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Belmont Club


July 9th, 2014 - 5:19 pm

Walter Russell Mead wonders if we are living in the shadow of another great war. In his piece “Have We Gone From a Post-War to a Pre-War World?” he concludes our comforting margins of peace are evaporating at an alarming rate. Could we run out?

Only a few years ago, most western observers believed that the age of geopolitical rivalry and great power war was over. Today, with Russian forces in Ukraine, religious wars exploding across the Middle East, and territorial disputes leading to one crisis after another in the East and South China seas, the outlook is darker. Serious people now ask whether we have moved from a post-war into a pre-war world. Could some incident somewhere in the world spark another global war?

But Andrew Klavan is convinced of one thing: if some great conflict breaks out, it won’t result from some dark plot hatched in Washington.  They’re too incompetent to author tragedy, though they can manage farce.

Many people on the right think Obama is an Evil Leftist Genius. Not me. I think he is a hapless putz. I think his ideas are all wrong, his application of his ideas is incompetent, and the chaos that he causes with his wrongness and incompetence will not lead in the direction he thinks it will.

I think when the history of the 21st century is written, Obama will not merit more than a single line. Even the fact that he was the first black president may come to seem irrelevant in a couple of decades. In which case, he will not merit any line at all.

If the tragedy of 1914-1918 is remembered as the Great War, the name for any next conflict will the Whoops War. People often — perhaps mostly — get themselves into trouble by thoughtless accident. Gavrilo Princip himself probably never intended to start World War 1. Put someone clueless in the White House and you could get something interesting.

Both John McCain and a Hawaii Democrat, Rep Colleen Hanabusa believe the president has no plan for dealing with the crisis in Iraq or ISIS. Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar characterized Obama’s response to the flood of illegal immigrants at the border as ‘aloof’, ‘bizarre’ and ‘detached’. “It just floored me, because if he’s saying he’s too busy to go to the border but you have time to drink beer, play pool.” Then it would be business as usual for Barack Obama. Being responsible for something doesn’t necessarily mean being in control of it.  The old story of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice was a cautionary tale for those convinced of their own thoughtless greatness.

an old sorcerer departs his workshop, leaving his apprentice with chores to perform. Tired of fetching water by pail, the apprentice enchants a broom to do the work for him – using magic in which he is not yet fully trained. The floor is soon awash with water, and the apprentice realizes that he cannot stop the broom because he does not know how.

The apprentice splits the broom in two with an axe, but each of the pieces becomes a whole new broom and takes up a pail and continues fetching water, now at twice the speed. When all seems lost, the old sorcerer returns, quickly breaks the spell and saves the day. The poem finishes with the old sorcerer’s statement that powerful spirits should only be called by the master himself.

This metaphor explains the president’s difficulties concisely. Habituated to demanding things — or starting things — in his previous life as a campaigner, activist and ‘community organizer’, he has no clue about how to deliver. Someone else always did the delivering.  Obama had no experience finishing things; of staying on top of a developing situation and bending it to timelines. He was always conjuring stuff and leaving others to clean up after him.  He’s on a joyride through history, thinking he’s going somewhere but really running in circles on a speed thrill.

For example, MSNBC recently reported that many Central Americans were converging on the border in the mistaken belief that Obama had invited them in.

Does he even remember that invitation? Maybe it was just a throw-away line in a speech. And anyway Dude, that speech was a long time ago. As with his ill-fated Red Line speech with Syria the president has an unfortunate tendency to provoke unintended consequences. And so he starts one ball rolling after another; ignites one fire after lighting the last heedless of the results until his whole workshop is alive with whizzing balls and sparking flames.  The result is an accident waiting to happen. For example tensions are rising with China. Simon Denyer of the Washington Post reports:

“U.S.-China relations are worse than they have been since the normalization of relations, and East Asia today is less stable than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” said Robert Ross, a political science professor at Boston College and associate of Harvard’s John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.

The Obama administration’s foreign policy rebalance, or “pivot,” to Asia has been widely interpreted in China as an attempt to contain its rise.

But he didn’t intend it that way. One can understand why the president feels betrayed by the world. After all, Obama will claim — perhaps in perfect candor — that he never intended to raise tensions with China, pick a fight with Russia or set the Middle East ablaze. That he managed to achieve the exact opposite of his stated intent must appear to him perverse; explicable only as some malevolent plot hatched by Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.

