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14 December 2007

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William R. Cumming

Fascinating thread. I have just finished reading "The Past Remembered" by John Lukacs (2005) which is really a reader of his work. Well known for a well regarded history of the cold war and a book entititled "Historical Consciousness" Lukacs was a Hungarian that became an American citizen after WWII. Parts of the reader trace the origins of the "Neocons" and points out that the pre-WWII American isolationists, including the young JFK, evolved into the Neo-cons and explains how and why. Lukacs also concludes that the two world wars and their fallout, not the cold war that resulted are the real source of 20th Century historiography. He also concludes that all history is revisionist and historical science should always be informed by the Heisenberg physics principal that observation changes results. In passing note that he dismisses with some disdain, Eisenhower, Kissinger, and even earlier figures such as Wilson. But is clearly enthralled with the Post WWII Churchill, and Teddy Roosevelt, but not necessarily FDR.
Nonetheless, the mention of Lukacs is designed to inform the contributors to this thread that his "Remembered Past" (and he is regarded as a conservative historian) that reading even extracts of his work might have resulted in at least 2/3rds of the comments posted on this thread being at least more accurate historically and somewhat better informed from the past, thus really informing rather than posturing. That this threads "history" is still very very important and to witness the emotion behind some of the comments indicates that thinking about the past is clearly in play. Lukacs points out that we are all historians as opposed to choosing for example to be a scientist. Hopefully other items of PL will result in such an outpouring of historiography. Clearly the arguments over the meaning of the history of the 20th C. and the role of the US are just starting to be "Revised." Lukacs does posit a decline in historical knowledge and seems to substantiate it in his writings.

Andy

David,

You refer to my 'almost exclusive focus on ideological lineage and genealogy'. But my original post had nothing whatsoever to do with either of these things

Well, to be fair, you've addressed very little of what I've said and that includes your original post. That post was ostensibly a response to my criticisms of Col. Lang which I quote here:

I greatly enjoy your informative blog, but it seems that you focus more attention lately on neocon aspect of issues above everything else, which, in my opinion, damages your arguments. Assuming your blog here is meant to influence and inform, then I wonder what utility is served by focusing the majority of your effort on allegations that Kissinger belongs to the neocon club instead of wholly puting that effort into refuting his arguments. Examining connections between Kissinger and the neocons do not show that his views are wrong.

Throughout both threads I have maintained that basic position and further detailed my thoughts on the subject in a variety of ways. Some have agreed with me while others have suggested that dealing with dishonorable people like the neocons is somehow different, though no explanations are given as to why one should argue with them any differently, much less insight on how to do so. Despite your extensive examination of various subjects and personalities in this thread, your position on this topic remains unclear to me beyond the initial admission that one should argue with those who do so in bad faith.

Since we agree that nefarious individuals and ideologies must be argued with, the question remains is how? Again, your thoughts are unclear as you've not responded directly to my position on the topic and I'm too much a simpleton to distill it from your historical essays.

Finally, there's this:

Perhaps if you followed my example and posted under your full name, your readers would be in better position to make sense of them!

I fail to see what utility a last name would provide you! Googling it would not provide much, let me assure you. Just consider me a joe average citizen waiting for my educated betters to sort out the complex battle-of-ideas thing and shepherd me along. In any event, who I am is irrelevant since, as I've stated all along, I believe that arguments should be able to stand on their merits and not be dependent for credibility on the person making them. It would be interesting to know to what degree, if any, you might agree with this or any of my other positions here.

Babak Makkinejad

Charles I:

They are entitled.

David W

Babak, I while I have to agree that both parties eagerly participate in gaining whatever edge they can, your examples are both historic and quaint, given what the Republicans have been up to for the past 10 years. Talking Points Memo can get you up to speed on the voter fraud 'innovations' that the Republicans have been up to during this period.

Also, I'm not sure what to make of the comment 'Corporations do not vote.' Perhaps it is meant to say that votes don't count as much as lobbying money? Because that's what I see driving politics in the US today.

Babak Makkinejad

Charles I:

In a representative system the electorate has the right to be wrong.

taters

Andy,
You really don't get it, do you? Everything one needs to counter and defeat neocon arguments, up and down - every time - is here. The "noble lie" can be countered.
I'm assuming you haven't read Col. Lang's definitive "Drinking the Koolaid" for starters. You owe it to yourself and it is easily available on any google search.

