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The Trouble Is that Obama DOES Have a Strategy

August 29th, 2014 - 11:27 am

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Obama’s “we-don’t-have-a-strategy” gaffe was so egregious as to distract attention from the fact that he does indeed have a strategy, which has blown up in his face. His strategy is accommodation with Iran at all costs. As I wrote earlier this month, our ISIS problem derives from our Iran problem: Bashar Assad’s ethnic cleansing, which has displaced 4 million Syrians internally and driven 3 million out of the country, was possible because of Iranian backing. The refugee flood in Iraq and Syria gives ISIS an unlimited pool of recruits. Iraqi Sunni support for ISIS, including the participation of some of Saddam Hussein’s best officers, is a response to Iran’s de facto takeover of Iraq.

Now we have analysts as diverse as Karen Elliott House and Angelo Codevilla proposing that the Saudis should use their considerable air force to degrade ISIS. Unless the U.S. commits its own forces in depth, the Saudis never will do so (unless they are defending their own territory, which ISIS is not stupid enough to attack). It is a sad day when America’s appetite for a fight is so weak that we count on the Saudi monarchy to do our dirty work for us. Codevilla writes:

Day after day after day, hundreds of Saudi (and Jordanian) fighters, directed by American AWACS radar planes, could systematically destroy the Islamic State—literally anything of value to military or even to civil life. It is essential to keep in mind that the Islamic State exists in a desert region which offers no place to hide and where clear skies permit constant, pitiless bombing and strafing. These militaries do not have the excessive aversions to collateral damage that Americans have imposed upon themselves.

That is entirely correct: in that region, air power could drastically weaken ISIS, if not quite eradicate it. It certainly could contain its advances (as fewer than 100 American sorties already have in northern Iraq). But the underlying problem will remain: Iran’s depredations have triggered an economic and demographic catastrophe in the region, and that catastrophe has created the snowball effect we call ISIS.

It may be entirely academic to argue that America should bomb not only ISIS, but also Iran’s nuclear facilities and the bases of its Revolutionary Guards. No Republican candidate I know is willing to argue this in advance of elections. Nonetheless, I repeat what I wrote Aug. 12: “The region’s security will hinge on the ultimate reckoning with Iran.”

On Canada’s Sun TV earlier today, commentator Ezra Levant asked me what Obama will do now. My guess is: very little. The reported Egyptian-UAE attack on Libyan Islamists is a harbinger of the future. Other countries in the region will take matters into their own hands in despair at American paralysis. Russia and China will play much bigger roles. And the new Thirty Year War will grind on indefinitely.

Also read: 

When You’re a Leftist President Who’s Lost Esquire…

Some of my best friends are Straussians

August 26th, 2014 - 5:17 am

Crossposted from Asia Times Online

The late Leo Strauss (1889-1973) was a thinker sufficiently nuanced to allow a wide range of interpretation of his views, and a teacher broad-ranging enough to influence students with divergent interests. I am honored to contribute occasionally to the Claremont Review of Books, associated with the so-called West Coast Straussians (although I am persona non grata among some East Coast Straussians). In fact, some of my best friends are Straussians.

As my friend Peter Berkowitz argues in a recent essay for RealClearPolitics, it is silly and not a little mendacious to portray the late emigre philosopher as an arachnidan spinner of right-wing plots. [1] My problem isn’t simply with Strauss, but with the ancients whom he admired. He taught that we have something fundamental to learn about statecraft from the ancient Greeks. This in my view is woefully wrong.

Greek philosophy, to be sure, remains one of the ornaments of human endeavor – as it applies to epistemology, ontology, aesthetics and logic, among other fields. Plato and Aristotle, though, came into adulthood just as the Greek city-states destroyed themselves through their own cupidity. What was left of Athens after the disastrous Peloponnesian War was ruined by Alexander of Macedon, who employed Aristotle as a tutor. I do not mean to deprecate the importance of the Greek polis as an exercise in democracy, but Aristotle was hardly its advocate.

“Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim,” begins the Nichomachean Ethics. But Aristotle’s assertion that all men seek the good (or at least the good as they see it) is wrong on the face of it. Frequently men seek perversion, violence, and the destruction of themselves and all around them. That is typical of civilizations that have reached their best-used-by-date, and at some point has been true of every civilization west of the Indus during the past 2,500 years with the exception of Israel.

