Iraq Nightmare

Given the situation of sectarian/ethnic warfare in Iraq, I am posting an article that originally appeared in 2011. It’s amazing that academics like me are routinely pilloried as doing shoddy research and skewing everything they write about for political/ethnic reasons. But that does not apply at all to academic activists like Bernard Lewis, the much praised Princeton University professor who promised George W. Bush that all that was needed for a flourishing of Iraqi democracy of multiculturalism and human rights was a little military nudge. Iraq will never be like the West. 

This logic continues with Tony Blair who absolves himself of any blame because “the sectarianism of the Maliki Government snuffed out what was a genuine opportunity to build a cohesive Iraq. Blair writes as if to say, “if only they had a better leader, all would be well.”

Who could have possibly known that Maliki would simply reverse Saddam’s modus vivendi and  start oppressing the Sunnis? Bernard Lewis, for one. But Lewis was far more intent on  carrying out Israel’s foreign policy interests than telling Bush the truth. A fragmented Iraq or an Iraq torn by war were equally attractive possibilities. Win-win. 

Of all the lies that the neocons came up with to get the U.S. to invade Iraq, the one that most angers me was Bernard Lewis’s lie that Iraq just needed a little nudge in order to unleash the popular surge for democracy and republican government.

Lewis … argues that Arabs have a long history of consensus government, if not democracy, and that a modicum of outside force should be sufficient to democratize the area—a view that runs counter to the huge cultural differences between the Middle East and the West that stem ultimately from very different evolutionary pressures. (see here, p. 50)

I agree that the WMD lie created and promoted mainly by Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Abraham Shulsky was critical. But Bernard Lewis deserves a special place in academic hell because he used his position as an elite academic to influence policy on behalf of his ethnic brethren in Israel and his close friends in the Likud government.
I assumed that Iraq would implode quite quickly after the U.S. left, but the pace is breathtaking. The LATimes report (“Iraq bombings kill 60, revive old fears“) shows that nothing has changed after 8-1/2 years of occupation, over 4400 U.S. armed forces dead and almost 32000 wounded, and over 100,000 Iraqis dead (see here). The Times article shows that the fundamental social structure hasn’t changed. The country remains divided along ethnic and religious lines.

The scenes of devastation were all too familiar after more than a dozen explosions ripped through the Iraqi capital Thursday, killing at least 60 people and injuring nearly 200, just days after the last U.S. troops left the country.

The attacks, some of the worst in Iraq this year, came in the midst of a political standoff between the country’s main Shiite Muslim and Sunni Arab factions. The dispute threatens to unravel a U.S.-backed power-sharing government, and is spreading anxiety over the prospect of a return to the sectarian bloodletting that devastated the country in recent years.

All the violence has not changed the basic fact that Iraq, like every other Arab culture, is a low-trust society:

“This crisis really is caused because there is pervasive distrust and an absence of institutions that can carry this kind of transition,” said Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq expert at the International Crisis Group. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shiite, has never trusted the Sunni politicians with whom he has been forced to share power, Hiltermann said.

Western societies have uniquely been high-trust societies, a point made, e.g., by Francis Fukuyama and a basic corollary of the psychology of Western individualism (see here, p. 27ff). The problem is that we think that everyone is “just like us”—willing and able to set up individualist societies with democratic and republican institutions. As Ian Morris writes in his Why the West Rules—For Now, people are pretty much the same the world over (see Brenton Sanderson’s review).We want to believe this so badly that it was easy to pull off the big lie. It’s the foundational lie of multi-culturalism. Of course, the same goes for IQ. We are supposed to ignore the findings that the average IQ in Iraq is around 87.

The Sunnis want more autonomy under the Shiite government, and the Kurds will doubtless continue their drive for autonomy. Iraq will be fractionated, politically weakened where the only solution is a heavy-handed dictatorship a la Saddam Hussein, or partition into three states.

In the ideal neocon world, the U. S. would have remained in Iraq indefinitely. Since that didn’t happen, they are doubtless not unhappy to see Iraq’s current turmoil—except that it will be more difficult next time to sell attacks on Israel’s enemies as a crusade for democracy.

I suspect that the neocon strategy will now be to blame the Obama administration for premature evacuation and use this as a trump card in the current campaign for a war against Iran. Already, “Republican leaders have sharply criticized President Obama for not trying harder to keep a U.S. military presence in Iraq. Sen. John McCain of Arizona said on CBS television Thursday that Iraq was ‘unraveling tragically.’ ‘We are paying a very heavy price in Baghdad because of our failure to have a residual force there.'”

