What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

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August 2008 Archives

August 1, 2008

The Liberal heart of darkness.

Here we have Liberalism concentrated into its barest essence: Men shall be coerced (softly coerced, but coerced nonetheless) to expose themselves to great risk of life and limb in order to satisfy an abstraction and a consumer passion.

Neighborhoods in this city can change as fast as the weather: stately Victorians sliding rapidly into forlorn hovels, well-tended flower beds giving way to weeds and refuse. No one knows this better than pizza deliverers, who have been threatened, robbed, assaulted and even killed in the line of duty.

Such incidents are why many restaurants and other businesses refuse to deliver to some parts of town. To these companies, it is just common sense. To the people who live in these areas, it is discrimination.

The Board of Supervisors here has agreed with residents and passed the first ordinance in the country making it illegal for businesses to single out parts of their normal service area for no deliveries.

So pizza delivery companies shall be directed to put their employees at risk, because failure to do this is discrimination, a crime uglier and wickeder than murder.

Two years ago, for example, Samuel Reyes, 22, an employee for Domino's, delivered a pizza to an apartment in the Excelsior district in the south part of the city and was accosted on the way back to his car by a man with a gun. A scuffle ensued, and Mr. Reyes was shot to death.

Here in this madness, in this heart of darkness, we see the unmistakable tyrannical impulses of Liberalism: its hatred and falsification of any meaningful notion of liberty.

August 2, 2008


Jeff Culbreath has up a brilliant and elegiac essay on "playgrounds" as a metaphor for civilization. The author of the original metaphor is also the author of the title of this blog. Mr. Culbreath draws out some Chestertonian intimations, and adds a few of his own. Go read it.

August 3, 2008

Ellis Island and Unreason

I don't post much on immigration. It is a messy subject, and I'm not informed enough on the reams of statistics and standard apologetical moves to be able to add much to the discussion; though every now and then I get the conceit that I may have something unique to say on the subject.

However, I do quite often take an interest in the various ways in which our politics degenerates into unreason. You can think of it as a lazy man's activity in a target-rich environment. So, motivated by a recent thread of Maximos', I wanted to point out a particular way in which our discussion of immigration degenerates into unreason.

Continue reading "Ellis Island and Unreason" »

The greatest man of the last century...

...has died.

Rest in peace, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

August 5, 2008

Great video clip on government and education

This is a great little dialogue. I have trouble picking my favorite line, but I suspect it will come from the woman in the discussion, not because she is a woman, but because they have given her several of the best lines. For example, "Why do we need 2,000 civil servants to funnel money from A to B?" "Two thousand private schools deal with these sorts of problems every day of the week."

Mind you, I'm not advocating publically funded education--not in an ideal world. But you have to walk before you can run, and lampooning stuffy people who think parents are not qualified even to choose their child's school is a good way to start.

What's perhaps a tad frightening is the thought that there are people (British people, especially?) who actually believe that parents are not qualified to raise their children. I notice that at one point where Humphrey says that, there is no laugh track. Let's hope it was an oversight.

I know nothing about this show and had never heard of it until I received this link by e-mail. Perhaps my readers are better informed.

Daniel Larison on Solzhenitsyn

Our silent partner at his very best:

Here, and here.