By the time the Romans walked in, all of Greece could not field two regiments of phalanx-men. The rational, logical Greeks chose not to have children and disappeared. They did so after Athens built an empire that looted its colonies to pay off the Athenian mob, relying on imperial exactions for half of its food supply. Athens was a slave society that preyed on its neighbors. What is the sum of Athenian wisdom after the war was lost? For Sophocles (in Oedipus at Colonnus) it was that the best of all possibilities is never to have been born (“But who has such luck? Not one in ten thousand!,” said Yankel to Moishe in the old Jewish joke). It was Sophocles more than Aristotle whom Hellas took to heart, and ensured that its next generations would not be born.

Not since the late Roman Empire has the problem of willful self-destruction been so relevant to contemporary events. The whole of the industrial world excepting Israel is failing to reproduce itself, and great swaths of Europe and East Asia face demographic ruin at the hundred-year horizon. The civilized world, moreover, confronts mass suicide cults in the Islamic world happy to destroy themselves if only they can take the hated West down with them. About the despair that enervates the childless West as well as the self-immolating Muslim radicals, “classical political rationalism” has nothing to say to us.

Kierkegaard called Socrates an “ironist,” that is, a thinker who can look backward to the errors that brought his society into its parlous state, but cannot look forward to a way out (see Socrates the destroyer, Asia Times Online, May 25, 2004.) That explains why Plato, Xenophon and Aristophanes give us mutually-incompatible reports of Socrates’ views (Strauss attributed this instead to esoteric expression). For Socrates, “the whole substantial life of Greek culture had lost its validity,” Kierkegaard wrote. An ironist “is prophetic, but his position and situation are the reverse of the prophet’s. The prophet walks arm in arm with his age, and from this position he glimpses what is coming … The ironist, however, has stepped out of line with his age, has turned around and faced it. That which is coming is hidden from him, lies behind his back, but the actuality he so antagonistically confronts is what he must destroy; upon this he focuses his burning gaze.” Socrates, in short, was playing with his interlocutors.

Men do not always, or even typically, seek the good. Just as fatuous as the Cliff Notes classicism of the American neo-conservatives is the pop-Thomism of certain Catholic exponents of “natural law.” A young man knocking on the door of a whorehouse is still seeking God, wrote G K Chesterton. If all human endeavor seeks the Good, then it is only necessary to show people what the Good really is through “right reason” in order to put them on the right path. (My objection to “natural law” goes farther than that; nature herself is flawed and requires frequent correction, as I argued in Why ‘Intelligent Design’ subverts faith, Asia Times Online, October 23, 2012).

If men naturally sought the good, then they all could be persuaded that Western-style liberal democracy and free markets were desirable, because they lead to good results. That happens to be what I consider good, but other people would rather kill everyone around them as well as themselves rather than accept this. I do not think it advisable to send American soldiers to occupy their countries to teach them differently. Strauss knew that a substrate of irrationality lies at the foundation of human society, because he spent a lifetime engaging the 20th-century philosopher who expounded irrational self-destruction as an existential choice: Martin Heidegger.

When Heidegger speaks of “non-Being” in the ontological sense, he conceals (or rather discloses) a sly nod to Goethe’s Mephistopheles: boredom, an objectless anxiety and alienation from life, gives us an intimation of “non-Being,” Heidegger said. He might have mentioned rage, perversion, horror and violence. Heidegger followed the logical conclusion of his thinking into membership in the Nazi Party. (See Now for something about nothing, Asia Times Online, July 24, 2012). I do not mean to attribute too much authority to Heidegger; as Michael Wyschogrod showed in his classic study of the two philosophers, he borrowed his best material from Kierkegaard. Nor did Heidegger discover intimations of non-Being in the pre-Socratics; Fernando de Rojas’ citation of Heraclitus in the introduction to La Celestina(1499) long preceded him. Still, Heidegger gave us the modern formulation of the problem in its standard form.

Strauss had studied with Heidegger at Freiburg and understood the issues as an initiate. But he relegated the Heidegger problem for the most part to a few asides. A whole scholarly literature about Strauss and Heidegger has arisen from the fact that Strauss was obtuse about the issue. He did not believe that rationality was enough, which is why thought religion a desirable, perhaps even necessary illusion for the masses (as opposed to philosophers).

One cannot blame Strauss for the insistence of some of his prominent disciples that political rationalism can be transplanted from the West to non-Western cultures. Strauss might be blameless, but I would like to hear Straussians who oppose this conceit explain why (in their view) it is not Straussian.

