Month: April 2014

John T. Flynn on American imperialism

From Part 3: “The Good Fascism: America,” in As We Go Marching, published in 1944Forgive the length, but this is important. Key bits bolded for your convenience:

Embarked, as we seem to be, upon a career of militarism, we shall, like every other country, have to find the means when the war ends of obtaining the consent of the people to the burdens that go along with the blessings it confers upon its favored groups and regions. Powerful resistance to it will always be active, and the effective means of combating this resistance will have to be found. Inevitably, having surrendered to militarism as an economic device, we will do what other countries have done: we will keep alive the fears of our people of the aggressive ambitions of other countries and we will ourselves embark upon imperialistic enterprises of our own.

Two words have come into extensive use since the present war began. One is “isolationism”; the other is “internationalism.” Curiously internationalism has come to be a synonym for interventionism. Intervention was a word used to describe the policy of those who insisted that America should intervene in the European war. There were many lifelong and sincere internationalists—men who were warm supporters of the League of Nations or similar plans for world co-operation—who were opposed to American entry into the war. The two words represent wholly different ideas.

Imperialism, too, has come to describe a kind of internationalism, so that one who opposes it is scornfully called an isolationist. Imperialism is an institution under which one nation asserts the right to seize the land or at least to control the government or resources of another people. It is an assertion of stark, bold aggression. It is, of course, international in the sense that the aggressor nation crosses its own borders and enters the boundaries of another nation and what results is an international clash—a clash between two nations. It is international in the sense that war is international. An imperialist nation, therefore, is one which acquires interests as a result of its aggression in territories outside of its own boundaries. These interests by their very nature bring the aggressor nation into clash with other nations across whose aggressive ambitions it cuts. We have clashes between Germany and England and France and Japan over their respective aggressive ambitions in Asia. We have clashes between Germany and Russia over their respective ambitions in the Balkans; between Italy and France over their hostile objectives in northern Africa, and so on. This is internationalism in a sense, in that all the activities of an aggressor are on the international stage. But it is a malignant internationalism. 

There is another internationalism which finds its extremist view in the dreams of those who look for the Parliament of Man and the Federation of the World. Pacifists, for instance, who see in the possibility of a world government the hope of world peace are internationalists of this type, and they look upon imperialism as its greatest foe. A curious confusion has arisen out of all this, which should be simple enough to understand. There are several nations which have engaged in extensive imperialist aggression. As a result these nations have colonies all over the world. Having gotten possession of their prizes and acquired a kind of semi-legal claim upon them and having perfected a kind of international tolerance for them through a sort of squatter’s sovereignty, they are now interested in preserving the status quo. This status quo is the result of aggression, is a continuing assertion of aggression, an assertion of malignant internationalism. Now they appeal to this other benevolent type of internationalism to establish a world order in which they, all leagued together, will preserve a world which they have divided among themselves and in which the combined forces and might of the allied aggressors will hold for each what they have. This benevolent internationalism is taken over by the aggressors as the mask behind which the malignant internationalism will be perpetuated and protected. And it is now offered to the world in all the phrases of benevolence and as a dream of world peace.

I have outlined these views chiefly for the purpose of clearing up the ideas and the meaning of words which I am using here. I wish to speak of imperialism and internationalism, but I want to be sure that the two ideas are kept separate and are understood.

I do not see how any thoughtful person watching the movement of affairs in America can doubt that we are moving in the direction of both imperialism and internationalism and that this internationalism is curiously, indeed incredibly, mixed up with the wholly contradictory idea of autarchy. Who can doubt that with the planned economy which is being fabricated for the United States, similar to the planned economies already existing in other countries, we will have an autarchy like our international neighbors and allies? As we have seen, autarchy is very nearly the last word in isolationism—a nation enclosed in a completely planned and managed economic system, whose planning must be protected as of necessity from the impact of external economies. These planned economies will all be brought together into a great international planned economy the members of which will be autarchial states. The problem will be to maintain the isolated autarchial system in each constituent state and to unite all these autarchies in an international economy. This is not the place to discuss the feasibility of this hybrid system. But I throw the idea out here for the benefit of those who think they see a world order based, at least roughly, on the league of American states in the United States of America. The union of the American states was a union of free economies from which all possibility of autarchy was banished by the terms of the Constitution. If tomorrow these states of ours, despite their long union, could be transformed into self- planned autarchies, this union would not last half-a-dozen years. Yet it is an administration in Washington which from the beginning has been struggling toward autarchy here, and which broke up the London Economic Conference in 1933 because it threatened our own autarchial arrangements, which now calls itself a great international regime and actually smears its critics as “isolationists.”