It is unclear what price we are paying, since it’s unclear what threat Iraq poses or ever posed to the U.S. But it is certainly the case that this will be an issue in presidential politics in the months ahead. One can imagine the Obama administration being more willing to do the bidding of the Israel Lobby on Iran in order to counter the inevitable charges that he “lost Iraq.”

In a sane society, the neocons would have been executed for high treason for their involvement in the death and maiming of thousands of U.S. citizens under false pretenses, not to mention the trillion dollar price tag. In the U.S., they are preparing for their next war.

And the Israel Lobby has their back. Any intimation of Jewish influence related to Israel policy remains off limits. Thomas Friedman recently had the temerity to write, “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” But it wasn’t long before he mollified his remarks and said he didn’t subscribe to any “grand conspiracy theories.”

I don’t subscribe to any grand conspiracy theories either. It’s all out in the open. In your face. Just don’t say so in public.

Victoria Nuland’s family ties: The Permanent Government in action

Intertwined Jewish power families are an important aspect of Jewish history, cementing business relationships by creating networks of close relatives who married only among themselves—e.g., the Court Jews of 17th- and 18th-century Europe (see here, pp 150-152).  We see echoes of that in the contemporary world, as among the neocons.

As with the other Jewish intellectual movements I have studied, neoconservatives have a history of mutual admiration, close, mutually supportive personal, professional, and familial relationships, and focused cooperation in pursuit of common goals. For example, Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary, is the father of John Podhoretz, a neoconservative editor and columnist. Norman Podhoretz is also the father-in-law of Elliott Abrams, the former head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (a neoconservative think tank) and the director of Near Eastern affairs at the National Security Council. Norman’s wife, Midge Decter, recently published a hagiographic biography of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose number-two and number-three deputies at the Pentagon, respectively, are Wolfowitz and Feith. Perle is a fellow at the AEI. He originally helped Wolfowitz obtain a job with the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in 1973. In 1982, Perle, as Deputy Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, hired Feith for a position as his Special Counsel, and then as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Negotiations Policy. In 2001, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz helped Feith obtain an appointment as Undersecretary for Policy. Feith then appointed Perle as chairman of the Defense Policy Board. This is only the tip of a very large iceberg. “Neoconservatism as a Jewish movement” (p. 32)
Ethnic networking and ties cemented by marriage are on display in the flap over Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s phone conversation with Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. As VDARE’s Steve Sailer puts it, Nuland is a member of
a talented, energetic [Jewish] family that is part of the Permanent Government of the United States. It doesn’t really matter who wins the Presidential election: some Kagan-Nuland will be doing something somewhere in your name and on your dime.
The Kagan connection is via her husband, Robert Kagan. As noted by Your Lying Eyes, “Robert and brother Fred seem to have strategically implanted themselves in key policy-making positions within the Democratic and Republican party apparatus. Robert is embedded at Brookings, while Fred is ensconsed at AEI.”
So we have another Jewish neocon family tree, beginning with Donald Kagan, a Yale historian whose history of the Peloponnesia War has been used by neocons as a rationale for invasions of countries Israel doesn’t like (see Sailer). Donald Kagan was also a signatory to a 2002 letter to George W. Bush put out by Bill Kristol’s Project for the New American Century (PNAC) equating threats to Israel (Iran, Syria, Iraq) with threats to the U.S.
The next generation, Fred Kagan (American Enterprise Institute) and Robert Kagan (Brookings) are neocon stalwarts as well. (E.g., Donald, Robert and Frederick are all signatories to the neocon manifesto, Rebuilding America’s Defenses (2000), put out by PNAC.)   They and their wives, are all graduates of elite universities and well entrenched in the neocon thinktank/government infrastructure. Fred’s wife Kimberly (nee Kessler) is the head of the Institute for the Study of War and holds typical neocon positions.
And although U.S. policy toward Ukraine likely stems from other issues besides the neocon hostility toward Russia (the latter due to issues such as Putin’s crackdown on the oligarchs and Russia’s support of Israel’s enemies, Iran and Syria), there be little doubt that Nuland’s energetic support of the pro-EU opposition to the Yanukovych government dovetails with the attitudes of her neocon network. Our Permanent Government at work.

Review of Paul Gottfried’s “Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America,” Part 2

Part 1.

