Month: August 2014

Scenes from the Fourth Rome

Arlington Cemetery, via JJ

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Atomic Country Gospel

In lieu of a Sacred Harp post this week, this really needs to be plugged.

They’re a terrifying sight as they fly on day and night
It’s a warning that we’d better mend our ways
You’d better pray to the Lord when you see those flying saucers
It may be the coming of the Judgment Day

They were at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and old Pasco
Working in a downpour of rain
In that zero hour seeking out some heavenly power
While the Star Spangled Banner was being played

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‘I intend to make [Gaza] howl’: Victor Davis Hanson’s thirst for ‘humiliation’

There’s that great Faulkner quote about every Southern boy being able to imagine himself at will into Pickett’s charge:

For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two oclock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armstead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago…

By contrast a neoconservative columnist is able to, in similar fashion, imagine himself torching homes in Columbia with General Sherman.

*****

On November 9 2012, news broke of the Paula Broadwell/David Petraeus affair, ending the career of America’s top celebrity-general and immediately putting a stop to rumors regarding his plans to run for office, possibly on a presidential ticket in 2016. Our Caesar of counterinsurgency was not to be, and Victor Davis Hanson was so shocked he had trouble believing it. He wrote that Petraeus’ resignation was “bizarre” in his column that month, and asked the sort of questions that would get him called a fifth columnist or truther if he’d been asking them about 9/11 or the Iraq war: “How and why did the FBI investigate the Petraeus matter? To whom and when did it report its findings? And what was the administration reaction?”

The next month he wrote a “short history of amorous generals” to make sure we knew that it’s OK, because lots of generals do this kind of thing.

Finding out one of one’s saviors is a philanderer is understandably shocking; and as of November 8, Hanson, reportedly one of Dick Cheney’s favorite dinner guests, had already decided to include Petraeus as one of the five “Savior Generals” covered in his book by the same name, which would appear in May 2013. He first applied the term to Petraeus in 2009, calling him the “maverick savior of Iraq,” and despite the failures of his COIN strategy and the chaos engulfing the north of the benighted country today, the Petraeus myth remains key to the conservative argument that everything was going fine in Iraq until perfidious Obama withdrew. Needless to say, Sherman is another one of Hanson’s saviors (and is also treated here).

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No really, what is right-libertarianism?

A frustrating thing about left-libertarians is that they have the same affection for “direct action” as your average Tyranny Response Teamster, but generally not working within political parties, finding things like the tea party distasteful and/or vaguely bigoted. As opposed to, say, shooting back at the police in Ferguson, as someone suggested on Facebook the other day, which is presumably part of the groovy anarcho-revolutionary struggle.

I mention this in the context of the latest exercise in semantic trench warfare (one of many) over at the SFL blog. It seems to me there is a significant contradiction between approvingly quoting the line, “our aim is not to overthrow the state, but to ignore it” and “radical labor activism” and copwatching. At the very least, adopting the left-wing label and tactics evinces a certain solidarity with politics that have never not been about power.

On a conceptual level, if you think you’re going to convince your fellow members of the black bloc to adopt agorism after they seize it, you’re gonna have a bad time. In reality, your comrades are far more likely to get recruited into the Democratic Party, which remains friendly to revolutionary socialism. Leaving the left-libertarian with … what, exactly?

Mr. Gourdie could have saved himself the four paragraphs by just pointing this out, because it shows their lack of seriousness vis-a-vis actually seizing power (not the virtues of right-libertarianism’s “big-tent approach” — you’ll never out-welcome the left), and appended an excerpt of Murray Rothbard’s “Break the Clock” speech:

[T]he Hayekian trickle-down model overlooks a crucial point: that, and I hate to break this to you, intellectuals, academics, and the media are not all motivated by truth alone. As we have seen, the intellectual classes may be part of the solution, but also they are a big part of the problem. For, as we have seen, the intellectuals are part of the ruling class, and their economic interests, as well as their interests in prestige, power and admiration, are wrapped up in the present welfare/warfare-state system.

Therefore, in addition to converting intellectuals to the cause, the proper course for the right-wing opposition must necessarily be a strategy of boldness and confrontation, of dynamism and excitement, a strategy, in short, of rousing the masses from their slumber and exposing the arrogant elites that are ruling them, controlling them, taxing them, and ripping them off.

Another alternative right-wing strategy is that commonly pursued by many libertarian or conservative think tanks: that of quiet persuasion, not in the groves of academe, but in Washington, D.C., in the corridors of power. This has been called the “Fabian” strategy, with think tanks issuing reports calling for a two percent cut in a tax here, or a tiny drop in a regulation there. The supporters of this strategy often point to the success of the Fabian Society, which, by its detailed empirical researches, gently pushed the British state into a gradual accretion of socialist power.

The flaw here, however, is that what works to increase state power does not work in reverse. For the Fabians were gently nudging the ruling elite precisely in the direction they wanted to travel anyway. Nudging the other way would go strongly against the state’s grain, and the result is far more likely to be the state’s co-opting and Fabianizing the think tankers themselves rather than the other way around. This sort of strategy may, of course, be personally very pleasant for the think tankers, and may be profitable in cushy jobs and contracts from the government. But that is precisely the problem.

