The Essential Library (political)

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There are a small number of articles I've found online which I think are essential reading for anyone interrested in understanding how I come to view the world. Many of the original sources are no longer around and except for USS Clueless' The Essential Library . Just to make sure that they continue to be available to my readers, I'm mirroring copies of them here.

The Jacksonian Tradition by Walter Russell Mead (Original, mirror)

Mead shows that there are four main philosophies in American foreign policy. Three of those are "the commercial realism of the Hamiltonians, the crusading moralism of Wilsonian transcendentalists, and the supple pacifism of the principled but slippery Jeffersonians" but he argues that the fourth and in many ways most important is the heritage left us by Andy Jackson. Jacksonianism, once described, seems very familiar to most Americans, though they never really had a name for it. It's also the aspect of American foreign policy most despised by Europeans, because it's the root of unilateralism.

"To understand how Crabgrass Jacksonianism is shaping and will continue to shape American foreign policy, we must begin with another unfashionable concept: Honor. Although few Americans today use this anachronistic word, honor remains a core value for tens of millions of middle-class Americans, women as well as men. The unacknowledged code of honor that shapes so much of American behavior and aspiration today is a recognizable descendent of the frontier codes of honor of early Jacksonian America."

Spotting the Losers: Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States by Ralph Peters (Original, mirror)

Peters makes the practical observation that there are certain basic ways in which nations and cultures cripple themselves, and that the more of these they are saddled with, the less able they are to adapt and compete in the 21st century.

"The invisible hand of the market has become an informal but uncompromising lawgiver. Globalization demands conformity to the practices of the global leaders, especially to those of the United States. If you do not conform--or innovate--you lose. If you try to quit the game, you lose even more profoundly. The rules of international competition, whether in the economic, cultural, or conventional military fields, grow ever more homogeneous. No government can afford practices that retard development. Yet such practices are often so deeply embedded in tradition, custom, and belief that the state cannot jettison them. That which provides the greatest psychological comfort to members of foreign cultures is often that which renders them noncompetitive against America's explosive creativity--our self-reinforcing dynamism fostered by law, efficiency, openness, flexibility, market discipline, and social mobility."

The Ideological War within the West by John Fonte (Original, mirror, longer PDF)

Fonte describes a newly emerging international political ideology he calls "Transnational Progressivism", and explains its basic philosophy.

"The EU is a large supranational macro-organization that embodies transnational progressivism. Its governmental structure is post-democratic. Power in the EU principally resides in the European Commission (EC) and to a lesser extent the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The EC, the EU's executive body, initiates legislative action, implements common policy, and controls a large bureaucracy. It is composed of a rotating presidency and nineteen commissioners chosen by the member-states and approved by the European Parliament. It is unelected and, for the most part, unaccountable."

Power and Weakness by Robert Kagan (Original, mirror)

Kagan explains that one reason why the Europeans are more inclined to use diplomacy and bribery to solve international problems is that they don't have any military power, and that America's military power changes how we view our options.

"The psychology of weakness is easy enough to understand. A man armed only with a knife may decide that a bear prowling the forest is a tolerable danger, inasmuch as the alternative - hunting the bear armed only with a knife - is actually riskier than lying low and hoping the bear never attacks. The same man armed with a rifle, however, will likely make a different calculation of what constitutes a tolerable risk. Why should he risk being mauled to death if he doesn't need to?"

Stability, America's Enemy by Ralph Peters (Original, mirror)

Much of the rhetoric internationally against such things as our proposed invasion of Iraq has included the dark prediction that it would destabilize the entire region. Peters argues that the status quo isn't worth maintaining, and that in many ways instability can be a very good thing.

Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology by Lee Harris (Original, mirror)

Many solutions suggested for this war based on diplomacy assume that our enemies think like we do, or enough so that we can deal with them. Harris shows that al Qaeda's view of the world and set of values is so alien that most of those suggestions would have no chance of success. In many ways his analysis generalizes to all those who oppose us, at least somewhat.

"The terror attack of 9-11 was not designed to make us alter our policy, but was crafted for its effect on the terrorists themselves: It was a spectacular piece of theater. The targets were chosen by al Qaeda not through military calculation — in contrast, for example, to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — but entirely because they stood as symbols of American power universally recognized by the Arab street. They were gigantic props in a grandiose spectacle in which the collective fantasy of radical Islam was brought vividly to life: A mere handful of Muslims, men whose will was absolutely pure, as proven by their martyrdom, brought down the haughty towers erected by the Great Satan. What better proof could there possibly be that God was on the side of radical Islam and that the end of the reign of the Great Satan was at hand?"