Solzhenitsyn Misunderstood

My copy of the Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann seems to have vanished into the ether as a result of my move last November, so I am unable to consult it to determine the context of the observations quoted by Rod Dreher, to the effect that Solzhenitsyn was a Russian romantic, a maximalist who minimized the faults of his nation, loved it above all earthly - and perhaps heavenly - things, confabulated a romantic ideology of Russian messianism, and was consumed by a passionate detestation of all things Western. Honestly, the entire line of critique rings false. That Schmemann, ordinarily possessed of a penetrating discernment, could so egregiously misunderstand Solzhenitsyn, both as an artist and intellectual, only demonstrates the fallibility and partiality that besets each of us. If I had to venture a critical interpretation of Schmemann's incomprehension of Solzhenitsyn, it would center on the disjunction between the former's conviction that modernity posed a serious challenge to the credibility of the inherited forms of Orthodoxy, and that the latter regarded the philosophical underpinnings of modernity as a load of twaddle, the proper response to which was asceticism, self-limitation. Schmemann, I think, regarded the challenges of modernity perhaps too seriously, as something with which we would have to wrestle indefinitely; Solzhenitsyn, having endured Applied High Modernity, perceived it - more profoundly - as a serious challenge proceeding from all the wrong questions. Dismiss the questions, and challenges lose much of their salience; they are no longer properly existential, but more manageably practical.

The accusations of Russian romanticism and utopianism are so preposterous, so utterly at variance with the tenor of Solzhenitsyn's work, that I will pass over them - I trust that anyone who has so much as lightly skimmed one of his works will grasp how he associates the horrors of Soviet communism with the failings of his people, albeit not in the essentialist manner common in the West - and proceed directly to the question of Solzhenitsyn's apprehension of the West. The fundamentals of that critique are found in the celebrated Harvard commencement address: the West is no model for the world, sunken as it is in a vulgar materialism born of Enlightenment rationalism, a despiritualized world-image in which we strive to satisfy our desires to the uttermost, brooking no limitation upon our appetites, which profane every humane, moral, and spiritual good. This theme is revisited in the September 14, 1993 address to the International Academy of Philosophy:

Continue reading "Solzhenitsyn Misunderstood" »

August 6, 2008

Unitary Executive Theory

"Unitary Executive Theory" is perhaps a term of art, but it is one that captures a school of constitutional thought, according to which the vesting clause of Article II, section I - which declares that the executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America - confers vast unenumerated powers upon the executive branch, and, according to certain of its theoreticians, plenary powers, such that the Constitution is read to impose strictures upon the courts, and upon the Congress, yet none upon the executive. It is the ideology of the President as the Decider, the mystagogue who, by invocation of 'national security', or 'emergency powers', decrees exceptions to the law - himself as an exception, to whom the law does not apply, as the invocation renders him the sole judge of his own determinations, and exceptions to the process of law, by which persons become simultaneously entitled and not entitled to legal protections and procedures, at his discretion. It is the legal philosophy undergirding the infamous torture memorandums of John Yoo, war criminal, in defense of which he averred that the president could order a child's testicles to be crushed, if by doing so, a terrorist might be 'encouraged' to divulge information.

Alas, for such sibyls hymning the imperium and its pretenses of unlimited power, the foundation of this doctrine in the Constitution is negligible. According to Gene Healy, author of The Cult of the Presidency,

Continue reading "Unitary Executive Theory" »

August 7, 2008

Your Daily Reminder...

...That the presence of Muslims in any non-Islamic society is the condition of the inevitability of their attempt to establish sharia as normative:

Manifestly, this fellow is deluded as to the intentions of Europeans; the publication of the cartoons that served as the pretext for riots and protests was not a calculated strategy on the part of Europeans, an attempt to provoke the Muslims to such wrath that there would obtain a pretext for the mass expulsion of 30 million followers of Mahomet. Nevertheless, his advice to Muslims in Europe - keep on the down low, pursue respectable careers and lives, so as to better propagate Islam - is shrewd counsel indeed.

(HT: Evan McLaren)

August 8, 2008

Our link to the Troubador.

It turns out, friends, that this here website — yes indeed none other than What’s Wrong with the World itself —, has a connection to Paul Butterfield of the eponymous band which backed Bob Dylan in the mid-1960s. ‘Tis true. The man of whom Dylan later said he knew no better guitarist, whose band played with Dylan during the first disillusionment of the modern sans culottes, in their belief that they could claim this great American troubadour for their own, is first cousin once-removed to one of our Contributors.

