Classics and the Public Sphere

From a WSJ op-ed: “As Tennessee expands possibilities for new charter schools, critics are assailing classical education. Some of these schools teach students about the sages and scoundrels of ancient Greece and Rome.” In The New Republic, a public school teacher from New York seems concerned that classics-focused schools promote “retreat from the public sphere” along with sundry bad things such as “nationalistic exaltation of Western civilization.”

Now, a little thought and historical reading will demonstrate that study of the classics is entirely consistent with participation in the public sphere, including participation at very high levels–in the US and in other countries as well. But the issue is more fundamental than this.  Is participation in the public sphere–which I read in this context to largely mean political activism–really the only thing that matters in life?

In his superb memoir, the Russian rocket developer Boris Chertok mentions a friend who was a Red Army officer and was also an excellent poet. It was understood that he would never be promoted. Why–did the Red Army have something against poetry? By no means.  Did this man write poems that criticized the regime?  No–he did not mention Stalin, did not mention political affairs at all.   And that was his offense.  Writing good poetry was not sufficient, every poet had to sing the praises of Stalin and of the regime.  Unfortunately, we have people in America today who believe that every subject, whether poetry, history, science, or music, must be viewed only through the lens of an endless group-against-group struggle for power.  And education in these–and all–subjects should focus on that power struggle and on what is perceived as the urgent need to put everything in a form that will be ‘relevant’ to the daily lives of students and to whatever are the hot topics and issues of the time.


The University of Oklahoma recently ran a job ad for an Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre Performance…which includes the following:

We are seeking an acting teacher/stage director in musical theatre who, through their work and mentorship, can equip our majors with the skills to develop their unique artistic voice, explore and expose oppressive structures and power dynamics within our culture and artform, and increase the incorporation of inclusive pedagogies in our classrooms.

The same trends apparently exist in the UK.  Here’s a story from 2005:

Instead of learning science, pupils will “learn about the way science and scientists work within society”. They will “develop their ability to relate their understanding of science to their own and others’ decisions about lifestyles”, the QCA said. They will be taught to consider how and why decisions about science and technology are made, including those that raise ethical issues, and about the “social, economic and environmental effects of such decisions”.

They will learn to “question scientific information or ideas” and be taught that “uncertainties in scientific knowledge and ideas change over time”, and “there are some questions that science cannot answer, and some that science cannot address”. Science content of the curriculum will be kept “lite”. Under “energy and electricity”, pupils will be taught that “energy transfers can be measured and their efficiency calculated, which is important in considering the economic costs and environmental effects of energy use”. (The above is from John Clare’s article in the Telegraph.)

According to Melanie Phillips: “The reason given for the change to the science curriculum is to make science ‘relevant to the 21st century’. This is in accordance with the government’s doctrine of ‘personalised learning’, which means that everything that is taught must be ‘relevant’ to the individual child.”

2005 was a long time ago–I don’t know whether or not this curriculum is still in place in the UK; I use it as an example because it makes a certain kind of thinking very clear.  The class is not really about Science, it is about ‘Society’, and everything that is taught must be ‘relevant’ to the child.

It is a natural human characteristic to be curious about the universe you live in. Schools should encourage this curiosity, not smother it in the name of a fake “relevance.”  It is not wise or wholesome to turn all subjects–from math to history to physics to theatre arts–into ‘social studies’.

In A Preface to Paradise Lost, C S Lewis contrasts the characters of Adam and Satan, as developed in Milton’s work:

Adam talks about God, the Forbidden tree, sleep, the difference between beast and man, his plans for the morrow, the stars and the angels. He discusses dreams and clouds, the sun, the moon, and the planets, the winds and the birds. He relates his own creation and celebrates the beauty and majesty of Eve…Adam, though locally confined to a small park on a small planet, has interests that embrace ‘all the choir of heaven and all the furniture of earth.’  Satan has been in the heaven of Heavens and in the abyss of Hell, and surveyed all that lies between them, and in that whole immensity has found only one thing that interests Satan.. And that “one thing” is, of course, Satan himself…his position and the wrongs he believes have been done to him. “Satan’s monomaniac concern with himself and his supposed rights and wrongs is a necessity of the Satanic predicament…”

One need not believe in a literal Satan, or for that matter be religious at all, to see the force of this. There is indeed something Satanic about a person who has no interests other than themselves.  There do seem to be a lot of people today whose interests are largely restricted to themselves and to the endless struggle for power.

The University of Oklahoma job ad that I referenced above also includes this:

This artist should be an inventive storyteller, innovative teacher, and joyful colleague prepared to inspire our majors to become leaders in a more equitable theatre industry for the 21st century.

Somehow, U-Oklahoma’s job ad doesn’t make me think that their Theatre Arts department is going to be a very joyful place.  Most emotionally well people do not seek to subordinate all aspects of life to ideology and its ever-changing enforcement of The Current Thing.

But some people actually like living that way.  In his memoir of life in Germany between the wars, Sebastian Haffner describes a period under Weimar when some degree of economic and political stability was achieved (which accomplishment he credits to Gustav Stresemann), and most people were happy about it:

The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.

Most people were happy, but not everybody:

A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.


To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.

We seem to have a lot of people today in the US–and elsewhere in the West–the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions.  

See also my related post, Life in the Fully Politicized Society.

Previously posted at Ricochet.

110 thoughts on “Classics and the Public Sphere”

  1. “There is indeed something Satanic about a person who has no interests other than themselves.”

    Not really, you have described a strong narcissist, and the cause of that is genes. I know a couple and they do not actually have a lot of choice in how they react to the world. They also have real problems learning social skills, and as they cannot be wrong, cannot learn anything that requires failure.

    A curse in fact. I guess we can get to evil that way, but the people involved have little choice.

  2. My middle school daughter has spent the last several weeks of English class reading a book about bullying. They read very few “classics” in school anymore as far as I can tell. Certainly they read far, far more “contemporary” books than I can remember.

  3. I have noticed the similarities between the young if today, and those if the Weimar Republic, and find it unsettling. I also have concluded that the Left wants it that way, as they can control the poorly educated young people by this system of controlling their options for what they need, an inculcating them in the belief that living their lives in that manner is a good way of life, that should be defended with violence, if needed.

  4. I feel sorriest for those students of any age who just want to learn … music, the literary classics, history, science … whatever and not feel like they are being drafted and force-marched into a social protest movement.

  5. Young people have long regarded nonsense fed to them by their elders in exactly the correct way. I see a deep undercurrent of common sense in them. They are nice enough to not say so out loud – the inclusion/anti-bullying gospel has had that unintended effect – but they know much of the political agenda being dished up is B.S.


  6. I feel like I have to point out that the percentage of students actually interested in learning, and who manage that feat in formal schooling…? Has always been vanishing rare.

    Lots rarer than we’d like to remember, TBH.

  7. I hope the U-Oklahoma course includes proper operation cappuccino machines. I wonder how many new openings there are in musical theater compared to how many students there are in all the schools. More, how much will the taxpayers be on the hook for in eventually forgiven loans?

    If you look at the origin of universities, you see that they were intended to educate clergy. Not village priests that were barely literate but the younger sons of the nobility that saw having a connection to the church hierarchy as advantageous as a marriage connection. To that end, the course of study was mainly theology, philosophy, including natural philosophy, what came to be science, and mathematics, including, at that time, music. A very important survival skill was how to discus theology without “falling” into heresy which could end very badly.

    In this respect, modern schools are treading very ancient ground indeed. We already see people willing, even anxious to condemn someone to prison for some perceived offense to orthodoxy, can the stake be far behind?

    It doesn’t take much effort to imagine St. Felicia, late of the Washington Post, avidly stacking the faggots at the feet of her latest victim. I’m sure there will be carbon offsets available when needed.

  8. The thing that we’ve witnessed, over the last many generations of life here in the West, has been academia gradually infiltrating, encompassing, and essentially hijacking the process of becoming an adult. Along with centralizing it all, making them the gatekeepers to “the good life” and “success”.

    This is an unnatural state of affairs, particularly given that at the same time, academia has been gradually divorcing itself from the real world, insulating the education/training process from consequence and accountability.

    The “Education” departments are good examples of this. First and foremost, they’re one-way “fad machines” pushing stuff out into the lower-level schools with no accountability or feedback based on actual results. Look how long it has taken to discredit “Whole Language” as a means of teaching kids how to read; were those education departments of the various universities and colleges forced into accountability for their products, and forced to have some sort of feedback loop, like getting their budget cut due to a lack of results in the schools where their product (teachers) is failing to function as promised…?

    The real problem in the West right now is this lack of feedback in the control mechanisms and the accompanying lack of accountability. The reason the FBI has gotten away with corruption since forever is that J. Edgar established the policy that nobody, ever, called them on their incompetence or bullshit. And, Congress hasn’t been doing its job, likely because good ol’ J. Edgar knew where all the bodies were (perhaps literally) buried. The FBI should have been disestablished about the time that it became clear that Deep Throat ™ was a serving FBI agent, Mark Felt. The fact that it wasn’t? Coupled with all the failed entrapment schemes, or the ones that blew up into mass-murders?