The Intellectual Origins of America-Bashing by Lee Harris (Original, mirror)

Harris demonstrates that one of the big reasons "why they hate us" when it comes to European intellectuals is that America's successful capitalist system is clear proof that Marx was wrong. The theory was that miserable workers would rise in revolution to replace the system, but because the workers in America were prosperous and confident, they seemed little interested in doing so. The new theory is that in fact the US will still face such a revolt only it will come from outside as "exploited people" in other nations revolt against the US. For believers in this theory, the 9/11 attack was the true beginning of the end for the US, which has only been able to be prosperous by impoverishing the rest of the world in the economic zero-sum game. (Which means that they think it really was our own fault, after all.)

"Furthermore, this is no less true of those who, like Chomsky, have focused on what is seen as American military aggression against the rest of the world, for this aggression is understood as having its “root cause” in America’s systematic exploitation of the remainder of the human race. If American exploitation did not create misery, it would not need to use military force. It is the global immiserization thesis that makes the use of force an indispensable tool of American foreign policy and that is responsible, according to this view, for turning America into a terrorist state. This explains the absolute centrality of the global immiserization thesis in the creation of the specter of America now haunting so much of our world."

Why Arabs Lose Wars by Norvell B. De Atkine (Original, mirror)

De Atkine served as an American military advisor in Egypt and elsewhere in greater Arabia and notes the way that the Arab tendency to horde knowledge, and a general dislike of delegation of authority, leads to a military which can't win. He says that the problem is Arab culture itself.

"U.S. trainers often experience frustration obtaining a decision from an Arab counterpart, not realizing that the Arab officer lacks the authority to make the decision — a frustration amplified by the Arab’s understandable reluctance to admit that he lacks that authority. This author has several times seen decisions that could have been made at the battalion level concerning such matters as class meeting times and locations referred for approval to the ministry of defense. All of which has led American trainers to develop a rule of thumb: a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army has as much authority as a colonel in an Arab army."

Creating Opportunities for future generations, the Arab Human Development report for 2002 (Original, PDF mirror)

As part of a major study by the United Nations Development Program, a large group of Arab scholars have assembled a detailed study which concludes that the Arab nations are failing to compete in the modern world, and that the Arabs themselves see their nations as failures. The Arab scholars who wrote the report conclude that the only way to correct it is for the Arabs to deeply reform their culture, in particular by liberating their women. (There is a full version of the report, and a summary. Only the summary is mirrored here.)

"The Report Team polled a cross-section of Arab youth. Job opportunities and education were amongst the main concerns of the young. In a worrying trend, 51% of older adolescents interviewed and 45% of younger ones expressed a desire to emigrate, clearly indicating dissatisfaction with current conditions and future prospects in their home countries."

Old And In The Way by Karl Zinsmeister (Original, mirror)

Another take on the growing divide between Europe and the US. Zinmeister thinks it can't be healed. He also thinks that Europe is in serious decline, which can be healed but probably won't be, and that to a great extent European anti-Americanism is motivated by resentment and jealousy, and a fair amount of outright fear.

"This simple reality needs to be faced squarely by Americans: In a great variety of areas--foreign policy, demography, religion, economics--Americans and Europeans are growing apart. While the September 11 attacks deepened American sobriety, patriotic feeling, and national resolution, in Europe they merely created one more flashpoint for division. European elites, already worried they won't be able to keep up with America over the next generation, are now approaching panic as the U.S. coalesces, during its September 11 recovery, into an even steelier and more determined colossus."

A View from the Eye of the Storm by Haim Harari (no authoritative original, mirror)

Harari says that the "root cause" of the current war is that "this entire Moslem region is totally dysfunctional, by any standard of the word." He discusses what he sees as the four main pillars of the war: "suicide murder", lies and disinformation, money used to support terrorist organizations, and the breakdown of all laws.

He comes to the conclusion that terrorist attacks cannot be prevented solely by defensive measures; we must go on the offensive or lose. In the near term that means we have to deal with the nations which support and finance the terrorist organizations. Now that Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are no longer assets for the terrorists, we still have to deal with Syria, Iran, and Saudia Arabia. He also concludes that in the long run the only way for us to win is to force the problem nations to reform both politically and culturally.

"The problem is that the civilized world is still having illusions about the rule of law in a totally lawless environment. It is trying to play ice hockey by sending a ballerina ice-skater into the rink or to knock out a heavyweight boxer by a chess player. In the same way that no country has a law against cannibals eating its prime minister, because such an act is unthinkable, international law does not address killers shooting from hospitals, mosques and ambulances, while being protected by their Government or society. International law does not know how to handle someone who sends children to throw stones, stands behind them and shoots with immunity and cannot be arrested because he is sheltered by a Government. International law does not know how to deal with a leader of murderers who is royally and comfortably hosted by a country, which pretends to condemn his acts or just claims to be too weak to arrest him. The amazing thing is that all of these crooks demand protection under international law, and define all those who attack them as "war criminals," with some Western media repeating the allegations."

Last updated on Jan. 27, 2011

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