Repost-Michael Totten: ‘The Ghost Of Communism In Asia’ And A Few Thoughts

More from Michael Totten on his then trip to Vietnam:

‘Vietnam’s one-party state, despite being much more relaxed than it used to be, still spends hours each day broadcasting bullshit into everyone’s ears whether they like it or not. I couldn’t help laughing at the absurdity.’

It’s good to start off your day with a little propaganda, comrade.

———————

I occasionally visit Left Bank Books here in Seattle, and gaze out upon the river of ideology floating by: Worker’s Rights handbooks, oppressed victimhood guides, queer-theory radicalism, Gramsci, Chomsky, and Adorno. Perhaps in some small way, as Totten may have experienced in North Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam, seeing so much in one place can crystallize one’s thoughts.

A lot of the lesser streams in the mainstream media can make more sense after these little visits:  The current progressive activism, red and pink populism, feminism and more radical feminism, environmentalism and radical environmentalism, excessive and ideological egalitarians and communal types, gray ponytails, fringe radical individualists and anarchists….and on and on.

For all the talk of China, it’s important not to forget how recent the Great Leap Forward was, and why many in the Western media still seem attracted to the authoritarian imposition of high-speed rail and economic Statism found there.

Such affinity for top-down impulses isn’t so liberal, really.

I’m guessing if some people get their way, after the erosion of much that keeps us free and responsible, and after some radically individual and anarchic void were actually to be created, it wouldn’t be the secular liberal moralists, humanists, lost-in-the-wood liberals and bien-pensants which would necessarily fill it.

For all that, I’m thinking a continued danger in the U.S is still just European and Californian cultural drift: Bureaucracy and bloat. A larded-up, over-promising, under-delivering group of techno and bureau-crats regenerating from a privileged class up-top, and a base that’s always in need of saving according to their lights.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

***Thanks to everyone who’s stopped by over the years, and so as the blog bends with the times, I try never to break with principle.

Even if you don’t comment or email, it’s appreciated.

On This Site See: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …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’

Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Two Monday Links: ‘Victimology And Forming Alliances In Asia’

Michael Totten on Vietnam: ‘Will The U.S. Foster A Natural Ally‘:

This recent conflict may well blow over, but the tension that sparked it in the first place is not going anywhere. Vietnam and China both claim the Paracel Islands, and the Spratly Islands farther south are claimed by yet four more countries in Southeast Asia, but China claims almost the entire sea, more than a thousand miles from its own mainland, well south of Vietnam, and nearly all the way down to the coast of Malaysia.’

This will be tougher to navigate.

Heather MacDonald: ‘The Microagression Farce:

‘Any student who believes that the university is an “unsafe,” racially hostile environment is unlikely to take full advantage of its resources and will likely bear a permanent racial chip on his shoulder. Becoming an adult means learning the difference between a real problem and a trivial one.’

Ideologues are attracted to existing bureaucratic and institutional structures, like college campuses, where they aim to have permanent impact.

Victimhood is a state of mind, incentivizing people to deal with genuine and perceived injustices through the lens of ideology, where they are expected to form a permanent class of the oppressed.

More broadly speaking, life still ain’t fair.

Obamacare, The Islamic State & Vietnam-Three Friday Links

Avik Roy is working towards Obamacare alternatives, but has always supported some form of universal coverage, about which this blog harbors doubts. Perhaps much in the same way that human rights and human rights institutions have become part of the foreign policy institutional landscape, so too could universal coverage become part of the furniture.  Big, heavy furniture.

A healthy skepticism might recognize that such a delivery system could likely create too tantalizing a prize for Leftward ideological interests and perhaps too immovable an institutional object to remain nimble and responsive to We The People over time.

Nevertheless, Roy is really working on rising health-care cost problems, and it addresses many of the flawed incentives and ridiculous complexity and overreach of the ACA:

‘One of the fundamental flaws in the conservative approach to health care policy is that few—if any—Republican leaders have articulated a vision of what a market-oriented health care system would look like. Hence, Republican proposals on health reform have often been tactical and political—in opposition to whatever Democrats were pitching—instead of strategic and serious.

Those days must come to an end. The problems with our health care system are too great. Health care is too expensive for the government, and too expensive for average Americans.’

Bing West at The National Review on the Islamic State, and possible options:

‘As war author Karl Marlantes has written, don’t treat a human life as a bargaining chip, unless you are willing to be that chip. Too many policymakers and generals think of violence, if they think of it at all, as a negotiating tool.’

