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26 July 2015


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Pat, I don't have time to look into it,

("troubles of my own", sounds like it could be stolen, but where?, and yes it reminds me of a discussion about the limits of academic citation routines with a lady who is dead by now)

but is it true what a friend tells me, apparently pretty outraged, that Turkey attacked Iraqi Kurds.



I've see it referred to as the Borg, the Cathedral, and now there's a new term for the mainstream "narrative" that nails the mainstream GOP in the solar plexus: cuckservative.

Swami Bhut Jolokia

PL, re your comment headed "Obama as worldwide community organizer". What you say is true. However I would argue that is a feature of the US political class, not a bug. Which President or leading Senator of the last 4-5 decades has recognized that the US has limited (if any) influence on cultural (and even political) practices anywhere in the world?


You are not paying attention. That political class is part of what I have been calling The Borg. pl


I'm thinking of them/it as Moriarty and Moriarty LLC.



Damn, I agree with everything in your roundup including economics is a subset of politics. Yet, money explains a lot. Did you read where Martin O’Malley got loans for $325,000 to pay for his daughters’ college education? Either he is one of us three toe sloths who are always in debt or he is shooting to be Hillary’s vice-president so he can join the jet set like Joe Biden who flew to Kiev and green lighted a civil war there for the Frackers. Ukraine’s largest gas company happened to hire Joe’s son Hunter. Or, Martin could hit the real jackpot and get jobs for his daughters at NBC like George and Laura, and Bill and Hillary.

Swami Bhut Jolokia

PL, what's your take on the Pollard thing? How will it play out?



"... as culturally White. This is the part of the electorate that identifies with the historic majority culture of the United States. Race has nothing to do with whether or not you are culturally White."

This is absolutely spot on, although I say 'culturally European American'. The main problem with the Borg, imo, is that they not longer identify as European Americans. They are internationalists. They look down on us from Washington DC and New York City and the only difference they see between us and Guatemalan peasant farmers and Chinese sweatshop factory workers is our (fast diminishing) capability to upset their internationalist agenda. Their arrogant disdain for and ill-concealed hatred of Donald Trump are manifestations of their fear of his American patriotism (especially nationalist capitalism) and the resonance he has excited with a large swath of the American public with his stance on uncontrolled immigration of people who have no intention of or interest in assimilation.

National self-preservation requires a system of governance where the prosperity of the ruling class is tied up with the prosperity of the nation. We don't have that anymore. The prosperity of our now internationalist ruling class is more closely correlated with the prosperity of the network of multinational corporations who form the backbone of global 'free trade'.

FB Ali

Col Lang,

I do not think there is any chance now of Pakistani troops bolstering the Saudis. China has no interest in that.

It may not be part of the "Sunday news", but it deserves to be mentioned: for quite a while now the Saudis and Emiratis have been committing serial war crimes in Yemen in the massive bombing of non-military targets, causing huge casualties among the civilian population. Their air campaign is reputed to be supported by the US. The total lack of any mention of these actions as war crimes in the West and the Sunni Muslim world (including Pakistan) is a shame!


FB Ali

I was thinking of Bangl aDesh, Morocco, Jordan, India (Muslinm troops) pl

Ishmael Zechariah

General Ali,
"The total lack of any mention of these actions as war crimes in the West and the Sunni Muslim world (including Pakistan) is a shame!" I fully agree. In fact the reports on what is actually happening are being "sanitized". It is also amusing to listen to the selective "outrage" of the Western intelligentsia with respect to bombing campaigns.

Now that the Turkish Airforce has reminded PKK/PYK/Pesh Merga and other associated rabble of some inconvenient facts of life, we can expect more "freedom fighting actions" by these cadres in Turkish cities.

Life is promising to become quite interesting.

Ishmael Zechariah


FB Ali,

the war in Yemen can be broadly - not exclusively - categorised as North v South, Zaydi v Shafa'i although there are plenty of influential Zaydis on the side of the Saudis and a small number of influential Shafa'is on the side of the Huthis/Saleh.

The Shafa'i community - perhaps as much as 70% of the total - support the Saudi campaign of air strikes and the Gulf support for the fighters in Aden and the South.

It is true that the Gulf coalition is causing war crimes but in terms of civilian deaths the Huthi/Ali Abdallah Saleh forces have committed proportionally more. In addition they are attacking towns on the Saudi border on a near daily basis.

The biggest news is that thousands of Adenis and Southern separatist fighters have landed in Aden over the past weeks and then launched a counter attack on 14th July. Since then they have re-taken Aden and are slowly moving out north and eastwards to link up with other towns and villages that have fallen to local resistance fighters. They have a fleet of brand new MRAP AFVs to help them in this task, supplied by the UAE. The Emiratis have also beefed up the fighters by inserting SF into their ranks.

