A sensitive subject, and much deeper than party, ideology, or political ideal. All may not be well in Europe due to demographics, immigration, rapid technological change challenging a rather poorly designed centralized bureaucracy. The less there is, or is perceived to be, the uglier it tends to get.
On that note, ‘neo-conservatism’ is a label of particular heretical significance on the Left, for neo-conservatives are often believers who’ve left the fold.
Perhaps the deep antipathy for religion, and its courageous equal application to Islam separated Hitchens from many peers (especially after Rushdie). Perhaps a slow acculturation to life in the U.S. helped lead to support for the Iraq invasion:
‘We now have Russia and Turkey involved in two proxy wars in the region: Syria and Libya. While we have serious issues with Turkish “adventurism” on the part of President Erdoğan in both theaters, the bottom line remains: Russia presents a threat to the United States across a variety of fronts; Turkey is a key NATO ally.’
‘America’s alliance-level relations were formed in the context of the Cold War with Egypt, Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. These contacts and programs have been successful and should not be dismantled or downgraded, but redesigned.’
Let’s not forget Nagorno-Karabakh.
Vice magazine: Totally woke, painfully edgy and ideologically captured at home, still some decent guerilla journalism in the hot-spots.
I have a nagging suspicion that within certain social sciences and fields of study, people are self-selecting for shared ideals. The discipline itself trains a method which can transcend such dynamics, but it becomes the air many breathe and the water many drink.
The subtle, subconscious way in which we are all influenced by others through our senses, language, behavior and thought drifts towards those shared ideals. In-group and out-group dynamics soon form, and heretics, disbelievers, or skeptics learn to keep quiet or join a tiny minority.
In the case of radical ‘-Ismologists,’ whole epistemologies are woven out of whole cloth, in a web of true-enough-sounding-bullshit, the heretics, disbelievers and skeptics are punished.
Many progressive knowledge claims involve the assumption that (H)istory can be known from one vantage point, and because this is true, the telos of (M)an is known or can be known, and ought to be reached through political activism any day now.
And now for something mostly different. As posted:
Gurri offered an interesting take on matters socio-cultural:
‘The dilemma is that this present is defined by a radical distrust of the institutions of industrial society, and of the elites that control them, and of their statements and descriptions of reality. The conference organizers got our predicament right. At every level of contemporary social and political life, we are stuck in the muck of a profound crisis of authority.’
‘One remembers Weber’s epitaph for the Protestant Ethic, as he contemplated a devitalised bourgeoisie spiritlessly tending the petrified mechanism their ancestors had raised. Adapted, without apology, it might also be used to depict that petrified Utopia of the New Ruling classes of the East.
There’s a popular narrative that drug companies have stolen the soul of psychiatry. That they’ve reduced everything to chemical imbalances. The people who talk about this usually go on to argue that the true causes of mental illness are capitalism and racism. Have doctors forgotten that the real solution isn’t a pill, but structural change that challenges the systems of exploitation and domination that create suffering in the first place?
No. Nobody has forgotten that. Because the third thing you notice at the American Psychiatric Association meeting is that everyone is very, very woke.
“The Peloponennisian War created the sorts of tension in Athens that would appear to support Thucydides’ analysis. Obligations to the community required greater sacrifice and presented a clearer conflict with the self-seeking “Homeric” pursuit of one’s status, power and pleasure. In political terms, people had to decide whether or not to plot against the democracy to bring off an Olgarchic coup. In moral terms they had to decide whether or not to ignore the demands of the community, summed up in the requirements of “justice,” in favor of their own honor, status, power, and in general their perceived interest. Plato was familiar with people who preferred self-interest over other-regarding obligation; his own relatives, Critias and Charmides, made these choices when they joined the Thirty Tyrants.
Arguments from natural philosophy did not restrain people like Critias and Charmides. Democritus argues unconvincingly that the requirements of justice and the demands of nature, as understood by Atomism, can be expected to coincide. Protogoras rejects the view that moral beliefs are true and well grounded only if they correspond to some reality independent of believers; admittedly they are matters of convention, but so are all other beliefs about the world. This line or argument removes any ground for preferring nature over convention, but at the same time seems to remove any rational ground for preferring one convention over another.”
