Sunday, September 13, 2009

What is ideology?

The concept "ideology" has itself been the subject of considerable debate among social scientists. The very term has been confused by a plethora of definitions and made disreputable through its association with fascism and communism, compelling one writer to suggest that it be discarded altogether, in favor of "belief systems." I still prefer the simpler term "ideology," but in this work I shall not use it in the recent sense which implies dogma, a rigid, doctrinaire, black and white understanding of the world, but, rather, as the system of beliefs, values, fears, prejudices, reflexes, and commitments-in sum, the social consciousness- of a social group, be it a class, a party, or a section. Genovese uses the term more or less interchangeably with "world view," which also has a certain value (although it hardly conveys the full meaning of the German Weltanschauung), because an important aspect of ideology involves the way in which a group perceives itself and its values in relation to the society as a whole. when I speak of the Republican ideology, therefore, I am dealing with the party's perception of what American society, both North and South, was like in the 1850s, and its view of what the nation's future ought to be.

Eric Foner in Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War. (highly recommended)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Photos: Little Round Top

Was roaming around the battlefield at Gettysburg a few weeks ago and took some pictures. The first is Houck's Ridge and Devils Den from Little Round Top. The second, is Little Round Top from Houck's Ridge.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"I can only hope a change in our thinking will result"

The competition of ideas, interpretations and perceptions continues and this is how it is done. Driven by self-motivation; people are inspired by their worldview to spread their worldview. This is where the narrative battle is being fought.

Oliver Stone is making his most ambitious stab at American history yet.

The controversial director is creating a 10-part documentary series for Showtime titled "Secret History of America."

Narrated by Stone, the series promises to focus on events that "at the time went under-reported, but crucially shaped America's unique and complex history of the last 60 years," according to Showtime.

Subjects will include President Harry Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, the origins of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, to "the fierce struggle between war and peace in America's national security complex."

The project includes "newly discovered facts and accounts" from the Kennedy administration, the Vietnam War and the great changes in America's role in the world since the fall of Communism in the 1980s "through this epic 10-hour series, which I feel is the deepest contribution I could ever make in film to my children and the next generation, I can only hope a change in our thinking will result," Stone said in a statement.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Waller's Political Warfare class and new book

I would love to take Michael Waller's political warfare class. Maybe next year.

There's still time to sign up for my graduate course, Political Warfare: Past, Present and Future. Taught on Thursday nights at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC, the course is the only one of its kind. It's designed for intelligence officers, military officers and diplomats, but (almost) anyone is welcome to sign up. My Foreign Propaganda class is over-subscribed.

Students will study the ancients: Kautilya of India, Sun Tzu of China, Aristotle and Thucydides of Athens, Virgil of Rome, as well as the ancient Hebrews and Persians and even Attila the Hun. Then we go over the political warfare of the Crusades, medieval and Renaissance Europe (especially Niccolo Machiavelli, who likewise studied the ancients), and six hours of intensive lectures on the political warfare of the American Revolution.

American warfighters will benefit from mastery of Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin's political warfare strategies and tactics; we've helped incorporate them into operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Finally, we study more modern political warriors, including the culturally subversive Antonio Gramsci and - this year, for the first time - community organizer Saul Alinsky and his Rules for Radicals.

Here's the webpage for this political warfare class.

Waller also has a new book coming out:

My new compilation of American Revolutionary War propaganda and political warfare is now available. Founding Political Warfare Documents of the United States is a 367-page compendium of some of the best examples of American and British propaganda and political warfare: leaflets, pamphlets, declarations, speeches, letters, essays, articles, official documents, cartoons, and satire.

Authors include Samuel Adams (of course), James Otis, John Hancock, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, the Sons of Liberty, the Continental Congress; and the British Parliament, General Thomas Gage, the dreaded Parliament, and King George III.

Don't be a dumb Ash

I respect Timothy Garton Ash, but this is just pure ignorance, in fact you have to go out of your way to be this ignorant of America:

The integration of immigrants in the United States is easier, because there is no social welfare state there.

Let's see, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, War on Poverty, etc, etc. Yup, "no social welfare state there." Sheesh.

And then there's this:

This is because the middle class in the United States has experienced the brutality and injustice of the unbridled Anglo-Saxon free market economy firsthand -- in the healthcare system, for example.

What on earth is he talking about? First, there is nothing "unbridled" about America's market economy. "Brutality and injustice"? This is pure unbridled propaganda. I expect more from Garton Ash than the mindless regurgitation of slogans that have no basis in fact.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Know your adversary; learn from your adversary

E-book from Project Gutenberg:
The History of the Fabian Society by Edward R. Pease

From google books:
The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories, and Political Significance by Rolf Wiggershaus

The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research by Martin Jay

Greenpeace lies about global warming? I'm shocked, shocked...

"That we as a pressure group have to emotionalize issues and we are not ashamed of emotionalizing issues"



Via Big Hollywood

Dropping the "un-American" card

Pelosi/Hoyer: Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.

Really?

“Do you personally support revival of the ‘Fairness Doctrine?’” I asked.

“Yes,” the speaker [Pelosi] replied, without hesitation.


Expect to see the Fairness Doctrine or some other effort to constrict the 1st Amendment begin to slither around the halls of Congress in the near future, especially if the "progressives" don't get what they want on health care.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We need to learn from our adversaries

A few years ago I proposed an approach to waging a war of ideas:

In [one strategy] the enemy attempts to use the target country’s media as a vehicle to sap the people’s and political leaders’ will to fight...[or] attack a school or a courthouse in order to show that the government can’t defend itself...In [another strategy] the enemy actually becomes the media and the political leadership...the enemy seeks to become the country's media, university and grade school teachers, writers, artists, etc. They become the purveyors of culture.
...
things become much more complicated if they actually become the judges, intelligence officers, diplomats, policy makers etc. I don’t really think there is a major role for the state in this kind of intellectual war, but rather think that ideas have to be fought with ideas, and that the people who want to defend their country from this kind of attack need to develop their own...tactics independent of the state.

There is no better exemplar of this kind of strategy than the Frankfurt School (Via ChicagoBoyz):



So how do you defeat this kind of an adversary? What kind of strategy, ideas and organization can be successful in this kind of competition?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bailyn on Booknotes

From Bernard Bailyn on Booknotes with Brian Lamb:

LAMB: I mean it just rang like today when there was a leak of a document coming out. How much of that went on back in those days?


BAILYN: Well, there was a lot and that enters into this Franklin story a great deal. That was, he took with him to Europe when he went in 1776 an early draft of the Articles of Confederation. It was not what was finally accepted and there are significant differences.

