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    Sunday
    Jan252015

    The Long View: Warrior Politics

    Imagine this as a bald eagle with olive branches and arrowsThe opening entry of this review explains much of John's views on the Middle East. And also why this article was published in First Things.

    Robert Kaplan has spent these past 20 years reporting on local collapses of civilization, chiefly in sub-Saharan Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East. He tells us that, in the future, we should expect more collapse rather than less, and over a wider area. Indeed, he says "the paramount question of world politics in the early 21st century will be the reestablishment of order." The period we have entered will be "the most important decades of American foreign policy," when the terms of the emerging global civilization are written. We need more than merely new policies to navigate this stretch of history, Kaplan believes. In "Warrior Politics," he tries to give us nothing less than an outline of an imperial ethos for American elites.

    John didn't think that the terrorists could defeat us, but he did think that a loss of will in the voting public of the United States could have negative long term consequences. I think our wars in Iraq were stupid, but John's point of view does give me pause. It is pretty easy to laugh off John's analysis as imprecise and unscientific, but part of the reason I am re-posting everything he wrote over the last fifteen years is I am acutely interested in what he got right, what he got wrong, and why.

    For example, Kaplan was very much right that societal collapse seems to be something we see more of, rather than less. One might point out that Kaplan was involved in causing this himself, but he later changed his mind. As of yet, the United States has not yet pursued the logic of promoting democracy in the Global South to its logical end. For example, we destroyed Libya, but we have have preserved Saudi Arabia and the UAE, despite their depravity.

    It really isn't difficult to imagine the reason why. We think we know how to remake the world in our image, but each political generation discovers anew that we cannot. We make our peace with the regimes we support and the ones we choose to destroy, but we have not yet found a principled reason for what we do. John proposed a reason, and I think we should consider it.

    Warrior Politics:
    Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos
    By Robert D. Kaplan
    198 Pages, US$22.95
    Random House, 2002
    ISBN: 0-375-50563-6

     

    Robert Kaplan has spent these past 20 years reporting on local collapses of civilization, chiefly in sub-Saharan Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East. He tells us that, in the future, we should expect more collapse rather than less, and over a wider area. Indeed, he says "the paramount question of world politics in the early 21st century will be the reestablishment of order." The period we have entered will be "the most important decades of American foreign policy," when the terms of the emerging global civilization are written. We need more than merely new policies to navigate this stretch of history, Kaplan believes. In "Warrior Politics," he tries to give us nothing less than an outline of an imperial ethos for American elites.

    Kaplan says about Western foreign policy pretty much what one wag once said of Queen Victoria: we have pursued goodness to the point of self-indulgence. The result has too often been bloody chaos. Before the UN insisted on conducting an independence referendum in East Timor, for instance, two things were clear. First, the people would vote for independence from Indonesia. Second, Indonesian partisans would exact revenge violently, unless a foreign security force were on the ground to keep the peace. The UN, or rather its members, would not provide such a force, but the do-gooders of the world nonetheless insisted on enforcing the international norm of self-determination. The cost to the people of that country was terrible.

    Particularly since the end of the Cold War, the West in general and the US in particular have been guilty of many such exercises of catastrophic good intentions. We punished military governments in places like Pakistan and Nigeria because they were not democracies, though we knew those countries could unravel if civilians took over. We imposed economic sanctions on countries with imperfect human rights records, even though we needed their help in combating forces that were lethally disposed toward us. Often enough, such policies have been driven by nothing more than the irresponsible harping of the press. We could not have continued to conduct foreign policy like that forever. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, we haven't been. "Warrior Politics" does not directly discuss those attacks, but it does explain what we had been doing wrong that made them more likely.

    In essence, Kaplan says that the Wilsonian tradition in American foreign policy seeks to apply essentially civic norms to international society. Kaplan characterizes these norms indifferently as "Judeo-Christian" or Kantian. In any case, he says we have been making a category mistake. Civic morality, in Kaplan's view, is a morality of intent. We seek to respect the rights of others, and ask that others respect our rights. The measure of how well we live up to this standard is the disposition of our will to respect it. However, as Hobbes was rude enough to point out, rights become an issue only after order has been established. Only the Leviathan state can provide civic order, and there is as yet no global Leviathan capable of enforcing universal norms. In the world as it is today, the best we can do is an ethics of result. The goals may well accord with Judeo-Christian ideals, but the means to achieve them often cannot.

    Among the many technical points Kaplan never clarifies is how the ethical dilemmas of statesmanship differ from those of sovereigns domestically. Obviously, the duties of private persons differ from those of magistrates, because the latter are responsible for the well being of people other than themselves. This is true whether the conflicting goods they must reconcile are domestic or international. Is the ethics of keeping the peace abroad really so different from keeping the peace at home?

    Kaplan is at pains to emphasize that he is not endorsing amorality, but rather a morality that is not Judeo-Christian. He calls this ethos "pagan," though he asserts it underlay the ethics of great modern statesmen, notably his hero Winston Churchill, and of Machiavelli and Hobbes. The actual pagans he discusses at length are Sun Tzu, author of the fourth century B.C. Chinese classic "The Art of War," and Thucydides. "Warrior Politics" is really a meditation on the implications of the ideas of these five men, plus those of Malthus, for the 21st century.

