Walter Russell Mead

Five Tuesday Links Somewhat Relevant In The Current Political Landscape

I’m still getting accustomed to the post 60’s political and cultural landscape in America, at least in response to the current round of progressivism; the idealism and utopianism of many collectivist thinkers.  I’m not particularly liberal myself, just looking around for different types of liberalism.  Does equality always run aground on human nature?  Will pursuing broad definitions of the public good always lead to a corruption of the ideal of equality, and less freedom?

Joel Kotkin has an interesting piece Class Warfare For Republicans:

‘As a Truman-style Democrat left politically homeless, I am often asked about the future of the Republican Party.’

The Tea Party probably might not agree, nor maybe many social and religious conservatives.

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Walter Russell Mead seems to be envisioning a reinvigorated liberalism 5.0, arguing that the current union fights, ecotopia, high-speed rail plans, and progressivism aren’t necessarily the best way forward given America’s challenges.  There’s been a fundamental shift that we must adjust to, and it involves technology and globalization for starters.  Repost-Via Youtube: Conversations With History – Walter Russell Mead

Interesting post here:

‘It is important to note, however, that rampant government dependence and economic mismanagement are not exclusively blue-state pathologies. Corrupt and crony Republicans can be every bit as sleazy and dangerous as their Democratic counterparts. South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi are on this list for good reason.’

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Perhaps conservative Briton Roger Scruton is just being nostalgic for what he describes as the old humanism:

“There is no need for God, they thought, in order to live with a vision of the higher life. All the values that had been appropriated by the Christian churches are available to the humanist too.”

And he laments the new humanism, which lacks the noblility of purpose of the old, and offers nothing positive:

“Instead of idealizing man, the new humanism denigrates God and attacks the belief in God as a human weakness”

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Copied from Will Wilkinson’s piece on Gerry Gaus’s new book:

In sum, OPR defends public reason liberalism without contractarian foundations. It is Kantian without being rationalistic. It is Humean without giving up the project of rationally reforming the moral order. It is evolutionary but not social Darwinist. It is classical liberal without being libertarian. It is Hegelian and organicist without being collectivist or statist. It shows us how political authority can be justified but only by accepting that moral authority limits it. It pushes us to look towards the practical and reject the utopian while simultaneously maintaining that a truly free and equal social order is within our grasp. It rejects the aspiration of political liberalism to neutrality among conceptions of morality while simultaneously retaining its spirit by sectioning off social morality from other normative domains.

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Theodore Dalrymple on the new atheists.

Dalrymple:

‘The search for the pure guiding light of reason, uncontaminated by human passion or metaphysical principles that go beyond all possible evidence, continues, however; and recently, an epidemic rash of books has declared success, at least if success consists of having slain the inveterate enemy of reason, namely religion. The philosophers Daniel Dennett, A. C. Grayling, Michel Onfray, and Sam Harris, biologist Richard Dawkins, and journalist and critic Christopher Hitchens have all written books roundly condemning religion and its works. Evidently, there is a tide in the affairs, if not of men, at least of authors.’

People on the modern American right take issue with Rawls, but have they addressed his depth?:  From The American Conservative: Going Off The Rawls–David Gordon On John Rawls…Utilitarianism leads to problems.  Will the Rawlsian center-left hold up?:

From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’… From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

Robert Nozick merged elements of Kant and Locke in a strong, libertarian defense of the individual A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

Some Friday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

Free For Me, But Not For Thee-Some Links On Speech

It might be useful to tease-out the actual historical legacy of suffering, injustice and grievance from the ideology, victimhood and ’empowerment’ of some people pursuing their interests in endless protest. When political ideology foments and amplifies injustice into ‘free speech for me, but not for thee,’ it’s not hard to see there will be problems with the speech of everyone (or at least problem enough with more established Constitutional protections on speech).

In my estimation, the incentives for activist rabble-rousing (addition: less truth and fact, more mob-sustained anger) will only be diminished when the current political-cycle changes, and when enough Americans decide they can be decent, moral people while quietly rejecting the softly radical activism, anti-establishmentarianism, and yes, moral exploitation of guilt by their political leaders into policies with which they might disagree.

From my perspective, many media outlets and academic institutions are hip-deep in tacit approval of such radical and semi-radical ideas (it’s always 1968 somewhere), so there’s a lot of core identity, pride, conviction, political power, and money on the line.