The self-destructiveness of great nations and cultures is the decisive problem of our time; about this Strauss has little to teach us. In fact, no set of generalizations will yield much of a result in this sort of inquiry (although I have offered a set of aphorisms on the subject). One has to learn the language, read the literature, learn the history, and get the jokes. These are the sort of things one learns not in the classroom but at 3 am over a fourth bottle of wine.

The most important things are beyond the reach of philosophy. More important than and prior to democracy, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks argued in his 2007 book The Home We Build Together is the concept that human beings have inherent rights which no king or parliament can violate. This we inherit from the Hebrews, not the Greeks:

The concept of the moral limits of power is more important to freedom than is democracy. For democracy contains within it a fatal danger. Tocqueville gave it a name: the ‘tyranny of the majority.’ A majority can oppress a minority. The only defense against this is to establish the moral limits of power … Biblical politics is limited politics – the political of liberal democracies, not of the Greek city state.

Leo Strauss, contemplating the madness of the Nazi mob, taught virtue and moderation, and looked backwards to the ancients as a counterweight to the passions of the moderns. There is nothing malicious in this, but there is also nothing right about it. Men are immoderate. The country that most attracts me is Israel, whose people are impassioned, boisterous, loud, risk-friendly, unruly, rude, and altogether wonderful. They also have three children per female, uniquely in the industrial world.

Moderation is overrated. Passion is to Kierkegaard the primary stuff of ontology. It is the starting-point of human existence. In Jewish thought, the “evil impulse” (ha-yetzer ha-rah) – ambition, sexuality, competitiveness – is indispensable to life. “If not for the evil impulse, no one would build a house, marry, have children, nor engage in trade,” wrote the rabbis of the Talmud. In one Talmudic homily the rabbis capture and imprison the yetzer ha-rah, and observe the next day that not a chicken in Israel had laid an egg. Suppress the passions, like the Greeks after Aristotle, and you get a country populated mainly by statues.

Let the Straussians sort out Strauss; truth told, I never found his work compelling, and studied it only because one cannot make sense of the contemporary conservative movement without it. Some of Strauss’ most celebrated assertions have not survived the withering critique of scholarship. Moshe Halbertal’s superb study Concealment and Revelation (Princeton 2007) makes short work of Strauss’ argument about esoteric writing, for example. Perhaps, like Kierkegaard’s Socrates, Strauss was playing with his students, acting as ironist rather than prophet, as a few critics have suggested.

Strauss’ strengths and weaknesses, though, are of secondary importance. What makes his influence so baleful are not errors of analysis or emphasis, but rather the insidious way in which “classical political rationalism” (Thomas Pangle’s phrase, not Strauss’s) supports a wholly irrational impulse, namely American narcissism. Forgetting our origin – the impassioned radical Protestantism that motivated the American Revolution – we Americans tend to assume that if only everyone did things the way we do, the world would be a wonderful place. Exporting democracy is perhaps the most fatuous conceit in the long, sad history of American policy failures. By no means is Leo Strauss to blame for this. But our narcissism explains a good deal of his enduring popularity. We like rationalism because we flatter ourselves that we are masters of our fate, and our use of reason enables us to control our destiny.

Quite the contrary: America made it by the skin of her teeth, by the grace of God. We nearly dissolved in the Civil War, and no-one but a president with the character of a Hebrew prophet could have extricated us from disaster. We aren’t that smart, and we aren’t that good. We are only the best there is – a depressing thought indeed.

Notes:
1. Leo Strauss’ Political Philosophy: Reviled But Redeemed, RealClearPolitics, August 16, 2014.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman. He is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the Wax Family Fellow at the Middle East Forum. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too) was published by Regnery Press in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It’s Not the End of the World – It’s Just the End of You, also appeared that fall, from Van Praag Press. 

The Beam in Our Eye

August 19th, 2014 - 6:19 am

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The essay below appeared in Asia Times Online on April 8, 2008. Apropos of the Ferguson riots it is reprinted below. It should make no-one happy. The crippling failure in American culture, I argue, is our refusal to come to terms with our own Civil War. This failure afflicts the conservative movement. For example: Last June I had the privilege to teach a course at the annual Acton University in Grand Rapids, MI. One of the keynote speakers was Judge Andrew Napolitano, whom I admire and whose remarks in the main I applauded. But Napolitano argued in passing that Lincoln had done a terrible thing by fighting the Civil War: surely, the judge said, he could have found a better way to end slavery than by tearing the country apart. That is utter nonsense for two reasons: the first is that a large part of the South was willing to die to preserve slavery, and the second is that the European imperial powers were already conspiring with elements of the South to expand slavery through Cuba, Mexico and Central America. If Lincoln had not fought the Civil War in 1861, the French invasion of Mexico in 1862 would have established a link with the Confederacy and prevented a Northern blockade.