As to your critique of Col. Lang, it reminds of the same kind of thinking exhibited by 'Viceroy' Bremer - a blatant disregard for history and an astonishing lack of concern - and opposed to garnering information on the subject at hand. But don't fret - there is a cure - you're here.
Regards,
Robert Murray

David Habakkuk

Andy:

You tell me that my 'almost exclusive focus on ideological lineage and genealogy … is likely to go right over the top of Joe and Jane average citizen who don't know who Strauss is and furthermore don't give a damn.'

You also tell me to consider you as 'a joe average citizen waiting for my educated betters to sort out the complex battle-of-ideas thing and shepherd me along.'

But you are also 'very familiar with the Schmitt/Shulsky article and their attack on Kent'.

I am most impressed to find a 'joe average citizen' like yourself having taken the trouble to get hold of the Schmitt/Shulsky paper. I had some difficulty doing so, as it was published in an obscure symposium on 'Leo Strauss, The Straussians, and the Study of the American Regime'.

Obviously then there is no need for you to wait for us educated people to sort out the 'battle-of-ideas' for you.

This gives me new faith that you are wrong in suggesting that the obstacles to alerting the citizenry -- in your country and in mine -- to the dangers posed by the Straussians are insuperable.

DH

CK:

"I would again emphasize the intellectual role of the German Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss's mentor. Schmitt got Strauss his ticket out of Germany (a Rockefeller foundation grant to study in England) so that he could spread the poison. After laundering himself in England (working on Hobbes), Strauss unfortunately comes to our shores."

Strauss was a nihilist. What was the overarching vision he and his followers were/are reaching for? Are they attempting to save Man from himself, or to enslave him in a ruthlessly efficient fascistic nightmare?

Andy

David,

Perhaps I didn't mention it before (in this forum anyway) that I spent most of a career in the US intelligence community, so my knowledge of Strauss et al comes from professional interest.

In any event, that is all tertiary to the discussion and once again does not address the points I've been making. I'm beginning to wonder if you have any serious intention of doing so....

Taters,

One wonders if you've actually read much of what I've written here since I've said several times my disagreement with Col. Lang and others is more about tactics than than any disagreement about the neocons themselves. That you focus on me and not on the substance of what I say only serves to reinforce the point I've been making all along! Thanks!

Babak Makkinejad

Charles I:

In a representative system the electorate has the right to be wrong.

Babak Makkinejad

David W:

My specific point was to point out that still it is the individuals who make a (moral) judgment when they cast their votes and not some nefarious League of Corporations or FEMA or the Trilateral Commission.

My broader point is this:

The Republicans - who do not seem to be able to govern effectively - were elected by the American electorate. The sitting President was elected twice.

Thus, no matter how much we disagree with the so-called neo-conservative fantasists or their fellow-travelers we are left with the fact these policies have been endorsed by the American people.

Clifford Kiracofe

"<<"enslave him in a ruthlessly efficient fascistic nightmare">,"

DH,
Seems to me the evidence is that Strauss was sympathetic to European fascism as a protege of Carl Schmitt. He then carries Schmitt's work forward in the United States. He is clever enough to adopt it to the US context and to cloak his intentions.

Drury and others argue Strauss incorporated Nietzsche, Spinoza, and the Zionism of the Jabotinsky stripe into his mix. Jabotinsky, of course, admired Nietzsche also.

Neocon stalwart Mike Ledeen is noted for his enthusiasm for Italian fascism. See, for example, the article in The American Conservative magazine
http://www.amconmag.com/06_30_03/feature.html

"Enslave"... I would suggest on this point the Drury book on Kojeve with particular reference to the discussion on Hegel and the "master/slave" relationship. Fukuyama and others pick this up. Kojeve's treatment of Hegel is taken up in extenso in the Auffret book I mentioned.

By their own writings, it would seem Irving Kristol etal.'s goal is to replace the traditional political principles of the Republican Party with their own Neocon political ideology. On the Democratic Party side, their penetration is through Lieberman. The basic concept would be a "modern American Fascism" without the anti-Semitism of the Europe of the 1920s and 1930s.

Babak Makkinejad

David W:

My specific point was to point out that still it is the individuals who make a (moral) judgment when they cast their votes and not some nefarious League of Corporations or FEMA or the Trilateral Commission.

