Schlock Troops: ‘Steel Isn’t Strong, Boy, Flesh Is Stronger’-Some Links

Via David Thompson-‘The Manhoff Archives

Just one guy taking a look at the world he found himself in and taking some photos and videos along the way:

‘Major Martin Manhoff spent more than two years in the Soviet Union in the early 1950s, serving as assistant army attaché at the U.S. Embassy, which was located just off Red Square at the beginning of his time in Moscow.’

Paul Berman at Tablet:  ‘The Left And The Jews: A Tale Of Three Countries

‘In the early spring of this year, an angry dispute broke out in the United Kingdom between the mainstream Jewish communal organizations and the leader of the radical left, currently head of the Labour Party, who is Jeremy Corbyn; and a couple of days later, a roughly similar dispute broke out in France between the equivalent French Jewish organization and Corbyn’s counterpart on the French left, who is Jean-Luc Mélenchon; and the double outbreak suggested a trend, which raises a question. It is about America and the Democratic Party.’

I suppose we’ll see.

Movements of radical and revolutionary liberation depend upon the removal of injustice, and solidarity around certain ideals.  It seems as more individuals think in terms of group identity and identity politics, ‘the system’ becomes that which unites such identity groups against a common enemy, even if they come to have influence within ‘the system. ‘

Personally, I see ‘the system’ as largely comprised of everyday people engaged in maintaining the laws, traditions and institutions upon which we all depend. Such people often have their own reasons, thoughts and feelings as they go about their duties.  Such activities are best done locally.  Public trust in federal institutions is dangerously low at the moment, for many good reasons.

We could be in for a bad patch, indeed.

It seems more than fair to critique the laws, traditions and institutions which can and have brutally oppressed and excluded some, but how do the ideas and doctrines of radical liberation actually engage the energies and beliefs of the people within them?  What are some consequences of these ideas in practice, shorter and longer-term?  Why is authoritarianism so often claimed in enemies but never within these movements themselves (oh so human a characteristic…but a hallmark here), exacerbating authoritarian tendencies?

At its best, it seems to me the melting pot model engages the reasons people can become nasty, tribal, groupish, and violent towards one another, saying something like:  ‘Follow the laws, become a citizen, learn the language, defend the country and get ahead.  If you can’t get yourself ahead, get your kids ahead.’

There are obvious shortcomings of defending home and hearth, and that which is familiar and loved within such a model.  It doesn’t necessarily scale, and people being what we so often are, can easily resist change and outsiders and new ideas when what’s new might enrich us.  All of us can dwell in the natural ignorance of the head and the nostalgic sentiments of the heart for too long, and sometimes we can just be plain wrong.

Yet, the liberty allowed to pursue one’s own ends in such a fashion and the wisdom of seeing human nature more as it is, seem much more humane and capable of political stability and economic opportunity.

If you’re still with me, forget all the above, Dear Reader.

Clear your mind and focus on a single image.  Allow this image to occupy your thoughts.

Relax as the image becomes a single, ancient eye. Now open this eye, a lizard’s eye, and see the New World.

Join the Snake Cult! (and enjoy some prime Arnie ‘mittel-English’):

From Paul Bowles Allal, found within this collection of short stories.

I recall musical and deeply rhythmic English (Bowles was a composer who lived in Morocco for most of his life), along with a recurrent theme of Western innocence, ignorance and arrogance meeting ancient North African realities and brutalities.

‘Moments passed with no movement but then the snake suddenly made a move towards Allal. It then began to slither across Allal’s body and then rested next to his head. He was very calm at this moment and looked right into the snake’s eyes and felt almost one with the snake. Soon his eyes closed and he fell asleep in this position.’

What have you done with your I/Eye, dear Reader?

Something tells me the kind of fantastical savagery and imaginative schlock of Conan the Barbarian doesn’t quite capture the deeply moral, frighteningly real and lushly imagined Bowlesian world…

The Call To Jihad Is Global, But A Lot Of Politics And Fighting Is Local-Some Friday Links

Adam Garfinkle at the American Interest: ‘To Strike Or Not To Strike, That Is The Question:’

‘The point is, limited airstrikes might be justified—and very soon—if we’re playing ordnance keep-away with ISIS, but it’s hard to see how airstrikes alone can do much good from a macro-military or political point of view, given the situation in Baghdad.’

A piece from Mashable on ISIS gains:

https://twitter.com/MsIntervention/status/482580268684173314

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Theodore Dalrymple at The City Journal: ‘The French (Jihad) Connection:’

They’re out there:

‘What they found instead in Nemmouche’s possession was a Kalashnikov rifle, a revolver, lots of ammunition, a gas mask, a short video of the weapons in his possession accompanied by a verbal commentary (probably in his voice) on the recent murder of four Jews at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, clothing similar to that worn by the perpetrator of that attack, and a white flag with the words Islamic State of Iraq and of the Levant in Arabic inscribed on it.’