    The "warrior ethos" that Kaplan proposes takes something from each of them: Churchill's animals spirits, Thucydides' caution against arrogance, Machiavelli's injunction to "anxious foresight," Hobbes's assessment of man as a dangerous predator, and the willingness of Malthus to consider that the mechanical trends of history need not tend toward the increase of human happiness. Inspired in part by an unpublished essay by Michael Lind on the "honor paradigm" in international relations, Kaplan says that the wise statesman of the 21st century should be guided by something rather like the code duello.

    In civil society the state protects us, but in lawless regions we must look to self-help, or to strong protectors. The safety of the weak, in fact, depends on the willingness of the strong to use violence in their behalf. In such an environment, the strong dare not suffer insult, lest their credibility diminish and so invite further attacks against them and their clients. There are limits to violence, however. The strong act from self-interest, but only to the point dictated by necessity. To use more force or cruelty than the occasion demands would provoke one's enemies to unite in self-defense.

    Readers of Frank Herbert's romance "Dune" may note how closely this ethos matches that of the leaders of the Great Houses in Herbert's imaginary galactic civilization. Indeed, the parallels are closer, since Kaplan imagines a world in which conventional military conflict is rare, but conflict continues nonetheless through "asymmetrical" means. Terror and assassination become the preferred methods of attack, not by the weak, but by the ambitious. The leaders of the West, and particularly the United States, must be prepared to function in a world in which democratic mass armies no longer ensure security. Future wars "will feature warriors on one side, motivated by grievance and rapine, and an aristocracy of statesmen, motivated, perhaps, by ancient virtue." So much for soccer-mom politics.

    The role of the United States in all this is unique. It is not quite a world Leviathan, but it is a planetary hegemon. It does not have the luxury that Great Britain had after the Second World War of handing its place in the world over to a compatible power. If anyone is going to embed human rights and the rule of law in the world system, it has to be us. As Kaplan puts it, "Global institutions are an outgrowth of Western power, not a replacement for it." At least on a military level that power lies almost exclusively with the United States.

    Kaplan suggests that the world is moving to a greater level of institutional unity. He dwells on an analogy between modernity and the Warring States Period in China. That era resulted, after three appalling centuries, in the Han Dynasty at the end of the 3rd century BC. Kaplan characterizes the dynasty as a loose system of "governance" for the newly unified but highly diverse Chinese world. Inevitably, he also makes the analogy of the United States to Rome; the point of departure is the frequently made comparison between the Second Punic War and World War II.

    The United States, then, is to oversee the crystallization of a global civilization we would want to live in. However, Americans must be quite literally the last people in the world to eschew ordinary patriotism for internationalism. Americans must cultivate Flag Day and the Fourth of July in order to maintain the national integrity needed for their global role. Kaplan's model here is the myth-making patriotism of Livy, though one may note that Livy idealized the ancient Republic after it was over, in the first generation of the Empire.

    "Warrior Politics" does not propose a formal system of ethics, not even an ethics of statecraft. Still, while describing an ethos is not quite the same as elaborating an ethics, we may note that the ethical systems that come down to us from the ancient pagans have little to do with the "ancient pagan ethos" that Kaplan submits for our approval. Epicureanism and Stoicism were at least as much philosophies of self-cultivation as is Kant's Transcendental Idealism.

    Kaplan's dictum that "unarmed prophets always fail" has as many historical exceptions as confirmations. Kaplan does mention that the unarmed followers of Jesus did "help bring down the Roman Empire," but without discussing the case in detail. However, inflexible idealism prevailed over pragmatism even in one of his favorite historical analogies. In the great ideological contest of the Warring States Period between Legalism and Confucianism, the outcome was the defeat of Machiavellian Legalism and the triumph of persnickety, I-told-you-so Confucianism. The prigs do sometimes inherit the earth.

    Kaplan's silence about Christian political theory is encyclopedic. He mentions Niebuhr's "Christian Realism" favorably, though he does not describe it. He also makes a passing friendly reference to Richelieu's and Bismarck's "pietism," which Kaplan believes left them free during business hours to maneuver as Realpolitiker. No doubt he saved himself the trouble of reviewing an extensive literature by confining his remarks about Just War theory to this: "Grotius's 'just war' presupposed the existence of a Leviathan - the pope or the Holy Roman Emperor - to enforce a moral code."

    "Warrior Politics" is really a call for the American political class to redefine itself in terms of a new goal: the maintenance and consolidation of an international system that is, in some respects, a loosely organized global empire. Kaplan does indeed propose a transformation of values, though maybe not the ones he imagines. In effect, he is not asking for the rejection of Jesus, but of John Rawls. The imperial project is not inconsistent with the expansion of the rule of law, domestically and internationally, and the spread of democratic institutions, or even of economic equality. However, its overriding goal would be peace, or at least a tolerable global order. This would be a new organizing principle for politics. Certainly it would be an un-modern one.

