Wednesday, August 8, 2007 84 Comments

The secret of anti-Americanism

As a young American living outside the US I often found myself exposed to the odd belief system that's often called "anti-Americanism." I had trouble understanding how or why anyone could think this way. Reality, which my father brought home every night in the slim and serious form of the Herald Trib, was one thing, and anti-Americanism quite another.

And yet the creed seemed quite popular. Moreover, it was no peasant superstition. If anything, the local elites - with whose spawn I was of course raised, and whose wealth and sophistication were undeniable - tended to be the most anti-American around. If anyone was pro-American, it was the people farther down the food chain. This was a puzzle, and it was quite some time before I had any satisfying answer to the mystery.

Among American intellectuals today we see basically two views of anti-Americanism.

If you are a progressive intellectual, you probably believe that anti-Americanism is the natural consequence of the notorious crimes committed by America in the past and present. We could call this the Deathworld theory, after an old sci-fi novel by Harry Harrison. Without debating the details of America's rap sheet, the basic problem with the Deathworld theory is that many other 20th-century powers committed notorious crimes - the Soviets, the Chinese, and of course the dastardly French - without creating any phenomenon even remotely similar to anti-Americanism.

If you are a conservative intellectual, you probably believe that anti-Americanism is more or less the modern equivalent of anti-Semitism, that is, an lie propagated by unprincipled politicians for the usual purpose of rising to power on a wave of hate. We could call this the Hitler theory of anti-Americanism - Hitler was certainly no fan of Jazz Age America, infested as it was by Negroes and Jews. The difficulty with the Hitler theory is that most (although not all) of the world's anti-Americanists seem to hate Hitler even more than they hate America, so it's a little difficult to imagine them borrowing his tricks.

There are certainly bits of truth to both the Deathworld and Hitler theories. But overall, they don't really jump out at me and say "yes! I am an accurate representation of reality." So perhaps it's worth digging deeper.

I see four really puzzling facts about anti-Americanism.

First, the actual content of anti-Americanism is basically nonsense. I guarantee you that if anyone capable reading this blog got to sit down for an hour and chat with Bush, Cheney, or any of their henchmen, they would come away with an impression of an enormously likable, intelligent and utterly sincere individual. Moreover, this impression is quite accurate. My father - a career Foreign Service officer with a PhD in philosophy - met quite a few of these people, because one of the tasks of an FSO is shepherding Congresspersons on junkets. Regardless of party affiliation, all American politicians are likable, all are fairly (if seldom extremely) intelligent, and all are quite sincere in their desire to improve not only America, but also the world. Why would they be otherwise? "Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence."

Second, while it is not unusual for humans to believe nonsensical calumnies, anti-Americanists tend to be the best-educated, and generally most fashionable and sophisticated, people in their countries. It is not unusual for fashionable and sophisticated people to believe nonsense, but they need a strong psychological motivation to do so. Moreover, the obvious motivation - ethnic nationalism - tends to be quite unfashionable among these same elites. Not even French anti-Americanists believe that it's wrong for America to rule the world, because France should be ruling it instead.

Third, anti-Americanists don't actually seem to hate America or Americans. At least this is my experience, though of course there are exceptions. Often the line is that the US is the greatest country in the world, or would be if it lived up to its own values. Or they will tell you that they love the American people, but they hate the American government, Bush, etc.

Fourth, the world capital of anti-Americanism appears to be... America. Certainly, if there is a system of institutions in which anti-Americanism predominates, it's the Western university system, certainly the West's most prestigious universities are in America, and certainly anti-Americanism is no hardship to an American academic career. Where does Noam Chomsky teach? Not at the Sorbonne.

Here is my explanation of these four unusual facts. Your mileage, as usual, may vary.

First, I believe anti-Americanism is best described as an epiphenomenon of Universalism. The single most significant fact about the world today is that sixty-two years ago it was conquered by a military alliance whose leader was the United States, and whose creed of battle was this nontheistic adaptation of New England mainline Protestantism. I don't think it's a coincidence that the European ruling class holds essentially the same perspectives that were held at Harvard in 1945. The US Army did not shoot all the professors in Europe and replace them with Yankee carpetbaggers, but the prestige of conquest is such that it might as well have.

It makes sense to view anti-Americanism as a postwar phenomenon, because it's hard to find anything in Europe's prewar political scene that corresponds to it. Before WWII, a European who found American influences pernicious was most likely a man of the Right, generally either an anti-Wilsonian aristocrat or a Bonapartist nationalist demagogue. After the war, and especially since the rise of the postwar-educated generation of 1968, European anti-Americanism has been overwhelmingly on the Left. Considering the animosity between these factions, it's hard to find any continuity between them.

One way to look at the relationship between American and European political creeds is an analogy I often find useful: comparing the transmission of traditions to the transmission of languages.

In the 1940s, America invaded Europe, rather than the other way around. Therefore, we would expect to see more political diversity in America than in Europe, for much the same reason there are more dialects of English in Britain than in the US. The Englishmen who came to the US were by no means uniformly distributed across England, Scotland and Wales, and the randomizing process of migration tended to homogenize their speech and create a lingua franca. Just as the English of Appalachia retains Elizabethan tropes which have long since disappeared in the home country, the Universalism of Europe has a kind of New Deal purity which the fray of American politics has long since diluted.

In Europe, Universalism has no significant natural enemies. It flourishes as a kind of clonal hypercolony, like the Argentine ant. The sort of right-wing populism one can see every day on Fox News barely exists even in Britain, in the degenerate lowbrow form of the Daily Mail, where it is clearly in the process of vanishing. On the Continent it is already extinct for all political purposes, reappearing only east of the Oder in figures like the Kaczynski twins. While anti-Universalist attitudes are socially unfashionable in the United States, they are socially unacceptable in most of Europe. (Though allegedly the Swedes are famous for spewing great masses of filthy wrongthink when extremely intoxicated.)

This is how the European Union can claim to be the culmination of democracy, while in fact being entirely free from politics. The truth is that, except for a tiny minority of carping malcontents, all respectable Europeans agree on all significant political questions. Europe's educational system has simply done a fantastic job of eradicating dissent.

Fine. But what does this all have to do with anti-Americanism? How can an essentially American tradition be anti-American? This still makes no sense.

The truth, in my opinion, is that Europeans hate not America, but the American government. And they hate not the American government, but the red government - Defense, the White House, and maybe (quite anachronistically these days) the CIA. In other words, they are just like the San Francisco liberal who "loves her country, but doesn't trust her government." The fact that the overwhelming majority of American government employees work for the blue government simply does not occur to her in this context, and nor to the Europeans.

The foreign-policy institution of the blue government is, of course, the State Department - much as the foreign-policy institution of the red government is the Defense Department. So one way to see Europe is as a client state of State - much as Israel is a client state of Defense. No wonder they hate each other!

When Europeans express anti-American sentiments, in my opinion, they are actually acting as loyal servants of the America that conquered them six decades ago. Of course, Europe was invaded by tanks, airplanes and infantry - not diplomats, educators and aid workers. But the America that won World War II was a one-party state that had no place for the Right, and it recreated Europe in its own image. The cold war between State and Defense, eggheads and jocks, blue-state and red-state, broke out only after the shooting had stopped.

In fact, one theory is that this cold war is not just a cold war. It is the Cold War.

Here's another puzzle: even long after it's become clear that the atrocities of Communism met and exceeded those of Nazism, anti-anti-Communism remains our conventional wisdom. It has never been even slightly dislodged from its victory over the anti-Communist McCarthyites and Birchers. There is no hint, of course, of anti-anti-Nazism.

It's interesting to read classic works of American anti-Communism today, like the all-time Bircher bestseller, John Stormer's None Dare Call It Treason, which sold seven million copies in its day. From the benefit of hindsight, almost all the details in the book are correct - Castro and Mao really were Communist bastards, and so on - and at this low level its grip on reality is far stronger than anything which was taught at Harvard in its time.

But the overarching paranoid theory of anti-Communism, the idea that all American institutions had been infiltrated by the devious agents of Moscow, strikes us as nonsensical today - and rightly so. If you can't afford a copy of None Dare Call It Treason - a bargain at only one cent, plus shipping - you can see Eric Raymond, who is an ass but certainly no dummy, promoting this theory as recently as 2005.

What Raymond sees, and what the anti-Communists saw, was the remarkable alignment of Universalism with the interests of the KGB. True enough. What they missed was that they'd drawn the tail wagging the dog.

It is not that the American left was the tool of Moscow. In fact, it was the other way around. From day one, the Soviet Union was the pet experiment of the bien-pensants. It was Looking Backward in Cyrillic. It was the client state to end all client states.

True, the Soviet system never worked properly. Bellamy's Industrial Army didn't turn out to be as fun as it sounded, and in the end most Western intellectuals lost any faith that Russia, at least, was the planned society of their dreams. But if you imagine how American libertarians would react if Putin's Russia declared itself a libertarian paradise tomorrow, you may get some idea of how and why the process of disillusionment was so slow and halting.

It's not just that Western intellectuals saw the Soviet experiment as a glimpse of the future. The Soviet Union was a true client state - it depended existentially on the support of its Western patrons, and its demise had much to do with the demise of that support.

The Soviet system was a military tyranny, but it was not just a military tyranny. Its security also depended on a pervasive state religion, and the essence of that religion was the belief that the Soviet Union was at the forefront of human development. The fact that large numbers, often even the majority, of Western intellectuals, agreed with that claim, was a keystone of the Soviet political formula.

Because not even the Soviets could convince their own citizens that Russia was the center of civilization. Not even the dumbest muzhik from Okhotsk would swallow this one. However, the idea that America and Europe had fallen under the domination of fascist plutocrats who oppressed enlightened social thought was not at all hard to believe - whether in Russia or elsewhere. This is why the Soviets made such herculean efforts to maintain the support of prestigious Western intellectuals such as the Webbs, Lion Feuchtwanger, Lincoln Steffens, and many others, surpassing any Potemkin in their production of tourism as theatre.

The theory of Russia as a client state of the American left helps us understand the behavior of the great Communist spies of the 1940s, Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White. Essentially all significant institutions of today's transnational world community - the UN, the IMF, the World Bank - were designed by one of these gentlemen, whose role in passing American documents to Soviet military intelligence is now beyond dispute. John Stormer was right.

Or was he? The thing is that while, technically, Hiss and White were certainly Soviet agents, they hardly fit the profile of a traitor like Aldrich Ames. Hiss and White were at the top of their professions, respected and admired by everyone they knew. What motivation could they possibly have for treason? Why would men like these betray their country?

The obvious answer, in my opinion, is that they didn't see themselves as betraying their country. The idea that they were Russian tools would never have occurred to them. When you see a dog, a leash, and a man, your interpretation is that the man is walking the dog, even if the latter appears to be towing the former.

Hiss and White, in my opinion, believed - like many of their social and cultural background - that the US had nothing to fear from the Soviet Union. They saw themselves as using the Soviets, not the other way around, helping to induce the understandably paranoid Russian leadership to integrate themselves into the new global order. Probably they had much the same picture of their actions that Larry Franklin, on the other side of the aisle, had when he passed documents to Israel.

In this theory, the Soviet Union is simply the first and largest of the many Third World states which America's Universalist establishment played midwife to. From Mao, Castro, Nasser and Ho, down to Mugabe, Khomeini, and Chavez, the fingerprints of the State Department, the Times, and the universities are everywhere. The Bolsheviks are just the first of the series.

Not that the Polygon ever had control over these gangsters. No one can control a gangster. The likes of Hiss and White would have lasted five minutes in a power struggle with Stalin. If his name had been Heriberto de Mateo and his passport hadn't been blue, Castro would have had Herbert Matthews locked in a dog cage. To these mafia dons of the 20th century, their American intellectual patrons were no more than "useful idiots," and the entreaties of foreigners to actually implement freedom and democracy, as promised, the baaing of sheep.

And there were easy ways of defusing even this baaing. One way, still in use by Castro as I write, is to point to the hostility of America - ie, more exactly, of the red government. If America would only make peace with us, we would become good and sweet and true, but for now it is necessary to take extreme measures to defend ourselves from the Pentagon and CIA.

Thus, devout Universalists could blame all the suffering of the Cold War, not least its numerous hot wars, quite credibly on their own political enemies. Rather than on the militarist mafias to which the State Department had helped hand over half the planet. At least Europe did not prove favorable to gang rule - at least, not quite as favorable.

Anti-Americanism, in this interpretation, is the organizing ideology of an empire. Call it the Blue Empire. The Blue Empire is an American empire, and its headquarters are in Foggy Bottom and Cambridge and Times Square. Anti-Americanists have no idea that they are in fact serving the needs and wishes of the Blue Empire. But then again, why would they?

The Blue Empire's bitter enemy is the Red Empire, whose headquarters is in Arlington and (for the moment) Pennsylvania Avenue. The Red Empire is currently defending itself in Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and Colombia - former clients such as Chile, Spain, Portugal, South Vietnam and South Africa having fallen to the Blue side. (The Red Empire still has strong clients in Asia, though, such as Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia.)

Meanwhile, a few countries have actually managed to escape the blue-red war and become independent. They have names like "China" and "Russia." These places are doing quite well at the moment, although their continuing success is by no means guaranteed.

A nation is genuinely independent of America if its domestic politics are not correlated at all with American domestic politics. Iran and Venezuela, for example, are not independent of America, not only because anti-Americanism is a huge part of their internal political formulas (it plays a much smaller, if not undetectable, role in China and Russia), but also because their regimes both exhibit existential dependence on American political forces.

Iran needs the American left to defend it from attacks by the American right. The woman-stoning, gay-hanging mullahs of Iran, like other Islamic fundamentalists, don't really strike a chord in the Universalist heart, except with a few real misfits like John Walker Lindh. But to paraphrase Churchill, in a fight between the Pentagon and Satan himself, San Francisco can be relied upon to side with the latter.

Venezuela is not seriously threatened by the US military, except perhaps in its imagination. But Chavez, like the Soviets of yore, basks in the adulation he receives from the likes of Chomsky. One can assume this is a nontrivial aspect of his political formula.

And then, of course, there is Palestine - the pearl of the Blue Empire. But hopefully the pattern is clear by now.

From a strictly Machiavellian perspective, we have to regard the Blue Empire as a work of genius. It removes every inessential element of imperialism, and strips it down to its pure functional necessities. As St. Exupery put it, the machine is complete only when there is nothing left to take away.

The entire process of "decolonialization" was no more than the transfer of the Third World states from the old European Optimate empires to the Blue Empire. By shifting indirect rule from the regional to the national level, decolonialization could define itself as "liberation."

