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Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, "The Will to Disbelieve"

My good friend, and frequent WWWtW commentator, Michael Bauman, forwarded to me this excerpt from a piece authored by former U. N. Ambassador, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick. According to Mike, "I am impressed that she reached this conclusion about us nearly 25 years ago, during Reagan's first term, and that in the meantime the failing she notes has only grown worse."

from Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, "The Will to Disbelieve" (Hoover Institute, 1984):

"The will to disbelieve the horrible is, I believe, a defining characteristic of the contemporary West, of no society more than our own. Because we cannot remember the fact of danger, we have great trouble protecting ourselves, our freedom and civilization. But the persistence of the horrible is only one of the lessons we are unwilling to learn. Almost as strong as the will to disbelieve the shackling of freedom imposed upon society after society by our only major contemporary adversary is the will to disbelieve our own worthiness. The will to disbelieve that we value freedom and intend to expand and preserve it has been translated into an expectation that we are almost always wrong. It leads to what one leading Washington commentator has called 'reflexive anti-Americanism'. . . Blaming ourselves is the opposite side of the coin to denying the menace outside. It feeds an illusion that we can control events merely by changing our behavior. . .

"Classes in philosophy used to present several 'theories' of truth: the 'correspondence' theory, which requires that an account 'correspond' to observable behavior and empirical evidence, and the 'pragmatic' approach, that of William James and C. S. Peirce, which proposes that we consider the 'effects of a practical kind' of believing an idea true, and which argues that where evidence is indecisive, 'vital and moral interests should determine the choice' about the truth of a belief. By either standard, disbelief in the evidence concerning the strength and intentions of either our adversaries or ourselves is dysfunctional. It does not correspond to the demonstrable patterns of contemporary history, and it is not, as James said a true idea should be, 'profitable to our lives'.

Comments (31)

Amen. An excellent application of this bit of prose to the present is the strange argument one gets when one starts talking about the implacability of Islam towards the West and the degree to which such implacability or at least its defense, toleration, and enablement is "mainstream" in Islam (in other words, it's not just a "tiny minority of extremists"). What do people say, "If we believed that, we'd have to start talking about deporting Muslims, limiting Muslim immigration, etc. We'd have to start considering doing things that we are quite sure are wrong. So it can't be true." Now, that's just silly. If some course of action really is intrinsically wrong (which limiting Muslim immigration obviously isn't anyway), then no amount of truth-facing can force us to decide to do it. And mere empirical predictions about what courses of action we would be likely to contemplate if we believed X cannot affect the truth or falsehood of X. This isn't an argument at all. Yet one hears it all the time: "We must assume that our enemies can be dealt with rationally, that they have rational grievances and rational demands, that we can negotiate with them, or we shall be forced to declare total war and genocide."

"The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault."
Ralph Peters

There is another "Will to Disbelieve" that is equally, if not more dangerous, and that is the one
that masks the desire to dominate with lofty rhetoric.

As an aside; Jeane Kirkpatrick opposed the second Iraq War and was distrustful of the Wilsonian vision blinding our so-called statesmen.

Ralph Peters is flatly wrong. His view is precisely the sort Kirkpatrick warns us against. Our armed forces are not engaged in keeping the world safe for our economy, and they are not working either purposely or accidentally to foster a cultural assault. You'll recall that the cultural assault was launched against American culture, not by it. Islamic terrorists flew passenger planes into our buildings. In response, we began a war on terror, a war that in but 5 years has produced some notable successes against an enemy that has been attacking Western culture for more than a thousand years.

For example, we did not go to war in Iraq in order to open up Libya to American consumer products. But going to war in Iraq did convince the Libyan government to change its fundamental stance toward terrorism and toward us. The fight against Al Qaeda, against the Taliban, and against Saddam has nothing to do with the Ralph Peters vision of America.

"Our armed forces are not engaged in keeping the world safe for our economy, and they are not working either purposely or accidentally to foster a cultural assault."

Prior to 9-11, why did we have bases in Saudi Arabia and go to war over Kuwait? The presence of oil just a mere coincidence? And, if you don't think the Islamic world is repulsed by our tawdry cultural exports, many which you too find repugnant, you are very naive. With over 700 bases spanning the globe it might be good to ask what is their mission and is it a prudent one.

"...a war that in but 5 years has produced some notable successes..."

7 years after 9-11 later our borders and ports are still unsecured. We're just beginning to install radiation scanning devices at 5 major airports by years end. 5 airports. Wow.

Meanwhile, a couple of trillion dollars has been spent in Iraq and all we've done there is make it ripe for either endless sectarian war, or a take-over by Iran.

Islamic terrorism is a threat, but invading and occupying oil-rich Islamic states is the road-map to defeat. After all the blood-shed and squandered treasure, Rumsfield's reckless bluster rings hollow; “We have two choices. Either we change the way we live, or we must change the way they live. We choose the latter.”


Yep. That's it. They've got me. It isn't that I've rationally evaluated both the substantive assertions of American foreign policy and the historical genesis of that foreign policy in pseudo-messianic doctrines of American exceptionalism, nor that I've likewise rationally analyzed the ostensible threats to which the "expansion and promotion of 'freedom'" (Jacobin language, that) is supposed to be the remedy - no, it is that I am labouring under the malignant influence of some cognitive defect, some ethical defect or dysfunction: I will to disbelieve; by a supremely vicious act of voluntarism, I negate the global manifest destiny of the Imperium, er, the Last, Best Hope of All Mankind.

