Eunomia · August 2004


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It looks like a double standard, and probably it is, but why is it that when I see obese Americans munching on Coke and giant hot dogs and chanting ‘USA, USA’, it sounds like the worst kind of chauvinism as well as unsportsmanlike conduct, and when I hear the Greeks cheering lustily ‘Hellas, Hellas’, it sounds patriotic and sportsmanlike? There is something of the bully in Uncle Sam, and perhaps that is why the greatest cheer of all was given to the worst swimmer of the Games, the young Palestinian who finished last and way off the pace, and timidly came out of the water. There is something very moving about the nobility of failure, and the Palestinian — who trains alone in a 25-metre cold swimming-pool with guns going off all around him — knows all about it. As did we who cheered him to the rafters.~ Taki, The Spectator

Taki’s remark resonated with me as I read it tonight, particularly after the dreary display of the crowd at the Republican National Convention earlier in the evening during Gov. (it feels more than a little silly to put that title in front of his name) Schwarzenegger’s speech. The presumably spontaneous outbursts of the chant “USA, USA!” did seem awful, hollow, crude and somehow contrived, as if loyalty were measured in decibels and national spirit in a sort of barking noise. That chant seems to me to represent the superficial and meaningless chauvinistic bluster of the jingoist, who can only be proud of his nation in the diminution and humiliation of other peoples, as distinct from an honourable and sedate patriotism that boasts, as Chesterton has said so well, not of its country’s greatness, but of its smallness.

The chant at the convention reminded me that I had been cheering for the superior Lithuanian team to win the bronze medal at the Olympics on Saturday, just as I had been secretly wishing for the comeuppance of the overrated and underskilled American team in the qualifying round against the same team, because the Lithuanians were superior in almost all the skills that separate basketball from the thuggery that we can now see regularly in NBA play. Only their tendency to foul too often gave the American team any real advantage in the two games. Even in defeat, the Lithuanians set an Olympic record for the greatest number of three-point shots made–a testament to their shooting ability and the Americans’ pathetic excuse for defense.
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The harmful ambiguity of U.S. policy on Chechnya needs to be ended immediately. It compromizes the “war against terror,” jeopardizes national security, and gains nothing at all—least of all any brownie points for the U.S. in the Muslim world. It is high time for the U.S. government to accept that people like [Chechen president’] Maskhadov, Akhmadov, and their supporters in Russia and abroad are not just “separatists” nor “militants.” They are terrorists, and should be treated accordingly.~ Srdja Trifkovic, ChroniclesMagazine.org

As war is one of the heaviest of national evils, a calamity in which every species of misery is involved; as it sets the general safety to hazard, suspends commerce, and desolates the country; as it exposes great numbers to hardships, dangers, captivity and death; no man who desires the public prosperity will inflame general resentment by aggravating minute injuries or enforcing disputable rights of little importance.

He that wishes to see his country robbed of its rights cannot be a Patriot.

That man therefore is no Patriot who justifies the ridiculous claims of American usurpation; who endeavours to deprive the nation of its natural and lawful authority over its own colonies: those colonies which were settled under English protection; were constituted by an English charter; and have been defended by English arms.~ Samuel Johnson, The Patriot

These selections address a particular situation in British and American history in 1774, but each of these three statements makes broader claims that touch on our contemporary affairs and American self-understanding. Dr. Johnson was, of course, a dedicated Tory in principle, who, unlike some of his contemporary Whigs, possessed little sympathy for the American rebels or their arguments. Two important themes emerge from these statements (which I have, it should be noted, taken out of their original context for the sake of brevity and clarity): patriots tend to abhor war, and patriots oppose usurpation.
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Further sign of its American allegiances came on Friday, when Georgia announced that 50 of its specialized mountain infantry soldiers will be deployed to Afghanistan, following two weeks of training in Germany.

These developments seem all the more mystifying in that they have been provoked almost entirely by the Georgian side. If Saakashvili intends to realize his national greatness scheme through taking on Russia, things might not turn out as he had planned. It is true that Georgia’s civil wars of the 90’s – which led to the current mess – were a sort of proxy war with Russia. However, they were also complicated by the disunity of various Georgian factions, militia groups which fought one another as well as the separatist Abkhaz or Ossetians. And they did not involve open confrontation with Russian troops, who still retain two military bases on Georgian soil. In an additional threat this weekend, Saakashvili ordered Moscow to leave the bases by spring, “or we will make them leave.”

The war of words continued Friday when the Ossetians claimed Georgia has sent 50 of its Special Forces soldiers into the area, in violation of a pullout agreement reached on 19 August. For its part, Georgia continued to urge Russian maritime captains – whose vessels it warned last month would be sunk – to avoid Abkhazian waters.~ Christopher Deliso, Balkanalysis.com

It is gratifying to see the good folks at Balkanalysis.com are also keeping an eye on this worsening and troubling situation in the Caucasus. As Mr. Deliso explains so well, and as I have been arguing for the past several weeks, Georgian President Saakashvili has been playing a very dangerous game with the future of Georgia. Perhaps he believes that the Russian government will not further enmesh itself in Caucasian conflicts while still plagued by its Chechen problems, which were only worsened with the apparent Chechen terrorist downing of two Russian commercial airliners this past week.

However, as the rest of Mr. Deliso’s article makes clear, relations between the two neighbours are only getting worse. The Bush Administration’s tacit encouragement of Saakashvili’s irresponsible course, aided by pro-Saakashvili coverage in the Western media, will only deepen the troubles of the region. President Putin has the domestic standing, democratic mandate and personal popularity to seek a peaceful solution to these problems, while the incipient dictatorship of Saakashvili seems to require constant fearmongering to retain its old hold on the unfortunate Georgian people. The escalation of conflict in the Caucasus will ultimately be mostly to the detriment of the people of Georgia and Ossetia, though further Caucasian quagmires can only harm Russia’s development as well.

It is in the interest of all responsible and decent people in the region to seek a peaceful end to this conflict. So far, Mr. Saakashvili has given every indication through his aggressive tactics that he does not want to be regarded as such a person. The question Americans should be asking themselves is this: why does our government support such a belligerent and increasingly oppressive ruler in a region that is, in truth, of relatively little strategic value to the United States?

Democracy is incapable of provoking a ferocious civil war, but prerevolutionary violence, persistent major disorder, and refusal to enforce the law, if carried far enough, can do so.~ Stanley G. Payne, The Spanish Civil War, The Soviet Union and Communism

As I was finishing Prof. Payne’s excellent new history of the Spanish Civil War (there is a helpful review of this book in the August issue of Chronicles), I came across this conclusion. This conclusion seemed all the more strange later this weekend, after finding an article in the latest issue of Foreign Policy that includes arguments quite to the contrary of Prof. Payne’s statement. Though I would probably rarely agree with Prof. Eric Hobsbawm at any other time, and even though I have certain important reservations about his arguments in this article, he makes this largely incontrovertible observation:

“Spreading democracy” aggravated ethnic conflict and produced the disintegration of states in multinational and multicommunal regions after both 1918 and 1989, a bleak prospect.

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Unlike Augustine, however, Aquinas lived within a recognizably Christian social order and, for that reason, approached the question of citizenship from a different angle. Whereas Augustine spoke of the theological foundations of citizenship, Aquinas, following Aristotle, thought of citizenship as a natural aspect of human life. Aquinas considered politics to be inescapable because, like Aristotle, he believed human beings were by nature social and political animals.

While human beings are the most socially and politically inclined of all animals, they are also the most physically needy, which helps to explain the human propensity to live in society. The household or family is the first natural society to which persons belong. Yet the good of the family is only partial, since its principal aim is to procure the necessary goods for survival. But even the family, which is ruled by economics or the art of household management, is incapable of providing for its every need. Aquinas thought the political community completed the family unit, because as the greater community it incorporates and subsumes all lesser communities to its own end.

Because human beings are rational animals, it is not sufficient merely that they live, but that they live well. Indeed, Aquinas contends that our natural disposition inclines us both “to know the truth and to live in society.” Following Aristotle, Aquinas believed that natural human flourishing could occur only within the political community, “the most perfect of all human societies.” Unlike the household, the political community attains a degree of self-sufficiency. While the end of the family is the promotion of life, the end of the political community is the cultivation of human virtue. This elevated good is “common” to all citizens. Aquinas bases his notion of citizenship on the type of virtue that develops either from “ruling and being ruled in turn.” The good habits instilled in those who live under well-ordered and just laws, which are significant, given Christianity’s transpolitical claim, represent authentic human goods. As a result, Aquinas views the common good as constitutive of the citizen’s “proper” versus private good. To be sure, Aquinas held that the natural perfection of citizenship was inferior to the supernatural perfection of God’s grace. Yet insofar as grace does not destroy but perfects nature, human spiritual perfection does not negate the legitimate, natural perfection of political life. Accordingly, for Aquinas, only the man who is “depraved, a beast as it were … or the man who is better than a man, a god as it were,” is capable of living outside of civil society.~ Marc D. Guerra, review of The American Myth of Religious Freedom

This is a helpful and, I think, fair summary of the Thomist view of politics. The incorporation of lesser, or more local, communities in all their integrity is a vitally important point, and it makes all the difference in distinguishing what I might call a traditionalist conception of the state from its rival, the total state.

