Wednesday, March 16, 2011 68 Comments

Libya, the nadir achieved

This morning my stepfather - a former Hill staffer, National War College professor and author of several specialist historical monographs; an absolutely typical Washington insider - asked me what I thought "we" should do in Libya.

We? Do? As I replied, American foreign policy has found its nadir in every dimension. Is it moralizing, but unrealistic? Is it realistic, yet amoral? Neither! It is as unreal as it is immoral, as criminal as it is insane. "We had fed our heart on fantasies, / The heart's grown brutal on the fare." While the trope is anything but new, this spring its diabolical clarity burst out with a passion too bright to believe. Does the Devil shine? Is he passionate? He does, he is! Warning: ugly pictures ahead.

Nor is the sin merely that of the organs - State, the press, the NGOs. Oh, no! The sin is in our hearts. The nation itself stands at the bar. True, the organs are irresponsible. So was Hitler. Hitler was popular, however, and so are the organs. Hitler depended on his popularity; so do the organs. If we repented in our hearts, they wouldn't last a minute. Were the German people guilty? They were, and so are we.

These crimes are ours. These crimes are yours. These crimes are mine. Whatever I have done, whatever I have said, I have not succeeded; so these crimes are mine. And ours, and yours. Useless to deny it! Scroll down and cringe.

Through the organs - the press's eye, the tongue of State, even DoD's cold and useless fist - it is America herself, the Great Spectator, for whom all puppets dance and yell, kill and die. And not just America - for in 2011, America is bigger than America, not a continent but a planet. International public opinion! The international community! In 2011, anyone anywhere with any kind of education is an American. Race, color, language, citizenship - details, archaic details. Everyone on Twitter: American. The global hive mind is born, and born American.

Could the rough beast be here? In January, we saw our first Twitter revolution. In February, we got our first Twitter military coup. Now it's March, and we have our first Twitter civil war. Jack Dorsey in Vanity Fair:

"That dead young soldier in his blood:"

"We are closed in, and the key is turned
On our uncertainty; somewhere
A man is killed, or a house burned,
Yet no clear fact to be discerned:
Come build in the empty house of the stare."

No clear fact to be discerned? We have that over Yeats: it's quite clear. At least, I think so. Let me explain.

The American, being human, being descended from a long line of chimpanzees and their still more foul hominid spawn, craves status, importance, meaning, in a word: power. But power is hard, oh so hard, to come by in his whip-broken, fixed and empty life of pleasant boredom. The solution? Oh, solution there is none, for power does not grow on trees. Power is here in America, as everywhere; power in America is locked up tight as Katrina van den Heuvel's ass. It's open to someone, perhaps, but not to him.

Still he can fantasize. He has an XBox, for one. On the screen he is general and king, mayor and priest, warrior and detective. But alas, it's all just triangles, and worse yet he knows it. Oh, for a real Matrix, with a proper blue pill that actually works.

So he finds fulfillment in the "news." Control his reality? Not even his dog obeys him properly - if his lease permits a dog. But there is another kind of screen, and on it whole countries! Egypt, Libya, Tunisia... millions and millions of people! Real human beings!

And best of all, he finds, these human beings care what he thinks. He matters to them - for he is America, America the world. International public opinion! Who can resist it? "Join us or die," says international public opinion. Of which our Twittering protagonist is one small part. Here, he finds his power. And he uses it.

Egypt is not the world. Egypt is a backwater. And to Egypt, Tunisia is a backwater. And to Tunisia, Libya is a backwater. Does the candle admire the sun? The candle hopes, all its life, to be mistaken for one small part of the sun. If the sun jumps off a cliff, the candle jumps twice. If the sun does not jump, but just says "jump..."

Suppose you're an Egyptian novelist. Or an Egyptian filmmaker, a surgeon, a programmer - any of the real, American professions. All those cheering crowds, demanding "freedom," getting "freedom," full - so our trusted friends of the press were quick to tell us - of filmmakers, surgeons, programmers - Americans.

And indeed, you saw them on the screen. Impossible not to see the type. The camera lies; it cannot invent. There they were, born Americans, hipsters even, with the mere misfortune to be born in Egypt. How unjust, that a man's citizenship should depend on the geolocation of the obstetric ward! But such is the system, a paint chip of the irrational and reactionary past, in which nations for some reason existed and mattered - how weird.

So you're an Egyptian novelist, striving for recognition. Everyone and his asshole, of course, has a novel and wants to be a Real Novelist. Who is the sun in your world? Whose beam lights upon you, and makes you a Real Egyptian Novelist? Mubarak's brother, perhaps? Or some smelly mullah at al-Azhar?

Of course not. An Egyptian novelist is a Real Egyptian Novelist if his novels are known and praised in New York, London, maybe even Paris. (That would be American London, of course, and American Paris. After the 20th century, is there any other?) Is there any force, in Egypt and of Egypt, great enough to dub any Egyptian a Real Egyptian Novelist? Of course not.

Which makes Egypt, as Egypt, a non-country. And its government a non-government. How unfair, that our Real Egyptian Novelist - a citizen of the world, toasted in London and feted in Paris - should return home to be governed by backward, nyekulturny peasant-thugs.

And it is. It is. It is unfair. The noble should not be governed by the base. The base should be governed by the noble. History teaches us nothing less. To govern the base is the duty of the noble; to be governed by the noble is the freedom of the base. When this pyramid inverts, the sky turns black and roaring ogres stalk the land.

On the other hand, if Egypt wanted to be governed by the noble, it had Lord Cromer. If it wanted to be governed by foreigners, it had Lord Cromer. To the extent that it contains a 20th-century civilization, it can thank Lord Cromer. But Lord Cromer is dead and there are no more of him, so Egypt resorts to the best available substitute - Twitter and the State Department.

There is no shortage of human nobility, or at least gentility, in these institutions. For that matter, there is no shortage of educated, capable, intelligent and energetic Egyptians - in short, of American Egyptians, in the best and broadest sense of the world. There are not millions of them, let alone tens of millions. There are certainly tens of thousands. All they lack is one small commodity: the power to rule Egypt.

Not that they are without power. Anything but! Thanks to their American friends, thanks to State and CNN and Human Rights Watch and all their many Twitter followers, the Egyptian liberal is anything but powerless. If he was powerless, Mubarak would still be in power. But Mubarak (via Sadat) wore America's ring, took America's money and sold America his soul. After 35 years of dependency, the Egyptian regime was defenseless against Foggy Bottom. Extra, extra - read all about it in the Post.

The Assads were smarter - they stayed Soviet clients, and later transferred their allegiance to Iran. No "Arab Spring" for them! Peace with America was the death of Nasser's Egypt, albeit with a somewhat delayed fuse. Lesson: on an American planet, anti-Americanism is the only path to independence. A shitty, pissant, perpetually unsafe independence - independence nonetheless. And independence, which is sovereignty, which is power, is the ultimate freedom.

Mubarak, while he ruled, was free. Those he ruled were not free, for to be free is to rule. Now the novelists and filmmakers and surgeons are free, for they rule (for now), and Mubarak is not free - in fact, he's under house arrest. And so it goes. Someone always rules; everyone else is always ruled. Political reality in three words: sovereignty is conserved.

Did I say they rule? They feel like they rule - for no one rules them. Like Clapton, they feel free! Bop-bop-bop-bo-bop-bop! But, since the Egyptian liberals do not in fact rule - since they do not in fact govern - since they cannot in fact govern - no one rules. Everyone rules. This is anarchy, real anarchy, a temporary but very unpleasant state. The liberals have the power to un-rule Egypt; rule it, they cannot.

