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Grand Strategy for a Divided America


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If the world reverts to the 1930's. This is the possible result of the hoped for drawdown of American power across the world; be careful what you wish for, it may be granted:


Sunday, August 17, 2008
HANSON: Brave old world

Russia invades Georgia. China jails dissidents. China and India pollute at levels previously unimaginable. Gulf monarchies make trillions from jacked-up oil prices. Islamic terrorists keep car bombing.

Meanwhile, Europe offers moral lectures, while Japan and South Korea shrug and watch - all in a globalized world that tunes into the Olympics each night from Beijing.

"Citizens of the world" were supposed to share, in relative harmony, our new "Planet Earth," which was to have followed from an interconnected system of free trade, instantaneous electronic communications, civilized diplomacy and shared consumer capitalism. But was that ever quite true?

In reality, to the extent globalism worked, it followed from three unspoken assumptions:

(1) The U.S. economy would keep importing goods from abroad to drive international economic growth.

(2) The U.S. military would keep the sea lanes open, and trade and travel protected. After the past destruction of fascism and global communism, the Americans, as global sheriff, would continue to deal with the occasional menace like a Moammar Gadhafi, Slobodan Milosevic, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il or the Taliban.

(3) America would ignore ankle-biting allies and remain engaged with the world - like a good, nurturing mom who at times must put up with the petulance of dependent teenagers.

But there have been a number of indications recently that globalization may soon lose its American parent, who is tiring, both materially and psychologically.

The United States may be the most free, stable and meritocratic nation in the world, but its resources and patience are not unlimited. Currently, it pays more than a half trillion dollars per year to import $115-a-barrel oil that is often pumped at a cost of about $5.

The Chinese, Japanese and Europeans hold trillions of dollars in U.S. bonds - the result of massive trade deficits. The American dollar recently has been at historic lows. We are piling up staggering national debt. More than 12 million live here illegally and freely transfer more than $50 billion annually to Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.

Our military, after deposing Milosevic, the Taliban and Saddam, is tired. And Americans are increasingly becoming more sensitive to the cheap criticism of global moralists.

But as the United States turns ever so slightly inward, the new globalized world will revert to a far poorer - and more dangerous - place.

Liberals like presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama speak out against new free trade agreements and want existing accords like North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) readjusted.

More and more Americans are furious at the costs of illegal immigration - and are moving to stop it. Foreign remittances that help prop up Mexico and Latin America are threatened by any change in America's immigration attitude.

Meanwhile, the hypocrisy becomes harder to take. After all, it is easy for self-appointed global moralists to complain that terrorists don't enjoy Miranda rights at Guantanamo, but it would be hard to do much about the Russian military invading Georgia's democracy and bombing its cities.

Al Gore crisscrosses the country, pontificating about Americans' carbon footprints. But he could do far better to fly to China to convince them not to open 500 new coal-burning power plants.

It has been chic to chant "No blood for oil" about Iraq's petroleum - petroleum that, in fact, is now administered by a constitutional republic. But such sloganeering would be better directed at China's sweetheart oil deals with Sudan that enable the mass murdering in Darfur.

Due to climbing prices and high government taxes, gasoline consumption is declining in the West, but its use is rising in other places, where it is either untaxed or subsidized.

So, what a richer but more critical world has forgotten is that America largely was the model, not the villain - and that postwar globalization was always a form of engaged Americanization that enriched and protected billions.

Yet globalization, in all its manifestations, will run out of steam the moment we tire of fueling it, as the world returns instead to the mindset of the 1930s - with protectionist tariffs; weak, disarmed democracies; an isolationist America; predatory dictatorships; and a demoralized gloom-and-doom Western elite.

If America adopts the protectionist trade policies of Japan or China, global profits plummet. If our armed forces follow the European lead of demilitarization and inaction, rogue states advance. If we treat the environment as do China and India, the world quickly becomes a lost cause.

If we flee Iraq and call off the war on terror, Islamic jihadists will regroup, not disband. And when the Russians attack the next democracy, they won't listen to the United Nations, the European Union or Michael Moore.

Brace yourself -we may be on our way back to an old world, where the strong do as they will, and the weak suffer as they must.

Victor Davis Hanson is nationally syndicated columnist and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.


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Edward Campbell found this piece, which outlines the challenges facing both America and the West:



From Thursday's Globe and Mail

September 10, 2008 at 11:14 PM EDT

STANFORD, CALIF. — The seven years since 9/11 reveal an old truth: Problems are usually not solved, just overtaken by other problems. Those of 8/8, for example. On Aug. 8, 2008, two mighty nations announced their return to world history. Russia, invading Georgia, did it with tanks. China, launching the Olympics, did it with acrobats. The message was the same: World, we're back.

Don't get me wrong. A grave jihadist threat hangs over us still. They have a faith-based ideology with proven appeal to a minority of disaffected Muslims, especially those living in the West, and the means to wreak cut-price mayhem are alarmingly easy to find. Protecting us from "another 9/11" without destroying freedom is a major challenge.

What has proved false is the neo-conservative claim that this single threat defines world politics in our time. Returning to the United States after a year's absence, I'm struck by how relatively little even the American right is talking about the "war on terror."

Beyond terrorism, two giant changes define our world. Both can, to a large extent, be traced back to globalization.

The first is the "rise of the rest," made manifest on 8/8. Non-Western powers challenge the West's economic dominance. They are beating the West at the game it invented, quietly changing the rules along the way. Goldman Sachs analysts predict that by 2040, China, India, Russia, Brazil and Mexico will have a larger combined economic output than today's G7. The date matters less than the trend.

At the same time, worldwide economic development on the basis of the free movement of goods, capital, services and people is exacerbating a whole set of problems. Climate change, mass migration, pandemics: All cry out for international, co-operative responses. The need for liberal international order has never been greater. Yet by contrast with the 1990s, when U.S. president George H. W. Bush spoke of replacing the Cold War with a "new world order," the prospects of achieving it no longer look so good. Power is diffused to too many competing states, many illiberal, as well as to networks such as al-Qaeda.

So we of the FLIO (friends of liberal international order) must now soberly confront the prospect of a new world disorder. Or rather old-new, for disorder is the more natural condition. International order - peace - is always a fragile achievement. I hardly need to repeat that in these seven lean years since the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush's administration has contributed to the erosion, rather than the building, of international order. Russia's invasion of Georgia was, among other things, payback for the invasion of Iraq.

While order is threatened, liberty is no longer self-evidently on the march. The French refer to their 30 years of growth after the Second World War as the trente glorieuses. Future historians may see the three decades from Portugal's 1974 revolution of the carnations to Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution as a trente glorieuses for the spread of liberty. But Russia and China are not just great powers challenging the West. They represent alternative versions of authoritarian capitalism, or capitalist authoritarianism - the biggest potential competitor to liberal democratic capitalism since communism.

Radical Islamism may appeal to millions, but it cannot reach beyond the faithful, except by conversion. More important, it cannot plausibly claim to be associated with economic, technological and cultural modernity. By contrast, the opening ceremony of the Olympics, like the skyscrapers of Shanghai, show authoritarian capitalism already staking that claim. In the Bird's Nest stadium, the latest audiovisual hi-tech was placed at the service of a hyper-disciplined collectivist fantasy, made possible by financial resources no democracy would have dared devote to such a purpose.

For close to 500 years, modernity has come from the West to the world. Historian Theodore von Laue called this "the world revolution of Westernization." In 20th-century Europe, liberal democracy faced two powerful versions of modernity that were Western but illiberal: fascism and communism. Part of these systems' appeal was precisely that they were modern. Liberal democracy finally saw them both off, although not without a world war, a Cold War and a lot of American help.

Now, in China, we glimpse a modernity both non-Western and illiberal. But is authoritarian capitalism a stable, durable model? That, it seems to me, is among the greatest questions of our time.

As we of the FLIO think how to respond, I have some sympathy for the notion, canvassed by U.S. policy intellectuals, of a "concert of democracies." We should look first to countries that share our governing values - but only with several vital caveats.

First, we should not kid ourselves that we can have only liberal democracies as partners. Our values may pull us that way, but our interests will necessarily push us toward illiberal states as well.

It's also not the smartest idea to identify this concert too emphatically with the West. Historically, both modernity and liberalism have come from the West. But the future of freedom now depends on the possibility of new versions of modernity, whether they evolve in India, China or the Muslim world, that are distinctly non-Western yet also recognizably liberal, in the core sense of cherishing individual freedom.

