State of the Union

The Horror, The Horror

The innocent looking DVD for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off contains a scary featurette –”The World According to Ben Stein.”

I’ve taken a peek or two into that world, and it’s too horrifying to contemplate.

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Shut Up!

Jesse Walker has an interesting take on the Keyes/CP story. “It’s a small but satisfying victory for two noble though possibly lost causes: the movement to end the occupation of Iraq and the transideological coalition to get Alan Keyes to shut up.”

I think that the first goal will be easier to achieve than the latter. Keyes has to be the most rejected candidate in U.S. history. Yet he still becomes a candidate every four years.

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The other Northern Alliance

James Poulos who also attended the TNI on Thursday argues that China poses more of a long-term threat to U.S. interests than Russia:

To wit, the US and China have a much closer and more important economic relationship than the US and Russia, but in the short, medium, and long term, the rise of China poses a far bigger set of problems and ‘threats’ to American interests than does the recuperation of Russia. On the other hand, Europe and Russia have a much closer and more important economic relationship than Europe and China, but the recuperation of Russia poses far more problems and threats for Europe than the rise of China.

He also suggests that the instead of expanding NATO, the U.S. should work with the EU to help integrate Russsia into Europe. Europe, in turn could help the U.S. to counterbalance China:

And in the case of the former, as I’ll continue to urge, the US needs to focus its military energies in Europe away from NATO expansion into former SSRs and toward the recuperation of Europe itself as a political entity that can take its own side in an argument and live to tell the tale. Such a Europe will be of even greater value in balancing the complexities of the US-China relationship. It’s exactly the sort of win-win situation that should underpin the Western alliance for the next twenty-five years.

Interestingly enough, a few analysts had promoted the idea of European-Russian-American cooperation in the aftermath of the Cold War and before 9/11 and the war on terrorism as a way of forming a powerful geo-strategic bloc that could deal with the challenges – I don’t like the term “threats” — that were posed by China, India and political Islam.

Serge Trifkovic, for example, continues to advance the idea of forming what he calls a Northern Alliance between Europe, Russia and the U.S. And I discussed this proposal in my book, Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East, arguing that the long-term goal should be the establishment of a Congress of Vienna-like system that will eventually include also China and India.

In any case, the reason that the Northern Alliance remains only an idea has to do with U.S. policies, starting with Bush the First and through Clinton the First to Bush the Second: We’ve been expanding NATO into the borders of Russia because Washington doesn’t accept the principle of multipolarity under which Russia has its own sphere of influence. And insetad of exploiting differences between the other powers, we end-up antagoizing all of them — the Russians, the Chinese and the Europeans. It’s the worst of all possible policies.

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Broken Keyes

Freddy will be disappointed to hear that perpetual candidate Alan Keyes has fallen short of the Constitution Party’s presidential nomination. The Constitution Party — back then it was the U.S. Taxpayers’ Party — was founded in the early 1990s in the hopes of getting Pat Buchanan to make a third-party run in ’92. What liberals and others who fail to look beneath the surface rhetoric of the culture war have never understood is that while Keyes and Buchanan both speak out for traditional values, they have fundamentally different political philosophies. Keyes is an antiabortion neocon. The Constitution Party, whatever its flaws, is far from being a neocon outfit. So it has rejected Keyes and nominated instead Pastor Chuck Baldwin, a critic of the Iraq War and national-security state as well as a social conservative. The press thinks this is an upset, but anyone who knows what the Constitution Party has actually stood for will not be surprised at all.

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“Irate”

If you receive all of your information from Glenn Reynolds, you would get the idea that the current food shortage/crisis/panic is the fault of Al Gore. Reynolds links to a dishonestly framed New York Sun article headlined, “Food Crisis Starts Eclipsing Climate Change Worries.” The reporter, Josh Gerstein, writes “Ethanol was initially promoted as a vehicle for America to cut back on foreign oil. In recent years, biofuels have also been touted as a way to fight climate change, but the food crisis does not augur well for ethanol’s prospects.” But I don’t see a great deal of environmentalist support for corn ethanol. Bill McKibben is my go-to-guy on environment and specifically on climate change (he also has a localist/Reactionary Radical sensibility). He says that corn ethanol is “maybe the worst idea of all time.” In reality the Republican congress passed and George W. Bush signed the 2005 energy policy act which is repsonsible for the current round of ethanol subsidies.

Read More…

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And How!

Dan, I know all about military socialism, having experienced it first hand. I can only imagine the effect of growing up in such circumstances. Six years in the Marine Corps Reserve helps explain the trajectory of my political views. When I joined I was a neocon subscriber to National Review, The American Spectator and Commentary. Half way through my time in the military, I voted for Ron Paul in 1988, and two years after getting out I was an intern at Liberty Magazine.

One of my first pieces for Liberty was about the totalitarian nature of the military and I wrote about the moral values of the Marine Corps at Antiwar.com six years ago.

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McCain’s Socialist Upbringing

The Christian Science Monitor picks up a thread Bill Kauffman has recently discussed: how his experience as a military brat shaped John McCain’s worldview. The Monitor‘s Todd Crowell, a brat himself, writes:

What makes a military brat different?

