Friday, December 12, 2008 25 Comments

Nosedive

Today I dropped the Sibyl on her head.
(Critical consensus in the household
Has assigned her the definite article.)
To be exact: put her in the exact

Dead center of our king bed, called
Space Bed for its sticky future-foam,
Stood up for, I swear, two seconds
To pick up a pair of socks, looked

Back around and there she was:
Nosediving at the bone-hard floor.
Poster now cut, in optical inverse,
Across the inside of my forehead.

Result: she has a green robin's egg,
Bud for some half-horned unicorn,
On the outside of hers; and cried
For two whole minutes, yielding only

To the seductions of "Brown Bear";
And her mother was very annoyed.
This is the catechism of folly,
Known to every motorcyclist:

Church and gospel of the close call.
The head without a built-in helmet
Is plum for any stick, but skull
That traded ridges for its brow,

Light and arched and high and thin,
No Fuehrerbunker but a Reims,
Improves the lightest of blows.
Is the warm anchor that wraps us,

Each comfort and open door, more
Than yesterday's dreamer dreamed,
Real? Or is there no weight, holy
Or mundane - but drift, movement

Of excitement framed in unreason,
As the republic crawls and slides,
Rolling in laughter and smiles,
Two feet to the floor, nine meters

To the Roman judgment of concrete?
Had we one last book, to tell us.
Since patient fire took the ninth,
Tomorrow throws not even an echo.

What would Cato make of Majorian?
Accident is silent. Rug your floors,
Rake up and guard your gold, strap
Hard helmets on your children:

Gravity is great, winter is here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 52 Comments

Translating Asif Ali Zardari

I can't resist preceding our joint repose with a brief translation of this:
The Terrorists Want To Destroy Pakistan, Too
If you believe this, you'll believe anything. (The "terrorists" would certainly love to control Pakistan. And they are well on their way, too.)
by Asif Ali Zardari
Or, at least, his people. The actual Mr. Ten Percent, Foggy Bottom's man in Islamabad, who may also soon be named as Senate Candidate 6, has other strengths.

He probably did get to look over it, at least. But I wouldn't be surprised if at least the outline came from Washington. This sort of material takes a long, strange bureaucratic trip on its way to the Web server - "Satan's Invisible World Displayed," as Carlyle liked to put it.
THE recent death and destruction in Mumbai, India, brought to my mind the death and destruction in Karachi on Oct. 18, 2007, when terrorists attacked a festive homecoming rally for my wife, Benazir Bhutto. Nearly 150 Pakistanis were killed and more than 450 were injured. The terrorist attacks in Mumbai may be a news story for most of the world. For me it is a painful reality of shared experience. Having seen my wife escape death by a hairbreadth on that day in Karachi, I lost her in a second, unfortunately successful, attempt two months later.
As befits all opening paragraphs of Times op-eds, I think I'll let Harry Frankfurt speak for me on this one.

But if your faith remains strong, consider the case of Baitullah Messud. As derived from deeds, not words, there is simply no evidence that President Ten Percent is in any way disturbed that Benazir got whacked. He has certainly benefited from the event.

And nor is there any evidence that you or I or anyone else should be disturbed, either, at the fate of "Pinkie." It was a hit. Should we cry? Boo-hoo. She knew the game she was playing.
The Mumbai attacks were directed not only at India but also at Pakistan’s new democratic government and the peace process with India that we have initiated. Supporters of authoritarianism in Pakistan and non-state actors with a vested interest in perpetuating conflict do not want change in Pakistan to take root.
"Change."
To foil the designs of the terrorists, the two great nations of Pakistan and India, born together from the same revolution and mandate in 1947, must continue to move forward with the peace process. Pakistan is shocked at the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. We can identify with India’s pain. I am especially empathetic. I feel this pain every time I look into the eyes of my children.
President Zardari is especially empathetic.
Pakistan is committed to the pursuit, arrest, trial and punishment of anyone involved in these heinous attacks. But we caution against hasty judgments and inflammatory statements. As was demonstrated in Sunday’s raids, which resulted in the arrest of militants, Pakistan will take action against the non-state actors found within our territory, treating them as criminals, terrorists and murderers. Not only are the terrorists not linked to the government of Pakistan in any way, we are their targets and we continue to be their victims.
"Dear India: fuck you. We didn't have shit to do with this, and we won't do shit for you. And if you were especially empathetic, too, you'd realize what a dick you are. PS: I fucked your wife."