Enough of this vicious twaddle, every bit as defamatory and ad hominem, in its own way, as the assertions of the Frankfurt School, to the effect that all conservatisms were generated by the mental pathologies of the "authoritarian personality". Disputations concerning American foreign policy do not concern one party's "unwillingness" to acknowledge the manifest "truth" that America possesses some historical destiny, or that her adversaries are who they are claimed to be by neoconservatives, but rather the truth value of precisely those claims themselves. We must reject all such attempts to personalize and psychologize factual questions.

"I negate the global manifest destiny of the Imperium."

And I affirm the local constitutional fate of the UmpaLumpa. :-)

Are you channeling Norm Crosby?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlrlHL0_qwg

Frank, that's cute, but you're better than that, better than drawing an implicit equivalence between what many foreign policy strategists actually say about American foreign policy and the "UmpaLumpa". There is no malapropism; there is only the anachronism of applying to contemporary circumstances an analysis that was appropriate to international Communism, an analogue of which does not now exist in the geopolitical sphere. The endeavours of some neoconservatives to persuade us that such exist are acts of ideology at its purest: acts of assertion so powerful in their appeal to primal fears that their contradictions no longer register.

Be careful, Maximos, sooner or later, any questioning of the motives or strategies of our foreign policy elites will inevitably lead to a reprise of Kirkpatrick's speech from 24 years ago; "But then, they always blame America first"

In defending the indefensible policies of the present, neocons prefer the leitmotif of 1938 Munich, or borrowing rhetoric from the Cold War. Anything it seems, but a long hard look at the actual conditions of today. Note the absence of quotations from Kagan, Feith, Kristol and the architects of World War IV, or any sourcing of Bush's Second Inaugural address. I wonder why.

There is a _real_ tendency to blame America for the hostility of those who hate us in such a sense as to imply that those who hate us a) have legitimate grievances, b) can be dealt with rationally by addressing those legitimate grievances, and (relatedly) c) plausibly will stop attacking us if we behave differently. I think that these are false. This isn't a matter of psycho-analyzing people. I just disagree with them. Moreover, I have seen with my own eyes, in a couple of different contexts, the type argument made that I described: "We cannot believe that X is true about the implacability and irrationality of our enemies or we will have to contemplate doing something evil." That's baloney. Again, it's not psychoanalyzing somebody to say that an argument is baloney. I think Kirkpatrick's statement that people are unwilling to believe the horrible may indeed be responsible for that particular type of baloney reasoning, but whatever the cause, the logical point remains the same.

Lydia, I simply reject the abstract formulation of the dynamic in play here, not to mention its application to contemporary objections to neoconservative foreign policy with regard to the Middle East and Russia. The Jihad, though a legitimate threat, is a threat mainly by virtue of the presence of Islamic advocates in Western societies, as well as the intermittent threat of the (modern equivalent of the) razzia, the terrorist attack. There exists no Islamic equivalent of the Internationale, no superpower patronage of a unified Islamic Front, and, most critically, no Islamic ideology capable of winning to its cause large percentages of the Western intelligentsia and electorates. Moreover, a Russia reverting to great-power status is a different sort of thing from the Soviet Union. Period. It is a type of category error to conflate these things, as is too often done in neoconservative rhetoric on foreign policy, and therefore, words applicable to leftists during the depths of the Cold War are not at all applicable to those who repudiate American grand strategy for Central Asia, or who scoff at the notion that a resurgent Russia represents a grave and gathering danger to objective American interests.

As regards the abstract formulation of this problematic, I suspect that much of the difficulty hinges upon the use of the term "legitimate", which is, alas, all too often a means of smuggling into the discussion a moralistic response to circumstances that have not been realistically analyzed and understood. Stated differently, the invocation of "legitimacy" is a means of begging the question and foreordaining the American policy, of settling upon a specific policy trajectory without making explicit the factual predicates of that trajectory. A given question in foreign policy will be grasped, not merely in pristine abstraction from its historical and political contexts, but in pristinated abstraction, meaning, an ideological operation in which relatively discreet sets of events from the historical stream are isolated and reified - made to stand as things-in-themselves - as if foreign policy could be conducted on the basis of the crudest sort of nominalism.

While some paleoconservatives may comfort themselves by means of the false belief that Islam, for example, must not be a threat, because, were it to be, that might lend some measure of credence to the policies of the detested neoconservatives, I have no patience for that sort of thing. The threat of the Jihad is real enough, though occasionally overstated for political purposes; and I have spent the past several years arguing in various internet forums that, to the extent that the threat obtains, there are policy options far less costly, and far more rational, than any programme of regime changes and wars of dubious justice. However, from the fact that the Jihad is real it does not follow that each and every act of Jihad must be comprehended purely by reference to the internal dynamics of the Islamic world; the notion that each and every act of Jihad would have transpired precisely as it did even if American foreign policy were radically other than it is - this is a notion so radically counterfactual as to be useless for comprehension of the actual world in which we live. I mean, seriously, would al Qaeda-linked terrorists have blown up the Khobar Towers had American servicemen and contractors not been stationed in Arabia subsequent to the First Gulf War? Of course not. This is not to state that America is to blame for the incident; the perpetrators are to blame, in the sense that they are responsible. However, quite apart from the question of the 'legitimacy' of any specific American foreign policy decision, that is, apart from its moral status, it is simply true that American foreign policy will modulate, to a degree, the intensity and directionality of the foreign policy decisions of other global actors, inclusive of stateless terrorist groups. That, because America is a member of that class of geopolitical subjects known as nations, and it is of the nature of the foreign policies of nations to have this effect upon the foreign policies of other nations and geopolitical actors.

