The French Have Always Been Like That

There is an excellent review essay in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, by Walter Russell Mead. Mead is the man who gave us the term “Jacksonian”, a badge worn proudly by many of the denizens of blogspace, or at least warblogspace. He is among our more astute observers of current events, informed by a profound historical understanding. (See the links here to recent articles and reviews. And, of course, read his book.)

Mead notes that French Anti-Americanism is less about America than it is “a self-referential Franco-French phenomenon largely untroubled by larger questions of fact.” Rather, this animosity is a very old phenomenon, which even precedes the appearance of America:

If there is anything missing in these books, it would be a discussion of the relationship between French Anglophobia and French anti-Americanism. Both in France and beyond, new anti-Americanism is simply old Anglophobia writ large. Anti-Anglo-Saxonism has been a key intellectual and cultural force in European history since the English replaced the Dutch as the leading Protestant, capitalist, liberal, and maritime power in the late seventeenth century. The image of Anglophone “New Carthage” — cruel, treacherous, barbarous, plutocratic — that Jacobin and Napoleonic propaganda assiduously disseminated contains the essential features of anti-Anglo-Saxon portraits so familiar today. The humiliations and setbacks that France suffered at American hands in the twentieth century chafe so badly in part because they rub the old wounds that the British inflicted in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The British destroyed the empires of the Bourbons and Bonaparte; the rise of the United States established a new superpower league in world politics in which France can never compete. The dog-eat-dog competition of Anglo-Saxon capitalism forces French firms to adjust, and it steadily undermines France’s efforts to maintain its social status quo. The English language has replaced French in science, diplomacy, and letters; the list goes on.
In other words, a permanent feature of the Anglosphere is and has been a hostile or at least resentful France. And France is not the only country which is troubled by the success of the Anglo/American political and economic model:
France is not the only country in Europe or the world whose ambitions were frustrated by the British and American hegemonies. France is not the only country which, left to its own devices, would embrace a kinder and gentler, if slower, form of capitalist transformation than the one that the Anglo-Saxon model imposes. France is not the only country in which intellectual and social elites dread the restructuring and decentralization that the Anglo-Saxon model brings in its train. Nor is it the only country where the state fears the loss of authority and power to Anglo-Saxon-driven globalization, with its attendant requirements of low taxes, transparency, and equal treatment for foreign investors and firms.
Rather than cutting and pasting more long quotes, I’ll just say: Read it all.

Incidentally, Mead correctly points out here that the “end” of the United Nations is not upon us if the U.S. attacks Iraq without a Security Council resolution.

The plain if slightly sad fact is that from the day the U.N. Security Council first met in 1946, no great power has ever stayed out of a war because the council voted against it, and no great military power ever got into a war because the Security Council ordered it to. So, whether or not Bush gets a second council resolution on Iraq, the outlook for the Security Council is more of the same.
That’s right. No matter what happens, the U.N. is too good a boondoggle for too many people from too many crappy little countries, who want to drive recklessly in Manhattan with diplomatic license plates, for it to go away. (Unless, that is, the United States consciously set out to shut it down. But that is a post for another day.)

A Musical Interlude

OK, I admit it. We ChicagoBoyz are a pretty serious bunch. We think about things like Iraq and Al Qaeda and the stockmarket and gold prices and politics and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Not exactly “guy things”, really, since we never talk about sports or who is the hottest babe on some TV show. But, still, most of the time, serious stuff.

And that is what you, our dear readers, have come to expect. So I hope you will excuse something a little more lighthearted for a moment. Specifically, some good musical news has recently come to my attention.

First, lodged obscurely in the lightly-traveled no-mans-land of the embedded message board on the rarely-updated Muffs website, is a tiny little notice from Kim Shattuck, (lead singer and guitar player and songwriter and presiding muse and genius of the Muffs) that, in fact, no kidding, really, they have a new record in the works. To quote Beavis: “Whoa”. If it is up to the Muffs’ historical average, it will be very good indeed. Start saving your pennies.

