Keeping up with the FITs 3/30
Default Friend on pseudonymity; Richard Hanania on the weakness of Woke; Niall Ferguson on Ukraine; Anne Applebaum on Ukraine; Glenn Greenwald on Ukraine
In an interview with Infovores, Katherine Dee aka Default Friend says,
if I could do it all over again, I would have never shown my face or gone on video, and kept the Russian handle and anime avatar. That creates a separate set of limitations, but I think it would have allowed me more bandwidth to say what I really think, even when it’s offensive or difficult or I’m still figuring it out.
I never felt a desire to try out multiple online identities. Maybe I encountered the Internet too late in life, already married with three daughters.
Wokeness has no history of surviving without state support. In fact, even with state support, and practically unlimited rhetorical backing from elite institutions, it still struggles to win hearts and minds. Wokeness remains mostly a political loser for the left, which is why it obfuscates on issues like Critical Race Theory and the fact that civil rights law in its current form all but requires speech restrictions and racial quotas. Wokeness, unlike religion, does not appear to be able to motivate its adherents to make the extreme kinds of sacrifices that are the hallmark of true religious faith. It can’t even convince liberals to keep their kids in inner city public schools.
Hanania is arguing against the thesis of N.S. Lyons that Wokeism, or what I call the current incarnation of Puritanism, will be durable. I side with Lyons on this one.
Hanania’s main argument is that wokeness has not been around long enough to be considered a durable religion. But think of Puritanism generically as consisting of a demanding set of moral precepts which the adherents feel entitled to impose on others. The content of the precepts has changed quite a bit over the last 400 years, but the Puritan-descended component of American culture has remained steadfast in its assertion of moral superiority.
By the mid-nineteenth century, the Puritan focus was anti-slavery. After the Civil War, the focus shifted to temperance, women’s suffrage, and eugenics (which the Puritans championed). After World War II, the focus shifted to Civil Rights, the United Nations, and universal human rights. After the 1960s, the focus shifted to woman’s liberation, ecology, and gay rights.
I fear that the current Puritan movement, precisely because it requires its adherents to espouse such absurd and mutual contradictory beliefs, will create cult-like allegiance. Wokeism may be rejected by a majority of voters. But I think that its hold on important demographics and institutions will persist, and perhaps strengthen further.
It is, when you come to think of it, archetypal Realpolitik to allow the carnage in Ukraine to continue; to sit back and watch the heroic Ukrainians “bleed Russia dry”; to think of the conflict as a mere sub-plot in Cold War II, a struggle in which China is our real opponent.
. . .The optimism, however, is the assumption that allowing the war to keep going will necessarily undermine Putin’s position; and that his humiliation in turn will serve as a deterrent to China. I fear these assumptions may be badly wrong and reflect a misunderstanding of the relevant history.
Ferguson suggests that what I call fighting until the last Ukrainian is a mistake. But he does not propose what he thinks would be better.
For the other side of his argument, Ferguson links to never-Trumper Eliot Cohen, who writes,
Flowing into Ukraine every day are thousands of advanced weapons: the best anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles in the world, plus drones, sniper rifles, and all the kit of war. Moreover, it should be noted that the United States has had exquisite intelligence not only about Russia’s dispositions but about its intentions and actual operations. The members of the U.S. intelligence community would be fools not to share this information, including real-time intelligence, with the Ukrainians. Judging by the adroitness of Ukrainian air defenses and deployments, one may suppose that they are not, in fact, fools.
. . .the way to end the war with the minimum of human suffering is to pile on.
In an interview with Yascha Mounk, Anne Applebaum says,
I do think that it's going to become clearer, maybe even quite soon, that we have to cut off at least Russian oil and maybe Russian gas. In other words, the war might require that the Russian regime ceases to have any way of earning money.
I wonder why that is so important. Why is it not sufficient to cut off Russia from military imports? Is it that once the West pays them for oil, they can find a way to buy military supplies?
What interests does the U.S. have in Ukraine that are sufficiently vital or substantial to justify trifling with risks of this magnitude? Why did the U.S. not do more to try to diplomatically avert this horrific war, instead seemingly opting for the opposite: namely, discouraging Ukrainian President Zelensky from pursuing such talks on the alleged grounds of futility and rewarding Russian aggression, and not even exploring whether a vow of non-NATO-membership for Ukraine would suffice? How does growing U.S. involvement in this war benefit the people of the United States, particularly as they were already — before this war — weighed down by the dual burdens of pandemic-based economic depravations and rapidly escalating inflation?
Anyone who likes the goal of destabilizing Russia should write an essay on the topic: “Recent efforts by the United States to destabilize regimes, and how they have worked out.”
Hanania needs to reread 1984. It doesn’t take a large majority to impose madness on a population, as the bulk of the population tends to be inert and ignore the powerful 15% or so.
Wokeism is particularly worrisome because the left as a whole does not seem to have many limiting principles which push back on it. A moderate leftist can’t seem to come up with coherent arguments against woke excesses, and so has nothing to push back with to oppose ever more radical moves. Exit from the left tribe is the only option, and that is a big ask for many I suspect.
"I wonder why that is so important. Why is it not sufficient to cut off Russia from military imports? Is it that once the West pays them for oil, they can find a way to buy military supplies?"
This seems a bit strange. While I would also like to avoid as much civilian suffering as possible, it occurs to me I don't understand what your model of what you expect exclusively military-focused sanctions to do to Russia and how they would affect the Russian regime, especially in the very short term in the context of the ongoing armed conflict. Do you think this would be as effectively pressuring or coercive or seriously undermine their military capability, or what?
Not only can Russia make nearly all its military stuff domestically, it has incredibly huge reserves of replacements, and it has been a major arms exporter for generations. To the extent they must import anything at all of military relevance from the countries which have imposed sanctions (for example, they use a US chip in one of their drones), they can almost certainly substitute for imports from the non-sanctioning countries, e.g., China, which makes pretty much everything, or, in a real pinch, just use those non-sanctioning countries as middle-men to launder the imports in.