In fact the "liberated" states were left in the hands of Blue Empire advisers, who offered them aid and planned to use their countries as experiments in Universalist nation-building, and corrupt local thugs. Sometimes the relationship was good, sometimes it was bad. When it was good the money flowed, when it was bad it didn't. In every case, however, nations were not so much built as destroyed, and "postcolonialism" brought nothing but murder, theft and decay.

However, this was no skin at all off the Blue Empire's back. The purpose of empire is not actually to civilize the natives - that is 19th-century colonialist propaganda. The purpose of empire is to provide political validation for the imperialist party back home. The old British and French empires were always money-losing propositions - but great showpieces and patronage parks for the militarist, aristocratic conservative parties that sponsored them.

But at least they provided some civilization, and at least they didn't lose too much money. The river of money that American and European taxpayers have poured into the Blue Empire has produced a neo-feudal corruption economy throughout Africa - as one Kenyan economist puts it, "just stop the aid!" - but so what? Who gives a rat's ass about Africa? Aid makes Universalist politicians look caring and statesmanlike, and that's what counts. No wonder Barack Obama wants to double foreign aid. Somehow I suspect he isn't thinking of Israel, although the legislative process being what it is no doubt they will get a taste as well.

In a sense, we see, the Deathworld theory is exactly right. Anti-Americanism is indeed the result of American foreign policy. But not in quite the way most people imagine.

My favorite quote on American foreign policy is 157 years old. It was originally written about Britain, but I think the transformation is fairly straightforward. The author is the original dark prince of conservatism - Thomas Carlyle - who said, in his Latter-Day Pamphlet #4:

And at all times, and even now, there will remain the question to be sincerely put and wisely answered, What essential concern has the British Nation with them and their enterprises? Any concern at all, except that of handsomely keeping apart from them? If so, what are the methods of best managing it?--At present, as was said, while Red Republic but clashes with foul Bureaucracy; and Nations, sunk in blind ignavia, demand a universal-suffrage Parliament to heal their wretchedness; and wild Anarchy and Phallus-Worship struggle with Sham-Kingship and extinct or galvanized Catholicism; and in the Cave of the Winds all manner of rotten waifs and wrecks are hurled against each other,--our English interest in the controversy, however huge said controversy grow, is quite trifling; we have only in a handsome manner to say to it: "Tumble and rage along, ye rotten waifs and wrecks; clash and collide as seems fittest to you; and smite each other into annihilation at your own good pleasure. In that huge conflict, dismal but unavoidable, we, thanks to our heroic ancestors, having got so far ahead of you, have now no interest at all. Our decided notion is, the dead ought to bury their dead in such a case: and so we have the honor to be, with distinguished consideration, your entirely devoted,--FLIMNAP, SEC. FOREIGN DEPARTMENT."--I really think Flimnap, till truer times come, ought to treat much of his work in this way: cautious to give offence to his neighbors; resolute not to concern himself in any of their self-annihilating operations whatsoever.

If America were to adopt a Carlylean foreign policy - disbanding the Blue Empire, the Red Empire, and all their agents, functionaries and administrators - I suspect the concept of "anti-Americanism" would very quickly enter the history books.

As for the world? I wouldn't be too surprised if it actually turned out to be able to fend for itself. Of course, this is just a hunch - I could be wrong. I suppose in that case the dead would have to bury the dead.

84 Comments:

Anonymous bbroadside said...

This is another essay I'll be pondering for days, I wager. Your characterization of Palestine as the pearl of the Blue Empire is surprising and convincing. Would it be fair to characterize Israel as part of the Blue Empire of a few decades ago (say, mid-50s to mid-80s)? I kind of see it that way but I'm not sure when (if) there was a transition.

Having critiqued African decolonization with brutal honesty a few posts ago, how should a hypothetical Carlylean President decolonize the world of, say, 2010? (I use "Carlylean" only to follow your lead; I myself couldn't make head or tail of the quoted passage. *faint blush*) The intention, I propose, would be minimizing violence, maintaining the rule of law, maximizing freedom ... what I see as the eternal Moldbugian goals.

I'm just throwing that question out there for the whole world. I keep hearing my moderate/progressive friends say we "can't just leave" Iraq. I hope they don't mean we can only leave after the nation building is complete ... that sounds like it could take a while. I am confident of absolutely nothing on questions like this. Okay, abandoning the UN would be fairly easy; the IMF a little less so; the inter-Korean border less so....

How does a formalist answer the charge, or the suggestion, that multilateral treaties and pat-ourselves-on-the-back handouts to obscure warlords are the rightful property of the universalist faction? That to abolish USAID, the IMF, or even the good-hearted Peace Corps would be the equivalent of smashing the printing press at the local daily?

I only ask because formalist / propertarian thinking is still new to me. Is yours more or less the same solution as for the civil service? Are we talking about micropensions for Peace Corp twentysomethings?

How do you feel about privatization? I gather that IMF and World Bank are quasi-autonomous now. If a fully autonomous bank fulfilled those roles, would that suit you, or is such a thing (true autonomy ... separation of international finance and state) probably impossible? I ask because it seems like all sort of political frameworks can lead to super-powerful multinationals even if all sorts of forces believe they should be reigned in. I'm not sure if libertarianism, formalism, or whatever are any more stable than the status quo in this regard.

August 9, 2007 at 12:20 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

I'd be interested in seeing what you mean by the Department of Defense being a red state citadel.

Having served in the Army during the mid-90s, I came away with an impression that it is mostly the NCO corps and the Marines that are the conservative stalwarts.

The officers aren't so much, as a whole. They are by nature careerists, and competent careerists in any endeavor today tack with Universalism. And the civilians running the DoD have no more incentive to stay "red" than do their other Polygon colleagues.

Besides, and this may have been a Clinton-era thing, much of my military indoctrination consisted of diversity seminars, women-in-the-military-is-a-great-thing fare, etc.

Perhaps there are no more official Red institutions around today, the last show trial purge having been done on the Citadel, and the last surrender occurred at VMI....

August 9, 2007 at 5:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for the "Blue Empire" - remember the difference between reality and perception. Russia in reality was a powerful state with sophisticated intelligence. That some people THOUGHT they were directing it was a valuable asset in the subversive operations, nothing more.

America was obviously immesurably stronger - but it only appeared after the fact.

And you don't understand Russia if you think that Russians need the well-wishes of Western progressives to think themselves superior. Russians always thought theselves superior - they have a bit different opinion what constitutes superiority. For the "useful idiots" they have nothing but contempt- and this including the general population.

As to what is the Blue Empire, combine this term with the Dante's treatise.

Transnationalists don't want an American empire, they want some superior, divine source of peace, exactly such as postulated by Dante. They are the patriots of the Eternal Empire, currently subsisting in the UN.

Baduin

August 9, 2007 at 6:52 AM  
Blogger John Emerson said...

The big issue with "None Dare Call it Treason" and related books was whether Eisenhower and Rockefeller were Communists. Similiarly with Joe McCarthy, who made broadreaching claims about the Truman Administration.

From 1941 to 1945 the US was allied with the USSR (and to a degree, with the Maoists) against Nazi Germany, and when the alliances shifted in 1946 quite a few people ended up looking bad. (In the same way, when the US entered WWII, quite a few eminent people ended up looking bad.)

People like Coulter misrepresent the issue during the 50s as Communism vs. anti-Communism. What was the attempt to use anticommunism as a weapon to destroy the Democrats, the unions, and the centrist Republicans.

American in China during WWII found Chiang useless and Mao valuable in the fight against Japanese. As far as "Who lost China?", it was Chiang. I believe that it was Gen. Stillwell who said that "strategic withdrawal" was the only tactic he ever used.

August 9, 2007 at 7:06 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Fascinating post.

My gut tells me that you are oversimplifying to an extreme -- that the Red vs. Blue proxy wars spanning the globe exist but are only one (small?) part of everything. There are a couple of places where you seem to hand-wave past a whole bunch of stuff that doesn't fit your pattern, e.g., treating the USSR as a Blue colony is absurd considering it ruled half the world.

Perhaps blue and red are memecomplexes (or what you call religions, if religions can be nontheistic as you imply) that play strong roles in the U.S. and elsewhere, but to argue that they are the sole or primary causes of... well, everything, needs much more justification than the very fascinating essay you've written.

With Iran, for example, you imply that the American left sides with it against the Pentagon, and for the sole reason of opposing the red side that the Pentagon represents, which is just absurd. As far as I know, practically nobody on the left who is not a Muslim supports Iran -- we just oppose starting a new, counterproductive and bloody war.

You ignore all motives like compassion for civilians from the left or wanting to civilize (and convert to Christianity!) the colonies for the colonizing right as mere justifications for actions in the proxy wars, but to the people who "fought" and "fight" those wars, the motives were and are quite real.

One last point is that if Palestine is the pearl of the Blue Empire and Israel is part of the right, than the centers of power in both the Republican and Democratic parties must be part of the Red Empire. Clearly that can't be the case.

August 9, 2007 at 9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a young european who has through the internet been able to start following the debate (in the wide sense of the word) in other countries (both other european countries and the US) I can wholeheartadly agree with you when it comes to characterizing europe's political climate. It is stunning that I have tried so many times to put into words the difference that you so eloquently put forth here - that is, that all political matters of importance is settled in europe, there is no disagreement about anything - but failed.

August 9, 2007 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

As usual, you've given your readers plenty of grist for he intellectual mill, and plenty of questions to ponder.

I agree that anti-Americanism tends to come packaged in ironically American terms, i.e. US disregard (or insufficient regard) for human rights, democracy, freedom, prosperity and so forth within the provinces of the American Empire.

This line of argument does reflect the triumph of the post-war Universalist (I always liked "ultra-Calvinist," myself) world view, which at its core is a Protestant, New Englandish vision, and which to a remarkable degree now dominates "civilized discourse" around the globe.

Of course, it's also simply a wise debating tactic to criticise your opponent on his own terms, since hypocrisy is an essential element of any society, ours included.

While the Blue State, Red State dichotomy probably does help us to understand one dimension of anti-Americanism, this is an impulse or an ideology with a root system of about a thousand tendrils. One might compare the force and intensity of anti-Americanism to sibling rivalry or Oedipal conflict, both of which clamour for attention to a host of specific grievances, while never acknowledging a more powerful, underlying resentment,the driving force of which has little to do with justice, harmony, equity, and respect, and everything to do with the Darwinian struggle for survival.

The existence of this deeper and more powerful impulse doesn't necessarily negate the validity of the specific grievances, but it goes far toward explaining how such grievances coalesce into an all-consuming obsession.

Cultures struggle for their existence, and are appalled and horrified by any threat on the horizon. America, or Americanism, has for at least a half a century posed what has been perceived as - at the very least - an intentional humiliation, and at worst an existential threat, to other cultures around the world.

Blue State thinking has no doubt accelerated this impression: "See, even American intellectuals despise America's cultural retardation, immaturity obesity, etc." It's bad enough to see your indigenous culture replaced by a foreign interloper, but one so vulgar, mindless, shameless, and tawdry in its appeal . . . well, who wouldn't be driven into a frothing rage?

Still, there's a lot more to anti-Americanism than this.

A few other points:

American politicans may be as adept as most other people in presenting themselves as decent, caring human beings, and maybe, by historical standards,they are, but like everybody else, they're much more attuned to the advancement of their own interests than they are to the needs of the commonweal. This reality is played out even more dramatically in American foreign policy, since US politicians need never face foreign voters, and they know quite well that most American voters have absolutely no idea of or interest in US foreign policy.

America might as well be a bit more honest as to the role it plays, or aspire to play, in the world. As you so admirably put it in an earlier post:

"The thing is: 'global leadership' is exactly what it says it is. It's about ruling the world."

The US has for the past half century done its best to enforce upon an unruly world a certain system for getting things done. This has meant, in many cases, massaging, manipulating, denying, and over-ruling other people's ideas about how things should be done, hence the specific grievances mentioned above. But what is amazing in not the amount of resentment that our approach has generated, but rather the degree to which America's version of an acceptable reality has been, if not embraced, than at least semi-willingly accepted, in much of the world.

One of the many lessons I learned at an embarrassingly late stage of my life is that it serves no purpose other than an indulgence in the hypothetical to compare any specific situation, or program, or regime, to its equivalent ideal. Obviously, reality is always going to come up, not just short, but glaringly short.

A more useful question is this: how does the American Empire or hegemony, or whatever you want to call it, compare to its historical predecessors, and how will it compare to its real world successors?

America's "era of greatness" is likely to be, by historical standards, a moment in the sun. Despite its brevity, it may also be remembered with a potent nostalgia, and not just within the United States.

August 9, 2007 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Booklegger said...

Amusingly, this essay could be seized upon by anti-Americans as "evidence" of our self-centeredness, and used thus to inflame more anti-Americanism.

While the adoption of a foriegn policy that Just Doesn't Give A Damn, is something I've devoutly wished for for some time, It's not going to happen. Both combatants are too addicted to the power that meddling brings.

August 9, 2007 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

I'm not sure what Mencius meant by calling Palestine "the pearl of the Blue empire". If he is referring to the Palestinians as a universalist cause, well, Arafat and Hamas make even worse poster children than Castro and Chavez. More significantly, the Palestine situation has caused many Jews to have to choose between a Universalism that they would naturally support, and a nationalism that would ensure the survival of a Jewish state. This has resulted in a general rightward shift by Jews in both Israel and the US, and resulted in the creation of the Frankensteinian red-quasi-Universalist neoconservative movement, led largely by Jewish former Trotskyites.

August 9, 2007 at 1:17 PM  
Anonymous dearieme said...

I thought that this book review might interest you chaps:-
http://tls.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,25344-2648345,00.html

P.S. Did I ever tell you that I own Thos. Carlyle's smoking cap?

August 9, 2007 at 3:46 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

The single most significant fact about the world today is that sixty-two years ago it was conquered by a military alliance whose leader was the United States, and whose creed of battle was this nontheistic adaptation of New England mainline Protestantism.


Except that this conquest was made almost inevitable by the decision of the previous ruling class to engage in a spectacular mass suicide 93 years ago. It is true that the Optimates were generally on the decline (France was a Republic, and in 1911 the Commons finally asserted dominance over the Lords) but Germany, Austria, and Russia were still ruled by fairly popular nigh-absolute monarchs. How many of those existed in 1920? Moderate Universalism's conquest was predicated on the total destruction of the "reasonable" alternatives.

August 9, 2007 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger Zimri said...

Baduin (aka, Anon 6:52 AM) strikes me as a Russian; at any rate he is giving a Russian nationalist perspective.

