The Long View 2006-08-09: Qinshihuangdi; Republican versus Conservative; Bernard Lewis; Mark Steyn

 Qin Shi Huang  By Unknown - Yuan, Zhongyi. China's terracotta army and the First Emperor's mausoleum: the art and culture of Qin Shihuang's underground palace. Paramus, New Jersey: Homa & Sekey Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-931907-68-2 (p.140), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=364539

Qin Shi Huang

By Unknown - Yuan, Zhongyi. China's terracotta army and the First Emperor's mausoleum: the art and culture of Qin Shihuang's underground palace. Paramus, New Jersey: Homa & Sekey Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-931907-68-2 (p.140), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=364539

When I was younger, I was much taken with the wild, Indiana Jones-style tales of the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. Alas, they are likely fables, but a young man can dream.

Also, the zingers just keep coming. Anyone who has ever had a run-in with an overzealous HOA can probably understand what John is getting at here. HOAs are extremely powerful within their small domain.

Readers will note that Steyn is really complaining about unresponsive, bureaucratic government. If by "big" you mean "affecting a large portion of everyday life," then no form of government is quite so large as the sort of busybody town-meeting government that the Puritans introduced to New England. This kind of government, and not the bureaucratic state, is government at its most powerful.

Qinshihuangdi; Republican versus Conservative; Bernard Lewis; Mark Steyn

 

Even for ancient Chinese history, this is not really news:

According to a news report from China, DNA analysis indicates that at least one of the workers who constructed the tomb of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of China, was in fact of west Eurasian ancestry.

What I find far more interesting is the preface to this question:

People are familiar with Qinshihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (260-210 B.C., r. 247-221 B.C.), in large part because of his army of terra-cotta warriors. Chinese archaeologists have refrained from excavating the emperor's tomb, so where was the "worker" found?

The delay in opening the tomb has now extended over decades. Historical accounts say that the tomb is ingeniously booby-trapped, so it would be difficult to reach the chamber where the emperor's sarcophagous floats on a pool of mercury. However, it is impossible to believe that these difficulties could not be overcome with modern tools and techniques. I want that tomb opened. I want it opened right now.

* * *

The gap between conservatism and the Republican Party widens, for reasons we may infer from this comment by Stephen Webb in yesterday's First Things:

Why do so many people these days sound like conservatives but still insist they are liberals? I recently had a conversation with a female lawyer who spoke as if she had just finished reading Oswald Spengler. When she learned that I was a college professor, she unleashed a torrent of vitriol against leftist academics. She knew more about the high-handed politics, the corrupting conformism, and the stifling relativism of humanities professors than any dean in America would be willing to admit to knowing. When the subject of the media came up, she understood instinctively that most journalists are out of touch with Middle America, and she had nothing positive to say about Hillary Clinton’s blatantly ingratiating turn toward a softer, more moderate rhetoric...OK, I said, I’ve told you why I think you are a conservative. Now you tell me why you think you are a liberal. At that point, a string of vehement blathering about how horrible Bush is came out of her like a broken doll whose string had been pulled one too many times.

The piece goes on about what being cool meant in the 1970s, but the explanation could stop with the irresponsibility of the Republican Party. One cannot take seriously a party that lowers taxes during a world war, and at a time when the economy is growing fast enough that the Fed raises interest rates quarter after quarter to prevent inflation. (I know the Fed did not raise rates yesterday; what will fiscal policy be if the economy slows and inflation increases?) And then, frankly, there are the limitations of George Bush. He is by no means a stupid man. If his foreign policy has a flaw, it is not excessive simplicity but over subtlety. The problem is that he is not the man to explain it. He was nominated because his party did not expect a complicated future and everyone appreciated his ability to campaign on a small number of easily comprehensible domestic issues. The choice over John McCain was a costly mistake.

* * *

Bernard Lewis predicts doomsday for August 22. At any rate, The Wall Street Journal yesterday ran an opinion piece by him in which he drew attention to the possible role of Shia eschatology in the Middle East. The full piece is now available here. I excerpt for your convenience:

During the Cold War, both sides possessed weapons of mass destruction, but neither side used them, deterred by what was known as MAD...[these]... constraints, the same fear of mutual assured destruction [would not] restrain a nuclear-armed Iran from using such weapons against the U.S. or against Israel...[because]...[t]here is a radical difference ...[in]...the apocalyptic worldview of Iran's present rulers. ...Even in the past it was clear that terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam had no compunction in slaughtering large numbers of fellow Muslims. ...The phrase "Allah will know his own" is usually used to explain such apparently callous unconcern...A direct attack on the U.S., though possible, is less likely in the immediate future. Israel is a nearer ...an attack that wipes out Israel would almost certainly wipe out the Palestinians too...an attack would evoke a devastating reprisal from Israel against Iran...The first of these possible deterrents might well be of concern to the Palestinians--but not apparently to their fanatical champions in the Iranian government. The second deterrent--the threat of direct retaliation on Iran--is...weakened by the suicide or martyrdom complex ...Mr. Ahmadinejad and his followers clearly believe that [the endtime] is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced. It may even have a date, indicated by several references by the Iranian president to giving his final answer to the U.S. about nuclear development by Aug. 22. ...Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). ...[there is no direct evidence that the Iranians plan any such thing, but]...[f]or people with this mindset, MAD is not a constraint; it is an inducement.

Very well, but could the assurance "we will tell you by the 27th of Rajab" be the equivalent of "we will tell you by Labor Day"? There may be no more to this than the accusations that the Bush Administration is try to provoke the Rapture.

* * *

Mark Steyn is now annoying the Australians in person, as we see from this transcript of the talkshow Counterpoint:

[Mark Steyn] I mean, basically in Europe, once the state takes care of every issue of life, from childcare to healthcare to looking after your elderly parents to giving you six weeks paid vacation a year, 30-hour work weeks...what have you got to worry about? You are basically the world's wrinkliest teenagers, you are left to go down to the record store and pick out your record collection, everything else is taken care of by the state. That's not a healthy principle on which to build society.

Michael Duffy: Is that one of the reasons you're a conservative or why you support smaller government?

Mark Steyn: Yes, I think big government is a national security issue. I live in the great state of New Hampshire in the United States which has...basically money is raised and spent at town level, so if you've got a budgetary overspend, it's generally your neighbour that's overspending, he's listed in the phone book so you can call him up at home and shout at him. And I think there's a lot to be said for small government precisely for that reason; it's accountable. And the minute you get this big, bloated government...

Readers will note that Steyn is really complaining about unresponsive, bureaucratic government. If by "big" you mean "affecting a large portion of everyday life," then no form of government is quite so large as the sort of busybody town-meeting government that the Puritans introduced to New England. This kind of government, and not the bureaucratic state, is government at its most powerful.

Note too that this power can be for good or ill. The oppressiveness of totalitarian societies is effected chiefly through the work unit and the block committee; the secret police are just a carapace.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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