Thursday, October 30, 2008

Europe's Paradise still needs American Power

After finishing Judt’s 1996 book, A Grand Illusion? An Essay on Europe, I decided to see if I could find something more recent from him on the subject. I ran across the above, an article written for the NYROB entitled “Europe vs. America.” It was written in February 2005. In it he is much more critical of America than in his book. Perhaps he was influenced by the anti-American books he was reviewing and couldn’t help himself.

At one point Judt writes, “America’s strategy of global confrontation with Islam is not an option for Europe. It is a catastrophe.” I’m not sure what Judt means here. America doesn’t have a strategy of global confrontation with Islam.” Perhaps he meant “Islamism.” That would be true, but then why that would be a catastrophe for Europe is mystifying. I have noticed that Europeans, many of them, like to keep blinders on regarding the worsening situation regarding the Islamism they are not confronting. Now that strikes me as portending a catastrophe. I have written several articles in this blog on that subject already. Avoiding that confrontation isn’t going to make it go away. Taking comfort, for example in the fact that Muslims are only 9% of the French population seems rather naive. Not all of this 9% or 8% or whatever it is going to cause trouble, but Europeans don’t assimilate immigrants very well. This encourages them to live in enclaves where they hear Mullahs ranting against Christians and their ongoing Crusade against Islam. I’d like to hear how it is better to avoid confronting that problem, Mr. Judt.

Further down he refers to “Contemporary American pundits, the ‘terribles simplificateurs’ who babble glibly of Mars and Venus or Clashing Civilizations . . .”

Actually, Kagan’s book is very different from Huntington’s. The two books Judt is calling terrible oversimplifications are Robert Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power, America and Europe in the New World Order, and Samuel P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Perhaps Kagan’s book could be called an oversimplification. I wished when I read it that he had gone into more detail, but I wished the same thing when I read Judt’s book. These are essays not fully developed works of scholarship. That Kagan is capable of first-rate scholarship is well established (see his Dangerous Nation, America’s Place in the World from its earliest days to the dawn of the twentieth century). I would point out to Judt that his book Of Paradise and Power sits right next to Judt’s A Grand Illusion? on one of my shelves. The two books are almost exactly the same size. Is Judt’s being a terrible simplificateur in his book as well? The charge of oversimplification may depend on whether the reader likes what his reading. I rather liked Kagan’s book and didn’t have the same objections to it that Judt and Ash did

In fact my note earlier today I chided France and Europe for not being better prepared for a possible Bosnian war redivivus. Judt criticizes Kagan but in the 13 years since the end of the Bosnian war in 1995, Europe has done little to prepare itself for another such war. It still thinks of itself, apparently, as the “paradise” Kagan describes. Judt and Timothy Ash castigate him for doing so. They’ve had their laugh at Kagan’s oversimplification, but in the meantime those neighboring countries of yours, you Europeans, have gone on doing what neighboring countries have always done and your faith that their proximity to your European paradise is going to convert them hasn’t worked. Which means that once again the “Power” that Kagan refers to is going to have to be requested . . . or created by yourselves; something you have proven yourselves utterly inept at doing. You haven’t done it in 13 years, despite the lesson of the first Bosnia war. Why should anyone think you can do it now that Dodik is yanking on your chain? Yes, Kagan has engaged in some oversimplification. He has left out all the European self-justification and whining.

As to Huntington’s book, that is a very different matter. It is not an oversimplification. It rather clearly, in my opinion, describes a world order where clashes between “civilizations” at their “fault lines” occur and will continue to occur on into the foreseeable future. Note to Judt: What happened in Georgia recently fits Huntington’s description of a fault-line conflict. You in Europe have seen fit to swallow up some of the fault-line nations (from the fault line between the West and Orthodox civilizations). You scoffed at Huntington but you would have been better off reading him. You committed an error you could have avoided had you read him. Yeah, go after fault line nations if you have a mind to. Incorporate them into your EU, but be prepared to defend them and yourselves if anyone in the “Orthodox Civilization” objects. Your paradisiacal condition won’t protect you from Putin’s ire. You’ll have to dial that international 911 number and get hold of the American President.

Lawrence Helm

Re: France as the enemy supporter


I have written other notes where I speak of the proportion in France that is anti-American. It is more than 50%. If we elect a President who represents the U.S. with 50.1%, or even 49.1% of the vote we would speak of his actions as American.

Read the Frenchman Jean-Francois Revel's Anti-Americanism. Anti-Americanism is long standing and persistent in France. When America chased the Germans out of France, the paranoid French considered that one invader had been replaced by another. In the case of something done militarily by France, I don’t think it is unfair to say “France.”

When we helped the British prior to and during WWII, was it because we “loved the British”? I’d say so. Not “we” without exception but a sufficient “we” to say “we” in my humble opinion.

I’ve run across quite a few references to French Anti-Americanism. Jean-Francois Revel, not an anti-American, devoted a book to the subject. Tony Judt in Past Imperfect, French Intellectuals, 1944-1956 discusses the anti-Americanism at some length. The matter of thinking we were replacing the Nazis as occupiers of France was bizarre. Apparently most of the French thought that more or less seriously until we moved out.

I think modern French Anti-Americanism began with De Gaulle. Roosevelt didn’t like him or take him seriously – why should he, De Gaulle didn’t even have a nation? And De Gaulle held a grudge.

There is the matter of the French who danced in the street when Patton drove his tanks into Paris. The Anti-Americanism was most vocal among the intellectuals; which the people dancing in the street weren’t. But the intellectuals were influential back then. According to Judt in A Grand Illusion? An Essay on Europe, published in 1996, Leftist Intellectuals are no longer taken seriously in France, but in the meantime the anti-Americanism has become widespread. Just how deep it is remains to be seen. Obviously they would expect us to come to their defense if they got into trouble – if Russia invaded, for example or if Bosnia had another war; so they don’t hate us utterly. They just don’t like us. They have a list of bad things they say about us. And not just the French. Timothy Garton Ash in Free World: America, Europe, and the Surprising Future of the West, has a long list of America’s sins; which Judt applauded in a review he did of the book for the NYROB. Neither one of them seems to realize that America’s “sins” are all related to our not being a Welfare State.

To a large extent, the current anti-Americanism has focused upon Bush. I would almost like to see Obama elected president to see how the French and European anti-Americanism changed for the better initially and how it would change once again, this time for the worse, when it turned out that Obama was just another American president and not the savior of the world.

Lawrence Helm

Destructive dynamic occuring in Bosnia; France boosts Military spending

The above is a Washington Post article written by Edward Cody entitled “France Boosts Spending on Military.”

That title caught my attention. France boosting military spending? Is France at last pulling its head out of the sand? Maybe. France could have learned that it needed to boost military spending after the 1991 Bosnia debacle. Ridiculously, many in France blamed America for that: “The Europeans, the French especially, may resent the apparent ease with which U.S. involvement put a temporary end to the conflict in Bosnia, and there has been acerbic comment in the French press, noting that if the United States had wished, it could have achieved its present ends a lot earlier and thereby saved thousands of lives. . . .” [Judt, A Grand Illusion? An Essay on Europe, p. 138].

Over here on the sensible side of the Atlantic, we thought that Bosnian crisis was a European problem. Europeans had their own military forces. They didn’t have to take them very far. Bosnia was in Europe. Had the U.S. barged in as the French press apparently thought appropriate, the French would have criticized us for that as well. Who did America think it was barging about the world and sticking its nose in places it didn’t belong? The French didn’t seem capable of learning the real lesson, namely that Europe either as a whole in NATO, or as individual nations needed military forces sufficient to solve its problems. It did no good to let “thousands of lives” be lost and then complain that the U.S. should have crossed the Atlantic to come to Europe’s aid sooner.