The rest of the world, busy dodging his whizzing balls and roaring conflagrations, can only congratulate themselves on surviving another day by asking that rhetorical question in the Air Force Song: “how we lived, God only knew”.  Perhaps there is some truth in the saying misattributed to Otto von Bismarck: “there was a special providence for drunkards, fools, and the United States of America.”

If there is a special providence, we are close to using it up. At some point someone has to gently steer the hot-rod away from the cliff. Professor Mead thinks that though we live in disturbing times, there is so much that is different from 1914 that we cannot draw any exact parallels with events a hundred years ago.

History, perhaps unfortunately, can’t give us a clear answer to the question of whether we face anything like another Great War. Looking into the rear view mirror can only tell you so much about the conditions ahead. Our situation today is different enough from that of a century ago to make renewed great power war much less than a certainty, but there are enough troubling similarities that we can’t rule the prospect out.

The one thing we can say with certainty about the 21st century is this: peaceful or war-torn, it isn’t going to be boring.

The future is blank. Men have met it with a kind of stoic faith, having considered that they really had no choice. Shakespeare captured the attitude best:

Forever and forever farewell, Brutus.
If we do meet again, we’ll smile indeed.
If not, ’tis true this parting was well made.

Why then, lead on. Oh, that a man might know
The end of this day’s business ere it come!
But it sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known.—Come, ho! Away!


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July Crisis: The World’s Descent into War, Summer 1914
The First South Pacific Campaign: Pacific Fleet Strategy December 1941–June 1942
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America: Imagine a World without Her
Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas
A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War
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Top Rated Comments   
At this point in time a lawsuit IS running out the clock. It takes at least 2 years to get a decision from the courts and this will have to work all the way up to the Supreme Court. I was screaming for a lawsuit and/or impeachment of at least his underlings two years ago. In fact I am off of my Congress-critter's Christmas card list because I micturated in his Wheaties at a town hall on the issue. Years ago, it was a reasonable tactic. Now it a suit is a stall.

I gave my reasons for supporting even a futile attempt at impeachment in the last post's thread. But it is not going to happen. And the lawsuit is not going to happen [They have been saying they are going to do it for weeks now. Nothing has been actually filed to start the clock and the session is running out.] until years after Crown Princess Malia ascends to the Oval Office. They have not resisted Obama at anything, and the signal characteristic of Congress is "the dog that did not bark". Where are the Institutional Republicans on the border crisis? On members of Congress being barred from US military bases on US soil? On the law and the Constitution being void in areas where a private security firm loyal to the regime that calls itself "Brownshirts" can void the First Amendment at will? Where are they on the pandemic diseases being released deliberately into our population? And that is just the outrage of this week.

Where the [multiple expletives deleted] are they now that the regime has functionally placed itself above having to furnish subpoenaed information to Congress? Where is there ANY discussion of the proposed alliance with I-bloody-ran in Iraq?

The Supreme Soviet would understand and approve of the Institutional Republicans. The only people they are at war with are the American people, in alliance it seems, with the regime.

Right now, the "fruits and nuts" wanna-be Rambo pseudo militia are gathering at Murrieta, California. They are led by a guy who most likely is a Federal agent. All rational Constitutional Militia types are keeping their distance. This may well be the provocation that will give Obama the incident he wants.

The disaster is coming.

Subotai Bahadur
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Both Mead and Klavan do not want to credit what their eyes reveal. No, this current period is not the same as 1914 Europe. In many ways it is worse. Because much of the West is currently governed by an elite that not only does not have the interests of their own country at heart; they actively detest and hate their own countries and people. In 1914, while they blundered into war, with only Princep and his handlers of the Serbian Black Hand being serious about provoking any sort of hostilities, our world is full of hostile forces. Several flavors of Islam, the Chinese, and the Russians are all aggressively seeking aggrandizement by force.

All it will take is one successful strike, and it all comes down.

Klavan's article comes down to a belief that Obama is merely incompetent and not malevolent. And that we have the design margin to outlast him, because we have done it before outlasting Carter until we got a Reagan.

