allies. This doesn’t mean that the hunt for alternative energy needs to end. But until the miracle fuel is discovered, it would be a lot safer if the West were supplied by the Canadians.

This kind of thinking won’t help Ukraine in the coming weeks. But it might help ensure the economic and political independence of Europe in the coming years.’

That would require taking a realist look at recent events, acknowledging the reality of economic scarcity and energy consumption, as well as directly challenging the dreams and political power of collectivist environmental activism, for starters.

Related On This Site:  Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And OthersFrom The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

Some Links On Foreign Policy & Ukraine

Nearly three years ago now: Eric Posner At The Volokh Conspiracy: The Bear Is Back!

Leslie Gelb At The Daily Beast: ‘How Libya Saps America’s Power’

Full post here.

Gelb is unhappy about our open-ended role, and subsuming our sovereignty and strength into the politics of NATO as well as with Britain and France:

Most certainly, NATO can feel good about saving innocent Libyan lives. But it is very hard to have a good feeling about how and when NATO’s humanitarian intervention will end. And as time passes inconclusively in Libya, it becomes harder still to convince Iran and North Korea that NATO is not a paper tiger.’

It’s still quite a change to have foreign policy guided by these ideals.

Related On This Site:  Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanA Few Thoughts On Watching Operations In Libya

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From Bloomberg Businessweek: ‘Russia Will Cooperate With NATO on Missile Shield, Sets Terms’

Full post here.

‘NATO is trying to turn the anti-missile system — initially opposed by the Kremlin — into a fulcrum for cooperation with Russia as part of the U.S.-driven “reset” of relations. Russia and NATO will create a “working group” on missile defense, according to an official Russian fact sheet.’

and

‘Russian leaders opposed the missile shield when it was originally proposed by former President George W. Bush, seeing it as a threat to Russia’s strategic arsenal. That plan foresaw permanent anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, two nations dominated by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.’

Also On This Site:  Are we headed toward 19th century geo-politics?:  Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’

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

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