Quotations From Robert Hughes, George Santayana & A Few Foreign Policy Links

Robert Hughes makes the case for older forms of visual expression at min 45:08:

‘Painting is, you might say, exactly what mass media are not, a way of specific engagement, not of general seduction.  That is its continuing relevance to us:  Everywhere and at all times, there is a world to be reformed by the darting subtlety and persistent slowness of the painter’s eye.’

The idea that a painter, through long experience and expert practice, can give you an experience you might not have otherwise had; returning some basic part of yourself to you, or reorienting you to experience the world anew, is an interesting one.

As to what I think the humanities can do when less frequently co-opted by the causes and movements of the moment.

Quotations which have stuck with me:

“Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality.”

George Santayana

‘The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool.’

George Santayana

Meanwhile, politics and geo-politics go on, and if you think you might know which direction (H)istory is moving, you might want to think again.

And again.

This way, at least, we all might learn more along the way.

Some links:

 

Two More Syria Links

Was there a chemical attack?  One respected journalist, anyways, having visited the site in Douma, says there’s very little evidence.

Addition: Maybe he’s a dupe at best?

And:

‘Meanwhile, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team arrived in Damascus on Saturday, April 14th – after the US-led overnight strikes which primarily hit government buildings in the capital. ‘

Hmmm…maybe it’s just me, but I see a crisis of belief all throughout the West and relatively poor leadership (what to believe, and when to act?).  This can lead to greater instability.

Another argument against the American military strikes (we pulled our influence in the region, and all this is now too little, too late…come what may):

‘To reiterate my own longstanding view: Russia is a nasty place and Vladimir Putin is a nasty man, of the ilk that always has ruled Russia, a country where nobody talks about Ivan the Reasonable. On my Ogre-ometer, Putin barely registers a 1.9 against Stalin’s 9.8. Russia is NOT our friend and NOT a prospective ally. But we have two choices. One is to attempt to bring Putin down and bring in a government we like, and the other is to strike a deal with Putin that we can live with.’

How about we avoid gazing into Putin’s soul this time?  Is the French-American alliance durable?  Perhaps this is what to make of a dimished thing, which means more compromise, strategy, and vision with our military.

What’s the plan, here?

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As posted:

Michael McFaul at Foreign Policy: ‘How Trump Can Play Nice With Russia Without Selling-Out America:’

After some policy suggestions, there’s this:

‘I continue to believe that it is in the U.S. interest to promote the independence, territorial integrity, and security not only of Ukraine, but also Georgia, Moldova, and all countries threatened by Russian hegemony. And the United States and its allies must develop new strategies for engaging Russian society and other societies throughout the former Soviet Union, including even in the Donbass region of Ukraine now occupied by Kremlin-supported separatists. We need more student exchanges, more peer-to-peer dialogues, more business internships to increase connections between our societies. We cannot revert to a policy where we only speak to officials in Moscow and attempt to do right by the Kremlin.

A lot of those former Soviet satellites, especially the Baltics, needed courage, hard-work, and luck just to get far enough away from Moscow to recieve NATO protection….:

Not exactly a foregone conclusion…

Here’s Putin, back in the 80’s, meeting Reagan. Ho hum, just a tourist, snapping some photos and meeting, how do you say, your premier.

What goes around, comes around-An oldie but a goodie-George Kennan: ‘The Sources Of Soviet Conduct

60 Minutes had an interview with ‘Jack Barsky,‘ an East-German Soviet spy who ended up living in America.  To hell with it!

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

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:

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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?’

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’

From Michael Totten-Russia Is Arming the Taliban

Full piece here.

So we shouldn’t even aim to be allies on that whole terrorism problem, not even over on the minimalist end of the realist spectrum (no friends, no foes, just interests)?

‘Now that communism has collapsed everywhere outside North Korea, Cuba and Laos, and now that radical Islamist terrorists menace much of the world—especially Muslim lands, but also the United States and Russia—an alliance at least against that particular threat between Moscow and Washington makes perfect sense. Americans who yearn for it and who are willing to let a certain amount of Vladimir Putin’s nefarious behavior slide to bring it about are entirely reasonable.

Putin, though, isn’t interested.’