I suspect he's right.

Russia became Communist not because of cossetted Western professors, but because the nonCommunist Germans in 1916-17 did all they could to make it so. It was Wilson who ordered invasions of Red Russia during 1918, to restore an anti-German government; by preference, a rabidly anti-German (and anti-Semitic) nationalist dictatorship. Try a Google of Dennikin or Kolchak.

Universalism is a doctrine which can only be evangelised during peace. In wartime Universalism becomes irrelevant. In wartime, a "Universalist" nationstate like Wilson's America will support the most nonUniversalist forces imaginable (far worse than Kerensky or the Tsar). Also in wartime, a Wilhelmine Germany will support a Universalist revolution abroad which frees its frontier and embarrasses its enemies.

In wartime, nations act in their self interest and put aside their pretensions.

Also note that the true Universalist in the original Politburo was Trotsky and you know what happened to him.

It was the idea of Communist Russia which inspired our Universalists. Russia after Hitler's invasion 1941 wasn't Communist anymore. It was a military state, which planned its economy to serve its military. It used Communism mainly for its propaganda abroad; at home its propaganda was nationalist ("Great Patriotic War" etc).

In the West, the propagandists believed (and believe) what they say and now rule the "Blue Government". But they had no leverage over Russia during the Cold War. How could they? They are Trotskyists.

August 9, 2007 at 4:08 PM  
Anonymous George Weinberg said...

I'm always dubious about speculations as to what others are thinking. I guess the actions of western Communists are reasonably consistent with a belief that they were somehow in control of the Soviet Union, but it's hard to see how the could believe something so obviously contrary to fact. And it should be obvious to any observer that the military doesn't make foreign policy, it just implements it. If they're told to fight in some country, they'll fight in that country even if they'd prefer to fight in some other country (or stay home), and if they're told to pull out they'll pull out even if they're quite convinced they're winning. The idea that the military establishment controls the civilian government sounds to me as self evidently absurd as, well, the idea that Stalin was taking orders from a bunch of Harvard professors.

August 9, 2007 at 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

American military (Pentagon) doesn't control civilian government-ie President. American civil servants (State Department career officials) don't control civilian goverment - ie President. But this doesn't mean they don't try to.

State Department has a tendency to pursue its own politics, and many American presidents prefer to conduct diplomacy through military channels.

Pentagon has regional offices on each continent (Combatant Commanders - they correspond exactly to Roman proconsuls about the beginning of the first century BC), military bases nearly everywhere and it is conducting a policy separate from State Department, although obviously not from President.

Baduin

August 9, 2007 at 10:45 PM  
Blogger Bruce G Charlton said...

My simplified interpretation of anti-Americanism is that it is a form of anti-modernization: the US being the premier, and in most respects advanced, modern society.

This may explain why the anti-Americans are on the extreme right as well as the left; and why the cultural elites are often anti-American.

Anti-modernizers hope to reunify the world under a single system: a religion, a politics (usually some kind of socialism), a national culture - in general terms a morality.

In other words, anti-Americanism is not just about a country, not about international rivalry, it is symbolic of disaffection with the fragmentation of modernity; worries about economic growth, science, technology; worries about international trade; worries about inequality and so on. Worries about secularization (in the sense of the decline of a national, offical, compulsory established Church). And worries about the homogenization and simplification of culture by the mass media. The US is symbolic of this process.

BTW all these worries are really true, and they are all bad things - or at least entail bad things.

But modernization is better than the alternative; and overall most people, most of the time, experience modernization as an overall improvement - which is why there is mass migration in the direction of cities and modernizing countries - when people are allowed to move.

And it is why pro-Americansism is more powerful than anti overall and over time. To be effective, anti-American policies need to be enforced on people by legislation, subsidy and regulation. These are pushed by the local culture-elites whose status and power depend to holding off globalization/ secularization etc.

Left to their own devices, the mass of people act in largely pro-American fashion; because they benefit (overall) from modernization - the process that the USA represents.

August 9, 2007 at 10:46 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

Not even French anti-Americanists believe that it's wrong for America to rule the world, because France should be ruling it instead.
The French Right has long been Gaullist (with some fascist/anti-Dreyfusard elements), which does incline them to just that belief. It is partly for this reason France (even under right-wing governments) often didn't get along with American and England during the Cold War and it still keeps its hand in many of its former African territories. Chirac, who is often painted by the American right as on the level of Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky, was of the same right-wing party as the newcomer Sarkozy.

Fourth, the world capital of anti-Americanism appears to be... America. Certainly, if there is a system of institutions in which anti-Americanism predominates, it's the Western university system, certainly the West's most prestigious universities are in America, and certainly anti-Americanism is no hardship to an American academic career. Where does Noam Chomsky teach? Not at the Sorbonne.
I think there was more flow of anti-Americanism from Europe to America (especially the Frankfurt School and France) during its early days than the other way around. I don't think Chomsky is nearly the most anti-American intellectual either, he's just the most notable American one. He's even admitted that the U.S isn't really all that much worse than loads of other countries, but because he lives here he focuses on America.

The US Army did not shoot all the professors in Europe and replace them with Yankee carpetbaggers, but the prestige of conquest is such that it might as well have.
The Frankfurt School and Sartre were already doing their thing before we invaded Europe, and I think English universities had plenty of communists (more than in the U.S) in them already. You've definitely got a good case for Germany though with the Nazi-takeover and de-Nazification of their institutions.

the Universalism of Europe has a kind of New Deal purity which the fray of American politics has long since diluted.
The main political difference between America and Europe is that America never developed a strong socialist party. England already has a strong Labor party before America invaded, while Eugene Debs' Socialist Party went nowhere and the New Deal Democrats had to pretend to be Old Democrats to get their feet in the door when the Republicans had embarrassed themselves worse than ever before. Another difference is that America never had an ancien regime or real artistocracy, in the beginning lacked a standing army and (like much of the Anglosphere) did not have a significant fascist movement (that was really a mostly Catholic phenomenon, with the Nazis of Protestant Germany and Iron Guard of Orthodox Romania being exceptions). It's right wing is then more purely Vaisya, concerned with economic freedom and religious morality with law'n'order important but not near the level of European authoritarians.

Regarding Israel, the Democrats still like it a lot, they just don't go as far as the (especially neo-conservative dominated) Republicans. In its early years it was founded by secular Labor Zionists, and the United States wasn't necessarily all that favorable toward it. It was really when the Soviet Union came to support its enemies that the United States made Israel its proxy. Since then Israel has moved toward the right.

The Soviet Union was a true client state - it depended existentially on the support of its Western patrons, and its demise had much to do with the demise of that support.
I've already disputed this point before. The Soviet Union did not "depend" on the United States and its intellectuals, though intellectuals did play a major role in inspiring early communism. The Soviet Union WAS a client state during World War 2 because we were actually sending them aid to help fight Germany, but afterward they refused aid that we offered to send. Roosevelt thought of Stalin as Uncle Joe, but this relationship was over by Truman, with the remaining fellow travelers relegated to less significant places. The Russian commenter has a much more accurate view of Russian politics, and the success of nationalist and Islamist movements that lack the crossover appeal to western intellectuals after the discrediting of communism attests to the unimportance of their support.

Indonesia
I was surprised by that one. I know the C.I.A opposed to Sukarno and we supported Suharto, but I thought modern Indonesia was sort of like modern Chile, except with an active Islamist movement.

Iran needs the American left to defend it from attacks by the American right.
Iran needs the Iraq invasion to tie our hands long enough for it get working on its nuclear program, but I don't think either it or North Korea were actually in serious danger. We had unfinished business with Iraq (that I think should never have been started and failing that remained unfinished), but we haven't actually had that much of an issue with Iran since Carter left office. Realistically we should be teaming up with them ("Nixon goes to Tehran" is probably Thomas Barnett's wisest insight) since the Taliban and Saddam were both their enemies and it looks like a Sunni Arab vs Shi'ite fight is brewing up, with al Qaeda being on the former side.

But Chavez, like the Soviets of yore, basks in the adulation he receives from the likes of Chomsky.
I don't think Chavez is actually all that popular on the left, even if they vicariously get a thrill out of his insulting Bush and like to harp on "This Revolution Will Not be Televised" as well as previous U.S meddling. In my experience some of them are actually embarrassed that the likes of Chavez, Mugabe and Ahmadenijad mouth the same criticisms of western governments they themselves believe. You should link to some western leftist praise of Chavez.

Palestine - the pearl of the Blue Empire
Not in America. The left here still prefers Israel to Palestine to a significant degree (that's why AIPAC has a lot of clout in the Democratic party, and the nearest thing to a rival is Saudi Arabia, which as a revolution-fearing monarchy I don't think can be thought of as blue-aligned even if Palestine can be). Perhaps elsewhere.

Aid makes Universalist politicians look caring and statesmanlike, and that's what counts.
Read your Bryan Caplan. Aid is extremely unpopular. Everyone thinks they can save their favorite programs and balance the budget by axing aid. Mike Huckabee gained some popularity among elites by favoring foreign aid and immigration as genuine "compassionate conservativism". He disgusted me and went nowhere in the polls. I think John Lott's theory of politician behavior in Freedomnomics is closer to the point on aid, with popularity a constraint acting in the other direction. Incidentally, it's too bad you didn't listen to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita's podcasts, since he gives an interesting view on foreign aid.

Israel, although the legislative process being what it is no doubt they will get a taste as well.
Israel is the largest recipient of foreign aid, with Egypt second. They'll get more than "a taste".

I suspect the concept of "anti-Americanism" would very quickly enter the history books.
I'm sure there would be a marginal change downward as people begin caring less about America, but I really doubt it would go away. We're the richest nation on the planet and we export media more than anything else. America is omnipresent and if you're gonna hate some country, why go for a pipsqueak like Lichtenstein when you've got a Great Satan? Perhaps China will start to take our place though as it grows in prominence.

Similiarly with Joe McCarthy, who made broadreaching claims about the Truman Administration.
I thought he started a ruckus under Eisenhower, but never accused the President of being a communist, just bureaucrats (as do the Venona documents). It does seem a bit ironic that McCarthy went down after the Army hearings, where it was Red Government that was in his cross-hairs! On the subject, while I dislike populism I think I would likely share Rothbard's glee were I to live through the threat establishment liberalism feared it was under in the age of McCarthy. Incidentally, since HUAC dates back to World War 2 and sedition trials during World War 1, what do you think of a link between the German regime (Wilhelmine or Hitlerian) and America? I don't think there was much of one, but I don't go in for conspiracy theory and linkages like you do. Might be my extreme reductionist, context-free western way of thinking.

I believe that it was Gen. Stillwell who said that "strategic withdrawal" was the only tactic he ever used.
Stilwell was wrong. Chiang often took action (including successful ones, that's why there was Long March and so many died in it) against the Communists, but he couldn't hold things together. This was in part because he led a fractious coalition of co-opted warlords. I think he even got kidnapped by some of his subordinates at one point. "Wars of National Liberation" actually had a pretty informative section on Chiang.

and convert to Christianity!
From what I understand, missionary activity has become de-linked from foreign policy after the 19th century.

the decision of the previous ruling class to engage in a spectacular mass suicide 93 years ago
Steve Sailer had it right. Civilizations are killed by homicide more than suicide. Tsarist Russia had a pitiable impact on the Central Powers. It was the Universalist countries that deposed the Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs.

Where do the "unpatriotic conservatives" (which as a paleo-libertarian I would be a part of) fit in?

August 9, 2007 at 11:58 PM  
Anonymous b said...

MM: This is how the European Union can claim to be the culmination of democracy, while in fact being entirely free from politics. The truth is that, except for a tiny minority of carping malcontents, all respectable Europeans agree on all significant political questions.

ANON: all political matters of importance is settled in europe, there is no disagreement about anything

ME: i am just your average humble ignorant american, but i think 'consensus' among europeans might be something of an illusion. for instance, look at the death penalty, which 50-60% of the british and slightly fewer french want reinstated. of course, i'm not aware of any major political party in either of those countries that is pro-capital punishment (hell, i doubt even the BNP is). which makes me suspect that what consensus you find is an artifact of their political systems. perhaps only 'respectable' europeans are able to sit in parliament?

August 10, 2007 at 8:24 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

I also doubt that immigration and the related demographic matters is a settled issue in the EU.

I suspect that things seem "settled" there only because the welfare state is still delivering and a mass exodus of the middle classes has not started to happen yet (although Holland and UK already have began having massive such out-migrations).

The growing power of criminal speech codes, for example, suggests a future of conflict. There is also a coming clash of "secular values" and sharia.

August 10, 2007 at 8:47 AM  
Anonymous bbroadside said...

Mencius said: "Aid makes Universalist politicians look caring and statesmanlike, and that's what counts."

tggp said: "Read your Bryan Caplan. Aid is extremely unpopular. Everyone thinks they can save their favorite programs and balance the budget by axing aid."

I think these two points are compatible. MM is talking about opinion among elites, tggp is talking about opinion among the voters. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) If most of the voters loathe foreign aid, yet it remains in place decade after decade, it suggests that someone powerful still likes it.

Obviously, it doesn't take an elite to point out that axing foreign aid alone won't balance the budget. Maybe it takes an elite to have a complete catalog of the failures and successes of foreign aid?

My sense is that the domestic clients of foreign aid are like a lot of other pressure groups, in that they are a hard nut of people who focus heavily on a certain issue. Unlike most other pressure groups, the benefit they gain is often purely psychological (although some fraction are actually employed by the agencies and NGOs).

This is consistent with MM's thesis that the Brahmin are, in some ways, self-sacrificing and altruistic. It makes them feel good that US money disappears into foreign pockets. I guess it is noblesse oblige without the nationalism (or with anti-nationalism). That they can continue to be generous with money not entirely their own is evidence that being outvoted by Main Street isn't that big of a deterrent.

I suppose the non-material nature of these benefits - that salve for a guilty conscience that the American left can't get enough of - makes it harder to understand and confront this particular polygon.

Other pressure groups can be bought off. A Luddite labor union can be melted by seducing its members into high-tech (and highly-paid) jobs in non-union sectors (it's not a conscious anti-union strategy, it's just a net effect of postwar markets). An inefficient economic development subsidy can be replaced by a more efficient one (I wish I knew more about this so I could provide an example).

The thing that small-government fans steeped in realpolitik may be missing is that the left, at least the Brahmin left, is well aware of the advantages it has and wholeheartedly agrees that they are unfair. While the actual Brahmins (in the pre-Unqualified Reservations sense) may have chosen to part with material wealth and dedicate their lives to serving the unfortunate, latter-day Brahmins are politicized to the point that they more or less think they are the state. Universalism says: If volunteering at the food bank is good, taxpayer-supported Food Stamps must be better, since everyone agrees on the basics.