There have been many moments of shattering disillusionment for our poor sans culottes, our dear hippies and hipsters, in the drama of Dylan’s career — moments of forced realization that this the troubadour did not, in fact, share their project, their dreams, their Utopia. “It wasn’t better world a-coming, you know. It just wasn’t that,” says someone in Martin Scorsese’s fine documentary No Direction Home. He is speaking of Dylan performance at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965, when Bob Dylan stood on stage before thousands of folk fans and sold out, right there, in front of their eyes.

He went electric, horror of horrors, and (over some considerable booing and heckling) delivered some of the greatest performances of some of his greatest songs.

He began with “Maggie’s Farm,” in its hard-blues variation, a song of marvelously infectious defiance and provocation which only the dullest, most inebriated could have mistaken for anything else. (Watch and listen here.) He played “Like a Rolling Stone” (watch and listen here), and I do wonder if it has ever been played better. Later he played “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” (watch and listen) and for many of the leftists, who wanted “topical songs,” i.e., leftist propaganda, it was indeed.

Of course he did not “sell out,” then or ever: Certainly not a few years later when he answered the Vietnam protest movement with simple country songs about loss and regret. Certainly not a dozen or so years later when he converted to the Cross of Christ, the most radical thing a man may ever do. Certainly not two years ago when he solidified beyond most doubt his mastery of his art, above all (in my view) with a song which is named after, and begins with an adaptation of the second verse of the first chapter of Genesis.

Okay, I believe in exploitation. Now what is it?

Being a person with some sympathies for some aspects of libertarianism in economics, I have always been prone to resist the application of the word 'exploitation'. For years I probably would have said that I didn't believe there was such a thing as exploitation as some separate natural kind of wrong, that whenever there was a real wrong done that got labeled in that way, it could be analyzed into some other category--trying to induce someone to do something wrong, for example, exercising coercion, or engaging in fraud. And I am still unlikely to agree with a lot of people who use the word frequently, especially about wages. I'm probably going to say that some of the things they want to label with that word are not even wrong, much less instances of exploitation.

But I now do believe that there is such a thing as exploitation.

Continue reading "Okay, I believe in exploitation. Now what is it?" »

August 9, 2008

CA home schooling ruling reversed

Via Jeff Culbreath's blog comes a bit of good news: The same California court that earlier declared home schooling illegal for parents without teaching credentials has reversed its ruling on this point entirely.

Clearly, the court reads What's Wrong with the World, as it expressly referred to the fingerprinting exemption for parents passed by the CA legislature. Well, okay, no. I got that bit of info. from HSLDA, and HSLDA filed an amicus brief that brought it to the court's attention.

Continue reading "CA home schooling ruling reversed" »

August 10, 2008

Sphere-of-Influence Sauce for the Hegemonist Gander

I write shortly after rolling out of bed, awakened at far too unripe an hour by my children. Nonetheless, we will soon be readying ourselves for Liturgy. As our parish includes both a decent contingent of Russians, and a sizable contingent of Georgians from the wider area, given the intensifying conflict between the two nations, I anticipate two possible scenarios in addition to the proper one of everyone attending to the transcendent proceedings of the Liturgy and minding his own political business otherwise: either there will be some tension between the contingents, conditioned by the relative cosmopolitanism of the Russians, most of whom are American citizens grateful in most respects for the opportunity to depart the uncertainties of the Motherland, and the fervent patriotism/nationalism of the Georgians - or the Georgians will all remain home, endeavouring to receive news from home and to establish contact with relatives. My prayers, with those of the Orthodox Patriarchs of Georgia and Russia, are for a speedy resolution of the conflict.

For those interested in commentary on the unfolding conflict, one can do no better than to peruse Daniel Larison's extensive coverage of the journalistic and political responses and apologetical maneuvers, all concerning a conflict which, despite the frothing of demented Russophobes, Cold War nostalgics, blinkered utopians, tendentious hegemonists, and selective enthusiasts for the Great Game of Petroleum Geopolitics, implicates no legitimate American interest.