Tony Judt wrote A Grand Illusion? in 1996. Now another Bosnian crisis may be on the way: This is an article by Richard Holbrooke and Paddy Ashdown. They think Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik is up to no good: “he has, in two years, reversed much of the real progress in Bosnia over the past 13, crucially weakened the institutions of the Bosnian state and all but stopped the country’s evolution into a function (and EU-compatible) state. . . As a result, the suspicion and fear that began the war in 1992 has been reinvigorated. A destructive dynamic is accelerating, and Bosnian and Croat nationalism is on the rise. . . . While the Bush administration largely turned its back on Bosnia, the EU became deeply engaged; EU membership has been the critical lever for pressing reforms in Bosnia since it was made policy in 2003. But the EU did not develop a coherent strategy, and by proclaiming progress where it has not been achieved, the EU weakened not only its own influence in the country, but also the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and the international military presence (the European Union Force, EUFOR, which succeeded NATO) the drivers of progress in Bosnia since Dayton.”

France and the EU has had 13 years since America “brought an end to Bosnia’s three-and-a-half-year war.” Has it used this time well? If they should go back to war in Bosnia is some entity in Europe ready to jump in and fix things? Hey you guys, you’ve had 13 years. What have you been doing?

Well, we see what they’ve been doing. They told the Serbs that unless they played nice they couldn’t be considered a “EU-compatible” state. It doesn’t sound as though that’s working very well. It sounds as though Dodik would rather Bosnia was a Russia-compatible-state. You can’t threaten Dodik. You can’t tell him that if he misbehaves you’re going to send EUFOR after him. He would think that’s funny. Shoot, I think that’s funny.

Getting back to the Washington Post article on France’s increase in military spending. It turns out they are worried about losing 10 French soldiers in an ambush near Kabul. They want to spend the money on more reconnaissance satellites, an antimissile alert system, and reconnaissance personnel. They are worried about Afghanistan, not Bosnia. We may be overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan but if Dodik and the others in Bosnia decided to have a little war, the French Press will be sure to demand that the U.S. rush back over there and end it. Does anyone in France see the absurdity in that?

Lawrence Helm

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Re: France as the enemy supporter

Lawrence: Two other possibilities present themselves:
1) they sold arms to Saddam because they loved him, or
2) they gave arms to Saddam because they hated
the Anglo-Americans. And since these options aren't
mutually exclusive, both could be true. Another [3]
possibility is that the various manufacturers of the
military equipment sold to Saddam could have been sold
for cold-blooded-profit and no other reason.

The arms sale could also have been (4) a secret
precondition of the Total Petrofina, SA oil-rights
deal. It might even have been a precondition to a
larger "package," involving construction, capital
goods, or any number of commodities.

Further, you are equating Chirac with France. That's
like equating Bill Clinton with the USA. There are
leftist intellectuals and there are corrupt politicians
pretending to be leftists or using leftism as a general
mask. The two groups are not identical. The former are
predictable ideologues; the latter go wherever the
money is.

All the best,

PS: It's also worth noting that US "country-style line
dancing" is a rage in Paris, complete with the ten
gallon hats. As with many other countries, the
perception of the US is probably love/hate.

France as an enemy supporter

I’ve been reading Treachery, How America’s Friends and Foes are secretly arming our enemies, 2004, by Bill Gertz. Gertz begins with a description of Major Ewald, flying an A10 in the war against Saddam’s army being shot down by a French built Roland Missile. The French claimed the missile was delivered to Saddam before the U.N. imposed sanctions in 1991. The [American] ”Defense Department in February 2004 disputed that claim. The report concluded that ‘while Iraq had Roland missiles before Operation Desert Storm [the 1991 war], the serial number on the missile indicates that transfers occurred after 1991. . . Nor were missiles the only French-made war-fighting equipment the Americans discovered in the early weeks of the war. Captured Iraqi military trucks had French radios, and surrendering Iraqi officers were driving French-made pickup trucks. Americans captured numerous RPGs – rocket-propelled grenades – that had French-made night sights; many of these were dated 2002.”

Why were the French supplying Saddam military equipment at the same time his forces were firing on American and British aircraft that were overflying Iraq daily to keep Iraq from exacting revenge against the Kurds and Shiites who supported the UN forces during Desert Storm? Here in America we’ve deregulated a lot of things. Perhaps that’s the answer. France deregulated the sale of weapons and weapon manufacturers sold them to Saddam without the knowledge of the government or the people . . . Is that possible? Perhaps, but I doubt it.

Two other possibilities present themselves: 1) they sold arms to Saddam because they loved him, or 2) they gave arms to Saddam because they hated the Anglo-Americans. And since these options aren’t mutually exclusive, both could be true.

Another possibility is that the various manufacturers of the military equipment sold to Saddam could have been sold for cold-blooded-profit and no other reason. That possibility is problematic because the Iraq war was not over. A conditional truce was in effect stating that the war wouldn’t be resumed as long as Saddam behaved himself. Actually, his shooting at American and British planes every week violated the truce, but we weren’t anxious to resume the war so we turned the other cheek. Even so, for the French to collude with Saddam in his truce-breaking, which selling military equipment to him clearly was, seems rather unfriendly of them.

One thinks of the Bush Doctrine, the part where Bush said something to the effect that we are going to consider those who supported our enemy as guilty as the enemy himself. That strikes me as one of the more nonsensical things that he said. He and his staff hadn’t thought that one through – or else they had certain nations in mind and didn’t mean the French. The French had been and would continue to support our enemy and we weren’t going to do anything about it.

Despite the accusations of unilateralism (whatever that means) and Imperialism (which is nonsense) it is very hard to get America into a war. A very good case needs to be presented to the Congress and the American people before we are up for one. Getting us up to fight a war against enemy-supporter France would be an impossibility. I’ve run various scenarios through my mind and can’t think of a French provocation so severe that we would declare war against them. Besides, we’ve plenty of Leftists here in our own nation who supported Saddam. They claimed they were only opposing the war against him, but he could do nothing so horrible that they would want to remove him from power. Bush, they said, was horrible and should be impeached, but Saddam should be left alone – a squirrelly crew they were, and still are if the truth be known. They are all out there today trying to get Obama elected. Shoot, if the truth be known and they had the ability, our own Leftists would have sold Saddam Roland Missiles.


Lawrence Helm

Monday, October 27, 2008

Liberal fears in 2002 that Bush intended to dominate the world

I was looking through my archives to see when it was I voiced the opinion that the Democratic successor to Bush would (I hoped) have to follow his foreign policies, a view presented in the recently published, After Bush: The Case for Continuity in American Foreign Policy. I didn’t find that note of mine but ran across the following bizarre note in response to a Liberal belief (in October 2002) that Bush intended to dominate the world. Phil-Lit was a discussion group, now defunct, I belonged to for several years. It is useful, I believe, to occasionally go back and check earlier opinions to find out if one were right or wrong. I wonder if Liberals ever do that. What follows is my note from October 2002:

“I confess to not having followed the Phil-Lit goings-on very closely in recent weeks, but I did catch the recent Phil-Lit innovative the accusation that Bush is seeking to dominate the world -- quite a remarkable accomplishment, intellectually speaking. Although I doubt that anyone can produce a plausible scenario that would accomplish this hypothetical domination.

“In the real-world, of course, such domination is an absurdity, quite impossible unless one were to define domination in such a way as to not dominate anyone, or at least not dominate them in the sense of the word that my dictionary provides, i.e., ‘to rule or control by superior power or influence.’ How one could get any domination out of the Bush-administration’s pussy-footing about with the UN and Congress is quite a feat. Since Hitler was invoked as a comparison, another absurdity by the way (what panic is causing this current predilection for absurd comparisons and impossible hyperboles?), consider what Hitler would have done in an equivalent situation (not that he dominated the world, but he was, to be sure, bent upon dominating a good part of it): He would have blitzkrieged through Iraq some months ago and then given the people a rousing speech about how he had saved the Fatherland.

“By contrast, we have no dominant political leader with desires to dominate the world. What we have is quite a small thing by comparison. We were outrageously attacked, and our people expect the current administration to do something about it. The administration decided that the US would fight against those who had declared war upon it -- not an unreasonable reaction, and quite the furthest thing from an attempt to dominate others. A much better case could be made for its being an attempt to avoid domination by a set of warlike groups who have declared war upon us and have threatened to defeat us, and, further, have carried their threats into actions against us.