But he was so eager to promote the constitutional forms that had been worked out in America that he took it and had it published, as he did many other documents from the states, had it published and translated and it was in that form actually that it reached an English audience through the translation of this draft form that went into French first.

It was typical. I have a good deal of this in the book. It's typical of the kinds of complexities in the dissemination of American documents during that period.


LAMB: You also write about the Constitution circulating around Europe being translated back in those days.


BAILYN: Yes.


LAMB: How much of that went on and why did it go on?


BAILYN: A great deal. There was a great interest in this and it enters into the thinking of people working through reform movements all over Europe. The book begins with an argument about American provincialism.

The first chapter tries to explain something we don't often think about that at the beginning of the revolution these people were provincials. No one knew of their importance. We think of them now as Mount Rushmore, I mean these vast figures.

They weren't vast figures and their provincialism, their removal from the center of the heart of cultured Western Europe was part of the power that they could develop in thinking through new ideas.

The last chapter, which kind of wraps this up in a way, the last chapter shows the way in which these provincial ideas become cosmopolitan and circulate through so much, not only of England where it would naturally circulate, but France as well into Switzerland, into Latin America and the way these ideas played out in complex ways all throughout the Atlantic world.

And, it seems to me that one of the big stories in this is the way in which these provincial efforts then succeed locally and then radiate out into the whole of the Atlantic world.
...
BAILYN: Yes. Well, what Madison is saying is that they paid attention to the great names and the great thoughts of the past. The historical documents they were familiar with and the great names like Montesquieu, but as he explains, and that paragraph is exactly to the point, they did not revere them to the point where they dominated their thinking and that they - the fact that they were able to break free from these dominating ideas was one of the keys to their success and Madison was keenly aware of that.


LAMB: What's original about the work that they did?


BAILYN: As I enumerated in there, there are a whole series of basic ideas about public life which were considered at the time to be illogical, for example that you could divide sovereignty. Well, nobody believed you could divide sovereignty but we do between the states and the nation, and no one believed that that was possible at the time and they showed in ways, Madison especially, the way in which this could operate successfully.

Nobody believed that a free republican state could exist on a large scale. It would just fall to pieces because there were no controls over it if people were simply governing themselves. Again, they showed the way in which this was not so, that you could - it could operate successfully over a large expanse. And so, there are a number of these key issues that they're discussing which are original.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Irregular Warfare in the Civil War

The always excellent Civil War Books and Authors blog has a long review of a book on irregular warfare during the Civil War:

Over the past few decades, our understanding of Civil War irregular warfare has been greatly enhanced by a number of excellent local and regional studies published in essay and book length format. However, until now, no scholar has attempted a broad scope examination of the subject on a national scale. The difficulties are legion. Definitions are murky, and individual motivations numerous as the stars and often confined to local conditions not easily explained or understood. At the time, neither side could agree on the legal state of a range of behaviors, and, consequently, the proper disposition of captured persons variously labeled as, among other terms, recruiting officers, raiders, bushwhackers, partisan rangers, jayhawkers, and guerrillas. At various times, both sides (with misgivings) actively promoted their use while at the same time seeking to deny the enemy the same privilege. One of the best known scholars attempting to make sense of this complex and messy subject is University of Arkansas professor Daniel E. Sutherland. His new book, A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War is the first modern study that examines irregular warfare spanning the continent, and how it shaped the character and conduct of the Civil War, the unintended consequences of which hastened Confederate defeat.

Another book added to the ever growing wish list.

Read the whole thing.

Reason TV: On the Rise of the Microbrew Movement

Beer: An American Revolution

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Big State, Small State

There is an opinion essay in the Washington Post on the topic of states with small populations and equal representation in the Senate. California has the largest population at 36.7 million people and Wyoming the smallest at 532,668 and yet they both have 2 senators. This is a legitimate issue that comes up now and again, and at some point will have to be addressed. But it's coming up now because apparently senators from small states are proving to be obstacles to Obama's agenda. No solutions are provided of course, but the underlying point is that small states should not have the power they do as a result of the current representational scheme. I agree, but I have three propositions to offer:

First, big states should be broken up into smaller states. People always point out the disproportionate representation of the small states in the Senate without ever acknowledging that the big states are too big. California should be broken up into three states, Texas maybe four, New York two, Florida two and so on. If some states can be too small, other states can be too big. If we are going to start rearranging representation in the Senate then lets go all the way. If we want equality in representation then we have to push the outliers towards the middle, whether small or big.

The piece also drops in a little something that I don't think the author really thought through:

And then there's the Senate's age-old distortion of distributive politics, in which goodies are doled out on anything but a per-capita basis. California, Illinois, New York and New Jersey are among the 10 states that get the least back per tax dollar sent to Washington; Alaska, the Dakotas and West Virginia are among those that get the most.

Let's apply that to individuals and private organizations: those who pay more in taxes should get more representation and influence. If it's right for states it's right for everybody, right? This means that rich people and corporations (the evil duo) should have more representation than middle class and poor citizens. Do you really want to go there?

The other thing that is missing here is competence. Yes, California with 36.7 million people is the most populous state, but so what? California is a disaster. Californians have completely misgoverned their state. Why on earth should we give them MORE influence at the federal level? Maybe representation should be based on demonstrated competence at governing regardless of population. That would at least give states an incentive to govern well. Their disastrous incompetence at governing should result in less influence not more.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Coin Toss

One of the biggest mistakes people make is not understanding the nature of the game they are playing; thinking they are playing by one set of rules when in fact real game is being played by an entirely different set of rules.

Leftists very commonly assert that that non-leftists have to offer a fully fleshed-out alternative to the status quo before they can offer criticisms of the current faddish idea of the Left. When you try to explain to them that the validity of an idea has nothing to do with the validity of any competing ideas, they stare at you blankly.

This is correct and I agree with it, but it is beside the point. The Left is not playing by the rules of logic. They are not engaged in an academic debate over ideas, they are engaged in political competition, a competition for power and influence and they are willing to use whatever means of persuasion will work regardless of whether they are logically valid. It doesn't matter whether you like this or not, you have to adapt to your adversary's tactics and strategies. You can't defeat the Left with logic, you can only defeat the Left with perpetual activism and organization and by using whatever rhetorical tactics will work. If you don't have the will to do that, then get used to losing.

Yes it is true that you can examine the validity of a statement, assertion, argument etc without being obligated to offer an alternative. But again this isn't a classroom, this is political competition and policymaking and so yes it is necessary to have an alternative when you criticize a policy. Policymakers want solutions to problems. If you want to successfully compete then you will develop policy options along with your criticism.