America imprudently extended security assistance to a small nation with no connection to any vital American strategic interest, primarily as an element of a grand geopolitical strategy in which a non-prostrated Russia does not factor, and in which, as many current Western commentators are openly acknowledging, the control of Central Asian petroleum resources does factor, notwithstanding the manifest fact that Western dependence upon Russian petroleum reserves, and the reserves of Russian-allied states, cannot be mitigated substantially, let alone eliminated, so long as Russia remains an intact and functional state. American strategists cannot abide the commonsensical observation that patriotism means that citizens of other nations love their countries as much as we love ours, and labour under the delusions of exceptionalism and indispensability, not to mention the truly bizarre assumption that, if not for various false consciousnesses, citizens of other nations would be delighted to dwell under our tutelage and dominion.

Moreover, it is worth noting that the Russian campaign on behalf of South Ossetia is incontrovertibly the former's prophesied response to the West's world-historical blunder in facilitating the independence of Kosovo: the United States cannot logically traduce the international order of sovereign states at will, and then turn about to demand that other great powers respect that order where it both suits the declared interest of the U.S. for them to do so, but suits the interests of those powers to modify that order (It is worth mentioning, for what it is worth, that the status quo in South Ossetia simply was de facto autonomy from Georgia), and it is loathsome to listen to Bush administration officials, and John McCain, one of whose advisers was until recently a lobbyist for the Georgian government, prattle on about the sovereignty of Georgia. Yes, yes, we understand all of that. Now, hegemonists, heal yourselves!

Bottom line: shades of grey, and no legitimate and objective American interest. The outstanding questions concern how America, which has Georgia crawling with military, diplomatic, and intelligence officials, could have been caught unawares by the preparations, on the part of all involved parties, for the present hostilities. Perhaps they were simply so naive as to believe that they needn't have prioritized their geopolitical objectives, that they could indeed have their cake and eat it too, such that, regardless of 'transient' increases in regional tensions, the "logic of history" was on their side. That prospect is all too probable, and all too terrifying, signifying that our establishment is incapable of learning from history, even recent history; they learn nothing, but forget no grudges.

August 12, 2008

Personally Opposed, But...

Regular readers of my personal blog and my comments elsewhere no doubt realize that I am unsympathetic to appeals to "reasonable men can differ" when we are talking about, literally, a willful holocaust of millions of innocents.

No, reasonable men cannot differ. Unreasonable men will differ, of course, but that is a different matter.

In point of fact, I see this as another riff on the infamous Cuomo-riffic "personally opposed, but" reasoning. Some folks claim to be personally opposed to voting for Barack Obama, the most zealous pro-abortion Presidential candidate ever: that is, they won't be voting for him themselves. Yet these same people defend as reasonable the choice of others to vote for him. I'm not sure which is worse, frankly. At least the man who says he is going to vote for Obama has the courage of his (wrong) convictions. The "personally opposed" camp, though, is willing to scream for wiggle room for others to vote for the man who personally blocked passage of the Induced Infant Liability Act in the great state of Illinois, without having the courage to do so themselves.

August 13, 2008

Learned Thoughts on the Russian-Georgian Question

Lawrence Auster has initiated a lively thread for discussion of the Russian-Georgian question, and its relation to American foreign policy, posting numerous substantive comments from many of his regular correspondents. For the moment, I'd like to highlight what is, in my estimation, the most perspicacious of the lot, written by Sage McLaughlin:

Continue reading "Learned Thoughts on the Russian-Georgian Question" »

Shorter RiShawn Biddle:

The problem with my pet ideological construct globalization is not its want of conformity to reality the process of globalization, but the unwillingness or inability of the rabble to conform themselves to the strictures of my fantasy the failure of the educational system to prepare Americans to accept its disciplinary regime promise of liberation.