“The first battle was completed in Afghanistan. Two groups, the Taliban and the Al Quaeda, were defeated, and while Al Quaeda has cells throughout the world, we have at least given them a set-back. They haven’t been utterly destroyed, but they suffered a defeat. But what should we do next? There were quite a number of people who felt that we had done enough -- a little tit for tat and be done with it. The current administration, however, does not feel comfortable that threats against the US have been eliminated. Yes, we have in earlier times launched cruise missiles into nations that have offended us, but the effectiveness of that approach has not been demonstrated. Thus, step two, in the war against those who have declared war upon us, is (for reasons enumerated elsewhere) to deal with Iraq.

“There is to be no surprise attack, no blitzkrieg rushing across the sands toward Baghdad. There has instead been an investigation, and a building of a case similar to what might occur in a trial. The evidence has been accumulated and presented to the UN and to congress. The administration is asking for the support of congress in this second step. There is every indication that it has judged the mood of the country correctly. It is not satisfied that the efforts in Afghanistan and against Al Quaida are enough. It is aware of what is being said about us in many places in the Middle East. Saddam Hussein shakes his fist at us and fires his Moisin Nagent into the air. Is he a harmless blustering buffoon? Or ought he to be taken seriously? Quite a number of people wanted to see the evidence, wanted to hear the argument for doing something about Hussein. Well, we have seen the evidence and heard the arguments. There are those who think we should live with the threat Saddam Hussein represents, but we (most of us) can understand (after thinking it over) why the administration would want to do something about him as a continuation of the reaction against the attack against us that emanated from the Middle East.

There are those on Phil-Lit who think the current administration’s actions portend "World Domination." It is too bad that no one in Phil-Lit is especially interested in hermeneutics. Parallels to this sort of reading of Bush’s texts are to be found in Harold Bloom’s The Map of Misreading for example. Reading such hermeneuticists as Hans Georg Gadamer, Hayden White, and R. G. Collingwood, might induce a bit of caution in our reading of those we disagree with. To take the worst possible construction isn’t to get the real truth out of the text; it is to expose our own presuppositions. To accuse Bush of planning World Domination doesn’t tell us much about Bush, for only the most resolute misreading could get such a plan from the texts of his speeches, but it does tell us quite a lot about those who would advance such an accusation.

Lawrence Helm

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Massive Obama Portrait near Barcelona Beach

I’ve been considering a hypothetical NAU (North American Union), but it would be easier to incorporate some of the European Nations into a Union of some sort – rather than Canada and Mexico. The above article is about an artist who has been granted a huge amount of land in Spain so he can create a gigantic portrait of Obama.

I am reminded of the Chancellor in Star Wars who was granted Hitler-type powers to deal with the rebels. The Republic (it was a Republic at the time it granted him these powers) trusted him completely. There was no mention of gigantic portraits of him, but they wouldn’t have been out of order. It turned out the Chancellor was secretly a Sith Lord committed to the “Dark Side.” He didn’t relinquish his extra powers when the rebels were defeated. Instead he converted the “Republic” into an “Empire.”

But it wasn’t just Hitler who did this. It is “natural” in human history for a leader to want to retain power once it is given to him. Cromwell didn’t relinquish power during his life-time, but in a way he did because he wouldn’t pass leadership to his son. Presumably the Star Wars Sith Lord wasn’t going to die; so he wouldn’t have Cromwell’s problem. George Washington may have been unique for that time in history by refusing to become a king in America. There were those who urged that upon him.

I read some opinions about what people in various nations expect from an Obama presidency: After presenting various opinions, I concluded, “what effect would an Obama presidency have on our future foreign policy? The impression I get is not much. The “man in the street” almost everywhere in the world likes the idea of Obama, but the serious student of foreign policy, almost everywhere, warns that all those street-walkers are sure to be disappointed when they see what Obama actually does after he becomes president. Muslims like it that he has an Islamic heritage. Africans like it that he has an African heritage. Leftists in Europe like it that he is Leftist. But more serious minds caution that when push comes to shove, he is going to place American interests first. He will not favor Muslim or African interests over American interests. He may wish to favor Leftist issues, but he won’t go as far as Europeans want. And even if he would secretly want to move the nation further to the Left, political exigencies will constrain him.”

But these serious students of foreign policy are assuming that Obama will follow in the footsteps of Washington and relinquish the presidency when his terms are up. None of them are assuming he is secretly a Sith Lord.

Lawrence Helm

Should we emulate the EU?

This question isn’t a frivolous one. We have a presidential candidate who thinks we should consult the EU on matters of diplomacy and shouldn’t go to war unless we have their cooperation and approval. How sturdy is this EU rock the American Left wants to establish its foreign policy upon?

On page 26 of A Grand Illusion, an Essay on Europe, Tony Judt writes, “The Second World war was peculiar both in that it had divided countries against themselves and in that almost every European participant lost. It thus had the interesting and lasting consequence of giving the sub-Continent something else in common: a shared recent memory of war, civil war, occupation, and defeat. Despite the huge human losses of the First World War the sense of a common experience of conflict and destruction was far greater after 1945. As a result, Europeans became, collectively, ‘defeatist’ – not only unwilling to fight one another anymore but wary of any commitment to fighting at all.

“This was not very surprising: Austria had, by 1945, lost six wars in succession since the time of Metternich: France had suffered three costly and debilitating continental wars in the span of one man’s lifetime, from each of which the country emerged poorer and weaker. Belgium had been fought over and occupied twice in thirty years. It is significant that ever since 1945 opinion polls across western Europe show a consistent reluctance on the part of most people to express any confidence in their own state’s military capacity, little support for high military expenditure, and no sustained inclination to treat military prowess as a measure of national greatness. The two outstanding exceptions to this pattern are Great Britain and Finland – the only two west European states to have emerge from the second World War with a creditable military record of which to boast.”

COMMENT: This is something all Americans know more or less, and yet a great number of them believe that Europe is wiser in terms of diplomacy and the use of military power. Perhaps the Americans who want to look to Europe in these matters are at heart pacifists and so the European pacifism resonates with them. Europe learned their pacifism the hard way – as though some bully beat up a smaller boy who kept getting up. The boy kept getting up and the bully kept knocking him down. At last when the boy could get up no longer he had finally learned defeat. He had become a pacifist the hard way.

But America has not been knocked down in that way. We have not suffered European-type defeats. Yes, we suffered a defeat of sorts in Vietnam, but that was the sort of thing the British, in their empire days took in stride. Stiff-upper-lip, you know. We’ll whip them next year if we need to. No, the American pacifists, I suspect, grew their pacifism as a rationalization for their unwillingness to fight in Vietnam. The alternative would be to admit to cowardice. It is much better to become a pacifist. Look at Europe. They have a whole sub-continent full of them.

As a further reflection upon my hypothetical NAU ( North American Union -- see ) we do have NAFTA, which is the sort of agreement that Europeans used to build upon in order to grow their EU. However, the Europeans sought a sort of huddling together. We have all been beaten, abused, and raped; so let’s hunker down in our pacifistic EU. Neither Canada, Mexico, nor the U.S. have had that experience. Canada and Mexico haven’t had the experience of being great conquering nations, but neither have they had the European experience of being conquered. There would be difficulties bringing these three nations together, but not European-type difficulties, and least I don’t think so.

In I wrote,”In regard to Japan, the Journalist, Hiro Aida wrote, “During the height of U.S.-Japan tensions in the 1980s, a friend of mine, a Japanese trade lawyer qualified for the DC and New York bars, said that the best way to solve all our bilateral troubles was for Japan to become the 51st state of the United States. This would by definition eliminate “international’ trade frictions between us and, moreover, the relatively populous ‘state’ of Japan would gain more than a quarter of all the seats in the House of Representatives – a political block so huge that it could dominate U.S. trade policies! My friend, clearly, was either joking or crazy. Even so, it is worth asking whether Japan would be a red or a blue 51st state. It is blue at the moment, but not so blue as France where 85 percent support Barack Obama. Japan would be a blue state with motley red spots, particularly among the leadership elite.”

