Monday, April 4, 2016

Men are earthy, Ross is mercurial

Because I refuse to make the Uranus joke.

Mars by Sandro Botticelli (1483) and Venus by Nicki Minaj (2012), image by Daniel Fernández.
'Missus!' shouted the fat boy.
    'Well, Joe,' said the trembling old lady. 'I'm sure I have been a good mistress to you, Joe. You have invariably been treated very kindly. You have never had too much to do; and you have always had enough to eat.'
    This last was an appeal to the fat boy's most sensitive feelings. He seemed touched, as he replied emphatically —  'I knows I has.'
    'Then what can you want to do now?' said the old lady, gaining courage.
    'I wants to make your flesh creep,' replied the boy. Pickwick Papers, 8)
Monsignor Ross Douthat, the Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, was doing his Joe number on Sunday, asking us to be afraid—be very afraid—of the consequences of socialism, perhaps only ten or a dozen years away:

The time is the late 2020s, let’s say, and the French and Germans and Poles demand that the United States lend our still-unparalleled military strength to a conflict that seems essential to European security — toppling a nascent caliphate in North Africa, or recovering W.M.D. from a collapsing post-Putin Russia.
And a Socialist administration in Washington, backed by more than a few Trumpian Nationalists in Congress, looks across the ocean at Europe’s wars and whispers, “not this time.”
OMG something scary might happen! Or not! We'll have new and dreadful parties (that's what the odd capping of Socialist and Nationalist suggests), in a diabolical coalition that's just going to sit there and let it happen, or not happen, as the case may be!

Not that socialist candidate Bernie Sanders has been threatening to dismantle NATO and its guarantee that all must come to the aid of any threatened member. His ideas on the alliance range from the fairly conventional
Russia's aggressive actions in the Crimea and Ukraine have brought about a situation where President Obama and NATO--correctly, I believe--are saying we're going to beef up our troop level in that part of the world to tell Putin that his aggressiveness is not going to go unmatched. We have to work with NATO to protect Eastern Europe against any kind of Russian aggression. (2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016)
to the fairly romantic, as in his backing of the sweet old 1990s idea that Russia could join NATO (a thought that might turn a little more realistic if Russia were indeed to become "post-Putin", which is really going to happen some day, and perhaps sooner than later, as we are reminded by the terrified response of the Russian authorities to the Panama Papers leaks laying out the techniques through which the president's inner circle launder their ill-gotten gains [that's a kind of Douthatian little argument-by-linkfest, isn't it, sorry]).

No, the Monsignor is talking about much broader cultural patterns, of which Sanders socialism and Trumpian nationalism are merely symptoms. You see, ever since the theories of famed psychophilosopher John Gray were applied to international relations by famed geopsychophilosopher Robert Kagan, it has seemed clear that America is from Mars and Europe is from Venus, and now it seems there is some colossal shift taking place, like the reversal of the Earth's magnetic poles, in which America is becoming Venereal (say, I'll take some of that) and Europe Martial:

adapting to post-Kantian reality, and nowhere more so than in France, where the government has basically gone Le Bush-Cheney under both Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande: intervening in Libya, Mali and Syria, responding to terrorist attacks with Bush-esque rhetoric, and implementing a terror crackdown that makes the Patriot Act look libertarian.
Ah yes, the bellicose behavior of French presidents since 2011 and their unprecedented willingness to invade Africa and the Middle East, something that has totally never happened unless you count the Western Sahara in 1977, Shaba War in Congo-Zaire 1978, Chadian-Libyan conflict 1978-87, and Djibouti 1991-94, Gulf War 1991, Rwanda 1990-94 prepping the future génocidaires, Afghanistan operations from 2001, and Côte d'Ivoire in 2004 and 2011.

Ross finds a little logical termite gnawing at the argument's floor beams, in that Kagan's theoretical account—in which a nation's relative Martianity is determined by its relative powerfulness—doesn't seem to apply:

What’s interesting, and somewhat in tension with Kagan’s original argument, is that all of this is happening without a major change in the relative power of the United States and Europe. We’re still the only hyperpower; they’re still militarily weak...
Of course that should have clarified what bullshit Kagan's stupid analogy is, given that the most Martian power is often the weakest (as in the case of Russia today). But never mind, we'll just make something else up: the Lewis Carroll argument in which everything could at any moment be its opposite! If that can get you rhetorically back into Iraq:

This unstable combination suggests that the trans-Atlantic relationship may be headed for a strange inflection point, a kind of through-the-looking-glass version of the Iraq debate.
Aha! Because what's being defended here is the unreconstructed neoconservative view that "Le Bush-Cheney" is a logical and realistic ("post-Kantian"!) response to a geopolitical situation. The Mars and Venus thing, like the Dowdish dog and cat thing, is a brief for the Stupid Shit Caucus! And it's not happening; however incautious Hollande's response to recent terror incidents may be, it's not going to be as irrational as "Le Bush-Cheney" in Iraq (and some of the worst, most Cheney-eque aspects of his counter-terrorism legislation, the concept of stripping citizenship from convicted terrorists and the permanent state of emergency, have fortunately been rejected by the French parliament).

But Ross is warning us that the next time we get a chance to do "Un Bush-Cheney" we might turn it down, as if that were a bad thing.

Happily, that's over now, for reasons that have not so much to do with Sanders, and far less with Trump, whose confused warlike but anti-NATO positions are merely the involuntary expressions of his hysteria-afflicted little corner of the Zeitgeist (and rather Cheneyesque or Rumsfeldisch, when you think about it—remember their dismissal of "Old Europe" in the New Order, back in the day?).

Thanks, Obama. And shut up, Ross, you're Not. Making. Sense.

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