I wouldn't bet on this outcome, but working toward it is the best long-term chance we have. Pessimism of the intellect must be matched by optimism of the will.

Timothy Garton Ash is professor of European studies at St. Antony's College, Oxford.


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While this is an article from 2004, it does state the fundamentals of the "Anglosphere" idea:


Explaining the 'Anglosphere'
George Bush's coalition is bound by more than a common language, writes US blogger Glenn Reynolds

American students protest outside the French embassy in Washington, DC. Photograph: Mike Krempasky/RedState.org
Last week's column mentioned George Bush's "Anglosphere-heavy coalition". I think it's worth taking a moment to note the importance of the Anglosphere in today's world, and the deeper divisions it reflects.

Columnist James Bennett defines the "Anglosphere" as follows:

"This term, which can be defined briefly as the set of English-speaking, Common Law nations, implies far more than merely the sum of all persons who employ English as a first or second language. To be part of the Anglosphere requires adherence to the fundamental customs and values that form the core of English-speaking cultures. These include individualism, rule of law, honouring contracts and covenants, and the elevation of freedom to the first rank of political and cultural values.

"Nations comprising the Anglosphere share a common historical narrative in which the Magna Carta, the English and American Bills of Rights, and such Common Law principles as trial by jury, presumption of innocence, "a man's home is his castle", and "a man's word is his bond" are taken for granted. Thus persons or communities who happen to communicate or do business in English are not necessarily part of the Anglosphere, unless their cultural values have also been shaped by those values of the historical English-speaking civilisation."

(Bennett also has a forthcoming book on this topic.)

I must confess that this construction struck me as odd at first. It's a bit too reminiscent of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter's theory that freedom was fundamentally a characteristic of the "English-speaking peoples", and faced far more uncertain prospects elsewhere. On the other hand, Jacques Chirac certainly seems to think there's something there, with his frequent outbursts against "a prevailing Anglo-Saxon culture which eclipses the others".

At any rate, it has been America's experience - and you can bet that plenty of Americans have noticed it - that when the chips are down it's usually other members of the Anglosphere, and particularly Britain and Australia, who can be counted on, and who are worth standing beside in turn. (Canada has been a bit dodgy in recent decades, ever since the Pierre Trudeau era and the Quebecois ascendancy). This is, of course, the reason why Tony Blair and John Howard wield such influence, while Chirac can barely get his calls returned. As Mark Steyn observes:

"The result is that, even though he's hardly ever in the souvenir photo line-up, Howard's a more consequential figure in world affairs these days than Chirac. Indeed, he's a transformative figure. I know this, because my nation has been on the other end of the transformation. I'm Canadian and, for those who remember when the Royal Canadian Navy was once the third largest surface fleet in the world, it's sobering to hear Australia spoken of as the third pillar of the Anglosphere.

"Under Howard, Australia is a player while Canada is a global irrelevance."

France's problems go deeper, of course. Even within the European Union, it is described by some observers as "increasingly isolated" in opposition to the more dynamic nations of the East. But the extent to which French behaviour has forfeited American goodwill over the past few years is poorly appreciated among French leaders, I'm afraid. America would go to the mat to support Britain and Australia. But - though it has done so before, twice - I'm no longer sure that it would similarly exert itself on behalf of France. As Andrew Sullivan wrote in the Times last year: "I've lived in the United States for almost 20 years and have rarely heard anything but condescension towards successive French governments. But now that condescension has turned to contempt."

That seems about right to me. (There's even a new book, called Our Oldest Enemy, that takes a rather unflattering view of France's role.) This is a bit of a problem for John Kerry, whose greater-than-average admiration for French policies has received some attention. And it's also a reason why Kerry, even if elected, will find it hard to take a more France-friendly approach. There just isn't political support.

But though tensions between the United States and France are an issue, similar tensions exist within the United States, and around the world beyond France. As Bennett has observed:

"t is worth considering the possibility that the root source of anti-Americanism in the world lies in the deep-rooted anti-modern tradition of Continental Europe.

"Just as the Ba'athist movement lately of Iraq and still in power in Syria is a localised variant of European fascism, the broader anti-Americanism currently fashionable on all continents comes ultimately from what some have called the industrial counter-revolution. This is a comprehensive category for the various reactions in Europe against the programme of the industrial and democratic revolutions, or liberalism in the classical sense - individualism, free markets, and technological and social progress."

Osama bin Laden's rather backward-looking form of Islam constitutes an extreme reaction against modernity, of course. But the dirigiste statism of the traditional French approach, which has produced a political situation in which even modest adjustments to civil servants' pensions can produce widespread social unrest, is another, milder version.

Nor is this purely a matter of international relations. Within the United States - and, indeed, within all countries, even the most capitalist - the industrial revolution, and capitalism, pose a threat to those who prefer hierarchy and status to dynamism and meritocracy. (Indeed, Virginia Postrel has looked at this division in her book, The Future And Its Enemies, and concluded that the big division of the twenty-first century is between "dynamists" and "stasists".)

As both Bennett and Postrel note, the Anglosphere has been far more open to progress and change than, say, the Francosphere, such as it is. But within the Anglosphere one finds people - often academics, or government employees, or others who operate in environments where competition is less fierce, and status hierarchies more important - who are threatened by dynamism. In this regard, concerns about American power are as much a symptom of anxiety as a matter of substance. This may explain why so many such people around the world, and even within America, favour John Kerry, widely regarded as the French-leaning candidate in the American election. On the other hand, the division exists in the other direction, even on the Continent, too. Within France are activists like Sabine Herold, who are challenging the ossified structures of French society and standing up against social rigidities. (Herold, in a very un-French way, is an unabashed admirer of hard work.) And, of course, within Europe as a whole the countries of "New Europe", like Poland, are far more anxious for progress and change than the inward-looking countries of Old Europe, like France and Germany.

The good news is that the American elections will be over soon. The bad news is that the tensions they represent are not limited to America, and will continue long after George Bush, or John Kerry, is sworn in in January.

· Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, runs the instapundit.com US political blog.


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If American power is drawn down through accident or design during the next administration, then we will be living in a world much like this:


The latest Global Trends report is out. Here are some of its predictions for 2025, with some comments.

A global multipolar system is emerging with the rise of China, India, and others. The relative power of nonstate actors—businesses, tribes, religious organizations, and even criminal networks—also will increase.

By 2025 a single “international community” composed of nation-states will no longer exist. Power will be more dispersed with the newer players bringing new rules of the game while risks will increase that the traditional Western alliances will weaken. Rather than emulating Western models of political and economic development, more countries may be attracted to China’s alternative development model.

International legal institutions will weaken as the power of members with diverse ideological and political goals increases relative to that of the United States and the rest of the west. Consensus-based organizations (nearly all of them) will become paralyzed. As the still wealthier west finds itself increasingly outnumbered it will pull out of or subvert majoritarian institutions such as they are. Likely victims: the UN Security Council and General Assembly, the WTO, and the International Criminal Court. A “league of democracies,” a “responsibility to protect” (civilian populations from genocide), and other fantasies that can be found in political discourse from time to time today will disappear entirely. Human rights norms, however, will expand to include prohibitions on defamation of religion and of ethnic groups.

Terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025, but its appeal could lessen if economic growth continues in the Middle East and youth unemployment is reduced. For those terrorists that are active the diffusion of technologies will put dangerous capabilities within their reach.

Opportunities for mass-casualty terrorist attacks using chemical, biological, or less likely, nuclear weapons will increase as technology diffuses and nuclear power (and possibly weapons) programs expand. The practical and psychological consequences of such attacks will intensify in an increasingly globalized world.

The early twenty-first century civil libertarian critique of government surveillance and detention activities will seem as eccentric in 2025 as the early nineteenth century critique of the national bank seems to us today.

Canadians may already be living in this world, comfortably sending 80% of our exports to the United States and studiously ignoring the rest; sheltering under the US nuclear umbrella and only doing the minimum required to advance our interests. Watching the rest of the world close into hostile or indifferent trade and political blocs won't make too much of a difference to us in the long run, we seem to have retreated into our shells a long time ago (Edward Campbell would say in the late 1960's early 1970's under PET's "inspired" leadership).

Such a world isn't in our long term interests, however, so our grand strategy should be to engage with as many similar-minded nations as possible, extending our reach and increasing the number of friends we can count on whenever there is a crunch (and we will be feeling a lot of them). Call it the Gn, the Anglosphere or whatever other grouping makes you happy (The "Liberal Democracy Tiger Team" has a ring to it!).

