Geostrategy as boardgame


I was pretty surprised reading Larison to find that Russia has gone to war with Georgia following incursions into South Ossetia. James Poulos has a pretty good roundup here. Sebastian Flyte seems oddly excited here. Oddly enough, the War Nerd has yet to comment. Instead a coup in Mauritania has sparked a reprinting of an old Brecher column, two non-Brecher stories about armed Russians (a corporate raid and drunken airborne troop revelry) and two posts on the old Iran-Iraq war.

This is bringing back some recent memories. I recall seeing part of a BBC special called One Day of War, which I have not been able to find again. Come on, internet piracy! One of the segments featured a Georgian naval captain patrolling near a secessionist region supported by the Russians. However, that wasn’t South Ossetia but Abkhazia. Georgia, like Sudan, seems to have its hands full. Looking at the list of war-zones or hot spots in One Day of War I am struck by how many of Col. Trevor Dupuy’s imagined conflicts in Future Wars: The World’s Most Dangerous Flashpoints failed to boil over. I greatly enjoyed the book anyway and regret that the library I had checked it out from doesn’t have a copy anymore. My memory of that was sparked by Mencius in the comments to this GNXP post continuing on the topic of Turchin and cliodynamics.

A few days ago I finished reading The China Story by Freda Utley. Just last night I finished Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence by Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson. I began the first over a month ago, and the latter when I began my previous post. Part of the difference was that I was reading Utley’s book in pdf form on my computer, and was constantly tempted to look at other stuff on the internet. Another reason is that it’s much more boring. She was personally involved in some of the events discussed, but I did not care to read a chapter focusing on Owen Lattimore. Another blemish in my eyes is that like those she criticizes, she is an idealist with a distaste for self-interested cynical realism. She displayed that in other writings sympathetic to the Palestianians (not unlike several of her comrades of the old right) as well as the defeated Germans after the second world war (this would be sufficient proof of anti-semitism to a modern neo-conservative). Although she had opposed war with Germany (though ironically may bear some responsibility for it, as Japan blamed her for our boycott of them during the Sino-Japanese war) and sought a negotiated peace, in this book she tries to use the ill-repute of the old isolationists to analogize those who were later sympathetic to the Soviet Union and/or Chinese communists. I found that distasteful.

It is enjoyable to read just how wrong so many of the great and good were in their perceptions of the communists, but in hindsight we can see that Utley was wrong about much as well. China did indeed split from the Soviet Union to a degree even greater than Tito. The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in absolutely no diminishing of the political power of the communist party in China. The most interesting part of the book to me was a question Utley posed but never quite answered: why was our policy in Europe (such as toward Greece and Turkey) so different from the one the same people advanced at the same time in East Asia? Her answer is that Americans were more familiar with Europe and viewed its defects as understandable aberrations given the circumstances, but were more likely to look down on backward, corrupt Chinese government. My hypothesis is that they didn’t really care all that much about China, much as with Africa today. Freda cared, and so did her fellow journalists (some of whom, like her, had some affiliation with the communist party) that stayed in China while the Japanese advanced. Many of them were willing to overlook the dark side of the Chinese communists, just as Freda acknowledged Chiang Kai-Shek’s earlier partnership with the communists as well as the Soviet Union and the defects of his own government but stumped for him anyway (the possible difference in reactions may be due to the fact that while in Russia Utley’s husband was killed on suspicion of Trotskyism). One final note I’d like to make is that most histories I’ve read attribute the result of the civil war to the incohesive nature of the Kuomingtang, which was really a collection of warlords prone to break apart, which isn’t really discussed in the book.

The discussion of the next book goes on for a while with lots of summary and a critique of Mencius Moldbug, so I will put it below the fold. (more…)

I’ve long been irritated by the mythologized version of the American revolution in which European armies are supposed to have behaved totally idiotically and done things for no good reason while the plucky colonial irregulars outsmarted them. This ignores the fact that the colonists actually tended to fight in the same style and the British usually won the battles. Now via Sailer I find a good debunking and explanation as to why the tactics people assume were silly were adopted in the first place. I corrected the folks at the Distributed Republic on that war here.