A small fact occasionally noted in the unashamed press: since Twitter twittered their old rulers out of power, both Egypt and Tunisia have been essentially without police. Salon (of all outlets) tells us:
Since Mubarak's ouster, Egypt has been gripped by a crime wave not seen in years, with a marked rise in armed robberies, arson and street battles between rival criminal gangs over territory.
No shit. This is after a month. After a year? When the gangs get smart, and turn into political parties? Which they acquire paramilitary wings? Sovereignty is conserved. You can spread it around, though, but don't expect to enjoy the result.

For the Egyptian liberal, "freedom" means government by liberals. Or at least, the absence of government by non-liberals. For now he has it, with a small frisson of carjacking. If he moved to America, he could have freedom forever! But alas, the immigration process is so difficult. (And apparently there are gangs here, too. Ah, liberals.)

Power in Egypt - and the world has many Egypts - is a simple game of rock, paper, scissors. In Egypt there are three kinds of people: sheep (liberals, upper-class), dogs (nationalists, lower-class), and wolves (Islamists, beyond class). Sheep (with a big hand from Twitter and State) beat dogs, dogs kill wolves, wolves eat sheep.

If our twittering hipster is especially hip, she's seen Persepolis and met the wolves. And indeed, the wolf form is natural to humanity. It is our society, the civilized European system with lots of sheep and some dogs and a very, very rare wolf, that is anomalous. And if it keeps behaving as it is, the anomaly will not take long to rectify.

The "Arab Spring" is springtime indeed for the violent, ruthless young man with a mission. Mubarak's dogs, equally violent - indeed once Nasser's wolves themselves, for fat authority turns wolves into dogs - tamed the most violent of wolves with the most wolfish of methods. The dog, half wolf himself, speaks the language of the wolf. The sheep looks at the wolf - and sees a sheep. And there has never been any shortage of wolves who speak sheep. Baa! Baa!

In the dog state, so long as they minded their own business, within very broad definitions of their own, a sheep could live as a sheep. Now we see the sheep state, young heaven for wolves. Even the dogs turn into wolves - what's an old Mubarak thug to do? Thuggery is all he knows. The old firm has disbanded. The jihad is hiring. Allahu akbar! Indeed, Islam is the future in Egypt - if I were an Egyptian, I'd be working on my raisin right now. Sovereignty is conserved; power creates its own popularity. In anarchy, violence is power, and the wolves have it.

The tragedy of Egypt is that if the dogs and sheep did not respond to different masters, if the sheep did not have Twitter and Harvard to follow, the sheep would do what sheep do naturally and follow the dogs. Who would in turn love and cherish the sheep, and kill the wolves. This is the difference between Mubarak's Egypt and Elizabeth's England - both societies with a small educated elite, a vast base of varlets, an absolute ruler and an active, efficient secret police.

In other words, if Egypt's natural intelligentsia was not Americanized, if it was not drawn away from its own country and its own leadership by the lure of Twitter, it would have no choice but to participate in the government of its own country. Which would, in turn, lose much if not all of its peasant-thug character, having better talent to draw on than peasant thugs. If this hypothesis is correct, it's the apparent solution - the Americanization of Egypt - which creates the problem.

So the American liberal, who is not after all dumb, if he was genuinely concerned about the Egyptian liberal, would observe reality and tell his tawny friends: chill out. Deal with it. You cannot rule Egypt; we are not the British Empire, we are not going to rule it for you. Yet someone will rule Egypt, as they have since the Scorpion King was a little boy. Do you even begin to know how much worse than Mubarak it can get? If you don't like peasant thug secret policemen, apply for a visa or just come illegally. Learn a little Spanish and pass for Mexican. Or, you know, just deal. I mean, it's not like our permanent government is that great either.

But no. And here is the American's sin: from his own cupidity, from his ennui and folly and innate, instead of using the power of America in the best interest of Egyptians, or even in the best interest of Americans with an Egyptian passport, what does he do? To entertain himself, to get his TV jollies, shouting hosannahs and clapping himself on the back, he assists his Egyptian friends in committing horrible and spectacular political suicide. Is the American moral? Is he realistic? He is both criminal and insane. His nightly news is quite dramatic; his gas goes up by a dollar a gallon; his friends are devoured by wolves. Hell, it's America, we're bored and rich.

Thus brains on the road. And thus, Libya - which is to Egypt as Egypt is to New Jersey, at least culturally. Thus America, twittering away, says to Libya: "Come on! Have a revolution! It's fun! Don't miss out! Besides, we're all done with Egypt and we're getting bored bored BORED!"

Only... Libya is not a recipient of American aid. Libya has no well-funded democracy movement. Libya has no branch of Human Rights Watch. Libya cannot be entirely free of novelists, poets, filmmakers, surgeons and programmers - in short, liberals - but it's about as liberal-free as North Africa gets.

However, it has plenty of tribesmen, Islamists, etc, who love a good fight. Also, Libya appears, from pictures, to be positively infested with .50-caliber "antiaircraft" guns - possibly a legacy of the Reagan bombing. Do you know what happens when someone's head takes a .50-caliber round? Scroll up. Whether he's a tribesman or a filmmaker, the result is roughly the same.

Most important, Qaddafi had let his anti-Americanism slip. Since 2003, terrified by the invasion of Iraq, he'd done almost what Egypt did in 1978 - made kissy-kissy with the West. And since he was originally a Communist, not a fascist, colonialist, or other Nazi, the West had no shortage of Davos people ready to make kissy-kissy back at him. Result: it became a bit difficult for him to persecute Libyans for kissing up to the West.

So when Twitter and Obama came calling... everything was ripe for a nice, telegenic civil war. There was no civil war in Syria, there was no civil war in Iran, because the evil thug dictators of these countries had not made Libya and Egypt's mistake of "engaging" with our organs.

Why does civil war happen? Civil war is by definition a conflict between two power centers that wish to rule the same population. In this case, the two power centers are Qaddafi and Twitter, ie, America. If Qaddafi's regime was too weak to survive a little push, no civil war. If America couldn't get its hooks into any Libyans, no civil war. America, however, is too gutless to use its own weapons, so it has to rely on Libyan volunteers seduced by its Twitter feed. If its puppets had won, of course, everyone would have sworn they won on their own - just like in Egypt. But the rebels are losing, so they cry: where are Obama's airstrikes? And not without reason.

And history rhymes once again, for Libya's failing revolution looks remarkably like one 20th-century event: Poland's Warsaw uprising. Stalin exhorted the Poles to revolt, then stood aside as the SS ate them for breakfast. We exhorted the Libyans to revolt, and when they lost it was none of our business. Behold our foreign-policy "realism": ie, selective isolationism. Which is selective morality - which is hypocrisy. To start again, start with amorality, and work up.

Morally, the comparison favors Stalin. Few ever accused Stalin of hypocrisy; he was just ruthless. He at least had a reason - a concrete interest - for pulling his trick. (He wanted to kill off the Polish leadership before he took Poland for himself.) America's actions, however, are actually against our collective interests; they are motivated entirely by sadistic boredom. We love a revolution because it's good TV. When one fails, we're sad and we cry. But frankly, it adds suspense next time the show is on.

