Nightcap

  1. The waning fortunes of classical liberalism John McGinnis, Law & Liberty
  2. The worst people of 2019 Liza Featherstone, Jacobin
  3. Putin’s Russia, 20 years on Marc Bennetts, Politico
  4. The cubicle archipelago Scott Beauchamp, American Affairs

Snatching you up (mendicants and Gulags)

I’ll get to Feyerabend, but first Solzhenitsyn:

However, the root destruction  of religion in the country, which throughout the twenties and thirties was one of the most important goals of the GPU-NKVD, could be realized only by mass arrests of Orthodox believers. Monks and nuns, whose black habits had been a distinctive feature of Old Russian life, were intensively rounded up on every hand, placed under arrest, and sent into exile. They arrested and sentenced active laymen. The circles kept getting bigger, as they raked in ordinary believers as well, old people, and particularly women, who were the most stubborn believers of all and who, for many long years to come, would be called “nuns” in transit prisons and in camps (37).

It’s true that Christians were viciously persecuted by socialists in the USSR, and what makes matters worse is that few historians, and fewer journalists, point this out. Bishops and patriarchs living in mansions were the official targets of socialist purges, mind you, but mendicants, village priests, and old church ladies were the ones who actually got dragged away and put to work for The Cause. Why? Because they actually believed. They already had a moral compass, so there was no need for a strong state. In socialist countries, alternatives ruin plans. So in socialist countries, alternatives get snuffed out.

As I read through the Gulag Archipelago I can’t help but think of the Russia I hear about on NPR and read about online. Russia is the left’s new boogieman, for obvious reasons. But I wonder, with Solzhenitsyn in mind, just how close the Orthodox Church actually is to Putin and his henchmen. I’m sure the top brass are close to Putin, but what about the village priests and the others? Did socialism wipe out the old, more mystical Christianity that was prevalent in the Russian countryside before the Revolution? Are there any mendicants left in post-socialist Russia? All those decades of violent repression, starvation, ethnic cleansing, and forced labor, and the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church hums along as if nothing ever happened. The actual believers, on the other hand, are gone, along with the unique culture they spread throughout the Russian Empire and, via the mediums of literature and art, the world.

Nightcap

  1. The other side of broken windows Eric Klinenberg, New Yorker
  2. “Peace through strength” is weakening Putin at home Krishnadev Calamur, the Atlantic
  3. How to cleanse the Catholic Church Andrew Sullivan, Daily Intelligencer
  4. The garment of terrorism Azadeh Moaveni, London Review of Books

Why Hayek was Wrong About American and European Conservatism I

The title of this post refers to F.A. Hayek’s essay ‘Why I am Not a Conservative’, which can be found as an appendix to his 1960 book The Constitution of Liberty. What this post is really about is the deficiencies of American conservatism and the general idea of liberal conservatism or a natural alliance between classical liberals and conservatives. However, first a few words about Hayek’s essay as Hayek is an important figure for liberty advocates. The essay in question is well known and particularly easy to find online.

Hayek’s criticism of conservatism overestimates the extent to which it is just a limiting position, slowing down change. The relation of conservatism to tradition is seem too much as conservatism being too slow to accept changes to tradition. Traditionalist conservatism, however, has been a much more active and dangerous force than that. ‘Traditionalism’ as far as I know is a 20th century term used particularly in France (René Guénon) and Italy (Julius Evola) to refer to a spiritual based for politics of an extreme conservative kind which found natural alliance with fascism. It seems clear enough that it has precedents in late 18th and 19th century conservative monarchist thinkers like Joseph de Maistre, Louis de Bonald, and Juan Donosó Cortes.

Carl Schmitt, who was maybe the greatest 20th century admirer of those thinkers, joined the Nazi Party in 1933, though found himself purged as not properly Nazi from his post as head of a jurists’ association in 1936. Not only did Schmitt admire the French and Spanish thinkers mentioned, he was a great admirer of Edmund Burke. Burke is a favourite of those claiming a conservative-liberty affinity. It would be unfair to suggest that Burke would have welcomed National Socialism (though the same applies to de Bonald, de Maiste, and Donosó Cortes).

