What’s Going On in Iran?

Have you been following the (mostly non-) news from Iran? Interesting isn’t it? China and Hong Kong, Iran and the Iranian people, plus the Iraqis and the Lebanese, it’s almost like people like being free. The best I’ve seen is Michael Ledeen in FrontPage Magazine.

The country is on fire. All classes, all tribes from the Persians to the Kurds are fighting the security forces and the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij, and an increasingly divided Hezbollah. The leaders of the regime are unrestrained in their crackdown. In order to keep their actions as far as possible from public view, the leaders have killed off the internet links with the outside world, and despite American boasts that Washington can turn on the internet at will, the regime has kept communications with Iranians at historic minima.

The proximate cause of these demonstrations was an overnight increase in the cost of gasoline. I say “proximate cause” because the anti-regime outbursts had been ongoing for months, if not years. The increased price for gasoline was significant, but not decisive. So far as I can determine, the crowds of demonstrators chanted political slogans, not economic ones. They wanted an end to the Islamic Republic, not lower prices for gas.

The Iranian eruption is only one of many in the region, as Lebanese and Iraqis also joined the protest against Tehran. Iraqis, led by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, called for an end to the Hezbollah domination of the country as part of a general demand for a thoroughgoing political transformation.

The most radical demand is the downfall of the whole sectarian, political Islamist system. This is the first and most important demand in Tahrir Square — they want a separation of religion and politics. This demand includes the government resigning, especially Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the prime minister.

Now mind, these guys aren’t asking for American boots, they want to be free, but on their terms, which are unlikely to be anything acceptable to Washington, let alone the heartland. But it’s their countries and their people. We can, perhaps, aid and abet a bit, but it’s up to them, to structure their lives as they see fit.

Because make no mistake, Iran under its present rulers is an implacable foe of the United States and keeps us from doing other things in the region that we should be doing. But this isn’t something, like Hong Kong, where one side is demanding democracy on the Anglo-American model.

Why that warning? Morris Ayek witing in en.qantara.de may have that answer.

Here, too, the distinctiveness of Arabic – although it has the same meaning in other languages – is useful in looking at Arab civil wars as wars between social entities. Non-Arab civil wars such as the Russian, the French, the Spanish, the Greek and so forth were between citizens. Groups that identify themselves through modern ideologies and institutions aim at the triumph of these ideologies. Indeed, they may be seen as a concomitant struggle in transition.

Arab civil wars, on the other hand, are wars between kinsfolk, however they may appear in their early stages. The social group becomes partisan, whether sectarian, tribal, party political or ethnic. The key difference between the two types of conflicts is that Arab civil wars have no end. In the non-Arab world, it is the ideology which is defeated, whilst with us Arabs, there can be no end. The Sunni, the Shia, the Alawite and the Christian will remain, like the Arab, the Kurd and the South Sudanese.

Social ties are the true driver

The only point of Arab civil wars is dominion, which is characterised by warlords who live by perpetuating war as a source of wealth, subjugating and plundering. They differ from other civil wars, in which each warring party has sought to build an economy with which to replenish resources and to guarantee victory. Ironically, this revenue-generating model is similar to the normal workings of an Arab economy.

Quite a lot more at the link, and I think it summarized pretty well why Anglo-American style democracy is not going to break out any time soon in the Middle East.

 

Putin, Trump, and the EU

Like I said yesterday in comments, I’m bored with the impeachment follies, it’s bullshit and it’s going nowhere, although it may well give President Trump a landslide victory, and that very fact may allow reasonable Democrats to get control of their party. But don’t hold your breath on that either. We’ll come back to it, sadly, when there is something to talk about.

Meantime, it does us no harm to look out over the parapet and see what’s going on in the world. So today, there is an excellent (I think) assessment of Putin by Areg Galstyan at American Thinker. Let’s have a look…

Vladimir Putin has ruled the country since 2000, and over these 19 years, influence groups around him have been fighting each other for a special position and status. Unlike most of his associates, Putin is indeed an ideologically motivated leader who perceives himself not just as a politician and an official, but as a sovereign, such as Peter the Great and Alexander III — the beloved emperors of the current Russian leader.