For one thing, we brats have very little sense of our roots, although perhaps as a way of compensating, we do seem to have a greater sense of the nation as a whole and, to an extent, the world. The easiest way to flummox a brat is to ask the simple question: “Where are you from?”

Usually we stammer out something like, “Well, um, I moved around a lot as a kid.”

Kauffman draws out the implications of this rootlessness in his Counterpunch article and in his new book, Ain’t My America. He quotes a study by sociologist Janice Rienerth, “Separation and Female Centeredness in the Military Family,” which found, “moving often places inordinate demands on the individual to adapt and raises continued challenges to identity” — challenges enough for adults, let alone the children of empire. Not only does the military life displace families and children from normal social environments, however — it also creates an artificial socialistic milieu, as Crowell explains:

Few civilians realize that growing up in the military – not to mention serving in the military – is the closest to pure socialism you can come in America.

Nationalized healthcare? We’ve had it from Year 1. As a teenager living on an air force base in Japan, I even had my teeth straightened at US taxpayers’ expense. Housing is provided free of charge – and it’s pretty nice for admirals – or, if we have to live off base, it’s subsidized with a housing allowance.

Food is also subsidized. Well into retirement, my parents found it worthwhile to drive 50 miles from their Florida retirement home, past multiple civilian supermarkets to McDill Air Force Base to stock up on groceries at the commissary.

Crowell believes this kind of upbringing has had a profound effect on McCain. “Conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh were quick to condemn McCain for his egalitarian instincts,” he notes, but “it’s good to remember that the military does not only inculcate conservative ideals.” Crowell, who true to his un-roots now lives in Japan, thinks that’s not entirely a bad thing. Traditional conservatives, if there are any left, might disagree.

One has to avoid reductionism here — I grew up in a military family myself, though not usually on bases, and McCain’s possible libertarian opponent Bob Barr is also a military-industrial brat — but anyone who has lived the mobile military life knows that there’s a lot of truth in what Crowell and Kauffman, from their different perspectives, write. McCain seems especially defensive about his background, and he’s proud of the fact that that the military (and government) has been the only world he’s ever known. I think Kauffman is right, “Senator McCain’s loyalty is not to any particular American place but rather to a bureaucratic institution (the military) and an abstraction (the American Empire).” And that’s so by choice, not just by upbringing.

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Syria’s Nukes

The few people in US intelligence circles who were actually allowed to review the evidence provided by the Israelis regarding the alleged Syrian nuclear facility have called it “bullshit.”  Perhaps the mainstream media should note the implausibility of the tale being spun given the inability of Syria to support any nuclear program.  They should challenge the White House to make its case in open hearings in which critics are allowed to be present and speak, including a representative of the Syrian government.  Fat chance, someone said.  There is speculation that the entire performance is designed to denigrate Syria to keep the Israelis happy and also to force a rethinking of the ongoing negotiations with North Korea, which will now be labeled a proliferator.  The neocons, particularly in the person of John Bolton, have regarded any agreement with Pyongyang as a sell-out and prefer a more robust response to Kim Jong-Il’s ambitions.

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Defining U.S. national interest

I attended an interesting discussion on U.S. relationship with Russia and China that was held by the National Interest magazine on Thursday, during which Harry Harding raised an important point (and this is not a direct quote): American officials, lawmakers and pundits tend to portary U.S. policy moves towards China (and other powers) as responses to Chinese (and other powers’) policies. Hence, the focus of foreign policy debates in Washington is on why China is doing this or that, say, why are the Chinese saving too much and not spending enough, as opposed to why America is doing this or that, say, why are Americans spending too much and not saving enough. We supposedly react to their actions. Harding insisted that at the end of the day, U.S. foreign policy is determined by the way that we define it. That definition explains why we feel the need to respond (or not to respond) to what the Chinese (and other powers) are doing.

Indeed, since the topic that Harding and Nikolas Gvosdev were discussing was “Avoiding Catstrophe: The Future of U.S. Relations with China and Russia,” it’s important that Americans understand that the way the elites in Washington define U.S. policy explains why we could end up with a “catsrophe” on our hands here. While Russia is trying to preserve its status as a regional superpower in its “near abroad” and China is attempting to establish its position as a regional superpower in East Asia (in a way, the application of their own forms of the Monroe Dcotrine, in their respective spheres of influence), Washington, reflecting a bipartisan consensus or definition, is continuing to secure its position as a global superpower which supposedly has the right and the obligation to promote its interests and values around the world, including in Russia’s “near abroad” and in East Asia.

This is not an academic issue. The reason we ascribe to Russia and China “aggressive” tendencies and are willing to confront them, is because we define as “aggression” any move to challenge our global supremacy. That should be the starting point for any serious debate in Washington and around the country over our foreign policy.

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Looking for a credible source of information on Iraq?

Andrew Sullivan recommends Judith Miller. And then there is Alex Debat, if you need some stuff on global terrorism (and more), or contact Janet Cooke to find info about DC’s low-income neighborhoods, and don’t forget Stephen Glass who is a great source on conservatives who party. And let’s hope that Miller is not pulling a Clinton again.

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