Perfectly intelligent and well-motivated men like Napolitano ignore the obvious about the Civil War because it is still too horrible to contemplate. More broadly, the conservative movement continues to tolerate a revolting form of nostalgia for the slave era euphemistically called “Southern Traditionalism.” ISI’s middle-brow list of “Fifty Greatest Books of the 20th Century” includes a biography of Gen. Robert E. Lee, labeled “The tragic life of a great Southern traditionalist beautifully chronicled by a great Southern traditionalist.” The ISI list is mostly mediocre, but this is offensive in the extreme.

Below I demand of Americans “a higher threshold for horror.” I don’t expect you to like it. I didn’t like writing it. But what I say is true. Someone has to say it.

Horror and humiliation and Chicago
By Spengler

What causes the Reverend Jeremiah Wright to imagine that “the government gives [young black men] the drugs, builds bigger prisons, [and] passes a three strikes law” to incarcerate them? It is the same kind of unbearable grief that still causes white Southerners to believe that their ancestors fought the Civil War for a noble cause? It is too humiliating to think that the miscreants had it coming.

An uncanny parallel links the fate of young African-Americans today and that of the young white men of the slave-holding South in 1865. Both cohorts have lost a terrifying proportion of their number to violence. One third of black Americans between the ages of 20 and 30 passed through the criminal justice system in 1995, according to the Sentencing Project, a prisoners’ advocacy group. Nearly a third of military-age Southern men military age were killed or wounded during America’s Civil War. [1]

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Caliphate puts men to the meat-grinder

Crossposted from Asia Times Online

General William Tecumseh Sherman burned the city of Atlanta in 1864. He warned: “I fear the world will jump to the wrong conclusion that because I am in Atlanta the work is done. Far from it. We must kill three hundred thousand I have told you of so often, and the further they run the harder for us to get them.” Add a zero to calibrate the problem in the Levant today. War in the Middle East is less a strategic than a demographic phenomenon, whose resolution will come with the exhaustion of the pool of potential fighters.

The Middle East has plunged into a new Thirty Years War, allows Richard Haass, the president of the Council of Foreign Relations. “It is a region wracked by religious struggle between competing traditions of the faith. But the conflict is also between militants and moderates, fueled by neighboring rulers seeking to defend their interests and increase their influence. Conflicts take place within and between states; civil wars and proxy wars become impossible to distinguish. Governments often forfeit control to smaller groups – militias and the like – operating within and across borders. The loss of life is devastating, and millions are rendered homeless,” he wrote on July 21.
Well and good: I predicted in 2006 that the George W Bush administration’s blunder would provoke another Thirty Years War in the region, and repeated the diagnosis many times since. But I doubt that Mr Haass (or Walter Russell Mead, who cited the Haass article) has given sufficient thought to the implications.

How does one handle wars of this sort? In 2008 I argued for a “Richelovian” foreign policy, that is, emulation of the evil genius who guided France to victory at the conclusion of the Thirty Years War in 1648. Wars of this sort end when two generations of fighters are killed. They last for decades (as did the Peloponnesian War, the Napoleonic Wars and the two World Wars of the 20th century) because one kills off the fathers die in the first half of the war, and the sons in the second.

This new Thirty Years War has its origins in a demographic peak and an economic trough. There are nearly 30 million young men aged 15 to 24 in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, a bulge generation produced by pre-modern fertility rates that prevailed a generation ago. But the region’s economies cannot support them. Syria does not have enough water to support an agricultural population, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of farmers into tent cities preceded its civil war. The West mistook the death spasms of a civilization for an “Arab Spring,” and its blunders channeled the youth bulge into a regional war.

The way to win such a war is by attrition, that is, by feeding into the meat-grinder a quarter to a third of the enemy’s available manpower. Once a sufficient number of who wish to fight to the death have had the opportunity to do so, the war stops because there are insufficient recruits to fill the ranks. That is how Generals Grant and Sherman fought the American Civil War, and that is the indicated strategy in the Middle East today.

