Some Foreign Policy Links And A Bit Of Social-Science Skepticism And ‘Elite’-Bashing

-Via Mick Hartley via the BBC-‘Sudan and Israel normalize relations‘:

At the same time, US President Donald Trump has removed Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, unblocking economic aid and investment.

-Rick Francona-‘What does withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq mean?:

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.’

-Charles Hill at The Hoover Institution: ‘The Middle East And The Major World Powers’:

Hmmm…..

‘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:

Martin Gurri via Marginal Revolution:  ‘Notes From A Nameless Conference:’

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.’

Roger Sandall from ‘Guardianship: The Utopia Of The New Class‘ finishes with:

‘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.

Weber:

Rulers without honour, administrators without heart, priests without conviction, this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilisation never before achieved.’

Just thought I’d Throw This In There:

An interesting take from Slate Star Codex-‘The APA Meeting: A Photo-Essay:’

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.

This reminds me of a poem by Robert Pinsky, entitled ‘Essay On Psychiatrists’

V. Physical Comparison With Professors And Others

Pink and a bit soft-bodied, with a somewhat jazzy
Middle-class bathing suit and sandy sideburns, to me
He looked from the back like one more professor.

And from the front, too—the boyish, unformed carriage
Which foreigners always note in American men, combined
As in a professor with that liberal, quizzical,

Articulate gaze so unlike the more focused, more
Tolerant expression worn by a man of action (surgeon,
Salesman, athlete). On closer inspection was there,

Perhaps, a self-satisfied benign air, a too studied
Gentleness toward the child whose hand he held loosely?
Absurd to speculate; but then—the woman saw something

Maintaining a healthy skepticism:

Quote found here——Kraut, Richard. The Cambridge Companion to Plato. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

“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.”

Previous ‘elite’ links on this site, arriving at some yet predictable, unrealized truths:  Via Marginal Revolution via American Affairs: ‘The Western Elite From A Chinese Perspective:’

Kenneth Anderson At Volokh: ‘The Fragmenting of the New Class Elites, Or, Downward Mobility

Two Kinds Of Elite Cities in America?

There are people with careers writing about elites, becoming somewhat elite themselves, which haven’t fared too well

Some Links On Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia & Azerbaijan October 2020

Armenia is one of the oldest Christian nations going, sitting in a region surrounded by non-Christian nations.

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan were later additions to the U.S.S.R, and are now independent nations once again (Moscow still being a natural power center). The two have been disputing a region to which both claim ownership, Nagorno-Karabakh.

From Vice:

Nagorno-Karabakh is a majority ethnic Armenian enclave entirely within the borders of Azerbaijan, which broke away in a war that started amid the fracturing of the Soviet Union in 1991. With backing from Armenia, the ethnic Armenians who predominate in the territory have run their own affairs, despite the territory being internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.

The Turks to the West, if you’ll recall, comitted a genocide against the Armenians this past century, and are now aligning with the Azeris in their renewed bid to reclaim Nagorno-Karabakh, sometimes attacking civilian populations. Escalation is likely.

Walter Russell Mead at the WSJ:

Ankara appears to be betting that the Azerbaijanis can overcome entrenched Armenian defenders in the mountainous region before the Armenians can persuade Russia and Armenia’s Western friends to force an end to the conflict. The Armenians, especially the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, have a well-deserved reputation as tough fighters. But without outside help, the odds are not in their favor. Azerbaijan has about four times the gross domestic product of Armenia and three times the population, and Azerbaijan has invested heavily in its armed forces since a military and political collapse forced it to accept a cease-fire in 1994.’

If you accept some realist foreign policy assumptions (no friends, only allies) then the closest Moscow and Washington D.C. have been in the past few decades is on the issue of Islamic terrorism:

The conflict challenges Russia in perhaps the single most sensitive place on its frontiers: the South Caucasus. The Kremlin wants good relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Its nightmare scenario is conflict in the southern Caucasus that spreads into Russia, where the Chechens are not the only Muslim ethnic minority who chafe under Moscow’s rule.

Other involved players include Tehran and Paris (showing some support for the Armenian cause).

What say you?

Repost-A 9/11 Link

For those who didn’t make it through, and those who did, and those who have worked every day to make it better…

Here’s a video of the memorial at night, from some number of years ago. You can look into those holes, the water flowing down and away. You can also be with everyone else for a moment, looking at the beauty around you; the bustling city.

Addition: At the NY Observer, a firsthand account from the 77th floor of the 2nd tower.

Intelligent Design Creationism And A Few Iran Links

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Gelernter’s Strong Arguments Against Intelligent Design Creationism

Interesting read:

‘Gelernter sees that this is purely negative reasoning, because the proponents of intelligent design are offering no positive explanation of their own as to exactly when, where, and how the intelligent designer caused these forms of life.’