And it's not just TV. Drama is drama, and the same trick works just as well in text - for the benefit of sophisticated intellectuals like you and me. Do you read the New Yorker? Do you subscribe to the New Yorker? Here is Jon Lee Anderson, in the New Yorker:
On Saturday, in Brega, I met Osama BenSadik, a forty-seven-year-old Libyan-American who had returned to his homeland from Martinsville, Virginia, to help the revolution. He was offering his services in the hospital. (He is a volunteer firefighter in Henry County.) He told me, full of passion and pride and fear, that his twenty-one-year-old son, Muhanad, a second year medical student and a Boy Scout, who had been in school here in Libya, had gone to fight at the front line. “Tell America to come and help, because if we don’t, if we let the Libyan revolution fail, then we—you and I and all of us—would see things we could never imagine,” he said.
And sure enough:
At Ajdabiya hospital yesterday, I ran into Osama BenSadik. He crumpled in my arms as I walked up to him, and his whole body heaved as he wept. Muhanad had been killed, fighting, not far from Brega, Saturday morning. BenSadik sobbed with a father’s inconsolable grief.
Perhaps that was his med-student brain we saw, on the road. Anderson is incorrigible:
In truth, even if a no-fly zone is imposed now, it might not be enough to stop Qaddafi’s advance. Its real value, as far as I have been able to ascertain, would be the symbolic importance, the morale boost it would give the fighters, to allow them to feel that they are not entirely alone in the world.
Does Osama have any other sons? Perhaps Jon Lee Anderson could get them killed too. Do you subscribe to the New Yorker? Do you give these people money? Scroll up, look at the picture, then run to the toilet and vomit.


Blogger Anton Tykhyy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 16, 2011 at 2:38 AM  
Blogger Anton Tykhyy said...

I would add that now that the news stream from Libya is failing, the media have seized on Japan as the new antidote for boredom. There are donation drives, gathering of socks (!) and a widespread desire to 'go help them rebuild their country', as though Japan was another Haiti and not the second-largest holder of Treasuries.

By the way, the Japanese-language Twitter is not very American because most Japanese don't know English. And Japanese news, especially the state TV channel NHK, is very different from CNN or BBC fare, in particular drama content is much, much lower and the presentation much more reasonable (in the sense of having and relying on reason instead of appealing to emotions).

March 16, 2011 at 2:45 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has sent tanks into Bahrain.

I find the best counterpoint to Moldbug in these matters is Asad Abu Khalil of the "Angry Arab News Service" blog. Abu Khalil is a secular anarcho-leftist from Lebanon who teaches at a university in Fresno. He would tell you that the US has been on the side of reaction at every step of the way: It tried to keep Bin Ali's regime in power in Tunisia (the Tunisians chased him out of the country in part because Wikileaks cables showed there was a lack of American will to keep him personally in command). It tried to keep Mubarak in power, then it promoted Omar Suleiman as his successor. It's had nothing to say about the Saudi intervention in Bahrain. The Libyan revolt was cheered on because Qadhafi was never much trusted or respected as a client, and so far there is a distinct reluctance to provide any material support to the opposition.

I would propose that, to the extent that Moldbug's analysis is ever correct, it can be trumped by crude geopolitical interests. American culture may throb with varied and contradictory impulses and perspectives, but there is also always the concrete world of resources, currencies, and military alignments, and the American power structures which are engaged with that world make their decisions on a very practical basis. We should be trying to discern which American actions and non-actions result from such practical considerations and constraints, and which result from whim or from democratic ideology.

Let us also recognize that just as Twitter unites democratic revolutionaries of all countries, the net also unites reactionaries. Thus Moldbug, the American blogger, speaks in support of the old regimes in the Arab world. He is, also, an American striking a pose with respect to politics on the other side of the world - it's just a rare and highly unfamiliar pose.

March 16, 2011 at 4:46 AM  
Anonymous Ryan said...

The US and world media have their saying "if it bleeds it leads." That's the best way to make money. People watch train wrecks, always have. So it makes little sense to posit some "American" bloodlust as the cause of the media spectacle over the revolts or the earthquake. If America the nation need not exist the media spectacle would still be there.

I don't think the eastern tribes in Libya revolted because they were seduced by the prospect of democracy. I think they revolted because they were tired of being ruled by the Gaddafi tribe and wanted to be rulers themselves. Their calls for foreign intervention based on the values of democracy is a transparent attempt to get outside help, and it's made with an argument calculated to bring that help. Fortunately Secretary Gates won't let the US do anything stupid.

And finally, Libya produces 2% of the world's daily oil consumption and has some of the last reserves of high quality (low refinement cost) oil. The European nations calling for military intervention are probably focused on that prize and not democracy for Libya.

March 16, 2011 at 8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Anton: Japan is the third largest holder of US treasuries behind China (2) and the Federal Reserve (1).

March 16, 2011 at 11:05 AM  
Anonymous fugitive said...

So it makes little sense to posit some "American" bloodlust as the cause of the media spectacle over the revolts or the earthquake. If America the nation need not exist the media spectacle would still be there.

"Bloodlust" of course derived from the US as the world center of neo-Bolshevism(or neo-Jacobinism).

See more of the usual.

March 16, 2011 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger Anton Tykhyy said...

@Anonymous: I stand corrected. Should've said 'foreign holder'.

@Mitchell: crude geopolitical interests are at least partly created and sustained by 'culture'. Think about XVII-XVIII century Europe. If it were not for the culture-genic continental bounaries, a united Europe could easily have overwhelmed England. Etc. etc. Therefore it is a mistake to consider geopolitics separate from 'culture'.

@Moldbug: by the way, I hope you don't believe armed uprisings are impossible without reliance on outside sentiment. Cf. uprisings in Soviet Russia/USSR — notably Kronshtadt, Tambov, later Kengir and some other parts of GULAG, Novocherkassk.

March 16, 2011 at 1:18 PM  
Anonymous Handle said...

I think the more apt History rhyme was the 1991 Shiite uprising in Iraq following Desert Storm. Likewise encouraged, yet unassisted, and so annihilated - by a ruthless Arab military dictator no less. That rhymes so well, it's Historical Poetry.

March 16, 2011 at 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

It would not surprise me if MM has noted this already somewhere, but American foreign policy makes one recall the phrase "perfidious Albion," and why Albion was said to be perfidious. The United States is Britain's natural successor in perfidy, as it is in many other aspects of its character.

March 16, 2011 at 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I've *been* to Martinsville, which I'm guessing few UR readers have. I went in hope of getting a job there, a job I wasn't sure I wanted at the time, a job I would now give my proverbial left nut for. It's out in the country, a long drive I thought from urban amusements, but a pleasant small town nonetheless. The man who interviewed me took me to lunch at a Roadhouse Grill afterwards. I visited the Antietam battlefield on my way back to Baltimore, another site of carnage in the pursuit of democracy.

However dull Martinsville might be it's better than the horrors of combat. But try telling that to a young man. I joined the Marines and all I suffered was two years at Camp Lejeune and the loss of the last of my youthful idealism- I don't know which one was worse.

The poor fellow in the picture died on the pavement with much of his brains gone. My mother died at home with much of her intestines gone. I'm not sure he didn't get the better deal of it. One way or another we have few years and a painful death awaiting us. Let's grasp what we can from what we have.

March 16, 2011 at 6:02 PM  
Anonymous RS said...

> Therefore it is a mistake to consider geopolitics separate from 'culture'.

They're not always entirely separate, but one can still identify cases where one dominates, or the other dominates.

And then there are cases like you mention, where one is a function of the other, or where they are tangled up, or there's a mix of both. In such cases, as you explain, we should not say "it's mostly just hard-headedness" or "it's mostly just ideology".

March 16, 2011 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger DR said...

Moldbug used to have hope that the new Internet institutions (in particularly he mentioned Wikipedia, Arxiv and Digg) would overthrow or at least dramatically weaken the power of the cathedral given time.

