Archive for November, 2003
Posted by Lexington Green on 29th November 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
The Winter issue of Parameters, the Army War College Journal, is out. The one item that grabbed my attention is British Bulldog or Bush’s Poodle? Anglo-American Relations and the Iraq War, by James K. Wither, a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army. The article is a good synopsis. Wither lays out the current forces driving the ongoing high degree of military cooperation between Britain and the United States. In addition to the personal leadership of Tony Blair, other critical factors include “the long-standing special Anglo-American relationship, an institutionalized habit of security cooperation between the two countries, an ambitious perception of Britain’s role in the modern world, and an apparently genuine conviction that Saddam Hussein’s regime posed a threat to national security.” Wither is correct in noting the relatively minor importance of any “special relationship” based on tradition or sentiment. Rather, it has been the assessment of Britain’s leadership for many decades that a close security partnership between Britain and the USA, with Britain in the role of “junior partner” is in Britain’s best interest. The British have been willing to pay the financial cost of sustaining themselves in this role. “The strategic defense reviews of 1998 and 2002 reinforced this standpoint, emphasizing continued close cooperation with the United States as Britain’s principal ally. Uniquely in Europe, Britain is committed to the development of military ‘network-enabled capabilities’ to remain technologically interoperable with US forces.” Other European powers have been unwilling to make this commitment. Wither also notes the long-standing sharing of signals intelligence between the USA, UK, Australia and Canada. This very close intelligence partnership benefits all parties and is a significant underlying component of the US-UK security relationship.
Wither concludes with a discussion of Britain’s desired role as a “pivotal” power between the US and Europe:
As the efforts to rebuild Iraq have graphically illustrated, the United States cannot carry the security burden alone. At the very least, it needs its European allies to contribute troops for peace support operations and resources for nation-building. However, if European states want to be in a position to influence the global strategic agenda, rather than having it dictated to them by the United States, they will ultimately need to be able and willing to contribute a “hard” security capability. If the European Union and the United States were to become true strategic partners, Britain would have a crucial role in facilitating revitalized military cooperation. The United Kingdom possesses the only armed forces with the prospect of remaining interoperable with the United States for the foreseeable future, while any serious attempt to build a European power-projection capability would be reliant on British commitment and expertise. In these circumstances, the UK might yet be able to remain both a leading player in Europe and a special partner of the United States and thus realize Prime Minister Blair’s vision of Britain as a pivotal power.
This is interesting in light of Blair’s recent dalliance with a proposed non-NATO European defense capability. Nonetheless, the main message here is that Britain remains a player because it has spent the money and political capital necessary to create and operate meaningful ability to project military power. The Europeans, with limited exceptions, have not been willing to do so.
A “coalition of the willing” must also be a “coalition of the capable”, and other than us, no one is more capable than the British.
Posted by Lexington Green on 29th November 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Good column by David Brooks in today’s NYT. RTWT. Brooks, implicitly, responds to Jonathan’s post asserting that there is a lot of Clinton in Bush. The idea there being that Bush will trim his sails to be reelected, and that this is a disappointment to conservatives and libertarians who have principles, who recall the days when the Republican minority was motivated by the ideas of people like Milton Friedman and Hayek and Russell Kirk and Irving Kristol — and was led by ideological purists like Barry Goldwater and (so it seemed) Ronald Reagan and even Newt Gingrich. Brooks points out that this is all a function of being a majority party. You compromise your principles to stay in power. Intellectual clarity and revolutionary fervor are obstacles to actually winning elections and operating the government. The majority party gets to exercise power in a way which is at least partly consistent with its principles, while its opponent gets nothing. The minority gets to enjoy its own ideological consistency, while losing elections.
Minority parties are pure but defeated; governing parties are impure but victorious. The Republicans are now in the habit of winning, and are on permanent offense on all fronts. They offer tax cuts to stimulate the economy and please business. They nominate conservative judges to advance conservative social reform and satisfy religious conservatives. They fight a war on terror. They have even come to occupy the Democratic holy of the holies, the welfare state. In exchange for massive new spending, they demand competitive reforms.
Of course, a party which loses touch with its founding principles eventually withers, begins suffering defeat, and has to reinvent itself But that can be a very slow process. Look how long the New Deal coalition hung on to power.
I am not particularly dismayed by this process. It is fun to look back at the liberal wailing when FDR was president. They saw him betraying their principles all the time. Few now would say he wasn’t liberal enough for his time and place. He was as liberal as he could get away with, as he minimally had to be, to keep the liberals in his party on the ranch on election day. This is how it always is.
As den Beste put it, in another context “The standard isn’t perfection. The standard is the alternative.” The alternative is Daschle, Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Dean, Sharpton and the whole sorry crew. Give me W, Bill Frist and Denny Hastert any day.
I just read Jay’s Nov. 25 post on this topic and you should too. The reason most people don’t take buses or trains to work is that they are rational. The time cost of public transportation is exorbitant unless your time isn’t worth much. (Never mind the financial cost, which tends to be exorbitant too, if you take into account, as you should, all of the costs and not just nominal ticket prices.)
And we aren’t even considering the valuable flexibility gained from using automobiles. It’s difficult to run an errand or visit someone on the way home from work when you’re taking the train.