It is important to realize that the establishment doesn’t want excitement in politics, it wants the masses to continue to be lulled to sleep. It wants kinder, gentler; it wants the measured, judicious, mushy tone, and content, of a James Reston, a David Broder, or a Washington Week in Review. It doesn’t want a Pat Buchanan, not only for the excitement and hard edge of his content, but also for his similar tone and style.

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Secession lagniappe

Reason has a video on the Honduran ZEDEs out this week, produced by Ross Kenyon and Zach Weissmueller:

Mark Johanson in CNN on micronations:

Many like Cruickshank credit Ernest Hemingway’s younger brother Leicester with popularizing the concept in the mid-1960s when he towed an 8×30-foot bamboo raft to a spot 12 nautical miles off the southwest coast of Jamaica and declared it New Atlantis under the obscure Guano Islands Act of 1856.

He’s written on this subject before. Al Jazeera had a long spot on micronations recently too.

SON on Boko Haram declaring a caliphate.

We’re less than a month from the Scottish referendum. Here’s Alex Massie on this week’s debate:

There are plenty of holes in the SNP’s case but Darling seemed unable – most of the time – last night to point them out. So Salmond won, not just by default but because he made the more persuasive case.

And, of course, he rediscovered the importance of lyricism: “This is our time. It’s our moment. Let us do it now.” A simple but powerful message that asks Scots only to believe in themselves. Since people like the idea of believing in themselves it’s neither a daft nor a fruitless appeal. Hope still matters.

Will it be enough? Well, I would expect the Yes side to enjoy a small bounce in the polls later this week. Perhaps a couple of points improvement. Whether that lasts as long as polling day, however, is a different matter.

That seems to have happened. David Byrne comes out against.

Tony Burman on its reverberations:

Given the many dramatic and unexpected directions in which this century is heading, the ground seems to be moving beneath our feet. Regardless of the result, there are increasing signs that history may ultimately see the Sept. 18 vote in Scotland as the beginning of something transformational.

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Scenes from the Fourth Rome: Send Us Your Photos!

Above is the Robert Taft statue beneath his carillon, whose bells can still be heard hourly from the Capitol. A fine way to kick off what will be a recurring feature on this blog.

Here’s Russell Kirk on Taft:

From the Second World War, as from the First, no increase of liberty and democracy would come: on the contrary, in most of the world a host of squalid oligarchs must be the principal beneficiaries, whatever side might win. For the United States, then, war was preferable to conquest or to economic ruin; but if those calamities were not in prospect, America should remain aloof. The blood of man should be shed only to redeem the blood of man, Taft might of said with Burke: “the rest is vanity; the rest is crime.”

Taft’s prejudice in favor of peace was equaled in strength by his prejudice against empire. Quite as the Romans had acquired an empire in a fit of absence of mind, he feared that America might make herself an imperial power with the best of intentions—and the worst of results. He foresaw the grim possibility of American garrisons in distant corners of the world, a vast permanent military establishment, and intolerant “democratism” imposed in the name of the American way of life, neglect of America’s domestic concerns in the pursuit of transoceanic power, squandering of American resources upon amorphous international designs, the decay of liberty at home in proportion as America presumed to govern the world: that is, the “garrison state,” a term he employed more than once. The record of the United States as administrator of territories overseas had not been heartening, and the American constitution made no provision for a widespread and enduring imperial government. Aspiring to redeem the world from all the ills to which flesh is heir, Americans might descend, instead, into a leaden imperial domination and corruption.

It should take no pointing out that all of this has come to pass. And we would like your help, dear readers, especially those of you residing in the DC area, in providing evidence of our lapse into “leaden imperial domination and corruption.”

I’ve long been an admirer of Richard Anderson‘s “Scenes from the Imperial Capital” blog feature, which refers, of course, to Ottawa. And I’ve contributed one lunch to Rod’s View from Your Table series. Then of course there’s the ur-version of this sort of thing over at The Dish. Scenes from the Fourth Rome will be something of a combination of the two types; mostly reader-generated photos, but with a focus on DC.

Anything germane to imperial decadence and decline is fair game; forgotten statues, derelict old homes, drunk interns puking on government buildings, whatever. The sky’s the limit; get creative. Submissions will be screened for quality, but I hope to be able to keep a light touch.

Here are a few ground rules for guidance:

  • Photographs must be reasonably clear and well-composed, with an accompanying description if you wish.
  • Anonymous submissions are allowed, or if you would like a particular site/blog/flickr/instagram credited, we are happy to help promote local photographers.
  • If you do not reside in DC, fear not! We expect to have submissions mostly from here, but Fourth Rome could be construed in multiple ways and we’re happy to consider those from elsewhere.
  • For god’s sake don’t be touristy, but don’t feel the need to stay out of your photos either. For example, there’s probably a lot you could do with a basketball and Edmund Burke’s statue down on Mass Ave.

Send your photos to [email protected], and you may see them published here. Two more after the jump.

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