This ‘traditionalist’ view emphasises the need for larger political organisms to be developed ‘from the ground up’ and would seem to militate against forms of consolidation and centralism imposing one scheme on a variety of communities. It is the difference between what one might call a conservative “socialism” in corporatism, Distributism or solidarism and the uniforming, levelling and desolating revolutionary socialism, which is to say all the difference in the world.

Perhaps if we think of larger political organisms as ascending steps in a political hierarchy, in which, as in a spiritual hierarchy, lesser orders are raised to perfection (in the sense that lesser orders are able to attain their proper end or completion, telos), the idea of prior obligations to polity and state might seem less onerous. Obviously, the existing state is nothing like this ideal, but perhaps this ideal will make the basic principle of such an obligation easier to accept.

The head of Belgrade’s Kosovo Coordination Centre warned today that Albanian extremists in Kosovo are preparing for a major armed operation.~ B92, Yugoslavia, August 24, 2004

War with Russia is close and it is necessary to prepare the people of Georgia for such an eventuality, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili warned in a newspaper interview published in France on Tuesday.

“We are very close to a war [with Russia], the population must be prepared,” he told the French-language Liberation daily newspaper.

Denouncing military aid from Russia to rebels in Georgia’s break-away region of South Ossetia, Saakashvili stressed that he had “no intention of provoking it [a war]” and called for an international conference to discuss the status of South Ossetia.

“Russia says it is opposed to this, but I think its position is evolving,” he added.

Georgia pulled troops back from the separatist pro-Moscow region last week after an unprecedented show of force that infuriated Russia and worried Washington.

South Ossetia falls within Georgian borders, but the region is inhabited mainly by ethnic Ossetians.~ Taipei Times, August 25, 2004

Mr. Saakashvili’s bluster might almost be comic (think The Mouse That Roared), were its consequences not so likely to be devastating to his country. Neither country has any real interest in a war, but Georgia has the least incentive of all. Every day, President Saakashvili demonstrates that he is not suited to lead Georgia to a peaceful resolution of its conflicts and not a worthy representative of his nation.

Sadr’s condemnation of the interim Prime Minster Iyad Allawi and his dismissal of the June “handover of power” as a farce is justified. Nor has Allawi’s heavy-handed, compliant rule gone down well with most of the Iraqi population - a recent poll showed his approval rating at just 2 per cent, tied with Saddam Hussein.

Nor can he be accused of being a tool for outside forces. Frequent accusations of ties with the regime in Iran have fallen flat, with both the US administration and the Iraqi interim government admitting there is no evidence of such a link.

But the adjective “radical” still sticks, defying the widespread popularity he has gained nationally and regionally. With the allegiance of the followers of his late father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq Sadr, he can mobilise the Shia masses. But his armed resistance has drawn support from Sunnis and Shias throughout Iraq and the Middle East. Yet he has still sought diplomacy. He agreed to a truce in June and during the current fighting he has invited mediation from the Vatican. Contrast this with Allawi’s uncompromising stance that there can be “no negotiation” with militias.

Sadr is also prepared to disband his army and form a political party to contest next January’s elections. The fact that some Iraqi leaders are ignoring a decree passed by Allawi’s government and have invited Sadr into the political process reflects the recognition that, like him or not, he is too powerful and popular a figure to marginalise.

Calling Sadr “radical” is not only a misrepresentation of his policies, it is an insult to all those who oppose foreign occupation and domination, religious in-fighting and regional instability. One does not have to be Shia, Iraqi, Arab or “radical” to see that.~ Sharif Hikmat Nashashibi, Chairman of Arab Media Watch in The Independent

US planes pounded Najaf’s cemetery and historic centre near the Imam Ali shrine, dimming hopes of a peaceful end to a near three-week stand-off between US-led Iraqi forces and Shiite militia.

As US military officials said it could take up to 10 years to crush the insurgency, nine people, including a Turk, were killed in a string of deadly roadside attacks, US military and police sources said.~ Yahoo News, August 24, 2004

It is obvious that the American public will never tolerate an ongoing guerrilla war for ten years, no matter how horribly misled they have been in the past. The public may be easy to incite, but it will be very difficult to keep their attention and their anger focused on a country that, as most now know, posed no threat before and poses none now.

Today’s Wall Street Journal carries an unfortunate propaganda piece from Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (sorry, no link), which predictably paints the South Ossetians as a band of criminals and the villains of the piece. In this frankly dishonest portrayal of events, Mr. Saakashvili understandably cast all of the blame for the recent outbreak in violence on the South Ossetians. In fact, the facts about the fighting that erupted earlier this month are not at all clear. Naturally, both sides claim that the other was the one to break the ceasefire. What is certain is that the main, immediate cause of this renewed fighting is the insistence on the part of the Georgian government to reincorporate its separatist territories, even though Mr. Saakashvili must have known full well what response this would bring.

It can hardly have helped matters that this summer’s local elections in the newly-reincorporated breakaway region of Ajaria were probably tainted by significant fraud to the advantage of Saakashvili’s political allies. It may be that a majority of people in Ajaria now support Saakashvili, and it may be that Ajarians, who are ethnic Georgians, really do want to reunite with Georgia, but this is plainly not the case with the other two separatist regions.

Because the South Ossetians do not have the ear of powerful cliques in the Western media, as Mr. Saakashvili apparently does, their view will inevitably be ignored and sidelined. Already the nonsensical rhetoric has begun, with Mr. Saakashvili as the defender of a multiethnic and democratic order and the South Ossetians as brigands and criminals. Of course, the criminality and corruption of the Georgian regime itself is hardly a secret to anyone who follows the news in the region.
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Some men have suggested that sovereignty resides in the people. This is a general or abstract proposition, [and] when one wants to apply it to history, or in history, one finds that the people have never been and never can be sovereign: for where would the subjects be if the people were sovereign? If one wants sovereignty to reside in the people, in the sense that it possesses the right to make laws, one finds that no part of the people has made laws, that it is likewise impossible that a people would make laws, and that it never has done, and that it is not able to do anything other than adopt the laws made by a man called for this reason, legislator: and yet, to adopt laws made by a man is to obey; and to obey is not to be sovereign, but a subject, and perhaps a slave.~ Louis de Bonald, Theorie du Pouvoir

Louis de Bonald’s political theory is a valuable challenge to the stock opinions that American conservatives have held about the role of “the people” (or even the existence of “the people” as a political reality) in government, and I believe that his very simple attention to the meaning of the word sovereignty unravels a number of apparently knotty theoretical problems about the source of legitimacy in government and the ‘location’ of sovereignty.

The translation is my own, taken from a citation in Jacques Alibert’s Les triangles d’or d’une societe catholique. I apologise for any errors that may have crept into the translation; I have endeavoured to be both accurate and to make it as intelligible as possible.

Now a government is secure insofar as it has God for its foundation and His Will for its guide; but this, surely, is not a description of Liberal government. It is, in the Liberal view, the people who rule, and not God; God Himself is a “constitutional monarch” Whose authority has been totally delegated to the people, and Whose function is entirely ceremonial….The government erected upon such a faith is very little different, in principle, from a government erected upon total disbelief; and whatever its present residue of stability, it is clearly pointed in the direction of Anarchy.

A government must rule by the Grace of God or by the will of the people, it must believe in authority or in the Revolution; on these issues compromise is possible only in semblance, and only for a time. The Revolution, like the disbelief which has always accompanied it, cannot be stopped halfway; it is a force that, once awakened, will not rest until it ends in a totalitarian Kingdom of this world. The history of the last two centuries has proved nothing if not this. To appease the Revolution and offer it concessions, as Liberals have always done, thereby showing that they have no truth with which to oppose it, is perhaps to postpone, but not to prevent, the attainment of its end. And to oppose the radical Revolution with a Revolution of one’s own, whether it be “conservative,” “non-violent,” or “spiritual” is not merely to reveal ignorance of the full scope and nature of the Revolution of our time, but to concede as well the first principle of that Revolution: that the old truth is no longer true, and a new truth must take its place.~ Eugene (later Fr. Seraphim) Rose, Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age

More than half of Americans, 54 percent, continue to believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or a program to develop them before the United States invaded last year, according to a poll released Friday.
Evidence of such weapons has not been found.

