Archive for September, 2005
Dr. Barnett – ” Transcript of my Esquire interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld” This post is 100 % vintage Rumsfeld. A must read.
Matt McIntosh on ” The Marginal Futility of Austrian Economists“. Aside from Matt’s usual thoroughness with intellectual topics, I’m just pleased to see someone who is not a nut discussing von Mises seriously.
Addendum: Title of Matt’s post is corrected. Curses to lingering dyslexic brain snafus !!!
WILL WE EVER SEE A ” HOMAGE TO MESOPOTAMIA” ?
Recently, I picked up a copy of George Orwell’s classic Homage to Catalonia which marked his disillusionment with Communism while fighting for the Loyalist side in Spain against Fascism. As I was reading it occurred to me that in contrast with Communism, Islamism as a messianic and totalitarian ideology has an absolute absence of this vast kind of literature – from dissidents, defectors or demoralized former fanatics – that offer a searing moral critique of the movement’s crimes and unsated global ambitions.
The then inchoate secular Left saw such an ideological break as early as the 1860’s when Dostoyevskii returned from Siberian hard labor a committed anti-radical to pen such books as Crime and Punishment and The Possessed. After the revolution when Stalinism gripped the Soviet Union and in the West, Communism reached it’s apex in the 1930’s we see the beginings of a literary counterrevolution – Kravchenko’s I Chose Freedom and Zamyatin’s s We , Bulgakov’s highly symbolic The Master and Margarita ( from which it is alleged Soviet censors cut a half-million words and for which Bulgakov survived writing only because Stalin was addicted to The White Turbans, one of Bulgakov’s plays).
The United States was politically rocked when an ex-Communist and former Soviet spy turned editor for TIME, Whittaker Chambers accused a former top New Deal adviser to FDR, Alger Hiss of having secretly been a Communist and later a spy as well. The Chambers-Hiss hearings and trials made the political careeer of Richard Nixon and Chambers book Witness influenced a generation of American conservatives who became foot soldiers in the Reagan Revolution. ( Defenders of Hiss, a dwindling band, are reduced to arguing that Venona decrypts about ” ALES” are not absolute proof of guilt ) Anticommunist writings of this type were capped by Solzhenitsyn’s monumental The Gulag Archipelago which even more than Conquest’s The Great Terror, was an irrevocably damning indictment of Communism.
Islamism has been in power in Iran for a generation and has held sway in Afghanistan and Sudan. It was elected then deposed and then brutally repressed in Algeria, suppressed in Egypt and Syria, straitjacketed in Turkey, bribed and subsidized in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan yet where are the books ? The reflections of the disappointed ex-jihadist turned journalist or mujahedin exile ? Perhaps such writings simply have never been translated from Arabic or Pashto but I think that unlikely. The Islamists are not peasants, they are highly educated modern Muslims in revolt against modernity. Many have been educated in the West and speak English or French. They use the internet fluidly and write as forcefully as any blogger or partisan pundit.
No, I think the absolutist emotive mentality of Islamism is simply wrong for this kind of reflective, critical, writing. Most of the adherents to violent Islamism, unlike the Western secular Communist intellectuals of yore, do not come from nations deeply steeped in a culture of literacy or intellectual inquiry. Debates are sharply circumscribed by governments and religious authority and treading around the margins of acceptable discourse can involve not a risk of criticism or public ostracism but of violence or death. They believe hermetically and do not have the cognitive framework to imagine other alternatives. Or those few that do ” fall away ” from the cause keep their mouths shut fast and they do not pick up pens to write elegant essays or grim memoirs. Even if they did, who would publish it ? Or read it ?
We are not likely to see such powerful and introspective works about Islamist terror for some time. If at all.
ALSO WEIGHING IN ON CHINA’S ASYMMETRIC MILITARY STRATEGY
A mini round-up:
THE MITROKHIN ARCHIVE – TAKE TWO
In what is certain to cause massive heartburn in left-wing history departments everywhere, Christopher Andrew is releasing his new The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World. Based on the treasure trove of Soviet KGB documents known as ” The Mitrokhin Archive” smuggled to the West at great risk by Vasili Mitrokhin, it promises to rewrite our understanding of the Cold War conflict in a way that will be painful to revisionist historians for whom America is always to blame, or at best, morally equivalent to a totalitarian tyranny. It must be a particularly demoralizing for them as professionial historians that each and every new piece of evidence that emerges in dribs and drabs from the Soviet archives tends to discredit the interpretation of the Cold War on which so many of them have built academic careers.
(There may also be an individualized kind of pain for former Soviet collaborators and KGB agents if Vol II exposes them the way The Sword and Shield outed left-wing European politicians, journalists and spies who had been on the take from Moscow.)
“People don’t realize how good the KGB was at what they did and, simultaneously, how bad they were. Let’s take India as an example. Both the Russians and the Americans planted articles in newspapers there from time to time as part of their active measures. According to KGB files, by 1973 it had ten Indian newspapers on its payroll as well as a press agency under its control. During 1972 alone, the KGB claimed to have planted 3,789 articles in newspapers there. There’s no question the Soviets outmatched the Americans in this regard. And these types of active measures were an important and very effective component of the KGB’s efforts to persuade credulous third world leaders that the CIA was plotting against them.
On the other side of the coin they put a vast amount of effort into the most ridiculous active measures you could possibly imagine. For example, it was a really big deal to prevent Russian cosmonauts being photographed anywhere near a bottle of coca cola if they traveled to other countries. KGB headquarters ordered residencies in many African capitals to send people out to count the number of posters of Mao Zedong appearing on public display. They also produced specially defaced posters of Mao and ordered them put up in Kinshasa, Brazzaville, and other remote African locations. My favorite example has to do with the spectacularly tedious congresses of the Soviet communist party. People who find politics boring in the west have no concept of how mind numbingly monotonous and dreary these affairs were. But it was the KGB’s job to demonstrate to Soviet leaders that they were met with global applause. So one of the tasks of residencies all around the world—in Delhi, Kinshasa, Luanda, and so on—was to concoct messages saying how excited the population was by the latest speech of Leonid Brezhnev at the latest party congress.”
Go read the whole thing.