Once more, socio-economic trends that correlate with heritable traits are not amenable to amelioration by means of education.

But of Course They Talk That Way...

...One merely needs to learn to decipher the nuances and jargon-laden phraseology of IR-speak. That is, American geostrategists and commentators do employ language, the manifest implication of which is that Russia is inveterately imperialistic, and that, in order to forestall the complications this creates for American foreign policy, Russia should be reduced to a state of dependency. Few utter such sentiments so baldly, of course, but the underlying inspiration of what they do say is identical. Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote, somewhat infamously, that, the United States having emerged from the Cold War in possession of an historically unprecedented, multifaceted degree of global hegemony, and Eurasia being a sort of global heartland, the one supra-region that must be the field for the effective exercise of that hegemony, "...the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together." In other words, we need a lengthy retinue of client states and protectorates, who must be whipped into shape, in order that the emergence of any potential geopolitical threat or counterbalance might be precluded, and our hegemony thus guaranteed. That term in the argument is presupposed; it is axiomatic, and never expressly defended: we shall perpetuate the imperium, and these are the conditions of imperial flourishing.

Continue reading "But of Course They Talk That Way..." »

August 17, 2008

Not Bad, But Tragic

It is a commonplace observation concerning the American character, and American political culture and statecraft, that Americans are bereft of a tragic sensibility. Most probably, this is a consequence of a profound psychological association between what was once the newness and remoteness of the New World, and its geographic and social openness, and the opportunities this afforded those intent upon forging new lives away from older societies which dissatisfied them in various respects. Americans seem to lack, on the whole, and in the mainstream of thought, a capacity to enter into the tragic consciousness of other peoples, or to assume a tragic posture even temporarily, as a heuristic for the evaluation of their own condition. For example, all such circumstances as that of Georgia are assimilated to a narrative of a plucky people attempting to escape the dead dominion of the Past, represented here by Russia, here assimilated and reduced to its Soviet incarnation. The complexity and, indeed, tragedy of the intercommunal relations and tensions of diverse peoples and their histories and aspirations is compressed into a quintessentially American narrative - the attempt of one people to forge for themselves a version of the New World, a Novus Ordo Seculorum. This, of course, holds true when Americans either have an interest in some foreign region, or are stirred by the press into a state of interest in some region, or are told by their superiors that they must manifest concern for some foreign region; when Americans have no interest in a conflicted region of the world, as was the case during the Balkan Wars, they dismiss its tensions and tragedies, blithely, as just so many ancient, senseless, and incomprehensible tribal feuds. In doing so, Americans ratify their native view of the world: that is the Old World, the old way, in which people continuously reference the past; we Americans, by contrast, are optimistic and forward-lookinig, willing to jettison such atavisms for a prosperous future.

Ironically, a nation bereft of a tragic sensibility will usually manifest tragedy in its dealings with the world, and this is the case, I would argue, where America is concerned. Without intending to dwell at great length upon the theme, American foreign policy incarnates tragedy in at least three related senses.

First, because American grand strategy endeavours to unify material interests and ostensibly noble ideals, Americans tend to be blind to the ways in which the pursuit of either inhibits the realization of the other. The Iraq War represents an attempt to conduct American policy on a firmly idealistic basis, and yet it is proving materially ruinous along any number of metrics. American policy in the Caucasus aims to mitigate what is regarded as an excessive dependence upon Russian energy and energy transport routes, and clearly inhibits the promotion of ostensible American ideals, as the Alievs in Azerbaijan, and the mercurial Saakashvili in Georgia, are scarcely representatives of the ideals we openly proclaim, regardless of the press coverage of the latter, in particular. Moreover, Americans frequently indulge in a measure of self-delusion concerning their own motivations in the conduct of policy, as might be suggested by such examples. Are we promoting a set of political ideals, or rather a set of chess moves in a pointless Great Game? Even on the assumption that we have simply chosen to maintain a national friendship of sorts with Georgia, how credible is it to advance such claims when we apparently permitted enough strategic and diplomatic ambiguity to encourage the Georgians to pick a fight they could not win - ie., one unjust at least in that respect?

