Forever Free…

mathew-brady-studio-abraham-lincoln-sitting-at-desk-1861_i-g-40-4017-fmlwf00z We often speak around here of overreaching executive orders but, it is hard to match the one whose anniversary we celebrate today. Today is the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. For a document that in practical terms did nothing, it only applied where the government’s writ did not run, it changed the world.

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free;”

Amongst other thing, it guaranteed. that England and France would not intervene. Giuseppe Garibaldi the Italian soldier and diplomat said this about it:

giuseppe_garibaldi_1866Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane treasure…It is America, the same country which taught liberty to our forefathers, which now opens another solemn epoch of human progress. And while your tremendous courage astonishes the world, we are sadly reminded how this old Europe, which also can boast a great cause of liberty to fight for, has not found the mind or heart to equal you.” 

via Forever Free… | Practically Historical.

The Well-Liked Hegemon, Still

warningYou won’t be surprised to know that I think polling to be a very limited resource for leaders and managers. But it does have the advantage of giving us an idea of what others think, and so it has value, at least when it is done well. I’m a pure consumer, I don’t really know what goes into making a reliable poll but, experience suggests that Pew does a reasonable job. And they have recently released a poll on how the USA is perceived in the world. I found it pretty interesting, and bet you would too. The complete poll is here, but I’ll talk a bit about what struck me.

First, they don’t like our monitoring of private citizens, which seems reasonable, really, since the poll says Americans don’t like it either. They also don’t think we should spy on other countries leaders and there I mildly disagree with them, it’s kind of important to know what they are planning.

In general, though, we are mostly still liked. Click to embiggenPG_14.07.08_LedeNSA_640px

PG-2014-07-14-balance-of-power-0-01The really interesting thing is that nearly everybody agrees that it is OK to spy on suspected terrorists, and that it is not OK to spy on American citizens, that’s true with Americans, and it’s true with pretty much everybody else, as well

What we do that almost no one likes (only bare majorities in the US, Israel, and Kenya) is our use of drones to attack suspected terrorists. I don’t know but I know for me, I think we are a bit too indiscriminate in target selection, and it is not very respectful of other nation’s sovereignty. In other words, I don’t much like it either, except maybe in clear-cut cases.

What I don’t understand completely is that worldwide, or at least 44 nations, 56% of the respondents think Obama is doing an OK job and is likely to do the right thing. But then, I am not exactly an unbiased observer here, and probably care much more about the Constitution than the average world citizen. I note that his rating is declining, just not as precipitously as it is here.

PG-2014-07-14-balance-of-power-0-03More people worldwide still think we respect personal liberty than France, China, or Russia, in fact, except for France, it’s not even close, which is nice feeling.

The Middle East, is the one area in the world, where we are not very well liked, to quote the poll.

“The Middle East is the clear exception. China’s favorability in the region is not especially high, but is higher than that for the U.S. Anti-Americanism has been common in many Middle Eastern nations throughout the Obama presidency, as was the case during the George W. Bush-era. And again this year some of the lowest ratings for the U.S. are found in the region. Only 19% of Turks and 12% of Jordanians offer a favorable opinion of the U.S., and at 10% Egypt gives the U.S. its lowest rating in the survey.”

We are pretty much liked better than China though, everywhere but the Middle East, which is rather heartwarming, to a point, anyway.

PG_14.07.08_LedeU.S.ChinaMedianMap

One thing that is highlighted pretty heavily here is that China’s neighbors don’t like her very much. This map pretty much tells the story.

PG_14.07.14_SouthChinaSea_640px

Remember that Pakistan has a treaty relationship with China, but everybody else is a bit nervous.

This chart pretty much goes with that

PG_14.07.10_AlliesThreats_640px

OK, guys, if you are anywhere my age, did you ever think you would see a reputable poll saying that Vietnam considers the US its greatest ally? Tells you a lot, I think, about how Asia views China.

This is getting a little long, so I’ll just give you a couple more, and you can follow the link (above)

Who loves us, baby?

