Walter Russell Mead, Closet Anglospherist?

There is a very good interview on the Council on Foreign Relations site with Walter Russell Mead. (Interview here.) Mead is pitching his new book entitled Power, Terror, Peace, and War: America’s Grand Strategy in a World at Risk. (Order from Amazon here.) Mead was the author of the brilliant book Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World, which brought us the word “ Jacksonian,” which may be the most powerful meme in all blogdom.

Another widely blogged-about meme is the Anglosphere. I notice that Mead makes a few points which are noteworthy to those of us who are interested in the present and future of the Anglosphere.

On the economic dynamism of the Anglosphere, Mead offers this:

[O]ne of the things that I think has made the English-speaking world–kept it kind of in an economic leadership role for centuries now–is that there’s a kind of the trade-off between accepting the risks and rigors of free-market capitalism on the one hand, and that causes a lot of social discomfort and unpleasant change; on the other hand, it brings you benefits in terms of new technologies, higher productivity, faster progress.

The English-speaking world, and especially the United States, has usually been pretty comfortable with pushing that trade-off in the more free-market direction, which, on the one hand, gives us historically a kind of a lead, often, compared to the rest of the world, but, on the other hand, means that our society is sometimes pulling the world in directions it doesn’t really want to go.

(I think “English-speaking world” is the way you say “Anglosphere” in polite society.)

Mead notes that from the ‘30s to the ‘80s, Europe and America seemed to be converging, but that is no longer true, now the Europeans are seeing:

…this raw Anglo-Saxon capitalism coming into their lives, and they resent it. And there’s a sense in which the American model of capitalism is now diverging from the kind of–from where Europeans and others thought was going to be a kind of a permanent convergence; you know, that in the year 2050, we would all be like Sweden. And as that has begun to diverge, it’s getting harder and harder for Americans and Europeans to agree.

As a true Jacksonian American, I say, yeah, good, screw ‘em.

Mead, looking ahead sees ongoing trouble with the Moslems, of course, though there are some signs of progress. (See, e.g., this Mead article on Algeria.) Of course, there is also the potential challenge of China. Mead then adds:

There is one country in the world which hates the idea that China would be geopolitically dominant in Asia and also hates the idea of fanatical Islam dominating the Middle East. That’s India. So you can make a solid argument that, at least potentially, in the 21st century, India may well be the most important strategic partner of the United States, because we have more points of real solid contact there.

Points of solid contact, indeed. India is an Anglosphere country, in large part. (See this earlier post.) The recent Wall Street Journal article, “Is India Shining?” by Gurcharan Das demonstrates this well. (Can’t find the link … . Probably subscribers only … .) Das recounts that in the ‘90s,

…many Indian minds became decolonized. This mental liberation is a powerful force in national regeneration. A changed attitude to English illustrates the new mindset. Ever since the British left we have heard constant complaining against the English language, and thin in the ‘90s it suddenly disappeared. Quietly, without ceremony, English became one of the Indian languages. English lost its colonial stigma, oddly enough, around the time that the Hindu nationalists came to power. Hindi-language protagonists lost steam because their lost their convictions – their own children wanted to learn English. Based on present trends, India will become the largest English-speaking nation in the world by 2010, overtaking the U.S. … Today, young Indians in the new middle class think of English as a skill, like Windows.

This linguistic commonality, plus the common security interests Mead notes, are also accompanied by an increasingly effective and strong democracy in India. Das notes that India is growing rapidly, but that the crappy performance of its government is no longer accepted as part of the order of nature. “Despite strong growth, Indians are unwilling to forgive bad governance and this is the weapon they use against incumbent politicians. They don’t re-elect them.”

A democratic, booming, Anglophone India with common enemies bodes well for a strong US-Indian alliance in the years ahead. Mead is on the money with that.

Mead also an interesting comment about Blair and Europe. He comments that Blair’s original plan was to lead the U.K. “into the heart of Europe,” but that events have taken him in a “radically different direction, from the one he’d originally planned.” He then notes that Blair has announced a referendum on the E.U. Constitution, and that polls show only 15% support for it in Britain. He then predicts that, despite Blair’s political skills, “Britain may still be hanging out on the fringes of Europe when he steps down from the prime ministership, and that … would more or less force them into having some kind of a relationship with us, because otherwise it would just be too lonely and cold out there.”