I don't believe that geopolitical problems are amenable to solution by means of rational dialogue, any more than I believe them amenable to solution by means of war and codpiece diplomacy; they are originary, in the sense of being as fundamental and primal as differences between individuals, emerging as they do from the divergent historical and cultural traditions of different peoples. To the extent that anything whatsoever can be done about them, they can be managed and moderated, for a time; but, to the extent that interests diverge and conflict, such differences are best managed by diplomatic compromise, a defense of one's homeland - and not of far flung garrisons - and, where circumstances conform to the strictures of Just War doctrine, by means of licit warfare. In other words, not in Iran, not in Syria, not in Georgia, not in the Ukraine, or in any of the other places in which neoconservatives are agitating for what would amount to escalation.

There is no question of whether, by adopting any particular policy, we could defuse the hostility of some adversary or rival, and thereby eliminate the possibility of an attack, or of a divergence of concrete interests. The question, to the contrary, concerns the prudence of our own foreign policy decision-making, prudence being the virtue that enables one to navigate contingent, yet ineliminable historical circumstances.

There is no question of whether, by adopting any particular policy, we could defuse the hostility of some adversary or rival...

Meaning, it wouldn't defuse the hostility? If that is what you mean, we have one point, at least, on which we agree.

I have a memory trace which may be mistaken, Maximos, and I don't believe it can be checked out, because if I'm correct, the exchange took place on the old EM. In this memory trace, you said words to this effect: "I would prefer to believe that Iran is a rational actor..." In the same conversation, my recollection is that the person who said this also contrasted the view he "preferred" to adopt of Iran with what he called the "mad dog" view of Iran. He also raised the specter of some dire consequences that must be avoided (the specifics of which I don't recall, but I assume it had something to do with war with Iran) that would follow if we didn't adopt this view that he preferred. Now, there are a lot of possibilities. Perhaps it wasn't you but someone else who said one or all of these things, and I'm just misremembering. Perhaps the phrase, "I prefer to believe" was just a rhetorical trope, and the speaker, whoever he was, actually meant something rather different: "I have good reason to think, and I'm glad of that."

But taken baldly and literally, I would say that that set of statements is an example of the sort of fallacious reasoning against which I have been speaking here. The facts, however we might disagree about them among ourselves, are what they are, and our preferences make no difference to them.

Maximos:

While some paleoconservatives may comfort themselves by means of the false belief that Islam, for example, must not be a threat, because, were it to be, that might lend some measure of credence to the policies of the detested neoconservatives, I have no patience for that sort of thing.

Good point.

I will to disbelieve[?] Enough of this vicious twaddle....

Not such a good point. Do you really believe that Mrs. Kirkpatrick is wrong, and moreover unreasonable, when she writes,

The will to disbelieve the horrible is, I believe, a defining characteristic of the contemporary West....

Lydia, I don't recall actually using phraseology, in an old EM discussion, to the effect that I would prefer to believe X about Iran. I don't know if the thread in question is one that I was able to archive before Josh shuttered the site, but I'm dubious that I would have used the phrase, inasmuch as, for starters, I've argued on this very site that Iran is, in point of fact, deterrable, and thus, to that extent, rational, and second, I prefer - no pun intended - to work with factual determinations and probabilistic judgments, as opposed to "preferences", understood as heuristics, or as an attitude of, "I just want to think about it this way." Besides, I wouldn't use the phrase "mad dog", probably not even after imbibing large quantities of alcohol. Nothing against it, but it's just not me.

Harold, I should be more precise, to wit: Mrs Kirkpatrick was correct when referring to the Soviet Union, and the romance many of the left had with that Evil Empire. It is incorrect, because anachronistic and erroneous, to apply that analysis to the Jihad, or to a great-power Russia, and if neoconservatives, or anyone else, seek to apply Kirkpatrick's critique of the Cold War left to contemporary critics of Bush, neocons, or whomever, it is that application, that psychologization, which is vicious twaddle. I don't close my eyes to the "reality of Russia or the Jihad"; I dispute the factual predicates of proposed neoconservative policies with regard to these things. Specifically, to provide an illustration, in the actually-existing world, any response to a resurgent Russia of the sort proposed by American neocons, or even most realists, namely, the expansion of NATO & etc., will be a response, not to a threat comparable in any respect to the Soviet Union, but to a mental fiction corresponding to nothing in reality. Moreover, the specific form of that response, the mode of its application, will involve the expansion of international institutions subversive of the nation-state, namely, the EU and NATO (this latter having been reconceptualized as a military alliance aiming at various forms of international integration), and, therefore, conservatives who accept the fear-mongering regarding Russia will be legitimating the very historico-political forces undermining the nation-state, and, therewith, the conditions of the possibility of any actual conservatism. Conservatives fell prey to the ideological temptation during the Cold War, and now, as foreign-policy elites attempt to revive those old fears, appear likely to sign onto yet another drive towards the East; many conservatives, that is, indulging in nostalgia, will willingly cede what little remains of conservatism, throwing away the nation-state, the basis of global order for nearly 400 years, in order to confront a phantasmic threat.