In fact, with all the technological and economic forces at work on our lives at the moment, I don’t expect our political debates to be reasonably civil anytime soon, aside from these dynamics.

Walter Russell Mead:

‘In a 2013, the Office for Civil Rights in Education—a federal agency formally charged with protecting students from unlawful harassment, but which appears to have effectively gone rogue under new, far-left leadership over the last five years—declared that universities needed to investigate and possibly punish students for making comments that other students find “unwelcome,” even if those comments were protected by the First Amendment.’

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Two older, but likely worthwhile links:

Brendan O’Neill At Spiked: ‘Why We Must Fight For Free Speech For People We Loathe:

‘A true devotee of freedom of speech says, ‘Let everyone speak, because it is important that all sides are heard and that the public has the right to use their moral muscles and decide who they trust and who they don’t’. The new, partial campaigners for friends’ speech effectively say, ‘Let my friend speak. She is interesting. She will tell the public what they need to hear.’ These are profoundly different positions, the former built on liberty and humanism, the latter motored by a desire to protect oneself, and oneself alone, from censorship. The former is free speech; the latter ‘me speech’.

Back to Yale with Christopher Hitchens:

Full post here.

Reason post here.

NY Times piece here.

Old news I know, but it seems that the Yale Press was genuinely afraid that publishing this book could potentially lead to violence, and that they are responsible for the consequences of such potential violence.

Hitchens:

“…Yale had consulted a range of experts before making its decision and that “[a]ll confirmed that the republication of the cartoons by the Yale University Press ran a serious risk of instigating violence.”

From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

See Also:  If you thought the cartoons were bad, more on the Fitna movie here.  From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”  Libertarians love this issue:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant  

Repost-A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

Full post here.

Mead has a series built upon the argument that the ‘blue’ progressive social model (building the Great Society) is defunct because America will have to adjust to new economic and global realities.   In the [then] current post, he focuse[d] on the part of the model that creates and directs government agencies to try and alleviate inner-city poverty and its problems for black folks.

‘This is one danger for the Black middle class and it’s an urgent and obvious one: the good jobs are going away — and they won’t be quite as good anymore.  The second danger is subtler but no less important.  In the past, government work served to integrate ethnic minorities and urban populations into society at large.  In the current atmosphere of sharpening debate over the role and cost of government, the ties of so much of the Black middle class to government employment may make it harder, not easier, for Blacks to take advantage of the opportunities that the emerging Red Age economy offers.’

Well, I’m not sold that the Red age is upon us, nor on this analysis, but it’s an interesting thought (for where are entrenched government interests going?).  In my experience, such programs address real needs of which there are no shortage (health and nutrition services for wanted and unwanted teen pregnancies, food stamps and subsidized school lunches for probably millions of kids, subsidized housing for people to get away from predatory and criminal individuals and neighborhoods where the law often doesn’t reach and won’t ever address most of the problems).  Poverty is always with us, and black poverty in American inner cities has its own specific history.

These programs, of course, can create reward structures in which there are winners and losers (creating more inequality as well as abuse and corruption from the top down), recipients who’ve long given up any sense of shame at receiving handouts and generations of people who’ve known little else (another form of abuse and corruption).  There is also clearly damage done to the spirit of those who’ve gotten out, and those striving to get out by their own lights as they look around and see often an upside-down system of incentives (though it may be better than the reward structure of say, a gang).  There is mismanagement, entrenched bureaucracy, and like most city politics, a big political machine with sometimes ruthlessly self-interested players, many of whom have many shady connections.

I’d like to think I’m well aware of the threat such thinking poses to a balanced budget and a growing economy through lower taxation and continued political stability… and ultimately to individual liberties and personal responsibility, which would include the freedom to pursue one’s talents apart from enforced schemes of those who would decide where your moral obligations lie as they pursue their own self-interest in the name of their ideals.

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The progressive response is likely to still be their moral high-ground:  But for moral concern of principled actors responding to the horrendous injustice of American institutionalized slavery, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.  The path to justice therefore, and to make society more moral and equal lies through the use of activism to gain popular support for a cause; to enshrine one’s ideals through legislation and the use of State power.   Of course, many progressives assume this legitimizes the broader political platform and all manner of other causes (and their use of the race card shows what happens when politics is used as a driver of change).  These ideas have been making their way through our culture, our courts, and our institutions as Mead points out, for long over a half-century.  They definitely are shaping our current political landscape, come what may.

