Note: Robert Kaplan

Update: Veryretired notes today’s “Reflections on Blowback” by Lee Harris (at TCS Daily). Harris’s argument is clear and, characteristically, based on human nature.

A&L links to an essay by Robert Kaplan, in The American Interest, which discusses the role of faith and patriotism in defining why and how a nation fights; here, he uses the wise “congruent reality” of Conrad to demonstrate his points. He also describes what he sees as a widening gulf between those who fight and those at home, distinctions often rooted in the geographic and familial. But, then, he reminds us that was also true of the armed forces in 1939. He concludes with his conversation with a combat pilot,

“Decadence” is the essential condition of “a society which believes it has evolved to the point where it will never have to go to war.” By eliminating war as a possibility, “it has nothing left to fight and sacrifice for, and thus no longer wants to make a difference.”

Then, Kaplan generalizes:

It is in precisely such a situation that historical memory becomes lost, and forgetfulness obscures the obvious. When pleasure and convenience become values in and of themselves, false ends displace necessary means. It is as Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz said: While a good society should certainly never want to go to war, it must always be prepared to do so. But a society will not fight for what it believes, if all it believes is that it should never have to fight.

11 thoughts on “Note: Robert Kaplan”

  1. It does seem that some folks (a serious presidential contender, Obama, for one, would have immediate troop withdrawal. Another apparently empty head for the dems, reminiscent of Kerry, I think….but I digress) act as if they think that bringing the troops home is a goal in itself.

  2. Please show me where Obama has said he would immediately bring American troops home.The goal, as every candidate from both parties has said is to have the Iraq citizens and govt take charge of their own affairs and that is why there are some 18 benchmarks to indicate what is needed. thus far, fewer than 50 percent have been met.

  3. “obama immediate troop withdrawal Iraq” in Google, and, lo, within 10 seconds this quote appears from a CBS News article dated 9/12/07: “‘Let me be clear: There is no military solution in Iraq and there never was,” Obama said in excerpts of the speech provided to The Associated Press.

    “The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq’s leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year — now,” the Illinois senator says.”

  4. Kaplan’s article is well worth reading. Although the article is mostly about the US military, the points he makes about nuclear-arming Asia continuing with
    classical national-state politics while Europe is assuming a post-national world are greatly underappreciated today.  

    It’s worth noting that the Anglosphere states that have substantial presence in the Pacific are much more likely to retain the classical nation-state outlook than those who are primarily or entirely Atlantic-oriented. Even Canada has been waking up under the Harper government — and of course Harper is the first prime minister who is western and Pacific-oriented rather than Atlantic-oriented by origin and outlook.

    Australia will probably backslide under the rudd governmet for the next three or six years. But I suspect they will be woken up by a bang ad the nuclear tests get closer and closer to home.

  5. Right you are. I was wrong and Obama IS RIGHT. Get out. We lose more and more people and the govt (?) is not working.
    The fact is that we are building a huge permanent base there
    to add to the hundreds we have worldwide.Meanwhile at home,we have huge deficit, growing govt, intel that seems not to work; housing market disaster; dollar going into the pits; millions of illegals; terrible health coverage unless you have nice job with benefits and can say how great health coverage educational system that is lousy, and religious nutters denouncing global warming and science,.

    Are you better off than you were ten years ago? Yes for some. No for most Americans.

  6. I saw the Kaplan article earlier, as well as an interesting, somewhat related article by Harris, via Instapundit.

    I’ve been wondering for quite some time if the ebbing force of “warrior spirit” in this country, and the west in general, could continue much longer without serious consequences. As Kaplan demonstrates much more comprehensively than I ever could, it is, and will continue to be, a very serious problem well into the future.

    And now, as some seemed determined to hijack this thread, as they have so many others, with worn out variations of “my politics (or politician)is better than yours”, I won’t bother going any further.

    It would be so nice to have an intelligient conversation in depth about such issues, without the mandatory intrusion by political advocates and their lists of out-dated talking points that they recite endlessly, like memorized catechisms from the “Church of what everyone I know was saying last month”. Ah well…

  7. Yes, Mr. Hill, pull out. Should have done that numerous times from the Fetterman Massacre to the Little Big Horn. All those wasted efforts for decades. Corrupt governments. Insurgent natives. There were issue to deal with east of the Mississippi, who needed this ‘West’ idea. From Robert Utley’s Frontier Regulars:
    “Chapter 4. The Army, Congress, and the People. Sherman’s frontier regulars endured not only the physical isolation of service at remote border posts; increasingly in the postwar years they found themselves isolated in attitudes, interests, and spirit from other institutions of government and society and, indeed from the American people themselves…Reconstruction plunged the army into tempestuous partisan politics. The frontier service removed it largely from physical proximity to population and, except for an occasional Indian conflict, from public awareness and interest. Besides public and congressional indifference and even hostility, the army found its Indian attitudes and policies condemned and opposed by the civilian officials concerned with Indian affairs and by the nation’s humanitarian community.”

    Gee, sounds so familiar.

  8. I read both Harris’s and Kaplan’s articles. I agreed with many of the points raised, and I recommend them.

    Upon returning from several years abroad, including two years in Iraq, I find myself amazed whenever I hear any American dismiss any mention of a threat to the US as merely some sort of propaganda. I am at times amused, but more dismayed, when I read opinions supporting the idea that if America was just less internationally dominant, and enacted more “likeable” policies, all would be well.

    While I don’t want to be alarmist and claim the wolf is at the door, there are genuine threats that seek to destroy America, but first and most importantly, minimize America’s involvement and influence outside its own borders so that something far less benevolent than democracy can be imposed.

    Trotsky may not have said anything else that I’d agree with, but this quote, “You may not be interested war, but war is certainly interested in you”, is a truth that one should not forget. The nationalism, or religious fanaticism, demonstrated by other sects or nations may not be be understood by us, given credence by us, or fully appreciated by us, but it should be examined by us as a genuine motivation for conflict. The possibility that conflict might occur is what we need to recognize, and we also need to prepare for it, and hope we never have to enact those plans.

  9. Kaplan’s historical timeframe is not long enough.

    Anglospheric countries historically do not like their armies and would like to do without them and fill their armies during the periods between major wars with ethnic and regional minorities who have a military heritage.

    I was looking at The Regulars: the American Army, 1898-1941 by Edward M. Coffman. There is a lot of material in there about how the public at large had disdain for the Army in the period after WWI. One lady recalls being shunned at school by the other girls because her father “killed people for a living”. This was in the 1920s.

    The period from 1941-1965 was one of extremely unusual unanimity.

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