It is a horrible business. It was not inevitable. It came about because of the ideological rigidity of the Bush Administration compounded by the strategic withdrawal of the Obama administration. It could have been avoided by the cheap and simple expedient of bombing Iran’s nuclear program and Revolutionary Guards bases, followed by an intensive subversion effort aimed at regime change in Teheran. Former Vice President Dick Cheney advocated this course of action, but then Secretary of State Condileeza Rice persuaded Bush that the Muslim world would never forgive America for an attack on another Muslim state.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, warned Bush that America’s occupation army in Iraq had become hostage to Iranian retaliation: if America bombed Iran, Iran could exact vengeance in American blood in the cities of Iraq. Then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen told Charlie Rose on March 16, 2009: “What I worry about in terms of an attack on Iran is, in addition to the immediate effect, the effect of the attack, it’s the unintended consequences. It’s the further destabilization in the region. It’s how they would respond. We have lots of Americans who live in that region who are under the threat envelope right now [because of the] capability that Iran has across the Gulf. So, I worry about their responses and I worry about it escalating in ways that we couldn’t predict.”

The Bush Administration was too timid to take on Iran; the Obama administration views Iran as a prospective ally. Even Neville Chamberlain did not regard Hitler as prospective partner in European security. But that is what Barack Obama said in March to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg: “What I’ll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits. And that isn’t to say that they aren’t a theocracy that embraces all kinds of ideas that I find abhorrent, but they’re not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.” Bush may have been feckless, but Obama is mad.

With Iran neutralized, Syrian President Basher Assad would have had no choice but to come to terms with Syria’s Sunni majority; as it happens, he had the firepower to expel millions of them. Without the protection of Tehran, Iraq’s Shia would have had to compromise with Sunnis and Kurds. Iraqi Sunnis would not have allied with ISIS against the Iranian-backed regime in Baghdad. A million or more Iraqis would not have been displaced by the metastasizing Caliphate.

The occupation of Iraq in the pursuit of nation-building was colossally stupid. It wasted thousands of lives and disrupted millions, cost the better part of a trillion dollars, and demoralized the American public like no failure since Vietnam-most of all America’s young people. Not only did it fail to accomplish its objective, but it kept America stuck in a tar-baby trap, unable to take action against the region’s main malefactor. Worst of all: the methods America employed in order to give the Iraq war the temporary appearance of success set in motion the disaster we have today. I warned of this in a May 4, 2010 essay entitled,General Petraeus’ Thirty Years War (Asia Times Online, May 4, 2010).

The great field marshal of the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648, Albrecht von Wallenstein, taught armies to live off the land, and succeeded so well that nearly half the people of Central Europe starved to death during the conflict. General David Petraeus, who heads America’s Central Command (CENTCOM), taught the land to live off him. Petraeus’ putative success in the Iraq “surge” of 2007-2008 is one of the weirder cases of Karl Marx’s quip of history repeating itself first as tragedy second as farce. The consequences will be similar, that is, hideous.

Wallenstein put 100,000 men into the field, an army of terrifying size for the times, by turning the imperial army into a parasite that consumed the livelihood of the empire’s home provinces. The Austrian Empire fired him in 1629 after five years of depredation, but pressed him back into service in 1631. Those who were left alive joined the army, in a self-feeding spiral of destruction on a scale not seen in Europe since the 8th century. Wallenstein’s power grew with the implosion of civil society, and the Austrian emperor had him murdered in 1634.

Petraeus accomplished the same thing with (literally) bags of money. Starting with Iraq, the American military has militarized large parts of the Middle East and Central Asia in the name of pacification. And now America is engaged in a grand strategic withdrawal from responsibility in the region, leaving behind men with weapons and excellent reason to use them.

There is no way to rewind the tape after the fragile ties of traditional society have been ripped to shreds by war. All of this was foreseeable; most of it might have been averted. But the sordid players in this tragicomedy had too much reputation at stake to reverse course when it still was possible. Now they will spend the declining years of their careers blaming each other.

Three million men will have to die before the butchery comes to an end. That is roughly the number of men who have nothing to go back to, and will fight to the death rather than surrender.

ISIS by itself is overrated. It is a horde enhanced by captured heavy weapons, but cannot fly warplanes in a region where close air support is the decisive factor in battle. The fighters of the Caliphate cannot hide under the jungle canopy like the North Vietnamese. They occupy terrain where aerial reconnaissance can identify every stray cat. The Saudi and Jordanian air forces are quite capable of defending their borders. Saudi Arabia has over 300 F-15′s and 72 Typhoons, and more than 80 Apache attack helicopters. Jordan has 60 F16′s as well as 25 Cobra attack helicopters. The putative Caliphate can be contained; it cannot break out into Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and it cannot advance far into the core Shia territory of Iraq. It can operate freely in Syria, in a war of attrition with the Iranian backed government army. The grim task of regional security policy is to channel the butchery into areas that do not threaten oil production or transport.