France and Algeria have a complicated relationship, to say the least, but when even French ‘rock-star intellectual’ of the Left, Bernard-Henri Levy notes the anti-semitism in France these days…

Perhaps North-African Arab Muslims imported for cheap labor, many of whom live in ghettoes, coming into contact with an underlying native anti-semitism, French nationalism and somewhat fascistic far Right and socialist Left in a huge State complex…isn’t so great for a small French Jewish minority.

Paul Berman had a piece on Albert Camus and Algeria a while back.

Interesting note from Wikipedia (I know…it’s Wikipedia) from Berman on European nihilism:

‘Berman tries to trace the influence of these European movements into the modern Muslim world. He identifies two principal totalitarian tendencies in the Muslim countries, Baathism and radical Islamism – mutually hostile movements whose doctrines, in his interpretation, overlap and have allowed for alliances. Berman regards suicide terror and the cult of martyrdom as a re-emergence of totalitarianism’s nihilist strand.’

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On that note…some further speculation:

George W. Bush had commitments to a vision of human-freedom-based economic liberalism and democracy promotion in Iraq, along with I’m guessing a personal religious faith, social conservative alliances and the neo-conservative application of military force to achieve our aims there. His support of the unpopular surge to give the Iraqi government a monopoly on power in 2007 managed to stabilize the country somewhat, which has since been squandered by a sectarian Maliki coalition and no real follow-up during our withdrawal (whatever your thoughts on the war and invasion itself).

I wouldn’t be surprised if, via Bernard Lewis (and similar to Berman’s analysis above), Bush shared a view that the nihilist and totalitarian exports from the West grafted onto the Middle-East (Saddam party Ba’athism, Gadhafi’s Green Book and ultimately Islamism and Islamic terror) manage to constitute a very important threat to American liberty and security here at home. After all, 9/11 happened on his watch.  Hence, the War On Terror and the global hunt for bin Laden.  It was time to root out the threat and fight for a global vision of liberty against a global vision of Islamism.

As Bernard Lewis argued, perhaps an Islamic caliphate that isn’t radicalized and Islamist may be the Muslim’s world’s version of  power-sharing. This is something to think about:  The Muslim world may not really be that compatible with Western liberal democracy, but at least the Ottomans weren’t as bad as what we’ve got now.

Barack Obama seems to possess a kind of further-Left, pro-peace (and by my lights, impossibly ideal and utopian) democratic activist vision which often finds Clintonesque humanitarian intervention too much to swallow (as in Bosnia). The Obama foreign-policy coalition is pretty hostile to neo-conservatism, social conservatism etc.and frankly suspicious of even the humanitarian interventionists at times. Obama aims to, and has largely withdrawn, U.S. forces and influence from the region entirely, arguably without much strategic consideration or competence, by the looks of our State Department spokespeople and hashtag activism.

What do we do next?  What’s most important and how do we get there from here?

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Addition:  There are many factions to think about, neo-conservatives, many of whom haven’t properly examined their assumptions for the original invasion and have careers to protect, pro-peace Democrats who seem as angry at neo-conservatives as dealing much in foreign policy reality and have political power to maintain for progressive aims, anti-war libertarians and Hayekians with wisdom to offer, paleo-cons who want to return to a vision of conservatism at home and don’t support any more engagement abroad, middle-of-the-road Americans riding a surge of isolationism on foreign matters and showing disgust with D.C. here at home…

The De Blasio Files-Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Paul Berman On Nicaragua’

Post here. (link may not last)

Paul Berman’s original piece here.

Totten’s response after reading Berman:

‘So the well-meaning American anti-imperialists in Nicaragua were perceived by Nicaraguans as Soviet-style imperialists. And one of them, apparently oblivious to all this even today, is the new mayor of New York City.

I don’t know what to make of it. I really don’t. I have been running into people like this for years in countries wracked by terrorism and war and lorded over by tyrants. They simply fail to understand what is right in front of them even when it’s explained to them in plain English. I can only assume at this point that they’re unteachable. They are educated, yes, but their brains are full. No room remains for more information, or understanding.’

Health-care and education are necessary to secure the People’s Future, you know, and Dear Mayor will no doubt show solidarity with the workers and their unions.

Do you reckon he’s matured since then?  How much pushback will he get from upstate?

NY times piece here on the Sandinista connection.  De Blasio’s inner circle.

Some light humor:

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.

How’s that Russian reset going?:

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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?’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

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

Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’

Full essay here.

Can the Islamist revival be read through the lens of liberal Europe to benefit?  Berman perhaps sees parallels from his Marxist/Communist days in the recruitment writings of Al Qaeda:

‘Al Qaeda itself seemed to me entirely recognizable. It was one of several splintery offshoots from the main trunk of the Islamist movement, which was the Muslim Brotherhood, and the kinship of offshoot and trunk reminded me of the worldwide communist movement of forty years ago.’