    One way to look at modernity is as the period in which societies sought to transform themselves in order to achieve the highest social goods. Democracy and equality in some form have usually been counted among them, but then so have free markets for some and socialism for others. For many people the highest goods have included secularization and environmentalism. In any case, these highest goods, however defined, could never be more than instrumental to the global system of perpetual peace (or mitigated war) that Kaplan is proposing as the end of policy. We are to turn our attention from the highest goods of modernity to the common, essential good of civilization, which is a livable order.

    This may or may not be a good idea, but let us not deceive ourselves about the magnitude of the change Kaplan proposes. His "warrior ethos" would change our rhetoric, our public priorities, the kinds of things we admire and despise. An imperial future would be a different world.


    This article originally appeared in the June/July 2002 issue of First Things. Please click on the following line for more information:

    Copyright © 2002 by John J. Reilly


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    Wednesday
    Jan212015

    The Long View 2002-09-12: Destabilizing Deterrence

    There is immense value to a country in possessing nuclear weapons, at least in part because of the mythos that has grown up around them. Iraq didn't really have the ability to make nuclear weapons, but Saddam would be toasting his good health today if they did. [there are those who disagree] North Korea would still exist, since they managed to annoy their neighbors for a good long while without nuclear weapons, but everyone would take them far less seriously. Qaddafi thought that making nice with the US after the Second Gulf War would work, and you can see how well that worked for him.

    However, for all that, there are a number of countries that plausibly could have developed nuclear weapons, and have chosen not to. Why not is a more interesting question than why.

    Destabilizing Deterrence

     

    Just this morning, the New York Times ran an Op Ed piece that illustrates the decay into which the concept of strategic deterrence has fallen. In "The Wisdom of Imagining the Worst-Case Scenario," Milton Viorst gives us some imaginary horribles to chew over in connection with a US invasion of Iraq. He suggests that by "moving into Saudi Arabia, Saddam Hussein would shift the battlefield far to the south, imposing on American troops a much heavier burden than just the capture of Baghdad." Such a move would put the operation of the Saudi oil fields at risk, and so the whole world's economy.

    It's actually a little hard to imagine how Iraqi mainforce units could invade anything under the cover of US air supremacy, but it is not out of the question that Iraqi missiles could do some damage to the oil fields. However, these things would be only the beginning of evils. Suppose the Iraqis fire some bio-chemical weapons at Tel Aviv, and the Israelis nuke Baghdad? In that case:

     

    "[Pakistan's President] Pervez Musharraf....has joined America's war on terrorism but would be unlikely to survive politically should there be a nuclear attack by an American ally on Iraq's Muslims. Islamists, overthrowing him, would take control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal; lacking the ability to launch missiles that would reach Israel, they would turn to India, their proximate enemy. A nuclear attack would set off global chaos."

    As a matter of fact, a Pakistani nuclear strike would not "set off global chaos," though it would result in the end of the Pakistani state in short order. What would set off chaos would be if an Islamist government in Pakistan started handing out small nuclear devices as party favors to terrorists and criminal groups, something that elements of the Pakistani security services have hinted they might do. This would actually be far more like the situation we would face, should Iraq and Iran ever acquire the bomb.

    Doubtless the sovereign suppliers of the technology of mass destruction could always maintain plausible deniability. They could feed the world's terrorist networks and black arms-markets with components, expertise, and occasionally sanctuary. Such countries rarely do anything blatant enough to constitute a traditional causus belli. Up until now, of course, it has been possible to strike at states that do such things, or to threaten them with retaliation: measures such as the air strikes on Libya by the Reagan Administration did much to transform the open support for terrorism displayed by some governments in the 1970s into the much more tactful attitude of the past 20 years or so. This is what is about to change.

    A single, deliverable nuclear weapon grants a state a large measure of invulnerability. Even if Iraq were openly underwriting Al Qaeda's campaign against the United States, the US could not plausibly threaten to remove the government in Baghdad, if that meant that Tel Aviv, or Rome, or Paris, would go up in cinders as soon as the Rangers took the last Iraqi presidential bunker. Conventional aggression by such states could never be answered by conventional responses that posed an existential threat to their regimes. This is, in fact, much the situation that now confronts the US with regard to North Korea, a nuclear-armed failed-state that survives by exacting blackmail from the US and from its neighbors.

    During the Cold War, deterrence served not just to prevent a nuclear exchange, but also to inhibit the direct use of conventional force by the US and the USSR. In the current era, deterrence has nearly the opposite effect; it still reduces the chance that weapons of mass destruction will be used, but it facilitates the use of force against the majority of the world's states that have no hope of acquiring an effective deterrent.

    The dismaying thing about the Cold War was that, while it was on, there seemed to be no reason why it should not continue forever. That is not the case with the Terror War. The number of irresponsible states that seek to acquire the immunity afforded by weapons of mass destruction is not large. The arms networks they support are also limited in geography and resources. A consistent policy of preemption could end the danger worldwide in much less than a generation. Forcible regime change should be necessary in just a few cases; once it is clear the policy will be carried out consistently, no state will openly run the risk of falling within its ambit.

    Then we will have deterrence we can live with.