Well, Putin does seem to be interested in consolidating the kleptocratic, post-Soviet State, which apparently involves putting out anti-Western propaganda through State-controlled media while making himself the indispensable heart of a grander national project. It seems to mean dividing and conquering Georgia and Ukraine, letting the Baltics know who’s in charge, gaining leverage over Europe with Gazprom and uniting the old Damascus-Tehran-Moscow alliance against American interests in the Levant (hey, we stopped being the bouncer in the club).

According to Totten, it now includes running some guns to the Taliban.

Just a few years ago, there was supposed to be something like a raft of World Nations banding together with enough ‘common will’ to carrot-and-stick Putin into international arrangements while resetting the post WWII arrangement.

Ah, well.

A reader passed along a video of Bill Browder, who made a billion, lost much of it, and got a look at Russian politics, money, and power up close.  The way he describes it:  Corruption all the way to the top.

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What goes around, comes around-An oldie but a goodie-George Kennan: ‘The Sources Of Soviet Conduct

60 Minutes had an interview with ‘Jack Barsky,‘ an East-German Soviet spy who ended up living in America.  To hell with it!

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’,,,Eric Postner back in 2008: The Bear Is Back

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Brace Yourself For A New Cold War’

Full piece here

Well, we’ll see about that, I suppose…:

‘There’s a lot more going on, though, than a cooling of the Trump euphoria in Moscow. The Russians have plenty of reasons to fear the emergence, if not sooner then at least later, of a sustained bipartisan American hostility to Russia and Putin, with Donald Trump himself as its champion, that dwarfs anything the world has seen since Ronald Reagan engaged with détente with the Soviet Union’s last premier Mikhail Gorbachev.’

Things I’ve noticed:  The activist model now ushered out of power in America has riled the liberal and Left-liberal base to all manner of anti-Russian, anti-Trump speculation and projection.  The world is ending!  The Russians are coming! Trump is Putin’s boyfriend! We lost the election, the ‘reset’ was mostly a failure, and our ideas are suddenly out of power!

Other things I’ve noticed: Further over on the reactionary right, a weirdly pro-Putin sentiment has emerged, partially in response to the Left, I’m guessing, but not entirely (yes, Putin’s running an authoritarian kleptocracy and often solidifying power around anti-American sentiment and propaganda).

Maybe this means I agree with the underlying logic of Totten’s piece:  There sure are a lot of incentives now leading to the potential for heightened tensions and confrontation.

As previously posted.  Some links on Russia with love:

Masha Gessen at The New Yorker: ‘Putin’s Russia: Don’t Walk, Don’t Eat, Don’t Drink

‘Indeed, the larger message of the Nemtsov assassination and the apparent attempted assassination of Kara-Murza is that no one is safe. Both men are sufficiently well-known to attract the attention of Russia’s dwindling oppositional minority, but neither has the superstar status that would preclude identifying with him.’

More on the Nemtsov killing: Don’t speak out.

A reader passed along a video of Bill Browder, who made a billion, lost much of it, and got a look at Russian politics, money, and power up close. The way he describes it: Corruption all the way to the top.

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What goes around, comes around-An oldie but a goodie-George Kennan: ‘The Sources Of Soviet Conduct

60 Minutes had an interview with ‘Jack Barsky,‘ an East-German Soviet spy who ended up living in America. To hell with it!

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’,,,Eric Postner back in 2008: The Bear Is Back

I wonder if any American operatives went under deep cover to Dschingis Khan concerts to better understand the German soul and its sentimental ties to Moscow:

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Here’s Putin, back in the 80’s, meeting Reagan. Ho hum, just a tourist, snapping some photos and meeting, how do you say, your premier.

From The Atlantic Photo: Vladimir Putin-Action Man

‘Russia needs a strong state power and must have it. But I am not calling for totalitarianism.’