Comments are worth a read.

A quote from John Locke, found here:

For wherever violence is used, and injury done, though by hands appointed to administer Justice, it is still violence and injury, however colour’d with the Name, Pretences, or Forms of Law, the end whereof being to protect and redress the innocent, by an unbiassed application of it, to all who are under it; wherever that is not bona fide done, War is made upon the Sufferers, who having no appeal on Earth to right them, they are left to the only remedy in such Cases, an appeal to Heaven.”

Related On This Site:  Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French RevolutionRepost-Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Mubaraks, Mamelukes, Modernizers and Muslims’Walter Russell Mead’s New Book On Britain and America

Organizing For Action?-Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘What Erdogan’s Pivot To Putin Really Means’

Mead here:

‘The issues in Syria are difficult and the alternatives are few, but President Obama’s Syria policy is one of the shabbiest and sorriest displays of serial ineptitude that has unfolded in world politics in all these many years.’

Assad is still there…

My long-winded, critical take: Many bad actors claim to honor the rules of the ‘international community’ while continuing to pursue their aims, which often work against any such definition of said ‘community’ many in the West would like to see.  The Moscow/Tehran/Damascus alliance has strengthened considerably, while the Syrian conflict has continued.

Of course, acquiring deliverable nukes doesn’t just potentially conflict with American interests, but against the professed ideals of those claiming to currently speak for the ‘international community’ within American leadership. American interests are still primarily bankrolling (blood and treasure) much of the ‘international community’s’ ability to influence bad actors.

It’s not clear to me current American policy will stop the Iranian regime from trying to get where, quite apparently, it wants to be.  In trading the previous negative constraints (sanctions, threat of force), for such weak affirmative restraints (the current deal), this may have simply deleveraged American advantage for little ‘yield’.

It’d be nice to be wrong.  I’m listening.

A potentially useful analogy: The American military could be analogous to the police in Dallas, or St Louis, or Boston:  They still have to protect and serve American citizens but they’ve been brought to heel under the scrutiny of activist logic.

Such logic incentivizes a lot of people, including bad actors, without much in the way of constraints upon behavior, except in joining the activist’s cause or the activist’s definition of ‘community’ in de-legitimizing current traditions and institutions, and in often dehumanizing ‘others’.  The American military, much like the police in Dallas, St Louis, or Boston, are still responsible for dealing with bad actors who wish to do them (and us) harm, but their risk has gone way up, while their legitimacy has gone way down (and our legitimacy wasn’t great before Obama).

***I suspect anti-American interests will keep doing what they can to maximize advantage in the meantime (Putin is a prime example), while interests that could align with American interests may look around for other strong-horses.  Situational logic applies in decisions that could be a matter of life and death for smaller players (you’ve got to cozy up to someone, maybe just to keep ’em off you). More strongly allied nations will likely wait around and quietly diversify their portfolios.

At home, putting an activist at the helm has tacked American policy/politics Leftward, and may well create more hawkish Democrats, neo-conservatives, and conservatives both angry/disconsolate at this state of affairs, looking to carve out a path forward in reaction and response.

Populist anger and political dysfunction don’t tend to make for great foreign policy.

Let me know what/how much I’ve got wrong.

Via A Reader: Walter Russell Mead On The Steve Paikin Show…

Is Barack Obama A Realist?

Addition: Link sent in to a Ben Domenech piece at The Federalist: ‘Reject Naive Foreign Policy, Whatever Its Source

More Speech, Please, And A Repost-Jonathans Franzen & Haidt: Two Links On Modern Liberalism & You

Eugene Volokh here.

I keep hearing about a supposed “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment, or statements such as, “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech,” or “When does free speech stop and hate speech begin?” But there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas.

The folks at Charlie Hebdo didn’t find the PEN ‘activists’ much to think about.

Michael Moynihan has been keeping an eye on some people so you don’t have to.  The 1st amendment is pretty basic, people.

