Monday, August 21, 2017

The Silk Roads to the Great War

In this part of the story, Frankopan will intersect with Halford Mackinder without ever mentioning his name.  Mackinder gave a presentation in 1904.  To summarize: the coming (from his vantage point) struggle is for the Eurasian landmass – the world island.  My most extensive review of his work can be found here. 

I have long felt that his views best capture the geo-political struggle for empire; his views best explain the reasons for the wars of the last one-hundred years.  To summarize Mackinder: whoever controls this world island will control the world; I posit a corollary, or maybe a fallback position: whoever prevents anyone from controlling this world island has a chance to control the world. 

Co-opt Russia or destabilize Russia.

With that, we are now ready to cover Frankopan’s views of the road to the Great War, World War One.  From Frankopan:

…it was not a series of unfortunate events and chronic misunderstandings in the corridors of power in London, Berlin, Vienna, Paris and St. Petersburg that brought empires to their knees, but tensions over the control of Asia that had been simmering for decades.  It was not Germany’s spectre that lay behind the First World War; so too did that of Russia – and above all the shadow that it cast on the east.  And it was Britain’s desperate attempt to prevent this shadow growing that played an important note in bringing the world to war.

Forgive the long cite, but you must admit that you have never read anything like this in school: the root (or, at least, a major root) cause of the war was Britain wanting to push back on Russia, to keep Russia in check. (Emphasis added…for emphasis.)

Finding a convincing reason for this war – and the assassination of an Austrian prince is not convincing – has proven elusive to many, certainly to me.  Maybe one will be found here.

Frankopan traces the roots back to one hundred years before the war.  Russia began extending its frontiers to include various regions and peoples of Central Asia: the Kyrgyz, the Kazaks, and the Oirats.  The respective leaders were rewarded handsomely by St. Petersburg if they would support the Russian expansion.

Then there was the south: the Ottoman Empire.  Russia secured major concessions, including Bessarabia and major areas around the Caspian Sea.  Then on, beyond the Caucasus to Persia.  At one point, to appease the Tsar after a tense event, the Persian Shah sent off the ninety carat Shah Diamond – once hanging above the throne of the emperors of India – to St. Petersburg.

Russian intellectuals explored the question: is Russia’s future to be found in the west or in the east?  Themes of the east were to be found in Russian music of the nineteenth century; Dostoevskii wrote with passion that Russia should not only engage with the east but embrace it:

In a famous essay entitled “What is Asia to Us?,” he argued in the late nineteenth century that Russia had to free itself from the shackles of European imperialism.  In Europe, he wrote, we are hangers-on and slaves; in Asia, “we go as masters.”

What does any of this have to do with Great Britain and the Empire?  Egypt, India, Afghanistan, passages to the Far East: all at risk, with Afghanistan seen as the key – the key to Britain’s crown jewel of India.

As far as policy in Asia is concerned, wrote Lord Ellenborough, a senior figure in the Duke of Wellington’s Cabinet in the 1820s, Britain’s role was simple: “to limit the power of Russia.”

British envoys to the various at-risk regions were rejected – or decapitated; while in retreat from Afghanistan to India, a British column was attacked and annihilated in the winter snow – legend held that only one man survived.

The British intended to teach the Russians a lesson.  The Crimean War was an outlet for this desire.  The result of the war: a Russian defeat, continued Ottoman decline, and the French as the leading power on the continent.  This was cemented by The Treaty of Paris in 1856:

The aim was to humiliate Russia and to strangle its ambitions.  It had the opposite effect – this was a Versailles moment, where the settlement was counter-productive and had dangerous consequences.

Russia learned the shortcomings of its army, and extensive reforms were implemented.  Further, the Tsar abolished serfdom.  Russia’s growth during the second half of the nineteenth century was impressive: iron production surged five-fold in just 20 years; rails connected the vast reaches of the empire.

Russia redoubled efforts in Persia and Afghanistan and the various khanates between it and India.  The missions paid dividends, as hundreds of thousands of square miles of territory were brought under its control, without force, within fifteen years of the end of the war. 

These efforts were followed by incorporation of Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara as well as much of the Fergana valley – all protectorates or vassals of St. Petersburg.

