Monday, November 28, 2005

of Brussels Sprouts and Barons...

and Cabbages and Kings...
...and other once-gloried systems now falling by the path...

The description of the nation-state crystallized by the Treaty of Westphalia (hat tip to The Belmont Club for the reference) evidently can accommodate monarchies, dictatorships, confederations, theocracies, and republics even quirky as the United States.

The U.S. can be pretty flexible, toughening and relaxing its sinews according to the needs of the exercise of the moment.

Dire emergencies can be addressed by suspension of certain freedoms we otherwise take for granted. Habeas Corpus was suspended by Lincoln during the Civil War, and the country survived and restored that. Military draft and mobilization of the population can be a brief or sustained response. Some economists have pointed out that one big reason for the U.S. dominance in world trade is that we never really stepped down from the wartime economic stance we enthusiastically took in World War II — specifically, putting women to work in all spheres of the economy on a scale never before undertaken.

Now some folks argue that the diffuse nature of the Jihadi terrorists results from having no state-limited hierarchy. Their incendiary zealotry derives from a transnational, or pre-nation-state mindset, and so is pre-optimized for an internet-savvy, cellular-linked spontaneity that no hidebound Nation-State military apparatus can beat.

This may be a close contest, but I think the U.S. can be flexible enough to adjust its response to the Jihadists. It will be a long fight, because there are Billions of Muslims, and even though 99 percent may be tolerant, generous, and ready to live in peace with their neighbors, one percent of a Billion is still ten million surly rascals ready to kill anyone that refuses to surrender. The actual percentage of impatient ones is clearly greater than one percent. (What do you suppose was the percentage of the Aristocracy and Samurai class that managed to turn Japan from a feudal agronomy in the 1850’s to a world-class military power in just half a century?)

The greatest danger may be that which follows from raising several generations under the sorts of psychological and political conditions needed to prevail and survive the onslaught of suicidal zealots.

If that sounds like a United States terribly altered from its current state, consider the alternative of a country INCAPABLE of dealing with the extortion and intimidation of terrorism.

When Neville Chamberlain returned from his 1938 Munich meeting with Hitler, he shared a persistent delusion with today’s politicians trying to promote a “soft” solution to Jihadi Terrorism — the belief that bullies and tyrants will be somehow gentled by their victims’ acquiescence.

There were other lessons that can be teased out of that skein. Not the least is that faithless abandonment of people dependent upon you for their defense is as clear a sign of impotence as any aggressor could want.

As long as there has been life on the planet there have been predators that cull their sustenance from among the more placid grazers. But In modern human cultures we impose upon our spirits what used to be a species distinction. Predatory humans are differentiated from their victims by mindset, not physical features. But for them to be persistently successful in their predation requires also that their victims be mentally akin to prey animals.

The human prey-mindset might be described as the inability to accept that certain humans are ready to kill for what they want, and will resist all restraints.
Political and religious doctrines arise as people try to make sense of the world, and define patterns and guides for coping with recurring problems. In some conditions, even fundamental misunderstandings and errors within the belief system may be inconsequential. At other times, especially when new challenges arise, those fundamental misapprehensions of reality may determine who survives and who gets eaten by the wolves.

I believe we stand at a moment in history when a number of factors are converging that threaten at least vast upheaval, if not catastrophic destruction to civilization. The liberal hypothesis for decades has been shown wanting in its ability both to solve persistent problems within the Western nations, AND to respond to the external threat of Jihadi terrorism armed with modern technology. The intellectual bankruptcy of liberalism is hinted at in just the absurdity of the “neo-con” label used as a sneering dismissal of radically recast thinking of certain of their opponents. But new definitions, new hypotheses, and new solutions are consistently rejected, scorned, and derided by liberals who cling to a faith, a set of labels and arguments that are demonstrably useless for addressing the challenges we face.


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