Ultimately, ISIS is a distraction. The problem is Iran. Without Iran, Hamas would have no capacity to strike Israel beyond a few dozen kilometers past the Gaza border. Iran now has GPS-guided missiles which are much harder to shoot down than ordinary ballistic missiles (an unguided missile has a trajectory that is easy to calculate after launch; guided missiles squirrel about seeking their targets). If Hamas acquires such rockets-and it will eventually if left to its own devices-Israel will have to strike further, harder and deeper to eliminate the threat. That confrontation will not come within a year, and possibly not within five years, but it looms over the present hostilities. The region’s security will hinge on the ultimate reckoning with Iran.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman. He is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the Was Family Fellow at the Middle East Forum. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too) was published by Regnery Press in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It’s Not the End of the World – It’s Just the End of You, also appeared that fall, from Van Praag Press. 

Maybe this time they’ll kill us twice

July 27th, 2014 - 5:12 pm

According to Lt.-Gen. Michael Flynn, if Hamas is eliminated, something worse would replace it. Hamas wants to exterminate the Jews; its Charter quotes the Hadith text about the tree telling Muslims to kill the Jew hiding behind it. What’s worse than that? Maybe this time, they’ll kill us twice.

 

Illegal immigrants are a minor annoyance; America’s shift towards European fertility is a catastrophe from which we may never recover. The demographic crisis isn’t at our borders but at home. It’s easy to blow off steam about illegals on the border, and tough to address the fundamentals. I’ve tried to do so in the past, for example here, but the real problems and prospective solutions don’t make easy sound-bites.

Just to make things clear: I want super-tough, restrictive immigration laws. I’d prefer a Canadian-style system that favors highly-educated immigrants with capital to invest. But I don’t think the best immigration law in the world is going to do much good.

The latest dip in fertility below replacement might be driven by economics, but the economics don’t appear to be getting any better.

Hispanics are increasing as a proportion of Americans NOT because they are inundating America’s borders but because they have more children than non-Hispanic Americans of European origin. That may be changing; American culture may succeed in corrupting Hispanics as effectively as it corrupted earlier waves of Catholic immigrants.  Perhaps the Hispanic birth rate will shrink to the ambient American level, and we will all shrink together.

The Pew Research Center projects that the Hispanic proportion of the U.S. population will rise to 29% by 2050 while the non-Hispanic white proportion will fall to 47%, even though net immigration from Mexico turned negative in 2012.

The Share of U.S. Hispanics Who Are Foreign Born is in Decline … as Hispanic Immigrant Population Growth Stalls

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Ukraine: The Second Time As Farce

July 27th, 2014 - 9:11 am

Any number of distinguished commentators–e.g. the National Interest’s Graham Allison–have taken the occasion of the anniversary of the First World War to warn that the crisis in eastern Ukraine might have catastrophic consequences comparable to 1914. That is silly. World War I did not occur because the European powers miscalculated, but because they each believed rationally that their interests were best served by fighting.  I addressed this in a light-hearted take on the event that destroyed Western Civilization, “Musil and Meta-Musil,” at Asia Times Online (referring to the great novelist Robert Musil and the laxative). I summarized the motives of the warring powers as follows:

  • With a stagnant population, France could not hope to win back the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine it had lost to Germany in 1870 – or to win any future war-unless it fought soon. From parity in the middle of the 19th century, the German population had become half again as large as France’s by 1914.
  • Germany could not concentrate its army on a crushing blow against France if it waited for Russia to build out its internal railway network.
  • Austria could not keep its fractious ethnicities within the empire if it did not castigate Serbia. It could not grant equal rights to Serbs without provoking the Hungarians, who held a privileged position in the empire, so it could only suppress them.
  • Russia could not maintain control over the industrialized western part of its empire – Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Finland – if Austria humiliated its Serbian ally, and Russia depended on these provinces for the bulk of its tax revenues.
  • England could not maintain the balance of power in Europe if Germany crushed France.

Our universities tend to transform engaged, concerned and intelligent students into functional idiots by reducing all conflicts to the level of a schoolyard spat. Existential issues separated the powers of 1914. In 2014, there is nothing to fight over in Ukraine and no way to fight over it. That is because Russia already has what it wants, namely Crimea, and there is nothing that the West can to do take it away. It was moronic for the West to suggest that Russia would lose Crimea in a pro-Western coup in Ukraine; there was no way to get it. The West should have exacted a high price for Russia keeping Ukraine (missiles in Poland and Czech); instead it tried to punish Russia after the fact. Russia has responded by destabilization Ukraine; that is what I predicted Putin would do, and exactly what I would do if I were playing his side of the board.