Right. Far too lonely and cold.

Time for a North Atlantic Free Trade Area, with Britain joining NAFTA.

Forward the Anglosphere.

11 thoughts on “Walter Russell Mead, Closet Anglospherist?”

  1. Hey guys. As usual it’s a pleasure to catch up after returning from abroad…

    Lex. If you have a chance take a look at the spring issue of The National Interest. It’s a particularly thought provoking edition, and although I can’t say I agree with many of the articles beginning assumptions and definitions, they’re quite well argued (Mead writes on US German relations).

    Something struck me regarding Mead’s identification of four core factions of thought in US policy circles… If it’s safe to assume that Mead is working from the same four major British migratory folkways groups that Hackett-Fischer focuses on in Albion’s Seed, couldn’t a more accurate and refined division be based on Hackett Fischers identification of the 7+ modern categories rather than four initial migratory waves?

    It seems to me that Hackett Fischer is quite consciously writing from the perspective of a historian first, and as a quasi-sociologist only as a methodological tool to better understand history. This is also true of Hackett Fischers work on informal logic, which dispite being one of the best texts written on informal fallacies is presented as strictly related to historical methology rather than logic (rhetoric is perhaps more accurate). As a historian interested primarily in early America, the use of only the cultural blocks with the strongest ties to the era he writes about is logical, but if we’re discussing the modern era I’d suggest that the use of the broader electoral/cultural groupings he identifies in the last part of Albion’s Seed would be of more use. This is what Kevin Phillips does in part in ‘Cousin’s Wars’, where Phillips notes the effect the demographic shift of Irish and German migratory waves had on US policy in WWI and WWII.

    Any thoughts?

  2. I disagree slightly with the take on India. I too used to see it that way, but more and more I’m seeing a convergence in the lower levels of of the U.S. and China.
    Despite our nationalistic rivalries, the Chinese look to us as an economic model, something that is still lacking in much of India. Furthermore,
    Granted, large chunks of India, particularly the educated class are apart of the Anglosphere, so there is that transfer of information.
    But, I would say that anti-Americanism is stronger in India than China, based on cold war and British inherited influences.
    Furthermore, in China redtape is disappearing quite faster than in India.
    So, yes, while India has the potential as a natural ally, while China has the potential as a natural rival; there are some currents that may lead toward a more triangulated power structure.
    However it occurs, it seems that the actions of human history is once again moving back toward its natural relm, Asia.

  3. It is striking that Mead–a likeable guy–manages to get through a lengthy interview about past, present, and future foreign policy, American and non, and never once uses the word ” justice.”

    Plato, whose Republic, is the foundational document of political science, would be astonished reading this interview. By Mead’s lights, understanding the world’s conflicts has nothing to do with people pursuing “the right”, the ius, dike, etc. An analyst need only describe models, the old and the new, elites and nons, as though none of these things had any relation to justice or how human beings might not assess it in the same way and how that disagreement would lead to conflict. Most importantly, how some people might be right and others wrong about justice.

    Reading the interview, one might expect to find the preamble to the U.S. Constitution saying that we are founding a government to export models rather than to establish justice.

    The closest Mead comes to drawing on thousands of years of wisdom is a millisecond’s mention of his fear that “narcissitic boomer hubris” might bring on a mess.

    Then he gets back on to the academic treadmill of 20th century political science, which seems more and more limited to considerations of mere taxonomy. It is such a loss. Over the millenia we certainly may not have gained an exhaustive scientia of human beings and how they do and should conduct their political affairs, but we did gain much of value and utility. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine, Aquinas,–these were great indispensible dianognosticians of disorder and glimpsers of order. America’s founders were deeply grounded in such thinkers and went about constructing a political order that would draw on the wisdom of the West and advance it.

    We too should be trying to advance the work of our greatest geniuses, or at least not lose sight of it.

    Lex, it beats me why you, having at least some acquaintance with Eric Voegelin’s work, don’t recognize that itc cental and vast importance for grasping what has been going on in the West and beyond for quite some time. His New Science of Politics makes him, perhaps, an honorary ChicagoBoy since it began as a Walgreen Foundation lecture.