In fact it appears to be a very similar play to that of Libya in 2011. And we all know how well that ended...

This war appears to be in its early stages. There will be many months and years of further fighting ahead. I do not believe that the Saudis have a political goal in mind other than the destruction of the Huthis as a fighting force and the expulsion of Saleh. Beyond that they have few actors on the ground capable of implementing any military victory into political gains.

different clue

Ishmael Zechariah,

It appears you are lumping PYK and Pesh Merga in with the PKK. Have the PYK and/or the Pesh Merga done any warfighting in Turkey along with or in co-operation with the PKK?

Swami Bhut Jolokia

Somehow I don't see India sending troops to Saudi Arabia. Their greater interest is in making nice with Iran and Pakistan to get a pipeline from Iran to India.

Of course this upsets those in Delhi who are very pro-Israel. It should be interesting to see how this plays out.


There's an overlap between the Borg (I'm still not sure exactly what that means) and the "majority -- European-origin culturally white."

We are most certainly of the three-toed sloth category -- well, the three-toed, anyway; hard work made it possible for offspring to get fine educations and leverage them into very fine jobs, among the Borg.

Son of Sloth now labels Sire of Sloth "mentally ill" for clinging to "the historic majority culture."

Son of Sloth is well advised to store up all the loot possible from his Borg employers, because his inheritance just got redirected.

Humor aside, the generational divide is worth careful attention. The Borg has educated our children; they are somewhere between Turgenev's nihilist and thoroughly rootless globalists; from peasant who never traveled more than 10 miles from mountain village to routine trips around the world in two generations. Where do Fathers and Sons meet?


In a conversation with Bruce Reidel, Yossi Alpher hinted that Israel strongly supports an independent Kurdish state.

Israel has an on-again off-again relationship with Turkey.

How will Israel respond to Turkish attacks on Kurds?

Let me guess: with complete silence. Israel will not come to the aid of the Kurds whose 'independence' they have been encouraging but not politically supporting in any way that might come back to harm the Israeli state.

FB Ali


I do not think that war crimes committed by one side justify the other side in doing the same thing. There is no calculus of equation and mutual cancellation. Both are responsible for grave crimes, and deserve to be, at the very least, condemned.

Far from having any political goal, this Saudi action appears to be the young Second Crown Prince(ling) and Defence Minister trying to show off his military 'acumen' and burnish his chances of succeeding his father as King by winning a 'famous victory'. Having failed in achieving that, he is now desperately continuing the only thing he can do - bomb anything that still stands.

Like the West did in Libya, all that the Saudis and their Emirati henchmen will achieve is a fractured Yemen, where AQ and/or IS will establish strongholds. Then the young prince will need to not only have the milk wiped off his chin but also have his trousers frequently changed.

FB Ali

There was an article published the other day on the wider and deeper ramifications of what the Islamic State really signifies. I would highly recommend it:


The Twisted Genius


That's the best analysis of the Trump phenomenon I have read to date. We'll probably have to wait months to see if he can articulate a full set of policy proposals that reflect the ideas behind his crowd pleasing rants. If he can do that, he just might pull this off.

Stephen Colton

Very interesting. Thank you.

Stephen Colton

Very interesting. Thank you for the link.

David Habakkuk

F.B. Ali,

Thanks for the reference to the Pankaj Mishra article on 'How to think about Islamic State.' I need to think further about it, but would strongly second your recommendation of his arguments to members of this 'Committee of Correspondence'.

A few thoughts. At the start of his article, Mishra writes

'The early post cold war consensus – that bourgeois democracy has solved the riddle of history, and a global capitalist economy will usher in worldwide prosperity and peace – lies in tatters. But no plausible alternatives of political and economic organisation are in sight. A world organised for the play of individual self-interest looks more and more prone to manic tribalism.'

Part of our problems derive from the fact that the retreat and collapse of Soviet power produced something approaching a total intellectual collapse among Western elites.

There is an irony here, to which Mishra's discussion is very relevant. Among the figures he mentions are Dostoevsky and – in passing – Tocqueville. For all their differences – and the radical divergencies in their political conclusions – they actually have a great deal of common ground. Both were reflecting on the impact on the origins, and impact on their respective societies, of modern Western 'individualism'.

And both were acutely aware that human beings are not simply individuals, but creatures who, of their nature, belong to groups, and of their nature, look for meaning that can only found in values and purposes held together with others.

Moreover, both were also acutely aware that precisely when individualism becomes radical, it can generate a collapse back into group solidarities, often of an all-encompassing kind. And this is indeed central to the anxieties, common to both of them, that the 'democratic revolution of aspiration' both men witnessed (Mishra's phrase in relation to Tocqueville) might find its nemesis in something we might call 'totalitarianism'.)

