The Long View 2006-10-18: Doomsday Deniers; Treason on the Right; Spengler Back

The first item John Reilly mentions, from the National Review Online’s blog The Corner reads like a precis of Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission. I wish John Reilly had lived to see Houellebecq’s book, it seems to the embodiment of one of John’s main interests, the relatively unknown philosophy of Tradition.

Marion Marechal  By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America - Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66905151

Marion Marechal

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America - Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66905151

In another vein, my favorite French politician no longer uses the Le Pen name, probably because of the association of the Le Pen’s with anti-Semitism. I’m not an expert on French politics, but you might check out Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry.

It is also interesting to note, in light of The Long View post from 2006-10-17, that unlike today, when editors felt uncomfortable posting a controversial piece, pressure usually brought it back online, which is quite different from today.


Doomsday Deniers; Treason on the Right; Spengler Back

Citing National Review Online just encourages it, but I did see these items on The Corner yesterday that seemed worth following up:

Le Pen Flips? [Post by Stanley Kurtz]

Arnaud De Borchgrave has a remarkable report on France’s civil war [see below]. The big news here is that Jean-Marie Le Pen’s far right National Front has given up its opposition to Muslim immigration and has instead allied with Muslims, taking America and the Jews as its primary targets. This shift has provoked a split in the movement, with conservative Christians refusing to go along. Meanwhile, anti-Semitic incidents are at epidemic proportions in France.

[From a later post]

On a related matter, here's a supposed rebuttal by Gideon Rachman [see below] of the many "doom-mongering" American books about Europe's demographic crisis. So far from disproving American predictions, Rachman instead confirms them.

A little later there was this reply in the same venue:

A French Civil War? [Post by Andrew Stuttaford]

Le Pen's tilt towards Arab nationalism *outside* France is, alas, nothing new. It's dog-whistle politics designed to appeal to the anti-semitism that lurks within certain strands of French political thought, nothing more, disgraceful certainly, but a phenomenon as old as the Dreyfus case, and with roots deep in the dislocations that followed the French revolution.

Stuttaford also thinks that the term "civil war" does not apply to the urban disorders in France. That is probably true. However, the French government, indeed the French political establishment, has to contend with an increasingly unhappy police force as well as the disorders themselves. Maybe in France these things work differently, but in the US the police are uniquely well-positioned to leak embarrassing stories to the press about the incompetence of public officials.

* * *

We need not say "Civil War." Like Arnaud de Borchgrave, we can write columns with titles like Analysis: Gallic intifada:

In France, Jean-Marie Le Pen's far right National Front appears to have opted for a can't-lick-'em-join-'em strategy, a rapprochement with France's large immigrant Muslim community -- with undertones of anti-Semitism. Le Pen's reasoning appears to be the recognition that Islamicization is in France to stay with 25 percent of France's under 20 population Muslim (40 percent in some cities), 2nd and 3rd generation North Africans. FN's tough stance on immigration is tempered by support for Arab and Islamist causes in the Middle East (Hamas and Hezbollah are two favorites). There are an estimated 6 to 8 million Muslims among France's 62 million and Islam is now France's second religion. Mosques are well attended on Fridays; churches aren't on Sundays. France's prison inmates are over 50 percent Muslim

Le Pen's strategic advisers argue the FN must drop its founding mythology and forget about the once popular image of a modern Joan of Arc resisting the invasion of Muslim hordes. Americans and Jews are the new targets. But the party's Christian right-wingers do not agree and are defecting in large numbers. The Islamist threat is their main concern and they are finding a new political home in MPF, Mouvement Pour la France, which is anti-European Union and anti-Muslim, and given only 7 percent of registered voters in a recent poll. Le Pen's followers have dropped back from 11 percent to 9 percent.

This does not mean that French fascism is about to take the turban (convert to Islam). It does mean that the fascists have despaired of a Catholic alliance. I find this something of a relief.

Incidentally, the website of the Mouvement pour la France is here. It's leader, Phillipe de Villiers, is preferable to Jean-Marie Le Pen in that he does not appear to be trying to imitate L. Ron Hubbard. That is not necessarily reason to vote for him. however.