    Why post old articles?

    Who was John J. Reilly?

    All of John's posts here

    An archive of John's site

    Saturday
    Jan172015

    The Long View 2002-09-05: Parasitic Globalism

    The strangest thing about the transnational progressives 10 years ago, and the social media justice warriors today, is their strange client-patron relationship with business. If Fortune 500 companies stopped supporting this kind of thing, it would quickly evaporate. It would be easy to point to government pressure as the critical factor here, but I think there is something else.

    The one thing the tranzies couldn't, and the SMJW can't, actually do is bring a corporation to its knees. If they tried, a nasty self-defense reaction would set in, and then nobody would be happy. Sure, you get a sacrificial goat from time to time, like Brendan Eich, but it is never anyone really important in the business world, and never all that many. Do you really think the executive class of America is gung-ho for the progressive cause of the week? There is a kind of perverse sense in this, because all of this really does provide an important social safety valve/smokescreen that allows for business as usual. It is just a cost of doing business.

    The American left's progressive movement is broader based than the transnational progressives, but it lacks truly popular support. As such, it has power, but isn't really a threat to the status quo. What is a threat? To judge by the behavior of the wealthy and powerful, it is this:

    PEGIDANigel FarageAmerican militias at Bundy Ranch

    It is fine if you hound someone from their job for their political opinions, but God forbid the hoi polloi express their dissatisfaction in the polling booth.

    Parasitic Globalism

    Once upon a time, everyone knew that the great and small states of "Germany" needed to be hooked up. For about two generations in the 19th century, between the end of the Holy Roman Empire and the beginning of Bismarck's, liberal democrats tried to do this through consensus, negotiation, and subversion. It didn't work; the problem of order was finally solved by force and acquiescence

    The global system seems to be taking a similar trajectory. This is the real significance of events like the World Summit for Sustainable Development, which ended this week. Media commentators are full of praise for the practical approach taken by the conferees, especially as represented in the Final Statement. In fact, what seems to have happened is that the international environmental and social-welfare activists have entered into the sort of patron-client relationship with industry that characterizes much of the domestic politics of the West these days, particularly in Europe. This means that the activists will rarely be seen trying to close down whole industries. It also means that they will receive subsidies that will make them immortal.

    In some ways, this is a step forward; the totalitarian tone that characterized the Rio Summit of 1992 has been mitigated. The pure looter element was still present, of course. Claims were made at the Summit that hunger, particularly in southern Africa, is caused by the liberal economic order. However, the claims were made in part by President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, whose country is the most perfect example in the world today of hunger caused by aggresively bad government.

    The people who attend meetings like the Summit represent international civil society, a small population that exists largely but not exclusively in the developed West. It consists of foreign policy bureaucrats, academics, businessmen, and the representatives of not-for-profit organizations. Writing in American Diplomacy, John Fonte has described the characteristic ideology of these people as "transnational progressivism." We may note that such people are sometimes derisively called "tranzies," but I will forbear to use the term. For now.

    Transnational progressivism is post-democratic. It seeks to implement a new, global environmental and cultural regime, whether majorities can ever be found to support the agenda or not. Indeed, it seeks out international forums precisely because the agenda experiences relatively little success in domestic politics. It is therefore naturally anti-national. It supports group rights and opposes the assimilation of immigrants. It interprets "fairness" to mean the distribution of social goods in proportion to the size of recognized social groups, most of which are defined as victim groups. It goes without saying that it is anti-American. For its American adherents, it is a post-American identity.

    Fonte goes on to suggest that transnational progressivism could eventually defeat liberal democracy, whatever Francis Fukuyama says. It is, after all, "modern" too, and maybe modernity still has some evolving to do.

    I think perhaps this does transnational progressivism too much honor. It is, after all, a loser ideology. As we have seen, the "transnational" element comes in only because the progressive agenda has been largely rejected by democratic electorates, and indeed by most non-democratic regimes, too. What we are dealing with here is a corrupt fragment of liberal democracy, the worldview of reactionary social-welfare bureaucracies and environmental jihadists. Though it is a persistent feature of domestic politics, its role can never be more than parasitic. It is capable of impairing necessary governmental functions, such as law enforcement and education, but experience has shown that it is not impossible to reduce its influence.

    Transnational progressivism has fastened onto the nascent institutions of the international system and is draining them of life. The primary practical interest of its adherents has always been patronage, which might not in itself be unmanageable. The problem is that it has hijacked the concept of international law, by reinterpreting it as the hortatory measures enunciated by unelected and irresponsible global conferences. When these exhortations are embodied in multilateral treaties, that simply undermines the seriousness which has traditionally been accorded to treaties.

    We are entering a period in which most necessary measures for the maintenance of world order will be made "lawlessly," because the institutions that might make the necessary law are in the hands of a tranzie rabble. There: tranzie; I said it and I'm glad.


    Why post old articles?

    Who was John J. Reilly?

    All of John's posts here

    An archive of John's site

    Thursday
    Jan152015

    CrossFit 2015-01-14

    1 RM Push Press

    135# PR!

