Aleppo, D.C. (OAG #7)

Two styles of impotent hand-wringing seem to be in fashion in my virtual circle: over the apparently unexpectedly successful Russian intervention in liberal-democratic political processes, culminating in the election of a uniquely unpopular, deeply disrespected president; over the moral and global-political catastrophe in Syria, whose key turning point occurred in September 2013, and which is climaxing now in the devastation and de-population of the city of Aleppo by a Russian-supported alliance. Read more ›

Posted in Operation American Greatness, Politics, War

Si Vis Bellum, Part 2: Catastrophes

America aims to be as much and as little interventionist and militarist as required in order to avoid ever becoming as catastrophically interventionist and militarist as she, in competition or cooperation with potentially many others, could be.

To understand the meaning of a term is to understand the history of its uses. The two studies, lexical and historical, will be eventually the same study.

Something like a re-consideration, or an indirect dialogue by way of political conflict, occurred on the meaning of the militarism and interventionism during the 2015 – 2016 American presidential campaign in both parties: Both major parties appeared to struggle, and arguably to fail at least for now, to fend off challenges of the sort that thrill dissenters, but have or perhaps had in the United States of America seemed always doomed to frustration.

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Posted in Neo-Imperialism, US History, War

Operation American Greatness: Russiagate Links 12 Dec 2016

(You got a better name for it? Anything else you’d like to add?)

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Just as the Central Bank was involved in recent mobilisation exercises, predicated (rightly) on the fact that any major conflict with the West would also be fought with economic instruments, I wonder how far Moscow is coming to terms with the fact that the one-way ‘political war‘ currently being waged against the West might become a two-way one, at least to a limited extent. Those who live by the hack risk dying by it, too.

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Obama is famously resistant (some have said he’s “allergic”) to escalating conflicts, especially if the conflict doesn’t threaten vital U.S. interests. But the United States has few interests more vital than assuring that a foreign power doesn’t tilt a presidential election toward a candidate that it favors. Obama and his White House aides are said to have mulled what to do about this Russian hack for “months.” I’d say they waited too long.

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Perhaps the most amazing revelation in the Post’s report is, “Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election.” Almost immediately afterward, Republicans in Congress trumpeted explosive (but ultimately empty) allegations from a different agency. Of the many causes of the election outcome, one was simply that Trump’s supporters in government were willing to put the system at risk in order to win, and Clinton’s supporters were not.

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Carle, the retired CIA officer, said Trump’s temperament had played into Russia’s hands and put the president-elect on a collision course with the CIA.

He said: “Look, in my professional assessment as an intelligence officer, Trump has a reflexive, defensive, monumentally narcissistic personality, for whom the facts and national interest are irrelevant, and the only thing that counts is whatever gives personal advantage and directs attention to himself.

“He is about the juiciest intelligence target an intelligence office could imagine. He groans with vulnerabilities. He will only work with individuals or entities that agree with him and build him up, and he is a shockingly easy intelligence ‘target’ to manipulate.”

Were Trump an intelligence officer himself, Carle said, “he would be removed and possibly charged with having accepted the clandestine support of a hostile power to the harm of the United States”.

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Talk of Russian hacking puts Republicans in one last bind. Many senior figures on Capitol Hill distrust Mr Putin. But they know that grassroots conservatives see much to like in a Russian-style approach to fighting Islamic terrorism, if that means an unsqueamish willingness to back secular autocrats in the Middle East, and attack targets in Syria with ruthless indifference as to who is underneath. Mr Trump is clearly tempted to do a deal with Mr Putin in which America applauds as Russian warplanes carry out the Trumpian campaign promise to “bomb the shit out of ISIS”, with little thought for collateral damage. The bet in Trump Tower is that the other side of any such deal, perhaps involving the lifting of sanctions on Russia or a promise not to back any further enlargement of NATO, will be greeted by the American public with a yawn.