It is a fact that a large part of conservative thinking of the time of the rise of Fascism, and allied forms of illiberal government such as corporatism, regarded it as a legitimate counter to Bolshevism and disorder. Even Ludwig von Mises defiled his own 1927 book Liberalism with generous words about Fascism as a counter to Bolshevism. The reality is that at the time such regimes came to power there was no immediate risk of Communist take over and this is a horrifying position, which cannot be justified by suggesting that Mises was writing in the heat of the moment as Bolsheviks stalked power in any particular country. Winston Churchill welcomed Fascism in Italy and even initially welcomed Hitler’s rise in Germany, before becoming acquainted with the reality of his regime. It is of course the case that Fascism and National Socialism had socialist roots as well as traditionalist conservative roots, but then a liaison between socialism and traditionalist conservatism as a counter to liberal individualism has a history going well back into the 19th century.

We can see right now in Europe the growing force of conservatism with a populist-nationalist emphasis targeting abnormals (as in everyone who does not fit their assumptions of a normal person in their country). This is not some new addition to the repertoire of the right. The strong man of the Northern League in Italy, Metteo Salvini, has aligned himself with Mussolini recently by tweeting a variation of Mussolini’s slogan ‘many enemies, much honour’ on Mussolini’s birthday. The Hungarian equivalent of Salvini, the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, has rehabilitated the pre-war authoritarian leader Miklós Horthy. The Legue, Orbán’s Fidesz party, the Bannonite wing of the Republican Party and the like are stuffed with Vladimir Putin apologists, or at least as in Bannon’s case slippery arguments according to which he does not like Putin, but we should ally with him. In any case, Bannon is very active supporting the pro-Putin parties in Europe.

These parties draw on long traditions of conservative populism, monarchist anti-liberalism, and the like. The appeal to conservative love of monarchy, state church, and social conformity was a major weapon of monarchist conservative forces after the 1848 Springtime of the Peoples in Europe, helped by violent Russian intervention in the Austrian Empire to ‘restore order’. We see something like this now in the growing strength of a brand of conservatism which does not just limit change but fosters change in the direction of illiberalism, nationalism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, Christian identity, free trade, liberal protections of the individual from state power, the rights of civil society organisations to stand up to the state, and economic protection, seeking inspiration from the kleptomaniac nationalist authoritarian regime in Russia.

Enthusiasm for Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan is less obvious, but Orbán has put him on his list of ‘illiberal democracy’ heroes, and we can reasonably say that the rhetoric and methods of Erdoğan have been an inspiration for the populist right throughout Europe, even as, like Órban, it puts Islamophobia at the centre.

The role of Donald Trump and Steven Bannon as friends of, and models for, European populists should give reason to wonder whether Hayek misunderstood US conservatism. More on this in the next post.

The Helsinki Follies

Myself, my wife, Rush Limbaugh, and a couple of others on FB, alone of those who express themselves publicly, have taken leave of their senses. The obvious has stopped waiving at the American intelligentsia (Russian word, on purpose).

Mr Mueller, in charge of demonstrating that Russia gave Mr Trump the election, announces three days before a president’s meeting with Mr Putin that he has charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with crimes (presumably, violations of American law).

Several things are wrong with this picture.

First, is it a surprise that Russian military intelligence is trying to mess with us? Is this new? Did they used not to? Why make a major announcement of it? It’s routine stuff. Catch them; slap them! Is it the case that US intelligence agencies never tried to mess with Mr Putin’s endless re-elections? What’s their excuse if they did not? Is it the case that our intelligence agencies are not interfering with, say, Venezuela’s political processes today? Really? I liked better the days when our CIA had balls and was the scourge of everything and everyone progressive and socialist.

Second, ignoring the futility of the charges, what’s the chance any of the twelve is going to show up to be tried in America? Not great? Reminder, tentative reminder: Kidnapping them on foreign soil to bring them to American justice would probably violate someone’s law. So, why bother; why indict them? What was the purpose? What was the purpose, a couple of days before President Trump was to meet Mr Putin publicly? Was the purpose other than satisfying justice? Was the purpose to cover up and distract from something more important? Did it have to do with Mrs William Clinton?

Mr Putin offered – short of extraditing the twelve – several compromise solutions so that Mr Mueller could interrogate the Russian intelligence officers named. Will Mr Mueller accept any of those offers? Why not? Give a good reason why he should not.

Reminder: Extradition treaties between countries are always reciprocal: I send you the people you charge; you send me the people I charge. There are really good reasons the US should not want to have such a treaty with Russia.

Does Mueller really want to interrogate the Russian intelligence officers he charged, really? Does he want the truth? (Isn’t it already known?)