If we go in with guns blazing, aren’t we aligning ourselves with Iran and their proxy war in Iraq and Syria and goals for nuclear domination?  I mean, as far as nuclear negotiations, we’re already out on a limb with an increasingly desperate American President and a repressive authoritarian regime in which the Ayatollah has final say over a very real divide between Iranian and American interests.

Perhaps we have interests to let both sides fight it out. This could weaken both Tehran and IS.  We could help arm the Kurds and see if the branches of the Peshmerga are up to the task of battling IS, try and have Maliki’s departure not devolve into a bloody mess, keep channels open with the Turks, Jordan, Lebanon and…develop something vaguely representing leadership and protection and advancement of our interests and alliances.

Lead!

But how aggressively?

Meanwhile, given the extreme lunacy and violence of IS against the Yazidis, Iraqi Christians, and others in their path, and the clear security threat they post to Western interests, even the humanitarian interventionists and the American public are beginning to see the tatters of current foreign policy and the fires raging throughout the Middle-East.

On that note, it’s nice to relax and read about another part of the world, even if it has an old Communist structure in place.  Michael Totten visited Vietnam:

‘Some parts of Hanoi are a bit messy, but aside from the outdated rat’s nest of electrical wires, its messes are the kind you make in your house when you’re in the middle of a remodeling project. Parts of the Old Quarter still look a little decayed, but even there the decay is like a holdover from the past that’s being blotted out with one high-end boutique store after another.’

Michael Totten’s Vietnam Kickstarter Campaign

Link to 3:26 video here.

Totten is visiting the five remaining countries around the globe still ruled by Communist parties:  North Korea, Cuba, China, Laos, and Vietnam.

He has a Kickstarter campaign to reach the modest goal of $10,000 for the Vietnam trip.

If you like travel writing/journalism with an observant eye, some war correspondence and political/economic analysis as it relates to conditions on the ground, I recommend his work.

Donors will receive updates from his visit.  It’s a solid pitch.

Related On This Site: Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

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.

From Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?

From Bloomberg today:

President Barack Obama and top U.S. military commanders are under pressure from senators and civilian advisers to double the size of Afghan security forces, a commitment that would cost billions of dollars.”

and this would be potentially added to an existing pledge:

“…to fast-track the buildup of combined Afghan security forces to 134,000 Army personnel and 96,800 police — 230,800 in all — by 2011, according to U.S. Central Command. The Defense Department has requested $7.5 billion for fiscal year 2010 to fund the expansion.”

Apart from the facile Afghan/Vietnam comparison which I’m already guilty of by having written this, here’s a short memo from Henry Kissinger to President Ford in 1975 about lessons of the Vietnam War:

“One clear lesson that can be drawn, however, is the importance of absolute honesty and objectivity in all reporting, within and from the Government as well as from the press.”

Elusive objectivity…I could do with honesty and focusing on our reasons…

One arguable difference:

We are not using military force to protect our political and economic interests in Afghanistan against the advancing threat of an adversarial state and its ideology (I suppose there existed a real fear was that we would eventually threatened at home), but rather against a stateless ideology, with roots in Islam (the theology is debatable) and though pursued by a few, I suspect is tolerated by many in the Muslim world who aren’t necessarily happy with the scope of American influence there.

It still doesn’t seem like a a situation any sitting U.S. president could allow politically (an Al-Qaeda training camp that produces another attack, and so we are protecting our interests), but it also seems that with the tribal nature of much of Afghan society, the lack of education and infrastructure, we are also committing to a lot of “nation-building.”

Insterestingly, Kissinger, like anyone with a foreign policy interest, longed for consistency on our end, to have met more of our commitments in Vietnam, and perhaps to have maintained what he thought were our moral aims there.  But alas, this is politics.

A notable similarity:

Perhaps many people are supporting the war because they support Obama, just as Kennedy inherited Vietnam and many supported Kennedy, not necessarily the war…

Just a few thoughts.  Feel free to highlight my ignorance and/or share your knowledge.

Also On This Site:  From CSIS-Anthony Cordesman On “The Afghanistan Campaign: Can We Win?” Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”

What are our moral obligations to the Afghan people?:  From Bloggingheads: Andrew Bacevich And Heather Hurlburt Discuss Afghanistan And Pakistan

Are we still living in Huntington’s shadow?: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

Addition:  And a quote from that Atlantic piece:

“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.

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