Harper’s has a really interesting interview with an author of a new book on neoconservatism. I usually wouldn’t consider a book like this, expecting a typical MSNBC screed but it does appear to have some promise. Unfortunately, the term ‘neo-con’ has sort of become a catch phrase and I don’t think people understand the deeper philosophical tenets that underpin it. The interview does a pretty nice job of hitting some high points.
War–perpetual war–is the ultimate means by which the neocons can fight creeping nihilism and promote sacrifice and nationalistic patriotism. An aggressive, proactive foreign policy therefore serves a greater purpose–to raise ordinary Americans above their daily, selfish concerns.
Shirky’s perspective on the Wikileaks issue is worth reading:
If the long haul were all there was, Wikileaks would be an obviously bad thing. The practical history of politics, however, suggests that the periodic appearance of such unconstrained actors in the short haul is essential to increased democratization, not just of politics but of thought.
We celebrate the printers of 16th century Amsterdam for making it impossible for the Catholic Church to constrain the output of the printing press to Church-approved books a challenge that helped usher in, among other things, the decentralization of scientific inquiry and the spread of politically seditious writings advocating democracy.
I find the comparison to attempts by the Church to restrict information interesting (and don’t forget that religion was a much more serious affair for people than it is now. You could get tortured and burned at the stake for trying to translate it into English.)
I’m glad to see ‘Get your War On’ is back and J. uses it to highlight the fact that a recent poll identified that 92% of men in Helmand or Kandahar don’t know that 9/11 is the reason for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. I can’t speak to that. I would say that in the area around Bagram in 2003/2004 those numbers would have been much, much lower. Of course we had a lot more Tajiks in the area who had affiliations with or membership in the Northern Alliance and so 9/11 was a bit of a godsend to them since it meant American help was coming.
Tom Ricks posted an article by a Marine who’s pretty upset, doesn’t buy the idea that we’re really an all-volunteer force, thinks we’re dangerously setting up the military as a supra-elite portion of our society and would like to see a return of national service. It’s a raw, emotional argument that I agree with in principle but not in degree. I really recommend it for its comment section which is quite robust and, in my opinion, contains a better discussion than the original post.