Bye, Bye, Miss American Empire

Bill Kauffman on secession and empire, from Orion. (And a hat tip to LRC.)

I’m blogging on the fly from a Starbucks in New Haven, Connecticut. I’m sure hipsters do this all the time, but it feels pretty strange to me — especially since my connection isn’t very reliable and I expect to get kicked out for not drinking enough coffee.


Keeping Busy

Sorry for the lack of updates — posts over the next week or so are going to remain pretty sparse.  The good news is that some larger projects of mine are moving along reasonably well.  Peter Stanlis’s forthcoming Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher, which I’ve been editing, is coming out later in the summer, and the next book project I’m editing, a new edition of Carle Zimmerman’s overlooked classic Family and Civilization (with some new critical material from Allan Carlson, James Kurth, and Bryce Christensen) is well underway. Look for that this Fall.

My review of John Lukacs’s short book on George Kennan is in the current issue of The American Conservative.  And the next issue will include my review of Thomas McCraw’s biography of Joseph Schumpeter, Prophet of Innovation.  A couple of other reviews and essays will be showing up in the next month or two as well.

Bacevich: Abolish the Joint Chiefs

Powell was too powerful (as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that is), while most of his predecessors and all of his successors have been utterly feckless. So let’s get rid of the JCS, says Andrew Bacevich.

See also Bacevich’s “More Troops, More Troubles,” on the bipartisan folly of super-sizing the Army and Marine Corps. An excerpt:

This bipartisan consensus — which even includes Bush, who recently unveiled his own five-year plan to enlarge the Army and Marine Corps — illustrates the inability or refusal of the political class to grasp the true nature of our post-9/11 foreign policy crisis. Any politician who thinks that the chief lesson to be drawn from the last five years is that we need more Americans toting rifles and carrying rucksacks has learned nothing…

… the great lesson of Iraq (further affirmed in Afghanistan) is that the umma — the Arabic name for the entire Muslim community — is all but impervious to change imposed from the outside. If anything, our ham-handed efforts to inculcate freedom and democracy, even if well-intentioned, have played into the hands of violent Islamic radicals. The Bush administration’s strategy has exacerbated the problem it was designed to solve, while squandering American lives, treasure, moral standing and political influence to little avail.

Given the mess in which we currently find ourselves, increasing the number of men and women under arms makes about as much sense as drinking bourbon to treat depression. In the short term, the antidote might make you feel better, but at a cost of masking the underlying problem and allowing it to fester.

DREAMing About Enlisting Illegals

I had to double-check the URL when I read this to make sure it wasn’t the Onion or some kind of spoof site. But no, this really is a Pentagon press release calling for Congress to revive something called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM — how lovely), which would offer  “a way for high-achieving children of undocumented or illegal residents to join the military and, ultimately, become citizens…” Says acting deputy undersecretary of defense Bill Carr:

 “In other words, if you had come across (the border) with your parents, yet you were a minor child and have been in the U.S. school system for a number of years, then you could be eligible to enlist,” he said. “And at the end of that enlistment, then you would be eligible to become a citizen.” 

Looks like Max Boot might just get his American Foreign Legion. (Hat tip to Tales From the Dark Side.)

A Short History of Political Philosophy

I spent last week attending David Gordon’s seminar on political philosophy (from Plato to Rawls, Nozick, and Rothbard) at the Mises Institute. You can hear the lectures on-line here. Not only does Dr. Gordon marvelously integrate material appropriate for both neophytes and those already well-versed in the history of political thought, he also successfully untangles the convoluted questions I would put to him after the talks. Well worth a listen.

Russell Kirk, Postmodernist?

Gerald Russello’s The Postmodern Imagination of Russell Kirk is out now from the University of Missouri Press.  Don’t let the title dissuade you; Russello’s book isn’t an attempt to make Kirk trendy, it’s a serious look at how Kirk’s thought intersects with such figures as Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jean-Francois Lyotard, as well as others like Bernard Iddings Bell in whose company one is less surprised to find the Sage of Mecosta. I’ll have more to say about it, most likely in a print, in the not-too-distant future.