UPDATE: I should have made clear that my comment about financial cost was directed at the newer mass-transit systems in places like DC, Miami and LA. The old systems in places like Chicago and New York are in a different financial category, their fixed costs having mostly been amortized. (The old systems are also probably much more useful to commuters.)
I echo Lex’s wishes.
I also wish to thank my Chicago Boyz collaborators, from whom I have learned much and without whom this blog would still be receiving ten hits a day. And I thank our readers, for the same reasons.
My goal is to make it as rewarding as possible to post to this blog as well as to read it. Please don’t hesitate to make suggestions for improvement.
Posted by Lexington Green on 26th November 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
The first winter in Plymouth:
But that which was most sad and lamentable was, that in two or three months’ time half of their company died, especially in January and February, being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvy and other diseases which this long voyage and their inaccommodate condition had brought upon them. So as there died some times two or three a day in the foresaid time, that of 100 and odd persons, scarce fifty remained. And of these, in the time of most distress, there was but six or seven sound persons who to their great commendations, be it spoken, spared no pains night nor day, but with abundance of toil and hazard of their own health, fetched them wood, made them fires, dressed them meat, made their beds, washed their loathsome clothes, clothed and unclothed them. In a word, did all the homely and necessary offices for them which dainty and queasy stomachs cannot endure to hear named; and all this willingly and cheerfully, without any grudging in the least, showing herein their true love unto their friends and bretheren; a rare example and worthy to be remembered. Two of these seven were Mr. William Brewster, their revered Elder, and Myles Standish, their Captain and military commander, unto whom myself and many others were much beholden in our low and sickly condition. And yet the Lord so upheld these persons as in this general calamity they were not at all infected either with sickness or lameness. And what I have said of these I may say of many others who died in this general visitation, and others yet living; that whilst they had health, yea, or any strength continuing, they were not wanting to any that had need of them. And I doubt not their recompense is with the Lord.
Everything we have as Americans was bought with the blood, sweat and suffering of those who came before us. Never forget.
God bless America.
Michael Van Winkle argues that Bush focuses on his own reelection at Republicans’ political peril. I agree, though there’s not much that we can do about it. Bush is currently the best that Americans have got. There is no good Republican alternative, and the Democrats are so unserious, and in such political disarray, as to be almost beneath consideration for national leadership.
(Via Randy Barnett)
Our first bash was a blast. Turnout was a bit disappointing but everyone had a good time. It was especially satisfying because some of the U.S.-based Chicago Boyz had never met each other, and none of us had met Sylvain. (And we still haven’t met Ralf, which by itself is reason enough to plan another bash. Not that we need a reason.) It’s a treat to meet people whom you know only from the Internet, and it’s a double treat when everyone hits it off. If you have a geographically diverse group blog and haven’t yet gotten together, you really should make the effort.
A nice side-effect of our meeting was that we recruited one, perhaps two, new bloggers to our conspiracy. (Of course we had to take their car keys before they would agree to consider blogging with us, but this just goes to show that there are still some kinds of business that can only be transacted face to face.)
I hope that we can do this again in the not-too-distant future. I’ve suggested Florida for the next bash, but Chicago is probably the venue of least resistance for Chicago boys and girls who have families, so it will probably be Chicago the next time as well.
Posted by Lexington Green on 25th November 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Paris Lawyer Pundit (see this post) responded by noting that he had just finished the Straussian-flavored work Justice Among Nations: On the Moral Basis of Power and Peace. The book does sound good, covering, according to PLP:
Classical Realism (Thucydides); Classical Idealism (Plato, Aristotle); the specificity of Cicero; the Christian Just War perspectives (Vitoria, Suarez, more recent Papal and Catholic treatments in the texts cited in the footnotes – the modern Catholic commentary on the subject sounds very wishy-washy); Modern Idealism (Grotius); Modern Realism (Machiavelli, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and then Morganthau, Kissinger, Nicholas Waltz in the 20th c.).
PLP summarizes in characteristically densely-packed fashion:
[The authors’]particular interest is to link the more solid political theoretical reflections that tend to focus on the domestic, with the extrapolations relevant to the international sphere. Issues such as multipolar vs. unipolar power in the post WWII framework (the issue dividing Chirac/Bush/Blair) are covered. The best argument I think is that to militate for multi-polarism will produce greater instability in the system than a channelled unipolarism post-WWII, Cold War. Of course, the fundamental justice of this statement will also depend on on the normative character of the régime of the unipolar power, since if the unipolar hegemon were Stalinist I think we might very quickly become disciples of Dominique de Villepin. Nevertheless, this does raise the issue of the underlying normative value in the 21st c. of the particular modernity propagated by the Atlanticist régimes on both sides of the sea. In this respect, the thought of JPII may become more insightful for the next millenium.