Foreign aid is even more progressive, idealist, and universal than Food Stamps, since its beneficiaries aren't even in this country. (And now I will read the Caplan piece.)

August 10, 2007 at 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

b: It is me, the anon euro guy from above.

I agree with you that the lack of disagreement is the most intense on the surface. Thus, the amount of "politically incorrect" views is greater among regular people than among parties. However, I don't agree with your example. Wether to sentence murderers to the death penalty or life in prison is not an important question in the sense that it could change either way and have no significant ramifications 50 years from now.

August 10, 2007 at 11:25 AM  
Anonymous b said...

anon: Wether to sentence murderers to the death penalty or life in prison is not an important question in the sense that it could change either way and have no significant ramifications 50 years from now.

me: aside from ramifications for the murderers themselves, i agree this is probably a trivial 'cultural' issue, but it was the first example i could think of. i suppose the rejection in france and holland of the eu constitution is a better example.

August 10, 2007 at 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Steve Sailer had it right. Civilizations are killed by homicide more than suicide. Tsarist Russia had a pitiable impact on the Central Powers. It was the Universalist countries that deposed the Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs.


For most civilizations, this is true but it is not what happened in 1914. The optimates were still firmly in charge and they enthusiastically marched off to a war that would cost more money than they ever had,killed off most the next generation of Optimates, and disgraced the legitimacy of the traditional optimate profession(war). The optimate's were doomed before Americans set foot on the continent, though they would spend the next 20 odd years in futile counterrevolution.

August 10, 2007 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Thanks, all, for the many interesting comments.

I think I will continue the experiment of leaving the comments section alone for a couple of days after posting long essays, in the interest of distributed dialogue. It seems to moderate itself pretty well...

August 11, 2007 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

bbroadside and mtraven,

The relationship of the Palestinian problem to the Red-Blue conflict is nothing short of fascinating.

First, you have to consider four basic Jewish political factions in the 20th century: socialist Zionist (Herzl, Mapai, Labor), assimilationist (Reform, eg, the Sulzbergers), Revisionist (Jabotinsky, Etzel, Likud), and various Orthodox religious groups. Needless to say, there was no love lost between these factions, and each had its own relationship with Gentile politics.

For a while, more I would say '40s through '50s, it looked like the socialist Zionist faction would make Israel essentially Blue, especially as its Arab opponents had been patronized by the British, many of whose clients segued to the Red side.

This would have meant an alliance between the kibbutzniks (Labor) and the assimilationists (Reform), the latter generally having moved to America and become deeply embedded in the Brahmin culture. (Reform Judaism is pretty much nonexistent in Israel.)

However, the Soviets showed great energy and a complete absence of moral or ideological scruples in signing up Arab nationalist clients (for example, the relationship with the Ba'ath in Syria and Iraq, which was not at all harmed by the fact that the Ba'ath had dissolved the Syrian Communist Party leader in a bathtub full of acid).

Since the Blue Empire tended to spend a lot of time justifying its own support for nationalist socialism in the Third World as an anti-Soviet measure - it takes a thief, apparently, to catch a thief - it had no choice but to compete for the hearts of such as Nasser.

Meanwhile, in Israel, the basically pacifist socialist-Zionists had been convinced that their policy of peaceful nonresistance (hatikvah) was a recipe for mass suicide, and allied with their mortal enemies the Revisionists to create the modern Israeli military state. The IDF has never dealt with the Arabs as decisively as Jabotinsky would have liked, but its heritage in the Etzel and Stern Gang is clear.

Remnants of the old British Arab system survive only in the Gulf States, whose relationship with the Red Empire is fairly clear.

As for Palestine, what makes it part of the Blue Empire is clear: the American right wouldn't mind at all if a sinkhole appeared and sucked it straight to hell. At National Review, they pretty much feel the same way about Palestine that The Nation felt about Rhodesia.

Palestine's economy is primarily dependent on foreign aid - ie, extortion in exchange for refraining from attacking Americans and Europeans. Notice that not even Hamas attacks American targets. There is a reason for this.

A strong Republican administration would simply cancel this Danegeld and rely only on military measures. However, since the last strong Republican administration was that of Herbert Hoover, if I was Fatah or Hamas I wouldn't exactly be shaking in my boots.

August 11, 2007 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

bbroadside,

Basically, when formalizing institutions you have to divide them into profitable and philanthropic enterprises.

The government of Iraq is (despite all appearances) profitable. So it should be sold to someone who can actually do the job. Think of it as like privatizing any state enterprise. It has to be done in a way that doesn't involve selling the factory for scrap metal - the business, in other words, has to be kept afloat.

The World Bank and Peace Corps are charitable enterprises. There is no reason they can't continue as such without official involvement. A complete separation from politics would do nothing but good for both.

And then there are existing states. The South Koreans, for example, can certainly take care of themselves.

For other states, especially the really nasty Third-World tyrannies, you might want a mechanism by which the state can throw itself an IPO, transitioning to an externally-listed corporate status. For example, I'll bet Kim Jong Il would love to sell his country for $10 billion and retire to Portofino.

August 11, 2007 at 1:28 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

black sea,

A very perceptive comment as usual.

Of course people have a thousand reasons for being anti-American. The reason I see anti-Americanism as an essentially American movement, though, is that American politics creates the energy that makes anti-Americanism a satisfying source of power.

Because in practice anti-Americanism means you are allied with the most potent political faction in America, and also in the world at large - as measured by its ability to move the status quo, which has been shifting consistently to the left ever since the Congress of Vienna.

That said, the interplay between Blue and Red empires is by no means in every case violent, and in many countries it produces a kind of peaceful Purple dynamic, in which the regime has strong ties to both American factions.

My problem with this system is just that it isn't stable, and I think it is possible to construct an international order that is stable. If I am right, presumably the latter being an attractor, we will end up in it one way or another. I'd like to think that this can happen with relatively little violence.

August 11, 2007 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

tggp,

The French Right has long been Gaullist (with some fascist/anti-Dreyfusard elements), which does incline them to just that belief.

True, but the French right has been in continuous decline since 1943. Gaullism paid lip service to the mission civilatrice - and in practice contracted it as rapidly as possible. Colonial expansion has been unthinkable in this century.

I've already disputed this point before. The Soviet Union did not "depend" on the United States and its intellectuals, though intellectuals did play a major role in inspiring early communism.

You are missing the political-formula aspect. I think Lev Navrozov has some excellent quotes on this and I'll dig them up.

I know the C.I.A opposed to Sukarno and we supported Suharto, but I thought modern Indonesia was sort of like modern Chile, except with an active Islamist movement.

There are still deep, if fading, ties between the Indonesian military and the Pentagon. Google "Wolfowitz Indonesia."

The Frankfurt School and Sartre were already doing their thing before we invaded Europe, and I think English universities had plenty of communists (more than in the U.S) in them already.

England is a separate case because Anglo-American intellectual culture is one thing - there were always Fabians to our Progressives.

On the Continent, however, sure - you had proto-Universalists before the war. But you also had a thousand zillion other schools of thought. They all disappear, and not just in Germany.

bbroadside is right on aid: the fact that it isn't popular (in polls) is the dog that didn't bark.

You should link to some western leftist praise of Chavez.

Dude, obviously you don't spend enough time over at the Daily Kos :-) Here ya go: Counterpunch+Chavez

The left here still prefers Israel to Palestine to a significant degree

Presumably that's why their notion of "peace" implies adjusting present borders in favor of the latter.

Nothing is pure Red or pure Blue. The Israelis work quite hard at lobbying the Democrats, and the Arabs even do a little work with the Republicans (see under: Frank Gaffney). But overall, it's not hard to see who is whose client.

August 11, 2007 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

John Emerson,

Hey, it's great to see you here!

You should try reading None Dare Call It Treason. Put it next to a copy of Chang and Halliday's Mao, and compare notes.

Stormer certainly does not accuse Eisenhower or Rockefeller of being Communist spies. (I can't speak for any other Birchers, as this is my only excursion into the genre.)

You are absolutely right that he was using anticommunism as an attack on the New Deal establishment. However, this was exactly the same tactic that the New Dealers used with antifascism to destroy the Old Right. The basic argument is that the American political faction is implicated by its involvement with a foreign enemy of the United States. If you admit this argument, Henry Wallace makes anything Lindbergh said look like absolute chicken feed.

August 11, 2007 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

JewishAtheist,

Thanks again for your comment. Mars may need women, but UR needs liberals.

With Iran, for example, you imply that the American left sides with it against the Pentagon, and for the sole reason of opposing the red side that the Pentagon represents, which is just absurd. As far as I know, practically nobody on the left who is not a Muslim supports Iran -- we just oppose starting a new, counterproductive and bloody war.

You are certainly right, and I don't mean to imply any such thing.

Because I am not talking about motivations at all. I am talking about effects. The thinking of the American left is not that Ahmadinejad represents the future. In fact, since Lenin shot the Romanovs, the left has been troubled by their gangster allies, and it has only gotten worse.

But the motivations are irrelevant to the facts, which is that in any conflict between the US and Iran, the goals and interests of American progressives and Iranian mullahs will be precisely aligned. War has always made weird bedfellows.

For example, it would be a political disaster for both the progressives and the mullahs if the Pentagon fought such a war and won. Small wonder that both tell us any such outcome is impossible. What is this but an invincibility myth?

So we see another example of Dantean political thinking. The "formal meaning" is that war is bloody and counterproductive. The "real meaning" is that, if there is a war, our side will win. Again, this is a classic invincibility myth - it encourages your allies and demoralizes your enemies.

As in the case of Dante, it is not necessary for anyone who believes the formal meaning to believe or even understand the real meaning. The "real meaning" is real because of the impact on political reality of the people who believe the formal meaning.

August 11, 2007 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

bruce,

I think your modernization concept is a little on the broad side here.

How do you explain, for example, the fact that anti-Americanists tend to be the most secular and sophisticated people in their societies? Surely, if "modernization" means anything at all, the Guardian is more modern than the Telegraph or the Daily Mail?

August 11, 2007 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

pa,

Show trial of the Citadel, indeed! You may have it exactly right.

I think the figure I've seen is that party registration among officers runs 6-1 Republican. I forget the source, though.

Most of my feeling for the military culture comes from browsing military blogs. The sample set may be a bit unrepresentative, though. And certainly Universalist scholar-bureaucrat types are always trying to horn in on the game.

August 11, 2007 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Baduin,

We agree - I never said anyone in the US was actually directing the Soviet Union. Useful idiots indeed.

Russian nationalism was certainly an essential part of the Soviet political formula. But so was the extensive intellectual establishment the Soviets maintained - writers, scientists, artists, etc.

When the Western intellectual world shifted its patronage from the Writer's Union types to the dissidents, the Soviet Union suffered an enormous blow. After all, who dismantled the system? Wannabe intellectual Gorbachev. The dissidents mattered - they overcame the KGB, at least temporarily.

August 11, 2007 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

michael,

What would have happened to the Optimates had the Great War never started is a very interesting question. They were already losing steam before the war - see, for example, Dangerfield's Strange Death of Liberal England. But certainly the events of 1914-1918 had a lot to do with the collapse.

August 11, 2007 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

George,

I guess the actions of western Communists are reasonably consistent with a belief that they were somehow in control of the Soviet Union, but it's hard to see how they could believe something so obviously contrary to fact.

The short answer is that the Soviet Union was extremely opaque, and very good at deceiving foreigners. But not many made this mistake after the '50s.

And it should be obvious to any observer that the military doesn't make foreign policy, it just implements it.

The military doesn't, but the Pentagon does. (Or it did until John Kerry was elected President.)

The specific institution you are thinking of here is the NSC, which is sort of the US's internal UN. Power in the NSC depends on whose star is in the ascendant, State or Defense.

(The use of the term "national security" is, of course, profoundly
Orwellian. "National security" means global security. Security issues which are merely national are "homeland security.")

August 11, 2007 at 2:21 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

dearieme,

Anyone who goes to Maistre for his epigraph is all right by me!

I suppose if I have to ask, I can't afford it...

August 11, 2007 at 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Bleepless said...

Interestingly enough, John Stormer ended up writing another book denouncing his own "None Dare Call It Treason" for being un- (and, therefore, anti-) Christian.

August 11, 2007 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

For example, it would be a political disaster for both the progressives and the mullahs if the Pentagon fought such a war and won. Small wonder that both tell us any such outcome is impossible.

How would that be a political disaster for progressives? I would think the fall of the USSR would be approximately a billion times more damaging to progressives if your theory were correct -- yet we're still here. :-)

August 11, 2007 at 6:59 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

If most of the voters loathe foreign aid, yet it remains in place decade after decade, it suggests that someone powerful still likes it.
Most voters greatly overestimate the proportion of the budget dedicated to foreign aid, and they don't know where it actually goes to and why. I've mentioned Bruce Beuno de Mesquita here before, but you really should listen to this podcast where he discusses why foreign aid is given and who really benefits. Most of our aid goes to Israel and Egypt because they are enemies of islamists that hate us. Voters like fighting islamists (even if they don't actually pose a proximate threat to us), but they don't realize how we go about it.

the last strong Republican administration was that of Herbert Hoover
What was strong about Herbert Hoover? All I can think of is General MacArthur driving off the Bonus Army. I think Nixon might qualify as strong due to his going into Cambodia. Reagan was pretty firm with the Soviets, but he pulled tail and ran out of Beirut and only went for piddly military actions like Grenada. GWB is, unfortunately, much more prone to "pay any price, bear any burden" for his ideals and stubbornness.

The government of Iraq is (despite all appearances) profitable.
This statement needs support.

Presumably that's why their notion of "peace" implies adjusting present borders in favor of the latter.
I don't think the idea of going back to 67 borders is confined to the left. For demographic reasons alone, Israel's ability to hold that territory is getting tenuous. Sharon has started pulling out and Olmert's attempt to assert Israeli might fell flat on his face. Personally, I'm in favor of building a wall along basically those borders (though I'm not in the slightest upset if they "steal" chunks of land they won in the war, as long as they are manageable) to keep the Palestinians out of Israel proper, just as I'm in favor of building a wall on the southern border to control the flow of Mexicans and others.

But overall, it's not hard to see who is whose client.
I still don't accept that Palestine has a client relationship at all with the U.S, or that Israel is a client of a specific side in the U.S rather than being supported by both sides of the political mainstream.

