Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Suicide of the West

This old passage from James Burnham’s classic Suicide of the West reminds us that the deep polarization of the present moment is not new, but has deep roots:

Liberals, unless they are professional politicians seeking votes in the hinterland, are not subject to strong feelings of national patriotism and are likely to feel uneasy at patriotic ceremonies. These, like the organizations in whose conduct they are still manifest, are dismissed by liberals rather scornfully as ‘flag-waving’ and ‘100 percent Americanism.’ The national anthem is not customarily sung or the flag shown, unless prescribed by law, at meetings of liberal associations. When a liberal journalist uses the phrase ‘patriotic organization,’ the adjective is equivalent in meaning to ‘stupid, reactionary and rather ludicrous.’ The rise of liberalism to predominance in the controlling sectors of American opinion is in almost exact correlation with the decline in the ceremonial celebration of the Fourth of July, traditionally regarded as the nation’s major holiday. To the liberal mind, the patriotic oratory is not only banal but subversive of rational ideals; and judged by liberalism’s humanitarian morality, the enthusiasm and pleasures that simple souls might have got from the fireworks could not compensate the occasional damage to the eye or finger of an unwary youngster. The purer liberals of the Norman Cousins strain, in the tradition of Eleanor Roosevelt, are more likely to celebrate UN day than the Fourth of July.

Discussions - 43 Comments

When was this written? Pardon my ignorance. :)

Steven, you are putting this stuff up to provoke me, are’nt you?


You know, this kind of cruel "liberal baiting" is outlawed in civilised countries.

In his next published book, THE MACHIAVELLIANS, Burnham elaborates and
also modifies his original statement. The greater part of the book is an
exposition of the theories of Machiavelli and of his modern disciples,
Mosca, Michels, and Pareto: with doubtful justification, Burnham adds to
these the syndicalist writer, Georges Sorel. What Burnham is mainly
concerned to show is that a democratic society has never existed and, so
far as we can see, never will exist. Society is of its nature
oligarchical, and the power of the oligarchy always rests upon force and
fraud. Burnham does not deny that "good" motives may operate in private
life, but he maintains that politics consists of the struggle for power,
and nothing else. All historical changes finally boil down to the
replacement of one ruling class by another. All talk about democracy,
liberty, equality, fraternity, all revolutionary movements, all visions
of Utopia, or "the classless society", or "the Kingdom of Heaven on
earth", are humbug (not necessarily conscious humbug) covering the
ambitions of some new class which is elbowing its way into power. The
English Puritans, the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks, were in each case simply
power seekers using the hopes of the masses in order to win a privileged
position for themselves. Power can sometimes be won or maintained without
violence, but never without fraud, because it is necessary to make use of
the masses, and the masses would not co-operate if they knew that they
were simply serving the purposes of a minority. In each great
revolutionary struggle the masses are led on by vague dreams of human
brotherhood, and then, when the new ruling class is well established in
power, they are thrust back into servitude. This is practically the whole of political history, as Burnham sees it.


Sounds like a despicable cynic. Have a read : http://www.george-orwell.org/James_Burnham_and_the_Managerial_Revolution/0.html

The core of the Liberal’s heart is moral superiority. They see themselves as a transnational class of saviors...really. Loyalty to Burke’s little platoons is considered retrograde and boorish.

In short, they are not "of the people." This is why we have this permanent split in the polity...half of us have loyalties to a set of unworkable and silly utopian ideals which is the wellspring of their identity and self-esteem.

They see themselves as a transnational class of saviors


Dain this is a kind of projection. The only ones with a messiah complex are the conservatives trying to impose (impose!!!) democracy onto a region where none of the support systems to sustain it are in place.


At the moment it is the conservatives whose "silly and utopian ideals" are shattering on the rocks of reality.

Brian,

World history is the progression of unconcious humbug. The patern will only cease when the humbug either ceases or else actually and perhaps even accidently fullfills the deep human passions and creative power, or whatever it is in men that is responsible for the next growth of humbug.