And now of imperialism. This is, of course, nothing more, as I have said, than a form of bald and naked assertion of might. Its origin in the human mind is by no means clear. It does not find its roots wholly in the greed of the merchant adventurers or in the ambitions of military leaders or the dreams of dynasts for extension of their glory. It has had an abundance of support at the hands of gentlemen who hold themselves out as philosophers. Certainly it is unnecessary here to repeat the innumerable declarations made by British historians, philosophers, poets, and publicists in support of Britain’s divine right to seize land anywhere. There is not a statement that has ever been made by a German imperialist that cannot be matched from the pen of a highly respected and highly honored British imperialist. You will find an acquisitive industrialist like Rhodes saying “We are the first race in the world, and the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.” But you can also find a liberal statesman like Earl Grey saying “In so far as an Englishman differs from a Swede or a Belgian he believes he represents a more perfectly developed standard of general excellence — and even those nations like ourselves in mind and sentiment — German and Scandinavian—we regard as not so excellent as ourselves.” And a scholar like Ruskin, who spent so much time weeping over the poor, could say that England “must found colonies as fast and as far as she is able; seizing every rod of waste ground she can set her foot upon and then teaching these her colonies that their chief virtue is fidelity to their country and that their first aim is to advance the power of England by land and sea.”

But we need not go to England. Professor Washburn Hopkins of Yale said in 1900, when America was considering her first feeble steps in imperialism, “What seems criminal aggression in a large nation against a weak one is justifiable if it conduces to the advantage of the race,” and with characteristic American piety he called this the “higher morality.” We need not suppose that the seeds of this dangerous and malignant philosophy do not lurk deeply in our own national nature. America broke very definitely with her great democratic tradition in 1900 when she decided to hold the Philippine Islands. This was an assertion of power, the power of conquest, the right based wholly on might. At the time some of America’s most distinguished men, statesmen like Senator George Hoar, for instance, warned America that she was introducing a poisonous organism into her system, that she was throwing away principles of human justice which she had asserted with complete confidence and belief in the past, and that, furthermore, she was pushing her western frontier like a long, thin salient into the Orient where every cat-and-dog fight in the future between aggressor nations of Europe and Asia might involve her in a war.

The Philippines turned out to be a very bad bargain from the point of view of imperialist profit, which is the basis on which we remained there, though the bargain was wrapped up in moral gold paper. It was more than thirty years later that we decided to leave the Islands, fixing five years as a period of our departure. But we were too late. We are at war, and we are at war in Asia because we possessed the Philippine Islands. That was the break with our great tradition, and that break had the approval of the American people in 1900 when the presidential campaign was fought almost exclusively on that issue. 

Americans of today can hardly realize the nature of the chauvinistic elation which came to us as a result of our new colonial world. I listened to almost all the debates in Congress on that subject. For the first time in our history men began to roll under their tongues the phrase “American empire.” It would be an interesting example of verbal statistics if someone were to go through those debates and number the times the imperialists of that day referred with growing pride to the great American “empire.” The advocates of that policy scoffed at the attempts to apply the principles of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution to our new situation. There was no end of statements by the leaders of the day calling attention to the fact that the new American empire had outgrown these simple-minded illusions of the fathers who uttered them. The world had changed and grown and America had expanded and was now an empire. There was a great deal of solid pride in that fact.

As an example of this let me quote what one of the leaders in this movement had to say. Senator Albert Beveridge, on January 9, 1900,made his first speech in the Senate. He began it with this extraordinary sentence:

The times call for candor. The Philippines are ours forever — country belonging to the United States — as the Constitution calls them, and just beyond the Philippines are China’s illimitable markets. We will not retreat from either. We will not repudiate our duty in the archipelago. We will not abandon one opportunity in the Orient. We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee under God, of the civilization of the world. And we will move forward to our work, not howling out our regrets, like slaves whipped to their burdens, but with gratitude for a task worthy of our strength and thanksgiving to Almighty God that He has marked us as His chosen people to lead in the regeneration of the world.