Second, I was really surprised to see something appear on the Lisa Marr Experiment website the other day. That thing had been about as lifeless as a bat-haunted Mayan ruin by moonlight for a year or so. But then a new message went up saying that they’ll be having a new record, which is recorded already, out this summer. Also, it provided this link to a Canadian TV show on which they play several new songs. The performance is pretty, um, loose.But I have high hopes for the studio versions. And I especially like the song “Shooting Stars”. It could have been written 50 years ago, in a good way. I think she is hitting her stride with this country-western angle, though I prefer the pop stuff she does (and used to do) so well.

Finally, note that the fabulous Eyeliners are on tour. Coming soon to your town, including a gig in Chicago on March 22, 2003 at the Fireside Bowl. So go see ’em.

How is Thomas Atkins Really Doing?

This post on Libertarian Samizdata, critiques the current condition of the British military. The first comment to the post, in partial rebuttal, says: “The British Armed Forces are the best trained and most professional in the world. They are often terribly equipped, but that aside, I think the last two are true.”

The post and the comment demonstrate the polar positions one frequently sees about Britain’s military. On one hand, you hear that it is very good, but has some problems, particularly with its equipmen. On the other hand, you hear that the British military used to be very good, but is in really dire shape. I have tended to believe the former to be true, e.g. here.

As a Yank of the Jacksonian Anglospherist variety, I have a strong desire for Britain to continue to maintain and employ very capable military forces, both for use in its own specific interests as needed, and as the key ally to the United States that it has been for many years and which I trust it will remain. It seems clear that the British military, all services, have retained a very strong sense of corporate identity and spirit, a very strong sense of pride and professionalism. As to boots that melt, and bad rifles, and poor field hospitals, the British seem to retain a “can do” and “make do” spirit of getting on with what’s at hand, even if this or that piece of equipment is junk, as the British soldiers and sailors have done for centuries in all manner of difficult situations. (Such as this one, and here, and here and here.) So, there is indisputably a very strong foundation there, even if there are also serious deficiencies. However, it is also plausible that the current levels of funding and the politically correct crap which Blair’s government is apparently imposing are doing serious damage to this strong military foundation.

I’d like to hear from someone knowledgeable about day-to-day conditions in the RN, RAF and/or Army, about how serious things really are. Any suggestions about good sites to look at with objective facts or reliable opinions on this topic would be greatly appreciated.

By participating in what is likely to be a pretty major victory in Iraq the British military services should be in a position to make some demands from the Labor government. I hope that some thought has gone into what they will ask for. This would be a good issue for the Tories to take up — be to the right of Blair et al. on maintaining British military power and prestige. It would also be a good time for the Bush administration to reward our ally with access to the best weapons we have, to the extent that is not already happening.

Northern and Southern Approaches to War

Rev. Sensing has posted this insightful essay in which he discusses what he calls the “Northern” and “Southern” approaches to war. He draws on the typology used by Walter Russell Mead, referring to Wilsonians and Jacksonians. He also seems to have in the back of his head the distinction between southern attitudes toward war and that of the “Greater New England” of the Yankee diaspora which is discussed brilliantly in David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed.

But at one point Rev. Sensing says “Wilsonianism is not inbred is us and neither is Jacksonianism. Both are like coats that we shed or put on as best serves our interests.” This does not sit well with his better-founded Northern/Southern distinction. But I think I see where he has gone awry.

Which groups in America support a war varies from war to war. Building a coalition often means that the leadership must appeal to different groups using different arguments, whether cynically or not. In this case, I think Bush has put both types of argument out all along, i.e. national security and prestige as against righting the world’s wrongs and, ahem, “nation building.” Nonetheless, while Bush has always said Saddam was evil, “regime change” always seemed more a means to “disarmament” than an end in itself.