Half believe Iraq was either closely linked with al-Qaida before the war (35 percent) or was directly involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on this country (15 percent).~ The Associated Press

Americans are raised to have confidence in the wisdom of the people. It has become a stock phrase and commonplace opinion among many conservatives that ordinary people are generally sensible and are not only more in tune with the real world than the elites who run government, media and academia but are also more capable of judging the encroachments of government and the propriety of policies. Concerning his own interests, the average person is the best judge, and over the long term I am convinced that inherited folk wisdom is better than learned suppositions, because this wisdom has been proved through the test of experience and found worthy. But an equally important and unavoidable conclusion that all discerning people must draw is that the general public is quite unsuited to understanding and deciding many major questions of policy, most of which turn on fairly sophisticated knowledge of a number of subjects.

The faith that the people would catch out abusive governments and punish them at the polls, which is the only ultimately safeguard against abusive government in our presently consolidated system, is premised on two completely unreliable assumptions: that “the people” value good government, and that they will not slavishly fall in with what their government tells them to be the truth. If either was true once (and even this is questionable), it is no longer true, at least not for a broad section of the population of this country. Our educational system long ago abandoned any pretense to producing genuinely liberal and critical minds, and without this sort of training the average citizen is easy prey to the disarmingly solemn liars who pretend to have the best interests of the country at heart. In a nation of people generally ignorant about much of the world, and a people given to trusting their government to an inordinate degree, is it any wonder that outright falsehoods will continue to circulate as truth for years after they have been disproved?
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President Mikhail Saakashvili said his forces seized strategic heights after fighting in the rebel South Ossetia region Thursday and promised more such victories to fulfill a pledge to reunite his country.

Hours later, Saakashvili said his troops would hand over the heights above South Ossetia’s regional capital of Tskhinvali to peacekeepers and pull back in what he described as a last chance to avoid all-out war there.

“There will be many more such gifts in the future,” Saakashvili said after announcing at a ceremony that Georgian forces had “wiped out” South Ossetian separatists responsible for killing Georgian soldiers in overnight fighting.

The battles were some of the worst fighting in the breakaway region since a war more than a decade ago. Georgian officials said three Georgian soldiers were killed overnight, while South Ossetia’s military chief said three civilians had died in Georgian shelling of Tskhinvali, the regional capital. South Ossetian officials denied Georgian forces had captured the hills, saying fighting in the area was continuing.~ International Herald-Tribune, August 20, 2004

President Saakashvili’s commitment to the path of war would be outrageous to the Western political classes if he were not an American puppet. Let us recall that NATO attacked Yugoslavia without provocation or justification for doing even less than what Saakashvili is now doing, which is nothing except the deliberate provocation of a new war in a region where there has been an uneasy truce, but a truce nonetheless, and the effective autonomous government of South Ossetia by Ossetians for 12 years, approximately the same amount of time the pseudo-state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq existed on its own. Keeping South Ossetia in Georgia by force is to make the old, accidental Soviet territorial divisions somehow sacrosanct and worth defending with violence. It serves neither the Georgians nor Ossetians to perpetuate this fight. It serves only the petty and despotic goals of Mr. Saakashvili.

It would be completely wrong for outsiders to intervene in this conflict by force, but the United States should cut all funding to the government of Georgia if it persists in its belligerent and aggressive course. Since Washington is the architect of its own war of aggression, though, I doubt this is likely to happen. However, if Washington fails to declare that Georgian attacks are unacceptable, it will share in the responsibility for precipitating yet another useless conflict that will only make the stabilisation of Georgia and the Caucasus that much more difficult. It is an unfortunate reality that Russia is the patron of South Ossetia, and Moscow is unlikely to ignore its client’s plight. While Russia would do well to seek a peaceful resolution, Mr. Saakashvili seems intent on forcing the issue. In so doing, he seriously jeopardises Georgia’s future and its relations with Russia for virtually no gain.

Shi’ite fighters appeared still to be in control of a holy shrine in Najaf on Friday after Iraq’s interim government said it had overcome a bloody uprising by seizing the Imam Ali mosque without a shot being fired.

Witnesses in the southern city said Mehdi Army militiamen loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr controlled the narrow alleyways leading to the mosque. Police were nowhere to be seen.

Iraqi police in Najaf told CNN they did not control the site, the country’s holiest Shi’ite shrine, the broadcaster reported.

Amid the extraordinary confusion over a two-week rebellion that has killed hundreds and driven world oil prices to record highs, the U.S. military also said it could not confirm the government had taken control of the shrine peacefully.~ Reuters

Saudi Arabia had no women in its Olympic delegation, but it just might at the Beijing Olympics if the political process struggling to take root in Iraq spreads there–or to Syria, Yemen or Jordan. And if the notion of an Arab constitutional democracy makes your eyes roll, as it does for William Odom and Francis Fukuyama in the current National Interest, perhaps we can let Iraqi soccer coach Abdul Kareem Hajim speak for at least laying the cornerstone: “Now we have freedom. Our chains are broken. We just need a stable government to make sure everyone has work and a salary.”

My apologies for ruffling the global fellow-feeling that lies officially beneath the summer Games. But for many of us it has become more than a little tiresome of late hearing how much the Europeans “hate us” and how the U.S. has “alienated” our “friends.” And how all this global ill will is because George W. Bush “invaded” Iraq to wage an “unjustifiable” or unnecessary war.

Here’s President Bush speaking this week: “A free and peaceful Iraq and a free and peaceful Afghanistan will be powerful examples in a part of the world that is desperate for freedom. Free countries do not export terror. Free countries do not stifle the dreams of their citizens.”

In the meantime, perhaps the athletes from Bosnia, Afghanistan and Ceausescu’s Romania will find their way to the Iraqi pavilion to hear familiar stories about living in a land of exterminations–of Shiite peoples murdered in southern Iraq and Kurds in the north. That has ended, thanks, as in many other places around the world, to American intervention, however unnecessary or poorly planned.~ Daniel Henninger, OpinionJournal.com

Recently, neoconservatives and the Bush re-election campaign have discovered that the bad, old habit of excessively politicising the Olympics might just be useful in their never-ending quest to both lie about their actions and try to impose guilt on their opponents. Citing “free” (and happy!) Olympian athletes from “liberated” countries, Mr. Henninger hopes to distract us from the grinding misery and considerable violence of large swathes of at least two of the latest “liberated” lands. This is a perfect operation in a kind of Clintonian or Blairite spin: don’t mind the tens of thousands dead and the hundreds more innocents dying every month from the anarchy we have unleashed, but look at the happy athletes!
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But the general approach of the paleos is burdened by one major negative trait and several bad habits. The first is their fear of and antipathy to clear political principles, to the very concept of politically relevant, universal objective truth. What is – or, rather, should conservatism be all about? About conserving the truth – true notions of justice, morality, civility and freedom. But for any notion to be true, it must necessarily be universal, absolute, and binding on all people at all places in all times. The Decalogue – the Ten Commandments – is true, and therefore relevant for all people in all nations in all eras. “Thou shall not kill!” – it does not mean “thou shall not kill, except Negroes”, it does not mean “thou shall not kill in the 19th Century, but you may in the 20th,”it does not mean “thou shall not kill in Alabama, but you may in Oklahoma.” It simply means you shall not deliberately kill any innocent human being, period. Paleocons seem not to understand that – they consider universal norms of justice to be a product of Enlightenment Liberalism – as if Moses, and the God, at Mt. Sinai, were Enlightenment Liberals. Paleocons would profit very much by re-reading their favorite, but neglected, Richard Weaver, and his defense of philosophic realism against relativist, historicist and particularist nominalism.