How was Mr Trump supposed to respond to such a brutal and vicious attack on his honesty, proffered by Mr Mueller while he was going to be on foreign soil? Was he supposed to lower his eyes, smile sweetly and keep mute? I would not have! He should not have! Should he not have allowed doubt about our intelligence agencies pass his lips, after what the FBI, for example, did? Is he crazy; is he stupid?

Putin is a brutal dictator, a meddler, and probably a murderer. With its nuclear arsenal, his country is the only one really capable of hurting us irreversibly. Good reason to talk to him. We don’t have to be friends but some formal courtesy is required.

The collective reactions of the American political class to the Helsinki meeting tells me that it has lost touch with elementary reality. It’s folly; it’s in a state of collective hysteria. I remember being there before. That was in the eighties.

Warning: If you are sensitive, please, don’t read the next sentences.

In the 80s, the media were awash with denunciations of brutal sex abuse of small children by Satanic cults. People were charged, convicted and sentenced on the testimony of four-year-old coached by eager, man-hating social workers. I remember well, especially, a story in The Atlantic. A father of two confessed to nailing his small daughters to the floor of his living room so his buddies could rape them. The next day, the girls would go to school as usual. No problem! I believe no apologies were ever issued. The justice system was very reluctant to let go of the imprisoned.

A senior Wall Street Journal journalist, Dorothy Rabinowitz, had a solitary struggle of several years to get the wrongs righted.

Wake up, America; get a grip! Those are wooden nickels you are taking!

Nightcap

  1. The global reaction to “America First” Brands & Feaver, War on the Rocks
  2. Putin’s new Cold War Lawrence Freedman, New Statesman
  3. The “borders” of Gaza Irfan Khawaja, Policy of Truth
  4. A difficult question on Trump’s tariffs Arnold Kling, askblog

Nightcap

  1. A question about Israel for a Bleeding Heart Libertarian Irfan Khawaja, Policy of Truth
  2. How Putin has changed, and subjugated, Russia Christian Esch, der Spiegel
  3. Russia’s bite is not nearly as powerful as its bark Daniel DePetris, the Skeptics
  4. Who cares about Washington anymore? Parag Khanna, Politico

An update from Memphis (Russo-Baltic edition)

Dr Znamenski (bio, posts) sent me an email updating me on his recent shenanigans:

I also appreciate your remark that we need to reach out to other libertarian-leaning people rather than singing to only a libertarian chorus. Even though I am notorious for not contributing to NOL, I devoted this summer to reach out to liberty-minded people in Europe by going to St. Petersburg, Russia, and delivering there a public talk (in Russian) on “Heroics of the New Deal and Its Critics” at a downtown hotel and afterwards I met with the audience for a free-style interactive talk on current challenges to individual liberty. Then I proceeded to Tallinn, Estonia, where I met a group of Estonian libertarians and delivered a talk (in English) on geopolitical imagination of Russian nationalism (used current Alaska-related Russian patriotic rhetoric as an example). Then proceeded back to Russia, where at Samara University again I gave a talk on the mythology of FDR and New Deal Keynesianism and how it was appropriated in 2003-2008 by the Putin regime that was building the “vertical” of its power. My argument was that politico-economic regime whose “validity” was “scientifically” proven by Keynes in 1936 by now became a kind of a fetish that is associated with a good government. Hence, the “Heroics of the New Deal” title. The Estonian visit was especially pleasant and inspiring.

I also met an informal leader of Estonian libertarians […] Very productive and charismatic guy. I need to navigate him to you and to NOL, which will greatly benefit from his contributions (if any). His English is impeccable too. See his picture attached to this letter (they have Mises Institute of Estonia) in addition to a few other images from Estonia (the country where all paper work exists only in electronic form and a flat tax return occupies only one page!). The country [Estonia] was the first in Europe to introduce universal flat tax (1994), which replaced three tax rates on personal income and one on corporate profits. The flat tax rate was on 26%, which later was reduced to 20%. Several countries of Europe followed the suit and benefited from this. Very simple system, which helped this tiny backwater country of 1 million plus something people to dramatically raise its well-being. To their frustration, even Russian nationalists, who remain quite influential in Estonia due to the presence of a large Russian minority, have little economic discontent among Russians to chew on. The latter simply compare their economic situation in their historical homeland where average salary is $500 and Estonia where this salary is $1150.

Dr Znamenski has some excellent ideas brewing (on US-Russian relations in the Arctic, Crimean secession, and Foucault), and hopefully he can find the time to post them in the very near future. Notice, too, that Dr Znamenski refers to Russians as Europeans (or, at least, considers St Petersburg to be European). A small observation, I know, but one that I suspect has big sociological implications. Check out these pictures he sent me:

This is the Estonian libertarian Dr Znamenski mentions above. I hope to someday meet him.