This reminds me of one of my favorite Bill Cosby bits:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Good Music: Franz Ferdinand and The Last Shadow Puppets

Franz Ferdinand: No you girls



The Last Shadow Puppets: Meeting Place

Monday, July 20, 2009

Australia's National Security Strategy

Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030

Australia's most basic strategic interest remains the defence of Australia against direct armed attack. This
includes armed attacks by other states and by non-state actors with the capacity to employ strategic capabilities,
including weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This most basic strategic interest abides irrespective of the
perceived intentions of others, and is a function of our geography and levels of current and future capability in
the region around us. Before we attend to anything else, we must secure this strategic interest.

Our next most important strategic interest is the security,stability and cohesion of our immediate neighbourhood,
which we share with Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, New Zealand and the South Pacific island
states. While we have a wide range of diplomatic, economic, cultural and other links with those countries, from
a strategic point of view, what matters most is that they are not a source of threat to Australia, and that no
major military power, that could challenge our control of the air and sea approaches to Australia, has access to
bases in our neighbourhood from which to project force against us.

Beyond our immediate neighbourhood, Australia has an enduring strategic interest in the stability of the wider
Asia-Pacific region, which stretches from North Asia to the Eastern Indian Ocean. In particular, we have a deep
stake in the security of Southeast Asia. Strategically, our neighbours in Southeast Asia sit astride our northern
approaches, through which hostile forces would have to operate in order to sustainably project force against
Australia. A stable and cohesive Southeast Asia will mitigate any such threat and is in our strategic interests.
More broadly, we have a deep stake in the maintenance of an Asia-Pacific regional security environment that
is conducive to the peaceful resolution of problems between regional countries and can absorb the rise in
strategic and military power of emerging major players.

Beyond our region, Australia cannot be secure in an insecure world. We have a strategic interest in preserving
an international order that restrains aggression by states against each other, and can effectively manage other
risks and threats, such as the proliferation of WMD, terrorism, state fragility and failure, intra-state conflict, and
the security impacts of climate change and resource scarcity.


Other recent national security strategies from the Anglosphere:

The National Security Strategy of the UK

Securing an Open Society: Canada's National Security Policy

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A couple of links...

Here is a video of Anne Marie Slaughter (DOS Director of Policy Planning) speaking at the Navy War College's Current Strategy Forum.

And thanks to google books here's an interesting chapter: Alexander Hamilton and the Grand Strategy of the American Social Compact by Karl Walling.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Update

Well it's been a while since I've been around, but I've been busy trying to start a new career which is finally, after a lot of hard work and what seems like endless waiting, moving in the right direction. My internship has turned into a job doing freelance work at a tv station. The station has treated me very well and has been willing to teach and allow me to try my hand at things even though I'm new. So I've been getting a lot of good experience in a variety of different areas. I've done audio and cameras for studio and field productions among other things. Last week on the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg I worked on a video crew recording tours of the battlefield (I carried the tripod) following the paths of different units as they fought their part of the battle. I have a much greater understanding of the battle than before. One of my ancestors fought in the 27th Indiana and was wounded at Gettysburg and I got to stand where his unit fought and hear their story. That's a very powerful experience.

I've also been going through a transition of ideas. For a few years now I've argued that we need to update classical liberal ideas for the 21st century but it has been in the last 8-9 months that I have started to really work towards that goal. I made a conscious decision last year to change the way I think. The generally libertarian worldview that I had been operating with for several years no longer worked for me and my commitment to "updating classical liberal ideas for the 21st century" eventually led me to a point where I realized that I needed a different way of thinking. And so I began a little at a time to force myself to think differently and eventually I had a kind of breakthrough, a point where some new possibilities opened up. It's still very general and there is historical precedent for it. It's funny how entire genres of thinking just drop out of our awareness even though they were prominent in their time. I'm thinking that I might start a new blog, completely separate from this one to explore some of these ideas. I need a new hobby and that might be a worthwhile thing to do.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some grand strategy links

Here are a few interesting grand strategy links via Foreign Policy's Shadow Government blog:

What is grand strategy and why do we need it? by Peter Feaver

Ten books that are essential reading for anyone interested in grand strategy by William Inboden

What Is Grand Strategy? by John Lewis Gaddis

Yale University offers a Program in Grand Strategy. Here is the spring 2008 Studies in Grand Strategy syllabus which has a great reading list.

Duke University has also started up a Program in American Grand Strategy

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Born as a commercial republic"

One of the main arguments of this blog has been that the entrepreneur and entrepreneurship should be the content of a campaign of ideas to champion classical liberal ideals. I have also argued that entrepreneurship should be the means by which the ideas are disseminated. Meaning that entrepreneurial ventures (for-profit and non-profit) should be created to wage a campaign of ideas using the symbolism and narrative of the entrepreneur to transmit the vision and values of America, the liberal commercial republic. This is a campaign of ideas that takes place at the cultural level, that inspires people to act and create in ways that make us more resilient, more able to creatively respond to adversity. Now read the following excerpt from a recent column by David Brooks through the framework of the above.

In short, the United States will never be Europe. It was born as a commercial republic. It’s addicted to the pace of commercial enterprise. After periodic pauses, the country inevitably returns to its elemental nature.

The U.S. is in one of those pauses today. It has been odd, over the past six months, not to have the gospel of success as part of the normal background music of life. You go about your day, taking in the news and the new movies, books and songs, and only gradually do you become aware that there is an absence. There are no aspirational stories of rags-to-riches success floating around. There are no new how-to-get-rich enthusiasms. There are few magazine covers breathlessly telling readers that some new possibility — biotechnology, nanotechnology — is about to change everything. That part of American culture that stokes ambition and encourages risk has gone silent.

We are now in an astonishingly noncommercial moment. Risk is out of favor. The financial world is abashed. Enterprise is suspended. The public culture is dominated by one downbeat story after another as members of the educated class explore and enjoy the humiliation of the capitalist vulgarians.

Washington is temporarily at the center of the nation’s economic gravity and a noncommercial administration holds sway. This is an administration that has many lawyers and academics but almost no businesspeople in it, let alone self-made entrepreneurs. The president speaks passionately about education and health care reform, but he is strangely aloof from the banking crisis and displays no passion when speaking about commercial drive and success.

But if there is one thing we can be sure of, this pause will not last. The cultural DNA of the past 400 years will not be erased. The pendulum will swing hard. The gospel of success will recapture the imagination.