If we considered, hypothetically – just for the sake of making a point, Canada and Mexico as the 51st and 52nd states, we would be committing ourselves to being utterly blue forever, I fear, but consider the sort of blueness we would be. Yes, blue and therefore liberal and unwarlike . . . except we have not ever suffered the sort of defeat the Europeans have, and if push came to shove (our blueness being only skin deep), we would enter a future war with the confidence that we could win it – something the Europeans have apparently lost the ability to imagine.

Lawrence Helm

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A North American Union like the EU

I’ve just begun Tony Judt’s A Grand Illusion? Subtitled, “an Essay on Europe.” The book was written in 1996, but the title suggests that he was probably prescient. The European Union failed to obtain the support it needed to make it a meta-nation. However, the EU has a certain level of coherence that is working.

Which caused me to think about the possibility of an NAU, a North American Union. From a conservative standpoint, an NAU would be anathema. It would almost by definition infringe upon or at the very least corrupt our “American way of life” as described in our constitution, Bill of Rights, etc. But given the fact that we seem about ready to elect a president whose political philosophy is consistent with the dominant philosophy of Europe, who calls himself a “Progessive,” which means progressing toward a European sort of Leftism, we might at least think about an NAU. After all it seems to be working for Europe. Why couldn’t it work here?

Mind you, I’m writing this article as the investigation of a hypothesis. I won’t be voting for Obama and do not agree with the dominant philosophy of Europe, but that is no reason not to look at it and think about it.

According to the CIA fact book, the EU has a population of 491,018, 683 and a GDP of 14,430 trillion. It’s GDP per capita is $32,700. Its area is less than half the size of the U.S.

If we group my hypothetical NAU nations (Canada, Mexico & the U.S.) together, their combined population is 446,900,000. Their combined GDP is 16,625 trillion.

Mexico has the lowest GDP but not as low as one might think, $1,353 trillion. It has a population of 110,000,000 and a GDP per person of $12,400; which is much lower than Canada’s GDP per person of $38,600 and the U.S. $45,800. But when you think of the nations in the EU, Poland has a GDP per person of $16,200, and Romania $11,100. The EU is apparently working things out with Romania, Poland and some of the other nations with low GDPs per person. Presumably we could work with Mexico as well.

One advantage would be the elimination of the illegal immigration problem in one fell swoop. We could make Mexico’s membership contingent upon their identifying and keeping track of all their citizens. Mexicans could then come to the US or Canada and work to their heart’s content, but they could not become American or Canadian citizens by virtue of working here. Citizenship would be granted in the old-fashioned legal method. Mexicans would no longer need Green Cards. Their Mexican citizenship cards would do.

We have many problems with Mexico – that is problems with Mexican problems, but I can’t imagine that an NAU would make any of these problems worse. In fact it might provide an incentive for the Mexican government to do more than it has. We should bear in mind that the Mexican government has already done quite a lot. Agencies that evaluate third-world nations consider Mexico a promising “emerging market.” They think Mexico is getting better; which would mean that the problems we worry about would lessen with time.

Canada and Mexico might like a say in regard to when the U.S. decides to go to war, but Obama would already like to give them one. He would like to give the whole U.N. a say, so it shouldn’t hurt to give Mexico & Canada a say early on.

Why do I, being a conservative, sound so “upbeat” about this matter? Well, in an earlier note I established that there was no place for us to go if Obama was elected; so I may as well make the best of it. Life does not end just because one is a Left-Wing Canadian or European.

Lawrence Helm

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fukuyama Ubber Alles & French National Socialism

In reading Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut’s Heidegger and Modernity, I was especially struck by the idea that Heidegger considered Capitalism to be the “Right Wing” to Communisms “Left Wing.” He considered Fascism to be the middle ground. It should go without saying that what I say here is a vast oversimplification. Heidegger may never in his life have said anything that was simple, but he did object to the American form of Capitalism which he apparently termed “businessism” at some point.

The occasion of Ferry & Renaut’s book was new-found, or at least newly publicized, evidence of Heidegger’s involvement with National Socialism. Victor Farias was the scholar who published speeches from Heidegger’s Rectorate days that showed him much more the Nazi than was the common view in France. Of course Farias was excoriated. The French Left feels free to go beyond mere evidence to the “essence” of a thing. One of their phrases, I’ve run across several times, is “it was right to be wrong” about a certain thing. And they believed it was right to be wrong about Heidegger. After the collapse of the possibility of believing in Communism they gave Liberal Democracy a look, and though Fukuyama considered it the clear winner in the battle with the only other two viable systems, Communism and Fascism, the French couldn’t stomach it. They chose to invent their own Leftism based upon a certain understanding of Heidegger – a Leftism like no other; so of course Farias had to be attacked. And apparently it was easy to attack him. He wasn’t a careful proofreader; so the French Left nit-picked him to death – well not completely to death. His main arguments remained intact.

The attacks against Farias took two forms. The first was to attack his evidence. By pointing to his typos, they could argue that such a sloppy scholar could not be trusted. But many looked beyond the typos to the actual speeches Heidegger gave when he was Rector at Marburg and took a different tact. It was right to be wrong about Heidegger. French Leftism, though it was based upon Heidegger’s arguments, was too big and too right (correct) to be hampered by Heidegger’s seeming involvement with National Socialism in the 30s. Can any of us be correct all the time? No, of course not. So let’s take the wonderful things Heidegger did write and move on.

The Germans don’t seem capable of forgiving Heidegger. Perhaps Heidegger could have hidden behind the obscurity of Sein and Zeit, which few people can read and even fewer understand, but there were all those Rectorate speeches and then he wrote a huge four-volume work on that prototypical Nazi, Frederick Nietzsche.

Given the Heidegger-French view that their modified National Socialism (never to be actually “called” that, of course) is in the middle, between Communism on the Left and American Liberal Democracy on the Right then Francis Fukuyama may have been premature in declaring History at an end. Liberal Democracy seemed to be the clear winner when Fukuyama wrote his book in 1992, but he may have been too quick to count out Fascism. Yes, we can make light of the ugly exemplifications of Fascism that we saw in Saddam Hussein and that we see in Islamism, but they don’t represent a serious threat to Liberal Democracy. Fukuyama discussed them in his book. They can’t compete. But Heidegger’s National Socialism can compete. In a 1940 lecture on Nietzsche, Heidegger said,

“What Nietzsche by that time had already recognized is now apparent to us: that the modern ‘mechanical economy, the mechanical calculation of all action and all planning in its absolute form, requires a new humanity, one that surpasses what man has been thus far. It is not enough to possess tanks, airplanes and radio; nor is it enough to have individuals available who are capable of manipulating engines and instruments of this kind; it is not even enough that man should be able to master technology as if it were something inherently neutral, beyond profit and loss, gains and damages, construction and destruction – something usable at anyone’s whim for any purpose. For that, a humanity is needed that will be thoroughly conformable to the basic and singular essence of modern technology and to it metaphysical truth, that is, a humanity that will allow itself to be totally dominated by the essence of technology precisely in order to control and make use of the various processes and possibilities of technology.” [Ferry & Renaut, p. 63]

COMMENT: Heidegger downplayed his interest in the “Overman” after the war. The time for his interest in “a new humanity” was over. And the French Leftists aren’t interested in an “overman” either, but they are interested in a “Progressive,” kinder, gentler, better Socialism. It wouldn’t do to call it National Socialism, but the French do see themselves placed between a Communism on the Left and American Liberal Democracy on the Right – which is coincidentally where Heidegger saw his National Socialism.

I would ask Heidegger the question, were he still alive, do you see or imagine any modern “overman” or society of overmen (including the French) who are more “totally dominated by the essence of technology” than the enclaves of Americans that arise from such places as Silicon Valley? We Liberal Democrats don’t have much control over them. They aren’t unified, but they, arguably, produce more and better than anyone in the world. I once read Nietzsche. His ubermensch was nihilistic, beyond good and evil, and many of our modern day entrepreneurs give the impression that they consider themselves ubermensch.