Here is the whole complex gospel. Our duty under God to lead in the regeneration of the world on one side, and to stay in the archipelago “beyond which are China’s illimitable markets.” He told the Senate that the Pacific is “our ocean” although half a dozen other large nations had extensive territories along that ocean. And then the senator proceeded with a dramatic and eloquent catalogue of the magnificent resources, extent, and wealth of the Philippine Islands “beyond which lies China’s trade” which he valued at $285,- 738,000 of which we were getting only 9 per cent and of which “under God,” as we “regenerate the world,” we should get 50 per cent. Lifting his arm aloft, holding a lump of gold in his hand, he exclaimed dramatically: “I have a nugget of pure gold picked up in its present form on the banks of a Philippine creek. I have gold dust washed out by the crude process of careless natives from the sands of a Philippine stream.” And then he said that it must be our great objective “to establish the supremacy of the American race throughout the Pacific and throughout the East to the end of time.” Self-government for Asiatics, people with savage blood, Oriental blood, Malay blood, and Spanish example — this was not to be thought of. He prophesied that “self-government and the internal development of the country have been the dominant notes of our first century; administration and development of other lands will be the dominant notes of our second century.” And he ended with this rhetorical flourish:

This question is elemental. It is racial. God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic people for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle contemplation and self-administration. No! He has made us the master organizers of this world to establish system where chaos reigns. He has given us the spirit of progress, to overwhelm the forces of reaction throughout the earth. He has made us adepts in government that we may administer government among savage and senile peoples. . . . And of all our race He has marked the American people as the chosen nation to finally lead in the regeneration of the world. This is the divine mission of America. . . . We are the trustees of the world’s progress, guardians of its righteous peace. The judgment of the Master is upon us: “Ye have been faithful over few things. I will make you ruler over many things.”

When the senator had finished this strange melange of world duty, world glory, world opportunity, regeneration of savage and senile peoples, 50 per cent of the trade of China and gold nuggets on the banks of streams, imperial destiny and treasure, the venerable Senator Hoar of Massachusetts, who had been shocked at the spectacle of the eloquent young senator summoning America to her imperial destiny and duty and holding aloft a torch of gold to light the way, rose in the Senate and said:

I could hear much calculated to excite the imagination of the youth charmed by the dream of empire. . . . I could think as this brave young republic of ours listened to what the senator had to say of but one sentence:

“And the Devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.

“And the Devil said unto Him, ‘All these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me.’

“Then saith Jesus unto him: ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.'”

But, alas, the American people did not make the reply to Senator Beveridge that Jesus made to the devil. Indeed as Beveridge ended his address he was greeted with “long and continued applause” in good earnest and senators crowded around him to shake his hand. I have chosen the Beveridge statement because it was the clearest and most eloquent of numerous speeches made in the House and Senate at the time. For instance, Representative Gibson of Tennessee said what others were saying on the stump and in the pulpit:

Our race has a mission. No devout student of history can misread it. We are the preachers of a new evangel of government; we are the missionaries of a new and higher civilization; we are the apostles of the New World to the Old; and a part of our mission is to evangelize Asia and the islands of the sea.

But this was to be only a beginning, as the congressman made abundantly clear. He continued:

The progress of our race can never be stayed. You can never fix its bounds. No one continent can suffice it. No one ocean can satisfy it. No one zone can contain it. No one hemisphere can circumscribe its powers and activities.

The world is its area and the lands of the world its only boundary. Its destiny is to dominate the entire face of the earth, to include all races and all countries and all lands and all continents.

The Springfield Republican lamented that the religious press of the country was almost a unit in support of the imperialism of which these gentlemen were the spokesmen. Dean Farrar said that “imperialism is a natural evolution of vital and aggressive Christianity.” These were not the utterances of black reactionaries. Beveridge became a leader of the rising progressive movement. And here is a singular collection of views from one who can by no stretch of the imagination be called a reactionary. 