One of my blogfriends, a Briton living in Siberia, categorically states he is also a Christian, that may be so or it may not be, but he undeniably supports the Russian Orthodox Church, whether out of conviction or statecraft doesn’t really matter. Interesting that Putin and Trump, the two largest nationalist leaders, also profess as Christians, not many others do, as they attend St. Mattress almost every Sunday.

The new ideology that is called Putinism is uniting principles and foundations that have remained unchanged throughout all the historical stages of the development of Russia. Its foundation is the concept of National Democracy. It implies that the process of democratization and the formation of an active civil society is inevitable but it should not be carried out according to any foreign model. The Russian nation, like any other, has its civilizational, social, and cultural features. Today, 190 peoples live in Russia, and most of them retain their language, traditions, and mentality. From this point of view, Moscow is always under the permanent threat of external forces using any interethnic disagreements for their purposes. If, for example, a political decision was made to allow same-sex “marriage” in the deeply conservative regions of the North Caucasus, Tatarstan, and Siberia, riots would begin. And they would lead to the most unpredictable consequences. For a large part of the progressive West, this may sound wild. Yet for Russia, it is a matter of national security.

It is important to understand that Russia is not limited to Moscow or Saint Petersburg. These cities, like any major megalopolises, are centers of the dominance of progressive and liberal ideas. No one will argue with the fact that the United States does not begin and end in New York and California; there are also Texas, Tennessee, Utah, and other states. The victory of Donald Trump vividly demonstrated that it was conditional Texas and Kentucky that were the heart of America, not Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The situation is similar in Russia: Putin is guided by the mood of the regional majority, not the liberal minority of the capital. There are a lot of sensitive problems, and any Russian ruler has to maintain internal balance in order to keep the country’s physical integrity. This is an extremely difficult task. At certain periods of time, Emperor Nicholas II, and then the last general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Mikhail Gorbachev, did not cope with this task. This resulted in the collapse of the Russian Empire and the USSR, respectively. Thus, the essence of Sovereign or National Democracy is in a banal formula: everything has its time. In other words, Putinism advocates an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary model of development.

There is quite a bit more, all of it good.

My takeaway is this, I don’t think Russia is much of a threat to the US. It is a big European/Asian power, yes, and it could do serious harm to the US, but why. The converse is equally true, and I don’t hear any American thinking we should destroy Russia.

We compete yes, especially for oil sales. As an aside, last month for the first time in 70 years we became a net exporter. But providing Germany’s fossil fuel doesn’t translate to a justification for war.

A key point is this, our interests are in fact, while not identical, similar, and until the 1917 revolution, Russia was (more or less) our friend, as much as any great power (saving only Britain) was or is. We pretty much know now (and probably should have before) that a lot of the Washington swamp hasn’t gotten the memo that the cold war is over. I’d guess that there is a similar cabal in the Kremlin. If for no other reason than its good for the arms manufacturers, and their subsidiaries in Washington and Moscow.

But we’re both interested in suppressing terrorism, especially after our ‘experts’ made the mid-east so much worse. And frankly, it is not really in either of our interests to encourage the Chinese, let alone the North Koreans.

NATO was formed 70 years ago to “Keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down”. It has done well on the first two, and after the failure of the Soviet Union pretty much failed on the last. That will I suspect have consequences as Europe returns to be the cockpit of internecine conflict. The EU will implode, probably in this decade, and then the great game will restart as the Germans once more try to form a European Empire. In truth, the EU itself is an attempt by Germany to form an empire by economic means rather than military, that is why Macron’s nose is so out of joint.

If as the linked author says, Putin believes in Westphalia, Vienna, and Potsdam and Yalta, then he is pretty much the Russian form of Trump. And as we know, now if we didn’t before we elected him, he’s not out looking around for wars to wage. I doubt Putin is either. Both have better things to do for their countries.

And I think it entirely possible that Putin is more trustworthy than either Macron or Merkel, let alone this new German running the EU.

NATO at 70, Uncivil Serpents, and Doing the Right Thing

So, this week looks like it will be about foreign affairs – until something changes, I reckon. But that’s where we start.

The North Atlantic signatories are meeting today and tomorrow in Britain. There is a lot of noise, between the president’s concern about European funding, which is certainly justified, French (which has not been a military member since the 1960s) carping about this and that. Macron is only staying for one day, he has other problems. There is a general strike coming in France on 5 December, that will pretty much shut the joint down. Not to mention the shouting matches between Macron and Erdoğan of Turkey.

