Material for Thinking

Robert Kaplan whom I first encountered when I read his Balkan’s Ghost prior to deploying to Kosovo in 2000, is in my opinion one of the big thinkers of our age.  Over at Foreign Policy, he has a fascinating article that I urge all to read and think about, entitled Augustine’s World.

Syria is the Levant, the geographical core of Late Antiquity. And its disintegration, like the crumbling of Libya, Yemen, and Iraq, along with the chronic unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, signifies not the birth of freedom but the collapse of central authority. Rome could not save North Africa, and the United States will not save the Near East — for as the opinion polls demonstrate, Americans have had enough of foreign military entanglements. Anarchy, perhaps followed by new forms of hegemony, will be the result. – See more at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/03/augustine_s_world_what_antiquity_tells_us_about_syria#sthash.dqoiMYTE.dpuf

His description of the current state of North Africa and the Levant is the best I have seen:

North Africa has since devolved into a borderless world of gangs, militias, tribes, transnational terrorists, anti-terrorist expeditionary forces, and weak regimes gripped in stasis. The adjacent Levant erupted into protracted low-intensity war, with only two strong legal entities left between the easternmost edge of the Mediterranean and the Central Asian plateau: a Jewish state and a Persian one (thus the centrality of Iran arguing for a rapprochement with the United States). – See more at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/03/augustine_s_world_what_antiquity_tells_us_about_syria#sthash.dqoiMYTE.dpuf

He clearly sees what is happening in Europe:

The result is that the European Union itself, so dominant in the first two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, has lost some of its geopolitical force in Central and Eastern Europe, just as Russia has re-emerged as authoritarian and powerful, thanks to hydrocarbon revenues. The map of Europe is changing from one uniform color back to divergent shades, with national identities — once presumed to be in retreat — undergoing a resurgence. – See more at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/03/augustine_s_world_what_antiquity_tells_us_about_syria#sthash.dqoiMYTE.dpuf

While we worry about China, Mr. Kaplan notes, that all is not well in the Middle Kingdom– but then again few of our foreign policy elite know anything about the history, culture, and reality of China.  Mr. Kaplan notes:

China’s economy and military are still growing massively in absolute terms, but the future of the Middle Kingdom is less certain than it was just a decade ago. With ethnic minorities and Han Chinese both pining for more freedom amid fewer opportunities, it is possible that China might one day face a variation on the Soviet Union’s fate. – See more at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/03/augustine_s_world_what_antiquity_tells_us_about_syria#sthash.dqoiMYTE.dpuf

He concludes with these I believe prophetic words:

Late Antiquity is useful to the degree that it makes us humble about what awaits us. But whatever comes next, the charmed circle of Western elites is decidedly not in control.- See more at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/02/oppa_gangnam_bubble#sthash.dqoiMYTE.dpuf

Comments

  1. Slater says:

    If we had an electorate that wasn't willfully ignorant and leaders that had the word DUTY in their vocabulary we'd be lightyears ahead of where we are going.

  2. Mr. Slater I do not accept your hobbesian view of the electorate. Despite what you might think, most politicians do their duty as they believe they should; unfortunately their positions are often influenced by those who make contributions to their campaigns, or in some case blind obedience to one ideology or another.
    You must remember that in a representative republic their is no one prevailing ideology, or one set of beliefs, that each citizen must adhere to–if there was we would be no better than the former Soviet Union.

  3. Slater says:

    When Duck Dynasty episodes get higher Nielsen Ratings than Presidential speeches it tells me that our electorate is willfully ignorant. And our politicians? Some do their duty, many do not.

    • The people are entitle to watch whatever crap the sponsors are willing to pay for. You may look down your nose at Duck Dynasty but it sells, so does Honey Boo Boo. Neither of which I care to watch. Don't deceive yourself that other nations are any classier. In the UK the tabloids make the National Enquirer look tame. In Italy the ads would make a porn star blush. Yet there are many who consider both the UK and Italy bastions of culture.

      • Slater says:

        Col Hank,

        I've watched Duck Dynasty and find it wholesome entertainment. A willfully ignorant electorate is how we have come to the Congress we currently possess.

  4. ron snyder says:

    I agree with Mr. Slater that the electorate is willfully ignorant, though I would also include the general population. Hard to believe otherwise when people are ignorant of who their elected representative are -I've never seen a poll that showed more than twenty percent or so could name their Federal reps, let alone their State and Local reps.

    As to the Politicians, BS on they do their duty as they believe they should, unless you define that belief as being reelected. I do not care what the politicians say, only what they do, ergo the BS call on trying to cloak them in "…most politicians do their duty as they believe they should.." as though they may actually be honorable persons.

  5. LtCol P says:

    Re Kosovo, who's starting to think that we might have backed the wrong side?

    • ron snyder says:

      Is there a "correct" side to back in the Balkans? If there were, would our involvement make any meaningful long-term difference?

  6. isdaveo says:

    The electorate is not willfully ignorant. They know they don't know about American Civics, and listen to whomever their peers trust, or whomever teachers (as primary authority figures, and ILO-parents) tell them to trust.

    Listened to a woman complain about how Bush-43 had spent all of the surplus Clinton allegedly created. This was just before Thanksgiving of 2000, and Bush-43 hadn't been sworn in even. But she was typical of the mis-education of America.

    American politics is parliamentary, not representative. Party uber alles is the name of the game. Florida's GOP ousted the conservative favorite Allan West in favor of the execrable Allan Grayson. Party is all.

    • ron snyder says:

      George Will had a nice post on the ignorance of the voters:
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-wil

      • isdaveo says:

        Will supports Ilya Somin's argument in favor of judicial review to balance (defined as 'overturn') the ignorance of the voters. We have an endangered version of judicial review today, which is far from the practice constituted in Marbury vs. Madison. America's judiciary today is as honest and considerate as Kim Il Jong's judiciary. Judicial Review, as practiced in America today, is in danger of destruction today. Either from overuse, i.e. Lawfare, or from disregard by the Executive and refusal to abide by legal judgement, i.e. Heller. Having judges balance, meaning overturn, voters is not the way to go.