“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”
‘The United States will not be present to cut and broker deals with and between these parties, but Russia and Damascus are already there, bidding for influence now that the United States has left the auction.’
Well, the previous President initiated a process of withdrawal from our role as ‘bouncer’ in the Middle-East, so I’m largely seeing an appeal to political bases which do not want to see the U.S. involved in the region. There has arguably been a shift towards secular, humanist peace idealism as well, uniting many disparate groups in America, which could mean bigger bases for non-interventionism.
The abandonment of the Kurds, and our obligations to them, made by American interests and many in our Special Forces, is deeply sad, of course, but given our politics and a long-enough time curve, not entirely unexpected.
Of course, questions of controlling our security here at home against Islamic terrorism, and extending our influence for purposes of trade, strategic alliance with our allies, and what I’ll call the ‘West’, is another matter.
Charlie Hill, before the last election, suggested that if America doesn’t lead onto a new set of challenges that now face the West back nearly a decade ago, 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.
‘Huntington blames pliant politicians and intellectual elites who uphold diversity as the new prime American value, largely because of their misguided guilt toward victims of alleged oppression. So they encourage multiculturalism over a more traditional American identity, he says, and they embrace free trade and porous borders despite the public’s protectionist preferences. It is an uncanny preview of the battles of 2016. Denouncing multiculturalism as “anti-European civilization,” Huntington calls for a renewed nationalism devoted to preserving and enhancing “those qualities that have defined America since its founding.”
‘Mike Pompeo’s commission isn’t really about abortion or homosexual rights or anything so fleshy. He and Ambassador Glendon at least are able to lift their gaze above their own and other people’s genitalia. Rather, it is the larger trend to conflate civil with human rights in the service of parochial political claims that they wish to call out and resist. I’m fine with that.’
Roger Scruton has an interesting take on moral relativism, and the ever-growing list of rights that come in its wake:
‘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.
‘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….:
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘The tangled politics of last week’s missile strikes illustrate the contradictions in Mr. Trump’s approach. The president is a realist who believes that international relations are both highly competitive and zero-sum. If Iran and Russia threaten the balance of power in the Middle East, it is necessary to work with any country in the region that will counter them, irrespective of its human-rights record. The question is not whether there are political prisoners in Egypt; the question is whether Egypt shares U.S. interests when it comes to opposing Iran.’
As previously posted:
Many years ago, now, Charles Hill to some extent, and Fouad Ajami more so, argued for some action in Syria, as part of a larger strategic vision, a bolder, Trumanesque step that would define a new age of American influence (addition: or at least maintain our influence. We are signaling to the world that we are no longer leading and pursuing our interests, supporting freedom as we understand and want to see it, and we probably won’t like the world we’ll see). Agree or disagree, they’ve got some things right:
A quote from Hill’s forward to Ajami’s new book on Syria as discussed in the video:
“[The] greatest strategic challenge of the twenty-first century is involves “reversing Islamic radicalism”‘
What is our mission here? What is the larger strategy?
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
‘The scale of the street grooming crisis in the UK almost defies belief. Hundreds of girls and young women were raped in the city of Rotherham, and hundreds by similar exploitation rings in Rochdale, Peterborough, Newcastle, Oxford, and Bristol. Now, up to a thousand girls are thought to have been drugged, raped, and beaten in Telford between the 1980s and the 2010s.’
Large numbers of migrants (more than possibly can be admitted) desire entry into more successful civilizations from less successful and often failing civilizations. Some are genuine war refugees, some are seeking political asylum, some want economic opportunity, and others’ll just take money if it’s being handed-out. Some are smarter than you, some are considerably dumber; some have particularly valuable skills, others have few to no marketable skills. Some are of exceptional character, some are of particularly low and criminal character; some are from instantly recognizable civilizations, some from very different and potentially conflicting civilizations. All will take much from their own civilizations into yours, and without proper incentives, most will likely wall themselves off into separate and unequal enclaves.
Better to start getting more serious about these questions sooner rather than later.