(Note that Abdul Qadeer Khan was under "arrest," as well.)
India is a mature nation and a stable democracy. Pakistanis appreciate India’s democratic contributions. But as rage fueled by the Mumbai attacks catches on, Indians must pause and take a breath. India and Pakistan — and the rest of the world — must work together to track down the terrorists who caused mayhem in Mumbai, attacked New York, London and Madrid in the past, and destroyed the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September. The terrorists who killed my wife are connected by ideology to these enemies of civilization.
"Dear World: ignore the man behind the curtain. And please twiddle your thumbs, while we find the real killer."
These militants did not arise from whole cloth. Pakistan was an ally of the West throughout the cold war. The world worked to exploit religion against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan by empowering the most fanatic extremists as an instrument of destruction of a superpower. The strategy worked, but its legacy was the creation of an extremist militia with its own dynamic.
"Dear America: it's all your fault, anyway."
Pakistan continues to pay the price: the legacy of dictatorship, the fatigue of fanaticism, the dismemberment of civil society and the destruction of our democratic infrastructure. The resulting poverty continues to fuel the extremists and has created a culture of grievance and victimhood.
Duh-huh. He said "price." Duh-huh.
The challenge of confronting terrorists who have a vast support network is huge; Pakistan’s fledgling democracy needs help from the rest of the world. We are on the frontlines of the war on terrorism. We have 150,000 soldiers fighting Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their extremist allies along the border with Afghanistan — far more troops than NATO has in Afghanistan.
"And all this shit costs money. Lots of money. And we're doing it just for y - oh, wait."
Nearly 2,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives to terrorism in this year alone, including 1,400 civilians and 600 security personnel ranging in rank from ordinary soldier to three-star general. There have been more than 600 terrorism-related incidents in Pakistan this year. The terrorists have been set back by our aggressive war against them in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Pashtun-majority areas bordering Afghanistan. Six hundred militants have been killed in recent attacks, hundreds by Pakistani F-16 jet strikes in the last two months.
"Our people at the site are working their tails off. When you hire Vito Spadafore's guys, they don't just sit there!"
Terrorism is a regional as well as a global threat, and it needs to be battled collectively. We understand the domestic political considerations in India in the aftermath of Mumbai. Nevertheless, accusations of complicity on Pakistan’s part only complicate the already complex situation.
"Dear India: did I mention that you need to fuck off?"
For India, Pakistan and the United States, the best response to the Mumbai carnage is to coordinate in counteracting the scourge of terrorism. The world must act to strengthen Pakistan’s economy and democracy, help us build civil society and provide us with the law enforcement and counterterrorism capacities that will enable us to fight the terrorists effectively.
"Dear America and Europe: give us money. You already give us money, of course. It's just that in these troubled times - you need to be giving us more. And if you don't want to pay, expect more of this shit. Nothing personal, you understand. We're just trying to run a business here."
Benazir Bhutto once said that democracy is the best revenge against the abuses of dictatorship. In the current environment, reconciliation and rapprochement is the best revenge against the dark forces that are trying to provoke a confrontation between Pakistan and India, and ultimately a clash of civilizations.
And close, with more Harry Frankfurt.

In reality? There are no dark forces - just a bunch of poor assholes trying to make a living. This whole circus is produced for you, dear taxpayer. It may not be your most wasteful and frivolous enterprise, but it may be your nastiest and most dangerous.

Because this time I would not be surprised if Pakistan, like Serbia, finds it has bitten off more than it can chew. The key question is whether Indian politics compel a genuine response. I am not an expert in Indian politics. Nor, I suspect, are the people in Pakistan who are doing this shit. Is anyone?

The result is a textbook case in the fundamentally unsafe nature of the inevitable uncertainty in the behavior of any internally conflicted sovereign institution. The game will either be mildly profitable for Pakistan, or wildly devastating to it. Its expected value is blatantly negative.

If Pakistan as a whole was managed the way, say, Singapore is managed, Pakistan would never play. But of course there is no "Pakistan as a whole," just a loose network of informal, constantly shifting power centers. Of course this can be said of any democracy, but it is worse in Pakistan, where the gun, the ballot and the dollar are permanently engaged in an intricate opaque dance.

(If only President Zardari's predecessor had taken our advice. Pervez, Pervez! Now more than ever! Against the abuses of democracy, what but dictatorship is the best revenge? The heresy grows: India, Thailand... hop on the bandwagon, before the bandwagon hops on you!)

But perhaps the good President, by "dark forces," means UR itself. (Or at least the War Nerd.) If so, I'm afraid I need to sign myself up - for the "confrontation" part as well.