2. The “Lockean Founding” of the United States

Gottfried is apparently attracted to the anti-rationalist Burkean tradition of conservatism, which in effect claims that history is smarter than reason, therefore, we should take our guidance from historically evolved institutions and conventions rather than rational constructs. This form of conservatism is, of course, dismissed by the Straussians as “historicism.” Gottfried counters that the Straussians

seek to ignore . . . the ethnic and cultural preconditions for the creation of political orders. Straussians focus on those who invent regimes because they wish to present the construction of government as an open-ended, rationalist process. All children of the Enlightenment, once properly instructed, should be able to carry out this constructivist task, given enough support from the American government or American military. (pp. 3–4)

In the American context, historicist conservatism stresses the Anglo-Protestant identity of American culture and institutions. This leads to skepticism about the ability of American institutions to assimilate immigrants from around the globe and the possibility of exporting American institutions to the rest of the world.

Moreover, a historicist Anglo-Protestant American conservatism, no matter how “Judaizing” its fixation on the Old Testament, would still regard Jews as outsiders. Thus Straussians, like other Jewish intellectual movements, have promoted an abstract, “propositional” conception of American identity. Of course, Gottfried himself is a Jew, but perhaps he has the intellectual integrity to base his philosophy on his arguments rather than his ethnic interests

(Catholic Straussians are equally hostile to an Anglo-Protestant conception of America, but while Jewish Straussians have changed American politics to suit their interests, Catholic Straussians have gotten nothing for their services but an opportunity to vent spleen against modernity.) Read more

Review of Paul Gottfried’s “Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America,” Part 1

Paul Edward Gottfried
Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America: A Critical Appraisal
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012

Paul Gottfried’s admirable book on Leo Strauss is an unusual and welcome critique from the Right.

Leo Strauss (1899–1973) was a German-born Jewish political theorist who moved to the United States in 1937. Strauss taught at the New School for Social Research in New York City before moving to the University of Chicago, where he was Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor until his retirement in 1969. In the familiar pattern of Jewish intellectual movements as diverse of Psychoanalysis, Marxism, and Objectivism, Strauss was a charismatic teacher who founded a cultish school of thought, the Straussians, which continues to this day to spread his ideas and influence throughout academia, think tanks, the media, and the government.

The Straussians have not, however, gone unopposed. There are three basic kinds of critiques: (1) critiques from the Left, which range from paranoid, middlebrow, journalistic smears from such writers as Alan Wolfe, Nicholas Xenos, and John P. McCormick, to more scholarly critiques by such writers as Shadia Drury and Anne Norton, (2) scholarly critiques of the Straussian method and Straussian interpretations from philosophers and intellectual historians such as Hans-Georg Gadamer and Quentin Skinner, and (3) scholarly critiques from the Right.

As Gottfried points out, the Straussians tend only to engage their critics on the Left. This makes sense, since their Leftist critics raise the cultural visibility of the Straussian school. The critics are also easily defeated, which raises Straussian credibility as well. Like all debates within the parameters of Jewish hegemony, the partisans in the Strauss wars share a whole raft of assumptions which are never called into question. Thus these controversies look somewhat farcical and managed to those who reject liberalism and Jewish hegemony root and branch. Read more

Bill Kristol: Israel must save the West

It’s amazing to me that anyone with any brains takes neocons seriously. The Weekly Standard crowd shilled for a war with Syria by claiming that  the president must act “to ensure that Assad’s chemical weapons no longer threaten America” — as if Assad has a battery of ICBM’s ready to rain down terror on America.

Now Bill Kristol is  deeply concerned that peace might break out in the Middle East before the U.S. has destroyed every last enemy of Israel (“From Bad to Worse“). The piece is replete with comparisons to Hitler and  Mussolini, e.g.:

There will be no Rhineland this time. Iran isn’t 1930s Germany, and the United States is more formidable than Britain. For now, Iran will have to achieve its goals by stealth and diplomacy, while Hitler achieved his by bravado and force. But the accommodation of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons lies ahead as surely as the accommodation of Nazi Germany’s expansionist dreams.

They’re going to be stealthy about it, but the next thing you know, the Iranians will be in Cleveland.

Western Civilization is under attack, and as we all know, the neocons are nothing if not devoted to preserving Western Civilization; after all Kristol is a disciple of neocon godfather Leo Strauss.

The only country that can save the West just happens to be Kristol’s favorite country: Israel.

As Iran moves closer to nuclear weapons, undeterred by the West’s leading power, a 21st-century tragedy threatens to unfold. Unless. Unless a dramatis persona who didn’t exist in 1936 intervenes: Israel. Ariel Sharon once famously said that Israel would not play the role of Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. Nor will it play the role of Poland. Despite imprecations from the Obama administration, Israel will act. One prays it will not be too late.