Maximos, wouldn't you agree that a lot of the nonsense, which I know you deplore, about how Islam is a religion of peace and has been hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists is very much an example of the human refusal to believe the horrible?

I apologize for the fact that I've apparently been remembering someone else's comments as yours on that old thread for a couple of years.

Kevin,


"Prior to 9-11, why did we have bases in Saudi Arabia and go to war over Kuwait? The presence of oil just a mere coincidence?. . .With over 700 bases spanning the globe it might be good to ask what is their mission and is it a prudent one."

Yes, of course, prior to 9/11 we had a military presence in Saudi Arabia and we went to war in Kuwait. Here's why:

We went to war in Kuwait because Saddam was interested in expropriating Kuwaiti oil, not us. We did not invade Kuwait; we liberated Kuwait. Saddam invaded Kuwait for the purpose of oil acquisition because having that oil would solidify and further his oppressive intentions both at home and abroad. After he did that, we, and dozens of other nations, went to war to expel him -- not so that we could expropriate Kuwaiti oil for ourselves, but so that he could not expropriate it and use it for his own oppressive and extortionary economic and geopolitical purposes.

Because that sort of threat existed -- and still exists -- we have bases in places like Saudi Arabia. That base is a police station, not the forward position in an oil takeover attempt. That base helps resist takeover attempts. That's why it's there. We want to hinder tyrants from taking things for their evil purposes -- things that do not belong to them. If tyrants take those things and thereby succeed in their intentions, freedom suffers and people die. We have such bases around the world in order to prevent or to correct such evil enterprises. Kirkpatrick is right: We fight for freedom and against tyranny. But according to your anti-American cynicism, we fight for oil. You left the freedom part out, Kevin. You left the resistance to tyranny part out -- just like the folks about whom Kirkpatrick writes.

For the purpose of protecting freedom and resisting tyranny, we have bases around the world like those we have in the Middle East. Some of those bases are near places that have abundant oil; most, by far, are not. Our global project is fundamentally about freedom, not oil. Wherever there are economic or geopolitical advantages that tyrants might want to use against free nations and free peoples, we try to have a presence so that our resistance against expansive evil and our efforts on behalf of freedom are more effective and efficient.

But you argue as if America is not defending freedom or fighting tyranny. You argue as if America is primarily rapacious, acquisitive and tawdry, and as if its leaders are either fundamentally devious or unbelievably stupid -- even though in reality we are the freest, the most generous, the most transparent, and the most selfless nation that ever existed, bar none. We have liberated more people than any other nation -- ever. Your cynicism is shocking and counter-factual, and it leads to the ineffective rhetorical questions you think further your case. Here's one built on your model: Shall we deny that US military installations in Italy exist so that we can get cheap wine and pasta? We, and the world, love wine and pasta. And because those things are fundamental to our self-indulgent and tawdry culture, we want to keep them as cheap as possible. That's why we are in Italy; never mind what the government tells you about freedom and tyranny. After all, is it a mere coincidence that Italian vineyards are so close to our base in Avianca? To think that would be naïve.

In short, Kevin, your insinuations and rhetorical fictions insult us. By them, you ignore our virtues and berate our intentions by cynically transforming them.


"And, if you don't think the Islamic world is repulsed by our tawdry cultural exports, many which you too find repugnant, you are very naive."


Yes, parts of our culture are tawdry and crude. Some of them get exported. I know of no one who can, or who does, deny it. But your comment in this regard seems to me to be without weight or point. By mentioning tawdriness here are you saying (a) that Islamic terrorists try to murder us by the thousands -- and millions if they could -- for THAT, and that we therefore ought to stop the war on terror? or (b) that, if we kept that tawdry stuff to ourselves they'd stop trying to murder us? or (C) that we are fighting in Afghanistan in order to make more money by exporting more tawdry stuff -- rather than to fight terrorism?

In short, your mention of tawdriness here demonstrates nothing, at least nothing meaningful against current American policy or in explanation of Islamic terror. It seems like you are implying that they want to kill us because we export tawdriness, and therefore the way we fight the war on terror is unjust and ought to be stopped. In other words, I see no point or weight in your invocation here of American tawdriness. If I have to choose, I prefer tawdry to terror every time. Export the former if you must, but never the latter. I'll plead guilty to America exporting tawdriness. But how does that relate to terrorism in a way that demonstrates our national project against Islamic mass murder is ill-conceived?


"7 years after 9-11 later our borders and ports are still unsecured. We're just beginning to install radiation scanning devices at 5 major airports by years end. 5 airports. Wow."