Because I believe the interactions between sovereign states should be governed by classical international law. And Davis and Sherman are, as usual, clear as glass on the matter:
Marauding Expeditions. As a consequence of its sovereignty and independence, a state is entitled to an immunity from incursions by expeditions, or marauding parties, whose base of operations is in the territory of another state; when such incursions occur, the injured state will expect, and may demand, a prompt disavowal of the act, with reparation for its consequences, and the punishment of its perpetrators. When the sovereignty of a territory permits it to be made the base of hostilities, by outlaws and savages, against a country with which such sovereign is at peace, the government of the latter country is entitled, as a matter of necessity, to pursue the assailants wherever they may be, and to take such measures as are necessary to put an end to their aggressions.
Which means exactly what you think it means. Of course, Ambassador Davis and Professor Sherman are talking about sovereign states. Not informal protectorates of the lower Potomac:
Protectorates. The term "protectorate" is applied to the relation established between a stronger and a weaker state, by which the weaker is protected from foreign aggression and interference, but suffers in consequence some diminution of its rights of sovereignty and independence. This relation is established by treaty, by the terms of which the extent and character of the protectorate are determined. In most protectorates the foreign relations of the protected state, including the power to engage in war, are in great part regulated by the protector.
And thus the question reduces to Delhi's testicles, or lack thereof. Can it grow a pair? If so, the show is on, and as usual Carlyle put it best:
"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."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008 16 Comments

UR will return on Thursday, January 8

I think it is best to break for the holidays - don't you? When attempting to compete with any monstrous monopoly, one might as well imitate by default its tactics.

When we return, I'll start by responding to comments on the last four posts. Also, if you have any further questions about or points against the whole scenario, feel free to comment below.

Remember the comment policy of UR: any thought, however evil, is welcome - so long as it is phrased in literate and interesting terms, and will inform other readers, amuse them, or both. Please address your thoughts to other readers, not the essay itself. Please do not spam, twitter, use bad words, descend into flamage, or otherwise outrage good manners.

In the meantime, readers who just cannot get enough might be interested in this recent sortie against the NYT's favorite military blog, and readers whose favorite chapter in every surf video is the essential "wipeouts" segment can track me down on Athens & Jerusalem. (I take strong exception to the commenter on this 2Blowhards thread who asserted that I have been, in some way, "served." I am never served. At least, not on the facts. Style can be another matter.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008 67 Comments

Patchwork 4: a reactionary theory of world peace

UR is hardly the first to propose a theory of world peace. So why bother? What could possibly be new?

History records quite a few previous attempts at world peace, some of which even worked pretty well in practice. For example, one was called the "Roman Empire," another was called the "Qing Dynasty," a third was called the "British Empire." All three being extinct, and therefore ot entirely successful. But there's no denying that in their day they turned out quite a bit of peace.

But the world of 2008 has its own theory of world peace. Which everyone believes, as usual. This theory, which needless to say I think is utter crap, owes most of its theory to Kant's essay on Perpetual Peace. In practice it more deserves its most parochial name: Pax Americana. (For an amusing personal history of the mapping from Kant to Turtle Bay, try my fellow Brown alumnus Michael Soussan.)

We will go into this whole strange theory of the Pax Americana, in just a bit. But our first question has to be: does this Pax Americana work? Well, in some ways, yes. The 2008 that history sent us to contains less carnage, surely, than many other 2008s which chance might have produced. On the other hand, when I open my friendly local newspaper, I am seldom greeted with pictures of smiling, happy children. I feel, dear reader, that we could do better.

And, more importantly, my general impression is not that this system, this Pax Americana, is getting better over time. I am not an old man but I was not born yesterday, and I was listening to the BBC and reading the IHT and Economist well before I had hair in my pits, and my general feeling is that across history as I have seen it, basically since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world order that was created in 1945 has not been becoming a more and more cohesive, harmonious, efficient and effective operation. I think it is quite incontestable that the entire planet, in 2008, is safe for democracy. Indeed it is clearly safe for nothing but. Yet I notice no particular absence of conflict, armed or otherwise, nor anything like a decrease. Rather the contrary, actually.

This, to me, spells entropy. What peace we have is mostly stable. But it is not perfectly stable. Whatever disorder it has seems good at escalating itself.

Since, as a good citizen, you are familiar with the theory of global warming, you are familiar with what is needed to take slowly rising curves and project them into the late 21st century. Citizen, if I share your concern for the gaseous composition of the atmosphere, can you please share my concern for the breakdown of the thin membrane that distinguishes our world from Jimmy Cliff's? "Mango season bad this year."

So our theory of peace is a little different. It is reactionary rather than progressive, which means that it is designed to work with hominids not as they should be, angels without wings, but as they are: bipedal land apes.