    FBI and the intel agencies have proven that they can’t be trusted. The men who warned against establishing them were absolutely right, and they should have been listened to.

    The whole thing is a mess that I don’t think we’re going to get out of, without some serious ugliness. Watching what’s been going on in DC the last couple of years, the only way forward that I can see is shutting down multiple agencies and salting the earth, along with preventing the employees of those agencies ever working in government in any capacity, even dog catcher.

  9. It’s easy to dump on theater and dance majors, but what about the departments of fashion merchandising and food-service management?

    Are those topics worthy of -academic- status?

    I worked with a lot of smart men and women from the B-school. Outside their own narrow specialties in the service of corporate America, they generally had little to add to the world’s corpus of knowledge.

  10. “The Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B” from Douglas Adam’s Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy is a perfect example of fashion merchandising and food-service management. ;)

  11. @Cousin Eddie;

    “It’s easy to dump on theater and dance majors, but what about the departments of fashion merchandising and food-service management?

    Are those topics worthy of -academic- status?

    I worked with a lot of smart men and women from the B-school. Outside their own narrow specialties in the service of corporate America, they generally had little to add to the world’s corpus of knowledge.”

    OK… I read this, and the first thought was that I’d somehow engaged your defenses (justifiable, in my opinion) of academia, but then I had a bit of a long-form epiphany.

    Here would be the gist of that, expressed in early-term thinking: The problem isn’t necessarily in “academia” or “scholarship”, but in the falsity that’s present in a lot of those things, these days.

    At one and the same time, we’re suffering from too much of it, and too damn little. Go look at things out in the real world wherein there’s a metric ton of what we’d term “tacit knowledge” or “tribal knowledge”, stuff that isn’t studied, isn’t codified, and so far as academia is concerned, doesn’t exist because it is too trivial to study or investigate. Nobody has studied or gone in to really reliably codify things like “Just how do primary groups form in the military? What are the key steps to forming them? How do you reliably reproduce these things, rather than what we’re doing now, which is artisanal and a product of informal organizational “knowledge”?”

    And, at the same time, while there is all that going unstudied, uncredited, and contemptuously dismissed by academia, you also have these useless things that are turned into academic programs and dignified with excessive deference. Who ever heard of a degree in “fashion merchandising” before the late 20th Century, and required that credential before hiring a retail sales girl in some boutique? I mean, seriously… WTF?

    It’s like there’s a madness. I honestly can’t see why you’d need to “academize” fashion in the first place, outside of a historical context, but… Good grief, the insane prioritization demonstrated here. Who the hell is sitting around going “Yeah, we need a three-level degree program to sell frocks, around here…”?

    I think it’s undeniable that the bubble has been lost, along the way. I remain baffled that so much is discounted as unimportant, and unworthy of study, while other things are turned into trivial disciplines and “force-credentialed”.

    And, it goes the other way, as well: Yes, the “academization” has gone mad, in some ways, but the converse is also true: The guys out there with the tacit knowledge, who grew up in the various tribal knowledge-dependent cultures are notably taciturn and entirely, to coin a term “a-intellectual”. They don’t formally think about the things they do, they just do them. There’s zero introspection, and zero awareness that the things they know are even important and should be passed on to others. The men and women populating this quiet world do not appreciate the importance or the depth of their knowledge; they assume that “everyone knows”, and never give voice to their hard-won secrets.

    It is a two-way street; the rubber-meets-road types in the Army, who came up the ranks from the bottom? They’re almost entirely inarticulate in the codes and words of the men who came in laterally, with college degrees, to run things. If you can’t express your ideas in terms those academized types can process, you might as well not even voice them in the first place. And, because we draw too fine a line between the two sorts of knowledge, there’s generally zero appreciation for or any attempt on the part of the academized to capture that knowledge. Which is one reason they keep repetitively inventing the wheel, time and time again.

    We draw too fine a line between those who do and those who exist on the separate level of the academic. The fault is on both sides of the line; the guys with the tacit knowledge do not seek to understand, to study the things they know, and because they do not, they are entirely beyond the understanding of the sort that go to college and gain all their life-knowledge in that abstract and rarefied manner.

  12. Couldn’t agree more, Kirk. I don’t claim vast experience of the world, but I have had a variety of blue- and white-collar jobs and went into academe knowing what I liked and what the alternatives were.

    But my interests (if not necessarily my opinions) are ur-conservative: history, libraries, archives, museums . . . The essentials of what used to be called Western Civ (or any self-respecting civ).

    One of the things that I was vocal about in my sphere was the pretense that our schools (at any level) are “preparing our children for the future.” As if academics in general have any better or clearer vision of the future than Sister Ruby.

    As a sometime history prof and frequent public speaker, I concede that it takes a certain amount of pomposity and pretension to try to explain or interpret the theoretically knowable past–thousands or hundreds of years skimmed in a few dozen hours, for the benefit of the not very interested–but how much more pomp and pretense is there in divining the future?

  13. I have a daughter who has a BA in Anthropology, an MS in Library Science and who was a Bernie Bro in 2016. She was kind of messed up but in the last five years she has gotten married and had a daughter. She was 40 when her daughter was born and says it changed her life. Her husband is a fairly successful sculptor and an incredible artist. He sells his work online so he can work from anywhere. She bought a 5 acre piece of property in the Idaho panhandle before they were married for about $60,000. She has friends who have built a house on an adjacent 5 acres. She told me yesterday that she got the assessment notice and the property is now valued at $250,000. All this, especially her daughter, has changed her a lot. We were talking yesterday about her daughter and school. She is probably going to home school her. We talked about gas prices. We agreed that electric cars and trucks is a fantasy. There is no infrastructure to support a transition from “fossil fuels.”

    Wonderful what a dose of reality can do for a Bernie Bro. She has always been the one of my kids I can talk to, even when she was a lefty.

  14. Wonderful what a dose of reality can do for a Bernie Bro.
    It surely is. Most of them are from very well off or wealthy families and have never had to deal with hard reality. I love it when reality smacks them upside the head with a 2X4.

  15. Supposedly, Thucydides said something like this:

    ” A nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its laws made by cowards and its wars fought by fools.”

    The use of “warrior” here is a poor choice; the connotations of “warrior” vs. “soldier” are beyond the scope of what I’m getting at with this, but I think that the quote, whoever said it, tugs at a thread which badly needs pulling.

    There should be absolutely no division between scholarship and practice; the practitioner should be a student of his profession in all ways at all times. What is equally important is that the practitioner should communicate what he learns, seeking to refine and spread his knowledge to others.

    We have erred in drawing too fine a line between the academic and the practical; the practitioner is seen as a subject of study, not the student/scholar of his trade that the ideal would make him. This dichotomy which has grown up is observable in the sciences, as well as academia; where are the “gentleman scientists” of yore, whose observations and theses did so much to further basic science? Why are the contributions of such people denigrated and mocked, in our times, simply because they lack the requisite Ph.D after their name?

    Reality is what reality is. If you’re the “layman” making the observation, the observations are accurate, the theses you form from that observation is reproducible, and valid, what then does it matter that your name lacks the proper suffix?

    The fact that we lend credence to “authority” not because of observed reality but because “expert” tells me we’ve gone off the rails. Scholarship is all well and good, but if it’s scholarship based on error and fraud, what use is it no matter how carefully footnoted or cited by others? The prestige of the person denouncing an idea makes no difference to its truth; the same goes for adherents of that idea.

    History is replete with examples of this. Who believed in tectonic plates and continental drift, when the idea was first put forth? Most of the “established” school did not, denouncing the idea as purest fantasy. Same with the channeled scablands of Eastern Washington, when the idea of the great floods at the end of the last ice age were first laid out. And, yet… What of the “expertise” and authority of those who denied the reality of the observations made by the up-and-coming new ideas?

    Anyone with even a bad sense of history who sits here, today, and tells you all about how you ought to be listening to them because they’re parroting what some “expert” has told them (and, which they’ve likely misinterpreted, anyway…) should probably be ignored. The sad fact is, they are more likely to be wrong than the hoary expert correct; that’s the history of it all.

    The fact that the establishment in academia ignores much of the world that is held only within the tacit tribal knowledge of the practitioners and participants in a given process should tell us something, a thing which goes in both directions and which we need to learn from. The man out turning the screws has as much to say about the engineering of a given artifact as the man who conceived of it and the one who realized it in steel. They may be different things, things at odds with each other, but for the entire situation to move forward, each voice needs to recorded and given heed.

  16. @AVI:

    I remember in the wake of George Floyd’s death, someone had hung a sign on a pedestrian bridge over the freeway that was basically asking, Why waste time and lives by worrying over whether or not our preferred means will backfire?

  17. It does seem that, for science to move forward, the old gatekeepers or orthodoxy have to pass away from old age(or misadventure), letting the newer ones come in with the occasional open mind and new ideas. Who then in turn become the gatekeepers keeping out the wild and crazy stuff until the next generation.
    It seems to take a large amount of humility to allow progress to progress faster.