Vladimir Putin

Two Foreign Policy Links-Michael McFaul On Russia, George Will On Obama

Michael McFaul at Foreign Policy: ‘How Trump Can Play Nice With Russia Without Selling-Out America:’

After some policy suggestions, there’s this:

‘I continue to believe that it is in the U.S. interest to promote the independence, territorial integrity, and security not only of Ukraine, but also Georgia, Moldova, and all countries threatened by Russian hegemony. And the United States and its allies must develop new strategies for engaging Russian society and other societies throughout the former Soviet Union, including even in the Donbass region of Ukraine now occupied by Kremlin-supported separatists. We need more student exchanges, more peer-to-peer dialogues, more business internships to increase connections between our societies. We cannot revert to a policy where we only speak to officials in Moscow and attempt to do right by the Kremlin.

A lot of those former Soviet satellites, especially the Baltics, needed courage, hard-work, and luck just to get far enough away from Moscow to recieve NATO protection….:

Not exactly a foregone conclusion…


Moving along: This stuck out in George Will’s piece at the Washington Post: ‘Obama’s Foreign Policy Was Error After Error

‘The fact that the world is more disorderly and less lawful than when Obama became president is less his fault than the fault of something about which progressives are skeptical — powerful, unchanging human nature.’

Hmmm….:

Larry Arnhart here.

‘A fundamental claim of my argument for Darwinian conservatism–as combining traditionalist conservatism and classical liberalism–is that Darwinian science supports the constrained or realist view of human nature as fixed that is embraced by conservatism, as opposed to the unconstrained or utopian view of human nature as malleable that is embraced by the Left. ‘

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

‘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.’

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’

From Via Media-Obama’s Syria Play A Failure

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 PakistanFrom The New Yorker: ‘How Qaddafi Lost Libya’

Russian Hackers, A Link On el-Sisi’s Egypt & A Little Less Mephistopheles For This Kindergarten

This blog believes fundamental conflicts within the West, fermenting within our institutions, foaming-over into our politics, invite the calculated meddling of those who think differently.

In the world of Statecraft, I’d prefer cold-eyed realism and calculated bastardry, when necessary, in the pursuit of American interests (ideally attached to decent human beings with checked, limited powers).  Overreach and hubris is easy.  Humility and good strategy is hard.

It’d be nice if Russia wasn’t being run as a kleptocracy by an ex-KGB agent, incentivizing a lot of bright hackers with little economic opportunity into the service of State propaganda and espionage…but:

C.S. Dickey:  ‘Putin Outfoxes Obama, Lies In Wait For Trump

Populist steam seems to be translating directly into policy these days.  Maybe it’s a kind of passive-aggressive placation of outrage in the service of ‘optics’.

That would be short-sighted and petty.


Link from a reader:  The Deep State in Egypt has been controlled by the military for a long time…’Egypt’s Failed Revolution.’

Many Westerners will probably go ahead and double-down on certain radical/semi-radical Western ideals just as those ideals are failing to translate into effective strategy by an exiting American administration.

Better keep James Taylor handy.

From Abu Muqawama: ‘Mubarak And Me’From Michael Totten: ‘The New Egyptian Underground’Michael Totten At The American Interest: “A Leaner, Meaner Brotherhood”

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Gore Vidal had a line that stuck with me in his review of Italo Calvino.

‘For the last year, Calvino had been looking forward to his fall and winter at Harvard. He even began to bone up on “literary theory.” He knew perfectly well what a mephitic kindergarten our English departments have become.

Well, that might be a little much.

Personally, I like to read people who don’t really think like me, especially when they satirize bureaucratic bloat and puffery as they find them.

I like folks on the outside looking in…tracing the shape of something.

Why do we have so many administrators, regulators, and overseers within our institutions?:

Incentives matter. A vigorous freedom and skeptical citizenry is hard to maintain, but vital nonetheless.

Climb aboard and hang-on, dazzled as you may be by the thrill of the thing.

F-30 Moving Carousel -1

Beauty is no quality in things themselves, it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.

David Hume

It’s Still A Little Surreal-Progressivism, Trump, Putin & All That

Adam Garfinkle at the American Interest:  ‘The Anti-Cold War:‘ (comments are worth a read).

The Cold War was very dangerous, no doubt about it. We were all lucky to have gotten through it without a global conflagration. The anti-Cold War may be more dangerous still. So how lucky are you feeling?

There are a lot of ideas in the article, some of which may not be founded in bedrock, but which are quite interesting nonetheless.

