John has a funny aside here about that portion of the Catholic Right in America that is perpetually embittered. Mark Shea nicknamed them the Lidless Eye, perhaps on the analogy of the way they are always anxiously searching for heresy in the way Sauron was anxiously looking for the One Ring.
It was a good name, and it stuck, but the thing the Lidless Eye crowd never really had was power of any sort. Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies demonstrated the awesome power of the Eye of Sauron, the utter terror of finding its gaze fixed upon you. Nobody really cared what the Lidless Eye crowd said unless it was to make light of them. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was a frequent target, and he didn't even know it until someone else told him.
Steve Sailer has started using the term to describe the way that the social media and old school media collaborate on events that have been selected to drive the Narrative. In a country of 300 million people, bad things happen every day. Some of those bad things get selected to be the target disproportionate media attention in order to advance the cause of the day, and the Eye of Sauron is brought to bear. Recent examples were the Trayvon Martin case, Ferguson, MO, and that pizza place in Indiana.
The full attention of both wings of the media is a fearsome thing to behold, and it probably is just as terrifying as the baleful attention of Sauron. And probably as mindlessly destructive too. For example, the property values in Ferguson have dropped by half in the last year. That hurts everyone who lives there, black, white, or otherwise.
The other thing the Eye of Sauron cannot do is look in more than one place at once. At lot of attention was focused recently on the disparity in arrest rates between blacks and whites in Ferguson, but Ferguson isn't unusual in this respect.
It is simply that Eye is now fixed on Ferguson, and cannot pay attention to places that are far worse in racial disparities in arrest rates. Also, since some of the places with the worst racial disparities in arrest rates are wealthy liberal places like Malibu, CA and Madison, WI, paying attention would just complicate the Narrative.
The Eye of Sauron is a far better metaphor for the media-driven politics we see now than it ever was for dis-satisfied Traditionalists. The destructiveness, the terror, the single-minded focus to the point of ignoring larger threats, the fit is perfect.
Now that the North Koreans have provoked a nuclear crisis, one of the wonders of the season is the sudden realization among the media commentariat that the United States might have to fight two wars simultaneously, on the east and west side of Asia. The mention of the possibility by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at a recent press conference seems to have been the first that many of them had heard of the idea, even though it has been the central strategic issue since the end of the Cold War. The Progressive position was that a military prepared for major wars in two theaters was an expensive anachronism after the Soviet Union ended. Some strategists said that more than one war at once was "unlikely," as if wars were purely statistical phenomena, not political acts.
Today's perfectly predictable state of affairs has caused mass cluelessness among Asia experts, even Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute, who has otherwise been sensible on subjects like missile defense. In a recent interview with National Public Radio , he has said that the United States cannot "close its eyes" to events on the Korean Peninsula by refusing to talk to North Korea. Rather, the US must continue to ship oil and food to North Korea. In other words, the US should continue to honor its half of the agreement on which the North Koreans reneged regarding the development of nuclear weapons. The US must further engage in "continuous dialogue" with North Korea, with an eye to reaching a "really tough" diplomatic agreement, under which they would promise again not to make nuclear weapons, or at least not to make any more.
"Closing your eyes" to a situation means that you take no account of what happens in the real world. That is precisely what too many Asia experts are insisting on; they say the US should proceed as if North Korea had not broken its treaty obligations on a life-or-death issue. It is also hard to see what a "tough" diplomatic solution might entail. Might we threaten to cut off the oil if North Korea starts up its breeder reactor again, like we are doing already?
They did not restart the reactor because the lack of oil left them no alternative. The energy issue is a red herring. The national grid is not even set up to use any power the plant might produce. The reactor is an extortion engine. That's all it's for.
As for the humanitarian issue, there would be some point in maintaining food shipments to North Korea if that would actually alleviate the famine. However, the fact is we know, from experience, that the North Korean government is less interested in ending famine than in managing it. Any measure that keeps the current government in power simply prolongs the misery.
