Arrived in Paris Tuesday with few intentions beyond watching some tennis (French Open qualifying, the inexpensive and crowd-free formula for spectating a high level of the sport), eating well, and hanging out with my wife after her several hectic weeks of preparing our daughter’s wedding. But it was soon clear that the European civilizational crisis (cf. Death of the West) while often easy to ignore, is very much with us. In a suburb of Stockholm, some immigrant youths have fought the police four successive nights (“youths acting youthy,” summarized Steve Sailer, sardonically), while in London yesterday two African Islamists hacked a soldier to death with a machete. In Paris on Tuesday afternoon a 78-year-old far-right activist and historian, Dominique Venner, entered the sanctuary at Notre Dame, deposited a suicide note at the altar, and shot himself in the mouth.
Venner was a serious figure in France’s extrême-droite, a phrase with different and far richer connotations than “extreme-right” in America. A major current of French intellectuals opposed the Revolution, quite understandably, and kept at it, rhetorically, throughout the 19th century. A French Right standing for traditional authority, order, aristocracy, the nation (and skeptical about fraternity, equality, and the various French republics) has been a constant and serious force, able sometimes to speak for nearly half the country. The far right hasn’t been violent since the early sixties—when right-wing officers of the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète tried to spark a coup against De Gaulle for letting go of Algeria—but as a current in French political life, it is always there. Today its main concern is immigration, particularly Muslim immigration, and in its current political incarnation, the Front National, led by Marine Le Pen, has jettisoned the party’s submerged but never absent anti-Semitism for a militant pro-Zionist and anti-Muslim line. Le Pen garnered 18 percent of the vote in last year’s presidential election, and the FN is a fairly serious minor party, receiving 13 percent of the first-round votes in the legislative elections and holding quite a few local offices. Hostility to immigration is a “populist” cause, and many of the FN’s voters used to vote communist; nevertheless there is an aristocratic and intellectual aura to the far right dating to the Revolution, and not entirely absent from today’s FN. It is this of which Dominique Venner was a part.
The goals of the suicide are easy enough to imagine. Part is surely vanity—Venner’s blog, I’m sure, has received more attention in the past two days than its entire previous existence, and every intellectual wants to be read. He was old and recently diagnosed with a grave unspecified illness. His concrete goal was to pull together two disparate groups of disaffected conservatives, the opponents of gay marriage (as in the U.S. a sizeable, somewhat shell-shocked minority) and the opponents of immigration. In his suicide note he tries to connect the two causes: Read More…
Sweden has the reputation of being a placid, comfortable place, where the contradictions of capitalism have been softened into irrelevance. That reputation is now very much out date. For the last four nights, mobs of young men have run riot through the suburbs of Stockholm. No deaths have been reported, but windows have been smashed, cars burnt, and police attacked with stones and other weapons.
The riots were set off by the police shooting an old man who threatened them with a machete. In light of yesterday’s atrocity in London, that decision looks eminently reasonable. But allegations of police brutality are really just a pretext. The rioters, most of whom seem to be Somali immigrants or their children, are angry at what they see as economic and social marginalization.
This attitude is particuarly disturbing because Sweden has invested more energy and money to integrating immigrants than any other European country. It’s also reliably prosperous: there’s no mass unemployment, as in France or Spain. What’s happening around Stockholm, then, can’t be explained away as a reaction to official neglect or poverty. Rather, it’s a predictable consequence of mass immigration from the Third World into a small, ethnically and culturally homogeneous society.
Immigration critics on this site and elsewhere worry that the United States is failing to assimilate the millions who have come here, legally and illegally, since the 1960s. I think those fears are mostly exaggerated. Although fashionable multiculturalism can inhibit assimilation, American life has proven to be an reliable solvent of foreign identities. As Christopher Caldwell has argued, however, the classic nation-states of Europe lack the cultural resources to absorb an influx of population from some of the poorest and most backward societies in the world. I’m glad I don’t live in Stockholm tonight.
David Pilling has it right in the Financial Times: “the unstated aim of the TPP is to create a ‘high level’ trade agreement that excludes the world’s second-biggest economy,” while including practically everyone else with Pacific a coastline: Vietnam, the U.S., Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Japan, and more.