A simple test I proposed. The matter of whether Obama lacks either IQ point, education and experience or both -vs- his actions being deliberate, malevolent attempts to destroy this country and its people can be solved by a review of the available record. IF he was merely incompetent, in the 6 years our country has suffered under him the law of averages would have kicked in. At least one of the initiatives he has tried to force on the country and world would have worked out, if not to the benefit of the US, as at least neutral as far as an effect on our country. Name the exception.

We are worse off than under Carter, because during his 4 years it was never alleged that he was trying to destroy the country, nor did he promise to fundamentally transform the country. And in those misty days of antiquity, there actually was an opposition party instead of a Quisling Party.

Today, we are 6 years into what will at least be 8 years of an unopposed enemy of our very existence with dictatorial powers. And that enemy-in-office waxes orgasmic at every blow he can deliver to this country.

I would respectfully take issue with part of cfbleachers' statement:

We ARE at war. The fact that we aren't fighting sworn enemies as if we were...fools the senses into believing we are not.

Yes, we are at war, for our very existence. But have no doubts, Obama, his regime, and the Institutional Republicans are as much sworn enemies as our foreign foes. The best case for them is converting us into a crony fascist state. But if they fail, they would rather destroy everything rather than yield an iota of power and privilege.

Subotai Bahadur
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33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wretchard, with your fondness for literature, I was *sure* you were going to quote The Great Gatsby:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

That is the best and most gracious thing that could be said about Obama. If one ignored mountains of evidence that he does not deserve such a gracious judgment.

His "I'm a better speechwriter than my speechwriters" remark is incredibly telling. It isn't merely that he has never had to get his hands dirty, do the heavy lifting & see something through to the finish. It isn't merely that he has sailed through life making Tom & Daisy Buchanan messes & having other people clean up after him. It is that he is in complete denial that this is who he is, and this is the life he has lived. He actually believes he is the smartest, most competent guy in the room, and that he is more of an expert than the experts.

Imagine what kind of a petty, narcissistic gasbag you would have to be to reach your 40s and NOT realize how much you DON'T know.

Way back in 2008 or early 2009 -- ie, when Obama first got elected & was promptly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having done nothing -- someone here on Belmont Club made the prediction, "He's going to end up nuking somebody."

At the time, I thought that comment was -- not outrageous, but stretching credulity. As in, the odds of that were so long as to be in the neighborhood of a blind nag jockeyed by Rosie O'Donnell winning the Kentucky Derby.

Now? Nearly six years later?

The blind nag is in the lead. It's all the *other* horses, of Reason, Rule of Law, Accountability, Where's The Outrage, Common Sense, Naked Emperor and US Constitution, that have stumbled and fallen like dominoes. One after the other after the other. Against all odds. That blind nag is in the lead and turning for the home stretch.

Or, to use another analogy ... I feel like we're all in a Dirty Harry movie. "Do you feel lucky?"

No, not really. Not at all. Unless it's BAD luck you are talking about. In that case, yeah. We could be given a deck with 51 aces and 1 deuce, and we will draw the deuce. That's how the trajectory seems to be going.

God help us.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
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I'm against impeachment because I think the best thing that could happen to small-government conservatives will be for a stumbling, fumbling, hated Obama to publicly flounder for 2 years of misery. Let the democrats and the leftists try to live THAT down.

Sure, it will screw over the country. But face facts, this country is already screwed. That bridge has been crossed, and set on fire. Let it burn - let it all burn.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Anybody: what exactly was that guy in the video trying to do with that manhole cover--I guess that's what it was--and how did he do it?
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Looked to me like he was trying to light and drop some pyrotechnic device down a hole in the cover. I suspect it was sewer gas that raised hi eyebrows
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is one very sick mf in the White House. Folks we ain't halfway to the 2 year mark. I don't see this ending well. We're on Malaysia Flight MH370 and the oxygen's off in the cockpit.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well I will suggest that at this point, pacé the astute Teresita, no one has any idea of either what the reality-based community looks like or who is among its members; I suspect a good many of the TWANLOC think it is they who are running that particular show.

And if we have a second civil war, it will not have been merely because a Democrat got elected to a second term in the Oval Office--and the Senate has, by now, essentially nothing to do with it. We are as close as we have ever been to "The Persistence of Memory," and a lot of things are looking as surreal as a bunch of limp pocket watches drooping in the desert, and are bearing as little apparent relationship to each other.