Relevant key-word search on this site ‘Gelernter:’ From Ed Driscoll: ‘Interview: David Gelernter on America-Lite’…More Americans In Universities-To What End? A Few Links

Both from The Federalist:

President Trump Can Still Avert A Catastrophe With Iran, And He Should

Panic Over War With Iran Is An Info Operation To Preserve The Iran Deal

My thoughts as a semi-informed citizen: I remember thinking that the Iranian regime (proxies, guns, terrorism) was the kind of regime with whom we couldn’t really do business (anti-American from the get-go), and that the deeper, populist ambitions of many Persians might support some kind of Iranian level-up to nuclear legitimacy, further destabilizing the region after a longer American strategic retreat.

Many signs pointed towards a conflict.

At the time, I didn’t much like the McCain campaign’s noises on Iran, potentially leading to a stand-off or even a much more difficult war than the Iraq campaign, without many of the Iraq war’s architects and supporting base having to examine their underlying assumptions.  This, given the many failure of America’s political and intellectual classes to properly consider what I see as many current American internal social, political and cultural divisions.

This process of decay and/or re-formation of our political and intellectual elite still seems to be ongoing. All in all, I remain highly skeptical.

Add to this the ‘our-deal-or-war’ peace rhetoric of the Obama administration and what seemed the amateurish quality of their foreign policy goals?

Here we are, I suppose.

Relevant key-word search on this site ‘Iran’: How’s That Iran Deal Going, Exactly?…

Repost-Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

Adam Garfinkle has a thoughtful piece on American political discourse and the Iran deal.

 

A Few Syria Links-Walking The Current American Libertarian-Conservative Line

Michael Totten on the Syria attacks: ‘The Case For Bombing Assad:’

‘The Assad regime won’t disappear or suddenly turn into a model of good government by a couple of punishing strikes, nor will the number of Syrian dead in the future be reduced even by one. Those are not the objectives. The objective is (or at least should be) making the use of a weapon of mass destruction more costly than not using it, to demonstrate not just to Assad but also to every other would-be war criminal that the norm established in 1993 on behalf of every human being will not go down without a fight.’

Richard Epstein: ‘Trump’s Forceful Syrian Gambit’

‘There should be no doubt, however, that taking a strong stand against a determined enemy will always raise the stakes of foreign policy—such as when John F. Kennedy faced down the Russians in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which was precipitated, in large part, by the weakness America displayed at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. A systematically passive military strategy points in only one direction: down. Today, the policy is shifting in a more favorable manner. Obama summarily fired General Mattis as head of Central Command in January 2013. He is now Trump’s Secretary of Defense—I count that as progress.’

Walter Russell Mead: ‘Trump’s Realist Syria Strategy’ (behind a WSJ paywall):

‘The tangled politics of last week’s missile strikes illustrate the contradictions in Mr. Trump’s approach. The president is a realist who believes that international relations are both highly competitive and zero-sum. If Iran and Russia threaten the balance of power in the Middle East, it is necessary to work with any country in the region that will counter them, irrespective of its human-rights record. The question is not whether there are political prisoners in Egypt; the question is whether Egypt shares U.S. interests when it comes to opposing Iran.’

As previously posted:

Many years ago, now, Charles Hill to some extent, and Fouad Ajami more so, argued for some action in Syria, as part of a larger strategic vision, a bolder, Trumanesque step that would define a new age of American influence (addition: or at least maintain our influence. We are signaling to the world that we are no longer leading and pursuing our interests, supporting freedom as we understand and want to see it, and we probably won’t like the world we’ll see). Agree or disagree, they’ve got some things right:

————————-

A quote from Hill’s forward to Ajami’s new book on Syria as discussed in the video:

“[The] greatest strategic challenge of the twenty-first century is involves “reversing Islamic radicalism”‘

What is our mission here? What is the larger strategy?

Related On This Site: …From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest:

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient: “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”. It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

I just received a copy of Totten’s book, Where The West Ends, and it’s good reading.

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

A Few Saturday Links-War, War Photography & Domestic Politics: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Michael Totten at World Affairs: ‘No, the Syrian Kurds Are Not Terrorists

There are Kurdish Communist militias, but there are still many reasons for America to promote Kurdish interests.  Additionally, there are reasons to help stamp out ISIS and navigate the other players in the region as well…leaving the Kurds to their own fate.  I think this helps explain current American policy in the region:

‘Whatever you think of the “libertarian socialism” of Syrian Kurdistan, it’s not even in the same time zone as the medieval totalitarianism of ISIS, the secular nationalist tyranny of Assad’s Arab Socialist Baath Party regime in Damascus or the Putin-esque rule of the neo-Ottoman Erdogan.

Turkey can call the Kurds terrorists all they want, but that will not make them so.’

Meanwhile, an increasingly authoritarian, populist, Islamic Erdogan has launched a campaign into Syria to battle with Kurdish forces:

and:

As previously posted:

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Two Sunday Links-Turkey, The Kurds, And Affirmative Consent

Domestic Politics And The Tendency People Have To Seek Transcendence And Naked Self-Interest At The Very Same Time:

Beware offering thoughtful critique of the sacred ‘-Isms’ these days (feminism, environmentalism, racism, sexism), even if it’s just pointing out other ways of thinking about injustice.  God forbid should you hold a conservative position on any matter. Problems come with identity politics and political idealism, after all, just as they do with religious belief and certainty and fixed conservative positions.  Generally, such criticism is not welcomed among radically activated and/or ambitious individuals.