Somewhere right now there’s probably a smart publisher searching for the most unabashed, ambitious, pro-wealth, pro-success manuscript she can find, and in about three months she’ll pile it up in the nation’s bookstores. Somewhere there’s probably a TV producer thinking of hiring Jim Cramer to do a show to tell story after story of unapologetic business success. Somewhere there’s a politician finding a way to ride the commercial renaissance that is bound to come, ready to explain how government can sometimes nurture entrepreneurial greatness and sometimes should get out of the way.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lincoln as Commander in Chief

Historian James McPherson has a new book out that looks like it would be a good read for people who are interested in grand strategy and strategic thinking and is now at the top of my wish list: Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief. Here's an essay on this topic by McPherson in the Smithsonian Magazine:

When he called state militia into federal service on April 15, 1861—following the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter—Lincoln therefore faced a steep learning curve as commander in chief. He was a quick study, however; his experience as a largely self-taught lawyer with a keen analytical mind who had mastered Euclidean geometry for mental exercise enabled him to learn quickly on the job. He read and absorbed works on military history and strategy; he observed the successes and failures of his own and the enemy's military commanders and drew apt conclusions; he made mistakes and learned from them; he applied his large quotient of common sense to slice through the obfuscations and excuses of military subordinates. By 1862 his grasp of strategy and operations was firm enough almost to justify the overstated but not entirely wrong conclusion of historian T. Harry Williams: "Lincoln stands out as a great war president, probably the greatest in our history, and a great natural strategist, a better one than any of his generals."

Monday, March 9, 2009

No outrage zone

I'm more than a little burned out on outrage and feeling betrayed right now. I'm just not interested. So when Republicans point out how liberal Obama is, I just kind of shrug my shoulders and think "the Republicans should have governed better":

The stock market has been tanking steadily since his election, but public approval for President Barack Obama remains high. And this despite the fact that his carefully composed centrist stance during the campaign has been replaced by an economic policy that is at least as strongly liberal as FDR’s New Deal or LBJ’s Great Society, if not more so.
Why don’t Americans feel more betrayed, or at least more wary?

How can you expect me to be outraged at the Democrats when this is how Republicans governed when they recently controlled Congress and the White House:

George W. Bush rode into Washington almost eight years ago astride the horse of smaller government. He will leave it this winter having overseen the biggest federal budget expansion since Franklin Delano Roosevelt seven decades ago.
Not since World War II, when the nation mobilized to fight a global war against fascism and recover from the Great Depression, has government spending played as large a role in the economy as it does today.
...
Mr. Bush already is the first president in history to implement budgets that crossed the $2 trillion a year and $3 trillion a year marks.
...
Federal spending grew from $1.9 trillion in 2000 to what will be at least $3.4 trillion in 2009.
Economists say the best way to measure the size of the federal government is to look at spending as a percentage of the total economy, or gross domestic product. And by that measure, Mr. Bush has increased spending more dramatically than any president since FDR, whose spending on the New Deal and World War II will likely never be matched. During his 12 years, government ballooned from 8 percent of the economy to 41.9 percent.
...
By that measure, federal budget numbers show spending under the Bush administration rose from 18.4 percent of GDP to 22.5 percent - a 4.1-point increase - and could end up even higher.
The only presidents to approach that level of growth were President Carter, who grew spending as a percentage of GDP by 1.5 points, and President Ford, who grew it by 1 point. Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton all decreased spending relative to the overall economy.

Given this track record it is hard to take Republican criticism of Obama seriously. Not that there aren't legitimate criticisms to be made, but Republicans have no credibility to make them. As a result...


Large swaths of the electorate have stopped paying attention to Republicans, he [Sen. McConnell] said.

Wash. Post

And rightfully so. Republicans need to rebuild their credibility with the public if they want the public to take them seriously. If we have learned anything over the past 15 years or so it's that it is a very bad idea for either party to control both Congress and the White House. And so I would like to see the Republicans win Congress in 10. But the Republicans are in an awkward situation. The Republicans need to persuade people that they will govern better than the Democrats, but the memory of how they governed last time around is fresh and is not going to be flushed down the memory hole. If Republicans try to say that they learned their lesson and they are getting back to their true principles, this will rightfully be dismissed as the cynical maneuver of a party that is willing to say anything to get back into power.

Whatever opposition strategy they come up with this is probably not the way to go. If you want credit for the successes then you have to also accept responsibility for the failures:

Conservatives and Republicans aren't synonymous, he [David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union] said. Conservatism didn't lose the election; Republicans lost it, he said: "If this were a gathering of Republicans, they would be down and have every right to be down. They were repudiated."

Wash. Post

I've seen variations on this theme since November. Conservatives and Republicans aren't the same thing; it was Republicans who governed badly not Conservatives therefore Conservatives bear no responsibility. If this is true (and there is some truth to this) then what conclusion can we draw? What this means is that Conservatives aren't in charge of the Republican Party. So, if after 50 years Conservatives can't achieve hegemony within the Republican Party, why would anyone believe that they can achieve hegemony within society as a whole? Apparently, the Conservative Movement, rather than being the dominant ideological force, is nothing more than an ideological faction within the Republican Party that has no power to control how that party governs. The Conservative achievements have proven to be superficial and easily overturned. The politics of the next few elections cycles will be interesting to watch. The Conservative moment is over but the Republican party should be able to harness the energy of opposition and ride it to electoral success. What we are seeing from the Democrats though is the last gasp of 20th century industrial age managerial liberalism. When I look at the Democrats I see "New Deal re-enactors". Over time we'll see that approach proven to be inadequate to our circumstances. This is a really good time for the development of ideas. Don't try to salvage the old ideas in their age of decline. Rather develop the new ideas that will govern the next 50 years. And don't dissipate your energy being outraged and feeling betrayed, rather channel your energy into something creative. I don't want to spend the next 4 years in a state of perpetual outrage.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

CNBC: Fount of Wisdom

And so it goes...

Well the school that I attended last year and where I worked up until last week has shut down and filed for bankruptcy. This doesn't surprise me, I had a hunch months ago that this was a very real possibility. Aside from the personal impact on me (I'm outta of a job, they still owe me for my last 2 weeks, and I'm supposed to get a variety of lifetime benefits including studio and equipment use, continuing ed and others) this is a lesson in business. Here was a successful family-run business that endured for 42 years, surviving economic crises in the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s. And then a couple of years ago they were bought by an international financial corporation and in 2 1/2 years was run into the ground and is now bankrupt. Terrible management, bad customer service, didn't treat employees well. A lot of the things you read in articles and books about business seem like cliches and common sense, but then you see a situation like this and you realize that sometimes there is wisdom in the cliches. There really is no substitute for good customer service and being passionate about your product. This business was bought and managed to be a "plantation" investment, as something to be exploited rather than a business to be grown and developed in cooperation with its customers. I learned a lot about audio and video editing, camera operations, master control ops, and audio performance all of which I plan to put to use in a variety of ways, particularly in my own business aspirations. I also made back my entire tuition by working there, and most of the time I was paid to run the equipment, which means that I was getting paid to practice and improve skills. So that's that. And on we go...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Some books I would like to buy, cont'd

If Mahan Ran the Great Pacific War: An Analysis of World War II Naval Strategy

Adams uses Mahan's ideas to discuss the great Pacific sea battles of World War II and to consider how well they withstood the test of actual combat. Re-examining the conduct of war in the Pacific from a single analytic viewpoint leads to some surprising conclusions about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Doolittle Raid, the Battle of the Coral Sea, the recapture of the Philippines, and the submarine war.