If you are saying that we have not done enough to secure our borders, I fully agree. But that failure is not caused by the war on terror in Iraq or in Afghanistan. If you think there's a connection between our border security failure and the war on terror that we fight in Iraq or Afghanistan, then prove it. But if you think the border failure is unrelated, then why bring it up in this context? If it’s related, prove it. If it's not, leave it out of the discussion. Or, if your point is merely that the government is inconsistent, then your point is not worth making. Every government that ever existed has been inconsistent in countless ways. We already know that. It's not a telling point.


"Meanwhile, a couple of trillion dollars has been spent in Iraq and all we've done there is make it ripe for either endless sectarian war, or a take-over by Iran."

Do you deny what even Obama concedes? Even he concedes that the surge worked. It has worked, and directly because of our efforts more and more of Iraq has been pacified. On what basis, therefore, do you assert that the sectarian violence in Iraq will be "endless"?


"Islamic terrorism is a threat, but invading and occupying oil-rich Islamic states is the road-map to defeat. After all the blood-shed and squandered treasure, Rumsfield's reckless bluster rings hollow; “We have two choices. Either we change the way we live, or we must change the way they live. We choose the latter.”

Prove to me that this is the road map to defeat. It doesn't look to me like we are losing the war on terror. It looks to me like the 10th crusade is making progress and that its leader is George Bush.

Even according to your own distorted rubric, Rumsfeld is right: If tawdry is so unacceptable to Islamic people that they want to kill us -- all of us -- then the choice really is between tawdry and terror, between our life and theirs. You darn well better hope that tawdry wins because terrorism won't stop until either we or they are all dead. We have their word on it. It's a fight to the death. They want that death to be ours. Rumsfeld does not. He has seen the options the world actually presents us, and he has made the right choice: They must change.

It's Reagan's vision applied to Islamic terror rather than to communism: We win; they lose.

Max,
I assume that you thought -- and still do think -- that in Soviet times those who then were in charge of the Kremlin, in general, and of the KGB, in particular, were evil, and that their murderous forays into other nations ought to be resisted, or at least stridently descried.

But you now seem to think that, even though the same folks are in charge in Moscow now as were in charge there in Soviet times, and even though their principles, their tactics, and their purposes remain largely unchanged and unrepented of, you ought to defend them when they "liberate" parts of Georgia, yet excoriate us when we venture into Iraq to fight terror. Those in charge in Moscow are now what they always were, and calling their oppressive regime "Russian" instead of "Soviet" changes nothing. Yet you rail against us frequently, but not against them.

The lessons of the Cold War as they relate to Islam: The Soviet Union was then largely what Russia is now: namely, a third world nation with a first world military (and a cockamamie economic system). They were and they are dangerous. But dangerous or not, they never pulled off what Islamic terrorism has -- killing thousands of our own fellow countrymen on our own shores. When Islamic terrorism gets nuclear weapons, and they are working religiously to get them at this very moment, the Islamic threat will be every bit as dangerous -- perhaps even more -- than the Soviets ever were. If the failure to recognize and to resist monumental evil was foolish and deadly then, it is more so now. Lessons from that era are profoundly relevant for this one, and for the same reasons. But the useful idiots who failed then are failing again. Those persons and those errors, against which Kirkpatrick warned us, are everywhere.

But you now seem to think that, even though the same folks are in charge in Moscow now as were in charge there in Soviet times, and even though their principles, their tactics, and their purposes remain largely unchanged and unrepented of, you ought to defend them when they "liberate" parts of Georgia, yet excoriate us when we venture into Iraq to fight terror.

What a farrago! I've been over this ground so many times over the years, and especially since this blog got its start, that it is exceedingly wearisome to trod it once more, but there are vast differences between Soviet Communism and Russian nationalism, between ideological superpower politics and great-power politics, between the ostensible unity of Actually-Existing Socialist Powers and spheres of influence (ie., Putinism is not the Brezhnev doctrine), and so forth. The fact that such enormous differences are collapsed into some amorphous Russian Other is suggestive of nothing more, nothing less, than a puerile sort of pique or resentment that the Russians have not yet admitted themselves beaten, have not yet thrown up their hands as if to exclaim, "You won the Cold War, now have your way with us!" They should know when they're conquered! How dare they not view our triumph precisely as we view it! We resent them, that is, for their refusal to acquiesce to what often enough amounts to the geopolitical equivalent of victor's justice.

But this is all quite tedious; greater intellectual profit is to be found in repeatedly slamming one's head into a brick wall. An encapsulation of a conversation I had at the office this past week should suffice to indicate the contours of the controversy, not to mention the incoherence of the "conservative" Russophobes:

Coworker, on learning that the EU had not extended an invitation to the Ukraine: "But shouldn't the Ukraine be permitted to make the decision for or against the EU without Russian interference of any kind?"

Me: "No, because the EU should not exist in any event. Neither, for that matter, should NATO."

For mainstream conservatives, once so willing to criticize the centralizing post-nationalism of the EU, as well as the transnationalism embodied in these two institutions (the latter, at least since the close of the Cold War), as for the foreign-policy establishment as a whole, opposition to whatever it is supposed Russia is undertaking assumes the form of the expansion of post-national commitments, politically, economically, and militarily. Which is merely to state that, apparently, they are more Russophobic than conservative, inasmuch as they are willing to acquiesce in, or even embrace fulsomely, the subversion of the order of nation-states, if only doing so will enable them to strike a blow against the Bear in a pointless, zero-sum game in which we will not take 'no' for an answer.

