Fat Steve's Blatherings

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Interesting Thought


        Wretchard notes that You can't go home again.  The world's changes became visible on September 11, 2001, and those who scream at Bush are really trying to recapture the illusions they held on Sept. 10th.

At Length:

        Wretchard, commenting on those blaming Bush for anything they don't like, said:
        It's common to regard the story of the war on terror as a single narrative.  But in reality it consists of multiple streams, which is why, despite the efforts of Representative Murtha, it will be hard to shut down.  In Kazakhstan, North Waziristan, Southeast Asia, the banlieus of France, the Horn of Africa and in the Middle East, history is on the move.  The only choice America really had on September 11 was to either hold itself aloof from events shaking the world or engage them.

        In retrospect, there was tremendous resistance to the idea that the certainties of the 1990s had finally come to an end.  Many secretly hoped that the War on Terror would be a temporary excursion into Afghanistan after which we could go back to sequestering carbon, expanding the European Union and spreading the mantle of transnationalism over the whole world.  Very few were prepared for the possibility that everything had changed; and like the generation of 1914 we would never be 'home before the leaves fall'.

        That those expectations went unmet had to be someone's fault; and what better scapegoat than President George W. Bush.  Had national intelligence been better, the War in Iraq more carefully planned, more troops deployed, Europe consulted more thoroughly, we could have all come back to the world as it was on September 10, 2001.  What Congressman Murtha really wanted was not a withdrawal in space, but a withdrawal in time.  But even tactical perfection in the military and diplomatic spheres could not have held back events.  Following the climate conference in Montreal last week I was struck by the impression that despite its rhetoric Kyoto was not about the future; it was about the past.

        At some point the political discourse will change from its obsession with the past -- the 911 commission, the Valerie Plame affair -- and start being about the present.  It will be interesting to see which of the major Presidential candidates explicitly does this. Maybe at around the time the Twin Towers are rebuilt.

        Reading that reminded me of my friend Jerry Pournelle, who wants to live in the Tennessee of the 1940s again.  'Why not the kind of Republic I grew up in, where the county sheriff was far more important in how you lived your life than the President?'  The short answer is, because Dr. Pournelle's TN neighbors, and the country, voted for Democratic Presidents and Congresscritters who centralized power in Washington.  And the longer answer is, in a world of cheap, fast transportation, too many local issues get affected by people in the next county, the next state, the next country.

        And this is why the "Paleoconservatives" have lost control of the Republican Party to the "Neoconservatives," and the Democrats have lost to the Republicans.  They're the only people with their eyes on the future.

        In his book Our Country: The Shaping of America From Roosevelt to Reagan, Michael Barone mentioned that the young Ronald Reagan voted for Franklin Roosevelt for President four times, and that the President Reagan of the 1980s still raved about what a great man and great President FDR was.  Ronnie was quite sincere, too.  As President, Reagan did the kind of things he thought Roosevelt would have done, if Roosevelt had had the knowledge an additional half-century had produced.  Pournelle, the Dean "It's just like Viet Nam" Democrats, and the Paleo wing of the GOP have all failed to learn.  W. and his wing of the party have their faults, but they never attempt to convince themselves they can live in the past.

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  • There have been several things that bother me about Dr. Pournelle's "Empire v. Republic" stance and at the top of the list is he seems to confound isolationism with imperialism. A policy of isolation did not prevent either feudal China nor Japan's Shogunate from being imperial (In fact with Augustus of Rome's nonexpansion policy in mind and the attitude of other empires recalled in contrast to the attitudes of the Dutch Republic or that of Venice I'd almost be more inclined to say that isolationism is more symptomatic of Empire than Republic! ^_^;). I also don't recall that such an isolation did any postive thing for either the civil or political liberties of either Eastern nation. It's not without reason that Machiavelli observed that Republics are more warlike and conquest oriented than Principalities (aka Empires) are even if he thought that a feature rather than a bug.

    A second that annoys me is that such an isolation as he seems to propose contradicts our mutual desire for going into Space. There is no way you can explore and colonize and not have interests abroad. Nor do I think it would necessarily make us safer from attack since the result of Great Britain's attempt at "splendid isolation" seemed to backfire upon it. As you pointed out technology has made the world smaller and those oceans shield us a bit less than they used to. If we just up and walk away from every commitment we ever made the subsequent mess we leave behind will follow us to our doorstep. (Although I probably should remember to Dr. Pournelle's credit that he does support Iraq precisely because we have made such a commitment. But there's no way we could do this on an overnight basis without blowing a score of other commitments that are just as binding while fulfilling them without making new ones would be such a long work that we may as well save ourselves the frustration and not bother with isolation at all! @_@).

    Those aren't the only ones but they are the 2 biggies.

    By Blogger Towering Barbarian, at 11:54 PM  

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