This is a photo from the Museum of the 20th century in Tallinn (the capital city of Estonia).

This is my favorite picture. It’s a view of Tallinn with a curious visitor, and highlights Dr Znamenski’s sense of humor, which I greatly appreciate.

Cold meetings at G-20

Hey gang, what’s up? World leaders meeting came to it’s logical end, so we can discuss that event. Seems that everything was as planned. Ukraine, sanctions, near East, China and koalas… And political rudeness. I know that Russian president isn’t in the stream of world love now, but rudeness is awkward – anyway. But we can’t decline that G-20 meeting was under his shadow. Just check your newspapers: Putin, Putin, rudeness, Putin and Obama, Putin and Merkel, Putin left G-20 before the end of the meeting, bla-bla-bla.

I have a couple of questions to all of you:

  1. What do you think about G-20 meeting? What can change in world after that?
  2. Do you think that political rudeness caused by lack of political will against strong Putin’s charisma and his ability to do as he want?

Welcome to the comments!

Around the Web

  1. Arms in the Several States. This is a great post by a law professor at Fordham (Nicholas Johnson) on the legal history behind the struggle of black Americans to arm themselves in the face of State oppression.
  2. World War I and Australia
  3. Held up in customs: Life in China gave Brittany Griner more than she bargained for. This is an excellent piece on the life of a female (former) college basketball star living in China.
  4. Putin’s Cold New World. This is a piece in Dissent magazine by a Polish Left-wing sociologist who deplores what he thinks of as inadequate protection from the United States. Interesting to read in tandem with the knowledge of factions and rent-seeking that is often addressed here at NOL.
  5. The House sues Obama: Political theatre, political pain. A penetrating insight from Will Wilkinson into the House’s decision to sue the Obama administration. The best account I’ve read of the drama so far.

Fighting Obama!

We discovered something important a few days ago about the federal Bureau of Land Management. (Many Americans also discovered the existence of the Bureau of Land Management on the same occasion.) Anyway, the BLM, as it is fondly known in the American West, has snipers in its ranks. For some of our overseas friends: a sniper is a specially trained rifleman or woman with a super-powerful weapon who can kill someone at long distance, often with a single shot. The discovery took place on the occasion of a confrontation about a few hundred cattle between the BLM and the cattle’s owners.

That A.. H… Putin had better not try anything illegal or immoral to American cows. The dictator of Russia is now reconsidering his aggressiveness. The Obama administration wins another one!

Ukraine: The Diplomatic Solution; the Conservative Blessing in ObamaCare!

There is a distinct preference out there, for solving our differences of opinion with the Putin gangster state “through diplomacy.” An elementary explanation is sadly in order here.

Diplomacy refers to one party explaining to the other with polite words how much harm it could do to that other party. And then, the second party takes its turn explaining to the first how much damage it could do to it if it really wanted to.

Once everyone understands concretely the other party’s capacity for evil, the parties get together to arrive at a compromise that minimizes the evil that  either party does to the other. That’s in successful diplomacy. Diplomacy often fails however. In 1939, Hitler and the Brits were talking to each other until the exact eve of the invasion in the west.

So, in this case, diplomacy only has a chance of  succeeding if doing severe harm is on the table in a credible manner. No perceived credible threat, no diplomacy.

Does anyone really believe that you can talk softly, talk sweet reason to Putin and that he will come to his senses and begin acting nice at last?

Another thing: As everyone knows, Obamacare is foundering. I am beginning to believe it’s a blessing in disguise. Whole young generations who really needed it are learning why Big Government is bad even when it’s trying to act nice. One of my young liberal friends is in the process of making a U-turn, I think. I don’t give myself the credit, much as I would like to. Mr Obama did it. My friend has a new bumper sticker on his car that says: “Obama- Dick-Dick.” That’s in Santa Cruz County so, it takes some courage. At least, he does not care a bit if his car is scratched! (My, that’s was evil and sly; I already feel a little ashamed!)

The Obama administration is not releasing figures the citizenry has a legitimate interest in knowing, such as: How many who signed up are also paid up? How many of the new sign-ups were without health insurance before? What is the net gain – if any -in insured  people who did not join publicly supported health insurance?