However he seems to be strongly indicting Twitter (which btw is now trading at a $7bn valuation in secondary markets) for being a tool of the cathedral. Has Moldbug reversed his position on the challenge of the digital anti-cathedral? Does he believe that the cathedral's distributed authority give it the ability to absorb the digital institutions?

Or does he hold out hope for a digital anti-cathedral? And is just indicting the cathedral culture using Twitter as a vehicle?

March 16, 2011 at 9:55 PM  
Blogger AMcGuinn said...

Mitchell- so "crude geopolitical interests" have pushed America to support some leaders and not others; the leaders supported by America have lost, while those not so supported are fighting on or were not challenged in the first place?

It is an illusion. America supports Mubarak and it supports EOHR. For Mubarak to lose, America only has to support him less than before.

America can support Gadaffi less than before, too, but not necessarily enough less to force a result.

March 17, 2011 at 12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wikipedia, Arxiv, and Digg are not the Antiversity. They are populated heavily by the average-elite American.

But use the same communication and organization technology. The technology which enables individual knowledge and power, or can destroy it all.

March 17, 2011 at 12:23 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

Fukushima meltdown blamed on democracy

March 17, 2011 at 2:35 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

TGGP style:

Interesting find on the patron saint of exporting revolution:

March 17, 2011 at 8:02 AM  
Anonymous RS said...

> I SHOULD be praised!

How about if you save your plasticene alphaismes for the local fair-to-middlings... We wouldn't want you to run out! [CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP on subtle, vegan mango crepe - continental lunch with Audrie Tautou] ...and remember that the delivery is everything, you lion!

Hôhn hónh-hónh-hónh! [chewed crepe gauchely visible] [1]


1. Sorry if it's too withering. I've been revising, trying to soften the blow.

March 17, 2011 at 1:13 PM  
Anonymous zanon said...

twitter and facebook are way overpraise in the western media. it is because journalists are in love with this twitter and facebook, and they think that arab hipsters are behind the revolution and therefore they are in love with this as well.

it is nonsense.

the real cultural driver in arab countries is satellite television, which rolled in mid 90s and completely change the culture. especially MTV asia which brought gyrating booty to the area like it had never been seen before. teenage life was nothing like it had been between.

but western journalist cannot say "satellite tv and mtv cause revolution" because satellite is not SWPL approve in US and mtv is not pitchfork. or whatever.

so they fall on twitter and FB which was turn off anyway. You cannot turn off the satellites.

March 17, 2011 at 1:30 PM  
Anonymous RS said...

So it's a big blot on America, including but not limited to me, Mom, Rex, and apple pie, if Kaddafi chooses not to be as wildly anti-American as MM thinks he should be if a rational self-interested actor?


Not that I don't fault Bush and Thomas Friedman et al for flooding spaceship earth with all that 3rd-world democracy bilge - I do.

One is still a fool to buy it. But yeah, maybe there's an obligation to speak out... though all of us in HBD/reacto land already are. Such knowledge would be mainstream if Pinker were king; the guilt rests squarely on Gould, Montagu, and the other large-caliber racist! racist! racist! smear-poets, along with that aneuploid Siva, Hitler.

But I don't see myself as obliged to advise Kaddafi on his 2003 or whatever deal with USA-EU-etc. He hasn't paid me a nickel, and I wouldn't truck with the likes of him anyway.

And I question the Iraq war, but I don't really know what intel they had. It does look dubious, though, from what little I know.

I'm finding doctrinaire isolationalism pretty dumb as I age & weary. I don't reject anti-proliferation (unfortunately Iraq war II has really messed up the moral authority we need to act as anti-proliferators).

How brilliant was US isolationism in the Interwar? It was extremely terrible.

Let's not forget the countervailing good works that the USA (or 'Pentagon') did up to 1989, promoting salutory hypocrisy by implating authoritarian rulers everywhere... thus broadcasting the gospel that democracy is for the birds, or rather for 'the folks watching at home', and not to be taken seriously by the man of experience, the owner of big, frowning-serious volumes, or for that matter the regular working stiff with a knowing esprit.

That was charity veritable.

The trial of thy faith worketh patience... my democracy is not of this world.

March 17, 2011 at 2:05 PM  
Anonymous RS said...

> but western journalist cannot say "satellite tv and mtv cause revolution" because satellite is not SWPL approve in US

Call me a palpitating (r/R)omantic, but neither can they say "three cheers for utilitarianized amorosity, our well-exorcised Englightenment flesh & skin - the new Benthamite fuck!" I wouldn't put such sentiments past that Hitchens dude, but he quite openly drinks a lot.

March 17, 2011 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger DR said...

Did anyone else read this:

"Power in Egypt - and the world has many Egypts - is a simple game of rock, paper, scissors. In Egypt there are three kinds of people: sheep (liberals, upper-class), dogs (nationalists, lower-class), and wolves (Islamists, beyond class). Sheep (with a big hand from Twitter and State) beat dogs, dogs kill wolves, wolves eat sheep.

In the dog state, so long as they minded their own business, within very broad definitions of their own, a sheep could live as a sheep. Now we see the sheep state, young heaven for wolves. Even the dogs turn into wolves - what's an old Mubarak thug to do? Thuggery is all he knows. The old firm has disbanded. The jihad is hiring. Allahu akbar! Indeed, Islam is the future in Egypt - if I were an Egyptian, I'd be working on my raisin right now. Sovereignty is conserved; power creates its own popularity. In anarchy, violence is power, and the wolves have it.

The tragedy of Egypt is that if the dogs and sheep did not respond to different masters, if the sheep did not have Twitter and Harvard to follow, the sheep would do what sheep do naturally and follow the dogs. Who would in turn love and cherish the sheep, and kill the wolves. This is the difference between Mubarak's Egypt and Elizabeth's England - both societies with a small educated elite, a vast base of varlets, an absolute ruler and an active, efficient secret police."

And was reminded of this from Team America:

"Pussies don't like dicks because pussies get fucked by dicks. But dicks also fuck assholes. Assholes that just want to shit on everything. Pussies may think they can deal with assholes their way. But the only thing that can fuck a asshole is a dick, with some balls. The problem with dicks is they fuck too much or fuck when it isn't appropriate. And it takes a pussy to show them that. But sometimes pussies can be so full of shit that they become assholes themselves. Because pussies are a inch and half away from assholes. I don't know much about this crazy crazy world, but I do know this. If you don't let us fuck this asshole we're going to have our dicks and pussies all covered in shit."

March 17, 2011 at 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Brett Stevens said...

I have this theory that "Americanization" is like a biological weapon. We take on foreign countries, sponsor "revolutions" based on the premise of individualism, then import the Coca-Cola, hookers, ISO 9002 and peace-love-freedom memes. We then sit back and watch those viruses destroy the country, making it into a little America. Then we can do business.

It reminds me of how flies eat: approach the food, vomit stomach acid on it, and when it liquefies, consume.

March 18, 2011 at 7:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember clearly that it was in 2008, or early 2009 that I started worrying about Egypt. I just read the polls and noticed the overwhelming support of the population for everything that Mubarak did not stand for. Egypt is the largest arab country in the world, and it was clearly a ticking time bomb; why was everyone worried only about Iran and Palestine? And I thought thank God for the military dictatorship they have now, but... how long will it last? At the time I gave it half a decade.

And then it happened. I could never have imagined that the "progressives" would start the handing over to the wolves (silly me, I know), but once the news of the protests came, well, I just thought, those poor, poor, fools...