  18. It is a basic truth that the current collectivist totalitarians who run education, politics, and much of the economy cannot abide teaching of history and the Classics. First, there is the problem that to those in power, there can be no past so that they can change what they say and do at will without being noticed. Second, history [and the Classics] teach lessons. Not only past situations where problems may have solutions that the powers that be do not want to think about, but also that the individual has merit, worth, quality, and autonomy. That is the ultimate heresy, regardless of the culture the Classic comes from. Be it the tales of the fall of the Chin Dynasty and the rise of the Han, or the 300 at Thermopylae.

    Those who would control our thoughts, so they can control our bodies, and expend them at will must destroy any knowledge of past virtue.

    Subotai Bahadur

  19. Eddie,
    Theater, dance, music, arts degrees in general are easy targets if you believe that higher education is supposed to qualify one for a job because there are so few actual jobs outside of academia. My feeling is that artists, once they’ve learned the basics are much better served by doing art rather than by instruction. As a thought experiment, imagine what any gallery, or concert would be like if artists without an MFA were excluded. An MFA is a poor way to improve art and a dandy way to avoid confronting reality.

    If you wish, you may substitute engineer and engineering in the above statement to learn my opinion about STEM education in general.

    In general, those that can, do; those that can’t, go to graduate school.

  20. What Sabotai says about enduring lessons. About the individual, about heroism, stalwart virtue and all that.
    The memory of that must be eradicated in the for the good of that Brave New World.

  21. It’s easy to dump on theater and dance majors, but what about the departments of fashion merchandising and food-service management?

    Are those topics worthy of -academic- status?

    I see Kirk has already covered this with his usual aplomb, which very often renders my comments superfluous, but I have an anecdote that I believe is directly relevant to this topic.

    Many years ago, I worked at a store. My job was to put food on the shelves. Low-level management jobs were filled by people who had done that job and were judged by higher level management as capable of- well, low level management. Some people weren’t, and weren’t offered a management job.

    Sounds rational, right? I was never interested in making retail a career so I departed that field as soon as I could.

    Many years later, I just happened to wander into a big-box retailer right about the time the staff started their morning meeting. They were being introduced to their new manager, a young lady who looked to be about 20, but who had a magic credential in the form of a degree in “retail management.” I also happened to notice that most of the staff were much older than this young lady, and certainly knew the specifics of that job much better than she could have.

    Gosh. This incident was at least fifteen years ago, and it still itches my brain. No no no no no food-service management, retail management, etc, etc, don’t require any sort of “academic training” at all. Those jobs require people willing to learn and understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

    You know, I just don’t think the present American educational establishment is interested or capable of producing those sort of folks. Instead, we get thoroughly credentialed dolts who expect and demand that their underlings teach them how to do their job, assuming they want to do their job at all.

    To uncork a cliche, this won’t end well- but it will end.

  22. PenGun

    “The Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B” from Douglas Adam’s Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy is a perfect example of fashion merchandising and food-service management. ;)”

    It’s worth remembering that the Golgafrinchans died because the people aboard Ark Fleet Ship B weren’t around to do the jobs their ‘betters’ had decided weren’t important.

  23. Forget too much history and we could end up in a real-world version of the plight of the colonists in The Power of the Daleks, who were so ignorant of history they fell for the “I am your ser-vant” BS.

  24. @Boobah,

    I noted that same thing, when I first encountered it. The actual targets of that piece by Adams are the ones who miss the point you’re making, there.

    My own opinion on the issue is that Adams wrote for entertainment, and anyone attempting to elicit deep wisdom out of his work, in any direction, is an idiot. He was trying to be funny, and ironically funny, at that. The average person isn’t going to grasp that, and so the surface layer is there for them to laugh at: “Oooh, see, there’re all those unnecessary types they got rid of…”, while the deeper one that the “elites” of their world failed to comprehend their function and importance to keeping things going whizzes right past their heads. It’s a bit of a Rorschach test, in that if you point and laugh at the surface humor of the silly Ark B types falling for the scam perpetrated on them by their betters, you’re probably of a sufficiently immature mindset that you’d join in on the project, yourself. Nascent totalitarian, in other words. It’s funnier, because they mostly can’t recognize themselves as such, either… Just like most of the “woke” can’t see that they’re objectively more fascist than the people they denounce to each other.

    On the subject of academizing these things like “fashion merchandising” and “restaurant management”, I’m of a mind that it’s not necessarily that we are doing it, but more that we’re doing it wrong. Instead of taking in high school students and force-feeding them a course of study on how to run a boutique and sell fripperies, you really ought to be targeting people who’re already in that industry and working to provide them with the tools to do better at their jobs. You shouldn’t move into “fashion merchandising” from a course of study at some institution of higher learning, you should instead be honing the skills you are already using, so that you can do better with them. 20-somethings should not be taking out loans for tens of thousands of dollars to get an education in something they basically pick off the wall down in the counselor’s office. Instead, they ought to be out trying things to see what they like to do, what they’re good at, and only then going to school if it is truly necessary to their vocation. The college degrees in things like restaurant management ought to be things you do in the course of your career working as a manager in a restaurant, honing skills and adding to them. The idea that some kid in their twenties is going to go to a school with some abstract and likely out-of-date course of study and then be parachuted in to run a restaurant or something when they’ve graduated from college and still don’t have actual work experience…? Utterly preposterous. Yet, we do that all the damn time. Why?

  25. In the music world, some of the best names were people who were self-taught.
    Interacting with other musicians later on may have polished up some of the rough spots, but they were already performing at a high level.
    I suspect the performing arts in other areas have their own examples.

  26. “The idea that some kid in their twenties is going to go to a school with some abstract and likely out-of-date course of study and then be parachuted in to run a restaurant …”

    Within living memory, the kid who went to college had worked on some front line job in a restaurant or retailer or yard maintenance squad. They had worked with people — adults — and had seen some of the issues up close & personal.

    Now those jobs are often filled by illegal immigrants, and anyway daddy’s little princess is too precious to waste her time bussing tables in a restaurant. Instead, she is polishing her college application by volunteering for some activist group or by getting ready for a Euro-style gap year hiking in Asia. Then a suitable college credential and she will be ready to run the show.

    Somewhere along the way, we lost the plot. I am optimistic that we will eventually find our way back — but getting to that point is going to hurt.

  27. “We agreed that electric cars and trucks is a fantasy. There is no infrastructure to support a transition from ‘fossil fuels'”

    Perhaps in a lot of the world this is true. In BC we have 5 million people, and sell power to America. BC Hydro has said it can easily deal with an all electric car situation and is encouraging it. As its a part of the BC Utilities Commission, it does follow direction from our government. Interestingly there are laws that require BC Hydro to buy clean power from the private sector and they provide almost 20% of our power now. So 20% is clean power built to sell to BC Hydro, so some people seem to be able to make a buck off clean power. We may never have to build Site C. ;) Our power in BC is also 98% clean.

    Anyway our “commie” system is quite able to deal with an all electric car situation in BC. In fact the plan is to invest fairly heavily in Hydrogen and ramp up our electric use, as both petroleum and natural gas are phased out. This will of course take a quite long time.

    For me its $8+ a gallon, against $20 a month. We do have the most expensive gas on the continent. ;)

    To remain OT, I was bullied at a very young age, and it was the classics that saved me. I loved Kipling and the Jungle Books and so much of Shakespeare. I guess taught very well, to a weedy 8 year old. A good British education if you will. I don’t despair for the young, but I do feel sorry for them. So much wealth, not passed on. ;(

  28. The progressions Kirk describes (school and theory –> life and practice; life and practice –> school and theory) are real enough, and for my part I’m a fan of learning while doing.
    (I also thought of the warrior/thinker line too, but couldn’t recall the attribution.)

    But just to lard the dish a little more, many universities (like my own) have “University College” bachelors and masters programs that are aimed directly at the working guy or gal. They allow credit for certain experiences and -grant- credits and degrees based on sometimes very sketchy written projects. (They’re all online now, but one of my library department’s tasks was housing them, so I saw many. As also the archival set of masters and doctoral theses. I can’t begin to judge many–most–of them for lack of knowledge of the discipline, but the less said about some, the better. In fact I knew where the stinking bodies were buried, and could have embarrassed the holy heck out of the institution if I needed to.)

    Nothing against the fireman or nurse submitting a real-life complex staffing plan or the like in the form of a “Special Project” as evidence of having some sense and ability to communicate–more power to them. On the other hand, half-literate scrapbooks of the church youth group’s trip to Israel, or Ghana . . . not so much. The degree is styled “in Liberal Studies.”

    It was a schizo place–truly brilliant people from all over the world doing high level stuff, and graduate student and adjunct faculty smurfs trying to teach some of the dimmest and least-prepared students to be found anywhere.

  29. In the music world, some of the best names were people who were self-taught.
    Interacting with other musicians later on may have polished up some of the rough spots,

    My college room mate was one such. He was a music major and never went to class. He would come down to lunch in the fraternity house in his pajamas. His instrument was the bass violin but he could play anything. His career later was in a musical comedy act with a high school buddy. They did some shows with other groups like “The New Christy Minstrels.”

  30. Several years ago, there was an ad from Webster University on the right side of my FB page…can’t imagine why…but it said “One Night a Week Can Change Your Life. Become the Next Innovator.”