It is all farcical. There is no way to have a war over Ukraine, no matter how hard we or the Russians tried.

More Killing, Please!

July 27th, 2014 - 5:57 am

From Asia Times Online, June 12, 2003

There’s really nothing to add to what I wrote 11 years ago.

SPENGLER
More killing, please!

“I think people are sick of [killing],” said President George W Bush of the Israeli-Palestinian war. The contrary may be true. People may want the killing to continue for quite some time, as the Palestinian radical organizations suggest. A recurring theme in the history of war is that most of the killing typically occurs long after rational calculation would call for the surrender of the losing side.

Think of the Japanese after Okinawa, the Germans after the Battle of the Bulge, or the final phase of the Peloponnesian War, the Thirty Years War, or the Hundred Years War. Across epochs and cultures, blood has flown in proportion inverse to the hope of victory. Perhaps what the Middle East requires in order to achieve a peace settlement is not less killing, but more.

Mut der Verzweiflung, as the Germans call it, courage borne of desperation, arises not from the delusion that victory is possible, but rather from the conviction that death is preferable to surrender. Wars of this sort end long after one side has been defeated, namely when enough of the diehards have been killed.

Don’t blame the president’s provincialism. This has nothing to do with Bushido, Nazi fanaticism or other exotic ideologies. The most compelling case of Mut der Verzweiflung can be found in Bush’s own back yard, during the American Civil War of 1861-1865. The Southern cause was lost after Major General Ulysses S Grant took Vicksburg and General George G Meade repelled General Robert E Lee at Gettysburg in July 1863. With Union forces in control of the Mississippi River, the main artery of Southern commerce, and without the prospect of a breakout to the North, the Confederacy of slaveholding states faced inevitable strangulation by the vastly superior forces of the North.

Nonetheless, the South fought on for another 18 months. Between Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the two decisive battles of the war fought within the same week, 100,000 men had died, bringing the total number of deaths in major battles to more than a quarter of a million. Another 200,000 soldiers would die before Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox in April 1865. The chart below shows the cumulative number of Civil War casualties as the major battles of the war proceeded.

The chart is demarcated into sections labeled “Hope” (prior to Gettysburg and Vicksburg) and “No Hope”. Geometers will recognize a so-called S-curve in which the pace of killing accelerates immediately after Gettysburg and Vickburg and remains steep through the Battle of Cold Harbor, before leveling off in the last months of the war. Not only did half the casualties occur after the war was lost by the South, but the speed at which casualties occurred sharply accelerated. The killing slowed after the South had bled nearly to death, with many regiments unable to field more than a handful of men.

In all, one-quarter of military age Southern manhood died in the field, by far the greatest sacrifice ever offered up by a modern nation in war. General W T Sherman, the scourge of the South, explained why this would occur in advance. There existed 300,000 fanatics in the South who knew nothing but hunting, drinking, gambling and dueling, a class who benefited from slavery and would rather die than work for a living. To end the war, Sherman stated on numerous occasions these 300,000 had to be killed. Evidently Sherman was right. For all the wasteful slaughter of the last 18 months of the war, Southern commander Lee barely could persuade his men to surrender in April 1865. The Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, called for guerilla war to continue, and Lee’s staff wanted to keep fighting. Lee barely avoided a drawn-out irregular war.

What will happen now in the Middle East? At the outbreak of the war, Grant and Sherman were unknown. They rose to command because the nerve of their predecessors snapped at the edge of the abyss. The character of the war was too horrible for them to contemplate. Bush’s nerve appears to have snapped, as I predicted ( Bush’s nerve is going to snap, March 4), “The danger is that America will find itself fighting a sort of Chechnyan war on a global scale. President George W Bush cannot wrap his mind around this,” I wrote then. “The blame lies at the doorstep of the neo-conservative war-hawks who persuaded the president that America should undertake a democratizing mission among a people who never once voted for their own leaders.”

For that matter, Ariel Sharon’s claim before last week’s Likud party congress that Israel had achieved victory against terrorism was both accurate and misleading. Wars do not end when they are won, but when those who want to fight to the death find their wish has been granted. Sherman’s 300,000 fanatics could not face the mediocre circumstances of a South without slaves and were willing to die for their way of life.

Three million Palestinians packed into a narrow strip of land one day may accept the modest fate of a small and impecunious people, but their young people do not seem ready to do so. We do not know how many ever will. The killing will continue for some time before we find out. 