PG-2014-07-14-balance-of-power-1-02

PG-2014-07-14-balance-of-power-3-03It looks to me (and the world, as well) that we better get our economic act together if we are going to remain the leading economic superpower. I would add to that it will be very difficult to retain our influence on world events, if we don’t. We got to where we are by strong freedom loving individual efforts, and that is the only way we will get back.

Personally, i think we need to start repairing our ties with India, which were quite close under George W. Bush but that Obama has let fray rather badly. India, which is pretty much an English-speaking, common law observing, counterweight to China, would be an ideal partner for us in Asia. Sure, it has some ethnic and religious problems, but we don’t?

 

So while it’s not exactly good news here, It could be a lot worse, and it does give us some idea of what we need to work on.

 

So let’s get back to work.

Should Britain Have Entered the Great War?

downloadTo be honest, I’ve been waiting for this video to become available, because I knew the debate was taking place. Here we have some serious big guns of the British history world taking dead aim at each other on the case of whether Britain should have gone to war in 1914. It is of course, the centenary of the beginning of the Great War (and I’m more and more convinced that this older term, is the correct description) so we will likely be talking about it a fair amount this year. So first do watch the video, it’s really outstanding, and then we’ll talk about it.

So, do I hear you ask, “What do I think?” I think the ‘cons’ win this one but, it’s very narrow and on points, rather , in fact, like the British cabinet itself in 1914.

The main reason for that is that the real causes of Britain going to war were specifically excluded from the debate. I say that because, while the British had won the naval race with the Kriegsmarine, it had ended a few years before, that race had all but forced the British to find allies in Europe, leading to the more or less secret alliances with France and Russia, who were, in fact, every bit as inimical to the British Empire as the Kaiserreich was. One thing it might be easier for us to realize, as Americans, than the British do today, is just how much they were in the catbird seat, and how much resentment that causes. I say that because the position of Edwardian Britain was not that different from post 1945 America’s.

And that’s the thing, in reality, while I’m not the historian that any one of these folks are (and I’ve read books by all of them and been impressed) what the yeas are proposing here is what we in America call isolationism, and we all know better, and I think they do as well. The problem is, those secret agreements were in place, and say what you will about those men, they were honorable men who did their best to keep their word. Should they have been abrogated , in say 1912 or 13? Yes, I think they should have been but inertia is a powerful force. Why else in 2014 does NATO exist, 25 years after the goal it was established to deal with was achieved, the end of the Soviet Union? Without those agreements, there would only have been the agreement with Belgium, and as they said Germany was also a signatory to that, and without the other agreements, that’s a weak cause for war.

As everybody kept saying here, Wilhelmine Germany wasn’t Nazi Germany, although some of the nascent seeds were there. Germany had a very strange dichotomy inherent in it. It was the most socialist state in Europe. (They weren’t kidding about our progressives either, ever wonder why our traditional pre-school, Kindergarten, has a German name?) Bismarck did this, as far as I know, to keep the population under control, and reasonably content. Layered on top of that though was a hereditary military  caste the Jünkers, supposedly descended from the Teutonic knights. Combine that with the Groβgeneralstab (Great General Staff) controlling the military with little coordination with the civilian government, and you get an ugly mix.

And that brings us to one the problems here, the Germans were afraid of a two front war against France and Russia, and their calculations were that it would be better to hold on the eastern front against the Russians and knock France out and then turn and deal with the Russians, who were stronger in numbers, but much slower moving, and it was considered better to lose (temporarily) some farmground in East Prussia, than the Ruhr. It’s a valid calculation, the French in this period were wildly offensive minded, seeming to think that they lost in 1871 because of being on the defensive, and their plans were, in fact, to attack, recapture Alsace-Lorraine and continue on into the Ruhr.

And that was the reason for the famous Schlieffen Plan. The general staff working in a vacuum of its own creation knew that attacking through the Ardennes, and/or the Vosges Mountains was going to be slow and it was going to help the defenders a lot, and so their plan was to drive through the North German plain, where it was nice and flat, with hardly any terrain to impede their movement, that there were other, neutral countries there, well that was their problem wasn’t it?