In a sense, this looks to me like an alliance looking for a purpose. 70 years ago when it was formed under US and UK leadership it clearly was a counterpoint to the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. That war ended 30 years ago, and it seems to me that NATO doesn’t have a real mission anymore. It’s protected by deep state practitioners in all the allied countries, a fair number of whom seem to have not gotten the memo that the cold war is over.

Rule 5 is the heart of the whole thing. It is the provision that an attack on one is an attack on all, and lead to the American assertion (in the bad old days) that America’s eastern border was the Elbe River. That was good sense and admirable clarity. But now what? Some vague line in the middle of Ukraine, the Turkish, Syrian border. Really? Do we want to commit American boys and girls to fight for those things?

In many ways, Europe for the United States, and perhaps for Russia as well, has become a backwater, and its stultifying economy and penchant for internecine dispute and internal imperialism strengthens that notion. So the real question is Quo Vadis.

More here and here.

So in the middle of an election campaign, this is the team that Boris Johnson will attempt to harness this week. Good luck with that, he’ll need a barge load, I suspect.

When we talk about the deep state, we are referring to the same thing as the cousins call the Civil Service (actually most of my friends refer to them as uncivil serpents, for cause). It happens in all bureaucracies, people get aligned with something and no matter what the politicians do, there they stand.

One of the worst cases was in Neville Chamberlin’s tenure in Downing Street. Adrian Phillips wrote the book on Sir Horace Wilson. He published an excerpt on History News Network this weekend, and it looks fascinating. A paragraph or so:

In 1941, as his time in office drew to a close, the head of the British Civil Service, Sir Horace Wilson, sat down to write an account of the government policy with which he had been most closely associated. It was also the defining policy of Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister whom Wilson had served as his closest adviser throughout his time in office. It had brought Chamberlain immense prestige, but this had been followed very shortly afterwards by near-universal criticism. Under the title ‘Munich, 1938’, Wilson gave his version of the events leading up to the Munich conference of 30 September 1938, which had prevented – or, as proved to be the case, delayed – the outbreak of another world war at the cost of the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. By then the word ‘appeasement’ had acquired a thoroughly derogatory meaning. Chamberlain had died in 1940, leaving Wilson to defend their joint reputation. Both men had been driven by the highest of motivations: the desire to prevent war. Both had been completely convinced that their policy was the correct one at the time and neither ever admitted afterwards that they might have been wrong.

The book has joined my list, which you’ll not be surprised, is long, but this looks very good. It also appears to bear on much of what we have talked about today.

Churchill apparently never said that “Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.”  But it’s a fair bet that he thought it pretty often, and pretty often it is true. But we do most often get around to doing the right thing.

As we did with the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. It’s not something we can credibly go to war about, as I said back on 15 June, this is likely to be a replay of Hungary in 1956, where we simply cannot physically support our friends.

But we eventually found a way, that will hurt China if they suppress the Hong Kongers without a direct military challenge. But look again at the picture that accompanied the article in June (pretty close to the beginning of the protests). Who are they looking to for help? Right, the British, after all, Hong Kong is a former Crown Colony. But that soon changes as the Hong Kongers realized that Britain wasn’t going to be there for them, and so the flags changed, from flags with the Union Flag, or the Union Flag itself, to the American flag. That change was important, for the US does have a habit of as John Kennedy said.

 We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

  Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

And so we found a way, a no doubt an imperfect way, but the American people first, and then the US government moved to align ourselves once again with freedom, and against tyranny.

The sad part is that Britain should have been on the rampart with us, but was MIA when it counted, whether they were too preoccupied with Brexit, or too in hock to their Chinese paymasters (as some say), or still another reason, doesn’t really matter. When it mattered, they, like Achille, were skulking in their tent. A sad commentary.

What wasn’t sad all, was that these polite protestors, brought out their flags, and even the new poster of our President, and sang our National Anthem by way of saying “Thank You”. I’d trade our leftists for these brave people anytime. What great Americans they’d make!