On the downside, a gaggle of CEOs recently considered themselves in the same terms. Our current financial difficulties are to some extent due to their nihilism. It seems that we in our American Liberal Democracy can only control such “overmen” after the fact. If they do good and create Microsoft then we applaud them. But if they do evil, we want to see them punished.

It isn’t a top-down totalitarian control Joseph Goebbels would approve of, but it seems to give good leeway to our entrepreneurs while at the same time permitting us to deal with those who use their nihilistic freedom to harm others.

Also, I am very suspicious of French intellectuals. I remember that Sartre said the mark of a true intellectual was “conviction” rather than “practice” The French intellectuals might be happy to be wrong about Heidegger’s “practice” while being right about his “conviction,” with nothing at all put into practice or be ashamed of.

So the upshot wouldn’t be that there is viable rival system to American Liberal Democracy, but that there is a way for French anti-Americanism to live on. At day’s end the French system will look just like the American, but they will call it something else.

Lawrence Helm

Was Gadamer Right Wing?

The author of the above article is Jeet Heer. I read the “about” section this morning and learned that he “is writing a doctoral thesis on the cultural politics of Little Orphan Annie at York University (Toronto).” I did notice that the “ten top right wing” section on cartoonists seemed much more knowledgeable and esoteric than the others. I commented on the question of Heidegger being “Right Wing” in a note yesterday, but I notice that he also has Hans-Georg Gadamer on his “top ten right-wing philosophers” list. Why?

I have seen no reason to suspect Heer of any deep-seated understanding of philosophy and so think his reasoning behind placing Gadamer on this list may be nothing deeper than knowing he was a student of Heidegger. Now, I am fond of Gadamer and since I am I conservative (American “Right-Wing”), I wonder (in a spirit of self-analysis) if perhaps I had some sort of unconscious “Right-Wing-type” affinity for him. I gave the matter some thought this morning and couldn’t come up with anything. If Heer had argued that Gadamer was “Left Wing” I would at least have some idea what he was talking about. Gadamer was opposed to “Methods of Interpretations,” as am I. A “method” that presupposed the truth of Marxism-Leninism could be criticized using Gadamer’s approach, but a “method” presupposing the truths in the American Constitution, and Bill of Rights could also be criticized. I would have taken that criticism as plausible and been willing to defend Constitutional tenets in modern terms – and have. But I don’t think Heer has this sort of thing in mind.

Gadamer has also taken some flack in Christian circles because many of the denominations do have “Methods of Interpretations.” Dallas Theological Seminary, for example, has been influenced by the “Methods of Interpretation” of Darby and Chafer.

I’m not sure Gadamer even knew who Darby and Chafer were. His approach to Hermeneutics was such that I applied it to the “Methods” of Darby and Chafer. It provided a hermeneutical framework for evaluating their “Method(s).” Do you approach Biblical Truth more closely if you apply a method that causes you to treat expressions like “end times” the same way every time you encounter it and to treat all Biblical Prophecy as literalistically as possible, or do you avoid these “method,” and seek whatever it is that the text says?

I had no difficulty choosing Gadamer’s hermeneutical approach over Marx’s, Lenin’s, Darby’s and Chafer’s, but what of the more Conservative “methods”? It depends. If a Biblical commentator has an ax to grind, then he may be imposing a method which Gadamer might find suspect, and such commentators exist, but I’ve found many commentators who do not use methods. They seek to discover whatever the text says – whatever that might be.

Germanic theological Scholarship did apply a “method.” It’s “method” consisted of the presupposition that all the Biblical Texts had been written by men without supernatural influence. They therefore resolved to treat Biblical Texts just like they would treat Homer. They imposed a presupposition that precluded the conclusion that Christians have drawn during their entire history, that the Bible was inspired by God. I have no difficulty apply Gadamer’s approach to this Germanic “method.”

I haven’t been terribly interested in Gadamer beyond his writings on Hermeneutics, but I did wonder what he saw in Heidegger. In fact his appreciation for Heidegger caused me to read him more seriously than I might otherwise have done. If I were planning to live to be 200 rather than the mere 100 years that Gadamer lived, I would like to compare Heidegger’s opinions about the “Will” to those of Jonathan Edwards . . . but maybe someone has already done that.

I would be surprised if Gadamer were terribly interested in modern-day politics. Toward the end of his life he seemed much more interested in Greek Poetry. He was very fond of poetry, which is another reason I liked him. But “Right Wing”? I don’t see it. Someone would have to explain that to me.

Lawrence Helm

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Best Tools

But after that were

The Marines who might be said

To most aggressively confront

The world, and I wished the best

Tools, feeling there was too much

Already out there

To have to recreate.

From five-hundred yards

I could see the bull’s eye

And hit it all ten times.

I was ready for anything

After that. The weaknesses

Of Twain, the novel Dreiser

Failed to write,

The Open Boat that carried

Me into other seas

I needed to navigate

Like Slocum voyaging

Around the world


In his Snark.

What is the American "Right Wing"?

Someone sent me this blog of lists of “right wing” poets, philosophers, novelists, etc. I have a problem with the concept, that is, the premises of these lists – as they apply to America. The assumption is that Fascism is the extreme “right wing,” but that isn’t accurate when we think of the U.S., and I’m not sure it’s true anywhere. Also, notice that the list of “right-wing” philosophers includes Heidegger; whereas Heidegger is the philosophical patron saint of French Leftists. So a good deal of elaboration and discussion is called for and since these blog lists are a year old, I don’t think it is going to occur on the above blog.

Ferry and Renaut write in Heidegger and Modernity, page 11, “the man who was more than a fellow traveler to Nazism became the chief ‘philosopher of the left’ in contemporary France.” So why did Jeet Heer list Heidegger as a Right Wing philosopher? I suspect it was merely his fellow travelling with Nazism that did it for Heer, but is that enough? I don’t think so. In studying modern day Islamists and Islamic leaders we see that they were attracted to the “tactics” of both the Nazis and Stalinistic-Communists. And there isn’t much difference between them in terms of tactics. Nazism and Communism were both totalitarian systems, and Islamism being also totalitarian is naturally attracted to their tactics.

Is Heidegger, being “right wing” according to Heer relatable to any “right-wingness” here in the U.S.? Not so you’d notice. You can relate his philosophy to the Left wing through the French filter, but there isn’t any relationship I can see to the American “Right Wing.”

And we should try to understand what it means to be “right wing” in America. It isn’t being fascistic. It is harking back to the original philosophy of our founding fathers. It is “conservatism” in the sense that it means retaining what was originally established by the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Fascism. Also, it is suspicious of what is currently being called “Progressive.” We conservatives don’t want to “Progress” beyond our original philosophy. We don’t believe anyone has anything better. “Progressive” implies a movement toward something “improved” or “better,” but what could that be?

Heidegger was looking for a middle ground. He didn’t like Communism on the “left” and he didn’t like “American-style businessism” on the right. He was looking for something in between – a middle ground. That’s what he imagined when he envisioned his own personal Fascism (op cit, p. 15).

I take Heidegger’s assessment about the U.S. as fair. We prefer the term “Liberal Democracy,” but “American-style businessism” works as well. Heidegger didn’t look for Fascism in America and neither should Jeet Heer. We are the American-style businessists, aka, Liberal Democrats. The French Left has a problem with Fascism. There are Fascists in their closets. Not only were French Intellectuals “fellow travelers” during their Vichy period but in seeking an alternative to Communism after they could no longer stomach it, they cleaned up Heidegger and made him a respectable Leftist. Well, why not?