And so the Schwerpunkt (the main concentration of force would be through Belgium into France to knock the French out of the war before the Russians could get mobilized and moving. It was hoped the British wouldn’t intervene. But as von Moltke the Elder had said, the plan didn’t survive contact with the enemy.

Part of that was that the Russians mobilized faster than expected and attacked into East Prussia, von Schlieffen had reduced strength there as far as he dared to strengthen the west, and the attack disconcerted  von Moltke the Younger, Chief of the General Staff who had already diverted troops from the Schwerpunkt to counterattack in the Palatinate, he now diverted three infantry corps and a cavalry division to the eastern front, when he telephoned Ludendorff commanding there, Ludendorff was astonished and told him he didn’t have any use for them.

That is the background to the miracle of the Marne, where in truth the BEF did fight an outstanding battle to save France, but if the Germans had had those three corps, I doubt it would have mattered. It would have turned into Dunkirk in 1914, and the war would have been lost. In the last analysis, timidity in the Groβgeneralstab was the ultimate cause of Germany losing the war, and it was in 1914.

But, what then? Kaiser Wilhelm and his government, military and civilian, were no civil libertarians but, neither were they Hitler and his henchmen. France did, as Doctor Charmley states recover fairly quickly from the 1870 war, is there any real cause to think it would be different in 1914? The Ottoman Empire would have continued, and perhaps at least some of the problems which ensued from its demise in the middle east might have been avoided. A short war (even lost) might have enabled the Czar to continue ruling, Nicholas was slowly modernizing Russia.

But the original question was Britain, so what would have happened to her? Well, losing wars is expensive, but this one was even more expensive to win. In 1914 Britain was even more in charge of international banking than the United States is today, I don’t think that shock would have materially changed that, particularly since Britain was pretty much immune from anything Germany could do, if a peace was patched up. Bethmann-Hollweg may have had his shopping list, that doesn’t mean he was going to get all, or even most of it, at least as long as the Royal Navy said no. It was still true, as it had been in the Earl St. Vincent’s day when he said, “I don’t say they can’t come, I merely say they can’t come by sea“.Even without a peace, Britain had defeated Napoleon mostly by seapower and the blockade of Europe, I see no reason it wouldn’t have worked again. In fact, it did, in both world wars, Germany nearly starved. It might have led to the Empire turning into the Commonwealth earlier, and also the earlier loss of India, but I wouldn’t bet too much on that, it might have brought them together as well. Britain has always been at its best when it was not so involved in Europe.

And finally, the United States. I think we would have gone on being our presumptuous, provincial selves, not understanding our own strengths, until one fine day, we still would have had to save the day. When? I have no idea. Because without the Great War, the second world war is highly unlikely in the form we know it.

The British did the right, honorable thing in 1914. But that was because they had screwed up their policies before that, and they paid dearly, and still are for those pre-war mistakes.

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Balance of Power

Europe - Satellite image - PlanetObserver

Europe – Satellite image – PlanetObserver (Photo credit: PlanetObserver)

With the destruction of the Soviet Union, for most purposes, the stationing of United States forces in Europe became unnecessary. It is reasonable to have some based there as a contingency, and it is also desirable that the US help maintain Europe as a nuclear free zone (if you exclude Russia, France, and the United Kingdom). I would say they are diverse enough to take care of it, with merely some warnings from time to time.

The thing is with the end of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, we are no longer dealing with “the rompin’, stompin’, Red Army” where every soldier was a ten foot superman. Russia is a regional power, perhaps a bit stronger than Germany or France, but not as powerful as the United Kingdom, although it does have more nuclear devices, which is why we need to remain engaged.

But much of our problem is that all of Europe has been on the dole for better than half a century. They have had the luxury of having America defend them, without cost to them. Most of their militaries have become parade units not much more useful in a war than the UCLA marching band. And so they’ve had the freedom to support the unproductive and jeer the Americans.

In addition, because of the willful nonsense of the green policies, Europe has become almost completely dependant on Gazprom, the corrupt Russian cartel for their gas and oil.