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

. . . .

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
If the few stalwarts among us

"Few"? Actually more than 48 million. That's a lot. Sure, sure, the 52 million who voted for Obama are also a lot, so stipulated. But still.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Lamenting Obama's shortcomings is facile criticism. And the uncertain dangers that lie ahead are tomorrow's problem. Today, Obama has already succeeded in undermining the national spirit, and confidence in federal institutions, and our willingness to band together. I do not recognize the country I live in and I do not see common ground with most of my fellow citizens. That a majority of voters has seen fit to elect him twice to the highest office in the land tells me that we are beyond the tipping point. If the few stalwarts among us chose to stand up now, at best they will slow the descent, and at worst will get trampled by the stampeding mob. The government is an addict, and it needs to hit bottom before there is real motivation to heal.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment

>> if the GOP has any backbone (always questionable), allow the GOP to thwart and stymie Obama at every turn.

No. The president has gone rogue. He's extra-constitutional now, and will continue to be as long as he can get away with it. The congress has shown no inclination to force him to stop, and will not in the future. A GOP Senate won't hurt, but will not change this president's behavior.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good points. I am sympathetic to your POV. It's just that I think that the effort to impeach will fail and backfire on the GOP, and end up strengthening Obama.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have to give credit to the guy, almost every day he seems to come up with a new way to harm the country.

Of course we can still hope that God will save us, though that seems increasingly unlikely, as we're now more of a "New Sodom" instead of the "New Jerusalem".
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Only a few years ago, most western observers believed that the age of geopolitical rivalry and great power war was over."

Only the stupid ones, Richard. Only the stupid ones.

Of course, that's most of the elites, but that's another discussion.

33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some time ago, the inestimable Subotai wrote a post detailing the transition in belief systems during the opening of the US War of Independence -- as many individuals went from considering themselves British colonists to identifying themselves as Americans. A similar transition has hardly started in the Age of Obama.

What brought this to mind was a post below by astute commentator Teresita about impeachment: "Then work for GOP control of the Senate, which will truly make him [Soetero] a lame duck."

Teresita presents the 'before the transition' viewpoint. The 'after the transition' viewpoint is that the political system is hopelessly broken. Even if the RINOs were given a majority in the Senate, they would refuse to use it -- or a Jim Jeffords would promptly change parties for his own temporary personal advantage, putting self-dealing millionaire Harry Reid back in charge of protecting Soetero.

I suspect we are in a Pre-War situation. But whatever triggers the conflagration, it will rapidly lead to a series of vicious civil wars across the world, of which Ukraine is merely a fore-taste.

The gap between TWANLOC and Americans is such that it can only end in a second US civil war. China's 3,000 year history is one of repeated civil wars. Russia is a multi-ethnic empire which is subject to falling apart. Europe's exceptional history of hatreds & constant blood-letting needs no comment. Hard days ahead.
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33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nations have character and usually act within certain limits, just like Spock on Star Trek. If he started laughing, you'd guess something was very wrong. It took the US four score and seven years to get to a civil war over the issue of slavery, we're not going to have a second civil war just because a Democrat gets a second term in the Oval Office. I know that doesn't make for tittilating copy on the BC but I'm a member of the reality-based community.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nations do indeed have certain character, Teresita, which is why many have observed the US with alarm since 2008, if not 2001. The US, if as Spock, has not just been laughing, but lashing out in bursts of anger, screaming incoherently, and rocking back and forth slowly while carefully tearing valuable things into tiny bits. All, I might add, at inappropriate times. It is, almost, as if the country were swapped by a goateed, mirror-universe version off its meds.

The US already had its War Between the States. Were it to descend into another civil war, the character will more closely resemble the disintegration of Czarist Russia, which if you recall was preceded in its primary collapse by a failed thrust in 1905. Then the check came due, two revolutions swept 1917, and the Reds and Whites tore each other to shreds while bands of everybody else tried to help, escape, or "get theirs" for 5+ years.

If such troubles come they will arise from similar forces of social discontent, economic failure, and political and military humiliation--not because there's a Democrat, a woman or even a "magic Negro" in the Oval Office. The great concern is that, as in Czarist Russia, the design margin is being eaten away by indolence and maliciousness inside and out, and when a little ruin comes there will be nothing to withstand it.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
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