A little while back I got into an extended argument with a commenter at UR as a result of which he was convinced of my idiocy. One of the topics we argued about was morale. I took the somewhat Hansonian line that its importance is trumpeted not because it is a great factor in military outcomes (I gave it a marginal role) but because of jockeying for in-group position by signalling one’s loyalty. I did not expect the following though. In chapter 3 of James Q Wilson’s Bureaucracy he writes “Nor can the willingness to fight be explained by general beliefs about one’s nation, the war as a whole, or one’s place in the army. During the Second World War, many observers supposed that soldiers with low morale (that is, they didn’t like being soldiers in general or being in this war in particular) would be less effective in combat than those with high morale. In fact, as Samuel Stouffer and his colleagues showed in their classic study, The American Soldier, there was during World War II no correlation between morale and combat effectiveness.” Instead effectiveness seems to be the result of helping out and fulfilling the expectations of one’s buddies in the squad and respect for one’s officers. The problems in Vietnam were traced to individual (as opposed to unit) rotation out which reduced group cohesion and trust. Soldiers were at their least effective and most cautious as they were about to be shipped back.

Yes, it exists and it’s called “A Force More Powerful”. Found via a comment at A Tiny Revolution. I, of course, find it quite silly. Roderick Long is wrong, and force has ruled the day for centuries for a reason. For those interested in a slightly more clinical sociological perspective, keep up to date on the latest from OrgTheory like this roundup.

Starting with a thread the Agitator (incidentally, the IndyBay site he links to sucks and deleted all of comments after the first), I got into an argument with La Rana over Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine”. Now via BlackDogRed comes this review of the book from Left Business Review. Interesting stuff.
UPDATE: It was pretty stupid of me not to link to this earlier post on the subject.

I came across this video at IranMilitary.Net.

The first segment (taking place in DC) is in CGI, with the Iranian portions using live actors. Apparently John McCain is a “senior White House official” rather than a crazy old man elected by voters. Their perception that George Soros has repeatedly attempted regime change through the use of opposition groups engaging in civil disobedience is accurate (though mostly for former Soviet countries), but the idea that the guy who thought preventing Bush’s re-election was the most pressing concern of his lifetime would be meeting with McCain or any current White House official is pretty funny. The domestic Iranian subversives are even harder to take seriously. Their ulterior motivation for serving as pawns of Uncle Sam is, get this…visas to enter the U.S! I know the cat might be out of the bag, but if you were in charge of Iran wouldn’t you not want to remind people of how much more pleasant life is in the U.S and how desirable it would be to go there? You would think people would learn after the communists mistakenly aired Dallas in the hopes of making capitalism look bad (no, I’m not going to link to that Washington Post op-ed, instead read Charles Paul Freund’s In Praise of Vulgarity). Fortunately the wayward youth involved in the nefarious plot (apparently involving a handgun in a duffel-bag) sends off troubled-teen rays to his mother, who is worried about who he’s hanging out with at late hours. She alerts the Stasi helpful authorities who let him off easy and all is well. I joke, but it is true that Iran has terrorism problems. There were some bombs planted near polling places around election time. My guess is that it was MEK (who our government continues to support even when Iran offered to turn over al Qaeda members in its custody in exchange for us selling MEK out) or separatists, who George Soros would want nothing to do with. UPDATE: Iranian propagandists have learned from the best.

If that isn’t enough Iran for you, enjoy some Iranian rap & rock and a half-hour preview of Persepolis.

It’s the end of the month, and that means it time to release something that’s been sitting around rotting since February. Some of the links might no longer work, that’s the downside of the every-changing nature of the internet.

Last time it started with Henley and led to Hayden. So naturally, the next round began with Tom Hayden. (more…)

mupetblast (EDIT: aka Dain) in the Attack the System group points to this review by Philip Hammond in Spiked of Paul Berman’s “Power and the Idealists” and Paul Hockenos’ “Joschka Fischer and the Making of the Berlin Republic”. Aside from Fischer (foreign minister of Germany), the former book focuses on Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister. Both men were radicals back in 1968 but they became divided over the Iraq war (which Kouchner supported and Fischer opposed). I have been peeved by Spiked in the past for their attempt to make the modern right seem “hip” by aping the history of the left (see their critique of environmentalists as a middle class oppressing those below them). This review seemed to take the opposite tack. It seems to reject modern “humanitarian interventionism” as being just as foolish as the 60s radicalism that preceded it. One good part is the arrogance of those behind “the ’68ers’ war” in Kosovo, where Kouchner was made governor once it was a protectorate. Though many liberals still point to it as an example of good intervention, Hammond points out how they were fooled into seeing genocide when it wasn’t there and ignored violence perpetrated against the Serbs once the dust settled. Another good part is how lofty ideology served to mask the age-old rivalry of French and English imperialism (more specifically in the Biafran war) which seems quite different from the monolithic “international community” that Mencius Moldbug paints. A final interesting point is the publication in Stern magazine of photos with Fischer and his radical buddies beating up a cop. Speaking of which, there is some hubbub (oddly enough among right-wingers who won’t be there to suffer) about a group of barely-disguised Obama supporters calling themselves “Recreate ’68” and the awful violence they will unleash like in the Democratic convention in Chicago. Now can anyone point me out to photos or video of the hippies at that convention committing any violent acts, rather than the Chicago police dishing out violence to them?