    People don’t become innovators by spending one night a week…or five days a week…in a classroom, they become innovators by actually practicing innovation on whatever scale they can manage at a given time, and by associating with other people who are innovatively-oriented. Maybe classes can help with certain specific skills, but the idea that going to some university is the key to becoming an innovator is excessive hype, on a par with an ad asserting that buying some particular car is the absolute key to making oneself attractive to the girls.

  31. Part of the problem is culture, as well. Who lauds the factory foreman or manager who spends his life looking around at things, thinking deeply, and then writing about the prosaic minutiae of his workplace?

    Yet, that “trivial” sort of thing is the environment that an awful lot of people spend their entire working lives dwelling in.

    We do not encourage mindfulness in people at all levels, which I think is a tragedy. You absolutely should be looking around yourself, thinking, reflecting, and improving yourself and the world around you. Yet, we don’t encourage this mindset anywhere but among the “elites”, and then wonder why we have crappy, thoughtless people feeding into the “elite creation machine”.

    I used to work around a bunch of jackasses who constantly spoke about “establishing centers of excellence”, who wouldn’t have known true excellence if it walked up and bit them in the ass. They thought that putting the sign out in front of the building would do it, aping form rather than trying to actually emplace a culture of excellence. Indeed, most of what they actually did in daily life was destructive of anything which was actually excellent, because they were micro-managing zero-defect assholes who wouldn’t trust a subordinate with the authority to get staples out of the office supply cabinets. Those were under lock and key, and I literally had to walk out of that work center with a bundle of unstapled documents that I had to take back to my office across post and staple myself, then return. Doing that was only marginally faster than just going to the PX and buying them a box of staples, but I refused to participate in the madness with my own money. The guy running the shop was just tired of the stupid, and was practicing aggressive malign compliance.

    This is unfortunately a deeply-rooted issue in our society. Nobody in the Army NCO corps writes much about what goes into their jobs, because of two primary factors: One, they’re mostly inarticulate in the terms that the college-afflicted would understand, and two, they’re not ever taught to actually think or observe the things going on around them. They merely exist in a sea of organizational procedure without ever stopping to look around and say “OK, yeah… We’ve always done it that way, but… Is it working? Why the hell did we start doing things in that manner, if it doesn’t work…?”

    Of course, part of the problem is that we don’t respect or honor the tacit tribal knowledge holders anywhere in our society. Everyone looks at the org chart, and says “Yeah, the CEO is muy importante, the big man, el Jefe…”, but they forget that good ol’ Bob couldn’t find his executive washroom without Barbara, his long-suffering executive assistant who’s actually the person you need to talk to if you want Bob to actually do anything. And, everyone underneath the company board and higher executives know damn good and well that when Barbara retires, they’d either better find someone else to do her job, fire Bob, or the company is gonna go bankrupt.

    The org chart and the company “structure” is oftentimes a fiction, while the people in the company who “make it happen” are doing things following an entirely different schema, one that works. Such things remain undocumented, because the academia-raised hothouse flowers they bring in to run things aren’t taught to appreciate such things or even look for them. The sad reality is that there’s a lot of cruft in almost all of our organizations, and the reason it’s there is because we really do not know or understand how the organization under examination actually works. Mostly because we’re oblivious, paying attention to the pretty-pretty formal org charts and all the rest of the impedimential bullshit created by the mis-educated dolts we feed in as managers of things they don’t understand and likely couldn’t do in the absence of the existing company culture.

    It’s a twofold problem, one where there’s both too much of the wrong kind of academy-inspired bullshit, and then not enough of what we might term “the study of ambient knowledge” where actual best working practices reside.

    I think that education does a serious disservice to everyone, in a lot of ways. One way that strikes me as particularly pernicious is that they teach everything in isolation; there’s no attention paid to teaching the student how to use these intellectual tools in daily life. Everything is taught as an isolated discrete art, leaving it to the individual to work out how the hell to go about actually using those tools in their daily life, implementing them effectively.

    Case in point–I was just talking to a recent high school grad, and I was appalled and aghast at how poorly they expressed themselves in writing. Inquiry led to the rather stunning information that he’d never, ever been shown how or been asked to write a short narrative description of something that had happened, or how to express information with any clarity in writing something as simple as a note on a refrigerator about why there was a sample of dog feces inside…

    Schools are abysmal at preparing people for everyday life. You wonder why nobody gives a crap about it? It’s because it’s been made entirely irrelevant to the lives of the students. Who cares about writing a damn paper in perfect accordance with MLA standards, when they can’t clearly explain on paper the most basic things in daily life? Swear to God, high school English ought to include a block of instruction on “how to write a witness statement” and “how to write an important note”. Based on what I’m seeing out in the world where the products of that education wind up, they aren’t even touching on these things.

    And, we wonder why much of what I’m talking about is going on. You don’t get clear, articulate thinking and writing about their lives and work from people you’ve never bothered to teach that to, or demanded it from. Which is why there is this vast submerged iceberg consisting of the 90% or more of life that exists outside the academy, and which is entirely invisible to the average college-afflicted person.

  32. I agree that writing skills are abysmal among high school grads but it doesn’t stop there. College students are also terrible at writing papers. I think it goes back to teaching grammar. The nuns taught us to diagram sentences. I wonder how many schools still teach that?

  33. Practically none, I think. No one taught me to diagram sentences, and I am still a little boggled by the concept, although I can see the logic in it. I wish that they had in the schools that I attended. Honestly, I think that I first ever encountered the whole concept of it was in one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s final books, when she was demonstrating her learning and wound up teaching school … at the age of fifteen or so.

  34. Diagramming sentences? Oh no! It’s bad enough over at the Prof’s.

    I read and wrote well, so diagramming was to my mind an utter waste of time. IMO the better readers and writers don’t need it and the others are frustrated by it.

    My mother’s oldest sibling was married to a civilian two-star at the Pentagon, and brushed off her teaching skills in the late 60s and early 70s, trying to teach Basic English to draftees. High school grads, most of them, but even then the illiteracy rate was huge.

    Oldsters may recall “McNamara’s Retards” (that’s the way we talked back then)–the attempt to get some military use out of very low quality inductees. And the Neocon Neocrusades ended up requiring the lowering of standards just to keep the slots filled.

  35. “Yet, we do that all the damn time. Why?”
    Because our betters, especially but only the ones in the Democrat party, want everyone to be shuttled through the university indoctrination and re-education centers. It’s a comprehensive social engineering project, it has nothing to do with education or economic imperative or otherwise.

  36. I dunno, Cousin Eddie, about the characterization of McNamara’s attempt at social engineering. I actually worked with some of those guys early in my career, and the thing you have to remember is that just because someone does badly on standardized tests, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actually objectively stupid. The years winnowed out the real dummies, and the tiny percentage of the ones left who I encountered were mostly very canny dyslexics who managed to overcome their various issues through sheer persistence and some rather adroit subterfuge.

    I have to credit the McNamara initiative for giving those guys an opportunity; I also have to decry the human cost with the vast majority of the other examples, which was huge.

    However, I think you have to go back and research just what they thought they were doing. I think it may have been an early example of the same magical thinking that reversed causality with regards to the whole “home ownership” scheme back in the 1990s and early 2000s: Giving someone the trappings and outward signs of middle-class bourgeoisie does not actually imbue those people with middle-class values or the accompanying attributes of success. The men who came up with McNamara’s Hundred Thousand, as it was known for some period, thought that since military veterans were more successful in life than non-veterans, it was not fair to block a huge swathe of the population from service. The thought process, if we can dignify it with such a term, was reasoned exactly backwards from reality, and managed to confuse causality while they were at it. The correlation was “veterans do better”, but the reality was “veterans are carefully selected and atypical”.

    I remain suspicious of “standardized testing”. I do not believe that it does any more than provide a generalized sense of potential; the results are more a general indicator of predispositions rather then the outline of predestination we usually take them for. I’ve known some extraordinarily stupid people who proved their stupidity objectively on a daily basis, and yet who also managed to do really, really well on the tests they were given. I’ve also known some profound genius types that couldn’t pass a standardized test with the answer key in front of them… The only thing a test proves is that someone can do well on it, and given the general lack of fidelity between “test” and “real world”, I think we have lent them far too much credence.

  37. I’m pretty late to this party, but this is why I love math. Math is not political, can’t be bullied, won’t bully anyone, has no agenda, and gives you instant feedback if you do it incorrectly. You simply can’t inject anything into math, it is what it is and if you don’t like it, that’s too bad.

    Math in other forms such as physics punishes people on a daily basis whether it is driving too fast or poor engineering on a bridge – but traditional math such as basic adding and subtracting also punishes people – such as spending too much personally, and probably millions of other things.

    Math is immovable, has no emotions and can reward you if you can get a handle on it.

    Many people try to politicize math, such as when we are talking about Social Security or public budgets, but math really, really doesn’t care. It is completely agnostic no matter how much you jump up and down.