Progressive thinkers throughout history differ widely on the means by which said land apes can be converted into angels, philosophers, or (ideally) angelic philosophers - much as no two alchemists agree on how to synthesize gold. For instance, Kant, taking the popular "null-hypothesis" or sugar-pill strategy, roots his claim for the inherent peaceability of republican government in the following logic:
Now the republican constitution apart from the soundness of its origin, since it arose from the pure source of the concept of right, has also the prospect of attaining the desired result, namely, perpetual peace. And the reason is this. If, as must be so under this constitution, the consent of the subjects is required to determine whether there shall be war or not, nothing is more natural than that they should weigh the matter well, before undertaking such a bad business. For in decreeing war, they would of necessity be resolving to bring down the miseries of war upon their country. This implies: they must fight themselves; they must hand over the costs of the war out of their own property; they must do their poor best to make good the devastation which it leaves behind; and finally, as a crowning ill, they have to accept a burden of debt which will embitter even peace itself, and which they can never pay off on account of the new wars which are always impending. On the other hand, in a government where the subject is not a citizen holding a vote (i.e., in a constitution which is not republican), the plunging into war is the least serious thing in the world. For the ruler is not a citizen, but the owner of the state, and does not lose a whit by the war, while he goes on enjoying the delights of his table or sport, or of his pleasure palaces and gala days. He can therefore decide on war for the most trifling reasons, as if it were a kind of pleasure party.
In other words, Kant is assuming that since voters are generally reasonable people, they will vote for reasonable governments that will act reasonably, and only undertake reasonable wars.

The modern reader, reading this, must quickly remind herself that Immanuel Kant was not a fool. In 1795 the world's experience with democracy (a word Kant, like almost everyone at the time, considered a slur; in Perpetual Peace he goes to great, hilariously spurious lengths to distinguish "democracy" from his beloved republicanism) was minimal. The French Revolution could be dismissed as an aberration, and the follies of the late colonies in the Articles of Confederation period was no doubt no better known in Königsberg in 1795 than to us today.

So it was easy for Kant to make the fatal assumption that the People, in their new capacity as rulers, would display the same common sense in considering problems of government as they had when no one cared what they thought. (Kant was biased in this matter by the success of England, whose glory at that time was attributed on the Continent to its constitution's new democratic elements - rather than its corrupt medieval survivals, which turned out to actually be the glue that held the Whig aristocracy together. If Kant could see the results of the Reform Bills of 1832 and 1867, he might well sing a different tune.)

Kant reasons: people are generally reasonable. As they are - except when unreasonable. If you entrust them with the power of government, you create an easy exploitation target for an oligarchy that controls the State by directing the opinions of the people. Such oligarchies come in two categories: conscious cults and conspiracies, in which at least some top echelons of believers is insincere and consciously malicious, and true religions, in which everyone can be sincere. The former are bad, and the latter are worse.

And the most effective. (Ours is the modern iteration of mainline or ecumenical Protestantism; I call it Universalism. Head here for a brutal, syrupy dose.) And such religions, which may be polytheistic, monotheistic or atheistic, have no reason at all to maintain the reasonableness of the minds they control - at least on the subject of government.

In fact, the parasite must be able to profit at the expense of the host: it must at least convince the host to fund the parasite and ban or discredit its competitors. Thus Kant's whole argument about self-interest is void and can be discarded, destroying his theory of republican virtue and thus his entire preposterous edifice of peace.

An edifice that has worked, basically, like ass. Again, experience confirms logic. Empirically, the expected outcome of a Kantian republican federation is that either (a) the federation becomes a mega-state of its own (which is, of course, ideal, because bigger is always better), (b) the federation breaks in half and creates a massive civil war (in which the good guys always win), or (c) the federation never has any real existence and quickly becomes at best a joke, at worst a festering glob of pompous, corrupt sinecures (but still a symbol of human progress and unity).

Thankfully, the result of the last two attempts has been (c1) and (c2). Do we need to pull the lever again? No, I think not.

But the basic armature of Kant's argument is solid, and we will reuse it. The argument is that warfare is not a policy to which a responsible sovereign will resort without good reason. Kant's fallacy is in equating "republican" with "responsible," and lacking the imagination to see that popular government has the power to produce far more irresponsible leadership than the classical monarchies he knew, with their little family spats and mild, fancy-dress wars.

The world of Frederick the Great and Louis XV, while Kant was no doubt a keen judge of its imperfections, exhibited a quality of order which we of the Pax Americana can only imagine. What would Paris be, if the regime that created Versailles had the technology of 2008? A kind of supernova. A place as far above Paris today, as Paris today above Kinshasa. Certainly, the center of the world, even if you plopped it down in Siberia.

Why don't we have this now? How did things come to such a pass? Before we get into reactionary world peace, let's try and figure out this Pax Americana.