Refusing to divulge these figures has only one purpose. It’s to impede the opposition. That’s already Fascism. Not gathering these figures when you can and when you know some part of the public wants them is also Fascism. (Fascism is not an epithet, it’s political description. (See:  “Fascism Explained” and others on this blog. )

ObamaCare was a dishonest venture from the first. If it had not been, its first act would have been to make all health insurance available across state lines so as to maximize competition between insurance companies. If any Republican lawmakers had resisted, it would have been a blood feast for the Democratic Party. Large-scale buddy capitalism is also part of a  classical Fascist program.

Secession and libertarianism – Ukraine Edition

The most basic rule of schoolyard behavior is this: Don’t challenge the school bully if your knees are buckling under you. Mr Obama keeps ignoring the rule, with predictable results: One tyrant, one despot after another receives his confirmation that the USA is no dangerous, no matter what you do. Thinking the US in not dangerous is very dangerous for the world. I keep challenging the ones and the others, including mainstream libertarians, to say what will, or should replace the pax americana that has given us relative peace since 1945. No one cares to answer.

This introduction, not by way of beginning to argue that the US should have gone to war over Crimea. I don’t believe it should have; I don’t even think the US should have risked war ever so little because of Crimea. I think rather that Mr Obama should have been absent, with a pass for the nurse’s office, for example. Neither am I being pathetically “realistic,” here. Mine is a principled position. Let me explain.

Anyone who has any libertarian fiber but who maintains his criticality should be instinctively in favor of secessions. Two reasons.

First if being governed is an assault on individual liberty, being governed by those who are unlike you in some fundamental way is a doubly liberticide. Fundamental differences include, but are not limited to, language. That’s because your language largely determines the way you see the world and your sensitivities, what’s important to you as a person. Governors who have different beliefs, who operate on the basis of different assumptions, who nurture different dislikes than you are bound to commit slow rape on you every day of your life. That’s true even if they harbor zero hostile intention toward you. And that’s unless you volunteer, of course, as many immigrants like me – do.

I wish good luck to the Catalan independentists and to the Scottish autonomists. I would even if you proved to me beyond the shadow of a doubt that powerful economic interests undergirth their efforts. It’s true that Catalonia is more prosperous than the rest of Spain. It does not prevent Catalans from feelings how they do. They probably would, if they were less prosperous. I don’t know if the Scots would like to split from the UK absent North Sea oil but, if they do, they do, and that’s it. I believe, of course, that the Tibetans have had a solid claim for secession for all the time they have been under Chinese rule. (And, yes, it may well be that the objective quality of their lives has improved under Chinese Communist Party dictatorship.)

Am I saying that it’s better to be oppressed by those you think of as your kin?

Yes.

The Crimean population overwhelmingly wanted secession from Ukraine. Without the presence of Russian guns, the referendum would have been, maybe, 76 % in favor rather than 96%. The final result would have been the same. It’s not difficult to entertain this double thought: Putin is a gangster and the Crimeans would rather be Russian citizens.

Speaking of Putin: The fact that he used exactly the same arguments as Hitler in 1939 does not logically imply that he did something like dismantling and gobbling up independent Czechoslovakia. The Czechs and the Slovaks, were not volunteers the way most Crimeans are. The annexation of Crimea by Russia changes little to all this. (See below.) Crimeans did not feel Ukrainian, overall and they were tired of being very poor under the Ukraine. They would rather be moderately poor as Russians. It’s not hard to believe either.

The second reason for libertarians to favor secession instinctively is that rational people cannot treat the boundaries of nation-states as if they were sacred, the way most governments pretend to do. At best, one could argue that that fiction contributes to world stability. (I doubt it but it’s not a stupid position.) Rather, the borders of existing nation-states are often the result of centuries of sometimes successful wars (France), or of recent shameless robbery of one’s neighbors (the US), or of colonial bureaucratic insouciance (Iraq). In some cases, the tracing of boundaries looks like a joke: Take for example the long penis-like extension of Afghanistan into China in the eastern part of the former country. The mapmaker, probably a junior English officer must have chuckled with relief in his loneliness.

National boundaries may be useful or even indispensable (to control entry, of undesirables, for example) that makes them a necessity, or a necessary evil. Nothing confers on them a status above critical thinking: Sometimes, the violation of existing borders should not be countenanced; sometimes, such violation deserves only a shrug.

Note with respect to the present annexation of Crimea by Russia following this secession, I am saying nothing about the ensuing strengthening of the Russian kleptocracy. The encouragement of tyrants inherent in the Putin impunity also belongs in another essay.

The fact is that the prevention of secession has always produced tons of mischief, most of it violent, much of it an affront to basic human decency.