My broader point is this:

The Republicans - who do not seem to be able to govern effectively - were elected by the American electorate. The sitting President was elected twice.

Thus, no matter how much we disagree with the so-called neo-conservative fantasists or their fellow-travelers we are left with the fact these policies have been endorsed by the American people.

Babak Makkinejad

David W:

My specific point was to point out that still it is the individuals who make a (moral) judgment when they cast their votes and not some nefarious League of Corporations or FEMA or the Trilateral Commission.

My broader point is this:

The Republicans - who do not seem to be able to govern effectively - were elected by the American electorate. The sitting President was elected twice.

Thus, no matter how much we disagree with the so-called neo-conservative fantasists or their fellow-travelers we are left with the fact these policies have been endorsed by the American people.

Cold War Zoomie

A mix of ridicule, dismissal and logical arguments should be the tactic for dealing with the neocons.

I think their influence is evaporating anyway. All sorts of fires are popping up, sucking the oxygen out of their marketing campaigns. Isn't it funny how that works?

David Habakkuk

Andy:

You tell taters that you've 'said several times my disagreement with Col. Lang and others is more about tactics than than any disagreement about the neocons themselves.'

What reason have we got to believe you?

When you refused to give me your name, you asked me to consider you as 'a joe average citizen waiting for my educated betters to sort out the complex battle-of-ideas thing and shepherd me along.'

You now tell me that you 'spent most of a career in the US intelligence community, so my knowledge of Strauss et al comes from professional interest.'

As these statements are incompatible, at least one of them must be untrue. Accordingly, you are simply not entitled to expect that any claim you make about what you think should be taken on trust.

Eric Dönges

Babak,

your points on separation of powers in Iran are well made; it seems to me that in this regard, Iran is not that different from many Western democracies.

This leaves freedom of religion. As you note, there are many countries around the world that have an official state religion; however, at least in Europe, this is a symbolic remnant of the past, nothing more. The only country I am aware of (at least in Europe) where there is a "list of of official religions that receive money from the various governments" is my own native Germany, where the Catholic and most of the Protestant churches have an agreement with the German state that the state will collect taxes on behalf of the churches from their German members. If you are not a member of one of these churches, you do not pay the tax. Since religious affiliation (or lack thereof) has absolutely no bearing on legal status, job prospects, or eligibility for political office, Germany does have "real" freedom of religion.

I agree with you that there is nothing wrong with religious men (or women) taking part in politics (regardless of which religion they adhere to), since any citizen should have the right to participate in politics if he or she so wishes. But making religious belief a requirement for any public office (or letting it determine which set of laws applies to a person) is morally wrong since there is no way to determine which religious belief is correct.

Babak Makkinejad

Eric Dönges:
Thank you for your comments.

I would like to know if a Muslim in Europe can practice his religion? Can he, for example, marry two women – a clear dispensation given to men in the Quran? [It is good to be a Muslim!]

The feature of the Iranian government system that distinguishes it from all existing governments in the world [to my knowledge] is the existence of the Office of the Supreme [Muslim] Jurisprudent who is elected by the members of an Assembly of Experts [Doctors of Religious Sciences of Islam]. This Assembly of Experts, in turn, is elected by the Iranian public. [The only theoretical precedent for this office before the work of Ayatollah Khomeini “Guardianship of the Jurist” that I have found was the Philosopher-King in Plato’s book “The Republic” and later in al-Farabi’s work “The Distinguished City”.] I think the major concern that created that led to the creation of this office was the fear that the Doctors of Religion had for a return of either dictatorship or chaos. That fear is not unfounded; Muslim polities in the 20-th century seem to have oscillated between dictatorship and chaos with brief periods of representative government in between. So, the Office of the Supreme Jurisprudent has been able to maintain the constitutional government in Iran for the last 27 years. This, in my opinion, has been no small achievement specially considering the history of Islamic polities. I think only Turkey has been more successful than Iran in this respect and even there we are not certain of the future of the constitutional government there.

You have stated that “…since there is no way to determine which religious belief is correct.” But do you net see? For Muslims it is clear that Islam is the correct religious belief. The Muslim polities will never ever come around to the point of view that you have articulated. For Muslims, all pre-existing religions have been made obsolete by the Revelation in Quran and post-Islamic religious [Druze, Allawaite, Ahamdi, Baha’i, Babi, Sikh, etc.] are all heresies and schismatic. This will not change for the foreseeable future; in my opinion.