Kant had no trouble in describing the obvious principle its name suggests:
Nevertheless it is the desire of every state, or of its ruler, to attain to a permanent condition of peace in this very way; that is to say, by subjecting the whole world as far as possible to its sway.
Amen. The great fraud of our current "international community" is its preposterous disguise as a Kantian federation of equals. In reality, the "international community" is Washington and her clients - at least, when it is in proper working order. It sometimes approaches such order, but never seems to quite reach it.

The agencies in foreign capitals which we call "governments" are fascinating entities in many ways. Each is different, but in general what they are is clear. There is no accepted English term for the relationship, although "client" or even "puppet" state is close.

We do see something like sovereignty in the post-Communist world: Russia, China, plus the Iran-Syria-Venezuela axis. Russia and China treat each other as sovereigns, and they are clearly intent on preserving some of their sovereign independence, although the imbalanced financial relationships with the Western world that they find themselves in are clear no-nos. Nonetheless, they are generally quite submissive toward the US, an approach which is probably prudent. Iran, Syria and Venezuela are in the position of perpetual hostility that Russia occupied in the heyday of the Cold War, one which is arguably inconsistent with true sovereignty (since the hostile regimes are so dependent on the continuation of the conflict), but one which certainly separates them from the rest of America's sheep.

As for the rest of these "governments"? In many ways, these agencies really do resemble actual sovereign authorities. This is certainly their formal status. However, if you were to describe them as locally-staffed branches of the State Department, you would be also be grasping at a truth.

The official role of State is not supervisory, but advisory, a distinction we discuss in some detail below. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the function of a US mission to a non-US country is not comparable to the function of a non-US mission to the US. I am quite confident that the French Embassy, for example, expends very little effort on telling the US how to reform its financial system.

This is all very confusing. What, exactly, is the difference between supervising and advising? Is Washington supposed to be running the world, or isn't it? Please allow me to explain.

Perhaps you've wondered how a perspective that considers "imperialism" and "American exceptionalism" taboos reminiscent of the Big H himself can produce phrases such as:
The possible decline in America’s power does not mean that the United States would not remain powerful. This country can and must continue to lead.
or, more gloriously (Chauncey Depew would be proud),
And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world: our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.
Is Washington supposed to be ruling the world? Is Washington supposed to be leading the world? Is there a difference between "leading" and "ruling?" If you replace "lead" with "rule" above - a new dawn of American rule is at hand - you definitely don't have a line that either the President or the Times could be imagined uttering.

So there must be some difference. But what is it?

Clearly, if America "leads," its relationship with those it is leading must be anything but equal. Neither the Times nor President Obama will tell us that, while America should "lead" Europe, Europe should also "lead" America. Not even such scoundrels can torture English so.

Any unequal relationship between any two parties, be they sovereigns, colleagues or family members, must involve some combination of two models of control. Call them authority and dependence.

A holds authority over B if B must obey A's instructions. Authority is executive control, as practiced in the workplace, in the (traditional) family, and of course in the military chain of command. Readers who have read the previous essays will remember the Latin translation: imperium.

B is dependent on A if A is gratuitously assisting B. And why would A do that? The relationship is the ancient one of patronage, of course. A is the patron, B is the client. This is one of the oldest forms of alliance in the book - I'm pretty sure chimpanzees practice it.

Note that, in most cases, the two go together. For example, your relationship with your thirteen-year-old includes both A and B, authority and dependence. She eats; you tell her what to do.

The analogy suggests the unusual nature of dependence without authority. Ordinarily, if A is rational, A will insist on authority along with the dependence. No authority, no gratuities. Can this break down with the thirteen-year-old? Absolutely, but a complete breakdown requires fairly bad parenting as well as, of course, a bad child.

But what we see in the Pax Americana - at least, its mainstream or Barackian form, not its renegade, crypto-imperialist Bushitler morph - is exactly that. For example, Pakistan is dependent on Washington, and yet Washington cannot say: get rid of Lakshar-e-Taiba and the like. Washington can certainly not say: clean up your streets, get rid of the madrassas, seal the border, etc, etc, etc, and in general start behaving as if the Raj was back on.

Because Pakistan is sovereign. At least, it is supposed to be sovereign. Yet if the US cut off the flow of dollars, Lord only knows what the country would turn into. Whatever that is, it surely has nothing to do with what Pakistan is now. (The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine, thoroughly Westernized but with parents in the Pakistani middle class, and he was describing how in the cities of Pakistan there are many attractive colonial-era neighborhoods that, in the lives of those now living, have fallen into complete disrepair and become slums. Funnily enough, very similar phenomena can be observed in, say, Ohio.)