On a related story, the American Prospect has a long article on Christopher Hitchens and his ideological migration, which also places a heavy focus on 1968. Although as a paleo I must hate Hitchens and his neo-conservatism, I feel a certain kindred spirit as a thoroughly English “Protestant atheist”. I was disappointed when Mencius Moldbug, who once denied being a cavalier and spoke of “the one revolution which ever was glorious” now declaring himself a Jacobite.

In the same Marginal Revolution post which linked to that Hitchen article, we also find this discussion on the World Bank, governance and growth from Daron Acemoglu, Douglas North, Dani Rodrik and Francis Fukuyama. Quite a find, especially North’s bit. I haven’t read his book, so it might be old stuff to those who have.

In the latest EconTalk, Russ Roberts interviews Chris Coyne about his book After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy. Along with the few relative successes like post-WW2 Germany and Japan, it goes over numerous failures and explains why best laid plans went awry (a paper of his taking a public-choice perspective on the bureaucracies of reconstruction can be found here). Chris is a contributor to the Austrian Economists blog and Russ manages Cafe Hayek with Don Boudreaux. A list of foreign interventions by the United States starting with Wounded Knee and ending in 2001 from ZMag is here.

Steve Sailer points out Stanley Kurtz’s “I and My Brother against My Cousin” in NRO on the importance of tribalism in the Middle East, as opposed to Islam. It has plenty of bashing of post-modernist/post-colonialist and Marxist academics as well. Steve previously highlighted Stanley’s anthropological perspective on the Middle East here and here. I’m sure this will lead to another complaint from Lawrence Auster on “non-Islamic theories of islamic extremism”, a complaint I don’t think much of for reasons explained here. The classic article on the distinction between old tribal codes and the orthodox tenets of Islam is Pushtunwali: Honor Among Them.

I just learned from this post at The Daily Burkeman1 that the cause of the recent trouble at TakiMag was Prozium (UPDATE: Prozium states that he had already left Taki’s before the trouble started and Alex Linder from VNN was responsible). I’ve come to have a low opinion of the average commenter on the internet (at least for relatively large/popular sites like TakiMag) and so registration seems like a reasonable solution to the problem. I haven’t had any problems here with my few readers and for the moment intend to let people post whatever they want as long as it isn’t spam. Savrola at TDB1 has plenty of mockery for the Zmiraks of the world (and Kevin Carson) that seems to blend into a cynical take on the paleo movement more generally (although displaying anything but pessimism about the prospects of conservatism might be grounds for expulsion from paleoland). Prozium is strangely optimistic, as he believes that paleos will ultimately achieve their goals despite their utter failure to accomplish anything themselves. Plenty of other reactions elsewhere. On a somewhat related note, James Poulos claims that deconstructionism is more a threat to postmodern bourgeois liberalism than postmodern conservatism in a post that reminds why I generally don’t bother reading postmodernism of any sort.

Keith Preston notified the members of his mailing list of this attack on Matt Welch and his Ron Paul column by Justin Raimondo at Taki’s Top Drawer. I wrote up a response, but Taki has a very restricted comment system, so I’ll have to put the post here and then link to it.

Both Welch and Raimondo aquit themselves poorly. Nowhere did Welch actually demonstrate that “whipping up white resentment” was unpopular, and any political analyst worth their salt knows that cosmopolitan libertarianism (correct on its merits or not) is a very minority opinion. The people at the Monkey Cage were right to mock the Reason crowd for their active fantasy lives. LeftConservative already wrote a good take on the Duke issue [he responds to this Raimondo post here].
Raimondo takes the typical mistaken oppositional view of the LR crowd that believes people are even aware enough of paleos to have it in for them. Reason was not “out to get Paul”; any centrist or leftist would have thought they were huge Paul boosters. It is the same mistaken view that led Raimondo to believe that Reason was going to fire Doherty for being pro-Paul. Welch explicitly denies that there is any evidence Paul was a racist in his article. Welch’s criticism regarding MLK isn’t simply voting against the holiday, but embracing J. Edgar Hoover’s take on him as a menace when Paul later called him a hero (it seems implied that Paul didn’t make the first statement). I can’t think of any excuse for Rockwell’s statement about recording the police, but I think there are legitimate reasons to work with members of the Communist Party, if not for communism.