Dies Irae

Do you guys listen to (or play) classical music? That’s my normal fare, to listen to, and yes, I used to play some of it, although as a brass player, marches were more my style. One composer that I have always liked rather a lot is Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff. He came along pretty late in the Romantic period, a Russian who ended up escaping to the United States, and there are clues in the music. He was also an Orthodox Christian which perhaps matters as well.

Anthony J. DeBlasi over at American Thinker has noticed as well. I’m frankly weak on Medieval Latin Hymns, but I am familiar with Requiem Masses, therefore the phrase Dies Irae is not wholly unfamiliar. I did not recognize that Rachmaninoff worked the plainsong of this into almost all of his works. A message? Perhaps.

What I hadn’t heard till this morning was his Symphony Number 1. It was completed in 1895 and had a disastrous opening, was lost in World War II and put back together from the various parts. Talk about eye-opening. It’s arguable that the semi-hidden plainsong in his other works is a message, here it is 60 point blackface type. From the inscription on, for it originally carried an inscription from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Here is the Symphony:

Mr. DeBlasi speculates (and that’s all any of us can do) that Rachmaninoff saw the future of Russia and the communist uprisings of 1905 and 1917, and this was his answer. I’m inclined to think he is right. This is so different and so foreboding, not to mention boiling over with anger compared to anything else he wrote that I can’t see how it could be anything else.

As I said, its opening was a disaster, causing the composer mental distress for the rest of his life. Perhaps a prophet unheeded in his home, and perhaps we, in his second home are doing a pretty good job of not heeding him as well.

Long ago (in 2012) Jessica found a translation of the hymn (I think) from the 13th Century. It certainly carries a warning.

THE day of wrath, that dreadful day, Shall all the world in ashes lay, As David and the Sibyl say.

What tremor shall the soul affright, When comes that Judge whose searching light Brings thought and word and deed to light.

The last loud trumpet’s spreading tone Shall through the place of tombs be blown, To summon all before the throne.

Death is struck, and nature quaking, All creation is awaking To its Judge an answer making.

The written book shall be outspread, And all that it contains be read, To try the living and the dead.

Then shall the Judge His throne attain, And every secret sin arraign, Till nothing unavenged remain.

What shall my guilty conscience plead, And who for me will intercede, When even saints forgiveness need?

King of tremendous majesty! Who savest whom Thou savest, free, Thou fount of pity, save Thou me.

Remember, Jesus Lord, I pray, For me Thou walked’st on life’s way; Confound me not on this last day.

‘Twas me Thy weary footsteps sought, My ransom on the Cross was bought, Let not such labour come to naught.

Just Judge of recompense, I pray, Cancel my debt, too great to pay, Before the last accounting day.

My groans a culprit’s heart declare, My cheeks shame’s burning livery wear, Spare me, O God, Thy suppliant spare!

As Thou didst Mary’s sin efface, And take the thief to Thine embrace, So dost Thou give me hope of grace.

Though all unworthy be my cry, Give grace, O gracious Lord, or I Shall burn in fires that never die.

Grant me among Thy sheep to stand; From outcast goats my soul diband, And raise me to Thine own right hand.

When cursed foes are put to shame, And given o’er to biting flame, Ah! with Thy blessed call my name.

Prostrate, my contrite heart I rend; My God, my Father, and my Friend, Do not forsake me in the end.

O day of weeping, day of woe, When rising from his pyre below, The sinner to his Judge shall cry,

‘Spare me, Thou mighty God on high!’ Ah, gentle Jesu, Saviour blest, Grant to them all eternal rest!. Amen.

And this is the very important part of Christianity that our churches rarely speak of. There will be a Judgement Day, and when that trumpet sounds, it will be too late to repent what we have done in this life. We are all sinners, but if we are wise, we repent often and sincerely. Many in our churches have not been taught this, but God has made it clear as glass, there will be no excuses, I suspect.

Of Eagles and Dragons

Sometimes the government gets it right. From The Federalist by Madeline Osburn.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill in support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong on Tuesday evening. If signed into law, the legislation would empower the Trump administration to sanction Chinese officials who violate human rights.

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, which approved a similar version last month, and then on to President Trump’s desk for consideration.