What now, at least for Libya? Maybe send a message to the Arab League: clean up your mess, one way or the other. You have oil money and US and Russian weapons. You asked for a no-fly zone, so enforce it yourselves. Start being the police of your region. Show your Pan-Arabism for something other than whining about Israel. Not so easy now, is it? But Saudi Arabia gave a good example in Bahrain, others should follow suit.

Signed: a politically aberrant diplomat (not an American one).

March 18, 2011 at 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"for in 2011, America is bigger than America, not a continent but a planet. International public opinion! The international community!"

Finally! You realize that that all-powerful force is not only the US Government, but something much broader. I suppose the events now in the Middle East will make you rethink the emphasis you have given to "USG" as the only true international actor? USG is only part of it. Long ago you wrote some entries about the Academy; people who are payed to do nothing but think, plan, feed us discourse, mold our worldview. And how about the UN?

Time to put the Brahmins back in the picture. They don't take orders from the State Department, and, in the long run, who builds the worldview that allows the USG to act one way or another?

March 18, 2011 at 12:21 PM  
Anonymous The Undiscovered Jew said...

If the democratic uprisings in the Middle East have accomplished nothing else (other than pave the way for a future - but democratically elected!! - Osama bin Laden presidency in Saudi Arabia) they have conclusively decided the perpetual debate over the "Jewish Question" between Moammar al Moldgaffi and kevin macdonald in favor of al Moldgaffi (may Allah's flaming pentagrams bring blessings upon Moldgaffi's tent and camel.)

Moldgaffi has (basically) argued that elite, assimilated American Jews are NON-Tribal and elite Jews take the political positions they do because they were corrupted by the New Deal.

And, as I have pointed out to Moldgaffi, prior to the New Deal's progressive hijacking of the WASP establishment, the elite Jews were largely conserative bourgeois Republicans just like the WASPs were thanks to the GOP's victory in the Civil War which established the GOP as the Inner Party from 1865 to 1933.

In other words, American Jews have been and are still pursuing an IN GROUP strategy that is identical to and completely interchangeable with the policies of ALL elite white Americans, whether WASP, ethnic Catholic, or mixed European ancestry.

Certainly, if elite American Jews were advancing an OUTgroup strategy, as MacDonald claims without any evidence, then we wouldn't expect to see Ben Bernanke have essentially the same view of government as Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner do, now would we?

And the current policy split between the Israeli right and the American neocons over the Arab Spring has done nothing but put more bullet's in Moldgaffi's Kalashnikov.

As we have ssen, the ACTUAL tribal, ethnocentric Jews (i.e., the Avigdor Lieberman's, the Haredi, the extreme right wing Russian Jewish political parties, the Moshe Feiglen's, etc) have opposed neocon democracy promotion because the Likud Jews have the impression that liberated Arabs are a bit more likely to vote for Al-Qaeda in a free, parliamentary election than they are the Swedish Green Party.

And so, seeing how the Muslim version of George Washington is likely to be quit a bit different from the American George Washington, the Tribal Jews acted in their own Tribal interests by not endorsing the overthrow of Mubarak and have been audibly silent about the Libyan Civil War.

By contrast, the neocons have been pursuing a NEO-Wilsonian policy of democracy promotion, a strategy that will only put Israel's strategic position in greater peril considering how the Muslim electorate is substantially more insane than their somewhat Western-corrupted/bribed dictators.

There is no other way to interpret the neocon split with Likud other than to conclude the neocons are pseudo-Zionists who are masking a Wilsonian nation building/tree hugging humanitarian effort as a Zionist strategy.

In reality, the neocons are Crypto-Calvinists who are pretending to be actual Likudniks because they have not embraced real, Zionist, Tribal Judaism the way al Moldgaffi, I, and Half Sigma have.

The real Likud position is identical to the Gadhaffi position: Kill as many Muslims as possible and don't worry about democratizing their country.

Now that Moldgaffi has officially triumphed over macdonald's hut, I am looking forward to the macdonald ruled paleocons personally apologizing to Abe Foxman, Moldgaffi, Mel Brooks, Chelsea Handler, Norman "Pope" Podhoretz, Steven "Schinlder's List" Spielberg, and Bar "The Body" Rafaeli and the other Elders (and Eldresses!) of Zion for accusing American Jews of being an Outgroup.

Paleocon bloggers may begin puckering up in this comments section.


The Jews

March 18, 2011 at 2:24 PM  
Anonymous RS said...

> have opposed neocon democracy promotion because the Likud Jews have the impression that liberated Arabs are a bit more likely to vote for Al-Qaeda in a free, parliamentary election than they are the Swedish Green Party.

I agree with that. Most things I've heard say that Israel was skeptical about the Iraq thing.

I certainly don't agree that Israelis and US orthodox are the only ethnocentric Jews under the sun. American Jews support Israel: that's a function of ethnicity, unless they also "support Paraguay" and "support Canada". Of course, this is not necessarily the most 'egregious' ethnocentricity, though I certainly believe it has a significant effect on policy -- and clearly has a prominent effect on the metapolitical millieu informing policy... the thing is, that 'milleau' is largely a matter of ideals, and in actual policy naked self-interest will very often substantially prevail.

I do realize that the whole business is thrown into high relief by Isreal's being beleagured by aggressive Arabs and pointy-headed, rather disgusting European professors and idiots (and even by a number of messiah-complexed Jews). We might see some Italian-Americans 'supporting' Italy to some degree, if support were needed.

> By contrast, the neocons have been pursuing a NEO-Wilsonian policy of democracy promotion

It's a Bedeutung (reference, extension). It can have any number of different Sinne (senses, intensions). It's a... thing, and that thing could potentially have a variety of uses - even contrary uses. People can disagree about its implications for Israel - especially when 'people' includes any number PC-bots along with any number of people with some degree of quasi-conscious awareness of the top-secret HBD truths that guide your and my thinking on Arab democracy, and on many things. Shhhhhhhhhh... Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear receiv'd a little thereof...

March 18, 2011 at 9:25 PM  
Anonymous RS said...

I might be willing to do penance for Bar Rafaeli. What... kind of penance, exactly? Might it be, extremely protracted, I hope?

March 18, 2011 at 9:41 PM  
Blogger The Monk said...

There is an interesting parallel to your little animal fable in Indian myth; the story of Parashuram.

The legend goes that outraged over the murder of his father by an arrogant Kshatriya king, Parashurama the Brahman vowed to exterminate all Kshatriyas twenty-one times. He did this, and at the sacrificial performance he held to commemorate his victory, he gifted dominion over the Earth to the priest officiating at that ceremony, Kashyapa.

What follows is most interesting: Kashyapa being a Brahman, could not find it in his heart to undertake any harsh action at all (ROE, anyone?), and the result was that the Earth was plunged into chaos and anarchy as the 'wolves' came out to play and prey. (This is usually rendered as 'The Earth was left without any protector'.) He realised he needed the Kshatriyas back, because there was no way he could take on their responsibilityes. He asked Parashuram to retire to his mountainous abode, and with the demonstration of the supremacy of Rama over Parashuram, the balance of the natural order was restored.

(This leads to another interesting aside, on the nature and importance of sovereign continuity, and what happens without it; basically, why the Kshatriyas are necessary. See here for a quick summary.)

March 19, 2011 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger Olave d'Estienne said...

You all are admirably dispassionate. I am so angry that anyone would consider Euro-American intervention in Libya, I could spit.

March 19, 2011 at 12:33 PM  
Anonymous RS said...

I'll almost be angrier if it doesn't lead to a morass, taking the long view, because then the wrong lesson will be learned (but who knows, maybe that doesn't make much difference).