Tycoon's War: How Cornelius Vanderbilt Invaded a Country to Overthrow America's Most Famous Military Adventurer

When he died in 1877, Cornelius Vanderbilt, founder of the Vanderbilt dynasty, was wealthier than the U.S. Treasury. But he had nearly lost his fortune in 1856, when William Walker, a young Nashville genius, set out to conquer Central America and, in the process, take away Vanderbilt’s most profitable shipping business. To win back his empire, Vanderbilt had to win a bloody war involving seven countries.
Tycoon’s War tells the story of an epic imperialist duel—a violent battle of capitalist versus idealist, money versus ambition—and a monumental clash of egos that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans.

The Training Ground: Grant, Lee, Sherman, and Davis in the Mexican War, 1846-1848

Few historical figures are as inextricably linked as Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. But less than two decades before they faced each other as enemies at Appomattox, they had been brothers--both West Point graduates, both wearing blue, and both fighting in the same cadre in the Mexican War. They were not alone: Sherman, Davis, Jackson-nearly all of the Civil War's greatest soldiers had been forged in the heat of Vera Cruz and Monterrey.
The Mexican War has faded from our national memory, but it was a struggle of enormous significance: the first U.S. war waged on foreign soil; and it nearly doubled our nation. At this fascinating juncture of American history, a group of young men came together to fight as friends, only years later to fight as enemies. This is their story.

Lincoln and His Admirals

Written by prize-winning historian Craig L. Symonds, Lincoln and His Admirals unveils an aspect of Lincoln's presidency unexamined by historians until now, revealing how he managed the men who ran the naval side of the Civil War, and how the activities of the Union Navy ultimately affected the course of history.
Beginning with a gripping account of the attempt to re-supply Fort Sumter--a comedy of errors that shows all too clearly the fledgling president's inexperience--Symonds traces Lincoln's steady growth as a wartime commander-in-chief. Absent a Secretary of Defense, he would eventually become de facto commander of joint operations along the coast and on the rivers. That involved dealing with the men who ran the Navy: the loyal but often cranky Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, the quiet and reliable David G. Farragut, the flamboyant and unpredictable Charles Wilkes, the ambitious ordnance expert John Dahlgren, the well-connected Samuel Phillips Lee, and the self-promoting and gregarious David Dixon Porter. Lincoln was remarkably patient; he often postponed critical decisions until the momentum of events made the consequences of those decisions evident. But Symonds also shows that Lincoln could act decisively. Disappointed by the lethargy of his senior naval officers on the scene, he stepped in and personally directed an amphibious assault on the Virginia coast, a successful operation that led to the capture of Norfolk. The man who knew "little about ships" had transformed himself into one of the greatest naval strategists of his age

Guardians of Empire: The U.S. Army and the Pacific, 1902-1940

In a comprehensive study of four decades of military policy, Brian McAllister Linn offers the first detailed history of the U.S. Army in Hawaii and the Philippines between 1902 and 1940. Most accounts focus on the months preceding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. By examining the years prior to the outbreak of war, Linn provides a new perspective on the complex evolution of events in the Pacific. Exhaustively researched, Guardians of Empire traces the development of U.S. defense policy in the region, concentrating on strategy, tactics, internal security, relations with local communities, and military technology. Linn challenges earlier studies which argue that army officers either ignored or denigrated the Japanese threat and remained unprepared for war. He demonstrates instead that from 1907 onward military commanders in both Washington and the Pacific were vividly aware of the danger, that they developed a series of plans to avert it, and that they in fact identified—even if they could not solve—many of the problems that would become tragically apparent on 7 December 1941.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Today's Quote: The Great Prize

From God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World

The Anglo-Americans have sought to build a global trading system based increasingly on liberal democratic capitalism; their enemies have resisted and tried to build walls that would protect their societies from the disruptive effects of Anglo-Saxon ideas and practices.
...
The Anglospheric grand strategy has not always been conscious. To some degree it is embedded in the assumptions, habits, and institutions of the English-speaking powers.
...
By doing what came naturally, by following the logic of their geography, culture, and society, the British and then the Americans happened on a way of managing their affairs in the world that provided for a flexible and durable form of global power suited to their circumstances while committing them to a less difficult set of tasks and conflicts than other leading powers have faced.
...
The modern version of sea power was invented by the Dutch. The system of global trade, investment, and military power that the Dutch built in the seventeenth century was the envy and the wonder of the world at the time, and many basic features were adopted by the British and the Americans in subsequent years. That Dutch system was like version 1.0 of the operating software on which much of the world still runs. At the turn of the eighteenth century the British introduced version 2.0; there were several incremental upgrades along the way until the Americans introduced version 3.0 after the Second World War.
...
A new kind of society and a new kind of power had appeared in the world. An open, dynamic, and capitalist society generated innovations in finance, technology, marketing, and communications. Those innovations offered the open society enormous advantages in world trade. The wealth gained in this way provided the basis for military power that could withstand the largest and mightiest rival empires of the day. This basic formula of an open society, world trade, and world power was the power secret of the sea kings and the major driving force in the history of the last four hundred years.
...
For the Anglo-Americans, the great prize has been and remains the construction of a global system that meets their economic and security needs.
...
In Anglo-American strategic thought, there is one world composed of many theaters. The theaters are linked by the sea, and whoever controls the sea can choose the architecture that shapes the world. The primary ambition of Anglo-Saxon power is not dominance in a particular theater; it is to dominate the structure that shapes the conditions within which the actors in each of the world's theaters live...the end is to control the system that binds them all together.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A discussion on the future of the WTO

There's an interesting discussion about the WTO at the University of Chicago Law School Faculty blog. My interest in the liberal international trade order has been fired by the works of Barnett, Ikenberry and Slaughter, and Meade's God and Gold which have set me thinking about things in ways that are new to me, and that's very exciting. There is also an intertwining of themes here: the competition of ideas, entrepreneurial liberalism, the role of America in the world, ruleset resets, etc. The liberal international order is supported by a set of ideas and attitudes and so maintaining, perpetuating, and improving that order requires an ongoing campaign championing those ideas and attitudes:

That brings us to the role of ideas, including perspectives of WTO legitimacy as a forum for liberalization, which has not been addressed in posts so far. It is no coincidence that the GATT was signed after WWII following the Great Depression, and that the Uruguay Round was concluded and the WTO created following the Berlin Wall's collapse and the discrediting of socialism. Yet we are now seeing shifts in domestic opinion that will be less favorable to trade liberalization.  Trade negotiations for further liberalization thus do not bode well in the near term. In other words, the economic crisis is not just about political priorities shifting away from trade; it is also about shifting perceptions regarding the benefit of open markets. This loss of faith in liberal markets will affect the constellation of domestic pressures on government negotiators.