Mr. Francis is outraged that Mr. Devine criticized him (absolutely correctly, in my reading of Francis’ earlier column) for denouncing “fusionist conservatism for its preoccupation with its ‘pet abstractions’ of liberty, national security and the Judeo-Christian tradition.” Well, that is the point we have already raised: the paleoconservative allergy to any abstract, universal concepts or ideas.~ Roman Joch, March 10, 2004

At the risk of dredging up a tired, old argument between “fusionists” and paleoconservatives, I was inspired to return to this rather disingenuous reply of Mr. Joch after reading one of the reviews mentioned by name in the article, Richard Weaver’s “Anatomy of Freedom,” where he reviewed Frank Meyer’s In Defense of Freedom for the old, more respectable National Review. The heart of the trouble with Mr. Meyer’s ideas will have to wait for another post, but my observations on this article deserve separate consideration.
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The second point is, quite naturally, that identity formation grows within a CONTEXT. If you do not understand the social, economic, cultural and political underpinnings of a society, you cannot understand either its corporate or individual identities, affiliations or loyalties. Anyone who tries to pinpoint an Iraqi in terms of a static rubric (Sunni/ Shi’i/ Kurd/ Assyrian/ Sabean/ Turcoman) will be forever lost in the wilderness. And he/she will probably deserve to be so.~ Hala Fattah, Askari Street

Hala Fattah is an Iraqi historian currently living in Jordan and my favourite blogger bar none. Her blog is by far the most informative and worthwhile at HNN or at most any other news or weblog site when it comes to matters pertaining to Iraq. Her blog is pretty much exclusively dedicated to the history and current affairs of Iraq, but this focus allows her to explain things so very well.

Her posts are rich and detailed, and it is clear that she puts far more thought into each of them than most bloggers (myself included) would ever bother to do. For anyone interested in understanding the situation in Iraq more thoroughly with some historical perspective, or is simply interested in solid, short historical articles online, Hala’s blog is the one to read.

Note that the Pakistani government had never before revealed Khan’s name. It had never been mentioned in any Pakistani newspaper or any Pakistani news conference. Since Khan had been turned, he was perhaps the most valuable asset inside al-Qaeda Pakistani intelligence ever had.

Why would this Pakistani official now tell Rohde the name, if that is what happened? We cannot know, of course. It is possible that he believed that Ridge had given the show away anyway. That is, al-Qaeda members on hearing the details Ridge revealed to the American public would know that a real insider had been busted, and would inevitably become so cautious that the Khan sting operation might well have been fatally compromised. We know that after the Ridge announcement, the level of “chatter” among radical Islamists fell off dramatically.

The Bush administration at the very least bears indirect responsibility for the outing of Khan. Without the Ridge announcement, reporters would have had no incentive to seek out the name of the source of the information.~ Juan Cole

Apparently, the initial reports that Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan’s name had been given to the press on background by the White House were not necessarily accurate. Nonetheless, as Prof. Cole explains in the article, the chain of events leading to the leak of the name–which has had such terribly negative effects on antiterrorist efforts, when Khan’s defection from al-Qaeda became public knowledge–began with the administration’s insistence on providing highly specific details of the (old) plot uncovered after the arrest of Khan in Pakistan.

I still maintain that the administration’s shoddy credibility has forced it to use sensitive information to bolster its sagging image as a counter-terrorist administration, and that this ultimately resulted in the demonstrable weakening of the antiterrorist campaign. It would be outrageous for such an administration to claim to be a capable or worthy opponent of al-Qaeda after this huge mistake. No sensible Republican with an interest in national security can pretend that this failure is anything but an administration fumble of the highest order. Their relative silence about this is indicative of how craven and subservient to the President most Republicans and all of their elected officials have become.

The radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr appeared last night to have accepted an ultimatum by the Iraqi government to end his insurgency and disarm his Mahdi army militia.

But confusion surrounded his terms for acceptance and there were indications that his offer may have come too late to stave off a military assault on the sacred Imam Ali shrine in Najaf. It is occupied by him and the Mahdi army but surrounded by American tanks.

Under the terms of the deal offered to Sadr, the Mahdi army would disarm and disband to reform as a political party ahead of elections planned for January.

Sadr, who had refused to meet the delegation, is understood to have asked US marines to withdraw from Najaf first - a demand that would be treated as a ruse by American commanders. Earlier yesterday the hawkish defence minister, Hazem Shaalan, warned the Mahdi army to leave the shrine within hours or face attack.

The government, keenly aware that an American assault on the mosque, one of the most sacred in Shia Islam, could infuriate moderate members of the country’s largest community, has said Iraq’s security forces rather than the Americans would storm the shrine. But US military weight would almost certainly assist.~ The Daily Telegraph, August 19, 2004

At every stage the interim government and the U.S. have seemed intent on creating a crisis with radical Shi’is where none needed to have existed. If the erstwhile mission of our soldiers in Iraq is now to achieve some modicum of stability for a transition to some kind of real, native Iraqi government, it makes little sense to sabotage that larger mission to make an example of this little man, al-Sadr, especially if he is on the verge of submitting. It has been the effort to make an example of him that is very nearly in danger of detonating the entire political process, just as the effort to make an example of him in April blew up in the face of the proconsul, Paul Bremer.

Russia, the backer of the separatists and their potential protector in war, has been presenting an array of mixed signals for [Georgian President] Saakashvili to interpret, meeting warmly with the Georgians at the top level while members of the Russian Parliament and military officers have made inflammatory remarks.

Mr. Saakashvili said that Russia’s position would be critical to finding the way toward reunifying the country, but that efforts at substantive dialogue had been met with delay. He said he had asked the Russians to provide a list of their concerns but had received no response.

“I don’t even know with what we are dealing,” he said. “What are the issues?”

Richard M. Miles, the American ambassador to Georgia, said in an interview last week that the United States had urged the potential combatants to disengage militarily and work toward negotiations. Washington has been Georgia’s patron, funneling it $1.2 billion in aid in the past decade. With the possibility of conflict, the players here have been trying to judge Washington’s stance.

The Abkhazian government’s hardened language speaks of the official calculation to date: Washington will back the young Georgian president only so far. “I don’t think American soldiers would fight for Georgia’s unity,” said Mr. Ashuba, the Abkhazian legislator. ~ New York Times, August 17, 2004

Needless to say, any direct American involvement in this conflict would be unwise in the extreme. It rests with the government of Russian President Putin to demonstrate that it is capable of exercising its influence over Abkhazia and South Ossetia in a responsible way that would respect the autonomy of these territories and avoid recourse to violence. The belligerent Mr. Saakashvili has already revealed that he is unsuited to the role of unifying Georgia, and he appears to believe that he has much more to gain in terms of American support if he maintains his hard anti-Russian stance.

President Putin has an opportunity to help calm tensions and reconcile the two Orthodox peoples of Russia and Georgia, which is undoubtedly in the interest of the Georgian people. It is clear that the current American administration is committed only to further meddling in the Caucasus through its cat’s paw in Saakashvili and cannot be considered a credible advocate for a peaceful resolution of this situation.

I think Bush and Blair have got a great deal wrong in the way they have handled Iraq since the war. But that should not obscure the fact that we went into Iraq for the right reasons. Iraq was not entitled to all the protection of a normal sovereign state. It had invaded its neighbours, was subject to UN sanctions, could not fly planes in its own airspace and had failed to comply with UN resolutions. It had developed weapons of mass destruction and maintained the capability, if not the large stockpiles, as the Butler inquiry confirms. There was a real danger that these weapons would fall into terrorist hands with devastating consequences. This, in the words of Tony Blair to Parliament on 18 March last year, represented ‘a fundamental assault on our way of life’. I agree.~ George Osbourne, The Spectator

We have all heard this tired, ghastly nonsense for so long that it is almost pointless to answer the absurd conclusions of war advocates. But Mr. Osbourne has put the defense of the Iraq war on such shaky ground that it will be a real pleasure to break his appalling position to pieces. Aside from all the normal dishonest and misleading things that war advocates tend to say about Iraq, Mr. Osbourne has the nerve to claim that invading Iraq was to safeguard our “way of life.”

It was not true for Britain, and it was not true for the United States. If some tinpot country on the other side of the globe obtains even nuclear weapons (which Iraq was in no realistic danger of ever doing), our way of life would go on for the simple reason that the tinpot country has no incentive or interest in using those weapons against the greatest miltary power on earth and its allies. Arguably, we have much more to fear from Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Islamists, because the Islamists and their security services are sometimes the same people–nothing like this could be said for Iraq. But what is our approach to Pakistan, arch-proliferator and terrorist sponsor? We sell them weapons and raise them to equal standing with our best allies. Our way of life remains, thank God, quite secure in spite of the insane policies of our governments.

Besides, governments do not hand off their most-prized weapons to third parties and extremists with their own agendas. It has never happened, and I will venture a guess that it never will happen. It is particularly difficult to do this, though, when they do not possess these weapons, which most honest observers suspected about Iraq by the start of 2002. I say honest observers, because most of the ‘expert’ opinion supporting the government position was demonstrably either not honest or not competent.
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About 140 Rwandan soldiers arrived in Sudan’s Darfur province yesterday, becoming the first foreign army deployed in the Iraq-sized region since Arab militiamen began attacking black African farmers 17 months ago.