Hitler used the existence of a sizable German minority in a strategically important part of Czechoslovakia, of smaller Hungarians-speaking and of Ukrainian-speaking smaller minorities elsewhere to start World War II. It’s possible, even likely that Hitler would have used another excuse absent this one. But linguistic minority aspirations gave a cover of semi-legitimacy to his aggressive action. Without such legitimacy, it is quite conceivable that British and French public opinions would have demanded that Hitler be stopped while it was still possible. (The whole sorry story of Western passivity and vacillation in 1938-39 is recounted in minute, hour-by hour detail in William Shirer’ s classic: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.)

In more recent times, we witnessed violent and massive ethnic cleansing in Kosovo , the three-year long siege of a large city one hour flight from Rome, Sarajevo, and the starvation and daily bombing of its civilian population, and the massacre of thousands of men and boys, also in Bosnia. Most of these horrors could have been avoided by finely wrought enough secessions, even at county level if necessary.

A contrario examples abound of the healthful, virtuous nature of secession as a solution to intercommunal tensions. Some come from the most unlikely places.

The dissolution of Czechoslovakia – a radical form of secession – in 1993 was so peaceful that it went almost unperceived . The resulting Czech and Slovak Republics have since continued separately on their fairly prosperous paths. They maintain sound relationships as good neighbors (as very good neighbors, more or less like the US and Canada).

Paradoxically, today’s Iraq offers a striking example of the virtuousness of secession. The world follows with a tired eye Iraqi Arabs eviscerating each other along communal lines. That is, the Sunni Muslim Arabs there and the Shiite Muslim Arabs there are slaughtering each other every day, same as when the presence of Americans was said to cause all the murderous civil strife. Many Sunnis and many Shiites consider themselves members of existentially different groups. They do so for reasons that are probably difficult for Westerners to understand (except those who remember the Wars of Religion in Europe, of course, between 1520 and 1648.) It matters not; as far as they are concerned, those are reasons worth killing and dying for. Keeping them bottled up together, forced co-habitation, is not likely to attenuate these sentiments. (Think of ill-matched college roommates.)

In the meantime, you hardly ever hear of the Northern third of the same country, bloodied Iraq. I refer to “Kurdistan,” still formally a part of the Iraqi republic. Kurdistan, which does not exist officially, is people mostly by Kurds, a group with a distinctive language unrelated to Arabic. They comprise both Sunnis and Shiites. As far as the facts on the ground are concerned, Iraqi “Kurdistan” has achieved secession from its bloodied mother country. No shot was fired in spite of the quick-trigger violence of the Middle-East. The Kurdish area is so prosperous and so peaceful that others go there on vacation. The vacationers are first of all, Arabs from other parts of Iraq seeking relief from incessant violence in their part of the country. Second, Turks are crossing their southern border in increasing numbers for the same purpose . (May of those Turkish tourists are probably themselves ethnic Kurds.)

And we should not lose track of the fact that the 25 years of Saddam tyranny over all of Iraq, accompanied by internal massacres and two wars he started deliberately found what legitimacy it possessed in the supposedly sacred duty to keep Iraq unified. (Keep in mind that the Saddamite regime utterly lacked traditional legitimacy and religious legitimacy, or the political legitimacy that comes from winning fair elections, or any other source of legitimacy.)

Had Iraq broken up earlier into a Kurdish north, a Sunni center and a Shiite south, the world and, especially, the martyred Iraqi people, would have been spared enormous misery. It’s not too late to achieve this end.

I am speculating that many people’s unexamined attachment to the general concept of national border harks back to an earlier time, a time when they were coterminous with economic boundaries and with information boundaries. Not long ago, French citizens ate almost only French food, they wore only French-made clothing (there was even a lively traffic in illegal, smuggled blue jeans), and heard and read only news originating in France in French. All was produced almost entirely with French capital. National boundaries were then the very containers of our existence defined in the most concrete ways. None of this is true anymore for most countries. Borders are porous to most things including words (if not yet to people). Many people are thus ready to fight for a reality that disappeared quite a while ago.

A major more or less unintended effect of this pursuit of ghosts is that it easily turns to bloodshed, domestic and international. So, many Spaniard are resisting the threatened secession of Catalonia as if it would become a catastrophe of sorts for them. There is still little realization that nations that perceived themselves as homogeneous (for whatever reason) are spared major conflicts, including civil conflict. Homogeneous Denmark, with a similar level of development, is more peaceful than bi-community (linguistic communities) Belgium. Either a Walloon or a Flemish secession there would improve the lives of both Walloon and Fleming.