Market power matters in affecting WTO negotiation outcomes, as we have all shown in our work. But so does the mobilization of domestic interests and ideas about trade liberalism. Thus, in my view, while the WTO as a negotiating forum is indeed deadlocked, it is not dead in the sense that it is forever gone. We just need to be realistic about what it can accomplish in these times. Acting as a useful shield against protectionism is not insignificant.

Via Dan Drezner

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Improvisation and initiative"

It's all about the transitions. What kind of political ideology is optimal for transition periods that require people to create new institutions and cultural practices? Our task is to innovate modes of thinking that will match the challenges of our time; to develop attitudes that will foster an enthusiasm for imaginative institution building.

The shift that is happening right now is that the people who insist on keeping the world as it was are going to get more and more frustrated until they lose their jobs. People who want to invent a whole new set of rules, a new paradigm, can’t believe their good fortune and how lucky they are that the people in the industry aren’t noticing an opportunity...

We not only face the challenge of crafting appropriate policies, but we also have to recognize that the organizational models that we have inherited were designed to develop and implement policies in different circumstances.

They're used to working in "networks of networks" with lots of individual responsibility. This is very encouraging. But State remains an extremely hierarchical, process-oriented organization that still more closely resembles GM in the 1950s than, say, Google today. This is stifling to the kinds of improvisation and initiative that we increasingly need and that, on the military side, COIN demands of even junior officers. So how do we change this?

How do we groom people for the kind of "improvisation and initiative that we increasingly need"?

Finally some good news...

This past year has really sucked as I've been trying to get my foot in the door in a new career without success, until now. It's not much, but I got an internship for a few months at a cable tv channel that provides public affairs programming. I'll be doing master control operations. I'm very happy and motivated and eager to get in there and just be a sponge: to work my ass off and learn as much as I can. A few years ago I started a business, but the sales were disappointing and I was not happy with the quality of my product. As my savings ran out I had a decision to make and I decided to go back to school to improve my skills so that I could make a better product and also to prepare myself for a parallel career in media. Ideally I'd like to work at someplace like VOA while I continue working on my business. I also want to pursue a master's degree once I get a little bit more stability. So we'll see, hopefully this is the first step...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Foreign Policy Entrepreneurship

Our era is one in which individuals are being empowered in ways that would not have been possible in the past. This is the whole rationale behind the Strategic Citizen idea and my interest in entrepreneurship. I have argued for "public diplomacy entrepreneurship" and it makes perfect sense that Tom Barnett would argue for "foreign policy entrepreneurship":

And it’s just a wonderful way of connecting, and it fits my sort of super-empowered argument in the book which is you know, in effect, everybody should have a foreign policy in America. You shouldn’t wait on the government to do these things for you. If you have a strong feeling about making some part of the world better, there are way to directly connect to it, feel empowered by it, and put your money against very specific things that you can track.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Quotes: Images, Symbols, Myth

From Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism by Mircea Eliade

Images by their very nature are multivalent. If the mind makes use of images to grasp the ultimate reality of things, it is just because reality manifests itself in contradictory ways and therefore cannot be expressed in concepts...It is therefore the image as such, as a whole bundle of meanings, that is true, and not any one of its meanings, nor one alone of its many frames of reference. To translate an image into concrete terminology by restricting it to any one of its frames of reference is to do worse than mutilate it--it is to annihilate, to annul it as an instrument of cognition.

From Philosophies of India by Heinrich Zimmer:

Indian philosophy insists that the sphere of logical thought is far exceeded by that of the mind's possible experiences of reality. To express and communicate knowledge gained in moments of grammar-transcending insight metaphors must be used, similes and allegories. These are then not mere embellishments, dispensable accessories, but the very vehicles of the meaning, which could not be rendered, and could never have been attained, through the logical formulae of normal verbal thought. Significant images can comprehend and make manifest with clarity and pictorial consistency the paradoxical character of the reality known to the sage: a translogical reality, which expressed in the abstract language of normal thought, would seem inconsistent, self-contradictory, or even absolutely meaningless. Indian philosophy, therefore, frankly avails itself of the symbols and images of myth, and is not finally at variance with the patterns and sense of mythological belief.

The Greek critical philosophers before Socrates, the pre-Socratic thinkers and the Sophists, practically destroyed their native mythological tradition. Their new approach to the solution of the enigmas of the universe and of man's nature and destiny conformed to the logic of the rising natural sciences--mathematics, physics and, astronomy. Under their powerful influence the older mythological symbols degenerated into mere elegant and amusing themes for novels, little better than society gossip about the complicated love-affairs and quarrels of the celestial upper class. Contrariwise in India, however: there mythology never ceased to support and facilitate the expression of philosophic thought.

From Images of Enlightenment: Tibetan Art in Practice by Jonathan Landaw and Andy Weber:

To understand how these images are used in the Vajrayana to transmit spiritual insights, we must consider the centrally important meditational method known as visualization.