A Centimillionaire in Fourth

A new AP-Ipsos poll shows that if Fred Thompson gets into the race for the GOP nomination, Mitt Romney, the richest and biggest fundraiser of the pack, falls to fourth place. I had been wondering whether Thompson would draw more votes from Romney or Giuliani; now we know. Giuliani leads with 27 percent, followed by McCain (19 percent), Thompson (17), and Romney (10). I’m a little surprised by McCain’s continued strength: he’s hated by most movement conservatives and his debate performances have been lackluster or worse. Nor is he the anointed paladin of the media this time around. But he has a well-organized campaign, and he still has enough star-power and charisma, evidently, to pull the poll responses — though time will tell whether that translates into votes.

I agree with the conventional wisdom that says Giuliani and McCain skipping the Iowa straw poll reduces it to an irrelevance. It’s a fraud anyway: candidates pay to ship in voters, so it would be expected to go to the biggest spender anyway. It’s true enough that the polls so far don’t count for anything, either: maybe Romney’s spending in the early primary states will buy him a few early wins and enough momentum to win. Giuliani’s 27 percent, if that’s even an accurate gauge of his support, is hardly insuperable.

But I still think Giuliani will win: the moving of the California and New York primaries (among many others) to Feb. 5 will give him a tremendous edge. (And while the California GOP may or may not be as liberal as Giuliani, the unusual way in which that primary will award delegates will probably benefit him.) The accelerated primary schedule has a lot of potential to bring back some backroom dealing: if, as seems likely, over half of the GOP’s delegates are chosen by the middle of February, the candidate in third may have enough delegates to play king-maker between the two top candidates — and even more interesting things could happen if the vote is split more widely among the top four or five or more candidates.

Of course, since all of the other top-tier candidates have more to fear from Giuliani than from anyone else, maybe they’ll start to train their fire on him and bring him down. There’s a mile-wide trail of dirt behind Giuliani, that’s for sure. I don’t think he can, or should, win the general election: he would be even worse than Hillary or Obama.

On a side note, am I being too hard on Romney? Two of my friends have made weak but plausible cases for Romney (so far as viable contenders go — both acknowledge that Paul is preferable). One suggests that Romney’s flip-flopping may actually be an encouraging sign that he doesn’t care much about politics and will make an unremarkable — and this not remarkably evil — unambitious chief executive. The problem with this idea is that it’s just what was thought by many highly intelligent people about President Bush in 2000 — and look how that turned out. My other friend argues that Romney’s business record is impressive and that Romney’s will at least be a business-friendly administration. He could be Calvin Coolidge. That’s a pleasant thought, but Romeny’s socialist health care scam in Massachusetts suggests otherwise to me, and I expect we’ll get from him the same kind of foreign policy that every other Republican (except Ron Paul) is offering. Most Democrats (except Mike Gravel and maybe Kucinich) are offering that kind of foreign policy too, of course.

The present war debacles, however, are widely seen as Republican messes, however, and I expect that no Republican can win in 2008. At this stage I expect that the congressional races will also be a bloodbath for Republicans. Well done, President Bush: you started an unnecessary war, got a tremendous political payoff in 2002 and 2004, but ultimately destroyed your party.

Viereck in Print

My essay on Peter Viereck is now out, in the June 18 issue of The American Conservative. It doesn’t thoroughly address the points Will Hay and Daniel Larison (among others) raised a few months back after I blogged on Viereck, but the piece gives some indication of why I find Viereck valuable, despite his flaws.

The magazine’s early July issue will include my review of John Lukacs’s recent book on George Kennan, I believe.  There are a few other things in the pipeline, too, so keep your eyes glued to TAC (which you ought to be doing anyway, of course!).