Second, Americans tend to envision ideal geopolitical scenarios, or, at a minimum, possible geopolitical worlds, which are objectively preferable to geopolitical reality, or subjectively preferable for some or other group we intend to shower with our favouritism. This is tragic in a double sense: first, there are always unintended consequences, which prompt anguished protests on the part of Americans, to the effect that an ungrateful world does not appreciate the purity and nobility of our intentions, or that we could not have anticipated the fallout; second, few of these entanglements are actually in the interest of the American people, the welfare of whom is the principal obligation of American statesmen. Even on the assumption that the world as a whole is better off, given the conduct of American policy X, the American people themselves are seldom better for it.

Third, American foreign policy is often a reflection of flaws in the American character, in the sense that its formulation and conduct reflects domestic defects with which we have failed to reckon. The two most obvious examples are, in my estimation, first, American involvement in the Middle East, motivated primarily by a concern for the regular and orderly flow of oil shipments to global markets - not "blood for oil", but an acknowledgment that America, uniquely dependent upon those resources for the perpetuation of the American way of life, must be uniquely concerned for the correlation of political forces in the Middle East, that is, with "stability", however differently the Bush administration has elected to define this. The second illustration would be the role of the military in both our foreign policy and in popular culture. Military force has become increasingly emblematic of our foreign policy, largely as an assertion of faith in American ideals, after the tumultuous years of the Vietnam war associated for many a skepticism of American ideals and opposition to war. A readiness to employ military power has become symbolic of an affirmation of Americanism at a profound, subconscious level of the American psyche. Not merely this, but among some quarters, gestures of support for American foreign policy, affirmations of the rectitude of American missions and intentions, have become so fervent - not a bad thing in itself, in abstraction - in inverse proportion to the concrete commitment of the American people to the policies themselves. Laying aside questions of the wisdom of American policy, while there have been many token demonstrations of support for the troops, such as the application of magnetic ribbons to the backs of automobiles, there has been no dramatic upsurge in enlistments, or a willingness on the part of the people to sacrifice materially by paying in taxes what would be required to finance American foreign policy, as opposed to borrowing from foreign creditors. In this, our leadership reflects our own character; we were told, after 9/11, to go shopping, not so much because this was simply the role our leaders felt appropriate for us, but because that was pretty much all we would be willing to do in connection with a war effort.

American foreign policy is occasionally malign in an obvious manner, as in Kosovo; but even in such instances, it is malign, not on account of some nefarious intention, but on account of the profound flaws and lacunae in our own understanding - of ourselves, and of the world. In criticizing American foreign policy, those of us on, or nearer, the paleo right are essentially summoning America to an heroic undertaking, that of self-examination.

August 20, 2008

Rushing organ donation for the sake of "ethics"

Via Wesley J. Smith's Secondhand Smoke comes a story that some of you may already have seen:

Organ procurement physicians in Denver have now done heart transplants from babies using the non-heart-beating donation method after waiting only 75 seconds from the time that the infants' hearts stopped beating.

Ironically, an ethics committee recommended that the time period be moved back to seventy-five seconds from five minutes (another time period that is sometimes used in such procurements) on the grounds that this would be more "ethical." Why? Because otherwise the hearts might not be as fresh for the recipients.

Continue reading "Rushing organ donation for the sake of "ethics"" »

August 22, 2008

Corruption and the cost of compromise

I want to tell you a story. You may draw your own moral.

Some of you may be old enough to remember that a ban on federal funding for research using tissue taken from aborted fetuses was a big deal in the Reagan and Bush, Sr., administrations. Then came William Jefferson Clinton and, with the cooperation of Congress, that ban on federal funding was lifted in 1993. The NIH could fund research using tissue from aborted children. At the time the big hype was for treatment of Parkinson's disease. That promise has turned out to be a complete dud.