What kind of support systems were in place when democracy was born in America? What kind of guarantee was provided when my Founding Fathers set forth the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence? Sure, it was born on a new continent, but what opposition they faced!!! There were no guarantees even then, that the purpose to which they set themselves would grow, let alone last. Should they have quit? Gone back to England? Given up their ideas of freedom in the face of war, a war which risked their lives and the lives of their families? Conservatives are to be considered "silly and utopian"? My Founding Fathers were not perfect as history has revealed, but they prayed to God (uh-oh, I sense something here). Some of them even attended church (oh my) and read the Bible (whew - it can’t be) and taught their children Scripture. Talk about "conservative".

The only ones with a messiah complex are the conservatives trying to impose (impose!!!) democracy onto a region where none of the support systems to sustain it are in place.

This implies that, left to their own devices, the Iraqi people would choose something other than democracy. And since the essence of democracy is that the people choose, this is a logical impossibility. It is tyranny that needs to be imposed, not democracy.

And since the essence of democracy is that the people choose, this is a logical impossibility.


Thats rather good, and the principle does make sense.


However,the US did invade Iraq, which has lets be fair, has been something of an imposition. However, point taken.


What kind of support systems were in place when democracy was born in America?


Brook, this question betrays a depressing lack of interest in your own history. The colonies, were to a significant degree, left to their own devices for decades. In that time some of the colonies actually formed crude, but functional legal systems.


The break with Britian, matured over a very extended, yet peaceful period, with vigorous debate and among the most literate population then existing in the world.


I don’t beleive a comparison with Iraq is remotely viable.


What an ecletic mix there is on the site.

Brian, Iraq was in violation many times over of the very international law you want the world imposed under. Moreover, three members of your coveted EU were in league with Iraq to subvert that very same international law.

Burnham went from being a Troskyite and a founder of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States to a staunch anti-communist who called modern liberalism an ideology of suicide.

"EU Justice"? Uh, listen here Coughlan...

"We often hear about how incompetent the Iraqis, under American tutelage, have been in trying Saddam Hussein. After all, his trial is only in its initial stages, two years after he was captured. But compared to the more illustrious court of The Hague, Saddam’s trial is racing along at a rapid clip. Before his sudden death, Milosevic had been in court for four years without a verdict. In terms of utopian international jurisprudence, the reprobate Milosevic died a free man, at his last breath still innocent until proven guilty." Victor Davis Hanson from......http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/hanson031706.html

"The public wonders why the incompetent Americans can’t catch Osama bin Laden, or at least Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Few note that it has been over six years since the collapse of the Serbian rogue regime, and still no one seems to know where either Radovan Karadzic, or his military commander, Ratko Mladic, is hiding inside Europe — not exactly the Sunni Triangle or the borderlands of the Hindu Kush."-Hanson

Well Coughlan; where are they? You mean the Eu International "posse" has yet to seize them? Why?

I could go on with this article. But why bother with you?

But consider this "man of peace at any price"........"Beware lest in your anxiety to avoid war you obtain a master." - Demosthenes

"The fact that slaughter [battle] is a horrifying spectacle must make us take war more seriously, but [it does] not provide an excuse for gradually blunting our swords in the name of humanity. Sooner or later someone will come along with a sharp sword and hack off our arms." - Carl von Clausewitz

Jesse, your comments reflect the sort of unthinking response of those who favour "string ’em up" justice, or the kind of individual that feel the tried and convicted have no rights.


Milosevic died imprisoned, and largely alone, a potent symbol of the potential end for all future despots.


As regards Mladic, you fail to understand that the EU has put the ball in the court of the Serbian authorities, and hinted a link with serbian accession to the EU to his capture. He may be "free", but he has very little room for manouver, and his poisonous influence is neutralised. Plus there is the upside of the EU not alienating the entire population of Serbia and driving them into the arms of the next despot. Versaille treaty anyone?


I’ll make a small prediction here. Risky, but I’m going to do it. Mladic will be in custody within the next 6 months to a year. The serbs want into the EU, they are not going to risk that for some has-been.