While “Right Wing” meaning “Fascism” doesn’t really work when applied to American Conservatism, “Left Wing” meaning “Marxism-Leninism” does work when applied to American Progressivism. I’ve discussed this elsewhere won’t hammer it again here. The Soviet Marxist-Leninist propagandists did a superb job over here during and after WWII. Which isn’t to say that we couldn’t have had a strong Fascist movement in the U.S. – hypothetically. But the Nazis were never interested in us in that way. They were interested in the pure Anglo-Saxon Britains, but not the mongrelized Americans. We were ruined racially and so didn’t qualify for favorable treatment by the Nazis. Would that the Soviet Marxist-Leninists felt the same way about us.

Lawrence Helm

Saturday, October 18, 2008

When the Left comes to Power

“. . . and, should the left chance to come to power, [it] will be, if not reduced to silence, at least forced to adopt a new strategy.”

The above is a quote from Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut’s Heidegger and Modernity, 1990, page 11. The context us that in criticizing the norms and acts of society, intellectuals are “playing the game of democracy.” Should these out of power intellectuals ever be elected to power, their “game” of criticizing the established government must come to an end because their side has won. They have become the establishment. So they must either keep their mouths shut or seek to carry out some of the alternate proposals they offered while they were playing the game of democracy and deriding the establishment.

Ferry and Renaut are concerned about French intellectuals. Here in the U.S. we can reflect that when we Conservatives were out of power, our Conservative intellectuals, some of them, made recommendations. After our side won, they attempted to put their alternate proposals into effect and became known as Neocons in the process. Playing the game of Democracy, i.e., criticizing the establishment, for these Neocons had to be abandoned once their side came to power. . . although some of them, e.g., Francis Fukuyama, chose to “play the game” despite seeing his side elected to power.

Recall the famous Michelle Obama gaff? “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change.” That’s the sort of thing the wife of an out-of-power politician might say about “the establishment.” But she might very well become the establishment; so I’m sure Leftist advisors pounced on her and made her comment about her statement in such a way as to make it seem something other than what it was. If she becomes first lady, she will not be permitted to say that she is not proud of her country. If she really feels the way her original statement implied, then she will have either to keep her mouth shut of take a new tack. A new tack should be easy for her if she is living in the White house.

As to what Barack Obama and his Leftist and Democrat collaborators might attempt, whatever It is, he will not be able to “play the game of democracy” by criticizing the established government. He won’t be able to engage in negativity about the Executive Branch of the government – nor the Legislative Branch if the Democrats retain power. His new position will have to be, in essence, “we are attempting to do good. Here is what we want to do. We shall now set about doing it.”

Then it will be up to the out-of-office Conservatives, Neocons or not, to “play the game of democracy” and criticize the established government.

The extreme wing of “Leftism,” which Obama may or may not exemplify, longs for a “better Communism.” These Leftists feel that Capitalism is not the best form of government and a Communism with the Stalinistic kinks smoothed out might work much better. “Progressive” is a modern euphemism for this sort of Leftist. They want to “progress” beyond Capitalism (aka Liberal Democracy) and toward a “better Communism.” Will Obama attempt to “progress” toward a “better Communism”? I sincerely hope not. He has had time to learn about our government and hopefully he has learned to like what he sees. Hopefully he has abandoned his early attraction to the likes of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

It should be noted that Stalinistic Communism, the only Communism that has ever existed, did not let its intellectuals “play the game of democracy.” If any of them were so foolish as to try, they were shipped off to a Gulag in Siberia.

One of the things Sartre said about Intellectuals was that their job was in the realm of “conviction” rather than “responsibility.” If this is true, if intellectuals even today, believe this, we can see why they feel no need to follow the logic of their “convictions.” They can believe in a “better Communism” because in its ideal (as they imagine it) it is perfect and therefore much better than Liberal Democracy. If a Conservative intellectual were to argue that it wouldn’t work as they imagine, that a dictator would be sure to arise who would place the exigencies of staying in power above the welfare of the people, they would with starry eyes look at us and pity our sublunary intellectualism.

Lawrence Helm

Friday, October 17, 2008

Twilight in the Corn Field

It is twilight, but darkening

And what I think I see

May be something else

Or nothing at all.

Sage sniffs the air and looks

Out across this recently

Shorn field. I can see

The farmer’s lights now

That the corn is down,

And Sage smells rabbits

And field mice and hears

Their scurrying – wanting

To give chase as I did when

The corn was high and concealing.

It kept the heat upon our path

Then when we were here last.

We walked in its shadow,

In its dark influence, making

What we could of being there

As we and time plodded on

Before the corn was gone.

Lawrence Helm

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Which country can we flee to if Obama wins?

I mean that title facetiously. The Left are always saying something like that about a possible Republican win, and in their case there has always been plenty of places for them to go. Canada is the most convenient for them, but plenty of European nations share their views. Can the same sort of thing be said about Conservatives? If Obama wins is their some nation an irate Conservative could move to that would be more Conservative than an Obama America?

The above article is really a series of articles. The editors of The American Interest invited knowledgeable journalists from a number of countries to provide their “take on the next U.S. president.” The lead article is on Germany. According to Josef Joffe, publisher-editor of Die Zeit in Hamburg, “three-quarters of all Germans (74 percent) would cast their ballot for Obama, if they could.”

Not every nation is represented in the American Interest survey, but many are. I won’t quote from every article -- just a few highlights that interested me:

In Hungary “Barack Obama is the overwhelming favorite . . . “

The Russians don’t seem attracted to either choice.

In regard to Japan, the Journalist, Hiro Aida wrote, “During the height of U.S.-Japan tensions in the 1980s, a friend of mine, a Japanese trade lawyer qualified for the DC and New York bars, said that the best way to solve all our bilateral troubles was for Japan to become the 51st state of the United States. This would by definition eliminate “international’ trade frictions between us and, moreover, the relatively populous ‘state’ of Japan would gain more than a quarter of all the seats in the House of Representatives – a political block so huge that it could dominate U.S. trade policies! My friend, clearly, was either joking or crazy. Even so, it is worth asking whether Japan would be a red or a blue 51st state. It is blue at the moment, but not so blue as France where 85 percent support Barack Obama. Japan would be a blue state with motley red spots, particularly among the leadership elite.”

In regard to India, C. Raja Mohan writes, “Defying the conventional wisdom that India and the United States are ‘estranged democracies’, the two are now crafting an unprecedented strategic partnership. No wonder Bush has higher ratings in India than in the United states. Nor is it surprising that while the heart of the Indian middle classes is with Obama, their head hopes for a continuation of the Bush policies through a Republican victory.”

In regard to Egypt, Mohamed Elmenshawy writes, “While Obama distances himself from his Muslim heritage on the American political frontlines, his supporters in the Middle East still often assume that his background presages pro-Arab polices.”

In regard to Malaysia, David Martin Jones writes, “That a candidate from a minority background could plausibly be the next President of the United States hugely impresses Malasians.”

In regard to Mexico, Luis Rubio writes, “More than half of us have a direct relative living in the United states . . . To be frank, Mexicans tend to be uncomfortable with African-Americans, to the point that many Mexican-Americans may vote in November against traditional party preferences. . . .”

Brent Choi writes, “Both North and South Korea are rooting for Barack Obama.”

Kathryn Boateng writes, “Obama is not only black, but as a scion of an African father he is, for Ghanians, irretrievably African.”


According to the Gallup Daily Tracking poll, Obama leads McCain 49% to 43% as of today, October 16th:

So let us assume, for the sake of this note, that Obama will win the election. My facetious question about where a Conservative might go if Obama wins (if he behaved like Leftists do after a Republican win) is answered, “nowhere.” There is no safe Republican-loving sanctuary any place in the world – at least not in the way Leftists have “sanctuaries” in such places as Canada, France, Germany and other European nations.

To move to a more serious question, what effect would an Obama presidency have on our future foreign policy? The impression I get is not much. The “man in the street” almost everywhere in the world likes the idea of Obama, but the serious student of foreign policy, almost everywhere, warns that all those street-walkers are sure to be disappointed when they see what Obama actually does after he becomes president. Muslims like it that he has an Islamic heritage. Africans like it that he has an African heritage. Leftists in Europe like it that he is Leftist. But more serious minds caution that when push comes to shove, he is going to place American interests first. He will not favor Muslim or African interests over American interests. He may wish to favor Leftist issues, but he won’t go as far as Europeans want. And even if he would secretly want to move the nation further to the Left, political exigencies will constrain him.