Max,
Yes, you have clearly established that you think the Soviet Union and Russia are substantially different. I fully believe you think so. No one doubts it. But you have not given any reason to show that those things are different for Putin, or that Putin is not now what he always was, or that he and his henchman have changed their game and their fundamental beliefs. You repeatedly give us your tendentious construction of events and policies when, in order to to establish the truth of your belief, you need to give us the Kremlin's and the KGB's views. Where's the beef? Have you perhaps looked into Putin's eyes and seen his soul?

I'm not -- and no one is -- saying that Putinism is Brezhnevism. I'm saying that Putinism is Putinism, and that Putinism is what it always was. When Putin was a KGB bigwig, Putinism was purposeful, wicked, communist oppression. Point us now to a fundamental change in his beliefs, his methods, and his allegiances in order to show that Putinism is no longer Putinism. This has nothing to do with Brezhnev. I am asking you for evidence of a fundamental change in Putin, not for a Jeff-ist interpretive rubric.

My request for this evidence has nothing at all to do with "a puerile sort of pique or resentment that the Russians have not yet admitted themselves beaten." No one I know asks Russia for that. No one I know requires the Russians to say to us anything like "You won the Cold War, now have your way with us!" Nor does anyone I know of ever argue that the Russians "should know when they're conquered! How dare they not view our triumph precisely as we view it! We resent them, that is, for their refusal to acquiesce to what often enough amounts to the geopolitical equivalent of victor's justice."

That's just another Jeff-ist invention, a tendentious Jeff-ist construction. I can't think of a single person on the planet who actually writes, speaks, or thinks that way about Russia. You just made it up. This issue and these questions have nothing at all to do with so-called "Russophobia" -- still another Jeff-ist bogeyman in this discussion. Yet, despite your insulting and baseless fictions, you complain that Kirkpatrick deals in "defamatory," "vicious twaddle".


Michael,
First,let me say, I experienced the handiwork of Islamic terrorism unfiltered by a TV screen and feel nothing gained by your lecture on either its cowardly potency, or my alleged "anti-Americanism". Turn up your air-conditioner, if that's the best you can do.

Our bases in the Middle East are there to protect our untrammeled receipt of oil. You say "they" must "change", yet spare us the details as to how we are to transform the Middle East. Why? If you think waging war on 1 billion people adhering to a wide-array of Islamic variants is a prudent,moral course of action, please say so.

Those with the most direct role in counter-terrorism; Richard Clarke, Michael Scheuer and before he was murdered by bin Laden, John O'Neill, are unsparing in their criticisms of both Clinton and Bush. Can you offer a source more credible than Lindsay Graham and his delusional, election year declaration of victory?

Throughout your screed runs a dismissal of not only a connection between foreign oil and our "way of life", but even the need to possibly mend that way of life. What faith forgoes self-examination?
What kind of statecraft refuses the exercise of self-inquiry? The kind that says; "Shites and Sunnis, I thought they were all Moslems"

Blathering on about "10 Crusades", while omitting the word sacrifice is the essence of your argument. Yet, a basic step in defeating Islamic terrorism, as true patriots know, is to; "Confirm thy soul in self-control."


Kevin,
I notice that you do not actually attempt to refute any of the points I made. I wonder if you read what I wrote.

Who mentioned or cited anything by or about Lindsay Graham? Not I. Yet you say that I "offer" Graham as "a source". No, Kevin, that must have been someone else's entry on this thread. Lindsay Graham was nowhere in view when I wrote, much less did I put him forth as a "credible" source or allude in any way to his "delusional" "election year declaration of victory." You injected that into my text and view, not I. That echo rings in your ears only.

And I'd like any evidence at all that even a single American politician or political theorist either practices or endorses a refusal to self-inquire. They might refuse your views or mine, but none of them is like your insulting and fictional distortion. Like Max, you just make this stuff up. And of whom were you thinking when you mentioned faith "that forgoes self-examination?" I can think of no one relevant to this discussion that fits such a description. So, who, Kevin, does this, and what's your proof that this derogatory description is true of them?

And whoever said, or even vaguely implied, that fighting Islamic terrorism does not require sacrifice? It's not a notion I hold or even remotely endorse. Indeed, it's an idea I utterly reject and abhor. Yet you have identified that as "the essence" of my argument. Obviously it is not. That's just more Kevin-ist invention, as is your assertion about our so-called "untrammeled receipt of oil".

Please do cite the sentence or the paragraph where I mention or otherwise indicate my belief in something you call the "cowardly potency" of militant Islam. That notion is foreign to me. I don't ever recall thinking or writing of Islamic terrorism as cowardly. Yet you said that I actually gave a "lecture" on that very topic. Again, that must have been another entry on this thread, not mine.

Further, I never "dismiss the connection between foreign oil and our way of life." My argument everywhere presupposes it, as do the actions of folks like Saddam Hussein, who try to steal oil from other countries.