So why doesn't Washington simply tell it: obey, or no more dollars? Well, the answer is not simple. The answer has to do with the internals of Washington, the structural conflict between Pentagon and State, the history of Pakistan and of the British Empire, etc, etc, etc. We could be at this for some time. But note, again, the analogy to the thirteen-year-old. Why won't your daughter obey? Why don't you make her? Well, it's complicated. It is always complicated.

Suffice it to say that American citizens gain nothing at all from this bizarre pseudo-empire. It might be useful to have all these "allies," perhaps, if we were in a war against somebody. And also if they would fight, and stuff. Neither of these things seems to be true. We do trade with them, but this does not require us to manage their governments, or in fact care at all how they are managed internally.

Conclusion: American foreign policy for the last sixty years has produced neither security nor anything else for Americans. Nor, I believe, has it been particularly good for the rest of the world, which would otherwise have to defend itself and behave responsibly as an independent sovereign. For Foggy Bottom, however, it has been a windfall. Every year it is paid more and more to supervise a giant squalling world of thirteen-year-olds who dress like ho's and bring guns to school, and the next four years promise to be especially rich.

Washington cannot actually administer its conquered territories, much less derive revenue from them. And their governments degrade, because they are neither sovereign nor supervised. Their job is to implement policies designed in Harvard and approved in Washington. Except in countries with strong traditions of historical probity in state service, the civil servants steal. They have nothing else to do, and there is no prospect of the state becoming a genuine, independent authority.

What does Washington get out of this? Two things. One, the privilege of feeling like a big stud. Of course this applies only to a few people who work inside the Beltway, or who are influential enough in policy studies that their policies actually get adopted. But contributing to actual policies that are actually adopted, even just in some ridiculous forgery of a country in Nowhere, Africa, is an unmistakable feeling. Not only does it provide employment, it makes one's gonads grow by at least a millimeter or two. Many will fight hard for this sensation.

The relationship of dependency and advice is particularly pernicious. Dependency allows American universities to populate the top layers of all foreign institutions with their graduates, largely because those graduates have American connections and thus links to the baskets of dollars which fall out of the sky.

But advice is not supervision, it does not want to be supervision, and it never will be supervision. If the American Embassy tells a foreign "government" what to do, it can usually expect quite a bit of balking and recalcitrance. Absolute orders will generally be complied with, but will greatly increase the general recalcitrance level. Foreigners are people too, like to have their own power, and don't like to be ordered around.

Moreover, the United States is not the British Empire. It is in the business of having clients, whom it pretends to be responsible for and provides large quantities of often unwanted advice to. Ideally, when the advice is good it is listened to and when it is bad it is ignored, but this can go the other way around as well. The State Department is not in the business of providing supervision, and must constantly work hard to prevent the dysfunctional model of advice and dependency from actually turning into responsible, authoritative supervision.

(This is especially problematic because the latter runs the risk of involving the Pentagon, that ancient enemy, which happens to be full of people who just love giving orders. The threat that the international community will turn into the Arlington Redneck Empire, perhaps with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace replaced by the Erik Prince Foundation for World Domination, may not actually be a real one - but if you are the sort of person who needs to be kept up at night, it can probably keep you up.)

Two, Americans care about foreign public opinion. I used to ask people why they were for Obama all the time, and what I heard - often from people who didn't care at all about politics, normally - was that he would improve America's image in the "eyes of the world." It is generally a waste of time to engage anyone on why the "eyes of the world" should matter, or how exactly they got to pointing in the direction that they generally point in.

Here we must be thankful to the Wikipedians, for the term meat puppet. To be quite frank: invading Elbonia, replacing its government with Elbonian dignitaries of a perspective congenial to oneself, and announcing that Elbonia has joined the family of free nations, is not a way to convert one's opinion, plus Elbonia's opinion, into two opinions.

At least, rationally. But the democratic voter is always responsible to consensus. And the absurd concept of "international public opinion," which since 1945 always of course just tracks the public opinion of the most fashionable people in the United States, persuades a fair number of voters. Thus, by shaping the opinions of people outside the US, one can influence votes inside it. The people who do this work do not, of course, think in such Machiavellian terms, but their results benefit from the Machiavellian logic just the same.

This is the purpose of America's pseudo-empire of patronage, in which the money always flows outward and the Mohammmed Attas flow only inward: to provide a large number of unnecessary jobs to America's ruling class, the smartest and most sophisticated people in the country, and those most able to obtain alternative employment. And also to gain the set of votes that are needed to keep the policy running, as well as to sustain other policies aligned with it. In short, like most of what Washington is today: a self-licking ice-cream cone.

But because of the multiple frauds essential to this forgery, Washington's "sway" is peculiarly insidious as compared to its Roman, Chinese or British predecessors, who when they ruled a conquered land ruled it honestly, making no attempt to disguise the nature of the relationship.

