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Works and Days

Of Pre- and Postmodern Poseurs

March 23rd, 2014 - 4:44 pm

Putin, as the entire administration keeps reminding us, is premodern. He should be, but is not, shamed when John Kerry, Joe Biden, Susan Rice, and Barack Obama variously proclaim that he is a 19th century dinosaur, or has lost the good will of the enlightened West. Again, we are told Putin worries about this; but I think he is about as concerned as were Norsemen like Eric Bloodaxe, who lost all the respect of the monks along the English coast that he so freely raided.

While Putin was making a premodern fool out of himself, blustering and bullying, and lying on the global stage, Barack Obama confirmed most of the Russian stereotypes that he was a postmodern metrosexual. Putin gets up every morning to annoy Barack Obama, piqued not just that he is weak, but that he is sanctimonious and weak. Obama tries to ignore Putin, who grates on him like some Russian version of the folks who tailgate with their Winnebagos at a NASCAR race.

Putin lives to break Western rules. But Obama’s Western rules — deadlines, red lines, step-over lines, leading but from behind — are hard to either break or follow because they are not really rules as much as rhetorical constructs that come and go.

To reflect Obama’s cool, the president did not do photo-ops with European leaders. He did not fly to meetings with Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea and Australia to shore them all up in these uncertain times. Obama certainly did not call in the Persian Gulf monarchs to have no fear, given that Iran better not try the Putin method of appealing to Shiite oppressed minorities in the Gulf petro-kingdoms.

Instead, as if out of central casting, Obama did his now ritually televised basketball-pick shtick, where he sets up a board and draws out winners and losers in the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament. No worry here that his Marks-A-Lot might go rogue on his plastic chalkboard and instead give the nation a primer on international boundaries. No worry here that the president has invested hundreds of hours in watching and following basketball teams rather than in boring stuff like finding the killers of Benghazi, the status of Syrian WMD, Iranian compliance with his promises, or calling some obscure Baltic foreign minister.

To quell international tensions, no-drama Obama did a canned hip interview with the smart-ass and cynical comic Zach Galifianakis to peddle Obamacare to now wiser young people who see its deadlines the way the Iranians saw America’s. For insurance, he also chatted with an obsequious Ellen DeGeneres and reminded Ryan Seacrest that Sarah Palin was wrong: he does not wear mommy jeans but, in fact, looks great in his various designer pants.

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Top Rated Comments   
Putin is on a crusade to undo the humiliating collapse of the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, China is pitting American against Russia, to weaken America and Russia, with the long term objective of peeling Siberia away from Russia, all the way to the Urals.
China thinks long-term. Russia thinks short-term. America doesn't think.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Political Kabuki Theater aside, taking a close look at what is actually happening, it seems more like Obama and Putin are working together rather than against each other.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agreed. VDH has penned a superb study in contrasting styles, both pathological, one based in historical reality the other based in infantile delusion. Either way this contrast poses a dire threat to consensual government and free markets. VDH provides the proper historical context with which to judge why Putin is doing what he is doing, and why he thinks he can get away with. But what does Obama's (and the west's) post-modern outlook portend for the world at large in the longer term? Daniel Greenfield penned an interesting article the other day which I thought compliments VDH's nicely...

http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/dgreenfield/what-the-post-american-world-will-look-like-2/

Instead of a cold-war paradigm of “two global ideological alliances based around two world powers”, Greenfield offers a vision of “three post-ideological powers” that are “no longer global in scope” and a fourth force which he defines as “one worldwide ideological alliance” namely Islam. I agree with this characterization since, whether actively Jihadist or not, Islam is a newly re-mobilizing, world-political system which is understood as such by the majority of its adherents, who number over 1.5 billion. The militant, irridentist tip of the iceberg Jihadis are almost incidental in that respect.