  38. I have to say that I find your reasoning more than a little flawed, Dan. Everything we study could be described in the same way you describe math, but once you inject people into doing the interpretation, you’ve immediately added irrationality into it. Math is exactly the same, because it’s a tool that can be used to argue whatever case the person using it wants to make–The old saw about “figures don’t lie, but liars figure…” comes to mind. Just because something is expressed in mathematical terms doesn’t mean it isn’t an emotional argument, at all. What it means is that someone is couching their emotional arguments using language and terms so as to cover up their emotional pleas.

    Yeah, there’s a certain stark beauty to math alone, but I have to disagree that there isn’t emotional content whenever it is cited. Who choses the data? Who does the calculations? All humans, and all are prone to tipping the scales in the direction of their desires.

    We’re all prone to this. I once carefully calculated and charted a proposed materials storage yard that I wanted to fit into a certain location. When I did the math and all the supporting work, it sure looked like it would be the optimal choice. Six months after putting it into effect, I had to admit I’d screwed up, and we needed to move the yard across post to another space. Looking back at it? Where I screwed up was in going by the factory specifications for the turning radiuses of the various vehicles, rather than by what our drivers and equipment operators could actually execute. Everything worked out elegantly as hell. On paper. Real world? Lanes were too narrow, not enough space left at the head ends of the storage bays. Real-world trumps calculation, every time. And, what led to this? My emotional desire to maintain the status quo and avoid moving everything. I should have listened to the guys who were saying “Yeah, this ain’t big enough for all this crap they’ve handed us…”

  39. Kirk – Why of course you can bend math to suit your own needs politically as in selectively taking certain statistics instead of presenting an entire picture, but that isn’t what I’m talking about. Math in and of itself is immovable and that is why I like it so much (math alone, as you presented).

  40. Kirk, have you ever heard the expression, “Measure twice and cut once?” That’s what you needed to do. It wasn’t math’s fault. Another expression is “GIGO, Garbage in, Garbage out.”

  41. I’m not blaming math. I’m pointing out that any human-involved field of study is prone to humans putting their thumbs on the scale; even pure math can wind up distorted because “reasons”. People reasons.

    There are no truly “pure” schools of anything; even math is infused with human prejudices and conceits–Which is the point I’m trying to make. You can manipulate math the same way you manipulate any endeavor, but you cannot use that math to change the world around you. When that math confronts the real, then “POOF!”, there goes all your carefully calculated reasoning, which you did using a human mind and human foibles.

    If you think your or anyone else’s math is irrefutable, well… I have news for you. Your math is as much an expression of your humanity as it is anything, and whether or not you picked the correct things to calculate is entirely up to the actual universe, not your sensibilities and aesthetics.

  42. In 1994 we got a new state-of-the-art university library building, superseding a patchwork of structures going back to 1928 in some parts. My department moved from a warren of odd spaces spread over several floors to a big space at the top front of the new building. Our view was so impressive that I shook hands with Xi one afternoon after he spoke on our campus as foreign minister, and they had to show something off–our view and our large installation of compact shelving–automated shelves with safety and security features, on rails, that could be moved to open and close access as needed.

    But when we moved in, crews were still doing the installation, physical and electronic, and it was obvious that a quick process was not in the cards. I could see it and the crew could see it, but The Suits, who breezed through now and then, kept up a steady steam of happy-talk about how soon everything would be done. Completely unmoored from physical realities.

    I ended up leaving the entire rare book collection and some other materials in the old building for a semester, and the library movers had to come back.

  43. Truer words were never spoke, Kirk. (Not to mention enormous investments in microcard, film, and fiche. In theory all you need is a bright light and a lens, but in reality the physical stock is subject to bricking, shedding, fading and more if not used or maintained. Which they increasingly weren’t.)

    I kept the paper catalogs and shelf list for my stuff long past the technology changes; I was lucky to have tenure and a certain popularity and indispensability, in a job that allowed substantial independence–until the last few years.

  44. Lots of interesting stuff from Luttwak, but if he honestly thinks this then he’s a dinosaur:
    “The Ukraine war taught China that the G7 run the world economy, period”
    And their discussion about DC is nonsensical.
    The elites are sleepwalking the world over the cliff.

  45. I have to agree, but for different reasons. The incompetence is palpable…

    The thing I love is the whole “Let’s destroy the eeevul “fossil-fuel” industry…” promise that every right-thinking person applauded. Now, a rational person would say to that “OK, what are your plans to replace that industry…?” No such realistic plans were ever discussed or even mentioned by the right-thinkers. And, again… Nobody called them on it. It was all nebulous promises which were never worked through to figure out how we could actually do such a thing.

    So, we “elected” a cabal of idiots who set out to destroy something vital to the economy and the health of the nation, who also did not have a realistic plan to replace said “something” with a workable replacement. Which speaks volumes as to the competency and priorities of those people, and their mass-media enablers.

    Someone should have been sitting there and saying to Joe Biden, at one of his notably crowded campaign rallies, “Hey, what do we do instead of fossil fuels…? Ya gonna make it easier to build nukes? Will there be a crash program for geothermal? Anything…? Buehler? Buehler…?”

    Oddly enough, nobody did. I put that same question to Biden “voters” back then, and they were left speechless. The plan was, apparently, that much like the guy building the baseball field in his cornfield, that if they were to “ban it, a replacement will come…”

    So. Here we are. Year and change into the Biden administration. Gas is over five bucks a gallon, diesel even higher, and they’ve basically proven true to their words. You’d have thought that a rational person would have had the replacement for fossil fuels in hand, before putting them out of business. However, comma… Not Joe BidenCo.

    Remind anyone of anything? Like, maybe… Sri Lanka?

    If we come out of this, I really hope people remember the way we got into this, and how much damage was done by these morons. Unthinkingly.

    If it was me, I’d have had the replacement infrastructure for fossil fuels at least under development before making it harder to extract said fossil fuels. Apparently, that wasn’t something the idiot class thought necessary…

  46. Luttwak, like most of us, has his crotchets and blindspots, but I think his reading of Ukraine is spot on. (I had the thought that in a showdown of Putin & Shoigu VS Kije’ & Oblomov, my money is on the senior pair.)

    As for China, he has seen them as a paper tiger for a long time; we’ll see.

    The Green Nude Eel is incoherent on so many levels it makes my head hurt. I don’t even bother discussing it with most renewables freaks.

  47. At this point, I don’t take any of the pronouncements of any of these “experts” at all seriously. Most of these people are instinctive con men, who’ve gotten to where they are via a network of connections they form during their apprenticeships in the lower depths of the various state and state-associated entities. Think about all the brilliance on display by Christopher Steele and his ilk, and recognize that much of the decision-making done these days is either by these people, or supported by them.

    Luttwak has a little more credibility with me, but let’s be honest: He’s a regime lackey, not in the sense that he’s especially beholden to any one in particular, but he is deeply invested in the system. Because of that, he has his biases and his unquestioned assumptions, which often go unstated.

    End of the day, he’s a part of the complex edifice making up our dysfunctional systems of governance. Luttwak was one of the guys whose pronouncements were used to dismiss the idea that we’d ever have to deal with anything like the IED campaign in Iraq or the one in Afghanistan. I’ve read his stuff for years, and one of the problems I have with him is that he’s someone who has made up his mind about things, and once having done so, is unable to process the world in any other manner than the one he conceived. Militarily speaking, I think he’s got some good things to say, some good points to make, but overall? I think he’s actually part of the problem.

    Where I think we’re all getting screwed is this issue of ideology, wherein some idiot makes their mind up about something, builds an entire worldview out of that decision, and then convinces others that they’ve actually worked out how the entire world works. The ongoing destruction of the fossil fuel industry under BidenCo. is a perfect example of this ideology-driven processing of the world around us. Someone made the convincing presentation to these people that the fossil fuel industry was the source of all our problems, and that if we could just do away with it, we’d solve all our problems. Using this mental framework, the ideologically-bound idiots in BidenCo. are actually putting this worldview into effect. And, they are entirely unable to pragmatically observe and process the results, changing course now that reality is demonstrating that their thesis is false.

    Same thing with the BLM and criminal-enabling prosecutors who’ve torn down the criminal justice system around us. They claim to act from an interest in improving life for their minority voting block, but the actual reality is that they’re doing rather more to destroy it than anything else. Yet… Failure to observe and process the actual effect of their ideas once enacted.

    This is the problem across our civilization, and I think that a lot of it begins in the schools, where everyone is taught these things that are taken as gospel truths. The sad reality is that much of what is taught in our education system is purely ideological in origin, and that the base ideologies that they based those things on simply do not work. Witness the rampant BS across the “homeless industry”. Where do you see anyone within the government or NGO agencies tasked by society with dealing with who are objectively analyzing and processing the failures to deal with this entire horrid situation? I’ve yet to see one, anywhere.

    Ideology blinds and binds; once you adopt such a thing, as so many in our institutions have (I’d include Luttwak in that number…), nearly everyone ceases to actively observe and examine what they see. Instead, they substitute the ideology for fact and effect, ignoring any and all evidence that refutes their preconceived notions of what should be the results of their acts and policies.