It is a strange course of events, heavy with historical irony, that has made the prime minister of Israel for now the leader of the West. But irony is better than tragedy.

Israel is a Western society? Nothing more than a proposition culture dedicated to democracy and human rights, as the neocons would have it? I think not. Kristol, like Strauss, is a hypocrite: a strong Jewish identity that informs everything he does, while being a leader in pushing the Republican Party to the anti-White left. As we all know, Israel is the Jewish ethnostate, dedicated to an ethnically-based immigration policy, and ethnic cleansing and apartheid for the Palestinians. Would that he advocated that for Western societies.

But like Strauss who reinterprets the past to convince conservatives that Western Civilization has no racial content, Kristol frames Israel as a Western society to convince conservatives that they have a duty to defend it, no matter how Israel behaves. After all, they’re just like us.

The only sense in which Israel is a Western society is that Israel Firsters like Kristol dominate the foreign policy of Western societies. They are the moving force behind the violence unleashed by the West on the  enemies of Israel — the wars that have become the face of the West to the rest of the world. And despite all the high-flown rhetoric about freedom and human rights, it is an ugly face indeed.

Paul Gottfried and Claes Ryn on Leo Strauss

The academic life is probably like many careers in that ultimately you have to find an audience. Professors spend months or years on a major project, then try to get it published in the best possible venue. Then they hope for positive reviews and, ultimately, acclaim and influence. I suspect that if one did a study based on exit interviews of academics as they retired from the profession, not a few of them would express the feeling that the game was somehow stacked against them—that their work did not get the attention it deserved, that it should have been discussed in all the elite intellectual venues—the New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, and ultimately, perhaps, become assigned reading in college courses everywhere. They should have been somebody.

Lots of academics probably feel this way, but no one has so explicitly expressed it quite like Paul Gottfried has. In his recent piece, “Claes Ryn, Allan Bloom, Leo Strauss, and Me,” Gottfried is clearly frustrated. He managed to get his book, Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America, published by an elite academic publisher, Cambridge University Press—no mean feat. But intellectual fame and fortune haven’t happened, and Gottfried is not pleased:

I shall lay my cards on the table. I am outraged at how the usual suspects kept my book from being discussed. Despite my well-known views on certain delicate subjects, I tried to produce a fair study of a difficult topic and bent backward in showing sympathy for the movement’s founder and at least some of his disciples. The successful attempt to white out my work has annoyed me no end.

In order to explain this lack of attention, Gottfried refers to Claes Ryn’s  “Allan Bloom and Straussian Alienation“:

The arguments marshaled by [Claes] Ryn indicate, as does my book, why Straussians reign in the NYT’s Sunday Book Review Section as well as in Conservatism, Inc. Although Ryn does not make this last point explicitly, perhaps for fear of reprisal, a fuller explanation is at least implicit in what he does tell us. His comments may also explain why my book, initially marketed by Cambridge with high hopes and considerable promo, received absolutely no attention in the national Main Stream Media.

For fear of the Straussians.

So how have the Straussians been able to dominate all the high ground of American culture? And in particular, how they have managed to completely co-opt what passes for conservatism? These questions are not really answered by either Gottfried and Ryn, but there are hints. Both emphasize that Straussian ideology has functioned to pave the way for a new elite with no ethnic or cultural ties to the old elite by conceptualizing America as a proposition nation without specific ethnic or religious roots. Given the very large role of Jewish intellectuals among the new elite, the motivation is obvious: If one doesn’t share the ethnic, religious, and historical roots of a society but wants to be accepted as the new intellectual elite, then define the society as having no ethnic, religious, or historical roots. Ryn notes that

the desire to have America be something different from its historical past and to make it perhaps also more palatable to an aspiring new elite is probably most evident and explicit in Bloom’s fellow Straussian Harry Jaffa. Jaffa has made a career of asserting that America must not, repeat, not, be understood as owing anything of importance to an old historical heritage. It must be seen as born out of a radical break with the past and as based on abstract principles of an essentially Lockean cast—Lockeanism understood concomitantly as a departure from earlier thought.

The subterfuge of the Straussians was to attempt to locate this proposition culture in the deep wellsprings of Western culture in order to make it more palatable to conservatives, a position that required them to completely disregard normal standards of scholarship. Thus Plato is presented as an ardent democrat. Ryn:

Allan Bloom contends that Plato, whose iconic status and authority he would like to invoke on behalf of his own beliefs, is markedly different from how a long tradition of classicist scholarship has understood him. Contrary to all appearances, Plato is not scornful of democracy and democratic man. He is a democrat in disguise.