Pilling argues that the prospective free-trade union will, in effect, both reverse and replay the story of China’s admission to the World Trade Organization—allowing Beijing to be singled out as an unfair trader on the one hand (thereby slowing its economic ascent) and on the other creating “a block so powerful and attractive that China will feel obliged to mend its errant ways in order to join.” Pilling doesn’t think TPP will achieve its grand objectives, whatever modest benefits it may confer on states like Vietnam (“giving it preferential market access”) and Japan (“through nudging industrial and agricultural reform”).
Actually, the last thing Japan needs is cheap, imported rice—through all the hardships of the past 20 years, the Japanese have remained a healthy and culturally distinct people. Why give that up for the 21st-century equivalent of $24 of wampum? Yet Japan may sacrifice much for the illusion of a multipolar East Asia—for China’s neighbors, strategic considerations are at least as much a motive here as strictly economic ones. The leverage TPP would give Asia’s second-tier powers over China would be minimal in real terms, but to whatever extent it helps them persuade themselves that they aren’t really second tier, it is something deeply to be desired. No doubt there are certain U.S. lobbies that gain something concrete from the agreement, but the opportunity to manipulate perceptions of power in the region is part of Washington’s motivation as well.
It’s an unnecessary as well as futile ploy: quite apart from the dubious economic merits of TPP, it will aggravate the Chinese, encouraging them to lash out with their own symbolic displays of power, while the reality of the East Asian balance is unchanged. China is in the paradoxical position of being vastly more powerful than any of its neighbors, yet being surrounded by so many suspicious states large and small—not only the likes of Vietnam and Japan, but such giants as Russia and India—that it will never enjoy the freedom to throw its weight around that the U.S. enjoys now or that the Soviet Union once wielded in Europe. China is both paramount and constrained; what TPP does is to give Beijing one more reason to resent its condition. That helps drive nationalistic provocations, and TPP will mean more of them.
Both the title and the trailer of Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” (now playing in DC at the E Street Cinema and Bethesda Row Cinema) suggest that this will be the story of how a man becomes a fundamentalist: how a young-gun New York financier, humiliated and mistreated after 9/11, turns his back on America and returns to Pakistan to become an Islamic terrorist. This is not the actual story of the film. In a sense the movie has too much story for this summary, and the protagonist, Changez Khan (a changeable, intense Riz Ahmed), gets trapped in the conflicting interpretations by which other people file down his life into intelligibility.
The Pakistani cricketer turned aspiring prime minister fell 15 feet from a campaign platform during a rally Tuesday. He’s hospitalized with three fractured vertebrae, but his campaign may benefit from a sympathy vote, according to Jon Boone in the Guardian:
Mohammad Malick, a prominent journalist, said the images in the broadcast would more than compensate for the loss of time on the campaign trail. “This really resonates because people like the image of a fighter, of a warrior,” he said. “He took this terrible fall and he’s recovering quickly – that is a powerful image.”
Malick said it could also help boost voter turnout, which analysts believe will benefit Khan more than the frontrunner, Nawaz Sharif, the head of his faction of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).
A poll published by the political magazine Herald on Wednesday showed the [Khan's] PTI and PML-N were virtually tied, with the latter leading by less than a percentage point among the 1,285 people surveyed.
For background on Khan, from the cricket field to Pakistan’s politics shaded by Islamism and military force, see his biographer Christopher Sandford’s recent TAC story, from shortly before Khan launched his election bid.
Just as Britain has a parliamentary system rather than separate executive and legislative branches at the national level, most localities in the UK are governed by “councils” that oversee everything from emergency services to schools. Yesterday elections were held for a large number of these local authorities—in places where the Conservative Party performed very well in 2009, presaging David Cameron’s (qualified) success in the following year’s parliamentary election.