    Ideology kills. If you don’t have an actual OODA loop running, evaluating the things you’re doing while observing the effects of those things, you’re doomed to failure. And, that includes the vast majority of the people engaged in governance across our civilizations.

  48. The watermelons (greens on the outside and red on the inside) aren’t trying to achieve a world with better, cheaper, cleaner, more available energy. Their goal is more state control of energy, and they’re doing a pretty good job at achieving that.

    The notion that Western institutions are somehow all-powerful and cannot be threatened is insane and will be the downfall of us all.
    China and Russia don’t want a seat at the table. They want to light the table on fire. Now maybe that will hurt them economically and is a Very Bad Idea, but it sure looks to me like that’s what they’re doing, and if Luttwak, who is supposed to be an unconventional, out-of-the-box, thinker, can’t see that, then he’s not just useless he’s dangerous.
    It’s already been three-plus months since Putin went all-in, and yes Luttwak is right, as many of us have been, about the clusterfark that was his Ukraine “plan”, but I see zero sign that anyone in the West with any authority anywhere has the recognition, let alone a plan, about what it’s going to mean for our societies when prices of everything continue to increase over the coming year. If your enemy makes a seemingly stupid and self-destructive move, you still have to have the ability to see the consequences and act accordingly. Pretending that he’s playing a “conventional” game is suicidal, like the cliche of the British Army continuing to wear red and march in neat formations against colonial irregulars.

  49. Luttwak: “The CIA’s assessments that Kabul would resist the Taliban for a long time and that Kyiv would fall in 24 hours are sufficient grounds for emptying out its buildings, fumigating them thoroughly, and restaffing with people who are actually interested in foreign countries and therefore know a language or two really well, and have traveled the world.”

    As the old saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  50. The problem for both Putin and the Chinese is that they’re acting against constructs that only really exist in their ideologically-driven imaginations. Putin thinks “Of course, the West wants to destroy and take over Russia…” The reality? The “West” he is thinking of doesn’t actually exist, and if it did, would want nothing to do with managing Russia. Same with China; they want to “get back” at people who’re long dead and utterly discredited. While simultaneously ignoring the things that their own leadership did which led to those things being done in the first place…

    The problem with what both Putin and the Chinese are doing is that their actions are what are actually calling into being the things they decry and are supposedly fighting against. Putin had this conception of NATO encircling Russia, but what was actually going on with NATO? It was slowly dissolving under the inherent self-interest of its members, and the corrosive effect of there being no real need for it in today’s world. So, what did he do with Ukraine? He’s actually done rather more for NATO than he’s done for Russia; he’s actually added two new members and managed to exponentially increase his borders with NATO states. Brilliant.

    Same with Xi, in China. He’s acted to “stabilize” the economy there, and accrue more power to himself and the CCP. Actual effect? You’re watching the economy implode, while he rips out the guts of what China could be with a strong entrepreneurial class leading innovation and development. Same thing that BidenCo. is doing with the fossil fuel industry…

    We’re governed by idiots, the world ’round. Effects of this are going to eventuate, because they’ve pretty much pulled all the slack out. China and Russia both need the peace and economic interconnection they are in the process of destroying. Where that takes them? LOL… Nobody knows, particularly our mutual governing class around the world.

  51. “The problem for both Putin and the Chinese is that they’re acting against constructs that only really exist in their ideologically-driven imaginations.”

    Not at all. America is going to be number two in a while and that is driving America crazy. This is why the support of Taiwan is being ramped up, to the Chinese’s great displeasure. This is why the continued attempts to form a coalition to oppose China in its own back yard are an ongoing thing. This why America wants Australia to have Nuclear Subs, I could go on for a long time.

    In 2014 Victoria Nuland boasted that the US had separated Ukraine from Russia and that the CIA spent 5 billion dollars doing this. They used the rather large Nazi component of Ukrainian society to do this coup, and installed them as the government. None of this is any doubt at all, we have the transcripts. So Ukraine in hostile hands is really an existential threat to Russia.

    We are governed by people who are at the top of their various competing factions and some are monsters. none of them are stupid, or they would not be where they are. Many of them have little choice as the are constrained by the relationships that are in place around the world. My country has no choice but to support America, well with the possible set of leaders we have now anyway.

    Putin is hated by the west, and continually thwarted as he ties to get deals made over Minsk among many other things. So he is just going to take what he needs, as no deals can be made. Russia can stand any sanctions, as they have had so many applied, and have arranged their economy accordingly.

    You are not especially smart yourself, and really if you think you are smarter than Putin and Xi, I have this bridge you might like. ;)

  52. “You’re watching the economy implode”
    Yeah, the American economy. I see zero evidence that Russia or China are, and they’re autocracies where people are used to being oppressed and in poverty. The West is far more fragile to the stresses that are already here, let alone those that are coming, not years from now, but in the coming months.

    (As for NATO, yay now “we” (meaning you and I, Americans, not Nigel or Hans or any other Euros) are going to be on the hook to defend Sweden and Finland (seems to me they’ve done a fine job defending themselves for the past 50 years, no?), and meanwhile I still see headlines that all the pukes with stars on their shoulders who run the place care about is rainblow flags and converting tanks to run on electricity.)

  53. he’s a curmudgeon, with a fascinating backstory as you see, years ago, in the aftermath of the oil embargo as miles ignotus, he had the modest proposal of seizing the Saudi oil fields, this was published in harpers, the notion made it into three days of the condor, the Russians were going for hybrid warfare initially, which is like counterinsurgency doctrine for us, operating on the cheap, this suggests that gerasimov drew up the battle plan, not shoigu, he’s the Turkic counterpart to the dense village idiot, gerasimov would be played by sam neil, or jeremy irons,always a little too clever by half, the velvet glove rather than the blunt fist of divertnikoff, the one who has been put in charge of this campaign. this failure of imagination has cost him 12 generals, includiing one of his kin, war is nasty brutish and short, or hell like sherman said, skimping on forces is a mistake,

    i think it was also in harpers where Luttvak, thought rightly that iraqis would not accept American sovereignty even if it entailed freedom, he got somethings wrong, Mayorkas is half greek although his soul is all vampire, Becerra is the mexican factotum, they put in the cabinet, Harris is as dim as she looks,

    david samuels his interlocutor, he was the one that allowed ben rhodes to confess about the whole iran deal echo chamber, and his proper opinion of American journalist, he had a great dialogue with the late codevilla, he often lets them speak extemporaneously, which some interjections, compare him with paul pillar or david petraeus, or john brennan they get things habitually wrong yes credited as an authority, again and again,

  54. Now I think this was a foolish and painful move on putin’s part, what was the urgency now, yes I don’t buy the intel that china offered him, as the real reason, sometimes there are impulses that aren’t rational, against one’s better judgement, czar nicholas 1, foolishly attacked the turkish fleet at sinope, incurring the wrath of the brits and the french, even though balaclava and inkerman, were slaughters, they prevailed in the end,

  55. remember me, I am susan sontag’s son, I made it big on books about miami and bosnia I think, and rendered some points about the iraq planning process, then dissapeared for a spell, regardless I think he has a point, about the bigger picture,

    the administration believed in hybrid warfare, because big shiny things, even though afghanistan and iraq, should have told them the folly of such thinking, also the wonders of powerpoint, that was mccrystals big selling point,

  56. Analysts from Sun Tzu onwards have been repeating the message — Never Under-Estimate the Opposition. Today, we should be careful not to under-estimate Russia & China, at the same time as being careful not to put them on a pedestal either. We all have our problems. I keep coming back to the old joke about two guys in the backwoods being chased by a bear — “I don’t have to run faster than the bear. I only have to run faster than you!”

    Russia & China are making mistakes galore. Unfortunately, their mistakes pale into insignificance compared to those being made by the DC Swamp Creatures, who have destroyed our capacity to extract resources (whether it is lumber, oil, or coal) and to manufacture real goods with those resources.

    There is an interesting commentary by Alistair Crooke at Alt-World:

    Crooke quotes the old German philosopher Freidrich List on something worth thinking about:
    “The tree which bears the fruit is of greater value than the fruit itself… The prosperity of a nation is not… greater in the proportion in which it has amassed more wealth (i.e., values of exchange), but in the proportion in which it has more developed its powers of production.”

  57. if 3 trillion thereabouts abstain from your little blockade because ‘a powerful need to eat’ as malcolm reynolds might but it, this is a maginot curtain, do we end up escalating to world war 3, like some of the 80s staple films of the period, and at least one 90s flick suggests, no one knows ‘there are no roads out here, no maps’ we know with Reagan some operations like Able Archer some words from Philby, some loose talk from dems, nearly led to World war 3, luckily both Andropov and later Chernenko, were too enfeebled to engage,

  58. It’s all going to eventuate the way it eventuates, but you can see the bare outlines of the way it will most likely unfold.

    China started down the path it’s on back when they fell for the Ehrlich con, and enacted the “one child” policy package. Mao may have come to those same conclusions independently, but the damage was still done, regardless of who gave them the idea. Russia made a similar error when they went down the road they did with regards to their choices made after the Berlin Wall came down.

    Both nations have demographic facts going that point to disaster. Neither set of leaders has set about doing anything to fix that. Instead, they’re both doubling down on the stupid, economic as well as demographic.