Lawrence Helm

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Brutality and Violence under the Stalinist Regime by Ludvik Kowalski

The above comprises several excerpts from Hell on Earth: Brutality and Violence Under The Stalinist Regime, sent me by the author Ludvik Kowalski.

Professor Kowalski:

I suspect that if I read your book I would agree with most of what you wrote In your excerpts, you write, In France today, many citizens are still reluctant to look closely at the Vichy period; in Austria many people still pretend that their country was a victim of Nazi aggression; and in Japan political leaders still frequently downplay the atrocities committed by Japanese troops in China, Korea, and Manchuria in the 1930s and 1940s. In the United States, too, many tragic aspects of history--the enslavement of blacks, the campaigns against American Indians, and the internment of Japanese-Americans at the start of World War II--have often been glossed over. Difficult as the process of historical reckoning may be for these Western countries, it is even more onerous in Russia....''

Innocent people became victims of murderous ideologies. In my opinion, Germans and Austrians were no less victims of Nazism than Russians and Poles were victims of Communism. The wings of Satan were peculiar ideologies. . . “

In the note you are responding to, , I suspect you understood something slightly different from what I had in mind when I wrote, “Stalin did X, Y, and Z. But Foley, Furr and Jameson would conclude, “therefore Stalinism was good.” We on the other hand would look at these same facts and conclude, “therefore Stalinism was evil.”

You write about people who would probably agree with Foley, Furr and Jameson, when you say, For some reason I think of them as professional propagandists, probably trained to teach Marxism-Leninism at Soviet Universities. These are probably the same people who would tell me, “Unfortunately, one cannot make an omelet without breaking the egg.” And they would repeat that the omelet received by Soviet people is much better, and more plentiful than omelet received by working people in capitalist countries. They would quote what Engels wrote about miserable conditions of workers in England and insist that present situation is even worse.”

I think you are wrong in calling them “professional propagandists.” I have been studying these people off and on for several years. They are true believers. They believe what they write. They could read where you describe Stalin’s acts “X, Y, and Z” and pronounce them good – not good in an immediate sense, not good to the people who were being treated as they were, but good and necessary in an ultimate sense. The term “propaganda” doesn’t fit what these people are doing. They are speaking from their hearts and describing what they believe.

In earlier notes I mentioned Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dhorn speaking at an SDS reunion. You can listen to them speaking in You Tube videos: Notice especially Dhorn when she is sad over the passing of the Soviet Union but hopes for a better Communism in the future. Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dhorn aren’t engaging in propaganda. They are speaking from their hearts. They still love Marxist-Leninist ideology. There is no state, no ideal entity for them to praise now that the USSR has failed, but they can still oppose Liberal Democracy, especially Liberal Democracy as exemplified by the US.

What you encountered may sound just like earlier Soviet propaganda, but it is important today not for the positive things it says about the Soviet Union and what it did in such places as Poland, but in the negative things it is doing to undermine Liberal Democracy. For if Liberal Democracy fails (and that is the fervent hope of modern anti-American Leftists), then perhaps there can be a resurgence of Marxism-Leninism – not quite that, as Dhorn would say, but something even better, a better Communism.

In criticizing the two totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century, we shouldn’t forget that the victorious Liberal Democracy has weaknesses as well. The biggest one has to do with its vaunted democracy. We have seen in democratic elections in Algeria and Palestine that the bad guys got elected. And if enough Leftist educators in the US teach enough children to be Leftists, then the bad guys could be elected here as well. When the Islamists won the election in Algeria they announced that from then on Allah would be running the country so there would be no further need of elections. That could happen here.

In a few days a Leftist may be elected president of the US. Hopefully, he isn’t as far left as the two who helped launch his career, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dhorn, but he is further left, further along the road of accepting the ideas of Foley, Furr and Jameson, than anyone we ever elected president of this nation. And that isn’t a good thing. Liberal Democracy is not something we should let slip away through lack of interest.

Lawrence Helm

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Anti-American Left, French and American

One can almost excuse the fuzzy thinking that went into the French reaction to America after World War II. They were abysmally stupid in failing to prepare to oppose the Germans. They placed all their bets on a misty-eyed pacifistic appeasement policy. They were not willing to be preemptive against Hitler when they had the chance. They were not willing to back and support their military, and as a consequence they were easily conquered when Hitler decided to move against them. Did they learn anything about the foolishness of pacifism? No, of course they didn’t. Stupidity doesn’t just go away. It continues on and influences other decisions and conclusions. We Americans thought we were doing a good dead by invading France and driving out the Germans, but the befuddled French, at least the befuddled intellectual French didn’t see it that way. In their paranoia, they saw one “occupier” being driven out by another. And while this foolishness was abandoned when America left France, it morphed. We had established ourselves as occupiers like the Germans. Also, we opposed Communism just as the Germans did. Those who opposed Communism, were ipso facto Fascists; so there we were, condemned by French intellectuals as Fascists because we opposed Communism. So while America was opposing the advance of Communism during the Cold War, French intellectuals were opposing America.

On page 177 of Past Imperfect, French Intellectuals, 1944-1956, Tony Judt writes, “In the eyes of many French people at the time, by no means all of them sympathetic to communism, the West was responsible for the Cold war. From this it was but a short step to the ideas that the most practical form of help that one could offer the victims of Stalinism in East Europe was to oppose Western ‘militarism’ and American hegemony in Europe.”

On page 200, Judt writes, “. . . the interchangeability of Americans and Germans became common currency in many circles. The Communists now bluntly asserted the common identity of old and new occupiers. France was again an ‘occupied country’; the influence of American culture and capital was as pervasive and pernicious as had been that of the Nazis in the thirties and forties, and the task of all true Frenchmen was to ‘resist.’ Such analogies fell on fertile soil. Esprit, Observateur, and especially Temoignage Chretien displayed steady hostility to anything and everything American in the years 1948-53; economic aid, the Berlin airlift, Nato, the Korean War, the proposals for a European defense force, and the rearming of Germany were treated not merely as political or military errors, nor even as evidence of an American desire to extend and secure its economic influence. More than this, they were written and spoken about as confirmation of Americans’ drive to occupy and humiliate Europe, and France especially.”

Judt tells us, the common people in France “were overwhelmingly sympathetic to the United States in general . . . “ But our American Left was influenced by the French intellectuals, not the ordinary blue-collar Frenchman who were “overwhelmingly sympathetic.” Tony Judt has here been writing about circumstances fifty to sixty years ago, but how much has really changed in regard to the French opinions about America? The justification for the enmity has changed over the years, but the enmity has remained. And if anything, it has spread downward from the French intellectuals to the common people such that I doubt that Judt would try to tell us that today, the common people in France are ‘overwhelmingly sympathetic to the United States’.”

We are still out there opposing bad guys. We did it during the Cold War and we are doing it now in regard to Radical Islam, and just as the French opposed us during the Cold War, the French majority opposes us now in our opposition to Radical Islam. Furthermore, the views of anti-American French intellectuals has not only filtered down to the common Frenchmen, it has filtered down to the common American intellectual. One of the touchstones has always been “Stalinism.” Most of us recognize that Stalinism was an evil enterprise. Tony Judt wrote about the French intellectuals who abandoned the defense of Stalinism as more and more evil acts were reliably reported. The evils perpetrated by Stalin and his minions exceeded that of the evil perpetrated by the Nazis during the Hitler era. To defend Stalin is, we believe, indefensible, but here is what Haynes and Klehr write in In Denial, Historians, Communism & Espionage, pp 26-27. “In the course of review a book by two fellow leftist scholars, Barbara Foley, an English professor at Rutgers University, objected to their critical stance toward ‘Stalinism,’ writing that ‘the term ‘Stalinism’ perhaps needs deconstruction more than any other term in the contemporary political lexicon.’ She went on to endorse Arch Getty’s revisionist account of the Soviet Union and labeled Robert Conquest an ‘offender against what I consider responsible scholarship.’ In her own book, after some perfunctory acknowledgement that there was a dark side to Stalinism, Foley enthusiastically praised its ‘tremendous achievements . . . the involvement of millions of workers in socialist construction, the emancipation of women from feudalistic practices, the struggle against racism and anti-Semitism, the fostering of previously suppressed minority cultures . . . the creation of a revolutionary proletarian culture, in both the USSR and other countries.”