You have one valid point which is what happened almost 20 years ago in Iran. The Iranian parliament altered the electoral law to require “outward conformance” to Islam as a sign of Islamic Piety. [This, of course, was the major error of the Pharisees [The Persian Jews – funny how History twists and turns] against which Jesus fought. ] ] And one of the MP supporters stated: “If we do not do this [restrict the list] we will not get elected since no one would vote for us!” In practice this has meant conformance to the religious kitsch of the Iranian lower classes – 4-day old beard, absolutely no-tie, etc. as a condition of being able to stand for election. It is in this sense that the Iranian system is a restricted representative government. I also think that the electorate has been ready for non-Kitschy candidates for some time now. Future will show.

Andy

David,

More avoidance of the topic at hand!

Ok, I understand you didn't get my little bit of snark. The line about "just oconsider me a joe citizen..." was my sarcastic reply to:

Commonly, battles of ideas are won among the educated -- mass opinion follows.

...which I thought a rather amazing and arrogant thing to say. I reject that simplistic dichotomy, but again, that is really a tertiary topic to the main discussion and so did not want to begin a debate on it. Rather than disagree with you directly and open another tangent that avoids the supposed topic of this thread, I opted to throw in a little barb which I now realize was not as obvious or clever as I imagined it would be.

And another rather amazing thing to say:

What reason have we got to believe you?

and

...you are simply not entitled to expect that any claim you make about what you think should be taken on trust.

For all your rhetoric against dishonest debate, you are growing adept at the tactics! So now I am required to prove to you I really believe what I say - or, rather, disprove that I'm dishonest? How is that even possible were it germane? Is this a requirement you impose on everyone or just certain kinds of troublemakers? What is the litmus test? One wonders. Perhaps, while I'm at it, I should prove I'm not a rapist and that I don't beat my children as well?

The fallacy you put forth here of requiring me to prove a negative has a long tradition and, ironically, it's the same fallacy the Bush administration and the neocons used regarding Iraq 's WMD!

In any event - even though I am being honest - whether I believe what I say or not is irrelevant to the validity of my arguments! It's one point, among many, I have made repeatedly that you have yet to openly agree or disagree with and it's a point that can easily be addressed regardless of the honesty of the one making it....

David, at this point I can only conclude that your refusal to address my arguments here is intentional though I hope you prove me wrong. A whole lot of debate experience tells me your repeated attempts to change the debate and make it about me to the point now of openly questioning my honesty and thereby impugning my integrity indicates to me you're unable to refute the substance of my arguments and so are forced to attempt to discredit them by discrediting me. That's a classic ad hominem game I'm quite familiar with and one I won't play nor reciprocate in kind.

I'm still interested in your views and criticism of the arguments I've put forth here, but I'm not going to respond to further ad hominem, so the choice of what direction this conversation goes is entirely up to you.

Best Regards,

Andy

David Habakkuk

'Andy'

Tell me why you will not give me your name.

Andy

David,

It's for a variety of reasons. First, as I said before, my point is that who I am is largely immaterial to my arguments, but there are practical reasons as well. I've made no secret that I used to work in the intelligence community and I still do a lot of traveling. For personal security reasons, when I go overseas I don't want XYZ country nor anyone else to know that or be able to find out through a simple google search. Secondly, my wife is an active duty Air Force officer. We strongly support the idea that military personnel should remain apolitical and we probably go farther than most in that regard. Although my views are my own, I do not want to damage her career should I say something stupid - particularly given her career field (which will remain unnamed) and the not insignificant time I spend on military-related sites which are, in turn, read by many in the military. There is my own job to consider as well and I don't want the opportunity, even if it's remote, of embarrassing my employer should I write something stupid or controversial.

Finally, I am a privacy advocate. Far too much information is available to anyone who has even minimal information about you. As an experiment earlier this year I spent about $100 and had an extensive online background check run on my name. The report I received back pretty much had my entire life history as well as basic information on my family. Such information is available to anyone worldwide for $100 or less and even more detailed information can be purchased for not much more. That should be reason enough for anyone to be cautious using full names on the internet. Paranoid? Maybe, but I'm not about to take the chance - no thanks.