...Some may wonder if this latest squabble matters. There is no evidence of actual collusion between Mr Trump and Russia. Mr Putin’s fierce dislike of Mrs Clinton, who as secretary of state questioned the validity of the 2011 elections in Russia, is more than enough motive to want her defeated. It is unknowable whether the last-minute leaks of Democratic e-mails affected the result. Most straightforwardly, a close election is over and Democratic leaders are not questioning the result.This squabble does matter. When the next president of America takes his oath of office in January, officers of Russian intelligence can savour a historic win. And that astonishing, appalling fact has divided, not united, the two parties that run the world’s great democracy. That should be enough to unsettle anyone.

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Was there coordination?

Was information shared in any way, or did anyone directly or indirectly connected to the Trump campaign offer any advice to any foreign entity about where and how to hack—beyond the president-elect’s own public encouragement? What compromising information might Russia have upon persons connected to the Trump campaign—including of course the president-elect himself?

Are there financial ties?

The Senate inquiry should also subpoena any Trump organization business records that might shed light on any debt or obligation that the Trump family might have in Russia and any significant income flows from Russia. Beyond the obvious political ties Trump has to Putin, do Russian interests have any hold upon him and his family—financial or otherwise?

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Trump, being new to Washington, doesn’t know that when you declare war on the spies, the spies always win in the end. The IC cares little if anything for partisan politics, but they will protect their turf and their reputation when they’re impugned by politicians. Our spy agencies fight among each other nonstop, but woe to the pol who gives them common cause by insulting them in public.

True to form, this morning the president-elect was tweeting insults, mocking the CIA assessment of Russian hacking as a “conspiracy theory,” adding, “Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn’t this brought up before election?”

In reality, Western intelligence has caught Kremlin-linked hackers in the act, many times, while this knotty matter was publicly brought up on numerous occasions over the summer and fall, including in my column. We are now living in the interesting times which ancient Chinese sages warned of.

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Posted in The Russian Angle

Thesis on the Great Trumpian Victory (OAG #6)

Thesis: The great victory of the Trumpists would be in the destruction of faith in the American system, now approaching the consensus position.

…to which responds net-friend and former colleague “OG Jaybird“: “Where you see destruction, I see manifestation of evidence of it already having been destroyed years prior.”

Far be it from me to refuse the resort to context and history: For me it goes without saying that any particular event, to be understood, must be understood concretely: as realization of a process or development, as conditioned rather than random incident. So, we can say that the Soviet Union did not defeat Nazi Germany in Berlin, but over the course of titanic battles fought to and from Moscow and Stalingrad all across Central and Eastern Europe, and, furthermore, we can say that the Red Army would almost certainly have failed without allies. We can go a step further and say that the hopelessness of the Nazi position was itself pre-figured in the hopelessness of the German position in the general European and global conditions of the era, as already understood by German strategists at what seemed the last possible moment to alter them by intervention, on the eve of what became the First World War. Read more ›

Posted in Featured, Operation American Greatness

Patti Smith Sings “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize Ceremony

Patti Smith – A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (ceremonia Nobel 2016)

See Amanda Petrusich for background on the performance, which, noting that Smith’s stumbles helped break through the setting to common human ground, I called “seering” in a tweet, though I meant “searing,” though fear I meant seering, not least in the verse that Petrusich quotes: Read more ›

Posted in Music Tagged with: ,

Si Vis Bellum, Part 1: “Militarism” and “Interventionism”

The un-clarity or confusion, or confusion of confusions, regarding the meaning of these two terms is typical of this historical moment, which in one sense can be thought to have simply befallen us, having never been willed into existence by anyone, but in another sense can be viewed as the predictable and desired product of choices made over the course of at least two or now three presidential elections, in as self-conscious a manner as a mass democratic system is able to undertake.