    Deadlift 3x OTM

    135->215#

    Cashout

    3 rounds

    • 10 Stiff-legged deadlift 115#
    • 15 GHD situps
    • 20 hip extensions
    • 25 banded good mornings
    • 30 second plank pushup hold
    Wednesday
    Jan142015

    The Long View 2002-08-29: What Kind of Nation

    The little vignettes of early American politics John provides here are kind of charming. There is a sense in which we are still parochial in that kind of way, but I feel like it is fading fast.

    John got his prediction about three-quarters right here. At least the first phase of the Second Iraq War was just as easy as John predicted. It was the second, Wilsonian phase that didn't go so well. Since hindsight is perfect, while there were occasions when John expressed his doubts about the modern Wilsonian approach of W to the Second Iraq War, overall he was still an advocate. He did nail the likely effect of a Democratic presidency though,

    Another Democratic administration any time soon would be a catastrophe. There is little left of the Democratic Party these days but a Looters' League of liberal totalitarians. They would lose the terror war and envenom racial and gender politics to the point where the United States could face an existential crisis. Or worse.

    The personal has become very political. At the least, John underestimated the power of the Deep State to prosecute the War on Terror in much the same way no matter who was elected. It might have been interesting had a Democrat President with stronger views been elected. We might have seen an actual power struggle over foreign policy.

    John was an advocate of the view that the Republicans are the Stupid Party, and Democrats are the Evil Party. I have seen little in the last 15 years to dissuade me otherwise.

    What Kind of Nation

     

     

    Sometimes I despair of the Republican Party, if you can imagine such a thing. I just got another piece of GOP junk mail, over Trent Lott's signature. It was one of those fund-raising packages that come with a membership card, indeed a platinum membership card: "What makes the Platinum Card so prestigious is that only a very limited number were commissioned and only a select few chosen to receive it" (underlining in original). It would not be so bad if the insult to the reader's intelligence were limited to flattery. The problem is that the dumbness extends to what is shaping up to be the GOP's national platform:

     

     

    "Now -- as we fight internationalism terrorism -- our challenge is clear: We must give President George W. Bush the support he urgently needs to do what's right for America by cutting taxes, reforming education, strengthening our energy supply, controlling unnecessary spending and bolstering our national economy."

    This paragraph does not have the the "head for the lifeboats" item, a proposal for a balanced budget amendment, but it does suggest that the way to wage a global anti-terror war is to cut taxes. The budget is in deficit again. That is not particularly through the Republicans' fault, but it will be the Republicans' fault if the national debt is no smaller when the babyboomers start to retire. Further tax cuts are too stupid to discuss.

    Some of the letter is beyond satire. Further on, there is an item Social Security Protection, which says: "We must protect social security for today's seniors and save it for younger workers by including voluntary personal accounts." It's possible that there won't be further large stock market losses between now and the Congressional elections but...oh, why bother to explain?

    The maddening thing is that history is repeating itself so quickly. There is good reason to suppose that there will be another US-Iraq war in the near future and that it will go far more easily than most commentators forecast, just as happened during the administration of the first Bush. That Bush promptly lost the 1992 presidential election because he apparently had no agenda for what would have been his second term (except cutting capital-gains taxes, of course).

    Peggy Noonan, his occasional speechwriter, described the state of the late Bush I White House in What I Saw at the Republican Revolution. She was called in on an emergency basis to put together what turned out to be the president's last State of the Union Address. It was a rousing speech, but the president had nothing to say. The only substantive proposals were the Bush tax fetish and something about the National Highway System. It did not even have much to say about foreign or military policy, beyond self-congratulation.

    This is happening again, at a time when history is cutting us no slack. The Republicans have no domestic agenda, not even the negative one of cleansing the White House of Mr. Bill and Lady Macbeth. Another Democratic administration any time soon would be a catastrophe. There is little left of the Democratic Party these days but a Looters' League of liberal totalitarians. They would lose the terror war and envenom racial and gender politics to the point where the United States could face an existential crisis. Or worse.

     

    * * *

    I can write purple prose like that in good conscience because I just finished a wonderful book, James F. Simon's What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States. The author is a law professor at New York Law School, so the book treats largely of the successful attempt by Marshall to establish the supremacy of the federal government over the states and the Supreme Court's prerogative of constitutional judicial review. However, if you want to see otherwise sensible people shouting that the sky is about to fall, all you have to do is see is what the book says about the ferocious invective of the Adams Administration. In contrast, the disputes of the Clinton years were conducted with soft, fluffy snowballs.

    Actually, quite a lot of the events of that period are topical now. There were the perfectly balanced electoral-college results of the election of 1800, which was settled in the House. There were several impeachment trials, most notably the of the rabidly Federalist Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Chase. (Vice President Aaron Burr presided, though he was under indictment in New York and New Jersey for murdering Alexander Hamilton.) The young federal union was almost disrupted by the Adams Administration's attempts to restrict civil liberties. Government in those days was almost a solid block of conflicts of interest. Did you know that Chief Justice Marshall not only wrote the Supreme Court's opinion in Marbury v. Madison, but he had also signed and sealed the judicial commissions the case was about? He had been Adams's Secretary of State, it seems.