Russia was building its own massive trade and communication network, which now connected Vladivostok in the east to the frontier with Prussia in the west, and the ports of the White Sea in the north to the Caucasus and Central Asia in the south.

In 1867, Russia sold Alaska to the United States.  Frankopan sees this as an embarrassing decision; it is possible it was nothing more than a realistic appraisal.  Land army or sea power: where was Russia’s relative strength to be found?

And it was in this environment that Halford Mackinder gave his presentation.  And it was with this background in mind that Frankopan suggests that the roots of the Great War were not to be found in the capitals of Europe, but in Asia; not to be found in the overt alliance between Britain and Russia but in the covert machinations of the so-called Great Game between Britain and Russia.

And this will be the story for next time.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Jordan Peterson and the Bible

As many of you are aware, I have been watching the series by Jordan Peterson, The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories.  I have written a couple of posts commenting on certain statements made by Peterson and insights gleaned by me.

With this post, I will capture several different tidbits, taken from several of the videos.  I am focused on his points about culture, albeit he makes dozens of other equally insightful points.  I do not attempt to cite Peterson word for word; I merely attempt to capture the substance. 

I will not link to each video separately; I suggest that if you find the following of interest, take the time and watch the videos…which will take a real commitment, as the total runs about 25 hours.

I must say up front, this experience has been eye-opening for me.  Not so much for what I am learning (although this is extremely valuable), but because of how I have not considered these early chapters of the Bible previously.

What do I mean?  The Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Abraham, the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah…I am not sure to describe how I considered these people and events.  I know how I didn’t consider these; I didn’t consider these in the way presented by Peterson.

And, like a few other moments in my intellectual and emotional life, I immediately went through an “aha” moment almost from Peterson’s first words.

Whether one believes these stories and events are the Word of God, infallible and literal history, or whether one believes these stories and events capture an oral tradition going back countless millennia…in either case, it was kind of stupid of me to believe that there weren’t some tremendously important meanings in these stories beyond the surface.

If it is God speaking, why didn’t I expect more?  If it is man capturing oral tradition going back tens of thousands of years, why wouldn’t I expect something more?

Finally…it seems reasonable for me to suggest: Peterson’s views on the value of culture to civil society, the value of maintaining culture in order to avoid tyranny…let’s just say he is eminently more qualified than I am to make such points.  More to the point: he is eminently more qualified on this topic than any mouthpiece on the left (to include left-libertarians).

Of course, the Cultural Marxists understand this.  Then again, I may be biased as I find his views and my views overlap considerably.

From Peterson:

When you are going through a book like the Bible and you come across a phrase that you don’t understand, that actually means you missed something.  It doesn’t mean that that’s not germane to the story…it means you’re stupid.

This is clear to me now.

What is interesting is that the “something more,” as explained by Peterson, fits very nicely into my views of the importance of culture and tradition.  Whether you believe this history is handed down from God or from man’s dawn of time, this is probably important.  Not important because it matches my views; important because of the source – either source: God or tradition.

Being critical of the culture is OK if your objective is to separate the wheat from the chaff; not OK if your intent is to burn the entire field.

In all views of what is described today as the left: from Gramsci and the Cultural Marxists to the left-libertarians, this is their intent: to burn the entire field.

Destroy a culture and you will end up with tyranny.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Jeffrey Tucker for National Review

Your reaction to the title is telling….I will get to this shortly.

I am going on a bit of a Jeffrey Tucker run.  I came across his article on the event in Charlottesville (which I covered here), which then led me to some other recent work of his.

Tucker asks: Do You Know What a Nation Is?   Of course, being a reasonably subjective concept, I think there will never be a precise answer.  Tucker still goes looking for one.  He wrote this on the occasion of the recent July 4 anniversary.  This reason I mention this will be apparent shortly.

Tucker outlines five theories of “nation,” taken from an 1882 essay by “the great French historian Ernst Renan”:

·        Dynasty: begins with family and tribe, kin – becoming king.  Marriages, wars, treaties and alliances. 
·        Religion: a common faith.
·        Race: biological characteristics.
·        Language
·        Geography

Tucker dismisses them all.  I am not kidding.  While the idea of nation is certainly subjective, we at least know some of the variables that define it.  Each of the five listed above, to varying degrees, can – and has and still does – play a role.

Can we identify any single factor to account for people’s sense of attachment to a political community?

