Repost-A Terrible Bullshit Is Born

John O’ Sullivan at The New Criterion remembers Robert Conquest:

‘A strong dislike of pretension, accompanied by a happy delight in puncturing it through satire and parody, is also a major element in his literary criticism. His demolition of Ezra Pound is especially effective because, as a classical scholar and linguist, he is able to establish that many of Pound’s most admired technical effects are in reality simple errors of grammar or translation.’

Ha!:

“Those teach who can’t do” runs the dictum,

But for some even that’s out of reach:

They can’t even teach—so they’ve picked ’em

To teach other people to teach.

Then alas for the next generation,

For the pots fairly crackle with thorn.

Where psychology meets education

A terrible bullshit is born.’

Ha!

Many people still can’t handle how bad Communism was on the ground, and fewer these days are looking to keep the ideology up in the air, partly thanks to Conquest and his labors:

 

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’

Gary Saul Morson At The New Criterion: ‘The House Is On Fire!’

Full piece here.

‘Ninety-nine years ago, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, and, after a few months of weak parliamentary rule, the Bolsheviks seized power. We call that seizure the Russian (or October) Revolution, but it might better be designated the Bolshevik coup d’état. A party of 10,000 people gained control of an empire occupying one-sixth of the earth’s land area.’


As previously posted:

The level of intellectual vanity, pride and willful self-deception of many intellectuals when it came to Stalin’s deeds are worth revisiting.  C-SPAN had Robert Conquest and Ken Jowitt in discussion of Conquest’s ‘The Dragons Of Expectation: Reality And Delusion In The Course Of History

A man who habitually cut through a lot of bullshit.

Conquest On Andrei Sakharov:

‘The events of the long struggle in the Soviet Union between the despots and the “dissidents,” in which Andrei Sakharov played such a great role, were well described in his Memoirs, which appeared in English in 1990, and in the accounts of his valiant wife, Elena Bonner. But here we have the other side of the story: the long secret records kept by the KGB and submitted to the state and party leadership. And these documents are skillfully put into the larger context by an extensive and useful introduction by Joshua Rubenstein.’

and:

‘Another large misapprehension about the nature of the Soviet and similar regimes was that the “planned economy” meant something real. There was also, among progressives in the West, the idea that the “bourgeoisie” were a natural enemy of the forward-looking, adolescent intelligentsia, and that the “capitalists” were the natural enemies. There is a historical context for these sinister myths. British ambassadors to Russia in the late eighteenth century had noted that entrepreneurs had to seek the quick ruble because at any moment the state might confiscate their investments. And at the opposite pole of Russian society, the peasantry was fixed on the need to deceive the authorities to whom they were subservient—up to, and provoking, violent rural risings.’

As previously posted:

Ha!  More Conquest:

“Those teach who can’t do” runs the dictum,

But for some even that’s out of reach:

They can’t even teach—so they’ve picked ’em

To teach other people to teach.

Then alas for the next generation,

For the pots fairly crackle with thorn.

Where psychology meets education

A terrible bullshit is born.’

Many people still can’t handle how bad Communism was on the ground, and fewer these days are looking to keep the ideology up in the air, partly thanks to Conquest and his labors:

Some Monday Links: The Left, Money & The New Republic-Garry Kasparov & Christopher Walken As ‘Max Zorin’

I think the only man who can save us from Silicon Valley as it currently stands, is the strange Nazi/Soviet funded superfreak, Max Zorin:

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Now that’s a plan, but we probably don’t need to be saved.

Megan McArdle discusses the reality of trying to monetize not only writers and journalists, but intellectuals.

Chris Hughes, a founder of Facebook bought the New Republic:

‘Every new owner looks at media and thinks, “This is insane and inefficient. Obviously, this is a dinosaur industry ripe for rationalization by someone who actually knows how to run a business.” When you get inside, however, it turns out that the industry is not actually staffed, as previously assumed, by archaic snobs who wear suspenders and spats when they sit down with a glass of sherry to read the latest Dos Passos epic. Instead, most of the seemingly inexplicable inefficiencies are driven by the peculiar nature of this business.’

Tech-industry business models producing deliverables out of high-end, labor-intensive coding and programming work in ‘the Valley’ don’t necessarily translate successfully for East-coast, establishment ‘bookstore’ intellectuals, apparently.

Writers and academic refugees, political theorists and idea people tend to think differently than engineering types, especially when those writers are coated with the dust of the marketplace, harbor the skepticism and suspicion of journalists on the beat, and are busy just being the lone-wolf, creative, artistic and introspective types they often are (software engineers can be highly creative, but in a generally different way).

Of course, the New Republic was a space where the progressive Left, and some genuine radicals and true Leftist ideologues gravitated, and where they were often pushed against by and for practical purposes by more moderate, establishment liberals and other thinkers.  They will continue to have a lot of influence.