Just around a year ago1, during conversation under an Ordinary Times post by Jason Kuznicki, commenter Michael Drew attempted to sort out competing views on the United States and the world, specifically in relation to military policy:

I’m inclined to think that the U.S. is fairly interventionist by whatever the proper measuring stick is (even taking into account its perhaps unique role). But I’m not at all sure what the proper measuring stick actually is.

…Jason offered his view of what the critical constituency is, and I offered mine… that, from where I sit, as center-left political establishments go, ours seems quite on-board for interventions. The explanation for it is indeed a fully separate conversation. I’m just saying that it is the critical piece in what actually leads to the actually-more-militaristic policy.

But then Kolohe came along and questioned the whole premise – that the U.S. even is more interventionist than, say Europe (which I think is the proper comparison, though that too can be debated) – and also that the U.S. center-left is more interventionist/militaristic than Europe’s. And while I tend to still think the U.S. is quite interventionist, I’m more interested in assessing that question than insisting I’m right about it.

I mostly agree with Kolohe’s position as I understand it. I am also, like Michael and Jason – and like Tyler Cowen, to whom Jason was originally responding – interested in assessing the underlying question further, or, as Cowen puts it, in examining characteristic American attitudes, customs, or predispositions as an “integrated whole.” However, as I stated earlier in the conversation with Michael and Kolohe, I believe that this project is a more ambitious and difficult one than either Cowen or Jason acknowledges. We could, for example, seek to follow and extend Hegel’s comprehension of the interdependent development of “the gun” and “the state” in world history, specifically in relation to the American idea of the state or American Idea, and in part to define the differences between the American and Hegelian state concepts (see “Inventing the World.”), but any attempt to synthesize or fuse two such large and controversial topics as American foreign policy and American attitudes toward guns risks merely being confusing if the central terms are not more carefully defined and employed. Simply achieving such definition will still require entering into that “fully separate conversation” on explanations for the existence of the “critical constituency” or any merely functional description of it. Read more ›

Notes:

  1. This post and the two that will follow, God-willing, were mostly composed in December and January of 2015-6, but withheld as, among other things, likely un-discussable during the developing political campaign, even while events potentially critical to the historical argument seemed to be developing. While recently re-reading it, I considered publishing it in the underused “Untimely” category, but I do not find it untimely, and have not found the series in need of more than incidental updating – although I’m also not sure that it’s really any more discussable than it would have been or might have been one year ago. []
Posted in Featured, Neo-Imperialism, Political Philosophy, War

Comments on “Islam is the rock on which the liberal order broke?”

Commenter Pramathanath Sastry, quoting Omar Ali:

“If and when modern Liberalism … crashes and burns …., will future historians look back and say that Islam was the rock on which it first and decisively broke?” Will there be future historians (ones free to explore history and engage in it, speculate, publish) if modern liberalism crashes and burns?

My reply to P. Sastry, and as well to Omar Ali [cribbing old themes at this blog]:

Right and further: A non-humanist and illiberal and anti-modern “historian” would not be an “historian” of the same type as for us, or, to say the same thing, would be an “historian” as we understand the term only to the extent that he or she was “humanist” and “liberal” and “modern.”

So, in that sense, the answer to the blogger’s question must be “no.” History, if not necessarily “historians,” liberal-modern-humanist or other, may instead record that what broke this latest “liberal order” (a typical contradiction in terms), as before and likely again, as inevitably, was this latest liberal order itself.

What Omar Ali seems to be getting at, however, is: Read more ›

Posted in Anismism, Comments Elsewhere, History, Liberalism v Islamism as a Syncretic Problem, On Liberal Democracy in Relation to Islamism, Operation American Greatness Tagged with: , , ,

No One Can Say: Before Us (OAG #5)

The question before us now, the version for us of the question Constable says is now before Trump himself, seems to be whether the election must be taken as an irrevocable decision for Trumpism in principle, the equivalent of a permanent voiding of an American public sphere, and irreversible end of the American experiment as an experiment in liberal democracy or government of reason.