Even Walter Kirn got in on the action:


Sam Tanenhaus, former editor of the NY Times, took a look at Jonathan Franzen’s then new novel ‘Purity‘ (Tanenhaus is also working on a biography of William F Buckley Jr…).

He touched on Lionel Trilling’s work and his influence on the mid 20th century American novel:

‘Trilling wrote that in 1948, at the dawn of the cold war, and for many years his literary prescription seemed a misfire—the fault, in all likelihood, of his own embroilment in the ideological soul-searching of his generation: the 1930s radicals who were drawn to communism but later discovered the facts of the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin. This disillusionment informed Trilling’s own novel about ideological conflict, The Middle of the Journey (1947), a stab toward the new fiction he had in mind. It is sensible and sensitive, but more cultural seminar than work of imagination. The “issues” it dissects—the delusions of fellow travelers, the shallowness of the modern liberal when forced to confront the depth and reach of Soviet crimes, the progressive belief in the future that rested on an almost childlike denial of death—felt bloodless and beside the point at a time when the developing story was no longer the false lure of communism but the blazing forth of the affluent society.’

Worth a read.  Drop a line if you’ve read Franzen’s work.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, perhaps that post-WWII corporatist model of big companies and big government tied together, knotted with the help an arguably more religiously traditional cultural fabric (married with kids younger, company men, wives at home) is not coming back, or at least in drastic need of a remodel, according to Walter Russell Mead.

The Cold War is over, though a kleptocratic, ex-KGB run Russian State is causing enough problems right now.

On this site, see: From The Claremont Institute Via YouTube: Charles Kesler In Conversation With Walter Russell Mead

Times have changed.

The 60’s happened, along with the radicalism of the New Left gaining traction in many American universities and arguably a more vigorous individualism and tendency towards social liberalism/libertarianism culture-wide.

On this site, see: Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss

It would seem defenders of religious liberties may no longer have a majority stake in ‘the culture,’ or may at least come to find themselves grateful for constitutionally protected liberties.

Add competitive global labor markets to disturb the remnants of the New Deal and the Big Firm landscape (bad healthcare incentives, underfunded pension liabilities and social programs), along with rapid technological change and there’s a lot going on in American life.

How are such changes being reflected in the novel?  Are novelists reflecting your inner life faithfully enough to be worth reading?

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Megan McArdle revisited Jonathan Haidt: ‘Liberals Can’t Admit To Thinking Like Conservatives

‘I’m an enormous fan of Jonathan Haidt’s work. Nonetheless, I’ve always had two outstanding questions about it (and would note that these are not exactly questions of which Professor Haidt is unaware).’

Check out Larry Arnhart, at Darwinian Conservatism, on Jonathan Haidt:

Full piece here:

‘The most revealing comment from the Wall Street Journal interview is his praise for Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions, in which Sowell elaborates Friedrich Hayek’s distinction between the “constrained vision” of the British tradition and the “unconstrained vision” of the French tradition.  The constrained or realist vision of human nature is the vision of classical liberalism (Adam Smith) or traditionalist conservatism (Edmund Burke).  “Again, as a moral psychologist,” Haidt says, “I had to say the constrained vision is correct.”  The evolutionary support for the constrained vision is one of the major themes of my Darwinian Conservatism.’

and:

‘The imprecise terminology of liberalism, conservatism, and libertarianism is also confusing.  From my reading of Haidt’s book, he is implicitly embracing a liberal conservatism, or what people like Frank Meyer defended as a fusion of classical liberalism and traditionalist conservatism.  (Haidt mentions fusionism briefly in his paper on libertarianism.)  Crucial for this fusion is the distinction between state and society.  The end for a free state is liberty.  The end for a free society is virtue.  Political liberty provides the conditions for people to pursue virtue in civil society through the natural and voluntary associations of life.  Classical liberals or libertarians rightly emphasize political liberty.  Traditionalist conservatives rightly emphasize social virtue.  Political liberty provides the liberal tolerance by which people are free to pursue their moral visions within whatever moral community they join, as long as they do not violate the equal liberty of all others to live their moral lives as they choose.

‘This is, I think, implicit in Haidt’s book, but he never makes it explicit, because he never clearly makes the crucial distinction between state and society, political liberty and social virtue.’

Interesting reading.