Time, “American Malvern”

Father Edward Duff, S.J., “Social Thought of the World Council of Churches

Thomas C. Leonard, “American Economic Reform in the Progressive Era: Its Foundational Beliefs and Their Relation to Eugenics

Unqualified Reservations, on conservatives and the “conquest of America by Massachussets”


Sacred Harp 277: ‘Antioch’

The best of Alan Lomax’s recordings of the Alabama Sacred Harp Convention, available on the excellent “Sounds of the South” compilation. Something about the combination of joy and dread in this track is utterly captivating.

I know that my Redeemer lives, / Glory, Hallelujah! / What comfort this sweet sentence gives, / Glory, Hallelujah!

Shout on, pray on, we’re gaining ground, / Glory Hallelujah! / The dead’s alive, and the lost is found, / Glory Hallelujah!

He lives to crush the fiends of hell; / Glory Hallelujah! / He lives and doth within me dwell; / Glory Hallelujah!

Secession lagniappe

Yuba County becomes the fourth county to join the State of Jefferson effort:

Yuba County Board of Supervisors see joining the so-called State of Jefferson and leaving California behind as a no-brainer for one big reason.

“We feel that we are nothing more than tax collectors for the state,” County Supervisor Andy Vasquez said. “We don’t count.”

Vasquez says Yuba County doesn’t get any attention or money for the issues that matter to them.

“Certain countries that type of society where you don’t have any representation and they tell you what to do and take all your money is called slavery and we seem to be worker ant’s here,” Vasquez said.

But it’s not just county leaders who want to leave California.

“All the money is being used down in L.A. for all kinds of stupid reasons and they don’t give the money here to fix the roads,” Marysville resident Phil Ross said.

“Without some separation, southern California owns northern California. They take what they want,” said Don Noblin, another Marysville resident.

Butte County is reportedly considering it as well. (I posted some photos from the surprisingly well-attended town halls in Northern California a while back, which you can see here.)

There’s a new book out by Jon D. Olsen on the U.S.’s fraudulent claim to Hawai’i, blurbed by Thomas Naylor of the Second Vermont Republic.

Venetians take to the streets for St. Mark’s Day, in a protest that might have included a ‘tank’ (converted tractor) had 24 of the alleged co-conspirators not been arrested:

Chris Roth takes a look at at separatism in Eastern Ukraine and the Caucasus:

Ultranationalist demands by ethnic Russians and their supporters in eastern Ukraine have now shifted from talk of Crimea or the Donetsk People’s Republic and are now focussing on creating a larger entity to be carved out of southern and eastern Ukraine to be calledNovorossiya, or “New Russia,” using Czarist Russia’s name for the region.  The most high-profile proponent of the idea is Pavel Gubarev, the imprisoned “people’s governor” of Donetsk, whose covertly-Kremlin-backed government-building takeover in that southeastern oblast (provincial) capital last month sparked the uprising and military confrontation in the region.  From prison in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, last week, Gubarev said that “we”—i.e. the Donetsk People’s Republic, which he considers already independent—“want to join the new federative State of Novorossiya, which will build its own relations with the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in the future.”  The leadership of the neighboring “Lugansk People’s Republic” plans to join the Donetsk republic in holding the May 11th vote.  He added that plans were underway—as other Russian-backed rebels have said also—to hold an independence referendum on May 11th in Ukraine’s rebel-held regions. 

He also points out an interesting Russian report on the geography of 2035 that points to a “ultranationalist mentality” behind some of their geostrategic thinking:

In 2035 in western Europe, the report envisions, quite feasibly (see map below), independent republics in ScotlandCatalonia, the Basque Country, northern Italy, and even CorsicaSardinia, and Sicily.  Less feasibly, a reunified Ireland will become closer to Scotland than the rump United Kingdom is.  Southeastern France’s Provence region is to have become an Arab republic—something that presumably Marine Le Pen will not take lying down.  But in the Russian view this is how the French government will solve the inevitable “multicultural collapse”—by picking a region and sticking all the unassimilable Muslims there.

Andrew Henderson, the Nomad Capitalist, on the rise of secession movements:

The cold, hard truth is that smaller governments have better track records of managing their finances, as well. Critics will say that tiny countries in Central America or Africa have had issues with high interest rates and sovereign debt. However, Singapore is running budget surpluses. The countries mired in red ink are the big, imperialist powers.