    In fact, the wonderful thing about all this was the small scale, almost like a Jane Austen novel (Marshall was a fan, by the way). A major political incident could arise because of the wording of a calling card. "Major," of course, is a relative term. The political world was a dozen newspapers in half-a-dozen cities. Everything happened at the pace of a walk. Even Adams's prosecutions were civilized affairs, though the few newspapers likened them to the French Terror (he pardoned some of the convicted himself, and his successor Jefferson pardoned the rest). No one wanted to use illegal force as an instrument of political change, except for Burr, and even Burr's punishment was no more than a gentleman's disgrace.

    The amazing thing is how much of this political pastorale is still relevant to American politics today. I'll keep that in mind the next time I get another infuriating piece of junk mail.


    Why post old articles?

    Who was John J. Reilly?

    All of John's posts here

    An archive of John's site

    Wednesday
    Jan142015

    CrossFit 2015-01-12

    1 RM OHS

    Golden Grahams

    12 minute AMRAP

    • 15 power snatch [65#]
    • 15 box jumps
    • 15 power snatch [75#]
    • 15 box jumps
    • 15 power snatch [85#]
    • 15 box jumps
    • 2 power snatch [85#]

    Reps 92

    Monday
    Jan122015

    The Long View 2002-08-22: Omens of the Last Days

    John made a couple of interesting points here. First, American privilege in the world probably isn't what you think it is. In the case cited here, we use our control of the global financial system to force Swiss banks and German corporations to comply with our demands regarding Holocaust reparations. A more recent example would probably be the way we force international banks to follow American standards of accounting, no matter where they do business, under the guise of preventing money laundering.

    I'm sure this is all meant well, and probably polls well with the American public when it can be bothered to notice, but that very sense of self-righteousness probably annoys the victims of our bullying all the more.

    Second, John predicted that if the slavery reparations movement in the United States ever passed the laugh test, it would envenom national politics for decades. In the last 13 years, the reparations movement hasn't really made much headway. As John noted, if we were to apply the purported principles of the movement in an impartial legal fashion, as Americans are very good at doing, no institution would be safe. You can suspect that the movement gets strung along for precisely this reason: it is seen as socially useful to hold together one of the major coalitions in domestic politics, but it cannot be allowed to succeed because it would destroy everything.

    As it turns out, identity politics has managed to envenom national politics, but not in precisely this way. 2014 saw a major victory for the Left in the Culture Wars. Since then, the victors have wandered the country finishing off the wounded survivors of the other side. In particular, social media has found new role in stirring up digital mobs to demand the heads of various dissenters. There is a certain element of randomness in this. If you follow the Twitter feeds of the most vigorous activists, you will see plenty of denunciations hurled. Some of the stick. Most of them don't. However, there is a growing cottage industry in sniffing out dissenters from the new orthodoxy.

    John also mocks the New York Times. It is pretty easy to pick on the Times. As the American paper of record, it has the biggest profile and most prestige. However, it also hires the best reporters and writers, so if you know how to read the articles, you can find out a lot. However, that usually means wading through an eye-glazing lede and some paragraphs that ensure the narrative remains uncomplicated before the writer's conscience kicks in and the actual facts start to come up.

    However, it is also tempting to see the paper of record as occasionally willing to shape the narrative a bit. A good example would be the aptly named clusterfake surrounding the University of Virginia. In this case, the Times kept pushing the story even after it started to fall apart under critical scrutiny, but it was seemingly too good to pass up.

    Omens of the Last Days

     

    Am I the only person who thought it a little odd that there was a two-headed baby on the frontpage of the Sunday New York Times of August 18? It was not precisely a two headed baby, but two otherwise healthy twins, joined by the tops of their heads. They are in Dallas to see whether doctors can figure out a way to separate them. God speed to them and their parents, but why was it necessary to put such a picture on the frontpage of any newspaper, even below the fold? When tabloids run pictures of alien babies, they at least use fake pictures. We hope.

    Though oblivious of the prodigies on its own frontpage, that same Sunday Times ran an essay, in Section Four, entitled "Fever Dreams: When Reality Feels Like a Sci Fi Movie." What chiefly got the editors exercised was the flurry, well, the deluge of stories from around the world about unusually heavy rains and consequent flooding. There have in fact been a lot of floods in recent weeks, from Galveston to the Yangtze. Still, the record for alarming environmental stories was probably set in 1988, a ferociously hot year when it seemed as if all the major forests in the world were burning down simultaneously. I am told that you needed a shortwave radio to really appreciate it, however.

    Speaking of obliviousness at the Times, I can only concur with the assessment of the Weekly Standard that, on certain topics, the Times has given up reporting actual events and simply reports what the editors wished had happened. The Weekly Standard is particularly upset with the Times's pseudo journalism about the Bush Administration and Iraq, though the list of issues on which the Times is living in an alternative universe could be easily expanded.

    There was a Philip Dick story in which something like this happened. In that story, the Times is a wholly automated operation that survives an interplanetary war with Earth's own colonies. When a war crimes commission lands, it feeds them a carefully doctored account of what happened. In our world, the Times's characteristic distortions are becoming so predictable that you really could write an algorithm for them.