The only factor which does not seem to have been accounted for in this analysis is the demographic crunch; China will have dangerously unbalanced demographics in the 2020's, Europe, Japan and Russia will start really feeling their demographic decline in the 2030's (Russia most of all) and even we will be falling into a demographic crunch starting then. Most of the "bottom billion" nations will still have positive demographic growth (into an increasingly impoverished social and economic infrastructure), only the United States seems set to maintain her population ar replacement levels through this time period (and note "Red States" with Sara Palin sized families will be the bulk of the American population then).

We will be living in interesting times.


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VDH on some of the issues at home. Americans will be able to prosper and thrive if they can clean up some of these messes:


Ten Random, Politically Incorrect Thoughts
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1. Four years of high-school Latin would dramatically arrest the decline in American education. In particular, such instruction would do more for minority youths than all the ‘role model’ diversity sermons on Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Montezuma, and Caesar Chavez put together. Nothing so enriches the vocabulary, so instructs about English grammar and syntax, so creates a discipline of the mind, an elegance of expression, and serves as a gateway to the thinking and values of Western civilization as mastery of a page of Virgil or Livy (except perhaps Sophocles’s Antigone in Greek or Thucydides’ dialogue at Melos). After some 20 years of teaching mostly minority youth Greek, Latin, and ancient history and literature in translation (1984-2004), I came to the unfortunate conclusion that ethnic studies, women studies—indeed, anything “studies”— were perhaps the fruits of some evil plot dreamed up by illiberal white separatists to ensure that poor minority students in the public schools and universities were offered only a third-rate education.

2. Hollywood is going the way of Detroit. The actors are programmed and pretty rather than interesting looking and unique. They, of course, are overpaid (they do to films what Lehman Brothers’ execs did to stocks), mediocre, and politicized. The producers and directors are rarely talented, mostly unoriginal—and likewise politicized. A pack-mentality rules. Do one movie on a comic superhero—and suddenly we get ten, all worse than the first. One noble lion cartoon movie earns us eagle, penguin and most of Noah’s Arc sequels. Now see poorer remakes of movies that were never good to begin with. I doubt we will ever see again a Western like Shane, the Searchers, High Noon, or the Wild Bunch. If one wishes to see a fine film, they are now usually foreign, such as Das Boot or Breaker Morant. Watching any recent war movie (e.g., Iraq as the Rape of Nanking) is as if someone put uniforms on student protestors and told them to consult their professors for the impromptu script.

3. All the old media brands of our youth have been tarnished and all but discredited. No one picks up Harpers or Atlantic expecting to read a disinterested story on politics or culture. (I pass on their inane accounts of ‘getaways’ and food.) The New York Times and Washington Post are as likely to have op-eds as news stories on the front page. Newsweek and Time became organs for paint-by-numbers Obamism, teased with People Magazine-like gossip pieces (at least, their editors still cared enough to seem hurt when charged with overt bias). NBC, ABC, and CBS would now make a Chet Huntley or Eric Sevareid turn over in his grave. A Keith Olbermann would not have been allowed to do commercials in the 1950s. Strangely, the media has offered up fashionably liberal politics coupled with metrosexual elite tastes in fashions, clothes, housing, food, and the good life, as if there were no contradictions between the two. No wonder media is so enthralled with the cool Obama and his wife. Both embody the new nexus between Eurosocialism in the abstract and the hip aristocratic life in the concrete.

4. After the junk bond meltdown, the S&L debacle, and now the financial panic, in just a few years the financial community destroyed the ancient wisdom: deal in personal trust; your word is your bond; avoid extremes; treat the money you invest for others as something sacred; don’t take any more perks than you would wish others to take; don’t borrow what you couldn’t suddenly pay back; imagine the worse case financial scenario and expect it very may well happen; the wealthier you become the more humble you should act. And for what did our new Jay Goulds do all this? A 20,000 square-foot mansion instead of the old 6,000 sq. ft. expansive house? A Gulfstream in lieu of first class commercial? You milk your company, cash in your stock bonuses, enjoy your $50 million cash pile, and then get what—a Rolex instead of a reliable Timex? A Maserati for a Mercedes, a gold bathroom spout in preference to brushed pewter? The extra splurge was marginal and hardly worth the stain of avarice on one’s immortal soul.

5. California is now a valuable touchstone to the country, a warning of what not to do. Rarely has a single generation inherited so much natural wealth and bounty from the investment and hard work of those more noble now resting in our cemeteries—and squandered that gift within a generation. Compare the vast gulf from old Governor Pat Brown to Gray Davis or Arnold Schwarzenegger. We did not invest in many dams, canals, rails, and airports (though we use them all to excess); we sued each other rather than planned; wrote impact statements rather than left behind infrastructure; we redistributed, indulged, blamed, and so managed all at once to create a state with about the highest income and sales taxes and the worst schools, roads, hospitals, and airports. A walk through downtown San Francisco, a stroll up the Fresno downtown mall, a drive along highway 101 (yes, in many places it is still a four-lane, pot-holed highway), an afternoon at LAX, a glance at the catalogue of Cal State Monterey, a visit to the park in Parlier—all that would make our forefathers weep. We can’t build a new nuclear plant; can’t drill a new offshore oil well; can’t build an all-weather road across the Sierra; can’t build a few tracts of new affordable houses in the Bay Area; can’t build a dam for a water-short state; and can’t create even a mediocre passenger rail system. Everything else—well, we do that well.

6. Something has happened to the generic American male accent. Maybe it is urbanization; perhaps it is now an affectation to sound precise and caring with a patina of intellectual authority; perhaps it is the fashion culture of the metrosexual; maybe it is the influence of the gay community in arts and popular culture. Maybe the ubiquitous new intonation comes from the scarcity of salty old jobs in construction, farming, or fishing. But increasingly to meet a young American male about 25 is to hear a particular nasal stress, a much higher tone than one heard 40 years ago, and, to be frank, to listen to a precious voice often nearly indistinguishable from the female. How indeed could one make Westerns these days, when there simply is not anyone left who sounds like John Wayne, Richard Boone, Robert Duvall, or Gary Cooper much less a Struther Martin, Jack Palance, L.Q. Jones, or Ben Johnson? I watched the movie Twelve O’clock High the other day, and Gregory Peck and Dean Jagger sounded liked they were from another planet. I confess over the last year, I have been interviewed a half-dozen times on the phone, and had no idea at first whether a male or female was asking the questions. All this sounds absurd, but I think upon reflection readers my age (55) will attest they have had the same experience. In the old days, I remember only that I first heard a variant of this accent with the old Paul Lynde character actor in one of the Flubber movies; now young men sound closer to his camp than to a Jack Palance or Alan Ladd.

7. We have given political eccentricity a bad name. There used to be all sorts of classy individualists, liberal and conservative alike, like Everett Dirksen, J. William Fulbright, Margaret Chase Smith, or Sam Ervin; today we simply see the obnoxious who claim to be eccentric like a Barbara Boxer, Al Franken, Barney Frank, or Harry Reid. The loss is detectable even in diction and manner; Dirksen was no angel, but he was witty, charming, insightful; Frank is no angel, but he merely rants and pontificates. Watch the You Tube exchange between Harvard Law Graduate Frank and Harvard Law Graduate Rains as they arrogantly dismiss their trillion-dollar Fannie/Freddie meltdown in the making. I suppose it is the difference between the Age of Belief and the Age of Nihilism.

8. Do not farm. There is only loss. To the degree that anyone makes money farming, it is a question of a vertically-integrated enterprise making more in shipping, marketing, selling, packing, and brokering than it loses on the other end in growing. No exceptions. Food prices stay high, commodity prices stay low. That is all ye need to know. Try it and see.

9. As I wrote earlier, the shrill Left is increasingly far more vicious these days than the conservative fringe, and about like the crude Right of the 1950s. Why? I am not exactly sure, other than the generic notion that utopians often believe that their anointed ends justify brutal means. Maybe it is that the Right already had its Reformation when Buckley and others purged the extremists—the Birchers, the neo-Confederates, racialists, the fluoride-in-the-water conspiracists, anti-Semites, and assorted nuts.—from the conservative ranks in a way the Left has never done with the 1960s radicals that now reappear in the form of Michael Moore, Bill Ayers, Cindy Sheehan, Moveon.org, the Daily Kos, etc. Not many Democrats excommunicated Moveon.org for its General Betray-Us ad. Most lined up to see the premier of Moore’s mythodrama. Barack Obama could subsidize a Rev. Wright or email a post-9/11 Bill Ayers in a way no conservative would even dare speak to a David Duke or Timothy McVeigh—and what Wright said was not all that different from what Duke spouts. What separated Ayers from McVeigh was chance; had the stars aligned, the Weathermen would have killed hundreds as they planned.