    Finally, you may recall that I am not a believer in an Anglosphere, but I am not about to test your patience on the subject. I can’t help being amused to point out, though, that of all the descriptions of it given by believers, I have never once seen Ireland included. India’s anglophone connection is made much of, but the English speaking country that produced Yeats and Joyce, perhaps the 20th century’s greatest masters of English poetry and prose, never gets included.

    Jamaica? sure. Ireland, no. I am sure there are econometric reasons galore to justify this omission, but somehow the whole thing just makes me smile.

    All Best to Ya…

  4. Strictly speaking, from a hereditary, geneological perspective, Ireland, Scotland and Wales shouldn’t be considered Anglo-Saxon. Their geneology is mostly Celtic as was their culture up until the last few centuries. That may be completely missing the point, but even to this day if you tried to tell an Irishman that he is from just another “english speaking country” (as if there is no difference) he’d probably break your nose.

    English culture has been forced upon these Celtic regions of the British Isles for hundreds of years, but their fundmental roots are not Anglo-Saxon and not really English either.

    Slightly off the point, but worth noting.

    I believe the mixing of these cultures (English and Scots-Irish) in 18th century America lead eventually to a culture (American) quite different from that of the British Isles where only the vestiges of Irish, Scotish and Welsh culture remain after being replaced over hundreds of years with mostly English culture.

    This is the essence of the “Jacksonian” mindset that I believe most accurately defines the basis of the American culture, and it’s difference from English culture. Jackson was the first Scots-Irishman to become president, and his values were predominantly of his Celtic heritage (he was born right after his parents migrated from Ulster), something that Englishmen reviled as barbarian in nature. Fiercely libertarian in nature reflecting a life spent on the American frontier, I believe the melding of the viewpoint he represented with traditional English values sets America uniquely apart from it’s English cousins.

  5. Yeah, but if you visit Canada or NZ you’d be struck that these are fundamentally Scotch countries, and don’t forget that a lot of hard work of the British Empire was done by Scotsmen (ahem, and Irish and Welsh). The Anglosphere’s culture is a melded culture of all the influences of the British Ilses (Adam Smith was a Scot, no) as well as some other European influences. The Anglocentric nomenclature comes from the chief binding force of the Anglosphere, it’s language, which allows for the exchange of ideas all across the Anglosphere, encompansing not only the original ethnic groups that made it up, but the many that have been added.

  6. DSpears and AnotherScot–My point about Ireland and the Anglospherists is that despite 15 years of the “Irish miracle”, the Celtic tiger, and all that, I am not aware of that country ever being included in any list of those that constitute the Anglosphere. This, despite its reliance on high tech industry, its English language, and, presumably, shared values. You’d think they’d be eager to claim it.

    Hong Kong, Jamaica, India, even New Guinea get included, and that’s only a partial list. The Anglosphere resembles William Carlos Williams’ joke about the meter of free verse being like a “rubber inch” i.e. as stretchable as you want it to be. But for all that, Ireland never shows up on the list. It is as though there is a psychic block that screens it out, and it just tickles the Hell out of my funny bone.

    Geesh, you’d think Ireland would make the list but Canada would not! Nobody talks about the Canadian economic miracle or the Canadian tiger. Canada and high tech? No more than Italy or Norway or anywhere else, maybe less. Shared values? Maybe with Sweden, but with the US? I think not. Canadians scarcely let a day pass without voicing disgust at benighted, unprogressive, miltaristic Americans. Canada’s provincial Human Rights Commissions and courts regularly denigrate supposed Anglosphere values like freedom of speech. Just say you think homosexuality is immoral and see how much trouble you get in. Some teacher in B.C. lost his job for writing a letter to the editor of his local newspaper politely expressing himself against homosexuality. Another guy got convicted of a crime, fined and given community service, for crafting an adverstiment that just quoted the biblical book and verse number of passages disaproving of homosexuality. Not the words themselves, just the book title and verse number on a blank page. Even worse, the newspaper that published the ad got fined. When a Washington Post reporter inquired about that incident, one of the Human Rights Commissioners scoffed at America’s “hang-up” about free speech.

    They are in NAFTA but did that influence them to join us in Iraq? Their values overrode their commercial tie to us and why shouldn’t they? The point is that their values seem to be getting steadily different from ours, not meshing in some sphere-like entity.

    But what could they have contributed if they had wanted to? They’ve let their armed forces become moribund. About the only thing they ever wax aggressive about is America.