From a reader:  ‘The Rationalist Delusion In Politics:’

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Communist corner: I remember reading a piece at the NY Times about Trotsky’s great-grandaughter, the neuroscientist Nora Volkow:

‘Dr. Volkow generally forswears any interest in politics per se, but midway through a long day of meetings last month she sighed and acknowledged, “science and politics are intertwined.” We think we have free will, she continued, but we are foiled at every turn. First our biology conspires against us with brains that are hard-wired to increase pleasure and decrease pain. Meanwhile, we are so gregarious that social systems — whether you call them peer pressure or politics — reliably dwarf us as individuals. “There is no way you can escape.”

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As for a critique of Albany Plaza, another modernist/bureaucratic concrete wonderland, here’s Robert Hughes:

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As for the 60’s, how about Pete Seeger’s lifelong Communism?:

‘Seeger never really did abandon the dream of communism, despite the inconvenient fact that it had long since (starting around 1918) transformed into a pitiful nightmare. So it was unsurprising that in 1995 he would provide an effusive blurb for a book of poetry written by Tomas Borge, the brutal secret police chief and interior minister of Sandinista Nicaragua (“An extraordinary collection of poems and prose”).’

See Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s… for a rich account of the times

Related On This Site: A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under ObamaFrom FIRE.org-’Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’Greg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

From Via Media-Obama’s Syria Play A Failure

Walter Russell Mead: ‘Obama’s Syria Play A Failure:’

‘Remember the good old days when all the Obama acolytes gloated that the hapless Putin had fallen into Obama’s trap in Syria, that poor pitiful Putin would be caught in a quagmire in Syria just like Brezhnev in Afghanistan, while America’s moral standing and world influence would grow?’


As previously posted:

Samantha, Powerless: Obama’s Problem From Hell In Syria

Totten applies Power’s logic to Syria:

‘No ideology in the world right now is more inherently genocidal than that of ISIS.

It began its life as Al Qaeda in Iraq under the Jordanian jihadi Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also known as the Sheikh of the Slaughterers. He hated no one on his planet—not Christians, not Jews, not atheists—as much as he despised Shia Muslims. The Shia, he wrote, are “the insurmountable obstacle, the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying enemy, and the penetrating venom.”

Food for thought: Not only did the current administration pull-back from Hilary Clinton’s more hawkish interventionist logic that helped get ‘kinetic military action’ approved in Libya, but even the humanitarian-cum-policy maker Samantha Power’s logic could reasonably be applied, a person who made a case for the use of force only once the genocide starts, as it has in Syria (who still recognizes her ideals depend on men willing to fight).

A very important conversation needs to be had about the Islamic State meaning what they say:  Bombing the Russian airliner in Egypt, planning and carrying-out the massacre in Paris, and potentially having involvement (inspiration) in the San Bernardino murders here at home.

Instead, as I see it, American citizens got a speech trying to leverage the nation into another tired debate about gun control; dragging us all into the same ideological box, while offering no real new information, ideas, nor leadership.

So, is there more peace in the world now?

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.’


A quote from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

“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.”

What happens when you try and go ‘full peace’?

My two cents: We should figure out a good way to destabilize and destroy IS, depriving them of territory, revenue, clout and murdering capacity.  Then, we should go forward; enacting and reacting to events (by proxy if necessary).

Let me know if you disagree, and why.

Another Addition: Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

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’

Some Old Times Square Photos And Nearly Dying In The Desert-Some Links

-Via David Thompson: Some photos of Times Square when it was awfully seedy (one of those one photo per page sites…)

***The Greene Street Project: A Long History of a Short Block-An interactive site that follows, longitudinally, one small section of New York City.

-Light-rail fantasies:

‘What would happen if your city, in the name of progress, started giving poorer residents vouchers for landline telephones rather than smartphones? Or if, rather than stocking public libraries with computers, so that people could write emails, your city installed fax machines?’

It’s like a time-machine back to the future utopia, at $8 a ride…

-What really, really happened to ‘D.B. Cooper,‘ other than that he lives with Bigfoot in a lodge near Johnston Ridge

-Walter Russell Mead: ‘Turkey And The Ruins Of US Foreign Policy

‘Yet America’s relations with both Turkey and Russia are in shambles. ‘

-From a reader, how Jerry Pournelle was on his way back from a hacking conference and nearly died in Death Valley.