10. The K-12 public education system is essentially wrecked. No longer can any professor expect an incoming college freshman to know what Okinawa, John Quincy Adams, Shiloh, the Parthenon, the Reformation, John Locke, the Second Amendment, or the Pythagorean Theorem is. An entire American culture, the West itself, its ideas and experiences, have simply vanished on the altar of therapy. This upcoming generation knows instead not to judge anyone by absolute standards (but not why so); to remember to say that its own Western culture is no different from, or indeed far worse than, the alternatives; that race, class, and gender are, well, important in some vague sense; that global warming is manmade and very soon will kill us all; that we must have hope and change of some undefined sort; that AIDs is no more a homosexual- than a heterosexual-prone disease; and that the following things and people for some reason must be bad, or at least must in public company be said to be bad (in no particular order): Wal-Mart, cowboys, the Vietnam War, oil companies, coal plants, nuclear power, George Bush, chemicals, leather, guns, states like Utah and Kansas, Sarah Palin, vans and SUVs.

Well, with that done—I feel much better.


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Mind if I add an 11th?

Failure is okay. It's what happens when you don't make the cut. Keep failing in school, and you too can become an expert hamburger-flipper with a 5th grade education. Kids who grow up with the culture that it's important to maintain their self-esteem and keep passing them through school despite the fact they can't read, speak, do basic math or anything besides shoot hoops at recess (which 99.999% aren't going to ever make anything approaching a liveable wage from), are the same kids whose employers find themselves handicapped against the competition because their workforce is dumb. Not stupid. Willfully, intentionally ignorant. Dumb. And it's holding back the nation. Give the kid a few F's when he still can't read after 3rd grade and his parent(s) will tan his butt. Do the same thing in 12th grade and you've already lost him. Don't do it at all, and you've produced an absolutely worthless drain on society. The same applies throughout the rest of life. Unemployment is a crutch, not a wheelchair to let you coast through life.

I do have a bone to pick with #9. I don't recall too many Christian Fundamentalist churches getting firebombed lately. Nor have I ever heard of any rashes of shootings of say, plastic surgeons. And despite the cute story about a college woman who claimed she was beat up and had a 'B' scratched into her face, liberal vs conservative hate crimes are darn near nonexistant. The leftist 'entertainers' rely on rhetoric about unfairness, or the wrongness of someone's actions. They've even been known to say that vital members of the American government should be impeached. More than anything else though, they whine at their listeners. Those on the other side of the isle are more pragmatic. They just say that someone should silence the opposition once and for all. Or that abominations and evil like that can not be tolerated to exist on this earth. Since they're 'entertainers', they don't actually mean anyone should actually go out and KILL anyone. But to much wringing of hands, every now and again someone takes what they're saying literally and decides to go take care of 'those (insert perjorative here) people' with a gun. They'll sadly proclaim such was never intended to happen, but nutjobs do exist... especially those trained by the liberal, communist, godless, anti-American evil bastards trying to take over your country right this very minute.


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Jerry Pournell looks at one of the few examples of a functioning social democratic state (Sweden). This is always touted as the "model" that Canada, the United States, Togoland etc. should emulate, but Dr Pournell notes that Sweden's success could be attributed to Sweden's culture. In many ways this idea follows Samuel Huntington's arguments on the roots of American Civic Nationalism in "Who are We?" and VDH's arguments on the primacy of culture in the rise of the Greek polis, constitutional democracies and the growth of Western Civilization.

If these ideas are correct, then attempting to put America on a more socialist course will fail not ony because socialism is a flawed philosophy to begin with, but also because there is still a large segment of the American population that is culturally hostile to Socialism and "progressiveism" in its many forms, and will take active measures to oppose these ideas. (This does not necessarily mean violent opposition, a "John Galt" strike will rapidly cripple the economic agenda of the Obama Administration and the Democrat Congress without firing a shot).


Can Socialism Work?

Dr. Pournelle,

I am trying to fight my depression regarding the coming anointing of Barrack Obama. Since he carries a lot of our fate for the next 4 (8, 12??) years I have to wish him well, too. But, do you or the readers of your site know of areas where liberalism/socialism have actually worked? I would think that if the liberal agenda really worked well then there should not be a poor person in the Santa Clara Valley, or Boston/Cambridge, or for that matter in the area of Bellaire and Malibu. So, unless other areas are exporting their poor into these areas, I am wondering what track record Mr. Obama is running on? Please enlighten me.


First, despair is a sin; one must never forget that.

As to places where socialism and liberalism work, one needs to define what it means for a regime to "work". Sweden is very liberal to the point of socialism, and it's quite a pleasant place to live. How long that will continue is not known to me, but one of my oldest friends is a retired medical colonel from the Swedish army. When I visited Sweden I had a very pleasant time and every single one of the people I met was polite, nearly all spoke English, and all without regard to their social class seemed happy. There was a water festival going on in Stockholm and everyone seemed to be having a great time. I saw few beggars. There were street musicians hoping for donations, but that's not the same thing. The police were polite.

Whether that can last, and how much of it is due to the nature of the Swedish people and the Swedish culture is a matter for lots of discussion, of course. I am told that as the older generation brought up under the Protestant Ethic and accustomed to working without complaining dies off things change and are changing, but I don't follow the news very closely. Denmark is said to have the happiest population on Earth. The Netherlands is the most densely populated nation in the world (or was back in the 80's when I wrote about such things), certainly has a decidedly liberal government, and seems pleasant enough although there are growing problems.

Whether this kind of liberalism is exportable can be debated, and whether or not this sort of government can thrive in a very large and diverse nation -- or federation of states, or however you want to describe the American polity -- is very much a subject of debate.

As to whether liberal democracy can eliminate all poverty and raise the entire population of the United States to middle class status, and do that by government action and government fiat, probably not. Most socialist states don't work, and end up with people competing for civil service positions as the only assured way to have a career. India used to be that way and seems to be dismantling some of its socialist tendencies.

As an aside: Sweden has universal manhood conscription; I was told that the main penalty for not serving one's time in the army was that you could never get a civil service position, and employers were allowed to discriminate against you in hiring practices. This is an interesting way to deal with bureaucracies.

The main argument against socialism (other than indignation over taking from the productive to subsidize the unproductive) is that it destroys the incentive to work and work hard, or to take entrepreneurial risks. Schumpeter discusses this in his Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, and I urge all those interested in these matters to read his book.

Burke said that for a man to love his country, his country ought to be lovely. I think few disagree: the question is, how to bring that about. And of course what we mean by lovely. No one thinks Detroit is lovely just now.

One note: several commentators said yesterday that this is the 44th peaceful transfer of power in these United States (Obama being the 44th President).  Oddly enough, I didn't think that through, and when I remarked on the subject I said 43rd peaceful transfer; I don't count Lincoln's accession as peaceful, given that it triggered Secession and the the Civil War.

Bob Thompson reminds me that unless one counts the accession of George Washington and the beginning of the Constitution as itself a peaceful transfer of power, this the 43rd transfer, meaning the 42nd peaceful transfer of power under the Constitution. That's still quite a record, particularly since World War II, when the President of the United States became arguably the most powerful person on Earth.


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Alas, it would seem that the new Administration is unable or unwilling to mount a coherent foreign policy (the new Secretary of State has been reduced to pleading with China to continue buying US Treasury bonds only a month into the Administration's tenure), and predatory regimes are taking their cue:


Rapidly Collapsing U.S. Foreign Policy
BY Herschel Smith
17 minutes ago

Iran is quickly advancing towards becoming a nuclear state.  In troubling developments in air power, Iran can now deploy UAVs, and Russia may have supplied Iran with new air defense systems, including their long range S-300 surface to air missiles.  If they haven’t, the system is being used as a bargaining chip by Russia.  There are reports that they have refused to sell the missile system, but responding to the Israeli plan to sell weapons systems to Georgia by saying that Moscow expected Israel “to show the same responsibility.”  In the first case, Iran is armed with an air defense system that would make an attack against its nuclear assets much more difficult.  In the second case, Russia has used this potentiality to weaken Georgia and prime it for another invasion.