The National Right to Life Committee reported faithfully on this subject and consistently opposed such funding, contending that it normalized abortion and made women think that perhaps they could "do some good" by having their child killed. In fact, NRLC continued to voice such opposition even after 1993.

Continue reading "Corruption and the cost of compromise" »

August 26, 2008

Arguing Conservatism


ISI has released another gem of a book. Its flagship publication The Intercollegiate Review has been appearing for 40 years and more, and now finally has a compilation of its rich content equal its stature. Hardly a Conservative luminary has failed to appear in this journal, and in this volume the editor gives us an excellent sample, evidencing the breadth and depth of subjects assayed. Highly recommended.

From the promotional material:

"With a circulation in the tens of thousands, and featuring foundational essays ranging across the disciplines — from political theory, philosophy, and economics to strategic studies, cultural criticism, and belles lettres — the Intercollegiate Review has been since 1965 one of the central organs of American conservative intellectual life. Many of the most serious thinkers on the right have appeared in the IR, and some of the most important theoretical debates in American conservatism have played out in its pages. At once sophisticated, penetrating, profound, and humane, the IR has consistently reflected the American conservative mind at its most thoughtful. From the Cold War and the Woodstock generation to the war on terror and the revolution in biotechnology, this collection of the IR's best essays from its first four decades constitutes a chronicle of contemporary American history as seen from the right. Arguing Conservatism includes essays by dozens of eminent thinkers, including Robert Bork, Cleanth Brooks, Robert Conquest, Ludwig von Mises, Robert Nisbet, Roger Scruton, Leo Strauss, Eric Voegelin, and Robert Penn Warren."

August 27, 2008

Line Dancing

Lydia's recent post about how the pro-life movement is corrupting itself through compromise has generated quite a bit of interest. A fundamental dividing line in the discussion seems to be between those who are sometimes willing to compromise on who to vote for, and those who are always willing to compromise on who to vote for: between those who are willing to draw a line beyond which one will not support a candidate, irrespective of how bad other viable candidates may be in the current election, and those unwilling to draw such a line.

I have a hypothesis about why some appear unwilling to admit even the abstract possibility of such a line. My hypothesis is that this unwillingness is related to the actual facts of the actual current presidential election: that it is obvious that if one were willing to draw a line beyond which one is unwilling to compromise, one would be forced to draw that line in a way which excludes the possibility of supporting either of the two viable candidates for President in the current election cycle. The least bad of the two candidates - whichever one of the two you may think that is - has a long history of supporting the federally funded wholesale slaughter of tiny but real and fully human children.

And if one isn't willing to draw a line there, then how could one possibly concede the validity of drawing lines at all?


August 29, 2008

There is No War for History, Because History Does not Have an Immanent Telos

I hadn't planned on devoting any further attention to the Russia-Georgia fiasco. I'm weary of the entire affair - weary of the histrionic Georgians waylaying my wife at church to tell her that they just knew that the Russians planned to massacre all of the inhabitants of Tbilisi, and other such silliness; weary of the jingoistic bloviations of the talk-radio comedians a coworker insists upon listening to, every day; weary, in reality, of the entirely pointless geopolitical game that everyone insists upon playing; weary of wealthy blowhards in restaurants baying for the blood of people - Russians - about whom he knows nothing, all in relation to a little war which stands in no objective relation to his life, or his country - about which, more anon. Then, unfortunately for my health, I happened to read this editorial, penned by Senators Lieberman and Graham, concerning the challenge of Russian aggression to, essentially, the new, post-national European world, though they do not employ that terminology. Andrew Sullivan and Matt Yglesias seemed to have somewhat sensible takes on the Lieberman-Graham piece; but then I read Reihan Salam, who responded to Sullivan and Yglesias by arguing that the Lieberman-Graham strategy of confrontation will render war less likely in the future, and was compelled by the wrongness of this conclusion to re-read the original editorial. The measured, diplomatic tone of the editorial obviously presupposes as the object of foreign-policy the sort of post-national or transnational order in which America remains, anomalously, primus inter pares, with its utopian talk of a world oasis of peace and prosperity, open borders, and the impossibility of war, but it also contains the following interesting passage, the implications of which my wife - who hails from Sevastopol - and her family grasped the moment the war started:

There is disturbing evidence Russia is already laying the groundwork to apply the same arguments used to justify its intervention in Georgia to other parts of its near abroad -- most ominously in Crimea. This strategically important peninsula is part of Ukraine, but with a large ethnic Russian population and the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.

The evidence of this is unspecified, and it is disreputable to appeal to something you decline to disclose, hinting at some profound depth that may or may not exist in order to support all-too tangible policy options, but I don't wish to dwell on that for the nonce. Rather, this is, alas, yet another instance of that lamentable American unwillingness to even attempt to understand American foreign policy as its opponents or rivals may understand it; there is, by contrast, simply an assertion of utter, irrefragable rectitude, the implication being that we want to have a civil partnership with the Russians, but will dictate the terms. Why would the Russians be desirous of a partnership with America, if America is bent upon incorporating a deeply-divided Ukraine into NATO, converting the Black Sea into a NATO lake, expelling the Russian fleet from its only significant deep and warm-water port, and acquiring strategic leverage directly beneath the most restive and vulnerable regions of Russian territory? For what purpose - what purpose related to the defense of an objective American interest? The principle that a profoundly divided country, half Ukrainian and half Russian by cultural orientation, in which a Ukrainian government is attempting to create a mythological self-conception in which the latter half does not figure, and which could very well break under the strain of a coerced choice, must turn westward? The principle, that is, that the Russian parts should be ruled by the Ukrainian parts, just because - that Ukraine, a vast, Slavic Belgium, should choose, first, a bogus nationalism, and second, a post-national future beyond the nationalist moment? That's it?

I'm not going to belabour the point, but having traveled in the Ukraine, I can assure my readers that the Russians within and without the Ukraine will have no tolerance for American geostrategy if its consequences make them more vulnerable as Russians in the Ukraine, domestically, and within Russia itself - as they perceive the matter - internationally. And the Russian government wouldn't surrender the port, either, for obvious reasons, which means that, if the West is intent upon pressing the issue, war is a live possibility, and Salam is dead wrong.

How much blood, potentially, is a pro-Western kleptocrat in the Ukrainian presidential mansion worth? How much blood the "principle" that, having won the Cold War, we have the right to dictate terms, which are, at best, profoundly confused transnationalist, EU-style ones that ought to scandalize conservatives - who, after all, are supposed to appreciate proliferating variety and tradition, and not economistic homogenization? The American interest in both the process and the particulars here is hardly manifest.

Continue reading "There is No War for History, Because History Does not Have an Immanent Telos" »

The Strategic Importance of the Black Sea

Such is a topic lately accorded greater consideration, in view of the recent unpleasantness in the Caucasus, sabre-rattling over the Crimea, and other acts of codpiece diplomacy from various quarters, and elucidated nicely in the following Stratfor analysis:

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August 31, 2008

A rad political idea--Would require constitutional amendment

I owe the following idea to my husband, who handed it to me last night:

Negative votes.

The more you think about it, the better it sounds. Here's approximately how it would work. In presidential elections, you have one vote. You can make it positive for a given candidate or negative against a candidate. You can spend it, positively or negatively, only one time. The popular vote for states would still be counted only within a state, as it presently is, and electoral votes would still go to the electors for the winner of the state popular vote, winner take all, as they presently are. So your negative vote could not negate a vote from a different state.

That's all.

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