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Posted in Internet, Operation American Greatness, Politics Tagged with:

Is This Solution for Caches vs Cookies Going to Get Me in Trouble?

ck_macleod_ignoredThis post consists of a a question I posed at StackExchange/”WordPress Development,” relating to the Commenter Ignore and Commenter Highlight Buttons plug-ins that I’ve been working on (debuting at this site in unfinished form, as of this writing). Won’t likely be of any interest to non-developers!

I’ve come up with a provisional solution for a not exactly common, but far from unprecedented problem with the interaction of popular WP caching solutions with cookies, in this case the standard WP comment cookies. My solution also bears on the rarely well-defined “known users” exception to serving cached files. Whether what I stumbled upon is usable or not, I figure that explaining it and possibly learning why it’s a bad idea might be generally instructive. Read more ›

Posted in WordPress Plug-Ins Tagged with: ,

Commenter Ignore Button Preview Video

Commenter Ignore Button Preview

Posted in Internet, Videos, WordPress Plug-Ins

Noted & Quoted

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To take power, May had to pretend that she, too, dreams these impossible dreams. And that led her to embrace a phony populism in which the narrow and ambiguous majority who voted for Brexit under false pretences are be reimagined as “the people.”

This is not conservatism—it is pure Rousseau. The popular will had been established on that sacred referendum day. And it must not be defied or questioned. Hence, Theresa May’s allies in The Daily Mail using the language of the French revolutionary terror, characterizing recalcitrant judges and parliamentarians as “enemies of the people” and “saboteurs.”

This is why May called an election. Her decision to do so—when she had a working majority in parliament—has been seen by some as pure vanity. But it was the inevitable result of the volkish rhetoric she had adopted. A working majority was not enough—the unified people must have a unified parliament and a single, uncontested leader: one people, one parliament, one Queen Theresa to stand on the cliffs of Dover and shake her spear of sovereignty at the damn continentals.

...Brexit is thus far from being a done deal: it can’t be done without a reliable partner for the EU to negotiate with. There isn’t one now and there may not be one for quite some time—at least until after another election, but quite probably not even then. The reliance on a spurious notion of the “popular will” has left Britain with no clear notion of who “the people” are and what they really want.

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The most extraordinary paragraph in this op-ed, however, is this one:

The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a “global community” but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.

...First — and this is so obvious I can’t believe I have to type out these words — the United States can’t simultaneously proclaim “America first” and then claim any kind of moral strength. Saying loudly and repeatedly that American values are not going to be a cornerstone of American foreign policy strips you of any moral power whatsoever.

The second and bigger problem is that the “embrace” of a Hobbesian vision of the world by the most powerful country in the world pretty much guarantees Hobbesian reciprocity by everyone else. Most international relations scholars would agree that there are parts of the world that fit this brutal description. But even realists don’t think it’s a good thing. Cooperation between the United States and its key partners and allies is not based entirely on realpolitik principles. It has helped foster a zone of stability across Europe, North America and the Pacific Rim that has lasted quite some time. In many issue areas, such as trade or counterterrorism or climate change, countries gain far more from cooperation than competition.

Furthermore, such an embrace of the Hobbesian worldview is, in many ways, anti-American.

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The rise of the military, if coupled with the undermining of civilian aspects of national power, demonstrates a spiritual exhaustion and a descent into Caesarism. Named after Julius Caesar — who replaced the Roman Republic with a dictatorship — Caesarism is roughly characterized by a charismatic strongman, popular with the masses, whose rule culminates in an exaggerated role for the military. America is moving in this direction. It isn’t that some civilian agencies don’t deserve paring down or even elimination, nor is it that the military and other security forces don’t deserve a boost to their financial resources. Rather, it is in the very logic, ideology, and lack of proportionality of Trump’s budget that American decline, decadence, and Caesarism are so apparent.

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