Indeed, in the hands of the Straussians, all of Western philosophy comes down to alienation from society and from tradition—an odd proposal to say the least, and here Ryn also mentions the Frankfurt School as completely on board with the Straussians. The tension arises from the fact that rejection of society and tradition are usually considered to be of the left. As Ryn notes,  “in their disparagement of tradition [they] resemble the open, unqualified left.” In place of tradition and ethnic or cultural particularity, these philosophers opt for universalist abstractions in which the White race or Christianity are excluded as significant categories. Read more

Bombs for a Better World: Syria, Surveillance and the Neo-Crocs

In a sane world, the former “Chief Speechwriter for Tony Blair” would now be a fugitive from justice or serving a life sentence. But it’s not a sane world, so Philip Collins is receiving his thirty pieces of silver from the hostile elite. He has a well-paid post at the London School of Economics and writes for Rupert Murdoch’s London Times, where he displays all the intellectual power and anthropological expertise you would expect of a Blairite:

The most misunderstood book of recent times was lost in a play on words. When Francis Fukuyama called his book The End of History he was not making the foolish claim that history, as 1066 And All That nearly said, had come to a full stop. He was saying that no society better than liberal democracy would ever emerge.

With history unfolding all around us, it is a good moment to point out that Fukuyama was right. The people of Syria, like the people of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, do not wish to buy security at the cost of freedom. The Middle East will, in time, join the league of democratic nations, as Latin America has done since 1970. The fragile Government of Algeria cannot last. The limited reforms sponsored by the kings of Morocco and Jordan will buy a little time. But eventually the people there and the people in Iran will want some of what we have, they being people just like us. (Saving the people of Syria, reproduced in The Australian, 25th February, 2012)

It would be wrong to call those claims “half-witted.” No, “eighth-witted” is more like it. It took centuries for liberal democracy to evolve in Britain. Tony Blair went a long way towards destroying it in a decade. But Philip Collins thinks the Middle East will inevitably embrace it. After all, the Muslims there have no connection with their illiberal and undemocratic governments, which have presumably beamed in from Neptune or the Andromeda Galaxy. Collins thinks that Syrians, Tunisians, Libyans, Moroccans et al. are “people just like us.” Well, apart from a significantly lower average IQ and a long history of inbreeding, clannishness and corruption, that is. And a totalitarian religion that stands no nonsense about female rights and imposes the death penalty for offences like apostasy and blasphemy. Muslims in the Middle East wouldn’t have knighted Salman Rushdie the way Tony Blair did. No, they’d’ve quickly cut his head off. If he’d been lucky.

But apart from those details, Collins thinks that the Middle East is ready to “join the league of democratic nations” as “Latin America” did in 1970. He seems to be forgetting the dictatorships that flourished in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and so on. You’d expect him to remember Chile, because Spain tried to have General Pinochet extradited when Pinochet came here for medical treatment during Blair’s premiership. But Blairites don’t like history: as someone once pointed out, the only certainty in Blairism was the golden future. The past was always changing.

In this, Blairites faithfully reflected their neo-conservative confederates. The neo-cons know no history, just as they know no shame. In a sane world, what happened in Iraq would have discredited them for ever, if not placed them behind bars. But it’s not a sane world and they’re still with us, still lying, still gasbagging, still beating the drums for slaughter. One of the British neo-cons, Norman Geras, called the eighth-witted maunderings of Philip Collins a “thoughtful column.” The quality of Geras’ own thinking is apparent here:

Of course, the whole world is not a death camp, and what is happening in Syria falls far short of the Nazi genocide. Yet the brutal murder of innocent people by a state bears some kinship with all crimes against humanity, of which it is itself one. (“Adolescent” revulsion and moral shame (over Syria), NormBlog, 27th February, 2012)

The Nazis, of course, are the gold standard of evil. Comparing the Syrian government to the Nazis is designed to elicit a reflexive warrant for military action.

But it would be wrong to dismiss Geras as an eighth-witted gasbag. In fact, he’s a bloodthirsty eighth-witted gasbag:

Since it is urgent that we respond somehow, out of solidarity, of our “common human heritage” with the victims, action must be taken even if it means meeting chaos with chaos and (by implication) that the chaos we cause turns out to be worse than the chaos we’re trying to bring to an end. (NormBlog)

Neo-con Norman “Gasbag” Geras

Neo-con Norman “Gasbag” Geras

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