The EU, and the US, are individually and collectivley far stonger than the entire muslim world. So many americans, and this Hanson guy is a classic, are incapable of recognising negotiation and rational compromise from a position of strength. Thats not appeasment. The EU relies on those skills because it’s worked wonderfully within the EU. The outcomes are rarely satisfactory to all parties, but that is the nature of compromise. Often you get a little less than you want, but everyone walks away ... well ... alive. That is a big upside.


You know, the British Empire was a fairly benign kind of empire. Of course they did bad and stupid things, but in the main, they made an effort to do the right thing. Yet it basically came apart anyway.


This underscores the basic strength of the EU, no one is forced to stay in, but following agreed laws is binding once you are in. However, you can get out when you like. Yet, bizarrely, no country has ever left, despite all the bitching and moaning. The EU just gets bigger and bigger.


Nothwithstanding the occasional hypocrisy of EU national politicians (you won’t find me defending Chirac. I was outside the french embassy in Dublin protesting french undersea nuclear testing in 1997. I’m guessing you didn’t even notice) the operating principle of the EU, negotiated compromise, is what appeals to me.


The US cannot rule with an iron fist for ever. As much as you would like that to be the case, and I’m sympathetic to your concerns. Anyone who thinks this remotely feasible is simply bonkers.


If the unionists with 55% of the population in the North of Ireland, were not able to hold onto the levers of power, then we can expect that american hands will be gradually, over time, forced off the levers of power by the 97% of the non americans in the world.


The question is do you do it willingly, like the British in India, or does it happen by force as in the French Revolution, or indeed your own.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not supporting that idea, just articulating an obvious outcome, which history suggests will happen eventually.


A small minority cannot rule a massive, educated, literate and wired majority by force, at least not for long. The key thing in these transitions, is that the power elite not panic, and overreacte. Iraq and now Iran are clear overreactions.


To summarise this early morning thought dump, the EU and the US are two sides of the same coin.


The US are the reactionary aristocrats who want to crush any and all rebellion and dissent amongst the peasants. The EU are the namby pampy aristocrats who recognise that the peasants have a legitimate greivances, and want to resolve them.


French revolution or gradual power transfer, whats it going to be?

The US are the reactionary aristocrats who want to crush any and all rebellion and dissent amongst the peasants....French revolution or gradual power transfer, whats it going to be? Comment 13 by Brian Coughlan [E-Mail]

You lost me here buddy. Who are the peasants we’re crushing? American protesters or Islamists? If you are referring to Islamists, are you also suggesting eventually the Islamists will conquer us by gradual power transfer or by French revolution?

If you’re referring to American, or even European protesters, I don’t think ignoring equates with crushing.

If you’re referring to whole nations, I believe that the people of this nation, even politicians, even GWB, have long since realized that mutually beneficial contracts are what make the world turn....I’m talking about putting people to work earning a living, providing something of value to all parties and receiving something of value in return. We want to "crush" only those who have expressed a desire to "crush" us.

beneficial contracts are what make the world turn


Unless you unilaterally decide they are no longer of benefit? That answers the bulk of your questions right there.

Here is a principled american I could get behind, although war is not off the table, it is clearly a genuine last resort.


He’s got my vote .... DOH!


http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1004275469664146873&q=tvshow%3ACharlie_Rose

Mornin’ Coughlan,

It’s raining cats and dogs here in sunny California, it’s nearly midnight and I’ll read your stuff tomorrow. I’m calling it a night.

Dang it Coughlan, I can’t let this go.

Unless you unilaterally decide they are no longer of benefit? That answers the bulk of your questions right there. Comment 15 by Brian Coughlan [E-Mail]

I’m talking about private sector contracts. You know by private citizens? Oh, yeah. You live in a socialist country. You wouldn’t know what a private company is.

He’s got my vote .... DOH! Comment 16 by Brian Coughlan

Going to register as a democrat? They take dead people, why not an Irishman living in Sweden?

Goodnight Uncle Guido, another something for you to peruse : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4754486.stm


God bless us Democrats (not those democrats!!) may we prevail without resorting to killing a whole bunch of bewildered people.