Remember Who We’re Dealing With, Here-A Few Iran Links

Via Via Media:

Original WSJ piece here.

Al Jazeera English

Walter Russell Mead:

‘…the WSJ also reports that Iran sent to Russia 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium this week. That will, the story notes, reduce Tehran’s capacity to make nukes and it has strengthened America’s position.’

A lot of American leverage was sacrificed for this deal, and now the same ends, however idealistic (this blog thinks somewhere between peace activism and vague promises of humanitarian intervention), will likely be pursued by the current U.S. administration.

The White House’s page isn’t exactly reassuring.

John Kerry, a little while ago:

‘Let me underscore that. The United States and the international community will be monitoring Iran nonstop — and you can bet that if we see something; we will do something.’

Mead again:

‘The Iran nuclear deal is the foundation stone of President Obama’s Middle East policy. He has paid an immense price for the deal at home and abroad. The highest price, moreover, has been paid by the hundreds of thousands dead in sectarian strife and the millions forced out of their homes in Iraq and Syria as the U.S. avoided any actions in those countries that might have threatened Iran’s willingness to sign on the dotted line.’

It’s quite likely many of the deeper reasons for Western confrontations with a nuclear-seeking Iranian regime have been pushed out and/or will spill out into other conflicts and challenges as we move forward.

-Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’Inside Everyone Is A Western Individual Waiting To Get Out?-Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

The American Response To ISIS-Not So Strategic

I can claim no expertise on the matter; except that of a moderately informed American citizen trying to keep up…

Key points:  ISIS clearly represents a form of radical Islam; one with fascistic and Western elements, yes, but Islam-inspired nonetheless. To my knowledge, there are no non-Muslim, nor non-Muslim-aspiring converts and self-radicalizers joining this fight, nor seeking to advance ISIS aims.

I do not believe people in the West are at war with Islam, perhaps that’s not as obvious as it should be in certain quarters, but in other quarters it should be just as obvious the West has been in a form of warfare with radical, guerilla-style, Islamic-inspired terrorist groups for some time. These groups keep emerging out of Islamic societies, capable of attacking Western societies, and even radicalizing a few Muslims within Western societies.

Some of these radicals have been forged (supported even) out of direct contact with American military engagement in the past and present, and also other Western/Russian engagement, too. Some such radicals can even be born within, or travel freely to and from, Western societies and the front lines of their ordained battlefield, as many Muslims are voting with their feet; seeking more freedom, opportunity, and security than their own societies can provide, becoming immigrants, economic migrants, and in some cases, benefit-seekers, and in a few, rarer cases…radicalized terrorists and murderers.

Deeper down, though, it seems these radicals are being born out of the conflict within Muslim societies and those societies’ contacts/conflicts with both the West and what is generally called ‘modernity.’  Islam and Islamic societies are having a pretty rough time with so much change, and most Muslims’ view of how society ought to be, and what the good society is, and what will happen in the future, differs greatly from what many in the West live and propose.

So, how does the West respond, and according to which leaders and ideas?

As to ISIS, Grame Wood’s piece and interview seem like a decent place to start:

Here he is in a VICE interview on the same subject:

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As to the American response, I’m quite sympathetic to viewing the President thusly:  Take the easy path of blaming your ideological enemies at home when the fruits of your foreign-policy decisions are borne.  Elide over the radical Islamic nature of the threat which can cost people their lives and likely prohibits reasonable policy-making.  Gloss over the humanitarian disaster Syria’s become, largely on your watch.

If necessary, double-down on your own policy positions and political coalitions (climate change is the real threat, peace is next, the Syrian mess will be solved by humanitarian means alone, that’s what ‘good’ people do).

Jonah Goldberg here.  Walter Russell Mead here.

‘From the standpoint of American interests and of the well being of the Syrians, the primary responsibility that the United States has toward the people of Syria is not to offer asylum to something like 0.25 percent of its refugee population. The primary duty of this country was to prevent such a disaster from happening and, failing that, to support in-country safe havens and relief operations. No doubt President Obama and the unthinking press zealots who applaud his every move prefer a conversation about why ordinary Americans are racist xenophobes to one about why President Obama’s Syria policy has created an immense and still expanding disaster.’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Which map are you using to understand this conflict?:  From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Ebrahim Moosa At Bloggingheads Discusses Islamic Reform

al-Zawahiri’s Egypt, a good backstory: Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

Michael Moynihan jihad.com.