PLP provoked (pretty much) the following response from Lex:
[PLP], I don’t know how much utility there is in shorthand terms like “unipolar hegemon”. You end up getting into definitional quibbles and lose sight of the concrete. I learned from Eric Voegelin’s writing to always elbow aside the terminology if it is reducing rather than aiding clarity about the underlying reality. I think the issue here is not one of whether we in theory want a “hegemon” or “unipolarity” or “multipolarity”. It is much more a matter of clearly seeing what is actually going on, who is doing what, to whom; who has what capabilities to act effectively under the current circumstances, and will they; and what results are likely to arise from the current, and currently proposed, courses of action. For example, I think the French in particular are self-inflicted victims of an ideological rather than substantively correct view of “the particular modernity propagated by the Atlanticist régimes on both sides of the sea”, i.e. the perfidious Anglo-Saxons, or in current popular parlance “the Anglosphere”. This amorphous entity does, in fact, have more political, military, economic and cultural authority than any other state or community in the world (e.g. English speakers have a greater net worth than everyone else in the world put together, by a lot.) So the question is, how to influence it to act sensibly. Chirac and Villepin have not been effective at having any such influence, in large part because they view it through ideological blinders. (See James W. Ceasar, Reconstructing America: The Symbol of America in Modern Thought)[See also This earlier post]. There is indeed a lot of difference between a very powerful America and a very powerful Soviet Union, a fact the French chose to elide during the Cold War. Now, in a similar way, the polar positions are a world with a disengaged Americe in which there are muslim terrorists with nuclear weapons and one in which an engaged America is trying to prevent that from happening. But the reality is the latter, so the real question can only be whether the means being employed are wise or will be effective. But none of this analysis really requires the creation and employment of epithets like “hyperpuissance”. In fact, the US is far from being a “hyperpower” (which I take to mean a true global hegemon) and does not want to be one, and does not have the political support at home to try to be one. This should all be perfectly apparent to anyone actually paying attention. I think a few thousand miles of salt water and the language barrier have obscured this reality for the French.
I agree that JPII’s thought will become increasingly important. But this will have to be a slow, incremental, bottom-up process of forming the Catholic laity spiritually and humanly. And the Church will have to do the hard intellectual work of making its increasingly and embarrassingly outmoded “social teaching” relevant and applicable to current conditions. I had a conversation with ———- about this recently, and it is an idea that he had never heard, and no one he knows is even aware that there is a problem, which is itself the first and biggest problem. At least the Pope has tried to start the process of understanding the current world political economy as it really is. Concretely, what will it mean to apply JPII’s teachings? The current century is going to be the century of the global dominance of the English language, anglophone culture, and of the Anglo-Saxon derived polities — for both good and ill. So, the task for us Catholics is to give a Catholic cast to the Anglosphere. That is enough to keep us all busy. You are a multi-cultural, multi-lingual mole in the midst of the Francophonie, as well as a Catholic mole in an atheistic professional and cultural world. So, you will need to be a bridge between the various worlds. Bridges get walked on. So you have your cross to bear. Have fun.
OK, throwing slabs of email up on the blog is not necessarily the best way to come up with a post which might be of interest to others. But this exchange touches on enough interesting things that I figured, what the Heck.
A friend in the comodities biz handed me this article by John Mauldin. He does a nice job of pointing out divergence in Bush administration words and policy:
“President Bush gave one of his most eloquent speeches in London this week. He talked about our heritage of John Locke and Adam Smith. ‘We believe in open societies ordered by moral conviction.’ They ‘turn their hearts and labor to building better lives….. By extending the reach of free trade, we foster prosperity and the habits of liberty.'”
“And then, almost on the same day, we had the sorry spectacle of the administration slapping tariffs on Chinese made bras. We go from “fostering prosperity and the habits of liberty” to nit-picking over who is making our ladies support garments.”
Mauldin couches his observations within a hypothetical letter to his friend Karl Rove.
I must say that when this “underwear” story broke, I initially thought it would either quickly be swept away by more weighty, newsworthy tidbits (think M. Jackson), or that it was part of a more cunning master plan to throw a monkey wrench into the looming possibility of runaway global price inflation. And I was bemused for a couple of days listening to an officemate launch into his screaming bra & panties tirade with clients; “I can’t believe Bush is going to trash the whole Farm Bill over white cotton panties!!!!”
But now this tariff business has gotten me a bit more concerned. My worry is not about a Bush second term, I think that is in the cards despite Lex’s belief in a Hillary in ’04 ticket. I am concerned that more protectionist talk could accomplish what the September 11 attacks failed to do, and that is clip the global recovery and put us all into a depression.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Free Traders
[This post: ~1,000 words; reading time
Its links: approximate total 17,000 words; exhaustive reading time ~ 1 hour.]
This is inspired by Lexington Green’s More Than the Rest Put Together and Language matters. Borders matter. (Which reminds me — just to get it out of the way: go read this, and follow the links. Meanwhile, back on Earth …)
In part III of my review of The Substance of Style, I suggested that the secret of Anglospheric wealth, including the “aesthetic plenitude” that is the focus of much of Virginia’s book, may be due to a preference for process over principle, resulting in an open economic system rather than a closed one.
In support of this, I quoted from this book, which I received a while back as a member of the Classics of Liberty Library; a sort of bookmark-like card that came with it says:
One approach to the subject of liberty is to study and compare, across time and place, the legal systems that have governed the world’s civilizations. An investigation of the development of political and judicial systems reveals the tensions between the prerogatives of government and the human desire for individual freedom.
In the second half of the twentieth century, René David, honorary professor of law and political science at the Law School of the University of Aix-Marseilles provided, in Major Legal Systems in the World Today: An Introduction to the Comparative Study of Law, a respected and succinct work to begin such a [sic] examination. The book first appeared, in French, in 1964, and saw eight editions in its first quarter century. John E.C. Brierley of the Faculty of Law, McGill University, Montreal, undertook to translate the book, and it was published in English in 1966. Our facsimile is based on the third English edition, to which Professor Brierley added a considerable amount of material.