In my opinion, our major interest in Europe at this point, becomes rather similar to the UK’s in the nineteenth century, make sure nobody take over the whole fool continent, with the additional proviso that nobody gets to use nukes. That doesn’t require a standing American Army in Europe, and we have other needs in defense, so it’s time to come home. Germany will have to feed the Germans.

As for Europe and energy, they need to find some common sense, tsunamis are very unlikely in Germany, and so Fukushima type disasters are as well. Nuclear energy is very clean, and since the plants are built, make more sense than coal plants that aren’t.

It should be a no-brainer for the United States to drill and frack our way, to energy dominance. It’s very obviously in our interest. Near as I can tell, Russia needs oil at about $90/ barrel, if we develop as rapidly as we can, we should be able to force the price well below that.

Who is America’s other persistent opposition? Yeah, Islamic fanatics, some state supported, some not. What do they all have in common? Yep, they’re supported by oil money, so we can expect some subsidence in their activity if we cut their funding by using American oil, and if we’re making money selling oil, we’ll have more good jobs, reducing welfare, Europe will be better off, reducing our subsidies to them. and our opponents will be hurt.

Tell me again why we’re not drilling for oil on public land?

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Hannah Arendt and the American Experience

Hannah-Arendt

Hannah-Arendt (Photo credit: Ben Northern)

My friend Servus Fidelis has a post up concerning Hannah Arendt. It concerns her work in covering the Eichmann trial as well as her doctoral thesis on love in the writing of St. Augustine.  The Eichmann trial is what caused her to talk about “the banality of evil”. It’s a very good article, go there. Hannah Arendt.

Hannah Arendt was one of the people I was introduced to as an undergraduate whose thinking has colored mine ever since. Yes, the banality of evil is surprisingly true, and I think the construction that evil is the absence of good that is sometimes based on it is true, and profound.

But I want to talk about a couple of other things she talked about first there was this.

Her book, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), covered the roots of Stalinist Communism and Nazism in both anti-Semitism and imperialism. It infuriated the Left because it presented the two movements as equally tyrannical. (And because that is true.) She also contends that the Jews were really a target of convenience for the Nazi’s megalomania and consistency, not eradicating Jews. I’m still not sure I agree about this part, Anti-Semitism is pretty deep in European.

She makes some distinctions and defined some words which is very useful

Power corresponds to the human ability not just to act but to act in concert. Power is never the property of an individual; it belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together.

Strength unequivocally designates something in the singular …

Force  … should be reserved, in terminological language, for the “forces of nature” or the “force of circumstances,” that is, to indicate the energy released by physical or social movements.

Authority can be vested in persons – there is such a thing as personal authority, as for instance, in the relation between parent and child, between teacher and pupil – or it can be vested in offices, as, for instance, in the Roman senate or in the hierarchical offices of the Church. (A priest can grant valid absolution even though he is drunk.) Its hallmark is unquestioning recognition by those who are asked to obey; neither coercion nor persuasion is needed.

Violence, finally, as I have said, is distinguished by its instrumental character. Phenomenologically, it is close to strength, since the implements of violence, like all other tools, are designed and used for the purpose of multiplying natural strength…

These will provide you with a good basis indicating why it is very important to resist the use of violence as long as possible. It is also important to have a goal in mind and stick to it. The application can start to be applied here: (from Wikipedia)

Arendt’s essay, “On Violence”, distinguishes between violence and power. She maintains that, although theorists of both the Left and Right regard violence as an extreme manifestation of power, the two concepts are, in fact, antithetical. Power comes from the collective will and does not need violence to achieve any of its goals, since voluntary compliance takes its place. As governments start losing their legitimacy, violence becomes an artificial means toward the same end and is therefore, found only in the absence of power. Bureaucracies then become the ideal birthplaces of violence since they are defined as the “rule by no one” against whom to argue and therefore, recreate the missing links with the people they rule over.