Where are the Jewish Organizations?

July 23rd, 2014 - 5:00 am

Writing on Commentary’s website yesterday, Prof. Eugene Kontorovich denounces the Obama administration’s double standard in cutting off flights to Israel:

Ben Gurion remains an extremely safe airport. The FAA had many various measures short of a flight ban, like warnings, that it could have imposed. The FAA only warns airlines about flying to Afghanistan; it does not ban them. And the FAA move comes the day after a general State Department warning about Israel–though far more people were killed in Chicago on Fourth of July weekend than in the Jewish state since the start of the Gaza campaign.

Whatever the intent, the administration has cornered Israel in a booby-trapped tunnel, with Hamas on one side, and economic perdition on the other.

Israeli authorities denounced the decision as a “prize for Hamas” and completely unjustified.

Most (but not all) Western European carriers followed the FAA’s example — but not the airlines of the former Soviet empire. According to the departures board at Ben Gurion Airport, normal service continues from most of the Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Czech, Georgian, Hungarian and Byelorussian Airlines, as well as Air Vietnam.  Aeroflot and Transaero planes turned back to Moscow after the ban was announced but their flights today remain on the screen. British Airways is still flying to Israel. As Edward Luttwak observed, there are 39 direct flights from Israel to former constituents of the Communist world vs. 5 to the United States.

Since when does Israel get a fairer deal from the former Communist world than from the United States of America? This is the world turned inside-out. Where is the outcry from American Jewish organizations? To his credit, former mayor Michael Bloomberg ridiculed the administration and boarded a flight to Tel Aviv forthwith. But where is the wave of organized protest?

It’s well and good that the U.S. put $700 million into the development of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, as Daniel Gordis noted in a column this week in The Times of Israel. Israelis point out that this is rounding error in the country’s $300 billion national budget. Yesterday’s flight ban, by contrast, was the most destructive action that the US has taken towards Israel since the Truman administration imposed an arms embargo during the War of Independence. It encourages Hamas to keep firing rockets when the Obama administration supposedly is working for a ceasefire.

The silence here is deafening.

Related: “Can Israel Finish the Job Now?”  Michael Walsh responds to David Goldman.

Why Israel Needs to Finish the Job Now

July 21st, 2014 - 11:20 am

There will be endless admonitions to Israel from the Obama administration, the United Nations, and so forth, demanding an early end to the Gaza war now underway. Israel’s security needs dictate the opposite: Hamas’ capacity to make war must be crippled.

Tel Aviv last week remained one of the safest cities in the world despite the incessant rocket bombardment. In the bomb shelters at the David Intercontinental, we joked about the lack of drinks and canapes at the hotel’s hastily improvised guest mixers. The cafe terraces were full every night on Dizengoff Street. But complacency on Israel’s part would be misplaced, perhaps even fatal. For the moment Israeli ingenuity has shifted the advantage in rocketry to the defense. That may not be the case for very long. Iron Dome has been extremely effective in containing the damage from a barrage of about 2,000 unguided rockets launched from Gaza. Most of these explode harmlessly in empty areas; the few that fly towards targets of value have been taken down with a 90% successs rate. But the advantage may shift back to the offense some time in the next few years.

Dr. Uzi Rubin, the architect of Israel’s missile defense, warned last January that Iran and Syria already have GPS-guided ballistic missiles. The Jerusalem Post reported:

“This is a strategic threat. Even worse news is coming; ballistic missiles are becoming smart,” he said. In the next five to 10 years, Israel’s enemies will inevitably arm themselves with GPS-guided ballistic missiles such as Scuds, [Rubin] said.

“Perhaps Syria already has this capability,” Rubin said. “This can significantly disrupt Israel’s air power. Israel will of course recover. We are talking about escalating a war to quicken it, and end it within three days. They are talking about doing the same. This threat can degrade the IDF’s ground capabilities” via accurate missile strikes on army mobilization and staging grounds, Rubin warned. “It can paralyze Israel’s war economy. And of course, it can inflict massive casualties. I’m not talking about Dresden, but Coventry, perhaps,” he said, referring to cities bombed in World War II.

Iron Dome can defend successfully against a handful of rockets fired simultaneously in the general direction of Israeli cities. At some point Israel’s enemies will acquire the capability to fire large salvos of precision-guided weapons at key military or civilian targets and overwhelm the existing defenses. GPS-guided rockets are not that difficult to make. Iron Dome gives Israel a respite, not relief in the long term.

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