Pavel Felgenhauer at the The Jamestown Foundation has recently published a commentary entitled Russia’s Coming War with Georgia.  The commentary very smartly connects the isolated Russian base in Armenia - which in itself is further demonstration of Russian intentions of control over its “near abroad” - with the need to control Georgia.    Says Felgenhauer, “The ceasefire last August has left the strategically important Russian base in Armenia cut off with no overland military transit connections. The number of Russian soldiers in Armenia is limited to some 4000, but during 2006 and 2007 large amounts of heavy weapons and supplies were moved in under an agreement with Tbilisi from bases in Batumi and Akhalkalaki (Georgia). At present there are some 200 Russian tanks, over 300 combat armored vehicles, 250 heavy guns and lots of other military equipment in Armenia - enough to fully arm a battle force of over 20,000 (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozrenie, August 20, 2004). Forces in Armenia can be swiftly expanded by bringing in manpower by air transport from Russia. Spares to maintain the armaments may also be shipped in by air, but if a credible overland military transit link is not established within a year or two, there will be no possibility to either replace or modernize equipment. The forces will consequently degrade, undermining Russia’s commitment to defend its ally Armenia and Moscow’s ambition to reestablish its dominance in the South Caucasus.”

Concerning the timing of the potential invasion, Felgenhauer observes:

    While snow covers the Caucasian mountain passes until May, a renewed war with Georgia is impossible. There is hope in Moscow that the Georgian opposition may still overthrow Mikheil Saakashvili’s regime or that the Obama administration will somehow remove him. However, if by May, Saakashvili remains in power, a military push by Russia to oust him may be seriously contemplated. The constant ceasefire violations could escalate to involve Russian servicemen - constituting a public casus belli. The desire by the West to “reset” relations with Moscow, putting the Georgia issue aside, may be interpreted as a tacit recognition of Russia’s right to use military force.

In addition to the Biden pronouncement that the U.S. would “press the reset button” with Russia, the U.S. is now in the throes of a logistical dilemma.  On the one hand, the missile defense program for NATO states is meant as a deterrent for a potential Iranian nuclear and missile based military capability.  On the other hand, the current administration is seen as likely to jettison the whole project.

The U.S. is now beholden to Russia for logistical supply lines to Afghanistan.  General David Petraeus has visited numerous European and Central Asian countries recently, including Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.  Supplies are soon to leave Latvia bound for Afghanistan.  But the common element in all of the logistical supply lines are that they rely on Russian good will.  This good will exists as long as the missile defense doesn’t, and the missile defense was intended to be used as a deterrent for Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Alternative supply routes have been suggested, including one which wouldn’t empower Russian hegemony in the region, from the Mediterranean through the Bosporus strait, into the Black sea, and through Georgia to neighboring Azerbaijan.  From there the supplies would transit across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan, and from there South to Afghanistan.  An alternative to the air route from the recently closed Manas Air base is sea transport to India, rail or truck to the Indian-controlled Kashmir region, and then air transport to Kabul.  But none of these options has been pursued.  The current administration is locked into negotiations that empower Russia.

Pakistan President Zardari has observed, and correctly so, that Pakistan is in a state of denial concerning the threat posed by the Taliban, yet rather than eliminate the threat, the strategy has been to make peace deals with the Tehrik-i-Taliban and plead for the same financial bailout being offered across America, saying that in order to defeat the Taliban Pakistan needs a “massive program,” a “Marshall Plan” to defeat the Taliban through economic development.

Certainly, some of the foreign policy problems were present with the previous administration, from the failure to plan for logistics for Afghanistan, to support for Musharraf’s duplicitous administration, assisting the Taliban by demure on the one hand while money was received with the other.  But the currents appear to be pointing towards a revised world opinion of what the U.S. is willing to sustain on behalf of “good relations,” and the current administration’s prevarications appear to be going headlong into numerous dilemmas.

We wish to use the missile program in Europe as an bargaining chip to avoid the reality of an Iranian nuclear program, while the Iranian supreme has said that “relations with the U.S. have for the time being no benefit to the Iranian nation.”  Russia, who is assisting Iran in its military buildup, is unimpressed because we have planned for no other option for logistics for Afghanistan except as dictated by Vladimir Putin.  The best that we can come up with, so far, is to forestall the planned troop reduction in the European theater, a troop reduction that is needed to help fund and staff the war against the global insurgency.

Pakistan’s Zardari figures that if the administration is willing to give away on the order of a trillion dollars, they can play the game of “show me the money” like everyone else, from Russia over logistical lines to Afghanistan to over-leveraged homeowners in the U.S.

Israel figures that all of this points to throwing their concerns under the bus, and thus they have launched a covert war against Iran, a program that is unlikely to be successful, pointing to broader regional instability in the near term.  Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, has said that they will acquire or have acquired anti-aircraft weapons.  While they have stood down over the war in Gaza, they are apparently preparing for more of the same against Israel.

The current administration has attempted to befriend Syria, while at the same time the USS San Antonio has interdicted Iranian weapons bound by ship to Syria, intended for Hezbollah or Hamas.  Most of this has occurred within less than two months of inauguration of the current administration in Washington.  It may prove to be a difficult four years, with unintended consequences ruling the day.


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Obama is more focused on his domestic agenda. Think Carter and thats where this administration is heading.


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tomahawk6 said:
where this administration is heading.


Obama's Intelligence Blunder

By Jon Chait
Saturday, February 28, 2009; Page A13

Most of President Obama's "missteps" to date have been Washington peccadilloes of the "let's find something to complain about" sort. But Obama has made one major mistake that has attracted little public attention: his appointment of Charles Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Freeman was attacked by pro-Israel activists, but the contretemps over Freeman's view of Israel misses the broader problem, which is that he's an ideological fanatic.

That may sound like an odd description for a respectable bureaucrat and impeccable establishmentarian such as Freeman. What's more, he's not an ideologue of the sort who draws most of the attention. When most people think of foreign policy ideology, they mean neoconservatism, which dominated the Bush administration. Broadly speaking, neoconservatism is obsessed with the moral differences between democracies and non-democracies. At its most simplistic (which, alas, it nearly always is) neoconservatism means supporting the "good guys" and fighting the "bad guys." As most of us have seen, neoconservatism has trouble recognizing that the good guys aren't perfectly good and that the bad guys aren't comic book villains.

Freeman belongs to the camp that's the mortal enemy of the neoconservatives: the realists. Realist ideology pays no attention to moral differences between states. As far as realists are concerned, there's no way to think about the way governments act except as the pursuit of self-interest. Realism has some useful insights. For instance, realists accurately predicted that Iraqis would respond to a U.S. invasion with less than unadulterated joy.

But realists are the mirror image of neoconservatives in that they are completely blind to the moral dimensions of international politics. Realists scoffed at Bill Clinton's interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, which halted mass slaughter. Realists tend not to abide the American alliance with Israel, which rests on shared values with a fellow imperfect democracy rather than on a cold analysis of America's interests.

Taken to extremes, realism's blindness to morality can lead it wildly astray. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, both staunch realists, wrote "The Israel Lobby," a hyperbolic attack on Zionist political influence. The central error of their thesis was that, since America's alliance with Israel does not advance American interests, it could be explained only by sinister lobbying influence. They seemed unable to grasp even the possibility that Americans, rightly or wrongly, have an affinity for a fellow democracy surrounded by hostile dictatorships. Consider, perhaps, if eunuchs tried to explain the way teenage boys act around girls.

Freeman praised "The Israel Lobby" while indulging in its characteristic paranoia. "No one else in the United States has dared to publish this article," he told a Saudi news service in 2006, "given the political penalties that the lobby imposes on those who criticize it." In fact, the article was printed as a book the next year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York.

The most extreme manifestation of Freeman's realist ideology came out in a leaked e-mail he sent to a foreign policy Internet mailing list. Freeman wrote that his only problem with what most of us call "the Tiananmen Square Massacre" was an excess of restraint:

"[T]he truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than -- as would have been both wise and efficacious -- to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China. In this optic, the Politburo's response to the mob scene at 'Tian'anmen' stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action. . . .

"I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans' 'Bonus Army' or a 'student uprising' on behalf of 'the goddess of democracy' should expect to be displaced with despatch [sic] from the ground they occupy."