    The way this goes means that the winner is going to be the “least incompetent” left standing. Who that’s going to be? No idea. I doubt that it’ll be BidenCo. or the United States. I suspect that whatever goes on when the CCP goes down will drive a lot of it; if the CCP decides on a Gotterdammerung and to take whoever it is pissing them off the most at the moment with them…? Who knows?

    I don’t think there’s a word for where we are, right now. The incredible institutional incompetence on display all around is, as far as I can tell, unprecedented in scope and scale. Where it will end? No idea, but I can guarantee you that anyone who thinks they’re pulling strings behind the curtains will be among the “surprised” when it does come screeching to a halt.

  59. kakistocracy, the rule by the worst, but you might need something in sanskrit, mao instituted the one child policy, ehrlich was just a mine, as was his renfield, holdren, a literal mad scientist who wanted sterilizing agents in the water supply, like the villain in inferno (in the book they got away with it, in the film they didn’t) the birthrate has dropped precipitously, with the lockdowns, coincidence, food shortages and other forces are driving mass immigration to europe and eventually the US from the Third World,

    what happens with China, without a unifying philosophy, xi’s personality cult has tried to bridge the gap, does it descend to warlordism, can a military junta, hold it together, Luttwak has his doubts, someone who resorts to marxisms as a refresher course, is not really on point,

  60. There’s not going to be “a winner”, there’s not going to be a 21st century equivalent of the United States, a single dominant colossus (the Cold War was never a contest of equals). But I keep coming back to that Luttwak quote above, I just can’t wrap my head around the idiocy of it, “The Ukraine war taught China that the G7 run the world economy, period”, it’s as automatically disqualifying of being taken seriously ever again as Dave Brooks’ creased pants line about Barry.
    “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine galvanized the US, UK and European Union to unleash a slew of sanctions meant to punish Vladimir Putin’s government and pressure him to pull his forces back. But some Biden administration officials are now privately expressing concern that rather than dissuading the Kremlin as intended, the penalties are instead exacerbating inflation, worsening food insecurity and punishing ordinary Russians more than Putin or his allies.” [ordinary Russians? How about ordinary Americans?]
    These people are all morons. None of this should be a surprise. How about listen to those who predicted this? Nah, that would be completely inconsistent with how things operate anymore. Accountability, what’s that?

  61. he’s iconoclastic enough to be interesting, you can take it or leave it, he’s met putin and shares his point of view of that, now goldman (spengler) might be more your speed,

  62. There’s a new video of Putin showing considerable infirmity. I’m more and more convinced that doctors have given him a hard deadline. He doesn’t strike me as the sort to look for his reward in the next world so this may just be a disastrous shot at a legacy as the savior of the Russ. That doesn’t seem to be working out.

  63. did Gerasimov tell him this would be a cakewalk, because of his fancy hybrid warfare, has any Russian sovereign, forgotten what happened after the Zenith team took out Tarik Amin, that was just the beginning of the long 10 year saga, we waited out 20 years, who was the greater fool, a similar thing happened in Chechnya, after Grozny was pulverized it took nearly two years to bring Dudayev to ground, and then they found out they had reaped a whole new group of scorpions, Basayev, who may have apprenticed in the Abkhaz conflict, and Khattab, ubl’s own emissary, then they had to return to Grozny two years later and then again, with the Riyadh al Salih the black widows who would end up striking deep inside Russia, even at their esteemed Domedovo airport, Dubrovka threatre and finally Beslan, which is Uvalde 15 fold, this is to say, had he dispatched Zelensky at the beginning the grind would be more brutal

  64. Ukraine was supposed to be a walkover, another variation on the theme of 2014. Turns out, not so much, and all the “help” he had from BidenCo. and the rest of the enablers in Europe like Macron and Scholz ain’t enough to make the dream happen.

    We shall see what we shall see. I think any war is a waste, and I loathe anyone starting one for this trivial of a reason. “Legacy”… Yeah, that’s going to ring true for a lot of Russian and Ukrainian families: “Your son/father/brother died so Putin could have a legacy of reunifying the old Soviet Union…”

    Not to mention the rest of the dislocations and deaths that are coming as a side-effect.

  65. MCS: “There’s a new video of Putin showing considerable infirmity.”

    Are you sure you did not mean “Biden” there?

    The last long-form video of Putin I saw was the May 9 Victory Day celebration. The man looked ok — walked from the Red Square viewing platform to the Eternal Flame outside the Kremlin wall, no problem. But that was a month ago, and the same experts who told us that the Afghan Army would hold on for months are now telling us that Putin may drop any day.

    The key point is that most of the Russian commentary seems to say that Putin is probably a moderating influence on Russian policy, holding back the real hard-liners. US media tries to tell us how evil Trump is … oops! I mean Putin. But there is a strong chance that whoever replaces Putin will have less patience with foolish US/NATO and adopt more vigorous tactics. As always, time will tell!

  66. Shoigu is bone stupid and corrupt having replaced a more capable defense minister back in 2012, well like marshal ustinov nothing lasts forever.

  67. They had a numerical advantage in men materiel vehicles they had a resource advantage a larger economy

  68. Well they are using a small part of their forces, that is why its a SMO as they have not even entered a war footing. They are doing on the cheap really.

    They will certainly win and take what they want. I could explain but Brian is bored with the conflict, so I’ll spare you. ;)

  69. “Well they are using a small part of their forces, that is why its a SMO as they have not even entered a war footing. They are doing on the cheap really.”

    Sure they are. They’re grinding their way through a small city an inch at a time for weeks because they enjoy it. They’re not going to let air support or reinforcements spoil their fun.

  70. Nichols went from being literally nobody to being a major media star, based only on not liking Trump. Pretty impressive grift, you gotta admit. Most other prominent Never Trumpers you can think of (Goldberg, Kristol, etc) were at least somebody beforehand…

  71. “Sure they are. They’re grinding their way through a small city an inch at a time for weeks because they enjoy it. They’re not going to let air support or reinforcements spoil their fun.”

    Almost everywhere they fight, the Azov and Azov stiffened forces, hold civilians as human shields. This means Russia has to fight while trying not to kill those human shields. That is what they are doing, and as they have been ordered to take minimum casualties, it takes a while.

    Just flattening the place like America does, is not their purpose. These are their people, they are liberating.

  72. There are still True Believers around.

    “It’s all going along according to the brilliant plans of someone else’s wise leaders.”

    It is to laugh.

    I think Brian said something astute: after the cataclysms of 1914-18 and 39-45, there was a great power of unprecedented wealth, productive capacity, and willingness to help the rebuilding.

    We’re now at the beginning of some conflicts which may well devastate on the scale those wars did, in a shorter time. And long or short, there will be no Uncle Moneybags as backstop.

  73. So have any of the supergeniuses who run the world considered what happens if Turkey (i.e., Erdogan) actually doesn’t really want to be Western-aligned anymore? If like KSA they’re a bit tired of Western hypocrisy and high-handedness and think maybe they want a little bit of space? I’m not saying this would be a good move for Turkey, or that that’s what’s actually going on, I’m just saying, has anyone thought things like this through, like what if they’re not just holding out for some concessions, then what? Or is everyone in authority, even the “unconventional” ones, stuck in the mindset that of course Western institutions are what everyone lusts to be a part of?
    “Turkey has rejected a NATO offer to hold trilateral talks with Sweden and Finland toward resolving Turkish objections to the Scandinavian countries’ membership bids, FT is reporting Wednesday.”

  74. I don’t want to sound like a Chomsky-ite, but this is nuts, this has nothing to do with what the National Guard should be for.,136287
    “After the ceremony, approximately 130 soldiers were bused to Fort Drum in Watertown to begin three weeks of training, then an additional 45 days of training at Fort Bliss, Texas.
    After training is complete, the soldiers will then spend the next 10 months in Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia.”

  75. we’ve been in that part of the veltd, is that the right region, for 30 years since the relief mission in Somalia, I’m stumped to see what good that has done, aidid yielded to the other warlords, to the Islamic Courts and Al shabab, they have at least one asset in our government, miss ilhan nur, what is it that corner of the north of africa produces gum arabic?

  76. Erdogan wants Turkey out of NATO, and doing as much damage as possible on the way out is just an added bit of benefit.

    Turkey is in a bit of a demographic bind, itself; ethnic Turks are not demonstrating the fertility that the Kurds are, and it won’t be too long before the Kurds are an ethnic majority. It’s kinda like Kosovo with regards to the issues between the two, and what Erdogan has to try and do is thread the needle between what’s coming and what has been. I suspect his successor is going to be an all-out Kurdish appeaser, and the guy after that one is going to be a Kurd.

    It’s a losing game, for the Turks. I rather suspect that the rest of the 21st Century is going to see even more of the old assumptions blown right the hell up, for everyone. And, it will come due to shifting demographics that slip-slide the old ways under the waves like some lost Atlantis sunk beneath the weight of corruption and assumption.