God bless you democrats.

Now GOOD NIGHT!

I’ve been puzzling over what it is in my life that makes me so convinced that things will play out the way I think they will, and I suspect I’ve got it. I hope it clarifies it for the rest of you as well. One can only hope:-)


Lots of personal history here, so bear with me or tune out, now.


I was born in ireland in the 60’s, and grew up there in the 70’s when the troubles in the North threatened to spill over into the South (there were bombings in Dublin in the 70’s). The British reacted badly to the initial civil rights demonstrations. There was a seminal event called "Bloody Sunday" in which 13 or so unarmed civilians where killed by British security forces. This unleashed a wave of attacks in Britain, and there was the possibility of crazy action on both sides. In the late 60’s Ireland nearly invaded the North, because of abuse of the catholic minority!!


However, cooler heads prevailed in the both the republic and the UK, and these doomsday scenarios never materialised. The UK eventually recognised the grievances of the catholic minority in the north, and has made moderate efforts to address them in the intervening 30 years.


That gave me an idea of what it feels like to live in a small, weak country menaced by a large, powerful country. Happily the large country did the right thing for everybody, despite extreme national provocation, and both the UK and Ireland are doing well, and the North is finally finding it’s feet as well.


Then when I was about 12, I moved to South Africa. I was pitched from being a minority on the receiving end of bad behaviour, to a minority dishing it out. Of course I had no idea about this stuff at the time, and was blissfully unaware of a problem until my late teens. Nonetheless, I was conscripted (willingly) into the South African Defense Force to fight communism, and the henchmen of the convicted terrorist guy, Nelson Mandela. I spent an uneventful two years in the SADF, and was pretty relieved to get out. After a year in the private sector, I left South Africa in 1987.


So I had two weird alternate experiences, first as the "oppressed" class, and later as the "oppressor" class. So I have (I think) a unique ability to see the situation from both sides. In both cases, cooler heads prevailed, and what could have been a dreadful bloodbath, has, with occasional faltering missteps, progressed forward. Do you honestly think that the white majority in South Africa had to (at that time) share power? They did not, it was a courageous, moral and radical move, and at a time when there was hardly a single example of a successful democracy in the whole of Africa. However, it would have come to bloodshed in the long term if they had not, because 20% of the population cannot keep 80% suppressed indefinitely.


So when Al-Quaida (or Osama) says america is the great Satan, and the epitome of evil, I know it’s bull. I’m inoculated by my Irish experience. When Bush talks about the evildoers and how they hate freedom. I know that is bull too, because I’m inoculated by my South African experience. When people claim that the idea of a fairer world, where disputes are negotiated, is a utopian pipe dream, I can point to both the South African and the Irish experience. Neither is perfect, but both are demonstrably fairer societies against all the odds. Not to the mention the process that every nation state in the world has been through on the road to national unity. Plus, finally, we have the example of the EU. Vilified from within, and without, and yet no one has ever left, and many countries are actively implementing EU legislation, for a shot at joining!


While the US is blowing up stuff in Iraq, and threatening to blow stuff up in Iran, what has the EU been doing? Mediating the Cyprus dispute, reintegrating the Balkans into a stable political framework, resolving terrorists disputes like the IRA and Basque in Spain. Forcing Turkey to threat their kurds with dignity and ensure freedom of speech and an independent judiciary. Convincing the Germans and the French to accelerate the deadline for letting the Poles and other eastern europeans work in the rest of the EU. Arguing with the Austrians, and winning the argument, to ensure they would not spike the accession talks with Turkey. This stuff takes time and it’s very, very hard, but it beats the hell out of war.


So I feel I kind of dejavu about this situation. On the one side, the forces of good protecting us from an insidious and evil conspiracy. On the other an oppressed underclass of 5 billion or so. Living on 1 dollar a day, and suffering significant daily injustice. A society where such radical disparity exists is out of wack, however unlike South Africa, I can’t simply bail this time because I don’t like it. Unless I move to mars:-) So I come down on the moderate side, negotiate, at some personal risk, until negotation is completely exhausted. The underlying reasons for injustice must be addressed to eliminate terrorism. Bush is embarking on an Israeli solution, as opposed to a British solution, and we are all getting sucked along in his wake. Ireland could have become another Palestine, but it didn’t because the extremists where not allowed to monopolise the dialogue.