The flood of Middle Eastern refugees into Austria began in the summer. By September they were arriving at the southeastern border at the rate of 10,000 or 12,000 a day. These migrants are associated in the public mind with the war in Syria but, in fact, come from throughout the Muslim world—Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh. Most of them are on their way to Germany. The great majority are young men. By the end of this year, Austrian authorities estimate, 375,000 will have passed through the country, and a quarter of them will have stayed to apply for asylum. Austria will have added 1 percent to its population in just about three months, with virtually all the newcomers Muslims. When migrant families follow, as they inevitably do, the effect will be multiplied. Donald Tusk, the Polish president of the European Council, warns that the biggest tide of migrants “is yet to come.”
A few things that stuck-out:
–The inability of the leading Social Democratic coalition in Germany to craft reasonable policy, instead making naive, idealistic, short-sighted rather self-serving political choices with consequences for millions of people, and for decades to come.
–The fact that while many of these refugees are simply looking to escape war, many are young men, anchors who will bring more family over to become likely ‘European Muslims.’
–Again, what is Europe doing? With a rather socialistic Left defending freedom with such vaguely utopian idealism, this invites the more ethnically purist, nativist, and further right interests to take measures, almost out of principle alone.
Caldwell raises some important points, and sheds light onto the Muslim immigration debate in Europe:
“SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is America more successful when it comes to integrating immigrants?
Caldwell: For now, yes. I think the first reason is the ruthlessness of the American economy. You either become a part of it or you go home. There are more foreigners in the workplace, and that’s where a lot of integration happens.”
“The most chilling observation in Mr. Caldwell’s book may be that the debate over Muslim immigration in Europe is one that the continent can’t openly have, because anyone remotely critical of Islam is branded as Islamophobic”
Salman Rushdie at about minute 57:00: ‘This idea of separate treatment for separate cultures…I think essentially if we follow that to its conclusion…destroys our ability to have a really moral framework for society.’
At the same time he’s [Erdogan] been rolling up the Gulenists and the deep staters he’s been mounting a breathtakingly draconian campaign against supposed Kurdish terrorists and their supporters, so far jailing and indicting thousands of civilians—including a Wall Street Journal reporter—on nonsense charges. Hasip Kaplan, once a member of parliament, is facing a 142-year prison term, and the court won’t even let him attend his own trial. As of the end of 2017, the state has arrested more than 11,000 members of his avowedly secular People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
Well, it reminds this blogger of that Turkish/Armenian demonstration erupting into violence a while back. Right in front of the White House, no less:
I see Erdogan’s Islamic populism, and the broader Islamic resurgence towards notions of religious purity and ideological conformity, as quite obviously not leading Westwards nor towards any kind of moderation. Such a man, riding such a wave, towards an authoritarian and rather thuggish consolidation of power could likely yet draw other powers towards conflict.
Modernity and the West (and increasingly the East) have been pressing upon Islamic civilizations, and many of these civilizations have responded by turning inwards, reinforcing the old rules, and continuing to try and synthesize the products of modernity and the West within the Quran.
On a slightly deeper level, I think one of Douglas Murray’s central arguments is that civilizations are actually rather fragile things, requiring the continual consent and contributions of those governed, and a continual re-evaluation of what’s important and what isn’t; what’s true and what isn’t. Europe, through history-weariness, has produced inadequate political and social leadership as of late.
Personally, I see a rather backed-into economic union in theory, and a somewhat authoritarian and bureacratic labyrinth in practice, made from many good impulses and reasonable fears, but with poor design and many bad impulses and a lot of guilt.
Islamic radicals and genuine terrorists uniting with Western identity-radicals who’ve worked their way into many influential positions (academy, media etc) does not a healthy civilization make.
Perhaps even a little deeper?
Ken Minogue framed it thusly, and he believes there’s going to be some authority in your life, but you’ve got be particularly careful about which kind, and which rules govern that relationship with authority:
‘Olympianism is the characteristic belief system of today’s secularist, and it has itself many of the features of a religion. For one thing, the fusion of political conviction and moral superiority into a single package resembles the way in which religions (outside liberal states) constitute comprehensive ways of life supplying all that is necessary (in the eyes of believers) for salvation. Again, the religions with which we are familiar are monotheistic and refer everything to a single center. In traditional religions, this is usually God; with Olympianism, it is society, understood ultimately as including the whole of humanity. And Olympianism, like many religions, is keen to proselytize. Its characteristic mode of missionary activity is journalism and the media.’