This is the portrait of a mind so deep in the grip of realist ideology that it follows the premises straight through to their reductio ad absurdum. Maybe you suppose the National Intelligence Council job is so technocratic that Freeman's rigid ideology won't have any serious consequences. But think back to the neocon ideologues whom Bush appointed to such positions. That didn't work out very well, did it?

The writer is a senior editor at the New Republic.


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The new administration isn't getting off to a good start:


Krauthammer's Take  [NRO Staff]

From last night's All Stars.

On President Obama’s secret letter to Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev proposing a deal on missile defense:

This is smart diplomacy? This is a debacle. The Russians dismissed it contemptuously.

Look, if we could get the Iranian nuclear program stopped with Russian's helping us in return for selling out the Poles and the Czechs on missile defense, I'm enough of a cynic and a realist to say we would do it the same way that Kissinger agreed to delegitimize and de-recognize Taiwan in return for a large strategic opening with China.

But Kissinger had it done. He had it wired. What happened here is it was leaked. The Russians have dismissed it. We end up being humiliated. We look weak in front of the Iranians, and we have left the Poles and Czechs out to dry in return for nothing.

The Czechs and the Poles went out on a limb, exposed themselves to Russian pressure, and we have shown that Eastern Europe is not as sovereign as it appears if the Russian influence is there, and we will acquiesce in what they consider their own sphere of influence.

This administration has prided itself, flattered itself on deploying smart diplomacy. "Smart diplomacy" is a meaningless idea, but if it has any meaning at all, it is not ever doing something as humiliating, amateurish, and stupid as this.

On the president’s proposed cap-and-trade plan:

It is an ill disguised tax on the production of carbon. It will be a blow to American industry, particularly in the heartland, to the American economy. Particularly in our economic distress, it makes no sense at all.

The only purpose is the reduction of global warming, which in and of itself is speculative. And even if it were not, the fact that India and China are not in on this means that any of our savings on that, which are going to add a huge expense to our economy, will be swallowed up entirely by increased pollution by India and China.

India this week has said it will not cooperate on a regime of enforced carbon reduction. We will get nowhere on this except really injuring our economy.


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America will be even more divided as time goes on. Gun sales are through the roof. People want to be able to protect their family if law and order breaks down,but that could easily become a second revolution should we see a collapse of the economy. You might call it have's vs the have nots.


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Top ten political risks(?):


Top Ten Political Risks of 2009 by Eurasia Group

Here is a list of the top ten political risks of 2009 by the Eurasia Group Risk consultancy.

The risks
1 Congress - The current financial crisis has created an unprecedented
space for government interference in economic affairs within developed states. Risk of wasteful and not useful over-regulation like Sarbanes Oxley. Sarbanes Oxley was implemented to prevent further Enrons. How useful was it for preventing or minimizing the current situation ?

2 South Asia security - The security environment in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan will deteriorate significantly over the coming year. Afghanistan's Taliban is mostly funded by the illegal drug's they produce. This is discussed below in the section on Mexico.

3 Iran/Israel - 2009 is the critical year for conflict (both direct and through proxies) between Iran and Israel.

4 Russia - With oil prices well below what the Russians can afford, but Putin’s (and Medvedev’s) popularity still high, the initial moves have been to consolidate power. Yet despite no organized political opposition to speak of, we’re still starting to see social unrest. For the first time in years, there have been widespread demonstrations in Russia—in 30 cities, following the imposition of import duties on used cars

5 Iraq - The real concern at this point is the politics, not the security situation. How long the United States can maintain a commitment to significant force levels. [NOTE: The recent timetable seems sufficiently long and flexible into 2010]

6 Venezuela- Chavez plans for a referendum in the coming month to reform the Venezuelan constitution and abolish term limits (which would allow Chavez to run again for the presidency in 2012) show little likelihood of success. Then the Venezuelan president will have a real political fight on his hands.

7 Mexico - The Drug Cartel security situation there has worsened and is almost certain to deteriorate further over the course of 2009. Well armed and well financed narco-criminals have effectively declared war on the state of Mexico—increasingly singling out elected government officials, bureaucrats, and the armed forces and police for their attacks.

8—Ukraine-As I mentioned, Ukraine isn’t likely to spur the kind of direct military conflict we saw last August in Georgia. But it merits a slot in our top risks because of the government’s inability to deal effectively with the severe challenges posed by the current financial crisis and economic downturn—and one certainly not helped by its volatile relationship with Moscow.

9—Turkey-Speaking of internal distractions, Turkey is essentially defining the problem. The country has all sorts of factors in its favor—a diversified economy, strong demographics, an extremely favorable trade route geography, and solid ties with both western countries and its Middle Eastern neighbors. Yet the fight pitting secularists in the judiciary, military, and industry against Islamists in government is becoming a serious obstacle to economic advancement. And the AK party leadership, feeling that it increasingly carries the weight of popular support on its side, is unwilling to compromise—instead, casting out potential dissent from within the party (and losing critical bureaucratic competence as a result). To make matters worse, the AK party has long lost its reformist spirit and has embraced a more nationalist attitude, making it more difficult to find a solution to the thorny Kurdish question.

10—South Africa-Rounding out the top risks for 2009 is South Africa. Upcoming elections will dominate the news, but it’s more political context than electoral results that will cause concern. It’s pretty clear that the African National Congress (ANC) will keep its majority in parliament, though the emergence of a new splinter party will reduce its numbers. In principal, that’s not a bad development; popular concerns over the ANC’s abuse of power should be reduced accordingly.

These are precis of the full article, read the rest on the link


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The full piece is on "Chaos Manor" as well as the FPRI site:




A Conference Report

by Michael P. Noonan

On February 12, 2009, FPRI's Program on National Security held a conference on potential "defense showstoppers" for the Obama administration--critical issues that, if not fixed, could lead to a serious deterioration of American military capabilities. The event was hosted and co-sponsored by the Reserve Officers Association in Washington, D.C. Program-affiliated scholars Michael Horowitz, Michael P. Noonan, Mackubin T. Owens, and Frank G. Hoffman served as panel moderators. More than 100 individuals from academia, government, NGOs, the media, the military, and the public participated in person, and another 300-plus individuals from around the world participated by webcast. Audio and video files of the proceedings are posted at FPRI's website: http://www.fpri.org/research/nationalsecurity/showstoppers/index.html The papers presented at the conference will be published in Orbis and other outlets.

FPRI thanks W.W. Keen Butcher, Robert L. Freedman, Hon. John Hillen, Bruce H. Hooper, and Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr. for their support of the Program on National Security. The views expressed herein are those of the speakers and should not be construed to represent any agency of the U.S. government or other institution.


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Thinking longer term, George Friedman lays out a case for The United States to remain the premier power for the next century. Some of the sub predictions are not immediatly obvious...


The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century (Hardcover)
by George Friedman (Author)

Amazon.com Review
Amazon Best of the Month, January 2009: "Be Practical, Expect the Impossible." So declares George Friedman, chief intelligence officer and founder of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor), a private intelligence agency whose clients include foreign government agencies and Fortune 500 companies. Gathering information from its global network of operatives and analysts (drawing the nickname "the Shadow CIA"), Stratfor produces thoughtful and genuinely engrossing analysis of international events daily, from possible outcomes of the latest Pakistan/India tensions to the hierarchy of Mexican drug cartels to challenges to Obama's nascent administration. In The Next 100 Years, Friedman undertakes the impossible (or improbable) challenge of forecasting world events through the 21st century. Starting with the premises that "conventional political analysis suffers from a profound failure of imagination" and "common sense will be wrong," Friedman maps what he sees as the likeliest developments of the future, some intuitive, some surprising: more (but less catastrophic) wars; Russia's re-emergence as an aggressive hegemonic power; China's diminished influence in international affairs due to traditional social and economic imbalances; and the dawn of an American "Golden Age" in the second half of the century. Friedman is well aware that much of what he predicts will be wrong--unforeseeable events are, of course, unforeseen--but through his interpretation of geopolitics, one gets the sense that Friedman's guess is better than most. --Jon Foro

From Publishers Weekly
With a unique combination of cold-eyed realism and boldly confident fortune-telling, Friedman (Americas Secret War) offers a global tour of war and peace in the upcoming century. The author asserts that the United States power is so extraordinarily overwhelming that it will dominate the coming century, brushing aside Islamic terrorist threats now, overcoming a resurgent Russia in the 2010s and 20s and eventually gaining influence over space-based missile systems that Friedman names battle stars. Friedman is the founder of Stratfor, an independent geopolitical forecasting company, and his authoritative-sounding predictions are based on such factors as natural resources and population cycles. While these concrete measures lend his short-term forecasts credence, the later years of Friedmans 100-year cycle will provoke some serious eyebrow raising. The armed border clashes between Mexico and the United States in the 2080s seem relatively plausible, but the space war pitting Japan and Turkey against the United States and allies, prognosticated to begin precisely on Thanksgiving Day 2050, reads as fantastic (and terrifying) science fiction. Whether all of the visions in Friedmans crystal ball actually materialize, they certainly make for engrossing entertainment. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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Or this is how it could all end:


Left to ourselves

Posted By Richard Fernandez On April 26, 2009 @ 8:12 pm In Uncategorized | 70 Comments

Eli Saslow chronicles the slow decline of Greenwood, SC during the first 100 days of the Obama administration in the [1] Washington Post. It’s a town with unemployment over 11%, with people unable to pay their bills, pay for heating. It’s a place where old ladies have only a box of grits in the cupboard.  It’s an story centered on the efforts of a city councilwoman that is without villains; but it is also one without transcendent heroes.