Rather late in the day for the protesters, but there is this, the dragon remains afraid of the eagle, as it should, and it will have an effect. China may be the number two economy in the world, but still, it’s only around 65% of the US economy and built primarily on stolen western technology.

“The people of Hong Kong see what’s coming – they see the steady effort to erode the autonomy and their freedoms,” said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on the Senate floor.

Under the Senate bill, the U.S. secretary of State is required to certify, at least once a year, that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy of its government’s decisions to qualify for trade special considerations.

Officials in both Beijing and Hong Kong angrily condemned the the passage of the bill. A statement from Hong Kong said they expressed “deep regret” about the legislation, and commented that “foreign legislatures shouldn’t interfere with its internal affairs.”

It appears as if marching with the US flag and calling for liberation still matters, at least to many of us. Now to see if the UK will follow or will stick with their original sell out of Hong Kong. If you remember only the New Territories were covered by that 99-year lease. Hong Kong itself was a Crown Colony with the UK holding full sovereignty.

It’s nice when we can report that Congress is doing something both right and useful instead of simply making trouble for its own citizens.

Still, there are a lot of Hongkongers who are and will pay an inordinate price for holding the line. Good for them. They know the rule, “Where the government fears the people, there is liberty, where the people fear the government, there is tyranny”.

 

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

John F. Kennedy

Men (and Women) Without Chests

There was an excellent article by Jack Kerwick yesterday on FrontPage Magazine describing how academia is producing men (and women) without chests. You may well know that the phrase is from C.S. Lewis and is entirely apt.

Jonathan Haidt, a liberal and professor at New York University, pulls no punches: “Because of a lack of viewpoint diversity, policies are implemented to promote ends that are sometimes antithetical to free inquiry and the Socratic spirit.”  Haidt knows all too well that of which he speaks.  Continuing, he remarks that his own university has instituted “‘a bias response line’” that “encourages” students to “anonymously report anyone who says anything that offends them.”  Thus, “as a professor, I no longer take risks; I must teach to the most easily offended student in the class. I therefore avoid saying or doing anything provocative.”

Consequently: “My classes are less fun and engaging.”

And as such worth neither the time nor money to attend, which I suspect Professor Haidt would agree with.

Charles Murray, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, is to the point:

The telos of the university is truth.  It cannot have a second telos. There is no such thing as a university that fully supports the search for truth and also pursues a social-justice agenda, for example….

Spot on, there is quite a little more, and you should read it all. It’s been quite a while since I read Lewis’ The Abolition of Man which is where the phrase comes from, and so so quick research was indicated. The very best analysis I found was from The Art of Manliness, which surprised me not at all. It didn’t because The Art of Manliness is one of the best sites for men to learn how to be men, and not the whimpering whingers we see all around us. It’s worth some of your time, if not daily, regularly. Brett and Kate write:

Nearly all religions and philosophical schools, whether Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Aristotelianism, Stoicism, or Platonism, Lewis observes, posit that there is an underlying natural order to the world, and Truth is that which most clearly reflects and explains this reality. To uphold this “doctrine of objective value” is to believe that “certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.”

Lewis feels this perspective is best described by the Chinese concept of Tao:

“It is the reality beyond all predicates . . .  It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road. It is the Way in which the universe goes on, the Way in which things everlastingly emerge, stilly and tranquilly, into space and time. It is also the Way which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar.”

Within the objective reality of Nature, exist people, places, and things which possess an objective value, and are thus deserving of varying levels of esteem and respect:

“until modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it — believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit our approval or disapproval, our reverence or our contempt.”

Given that the value of things is objective, then they should elicit certain responses from us. The night sky should elicit a feeling of humility; the story of a courageous warrior should elicit a feeling of veneration; little children should elicit a feeling of delight; a friend’s father’s death should elicit a feeling of empathy; a kind act should elicit a feeling of gratitude.

While the nature of emotional responses is partly visceral and automatic, a man’s sentiments also have to be intentionally educated in order to be congruent — to be more in harmony with Nature. Such training teaches a man to evaluate things as more or less just, true, beautiful, and good, and to proportion his affections as merited. As Lewis notes, this training was considered central to one’s development throughout antiquity:

“St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it. Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought. . . . Plato before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting and hateful.”

Read all of that too, and if we begin to act accordingly, we will begin to heal our society.

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