What is this but an invincibility myth?
Holy crap, what planet are you on!? The U.S just screwed the pooch with Iraq, a much smaller and frailer regime. We've got troops both there and in Afghanistan. Our main enemy is al-Qaeda, who have just started a Sunni-Shi'ite civil war in Iraq that is drawing in Saudi Arabia on the former side and Iran on the latter side, making them our natural ally. You can say that the U.S is only losing in Iraq because we are hamstrung (true) and that this is because of our Brahmin fifth column (false, Bush and the neocons along with most of the right really are stupid and thought they could do this without Brit-style serious business), but the fact remains that the same factors are still in place or amplified (people who were optimistic about the Iraq invasion have gotten burned, so now the domestic Iranian opposition wants nothing to do with us, unlike the much maligned Chalabi and the INC who are now rightly bitching about how idiotic the Americans went about things, not to mention how bummed out the american people are), so an invasion of Iran would be even more disastrous than the one in Iraq. Honestly, whatever you're smoking, it must be dangerously unhealthy.

After all, who dismantled the system? Wannabe intellectual Gorbachev. The dissidents mattered - they overcame the KGB, at least temporarily.
It's too bad you don't listen to Mesquita's podcasts, because he gives a very interesting explanation of the Gorbachev/Yeltsin conflict and the dissolution of the Soviet Union was unplanned but came about through political maneuvering. I'd like it if you provided more support on the impact of the dissidents. The United States has been supporting dissidents all over the place, without much success unless they're armed. Most of the "color revolutions" have been reversed or been disappointments, and even that was an unusual time with many of the regimes much more "open societies" than the Soviet Union.

I think if the Iranian regime toppled, progressives would actually rejoice (though probably to a lesser extent than if it was the Saudi regime that toppled). The leftists got liquidated after the Iranian revolution and the rulers are gay-and-woman oppressing theocratic old men. There's a reason the left calls conservatives they hate "American Taliban" (which to me, is hyperbolic and at odds with right-wing hatred for islamists enough as to make them come off looking worse), isn't because they secretly love third-world theocrats, just as the right-wingers who called leftists (sometimes accurately) communists didn't secretly like communism.

August 11, 2007 at 10:54 PM  
Blogger Bruce G Charlton said...

MM said: "Surely, if "modernization" means anything at all, the Guardian is more modern than the Telegraph or the Daily Mail?"

Not at all, both right and left are mixtures of pro- and anti-.

The left is more pro- modernization in terms of issues such as autonomy of the mass media, science, immigration; the right is more pro-modernization in terms of economics, competition in health care and education (public sector generally), and autonomy of the military.

For a pro-modernizer, politics is a matter of switching back and forth between the right and left, according to a judgment of the best party in terms of the main current priority for modernization.

August 12, 2007 at 1:15 AM  
Anonymous bbroadside said...

tggp wrote: "Most voters greatly overestimate the proportion of the budget dedicated to foreign aid, and they don't know where it actually goes to and why."

I may well be one of those voters, if only for semantic reasons. (For the record, I don't loathe foreign aid or consider it a large budget item, I'm just not a big fan.) I just don't know if "foreign aid" means only grants, not loans, and if it means only government funds, not NGOs. Does the UN count? The IMF? Eximbank? I just don't want us to start talking past each other, with some of us talking in general about Brahmin-controlled institutions in several sectors in many countries, and some of us talking almost exclusively about the US Federal government.

"I've mentioned Bruce Beuno de Mesquita here before, but you really should listen to this podcast where he discusses why foreign aid is given and who really benefits. Most of our aid goes to Israel and Egypt because they are enemies of islamists that hate us. Voters like fighting islamists (even if they don't actually pose a proximate threat to us), but they don't realize how we go about it."

I've certainly heard Israel and Egypt cited as big recipients of foreign aid, and I've also heard the existence of both regimes cited as a cause of Islamic extremism. I wouldn't hazard a guess as to whether propping up those regimes hurts or helps the US (or anyone else). Certainly our support for Saddam Hussein and the last Iranian Shah seems to have ended in tears, but I know the regimes aren't strictly comparable to one another.

I wouldn't call myself an isolationist per se. I have no problem with countries supporting their allies as long as they see clearly who their allies are. People who called South Vietnam our ally in 1967, or who call Egypt our ally in 2007, just see the world through different eyes. I wouldn't call either of those regimes our enemies either, I just don't see why we can't stay out of the region.

August 12, 2007 at 1:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I come from Sweden and agree with your underlying thesis. I am often stunned by the fact that the most americanized faction in our political system is the far left wing, who hate on america all the time. By americanized I mean that they are the first to import and translate american litterature, most of their current political talking points are directly recieved from their american equivalents and most of their big gurus are either americans or teach at american universities.

August 12, 2007 at 5:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few points:

Russian nationalism is a fairly modern and weak creature. On the other hand, Russian exceptionalism and messianism is rather old. To say it simply, Russians believed they are the incarnation of Dante's Eternal Empire since the fall of Byzantium (Third Rome).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_III_of_Russia

The reasons why Russia has to conquer the world changed, but nationalism was always a minor factor. The ruling doctrine was originally Orthodoxy (the only really Christian state should rule the world), then Panslavism (during the reign of Catharine the Great Russians discovered they are Slavs), then Communism. The new idea seems to be Eurasianism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasianism

And no, it isn't imported from USA. Similarly Sovereign Democracy is strictly a local development.

The reason why Russia failed had little to do with dissidents. Simply speaking, they were destroyed economically by communism and by enormous expenses for the army. KGB was all for dropping both, but army was essentially in control since the fall of Khrushchev.

Gorbachev tried economic reforms. KGB, obviously with his support, organized uprising in the satellite countries to overthrow local despots, who belonged to the old guard (in some of the satellite the uprising were locally grown).

The idea was to change leadership and to persuade people for privations necessary to reform economy. Since they got their knowledge of capitalism from Marxist books, they arranged for the party apparat and the security service organs to steal all the factories etc.

The idea blew up in their faces (only in Romania it went as planned), but communists etc are still in control in many of the former satellites, and they are in charge of economy everywhere (except East Germany).

In Russia Gorbachev tried half-measures, as the economy was failing and federation dissolving.

Republican governing class, all of them communists, wanted independence. This is a problem with the states build on conquest. When the hope of new spoils disappears, the incentive for internal combat to gain control of the existing resources grows.

In the end some elements of the army decided to stop Gorbachev, economic reform and dissolution, trying to make a coup. They failed dismally, and were defeated by Yeltsyn. The leaders of republics took over. They decided between themselves to dissolve USSR and make themselves rulers of the new states.

Dissidents were conspicuous by their absence in all of that.

In the end, most of state enterprises were taken over by some people, so called oligarchs. KGB managed to gain control after the election of Putin and is now trying to rebuild the old empire using their preferred methods.

BTW, I'm decidedly not Russian.

Baduin

August 12, 2007 at 5:16 AM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

bbroadside, as an isolationist paleo-libertarian I am also no fan of foreign aid. I would be alright with assisting our allies, but I question our need for allies since I don't think we should have that much involvement elsewhere in the world. I do count loans as foreign aid. The government is not a profit-making entity, and its loans are not at market rates or necessarily expected to be paid back in full. Their governments would seek loans from private sources if they could get them for a better deal, the fact that they don't suggests that our government is really engaged in aid.

The Shah of Iran was our client. Saddam Hussein was a soviet client. That's why in the Iran-Iraq war the American equipment was on the former side and the soviet equipment was on the latter. You can look up sources of the war's armaments on wikipedia, and see the paltry portion of Iraqi gear that came from America. Saddam has also not really been much of a problem for America (although our stupid invasion has been), so I don't think many of our tears can really be traced to him and even fewer of those to the support we gave him.

The best piece I can remember reading on the post-Soviet transition in Russia and similar countries is Comparing Apples.

August 12, 2007 at 4:34 PM  
Anonymous bbroadside said...

tggp -

Your point about Saddam Hussein confirms my overall impression of the relevant period in Iraqi history, but there were memorable (if arguably small) ways in which the US and the West in general helped him get into and stay in power. A lot of people sum up the situation as "We put him there". Which isn't of too much significance since (a) you can't sum up that much history in one sentence and (b) those people have an obvious anti-American (or "anti-we") axe to grind.

"I would be alright with assisting our allies, but I question our need for allies since I don't think we should have that much involvement elsewhere in the world."

I guess the reason I would stop short of calling myself an isolationist is that I think there needs to be international cooperation in responding to terrorism. I'm sort of a libertarian as well, so other forms of international cooperation strike me as big government made bigger, but military alliances are different.

I'm in an interesting but sort of depressing discussion at isteve in which people (I assume they are American) are ruling out Europe ever having significant military capability, I guess for all eternity. So, it is said, Islamic extremism will just walk over them. I don't really agree; I am just thinking that the 1300-year history of Islamic aggression against Christian Europe may not quite be at an end.

I don't have a cure for anti-Americanism in Europe or its more dangerous twin, pacifism. If isolationism somehow is that cure, I'm all for it. If, on the other hand, isolationism means throwing the land of my forefathers to the wolves....

It's pretty telling that when I try express my unease, I light upon a quote by Lyndon Johnson: "The problem is not doing what is right; the problem is knowing what is right." (Quoting LBJ is probably grounds for lynching at UR.) But seriously, it is a problem for my non-idealist worldview that most past American internationalists have been universalists, crypto-Calvinists, what have you.

If I may pose a hypothetical question (I already know the answer they'd give at the isteve thread): Let's Europe does follow Denmark's (or Steve Sailer's) lead in restricting immigration. This prompts a new form of theocratic irredentism among Islamic extremists, who have increasing military power. Attacks on Europe increase, with the US sheltered somewhat by remoteness. The Europeans decide that ugly tourists and fast-food restaurants are preferable to mullahs and jihads, and discover that they are fairly pro-American.

At this point do we (non-idealists, libertarians, etc.) have a legitimate reason to abandon isolationism? Is there a Lusitania Point where European security becomes our business?

August 12, 2007 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

tggp,

If that's the best paper, I'm wondering how bad the others have been. The very notion that Russia is best compared to the Visegrad group is hilarious. The latter are small countries with open access to EU markets, where the economic and social problems are and have always been very different from those in Russia. Also, the numbers presented in this paper do not quite match the same in CIA world factbook.

The comparison of political progress with the baltic states is completely dishonest. Two of the three, namely Estonia and Latvia are apartheid regimes slowly but surely inching towards an open, possibly armed, conflict between the ethnic majority and the disenfranchised minorities. Also, it is worth paying close attention to the denominators in any per-capita statistics in those countries. There are hundreds of thousands (for a total population of 1.3 and 2.3 millions, respectively) in those two countries, who "do not count".

Restrictions on media in these two countries are far more draconian than those in Russia. The mistake that the paper makes is that it compares the personal freedom of professional journalists, which is something very different from the freedom to broadcast stuff. Professional journalists may be safer in Estonia, but it says very little about what limits are in place on the content that appears in print and broadcast. In Russia, they don't take TV channels off the air and cable for using the wrong language or the wrong interpretation of history. In Estonia and Latvia it is routine.

There's much to be said about the "Estonian economic miracle", too. In the early '90-es, Estonia was vying with Chile for the first place in copper exports. Now, you're welcome to find any copper mines in Estonia. Guess, where that copper came from.

In short, I think, this paper provides very little insight about the success or failure of the transition in Russia. I don't claim that I have the answer or even some objective criteria by which to judge it, but this supposedly data-driven paper is just pseudo-scientific statisticulation.

P.S.: I have lived, worked and done business in several of the mentioned countries. Currently, I live in Hungary.

August 13, 2007 at 2:37 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

bbroadside,

European security becomes America's business, whenever there's good money to be made.

Jihad is a non-issue as far as European security goes. Disenfranchisement and discrimination against minorities without a nation-state in the EU (Arabs, Turks and Russians) is a growing problem, but not one in which American intervention is desirable.

August 13, 2007 at 2:46 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

JewishAtheist,

The difference is that there is not really any truth to the claim that Reagan defeated the USSR. Okay, maybe there is a particle of truth. But it's certainly not obvious.

If you remember Grenada, Panama, and the 1990 invasion of Iraq, though, you know what a successful war can do for the popularity of a politician. Everybody likes to be on the winning team.

August 13, 2007 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

bleepless,

"Denounce" may be a strong word, but Stormer did write "None Dare Call It Treason: 25 Years Later." It is much more Christian and significantly less readable - I really haven't been able to get into it at all.

I'm afraid this is the general pattern of the American Right. Older is almost always better.

August 13, 2007 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Baduin,

You may not be Russian, but I wouldn't be too surprised if you're Ukrainian - or similar. Once you see Slavs writing English, you realize how useless "the" and "a" are - these words mean absolutely nothing - and I always have to struggle a little to put them back.
I don't know Russian but I suspect it would make a much better world language than English.

There are almost as many theories of the Soviet Union's fall as there are of Rome's. I don't think the matter will be settled here.

I don't disagree with your story in the terms it is told in. Sure, the USSR fell because of the tension between KGB, army, and other forces in the apparat. Dissidents had no part at all in this.

But this is looking at the trees and ignoring the forest. The question is: why did all these people stop believing in the glorious Soviet future? There were tensions in the Soviet power structure in 1918. Probably even more than in 1981.

Dissidents' role was necessary, in my opinion, because dissidents made it fashionable to be anti-Communist. You can see contrast today if you look at US and Europe - there is no fashionable antigovernment movement. Fashion among all young smart elite people is to support party of government, Democrats, Labor, Socialists, and so on. If you have time machine, KGB would like recipe for this trick!

August 13, 2007 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

tggp,

What was strong about Herbert Hoover?

Um, that he didn't have the New Deal state to contend with? Except for the McCarthy interlude, the American right has had no significant effect on domestic government since 1932. Sometimes they can block things. That's pretty much it.

I think if the Iranian regime toppled, progressives would actually rejoice

I agree - unless it was toppled by an American invasion.

But barring that, progressives always want their allies to be as much like them as possible. This desire has to take a back seat to defeating their enemies, though.

You can say that the U.S is only losing in Iraq because we are hamstrung (true) and that this is because of our Brahmin fifth column (false, Bush and the neocons along with most of the right really are stupid and thought they could do this without Brit-style serious business)

And this is exactly what I did say.

TGGP, if there's one thing I could change in your thinking, it's the idea that Bush and the neocons are part of the right. Obviously you are not alone in this delusion. But in reality they represent a Brahmin takeover of the right. They are simply attempting to restore pre-hippie Cold War liberalism. None of the neocons would have been at all out of place in the Kennedy administration. Their values, as you note, are essentially paleo-Universalist.

