The Long View 2007-01-27: The Real Enemy; Guardian Robots; The Constant of Tolerable Terror

The High Altar survived the fire just fine

The High Altar survived the fire just fine

Two of the links John J. Reilly put in this post are really good:

  1. A Culture Worth Dying For

    The fact is that if democracy meant nothing else than that blasphemy could be freely circulated, or that pornography was always available at the touch of a button, or that Michael Moore got to make as many tendentious films as he wanted, then democracy would not be worth having; certainly it would not be worth dying for. The fact is that we put up with these annoyances because they are necessary frictions. We have freedom of the press and contested elections because, on the whole and over the long run, they produce good government and the improvement of the human estate. They produce virtue. The lethal danger that postmodernism and libertarianism pose for the West is their embrace of the transgressive. Their mixture makes Western society repulsive abroad and, in the long run, causes the freedoms on which they depend to become a matter of indifference at home.

  2. Culture War and Foreign Policy

    How this links into foreign policy was both sides in the Cold War sought to recruit allies from the Third World to bolster their international reputation and fight in proxy wars. Insofar as the Soviets could tar the West with the Original Sins of slavery and colonialism, the Soviets had a clear advantage. Thus, John claims that desegregation and civil rights in America set the stage for the Helsinki Accords, which the Soviets considered to be a victory at the time, but later were seen as a key factor that weakened the Soviet Union and its satellites from within.

    The twist is that the political movements that allowed the United States to claim the mantle of justice in the mid-twentieth century now seem increasingly bizarre to an international audience, let alone to their domestic political opponents. Thus we have an odd collusion of interests both at home and abroad that increasingly see the continuing dominance of America as something at odds with both political order and domestic harmony. At the extreme ends of the spectrum, this shades off into outright identification of the United States with the Whore of Babylon. So far, this remains a minority opinion.

We currently have a culture a lot of people tried really hard to make, but when it comes down to it, how many of its architects or proponents would make warre to the knife to defend it?

The Real Enemy; Guardian Robots; The Constant of Tolerable Terror

Regarding Dinesh D'Souza's new book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, visitors to my website may be interested to know that I have done a review, but I have submitted it for print publication. If no one picks it up, I will post it to my website (as indeed I will even if someone does publish it, but then I will post it several weeks later). Here, let me just say that there are elements of D'Souza's thesis with which I agree. Let me refer readers to a posting I made to this space about this time last year, A Culture Worth Dying For, and to an item I wrote in 2000 and posted two years later, Culture War and Foreign Policy. Where I differ from the book is my lack of confidence in the proposal for an alliance of American and Muslim conservatives.

I find that I am not the only person to have had thoughts along these lines, particularly among writers who have been critical of Islam itself. Srdja Trifkovic has entitled his response to the book "Dinesh the Dhimmi," in which he says:

Two of the titles D’Souza finds so offensive that condemning them tops his list of “critical steps” are by my friend Robert Spencer, and “The Sword” is mine. D’Souza wants us, and presumably other similarly minded authors (Bat Ye’or, Ibn Warraq, Andrew Bostom, Walid Shoebat, et al.), to shut up.

Lawrence Auster is of similar mind:

Now think how amazing this is. Has it ever happened in this country—I’m not talking about some totalitarian country but America—has it ever happened that a prominent “intellectual” called on leading writers on a subject of major importance to stop writing what they’re writing, because it would “offend” someone?

My own take on all this is that D'Souza's call for an alliance of traditionalists has less to do with tradition than with Tradition.

* * *

Speaking of tradition, the Telegraph (UK) has cast cold water on the expectation that Benedict XVI is about to issue a motu proprio (a document "on his own initiative") encouraging the use of the Tridentine Latin Mass. The report is an interview with "Fr Reginald Foster, 68, a Carmelite friar who was appointed the Papal Latinist 38 years ago by Pope Paul VI," who said:

"He is not going to do it," Fr Foster said. "He had trouble with Regensberg, and then trouble in Warsaw, and if he does this, all hell will break loose." In any case, he added: "It is a useless mass and the whole mentality is stupid. The idea of it is that things were better in the old days. It makes the Vatican look medieval."

This does not look like a Vatican leak; it looks like the opinion of a clerk. As for me, I have set up a Google News Alert for the term "motu proprio." Thus, when the document is issued, I will be able to go immediately into the public square and join one of the mobs that will form to call the liturgists to account. These venacularist-roaders will then be paraded through the streets and forced in struggle-sessions to recant their errors.

Medieval indeed.

* * *

Other computers watch over me, too, including the ones at Amazon, which were recently kind enough to suggest I might want to buy this list of things:

Crusade Against the Grail: The Struggle between the Cathars, the Templars, and the Church of Rome

The SS Brotherhood of the Bell: Nasa's Nazis, JFK, And Majic-12

Nietzsche, Prophet of Nazism: The Cult of the Superman--Unveiling the Nazi Secret Doctrine

The Master Plan: Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust

The Vril Society

Reich Of The Black Sun: Nazi Secret Weapons & The Cold War Allied Legend

The Secret of the Spear: The Mystery of the Spear of Longinus (Mysteries of the Universe)

Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

The first I might actually get: it's a translation of a book published in 1933 by Otto Rahn, that Nazi who really was looking for the Holy Grail. However, the really scary item in this list is the last one.