My gut feeling is the odds of a morass are 60/40, that is the odds of the opposition engaging in a dirty (Balkans-like) fight. Bad sign for a bloodless, coherent (alternatively, devolutionary) power transfer: multiple ethnies of commensurable power, whereas in Egypt the Copts are a minority around 7% (abusing them seems to be a matter of sadism and signalling, rather than something directly utile in any way).

I'd love to see how they plan to avoid sending ground troops if atrocities happen. They'll probably send them, but then withdraw if like two men are harmed, a la Somalia. Fortunately for the pres, the nation has rocks for brains. They are overjoyed that he has a 'clearly-defined goal', thank god, of protecting civvies - and ignore the fact that this goal may prove impossible, as it did in Iraq. Thank god for such clear-mindedness! We here have learned well one of the national virtues of your ancestors, Monseiur d'Estienne!

I assume my analysis is basically exactly what everyone here has already been thinking. At Sailer's I was suprised by the number of interventionists commenting.

March 19, 2011 at 1:20 PM  
Anonymous RS said...

The worst problem is that both of the ethnies (as well as any other interest groups) will want the oil. Most of which may be in Tripolitania, but I'm not sure. One needs, of course, not just the oil field, but the pipeline - and, I assume, a port?

The one inland 'province' has rather few people, so the coast-including zones Tripolitania and Cyrenacea are the players.

March 19, 2011 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


Humans are very bad at leaving things alone. Story of the tree of knowledge/Pandora's Box/Bluebeard/&c.

March 21, 2011 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

A question for American readers: Who among the punditocracy is most intelligently supportive of the American intervention in Libya?

The naive case for the intervention is pretty simple: There was going to be a slaughter in Benghazi unless someone stopped it.

(Remember that this whole situation sprung up unplanned: The Libyans revolted because the Egyptians revolted, and the east of Libya fell easily because it is far from Tripoli, but when Tripoli did not fall, that gave Gaddafi space to start taking back the rest of the country by force.)

The immediate counterarguments against the intervention appear to be legion, and even come from politically antagonistic positions: America can't afford to do this, the country is broke; it's hypocritical to support the Libyans but not the Bahrainis; it's impossible for America to intervene in favor of democracy everywhere on the planet; look at what happened in Iraq; such interventions are just a way for the western imperialists to establish client states in oil-rich countries, something all the more valuable in the era of peak oil; these things never work out, they always hate American afterwards, so why bother; the law of unintended consequences says it's better not to get involved; ad infinitum.

So what I'd like to see is an argument in favor of 'Operation Odyssey Dawn' which acknowledges and deals with some of those criticisms, rather than just offering the naive argument for humanitarian intervention - 'something bad was about to happen and we had the power to stop it, so we had to act'.

March 22, 2011 at 2:49 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Daniel Drezner is not very serious in his argument, but its cynicism makes it more plausible.

March 22, 2011 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Since South Africa is sometimes discussed here, a retrospective on the founder of the all-white refuge Orania. It's from a whiggish liberal perspective which views it as quaint and harmless.

March 22, 2011 at 8:08 PM  
Anonymous whatever said...

And I question the Iraq war, but I don't really know what intel they had. It does look dubious, though, from what little I know.

Wow, way to get out there and mix it up!

You certainly have told me your opinion. Maybe. Or maybe you haven't, who can tell?

March 23, 2011 at 9:24 AM  
Anonymous mikee said...

Democracy sucks. It quickly leads to a majority crushing the minorities. Or a strong minority coming into power and stopping the whole idea of "majority rules" ever after.

Having a Republic built on the rule of law, property rights,and individual rights, with limits on government authority, seems to be the only way to prevent mountebanks from taking over entire countries.

Or am I missing something about the way Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, etc., are missing the boat on this whole Revolution toward a better life issue?

March 24, 2011 at 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Ron Potato said...

The Republic with rule of law, property rights, and limits on government authority already got taken over by mountebanks, through the backdoor of the electorate: universal education and public opinion.

Culture is king. Religion and technology rule.

March 25, 2011 at 5:18 AM  
Anonymous bruno said...

The unrest seems to be arriving in Syria. How do we stand?

March 25, 2011 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

A post at Language Log was about the heavy presence of Germans in St. Louis (and some other places) and their support for the Union cause in the civil war. It linked to this one on Ben Franklin which was mostly about his opposition to German immigration. It contained this interesting line "Today's readers may be interested to know that Sauer and his newspaper, published since 1739 in Germantown, were socially and religiously conservative supporters of the Penn family, and thus "a thorn in the flesh of any progressive politician in the colonies", especially Franklin." Penn of course being the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, with Quakers in MM's book being the font of liberalism responsible for all that's wrong with the world. Interesting to see the political valence flipped around.

I've referenced William Penn's Pennsylvania before because Paul Romer cites it as evidence of the power of a good charter & rules (ones encouraging tolerance, in that case) producing good results, namely the wealthiest and fastest growing colony in the U.S (hence why the capital was at one time in Philadelphia and so many important conventions took place there). Not quite a Quaker hell. The Rothbardians cite it for the benefits of anarchy, since Penn failed to actually have much control over the place (although insofar as there was anything to be called a governing body, his faction was dominant).

March 25, 2011 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

I thought I was just repeating an earlier comment of mine on Pennsylvania, but when searching I haven't been able to find one with everything I'm looking for. The Romer video is here, and it's a bit long so you might want to jump the labeled part on Pennsylvania. on anarchy in P.A here.

March 25, 2011 at 11:13 PM  
Anonymous josh said...

By definition, a supporter of the old ways of doing things is a conservative. Quakerism contained the seeds of its on liberal evolution as it was naturally democratic and contained no liturgy. The only stabilizing force was "Friendly Persuasion" which means the religion was one of permanent factionalism and limited civil war.

March 26, 2011 at 3:59 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

I actually found the second-passage here (on Libya) funnier. The first was just garden-variety gaffe, the second was revealing stupidity.

March 26, 2011 at 8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moldbug's total incapacity to imagine the situation of anyone other than a white upper-middle class NPR liberal, or to theorize from any other position than that of a parochial enemy of such creatures, completely hamstrings this article. The notion that the Egyptian uprising was some outburst of liberal America-envy is absurb.

To start with, the Muslim brotherhood are not just "wolves", but the representatives of actual real people with actual real problems that he MB may be better able to address than the corrupt and ineffective Mubarak regime. The faux-sophistication and provincial fake-worldliness here are, as usual, remarkable.

March 26, 2011 at 9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, tell what is really going on! We had no idea "real people" were involved, with "actual real problems". Now that you have so effectively demolished Moldbug's argument, you must replace it with your obviously superior wisdom!

You say these are just poor people who want better government, who have been suffering and biding their time for thirty years, until the Middle East can rise up and implement that "real people" democracy, and they thought of it all on their own and succeeded without outside assistance!

March 27, 2011 at 4:41 AM  
Anonymous Ron Potato said...

These uprising people believe their problems will be solved by democracy, revolution, and America, because of ideas they are taught in school, university, the press and television, which they believe with religious certainty and all intuition.

And indeed, these universities teach American and French ideas, by adorers of Harvard and America.

And indeed, in Egypt and Libya and elsewhere, the revolution is materially supported by America.

March 27, 2011 at 7:28 AM  
Anonymous Ron Potato said...

When you look at the European wars between the Catholics and the Protestants, you can find political scenarios that caused various actions, but it makes a lot more sense when you realize they actually believed in these religions.

The only difference now is the believers are post-religious. They are scientists ignorant of science, and religious yet atheist. They do not believe they are believers, and combine a babel of ideas.