An invasion of Iran would be disastrous under present circumstances. The US political system is not capable of invading and successfully occupying Iran. It's probably not capable of invading and successfully occupying Bermuda. But from a strictly tactical military standpoint, the problem is not at all difficult - and this is what the left doesn't want you to know.

I still don't accept that Palestine has a client relationship at all with the U.S

The national industry of Palestine is foreign aid, for Christ's sake! Granted, the direct source of the money is more the EU these days, but clientism is transitive.

Or that Israel is a client of a specific side in the U.S rather than being supported by both sides of the political mainstream.

Again, the trouble is that you are looking through a pair of glasses that have been intentionally fogged. There is no such thing as "mainstream" thought - it is a set of temporary compromises between contending movements.

To see the movements clearly, look at what would happen if the US government were suddenly replaced by the faculty of Harvard. Or of Oral Roberts. Or of the Mises Institute. Or of VMI. All sorts of compromises between these traditions can be and are constructed, but it is very hard to understand the traditions by looking at the compromises.

I'd like it if you provided more support on the impact of the dissidents. The United States has been supporting dissidents all over the place, without much success unless they're armed. Most of the "color revolutions" have been reversed or been disappointments, and even that was an unusual time with many of the regimes much more "open societies" than the Soviet Union.

See my answer to Baduin. There is a difference between being a dissident and being a shill of the "international community." There are no dissidents anymore - the category does not exist. Maybe Limonov, but he's a joke.

For demographic reasons alone, Israel's ability to hold that territory is getting tenuous.

Demographic reasons? Are they going to bury the Israeli tanks in a pile of women and children, or something? Israel could hold all the territory from Tangier to Islamabad if it wanted.

This is exactly why I say "the government of Iraq" is profitable. I don't mean the present regime is profitable. I mean Iraq, the place, can be made to turn a profit. Any country can, and still more if it has oil.

People very easily confuse political reality with physical reality. Both matter - but they are entirely different things.

August 13, 2007 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

bruce,

I think the basic problem I'm having with this "modernization" concept is that "modern" appears to mean "good," and "antimodern" appears to mean "bad."

Of course there is nothing wrong with saying some things are good and others are bad. In fact I probably agree with most of your judgments.

But using the word "modern" for this can produce a sort of progressive fallacy - it makes the victory of good normal, and the victory of bad abnormal, essentially by semantic definition.

While your model of modernization appears to be very different from the conventional "progressive" value system, the implicit invocation of Divine Providence seems at the very least a temptation in both.

August 13, 2007 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

bbroadside,

Thanks again for your comments - it is great to see the "board" thriving without constant care and feeding.

You ask an interesting question about Europe, which could be asked about many countries in the American era, from both Blue and Red perspectives. The dilemma is always that maintaining aid contributes to dependency, whereas withdrawing it contributes to disaster. This dilemma is present in all charity work, and there is no easy answer to it.

But for Europe, I think the answer is pretty easy. As Daniel says, Europe does not at present face any kind of military challenge. It has political problems, that's all.

What the Internet right - eg, the people at places like Gates of Vienna - tends to miss is that jihadism is the symptom, not the problem. The problem is not immigrant violence. The problem is a soft-totalitarian political system, a "tutelary despotism" as Tocqueville put it, that uses immigrants as a voter pool and a general tool of power.

One of the ways that tool is used is that, instead of attacking the Eurocrats, the European right attacks their tool, instead. Their energies are therefore (a) diverted, and (b) devoted to a cause which allows their enemies to describe them convincingly as loons. It's a pretty useful device.

At some point, the Eurocratic system may reach the point where the demon it has created is larger than it is, and it will go the way of Kerensky or the Iranian liberals. But this point is many decades in the future. If present trends continue, it is inevitable, but the whole point of politics is to prevent present trends from continuing.

If there is anything the US can do about this, the most is to let Europe go. US involvement only supports phony anti-Americanism. Complete noninvolvement in European affairs would represent something of a Gorbachev Doctrine, and make it much easier for healthy nativist politics to return to Europe.

August 13, 2007 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

MM:
"Dissidents' role was necessary, in my opinion, because dissidents made it fashionable to be anti-Communist. You can see contrast today if you look at US and Europe - there is no fashionable antigovernment movement. Fashion among all young smart elite people is to support party of government, Democrats, Labor, Socialists, and so on. If you have time machine, KGB would like recipe for this trick!"

+1

(in Russian internet slang, this is a form of praise, implying the liking of both form and content)

August 13, 2007 at 10:23 AM  
Anonymous bbroadside said...

Mencius wrote: "What the Internet right - eg, the people at places like Gates of Vienna - tends to miss is that jihadism is the symptom, not the problem. The problem is not immigrant violence."

I'm not sure I follow just yet. Is immigrant violence inherently a non-problem, or is it just not bloody enough to really be a problem?

"The problem is a soft-totalitarian political system, a "tutelary despotism" as Tocqueville put it, that uses immigrants as a voter pool and a general tool of power."

Is this a point about European Brahmins using Helots and Dalits to overthrow Optimates? Put another way, what are the soft-totalitarians (Eurocrats?) trying to use their power on? If they just want to smash the nation-state it seems like violent immigrants hurt that goal. Ditto if they just want to establish pacifism.

Or maybe you're getting at a point we've seen eye-to-eye on before: guilt and underdogophile reflexes are leading the European center and left by the nose. "Underdogophile reflexes" is just my slapped-together term for the feeling that whoever is outnumbered or outgunned in a conflict must be the good guys. So cultural suicide is not an accident but completely intentional?

I certainly do get this sense from the BH hard left that, with its history of imperialism, Western civilization just doesn't have the right to exist any more. I first noted it when I started taking seriously the constant insinuations from my classmates that white people have no right to live in North America because they "weren't here first". It's a fairly deep-seated self-hatred, located squarely in the hearts of the people who most strongly identify with universal love, and it seems to explain a lot.

But your point about the European right not focussing enough on the Brahmin scholar state is well-taken. It's not something I've really thought of before. UR contributors (don't remember who) point out that there is no European populist right comparable to America's. I pictured Gianfranco Fini, the Austrian People's Party, Jean-Marie LePen's relatively good-natured daughter, etc., but I suppose none of those supports really Taft-like reductions in the size and scope of the state (and some are downright collectivist). And many of them are marred by anti-Semitism and other such unpleasantries.

Real threat or not, the spectre of the mullahs declaring war on Scandinavia, Germany, Australia, etc., and then having it explained away as "revenge for imperialism" really bothers me.

August 13, 2007 at 12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the paragraph on African aid, you forgot to put in a sneering mention of Bono.

August 13, 2007 at 2:23 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

At this point do we (non-idealists, libertarians, etc.) have a legitimate reason to abandon isolationism? Is there a Lusitania Point where European security becomes our business?
I deny that the actual Lusitania marked a point in which the United States needed to get involved in european affairs. The one reason I can think of to seek the preservation of europe (not that I think the europeans are incapable of that, their Pim Fortuyns are a match for any moderately succesful american politicians) is that I fear for the preservation of my own country (I discuss this fear here) and want to have a place to go to. Ireland, Australia/New Zealand and Switzerland are all candidates. These countries have either large bodies of water or mountains separating them off from other places, so they should manage.

Daniel A. Nagy, do you have any recommended reading for me on the topic?

the 1990 invasion of Iraq, though, you know what a successful war can do for the popularity of a politician.
Yet Bush Sr. still lost the election. How do you imagine things would have turned out differently if he had won? I think the Clinton years were not that bad, not entirely because of Clinton himself and his New Labour-esque "the era of big government is over" neo-liberalism but because of the hostile Congress he had, which prevented either from fully unleashing their atrocious ambitions on America. I've recommended this before, but I can't resist again pointing out Bryan Caplan's paper Has Leviathan Been Bound? A Theory of Imperfectly Constrained Government with Evidence from the States, on how both parties enlarge the state when they have the power to do so.

The question is: why did all these people stop believing in the glorious Soviet future?
Because they were the inheritors rather than creators of that future. It is hard to sustain revolutionary enthusiasm over generations. The real question is why did the Soviet Union collapse, but Cuba, China, Vietnam and North Korea all kept it together. Is the difference there the attitude of western universalists and the domestic intelligentsia? Doesn't seem like it to me. I look to plain-jane poli-sci explanations.

there is no fashionable antigovernment movement.
Given the until-recent electoral failure of democrats, that statement seems odd. The fashionable San Francisco types you mock certainly see themselves as anti-government, and in the British sense of the term "government" where it synonymous with "state", they are correct. The most radical, like your favorite example of Chomsky, consider themselves anarchists who ARE against the state. Of course, as Bob Black points out, it's awful tough to figure out what that means, as various anarchists seem to have only agreed to call whatever they hate by the same name. The hippies of the 1960s might have been described as "fashionable", and they were apparently anti-government enough for Murray Rothbard to befriend them, but it didn't matter how "fashionable" they were to people interested in "fashion", because if anything they were a boon to Nixon, elected by the "silent majority" and its disgust for the hippies.

By the way, I think the Liberal Democrats are more popular with the young, hip elite of England than Labor. The Iraq war and surveillance under Blair likely played a big role. I'd like some input from someone from over there though, as I'm certainly no expert.

Regarding Hoover, I thought when you talked about "strength" you meant military forcefulness or the like.

I agree - unless it was toppled by an American invasion.
If we did so under a Democratic president & Congress and allied with a local communist party or labor union, I bet they would.

TGGP, if there's one thing I could change in your thinking, it's the idea that Bush and the neocons are part of the right.
Obviously the neo-conservatives moved from the left and were often former communists/Trotskyites. It is also obvious that a ton of the activities of Bush the younger are an affront to previous conservatives. Kirk and Weaver are spinning in their graves. However, I am much more of a nominalist than your Lawrence Auster, who goes around looking for a "true conservativism" and discovers that it consists of just Auster himself. The right is Bushism, the Old Right died a long time ago and the Somewhat Aged Right that succeeded it has passed the baton as well. It might even be argued that the current generation of neo-conservatives aren't worthy of the name that their wiser forebears had and should be called something different. If there exists a real and significant political right, then it is for Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson rather Ron Paul. You can argue that there are no monarchists/ultramontanists and thus no right, just a bunch of democratic republicans (the French revolutionary "left"), but then there is little point in talking about left and right. There will always be a party in power and those out of power who want in. It is useful to have a name for them, and I am satisfied with the terms "left" and "right" even if they have nothing to do with the french revolution, as they perform their function.

But from a strictly tactical military standpoint, the problem is not at all difficult - and this is what the left doesn't want you to know.
I don't know if that is true. Our army (and you go to war with the army you've got) is not one designed for occupation. In Thomas Barnett's terms, we've got a great Leviathan but no real SysAdmin. The British had one because they actually wanted to be an empire and knew how to do it, we've got a bunch of idiot idealists who want to costlessly and effortlessly redraw political world order. We don't have a draft or conscription to provide the man-power and we've already got Iraq and Afghanistan on our hands. Iran is an even bigger country ruled by people with the strength and savvy (or actually more) of Ba'athists and the fanatics of the Taliban combined. If we had an alternate history in which we had never invaded either of those countries, but instead they were ruled by regimes friendly enough to get out of our way as we went in, I think we could handle Iran. That isn't the case though. By the way, what do you think of the writings of William S. Lind?

The national industry of Palestine is foreign aid, for Christ's sake!
I would actually be interested to know what percentage of their economy aid makes up.

Granted, the direct source of the money is more the EU these days
I think that is very important, with regard to U.S politics. Also, the EU is not a client state if it can be called a state at all. If the U.S disappeared, the EU would still be much as it was. It does not depend on the U.S.

Again, the trouble is that you are looking through a pair of glasses that have been intentionally fogged. There is no such thing as "mainstream" thought - it is a set of temporary compromises between contending movements.
If acts of Congress are not sufficient for you, you can cite opinion polls to get at the "real" beliefs of the Democratic party. For me, the influence of AIPAC within it is enough. And is Dershowitz not mainstream for both the Democratic party and Harvard?

To see the movements clearly, look at what would happen if the US government were suddenly replaced by the faculty of Harvard.
Harvard isn't all that different from the mainstream and the Democratic party as I imagine it. The San Francisco marchers and Finkelstein/Chomsky (and he owes his academic stature to linguistics rather than politics)/Counterpunch folks are to it something like what the Lew Rockwellites are to the Bush/neocon right. You might want to check out Daniel Klein's work on the political leanings within academia. He does cluster analysis that result in a division into libertarians, conservatives, the econ-polsci left, establishment left and progressives. It often seems as if you conflate such groups when there are significant differences.

Or of the Mises Institute.
It's representation in Washington consists of Ron Paul, so any political compromise bears little mark of it.

There is a difference between being a dissident and being a shill of the "international community."
The difference is what side you're on.

This is exactly why I say "the government of Iraq" is profitable. I don't mean the present regime is profitable. I mean Iraq, the place, can be made to turn a profit. Any country can, and still more if it has oil.
By that standard, Enron was "profitable". They'll be glad to know that they can cancel that whole going-out-of-business thing. Don't abuse words like that.

August 14, 2007 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

tggp:

For a more thorough economic analysis of the transitional period and a good explanation of the differences in development in the early- and mid-nineties, I would recommend to read Kornai (Google akbar!).

The economic developments of the post-socialist countries in the late '90-es and the XXIst century have not been analyzed in a satisfactory manner, IMHO.

As for the meaninglessness of comparison between 1-10 million strong Central European nation-states with a 140 million strong Eurasian multinational empire, I don't think you need to read more than a political world map. That's not comparing apples to apples...

August 14, 2007 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

bbroadside,

Of course immigrant/jihadi violence is a problem. It killed Fortuyn and van Gogh, for one, who were not Fini, Haider or Le Pen - they were actually threats to the Eurocratic establishment, which the remnants of the old European right have not been for some time.

My point is that the cause of the problem is Universalist Eurocracy. If you want to kill this system, you have to aim for the brain, not the fist. The official information systems - schools, press, broadcast - are the targets. European Universalism is a church, and the
only way to stop it is to disestablish it.

When you oppose immigrant violence, appeasement of terrorism, etc, you are fighting the system where it is strongest and you are weakest. You are effectively playing defense, not offense. These abuses are certainly good examples of misgovernment, but stopping them is a case of striking at the leaves.

August 14, 2007 at 5:47 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

tggp,

If you're going to link to Caplan, you're certainly aware that linking to (a) a mathematical model of politics, and (b) a Word document, is the best way to push my buttons!

It is hard to sustain revolutionary enthusiasm over generations.