If someone doesn’t recognize the moral legitimacy of the rules governing an institution they claim is oppressing them, maybe you want to ask which rules they recognize as morally legitimate before they go end-up controlling the institution?

Civility and a boring politics aren’t desireable for many, for various reasons, especially those people bringing presumed moral goods for everybody through radical change and radical liberation.

It might be useful to try and hold a mirror to many ambitious people in high towers and positions of authority in addition to one’s Self; a perplexing exercise during a time of The Self and a rather compromised politics of celebrity.

There are a lot of decent people out there, and a lot of good in people, of course, away from the madding crowd.

The Church Of Holy Modern Human Progress Shall Be Built!

The Old Catholic Church Shall Soon Be Rebuilt!

“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

That’s attributed to Eric Hoffer, here.

On that note, Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels) takes a look at war photographers to highlight an underlying truth:  Where there’s courage there is also cowardice. Where there’s moral concern there’s also boredom and self-preservation.

Everyone’s got a pet peeve (what this blog is for, really), but honest self-reflection can be much harder (to come by):

‘That people may love what they hate—or say that they hate—is illustrated in extreme form by war photographers. If you asked war photographers why they risk their lives to take pictures of the most terrible conflicts (rather than, say, of the beauties of nature), they would say that it is to inform or alert the world in the hope of bringing those conflicts to an end. But this is far from the whole truth, psychologically speaking; and as a person who has indulged in a little civil-war tourism myself, I can avow to the fact that there is nothing like a sense of danger for solving, at least temporarily, whatever little troubles are agitating one’s soul. When there might be an ambush round every corner, the minor fluctuations of one’s emotional state are of little concern.’

Via The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Victor Davis Hanson On WWII

Via a reader via The Hoover Institution:  Some actual first (second)-hand accounts and some counter-factuals:

The current world-order, of more stable Western democracies, rests upon a foundation I don’t trust our education system to (understand nor) address.

Part 1 here.

Repost-Victor Davis Hanson Via Youtube Via Uncommon Knowledge: ‘The New Old World Order’

Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

Victor Davis Hanson At The City Journal: ‘California, Here We Stay’

From Maverick Philosopher:  The Difference Between Patriotism And Jingoism.

flag-c.jpg

A Sniper In Syria, Jerusalem, & Radical Campus Chic-Some Links

Via The Atlantic video, via Youtube:

Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest: ‘If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem? Not A Chance

‘…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.

Some Links On The Kurds And Where Some Moderate U.S. Political Ground Might Be Found

Russia appears a post-ish Communist, revanchist, fairly corrupt petro-State run by a ex-KGB guy. Russian leadership is actively paying individuals, groups and orgs to undermine Western interests and U.S. sovereignty.

If you believe in institutions which promote various conflicting, but often shared, Western-man-on-the-street beliefs in Western secular humanism (democracy promotion, the use of U.S. military force, the use of the U.S. military to preserve liberal world order, expansion of global liberty as residing within individuals, Constitutional and/or Westphalian-style state promotion, working for human rights etc.) then you likely don’t want to see Russian leadership gaining much tactical advantage.

The terrorist-sponsoring, post-1979, expansionist deliverable nuke-seeking gang in Tehran, the clinging, chemical-weapons deploying Assad in Syria, and our ‘friends’ in Moscow all share common interests; undermining U.S. strength and inhibiting Western influence are tops on the list.

Maybe Erdogan, consolidating his power autocratically and riding a deeper wave of Islamic resurgence and sentiment, will keep looking Eastward and continue to play both ends more than he’s doing now.

A lot of moderate political ground is now occupied in the U.S. by people lamenting the major rifts within both U.S. political parties, the celebrification of high office, and the lack of institutional stability, social trust and decently functioning politics. I suspect Trump has become a symptom of, and a lightning rod for, the changes occurring within and without our Republic.

As for the Kurds, well, they have some potential to reflect more of what most Americans would generally like to see out in the world (conveniently found in Israel and in many States having emerged from the Eastern Bloc).

Totten:

‘The Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis is poised to emerge victorious in the Syria war, stronger than ever, thanks to military assistance from Russia. Assad is surviving the biggest threat to his family’s rule since it seized power four decades ago. Short of political revolutions in Tehran and Moscow, he’s likely to die an old man in office. And he’ll have no incentive whatsoever to change his ways. He’ll continue exporting terrorism all over the region, and the next war between Israel and a now far-stronger Hezbollah will likely make the last one look like a peace process. The Kurds in Syria—our only true friends in that country—are likely to lose everything they have gained without American backing.’

I suppose we’ll see what happens, as the wise Kurdish position appears to be lobbying the hell out of anyone for support while recognizing they’re still on their own, scrambling to survive…

Ofra Bengio At The American Interest: The Kurds’ Proxy Trap
As previously posted

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.