‘Progress, Communism, and Olympianism: these are three versions of the grand Western project. The first rumbles along in the background of our thought, the second is obviously a complete failure, but Olympianism is not only alive but a positively vibrant force in the way we think now. Above all, it determines the Western moral posture towards the rest of the world. It affirms democracy as an ideal, but carefully manipulates attitudes in a nervous attempt to control opinions hostile to Olympianism, such as beliefs in capital or corporal punishment, racial, and otherforms of prejudice, national self-assertion—and indeed, religion.‘
Perhaps what many dark-webbers, some New Atheists, and various other liberal idealists and institutionalists can miss is the following: The very products of reason, the mathematical and natural sciences, advances in political science and material progress, for example, have also helped to create the conditions for many post-Enlightenment ideological, social and artistic movements to emerge.
Some of these ideological movements are simply totalitarian at their roots, and lead to disaster in practice. We’re still seeing their ruins around us (North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba) while their practioners, priests and adherents continue to colonize and cluster in relatively free Western institutions (orgs and academies, especially).
Some of these post-Enlightenment social movements can provide enough to live a truthful, moral, and decent life, but don’t stop the very human impulse to forget how little one knows, to proselytize and well…form coalitions of believing humans full of various talents and flaws. There’s a lot of idealism (naive) and utopianism.
To my current thinking (and this really may be more about me), these movements often fail in providing a deep enough moral framework to provide the stability necessary to account for much in human nature and how hard it can be to provide moral legitimacy in positions of authority.
‘…Pretentions of Iranian regional hegemonism have altered Arab state calculations at a time when faith in U.S. protection has waned. Especially if Israeli power can be concorded with Sunni Arab efforts to thwart Iran, selling out the Palestinians would be a small price to pay for that benefit, especially if it could be made to look like something other than a sell-out. And here we have the origin of the aforementioned strangeness.’
Radical campus chic meets a taste of reality. From the Harvard Crimson, a graduating student reminds of the horrors of Communist ideology, shared from her family’s personal experience:
‘Many in my generation have blurred the reality of communism with the illusion of utopia. I never had that luxury. Growing up, my understanding of communism was personalized; I could see its lasting impact in the faces of my family members telling stories of their past. My perspective toward the ideology is radically different because I know the people who survived it; my relatives continue to wonder about their friends who did not’
All of us, I think, are subtly influenced by not only our own direct experiences, especially while young, but often imperceptibly by those around us, consistently, all throughout our lives; people interested in ideas no less than people who use their hands.
‘Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres’ is a common Spanish phrase, and I’d even heard it a few times in actual conversation while there: ‘Tell me the company you keep; I’ll tell you who you are’.
Whatever your moral lights, there is much activism and radicalism claiming liberation, but often coming with dangerous, collectivizing and totalizing elements harbored within, shaping the perceptions of the people and institutions wherein it can be found.
If these are the people and ideas left to defend liberty (people to whom Communism is radically chic), we’ve got serious trouble.
Perhaps the Valerie Jarrett connection, and the idea that inside every Persian is an activist yearning to bend with the arc of history towards peace, are both at work.
Perhaps too the idea that ‘colonial’ oppression has generally been a force for ill: American military strength is only really morally justified by bending it towards international institutions and ideals of peace activism.
But, what do I really know?
From afar, I recall thinking our foreign policy was being driven by a rather naive grab-bag of Western secular humanism, activism and Model UN-type inexperience during the Obama years.
The logic led to empowering many who displayed adherence and allegiance to the ideas and the policy vision. Or maybe just more than usual.
We could well end-up having removed much ‘will’ of the international community by removing the economic sanctions in place against Iran; emboldening a deeply corrupt, dishonest regime seeking deliverable nukes, running guns, money and terrorism around the region.
We could make the likelihood of an arms race (in an unstable place where we really don’t want a nuclear arms race) as likely, potentially kicking the inevitable conflicts over deeper issues down the road.
What have we as American citizens gained in terms of security, economic interests and influence?