Secession is usually a good thing overall, for peace, and for individual liberties. Let them go and they will lose the ability to stab you in your own kitchen with your own kitchen knife. They may even become your friends, after a while.

N.B. I still have not heard anyone, or heard of anyone saying that he regretted voting for Obama. Amazing!

From the Comments: Musings on the Ukraine Fiasco

Riffing off of my post about the current crisis in Ukraine, Matthew writes:

Based on the track record of Russia vis a vis the West, I imagine the following scenario unfolding:

Russia (continues) to occupy the Crimea, while America and Europe (continue) to demand the withdrawal of Russian forces from the province. Putin, calculating that the West lacks the stomach for direct confrontation, refuses. Hysteria in the media and in government publications, which are ultimately the same thing, rises. A lack of direct conflict between Russian and Ukrainian forces, however, lends little credence to the mass panic broadcast over Western media. The furor dies down in time. Russian presence becomes normalized in the Crimea.

Or, the interim government, bolstered by further illicit monetary aid from America, pulls a Georgian move and attacks the Russian forces stationed in Crimea. Russian forces will quickly rout the Ukrainians sent against them, and most likely march towards Kiev – whether they take it or not will depend on the response of the international community, as with Georgia. Regardless of who instigated the violence, the Western media will blame Russia, and the war drums will grow louder. UN sanctions are unlikely, since Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, but some form of economic punishment will occur. Russia will draw closer to China, Iran, and Syria. The status quo ante will be upended in no one’s favor: Ukraine will be in shambles, Russia and America will be set at odds.

Regardless of the above two scenarios, meanwhile, the Ukrainian economy is in free fall, and the IMF offers the dual poisons of austerity and liberalization to the interim government. Facing an intransigent Russia and the wolf-faced smile of the West, the interim government accepts the IMF’s offer. Like Russia before it, Ukraine is left even worse for wear by the rapid pace of economic liberalization, and is thus too weak to resist the Russian presence in Crimea. Thus, the West has succeeded in breaking off a chunk of post-Soviet Ukraine and bringing it into its influence, while Russia largely retains what it had beforehand: its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, along with the de facto annexed province of Crimea. It is too early to tell, but perhaps the rest of Russified Ukraine will also join their brothers in Russified Crimea, and the state will break up along linguistic lines.

Who can tell what will occur? My money is on Russia, but maybe Obama will come up with some game winning stratagem (don’t snicker!).

Does anybody else care to make their predictions? You know where the ‘comments’ sections is!

Turn the Page; New Bombings in Russia

[Editor’s note: the following is a short essay by Payam Ghorbanian. Payam was born in Tehran, Iran. He got his bachelor of science in Engineering from Zanjan University in Zanjan, Iran. He has been participating in liberal political activities and he was involved with some think tanks in Iran. He is doing research in the field of international relations and Iran’s foreign policy as an independent activist. He is now living in San Jose, California.

I cannot endorse this essay, but I am excited to post it because of its potential as a conduit for intercultural dialogue and exchange. I have left his essay largely intact, but did break up some of his longer paragraphs for clarity’s sake. Thanks to Payam for taking the time to write this.]

There is a narrow line between acting and having a reason and acting because of reason, reason is not merely the cause of the one’s acting. As Brain Fay said the having of this reason is the cause of agent’s acting and the reason does not explain the act, the act doesn’t occurred because of the one’s specified reason. After Boston bombing in the United States, Piers Morgan in his live show asked one of the Boston bomber’s friends to find out whether or not the bomber guy had any accent when he was speaking English. He probably wanted to give us a hint that the bomber might got involved in this disaster because of being teased by others around him. Morgan wanted to downgrade the threat of sinister ideology to personal reasons of bomber, which he was unsuccessful because of the friend responded: “no, not at all.”

Islamic fundamentalism has the holy goal to build or revive the Islamic nation the same as thousands years ago and to be able to run that nation with extremist religious rules in order to build the distinguished nation in order to beat the westernized nation in the judgment day.  I have to mention that it is not actually only about Islam, all historical religions because of consequences of compacting with modernism and being frequently defeated have this potential ambition to draw the utopia for their followers, although now we are facing with Islamic fundamentalism which is the great threat for all modernized countries. Even though they are fighting with modernism, they constantly use the modern stuffs for getting to the final step like weapons, electronic connections, chemical bombs, internet, computer and etc. This battle would not end up if we just want to focus on a single aspect of it. On the other hand, if we are going to say that they are only a threat when they attack us or our allies, so we might be able to divide them into the good and bad and take an advantage of them for stopping the threat of wicked (but modernized) countries like Russia, China or even Bashar Al-Asad’s regime in Syria. It should be drawn by us as a red line.