The book is a work of some note; it is found, for example, on this list (and on this one as well). Among its most striking passages is the one I quoted in my (incredibly long and unwieldy) TSOS review, from pp 360-361:
The laws of the Romano-Germanic family are coherent but, one may say, “closed” systems in which any kind of question can, and must at least in theory, be resolved by an “interpretation” of an existing rule of law. On the other hand English law is an “open” system: it has a method that can assure the resolution of any kind of question that may arise, not substantive principles which must, in all circumstances, be applied. The technique of English law is not one of interpreting legal rules; it consists, beginning with those legal rules already enunciated, of discovering the legal rule — perhaps a new legal rule — that must be applied in the instant case. This is accomplished by paying very great attention to the facts of each case and by carefully studying the reasons that may exist for distinguishing the factual situation in the case at hand from that in a previous case. To a new fact situation there corresponds — there must correspond in the English legal mentality — a new legal rule.
I then commented:
The freedom and openness — and wealth — of the Anglosphere may well rest on its ability to develop open processes for creation and discovery, as opposed to closed definitions of a tidier but fundamentally static world. And besides — to quote an ancient principle of nonintervention — the Anglosphere has learned not to gather the weeds, lest it uproot the wheat.
Lex’s recounting of the relative wealth of English and non-English speakers reinforced my impression that the world is dividing into two camps, Anglosphere and non-Anglosphere. Or perhaps into several camps, but when one is worth more than all the others combined, a more or less bipolar world may be inevitable. And what divides them ultimately may not be ethnicity or language or religion, but realism — a willingness to work with the world and human nature as it is, rather than construct elegant theories and then shoehorn (or bludgeon) societies into an unchanging mold.
To be sure, the distinction is largely a contrast between British and French attitudes. As this Gertrude Himmelfarb essay notes, quoting Alexis de Tocqueville:
In England writers on the theory of government and those who actually governed cooperated with each other, the former setting forth their new theories, the latter amending or circumscribing these in the light of practical experience. In France, however, precept and practice were kept quite distinct and remained in the hands of two quite independent groups. One of these carried on the actual administration while the other set forth the abstract principles on which good government should, they said, be based; one took the routine measures appropriate to the needs of the moment, the other propounded general laws without a thought for their practical application; one group shaped the course of public affairs, the other that of public opinion.
I contend that America became the richest nation on Earth by being the most realistic nation on Earth; as Ralph Peters has written: “Theoretical constructs did fantastic damage to Europe in the twentieth century, and much of the rest of the world lives in a fantasy land. They do not have our ingrained, hard-learned ability to separate fact from fiction.”
And praxis wins big: graze over here, for example, and select “Top 10″ under “3. Limit Search”; result: 7 out of the top 10 countries are Anglospheric. On this list, by my count, 16 of the 41 highest-rated countries — nearly two of every five — are Anglospheric. And on this list, 5 of the top 15 (by PPP) are Anglosphere nations. Considering that only about 1/16 of the world’s population speaks English as their first language, ceterus paribus, these are wildly skewed results. But ceterus ain’t paribus. The disparity can only grow; and the resentment of non-achievers wedded to their theoretical constructs can only grow with it. Is this (from an American perspective) the Crisis of 2020 in the making?
As noted on my original blog, I drove up into Wisconsin the day after the Chicago Boyz blog bash and took pictures of, among other things, Yerkes Observatory. Here’s one:
The dome in the picture is one of the smaller ones, in this case the one at the northeast extremity of the main building. Notice the gargoyle — actually a griffin in this case, I believe; the gargoyles, and decorative stonework in general, at Yerkes are even more elaborate than the stuff on the gothic buildings in Hyde Park.
I took (and decided to post) this picture partly because the dome contains the 24″ reflector that I got to look through a few times, circa 1978, as a member of the undergrad astronomy club, but mostly because that rusty old van may be the very one that the club took to this solar eclipse in Feb 79. Expect to hear a few stories about that little expedition — probably around the time of its 25th anniversary, three months from now.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Another Photo
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Photo
As noted below, I am joining the team and tripling my blogging income thereby. Lest my reputation be unduly exposed to the influence of uninformed opinion, here are the facts:
- I attended the University of Chicago from September 1977 to June 1979, majoring in physics.
- As a space blogger, contra the assumption made by Lex (Luthor?) in the comments on the post linked above, my territorial ambitions need not be confined to the Solar System. For the nonce, however, I would be satisfied with direct control over several thousand asteroids, plus the atmosphere of the seventh planet (which you may learn how to pronounce properly by reading this post) as a source of 3He.
- In my day-to-day guise as a mild-mannered project manager for a telecommunications firm, I reside with She Who Must Be Obeyed, two dogs, and an illegal number of cats in a secure, nearly-disclosed location approximately 410 miles from the University campus, bearing 244° (GCD calculator here).
Writing for Chicago Boyz will allow me some differentiation — Arcturus will focus a bit more on hard science and technology, and I’ll shift some of my economic/behavioral/political stuff over here. On the other hand, I figure Enrico Fermi’s picture isn’t up there for nothing, so you’ll get a science post now and then.
Posted by Lexington Green on 20th November 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
My friend whom I refer to here as Paris Lawyer Pundit sent me an article entitled “The French Were Right”. (Available here. ) He asked archly in his cover email whether it “made by blood boil”.