Maybe, maybe not. This could help explain, though, why many well educated young men planned 9/11:

‘It was customary for a while to look on primitive madrassas in remote towns of the peasant universe as the root of the terrorist problem—religious academies where penniless boys with zero prospects for a better life are inducted into a culture of medieval rote-learning. But in regard to Islamism and especially its terrorist branches, the root of the problem seemed to me far more likely to be found on the other end of the educational spectrum: in the medical schools of Egypt or at Punjab University, or in places that might be regarded as still more prestigious—in the professional schools of Hamburg or the London School of Economics, where, after class, the students might amble off to their tea shops or apartments and pore over the same literature that was piling up on my floor’

And Berman, liberal hawk though he is, reminds me why if this is liberalism, I remain skeptical; namely the desire to look out from the materialist doctrines and see Christianity as a competitor for the proles…human freedom there to be plucked from the ether and made into a system, a law, or an institution by those who have seen the light and dream of revolution:

‘The rise of Christianity—to cite a non-trivial example—does not lend itself to any obvious material explanations. The religion got started in a backwater province among people with very little power or wealth, and yet within a mere three hundred years, a blink of an eye in those times, it managed, by force of persuasion, to conquer the Roman Empire and change world history irreversibly’

and he concludes:

‘If you are philosophically a hard-core materialist and you tally up the measurable facts of power and wealth, they add up to nothing. But if you consider that ideas sometimes have an autonomous force of their own, and that liberal ideas are more likely to flourish in an atmosphere of freedom, these two new and feeble elements look like—well, a beginning.’

Well, I’m sure many in the West would like to see some form of Western thought take deeper root in the Muslim world and grow into flowering plants we’d recognize (from Fukuyama’s End Of History, to the Bush doctrine, to the human rights/interventionist Obama and European Libya ‘kinetic military action’,  to simply anything that would keep religiously motivated Islamic extremists from exporting terror to our soil. This would include freedom from tyrannies and autocrats and Islamist moral absolutism. What the Islamic world does and how it sees itself may be another matter.

Addition: I have to give Berman a lot more credit than I did when I wrote this.  The fascistic and Western ideological elements that can be found in AQ and IS literature can be found in Muslim Brotherhood stuff and some Ba’ath party thinking, from what I’m told.  Berman knows whereof he speaks. Fuse this with the Islamic ‘revival’ of sorts going on in the Middle-East, the higher birth rates, many of the autocratic rulers swept away during the ‘Arab Spring.’  Also throw-in the tribal and ethnic, nationalist and historical, tensions that traditionally have unified under the banner of Islam, and it starts to make more sense.  Let’s not forget the problems and tensions stemming from Western contact and influence (military, business, technological) either.

Related On This Site:  Could Berman be on some arc toward neoconservatism that many liberals take, being ‘mugged by reality’…or is it just the dark side of materialism and dreaming of revolution?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’….is Hitchens on that arc?: Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And VirtuePaul Berman On Bloggingheads: The Left Can Criticize Iran

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’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’

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

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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Ron Rosenbaum At Slate Via The A & L Daily: ‘Bonfire Of The Intellectuals’

Full post here.

Is Paul Berman the left you’ve been looking for (if you’re not really on the left)?  or more a person on the left adhering to a fundamentally libertarian proposition:  freedom from violence in this case?

“By the “flight of the intellectuals,” Berman means their flight from the values they espoused when defending Salman Rushdie in 1989, and their sniping, snarking, and subverting Ayaan Hirsi Ali this century.”

and:

“Is there a paradox at the heart of Enlightenment values? Should a belief in “tolerance” extend to the intolerant? Must Enlightenment values stop short of challenging multicultural values? Or do multicultural values sometimes entail moral relativism? One key issue, for instance, is whether Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s campaign against female genital mutilation makes her—as the intellectuals Berman attacks have called her—an “Enlightenment fundamentalist,”

Of course, the economy has a lot to do with how well or not well (more likely) Muslims are being integrated into European societies as well.  It’s really up to Europeans.

Also On This Site: Repost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

Some of the same tensions are at play here in the U.S.: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Nussbaum argues profoundly for more equality:  From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

And A Straussian address of the problem:  From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes:  From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?

“Strauss taught that liberalism in its modern form contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards extreme relativism, which in turn led to two types of nihilism. The first was a “brutal” nihilism, expressed in Nazi and Marxist regimes. In On Tyranny, he wrote that these ideologies, both descendants of Enlightenment thought, tried to destroy all traditions, history, ethics, and moral standards and replace them by force under which nature and mankind are subjugated and conquered. The second type – the “gentle” nihilism expressed in Western liberal democracies – was a kind of value-free aimlessness and a hedonistic”permissive egalitarianism”, which he saw as permeating the fabric of contemporary American society.”

Paul Berman On Bloggingheads: The Left Can Criticize Iran

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