March 12, 2006


Revisitation (David Warren, 3/12/06, Real Clear Politics)

A new book just landed in my mailbox, Redefining Sovereignty, ed. Orrin C. Judd. It contains an essay by me from four years ago, in which I tried to explain President Bush’s Lincolnesque thinking on world order. I think the essay has borne up fairly well, to this short passage of years. I said that Mr Bush was trying to vindicate and uphold the existing national state-system in the world, in exactly the way Lincoln went about upholding the American union. And that, Mr Bush’s commitment to spreading democracy was like Lincoln’s commitment to extinguishing slavery -- not the key point, but necessary to the key point of recovering order. If Lincoln could have preserved the union, and it meant keeping slavery, he would have done that.

Ditto, if Mr Bush thought he could restore the status quo ante of a Middle East that was no threat to the West, without pushing democracy down anyone’s throat, he would do that. But as he examined the problem presented to him by the Arab raids on New York and Washington, the morning of Sept. 11th, 2001, he saw that something more would be required. He believes, still, that there can be no lasting peace in the world until the “root cause” of this terrorist violence is removed. Hence, the evangelizing for democracy. Hence, the willingness to kick-start, by taking out two of the most abhorrent regimes known to man, and trying to repeat in Afghanistan and Iraq what the Americans accomplished in Germany, Italy, and Japan after World War II.

In this view -- which I hold to be Mr Bush’s -- we are dealing with what amounts to a planetary civil war, between those who accept the state-system descended from the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), and an emergent Islamist ideology that certainly does not. To Mr Bush’s mind, only legitimately-elected governments, presiding over properly-administered secular bureaucracies, can be trusted to deal locally with the kind of mischief an Osama bin Laden can perform, with his hands on contemporary weapons of mass destruction.

Note though that the requirement of democratic legitimacy actually effects a revolution in sovereignty and disposes of the Westphalian model.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 12, 2006 6:03 PM

We should be thankful that the transnationalists are no more able to think globally than then Buchananite wing of the Stupid Party. If they put down the giant puppet heads and facepaint for a moment and thought about it, they'd welcome this redefinition of sovereignty. Their only real objection, from what I can tell, is that the US is in a solo leadership role. But if they could get a Kerry or St.Hillary to replace Bushitler, they could then quietly transfer that power to places like the UN or the International Court.

Or am I mistaken, and they do like and support the idea that despots should be allowed to own entire societies, as long as they keep their nastiness within their borders and pay tribute (and lip service) to international organizations? If so, is there any way we can make sure these people end up in such places?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 12, 2006 8:28 PM

Recall that transnationalism is just a means to the end of absolute security. In the absence of the ideal they're perfectly willing to have dictators make us more secure by oppressing restive peoples.

Posted by: oj at March 12, 2006 8:40 PM

It's pretty simple - they want the crocodile to eat everyone else first. And they certainly don't have the moral (or physical) courage to pick up a spear and go stab the monster in the heart.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 12, 2006 9:44 PM

There is probably no arrogance so pure as to decide what someone else's freedom should be. Thats why its better to let people fight though to their own victories. Bush is a Westphalian ( end of thirty years war?) and that is very unfortunate. The model of nation-state is on its last legs. No one really knows what i going to replace it. Bush is not the kind of guy who can hold ambiguities in his head for long so he is reverting to the old mode.

Another president like this and this country will be applying for aid from the World Bank.

Posted by: exclab at March 12, 2006 10:03 PM

Holding ambiguities in one's head is an advantage?

If that were true, John Kerry would have been elected President many years ago.

And I suspect Mr. exclab would clearly prefer that no one ever fight for anything. Cleaner that way. But the victims still testify, even from the graves, now don't they?

Posted by: ratbert at March 12, 2006 11:47 PM


Sure, Elie Wiesel was about to free himself, if only we hadn't trodden on his freedom....

Posted by: oj at March 12, 2006 11:57 PM

"That's why its better to let people fight though to their own victories. "

Yeah, heard that before. Usually teamed up with the "we're responsible for Saddam, we armed him in the '80s and didn't take him out in '91" and "lift the sanctions because it's hurting the Iraqi children." From the same sort of people who seem to be unwilling or unable to make sure that their post-Westphalian World Order does a better job of getting rid of despots.

The problem is that for the past half-century, progressive-minded people have been weakening the Westphalian order, allowing despots to prosper under its cover and the cover of the transnational organizations they've created. And part of that problem was that they had a major ally in the Soviet Union, providing a pincer movement. Since it's gone, what we need is to get the good little progressives to stop actively undermining both systems that work and needed reforms to fix a half-century of sabotage and neglect That Bush is trying to do just that must be one of the reasons he's so villified. That he threatens to roll back their gains, when this time they can't count on external allies to run interference for them, is too much to bear.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 13, 2006 12:55 AM

The model of nation state must still be going strong, else Canada and the U.S. would have merged long ago.

The EU is trying to merge, but their pesky citizens keep thinking of themselves as belonging to various nations.

We will eventually have a world government, but not next week. Or next decade.
Maybe next century.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2006 2:07 AM


Been reading the NY Times lately, which is trying to resurrect the idea that the different races are different species? The future isn't world governance.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 7:23 AM

Repostes to the flak

No we didn't create Saddam. Iraq created him. George sr. was right to leave him where he found him. He was the best war president we've had since Truman.

Westphalia is collapsing and americans just don't get it. All except the rich ones of course who know it and are doing very well thank you.
Good riddance to Westphalia. Its birth was bloody. It has been productive of misery ever since.

I say - Back to the Roman Republic! with a couple of voting franchise changes. And skip the slavery.

"Duty now for Citizenship!" - Hienlien.

