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Works and Days

Of Pre- and Postmodern Poseurs

March 23rd, 2014 - 4:44 pm

Rarely on the world stage have we suffered through two such extremes as an erstwhile community organizer theorizing against a former KGB agent.  If only Putin were a run-of-the-mill college president, then Obama might order a takeover of the faculty lounge. Or if Putin were a local bank president, Obama, the SEIU, and Acorn might yell on his lawn about lending more money to the inner city. Alas, even Chicago is not Russia.

Of course, we prefer our postmodern president to Putin’s Neanderthal world, given that Obama’s platitudes and serial fibbing — from keeping our doctors, period, to hounding a video maker for the terrorist attack on Benghazi — do not lead to knocking off his opponents, Russian style. The Obama administration is correct to remind us that the premodern world just can’t work in the present age according to Putin’s rules — in the way unchecked naked aggression always destroys the world around it.

So what does our Eloi in Chief want from Putin the Morlock? He seeks to school Putin to be as sophisticated as we are, in the sense of analyzing the art of annexation and thus concluding that going Viking leads the world nowhere.

Putin stubbornly begs to differ. True, he implicitly understands that every head of state cannot act like Putin. But then again Putin assumes that everyone is not going to act like Putin.

The Western world’s notion of transparent trading of stocks and bonds, of common banking protocols in selling and buying oil, of shipping lanes free of pirates, and of flying according to standardized rules is all predicated on a system. But every system has built into it a margin of error.

Putin is that error. He says to Obama that the world should keep playing by Western rules so that on occasion it can afford him not doing so. Putin is our graffiti vandal, whose antisocial behavior depends on others to ensure most of the walls are not cleaned and repainted.

Putin, in other words, wants a world with one Putin, but not too many more.

Why should Putin stop when he is already the most popular Russian strongman since Stalin, with a good decade to cement his reputation among his flock as the restorer of Greater Russia, with the clout of the Soviet Union, but now energized by oil-fed capitalism? And why should Obama do anything about those dreams when the Final Four is far more important than are either far away Crimeans or Georgians. Ellen is cooler than worrying about Kiev, and joshing with Ryan Seacrest about tight jeans beats talking to some heavily accented Ukrainian. Surely Putin’s next melodramatic theft can at least wait until the Sweet Sixteen.

The final irony? A united Western world very easily could embargo, squeeze, and make things very difficult for Putin with only a modicum of sacrifice. But then, we might not be so postmodern, so hip, so cool. In other words, for Obama, stopping the bully Putin would be a sort of a drag, boring, or a downer in a way Ellen, Ryan, and LeBron are not.

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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.
48 weeks ago
48 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.
48 weeks ago
48 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
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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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.
47 weeks ago
47 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.
48 weeks ago
48 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.
48 weeks ago
48 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."

48 weeks ago
48 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?
48 weeks ago
48 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.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The babes nearly always want the brooches; that's a fact.
48 weeks ago
48 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.
48 weeks ago
48 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.
48 weeks ago
48 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.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Taking down comments now?
48 weeks ago
48 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.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Okay, great stuff. Let's move the guys and gals out of Afghanistan and move them to the Ukraine and let's get it on with Putin. BUT...let's get each and every congress critter out there on the front FIRST.

Hell, I don't mind spilling old men's blood, it's the young people's blood I do not want to see on Ukrainian soil, know what I mean?

When in the hell are we going to stop being the world's policeman? Thank God that we have a president who THINKS before acting instead of a hot head who had a trigger finger for Iraq before 9/11 even happened. He wanted vengeance for Saddam trying to kill his father. Boo hoo. Look where it has gotten us: NOWHERE.

What has the United States gotten from the longest wars in our blessed history? Again...NOTHING! What has it gotten us? Hatred from too many countries. Oh yeah, let's go to another war.

Frankly, I could care less what Putin has done so far. The Crimea used to belong to Russia, Khrushchev gave it to the Ukraine while it was still in the USSR.

About the only thing that IS raising my hackles is that Putin sounds EXACTLY like Hitler. He might as well simply copied Hitler's speeches from the 'Net and spoken them. Hitler was obsessed with stretching out the old German empire. Putin seems to be trying to bring back the old KGB/USSR.