David Habakkuk

Andy:

I see I am dealing with a scholar-spook, with a profound interest in methodological issues to do with intelligence, and intimate acquaintance with arguments about the utility (or lack of it) of Straussian ideas for intelligence practitioners.

As there have now been five new threads since this one started, I fear we are arguing without an audience. But I am confident that future threads will provide ample opportunity to continue our discussions on the most appropriate tactics for countering the neocons. I look forward to it.

Meanwhile, however, you can perhaps help me with a practical problem.

I must admit that I had rather left the issues raised by the Schmitt and Shulsky paper behind -- moving on to other matters. It was only your comments, and the intervention from Tom Griffin, that made me realize that there was a lot of unfinished business here. The roles of the National Strategy Information Center and the Consortium for the Study of Intelligence had largely passed me by -- as had the links identified by Griffin to Lord Black's entourage, Policy Exchange, and arguments within the British Labour Party in the Fifties.

Anyhow, I realised that I really do need to read the report on The Future of U.S. Intelligence that the Consortium published back in 1996. But getting hold of a copy has proved unexpectedly difficult. I have looked both on Amazon and on the Abe site, but drawn a blank in both cases. There is a link to the Executive Summary and Key Judgements on the Consortium website, it seems not to be functioning any longer.

It occurred to me that in the light of your evident interest in these arguments, you might have a copy. And if you were prepared to get it scanned or copied and sent to me, that would be an enormous help. I would be obviously be prepared to pay to get this done. I can see that your concern to protect your privacy might be a problem, but it may not be an insurmountable one.

Alternatively of course I could approach the Consortium directly. Do you think this would be a promising strategy? If so, could you advise me on how best to go about it?

Eric Dönges

Babak,

to answer your question "I would like to know if a Muslim in Europe can practice his religion? Can he, for example, marry two women – a clear dispensation given to men in the Quran?" - if state recognition of these marriages is important, then no, he can't. I would argue that the number of wives a man may legally have is actually not so much a religious question, but a practical one dependent on the ratio between men and women in a society. How many men in muslim societies actually have more than one wife ?

That being said, your point is well taken - there are obviously limits to the amount of freedom of religion available in Europe (we also don't allow animal or human sacrifices, for instance). But we don't place special taxes on non-Christians (quite the reverse, at least in Germany !), and we don't deny them housing, jobs or the ability to run for public office, at least not in theory (though I would argue that the problems Muslims are likely to face in practice are down to plain old racism, not religious intolerance). Obviously, we could do better, but at least we're trying - unlike many Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia for example. (And yes, I am aware that compared to most Arab countries, Iran is actually fairly liberal).

And as to your point that Muslims are convinced their beliefs are correct - of course I see that. Just like my parents are convinced their Catholic beliefs are correct. My point is simply that since we can't actually prove that one system of belief is correct or not, we should not attempt to force our beliefs on others, and we certainly should not enshrine religion in law. Of course, in practice there will always be points of disagreement (like the number of wives/husbands you may have, what holidays are officially recognized, which mind-altering drugs are acceptable, etc.), with different cultures reaching different compromises - this is inevitable. But some form of compromise will have to be reached, because otherwise war is also inevitable. And to get back to our original point of discussion, I don't think a theocracy can reach an acceptable compromise in this regard, so I think theocracy is not a workable form of government.

Babak Makkinejad

Eric Dönges:

You wrote: " ...with different cultures reaching different compromises ... But some form of compromise will have to be reached, because otherwise war is also inevitable .... I don't think a theocracy can reach an acceptable compromise"

Historically, you have been wrong. Both the Ottoman Empire, the Czarist Russia were better guardians of cultural and religious diversity thanwhat followed them - both militantly secular; Kemalist Turkey and the Communist Russia. And of course the Third Reich was as secular as the next guy.

I think you in EU & US are emotionally very uncomfortable with religious governments. I also note here that your polities and governments do support the religious project of the Jews in Palestine.

"Physician, heal thyself."


Andy

David,

I don't have the "Future of US Intelligence" publication either and unfortunately. Your best bet is probably contacting the Consortium directly and if that fails then you might consider contacting a research library that specializes in intelligence or national security. They may be able to dig up a copy for you.

I'm leaving town for the holidays tomorrow, but when I return I'll call a few friends and see if I can dig something up.

Best regards,

Andy

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