It was nobody’s fault, really, that councilwoman Edith Childs had such high expectations. She followed the election of Barack Obama with mounting expectation and rode the slow trajectory of disappointment to its still-plunging depths. Slowly it dawned on her that Obama had no box of magic tricks in his repertoire; that nothing that would stave off the relentless deluge of bills in the mailboxes of her constituents and slowly shrinking job base of her community.

    Across the dark living room, one of Childs’s favorite pictures is displayed on a worn coffee table. It shows Childs with her arms wrapped around Barack Obama, his hand on her back, her eyes glowing. They met at a rally attended by 37 supporters on a rainy day in 2007, when Childs responded to Obama’s sluggishness on stage with an impromptu chant: “Fired up! Ready to go!” She repeated it, shouting louder each time, until Obama laughed and dipped his shoulders to the rhythm. The chant caught on. “Fired up!” people began saying at rallies. “Ready to go,” Obama chanted back. He told audiences about Childs, “a spirited little lady,” and invited her onstage at campaign appearances. By the day of his inauguration, when Childs led a busload of strangers bound for the Mall in her now-iconic chant, her transformation was complete. She was Edith Childs, fired up and ready to go.

    But now, as Obama nears the 100-day milestone of his presidency, Childs suffers from constant exhaustion. In a conservative Southern state that bolstered Obama’s candidacy by supporting him early in the Democratic primaries, she awakens at 2:30 a.m. with stress headaches and remains awake mulling all that’s befallen Greenwood since Obama’s swearing-in.

The unasked question in Saslow’s article is whether or not Greenwood, SC isn’t a glimpse into the future of other places across America. What happens if 11% unemployment or worse becomes the norm rather than the exception? Will they become places where people have given up on magic politics and turn to working the phones, paring the cheese more thinly and racking their brains in search of ways to make ends meet? Atheists have long imagined a world without belief God; but are we prepared for something philosophically rarer: a world without a belief in politicians? Or will the opposite occur? Will a downturn, taken far enough, result in a desperate search for extreme political solutions by a people tired of making applications without result, of making job calls without return? Men on white horses are far more common in history than nations with a belief only in themselves. Except in America, the first country in modern times to try the tides without a king are men on white horses rare. But the ocean is wide, perhaps endless; and the distant shore behind still beckons to those who imagine safety there.

Albert Camus in the Plague described a world suspended on the edge of a decision; a curiously quiet place of private struggle above which an invisible cloud hovered. It is always a world that can go one way or the other.

    “Only a few ships, detained in quarantine, were anchored in the bay. But the gaunt, idle cranes on the wharves, tip-carts lying on their sides, neglected heaps of sacks and barrels — all testified that commerce, too, had died of plague.”

    “It was the time when, acting under orders, the café-proprietors deferred as long as possible turning on their lights. Gray dusk was seeping into the room, the pink of sunset glowed in the wall mirrors, and the marble-topped tables glimmered white in the gathering darkness.”

    “They found nobody on the terrace — only three empty chairs. On one side, as far as eye could reach, was a row of terraces, the most remote of which abutted on a dark, rugged mass that they recognized as the hill nearest the town. On the other side, spanning some streets and the unseen harbor, their gaze came to rest on the horizon, where sea and sky merged in a dim, vibrant grayness. Beyond a black patch that they knew to be the cliffs a sudden glow, whose source they could not see, sprang up at regular intervals; the lighthouse at the entrance of the harbor was still functioning for the benefit of ships that, passing Oran’s unused harbor, went on to other ports along the coast. In a sky swept crystal-clear by the night wind, the stars showed like silver flakes, tarnished now and then by the yellow gleam of the revolving light. Perfumes of spice and warm stone were wafted on the breeze. Everything was very still.”

It was waiting, and still waits, for us.

Article printed from Belmont Club: http://pajamasmedia.com/richardfernandez

URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/richardfernandez/2009/04/26/left-to-ourselves/

URLs in this post:
[1] Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/25/AR2009042501870.html


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Another huge misstep for this administration.


Mark Steyn: Obama's message of weakness
A superpower that feeds on mediocrity cannot survive for long on leftovers from the past.
Syndicated columnist
Comments | Recommend

As recently as last summer, General Motors filing for bankruptcy would have been the biggest news story of the week. But it's not such a very great step from the unthinkable to the inevitable, and by the time it actually happened the market barely noticed, and the media were focused on the president's "address to the Muslim world." As it happens, these two stories are the same story: snapshots, at home and abroad, of the hyperpower in eclipse. It's a long time since anyone touted GM as the emblematic brand of America – What's good for GM is good for America, etc. In fact, it's more emblematic than ever: Like General Motors, the U.S. government spends more than it makes, and has airily committed itself to ever more unsustainable levels of benefits. GM has about 95,000 workers but provides health benefits to a million people: It's not a business enterprise, but a vast welfare plan with a tiny loss-making commercial sector. As GM goes, so goes America?

But who cares? Overseas, the coolest president in history was giving a speech. Or, as the official press release headlined it on the State Department Web site, "President Obama Speaks To The Muslim World From Cairo."

Let's pause right there: It's interesting how easily the words "the Muslim world" roll off the tongues of liberal secular progressives who'd choke on any equivalent reference to "the Christian world." When such hyperalert policemen of the perimeter between church and state endorse the former but not the latter, they're implicitly acknowledging that Islam is not merely a faith but a political project, too. There is an "Organization of the Islamic Conference," which is already the largest single voting bloc at the United Nations and is still adding new members. Imagine if someone proposed an "Organization of the Christian Conference" that would hold summits attended by prime ministers and Presidents, and vote as a bloc in transnational bodies. But, of course, there is no "Christian world": Europe is largely post-Christian and, as President Barack Obama bizarrely asserted to a European interviewer last week, America is "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world." Perhaps we're eligible for membership in the OIC.

I suppose the benign interpretation is that, as head of state of the last superpower, Obama is indulging in a little harmless condescension. In his Cairo speech, he congratulated Muslims on inventing algebra and quoted approvingly one of the less-bloodcurdling sections of the Quran. As sociohistorical scholarship goes, I found myself recalling that moment in the long twilight of the Habsburg Empire when Crown Prince Rudolph and his mistress were found dead at the royal hunting lodge at Mayerling – either a double suicide, or something even more sinister. Happily, in the Broadway musical version, instead of being found dead, the star-crossed lovers emigrate to America and settle down on a farm in Pennsylvania. Recently, my old comrade Stephen Fry gave an amusing lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in London on the popular Americanism, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade" – or, if something's bitter and hard to swallow, add sugar and sell it. That's what the president did with Islam: He added sugar and sold it.

The speech nevertheless impressed many conservatives, including Rich Lowry, my esteemed editor at National Review, "esteemed editor" being the sort of thing one says before booting the boss in the crotch. Rich thought that the president succeeded in his principal task: "Fundamentally, Obama's goal was to tell the Muslim world, 'We respect and value you, your religion and your civilization, and only ask that you don't hate us and murder us in return.'" But those terms are too narrow. You don't have to murder a guy if he preemptively surrenders. And you don't even have to hate him if you're too busy despising him. The savvier Muslim potentates have no desire to be sitting in a smelly cave in the Hindu Kush, sharing a latrine with a dozen half-witted goatherds while plotting how to blow up the Empire State Building. Nevertheless, they share key goals with the cave dwellers – including the wish to expand the boundaries of "the Muslim world" and (as in the anti-blasphemy push at the U.N.) to place Islam, globally, beyond criticism. The nonterrorist advance of Islam is a significant challenge to Western notions of liberty and pluralism.