Dokka Umarov is the person who is known for several attacks in Russia with the goal of reviving the Islamic State in Caucasus; being so closed to Al-Qaeda. Getting involved in Syrian war made him the one of the most dangerous rebel leaders for Russian nation. He also said he will prepare the maximum force to disturb the security of the Winter Olympics on February 7 in Sochi and now he has this ability to challenge president Putin. The last operation of terrorist group in Volgograd’s bombing killed 34 people on December 31, 2013. It is just the beginning of the wrong way, retaliation of rolling in Syria with the hands of terrorist group inside the Russia.

This upcoming Olympic is not just a regular event for Russia. It is a pose of pride, especially for Mr. Putin and maybe for all Russians to get their confidence back and show off the 40 billion dollar which has been spent for preparing of this event till now and it could be seen as a heritage of Putin’s presidency. After these recent attacks Mr. Putin said: we will tough and consistently continue to fight. He also has pointed his finger at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and call up for retaliation, which I think it is just more a threat, rather than a real action in order to prevent upcoming attacks.

When someone threatens you with an attack and at the same time someone else tries to blackmail you and offers you that if you want to prevent this attack you have to do something for me, it means that there is a connection between the person who threatens you and the person who wants to prevent the attack.

Prince Bandar Bin Sultan is the director general of Saudi Arabia intelligence agency from July 2012 until now and he was the KSA ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005. He was known for helping Bin Laden’s family to leave US after September 11. He consistently tried to get involve his country in Syrian crises and after found out that United States is not interested in taking military action in Syria, he prominently criticized Obama’s policy regarding the Arabian countries. He said: KSA would shift away from United States over Syria. He has been using millions of dollars of his country in Syrian’s war without getting anywhere and now this war is getting more predominated by dragging inside the Iraq as we have seen during the last month.

Bin Sultan has also tried to convince Russia to give up Al-Asad’s regime by offering them to control and stop Chechen terrorist groups during the winter Olympics and also by purchasing weapons from Russia worth of billions of dollars, as the news said. However, he was ultimately unsuccessful.  Mr. Putin knows this rule that if you take just one step back as a result of being frightened by terrorist groups, finally you will be totally turned away. I am into every activity which stops Mr. Putin and China’s government and their ambitions to build the new evil empire but I never ever think about using terrorist groups in order to push them back. They are modernized countries which means they can be backed off by modern means.

The Saudi Arabia with the eternal sick king and hundreds of princes with the lack of any discipline over them seems like an oligarchy. Increasing oil price and powerful armies which has been supplied by United States would really inflate their egos without any financial structure. They really think they can get involved in the games of power. They are in the same path where the last king of Iran was which is going directly to the land of darkness and being unaware of what their people really want and finally overthrowing by them but in this case of Saudi Arabia it takes a long time because of the unfortified middle class but it will ultimately happen. Just take a glance to the Mohammad Reza Shah’s interview in 1974 with BBC he said: “I think our country in the next 10 years will be what you are today. In next 25 years; according to other people, I am not saying that, will be among 5 most prosperous countries of the world.” Several years after this interview, all these bubbles just busted and he could not or would not realize what his people, especially the middle class, are looking for maybe just a little bit of freedom.

Unfortunately the Saudi Arabia and several countries in the Middle East can be called as the ‘necessary dictatorship’. I just made up this word to explain my thought. At this time these regimes surpass far their people, any effort to change the regime will invite the extremists to the party so we obviously prefer to face with dictators instead of terrorists but these sorts of countries should be pushed forward by international union to start reforms. I really like the way that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has followed by opening the gates of the country to the foreign investors with the useful rule of “51 percent of a business must be owned by a UAE national.” This means involving the local people in the business and helping them to lift up instead of putting them down by giving them money occasionally. A person who owns a business will be much more conservative about the definition of Jihad. Now in KSA by the sinister ideology, minds are polluted. Hostility and animosity just spread out so we can tell it will be prolonged but it should start right now otherwise allowing these countries to use the extremists as a political weapon or even helping them in Syrian War will just ignite the worst catastrophe. Remember Al-Qaeda was supposed to fight with Soviet Union but now it fights with the free world and all aspects of that.