    In addition to Fire, Flood, and the Great Deception, another mark of the Endtimes conspicuous today is Locusts, which these days take the form of Lawyers. These creatures corralled hundreds of the relatives of the victims of 911 and persuaded them to file a class action suit in federal court against everyone and every thing associated with Saudi Arabia, or at least that large subset of Saudi persons and things with conspicuously deep pockets. Because of a typo, the suit was originally for 100 trillion dollars. This was corrected to a trillion, not that it makes a difference.

    This is precisely what we do not have courts for. You really don't want to live in a world in which foreign policy is conducted through litigation, or the threat of it. That is one of the things wrong with the world court. The immediate problem is that the court system of the United States is now hospitable to such suits, often backed by political lobbies. The latter often have enough clout to make it impossible for foreign companies to do business in the United States unless they pay what in effect is protection money. In the matter of Holocaust-related claims, for instance, the treatment of German companies, and especially of Swiss banks, has been nothing less than an outrage. Americans often wonder what Europeans mean when they talk about the United States throwing its weight around. They mean this.

    The woes we have considered so far were only the beginning of evils, however. Now the Crawling Chaos itself is upon us, in the form of the Reparations Movement. Though it has been in preparation for some time, a campaign to introduce it to a wider public launched over the weekend. Law suits are to follow. Allegedly, this has something to do with slavery, but unfortunately I went to law school, so I have never been able to understand the rationale.

    I do understand that the Movement is a huge, stinking scam, the sorry terminus of the Civil Rights Movement, and that anyone who supports it is a fool or a crook. The Reparations Movement could envenom politics in the United States for decades, should the day ever come when it can pass the laugh test. Happily, though, even the liberal media gave relatively light coverage to the public roll-out, perhaps in part because of the viciousness of the remarks made at some of the reparations rallies.

    On that encouraging note, we should look up, for salvation is at hand: the Silly Season stories will end, and we may yet live to see the New Dispensation of September.


    Why post old articles?

    Who was John J. Reilly?

    All of John's posts here

    An archive of John's site

    Sunday
    Jan112015

    CrossFit 2015-01-10

    1 RM Shoulder Press

    110# PR!

    Ghost

    6 rounds

    • 1 minute maximum Calorie row
    • 1 minute maximum burpees
    • 1 minute maximum double unders

    Score: 48-40-39-42-39-40; total 248

    Friday
    Jan092015

    The Long View 2002-08-15: How Iraq Can Win

    The Long ViewIf you have never clicked through the links to see John's archived site in all it's 1990s glory, you should. In this case, you are missing the topical links John embedded in the left sidebar. I'll excerpt one that is particularly relevant now:

    Victor Davis Hanson's Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power perhaps needs a companion volume about wars the West lost.

    Hanson is fairly well-known as a conservative academic and a supporter of invading Iraq after 9/11, and has written a number of influential volumes on the history of classical Greece as an important constituent of the Western way of life. In this particular volume, Hanson argues that there is a fundamental difference between the Asiatic way of war and the Western way of war. Many battles in classical antiquity were pathetically unorganized affairs. Both sides would meet in some dusty plain and mill around for a time. Various enthusiastic hotheads from either side would ride out to goad challengers, and eventually either the delay would produce some kind of useful truce, or a clash of mobs would occur, and the army that broke ranks first would be slaughtered as they fled.

    Greece, and Rome after her, was fantastically successful by drilling soldiers in formation and insisting on rigid discipline. Soldiers that stick together and follow orders are typically much more successful, although far from invincible. When you bring hoplites and cavalry to the Middle East and the Mediterranean Basin, you get Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire. The Romans did have problems with barbarians such as the Germans [much bigger than the typical Imperial Roman soldier due to different diet and genetics] and the Huns [the Romans didn't place much emphasis on missle weapons, and so had trouble with mounted archers. An English long bow vastly outranges the shortbows mounted archers use, and horses are big targets, but the Romans didn't have anything like a longbow].

    Hanson contrasts the Asiatic way of war, which aims for psychological effect, with the Western way of war, which seeks to annihilate the enemy army. This is true, so far as it goes, but there is really more than one Western way of war. An influential alternative is maneuver warfare, which seeks to destroy the ability of the enemy to resist rather than the enemy's army per se. This is an idea that goes back at least to Sun Tzu, but would have been familiar to Hannibal as well. Maneuver warfare is nonetheless shares more in common with the more direct Western approach [what Jerry Pournelle calls WARRE] than the Asiatic way.

    By way of comparison, consider the current state of ISIS. A great deal of ink has been spilt over this group, but ISIS probably has fewer than 30,000 members. Probably a lot less with US help. There is a certain amount of media hype involved, but this is an accurate expression of what Hanson was getting at: numbers matter less than politics and posturing in Middle Eastern warfare. [this may also explain why Hanson was sometimes conflated with the War Nerd.] If a country like Tunisia practiced war like the United States, it could send 500,000 young men to Syria and Iraq, rather decisively settling the current conflict.