My response to PLP was as follows:
I skimmed it. I’ll read it all later. It does not make my blood boil. My anger at France was not that they disagreed with what Bush wanted to do, or that there were not arguments against what Bush wanted to do. I am angry with them for being dishonest and underhanded in their dealings with us, for being motivated by a desire to thwart the US rather than offer anything constructive. I also note this writer is using the dishonest trope that Bush said a threat was “imminent”. That is false and this writer and anyone paying attention knows it. What Bush said (I could get you the quote) is that we will not wait until a threat from Saddam becomes imminent. What Bush and his team have undertaken in Iraq is wildly ambitious. I said so at the time. I actually tend to agree with the people Bush is dismissing, who worry that Muslims are categorically incapable of creating a democratic society, that they need a dictator to keep minimal order. But Bush has bet on Fukayama rather than Huntington, so away we go. The “liberation of Iraq” may end up being pie in the sky, a last gasp of Wilsonian/Gladstonian do-goodism before we get down to the serious work of waging and winning a Huntingtonian civilizational struggle to the death against the Islamic world. It will make the destruction of the North American indians look like a minor dustup. If the Iraq effort fails, the Democrats and, I suppose, the French, get to clean it up. Nonetheless, I am far less pessimistic than this writer. We have made a lot of progress in Iraq. We are not in a “quagmire”. We are not publicizing our successes against the enemy, because we will not repeat the Vietnam “body count” mentality. Once Bush gets past this next election, which will be close but which he will probably win, the Baathist remnants and jihadi infiltrators are going to face even tougher opposition. We will be able to hand over day-to-day policing to the Iraqis and use our forces for warfighting. As the commander of the 82nd Airborne said, quoting Viscount Slim of Burma, we will use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. We have the big sledgehammer. We are getting better and better intelligence every day. We are convincing the Iraqi people, who don’t like us and don’t have to like us, that we won’t leave them to the jackals. So they will bet on the big dog, us. So, I am cautiously optimistic.
I have since read the whole thing. The article is seriously wrong in several respects. Just as Iraq is not Vietnam, it is not Algeria either, for starters. I trust this bit of hokum will circulate around the net and be sternly fisked by somebody with the time and willpower to wade into it.
Striking a more scholarly note, Eliot Cohen lays out just how ugly it would be if Bush were to “cut and run” in Iraq. He won’t do that.
I note that in the joint news conference today, Tony Blair spoke in his usual stirring fashion about the universality of the desire for freedom:
And I believe that if people are given the chance to have freedom, whatever part of the world they’re in, whatever religion they practice, whatever faith they have, if they’re given the chance to have freedom, they welcome it. And I think it is the most appalling delusion that actually affects some people even within our own societies that somehow, though we in our countries love freedom and would defend freedom, somehow other people in other parts of the world don’t like it.
And the reason why they like freedom is because then, if you’ve got freedom and democracy, and the rule of law, you can raise your family, you can earn a decent standard of living, you can go about your daily business without fear of the secret police or terrorism. And in those types of societies, the terrorists who thrive on hatred and fanaticism, they get no breathing ground, they get no breathing space.
My concern is not that the desire for these things isn’t universal — it is. My concern is that the cultural. psychological and institutional frameworks any given group of people have inherited may not equip them to successfully implement “freedom and democracy, and the rule of law”. Blair is an optimist. I note that one old-timer who emphatically does not agree is Richard Pipes, whom some of you will remember as a scholar of Russian and Soviet history and a hardline member of the Reagan administration.
Pipes has some misgivings about the most recent application, in Iraq, of the approach he helped formulate. “I think the war was correct — destroying this invasive evil. But beyond this I think they’re too ambitious,” he says. He bluntly dismisses the promise of a democratic Iraq — “impossible, a fantasy” — citing obstacles similar to Russia’s. “Democracy requires, among other things, individualism — the breakdown of old clannish, tribal organizations, the individual standing face-to-face with the state. You don’t have that in the Middle East. Iraq is tribally run.”
My heart’s with Blair, my head, to some extent, with Pipes. Fingers crossed.
But that doesn’t mean the French were right. No way.
Incidentally, I think Howard Dean should use this as a campaign slogan: “US Out of Iraq Now! The French Were Right!”
A link to a George Will piece on Jack Ryan. Not the one of Tom Clancy Novels, but a character of large proportions and Homeric deeds who happens to be running for the Illinois Senate. It will be interesting to see if Illinois voters can cut through the money and noise of Democratic Machine Politics, to elect this man. We’ve managed it once recently with Peter Fitzgerald, a Senator who ran on a set of beliefs and actually stuck with them throughout his term, for better or for worse. I did not consistently agree with Fitz, but I credit him with staying true to his words. If Ryan is defeated, I may finally be forced by my own constitution to seek another state of primary residence.
Welcome to Jay Manifold, who blogs at the excellent A Voyage To Arcturas and joined us at our blog bash last weekend (Jay’s account of his trip to Chicago is here). Jay has graciously agreed to blog with us, at least some of the time, and we only had to offer him double his salary from Arcturas to get him to do it. He appears to know a lot about everything, and I fully expect to see him and Lex ruling the world one day. Until then we can look forward to reading his posts.