Raimondo tries to paint Welch as dishonestly covering up his past, but he admits at here that before he “begged for U.S. leadership in a feckless world to stop the slaughter in Sarajevo” but after the Iraq war has shifted gears. I also wonder if Raimondo spoke similarly about Vaclav Havel in the past.

UPDATE: In an online Q&A, al Qaeda’s Ayman al Zawahiri says of the U.S and Iran Let’s You and Him Fight. Kind of like the Iraqi government.

UPDATE 2: Noah Millman discusses the plausibility that Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia or nefarious corporations got us into Iraq, all the while trashing the remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” in comparison to the original. The War Nerd complains about the Times stealing his “Dick Cheney as Iran’s Manchurian Vice President” idea here.

UPDATE 3: Israel’s Tehran connection

VERY LATE UPDATE 4: Convergence of U.S-Iranian interests in intra-Shi’ite struggle in Iraq

A little while back I was drawn into this Samizdata thread on “Human Smoke”. I started out with my Charles Lindbergh spiel, but the subject later shifted to Iran. Iran is a fairly important country to know about that people are extremely ignorant on the subject of (yeah, I ended a sentence with a preposition just to stick it to grammar-Nazis). I was thinking of that as I watched a few topics from this diavlog featuring the unbelievably stupid Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard. What’s worrying is that John McCain seems about as idiotic on the subject but the press adores him and ignores it lest it impede his ordained path to the White House (which is not to say they’d treat Obama different).

American Goy lets us know that Iran thanks the brave American soldiers! In the comments I point out this from Justin Raimondo on a similar line. A conspiracy theory he floated before is that Iranian agents suckered us into Iraq, which is almost too sensible in retrospect to be plausible (although we have been duped before by the K.L.A, Savimbi and others). It does seem odd that the supposedly crazy suicidal warmongering Iranians coolly shrugged off the fanatically anti-Shi’ite Taliban’s murder of their officials until the U.S found itself raring to do their dirty work for them, at which time they were quite willing to stick the knife in those Pushtun barbarians. I previously discussed the relatively sensible behavior of the mullah regime here. One person who has been promoting the idea that Iran pragmatically pursues its strategic goals and is not dead set on war is Trita Parsi, author of Treacherous Alliance, who I suppose you can dismiss since he was born in Iran. Sounds like good stuff for anyone who reads the National Interest. Is a Persian Pink Police State in the future? Probably not, though we can always imagine.

On a completely unrelated note, I was reading this by Keith Preston where among other things he discusses “the primary intellectual framework of a new American radicalism”. I had never heard of Jack Ross or Matthew Raphael Johnson and asked for references. Keith kindly pointed out that though the former has not yet published his work of history, he blogs at Brooklyn Copperhead. Since then Ross has had a bit of a dispute with Daniel Larison. Keith also gave me the heads up on Johnson’s book, The Third Rome: Holy Russia, Tsarism and Orthodoxy, and his website. Now connecting this to someone I discussed above, American Goy promotes the theory that the reason Stalin seemed completely unprepared for Hitler’s offensive into Russia is that he had shifted the military from a defensive posture to a preparation for an offensive into Germany that Hitler noticed and pre-empted.

Prozium takes on Zmirak and fealty to the Vatican here. (UPDATE: Zmirak has banned Prozium, but the spat continues) A previous occasion when a paleocon let his Catholic loyalties trump non-interventionist principles was when Buchanan advocated the U.S meddling in the Balkans to assist the Croatians (he was against Serbs before he was for them). I criticize a Slavic-Orthodox paleocon and stick up for paleo principles here (though Burke may not have actually advocated independence for India as opposed to just criticizing British actions there). Robert Higgs provides more backup for the Prozium take on World War 2 here. Finally, as long as I’m linking to Odessa Syndicate, they give Rev. Wright his props here. Like IOZ, they prefer him to Obama.

Completely off-topic: I once came across an argument that our ability to digest lactose and gluten was selected for not because of its health benefits, but because it causes us to be docile for the civilization created by agriculture (which is in fact less healthy) though we evolved to be hunter-gatherers. Despite searching I have not been able to find it again. If anybody else can find a link, it would be much appreciated. UPDATE: Thanks, ashen man!

Title thanks to John Sabotta at No Treason.