Repost: Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie’

Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’….From The AP: ‘Al-Awlaki: From Voice For Jihad To Al-Qaida Figure’

From Reason: ‘Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks Headbutted During Lecture’

Many libertarians stand firm on freedom of speech:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra LevantFrom Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’Christopher Hitchens At Slate: Yale SurrendersYale concluded that the risk of violence and the potential consequences that stemmed from their decision to publish a scholarly work about the Mohammed cartoons (reprinting those cartoons) was not worth the risk. Hitchens was not a fan of religion.

American Foreign Policy-Somewhere Between Peace Activism & Humanitarian Intervention?

Walter Russell Mead at the American Interest:  ‘Obama, Anti-Semitism, and Iran:’

Mead riffs on Obama statement from this interview with Jeffrey Goldberg.

Goldberg and Mead suspect that the anti-Semitism found in some quarters is not rational, and doesn’t lead to rational decisions.

Mead:

‘The problem here is that the President, ironically enough, doesn’t seem to understand diversity. He thinks diversity is trivial: that people of different religious faiths, ethnic backgrounds and ideological convictions are not all that different in the way they look at the world.’

and:

‘Essentially, Goldberg was asking the President whether his years in the White House have taught him that real diversity exists, and that it matters. He was asking whether the President understands that people from different cultures can sometimes operate on the basis of such radically different presuppositions that their mental world maps are fundamentally incompatible with the norms of reason as the President sees them. He was asking whether the President had considered whether Iranian leaders in particular reason so differently from standard cosmopolitan Washington liberal thinking that they may not, in fact, be approaching these negotiations from what the President, and most Americans, would recognize as a logical point of view’

The ‘rational actor’ model the President relies upon has distanced American interests from many allies, while getting America close enough to try and do business with various non-allies, adversaries, and traditional enemies.  It has done so on the assumption that American threat and use of force is part of the problem.  It has assumed that Vladimir Putin, the post-1979 mullah State in Iran, and the Castros in Cuba are rational enough to have a hand extended to them during this recent change in diplomacy.

This approach comes with the obvious risk that such a model may not be universally shared, but rather one among many concepts shared by a smaller subset of Westerners with a worldview of their own.  It risks trusting that Vladimir Putin and the post-1979 mullah State (the Castros can probably really only hurt the Cubans under their control) will act under the presumption of a certain amount of good faith the ‘rational actor’ model requires.  It presumes we can trust these guys enough to reach deals, even without the threat of force, and that we’re on the same ‘plane.’

Of course, it may be just as rational to guide policy based upon actual behavior, expecting such regimes to continue doing what they’ve been visibly doing.  Both Moscow and Tehran have deep anti-American sentiment and have held loose alliance between themselves.  They are busy maintaining, expanding and exploiting their spheres of influence by means that set themselves and their people against American policy, as well as Western and international laws and much else besides (claiming American policy, international laws and expectations are aggressions and constraints against their interests).

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Some other links:

From The New Yorker: ‘Journey To Jihad:  Why Are Teenagers Joining ISIS?

Informative piece which follows a Belgian jihadi from a Belgian Anjem Choudary wannabe organization to the Syrian desert.

***As to the title, I’m guessing you have to write titles like that at the New Yorker.  For some people, understanding is to Terrorism what PTSD can be to War.  If we just understand and explain terrorism, it might not go away, but it will get better.  If we just have the experts explain why terrorists want to kill us, or why wars happen and how badly people can be affected by them, they might not go away, but it will all get better.

This can be an exercise in reinforcing a set of beliefs about the world rather than what’s going on in the world itself.

This can have political, social and institutional consequences that don’t necessarily make the world any better.

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Meanwhile, Iranian backed Hezbollah is still active, of course:

Claudia Rosett:

‘Reports out of southern Lebanon tell us that the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah  continues to expand its network of tunnels along the border with Israel, preparing for another war. That’s not an accusation by Israeli sources, but a boast by Hezbollah, detailed in a series of recent articles in a Hezbollah-linked newspaper, As-Safir.’

Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’Inside Everyone Is A Western Individual Waiting To Get Out?-Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’