There are extremists, moderates and could-care-less’s on both sides, the trick is not to let the extremists monopolise the dialogue. This is exactly what Bush (himself an extremist) has done. Only this time it’s global, and the current meme has the potential to become horribly self fulfilling.


Phew! Thats it from me for a while.

Well, personally, I find James Burnham’s simplistic caricature of liberals much easier to accommodate than this candid account of a real human being’s experiences with oppression from two sides!

Brian, could you please submit a bulletted version of this? Maybe two or three lines, so that we can easily distill it into something we can hate?

Fung, I find lots of truth in Burnham’s "caricature" of Leftists. They tend to be angry, self-righteous people, completely convinced of their own purity and cock-sure about their judgments of others. Really not much different than any religious fanatic.

And Brian, while there may be a few Wilsonian neo-cons out their who have a "messiah complex," most conservatives support the war effort out of self-interest. An attempt to bring democracy to the Arab/Islamic world is a form of long-term insurance against repeated 9/11’s. We understand it’s a crap-shoot, but the only other thing to do is appeasement (which hasn’t worked, now has it?).

They tend to be angry, self-righteous people, completely convinced of their own purity and cock-sure about their judgments of others. Really not much different than any religious fanatic.

Dain, how are you any different?

"....Forcing Turkey to threat their kurds...." Comment 22 by Brian Coughlan

Freudian slip there Coughlan?

Nice to know where you’re coming from

Now pass the ammo.

Evenin’ Coughlan. It’s 8:15am here. I’ve taken the day off work to go to the dentist at 10:15 so I can type to you for a while.

I’ve read your bio, now here’s just a bit of mine:

As you know, I’m an attorney. I also happen to be a prosecutor. In that capacity, I have seen many individuals, over the past 24 years, with whom negotiation was not an option, serial rapists and murderers, thugs and thieves. My job, as I see it, is to neutralize those individuals by putting them in a place where they cannot hurt innocents. I submit to you that Usama bin Laden and his co-Islamists are of such an ilk. I agree with you that the vast majority of Muslims, while they dance in the streets at the news of the twin towers bombings, are ignorant but can be sensitized to the fact that killing for the sake of their religion is wrong. But those who preach violence because their koran dictates it must be neutralized and words won’t do it.

"Usama bin Laden and his co-Islamists are of such an ilk..."

Guido, you may be right, but there are a couple of places where your argument breaks down: (1) Invading Iraq is not relevant to bin Laden. He is not there, was not there, and we might as well have invaded Portugal, if we wanted to put him where he could not hurt innocents.

(2) There is a big difference between a socially and culturally supported role such as yours (putting away dangerous antisocials) and acting as the world’s non-elected officer of the law, selecting who we will and will not prosecute. In the former case, you are acting out a socially prescribed role, and your actions are directed at the person responsible for a crime. In the latter, we are acting above (or independently of) world opinion and law, and we have involved thousands and thousands of innocent people. While we unseated Saddam, we did so without any consistent criterion, or standard that we can refer to, other than self-interest (and that is not the same as self-defense!) and utility, and feasibility.

So, if we map our Iraq adventure back onto your world, then we have played the part of the vigilante, or even of the antisocial that you prosecute for attacking others out of selfishness, utility, and feasibility.

Dain, are you going to answer Phil?

"Usama bin Laden and his co-Islamists are of such an ilk..."
Guido, you may be right, but there are a couple of places where your argument breaks down: (1) Invading Iraq is not relevant to bin Laden. He is not there...Comment 28 by Fung

But his ilk are and were before we went there.

(2) There is a big difference between a socially and culturally supported role such as yours (putting away dangerous antisocials) and acting as the world’s non-elected officer of the law, selecting who we will and will not prosecute.Comment 28 by Fung

I take it you believe Saddam Hussein is not of the same ilk as bin Laden. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that.