Singapore, Switzerland, and others of their ilk have better things to do.

That’s why secession is a key stepping stone in the future of self-determination and sovereignty.

According to Rasmussen, two-thirds of Americans see the federal government as a special interest group looking out for itself. Consent of the governed? Pah!

Sacred Harp 282: ‘I’m Going Home’

I’m glad that I am born to die, / From grief and woe my soul shall fly, / And I don’t care to stay here long!

Bright angels shall convey me home, / Away to New Jerusalem, / And I don’t care to stay here long!

Right up yonder, Christians, away up yonder; / Oh, yes, my Lord, for I don’t care to stay here long.

I like this version better than the one that ended up in the movie. Supposedly T. Bone Burnett was at the session:

[Tim] Eriksen was originally brought in to provide the singing voice of the “Cold Mountain” character Stobrod, played by burly Irish actor Brendan Gleeson.

When asked to gather some singers for a studio session, he coaxed [T. Bone] Burnett and [Anthony] Minghella into documenting the real deal at Alabama’s Liberty Baptist Church. “I’ve learned that in order to record a Sacred Harp singing,” Eriksen says, “you have to have a Sacred Harp singing. That includes everything – dinner on the grounds, letting go of control over the songs, letting the craft sort itself out.”

Eriksen’s contributions to “Cold Mountain” didn’t stop there. He also played a bit part as the choirmaster; recorded a number of period songs, some solo, some with other Sacred Harp singers, some with folk artists Riley Baugus and Tim O’Brien; and accompanied the cast to rain-soaked Romania, where, through an interpreter, he taught 50 Romanian extras how to sing that type of music.

Farmers and exit

From Anasazi America by David E. Stuart, who is a much better archaeologist than a political or economic thinker:

If ever there was archaeological evidence for the short-term power but ultimate futility of psychological denial and social myopia, it can be found in the late-eleventh-century great houses of Chaco Canyon.

Parts of Chacoan society were already in deep trouble after A.D. 1050 as health and living conditions progressively eroded in the southern districts’ open farming communities. The small farmers in the south had first created reliable surpluses to be stored in the great houses. Ultimately, it was the increasingly terrible living conditions of those farmers, the people who grew the corn, that had made Chacoan society so fatally vulnerable. They simply got too little back from their efforts to carry on.

We should worry about this. Did you know that in 1998 there were 300,000 fewer farmers in the United States than there were in 1979? Did you know that 94 percent of American farms are still small, family farms, but family farmers receive only 41 percent of all farm income? Our farmers are walking away, too. Why? They aren’t getting enough to carry on, either. Is urban America any more aware of this than were the village elites in Chaco’s great houses? Many of us are not.

Still, the great-house dwellers didn’t merely sit on their hands. As some farms failed, they used farm labor to expand roads, rituals, and great houses. this prehistoric version of a Keynesian growth model apparently alleviated enough of the stresses and strains to sustain growth through the 1070s. Then came the waning rainfall of the 1080s, followed by drought in the 1090s.

Circumstances in the farming communities worsened quickly and dramatically with this drought; the very survival of many was at stake. The great-house elites at Chaco Canyon apparently responded with even more roads, rituals, and great houses. This was actually a period of great-house and road infrastructure “in-fill,” both in and near established open communities. In a few years, the rains returned. This could not help but powerfully reinforce the elites’ now well-established, formulaic response to problems.

But roads, rituals, and great houses simply did not do enough for the hungry farmers who produced corn and pottery. As the eleventh century drew to a close, even though the rains had come again, they walked away, further eroding the surpluses that had fueled the system. Imagine it: the elites must have believed the situation was saved, even as more farmers gave up in despair. Inexplicably, they never “exported” the modest irrigation system that had caught and diverted midsummer runoff from the mesa tops at Chaco Canyon and made local fields more productive. Instead, once again the elites responded with the sacred formula — more roads, more rituals, more great houses.

Nonetheless, by the 1100s the roads, like the West Virginia turnpike — a “make-work” project that was the butt of jokes some 40 years ago — began to go “nowhere.” Other roads (like the one to Salmon) were never completed, and though some great houses were clearly built to move some of the elites out of an increasingly tense and impoverished core area, others were just erected in the middle of nowhere at the end of a new road, then never continuously used. This is all rather like the wave of unneeded savings-and-loan towers so scandalously built in America by deregulated bankers in the 1980s and ultimately paid for by the taxpayers.