And here is where we come full circle back to Eichmann, who self-described (during his trial in Israel as) an anonymous mid-level bureaucrat

Arendt never doubted that Eichmann was guilty of great wickedness, but she saw the Nazi functionary as the very incarnation of what she famously called “the banality of evil.”  One of the distinctive marks of this banality Arendt characterized as Gedankenlosigkeit, which could be superficially rendered in English as “thoughtlessness,” but which carries more accurately the sense of “the inability to think.”  Eichmann couldn’t rise above his own petty concerns about his career and he couldn’t begin to “think” along with another, to see what he was doing from the standpoint of his victims. This very Gedankenlosigkeit is what enabled him to say, probably with honesty, that he didn’t feel as though he had committed any crimes.

From the article linked above.

One of the distinctions she made between the American and French revolutions was (from Wikipedia)

Arendt presents a comparison of the two main revolutions of the eighteenth century, the American and French Revolutions. She goes against a common view of both Marxist and leftist views when she argues that France, while well studied and often emulated, was a disaster and that the largely ignored American Revolution was a success. The turning point in the French Revolution occurred when the leaders rejected their goals of freedom in order to focus on compassion for the masses. In America, the Founding Fathers never betray the goal of Constitutio Libertatis…

And that was my main take-away all those years ago. The founders pulled off that rarest of all things-a successful revolution because they paid attention to what they were trying to accomplish and didn’t let it degenerate into a mob rule. This is the basis of the commonly cited 3 stage of revolution theory, and what we are speaking of when we say the Americans stopped at the 2d stage.

And, of course, what many of us fear is that we are now descending into the third stage, the mob scene. Although in a very different mode in that we are being led there by a long-established government which seems to have forgotten what good government is. And in many ways what we are seeing now is the rise of the faceless bureaucrat. Do ours resemble Adolph Eichmann?

No, not yet, anyway.

Obamacare or Jobs

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Ser...

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Service. The design is the same as the Treasury seal with an IRS inscription. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I haven’t talked about Obamacare a whole lot here. A lot of that is that my readers are sensible folk, who already know that it is already, even before implementation is hurting the economy. I mean, remember when we had 40+ a week jobs? Won’t be much longer till we’re a nation of part-timers, probably two (at least) because no employer will be able to afford to insure us.

 

That’s one of the almost silly roots of the problem. That we have installed our employers in our health care payment system. Why? Taxes and government controls, that’s why. Way back in World War II, everybody was working 48 hours or so a week, getting paid pretty good money (except of course for those army privates making 21 dollars a month plus bad housing and sort-of OK food, plus a chance to get killed for their country). But the thing is the government wouldn’t let employers compete for the good people with wages, they were controlled, ostensibly because there wasn’t anything to buy anyway, and they didn’t want to fuel the black market. Who know, it might even be true.

 

So employers who still needed good employees came up with all sorts of benefits to get people to work for them, health insurance was one of them, and the government made it deductible for a business to provide that insurance. But as usual it got out of hand. If car insurance was like health insurance, we’d be turning in the bill for checking the oil in our engine on our insurance. Sensible people don’t insure for expected expenses, they save for it, or indeed just pay it out of their checking account, or cash.

 

But that’s where we are, and Obamacare going to make it far worse, we might as well get used to being France, if our Congress can’t find enough guts to kill this. And given how much this system is disliked, if Congress can’t find the guts to kill this, they could just as well pass a bill that says, “The President can do anything and spend anything he wants, forever.” and put themselves on unemployment. That’s how useless they’ve become.

 

One of the most sensible people talking about this is Dr. Ben Carson, lately of the Johns Hopkins, listen to what he says.

 

 

And you have, of course, figured out that the IRS is going to be in charge of this monstrosity, right? I’m sure that gives you a warm and fuzzy feel as well, kind of like this

 

 

Of course what many in the government want is nothing less than single payor, which the model for the British National Health Service, which for some reason with it starving people to death, killing off old folks, and any number of other horrors, they seem to love. Why a free people would love a Stalinist system like this is beyond me but, I’d like to think Americans can occasionally learn from other people’s mistakes.

 

 

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