Is it? I certainly see plenty of enthusiastic revolutionary Universalists where I live. From John Brown to Bono...

By that standard, Enron was "profitable". They'll be glad to know that they can cancel that whole going-out-of-business thing. Don't abuse words like that.

Actually the problem is that I was using the word "government" in a rather arcane medieval sense. What I meant was "the right to govern Iraq constitutes positive capital."

Our army (and you go to war with the army you've got) is not one designed for occupation.

True, but it is such a good army that it's capable of almost anything. The problem is not equipment or training, but policy.

Any force sufficient to conquer Iran would be more than sufficient to occupy it indefinitely, if (for example) it followed 19th-century British policies. Or the American Lieber Code, which worked so well in the Philippines. Or even JCS 1067 (google it), the policy for occupied Germany.

Given American politics, none of this could happen. But the problem is American politics, not Iran.

If acts of Congress are not sufficient for you, you can cite opinion polls to get at the "real" beliefs of the Democratic party.

You're looking at lagging indicators and somatic tissue. It is the ideological core of the movement that propagates it into the future - the germline.

For example, I'll bet that if Klein had surveyed grad students rather than professors, he would have found far more aggressive views. He is also looking for policy views, rather than indicators of Universalist fanaticism, and so he cannot assess the intensity of the passions he finds.

If we [invaded Iran] under a Democratic president & Congress and allied with a local communist party or labor union, I bet they would.

Now that's an amusing counterfactual! I suppose you're probably right, although I think the situation would mutate fast.

I would actually be interested to know what percentage of their economy aid makes up.

An economy can't be measured in money, but I think aid is at least 80% of their foreign income - and probably most of the rest are remittances. Certainly, Palestinian exports are negligible and imports are not.

By the way, what do you think of the writings of William S. Lind?

I prefer Luttwak. Lind is an independent thinker, but he is often too LewRockwell-ish for me.

The fashionable San Francisco types you mock certainly see themselves as anti-government, and in the British sense of the term "government" where it synonymous with "state", they are correct. The most radical, like your favorite example of Chomsky, consider themselves anarchists who ARE against the state.

They consider themselves against it. In practice, they're for it. I plan a post on this.

Also, the EU is not a client state if it can be called a state at all. If the U.S disappeared, the EU would still be much as it was. It does not depend on the U.S.

I think you're mistaken in this, but the point is certainly arguable and it deserves an argument of its own.

The right is Bushism, the Old Right died a long time ago and the Somewhat Aged Right that succeeded it has passed the baton as well.

Yeah, you're right. What I think the Right should be has very little to do with what it is. And the term only makes sense as a reference to what is.

I suppose this is one of the many reasons I am so resistant to describing myself as a conservative, a rightist, etc, etc. The right is a source of opinions. It is not a destination.

August 14, 2007 at 6:16 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

European Universalism is a church, and the only way to stop it is to disestablish it.
I still don't understand what that would mean in concrete terms. I think I made the same point in response to your "separation of information and security".

If you're going to link to Caplan, you're certainly aware that linking to (a) a mathematical model of politics, and (b) a Word document, is the best way to push my buttons!
Just download and install AbiWord already. I know you may not like mathematical models, but it's necessary for him to make predictions for the "Leviathan hypothesis" that will be contrasted with four other theories in his "evidence from the states".

Is it? I certainly see plenty of enthusiastic revolutionary Universalists where I live. From John Brown to Bono...
John Brown might have been a religious fanatic and violent insurrectionist, but he's been dead for a long time. Bono is a rock star who talks a lot about how sad it is that there is so much poverty in the third world. A revolutionary he is not. Even the radical street-protesters in San Francisco today are faux or wannabe revolutionists. The hippies of old couldn't even sustain the revolutionary fervor that the first generation of Russian, Chinese or Iranians did. Most of them became jaded, cynical Cogs in the System Working for The Man, driving SUVs and drinking Starbucks. Their counter-culture successors, the punks, seemed to hate hippies (in some early shows by the Melvins they were booed off stage as a bunch of hippies, and their Mangled Demoes make the original major-key punk songs of the mid-to-late seventies sound like folk) more than straights (indicating normality/conformity rather than any particular sexuality) and they didn't even have to wait for hippies to die off.

You say Iraq is potentially profitable in a counter-factual. Well, anything could be different if it were so. If my aunt had balls she'd be my uncle. I think Iraq is going to be screwed up for quite a while, in part because it's full of Iraqis. I'm not even sure if the Brits were making net gains when they had the place, or if it was just a subsidy to the vanity of politicians.

You're looking at lagging indicators and somatic tissue.
It's odd that you talk about "lagging indicators" while disdaining positive social science and its regressions that could indicate such things! I care about who has the numbers and the power. The establishment left has it, the progressives do not. Hillary Clinton is more important than Kucinich and Gravel, just as Giuliani is more important than Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo.

For example, I'll bet that if Klein had surveyed grad students rather than professors, he would have found far more aggressive views.
I doubt it. I agree with Caplan that university faculty are self-selected for leftism, and Klein also gives evidence to support this: people with the same degrees outside of academia are considerably less leftist. Students also vote at much lower rates than professors, indicating less ideological commitment. I'll see if I can find a poll comparing the opinions of students and their professors. I predict the students will be closer to the mainstream (i.e less leftist) than their professors. Until then I am still very skeptical of your theory, for the reasons I already laid out. It is interesting that FrontPageMag, started by the famously campus-critical David Horowitz, published this on Harvard, which is in accordance with my view. Also, while not distinguishing students and faculty, it is interesting to note how much more popular the anti-divestment petition was than the pro-divestment one, which supports my view of Israel & Palestine as clients.

He is also looking for policy views, rather than indicators of Universalist fanaticism, and so he cannot assess the intensity of the passions he finds.
Is this a hint toward falsifiability? What do you suggest as a measurable indicator of "Universalist fanaticism" that Klein could use? Maybe you could e-mail Klein with your suggestions. Also, Klein's study uses a numerical ranking people give for how enthusiastic they are for policies, so it can be said to take intensity into account, though he did not poll students.

I would like to note that my counter-factual on Iran is less far-fetched than it sounds, since the Bush administration refused to hand over members of Mujahideen al-Khalq (who were Marxists during the Iranian revolution and are now pulling a Jonas Savimbi) in exchange for al-Qaeda members in Iranian custody. Here is a page from a union-oriented site criticizing other parts of the left for their stance on Iran, but they aren't alone as Marxists take the same stance (with the addition of student and women's concerns).

An economy can't be measured in money
I'd say money can make for a good proxy, but the "foot vote" makes for an even better one (though for livability rather than simply economics), relatively speaking if not in absolute terms.

I think aid is at least 80% of their foreign income - and probably most of the rest are remittances.
My guess is remittances are larger. That's the largest source of income for Mexico, and Mexican immigrants are largely poorly-paid unskilled labor while Mexico itself has oil. Palestinians are often the best educated and most skilled in the Arab world (why, I don't know). They make up the majority of the population of Jordan and do all the real work in oil-rich Gulf states, where the natives don't even bother to lift the money they hand out and hire outsiders to do everything. P. J. O'Rourke has a pretty good account in "Peace Kills". Oddly enough, a bigger source than the U.N might be Israel, since it's one of the few countries willing to do business with the "Occupied Territories" and it's fairly rich for the region.

too LewRockwell-ish for me.
Prone to populist moon-batty conspiracy theory? That's my problem with a lot of stuff at LewRockwell, but I'd like to know what you mean more specifically. I think Ross Douthat & Reihan Salaam once described Lind's "cultural conservatism" as "top-hats and trolleys", but I can't find the page anymore since the American Spectator changed its site.

There was a typo in my post. I meant to say "government" is not synonymous with "state" across the pond. "Government" refers to the ruling coalition in parliament, or the cabinet that acts like our executive.

Speaking of Chomsky, I think he deserves some kudos for criticizing the wacky moon-batty conspiracy theorists on the left who think 9/11 was an inside job. He's still got some of the dangerous thoughtfulness of the stalinist Old Left.

August 14, 2007 at 8:13 PM  
Anonymous bbroadside said...

MM said: "Of course immigrant/jihadi violence is a problem. It killed Fortuyn and van Gogh, for one, who were not Fini, Haider or Le Pen - they were actually threats to the Eurocratic establishment, which the remnants of the old European right have not been for some time."

Okay, "a problem" does not mean "the problem". I understand now.

But I still don't understand what makes someone a threat to the Eurocratic establishment. I just wouldn't know where to begin in figuring that sort of thing out. Is it simply that they were willing to speak the unspeakable, i.e., point out that jihadi violence is a definite problem with a definite source and a conceivable solution, and the more politic politicians had no response? Or was their speaking having a measurable effect?

In any case, the choice of a couple of Dutch mavericks as murder targets, passing over the traditional right ... it's a good point I can't believe I missed up to now. Gives me the creeps.

August 14, 2007 at 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about "a"s. I'm from a country to the West from Ukraine, so I'm definitively a Slav.

As for the fall of the Russia - yes, there was certainly a disillusonment, a lot of it. They tried to "immanentize the Eschaton", in Voegelin's words, and this doesn't work long term. There were awfully few Communists in Russia, and nearly no in satellite countries. But they didn't need Western intellectuals to tell them that. Communist party members knew perfectly well what was going on, and managed to position themselves very well - especially the young technocratic wing which finished Western universities. The western intellectuals were useful in influencing the West. The Communist party members didn't even knew they existed, and if knew treated them as "useful idiots".

But the reason they got overturned was the fact that they tried reforms. Reforms were necessary, because Russia wanted to remain a superpower, and their economy was dying. It is difficult to imagine how much did the Red Army cost - and the economy was inefficient to begin with.

They discarded the whole ideology they were based on, antagonized the main basis of their support - the Communist party. The army suddenly lost most of the funding, etc.

For a short period the government didn't exist. The power was lying in the streets, in the words of Lenin.

Belarus managed to keep Communism because of economic subsidies from Russia, and because they based themselves on the most reliable social strata - the kovhoz directors, the direct descendants of the old Tsarist dvorians.

Baduin

August 16, 2007 at 5:35 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

tggp,

By "disestablish" I mean end all government ties to education, presumably by privatization.

Bono is a rock star who talks a lot about how sad it is that there is so much poverty in the third world. A revolutionary he is not. Even the radical street-protesters in San Francisco today are faux or wannabe revolutionists.

Ah, but these days the John Brown formula is really working. It's not necessary for rich American kids to form terrorist groups, like the Weathermen or the SLA. Their oppressed indigenous-peoples allies will do it for them.

Check out the story of Brad Will. John Reed redux, or what?

I care about who has the numbers and the power. The establishment left has it, the progressives do not.

I care about the transmission of ideas. Specifically, I look at what beliefs are fashionable for the most fashionable 23-year-olds in the world. I think I have a pretty good idea of what these beliefs are, and they are **** nuts.

Students also vote at much lower rates than professors, indicating less ideological commitment. I'll see if I can find a poll comparing the opinions of students and their professors. I predict the students will be closer to the mainstream (i.e less leftist) than their professors.

I said grad students in specific, who are all people who want to be professors.

There is certainly a rise in conservatist activism, and in the '90s there was a fall in progressive activism. But that story is old - it's back now.

My guess is remittances are larger.

I can't find any numbers for remittances - my suspicion is that the data is hard to collect. But tribute ("foreign aid") is certainly more than half of Palestinian GDP.

Prone to populist moon-batty conspiracy theory? That's my problem with a lot of stuff at LewRockwell, but I'd like to know what you mean more specifically. I think Ross Douthat & Reihan Salaam once described Lind's "cultural conservatism" as "top-hats and trolleys", but I can't find the page anymore since the American Spectator changed its site.

I certainly have no problem with top-hats and trolleys. My issue with Lind is just that his military analysis seems very affected by the things he likes and the things he doesn't like, which makes me not trust him so much.

Speaking of Chomsky, I think he deserves some kudos for criticizing the wacky moon-batty conspiracy theorists on the left who think 9/11 was an inside job. He's still got some of the dangerous thoughtfulness of the stalinist Old Left.

I suppose. I really do have a hard time caring...

August 17, 2007 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Baduin,

No apology is necessary - I value your comments for their content, not for their English! And in any case I have never run across any English text which wasn't just as readable without the "a's." If anyone it is me who should be apologizing.

I agree with most of what you say, and I'll admit that the relationship with Western intellectuals was only important to the Soviet intelligentsia. And only then to some segments of it. But I think that if the intelligentsia had still believed in Communism, the disillusionment that played so much of a role in the collapse would have had at least some force against it. Isn't it a Russian proverb that the fish rots from the head down?

August 17, 2007 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

bbroadside,

Exactly. My point is that the traditional right is not a threat, because the elite classes are very effectively immunized against right-wing beliefs.

Fortuyn was a threat because he was not really a "conservative." He had evaded the first ring of defense, which causes attackers to pick up and prominently display antigens which lead to their quick destruction, or at least effective impotence. Unfortunately, the backup system nailed him...

August 17, 2007 at 12:25 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

By "disestablish" I mean end all government ties to education, presumably by privatization.
The "Ivy League" schools are already private and have been so since their founding.

It's not necessary for rich American kids to form terrorist groups, like the Weathermen or the SLA. Their oppressed indigenous-peoples allies will do it for them.
Fortunately for me, oppressed indigenous peoples generally live outside the United States, which means that for all practical purposes concerning me they don't exist.

Check out the story of Brad Will. John Reed redux, or what?
Scanning their Wikipedia articles indicates to me that Reed mattered and Will didn't. Will allegedly died at the hands of the Institutional Ruling Party of Mexico, hardly a darling of the American Right to read VDARE or Sailer. The party has lost its long-held stranglehold on power in Mexico, but to the more conservative National Action Party. I don't understand how the Polygon or Universalism really received any benefit there.

I care about the transmission of ideas.
Maybe you should talk about Oprah.

Specifically, I look at what beliefs are fashionable for the most fashionable 23-year-olds in the world.
I think there might be a circularity problem here with defining "fashionable". Also, I don't think anarchism is nearly as fashionable as its circle-A symbol.

I think I have a pretty good idea of what these beliefs are
I don't actually think you do, although I should add I don't think I do either and I'm closer to that age. Once again, I'd like to see numbers.

I said grad students in specific, who are all people who want to be professors.
Brad Will wasn't a grad student. I mentioned Daniel Klein's study before, and how it shows that people with the same degrees outside of academia are less leftist. If they have the same degrees, that means they were also grad students at some time so your assumption about them all wanting to be professors seems off.