The unbelievable explosion in kivas about A.D. 1100 points to a ritual life that had stopped nurturing open communities and had grown increasingly demanding and obsessive. We can see this phenomenon at work in American society today in what the news magazines have termed our “culture wars.” In our modern version of this behavior, a narrow sector of society designates itself the “chosen one” and attempts to regulate the values, morals, even politics of the rest. The explanation for every problem that besets us — recessions, crime, drug trafficking, teen pregnancies, and many more — becomes our nation’s declining moral values and secularization. In the end, this type of behavior blames the victim: one is poor in America because one is morally and ethically defective. No matter what you, the reader, think about such behavior — whether you embrace it or reject it — either way, it feeds no babies, makes no young mother strong, and sends no child to school. The same was true of the Chacoan elites’ rituals: however base or pure their motives at the time, ritual alone did not feed the babies or create new food-producing enterprises to sustain farming families over the longer haul. Failure to address this problem destroyed Chacoan society.

I also find it ironic that the greatest Chacoan building projects were, like many of the CCC and WPA projects of our own Great Depression, the desperate economic reactions of a frightened and fragile society. In fact, most such projects support displaced people only in the short-term, rather than address the production and distribution of basic necessities. Nonetheless, these projects, like ours, tend to be viewed as grand achievements, reflecting the pinnacles of power. We are as myopic as they were, because such projects are often proof of a hollow shell. In Chacoan times, that hollow shell may have hidden the misery and hopelessness of the small farmers just as our make-work projects of the 1930s did. The great houses may even now hide those facts from the many tourists who visit Chaco Canyon and go away as impressed as Lieutenant Simpson was in 1849. But grandiosity cannot hide the essential facts from the field archaeologists who have excavated countless small houses in the last 25 years.

At the bitter end of the Chacoan era, many elites remained in their great houses, probably trying to hold onto the past, rather like Scarlett O’Hara trying to hold onto Tara in Gone with the Wind. But the farmers who had brought in the corn harvests were long departed, like the black slaves who had supported Tara before the civil war. Chacoan society collapsed, the farming pillar of its once great productivity shattered. The beleaguered Chacoan farmers had buried their babies one last time. Then they abandoned Chaco Canyon and most of its outlying great houses. …

At least the Chacoans had an excuse: they had never in 8,000 years dealt with a society so large, so complex, or so fragile. Their greatest invention was not the roads, the great houses, or the rituals. It was the expansive, open farming communities that had once traded with one another. But in spite of its ecological elegance, that invention died because the society’s obsessive, formulaic response — roads, rituals, and great houses — was of no practical use to the farmers after the drought of 1090. The Chacoans simply could no longer keep their farmers on the land — a labor problem of defining moment.

We moderns have seen some of these same things and the United States, and we have read history. Most of our forebears washed up on these shores after similar failures in other lands. Most of us are the direct descendants of people who once walked away from societies that could not or would not sustain them. We do know how it works. But have we yet learned the lesson?

[Chapter 7]

The far-flung trade network that had characterized the Chaco phenomenon for more than a century vanished quickly. As infant mortality and abandonments destroyed their open communities, farmers stopped making pottery to trade. The vast expanses of the Four Corners were no longer connected to a functioning economic machine.

Those elites who hung on in a half dozen of the more stable great houses after A.D. 1130 lost all access to nearly all the signature trade goods that had marked their status. More importantly, they lost access to the surpluses of corn, dried meat, and other foods that had once made them taller and their babies three times more likely to survive than a farmer’s child.

Archaeologists refer to a number of these late great houses as “scion” communities because they are believed to have been founded when groups of elites left the earlier great houses in the Chacoan core and attempted to carry on in new places. They were smaller, lacked great kivas, and were located in arable spots on the margins of the San Juan basin. Lacking great kivas, the scion communities provide us with superb evidence that Chaco’s ritual and its regional economy were interdependent. Apparently, the disintegration of Chaco’s regional trade network equaled no great kivas in the 1120s to 1140s. Meanwhile, as some Chacoans clung to a pathetic facsimile of their old order, surviving farmers were busy laying the foundations of a new one.