America's client states, especially outside the core European and Asian dominions (ie, in the "Third World," a term whose inventors did not predict its present connotations), deliver quality-of-government metrics that would have shocked any Roman procurator, Chinese mandarin or British district commissioner. Even when these possessions are at "peace," graft, banditry, and sheer incompetence are the rule rather than the exception. And "peace" is not always the rule.

(For example, were you surprised when, seeing the pictures on TV, you noticed that even in the old downtown of Bombay, a place chock-full of beautiful Raj-era buildings like the Taj Hotel, the streets were full of garbage? Or do you think that this is because the local authorities are so thrifty and impoverished, that they prefer to invest their few rupees on educating the poor?)

This is the current system of the world: a disaster. Absurd in every detail. It lives, it works in a sense, it even is mostly peaceful, but it is held together by chewing-gum and I don't trust it to last another decade. Look - I said this about our financial system. Was I wrong?

But anyway. As usual, I have spent most of the essay berating what we have now, because what we have now is so gigantic and fascinating. By comparison, my preferred approach - the reactionary theory of world peace, if you will - is simple to the point of stupidity.

The reactionary theory of world peace states that peace is best defined as security. That's all. We are just equating two words. And we can add a third: order. Peace, security, and order are all the same thing. That's the theory. It even sounds cool - if not as cool as Brazil's ordem e progresso.

What use is this creepy-sounding triangle - peace, security, and order? (Doesn't this just sound like the motto of a 21st-century secret-police force? And it may well yet be.)

Here is one: note that if you believe in peace, you believe that peace is an absolute good. It is not a Goldilocks good. No one believes that you can have not enough peace, just right peace, and too much peace. No one says, with St. Augustine: give me world peace, but not just yet. The more peace you have, the better. Concepts such as freedom are in the same class.

But if peace, security, and order are all the same thing, there must be equivalents of absolute peace: absolute security, and absolute order. Strangely enough, whatever word you exchange "absolute" for in these phrases either means nothing, or still sounds creepy - total security, for example, is not in any way an improvement. Suppose, for example, that John McCain had run for President on a platform of absolute order? "As President, I will impose absolute order." No, I just can't see it happening.

(This is due to your democratic programming, which first and foremost defends democracy - the strategy of symbiont and parasite alike. The democrat is not willing to equate peace with security and order. He does not like security and order, because either total security or absolute order in the end conflicts with democracy.)

The peaceful, reactionary world of Patchwork is a world populated entirely by rational absolute sovereigns: states which are managed competently and coherently for financial benefit alone. This world can be created on a subset of the entire planet, of course, though then it needs plans for defending itself against the rest of said planet.

Within Patchwork, peace, security and order are most definitely the same thing. As discussed in previous essays, of course, a realm is designed to maintain absolute or near-absolute levels of internal security and order. Society within a Patchwork realm has none of the running sores of the democratic era: there are no slums or dirty streets, no gangs, and no politics. Japan or Singapore would be the closest analogies today, though both of course are quite imperfect.

We can define a rational absolute sovereign, such as a Patchwork realm, as orderly. Such a sovereign is controlled centrally from a single point, by competent administration acting for a purely financial purpose. All its motivations come from its desire to produce return on equity. If predation is more profitable than cooperation, it will predate. If cooperation is more profitable, it will cooperate. (Obviously, the goal is to design a framework in which cooperation is always more profitable.)

(Note that all these criteria remain absolute. The administration cannot be too competent, its purposes cannot be too neutral, its responsiveness to the proprietors too complete, etc, etc.)

Patchwork is at peace if every realm in it is secure: ie, it is orderly, and it maintains absolute control over its patch. Once again, no realm can ever be too secure, just as peace is always better than war and no society can be too peaceful.

Between realms, our goal is to achieve the same or nearly the same level of stability, without building anything like a centralized authority that would impose it. A centralized or federalized authority with the power of judgment or enforcement is itself the government - and if you try to split judgment and enforcement into competing agencies, you are just asking for trouble.

Patchwork has no central authority or community of realms. It has conventions, such as rules protecting shared resources (the atmosphere, the oceans and the fish in them, orbital space, etc) from any abuse that would be collectively uneconomic. Sometimes people need to get together and update these rules, as with any system of rules, but they are only occasional delegates and do not constitute any sort of permanent organization. Sometimes realms must vote on these changes, but this is a rare event indeed. Turning the entire system into One Big State is a failure mode, not a goal.

So, for example, let's say a coalition of demented realms are taken over by administrations which, for some reason, are affrighted with the perils of global warming. (Stipulating that global warming is a pile of nonsense - if not, substitute something else which is.) They round up a majority and manage to change the rules for the atmosphere, imposing carbon credits or some such absurdity.