The big story this year, however, is the rise of a “fourth party” atop the wreck of the coalition between Cameron’s Conservatives and Britain’s center-left third party, the Liberal Democrats. UKIP, the UK Independence Party, stands for restricting immigration, getting out of the EU, and opposing nanny-statism. (Some of Britain’s new alcohol regulations are the cultural equivalent of Mayor Bloomberg’s war on Big Gulps.) These are populist or nationalist former Tories and independents, though UKIP says it draws from all established parties. And while UKIP gets pilloried as a party of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” (in David Cameron’s words), as Tim Stanley points out, yesterday’s results show “Ukip have helped to smash the BNP … by providing a non-racist Right-wing alternative.”
Given the Tory party’s drift to the left under David Cameron, many on the right hope that pressure from UKIP and its voters will force the Conservatives to live up to their name again. The fear among Tories, however, is that UKIP will do to them what the center-left Lib Dems (in their various incarnations) did to Labour in the ’80s, siphoning away enough votes from the ideological base to permit the other major party to win—without the minor party picking up enough seats in Parliament to be a viable coalition partner. The likeliest outcome of UKIP-Tory fratricide is Labour victory. Think of, say, the Tea Party or the religious right breaking off from the GOP. The rump Republican Party would still be torn between going right to reclaim its lost base or trying to cobble together a centrist majority or plurality in general elections. Certainly there are Republicans who feel that shorn of the likes of Christine O’Donnell and Todd Akin, the party could win a few seats it’s lost in recent years. Read More…
“This is called slave labor,” said Pope Francis.
The Holy Father was referring to the $40 a month paid to apparel workers at that eight-story garment factory in Bangladesh that collapsed on top of them, killing more than 400.
“Not paying a just wage … focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at personal profit. That goes against God!”
The pope is describing the dark side of globalism.
Why is Bangladesh, after China, the second-largest producer of apparel in the world? Why are there 4,000 garment factories in that impoverished country which, a few decades ago, had almost none?
Because the Asian subcontinent is where Western brands—from Disney to Gap to Benetton—can produce cheapest. They can do so because women and children will work for $1.50 a day crammed into factories that are rickety firetraps, where health and safety regulations are nonexistent.
This is what capitalism, devoid of a conscience, will produce.
Rescuers at the factory outside Dhaka have stopped looking for survivors, but expect to find hundreds more bodies in the rubble. Read More…
A recent analysis of “The Lost Tribes of British Politics” at the ConservativeHome website (specifically, its Deep End blog) applies quite well to U.S. scene, too. The Deep End looked at ten philosophical factions vying for influence and rated them on a scale of zero (lowest) to five (highest) for their “intellectual inheritance,” “past glories,” “online presence,” and “future prospects.” As the first post, looking at Christian Democrats and Tory “wets,” explained:
In the age of the internet, you don’t need to have a political party behind you to have a voice. With an effective communications strategy and something to say, just about any school of political thought can take part in the battle of ideas. Furthermore, we shouldn’t take the existing party system for granted. Smaller parties now have the potential to breakthrough; while, in the major parties, factions that ran the show in one decade can be heading for extinction in the next.
Tory wets are analogous to the moderate Republicans of old—with a similar philosophy and once dominant within their party but now virtually annihilated. (Or at least disguised as something else.) Christian democratic parties of the sort found in Germany and Scandinavia, on the other hand, have never taken root in the U.S. or UK at all. So the first two tribes strike out.
The next two, the Blairites and the liberal interventionists, may seem like counterparts to the Obama administration, but not quite. Whatever their affinities with the present occupant of the White House, these tribes are indelibly branded with responsibility for the Iraq War and Great Recession, traumas that occurred under a center-left government in Britain. Take the worst parts of Bush and Obama, and that’s a reasonable proxy for Blair. The liberal interventionists in question, meanwhile, are “self-respecting lefties like Nick Cohen, Martin Bright and Oliver Kamm [who] now serve out lonely exiles on rightwing publications”—basically, left-wing neocons. These camps rate a 2 and a 1, respectively, for their future prospects.
So do the Labour left and the palaeo-socialists. The former scores a 2 for its prospects despite getting a boost from the Occupy movement, while “the premier palaeo-socialist blog is that of Neil Clark—sworn enemy of the liberal interventionists” (and a TAC contributor). The situation in the U.S. is parallel: American leftists, as opposed to partisan Democrats, aren’t all that happy with the Obama administration and the likes of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi; they miss Paul Wellstone and Russ Feingold. Some of the more staunchly antiwar ones prefer Ron Paul to Democrats’ leadership. So, yes, in America too their scores should be about a 2 or 1.
