The Long View 2007-11-19: America the Archaic; Embryonic Stem Cell Collapse; Machen; Iraq War Triumphalism

Arthur MachenBy Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,

Arthur Machen

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,

This is simply a great line:

Actually, it's more like blinding infatuation. One of the premises of American political culture seems to be that anything really important for liberty or order must already be addressed by the Constitution, however occultly.

America the Archaic; Embryonic Stem Cell Collapse; Machen; Iraq War Triumphalism

I was aggressive to the point of rudeness at a conference in 2005 when I took exception to an innocent presenter's argument that America and Europe were different civilizations because America had changed so much since 1776. No, no, I said: America is the conservative half of the West. Mark Steyn, if we may judge by this column, would have heckled with me:

But Americans aren't novelty junkies on the important things. The New World is one of the oldest settled constitutional democracies on Earth, to a degree the Old World can barely comprehend. Where it counts, Americans are traditionalists....Americans think of Europe as Goethe and Mozart and 12th century castles and 6th century churches, but the Continent's governing mechanisms are no more ancient than the Partridge Family. Aside from the Anglophone democracies, most of the nation-states in the West have been conspicuous failures at sustaining peaceful political evolution from one generation to the next, which is why they're so susceptible to the siren song of Big Ideas – communism, fascism, European Union....Even in a supposedly 50/50 nation, you're struck by the assumed stability underpinning even fundamental disputes. If you go into a bookstore, the display shelves offer a smorgasbord of leftist anti-Bush tracts claiming that he and Cheney have trashed, mangled, gutted, raped and tortured, sliced 'n' diced the Constitution, put it in a cement overcoat and lowered it into the East River. Yet even this argument presupposes a shared veneration for tradition unknown to most Western political cultures: When Tony Blair wanted to abolish, in effect, the upper house of the national legislature, he just got on and did it....I don't believe the U.S. Constitution includes a right to abortion or gay marriage or a zillion other things the Left claims to detect emanating from the penumbra, but I find it sweetly touching that in America even political radicalism has to be framed as an appeal to constitutional tradition from the powdered-wig era.

No doubt Mark Steyn is required to write things like that as a condition of getting his residence visa renewed. However, Spengler (the real Spengler) was of the same way of thinking, as we see in The Decline of the West (Volume II, p. 430 in the English version):

For us creative piety, or (to use a more fundamental term) the pulse that has come down to us from first origins, adhere only to forms that are older than the Revolution and Napoleon,2 forms which grew and were not made.

2 Including the constitution of the United States of America. Only thus can we account for the reverence that the American cherishes for it, even where he clearly sees its insufficiency.

Actually, it's more like blinding infatuation. One of the premises of American political culture seems to be that anything really important for liberty or order must already be addressed by the Constitution, however occultly.

* * *

If you think that the Teachers' Union will fight like wet cats to keep their funding, wait until you see how the embryonic stem-cell research industry will react to this announcement from the creator of Dolly the Duplicative Sheep:

Prof Ian Wilmut's decision to turn his back on "therapeutic cloning", just days after US researchers announced a breakthrough in the cloning of primates, will send shockwaves through the scientific establishment. ..His inspiration comes from the research by Prof Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, which suggests a way to create human embryo stem cells without the need for human eggs, which are in extremely short supply, and without the need to create and destroy human cloned embryos, which is bitterly opposed by the pro life movement....Prof Yamanaka has shown in mice how to turn skin cells into what look like versatile stem cells potentially capable of overcoming the effects of disease...When his team used a virus to add four genes (called Oct4, Sox2, c-Myc and Klf4) into adult mouse fibroblast cells they found they could find resulting embryo-like cells by sifting the result for the one in 10,000 cells that make proteins Nanog or Oct4, both typical markers of embryonic cells...When they studied how genes are used in these reprogrammed cells, "called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells", they were typical of the activity seen in an embryo. In the test tube, the new cells look and grow like embryonic stem cells.