IF or when he becomes too aggressive, let the "United Nations" (that's a joke, folks) do something just like they've not done EVER.

The PA guy, Abbas, just gave President Obama the finger by saying no, no, no to a peace settlement. Is the world going to blame the Arabs for saying no again? Oh, please, give me a break. My picture is over 30 years old; I'm over 70 years young now, history repeats itself over and over and over again. Israel is going to get the blame for not committing suicide.

Why does that paragraph belong in this discussion? Because Abbas, like Putin wants to protect "his" people. And THAT is a load of male bovine excrement!
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't want America to go to war against Putin and/or Russia, as if there was a distinction. But I also don't want America to disarm (Hellfire and Cruise missiles and I could to on and on) just when other major powers are ramping up. Uh, unless I am wrong about the constitution, and I don't believe I am, one of the only real responsibilities the Federal government has is defense. DEFENSE. Not offense for no good reason.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
A weak America -- and especially a weak-headed president -- invites aggression. Expect more land grabs in the future -- and not just from Putin.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I didn't see ANYONE calling for ground troops. Stop creating straw men.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Your Obama reflects what you, yourself are. A selfish, narcissistic COWARD (or Cowardette). And "The Lord hates a coward." You and your bi-sexual metromen/metro-Wo's comprise a travesty of what it means to be a man or a woman. You serve only your own puerile appetites, Moloch and the most, pathetic incarnation of anti-Christ in Western history. You have become( or are so destined) what you behold & are beholden to," howling in Dread & Pain," abandoned by God and despised by Satan, to whom you will administer the "osculum infamosum" to your master, per omina saecula saecularum. Deus vult?
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks for that compendium of withered, rather incoherent cliches'. I'd forgotten some of them. I particularly liked your "Frankly I could care less what Putin does" comment. Brings to mind Neville Chamberlains observation on the unimportance of the Czechs in 1937 - "Why should we care about a far-off people about which we know nothing." You then compare Putin to Hitler - A guy who could have been stopped in the early 1930's if Europe (and the U.S.) could have gotten their collective act together. As to Mr. Obama's weakness - Of course he's weak and everyone, particularly Putin, knows it. He's not "holding his hand" out a sense of inner strength - He is holding his hand because he doesn't know what to do. As Dr. Hanson points ouot, there is nothing in Mr. Obama's personal experience that equips him to deal with a Vladimir Putin. Mr. Obama will bluster and speechify and inflict pinprick sanctions. Mr. Putin will then take what he wants.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is fascinating to reread Jeane Kirkpatrick's 1979 essay "Dictatorships and Double Standards" in which she drew a distinction between authoritarian rulers in traditional societies and Marxist totalitarians.
http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/dictatorships-double-standards/

She wrote, of Nicaragua's Somoza and the Shah of Iran, "..both were, in central ways, traditional rulers of semitraditional societies. Although the Shah very badly wanted to create a technologically modern and powerful nation and Somoza tried hard to introduce modern agricultural methods, neither sought to reform his society in the light of any abstract idea of social justice or political virtue. Neither attempted to alter significantly the distribution of goods, status, or power...."

I believe that Putin is closer to this older, traditional type of authoritarian ruler. Ironically the one interested in fundamentally transforming the society, and willing to run roughshod over the lives and wishes of the people, is Obama.

The international events of the next few months may determine life and death, happiness or misery, for millions of people for generations. We are called on for our best wisdom, intelligence, and understanding of a complex situation. Personally, I fear that Russia will extend its grip over other territories, especially the Baltic countries, and find this threat absolutely appalling.

48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dang, I would love to disagree with you but I think you've hit the proverbial nail on the head. The only thing I hate is that the right is claiming that the president is "weak" and that is what encouraged Putin. Pure nonsense. Going to war is taking the "easy" way out...holding back, that takes guts and I think we Americans have enough guts to standby and see what develops. We're not the ONLY country in the world. Why is EUROPE permitting this to happen is the real question. (Answer: They don't give a damn.)
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Uh...natural gas from Russia, anyone? They have always been leeches upon the USA, just like when I was a NATO soldier 35+ years ago. "Let America take care of us. Then we can spend on social programs!"
When I first got to permanent party the saying was, "We are here to keep America in, Russia out, and Germany DOWN."
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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