The US should allow the North Koreans to follow unimpeded the road to perdition they have chosen for themselves. North Korea has beggared itself to gain the measure of deterrence that comes from possessing a few nuclear weapons. May they have joy of it. Short of a serious hostile act by North Korea against the US or a US ally (which must include an attempt to export a nuke), the US can refrain from all military action against North Korea. If the North Koreans want oil or food, they have to pay for it, with concessions or money in advance. If they want to talk, then by all means let us talk to them. Just don't give them anything in exchange for mere dialogue.
If the new, accommodationist government in South Korea thinks otherwise, then let them offer what aid they will. The inveterate mendacity of the North will soon appall them to a better opinion.
The goal of our policy must be to shorten the time before the North Korean regime implodes. It is entirely possible that some of the fragments from that event will be nuclear. Frankly, it is better for the implosion to occur sooner, when the fragments are few, rather than later, when they will be many.
* * *
Something that O'Hanlon does realize is the necessity to settle the Iraq matter before the US can focus on Korea. What he, and others, do not grasp is that "progress on arms inspections" would not be enough. If the situation is defused, and the regime in Iraq survives, the US will not be able to make a credible military threat anywhere in the world. It most particularly will not be able to make a credible threat in Korea, perhaps even for the minimal purpose of deterring exploratory conventional attacks from the North. So, does this mean that an invasion of Iraq is inevitable, no matter what happens?
An occupation of Iraq is inevitable, but I am starting to wonder whether a proper invasion will be necessary. Stories continue to come from that unhappy country about the despair of the government at all levels, and about the visible deterioration of Saddam Hussein personally. As pressure builds on the regime in January because of the concentration of invasion forces, it might just crack. The move into Iraq may be less like an invasion than an elaborate raid. It could be more like Bush Senior's invasion of Panama in 1989 than like Desert Storm in 1991.
Even in this rosiest of scenarios, however, there would still be considerable problems in establishing law and order. There will also be terrorist attacks in the West by Baathist sympathizers.
* * *
There has been some progress on the terminology front. I am still partial to the term "Tranzie" (transnational progressive) for the sort of person who thinks that the world should be run by the World Court and the UN, provided the latter is controlled by an assembly of NGOs. However, in an article in the current issue of The National Interest, Normative Shift , Coral Bell suggests that a better term might be "cosmopolitan civil society." The use of the term "cosmopolitan" instead of "international" or "transnational" is an important distinction.
Traditional internationalists, like those who established the great international institutions after World War II, have no intention of eliminating nations as such, or even of diminishing national sovereignty in any essential respect. Every internationalist identifies with some nation. He supports international institutions for the same reason private entrepreneurs support reasonable government economic regulation; rules are necessary to make the system work. Cosmopolitans, in contrast, have only loose sentimental ties to a particular nation. Quite often, they make their living through cosmopolitan businesses, or, perhaps more often, through cosmopolitan social work.
The term "cosmopolitan" was coined in Hellenistic times for a world not unlike our own. It would make sense if it made a comeback.
* * *
Special thanks to the industrious Mark Shea of the blog, Catholic & Enjoying It!, for applying Tolkien's term, "The Lidless Eye," to that portion of the Catholic Right that is never satisfied under any circumstances. I like a good horror story about liturgical abuse or seminary scandal as much as the next guy. Still, when I look at The Wanderer and The Remnant, and even The New Oxford Review these days, I can't help thinking that these people should like more stuff.
The Lidless Eye picks fights with Catholic writers on points of doctrine that the Lidless Eye critics imagine to be part of the deposit of the faith, but which are often of their own devising, based on a selective reading of obscure sources. The Catechism is rarely good enough for them. Even when they have the theology right, they have a wonderful capacity to misread the texts they are criticizing. These are the sort of people who condemn The Lord of the Rings as New Age pantheism.
I usually go to a Latin Mass on Sunday, so I suppose that makes me conservative enough for most purposes. If the Lidless Eye annoys me, there must really be a problem.
* * *
Readers will be alarmed to know that there have been more Fortean phenomena since last week. Now it's giant webs falling on Texas. Can the spiders be far behind?