The first farmers to walk away from the Chacoan world benefited the most. They returned to places of ancestral Basketmaker and Pueblo I hamlets in the uplands even before violence overtook the Chacoan core in the 1100s. A return to the uplands was utterly logical.


Jake Bacharach on Game of Thrones: “Now, as we enter the fourth season, the overwhelming question is: how do these people eat?”

Matt Lewis, “Why conservatives see rural America as the ‘real’ America”

Gracy Olmstead, “Place ≠ Pastoral”

Rod Dreher, “The South as Eternal Scapegoat”

Bill Kauffman: “What Rural America is For”

The Washington Post’s mandate of heaven

It can be very interesting to track what sort of religious people the media finds useful or worthy of promoting. In the midst of the Episcopal Church’s crack-up, the Daily Beast gave a weekly column to gay bishop and Center for American Progress fellow Gene Robinson, who has used his column space to harangue the Archbishop of Canterbury for not going fast enough on gay marriage.

The converse, of a conservative Anglican cleric being given a column to warn that the Episcopal Church’s radicalism, for which it stands alone (breaking the moratorium on the ordination of gay clergy time and time again, suing dissenters for everything down to their choir robes, etc), is causing such a rift that other parts of the Anglican Communion are sending missionary bishops to America to undermine it, is utterly unthinkable.

Sally Quinn, “On Faith” correspondent for the Washington Post, is a fairly good proxy for what fashionable people think about religion. Her Easter/Passover column is an absolute horror, insulting to any Jew or Christian of sincere faith. “All that matters is the sense of community that Easter and Passover rituals inspire,” reads the subhead. Sort of the spiritual-but-not-religious version of “government is just the name for the things we choose to do together.”

To Quinn, remembering the deliverance of the Jewish people, or the resurrection of the King of the Universe, are of secondary importance to the sociality rituals facilitate, which is a perspective you’d expect from someone who’s been covering elite culture for decades. She treats religion like hors d’oeurves at a Georgetown cocktail party, complete with a nod to the secular-seders trend, an acknowledgment that her equanimity between Judaism and Christianity has “nothing to do with” something so trivial as belief, and the reassurance, just in case you were wondering, that “I have been an atheist most of my life, although I don’t consider myself one now.”

That elite opinion holds religion to be merely a vessel into which we can pour all sorts of emotions and social goals should fill us with the fear of God, because our ruling class has far more ambitious designs than “inspiring community,” and He is not mocked.

Consider the religious views of right-leaning opinion columnists at the Post:

Marc Thiessen, who defended waterboarding based on the teachings of the Magisterium, is Catholic
Charles Krauthammer is areligious
Michael Gerson is one of those breakaway Anglicans
George Will says he’s a “none”
Robert Kagan is Jewish
Jennifer Rubin is Jewish

Notice that every religious person is a neocon, and the more sober voices are the less religious ones. It’s almost as if they’d like to convey the impression that American hegemony is an article of faith.

Now, watching neocons interpret history can be almost as amusing as reading their interpretations of poetry. Consider this bit from one of Jennifer Rubin’s — who functions at the Washington Post as the tattletale to the slightly less hawkish editorial board — dozens of attacks on Rand Paul, which David Harsanyi called “amazingly dishonest“:

A foreign policy expert at a center-left think tank puts it simply, saying Paul sounds like the “unreconstructed Taft-Lindbergh-Buchanan wing of party, ”referring to isolationist Republican Sen. Robert Taft, America Firster Charles Lindbergh and Pat Buchanan (who has opined that WWII need not have been fought).

Good heavens, the Taft-Lindbergh-Buchanan wing?! It’s truly strange that ‘Rand Paul comes from a wing of the party with a long history,’ is an insight Rubin finds worthy of granting anonymity to a liberal foreign policy analyst for. She means it to sound scary, because she adheres to a tendentious historiography in which Buchanan is a fascist, Lindbergh supported those proto-brownshirts in America First, and Taft was a Nazi symp. It’s as if Rubin gets her history from Phillip Roth’s The Plot Against America.