    Gotta head out. Ya’ll take care.

  7. George, take a look at the recent Jim Bennett article in the current National Interest. There is a link to the right, under Essays and Documents. I wish I had time to do a post about it. An excellent article.

    Ireland is specifically mentioned.

    No one has forgotten about Ireland. You’re the only person I’ve seen who has suggested that. The relatively small size of Ireland, and its long-standing military neutrality, probably indicate why it is not central to any discussion.

    “Hong Kong, Jamaica, India, even New Guinea get included …” Where? By whom? Give me a cite, please. All of them, to some degree or other, may be Anglospheric countries. But it is simply wrong to say the Irish have been singled out for exclusion.

    As to Canada, see the same article.

    Bottom line, George, you may opine at whatever length you wish. But you’d have more impact if you read the relevant material first. You seem not to have read Bennett’s “Anglosphere Primer”, which we also have linked as an essay. It resolves many of your concerns and misunderstandings.

    Finally, how any particular country deals with homosexuality has nothing to do with the existence of an Anglosphere, or what institutional shape it should take in the future.

    As to Voegelin, I’ve read many of his books. I wrote a paper about him in law school. What does Voegelin have to do with any of this? You lost me there.

  8. Finally, how any particular country deals with homosexuality has nothing to do with the existence of an Anglosphere, or what institutional shape it should take in the future.

    I think you missed his point there, Lex. He was commenting NOT on homosexuality, per se, he was pointing out that the values held by ‘the Anglosphere’ are being abandoned by Canada. Values like free speech. Aren’t values – enshrined by law, culture, social goals – the foundation of a cultural sphere? Assuming yes, Canada is more correctly categorized as part of the Eurosphere, not the Anglosphere. Don’t let all that cross border trade fool you. Or the fact that they speak English. Occasionally.

  9. Michael,

    The “anglospheric” concept is probably better understood as a collection of cultural entities and blocks within the English speaking world that share SOME atributes and values, rather than as a single giant mono-cultural entity necessitated by the act of speaking english as a primary language. In fact, Kevin Phillips’ “Cousin’s Wars” (a primary reference in Bennets article) takes as a central theme the conflicts within and between elements of what is roughly the “anglosphere” (“anglo-saxosphere”?). One of the consistant characteristics of its member cultures is their bitter and violent disagreements over values they don’t share in common, which is often forgotten during the process of discussing those values that are basically general.

    So if a term like “free speech” is considered a general “good” in theory by most english speaking countries, the definition of what “free speech” actually means and the nature/importance of its role in ‘civil society’ varies a great deal. In theory it’s a shared value, but in practice its not because it is intertwined with given sub-cultures understanding of the relationship between the citizen and the state… and the latter concept is one that’s caused more than one war.

    This said, I find it hard to think of Canada as other than an anglophile country. It’s European to the extent Britain is European, and the culture clash between Quebec and Ontario is similar. But pressing coins with the Queen of Englands face on them seems pretty anglosphrical, no? And if an average Canadian were plopped down in a random country in Asia or Africa or South America the locals would think him American until shown a Canadian passport… (heck, the first phrase Canadians memorize when learning a foreign language is “No, I’m not American. I’m from Canada!!!”.

  10. It seems Chiraq opened his trap again and if Britain doesn’t approve it’s vision of EUtopia, Britain will be cast out.

    Lex, are we Jacksonian or are we Adamsian (Independence forever) using Jacksonian methods/beliefs to retain said beliefs?

  11. Sandy:

    I closely match Mead’s definition of a Jacksonian, in that I have a primary political loyalty to my own country and its peaceful, law-abiding, hardworking citizens — and a secondary political loyalty to those who have been our friends or customers or otherwise behaved reasonably, and strong hatred of those who mean us harm. I also believe, in Jacksonian fashion, that the world is a dangerous place full of people who understand violence think in terms of violence. The anarchic world of interstate conflict and non-state conflict is more like the bloody scottish borders or the indian frontier than it is like the islands of civility which exist in the USA and a few other places. And in a more generally American pragmatic fashion, I believe in using whatever means are found to be effective to serve the ends of making America and its people and their free institutions and their free and open way of life more secure and prosperous.

    That’s just me. You may make use of these descriptive terms in whatever way you see fit.

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