This is a question designed to dismiss all of the ways by which “nation” is to be found.  Of course the answer is “no.”  Only a simpleton would think in this manner.  Tucker is no simpleton; therefore it seems he believes his audience is made up of simpletons. 

Tucker holds each of these five to an impossible standard.  He is looking for one single characteristic that will explain this most complex social relationship.  Can’t be done.

But he does!

In Renan’s view, nationhood is a spiritual principle, a reflection of the affections we feel toward some kind of political community – its ideals, its past, its achievements, and its future. Where your heart is, there is your nation.

But somehow, family, religion, race, language and geography can play no role? 

So, what does Tucker describe as the ideal “nation” scenario?

This is why so many of us can feel genuine feelings of joy and even belongingness during July 4th celebrations.

One of the most war-mongering, state-worshipping holidays (yes, a holy day); this is Tucker’s ideal.

It is all about affections of the heart, which appear without compulsion and exist prior to and far beyond any loyalties to a particular dynasty, regime, or anything else.

This could have been written at the National Review.

I have seen these affections of the heart – at every sports event, every holiday celebration.  There is nothing of peace or freedom to be found in these.  The most massive, coercive government ever known in the west that has indoctrinated its citizens from youth through adulthood; this group of people has come to this feeling “without compulsion”?


You cannot replace something with nothing.  Tucker finds nation in something other than family, religion, race, language or geography; in other words, something outside of a common culture.  This is the work of Antonio Gramsci and of the Frankfurt School of Cultural Marxists that followed him.

What will replace this common culture?  Tucker believes this will be replaced by “feelings of joy” and “affections of the heart.”

Folly.  Destroy a culture and you get tyranny.  If the 20th century didn’t teach Tucker this, let’s just say that the non-compulsive compulsive state education and propaganda machine did its work well on him.

You cannot replace something with nothing.  All Tucker is left with is state worship. 

He says so himself.  On the fourth of July.


Ernst Renan gave a lecture in 1882: What is a Nation?  Some interesting quotes:

Nature has made a race of workers, the Chinese race, who have wonderful manual dexterity and almost no sense of honor... A race of tillers of the soil, the Negro; treat him with kindness and humanity, and all will be as it should; a race of masters and soldiers, the European race.

Interesting, for someone who, according to Tucker, believes race plays no role in nation.

Some other quotes:

Communism is in conflict with human nature.

Tell that to the left.

All history is incomprehensible without Christ.

While Renan’s views on Christ differ from mine, nonetheless I agree fully with this statement.

But…religion has nothing to do with nation.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Religious Fanatics

The Buddhas of Bamiyan were 4th- and 5th-century monumental statues of standing buddha carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, 230 kilometres (140 mi) northwest of Kabul at an elevation of 2,500 metres (8,200 ft). Built in 507 CE (smaller) and 554 CE (larger), the statues represented the classic blended style of Gandhara art. They were 35 and 53 meters tall, respectively.

They were dynamited and destroyed in March 2001 by the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, after the Taliban government declared that they were idols.

Information and Culture Minister Qadratullah Jamal told Associated Press of a decision by 400 religious clerics from across Afghanistan declaring the Buddhist statues against the tenets of Islam. "They came out with a consensus that the statues were against Islam," said Jamal.


Curiouser and Curiouser

I refer to my post describing the extremely high traffic volumes at my site at the time I wrote about the dust-up between Google and James Damore.

As many of you are aware, shortly after this firing of Damore, he was interviewed by Jordan Peterson.  Now, I am watching his video series of Biblical lectures, specifically Bible Series X: Abraham: Father of Nations.

This series of lectures was given, one per week, in Toronto during this summer – 2017.  So, in the aforementioned lecture, he begins by telling of his day (the lectures are given in the evening).  Earlier that day, Peterson was blocked out of his gmail account and youtube.  He was told by Google that he violated the terms of usage.

To summarize, access was again granted (after some back and forth between him and the company), with no explanation as to any of it.

As best as I can tell, this block-out happened around the time that Damore’s memo became known publicly (with obvious influences from Peterson, as gpond noted), but perhaps before he was interviewed by Peterson. The video of the lecture was uploaded August 8; the video of the interview was uploaded August 9.

In any case, just an interesting tidbit…or, perhaps something more.