Have you been so busy reading between the lines that you actually skipped the lines themselves? Perhaps if you responded to what others actually argue, and not to your own baseless reconstructions and tendentious distortions of it, we might make progress. But you've just thrown out five more paragraphs that do not respond to anything the other side actually wrote or believes.

I notice that again you did not mention or otherwise acknowledge that America fights for freedom -- which omission sounds exactly like that against which Kirkpatrick warns us. So, if I ask you directly, will you acknowledge that America intends to fight for freedom around the globe? I'll settle for your word on your belief. Even though you don't grant that same courtesy to others, I won't manufacture your answer for you.

I'm saying that Putinism is Putinism, and that Putinism is what it always was. When Putin was a KGB bigwig, Putinism was purposeful, wicked, communist oppression.

There is no point in conversing with someone so blinkered as to believe that Putinism existed during the Soviet era. You just made it up. For the record, one does not prove negatives, as in, "I'm going to assume, because it suits me so to assume, that Putin believes precisely as he believed as a Communist under Soviet rule, so you must demonstrate to my satisfaction that he does not." To the contrary, one observes the manifest differences between the two periods of history, including those between the conduct of the Soviet and Russian foreign policies, and draws the conclusion to which those differences point, namely, that Communism and Russian nationalism are distinct entities. It's called empiricism, and, as it often does, it exists in tension with the will to believe.

As for my alleged inventions, my critics have not once reckoned with the evidence of the American foreign policy establishment's record and public statements regarding Russia - the factual predicates of my accusation of Russophobia. You see, it is only vicious and defamatory in the absence of a factual predicate; factual predicates for such accusations obtained during the Cold War, and do not obtain now, inasmuch as there exists neither an Islamintern nor a neo-Soviet Union, but rather, respectively, a Jihad fractured into numerous overlapping local and international groups, all with limited resources and reach, and a Russia engaged in a project common to all great powers, namely, the assertion of a sphere of influence. Like China in South and East Asia. Like the United States in the Western Hemisphere. Some claims are just and reasonable; others are objectively unjust; few objectively concern any legitimate American interest. However, much to my chagrin, the 'conservative' Russophobes will have their day, insofar as, for them, it is more gratifying to confront the mythical Other than to, you know, shore up conservatism - or better, conservative habits, mores, policies, and so forth - here at home, there obtaining a contradiction between the two objectives. Old habits die hard. That, alas, is human nature. We are what we repeatedly do.

Max,
So, I take it that you can't actually prove your point.

I asked you to show that the principles, practices, and allegiances of the KGB Putin and those of the contemporary Putin are different -- after all, he's the guy in charge -- and you provided nothing. You did manage to give us your own view on things again -- including your view of my view. But it's not about you and me. It's about him. If your understanding of Putin's views is as distorted as your take on mine, then you are miles wide of the mark. I hold on this issue to nothing like you stated I do.

Despite your invocation of empiricism, you cite noting empirical, either about his views or mine. Indeed, you are so anti-empirical that you actually said I made up Soviet era Putinism, as if Putin was not a KGB man in the Soviet era and as if he had no views, commitments, or allegiances at that time.

And for the record, demonstrating that something changed or did not change isn't proving a negative. Neither is assuming that things have changed or stayed the same.

No more from me on this topic with you. The dust has been shaken from my sandals.

I asked you to show that the principles, practices, and allegiances of the KGB Putin and those of the contemporary Putin are different -- after all, he's the guy in charge -- and you provided nothing.

No, to the contrary, you read nothing, because you apparently cannot comprehend anything save the projections of your own intellect. The differences between Soviet Communism and Putinism are manifest, and, in point of fact, are virtually codified in the following statement of Russian foreign policy principles, apparently known as the Medvedev Doctrine (taken from Stratfor):



First, Russia recognizes the primacy of the fundamental principles of international law, which define the relations between civilized peoples. We will build our relations with other countries within the framework of these principles and this concept of international law.

Second, the world should be multipolar. A single-pole world is unacceptable. Domination is something we cannot allow. We cannot accept a world order in which one country makes all the decisions, even as serious and influential a country as the United States of America. Such a world is unstable and threatened by conflict.

Third, Russia does not want confrontation with any other country. Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop friendly relations with Europe, the United States, and other countries, as much as is possible.

Fourth, protecting the lives and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be, is an unquestionable priority for our country. Our foreign policy decisions will be based on this need. We will also protect the interests of our business community abroad. It should be clear to all that we will respond to any aggressive acts committed against us.

Finally, fifth, as is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share special historical relations and are bound together as friends and good neighbors. We will pay particular attention to our work in these regions and build friendly ties with these countries, our close neighbors. These are the principles I will follow in carrying out our foreign policy.



To reiterate: I do not need to demonstrate to your satisfaction, or that of anyone else, that Putinism is not an extension of Soviet Communism, because the conduct of the respective policies is different. To the contrary, those who wish to assert a fundamental identity between them must explain how a great-power politics articulated explicitly as a response to NATO expansion is more or less the same as the attempted global projection of revolutionary Marxism. Of course, the vanishing mediator here, the principle that secures the identity of the two, is the assumption that they both must be the same in malignancy because both resist American geostrategy; but all that demonstrates, other than the begged questions, is that national interests differ, and often conflict. Big deal.