Is that something that could happen in an Patchwork world? Sure. What should the realms in the minority do? Go along with it, I'm afraid. This is the level of imperfection I think is acceptable in a design that remains basically peaceful - it is aggression in a sense, but of an inherently unprofitable form.

What we don't want to see is a situation in which we get civil war, we get predation by some patches on other patches, we get standing internal alliances, we get patron-client relationships, etc, etc, and all the nasty structures that arose under the old international order. A bit of overzealous pollution control is a strain the system can handle.

Our goal is thus to get, at the level of Patchwork as a whole, as close to total security as we can. This is also complete stability. Ideally, politics is at a complete end, and war as a means of political endeavor. Except through free and peaceful transfers of shares, there should be no further changes in power. Each realm in each patch should last forever. Frankly, if this isn't world peace, I don't know what is. I hope it's not too much peace for anyone.

(Transfers of shares that constitute a merger into bigger and bigger patches, eventually ending in a one-patch world, should be blocked in some way. Since realms do not control their shares, this cannot be done by restricting share transfers. However, it can be done by including a promise of independent ownership in the realm's resident covenant. Like any other item in the covenant, it can be violated, but usually not profitably.)

The basic secret of inter-realm relations in Patchwork is that it is much, much easier to construct rules for a community of rational or orderly sovereigns than for a community of irrational ones. Therefore, even in a world which contains both rational and irrational sovereigns, it is rational for rational sovereigns to have different rules for other rational sovereigns. This set, whether or not it covers the planet or is even geographically contiguous, constitutes Patchwork. At least if it is working as designed, there should be only one.

Orderly sovereigns deal with each other in a very different way, because orderly sovereigns are sovereigns for whom deterrence always works. Therefore, it is extremely easy to discourage predation: it can be deterred either (a) through collective disapproval - which might become quite costly, especially if the disapproval of other realms leads to the disapproval of one's present residents, as it almost certainly would; or (b), all else failing, military retaliation.

Military retaliation is important because, in real life, it is rather hard to make war profitable, and rather easy to make it unprofitable. While there is no supply of rational sovereigns in history, history's profitable wars are often best explained in terms of irrationality. For example, while Hitler's conquests of Czechoslovakia, Poland and France may have been in themselves profitable, each of these three countries was more or less a client state of Great Britain, and counted irrationally on British assistance against Germany. As a result, not only did they not defend themselves, they were not prepared to even try to defend themselves.

Among rational sovereigns, that the theoretical military confrontations which would otherwise occur between Patchwork realms, and which there is no authority to prevent, will just not happen. Armaments will be gradually de-escalated, each side of each border prepared to inflict an adequate level of pain on the other in the event of any attempt at aggression. At the end of the process, cross-border security cooperation between any two sovereigns will be at the same level as that between any two "countries" in the democratic world today, and security forces will revert to police forces.

Of course, this process of complete de-escalation can only happen in an all-Patchwork world. Irrational sovereigns can be aggressive in arbitrary ways for arbitrary crazy reasons, and they are not necessarily deterrable. Against the rest of the world, Patchwork is at least expected to stick together, possibly even forming joint security institutions - which are temporary, of course, based on the specific threat.

The general attitude of Patchwork toward the world outside is neutrality. This of course was the staple of American foreign policy for a century, which might well be described as one of the only things Washington has ever done right. No more need be said about this well-known approach, due of course to George Washington. The rules of neutrality are well-understood under classical (19th-century) international law, a considerable improvement on its 20th-century successor.

Patchwork will defend itself from the rest of the world, but never attack. It will trade if allowed, not if otherwise. Basically, it will keep its head down and try its best to avoid surrendering sovereignty in any way. It will try to keep its trade balanced, avoid accepting loans in currencies it cannot print, maintain resource, food and energy independence to whatever extent possible, etc, etc, etc. Its advantage is in its vitality and economic efficiency, and it will maintain this.

Especially, each realm and Patchwork as a whole will do their best to avoid any compromise of sovereignty. A slice of sovereignty is what each shareholder in each realm holds, and it is not to be surrendered for any reason. And while there may be a theoretical incentive for individual realms to free-ride in defending the whole, surely the loss of reputation capital exceeds any potential profit to ride freely.

I'm sure that, to many democrats, Patchwork seems like a design for permanent global tyranny. This is just something we'll have to work through. However, it is indisputable that, at least if it works as planned, Patchwork will produce world peace. And it is certainly reactionary! Just think of it as a cross between the Holy Alliance, the Hanseatic League, and the National Basketball Association - with all the advantages of each, and the downsides of none.