I saw a blog on "Front Page Magazine" yesterday, that tends to indicate Hussein was behind the attempted anthrax attack occurring right after the twin towers bombing. I’ll try to find the cite for you.

A human face Comment 32 by Brian Coughlan [E-Mail]

Ah, freedom of speech, courtesy of GWB, it’s a wonderful thing, ain’t it?

An attempt to bring democracy to the Arab/Islamic world is a form of long-term insurance against repeated 9/11’s. We understand it’s a crap-shoot, but the only other thing to do is appeasement (which hasn’t worked, now has it?).


Yes, Dain it’s a crap shoot sure enough, but it’s a crap shoot that someone else is paying for, specifically the Iraqi people.


However, it’s refreshing to hear someone on this site admit that this was a reckless gamble, on someone else’s tab, in a misguided effort to protect the american people.


Aside from the akward reality of the result itself, the action flies in the face of the accumulated wisdom of decades of dealing with terrorism. It was never likely to reduce terrorism in any meaningful way, and it is clear now that the most dire pre-war predictions are coming to pass. It gives me no pleasure to point this out.


However, it may give you pause for thought when the attack on Iran is tabled.


Lengthy negotations are nothing to be ashamed of, or embarrased by. They are not appeasement, most especially not when one of the parties is overwhelmingly more powerful than the other.

Ah, freedom of speech, courtesy of GWB, it’s a wonderful thing, ain’t it?


So that girls blog had no effect on you Guido? Left you completely unmoved?

Kinda like they negotiated with Arafat, Coughlan?

So that girls blog had no effect on you Guido? Left you completely unmoved? Comment 35 by Brian Coughlan

Of course I was moved by it. I hope, pray for and expect her life to improve dramatically in the near future. I do also, however, disagree with her view of the American military presence there. I believe the blog I cited to you the other day, written by the "bored soldier" is more accurate than her impression. They do care and they’re trying to make a difference.

I hope, pray for and expect her life to improve dramatically in the near future. I do also, however, disagree with her view of the American military presence there.


Glad to hear it. I read that guys blog now and again. He is one of the good guys, no doubt.

Coughlan,

We’re going to have to stop agreeing on things. People will start thinking our differences are negotiable.

If I’m angry it’s because you Lefties are so angry...anger against a foe that seems utterly irrational in wanting to tear down things I care about. I don’t think conservatives are the aggressors here...we aren’t trying to ’tranform’ the world, but to maintain the things we care about.

But like most conservative, I’m not an angry person by nature...indeed, recent "psychological" research demonstrates that conservatives are happier than you Leftist folks. Moreover, conserative wives get more out of marriage (in terms of peace of mind and perceived happiness) than your angry, bitter feminists who "consented" to marry.

If I had to find a word to describe most conservatives (and I mean conservatives, not libertarians), I say "disappointed." Homo Sapiens Sapiens has so many flaws, and yet so many real strengths. It’s a shame we so seldom live up to our potential. The difference between us and you, however, is we know that these problems inhere in human nature, and no amount of tinkering with ’nuture’ is likely to change things (e.g., the failure of Marxist experiments around the world). Tom Sowell calls this "the tragic vision of humanity," and that’s on target...it’s why so many believing Christians are also conservative.

OK, let the trashing begin.

So, the ONLY people paying for the War on Terror are the Iraqis?

Please, be real.

We fight in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Philipines, in the African continent, and in other parts of the world in this War on Terror SOLELY for selfish purposes and that is as it should be!

So, the ONLY people paying for the War on Terror are the Iraqis?


No, the US is certainly paying for the war in monetary terms.


Plus there has certainly been death and disaster on the US side. I think with deaths, and injuries, all told we are talking about 20,000?


However in terms of blood, death and disaster, the Iraqis are picking up the bulk of the tab on that one.

Kinda like they negotiated with Arafat, Coughlan?


Negotiations sometimes fail. Thats why they are called negotiations and not "slam-dunk-rubber-stamp-fests".

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