We’ll see what happens, but nowadays the New Republic appears to my eyes more like Upworthy, Salon, the Huffington Post and other Left-leaning sites in the marketplace.

Visit the Upworthy generator if that’s your thing.

Libertarian editor of Reason Matt Welch took a look at the change of ownership at the New Republic under Hughes, and the move further Leftward:

‘The great irony is that The New Republic is repudiating contrarian neoliberalism precisely when we need it most. Obama proposes in his State of the Union address to jack up the minimum wage to $9 an hour, and instead of surveying the vast skeptical academic literature, or asking (pace Charles Peters) whether such liberal gestures are “more about preserving their own gains than about helping those in need,” TNR columnist Timothy Noah declares, “Raise the Minimum Wage! And make it higher than what Obama just proposed.”

Adam Kirsch, Simon Blackburn, Martha Nussbaum, John Gray.  Here are a few links on this site to the New Republic:  Leon Wieseltier At The New Republic: ‘A Darwinist Mob Goes After a Serious Philosopher’Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’

****Tech money and technology are affecting not only old media.  Kids starting out now have touch screens all around them, staring at their smart phones, games etc. for hours on end.  They aren’t necessarily idle.

The NY Times, the Ivy League, lawyers and law schools and various, assorted guilds in our society…take note.

This is probably more important than just debates about politics, ideas, and political theory.

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On that note (yeah, I don’t think the New Republic is full of totalitarians):

From a Thomas Sowell piece, the Legacy Of Eric Hoffer:

‘Hoffer said: “The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”

People who are fulfilled in their own lives and careers are not the ones attracted to mass movements: “A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding,” Hoffer said. “When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.”

What Hoffer was describing was the political busybody, the zealot for a cause — the “true believer,” who filled the ranks of ideological movements that created the totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century.’

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As sent in by a reader for Reason magazine:

Chess-great Garry Kasparov grew up as part of the Soviet empire, in its waning days, and is now a human-rights activist in addition to his chess-work.  He is calling for many in the West to have the courage of their convictions, which also challenges many on the Left, liberal-Left, as well as the libertarian anti-war crowd and activists of all stripes.

This is the stuff out of which neo-conservatives can be born.

Yes, the Soviet days are over, but don’t just fold and walk away from the table (poker, not chess, as Kasparov points out).  Putin is bluffing, but still playing a dangerous, destabilizing game, from Ukraine to China, from the Baltics to his influence in Tehran, and this requires strategy and leadership.

(And, can you trust an activist?: What are his interests aside from his ideals, what truths may be be telling and why might they appeal?)

Not necessarily breaking things, just strategy and leadership:

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That’s more of what Kasparov was likely driving at in this tweet from a while back:

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I suppose we’ll also see what happens.

Stay tuned, and if you’re interested in supporting this blog, just read it, because it’s probably never going to make any money.  It’s a labor of love.

Related On This Site:  Are we still having the same debate…is it manifest destiny?: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”Repost-Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco

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”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

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

Well, not to look like too much of a dupe (me), but chess great Garry Kasparov, who has spoken-out at great personal risk for his birthplace of Azerbaijan as well as for the freedoms of all against autocracy and tyranny, has been very vocal on Twitter as to just what we’re likely dealing with in Putin:

Addition: Kasparov is a human-rights advocate having a tough time finding support against the actual force used by Putin against those supporting an independent Ukraine.  Some human-rights advocates are as close to foreign policy decisions as they’ve been in a while in the current U.S. administration.

Is there any merit in applying rational motives to Putin’s behavior?

Perhaps, if you’re in Kasparov’s shoes, no, there isn’t.  Putin’s actions should be clear enough.

Hopefully, I’m aware that many Western media outlets occupy a kind of secular-bubble within which everyone’s a potential convert to a shared set of assumptions about liberal democracy.  The spread of human-rights through international institutions is often presumed to be the natural course of events.  Apparently even Putin, China, the mullahs in Iran, and Islamic terrorists might be welcome to join as long as they agree to some basic conditions.

It’s ain’t what you know…

Moving along, here’s liberal strategist and thinker Zbigniew Brzezinski at WaPo, born in Poland, who served under Jimmy Carter (yes, Obama’s further out there than Carter, in many respects).

Putin’s actions can’t go unpunished:

‘This does not mean that the West, or the United States, should threaten war. But in the first instance, Russia’s unilateral and menacing acts mean the West should promptly recognize the current government of Ukraine as legitimate. Uncertainty regarding its legal status could tempt Putin to repeat his Crimean charade. Second, the West should convey — privately at this stage, so as not to humiliate Russia — that the Ukrainian army can count on immediate and direct Western aid so as to enhance its defensive capabilities. There should be no doubt left in Putin’s mind that an attack on Ukraine would precipitate a prolonged and costly engagement, and Ukrainians should not fear that they would be left in the lurch’

WaPo’s editorial board wakes up to Obama’s foreign policy assumptions, at least before potentially nodding-off again.