Next are the high liberals and the libertarians, variations on the same classical-liberal theme. The former are represented by The Economist and the Financial Times—over here they’re the Wall Street Journal kind of Republican, or at least the upper reaches of that demographic. As the Deep End says:
What the high liberals would really like is a Conservative Party without any conservatives in it—a sort of German-style Free Democrat Party, only bigger. No doubt, some of you might think that’s exactly what the Cameroons are giving them. But you’d be wrong. To a high liberal, euroscepticism of any kind is infra dig—as is anything that smacks of faith, flag and family.
I know John Kerry is said to be seriously committed to negotiating a two-state solution for Israel/Palestine, that he has leaned on various Gulf Arab states to consider modifications in their 2002 (reaffirmed in 2007) peace proposal, that he has apparently gotten some positive response from both the Gulf States and Tzipi Livni, the figure in Israel’s present government with some responsibility for peace negotiations.
I doubt it will go anywhere. Israelis have elected Likud-led governments in most recent elections, including the last two. The Likud is formally, officially, on record against the creation of a Palestinian state. Its charter states, “The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel.” Likud election platforms plainly reject a sovereign Palestinian state west of the Jordan river. Members of Israel’s present government like Naftali Bennett are unequivocal opponents of Palestinian statehood. While Obama made a nice speech to Israeli university students about the desirability of a two-state solution, he has no stomach (or Capitol Hill support) for a battle to undermine Netanyahu or change the Israeli leader’s calculations. (To give a sense of the political constraints, a liberal Democrat, Barbara Boxer is actually sponsoring a bill in the Senate that would give Israel the right to racially discriminate against American citizens in granting visas, while Israelis would be permitted to come to the U.S. freely.)
All this means there won’t be a two-state solution. It’s a shame—it’s the most logical, most practical way that two warring communities could salvage the essentials of the self-determination they both want. There are injustices about it, certainly. But one can see that it would, that it could, with a fair amount of good will, actually work.
In the absence of a two-state solution, then what? A significant barrier was breached this week when Peter Beinart’s Open Zion site published Daniel Gavron’s provocative column, “Time to Stop Demonizing the One-State Solution.”
If you’ve read Peter Beinart, one of America’s most eloquent and influential liberal Zionists, you will see the import. Beinart is as committed emotionally to the idea of a Jewish state in the Mideast as anyone. But he also can’t tolerate the injustices against the Palestinians Israel regularly commits. I would guess he published Gavron’s piece because he recognizes that the two-state idea may, actually, be finished—and that in publishing it, he is trying to provide two-staters one final burst of electro-shock resuscitation. If it fails now, there will be nothing to resuscitate. Read More…
“The worst mistake of my presidency,” said Ronald Reagan of his decision to put Marines into the middle of Lebanon’s civil war, where 241 died in a suicide bombing of their barracks.
And if Barack Obama plunges into Syria’s civil war, it could consume his presidency, even as Iraq consumed the presidency of George W. Bush.
Why would Obama even consider this?
Because he blundered badly. Foolishly, he put his credibility on the line by warning that any Syrian use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” and be a “game changer” with “enormous consequences.”
Not only was this ultimatum unwise, Obama had no authority to issue it. If Syria does not threaten or attack us, Obama would need congressional authorization before he could constitutionally engage in acts of war against Syria. When did he ever receive such authorization?
Moreover, there is no proof Syrian President Bashar Assad ever ordered the use of chemical weapons.
U.S. intelligence agencies maintain that small amounts of the deadly toxin sarin gas were likely used. But if it did happen, we do not know who ordered it.
Syrians officials deny that they ever used chemicals. And before we dismiss Damascus’ denials, recall that an innocent man in Tupelo, Miss., was lately charged with mailing deadly ricin to Sen. Roger Wicker and President Obama. This weekend, we learned he may have been framed.
It is well within the capacity of Assad’s enemies to use or fake the use of poison gas to suck us into fighting their war. Read More…