Worth a gander

  1. good piece of American sociology by Jeffrey Friedman (h/t Alberto Mingardi)
  2. Daniel Larison on the devastation in Puerto Rico
  3. Don Boudreaux has the best take I’ve read or heard on the Trump-pro athlete fiasco, and remember when conservatives blasted Obama for sticking his nose where it didn’t belong when cops killed a black kid in Baltimore?
  4. Chris Dillow explains Leftist confusion about Brexit
  5. smart Leftists talking about smart things (penguins, of course!)

BC’s weekend reads

  1. Generals and Political Interventions in American History
  2. they neglect to take account of the experiences of postcolonial states that form the vast majority of members of the international system. “
  3. The U.S. Hasn’t ‘Pulled Back’ from the Middle East At All
  4. No special sharia rules in American courts for Muslims’ wrongful-death recovery
  5. Is Gary Johnson a True Libertarian? American libertarianism has a purge problem
  6. Identity politics and the perils of zero-sum thinking

BC’s weekend reads

  1. China’s Legalist Revival
  2. Does Europe need a new Warsaw Pact?
  3. Daniel Larison (PhD in Russian History) on Trump’s foreign policy speech
  4. The Anti-Trumplodytes
  5. Why Popular Sovereignty requires the due process of law

Around the Web: Rand Paul’s Foreign Policy Speech Edition

I already know what the neoconservatives are going to say. Same goes with those on the socialist Left. I think everybody knows what they are going to say and that, in a nutshell, explains why the neoconservatives are becoming as marginal in contemporary debates as the socialists.

Around the Web

  1. Ukraine and BRICS from historian Daniel Larison at The American Conservative
  2. The Sympathy Problem: Is Germany a Country of Russia Apologists? By Ralf Neukirch at Spiegel Online
  3. You Don’t Know the Best Way to Deal with Russia from economist Bryan Caplan over at EconLog
  4. The Right to Self-Determination in International Law and Practice by political scientist Jason Sorens (PhD, Yale) over at the PileusBlog

Creative Destruction in the Levant

Creative destruction ain’t just a place for the marketplace, baby! The National Interest has an article out by Mark Donig on “The Twilight of Sykes-Picot.” It’s a great piece that basically acknowledges the end of an era (European imperialism and cartographic arrogance), and what this will mean for the United States.

Sykes-Picot is an agreement between France and Great Britain that divided the Ottoman Empire up between the two after World War I (the article goes into a bit more detail if you’re interested). Russia was also a part of the negotiations for carving up Europe’s sick man, but after the Bolsheviks seized power all imperial pretenses associated with the West were abandoned in Moscow. European cartographers abandoned the Ottoman approach (learned over centuries of trial and error) to governing territories in the Levant and instead carved up the region as they saw fit. The end result was, of course, a number of states that could only be held together by a strong man. Today, these post-colonial states are collapsing and in their place are a greater number of pseudo-states.

In many of these pseudo-states, Islamists run the show. Donig, an international law student, is worried that if states like Syria and Iraq collapse, the chemical and biological weapons stockpiled in secret locations will fall into the wrong hands. Donig’s suggestion is that the US pay very close attention to what is happening in the Levant, but I think he is much too pessimistic.

The US should embrace political disintegration in Levant wholeheartedly. Doing so would mean recognizing sovereignty of nasty-looking regimes. Yet is would also end the power struggles for the “center” in Sykes-Picot states, which would in turn end the reign of strong men in the region for good (for a concise explanation on why strong men emerge in post-colonial states, see “Imperialism: The Illogical Nature of Humanitarian Wars“).

Were the US to embrace decentralization in the Levant, it would be wise for Washington to play an active role implementing trade agreements both between the new states  as well as with Washington. The separatist movements in Scotland and Catalonia illustrate my garbled point well. Scots and Catalonians don’t want independence without membership into the international trading confederation known as the EU, and membership in an international confederation requires relinquishing some sovereignty (Daniel Larison inadvertently makes this point here; people on both the Left and Right who point to evils of EU rarely acknowledge that many states and regions would love to be a part of this confederation, warts and all, and that they stake their very separatist claims on such a membership).

Trade agreements would play an integral role in making or breaking these new states within their newly decentralized region (see Becker or yours truly on the importance of trade in politically fragmented regions). Once recognizing sovereignty of new states, the US would gain some much-needed trust from the peoples of these new states, and then Washington could use that influence to push for more economic integration (between the new states and with the new states) while at the same time recognizing the reality of political fragmentation in the region.

At any rate, full-on American diplomacy in this area is a must, especially given the TNI report’s account of possible chemical weapons stockpiles. This is something the US could work with Russia on, thus building a measure of trust which could, in turn, be used to work with Moscow elsewhere (especially in Europe). It still surprises me that dovish policymakers in Washington and Moscow have not yet used their respective government’s mutual enemy (Islamism) to build much-needed bridges between the two countries.

Is the European Union “socialist”?

The short answer is ‘no’, but first, Justin Raimondo writes:

The EU is a failed socialist experiment that exists to fund a huge (and hugely arrogant) bureaucracy and impose a bloodless ideological abstraction over and above the authentic nationalisms it seems to subsume. It is deeply authoritarian in that it provides no mechanism for member states to withdraw, and its super-centralist model is a prescription for tyranny if ever there was one. When a referendum is held on EU membership, and the results aren’t to the pro-EU side’s liking, the election is simply ignored and the Eurocrats mount yet another campaign until the “right” result is achieved.

I thought I’d highlight this paragraph for a couple of reasons:

1. It explains the tensions inherent in the EU from a nationalist viewpoint (as opposed to the internationalist view most often espoused on this blog), and the tensions between defining the place of centralized and decentralized power in a society. Although Raimondo’s hyperbole might cause some of us to blush, I think it actually adds to the depth of the nationalist argument as it better captures the sentiments of these factions. That is to say, I think the nationalists in this debate are a bit more boorish than the internationalists and as such Raimondo exemplifies their arguments despite being an American.

2. It shows why facts are important and in the long run much more valuable. Socialism, by definition, is the state ownership of the means of production. Is there anything about the EU that suggests it wants to “nationalize” industry? Anything at all? Of course not, which is why you often find populists – even of the “libertarian” kind – to be hyperbolic, arbitrary and vague in their arguments (for a better treatment of populism, see this old piece here at NOL). In the long run getting these definitions right is important. Slandering a faction or an organization you don’t like as ‘socialist’ (or ‘bourgeois’) may earn you a couple of brownie points from the peanut gallery, but you are very likely to steadily lose influence in the arena of ideas by peddling such drivel.

The EU is a confederation of states (much like the pre-Civil War US) and entry and exit are entirely voluntary. The EU, more than any other institution save for perhaps the US military, is responsible for the unencumbered peace throughout Western Europe since the end of World War 2. To suggest that the EU is somehow ‘socialist’ not only confuses younger, more susceptible readers but it also weakens one’s own arguments. If, for example, Raimondo is going to label the EU as ‘socialist’ when it clearly is not, what should I think about his arguments when he labels Israel as ‘fascist’ or Russia as a ‘defender of national sovereignty’?

Foreign policy is an important component of libertarianism, and if we continually allow our arguments to be defined by populist organizations like Raimondo’s antiwar.com then I fear libertarians will continue to be (rightly) ignored in the more traditional venues of foreign policy discussion.