Barbara Foley was not writing back in the 40s or 50s. Her review was written in 1990 and her book published in 1993. On page 27, Judt tells us, “Grover Furr, an English professor at Montclair State University, lauded the creation of Communist regimes in an essay-review entitled ‘Using History to Fight Anti-Communism: Anti-Stalinism Hurts Workers, Builds Fascism.’ In Furr’s view, ‘billions of workers all of the world are exploited murdered, tortured, oppressed by capitalism. The greatest historical events in the twentieth century – in fact, in all of human history – have been the overthrow of capitalism and establishment of societies run by and for the working class in the two great communist revolutions in Russia and China.” This was published by Furr in 1998.

You might wonder why Furr thinks in 1998 that the overthrow of Capitalism by the USSR was such a great event, inasmuch as the USSR collapsed in 1989. Another Leftist Scholar gives us the answer: “Fredric Jameson (Duke University), one of the most influential and frequently cited figures in literary studies over the past several decades, has also been an enthusiastic defender of Stalinism. In 1990 he brushed aside the millions who died under Soviet rule and insisted that ‘Stalinism is disappearing not because it failed, but because it succeeded, and fulfilled its historical mission to force the rapid industrialization of an underdeveloped country (when its adaption as a model for many of the countries of the Third World).” Jameson wrote that in 1990.

Unless one has a solid framework, one is likely with Sartre to conclude it’s all a matter of opinion. We can agree with them as to the facts: Stalin did X, Y, and Z. But Foley, Furr and Jameson would conclude, “therefore Stalinism was good.” We on the other hand would look at these same facts and conclude, “therefore Stalinism was evil.”

In order to get hold of that framework for judging Stalinism evil, we can invoke our American “presuppositions”: We have our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and classical Liberal traditions. We who are not Leftists declare our “presuppositions” good. We don’t need to dismiss the “dark side” of American history, it has been lambasted by Leftists as long as Leftists have been writing in or about America, but we see those matters differently. Our presuppositions about them are different. In short we are American “Nationalists.” We don’t believe our nation is without error (any more than Foley believes Stalin’s USSR was without error), but we accept those errors and find not as wrong as people have written, better than the opposition, etc. Just as Foley, Furr and Jamison would argue about Stalin’s USSR.

Moving back to the facts of Stalinism X, Y & Z, we can judge them evil because they come athwart our American “framework.” Stalinism violates our American “Classical Liberalism,” therefore, given this presupposition, it is evil.

Foley, Furr, and Jamison can justifiably assert that they do not accept the presuppositions I’ve enumerated, and this is fair. We are justified in concluding about them that they are not supporters of American Nationalism. They do not support Classical Liberalism. They do not support our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. They, in fact, support something inimical to them. They are enemies of American Nationalism. We have resolved not to do anything litigious about our domestic enemies, but we are as entitled to call them out and identify them, just as Haynes and Klehr have with Foley, Furr, and Jamison. They are entitled to live in this nation they oppose, but we are entitled to expose them as intellectual enemies, enemies we tolerate – enemies in fact we honor by allowing them to teach our children because we don’t live in accordance with our presuppositions in any coherent fashion -- It seems to me we go too far in allowing our enemies a free hand in our nation. It has been argued that unless we do, our own freedoms will be infringed . . . perhaps.

Lawrence Helm

Friday, October 10, 2008

Anglo-American-phobia and Francophilia

Here we are in the throes of a tight election, and I am reading about France after World War II. Why? The present day American Left grew to a large extent out of the French Left, and one of our candidates, Barack Obama, is a Leftist. Notice the present day parallel: Obama wanted to withdraw in defeat. The French Left understands what it means to be defeated, and, emotionally, so does the American Left. It is not comfortable winning – except in elections.

In reading Past Imperfect, French Intellectuals 1944-1956, I noticed when Judt refered to France’s Anti-Americanism, as often as not he used the term “Anglo-American.” In other words, France wasn’t just opposed to or fearful of America. It was opposed to and fearful of England as well, and it grouped them together in their metaphors.

Judt writes on page 264, “Jean Galtier-Boissiere spoke for many when he [in 1945] compared France to a human bait dangled before the German crocodile by her allies: ‘But this time we really almost got eaten, and the hunters took their time in pulling us from the monster’s jaws.’”

Being American, that metaphor struck me as absurd. We Americans were not like hunters who stuck the French out as bait. We barely got into that war. We had to be pressured by Churchill and lied to by Roosevelt before we could be induced to mount an army to come to Britain’s aid. But so if I move out of a strictly American perspective and move into an Anglo-American one, then Galtier-Boissiere’s metaphor makes a little more sense. Anglo-America took its time, in a manner of speaking, before getting its act together and deciding, ever so slowly to come to France’s aid. I note also that the American Generals wanted to attack the Germans in France at once, but Britain talked them into starting in North Africa and then working their way up through Italy. Most arm-chair generals say that Britain had the right of it. The American army wasn’t ready to take on the German army in France as soon as they got there, but what would Galtier-Boissiere have thought about the decision to start in North Africa?

Being an arm-chair general myself, I believe Britain was correct, and that we weren’t ready to take on the Germans right away. Also, Britain can hardly be accused with any seriousness of a conspiracy against the French. It was swept up in the same pacifistic delusion as France, and it was by the narrowest of margins that Hitler failed to conquer Britain as well. If Galtier-Boissiere was intending to be taken literally, then he was ignorant of the histories of both Britain and America prior to WWII, and that is possible.

We learned that after the U.S. and British forces drove the Germans out of France, many in France were worried that we wouldn’t leave. We, in this case, being not just the Americans but the British as well. Why is that? We can’t find a plausible answer if we look strictly at French/American relations; which weren’t all that bad prior to WWII. But France had a long history of warring against Britain. France got along much better with Russia. The Russian upper classes in the 19th and early 20th centuries loved the French, and though one might observe that this upper class was largely killed off by the Soviets, the Soviets admired much about the French Revolution; so they continued their affinity with France even after 1917, and France with them.

Thus, many in France thought it would have been better if they had been liberated by Russia. They probably now realize in an objective way that wouldn’t have been true. They would have been much worse off, but they, many of their intellectuals, prefer the emotional idea of a Franco-Russian rapprochement. It is more satisfying than the actual reality: being rescued by a pompous Montgomery and an arrogant Patton.

“. . . bitterness was universal, so great was the fall. What does it mean now to be French? Asked Etiemble in August of 1946: ‘Seen from a distance, we are just forty million losers.’ The fact that it was the Western allies who had rescued the French from the grip of Nazism made things worse, not better. Despite the heroism of the Resistance and the best efforts of General Leclerc, the French felt doubly humiliated, by 1944 no less than 1940. Sartre was among the first to notice this, describing in the very months of France’s liberation how ‘in the space of five years we have acquired a formidable inferiority complex.’ Indeed, the rise of Sartre coincided precisely with the eclipse of France, and there is some elegance in this, since Sartre was nothing if not the philosopher of his own inferiority, as an intellectual and as a man, truly the thinker best suited to speak for a nation whose emotional condition he came closest to representing in his own troubled person.” [from page 257]

FURTHER COMMENT: I am also reminded of the view of James Cone (the Black Liberation Theologian who influenced Obama’s pastor) that the only way a White Person can be saved is to admit his guilt. He may not actually be guilty in a forensic sense. He may not even be aware of his guilt initially, but he needs to be convinced of it emotionally and then confess it. He then needs to do penance by helping black people from then on. Surely this is something Sartre would have understood and appreciated.

Lawrence Helm