Links to Consider, 8/28
Jason Riley on Chautauqua; Dominic Cummings on Ukraine; Christopher Caldwell on Ukraine; Bari Weiss interviews Bill Barr; Pierre Lemieux on affective polarization
Four days before Mr. Rushdie was attacked on stage, I spoke at the Chautauqua Institution. I wasn’t invited by the institution’s leadership, however. Instead, I was hosted by a splinter group called Advocates for Balance at Chautauqua, or ABC, which seeks to “achieve a balance of speakers in a mutually civil and respectful environment consistent with the mission of Chautauqua,” according to the invitation.
I went to Chautauqua for a few days several years ago, because some folks who attend regularly invited us to share a room for part of the week. It is a quaint village where attendees stay for a week or more during the summer when speakers and other events take place. The village is located in the rust belt area of upstate New York, classic Trump country. Indeed, taking a bike ride outside the perimeter of the village (you can tell that attending events was not my top priority) I saw a greater concentration of pro-Trump signs than I have seen before or since. Of course, inside the village it was quite the opposite.
But less striking to me than the left leanings of the Chautauquans was how very old they were. At age 24, the man who assaulted Salman Rushdie must be at least 50 years below the median age of an attendee there. Somebody could have noticed ahead of time that he did not fit and put him under close watch.
Our politicians have not described coherent ends for our action in UKR. ‘Putin must fail’ is not a coherent end (and there is intense disagreement about his ends). Truss’s definition of the end as ‘removing Russia from Crimea’ is a ticket to nuclear war — obviously our abysmal media and MPs being what they are, this has been ignored in the leadership farce-campaign.
We have politicians pushing escalation with the world’s biggest nuclear power over a state, Ukraine, that is of trivial inherent importance to the world and which we are not obliged to fight for by any alliance.
That our policy in Ukraine has no coherent ends is disappointing. But when Twitter mobs are in charge, it is not surprising.
Our policy from the beginning should have been to seek a negotiated settlement. Our aid to Ukraine should be calibrated to try to get both sides to realize that is in their interests to negotiate. We want neither side do think it can achieve its ends militarily. Does this mean trying to produce a stalemate? Preferably not a long-term stalemate, but a condition in which each side realizes that it is better off negotiating to end the conflict.
Christopher Caldwell suggests that the United States is the true belligerent.
in this proxy war between Russia and the United States, Ukraine doesn’t need to be there. In these HIMARS artillery strikes, in the assassinations by drone of Russian officers, in the sinking of naval ships with advanced missiles, it is the United States, not Ukraine, that has become the battlefield adversary of Russia.
Bari Weiss interviews Bill Barr. All of it interesting. I can’t resist calling it a no-holds-Barred conversation. Toward the end, Barr says,
The left likes to be very severe with white collar criminals, even though with many white collar criminals, it’s all retribution. They’re not going to go out and do it again, but the left want strong penalties on them, even though they don't pose a threat of violence. Violent criminals and repeat violent offenders generally commit more crimes, and they should be in prison for a long time. The idea of going soft on crime is not a new idea. This is what happened in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Crime skyrocketed between 1964 and 1992. It started flattening out under Reagan but it quintupled in those 30 years and it was almost twice as high as it is today. What happened was we started putting the violent criminals back in prison.
I think this is something that people on the left have difficulty accepting. That is, the idea that some people are just characteristically violent, and keeping them in prison is best for society, given our state of knowledge. Perhaps at some point in the future, we will have an alternative available that is more humane than prison, but for now the leniency alternative is a failure.
Overall, Barr reinforces my feelings about Donald Trump. You can like Trump for his enemies, but the bottom line is that he is too much his own enemy.
How can the individuals of each party hate their fellow citizens of the other party more and more while the two parties are coming closer ideologically? The reason is that their ideologies are essentially two shades of political authoritarianism. Each group wants to coercively impose its preferences on individuals of the other group, to restrict the latter’s liberty. The main difference is what exactly they want to impose on others.
He cites several recent stories about trends in political emotions.
Lemieux is wrong. Most of us on the right don’t hate our opponents; we fear them and would be very happy just to be left alone.
Regarding the lack of coherent ends in Ukraine, our involvement is driven variously by ideology, by power-seeking, and by grift, all covered by specious moral justification. Defense contractors (i.e. munitions manufacturers) lavishly fund neo-con pro-intervention think tanks like the Kagan family's Institute for the Study of War (ISW), as well as individual politician's campaigns. Clausewitzian analysis is beside the point. There is no effort to understand the situation which would involve entering into consideration of the opposition's (i.e., the Russians') concerns and motivations