There is certainly a rise in conservatist activism, and in the '90s there was a fall in progressive activism. But that story is old - it's back now.
Once again, I'd like to see numbers.

My issue with Lind is just that his military analysis seems very affected by the things he likes and the things he doesn't like, which makes me not trust him so much.
I feel the same way about Rothbard, and to a lesser extent you. I think Lind is quite fond of the nation-state and at the same time thinks it is dying, which goes against the wish-influencing-analysis view you take of him. Could you elaborate on Lind?

I really do have a hard time caring...
Chomsky figures rather prominently in your view of influential people, to a much greater deal than my own. I would think you'd be more interested in what he has to say and how he fits in the broader spectrum of wacky leftoid moonbats.

Unfortunately, the backup system nailed him...
I don't think that can be considered a "backup system". Assassins are usually lone wackoes, not a "system". Fortuyn's case was an unusual one because it was an environmental activist. I'd be hard pressed to think of another case in which that happened. It seems more sui generis, like Varg Vikernes or something.

August 18, 2007 at 12:06 AM  
Anonymous bbroadside said...

tggp wrote: "I don't think that can be considered a "backup system". Assassins are usually lone wackoes, not a "system". Fortuyn's case was an unusual one because it was an environmental activist. I'd be hard pressed to think of another case in which that happened. It seems more sui generis, like Varg Vikernes or something."

Heh ... I didn't expect to see a mention of Varg Vikernes at UR. Yet somehow it makes me feel at home. (I don't have any of his CDs, but I am familiar with his former scene.)

I can see arguments both for and against Fortuyn's murder being an isolated event. I definitely see no reason to believe it is part of an authentic progressive/universalist conspiracy. I still find the murder more chilling than most. Why did our lone whacko leap so easily from environmentalism to animal rights to pro-immigration to political assassination? It's not just progressives that turn an idea into grounds for murder. On the other hand, if someone asserted that it is only progressives who turn support for oppressed groups into a justification for shooting a homosexual college professor in the back of the head, I'd at least give the notion a closer look.

It seems to me that the biggest threat to political correctness comes from those who are naturally tolerant. Could that be why the Dutch critics of Islam got erased while Zhirinovsky goes unscathed? (Yes, Russia isn't the Netherlands so it's not a great comparison.)

To treat an idea like an organism may be an odd schema, but I think it can be revealing. Something drew the assassin to Fortuyn. It could be because he believed Fortuyn to be a fascist, but there are plenty of people called fascists, and the label is sometimes accurate for people other than Fortuyn.

August 18, 2007 at 2:52 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

Perhaps Varg was a bad example since many people have not heard of him, and good for them. My point was that a lot of black metal wannabe-evil types talked a lot and old fogeys worried a lot about them, but they are pretty much all harmless. That Varg actually murdered one of his friends, stockpiled plans for mayhem and the means to carry them out (if I recall correctly), escaped from prison and writes neo-Nazi material makes him an exception. Similarly, many activist types will rail about how right-wing (or even left-wing) politicians are awful fascists and corporate suits are oppressing the people and destroying the environment, but they just about never go as far as murder.

I have never heard anything by Varg, and I don't intend to. I've heard brief snippets of bands like Mayhem, Emperor and Darkthrone on Pandora but I quickly gave that shit the thumbs-down. Those kinds of bands often sound like they are trying to create the worst sounds in existence and terribly succeeding. I'll stick with my wussy thrash metal and hardcore punk, thank you very much.

August 18, 2007 at 7:09 PM  
Anonymous bbroadside said...

tggp -

Yeah, black metal has a pretty narrow appeal. It's one of the few genres that I like I've never tried to interest any of my friends in. Varg's crimes were certainly a harbinger of nothing much, just as I hope the murder of Fortuyn will be. Honestly I don't know why the deaths of the Dutchmen got me so upset.

Maybe it's just that most political assassinations seem to have a backlash that hurts the murderer's cause, while at least in Fortuyn's case, his party seems to more or less died without him.

Or maybe it's just that it strikes me that progressives view the current situation in Europe through the distortion of always rooting for the underdog or sticking up for the historically oppressed. Since every intergenerational group has been oppressed at some point in history, figuring out which one has really been oppressed requires a profoundly strange calculus that progressives do all the time without being aware of it. Instead of attempting the impossibility of counting every historical grievance, the left seems to start with an assumption of Universal equality and consider every departure from that to be theft, more or less. So if the Dutch are a smart, wealthy country they are oppressors ipso facto.

It's funny to see them do the "excellence is theft" number on countries that don't even have the Netherlands' imperialist history. On a newsgroup I read someone saying the Jyllandspost cartoons were offensive to Islam because they constituted the oppressor mocking the oppressed. Denmark constituted oppressor ... because the United States had deposed Iran's Mossadegh.

I could probably laugh off this kind of logic except that I was steeped in it growing up. Every historical crime was something "we" were responsible for, because we (American junior high students) were tied to the government, and the government has been involved in most important recent events.

"We" were never responsible for anything good (which is why our lessons on the Civil War stopped short of the Thirteenth Amendment; we could only be told about the measure which didn't free all the slaves). This is partly why MM's post resonated with me; anti-Americanism emanating from America (or Marshall Plan countries, for that matter) strikes me as a secularized version of self-mortification.

While real Brahmins eschew meat out of respect for their ancestors, American Brahmins must show their devotion by emphasizing the sins of their political antecedents (if not outright revision). The virtues of the same must likewise be minimized, or assigned to someone else (which is pretty easy ... give credit for the ideals of contractarian government to the Iroquois so that nasty old John Locke can't snap it up!) I doubt many people educated by progressive-idealists can even name the chief sponsor of the Thirteenth Amendment. The Ku Klux Klan gets a lot more pages than the Freedmen's Bureau. Anti-imperialist politicians of the Guilded Age are ignored (unless they had children out of wedlock).

And so on, until young progressive believers are convinced that all True Progress lies only in the future. I was never quite that pious, since I had a broader sense of history than my History is Self-Mortification clerics provided, which may be why I am such an apostate.

August 18, 2007 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

The "Ivy League" schools are already private and have been so since their founding.

They are about as private as Fannie Mae. Student loans, research grants, accrediting agencies...

There are private colleges in the US. They have names like "Grove City" and "Hillsdale." Most of their students are born-again Christians.

Fortunately for me, oppressed indigenous peoples generally live outside the United States, which means that for all practical purposes concerning me they don't exist.

You must not live where I live!

I think there might be a circularity problem here with defining "fashionable".

Not at all. Burning Man is fashionable, Oprah isn't. Case closed.

Scanning their Wikipedia articles indicates to me that Reed mattered and Will didn't. Will allegedly died at the hands of the Institutional Ruling Party of Mexico, hardly a darling of the American Right to read VDARE or Sailer.

Oh, sure. It's the intention that counts. My point is that antinomianism is in its active, reproducing phase.

These people are not intentionally evil. They just happen to cause evil. The distinction is crucial.

I mentioned Daniel Klein's study before, and how it shows that people with the same degrees outside of academia are less leftist. If they have the same degrees, that means they were also grad students at some time so your assumption about them all wanting to be professors seems off.

You don't go to grad school (at least not in the sense I meant the term) unless you want to be a professor. But many are chilled and few are frozen.

Klein's study would seem to indicate that the most fanatical are the most successful, which is not at all surprising.

Could you elaborate on Lind?

Not really. It's just a vibe.

Chomsky figures rather prominently in your view of influential people, to a much greater deal than my own. I would think you'd be more interested in what he has to say and how he fits in the broader spectrum of wacky leftoid moonbats.

Not really. A moonbat is pretty much a moonbat to me. The issue is that it's fashionable to be a moonbat, whereas it's not fashionable to be, say, a white nationalist. I am interested in the causes of this phenomenon, which have little, I think, to do with the details.

I don't think that can be considered a "backup system". Assassins are usually lone wackoes, not a "system". Fortuyn's case was an unusual one because it was an environmental activist.

An animal-rights activist, also, and this is not unusual at all.

Of course he was not working for some Cabal. "System" is a metaphor. My point is that paramilitary violence and the left are not strangers at all.

August 19, 2007 at 10:31 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

bbroadside,

It doesn't surprise me that my thoughts find resonance among those who are already dedicated pursuers of the extreme :-)

The level of essentially theological thinking in Western society strikes me as really not much higher or lower than ever. As Chesterton said, when you stop believing in God, you don't believe in nothing, you believe in anything.

And what an anything we have invented! The Environment, the Oppressed, and on and on and on. One pities poor God, who must be slightly dazed at this deluge of post-theistic theology.

And when you stop believing in anything, you tend to invent something else. The way Varg Vikernes did.

For those of us who really do try to believe in nothing, this is all rather sad. But not surprising.

August 19, 2007 at 11:03 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

You must not live where I live!
I just got back to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, so you are right.

Not at all. Burning Man is fashionable, Oprah isn't. Case closed.
Oprah is fashionable, Burning Man isn't, case closed. See how that works? You need to have a reason for holding one above the other without just your say-so, or I can substitute my own say-so.

You don't go to grad school (at least not in the sense I meant the term) unless you want to be a professor. But many are chilled and few are frozen.
What was "the sense [you] meant"? When you talk to positivist-inclined people like myself you'll have to expect a few "I do not understand what you mean,"s.

Klein's study would seem to indicate that the most fanatical are the most successful, which is not at all surprising.
That's exactly my reason for believing grad students to be less leftist than faculty.

Not really. A moonbat is pretty much a moonbat to me.
Bullshit. You deconstruct the major universalist thinkers here all the time in an attempt to get at what they believe and how they came to it, not fringe weirdos nobody pays attention to.

The issue is that it's fashionable to be a moonbat, whereas it's not fashionable to be, say, a white nationalist.
In absolute terms, I think neither is fashionable. In relative terms it is odd that communism is reviled so much less than nazism. Greater minds than mine have pondered this, and I think your explanation is not half bad.

Of course he was not working for some Cabal. "System" is a metaphor. My point is that paramilitary violence and the left are not strangers at all.
Their paramilitary proxies often cause general mayhem, but a brahmin assassinating a right-wing politician is unusual.

August 20, 2007 at 11:51 AM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

For those of us who really do try to believe in nothing, this is all rather sad. But not surprising.
Whoa, there! The nihilist revolutionaries of Russia really believed in nothing, we happy band of non-idealists merely don't believe in anything. There's a huge difference!

August 20, 2007 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Oprah is fashionable, Burning Man isn't, case closed. See how that works? You need to have a reason for holding one above the other without just your say-so, or I can substitute my own say-so.

Dude, we're in sky-is-blue territory here.

That's exactly my reason for believing grad students to be less leftist than faculty.

Do we disagree? I just meant they were more leftist than undergrads.

In absolute terms, I think neither is fashionable

I live five blocks from Haight St., so I'm afraid you are just going to have to take my word on this fashion thing.

You deconstruct the major universalist thinkers here all the time in an attempt to get at what they believe and how they came to it, not fringe weirdos nobody pays attention to.

Oh, sure. But Chomsky is by no means on the fringe. And, in any case, I don't see a whole lot of heterogeneous influences within the leftist movement. Its mutations are internal, not introgressive.

Whoa, there! The nihilist revolutionaries of Russia really believed in nothing, we happy band of non-idealists merely don't believe in anything. There's a huge difference!

Now that's true. But in any case, I can't say "I believe in nothing" without thinking of the Big Lebowski...

August 20, 2007 at 9:56 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

Dude, we're in sky-is-blue territory here.
Let's say I define "fashionable" to mean "popular" with uniform weighting for each individual. More people watch Oprah than attend burning man, Oprah is then cool and those at Burning Man are weirdo misfits. A crappy definition of fashionable perhaps, but a clear and objective one. Give your own definition so we can better understand your ideas.

Do we disagree? I just meant they were more leftist than undergrads.
I don't know, my main point was that I doubted they were more leftist than faculty.

I live five blocks from Haight St., so I'm afraid you are just going to have to take my word on this fashion thing.
Fashionable for Haight St. does not mean fashionable for everywhere. Perhaps at GenCon Dungeons & Dragons is really hip, but amid the general population it is not.

Oh, sure. But Chomsky is by no means on the fringe.
That was my point. You dismissed him, basically saying "moonbats are moonbats, all the same to me". I would think you'd be more interested in what Chomsky has to say since people listen to him.

August 21, 2007 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

A crappy definition of fashionable perhaps, but a clear and objective one. Give your own definition so we can better understand your ideas.

Fashionable means "popular among those of high social status."

It's very easy to construct an aspirational graph that includes both Larry Harvey and Oprah, and it's pretty clear whose rank is higher.

That was my point. You dismissed him, basically saying "moonbats are moonbats, all the same to me". I would think you'd be more interested in what Chomsky has to say since people listen to him.

I guess what I'm saying is that the content is extremely predictable.

August 22, 2007 at 11:30 AM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

Fashionable means "popular among those of high social status."
That's better, but I'm not sure "social status" is objective and can be expressed in a one-dimensional well-ordered manner.

It's very easy to construct an aspirational graph that includes both Larry Harvey and Oprah, and it's pretty clear whose rank is higher.
I could grab my trusty orange crayon and write a hierarchy with Oprah above Harvey (who I actually had never heard of before) and Count Chocula above all of them, but it wouldn't mean anything. If aliens was observing earthlings, would it come up with a corresponding idea of "fasionableness" where Burning Man is above Oprah?

I guess what I'm saying is that the content is extremely predictable.
I wouldn't have predicted that Chomsky would be so critical of 9/11 conspiracy theorists, or that Michael Berube would be in his cross-hairs as a "cruise-missile liberal", and given hindsight bias I shouldn't be trusted if I say I could have predicted something.

August 22, 2007 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

If aliens was observing earthlings, would it come up with a corresponding idea of "fashionableness" where Burning Man is above Oprah?

Definitely - the aspirational graph is very clear. Oprah watchers don't fantasize about being burners. But they fantasize about being the people who fantasize about being burners. Nothing of the sort is observable in reverse.

I wouldn't have predicted that Chomsky would be so critical of 9/11 conspiracy theorists, or that Michael Berube would be in his cross-hairs as a "cruise-missile liberal"

I would. Chomsky has never been a conspiracy theorist. But he has a very keen nose for any kind of ideological deviation.

August 23, 2007 at 10:54 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

But they fantasize about being the people who fantasize about being burners.
Huh? I'm not sure what you're talking about. Also, fantasies are not observable, and hence theories based on them are unfalsifiable. Caplan might accept introspection and survey data, but I take the hard-line against it. Utility functions can only be glimpsed by revealed preference!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 2, 2009 at 9:24 PM  

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