But their arrival sparked immediate conflict, with Rwanda declaring the troops would use force if necessary and Sudan responding such action would not be tolerated.

The troops were airlifted to Darfur to protect unarmed military observers monitoring a ceasefire between government forces and rebels.~ The Australian , August 17, 2004

Empire, says British historian Niall Ferguson in the journal Foreign Policy, is a good thing. Empire building is the right and moral thing to do.

“Anyone who dislikes U.S. hegemony should bear in mind that, rather than a multipolar world of competing great powers, a world with no hegemon at all may be the real alternative to U.S. primacy,” Ferguson argues. “Apolarity (power vacuums) could turn out to mean an anarchic new Dark Age: an era of waning empires and religious fanaticism; of endemic plunder and pillage in the world’s forgotten regions; of economic stagnation and civilization’s retreat into a few fortified enclaves.”~ Kevin Horrigan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Leaving aside for the moment the problem that modern people constantly misunderstand what an empire comprises, Mr. Ferguson’s dire predictions of a world gone the way of something like the Mad Max films are not just ludicrous but based on a silly, old view of Western history that even Mr. Ferguson, a genuinely respectable historian in his own right, cannot really be taking seriously. This is the view that the light of reason and civilisation went out with the collapse of the western empire, which was only really recovered from the long dark night of medievalism at the dawn of the Renaissance/early modern period. Nothing quite like that happened, but the terrifying image of a world sunk into darkness and ignorance serves Mr. Ferguson’s political project very nicely.

Let us understand what the “Dark Ages” (perhaps ranging c. 500-1000, give or take a few decades) involved, and what they did not. Take the charge of anarchy, for instance. By the time of the “Dark Ages,” the relative anarchy of the Great Migrations or barbarian invasions was subsiding and in the place of the much-celebrated empire there was extensive decentralisation to local and regional rulers. By this time, the worst and most fanatical of the Christian-pagan conflicts were over and the gradual conversion of Eastern Roman and European society was taking place. Most of the well-known religious fanaticism in Christian history on a grand scale was a product of the western high middle ages and the early modern era, and most of the worst episodes of this fanaticism came during the formation of strong consolidated kingdoms or nation-states at the expense of regional authorities.

By every standard except that of the strength of the state and long-distance trade, the “Dark Ages” (historians of this era now tend to refer to the general period as the late antique and early medieval periods) saw the gradual cultural, technological and even, gradually, economic progression and improvement of the lot of most of the people in Europe. Whether or not feudalism may be considered political “progress” depends very much on whether one believes that consolidated power represents an advance for humanity. Mr. Ferguson’s assumption that it is an advance very much colours his approach to a period in which such a universal hegemon was absent (and, of course, the extent of Rome’s hegemony stopped in the very land of Mesopotamia where our own has been found so desperately wanting).

The fact is that the world has gotten along just as well without a hegemon as with one (assuming that America really holds something like such a position right now), and perhaps better, and that most of the colossal wreckage of our last century came from one set of powers either trying to preserve their hegemony or seize that hegemony from those who possessed it. It is not a worthy or admirable goal for any people, and it usually only spells ruin for the would-be hegemon and everyone else. An American refusal to be the hegemon will not mean pandemonium and chaos in the world (no more than there already is, at any rate). It will, in all likelihood, force other regional powers to reassess their own responsibilities (if we must use this patronising and ridiculous language) for their own areas.
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Which brings us to Reason Three of what’s wrong with corporations—disloyalty to nation and people. As corporations have gone global, they have simply ceased to be part of any nation or to identify with any people, race or civilization—as their managers love to boast. Some years ago, Ralph Nader asked the directors of 100 big companies to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance at their stockholders’ meetings. Only one agreed; half never responded; the rest got snippy at the suggestion.

Corporate disloyalty to nation and people is obvious in corporate support for NAFTA, the World Trade Organization, and mass immigration and the cheap labor it imports. Much of the hatred the left exudes for corporations comes from or plays on the theme of disloyalty, but—since the left itself doesn’t really believe in nation or peoplehood either, it’s limited in how clearly it can make the disloyalty charge.

The people who could make that and other charges against corporations and the global grabfest that they want to replace Western and American civilization are conservatives—the real kind, not the fakes who are little more than hired guns for Big Business. Maybe if real conservatives started telling us what’s really wrong with Big Business, Hollywood would put them in the movies.~ Samuel Francis 

Forty thousand Iraqi Christians have left Iraq since a wave of church bombings killed at least 10 people two weeks ago, Iraq’s displacement and migration minister said in press remarks.~ Agence France Presse, August 15, 2004

Nothing could more eloquently testify to both the utter failure and the immorality of the entire Iraq enterprise than this wave of refugees. Some might argue that this exodus is principally the responsibility of the terrorists, and no one would deny that the actual attackers bear grievous responsibility for both the killings and the subsequent flight of so many thousands. But the ultimate responsibility rests with those who ordered and supported the war that created the anarchy from which our Christian brothers, among many other suffering people, are now fleeing.

A conference of more than 1,100 Iraqis chosen to take the country a crucial step further toward constitutional democracy convened in Baghdad on Sunday under siege-like conditions, only to be thrown into disorder by delegates staging angry protests against the American-led military operation in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

After an opening speech by Iraq’s interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, delegates leapt out of their seats demanding the conference be suspended. One Shiite delegate stormed the stage before being forced back, shouting, “We demand that military operations in Najaf stop immediately!”~ The New York Times , August 15, 2004

The last few days have seen rather dramatic developments. Far worse, in one sense, than the threatened secession of southern governorates is the near-failure of this national conference almost before it has begun. Not only have operations in Najaf further radicalised political opinion in southern Iraq among the more extreme elements there, but a number of presumably relatively more moderate delegates at this conference want nothing to do with the process so long as military operations continue. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the way in which the unnecessary and imprudent use of force in Najaf at this time is sabotaging the political process, such as it is, than these recent developments in Baghdad. I would not have given Iraqi “democracy” more than two cents for its chances before now. Now I would not even given it that much.

If Byzantium has left a lesson for the philosophic historian, that is probably to be read in its excessive institutionalization. To divinize an institution is to make it eventually an idol, and an idol always demands tribute. The Byzantines tended to worship the forms they had created, and the forms came to exact a toll that was ruinous.

Strange though the thought may at first appear, there are nations of the modern world which, in their bureaucratic and industrial organizations, seem to be falling into the Byzantine pattern.~ Richard Weaver, Proud “City of God”, National Review, 3/24, June 15, 1957 (reprinted in In Defense of Tradition)

This short book review of an unexceptional history of Byzantium almost fifty years ago is bound to misunderstand the subject of Byzantine history. One might even wonder why anyone would bother about this review, except that it reflects a serious misunderstanding not only of Byzantium but of states and institutions in general. Even though Prof. Weaver’s review latches onto the old and increasingly discredited stereotype of Byzantium as a rigid and highly institutionalised state, the chief problem lies not in this exaggeration of the realities of Byzantine society but in the odd political and aesthetic judgement passed on what is deemed to be typically Byzantine.
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Belgium’s far right Vlaams Blok party scored a massive election victory in the regional election which took place in Flanders in mid-June and in the European elections which took place on the same day.

The much reviled party garnered almost a quarter of votes in each election - scoring 23% in the European elections and 24% in the Flemish poll. ~ BBC News

This is already an older topic, and it has already been very well covered by Dr. Paul Gottfried in the July print issue of Chronicles, but it is a topic that is worth a bit more consideration. The struggle between the Flemish liberal nationalists of the Vlaams Blok and their various “cordon sanitaire” adversaries highlights a continuing battle both in Europe and here in America between those who believe that erstwhile democratic processes exist to achieve a certain set of political, cultural and social results as defined by a social democratic/”progressive” ideology and those who believe that, if these processes should exist at all, they exist to reflect the desires and interests of the citizens of a given country.

The conventional wisdom in the former group is that there are political positions that are absolutely unacceptable in a democracy, but the intriguing aspect of this exclusionary attitude is that these democrats find parties that are too representative of ordinary citizens (or, rather, the ordinary citizens who have an interest in opposing the “progressive” political and cultural goals) to be “undemocratic” by default. Thus one can find otherwise fairly sober newspapers bewailing the results from a peaceful, fair election in which a party committed to the tradition of liberal democracy, self-determination, free markets and even cooperative relations with the United States (!), such as the Vlaams Blok, fares very well.