* * *

Not only I noticed that yesterday's anti-war rally in Washington was a dud. Readers are encouraged to amuse themselves by looking for pictures of the event: they all take advantage of oblique angles and the Mall's scant foliage to avoid showing how much space the crowd did not occupy. NPR this morning was still reporting that "tens of thousands" of people were there. So, I am told, did the frontpage of the Washington Post, but the online headline was Thousands Protest Bush Policy:

The crowd, while exuberant, seemed significantly smaller than the half-million people organizers said were present and may not have matched similar protests in September 2005 and January 2003. The throng filled much of the Mall between Third and Fourth streets NW but thinned toward Seventh Street.

This does not mean that the media is making up the unpopularity of the war. The unusual thing about this war, and what makes it different from the Vietnam War, is that the population that is bearing the burden of the conflict is distinct geographically and socially from the people who are strongly against it.

* * *

Meanwhile, American conservatism was committing suicide a few blocks away, at the National Review Conservative Summit. Jeb Bush was well received: enough said, I think.

Consider these remarks by Mark Steyn in an interview by Hugh Hewitt I have already linked to:

I’m a believer in small government. I think it’s very difficult for big government to maintain the kind of self reliant citizenry that you need to win long existential struggles like the one we’re in.

I have raised this point before, but let me put the response to this thesis more tersely:

PuR * PrR = Kt

PuR = Public Risk
PrR = Private Risk
Kt = Constant of Tolerable Terror

In other words: Societies whose members experience greater than normal risks because of some collective threat must assume collectively some of the risk that their members would otherwise manage individually. Failure to make this adjustment will have the effect of a confiscatory tax, causing concealment, withdrawal, and a diminishment of activity. Conversely, perfectly safe societies can normally allow their members to assume a great deal of risk without degrading social morale.

In other words, in an existential crisis, small government is a form of expropriation.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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Turning Point: Galaxy's Edge #7 Book Review

Turning Point: Galaxy's Edge #7
by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole
Kindle Edition, 374 pages
Published February 23th 2018 by Galaxy's Edge

Turning Point is an ugly book. It is ugly, because war is ugly. And this is warre, war to the knife. Firebombs, orbital strikes, death and destruction.

The war my grandfathers waged  By English: Ishikawa Kōyō - 写真のアップローダが出典を示していないのでどこからこの写真を持ってきたのか不明だが、該当写真は1953年8月15日発行の「東京大空襲秘録写真集」(雄鶏社刊)の12, 13ページに「道路一杯に横たわる焼死体、誰とも知れぬ一片の灰のかたまりにすぎないが…」のキャプション付きで掲載されているので著作権問題はクリアされている。, Public Domain,

The war my grandfathers waged

By English: Ishikawa Kōyō - 写真のアップローダが出典を示していないのでどこからこの写真を持ってきたのか不明だが、該当写真は1953年8月15日発行の「東京大空襲秘録写真集」(雄鶏社刊)の12, 13ページに「道路一杯に横たわる焼死体、誰とも知れぬ一片の灰のかたまりにすぎないが…」のキャプション付きで掲載されているので著作権問題はクリアされている。, Public Domain,

In theory, when statesmanship and diplomacy and the just use of force have been applied prudently, none of this is necessary. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. And then, when good men find their back against the wall, they will do things that are more horrible than even they could have imagined they would do, if you had asked them before the deed was done.

This is also a book about divided loyalties. In the self-image of the Legion, they are loyal servants of the Republic. In practice, the oligarchs of the Republic use them and hate them, and the Legion returns that hate in spades. The Legion is already divided against itself, and against its masters, but truly, the split runs deeper than that. 

The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every leeje, with the result that brother will turn upon brother, and the galaxy will burn. There are hints that something far worse than venial and self-serving politicians, even worse than Goth Sullus, tyrant holdfast, is lurking in the darkness. Yet, I still have hope, hope that the worst can yet be avoided, even if we don't quite know what that could be.

My other book reviews

Legionnaire: Galaxy's Edge #1 book review

Galactic Outlaws: Galaxy's Edge #2 book review

Kill Team: Galaxy's Edge #3 book review

Attack of Shadows: Galaxy's Edge #4 book review

Sword of the Legion: Galaxy's Edge #5 Book Review

Tin Man: Galaxy's Edge Book Review

Prisoners of Darkness: Galaxy's Edge #6 Book Review

Imperator: Galaxy's Edge Book Review

Turning Point (Galaxy's Edge Book 7)
By Jason Anspach, Nick Cole

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