But Voila "La Wik":

"In a pattern soon to become familiar in the Netherlands and Scotland, underground Calvinist preaching, and the formation of covert alliances with members of the nobility quickly led to more direct action to gain political and religious control. The prospect of taking over rich church properties and monastic lands had led nobles in many parts of Europe to support a "princely" Reformation. Added to this was the newer, Calvinist, teaching that the leading citizens had the duty to overthrow an "ungodly" ruler (i.e. one who was not supportive of Calvinism.)

March 27, 2011 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

I agree with Anonymous 9.11pm but I will emphasize a different aspect. Consider the example of Egypt. Egypt has had a parliament since the 19th century. Egypt, constitutionally, is a multi-party democracy and has been for forty years; but for much of that time the country has been under emergency rule. Ideas like democracy and human rights have much deeper roots in the world outside America than commentators here appear to understand. They didn't just come wafting in with Twitter or MTV.

March 27, 2011 at 6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first Whig was the Devil.

Television is religion for people who can't read.

March 27, 2011 at 6:59 PM  
Anonymous Oceansoflemonade said...

This is a giggle:

March 27, 2011 at 7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> sheep (liberals, upper-class), dogs (nationalists, lower-class), and wolves (Islamists, beyond class)
the way i undrestand, sheep & dogs are cosmopolitan upper & lower class, wolves are rural-nomadic.

> Sheep beat dogs, dogs kill wolves, wolves eat sheep.
this is only valid in democratic eras. the further you get from democracy the more similar dogs & wolves become - dogs become more inclined to attack sheep if they get out of line. and wolves, not seeing the sheep as competitors for power but instead a source of wool and milk, become more reluctant to eat them unneccesarily. also interestingly, immediately after democratic era the dog-wolf rule is reversed: wolves beat dogs almost every time (for example goths in rome, or turks in islamic caliphate - see ibn-khaldun for an interesting analysis).

> To start with, the Muslim brotherhood are not just "wolves", but the representatives of actual real people with actual real problems
you don't have to read it so normative - they're wolf from the viewpoint of upper-class cosmopolitan liberals, they don't see any red line around those kind like dogs do. the people they represent and their problems have very little to do with those upper classes and their desires.

> You say these are just poor people who want better government, who have been suffering and biding their time for thirty years, until the Middle East can rise up and implement that "real people" democracy, and they thought of it all on their own and succeeded without outside assistance!
whatever muslim brotherhood has thought up surely has done on its own, only rejecting things advocated by america - they're the anti-american line. what they want is not to implement 'real democracy' but a real caliphate where only religious laws rule. also they haven't succeeded, for now they have achieved part of the next government, now they will be planning to secure the rest.

> These uprising people believe their problems will be solved by democracy, revolution, and America, because of ideas they are taught in school, university, the press and television, which they believe with religious certainty and all intuition.
only a small minority of them. most can't afford such schools & universities, don't watch much tv, and trust imam of their mosque more than all the press.

March 28, 2011 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

a book that may be of interest is E. S. Turner's "Roads to Ruin" (via Gelman), arguments against reform over (I believe exclusively English) history. Should probably be combined with Albert O. Hirschmann's "The Rhetoric of Reaction". Turner also wrote a book about the "boy's magazines" or "penny dreadfuls". David Friedman presents the response of the pre-eminent author of those stories to George Orwell's criticism here. David himself writes that Kipling was a better poet than Orwell acknowledged.

March 28, 2011 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

I thank Mitchell for pointing out the Angry Arab blog as a contrast. I feel like highlighting this interview. Some interesting bits: thinks the left was more active in opposing intervention in South Africa (I thought intervention was just what they favored there) and Latin America (where it seems to me the anti-communists were largely successful in putting down revolutionaries) in the 80s. Says in 1982 Tom Hayden & Jane Fonda were entertaining entertaining Israeli troops on a warship while Beirut was being bombed. How entertaining is Tom Hayden? Uses the phrase "conservative outlets like FOX News or The New Republic". Finally, thinks the French Jacobins in their attempt to create a religion of reason are an appealing alternative to fanaticism for our times!

March 28, 2011 at 6:52 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

If Larison is right that in a mirror-image of Iraq this Libyan intervention was promoted by reckless people at State over the reluctance of DoD, would Mencius' theory predict that the Pentagon will try to undermine it?

Completely off-topic, but this New Yorker piece on some assassinations in Guatamala is really something else.

April 1, 2011 at 6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is this the nadir? How about the destruction of South Africa instead. Surely there have to be horrifying photos around.

April 1, 2011 at 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Oceansoflemonade said...

Someone needs to set up a website so we can track Moldbug's trolling of various blogs.

April 2, 2011 at 3:50 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Hasn't been updated in a while, but has a list of "Offsite Threads" at the bottom. Maybe someone could set up a wiki.

April 2, 2011 at 8:50 AM  
Anonymous rental elf said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

April 2, 2011 at 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Found two new books that TGGP and others here might want to read (book title, then cut and paste description):

Hippies of the Religious Right: From the Countercultures of Jerry Garcia to the Subculture of Jerry Falwell by: Preston Shires

"This volume demonstrates that the Christian Right has a surprising past. Historical analysis reveals that the countercultural movements and evangelicalism share a common heritage. Shires warns that political operatives in both parties need to heed this fact if they hope to either, in the case of the Republican Party, retain their evangelical constituency, or, in the case of the Democratic Party, recruit new evangelical voters."

The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right by: Jon A. Shields

"The Christian Right is frequently accused of threatening democratic values. But in The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right, Jon Shields argues that religious conservatives have in fact dramatically increased and improved democratic participation and that they are far more civil and reasonable than is commonly believed.

Shields interviewed leaders of more than thirty Christian Right organizations, observed movement activists in six American cities, and analyzed a wide variety of survey data and movement media. His conclusions are surprising: the Christian Right has reinvigorated American politics and fulfilled New Left ideals by mobilizing a previously alienated group and by refocusing politics on the contentious ideological and moral questions that motivate citizens. Shields also finds that, largely for pragmatic reasons, the vast majority of Christian Right leaders encourage their followers to embrace deliberative norms in the public square, including civility and secular reasoning.

At the same time, Shields highlights a tension between participatory and deliberative ideals since Christian Right leaders also nurture moral passions, prejudices, and dogmas to propel their movement. Nonetheless, the Christian Right's other democratic virtues help contain civic extremism, sharpen the thinking of activists, and raise the level and tenor of political debate for all Americans."

April 2, 2011 at 7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A sociologist in Libya:

April 3, 2011 at 12:03 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Yeah, I remember hearing about the tension between deliberative and participatory democracy before*. I believe it's discussed in the video I link to here. I think Brink Lindsey compared the post-60s religious right to the hippies as well.

*Googling for the phrase I found my more poli-sci inclined co-blogger explained the point in his first post at my blog.

April 3, 2011 at 12:36 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Reading back through Dain's post led me to Jeffrey Friedman's papers page and his introduction to John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty". Interesting narrative of his transition to demotist ("Philosophical Radical") in the tradition of his father and Bentham to Carlyle-inspired elitist. The bit about tolerance reminded me of this review of John Gray, which seems to be along similar lines as Jacob Levy's* The Multiculturalism of Fear. I have not read any of the three books referenced.
*Fitting since he's the author of one of my favorites, "Liberalism's Divide" which I host at my blog.

April 3, 2011 at 1:07 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

When I read the "about" page at "revolutionology", my first thought was "CIA" - or perhaps some other Special Forces type - operating under the flimsy cover of being a sociology student. A PhD candidate who just happens to be interested in the Libyan civil war (which didn't exist two months ago), who drops in on the war zone to do "field research" - yeah right.