I think it’s reasonable to expect more redlines and deadlines from the President. Economic sanctions and scrambling behind the 8-ball are par-for-the-course these days. Check out Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic’s interview with Obama.  It’s quite insightful.

My take:  This administration is deeply invested in a kind of everyone-come-to-the-table peace activism and idealism, as well as Obama’s ability to read the intentions of others using this roadmap.  I suspect he’ll likely redouble efforts for an Israel/Palestine peace process and a tentative peace-deal with the leadership in Iran, evidence to the contrary, history, strategy, peace through strength notwithstanding.  The liberal internationalists are grounding him in realpolitik to some extent, bolstering this worldview which I suspect Obama sees as quite pragmatic and middle-of-the-road.

Yes, he’ll use drones, take out Bin-Laden, and keep our security in mind, but his default position is towards an ideal of peace, not necessarily peace through strength.  His political and ideological interests are similarly aligned.

Addition: Is Putin acting to undermine his own interests quickly, more slowly?

Important to note:  American withdrawal supply lines out of Afghanistan run through Russian territory, and any possible negotiations with the Iranian leadership depends upon some Russian cooperation.

Also, what many Americans may have missed during the last election:

We need a grander strategy, from the Middle-East through Asia, though how this strategy would look, exactly, is up for debate.

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Charles Hill suggests that if America doesn’t lead with a new set of challenges that 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.

The world can easily destabilize and get quite violent, quite quickly.

This seems to be where we are.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome

(*As for liberal democracy, my understanding is that there are many strains within it that are highly illiberal, and threaten it from within, obviously, while claiming high ideals and insisting upon utopian and big solutions to persistent problems).

How About That Russian Reset? Two Friday Links From The American Interest

From Via Media: ‘Russia Turns Gaze To Latin Autocrats:

At first, a friend pointed-out the return of the old Moscow-Tehran-Damascus alliance: Russia may be only a shade of its former Soviet self, but Putin is still running the old Cold-War playbook for leverage to recover his empire.  The Syria redline debacle simply allowed him to dust-off some old plays.

Now there’s a Meridian Class intelligence ship docked in Havana and possible negotiations for Russian bases in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

Mead:

‘That Russia is building ties with the least democratic and most anti-American governments in the hemisphere should help us as we gaze into his eyes and try to see his soul. He doesn’t actually like us very much, and doesn’t wish us well. This kind of stuff is particularly problematic for the two flexibility experts in DC—Kerry and Obama—who have consistently reached out to Russia in hopes of a better or at least more pragmatic understanding.

It’s hard to think of many goals that the Obama administration has pursued so consistently as the reset with Russia. News like this reminds us that it may have all been in vain.’

As of now, we’re putting human rights ideals and peace-dealing before many of our other interests, using this dragnet to try and include even bad-actors into an international framework.

The actual consequences of this approach are not reassuring, with Syria and Russia currently standing-out.  We’re creating something of a power vacuum and conducting an experiment to see which kind of people fill the void.

If I’m not mistaken, Mead is calling for a more Huntingtonian approach, or rounding-up our interests and allies first and proceeding from there (less Western far-Left, human-rights focused and liberal internationalist).

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Thomas Graham, a former Security Advisor to Russia, suggests we still aren’t in a zero-sum game against Russia.

So, what do we actually do next?:

‘What requires more thought is Mead’s conclusion. He sees a major zero-sum geopolitical contestunfolding, pitting Russia against the United States. Washington, he argues, should abandon its policy of seeking better relations and push back against Russia. Most urgently, in his view, the administration needs to rethink its policies on Ukraine and Syria to take into account Russia’s unrelenting opposition—and Mead would surely argue that the dramatic events in Kiev and the collapse of the Syrian negotiations only reinforce the urgency. But he has not yet suggested what the pushback would entail in detail and what it should aim to achieve. What, in other words, should the United States do, to what ends, at what cost, and with what chances of success?’

We may be getting to that point shortly under the current leadership.

How’s that Russian reset going?:

Vladimir Putin Op-Ed At The NY Times: ‘A Plea for Caution From Russia’

Full piece here.

How could you Americans violate international norms, approve an airstrike in Syria, and walk away from the table of international cooperation, asks an entirely earnest, forthcoming Vladimir Putin?:

‘It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.’

As for that exceptionalism thing, our current President is probably closer to this view than most Presidents have been, whatever your strategic thoughts on Syria.

I remember coming of age in the 80’s, and being introduced to the Ivan Drago school of diplomacy:

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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

That’s a relief.  Some wikipedia backstory on Russia-Syria relations.

***Bonus-Putin and Bush’s love affair in a GAZ M-21 Volga caught on tape.  Putin sends Medvedev out to keep the flame alive with Obama on missile defense.

Are we headed toward 19th century geo-politics? I get a sorely needed refresher on the Cold War:  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

St Basils domes Red square Moscow Russia

by Ipomoea310