Here, the nightmare of a collapse back into a kind of 'pure group solution' comes together with another nightmare both men shared – that of politics becoming a religion, and so justifying 'totalitarian' claims.

Actually, these concerns are not simply French and Russian. Both Dostoevsky and Tocqueville are presences behind the account of the catastrophe into which his beloved Germany had fallen given by Thomas Mann in his 1947 novel 'Doktor Faustus'.

In taking as a metaphor for Hitler's version of 'National Socialism' the music of Schoenberg – where the repudiation of the constraints of tonality ends up with a retreat into the rigid formalism of the twelve-tone method – Mann was applying what was essentially their argument about the ambiguities of 'individualism' to German elite culture.

Moreover, although I have no more than dipped into the relevant literatures here, one finds essentially the same arguments developed in many modern discussions which are related to the catastrophes of modern European history, both in anthropological and historical writing, and also philosophical.

And here, there is a strange irony. After 1989, Western elites essentially embraced the kind of dotty Hegelianism set out in the paper published that year by Francis Fukuyama under the title 'The End of History'. This was based on the reading of the German philosopher Hegel by the Russian emigré Stalinist-turned-EEC bureaucrat Alexander Kojève. A crucial passage reads:

'Kojève sought to resurrect the Hegel of the Phenomenology of Mind, the Hegel who proclaimed history to be at an end in 1806. For as early as this Hegel saw in Napoleon's defeat of the Prussian monarchy at the Battle of Jena the victory of the ideals of the French Revolution, and the imminent universalization of the state incorporating the principles of liberty and equality. Kojève, far from rejecting Hegel in light of the turbulent events of the next century and a half, insisted that the latter had been essentially correct. The Battle of Jena marked the end of history because it was at that point that the vanguard of humanity (a term quite familiar to Marxists) actualized the principles of the French Revolution. While there was considerable work to be done after 1806 – abolishing slavery and the slave trade, extending the franchise to workers, women, blacks, and other racial minorities, etc. – the basic principles of the liberal democratic state could not be improved upon. The two world wars in this century and their attendant revolutions and upheavals simply had the effect of extending those principles spatially, such that the various provinces of human civilization were brought up to the level of its most advanced outposts, and of forcing those societies in Europe and North America at the vanguard of civilization to implement their liberalism more fully.'

(https://ps321.community.uaf.edu/files/2012/10/Fukuyama-End-of-history-article.pdf .)

There is here an extraordinary irony. For Toqueville, as for Burke, the American Revolution was – unlike the French – the 'good face' of democracy: the United States, unlike France, had turned out to be a society where egalitarian principles could be combined with liberty.

But this was in substantial measure, in his view, because in the United States, 'democracy' had not become a religion: his argument about the reasons for this contrast lies at the heart of his comparison of the two revolutions.

There always was, however, that strand in American nationalism which was quasi-religious – Lincoln's 'Gettysburg Address' is one classic text, although as I understand it some would trace the infection back to Jefferson's importation of 'natural rights' conceptions into the 'Declaration of Independence'.

Another classic text here is the key NSC 68 paper masterminded by Paul Nitze in the spring of 1950, which is one of the principal sources of 'neoconservatism'.

(By contrast the quasi-Burkean conception of the case for the American Revolution, which was that of very many of its protagonists, rested on conceptions of the legally grounded rights of subjects against the ruler, deeply rooted in English traditions.)

The widespread acceptance, not just in the United States but in Britain, of Fukuyama's jerry-built intellectual structure, represents a decisive triumph of the Jacobin tradition: and, unsurprisingly, we see all the old pathologies recur.

Once politics becomes a religion, then it is common for the principles of whatever creed is at issue to be seen as universally applicable. By definition, opposition to them is to be explained either by evil will, or by ignorance. Among the appropriate modes of action are righteous violence, and that of the primary school teacher educating the ignorant.

In general, making politics into a religion is bad for the practice of intelligence. If one knows in advance that one's adversaries are either evil or stupid, understanding why they act as they do becomes problematic.

By the same token, the tragedies of modern European history are reduced to a simple morality play, in which the 'vanguard' slowly overcomes the resistance imposed by evil and stupidity. Clearly, late Tsarist statesmen like Stolypin and Durnovo who were liberal in economics but defended the autocracy were either knaves or fools: had they just introduced universal suffrage, there would have been no Revolution.

If this looks eerily similar to the 'morality play' of Stalinism, it is: the two have related origins, and it is fitting that Kojève should be a central figure - precisely because his reaction to the failure of the Soviet experiment was to conclude that Stalin had got the direction wrong, rather than to grasp that the whole notion of an ineluctable direction to history is nonsense.