But whether or not he is just an academic with a death wish, look at the second comment on that page! From "Susanne". "Ryan – I just came across this blog – excellent work. I’m in Benghazi doing research as well – we must meet. My email is [...] please get in touch."

So I looked up Susanne Tarkowski, and found she is president of something called "Wise Strategic Communication", "operating since 2008 ... a trusted implementation partner of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), U.S. Department of State (DoS), United Nations (UN) and other worldwide institutions, for research and influence activities, implementing substantial contracts, impacting on the lives and perceptions of millions of people." And:

"Effective influence stems from a deep understanding of a target audience’s attitudes, perceptions and behavior. With our team spread throughout the country, we have unique access to every tribe, ethnicity and social grouping, offering an unparalleled capacity to develop winning campaigns throughout the region."

And from a Swedish blogger I learn that just a little while ago she was running strategic political communication in Kabul, Afghanistan.

I have an instinctive loathing of marketing doublespeak like "develop[ing] winning campaigns", and it becomes all the more repulsive when it's applied to warfare and insurgency. This combination of public relations, covert influence, and humanitarian intervention just makes me shudder for some reason, even though I'm not at all sure that I should be "against" it. There really would have been a slaughter in Benghazi if Obama (or Sarkozy, or NATO, or whoever's in charge) hadn't intervened.

So maybe for now I'll just content myself with observing that is extremely weird and apparently indiscreet for a mercenary-P.R. CEO, such as Ms Tarkowski appears to be, to be blithely networking in public, in the comments section of that blog. She's apparently in her mid-20s... I hate to endorse Mencius Moldbug's assessment of the Libyan war as the result of a jaded appetite for democratic revolution in the USA - for reasons I've given in earlier comments - but I have to wonder if what we're seeing here is Peace Corps 2.0, disaster tourism for the Obama generation of world-fixing liberals... I don't know, I'm struggling to get a fix on what's happening here. How did we ever end up in a situation where we have a war with Gaddafi on one side, and Al Qaeda, twentysomething globoliberals, and ordinary Libyans sick of Gaddafi's bullshit, lined up together on the other side?!

April 4, 2011 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

Well, I did some research. Tarkowski fans may be interested to know that she's a Swede, did marketing and design for a few years in Europe, then: "When I was 22 I moved to Afghanistan and took a job as art director of psychological operations campaigns for the U.S. Army". She started her own company there, ran it for a few years, then left Afghanistan and sold the company to this guy, and was wondering what to do with herself when the Libyan civil war started, so she went on over. Already she was featured on war reporter Michael Totten's blog, explaining the rebels. Oh, and she's a big fan of the US and NATO. (I got most of this from an interview in Swedish.)

April 5, 2011 at 2:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mitchell, if you've been keeping abreast of military strategy for the last 10-20 years you'd know that PR and psyops is now considered much more important than what it was in the past (and that's not to say there wasn't PR and psyops before the last 20 years).

The main reason for this is that the military's current opponents -- mostly non-state actors -- can find ways to successfully win battles at the moral and psychological level of war through cheap media tools. Also google the term 4GW or Fourth Generation Warfare for more.

April 6, 2011 at 7:52 PM  
Anonymous RS said...

Mitchell, yeah, but have you seen Tarkovsky's Zerkalo/Mirror? It's my favorite.

I agree with you, this is wild, and the question is how we got in to begin with. Did you see the NYT thing about 'our' hapless rebels, bickering about whether to fire an RPG or something when all the elders agreed that the target was out of range, whereas the smoke from firing gives away one's location? They strongly subcommunicated that this anecdote was nothing unrepresentitive.

Odds are this will end with Western troops on the ground, but will not, ultimately, improve or resolve.

So how did WH get sucked in? I have no idea. As you know, I maintain they were neutral on Mubarak at least until right before the end, despite 'wanting' deep down to back messianic 'freedom' to the hilt. Maybe they wanted to 'redeem' themselves from this taintful realpolitik by doing some idealistic advocacy, and thus 'fell in'. But I really have no confident view of what occured. Maybe they thought Gadaf was going to go down hard, which most people seem to have anticipated, and thus backed the other side hard - then they were 'stuck' with them. But I don't know - regardless of what they say, could the GOP really give them a 'spanking' if they didn't back up their talk with power? I really don't see why the GOP would want to be bringing up the whole question of Mideastern adventures, even if WH were to say, straight up, they were invading Libya and then said no, nevermind.

In any case, I think they have one arm stuck very deep in the tar baby, and they are about to try socking it again, /real/ hard. Just look how dumb the modern world is overall, and you'll second my wager. While MMs grasp-the-nettle strategy will never be tried, it might not work if it were tried. MM suggests roughing people up, destroying crops, etc, in order to avoid the need for heavy occupation-terror such as the disproportionate massacres of innocents known from Roman, Ottoman, and Nazi, etc, anti-insurgency practice. Along with Cochran, I'm inclined to think that the 'easy' nettle-grasping doesn't apply to this day and age - one would need the 'hard' Roman-Ottoman-Nazi grasp. But perhaps that isnt needed to stop a race-war in Libya; partition might be viable (I'm not sure), if we can promise to impose costs on whoever might transgress an agreement. Obviously partition was far dicier (as far as I know) in Iraq, due to the 'Kurdish national question'.

April 8, 2011 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 10, 2011 at 2:50 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

That's unfortunate - I wrote a long essay explaining where I now think this all came from, but it got lost somewhere between client and server. So, the main points:

By the standards of modern America, there is absolutely nothing unusual about such an intervention. America inherited world rule from Britain - it rules the seas, and it also rules outer space - every square kilometer of Earth lies within the remit of one of the Pentagon's combatant commands. America is first among equals in every one of its alliances. Nominally it may not be an empire, it doesn't use the old imperial vocabulary, but it is the functional equivalent of an empire.

The empire's military interventions have two ideological rationales, humanitarian (the secularized version of missionary work) and national interest. Democrats favor the first, Republicans the second, but both sides call freely upon both rationales. National interest was ascendant as a rationale during the Bush years, but the humanitarian rationale never went away - e.g. nation-building in Afghanistan - and all Obama has done is to prove that he is not an absolute crypto-pacifist who will not start a war at any price, instead he is a Clintonesque interventionist.

Apart from ideology, the other explanatory ingredient is the practical relationships which preceded the intervention. Since America is the global power, it is always already involved everywhere; even if the general American public is hearing of Benghazi for the first time, there were already diplomats, businessmen, strategic thinkers, and expatriates for whom it was a daily concern.

In this case, the prior practical relationships which have enabled and determined the intervention are with France and Saudi Arabia. America does not care about Libyan oil, but Europe does. Sarkozy also cares about keeping Europe in the geopolitical game. There's a good chance he was the leader here, and Obama simply acceded to the suggestions of his European ally. As for Saudi Arabia, during Egypt's slumber it has been the main power in the Arab world, and they hate and fear both Gaddafi and the new wave of uprisings. The word is that a deal was struck: the Arab League would support intervention in Libya, if America turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia's intervention in Bahrain - although America could in any case agree with the strategic goal of preventing the rise of another Iranian proxy state. I think that in that nexus of interests and deals, you have the genesis of the Libyan intervention. It's a move by the Euro-American masters of the universe to start reimposing their will upon events, after a period of unravelling. But the treasury at home is looking a little empty, and it remains to be seen whether this is still just the last gasp of the old order in the Middle East (I am reminded of Suez 1956).

April 10, 2011 at 3:03 AM  

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