In the mind of the “democratic” leadership and its servile mouthpieces in the press, this is a “crisis” of democracy, because the same party also pushes for strong enforcement of the law and the curtailment of illegal and unassimilable immigration, apparently two things that no “responsible” party would advocate. Above all, the Vlaams Blok has committed the crime of claiming that the people of Flanders may decide their own political fate.
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“We’ve lost nearly 1,000 young American men and women in Iraq so far. Why am I the only candidate who’s willing to admit that a mistake was made? Why am I the only candidate with a plan to bring the troops home? Bush wants to continue it. Kerry wants to expand it. Nader wants to internationalize it. I want to end it.”~ Michael Badnarik, Libertarian candidate for President

Mr. Badnarik is quite mistaken if he believes he is the only candidate who advocates a swift withdrawal from Iraq. While it is heartening to see that 5% of my fellow voting New Mexicans currently support someone besides the main options of the One Party, it is unfortunate that Mr. Badnarik fails to acknowledge his serious antiwar rival, Michael Peroutka of the Constitution Party. There is the presumption on the part of Libertarian Party members opposition that antiwar voters, especially antiwar Republican and conservative voters, have no alternative other than to embrace their party.
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Last night I happened to see President Bush appearing on Larry King’s talk show, and he repeated, for what must be the thousandth time, his corny truism that “free societies are peaceful societies.” Mr. Bush was offering his ’solution’ to terrorism, which contained as one important part the spreading of “freedom,” based on the strange assumption that free societies do not cultivate terrorists. Mr. Bush can hardly be solely blamed for repeating this seductive phrase, since it is one of the cornerstones of the great liberal democratic (or, more properly, democratist) fraud. The myth is that governments, not peoples, desire war, and therefore a government which is the most responsive to the people and which allows the greatest possibility for popular expression will be peaceful.

Would that this were true. However, in an excellent insight that was really ahead of its time, Hegel explained that this was basically incorrect:

In England, for example, no unpopular war can be waged. But if it is imagined that sovereign princes and cabinets are more subject to passion than parliaments are, and if the attempt is accordingly made to transfer responsibility for war and peace into the hands of the latter, it must be replied that whole nations are often more prone to enthusiasms and subject to passion than their rulers are. In England, the entire people has pressed for war on several occasions and has in a sense compelled the ministers to wage it…Only later, when emotions had cooled, did people realize that the war was useless and unnecessary, and that it had been entered into without calculating the cost.~ G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, strophe 329

The case of Iraq is instructive in this regard. While many opponents of the war argued, quite correctly, that most Americans would ultimately reject the war and refuse to tolerate the costs associated with it, in the pre-war buildup and the initial phases of the fighting the popular response was very favourable. Except for die-hard partisan opponents and a relative few principled opponents of aggressive and interventionist wars, the public welcomed the war and did not need much convincing.

Public opinion is, of course, as Joseph Schumpeter has argued, manufactured opinion, and the public had been taught to think of Iraq as an intolerable threat ever since 1990, but once that suggestion has been planted in the public mind, so to speak, there is nothing more politically suicidal and potentially “un-American” than stating the obvious truth that Iraq posed no threat whatever. This is only to highlight the inherent irrationality of popular opinion (to even refer to such a mass of inchoate sentiments as opinion, thought, is to be too generous), which can be so easily guided by pressure groups’ manipulation of emotions, and the great danger of relying on such opinion as any sort of guard against dangerous excesses or violent solutions. It should also remind us that, however repugnant we find this manipulated opinion and its consequences, the resulting war was not really a failure of democracy, but its natural expression.
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While briskly thumbing through the pages of the not-so-conservative Conservative Chronicle, a curious headline to a Jeff Jacoby column caught my eye: “The News In Iraq Isn’t All Bad“. What a relief! Not all bad, mind you. The implication was that the overwhelming majority of news really was bad, because the situation was simply awful, but Mr. Jacoby did dredge up a few exciting, positive items. The most striking (and untrue) claim was this:

Freedom of speech is alive and well, especially at Baghdad’s Radio Dijla, the first independent all-talk radio station in the Arab world. Launched just three months ago, Radio Dijla now gets 18,000 calls a day — far more than its small staff can answer. Everybody from laborers to ministry officials tunes in, and callers are free to speak about anything at all (only incitement to violence is taboo). Under Saddam, criticizing a government minister could get you beaten, jailed, or worse. Today government ministers go on Radio Dijla so ordinary Iraqis can give them a piece of their mind.

Real conservatives have become accustomed to parsing liberal invocations of “freedom of speech” over the years, understanding that liberal conventions of free speech allow for all speech and thought that aids their interests while they try to condemn, censor or outlaw speech they find not to their liking. The same rules seem to apply in Iraq, though here it is the U.S.-backed government, rather than ideological pressure groups, that is blocking dissenting or unwanted voices. In light of the month-long ban on Al-Jazeera in Iraq (at the behest of the “sovereign” Iraqi government, of course!), it is impossible not to conclude that voices the “Iraqi government” does not find suitably servile or obedient will be shut down arbitrarily on the pitiful pretext, as in this case, of incitement to violence.

‘Incitement to violence’ is becoming the codephrase for any form of political view or journalism that does not reflect the Iraq that Americans are spoonfed daily by their papers and television reports. This is the free speech where any point of view is tolerated, except for all views that do not endorse the official program of “democracy” and “unity” and so on. Genuine incitement to violence is something that could be legitimately banned, but the concept here has been stretched beyond all recognition. The Iraqi interior minister made the laughable claim that reports about criminal activity encouraged crime and violence!
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Despite his bloodthirsty rhetoric directed at Georgia’s two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Saakashvili enjoys bipartisan support in Washington. Even at the height of a bitter domestic election campaign, the supporters of both U.S. President George W. Bush and challenger John Kerry have nothing but praise for the Columbia Law School alumnus. George Soros may have pledged millions to oust Bush, but he has boasted that his money helped to install Saakashvili in power last November. The Open Society Institute helped train the protesters who toppled Eduard Shevardnadze to the applause of the Bush White House. ~ Mark Almond, US Blinded by Love for Saakashvili

The career and attitudes of Mr. Saakashvili illuminate a great deal about the sort of “democracy” that American liberals and neoconservatives want to extend to the four corners of the earth, as well as demonstrating why the unfortunate people of Georgia are doomed in the short term to bad government and the tyranny of managerial elites and the “international community.”

There is an almost Orwellian aspect to the way in which the U.S. establishment has erased its love affair with Shevardnadze from the pages of history while it carries on in exactly the same fashion with his successor. After all, then-Secretary of State James Baker went to Georgia in 1992 to praise Shevardnadze’s anti-corruption drive and democratization efforts, even finding time for a photo-op with the notorious mafioso Dzhaba Ioseliani.

In 1999, James Baker presided over the ceremony awarding Shevardnadze the Enron Prize for Distinguished Public Service. Then in 2003 the same James Baker returned to Georgia and blasted the Shevardnadze regime for corruption and election fraud.

This rapid change from American officials’ defending the corrupt and abusive Eduard Shevardnadze to seeking his ouster at first perplexed me when I read about it, since the neoconservative rag Wall Street Journal and neoconservative favourite John McCain have gone out of their way in the past to defend Shevardnadze against the purportedly sinister designs of the Russian government. At first, I made the mistake of believing that the movement to oust Shevardnadze was a genuine, popular movement, and assumed that the neoconservatives had lost an ally through his sheer corruption. The coup that brought the weird neo-Stalinist and Shevardnadze protege Saakashvili to power was supposed to remove the overt taint of rigged elections and effective dictatorship from the U.S. puppet in Tbilisi. Now the dictator of Georgia, who wants to be “like Stalin and Beria,” according to his wife, has the moniker of democrat. Such a “democracy” is interested only in empowering vassals loyal to Washington and the globalist agenda now being exported from there.

Now, however, Saakashvili promises to reignite the simmering separatist wars that have wracked Georgia since independence. This cannot be in the best interests of the Georgian people, whose country has already been ruined by the ongoing fighting both at home and in nearby Chechnya. It must be to serve the interests of his masters in Washington that Saakashvili is resuming the threats against the Russian-backed separatists in the same, tired struggle for influence in the Caucasus that has nothing to do with real American interests and everything to do with neoconservative Russophobia and hegemonism.

According to the New York Times (August 5) some 4,000 Iraqi Christian families have taken refuge in Syria. Others go to Jordan or Lebanon, but Syria is the favored destination. Ruled by a branch of the Baath Party at odds since the 1960s with its Iraqi counterpart, Syria remains a secular republic. Ten percent of the population (about 1.8 million) is Christian, and Iraqi Christians reportedly feel little discrimination in the country. There is no rigid dress code such as one finds in Saudi Arabia and some other Arab nations; the liquor stores are open.