Robert Lindsay has been quite active in my absence, with frontpage of almost all new posts. Unfortunately a lot of them were sparked by Joachim Martillo (who thinks there’s “no such thing as Jewish music” though he is ethnic Ashkenazim himself) and are less interesting to me. One of the better ones has the oh-so-politically-incorrect title “The JewSSR“, which is actually intended sarcastically as Lindsay is rather sympathetic to the Soviet Union and hostile towards much Jewish political influence. The most interesting part was his link to Peter Myers. Myers believes that Stalin carried out a counter-revolution against the “Jewish Bolsheviks” who in that later period may be personified by Trotsky (the spiritual grandfather of the neoconservatives of course, even if they may be more correctly identified with the Right Opposition of Bukharin and Burnham than Trotky’s pre-existing Left Opposition). Stalin embraced Russian nationalism rather than internationalism and brought back old Orthodox morality and social restrictions, which is why Prozium at Odessa Syndicate is so fond of him. Mr. Myers has a focus on the “One World Movement“:

The One World movement has three factions, which co-operate with one another against “nationalism” or “isolationism”. They are (a) the Tory (Imperial) (b) the International Socialist (Trotskyist, Fabian & Green Left, against the Stalinist Left) (c) the Zionist: british-conspiracy.html.

The first delivers the “Right”, the second delivers the “Left” to One-Worldism: oneworld.html.

Still too conspiracy-theory for my tastes, but I like the recognition of several different groups with some similar interests rather than merely laying everything at the feet of an invisible Elders of Zion. He also seems to have some interest in “Nihonism”, or Japanese nationalism, which a lot of white supremacists these days like to forget Hitler had anything to do with. His site is of the amateurish sort you might find on a geocities or tripod page, but still interesting stuff if you’re into the bizarre as I am. It reminds me of the “Illuminatus!” trilogy, especially with the bits about Cecil Rhodes. Another site Lindsay linked to was this Nazi one called Hitler Research featuring some bashing of the Strassers. A lot of Nazis like to associate themselves with the Strassers rather than Hitler in some sort of Third Way maneuver, so it’s nice to hear some smashing of these Left Deviationists for a change. On the subject of the Soviet Union, if you enjoy reading dismissals of the Katyn massacre, as Mencius Moldbug does, you’ll also like Lindsay’s post A Short History of 20th Century Poland. UPDATE: Lindsay discusses the possibly fascist nature of Stalin and other communists in this post, ostensibly about Kosovo independence.

Elsewhere Lindsay and I agree that Hezbollah isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. He also points out some Pakistani patriots while explaining the difference between good patriotism and bad nationalism from a communist point of view. The patriotic Pakistani laments the ignorance in the West of Hindutva terrorism rather than just islamist terrorism and the cultural influence of these Indian/Hindu supremacists. Linday’s previous post discusses just that saying “I really cannot put into words how much hatred I feel for these people” and alleges that they have formed a conspiracy on Wikipedia, just as of course the Jews have, and the two have formed an alliance presumably against their shared enemy in Muslims. I knew that there were communal riots in India but I didn’t think the Hindus formed paramilitary/terrorist groups that went after not just Muslims but Christians, Dalits and Sikhs (maybe in the last group in the 80s around the storming of the Golden Temple and assassination of Indira Gandhi). Gene Expression has discussed Hindutva/RSS here and used them as a primary example in one of my favorite posts “Nerds are nuts“.

Finally, breaking from Linday’s site, a dispute recently arose within the left side of the blogosphere after Castro retired. Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber said to ignore all the nasty oppression and give six cheers. In the comments a huge fight ensued touching on right-wing apologetics for Franco and/or Pinochet, the Angolan Civil War and the end of the apartheid government in South Africa and the importance of political rights vs material well-being. Plus, there is a rare individual who makes the “break a few eggs” argument for both Castro and Indonesia’s Suharto. Brad De Long sticks up holding everyone to the same progressive standards here and here, but being De Long he also acts like a dick and deletes scads of comments he doesn’t like.

I sent an e-mail to Sandefur after reading this post:

You hypothesize that Iraq has been a winning issue for the GOP but moralism has not (I’m guessing you think less of “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” than Stephen Rose then). I don’t think I’ve heard anybody put forth that idea before. Polls show Iraq to be quite unpopular.

I suspect that the Democrats could actually increase their votes by jumping on the moralism bandwagon, but desist in doing so because the elites in their party are educated cosmopolitan types that find it very distasteful, while Republicans would do better if they advocated more populist economic policies. Jim Pinkerton made that point a while back at bloggingheads.tv but it’s almost impossible to find diavlogs made before the site redesign now. I don’t favor such policies, but I recognize the public does, which is why I am not a big fan of democracy.

I used the correct e-mail address this time (I didn’t know he had a gmail account before and sent one to his work address before), but there was still no response. Guess it’s back to clogging his work inbox! Larison discusses the issue here. A parody of the Obama-song targetting McCain’s message of war is here.

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