Visualization is the process of becoming intimately acquainted with positive and beneficial states of consciousness as they are envisioned in our mind's eye in the form of enlightened beings and other images. Each visualized image functions as an archetype, evoking responses at a very subtle level of our being and thereby aiding in the delicate work of inner transformation. For example, by generating an image of Avalokiteshvara, the meditational deity symbolizing enlightened compassion, and then focusing creatively upon it with unwavering single-pointed concentration, we stimulate the growth of our own compassion. We automatically create a peaceful inner environment into which the dissatisfied, self-centered thoughts of anger and resentment cannot easily intrude. The more we practice such visualization--and the related disciplines, or yogas, that train our body, speech and mind in the appropriate manner--the more profound their effect. Eventually our mind can take on the aspect of its object to such an extent that we transcend our ordinary limited sense of self-identification and actually become Avalokiteshvara: compassion itself, or whatever enlightened quality we have been concentrating upon.
...
The underlying premise of all Vajrayana thought and practice is that the essential nature of each being's mind is pure and clear and that the main task along the spiritual path is to discover and identify with this essential purity, or buddha-nature. Visualization and other related practices involving the images of meditational deities assist this process of discovery and identification because these images directly communicate the experience of those who have already realized this essential purity to those who have not yet done so.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Prepare for the worst: Terror and meme war in the 21st century

As a the war of ideas rages pitting competing visions of civilization each using all means available to achieve primacy; memes clash in a brutal contest for supremacy with the fate of Western civilization hanging in the balance, we finally get a glimpse of the most dangerous combatant of all. A conspiracy dedicated to the propagation of the most terrifying of all memes has emerged into the light with evidence of its infiltration into the corridors of power. Will all that is good and true survive the devious machinations of this persistent threat?:

An ABBA tribute band says the Kremlin whisked it away to perform a private concert for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Rod Stephen, the founder of British-based group Bjorn Again, says the four-member band traveled 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of Moscow for the Jan. 22 gig on the shores of Lake Valdai.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov denies Putin attended any such concert.
Stephen says Putin danced to ABBA hits such as "Dancing Queen" and "Waterloo," accompanied by an unidentified woman and six men in tuxedos.
Stephen told The Associated Press Friday that Putin was heard yelling out "bravo, bravo," and particularly enjoyed renditions of "Mamma Mia" and "Super Trouper."

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Fabian Way

I needed something to read and grabbed The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America off a stack of books and opened it randomly and read the following passage.

The Fabians, a society of intellectuals, founded their organization in 1884. Their ranks included Sidney and Beatrice Webb, H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw. Their aim was to replace the "scramble for private gain" with "collective welfare," and their chosen technique was "permeation." They did not believe in overthrowing society, like the Marxists. They did not particularly care about winning elections, like the Labor Party they also helped found. Indeed, they tried not to tie themselves to one particular party. They hoped that socialism would come about gradually but relentlessly--by clothing collectivism in the garb of common sense and by extending government controls over one institution after another.

For the Fabians, the important thing was to change the climate of opinion so that whoever got into Parliament was marching to their tune. "Nothing in England is done without consent of a small intellectual yet practical class in London, not 2,00 in number," Sidney Webb once observed. The society's primary aim was to influence that class, but it also made a point of shaping the minds of less important people. The Fabian pamphlet was one of their hallmarks; they established periodicals like the New Statesman, set the agenda on numerous parliamentary committees and founded the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The Fabians also helped to establish the idea that socialism was an exciting way of life, not just a political creed. They founded a network of "groups" -- the women's group, the arts group, groups for education, biology and local government. One of the most successful of these was the "nursery," composed of bohemian young men and women who took that notorious roue H.G. Wells as their role model...
...
In some ways, the Fabians were a peculiarly British phenomena. In others, Fabianism was a template for something that was much more universal. Across Europe groups of intellectuals helped to establish the idea that socialism was the wave of the future, and groups of activists helped to define socialism not just as a body of ideas but also as a community. The result of all these efforts was the "socialist movement": an ideology that was also a fraternity; a set of beliefs that could organize people's lives from the cradle to the grave; a faith that could exert a relentless pressure on moderates and extract a terrible revenge on traitors.

"The Fabians also helped to establish the idea that socialism was an exciting way of life, not just a political creed."

This is an idea that I have been trying to find a way to articulate. To paraphrase the above sentence: We need to establish that the American Experiment is an exciting way of life, not just a country. We need to establish that a classical liberalism updated for the 21st century is an exciting way of life, not just a political creed. Our vision of the free society needs to be something that can appeal to people in a way that captures their imagination, makes them feel that are participating in something special, motivates them to seek out ways to creatively express what they are feeling and thinking and experiencing. That is what will successfully disseminate the ideas and the vision; it is what will generate support for community building and institution building. (This opens the door for Seth Godin's idea of Tribes which is an excellent book and will be the subject of another post)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Yeah dad, this guy’s a hero"

Here's a great story:

On Aug. 3, 2003, while traveling the dangerous roads of Afghanistan, a cameraman working for Fox News risked his life to save a U.S. Marine from a vehicle engulfed in flames.

While embedded with 2nd Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, cameraman Chris Jackson’s vehicle hit 50 pounds of homemade explosives. The Humvee occupants escaped the flaming vehicle, all but the vehicle commander, Sgt. Courtney Rauch.

The blast severely injured Rauch and knocked him unconscious. Jackson, despite having received shrapnel wounds himself, rushed back to the vehicle, pulled Rauch out and carried him to safety. “Without Chris’ quick thinking and heroic act, I would have lost my life that day,” Rauch said. “Chris forgot about being a reporter that day and became one of our bothers and acted as one of us. Chris went above and beyond his duty.”

Jackson, who now works for CNN/Turner Broadcasting, was presented the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, the second highest award given to civilians by the Navy, for his actions. Jackson received the award during a stop in Iraq en route to India. An audience of appreciative Marines was on hand during the ceremony.

Marine Maj. Gen. Paul Lefebvre, deputy commanding general, Multi-National Corps – Iraq, has a son in the very same company with which Jackson was traveling. Lefebvre, who presented the award on behalf of the Navy, asked his son if all the wonderful things being said about Jackson were true. “I asked him ‘is this the real thing’ and he said ‘yeah dad, this guy’s a hero’,” Lefebvre said. “This was not an everyday action. It came from somewhere deep inside and shows such a level of courage and commitment.”

When told in front of the crowd of digital cameras why he was invited to Al Faw Palace, Jackson blushed. “It goes to show that Marines have a good sense of humor,” he said. “I was told I was coming here for a briefing.”

Jackson, who has been out with service members in combat zones since 2001, said he didn’t think twice about risking his own life to save someone else’s. “I wasn’t thinking. I saw there was trouble and I didn’t even think about grabbing a camera and filming it,” Jackson said. “I just did what anyone else would do if someone was in trouble.”

Monday, January 26, 2009

"The need for liberal international order has never been greater"

Timothy Garton Ash:

For close to 500 years, modernity has come from the west. The historian Theodore von Laue called this The World Revolution of Westernisation. In 20th-century Europe, liberal democracy faced two powerful versions of modernity that were western but illiberal: fascism and communism. Part of these systems' appeal was precisely that they were modern. ("I have seen the future and it works," said one enthusiast, returning from Moscow.) Liberal democracy finally saw them both off, though not without a world war, a cold war, and a lot of help from the US.
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It's also not the smartest idea to identify this vision of a concert of democracies too emphatically with the west, as in the former French prime minister Edouard Balladur's proposal for what he calls a Western Union. Historically, both modernity and liberalism have come from the west. But the future of freedom now depends on the possibility of new versions of modernity evolving - whether in India, China or the Muslim world, which are distinctly non-western yet also recognisably liberal, in the core sense of cherishing individual freedom.