“We are safe here, and so we feel free,” says Abdulkhalek Sharif Nuamansaid, who has brought his family to Damascus from Baghdad. “The Syrians are brothers to us. There is no discrimination here. That is the truth, and not a compliment.” According to a 2002 report by International Christian Concern, a group that monitors persecution of Christians globally, “No government acts of religious persecution have been witnessed” recently, and “There is no evidence that prisoners are being held for their Christian beliefs at this time.” ~ Gary Leupp, Why Iraqi Christians Are Moving to Syria

While I do not reach the same conclusions as Mr. Leupp about the nature of Mr. Bush’s errors (i.e., Christian fundamentalism is the source of the trouble), he provides an excellent summary of the advantages for Christians in the secular Arab republics when compared to the pro-Islamist alternatives available in the Near East. He also offers a strong argument that the result, and the apparent goal, of U.S. policy in the Near East is to perversely empower Islamists through the destruction of the only bulwarks against them, namely Baathist Iraq and Syria. Perhaps the goal is to provide a permanent set of adversaries that will justify perpetual intervention.
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Thus, what has been considered since time immemorial as utterly contemptible and unworthy–i.e. to renounce the knowledge of truth–was glorified before our time as the supreme triumph of the spirit. Before it reached this point, this despair in reason had still been accompanied by pain and melancholy; but religious and ethical frivolity, along with that dull and superficial view of knowledge which described itself as Enlightenment, soon confessed its impotence frankly and openly, and arrogantly set about forgetting higher interests completely; and finally, the so-called critical philosophy provided this ignorance of the eternal and the divine with a good conscience, by declaring that it [i.e., critical philosophy] had proved that nothing can be known of the eternal and the divine, or of truth. ~ G.W.F. Hegel, Inaugural Address, Delivered at the University of Berlin

For fanaticism wills only what is abstract, not what is articulated, so that whenever differences emerge, it finds them incompatible with its own indeterminacy and cancels them. This is why the people, during the French Revolution, destroyed once more the institutions they had themselves created, because all institutions are incompatible with the abstract self-consciousness of equality.

Consequently, when these abstractions were invested with power, they afforded the tremendous spectacle, for the first time we know of in human history, of the overthrow of all existing and given conditions within an actual major state and the revision of its constitution from first principles and purely in terms of thought; the intention beind this was to give it what was supposed to be a purely rational basis. On the other hand, since these were only abstractions divorced from the Idea, they turned the attempt into the most terrible and drastic event. ~ G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right

In attempts to rescue the reputation of Hegel from the lurid portrait painted by modern historians and political thinkers, who have cast him as an apologist for Prussian autocracy or proto-totalitarianism and always a statolater, recent Hegel scholars have sought to recover the liberal elements of Hegel’s thought to the extent that they have sought to emphasise his respect for the French Revolution as proof of his liberal attitudes. This is also an exaggeration, as the quotes above indicate. Philosophy of Right came during a later phase of his career (1821), and so may be said to represent the more complete maturation of Hegel’s thought.

Hegel’s hostility to abstraction suggests a kind of systematic philosophy that genuinely respects ideas, because of the great meaning and significance he attached to them as realities, rather than the truncated and distorted mockeries of ideas that abstractions and, by extension, ideologies are.

In southern Iraq, the head of a provincial council said its government might cut its oil flow and close down highways to Baghdad to protest Allawi’s cooperation with Marines in Najaf.

The national interim government, said Ali al Musawi, is “an illegal and unelected Iraqi government that came in the name of an occupying force that claimed it wanted to liberate Iraq but has come to kill the sons of Iraq.”

Al Musawi’s province, Maysan, includes the city of Amarah, which has been the scene of recent clashes between al-Sadr’s fighters and British troops.

There was no indication Tuesday that al Musawi’s words would result in any concrete action, but they showed a growing erosion of support for Allawi and the U.S.-backed plan for the transition to Iraqi self-rule. ~ Kansas City Star, August 10, 2004

In spite of the assurances of the Iraqi minister for provinces, Waeil Abdel-Latif, that al Musawi’s views carry no real weight, the danger of alienating southern provincial figures by continuing to fight in Najaf seems all too real. Though apparently not confirmed by American or European media as of yet, Aljazeera.net has reported the following today:

Deputy Governor of Basra Salam Uda al-Maliki has said he is to announce the separation of some Iraqi southern governorates from the central government in Baghdad.

Informed sources told Aljazeera that al-Maliki said the breakaway province would include Basra, Misan and Dhi Qar governorates.

He also wants to shut Basra’s port, and effectively stop oil exports.

Al-Maliki said the decision was taken because the Iraqi interim government is “responsible for the Najaf clashes”.

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Let us consider the consequences of this system [of unlimited freedom of capital]. The multiplication of the paths of exchange will soon lead to its logical conclusion, and we will only see on the market those goods produced by the most miserable of peoples. The Chinese will become the world’s best workers because they only require that their animal needs be met. Later, the worker, the engineer, the salesman, and the banker himself will be purchased on the open market. Then the banker of London, Paris, or Vienna, having made himself rich by putting his capital to work in China, will in turn face an unequal struggle against the Chinese usurer, who will not give himself the luxuries of a princely palace, teams of horses, parties, and the life of the rich. An irremediable decline awaits the economic order of the civilization of the West at the end of this path of freedom of labor, a path down which it is led by the teaching of the philosophers, the science of the economists, and the power of the capitalists. ~ Rene de La Tour du Pin, The Corporate Regime

La Tour du Pin observed the economic problems that now beset Western countries over a century ago, and in his prophecy we can see the offshoring of our computer engineering and other technical jobs and the de-industrialisation of developed nations, particularly that of the United States. The logic of such a system, even when it labours under the distortions of its state capitalist framework, is to denude developed nations of all their advanced and creative industries. In a very specific way, this process is highly rational in terms of lowering costs and improving efficiency, but in terms of national self-interest at some point such a process becomes self-defeating.

The Bush administration, which had elevated the terror-warning level in three U.S. states on the basis of information acquired from Khan, set up the briefing to dispel public skepticism about the terrorism threat, particularly after it was disclosed that much of the information on which it was based was several years old.

British and Pakistani intelligence agencies were reportedly furious with the leak, which forced UK police to hurriedly round up 13 al-Qaeda suspects who are alleged to have been in email communication with Khan. Five others who were sought by MI5 reportedly escaped capture, and there is some question that the British had gathered enough evidence to persuade a judge to keep the 13 detainees in custody, according to published reports.

“By exposing the only deep mole we’ve ever had within al-Qaeda, it ruined the chance to capture dozens if not hundreds more,” a former Justice Department prosecutor, John Loftus, told Fox News on Saturday. ~ Jim Lobe, Bush Team on Defensive Over al-Qaeda Leak

Perhaps the administration felt compelled to produce some specific warnings and evidence to support these warnings because it had already wasted so much goodwill and credibility assuring the public that its information on Iraq was solid and accurate. The White House could no longer continue to assure the public that Americans should simply trust the word of the President and his officers, because the public cannot trust their statements any longer. This is one of the lingering dangers for Americans–that the government is so untrustworthy that it must reveal sensitive information simply to be taken seriously–and one of the permanent costs of the pointless and dreadful Iraq war.

Turning to the facts, one thing we can say for sure is that there is no ethnic conflict in Darfur between ‘Arabs’ and ‘Africans’. According to Alex de Waal, author of Famine That Kills, about Darfur, it is a crude oversimplification to speak of the Janjaweed militia as ‘Arab’. ‘The people of the region are essentially African,’ he says. ‘They are all black, and you cannot tell one group from another simply by looking at them.’ Sometimes the so-called ‘Arabs’ are darker than the ‘Africans’. Intermarriage over the centuries has meant that the ethnic groups are indistinguishable from each other.

