Belmont Club

Fracture

Ruptured bonds

A British Labor MP is murdered by a mentally ill man with neo-Nazi connections. A UK citizen comes all the way to Las Vegas to deliberately try and kill Donald Trump. Niall Ferguson is spooked by the sight of “a crowd chanting ‘Deutschland den Deutschen’ in Dresden … I fear Brexit’s unintended consequences.” The heady days when a united Europe, indeed a united world, seemed just around the corner appear to be over.

Something has happened whose significance is only belatedly being realized. Brexit’s unintended consequences itself may merely be multiculturalism’s unintended consequences. Ferguson understands that one may have partly led to the other. “In the refugee crisis, which provoked a European revolt against Germany, the AfD’s anti-Europeanism is gaining traction.” The unthinkable is happening.

Author Ed Husain thinks that Brexit would precipitate “the demise of the West” but the road to the precipice started a while back. All Brexit will accomplish is penning the suicide note. Perhaps we are in what Yuval Levin calls in his new book the “fractured Republic”.    In a review, David Frum says the book argues “the United States as a country not merely fractured, but riven.” If so, Levin argues in his book that Americans must learn — as the Founders intended — how to live apart again. The centralized America of the 20th century, which long has been taken for normal, was in fact an aberration whose time has come and which present difficulties suggest is past. For better or worse Americans must:

experiment for themselves, reach different answers in different places, test what works best, and learn to live together even if they do not all think exactly the same. This was the original approach of the Founders of the country, after all. In a year when the federal government took it upon itself to decide the locker-room rules of states and localities

The desperate attempts by the administration to perpetuate the myth of the Lone Wolf terrorist are an attempt to maintain the pretense of normalcy; that it might continue to govern the one nation Obama promised to enhance but which in fact he deconstructed. The administration’s greatest single accomplishment has been to break down the trust networks which formerly bound the one nation. Trust between the races has been eroded by ruthless identity politics. The relationship between police and minority communities was driven to an all time low even in, or especially in, Democratic controlled cities — the so-called Ferguson effect — by short-sighted political calculation. The media is less trusted than even politicians from years of accumulated deception.

Kurt Schlichter writes in Town Hall that “the Mainstream Media chose a side and now it’s paying the price”. They got on a branch and sawed themselves off. The identity politics prescribed by PC as a panacea to ‘bigoted’ American society has had an unintended effect even among those who expected to benefit from it. It has proved pure poison. The refusal of the Orlando killers’ family to come forward suggests the Muslim community doesn’t trust an Obama administration that can hardly keep pandering to it. In despite of everything the Washington Post reports the restive are so numerous there aren’t enough police agents to keep track of Islamist suspects, let alone the criminals newly emboldened by the Ferguson effect or to monitor the nascent, but potentially huge, disgruntled “right wing”.

Domestic trust relationships broke in the same way that America’s long-term alliances did. Obama replaced institutional arrangements with himself. Suddenly, both international and domestic actors were no longer dealing with the United States of America but with a man named Barack Obama. That, by itself, would not have been fatal, had not this “Barack Obama” lacked an inner core. Thus founded on sand, everything shifted. Both friend and foe — Israel and Iran for instance — came to mistrust him. Both China and the Pacific allies suspected his intentions, both Europe and the UK became sure of only one thing: count on him to let you down.

The collapse of trust relationships was mirrored by a fall-off in respect since deterrence is trust in the negative. Obama’s inability to deter China, Russia and ISIS declined in lockstep with his regional partnerships as belief spread that he would neither carry out promises nor make good on his threats. In a recent display of contempt, Russian jets simply waited for US Navy fighters to go home before sneaking back and bombing the rebels the administration supported. “With the American jets flying close enough to visually identify the Su-34s, the Russians departed the air space over At Tanf. Some time shortly thereafter, the F/A-18s ran low on fuel and left the area in order to link up with an aerial tanker. That’s when the Su-34s reportedly returned to At Tanf —and bombed the rebels again.”

The hope that Obama’s impending 2017 departure would waken the world from a bad dream was dashed by the rise of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Both, like Obama, are running on cults of personality that will in some sense continue the deconstructive process started in 2008 which, unless slowed and reversed, will erode the centralized America of the 20th century and bring about the phase-change Yuval Levin describes.

The revolt is real. The New York Times says “more than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria … the memo, a draft of which was provided to The New York Times by a State Department official, says American policy has been ‘overwhelmed'”. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the current crisis is that Obama has knocked away the props, the tradition, loyalty and myth which once held the centralized nation of the 20th century together.

In its deepest subconscious, the Obama administration probably understands how critically its legitimacy hangs upon a name. It knows the peril of trying to govern a society which in some sense it despised. It can now continue only by making any discussion of choices something terribly impolite. The lengths to which the administration’s Justice Department went to censor Omar Mateen’s last Pledge of Alliance to ISIS and failing that, to replace the word “Allah” with “God”, shows how critical their concern with names is.

The sacred importance of nomenclature, the “fear of a name,” as Albus Dumbledore of the Harry Potter universe put it, is central to both magic and the Narrative. It is central to Obama’s national security policy. In a sense, the current crisis is all about a name. The administration never came down on whether the future belonged to America or Islam; the Melting Pot or Multiculturalism. For too long, the public was told it was not necessary to choose between the two, because there was nothing in the one name that was incompatible with the other. By making things Taboo, they’ve concealed the fundamental conflict and hidden the rift which is breaking things apart. Life is often said to imitate fiction. In the case of the Obama administration, it can be said to imitate fantasy.

Sometime after seizing indirect control of the Ministry of Magic in 1997, Voldemort made his own name Taboo. Thus, whenever his name was spoken aloud, Death Eaters and Snatchers were alerted to the location of the speaker. Since the only individuals who dared speak Voldemort’s name were members of the Order of the Phoenix or their allies, the Taboo allowed Voldemort’s followers to track down their enemies.

Anyone who dared to speak the name and break the Taboo would be hunted down as criminals. Hermione Granger broke the Taboo once while the trio were at Tottenham Court Road, which led two Death Eaters (disguised as construction workers) to their location. Harry Potter broke the Taboo while they were camping during the hunt for Voldemort’s horcruxes, leading to their capture by Snatchers. Kingsley Shacklebolt broke the Taboo and had to fight off several Death Eaters before going on the run, which is what alerted the Order of the Phoenix to the Taboo’s existence.

The anti-Voldemort radio programme Potterwatch, which was run by Order members and sympathisers, took to referring to Voldemort as “Chief Death Eater” as one of their methods of avoiding detection.

Names are about identities. A situation where it is forbidden to mention names is one where the power to do so has been assigned to someone else. Arguing you don’t have to choose is another way of saying you have no choice. The “fractured Republic” is the failed result of trying to have it both ways.

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