Part of waging a campaign of ideas is fostering and embracing the emergence of non-Western versions of liberal modernity and creating an international order that any country can join. We need to be clear about what we are for (liberal modernity) and develop a strategic vision based upon this that can inform our persuasion operations. Anti-liberal adversaries will rise up from time to time and they will need to be dealt with, but we shouldn't allow them to distract us from pursuing the long term strategic vision. Real success in the campaign of ideas will come when the key champions of liberal modernity are countries like India, Brazil, and even Iraq.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Who writes America's script?"

It should be easy to wage a campaign to champion the idea of America, after all, American cultural products are voluntarily embraced all over the world and millions of people seek to immigrate to America and become Americans. And yet watching the Republican performance in the war of ideas over the past eight years has been like watching a no-talent American Idol contestant destroy a great song. But that era is now over and it is time to move on. Time to write a new script and put on a new show in the great cultural theatre that is America.

America and American life are the world's most reliable theater: America performs, and the world looks on.

The world, reliably, looks at America, for there is always something eye-catching in progress. The world, equally reliably, looks to America, for this country takes social and political steps that others are too timorous to take. And the world looks up to America, for there is more that is good and just here than in any other society.
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The American culture of individualism (first tagged as such by Tocqueville) allows for countless private explorations of boundaries that other societies do not conduct in quite the same volume, or even allow at all. These boundaries are not merely physical; they are intellectual, judicial (although not always judicious), philanthropic, educational, spiritual or even comedic. And Americans are as adept at exploring the boundaries of antagonism as they are those of tolerance. Ultimately, as Simon Schama has written, "The big American story is the war of toleration against conformity; the war of a faith that commands obedience against a faith that promises liberty." I think we can tell which side has won those wars in America. The results are reversed in virtually every other society in the world.

The creed of American exceptionalism is distinctive because it is tied closely to the creed of American individualism. There are other societies or people that are adamant believers in their own exceptionalism: The Chinese have their conceit of the Middle Kingdom; the Jews hold that they are Chosen; Hindu Brahmins believe that they alone are born from the head of God; and the Britons have believed that they rule the waves, and that they never, never, never shall be slaves (and what is that if not exceptionalism?). But only the American brand of exceptionalism is not tribal; it allows Outsiders to become Insiders.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Driving through Gettysburg on a winter night

I had the commute from hell tonight. I left work at 5 and got home at 8:30. There was a huge accident on I-70 between Frederick and Hagerstown (northwest of DC) and they shut down the interstate. Fortunately I heard about it on the radio and so took an alternate route (40) only to find it bumper to bumper from Braddock Mountain to South Mountain. So I had to take the alternate alternate route and drove north up to Gettysburg and then west on 30. It was the first time I had been through Gettysburg at night in the snow and it was very nice: the old buildings, the street lights, the trees, the monuments and cannon covered in snow. Too bad I didn't have time to stop at the Dobbin House for a reuben. It would have been a good night to go for a walk around town or out on the battlefield where you can stand there in the silence of a snowy night listening to flakes of snow fall to the ground.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What the war of ideas is about

I was browsing through some emails from last year and came across the following which I had originally written to Cannoneer. At the time I used the term "individualism" but could easily have used other terms such as "democratic republican", "liberal modernity", "liberal democratic capitalism", "entrepreneurial liberalism", etc.

We are definitely in need of a big picture vision of
what we are trying to do. Too much of our (by our I
mean both gov't and private) thinking about
communications ops is focused on what we are against,
whereas I believe our main focus should be on what we
are for and we will be stronger for doing so. The
individualism that is at the heart of the American
Experiment is a radical social philosophy that has and
will continue to inspire opposition from collectivists
of every stripe, but in the long run it is the only
philosophy which is compatible with modernity. Which
is why we constantly need to be shoring up our
understanding of individualism. We can never take it
for granted that people will "get" it or that it will
be automatically perpetuated from one generation to
the next. We also have to be wary of falling back on
the words of the past which were fresh and creative in
their era but become cliches as time passes. The
radical Islamists are a very dangerous but ultimately
a passing threat. The only chance they have of
defeating us is by striking repeated blows at our
political will and hoping we collapse from our own
internal weaknesses. Of course after several decades
of the left's delegitimization campaign we are weaker
than we should be, but that is because there has not
been a truly viable campaign to champion
individualism. And that I believe is our task. I've
said in the past that we need to update the
individualist ideology for the 21st century. And what
I mean by that is that each era uses words, slogans,
symbols and imagery that resonate with the spirit of
its time and are designed to inspire people of that
time and so we need to be doing the same for our time.
Basically what I envision is a
social-political-cultural movement that is championing
a 21st century individualism. In my raw, uncensored
opinion, this is what the war of ideas is about and
this is what is required to fight it. This is why I've
become more interested in political movements and
activism: a sustainable, long-term victory in the war
of ideas is about running a campaign championing
individualism domestically and to various
international audiences. As Gap states modernize they
will become more individualistic and they will need
the ideological and institutional means to understand
and adapt to the changes as the older collectivist
social-political environment melts away.

Book: Winning the Peace

I've become interested in learning more about the liberal international order that was established after World War 2. I'd like to find a book that studies the institution building of that era but so far I have not been able to find one. If you have some recommendations please drop them in the comments. This week I picked up another book on the Marshall Plan:

Winning the Peace: The Marshall Plan and America's Coming of Age as a Superpower

Understanding that era will help us get the proper perspective on the kind of grand institution building that will be necessary as the global order continues to change in the 21st century.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Video: Meade on God and Gold

Conversations with History with Walter Russell Meade discussing Meade's book God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World. It's about an hour long and definitely worth watching the whole hour. This is a very good introduction to the book.

A Generational Warfare Miscellany

The New Year has brought forth a variety of interesting posts on generational warfare theory:

Adam Elkus at Rethinking Security:

The Crisis of 4GW

More Thoughts on 4GW

Sam Liles at Selil Blog:

A unified generational warfare theorem: Introduction to basic argument and concepts

Generation warfare a cohesive explanatory model

Gathering dimensions of conflict into a unified model

Younghusband at Coming Anarchy:

Towards a general xGW framework

Dan at tdaxp:

Redefining 5GW, again

Call for chapters: “5GW: The Fifth Generation of War?”

Cannoneer's School of the Counterpropagandist

Cannoneer has posted in one convenient place his School of the Counterpropagandist series. Check it out and save it for future reference; it will give you a lot to think about.