* * *

US prophets of Europe's doom are half wrong, Gideon Rachman assures readers in this piece in The Financial Times:

[It] is impossible completely to dismiss the American prophets of European doom. Strip away the hysteria and the hype and they make two serious points.... First, European fertility rates have fallen well below the rate of 2.1 children per woman needed for a population to remain stable. ...The second point is that the Muslim population of Europe is rising sharply at the same time as the white, European population is falling....These trends could, indeed, spell trouble...The weakness in their arguments is that – at every stage – they tend to make the most pessimistic assumptions....Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, projects that the 25 members of the EU will have a total population of 449.8m in 2050, compared with 456m today – because falling fertility will be largely offset by rising immigration....The problem is not that the European population will simply shrink away. It is that over the next 50 years, Europe will have to deal with the fact that its population is becoming both much older and much more diverse....[A]s the saying goes: “Something that cannot go on forever, won’t.” Demographic pressure is already forcing Europeans to change their welfare systems and career patterns. In some countries, the process will be very difficult. In others, it may be relatively painless..Similarly, the American vision of a Muslim takeover of Europe – creating a new continent called “Eurabia” – relies on projecting demographic trends to their limit and beyond...Until a few years ago, mainstream European opinion would have shrugged off rising Muslim populations as unworthy of debate. But that is no longer the case...It is certainly possible that things will just get worse. But it is not inevitable.

European governments are acutely aware of this and are changing policies in response. The British are rethinking their “multicultural” approach to immigration; the French are considering positive discrimination; the Danes have cracked down on arranged marriages. Who knows – some of these policies may even work. If they do not, politics and policies will change again. Of all the many scenarios for the future of Europe, perhaps the least likely is that Europeans simply sleep-walk off a cliff.

We should note that not all the Eurodoomsayers are American. Their queen was the late Oriana Fallaci, and the British Melanie Phillips is the author of Londonistan. For that matter the author of what may turn out to be the most influential Eurodoom polemic, America Alone, is the quasi Canadian Mark Steyn. Even Tony Blankley is an immigrant.

In any case, Rachman is no doubt correct that "politics and policies will change again." I am an optimist, too: eventually, a mix of policies will be found that work. However, that will take 10 to 20 years of disruption, and the result will be appreciably different from the Europe of the 1990s.

* * *

Spengler remains in the good graces of Asia Times, if we may judge from this posting of an editorial explanation in the Spengler forum:

Asia Times Online did not decline to publish Spengler's essay. The essay was returned to him because certain problems needed to be addressed. Those problems have been addressed and a revised version of the essay is published in this edition of Asia Times Online. The original text is no longer on the forum, in fact the entire forum is offline for the time being at least as it is in breach of its host's policy.

The forum itself is back, as we see. My discussion of the essay that caused the problem (at any rate, of the version of the essay that Asia Times was prepared to publish) is here.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2002-09-19: Historical Accidents

In general, John was a cautious advocate of George W. Bush, but he wasn't a fool.

The US will probably get its chance to change the regime in Iraq very soon. For myself, I am inclined to think that everyone is making a lot of fuss about a 72-hour raid. However, we might remember that Henry V's campaign in France was tactically brilliant, but a strategic failure.

John also had a better appreciation of economics than most critics of the war in Iraq.

One of the points often made about US Iraqi policy, and about US policy in that part of the world in general, is that it is based on nothing more than US desire for oil. This is true only indirectly. Certainly it is not the case that the US "wants Iraq's oil," as that country's hapless foreign minister recently put it. Actually, I suspect that the domestic oil producers with whom the Bush family is so familiar would like nothing better than that the Iraqi fields be capped and buried under ziggurats; peace and new oil fields could bring back the days of $18 per gallon crude. Nonetheless, it is true that the US is so interested in the Middle East because the world has a petroleum economy. It does not follow, however, that a non-petroleum economy would mean a peaceful world, or even a peaceful Middle East.

The oil boom brought about by fracking is a consequence of $100 a barrel oil. We get oil from Saudi Arabia for the same reason we get electronics from China: the importers save a few cents on each transaction, which adds up in a big country like ours. Nonetheless, what happens in the Middle East influences oil prices, which affect the US economy and US citizens, so US politics pays attention.

Finally, imagine a "Green" world, in which renewable energy is not the unreliable, capital intensive monstrosity that it is in our world, but in which people in developed regions live in "frugal comfort" on sunflower oil and electricity from windmills. That would mean that many regions would be an order of magnitude poorer and more chaotic than they already are. Without petroleum exports, the whole Middle East would be Afghanistan.

With the death of the king of Saudia Arabia, many have wondered whether time has come for the US to cut our ties with the Saudis. If we were able to successfully extricate ourselves from the Middle East, it would require a big change in both US politics and our economy. While difficult, the changes seem plausible. These changes would mean the end of the petrostates all over the world. However, the big question is whether the Middle East would again be a sleepy backwater, or would explode in violence from desparation.