Indeed, you are so anti-empirical that you actually said I made up Soviet era Putinism, as if Putin was not a KGB man in the Soviet era and as if he had no views, commitments, or allegiances at that time.

Yes, we've been through this previously. Putin had his allegiances, and the ideology to which he then adhered is now defunct, and so he is now a Russian nationalist. You assume that his allegiances are unchanged, and demand that proof be made of the contrary, which is precisely why you are, in point of fact, demanding that a negative be proved. I'm terribly sorry for you, and for all of the nostalgics out there in the blogosphere, but a disputed secession struggle in the Caucasus, or a determination that territory - say, the Crimea - that has always been Russian (when it wasn't Tatar, within the relevant time frames) should not be made into a NATO garrison, simply is not the dissemination or propagation of Communist revolution. "Sphere of influence" is a polyvalent concept.

No more from me on this topic with you. The dust has been shaken from my sandals.

Whatever you say. You cannot help yourself, else you would have let it drop already.

Soviet era Putinism..

Oh, yes, while I'm here, Soviet Communism was the ideology to which Putin adhered during the Soviet era. Communism was not an inflection of Putinism, and the two concepts are not interchangeable. So, there is no such entity as Soviet-era Putinism. Period.

Maximos:

Unlike Germany, Russia never, ever apologized or paid for its atrocities. In fact, they pretend they never happened. Russia is deeply sick, morally, culturally, economically, etc. A society that does not believe in souls thinks everything's a stomach.

You judge Russia by its promises and us against perfection. No wonder you conclude there's moral equivalence.

And Mike, at some point your pearls begin to smell like bacon.

No, Russia has never apologized for its atrocities, has never had a reckoning with the Communist past in a manner analogous to the German reckoning with Nazism. I never claimed otherwise. Neither am I judging Russia by its promises, or America by perfection. I've sketched my tragic conception of American foreign policy already, and don't feel like restating it here. As regards Russia, Russian and American interests will, on occasion, come into conflict; that is the nature of geopolitics.

Finally, far from positing a moral equivalence, I'm repudiating the foregrounding of "the politics of moral clarity" that have so deformed or foreign policy, by relentless simplifying, projecting blacks and whites where there are only - and can be only - greys, and by presupposing the naturalness of American foreign policy, for example, the utter normality of NATO expansion, EU explansion, & etc. I'm not positing moral equivalence; I'm arguing that certain American policies have been imprudent and counterproductive, and that of a series of complicated reasons. It would be both wiser, and more cunning, in fact, to reverse some of these policies.

Unlike Germany, Russia never, ever apologized or paid for its atrocities.

True enough. On the other hand Versailles is what caused WWII in the first place, so we've got to be careful with our analogies.

Michael,
I apologize for the smear of recklessly linking you to a public figure who publicly and apparently free of physical duress, touted our invasion and occupation of Iraq as a "victory" I thought you would find Lindsay Graham a credible source given your flight into fantasy; "It looks to me like the 10th crusade is making progress and that its leader is George Bush."

There are many differences between you and I on foreign policy. I think our diplomacy overly militarized, artless and self-defeating, our interests too vaguely defined, our global "commitments" too broad and financially unsustainable and our armed forces stretched too thin. I also believe the project of "exporting democracy" and the imposition of Western political, economic and social forms on other cultures through force of arms an unmitigated disaster in both practical and moral terms.

You ask me to acknowledge "that America intends to fight for freedom around the globe?" My answer; Whose freedom are we fighting for in Iraq? Unless you define American "freedom" as one of consumerist abundance dependent on cheap, Middle Eastern oil , no one can possibly contend Saddam posed a threat to our Constitutional order. Besides, wasn't the whole thing about WMD's? If you mean to ask; do I think we are "liberating" a foreign people through military intervention, then my answer is; that may be the delusional intent, but the end-result merely ripened Iraq for the carnage of an Iranian take-over. Hardly the stuff of a sober, creative geo-political vision conforming to traditional Christian thought and the Just War Doctrine.

You should refrain from deceptively enlisting Kirkpatrick (she opposed the Iraqi War), Reagan and other leaders from yesteryear to buttress your flawed arguments for today's conditions. Cite contemporary figures, who have not been discredited by recent events.

Finally, with the benefit of hindsight, lessons are learned, both here and in Israel;

"President Shimon Peres has warned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that a military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is likely to trigger a wide-scale confrontation,...The military path will not solve the problem," Peres said in an interview with Britain's Sunday Times.
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1018859.html

"About a month ago, Haaretz reported that the Bush administration had turned down an Israeli request for certain security items that could upgrade Israel's capability to attack Iran."
http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1019989.html


Obviously neither time nor diplomacy ran out in Iraq, but at least the "preventive war doctrine" seems headed for the same scrap heap as "self-regulating markets"

"US President George W. Bush will not attack Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program before his term ends in January,...

"Two things have to be in place for there to be an attack," Wurmser said. "That time has run out, and that diplomacy has run out. The feeling to a large extent now is that diplomacy is working, that there is a trend in the regime toward moderation, that pressure is building on the regime."
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1221489051828&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

well done bose you made a outstanding blog. Everyone love it except me. It's have lots of cool colour which i love it......

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