Posted by Lexington Green on 19th November 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Barbara Amiel in a recent article in the Telegraph had some good insights:
The problem is the way that the EU developed and is continuing to develop. Now it stands for Western values in name only. In substance, it stands for accommodation with those forces of the world that are the opposite of such values.
Perhaps this can be explained by Europe’s history: accommodation has almost always been the way small countries deal with more powerful forces ranged against them. The dream of Prodi, to create what he calls an “association of minorities”, is not an illegitimate response to the painful European history of national and ethnic conflicts. The dream of many Europeans, from Stefan Zweig to Luigi Barzini and the founders of the EU, has been to escape their own history through a unified Europe.
But for Britain to continue further into this union means forsaking or potentially injuring a natural ally – the United States – and an alliance based not only on common values but a common legal and cultural heritage. In anybody’s books, this looks like a bad bargain.
I concur heartily with Amiel’s Anglospheric note about the basis for the Anglo-American alliance.
Europe, as a Grand Project, is all about the escape from history, and a flight from the present and the future as well. In other words, it is a fantasy project, performance art, smoke and mirrors, a collective delusion. If everyone whistles past the graveyard in unison, then Europe will somehow have the money to pay for its unsustainable social goodie-bag, and the blind luck to avoid being damaged by the evil forces at work in the world today without having to pay for real military power in the necessary (large) quantities. The European project bears a family resemblance to an earlier pan-European vision: the Thousand Year Reich. Hitler’s visionary “Europe” was also phony baloney all the way down, a papier mache Wagnerian stage set pretending to be a polity. Brussels doesn’t want to gas anybody, which is one small thing in its favor. It just wants to turn the continent with the most glorious history in the world into a three-hundred- million person Registry of Motor Vehicles office. Less malign than Hitler, though with less snappy uniforms — but just as impossible.
Britain does not need to escape from its history, or hide from the present or the future. As part of the global Anglosphere, Britain is poised to continue to play a significant role on the cutting edge of world civilization. Britain has, there for the grasping, a brilliant future which the continental Europeans cannot share. I hope they figure it out in time.
A bad bargain, indeed.
Posted by Lexington Green on 19th November 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
My friend the former F-18 pilot, whom I’ll call Fighter Pilot Pundit, circulated this Mark Steyn piece, which is good. Even better is FPP’s prefatory email message, in his own inimitable warrior-speak:
It seems the spawn of 18th century British Imperialists who conquered the globe have not all become drag queens and Labour Party pacifists. I have the honor of knowing a few British Special Air Service (SAS) commandoes. They don’t sprout out of nowhere like mushrooms. They are the direct descendants of lionhearted British combatants of old. Don’t let the recent media circus turn you off of the Brits. They are a courageous people who won’t shrink from a fight to the death. Hats off to Tony Blair, a genuine statesman who, faced with the partisan carping of his own party, did the right thing for the preservation of civilization and the advance of democracy in the darkest, most wretched crevasse in humanity.
Fortuna favet fortibus.
Posted by Lexington Green on 18th November 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
In Orwell’s 1984, O’Brien , the thought-policeman, tells Winston Smith: “Whoever controls the present controls the past, whoever controls the past controls the future.” This is the totalitarian, fascistic vision of how to “do” history. It is how Hitler and Stalin did it. It is not about the factual record and what emerges from it. It is about manipulation and falsification to create political realities which have contemporary impact, and which shape people’s ideas going forward.
It is the kind of history practiced by so-called liberals, when they can get away with it. It is business as usual for them. Professor Michael Bellesiles, with his lies about gun ownership, was one typical example. He was caught and outed. But I am sure attempts will be made to rehabilitate him. The New York Times has gotten smacked around lately for practicing the kind of disinformation and spin that it has always practiced.
A good recent example of all this is the recent movie about Reagan, which Matt Drudge outed in advance, provoking a storm of protest, causing CBS to cave in on its original broadcast plans.
The idea that this response was “censorship,” or that the movie, starring leftist activist Barbra Streisand’s husband, was “art” is more totalitarian lies.
The movie was a political weapon in a political struggle. The movie would have been the only image that millions of unsophisticated Americans would have had of Reagan. What many people see on TV they take as accurate history. This is stupid, I know, but is a regrettable fact.
The point of this maneuver was not art, or expression, or any of the other weasel words used by liberals to cover up their shenanigans. It was to create a false image of Reagan in the minds of millions of people, for a political purpose. The political result would be to discredit Reagan, his image, his legacy, and those who are his political heirs. This effort was, for now, partly thwarted.
Fortunately, there are true and accurate depictions of Reagan and his accomplishments and his character available. Jonathan sent me this excellent article by Max Kampelman. It shows the astute and focused enemy of communism that Reagan was. Lou Cannon’s recent biography of Reagan as governor of California is reputed to be good. I hope to read soon the volume of letters recently published. I can vouch for the collection of his radio addresses, which is excellent. I read Peter Schweitzer’s book Reagan’s War: The Epic Story of His Forty Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism, which is a very good introduction to Reagan’s role in winning the Cold War. Michael Barone’s chapters on Reagan in Our Country are excellent.
Still, this is all highbrow stuff. Books. Who reads books? (Even people who should spend their time reading blogs instead.)
Keeping a lying, commie hatchet-job off of broadcast TV is a minor victory. But the liberals still control Hollywood, the universities, and most of the Old Media news outlets. All of them will tell baldfaced lies about Reagan all day long if they can get away with it, and we won’t be able to stop them every time. We need to create alternative popular media, to carry the war for the truth about the past to the enemy, defeat them, and present the facts as they actually were to a gullible public which knows too little history.