Greenfield emphasizes the similarities of the three national powers who between them, will attempt control an increasingly chaotic globe, at least insofar as national economies, trade blocs, legal conventions and military force can control anything in the highly fluid 21st century world that is emerging. These powers are the United States, China and Russia. He describes each state as “post-ideological” in that the ruling elites of each are no longer guided by a moral or ideological system that is shared by the citizenry. Instead they use “scraps of global leftist ideology” to justify their “goals of wealth and power for their own families and associates.” As such, the three regional powers are ill-suited for combating a world-spanning ideological movement, so they play for time by pitting Islamic groups against each other, thinking this will allow them to influence and / or defer the overall outcome. Greenfield characterizes this as “wishful thinking”.

Notwithstanding the already unstable and even untenable situation of a narrow elite that governs a highly complex, technology driven economy through defunct ideological cliches, the three powers also face dire demographic challenges in the form of hostile, internal sub-populations. Greenfield predicts that Russia will continue to attempt to regain control of territories lost in the collapse of the USSR, only to succumb under constant waves of Islamic insurgencies. Europe too will be submerged by Islam, China, encouraged by US neo-isolationism will seek to expand into the Pacific, only to collapse under the demographic disaster caused by its “one child” policy.

Greenfield's analysis has the U.S. essentially being run by the same globalist clique that runs utopian, statist Europe. He argues that the cultural war against America's “warrior culture” will leave the west defenseless in the face of these various challenges and the direct security threats they may give rise to. It is a bleak future: a world largely dominated by two dysfunctional ideologies (crony-statist communism and Islam) with weak national identities and dissolving borders locked into a cycle of increasing tyranny and conflict, and no champion willing or able to raise the flag of freedom.

VDH and others have often hit on many of these themes over the last decade. Greenfield did a great job wrapping it all up in a nice concise bundle, so I thought VDH readers would enjoy it too. A few observations of my own:

As anyone who follows this board knows, one of the themes that often emerges is the effort of the global left to subvert the Constitution, and the vision of human society it enshrines. All of their various efforts at cultural-marxism, balkanization, Cloward-Piven, disarmament, economic warfare and electoral manipulation are devoted to this end so that they can loot the world and set themselves up as a kind of permanent, neo-feudal aristocracy. As Greenfield says these are essentially European ideas that have taken hold as part of a long term effort to harness US power to serve European objectives. In other words, genuine Communists are a marginalized minority now, but the methods, language and utopian visions they developed still work quite well in the ideological vacuum the the Right has ceded.

This vacuum exists because the right is divided, and finding a way to unite it is the key to not only securing consensual government at home, but saving the world from brutal endemic war and Islamic-ization. I see people like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Allen West, Rick Perry... and more recently Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul in this light: They are trying to articulate and communicate a f
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (116)
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Not to be picky, but Norse (viking) helmets did NOT have cow horns. That is a creation of Hollywood and 18th century Romanticism. Norse helmets were smooth and bullet shaped to better deflect an axe or sword blow. A protruding horn would only allow the weapon to catch on the helmet and either remove the helmet from the wearers head or break his neck. A professor of history, especially won who focuses on military history, should know better.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
"A united Western world very easily could embargo, squeeze, and make things very difficult for Putim with only a modicum of sacrifice..."

Mr Hanson,

The key word is "united"...

The last feckless Dem POTUS who had the brilliant idea to embargo products to the Soviets, was not able to hold our allies to the bargain.

The long-term effect was the near demise of small-town America, and a massive turnover in rural land ownership.

Sanctions are a fair prospect, but only when philosophically mature, principled thinkers are in charge.

All the post-80s farm bills so hated by free-market enthusiast, were Ciongress' desperate attempt to save in-country, American ag productiom whose world marketshare and dependable image were destroyed.

Chalk up the numbers of '85 through '08 farm bills to get a grip on that cost to American taxpayers. Then double it to account for lost capital.