    Nonetheless, the very attention that ISIS generates in Western media indicates that the Asiatic way of war has its advantages. The curious thing is that they can only win if we pay attention to them.

    How Iraq Can Win

     

    There was a flurry of stories on Monday, August 12, that set me scurrying to what few sources I have to find out whether the war with Iraq was imminent. Certainly that was what the oil markets suspected. That was the day when the Iraqis took the trouble to remove as a bargaining chip the possibility of further weapons inspections. They did this despite the fact the Saudis were still trying to use the prospect of inspections to negotiate a deal with the UN. There were somewhat confused reports that the US military was buying up commercial shipping space to take helicopters to the Gulf area on an expedited basis. There were even reports that the Israelis were preparing for an Iraqi missile attack at any time.

    The flurry has continued, but I have resisted the impulse to comment on these items as they appear. Possibly I don't have the true blogger temperament. Another factor is that I am on record in print, in this month's Business Travel Executive, suggesting that a war is most likely in late October. How dare mere history contradict my speculations?

    Actually, the US debate does have a blind spot. All the war plans we have been reading about recently presuppose a passive Iraq. At most, the plans contemplate that Iraq might seek to inflict maximum casualties on attacking US forces, with the hope of causing Somalia-like revulsion at home. There is also speculation that the Iraqis might do something "crazy," like respond to a conventional US attack by launching against Israel whatever weapons of mass destruction they may have. Because of the certainty of Israeli retaliation if the WMDs actually worked, the latter strategy would be the Iraqi national equivalent of a suicide bombing.

    Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture, has described the "Asiatic" way of war as the kind that really is diplomacy by other means. The chief strategy is to inflict a humiliating coup on the enemy, whose leaders then lose so much face at home that they have to seek terms. This strategy does not work well when it confronts a power able to employ the Western model of war, which is aimed not at psychological effect, but at the annihilation of an opponent's armed forces. It is reasonably clear that Iraq cannot defend itself militarily against the US for any length of time. Something we have to keep in mind, however, is that the "Asiatic" model is not without its successes, and against the US in particular. The Asiatic model is arguably the sane model to apply against an opponent with limited cohesion and political will.

    Political will is not lacking in the US at the moment. The assertion that the Administration has yet to make the case to the public for an invasion of Iraq is beside the point. The people as a whole support an invasion, the sooner the better. The calls for debate and dialogue come from influential minorities who want to delay action long enough for the national consensus to evaporate. Where the will is lacking is in the West as a whole.

    The US can, and probably should, conduct the Iraqi campaign without substantial support from its allies, if only to show once and for all that their material support is unnecessary. The US can and probably should act without UN authorization, beyond that remaining from the Security Council resolutions of 1990 and 1991. Passive disapproval is one thing, however, and active opposition is another. It would be beyond the political ability even of the United States to conduct an invasion if the EU and UN were diplomatically engaged in the region at the time.

    The obvious way to secure such engagement would be to link the Iraqi and Palestinian situations. Iraq has international defenders but no friends; the regime is a pariah even to those states which object to seeing it changed by force. Palestine, on the other hand, is the apple of the eye of the European Left. Even on the Right, it is more popular than Israel. The same networks that organized the boycotts against the apartheid government of South Africa are having some success in organizing boycotts against Israeli goods, and even blackballing Israeli academics. If support for regime change in Iraq could be made to seem to be support for apartheid, that would change the situation substantially.

    Iraq tried to create a link during the 1991 war with its Scud attacks on Israel. Iraq failed then, because the linkage was so obviously artificial. What is different now is the continuing suicide-intifada, which has at least the appearance of a guerrilla campaign. It also provokes genuine military reprisals from Israel. Iraq could create a linkage by making its own reprisals to those reprisals. Iraq could plausibly claim to be defending the Palestinian people, if it attacked Israel with missiles or drone aircraft while Israel was engaged in another reprisal. Assuming the Iraqi attack did not include weapons of mass destruction, Israel's counterstrike would be within Iraq's tolerances, or at least the tolerances of Iraqis in very deep bunkers. The US would then have to consider the fact that any action it took in Iraq would make it an active ally of Israel, united in attacking on an Arab country.

    Just as important, the world's diplomatic machinery would then go into high gear to prevent the situation from "spinning out of control." The US could block Security Council action, though not a humiliating Security Council debate. In any case, a general conference to consider the whole Middle East could be called by some regional organization, or by an ad hoc coalition that would certainly include US allies. The US might find that it could not start an invasion without endangering diplomats on the ground.

    For any of this to happen, it would have to start soon, before the US has forces in position that could preempt Iraqi support for the intifada. In reality, Iraq has a history of dithering while temporary advantages melt away; they could have dislodged the US from Saudi Arabia in 1991, had they acted quickly. With any luck at all, this time they will also dither until it is too late


    Why post old articles?

    Who was John J. Reilly?

    All of John's posts here

    An archive of John's site

    Thursday
    Jan082015

    CrossFit 2015-01-07

    Fruit Loops

    1 RM back squat

    3 rounds

    • 25 squat thrusters [75#]
    • 25 TTB

    Time 23:17