We don’t need to “control” the past. The facts, pretty much, speak for themselves. If they can be gotten out.
Posted by Lexington Green on 18th November 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
An Op Ed entitled The Great Job Machine (the link no longer works) was on the New York Times editorial page recently — cheek by jowl with Krugman.
I hope old Paul gets himself a nasty rash from the exposure.
The article is an excellent short summary of the process of creative destruction. It lays out how the American economy is structured both to destroy jobs and to create jobs, that it has always been that way, and that tolerance for the rigors of this process has led to our country being dynamic and increasingly wealthy.
Societies grow richer when new products emerge that better meet consumers’ needs, and when producers adopt new technologies that reduce costs by making workers more productive. In a dynamic, innovative economy, these forces unleash waves upon waves of change. Some industries and companies prosper while others wither. Some companies find themselves with too many workers while others struggle with too few. A free-enterprise system responds by moving resources — in this case workers — to where they’re more valuable.
Some illuminating numbers:
Since 1980, Americans have filed 106 million initial claims for unemployment benefits, each representing a lost job. Facing unemployment and rebuilding a life can be hard on families, but the United States today is better off for allowing it to happen. Even with the net decline in jobs over the past three years, during the past decade total United States employment has risen to 130 million from 91 million since 1980, a net gain of nearly 40 million jobs. Productivity, measured by output per worker, increased a staggering 56.2 percent.
This process of “savage capitalism” is what the folks in Old Europe want to “protect” themselves from. That’s fine. Suit yourself. Build yourself a cocoon, move into it, guarantee yourself a “right” to a cozy, trouble-free, event-free life. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger said, eighteen year old kids in Austria talk about their pensions, and he wanted more. Everyone with any gumption, globally, now hear this, straight from Lex: Get your ass to America, and we’ll build the free and prosperous future here. The Old Europeans can park their beach chairs on the ash heap of history, look around at the rubble of the great things their ancestors did, think about the kids and grandkids they never had and will never have, grumble about how the Americans are cowboys, and wait for their pension checks.
It’s been nice knowin’ ya, folks. See you in the rear-view mirror.
Posted by Lexington Green on 17th November 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
India is becoming the Anglosphere’s back-office. Unlike Jonathan’s experience in this interesting piece a Canadian fellow who had a problem with his computer got good results from the back-office. He called the help line and got it fixed, with the assistance of someone in India on the other side of the phone line.
Call centres, like the one I reached in India, are a creation of global capitalism and a striking example of how technology ignores geography and spreads employment.
Call centres are made possible by toll-free phone numbers, cheap long-distance, special phone banks, and globally linked corporate computer systems. A dozen or so years ago, with those elements all in place, the call-centre business began circling the earth. Soon millions of people were conversing across the oceans, often without knowing it.
What’s missing in this discussion?
Oddly, what is missing is the most important thing. The writer mentions all the hardware, but the human element is the dispositive one, the linguistic element. You have to be able to speak English. Call centers are in India and the Philippines, not Peru or China, because people speak English in those places. The customer base for call centers is the rich part of the world, especially the Anglosphere. The work force for call centers is the anglophone population of the poorer places on the outer margins of the Anglosphere. Modern technology, for most practical purposes, renders all people who speak the same language contiguous, without regard to physical location. These linguistic and cultural zones are going to advance, or stagnate, or regress, as units. The Anglosphere, due to inherited cultural, legal and political forms, is the one best positioned to take advantage of technological changes as we go forward. And one of its many advantages is a gigantic “hinterland” in India, the Philippines, the Caribbean, and anglophone Africa. These areas will provide our back-office, and increasingly, serve as a locale for further investment and development.
Once you start to notice this lapse, this blindness to the centrality of language, you see it everywhere. Dale Amon, writing in Samizdata:
I sat here in my flat in Newtonabbey, on the outskirts of Belfast and worked with a team in the US. On the days of the setup and run, the crew was spread out over three locations in Manhattan, the hotel in Boston .. and my flat in Northern Ireland.
Physical location has little meaning when you meet and work in cyberspace. Borders are a joke: they have been erased by the scouring terrabytes of global connectivity. I can be or work anywhere I want on this planet, any time I wish and no one can stop or question me.
Leaving aside the libertarian chest-thumping, Amon has sinned by omission in writing that “Physical location has little meaning when you meet and work in cyberspace”. He failed to specify “meet and work with other English speakers”, though that is what he means. And those coworkers, and clients and customers, are likely to be physically located in English-speaking countries.
Similarly, this guy has the silly objection to cell phones that they deprive us of a sense of place, or some such abstraction. He does say, correctly, that cellphones make us all contiguous – but, again, only to the extent we can talk to each other, i.e. speak the same language, a point he fails to mention.
