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Works and Days

Our Brave New World

February 7th, 2009 - 7:28 pm

About every three weeks Andrew Sullivan posts something about what I wrote, apparently because he finds it illiberal—the latest my predictions (before the Obama apocalyptic ultimatums, the Solis tax problems, etc) of a near Obama meltdown. Odd—as I once wrote, my only connection with this bizarre person is a debate once in which quite animatedly he alleged that I had supported torture, before apologizing a few days later when he discovered I had written TMS columns taking the direct opposite stance. So I am absolutely baffled how and why someone like this can continue to be taken seriously: for weeks he peddled vicious, absolutely false rumors that Sarah Palin did not deliver her recent child. On the eve of Iraq, (he now seems to suggest that he was brainwashed by, yes, those sneaky neo-cons), he blathered on with blood and guts rhetoric, mixed with fawning references to Bush, and embraced apocalyptic threats, including the advocacy of using nuclear weapons against Saddam should the anthrax attacks be connected to him. He seems not merely to support any incumbent President, but to deify them, and can go from encomia about the rightwing Bush to praise of leftwing Obama without thought of contradiction. In the summer before 9/11 he was in the major news outlets, trying to save his career after accused (accurately as he confirmed) of trafficking anonymously in the sexual want ads as an HIV-positive would-be participant in the unmentionable. (In other words, someone who was caught in a well-publicized scandal about which he confirmed its main details, without much sensitivity to human fraility, helped to spread false information about a potential VP designed to ruin her reputation.) At some point, one would think such a suspect individual would have been ostracized by sane people—or indeed perhaps he already has.

Updates

I had a lot of letters recently asking for a few updates on various things. Yes, we are going ahead with the trip to Rome/Crete/Athens, and tours and lectures on Minoan, Mycenaean, Greek, Roman, WWII, Frankish and Islamic sites, and are nearing 35 confirmed guests, not bad in the midst of a recession which is surprising. Last year the majority signed up after Feb 1. And we sold out at 65 (maximum we could take and be comfortable on two moderately sized buses). I’m hoping for a group between 35 and 65. Bruce Thornton returns and is a marvelous lecturer. We will have a number of guest lecturers as well.

I just finished editing the 10 essays of Makers of Ancient Strategy. From the Ancient Greeks to the End of the Roman Empire, for Princeton University Press. Ten classical scholars contributed essays on ancient examples from Greece and Rome on germane topics like preemption, counter-insurgency, terrorism, nation-building, democratization, unilateralism/multilateralism, homeland security vs. constitutional liberties, etc, as well as the careers of Spartacus, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Pericles, etc., and we have ancient historian contributors like Adrian Goldsworthy, Barry Strauss, Donald Kagan, Ian Worthington, Tom Holland and others. I just finished the general introduction, and the volume should be out mid to late next year.

Finally finished the novel on the freedom of the helots (No Man A Slave) and the great march into Sparta by Epaminondas; it goes to the agent on March 1.

Beginning a book on The Savior Generals, ranging from Themistocles and Scipio to the likes of Sherman, Ridgway and Petraeus, should have 8 case studies on how and why rare captains saved what was generally regarded as a hopeless military situation—how such brilliant commanders came to the fore, what they did and how, and how they ended up.

I have some essays in the current or upcoming World Affairs, Claremont Review, VFW Magazine, New Criterion, in a volume on the Hoplite controversy, and a few others. Also from January 8th to April 17, I am teaching, every Thursday from 8-12 noon for the Pepperdine graduate program on public policy, a class on globalization and Westernization: we just finished Madden’s Empires of Trust, are reading the difficult Gress’s From Plato to Nato, and will go on to Neal Ferguson’s Colossus and end with the Zakaria/Kagan debates. Hope to lecture on the July Hillsdale Mediterranean Cruise to Venice, Greece, and Turkey.

We are also just beginning a new program at the Hoover Institution, on military history and contemporary conflict. There are a number of interesting people involved already—Gen. John Abezaid, Peter Berkowitz, Ken Jowitt, and others—and we hope to have in some sort of capacity one or two military historians. I’m looking forward to it becoming finalized this autumn.

Final Note

I had a conversation (an argument) recently with a European, about contemporary culture. I tried to explain the mutually reinforcing elements of socialism, atheism, utopianism, pacifism, and statism (he was giving America a second chance to morph into Euros under Obama). But if one believes in no transcendence, that there is nothing other than the present, then for too many satisfying the appetites becomes the prime directive. Childlessness, living at home in one’s 30s, dependence on the state, all that derives from a system that ensures equality of result, and substitutes Logos and Ratio for any notion of a deity that sees sin and sacrifice, and reminds us that our souls are immortal and affected by their brief residences in our flesh. In other words, that Euros expect free health care, free care for their elderly parents, free schools, free defense from the USA, harbor little hopes for rising above the station of anyone else, find housing and jobs scarce, and don’t feel they can or want to leave behind something for their children larger than what they inherited— are all interrelated phenomena. European postmodern man offers mostly platitudes that he thinks please those who might be dangerous to him, and finds psychological recompense and solace by gratuitously trashing those who aren’t. Note how such constitution peoples favor Hamas over Israel—and usually almost anyone over the US. Were Hamas a successful democracy that took no European aid and offered it in turn no threats, and Israel a failed fascistic terrorist movement that depended on Europe for aid and comfort, while engaging in terrorism and voicing postmodern platitudes about oppression, then we would expect Israel to be a strong European ally. (I think many Europeans are more sympathetic to the Palestinian Authority or Syria or Iran than the incipient democracy in Iraq).

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