The Long View 2005-10-21: Imagine World Peace

I've got a lot of mileage over the years from A Perfect Circle's cover of Imagine. I still think it is the perfect ballad of late republican America. I find Lennon's original unbearably dippy, but Keenan's version [especially as a music video] pays homage to America's overwhelming military might, and the genuinely grassroots radical resistance to that.

Imagine World Peace


Why should we use Google Earth? (A hat tip to Penkill for bringing it to my attention.) For one thing, you can use it to spot the black helicopters. On a philosophical level, there is something very Faustian about a tool (and a free one at that) that lets you view any spot on the surface of the Earth, even if it does not yet allow you to do this real time, and even if the software is not quite as useful as Streets & Trips. Spengler remarks somewhere that the Faustian style of politics achieved its natural scope in the 18th century, when the whole globe became the object of statecraft. From most of the time since then, however, genuinely global consciousness was actually pretty rare. A few hours playing with Google Earth will go a long way toward generating it in just about anybody.

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Adam Bellow has an explanation of modern dynastic politics in this Comment at National ReviewCronyism, nepotism, and the current President Bush:

You cannot understand George W. Bush without an understanding of his family, and dynastic families in general. Indeed, it might be said that Bush’s familial approach to politics has been his greatest strength and greatest weakness — his Achilles heel. Like Bonaparte, the same dynastic habits that brought him to power may bring him down again. They don't teach a course in patronage and nepotism at Harvard Business School — but they should. Instead they pretend that it doesn't exist. That does us all a disservice.

Dynastic families are not like yours and mine (unless your name is Bush or Kennedy). They are self-conscious, multigenerational enterprises displaying strong collective discipline and an innate, untutored grasp of certain perennial modes and orders that advance the family’s interest....Which brings us to the Bushes. People have been trying to figure out what kind of bubble the Bushes live in for a long time. But it is not the cocoon of wealth that insulates them from reality and explains their frequent missteps and tone-deaf remarks, but that of family itself. The problem for W is that the ethic of friendship and loyalty that the Bushes cultivate and that brought him to power is threatening now to bring him down. He has made the common dynastic mistake of confusing loyalty and merit.

If you will forgive me for citing Spengler twice in the same blog entry, here is what he had to say about the return of the dynastic principle after the evaporation of ideological politics (though he speaks here of a time that would still be over a century in our future):

But the world was now the theater of tragic family-histories into which state-histories were dissolved ; the Julian-Claudian house destroyed Roman history, and the house of Shi-wng-ti (even from 206 BC) destroyed Chinese, and we darkly discern something of the same in the destinies of the Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut and her brothers (1501--1447). It is the last step to the definitive. With world-peace -- the peace of high policies -- the "sword side" of being retreats and the "spindle side" rules again; henceforth there are only private histories, private destinies, private ambitions, from top to bottom, from the miserable troubles of the fellaheen to the dreary feuds of Caesars for the private possession of the world. The wars of the age of world-peace or private wars, more fearful that any State wars because they are formless. 
(The Decline of the West, Volume II, Page 434 (Atkinson translation))

There have always been American political families. However, America as a whole has never been particularly friendly to dynasties, chiefly because there are so many opportunities (and distractions) that young dynasts often pursue a career outside their family's web of connections and patronage. Even if the family maintains its cohesion, the people will tire of hearing about it. Still, we can be certain that the people will never tire of at least one venerable old family.

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Anyone with the need to refresh their anti-religious paranoia should certainly take a look at Theocracy Watch. The sort answer to the site is that, yes, there is such a thing as Reconstructionism, but that it is like Libertarianism in that it almost never occurs in pure form, but unlike Libertarianism in that you rarely encounter it at all unless you look for it.

Besides, people should be more concerned about a far graver threat.

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Astrobiology Magazine has a useful piece by Steven Soter on SETI and the Cosmic Quarantine Hypothesis. Some of his points rather resemble the ones that Isaac Asimov made in "The Gentle Vultures," but I was particularly struck by this clarification of one of the terms of the Drake Equation:

The proper value of L is not the average duration of a single episode of civilization on a planet, which for Earth is about 400 years. Rather, L is much larger, being the sum of recurrent episodes of civilization, and constitutes a substantial fraction of the biological lifetime of the intelligent species.

What he is talking about here is "unlosables," a concept developed in the middle of the 20th century by William Ernest Hocking.

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Fr. Neuhaus at First Things has made bold to question the legal basis for the current trial of Saddam Hussein and his confederates:

John Keegan, the eminent historian of warfare, writes that the trial of Saddam Hussein poses difficult questions of law and morality. Saddam may be responsible, as seems to be the case, for as many as a million deaths. He ordered mass killings of Iraqis, and hundreds of thousands were killed in the war with Iran under his direction. But, Keegan asks, cannot such actions be legally covered as undertaken for “reasons of state”? ...The problems of prosecuting a legitimate head of state, no matter how odious his deeds, goes way back. Among a few Anglo-Catholics, Charles I of England is revered as a saint. Charles put the matter nicely a few days before he was deprived of his head: “I would know by what power I am called hither..."

I may misunderstand the posture of the trial, but I think there are short answers to all these points:

(1) In this trial, at least, Hussein is being tried under Iraqi law for illegally killing Iraqis in Iraq. Thus, the matter does not present the difficulties of trials under international law.

(2)Hussein constructively resigned his office when he abandoned the capital and, in effect, ordered the dissolution of the Iraqi state.

(3) Charles I enjoyed full sovereign immunity; so, for that matter, does Elizabeth II. However, George Bush does not; neither do other heads of state in modern governments with respect to domestic law, though they enjoy sovereign immunity with respect to the law of other countries.

So that's that.

Copyright © 2005 by John J. Reilly

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