The people of Darfur are all Muslim. Some speak a version of Arabic, although Arabs to the north of the Sahara, in Tunis or Cairo, would view it as a quaint dialect. The term ‘African’ is a new coinage when applied to Darfur: it did not exist 20 years ago. This whole vocabulary of ethnicity is the result of years of conflict, with one group associating itself with new, irredentist strains of Arabism, while the other sought foreign sympathy through the most ubiquitous label of victimhood known on the planet — ‘African’. Confusingly, the ‘Arabs’ in Darfur are often less Islamist than the non-Arab ‘Africans’. ~ Daniel Wolf, The Spectator

The European Union yesterday said it had found no evidence of genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur, although killing was widespread with little evidence of government efforts to protect civilians. ~ Reuters, August 9, 2004

Who is Alan Keyes? Bill Kristol’s college roommate, the stalking horse the neoconservatives put up to take the conservative vote away from Pat Buchanan, the zany who cried racism when, after failing to attract any significant support, he was not allowed into the Republican presidential debates, the senatorial candidate who scandalized some of his supporters by living off his own campaign, a good talker in love with the sound of his own voice but who has never accomplished a political objective, conceived an original idea, or written something worth reading. He is the quintessential representative of a political movement that prefers illusion to reality and must live off the sizzle because there is no steak to offer. ~ Thomas Fleming, The Race Is On

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Eric Margolis, writing in the latest edition of The American Conservative, has done a wonderful job breaking down the reasons behind the disintegration of the “Coalition of the Willing” in Iraq. However, he made one of his more curious statements with regard to one of those few governments that were remaining solidly with the Bush Administration:

Italy’s conservative prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has also come under intensive popular pressure to pull his nation’s 3,000 troops out of Iraq. Over 80 percent of Italians oppose military involvement there. But ideological solidarity between Berlusconi’s coalition partners on Italy’s neo-fascist and neo-Mussolinist far Right and the Pentagon’s neocons is helping keep Italy committed, though doing so has caused Berlusconi’s popularity to drop sharply.

Taken together with Mr. Margolis’s remark that Jose Maria Aznar, the then-Spanish Prime Minister, backed Bush on “ideological grounds,” one could come away from the article with the impression that the major political forces supporting this war in America and in at least some European states were “hard-line conservative,” radical right or “neo-fascist” forces. This is simply incorrect, regardless of what implications such a view might have for the highly conservative but anti-Iraq war Right.

The article’s characterisation of the Italian government’s motives for remaining in Iraq is erroneous, and while this is a small detail in an otherwise excellent article it combines a number of oft-repeated and unfortunate stereotypes about neoconservatives and their fellow travellers in the world, particularly the view cultivated in Europe that neoconservatives and President Bush represent some fanatical right-wing junta. For readers of TAC and most conservative or rightist observers of the contemporary scene, this view is painfully absurd.
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It is the Cause of Truth against Falsehood of Loyalty against Rebellion of legal Government against Usurpation of Constitutional Freedom against Tyranny–in short–it is the Cause of human happiness, the happiness of Millions against Outrage and Oppression. ~ Rev. Charles Inglis, September, 1777

After recently discovering a number of well-written histories of American Loyalism, especially Wallace Brown’s The Good Americans, I came to appreciate the Loyalists on their own terms in a way that my standard lessons in American history did not allow. The Rev. Inglis’s quote is perhaps an example of political enthusiasm overtaking even the most level-headed and moderate of causes, but I wonder if Rev. Inglis was not right after all. It surely should give everyone pause that Loyalists could legitimately use the language of liberty as easily as their opponents. Such a realisation might bring us to see the War for Independence in an entirely new light.
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Perhaps one has embodied the overlap of Old Right and far-Left as much as Pat Buchanan. Like the Left, Buchanan opposed both Iraqi wars, NAFTA, GATT, WTO, and anything shy of a pro-Arab foreign policy. During the primaries, Scott McConnell led The American Conservative’s somewhat implausible support for Howard Dean. He noted that one [sic] the New Hampshire organizers for Pat Buchanan in 1996 liked Dean in 2004. Said the crossover voter, “He reminds me of Pat.” ~ Anthony Gancarski, FrontPageMag.com

For whatever reason, the once anti-Iraq war, purportedly conservative Anthony Gancarski suffered from the political equivalent of a nervous breakdown some months back. Since then, he has engaged in the occasional vitriolic, rambling attack against the gentlemen who once bothered to publish his often turgid commentary on current affairs in their magazine or online. Once a fairly regular contributor to both The American Conservative and Antiwar.com, Mr. Gancarski chose to not only radically change his attitude towards the anti-Iraq war stance of his colleagues but has not had the courtesy to show them an iota of loyalty or decency since his dubious conversion to the fantasies of Horowitz’s FrontPage magazine online. In his repeated distortions of the work of The American Conservative, Lt. Col Kwiatowski, and now Samuel Francis, Mr. Gancarski has revealed himself repeatedly as the most dishonest and dishonourable of writers.

Update: Thanks to tex at Antiwar.com for including Gancarski’s “article” in his Saturday blog tour.
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Prime Minister: Islam and democracy are unnatural and in the end adversarial cohabitants, no matter how much you might wish otherwise. You will have more luck searching for WMDs in Iraq than searching for a democratic instinct in Islam.

~ Rod Liddle, The Spectator

Sudan’s army has branded a United Nations Security Council resolution on the crisis in Darfur “a declaration of war” and warned it will fight any foreign troops sent into the region.

~ The Australian, August 3, 2004

In addition to the theoretical problems of intervention, the Sudanese government has presented the world with a very serious practical moral problem of enforcing its interventionist blather. This is the grim reality that a military intervention designed ostensibly to save lives may provoke larger conflicts that consume more lives than might be saved.

Again, thanks to the folks at Antiwar.com for carrying this story.
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U.S. forces arrested the press official of the Committee of Muslim Ulemas, Iraq’s highest Sunni religious authority, after participating in a televised debate.

The committee’s spokesman Mohamed Bashar al-Faidi said Monday that Muthanna al-Dari was seized on his way back home after taking part in a political debate broadcast live on Lebanese satellite television LBC on the upcoming Iraqi National Congress.

The committee announced that it will be boycotting the Iraqi National Congress which is set to convene in mid-August to protest against non-balanced representation of the Iraqi people in the parley.

Al-Faidi said Muthanna might have been arrested because of his harsh criticism of the controversial congress.

~ The Washington Times, Aug. 2, 2004

Fortunately, the occupation is now over and the Iraqis govern their own country. Thanks to the folks at Antiwar.com for picking up this story.

The resolution of the US House of Representatives - adopted unanimously by 422 votes and 12 abstentions - says the Bush administration should call the atrocities in Darfur by its rightful name: ‘genocide’.”

It urges the Bush administration to consider “multilateral or even unilateral intervention to prevent genocide should the United Nations Security Council fail to act”.

“While the world debates, people die in Darfur,” Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

“We actually could save some lives instead of lamenting afterward that we should have done something.”

~ BBC News, July 23, 2004

How is it that a term as extreme as genocide can be unanimously approved by the members of the House, minus the abstentions, and how is it that American congressmen believe that we have either the obligation or right to intervene in yet another foreign internecine war? How can murder and forcible expulsion in Africa be the legitimate business or concern of the people of this country, except perhaps in the most strict terms of humanitarian aid?
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Leo [XIII] expects the State—for the worker’s good and ultimately for the common good—to impose these obligations on employers if they do not freely accept them (31 et seq.). Now, if companies have to give Sundays and holy days off; if they have to limit their hours and make family-friendly policies; if they have to limit their use of pregnant or nursing women, etc., then in all of these ways they are being made to “lose money.” In Woods’ terms, some one’s “gain comes at another’s coerced expense.” One can cite similar points ad nauseam. [Thomas] Woods is so far from Catholic social teaching—indeed, from the entire Western tradition from Aristotle through the Fathers down to Saint Thomas—he isn’t even moving in the same universe. This ought to be troubling his conscience. If Woods replies that he agrees with what the popes want (e.g., a living wage) but he thinks he knows better how to get those results, he is dodging the problems that we are facing here and now. Let us pretend that the magic of the free market will work things out to everyone’s advantage . . . someday. How long from now? Ten years? Twenty? Fifty? Meanwhile, do we let wage agreements contrary to the moral law simply stand unchecked, because the lives of some poor people have to be, as it were, manure to fertilize the ground for more prosperous days? It seems to me the Church is saying: The worker has to be given such and such, here and now. If not, mortal sin is being committed and the common good damaged. If this means inefficiency, okay; if it means a lower gross national product, okay; if it means the rich have to live more frugally, that’s even better.

~ Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, This Goes Way Beyond Free Markets on the Chronicles website

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No, only a corporate regime can secure the right of each individual, not a single right for all, inasmuch as people have different functions within the association, but an equal respect for differing rights. This is the foundation for any social order worthy of the name. These were combined in such a way that they were not the weapon of one group against another, but a protection of the interest of all, joined in harmonious solidarity, just as a sound constitution does not arm citizens as enemy parties, but unites them by making the public good truly the common good.

~ Rene de La Tour du Pin, On the Corporate Regime

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Nothing more powerfully undermines the image of the Iraq war as a liberation than the rapid decline in the welfare and status of the country’s Christian minority. This decline was underscored again this week by bombing attacks on four churches in Baghdad and Mosul. It is not hard to see that “liberation” has been almost entirely negative for Iraqi Christians, which ought to leave some American Christian backers of the war wondering just what they have supported.
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