The investigation of embryonic stem cells is important science; one hopes it will continue in animal studies. Actually, there is even an argument to be made for reproductive cloning, though I don't find it persuasive. What has always been insufferable, however, is the claim that embryonic stem-cell research will quickly, or ever, lead to panaceas for all diseases. Elements of the scientific establishment decided to make that claim, though they knew better, and now they will pay for it.

* * *

Here's a fine collection of the tales of the supernatural by fin-de-siecle author Arthur Machen. Machen's High Church numinosity goes over very well at Christmastime.

* * *

Iraq War triumphalism continues to wax online, if not in the media. I find it persuasive, for the most part, though I am reluctant to join in unreservedly until it is clear that most of the Coalition troops can be withdrawn without Iraq falling apart. I find a theme beginning to appear which I broached myself a while ago: the actual success achieved in Iraq is more important than the shallow filibustering victory that a feckless Bush Administration originally contemplated. We find that view in this item by Jack Kelly of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette<:

Canadian columnist David Warren speculated some years ago that enticing al-Qaida to fight there was one of the reasons why President Bush decided to invade Iraq. The administration has made so many egregious mistakes that I doubt the "flypaper" strategy was deliberate. But it has worked out that way. It may have been a mistake for the United States to go to war in Iraq. But it's pretty clear now it was a blunder for al-Qaida to have done so...

Al-Qaida's support in the Muslim world has plummeted, partly because of the terror group's lack of success in Iraq, more because al-Qaida's attacks have mostly killed Muslim civilians.

"Iraq has proved to be the graveyard, not just of many al-Qaida operatives, but of the organization's reputation as a defender of Islam," said StrategyPage.

And here's a piece by Bartle Bull that appeared a few weeks ago in Prospect Magazine:

The argument of this article—that with nothing more to resolve from political violence, Iraqis can now settle down to gorge themselves at the oil trough—is based on two premises: Sunni acknowledgement of the failure of their insurgency and the need to reach an accommodation with the new Iraq, and a conjunction of interests between the coalition on one hand and the Kurds and Shias on the other...

The analysis in that piece is subtle and comprehensive. It put me in mind of an exchange between a boozy pair of mutinous American officers in Richard Clarke's deplorable (though not badly written) thriller, The Scorpion's Gate:

"But I do know this. I went into Fallujah with my brigade in ’04 and I saw what we did. You know the three-star Marine in charge of all us jarheads in Iraq recommended against assaulting the city; ju’ know that? They didn’t have no WMD there. They weren’t hiding Saddam or Osama. When we went inta Fallujah the second time, we fuckin’ leveled the place. City a quarter million people, gone-ski. Did we fuckin’ think that would make us popular? No wonder you got Iraqis still trying to blow up your headquarters in Bahrain."

In contrast to that line of thinking, we may consider this observation from Bull:

The tribes and the Baathists also noticed what happened in Fallujah and Ramadi: when those cities ran out of control, America doubled up. In November 2004, the marines surrounded Fallujah, killed every insurgent (and plenty of civilians), started rebuilding the place and left an effective security cordon around it. Ramadi, on a smaller scale, was next. Now the insurgency has decamped to other provinces, where it does not want to be. Beating them there will be even easier, as is proving to be the case in Diyala.

Note that this was not a tactic of Schrecklichkeit, of using horror to induce political paralysis. That was what the insurgency was doing, and it failed. What the Marines were doing seems to have worked; it unfroze the politics.

I fully expect the same to happen in the US, perhaps starting as soon as after the Thanksgiving Day holiday. The Democrats in Congress can be expected to take more credit for getting the Bush Administration to change strategy; we will hear less of that bizarre Orwellianism, "redeploy." The presidential candidates are locked in their positions for now, because they must placate the Kossaks and relive George Soros and his ilk of more of their money. After the nominations are determined, however, there could be a non-stupid debate between the parties about foreign policy.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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