Paul’s great transgression is his belief that there are some evils in the world that aren’t worth filling body bags with young Americans to eradicate, which is why he refuses to rule out containment of Iran. Rubin says this means that “he listens to no competent adviser.”

But we already know that the only competent advisors are Rubin’s friends. After Sarah Palin parted ways in 2011 with neoconservative foreign policy advisors Michael Goldfarb and Randy Scheunemann, Rubin wrote that, “Her about-face in foreign policy tells us a couple of things. First, her views then and perhaps now don’t spring from a well-grounded understanding of foreign policy but from briefing cards.”

Earlier that year, the Emergency Committee for Israel, of which Goldfarb is an advisor and which is registered to the same address as he and Scheunemann’s lobbying shop, paid for Rubin to go to Israel to attend a conference. Her criticisms take on a rather different cast in that light: ‘Sarah Palin is stupid because she’s not listening to the people who gave me a vacation to Israel anymore.’

Now, let’s have a look at who Rubin turned to to correct Paul’s mild World War II revisionism:

As for the allegation about Germany, [David] Adesnik expresses incredulity, “Sen. Paul’s comments on Germany are so eccentric that it’s hard to be sure what he’s even talking about. He refers to a U.S. blockade on Germany after World War One ‘which may have encouraged some of their anger.’ There is extensive debate about whether German resentment of the Versailles Treaty helped bring Hitler to power. …

David is a gentleman, he’s written a few things for me, and is far more intellectually honest than many in his camp. But this is rather strategically understated, and I get the feeling he knows that. There really isn’t “extensive debate,” at least among people worth reading. Peter Viereck’s Metapolitics (1941) and Freda Utley’s The High Cost of Vengeance (1948) are both great resources from the period, which simply take it as a given that post-Versailles grievances contributed to the rise of national socialism. I’ll leave the Pearl Harbor stuff alone because that’s a considerably knottier matter.

These sorts of insinuations, selective sourcing, and historiographical policing are typical of neoconservative journalism, in part because the ideology is fragile and on the defensive. Why else would ECI need to spend six figures bashing one of the handful of pro-peace Republican congressmen? If a half-dozen reporters stopped quoting maybe two dozen politicians and experts, the neocon echo chamber would effectively cease to exist. It’s a Potemkin movement.

Paul’s comments about Dick Cheney’s alleged war profiteering set off reliably bellicose columnists Rich Lowry and Bret Stephens, with Stephens sarcastically writing that the party should nominate him and be duly chastised, and Lowry saying his foreign policy sounds like it came out of a dorm room.

The facts are that Cheney, a strong proponent of privatizing military services, received a severance package from Halliburton worth tens of millions of dollars, mostly in stock options, when he joined the presidential ticket. He sold most of those, but some remained in 2003 when the Congressional Research Service looked into it. At the time, Halliburton had a number of contracts in Iraq. Whether that’s significant enough to impugn the Vice President’s decision-making, it’s hard to say, but if we were talking about a solar farm receiving a DOE loan guarantee, it undoubtedly would be. His warning last month against the “strain of isolationism” in the GOP, is something like Tom Steyer talking about why the Keystone pipeline must be stopped. Paul may not have been right about the cui bono of the second Iraq invasion and its subsequent occupation, but the general problem is one that Lowry and Stephens have never addressed, which makes me think they don’t think it exists.

I like to pick on Lowry (who started off as a researcher for Krauthammer) because we’re both Arlingtonians, though he went to Yorktown then UVA — a sure path to perpetual adolescence — and I went to H-B Woodlawn then William and Mary. We probably shoulder-tapped for beer at the same 7-11s. But he’s been in New York for years, and missed out on the post-9/11 defense contracting boom. That’s the most charitable reason I can think of for why he dismisses military cronyism as Alex Jones-ian nonsense but seems very concerned about other types.

Watching this transformation occur has made me much more of a get-the-hell-off-my-lawn Republican than an invade-the-world, invite-the-world type. As bureaucracies exist, first and foremost, to acquire and justify resources, so too do the diplomatic and defense contracting establishments depend on proving how useful they are — that’s just how incentives work. It seems to me that an awareness of this sort of creep is somewhere close to the heart of what it means to be conservative. You probably wouldn’t get that impression reading the Washington Post, but given their readership, who could blame them?