  77. turkey is partnered with qatar, hence their direct interventions in syria, their proxy operations in libya, he sees himself as a sultan, or a would be caliph, but that is too great an ambition,, they have sizable minorities in france and germany through their diasporas, at various times in their distant past both Turkey and Sweden were foes of Imperial Russia, the last had a revanchist party called the Hats, it was under their influence, that they lost Vyborg the base of the pipeline and much of what is now northern Russia, led to a despot of their own Karl Gustav,

  78. “Erdogan wants Turkey out of NATO, and doing as much damage as possible on the way out is just an added bit of benefit.”
    I don’t know if that’s true or not, I think it very well may be, I just wonder if anyone’s thinking about it…Turkey is in NATO to constrain Russian access to the Middle East and the Med as much as possible. Which if you think about it isn’t really all that directly related to alleged fears that they’ll invade Western Europe.

    “we’ve been in that part of the veltd”
    The issue isn’t that there are US assets there, my objection is to shipping National Guard troops there for a year, that seems just crazy and outrageous to me. If you want to deploy some active duty forces there, that’d be different…

  79. Brian said:

    “I don’t want to sound like a Chomsky-ite, but this is nuts, this has nothing to do with what the National Guard should be for.,136287
    “After the ceremony, approximately 130 soldiers were bused to Fort Drum in Watertown to begin three weeks of training, then an additional 45 days of training at Fort Bliss, Texas.
    After training is complete, the soldiers will then spend the next 10 months in Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia.” “

    Not to argue the merits of using the National Guard this way, but this has been going on for, oh, the last thirty years plus? National Guard units are integrated into the Army, period. That means they get used for Federal taskings like the MFO in the Sinai and other taskings. Somalia/Djibouti is just another tasking, and the National Guard Bureau lobbies for them to be treated just like any other Army element. Rightly? Wrongly? Well, if you want them to be ready to go, then you really need to give them the training and experiences of the Regular Army.

    I think the whole National Guard thing is a farce, a national con-job that the Progressives pulled off back in the late 19th. What they did was remove all effective military force from the individual states, and replaced it with the poisoned chalice of Federal oversight and funding. The states have no truly independent forces, these days. As well, you have the spectacle of the National Guard Bureau that lobbies to treat the Guard as though it were an arm of the Federal government, which is… Problematic.

    Notwithstanding a couple of states that have them, the state militia space is non-existent today. That was not the vision of the Constitution. They would be aghast at the growth and primacy of the Federal-level Regular forces, and entirely against what we’ve done with the National Guard. Or, so I believe, reading what they had to say about it.

    Merits of using the Guard to fill these tasking slots…? I’m ambivalent. On the one hand, I see the Constitutional issues built into the question, and on the other, I’m thinking that if you’re not going to pay for enough of a standing force to fulfill your commitments overseas, then you’d better make damn sure that the Reserve/National Guard guys are just as experienced and professional as the Regulars are.

    Which, having worked with them extensively during the “War on Terror”, I would have to say they mostly are. They wouldn’t be that way, if they weren’t getting taskings like the Regulars.

    One of the things a lot of people miss is just how much you get out of even these so-called “training” missions. Just getting your act together as a unit for overseas deployment is a major struggle; you only do it a couple of times a century? Each and every time you do it, it’s gonna hurt. Badly. When we activated the units we had under us for Iraq, some of those guys hadn’t been touched since WWII, and it showed. They all did fairly well, considering, but… It wasn’t as well-done as it should have been, all the way around. It’s not just a question of the National Guard guys, either–Their active counterparts need the experience of activating and supporting them, particularly in regards to things like pay and personnel support, which maddeningly enough, run back through the states, not the Pentagon.

    So, yeah… If you’re just now noticing things like this, you simply haven’t been paying attention or it never impinged on your awareness. It’s nothing new, at all. They were doing MFO rotations back in the 1990s.

  80. what is the point of the exercise, if we have a fifth column (perhaps a sixth) in this country, applebaum, whose on some silly tear, lately described the pure evil that nur represents, the Italians reached for Ethiopia and Somalia, because they were low hanging fruit, the rest of the continent was taken, you take an inventory and what has been the point, now the Chinese are consolidating their forces from Sudan on out, and they’ve been checkmated somewhat, South Africa, is the distribution hub for much of China’s product in Africa, XTE through NTN

  81. “If you’re just now noticing things like this, you simply haven’t been paying attention or it never impinged on your awareness.”
    Sigh, again, you’re such a miserable obnoxious condescending @$$. I’m very familiar with how National Guard are used, I just think this is an exceptionally outrageous example. Iraq and Afghanistan were major national efforts, this Horn of Africa nonsense is worthy of a couple dozen SF, not a couple hundred Guardsmen, and certainly not for them for a freaking year.

  82. You very obviously don’t know about it if you think this is something new. Like I said, the first National Guard rotation to the MFO was back in the 1990s…

    You constantly make disingenuous posts as though you are shocked, shocked by things, and when someone points your ignorance of facts out to you, you then get all hurt and say “I obviously knew about that…”, when nothing you wrote indicates that at all. You don’t want to be “condescended to”, then quit writing like an ignoramus.

    Swear to God, your consistent and constant tendentiousness makes it impossible to take you at all seriously in any regard.

    The Guard has been doing these missions since I can remember, and that goes back to the post-Vietnam era. If you really require a historical briefing on the roots of the Total Force doctrine that came out of that period, we can certainly provide you with one.

  83. Show me where I said it was new, Kirk? Show me that? You can’t, because I never did. I said it was outrageous, never said anything like, “Oh gosh this is so new, I am so shocked, this is amazingly new and shocking.” Show me anywhere I ever hinted it was new? You jump right to your own conclusions, because you have terrible reading comprehension and bizarre self-delusions of grandeur.

  84. “makes it impossible to take you at all seriously in any regard.”
    Says the guy who thinks Ukraine is going to drive Russian forces out of their territory and Russia is going to collapse into dozens of sub-regions and China will invade Siberia. Good grief talk about “consistent and constant tendentiousness”

  85. we look at the big picture, does malley or austin care about al queda, really, they gave them the kind of arsenal, one couldn’t imagine in another circumstances, nearly 20 years of blood spilled on the sands of a dozen countries, across several fronts, and when a terrorist insurgency came calling in the spring of 2000, the powers that be, as martymade has pointed out, said stand down, no matter how many scenes out of 5th century rome were evoked, statues, churches, storefronts went under the bulldozer or the torch, but look overhere at this, badly scripted delta house romp, eleventy with some bad actors almost all at large, we are still in iraq, because its an iranian catspaw, was that by deliberate actions or circumstance, does it matter, although liz cheney had much to do with the framework of that action, we have as close to realizable ally in prince salman, but precisely because he is at war with the salafi, he is in bad odor, they back assisi who is trying to reform egypt back to the time of mohammed ali (the original)

    going back to the classics, sallust a caesar partisan, relayed two eras, the jugurthan war,
    and that of catiline, the former yielded two chieftains, marius and sulla who would later square off in the social wars, as they would face another threat out of asia minor, that war just led the republic down a deeper enfilade, catiline came along and promised revolution against the established ways,

  86. }}} such as “nationalistic exaltation of Western civilization.”

    As I have stated many many times.


    Literally, not figuratively.


  87. }}} A curse in fact. I guess we can get to evil that way, but the people involved have little choice.

    Unless they are exceptionally high on the Asperger scale, people ALWAYS have choice.

  88. Still like to see any sign that the Western “leadership” has any sort of grasp of reality?
    “My people won’t sacrifice jobs for the Donbas,” a top European govt official told me.
    As Scholz, Macron & Draghi arrive in Kyiv, they bear no gifts, and the mood towards Zelensky is souring among several EU leaders.
    Ukraine’s own leader of negotiations concedes that sanctions against Russia are not working because of high oil prices and says they won’t feel the effects until “three or four years from now”

  89. At this point, the idea that the CIA is penetrated and working on behalf of the Russians is actually the best-case scenario. That would imply that there was some method to the madness.

    What I fear is actually the case is that they really are as stupid and inept as they appear to the outside observer.

    Alternatively, they’ve been hugely successful in perpetrating a massive disinformation operation to convince us all of their essential and utter incompetence, while working quietly in the background. I don’t think that’s the way to bet, though…

  90. You’re right, Miguel, that most of those are crazy.
    Most likely we continue the drift towards effective authoritarianism, with the left able to shut down whole cities, harass judges, and murder conservatives with impunity, while conservatives who go to school board meetings get put on terrorist watch lists. All while the GOPe sits by and does nothing, since they hate the average American, especially any conservative, at least as much as the Dems do. Even “conservative” GOPers are spending all their time now talking about drag queens while saying nothing about the corrupt “justice” department.

  91. They had a walkin puteyev who 30 years earlier had participated in the takedown in afghanistan he is the subtext of red sparrow played by jeremy irons strzok took credit for that.

  92. Perfect encapsulation of the end-stage of the American Republic: stupid ineffectual plan that can’t even be implemented because we’re incapable of making anything:
    “White House officials exploring sending Americans rebates cards to offset gas costs ran into another problem — the chips shortage, which meant US couldn’t physically produce enough cards to make the plan work even if lawmakers tried to do it, per sources”

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