Historical Accidents

 

George Bush is rarely compared to Shakespeare favorably. Still, all through the president's address to the United Nation's General Assembly last week, I could not help thinking of the oration early in Henry V (Part II). That is when the bishop explains that, by any reasonable interpretation of the Salic Law, young King Henry was the rightful king of France. George Bush made an argument of much the same order to the Assembly, using UN resolutions instead of Merovingian constitutional law. The difference between George and Henry is that the people whose cooperation George needs, both foreign and domestic, all seem to have found his argument persuasive. At any rate, they found it politic to say they did. The legal preparations for an Iraqi campaign began in earnest.

The supposed concession by the Iraqi government to unconditional inspections was long predicted and well timed, from their point of view. However, the initiative does nothing to alter the course of events.

They did the same thing just before the allied offensive in 1991, but too late to have any effect: the resolutions from the Security Council and the US Congress were already in place and military action was at the discretion of the executive. By making the ploy now, they have at least the potential to slow down the political process by some weeks. However, it became immediately apparent that unconditional inspections would have conditions. One reports says that only sites designated by the Iraqis as military bases would be open to inspection. Another says that the Iraqi negotiators have already said that Hans Blix, the head of the UN inspectors, is a "spy." Even the UN will not tolerate being made to look so foolish so soon.

The US will probably get its chance to change the regime in Iraq very soon. For myself, I am inclined to think that everyone is making a lot of fuss about a 72-hour raid. However, we might remember that Henry V's campaign in France was tactically brilliant, but a strategic failure.

 

* * *

One of the points often made about US Iraqi policy, and about US policy in that part of the world in general, is that it is based on nothing more than US desire for oil. This is true only indirectly. Certainly it is not the case that the US "wants Iraq's oil," as that country's hapless foreign minister recently put it. Actually, I suspect that the domestic oil producers with whom the Bush family is so familiar would like nothing better than that the Iraqi fields be capped and buried under ziggurats; peace and new oil fields could bring back the days of $18 per gallon crude. Nonetheless, it is true that the US is so interested in the Middle East because the world has a petroleum economy. It does not follow, however, that a non-petroleum economy would mean a peaceful world, or even a peaceful Middle East.

Let's do some alternative history:

 

Imagine we had come to the year 2000 with economic autarky and political isolation as the dominate principles of statecraft. That was, pretty much, what happened in the 1930s. It proved to have certain drawbacks.

Imagine another world, one that embraced nuclear power as soon as it became available. That is, in fact, the only currently feasible alternative to a petroleum economy; the French made just that choice, and it worked very well for them. Such a world, however, would require a shoot-on-sight non-proliferation regime far larger and more rigorous than the one we have now. There would be an Iraq-type crisis every few years.

Finally, imagine a "Green" world, in which renewable energy is not the unreliable, capital intensive monstrosity that it is in our world, but in which people in developed regions live in "frugal comfort" on sunflower oil and electricity from windmills. That would mean that many regions would be an order of magnitude poorer and more chaotic than they already are. Without petroleum exports, the whole Middle East would be Afghanistan.

Oil is only an occasion, not a cause. At this stage of history, global terrorism and wars to contain it are inevitable. Technology has made the world just a day or two across by commercial jet. Resentment, ambition, and need flow with few restrictions over a world that has not yet developed the institutions to manage the situation. The really scary thing is that ours may be the best of all possible worlds.

 

* * *

Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond-trading firm that suffered the worst casualties in the attack on the World Trade Center, has issued a report criticizing the calculations of the Victim's Compensation Board, which is supposed to award settlements in lieu of litigation to the survivors of the victims of 911. (Can we say, "September 11," or has that become confusing now that another September 11 has passed?) The report points out that the fund is operating more like a welfare fund than like an arbitrator in a wrongful death suit. Cantor Fitzgerald's staff was young and very highly paid; the average payouts of one and a half million dollars that the fund anticipates is really just a fraction of what the survivors of such people would receive in the courts. The report says that this is not fair.

Yes, it isn't fair. Murdering all those people certainly was not fair. It also is not fair that there is not enough money in the world pay off all the theoretical claims that could be made for 911 in lower Manhattan. I have seen figures as high as half a trillion dollars. You could rebuild all of Manhattan for that. Awards of that magnitude would wreck the world's insurance system and bankrupt several government entities. As a matter of fact, the victims' survivors have the option of pursuing their claims in court, but it will be intolerable if any large number of them do so.

There is something that the authors of the Cantor Fitzgerald report seem not to understand; neither do many of the other survivors, or even their attorneys. Tort damages are not a civil right. The tort system is a government service, one that is helpful and even necessary for society in normal times. In abnormal times, when there is war or natural disaster, the rules of liability are suspended. This is not a new idea. The law has always worked this way; it has to.

We must ask ourselves: suppose there is a next time, and a time after that?

Copyright © 2002 by John J. Reilly


Why post old articles?

Who was John J. Reilly?

All of John's posts here

An archive of John's site