Compounding the problem, the behaviour of Western elites since 1989 has validated another fear both of Dostoevsky and Tocqueville. What we have seen is indeed a collapse back into group solidarity – but the solidarity is that of intellectual conformity. However, here there is a fascinating contrast with the outcome of the French and Russian Revolutions.

In both cases, intellectual conformity broke up very quickly, producing heresy-hunting. In the case of 'the Borg', however, it is not clear that this is a problem.

It is however important that the origins of 'the Borg' should not be seen as lying simply in vested interests. That utopian political agendas can often veil will-to-power, and becomes instruments of it, is both true and relevant – and indeed, it is a point which both Dostoevsky and Tocqueville made. But to reduce explain our current problems in purely 'individualist' economic terms is make nonsense of them.

Their origins are at least in part intellectual – and if there is to be any solution, which it not clear, that also must in substantial measure intellectual.


Great writer, FB Ali, had to look him up. Maybe worth to take a closer look at.

Yes, it seems obvious, whatever your favorite quote. Is this the neocon's wildest dream come true, or simply the Janus face of the hypcricy behind the tale of bringing-freedom-to-the-world? The ME?

It's slighly fading by now, but never before I felt double standards to the extend I did in the last decade.

Babak Makkinejad

The fundamental problematic is this - in my opinion:

The common belief, uncritically propagated across the world, that any state, polity, territory could become, in due course and adhering to certain recipes dreamt up by Western Thinkers, a copy of polities in Europe West of the Diocletian Line.

[The English used to be immune to such delusions, not any longer, it seems.]

When the colonial empires receded after World War II, those colonial possessions, over the course of next 50 years, proceeded to revert back to various stages of barbarism and savagery prior to colonialism.

It turned out that the Colonial Civilizing Mission - which really was a Supply Chain Mission - had not transformed anything or anyone.

Older non-Western states that asserted their own development prerogatives and culture - such as the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran - became not Enemies of Progress & Humanity but also deviants from the one true path that had to be confronted, contained, and assimilated/destroyed.

In my view, Western Civilization, however attractive it may be, cannot be extended much beyond East of the Diocletian Line. The creation of a global supply chain that sucks in countries and peoples is not a civilization - other times and other places had witnessed such mini global supply chains (Indian Ocean basin before the coming of the Europeans - for example).

I ask again: when will Skopje become just like Surrey; 20 years, 50 years, 200 years?

And as Skopje goes so does Tehran or Cairo or Minsk or Kinshasa....

The solution, I should think, would start from accepting that human beings, countries, and civilizations and cultures are neither malleable nor interchangeable.

[And rightly so, I might add. I mean, if Northern Europeans had succeeded in assimilating Spain or Italy into some pale imitation of Germany or Denmark, the where would all those Northern Europeans would have gone for vacation every summer - after schools closed.?]

To your last point about power:

As Father Blackie observed: "What is Power if it cannot be used to hurt other human beings?"



While I too found the article by Pankaj Mishra to make some good points, I was also rather overwhelmed (or should I say underwhelmed) by his intellectualization of these points. I had to drink a second cup of tea in order to focus my thoughts on why his article irritated my brain so much.

You said, "But to reduce explain our current problems in purely 'individualist' economic terms is make nonsense of them.
Their origins are at least in part intellectual – and if there is to be any solution, which it not clear, that also must in substantial measure intellectual."

I think that one of the major flaws of current western intellectual worldviews is the basis in the three fold practice of reduction-abstraction-reification combined with forced causal linearization of the naturally ambiguous multi-dimensional reality of the world we live in (what I typically refer to in shorthand as PowerPoint reality).

The article was chock full of examples of the fallacy of reification https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reification_(fallacy) of which you noted the point on "individualism" which I also found quite unsatisfactory as an explanation of anything (unless this idea fits with one's own ideology).

This sentence in particular, is a great example of the dangers of reification... as it doesn't make any sense without reified assumptions!
“Even the nation state expressly designed to fulfil those promises – the United States – seethes with angry disillusionment across its class and racial divisions.” WTF???

I tend to prefer explanations based on human nature, not ideology... though I recognize that for a small minority of humans ideology is a driving force (the "true believers" of whatever). As such I love FB Ali's explanation of the crisis in Yemen as much to do with a princeling trying to improve his status.

How much of today's "dissatisfactions" have to do with the internet and wireless and satellite technology and the ability of poor and oppressed people everywhere to see what others have that they don't? For almost all of human history people did not venture beyond their own tribe or region so there wasn't much to compare oneself or one's group to. Even so, violence and war and the frustration of the "little people" as well as their elites competing with each other for power and resources, have always been with us.

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