The above discussion is reinforced by a column in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscribers only, so no link) by Lee Gomes entitled “Romanians Become Latest Tech Rivals for Offshore Jobs”. Not surprisingly, the Romanian’s, whose Latin-derived language is fairly close to French, have become the back-office for France, forming a linguistic first cousin Francosphere with poles at either end of Europe. In fact, Franco-Romanian cultural ties go way back. Gomes comments that “[t]he high tech boom in India has been due in part to technology-oriented central planning, along with investment by returning Indian expatriates.” Why Gomes doesn’t mention that India has a linguistic advantage, allowing the whole Anglophone world to be its customer base, eludes me. Gomes goes on to note that:
Romania has, perversely, communism to thank for its nascent tech scene. The Communists had an engineering and industrialization fetish; all the massive megalomaniacal construction projects for which the Ceausescu regime was infamous required armies of skilled engineers. Math is still hammered into students, especially the bright ones. The country also has a long computer history. It was building pirated IBM mainframes back in the 1960s … .
etc. While that is true and important, Gomes leaves for much farther down the column this comment: “The locals’ skill with European languages gives Romanians an edge over rivals in India and Russia in attracting help-desk work from European countries.” Why Romania and not Hungary or the Czech Republic? My guess is that it is because the core customer base for Romania is France (the only country Gomes specifically mentions as being serviced from Romania), whose language Romanians either already know or find relatively easy to learn. The Slavs and Magyars have no such advantage.
Contra Amon, despite the Internet, or modern technology more generally, borders are not a joke. You have to put your money somewhere, you have to sleep somewhere, you have to deal with the State wherever you go. The place you want to do these things is pretty much always going to be within the “borders” of an Anglosphere country, especially if you have a family. And even if you park yourself and your computer somewhere, you can figure that your customers will be in the Anglosphere. You have to talk to people to work.
Language matters. Borders matter.
Posted by Lexington Green on 17th November 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
In his review in the Spectator entitled A continuation of empire by other means, Andrew Roberts gives raves to Melvyn Bragg’s new book The Adventure of English, 500 AD TO 2000: The Biography of a Language (currently available in the UK.) I’ll probably read the book. One detail in the review struck me as interesting:
English is today both the language of wealth and, more importantly, of aspiration to wealth. A fascinating statistic employed by Bragg compares the net worth of the speakers of various world languages, showing that although there are many more Mandarin-speakers than English-speakers, they are only worth £448bn. Against that Russian-speakers are ‘worth’ £801bn, German-speakers £1,090bn, Japanese-speakers £1,277bn, but English-speakers are worth a staggering £4,271bn – more than the rest put together.
Whoa. That’s a lot of money in the pocket of Mr. and Mrs. English Speaker. Good.
And with the language, typically, come other good things — elections, open and honest government, due process, free speech, sound money, law-abiding and effective armies, economic vibrancy, technological verve. The future looks bright indeed. Forward the Anglosphere.
Posted by Lexington Green on 17th November 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Paul Johnson has a piece entitled America’s Empire for Liberty. It is a good essay overall. RTWT.
I will just note two interesting Anglospheric comments:
When I was a boy in the 1930s, a quarter of the world on the map was colored red-that is, part of the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations. It was a liberal empire and a democratic commonwealth, and its aim, as with America in the Philippines, was to prepare its components for self-government. There have been some outstanding successes: Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and, most of all, India; with a billion inhabitants it has become the world’s largest democracy. There have been tragic failures too, notably in Africa. But we have learned from the failures too. The knowledge we gained is at America’s disposal, particularly in the training of military and civilian administrators who must take on the kind of work now being done in Iraq and Afghanistan. One idea I would like to see explored-with all deliberate speed-is the creation of an Anglo-American staff college for training men and women, both from the armed forces and from government, in the skills to rescue failed or fragile nations and to take former tyrannies and dictatorships into the magic circle of justice and democracy. We have a vast project ahead of us, and we need to be educated for it.
I like the idea of such a joint staff college. There would be political pandemonium if it were actually proposed, however. Right now the British are not in a very good mood about the virtues or efficacy of any American imperial-type projects. Max Hastings is kicking our ass in the Spectator, and Bush is going to face incredible street demonstrations when he goes over there. We need to get Iraq simmered down, then we can start looking at building capacity for future endeavors. A serious effort to pool knowledge about failed and successful state-building, and creating the skilled manpower and advanced thinking and planning to intervene effectively when we do intervene strikes me as no more than sensible. It is the kind of thing the Democrats accuse Bush of not doing, i.e. not “having a plan”. Of course, if he proposed this they’d say he is getting ready to get us into a bunch of other wars. Maybe so. Maybe that will be necessary. I don’ t know. What I do know is I wish we had been better prepared for this current occupation. So, Johnson is on the right track. This type of joint project should be quietly started, and once it is a going concern, enlarge it.
Johnson has this to say about Britain in the EU.
My guess is that the United States of Europe, a ramshackle structure already, is heading for disaster: economic bankruptcy and political implosion. Looking at it from Britain’s viewpoint, we should keep well clear of the mess. In emotional and cerebral terms, the English Channel is wider than the Atlantic, and I would prefer to see the expansion of the North Atlantic free trade area rather than that of a bureaucratic, antidemocratic, and illiberal Europe.
But Johnson is wrong to say “[i]n emotional and cerebral terms”. There is common language, law, culture, business practices, overlapping investment, decades of military and security cooperation. The Anglosphere is not about sentiment, it is about concrete reality. As Jim Bennett has put it, Britain is not a European country with a special relationship with America — it is an Anglosphere country with a special relationship with Europe. They need to figure this out, and act on it.
And, oh yeah, one other thing, America is not an empire. But that is a topic for another day, I hope soon.