Once Obama moved on from the more generalized Islamoschmoozing to the details, the subtext – the absence of American will – became explicit. He used the cover of multilateralism and moral equivalence to communicate, consistently, American weakness: "No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons." Perhaps by "no single nation" he means the "global community" should pick and choose, which means the U.N. Security Council, which means the Big Five, which means that Russia and China will pursue their own murky interests and that, in the absence of American leadership, Britain and France will reach their accommodations with a nuclear Iran, a nuclear North Korea and any other psychostate minded to join them.

On the other hand, a "single nation" certainly has the right to tell another nation anything it wants if that nation happens to be the Zionist Entity: As Hillary Clinton just instructed Israel regarding its West Bank communities, there has to be "a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions." No "natural growth"? You mean, if you and the missus have a kid, you've got to talk gran'ma into moving out? To Tel Aviv, or Brooklyn or wherever? At a stroke, the administration has endorsed "the Muslim world's" view of those non-Muslims who happen to find themselves within what it regards as lands belonging to Islam: the Jewish and Christian communities are free to stand still or shrink, but not to grow. Would Obama be comfortable mandating "no natural growth" to Israel's million-and-a-half Muslims? No. But the administration has embraced "the Muslim world's" commitment to one-way multiculturalism, whereby Islam expands in the West but Christianity and Judaism shrivel remorselessly in the Middle East.

And so it goes. Like General Motors, America is "too big to fail." So it won't, not immediately. It will linger on in a twilight existence, sclerotic and ineffectual, declining unto a kind of societal dementia, unable to keep pace with what's happening and with an ever more tenuous grip on its own past, but able on occasion to throw out impressive words albeit strung together without much meaning: empower, peace, justice, prosperity – just to take one windy gust from the president's Cairo speech.

There's better phrase-making in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, in a coinage of Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Committee on Foreign Relations. The president emeritus is a sober, judicious paragon of torpidly conventional wisdom. Nevertheless, musing on American decline, he writes, "The country's economy, infrastructure, public schools and political system have been allowed to deteriorate. The result has been diminished economic strength, a less-vital democracy, and a mediocrity of spirit." That last is the one to watch: A great power can survive a lot of things, but not "a mediocrity of spirit." A wealthy nation living on the accumulated cultural capital of a glorious past can dodge its rendezvous with fate, but only for a while. That sound you heard in Cairo is the tingy ping of a hollow superpower.


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Probably the defining moment of the American Century was the Space Race. The spirit that drove the race seems to have become dorment, and this really bodes ill for the future of the West.

Pericles noted in the Funeral Oration that what made Athens great was Men with a spirit of adventure, men who were ashamed to fall below a certain standard.... Where are these men and women now.


The End of the Space Race

[Hans A. von Spakovsky]

Hopefully, the readers of The Corner can stand one more posting about the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. I grew up in Huntsville, Ala., the home of the Marshall Space Flight Center. My parents knew and socialized with many of the German scientists who came to Huntsville with Werner von Braun to start building our space program. Unlike most kids, who live in neighborhoods where their parents are in every kind of different profession, the parents of everyone I knew worked as a scientist or an engineer either for NASA or for the Army Missile Command out at Redstone Arsenal. One of our neighbors was the head of astronaut training at Marshall and a lot of very famous astronauts used to come over to his house for dinner. We lived 15 miles from the engine test stands out on the space flight center, but I can still remember the windows in our house rattling when they were testing the huge rocket engines they were building at Marshall. I saw many of the exhibits that you can now see if you visit the Space Museum in Huntsville, except I saw them out at the space flight center before they became exhibits when, in those pre-9/11, pre-paranoia security days, parents would take their kids (and their friends) out to show them what they were working on.

The development of our rocket program and the drive to get to the moon was one of the brightest and greatest achievements of the American spirit and of American know-how, a true showing of what we can achieve through science, engineering, a can-do attitude that comes from our unique culture, and the bravery and determination that was the common, shared trait of all of our test pilots and astronauts. The fact that we have not only not been back to the moon since the end of the Apollo program, but have not expanded our horizons in trying to reach the other planets in our solar system, is a sad indication of what may be the beginning of our decline as a great nation.

There is almost no doubt that the Chinese will be on the moon within a decade, while we will still be earthbound and potentially bankrupt as a nation with our economy, our technology, and our industrial might in ruins because of uncontrolled government spending, borrowing, and taxing. I had an exciting childhood living in the midst of the space race, but it saddens me to think that time, 40 years ago, may end up being the historical high point of our going out into space, the final frontier.


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Choices are being made without the consent of many Americans. The Charles Krauthammer article is very long (too long to post, actually), but a very good read :


A little weekend reading: They still spell it 'Amerika'
By: Mark Tapscott
Editorial Page Editor
10/09/09 6:20 PM EDT

For those of us who grew up in the era when Weather Undergrounders Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn were familiar names in the news, it is always discomforting to be reminded of Barack Obama's many associations with people of the radical left - Ayers, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Van Jones, etc.

Such folks' political thought never progressed beyond the 1960s because the revolutionary New Left didn't disapear, it simply went on to graduate school and then careers, mostly in the mainstream media, academia, the non-profits, the bureaucracy of state and local social work, and Blue State politics. Many bought BMWs and flat screens who nevertheless never stopped dreaming of revolution. In their hearts, they still spell it "Amerika."

More recently, as the first year of the Obama administration has unfolded and the basic outlines of his domestic and foreign policies have emerged, that discomfort has steadily become more tangible as the radical roots of the Sixties have broken ground in the White House and now are spreading rapidly into every corner of the federal government.

Obama grew up suffused in this culture of obsessive alienation and its distempered worldview, it is his fundamental frame of reference concerning America's past and its principles. Early on in places like Harvard and Chicago, he learned to speak always in language that appears to reassure when in fact it obscures and conceals his roots and what those roots tell us about who he appoints and why he follows the policies he does. 

Whatever Barack and the people he has surrounded himself with may profess with their mouths at any particular time, their actions show they still loathe America and our standing as most powerful nation on earth, as well as our free enterprise, individual liberty, reverence for family and local communities, Main Street, the U.S. military, Christianity, and every other hallmark of the traditional culture and values of Western civilization.

And now they think they have the power and position to do what they've always wanted to do - tear it all down and remake it in their millenarian image of Leviathan. As philosopher Erik Voegelin would say, they don't merely intend the immanentization of the eschaton, they are securing the appropriations and regulations to make it happen.

Viewed from that assumption, things become so much clearer. On foreign and military policy, Obama's dominant principle is to apologize, to reverse a previous course - thus disavowing the intrinsically moral role of America in protecting freedom - and to seek rapproachment with our enemies on their terms.

Everywhere it is withdrawal, falling back, humbling of the nation that defeated Hitler and Japan, then rebuilt both as well as the rest of Europe, and engaged and won the Cold War with the Soviet Union. There can be no legitimate U.S. national interests overseas to be protected because Obama and his mentors never accepted America's legitimacy on the world stage. For them, we have always been the imperialist power and we must therefore be brought down.

On domestic policy, deficit spending as never before seen enslaves present and future generations with debt, destroys the currency and renders a crippling inflation all but inevitable. They have effectively nationalized key sectors of the formerly free economy - banking, the auto industry,  communications - and they are moving to put freedom of speech and the press under the supervision of federal bureaucrats.

They are suffocating the remainder of the productive economy with more and deeper regulation that will eventually kill the animating spirit of entreprenurial innovation and risk-taking that powers economic growth and job creation. And they are rendering the country permanently dependent on foreign oil and hamstringing its future development by forcing conversion to unproven alternative energy sources.

And no matter their promises or rationale now,  when they are finished, they will have turned the shining city on a hill into something more resembling a Third Word ant heap. No wonder Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro and Muhammar al-Ghadafi heap praise on Obama.

Obviously my ability to put these things into words falls far short of the gravity of the times, but fortunately there is Charles Krauthammer's extraordinary piece in The Weekly Standard. He brings all of these strands and more together in far more and telling detail than I can summon in this space. If you read nothing else this weekend, you must read  his "Decline is a choice."

And then reflect on the fact that the choice is being made for us, not by us.