Nonetheless, Rev. Sensing is on to something when he notes that there seems to be a public shift toward the war, and that the basis for that support is shifting as well. What has happened is that the leadership in the Wilsonian/Yankee/Northern group has joined the war camp, less because they want to, than because they think it is now inevitable and they want to have some influence on what happens. The recent issue of the New Republic features many essays along these lines. As to the public rather than the elite, the Jacksonians (including the suburban “crabgrass Jacksonians” whom Walter Russell Mead delineated) have been in favor of war with Iraq as a matter of U.S. security, but not enthusiastically so, since the threat is somewhat remote and Jacksonians really want to make sure Osama is dead, then come home. Bush knows this, and he always hedges when he talks about how long we are staying in Iraq or how deep a commitment we are going to make to rebuilding the place.

The thing that is interesting is that Bush is acquiring this grudging support from Liberal hawks without really asking them for it. Bush’s single-minded determination to destroy Saddam’s regime (or so it seems to be) is like a gravitational field which is dragging all kinds of unexpected objects into his orbit. (Bush can thank Tony Blair in large part for turning this into a crusade which has appeal to liberals. He has always taken that approach, whose antecedents lie in Gladstonian liberal imperialism.)

So, as the left intelligentsia has started to buy in, and speak out for a war of liberation, the more liberal areas in the USA are becoming convinced, as they did in the case of Serbia, that there is a wrong to be righted. And they are supporting a war against Iraq despite their loathing for Bush. This group has a positive aversion to using military force if there is any American interest at stake, and it must feel that it is on the moral high ground before it will approve of the use of force. The very attenuated nature of the Iraqi threat, as against the overt nature of the evil of the regime, actually plays well to these liberal hawks. This phenomenon points out yet again the accuracy of Walter Russell Mead’s typology — liberals are divided into Wilsonians, who are willing under the right circumstances to use force, even massive force, and Jeffersonians, who in effect are never willing to use force abroad. The Left had its own “Vietnam Syndrome” — which really ended with Serbia. My peacenik father in law, a Vietnam-era war protester and leftist academic, was appalled that many of his friends supported the attack on Serbia. He, interestingly, is a product of a Midwestern, populist, isolationist upbringing – classic Jeffersonian origins. The alliance between the Wilsonian and Jeffersonian groups has come unglued. It can no longer be taken for granted. There is now a respectable left/liberal hawkish position, though it is so far a minority position. So, Wilsonianism and Jacksonianism are, if not “bred in us”, nonetheless enduring inclinations of certain regional, ethnic, and cultural communities – though few of us are pure exemplars of only one school (or Jeffersonians or Hamiltonians, either, for that matter). It is not so much that Americans “put them on or shed or put on as best serves our interests”. Rather, which arguments are advanced and which rationales are found to be compelling vary from war to war and from group to group. What we are seeing in this case is a President who has melded onto a primarily Jacksonian base of support an additional group of Wilsonian supporters, and thereby increased the overall support for the war. But in so doing he has also shifted the rationale for the war. In other words, Bush has gotten a certain influential portion of the the “liberal” community on board for the long post-war commitment. Bush will then be able to play this group off against the Jacksonian inclination to bring the boys home, with Saddam’s scalp on their belt, and not meddle too much in Iraq. All in all this has been an extraordinary demonstration of the deep continuities in American political life, and a demonstration of George W. Bush’s almost uncanny ability to navigate among them.


If you are running Windows 2000 and the operating system becomes corrupted, the easiest and least risky way to fix it is to 1) buy a new hard drive, 2) install Windows on it and then 3) set it up as the master drive (assuming it’s IDE) with your old hard drive as a slave. Then copy the data and use the old drive as a backup. The standard help-desk recommendation, always some variant of the old “you must reinstall Windows” boilerplate, puts both your valuable data and valuable time at risk. (Of course the standard recommendation should work, but then if things always worked your Windows installation wouldn’t become corrupted, would it?) The price of a hard drive nowadays seems a small price to pay to avoid hours spent in help-desk hell.