My two cents (founded in the clay soil found here in my backyard, as I engage in fever dream):

If I’m Putin, I came up in the KGB, and became proficient in the often ruthless and efficient tactics practiced by the KGB up until and after the Soviet collapse.  Intel analysis, deflection, corruption-management and misdirection are second-nature.  Diplomacy is usually just a game of submission, especially with the former satellites.  There are some very hard men around me, and I’m a hard man, too.

My country is wounded, but still has its pride, and I play it up for political gain and to solidify my position and those most loyal to me, making myself very wealthy and powerful in the process.

I’ve got genuine problems: The Baltics joined NATO, and many in Ukraine are trying to do the same. Chechnya is a mess and terrorizing Moscow from time to time. History is still going, oil-prices are down, and birth-rates don’t look so good.

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Two more cents (that makes four) on the progressive/Trump dynamic, and how this might influence foreign policy:

Progressive ideology in America has suddenly lost a lot of influence:

Such ideology is not antithetical to Communism, and usually collectivist, activist, and suspicious of free flows of capital and American business interests coming to the fore in American foreign policy, progressives easily unite against nationalist/conservative/neo-conservative interventionist claims to authority.

One major goal of progressives is to defeat the ‘oppressor,’ and his morally illegitimate claims to rule through use of the American military…sometimes in quite radical fashion.

The greatest leverage can often be had through international institutions, because they are typically the path of least resistance for the ideological/rationalistic goals of Progressivism:   A better world is possible if people with shared progressive ideals can gain political power and influence enough to implement goals which claim liberation and radical liberation towards some knowable endpoint.

Progressives often claim the mantle of (S)cience, (P)eace, (R)eason and Enlightenment authority, but given the stuff of human nature, progressive political ideology tends to traffic in:

-Making sacred the ‘-isms’ (environmentalism, racism, sexism etc.and deploying them, when necessary, against all enemies).

-Cultivating shared moral sentiments and solidarity under shared political ideals, and unsurprisingly, often organizing hatred and re-sentiment against any who would oppose progressive goals…identifying such opponents as potentially ‘evil’).

With the election of Trump, a lot of people who share progressive goals have lost a lot of power/influence rather suddenly.

Trump as I see him:

A guy who’s probably harbored political ambitions for a while, and who has spent a majority of his life in the real estate/NYC real estate game.  That world seems pretty tough, where knowing the right people, leveraging capital, risk, personal, political and business connections is key.  I don’t know if I’d trust doing business with the man (not like I’d ever have the chance).

He’s clearly spent a lot of time on self-promotion and brand management, and seized on the profound populist resentment against D.C. more broadly in speech after speech, especially as it related to immigration. He ran openly against a lot of dominant ‘narratives’ found in the current media landscape (promising to absolve the cloud of racial guilt hanging over many heads), and was openly, refreshingly anti-PC.

A nationalistic, business-minded pragmatist capable of compromise and patience..drastically setting a new course for American interests?

A mildly authoritarian protectionist and absurd showman; a semi-celebrity who really won’t get over his desire for attention and who could really f**k things up?

What to hope for?

What to work towards?

Any thoughts and comments are welcomeas previously posted:

More on the Nemtsov killing: Don’t speak out.

Julia Ioffe at her site: ‘The Bizarre End To Vladimir Putin’s Bizarre Marriage:

‘An odd moment in the announcement came when Putin mentioned his confirmed children, two adult daughters whom we’ve never really seen, though there were reports in 2010 that one of them was marrying the son of a South Korean admiral.’

A reader passed along a video of Bill Browder, who made a billion, lost much of it, and got a look at Russian politics, money, and power up close. The way he describes it: Corruption all the way to the top.

————–

What goes around, comes around-An oldie but a goodie-George Kennan: ‘The Sources Of Soviet Conduct

60 Minutes had an interview with ‘Jack Barsky,‘ an East-German Soviet spy who ended up living in America. To hell with it!

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’,,,Eric Postner back in 2008: The Bear Is Back

I wonder if any American operatives went under deep cover to Dschingis Khan concerts to better understand the German soul and its sentimental ties to Moscow:

——————–

Here’s Putin, back in the 80’s, meeting Reagan. Ho hum, just a tourist, snapping some photos and meeting, how do you say, your premier.