Farmers and agri-industry businesses are not anti-sanctions and embargoes, however the public should fully grasp the consequence going in - and the weight of sanctions should not be shouldered disproportionally by one industry or region.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's a new phrase for Obama's foreign policy:
DIABOLICAL INFANTILISM.
It differs from 'Dialectical Materialism' in that it doesn't lead anywhere -- except in circles -- but it does allow you to 'lead from behind' with your head up your ass.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
As Putin was overheard saying the other day: "Every time I see this bimbo, I laugh. He thinks he knows what Communism is. Ha. Ha. Ha. I laugh at him."

17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Great article.

I do have an historical query, since the author (and probably others here) clearly know a lot about the subject (and I do not):

My impression is that Vikings were not a people or a culture, but something people in Scandinavia did, going "en Viking". The author implies as much above. Could someone explain how that fits in with the statements about them above about keeping power?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are correct, although groups of Norse raiders did eventually colonize and settle in places like York, Dublin and the estuary of the Seine (hence the regional name Normandy derived from "Norse-Men").

I think Prof. Hanson's point is that it is fine to live by moral standards that rise above primitive equations of violence and intimidation. Or to view precious objects of gold and jewels as reflections of God's magnificence. But if your opponent does not share your moral standards, or views treasure as a means to build sleek raiding ships, buy mead for his bloodthirsty retainers, or regale lustful wenches with pretty brooches and rings... then you'd better have plenty of swords, shields and spears on hand, and be prepared to use them.

Many Saxon, Celtic and Frankish monks learned this the hard way.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
The babes nearly always want the brooches; that's a fact.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
"He says to Obama that the world should keep playing by Western rules so that on occasion it can afford him not doing so. "

One could easily modify that to:

Obama says that the country should keep playing by Constitutional rules so that on occasion it can afford him not doing so.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Love the graphic based on one of my all time favorite films, Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni. I have a copy of the poster this graphic is based upon. I wonder how many reader of this column saw the 1966 original with the late David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
The film also featured an appearance by the Yardbirds, performing during that brief period when their lineup included both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page on guitar.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
And the right wing Putin love fest continues.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
This "conservatives-love-Putin" meme has become the latest instantiation of the left's appropriation of the Nazi "Big Lie" strategy of media manipulation. I would simply note that asserting something again and again does not make that something true.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here I thought he wrote an entire column attacking Putin. Did you read it?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Too bad we can't say the same thing about Obama and America. At least Putin's proud of his country and never sat in a racist anti-Russian cult for 20 years where his mentor damned Russia.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Russia takes Crimea and meanwhile la Raza and their quisling U.S. Chamber of Commerce take more and more of America with their tribute collecting expeditionary force of 25 million. When did America lose it’s reason? Help us my God if you’re there.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ditto...MB4. What is going on. Our useful idiots worry about Russia and it sphere of influence while our sphere is being over-run without a shot AND we're being encouraged, or is it double-crossed and punked, into 'giving away the store...so the progressive socialist can trick wanna-be citizens into jumping on the hook for Votes and Debt payments. The insanity is never ending. We are going to need GOD and guns at some point. JMHO
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think Americans can walk and chew gum at the same time.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Taking down comments now?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually the comparison between Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama goes deeper. Mr. Obama is not just "post-modern" - He's the absolute personification of the modern progressive. He's been raised in hermetically-sealed environments all of his life including elite private schhols, the Ivy League and the inner sanctums of Chicago politics. For all of his travel and interest in "diversity" Mr. Obama doesn't seem to know very much about human nature. For guys like Obama (and Kerry) a character like Vladimir Putin shouldn't exist. Nothing in Obama's resume even hints at him ever having to deal with a hammer-headed realist like Putin and Vlad knows this. Putin, on the other hand, has lived a life in "the real world" - A brutal and probably bad life, but a life among real human beings. Putin took Obama's measure in the Syria fiasco and is confident that he can do pretty much what he wants. The Eastern Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are now all up for grabs. Given the unremarkable performance of Merkel, Cameron and particularly Mr. Obama we can be pretty sure that Putin will be moving on them soon.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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