Oh and by the way, the second world and the civil war were not fought to free anyone. They were fought for the survival of the eventual winning side. Lincoln was fighting for his job. And why shouldn't he.

It is still arrogant to decide what freedom is for someone else.

Sorry I don't fit into your pigeon holes.

One of the strengths of any politician is an ability to resist the temptation to run to certainty and abstraction; the ability to hold ambiguities in mind until the solution appears, if ever. There are only two other options for a politician, going mad or assuming certainties for which there is no real justification. The later is what Bush does. Kerry didn't have any ambiguties. He lost to a man like GW. His shame and finally his obscurity will be complete and unambiguous.

Posted by: exclab at March 13, 2006 11:06 AM


Of course we're arrogant, we're right.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 11:11 AM


Hubristical then - ie unrealistic and taunting of the fates.

Posted by: exclab at March 13, 2006 11:30 AM

We are their fate.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 12:45 PM

"We are their fate."

Now, there's a quote of the week if ever I heard one.

Posted by: Lou Gots at March 13, 2006 1:05 PM

All these pronouns being bandied about, I've lost the thread. Who are the we who are whose fate?

Posted by: erp at March 13, 2006 1:54 PM

We basically know what is best for the Iraqis and we are going to teach them. Same with the moslems. Its the attitude we took with native americans (sic) and its the one we have tryed to teach the world over. We get in their country, beat em up for a while and wonder why they get all like you know ... mad. The only people who ever actually learn from our way of thinking are the people that emigrate to the united states itself. Everyone else except the Japanese have suffered. It is the plague of post war US foriegn policy, it is stupid, impracticle, and its bad for business. If you want to say I am leftist... do what ever... It seems that in the US, once you call yourself left or right, you go blind.

The fact is US foriegn policy is dumb. And it has been since WWII. It was that way under Carter and its definitely that way under the Dolt.

Posted by: exclab at March 13, 2006 6:40 PM


Indians, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Chile, Central America, China, Asian Indians, South works everywhere. We know what's required for everyone and help them get there.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 6:44 PM


you're joking right?

Posted by: exclab at March 13, 2006 7:47 PM


Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 8:28 PM

Oh a serious person. You must not vote. Here we go.

( you can bail out when ever you like. We are not going to agree. You have probably heard these arguements before)

Indians : Come on. We haven't supported them until they got the bomb. Now they are our friends. We aways reward people who get themselves a bomb.

Western Europe : Well we certainly didn't teach them about capitalism or free speach. We saved thier buts in WWII but I gave you that.

Eastern Europe : We beat the second worst dicator in Europe in WWII. After that, I don't think we could have beaten the worst. So we had to make a deal with Stalin let East Europe go. Understandable. After that, I do believe it was the fall of Berlin wall that freed the rest of them finally. I would grant that prize the international capitalism. Thats what killed the soviets. But that wasn't just the US. It was ... well international capitalism - the beginning of the end of the treaty of Westphalia. Hurrah!

Japan - gave you that one.

Taiwan - got give that too

Chile - No way. There was a study done recently (no I don't remember) studying the effect of american fiddling in Latin American countries. It takes a poorer smaller country a long time to recover from such tampering and find its balance again. The study said about 20 years. By that time of course the US decides to adjust things again. And back we go.

Central America - Yeah right.

China - who? They learned what from us? That they didn't already learn from the Brits? If what they have in China is american regulated capitalism with freedom of speach and enfranchisement, then I am dreaming. But I am not and you know it.

Asian Indians - sorry not getting that. Like South East asia?

South Korea - and I'll give you that.

When ever I talk like this people scream I critisize america and blah blah. No. The fact is that the USA is quite benign in comparison to even the British. If you just ignore a couple of douzys like native americans, cambodia and guatamala. But its not a terrible record historically. What I object to is the ruddy good health and sporting colors we give ourselves, when we talk about it. Its not great. No empire has a great record. They all are pretty nasty. None of them were loved And other countries don't share our belief therefore. So we miscalculate thier response to us because we don't really look at it seriously. Then we get into these messes and wonder why they hate us. Its silly.

Posted by: exclab at March 13, 2006 9:51 PM

Indian life expectancy was 30 years of age when we got here. They were ignorant savages.

We did indeed extend Anglo-American liberal democracy/capitalism/protestantism to Western Europe, as well as save them in three wars.

We did, in fact, deafeat the Bolsheviks, though fifty years after we should have.

Chile is the most advanced country in Latin America precisely because we helped Pinochet get it on track. In many ways its social welfare system is more advanced than ours and a model we'll follow.

Yes, China was forced to ape our capitalism and will have to adopt democracy too.

India, after its brief but pointless reaction against the Anglo-American model, is now hurrying to catch up under both Hindu Nationalist and Congress regimes.

The record of England and America as empires of ideology is not unblemished but is overwhelmingly positive and will reshape the few retrograde regions over the next few years.

Every decent nation on Earth owes its system to Judeo-Christian Anglo-Americanism.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 10:07 PM

Um. You're exactly what the rest of the world is complaining about. You're how we got into this mess. Hopefully we will get back to some sort of balance if we get away from this sort thinking. You might consider that your kind of naked hubris was very much evidence in England before WWI.

As for the indians. Well. I guess their longer life span makes up for the fact that there are a lot fewer of them. I'm sure they would draw great joy from this balance of payment. You ought to go and tell them.

You ought to explain your feelings to the Mexicans too. I'm sure they would not scream at you when you told them that anglo-americanism made up for loosing half thier country.

The soviets died because they could not live. You display Reaganesque arrogance, on this issue.

The british empire over-whelmingly positive. Do you know what the sugar trade was?

You might consider that your kind of naked hubris was very much evidence in England before WWI.

Sorry, I don't think you make much sense. I think you are part of the problem. Vague notions of greatness past are not going to save our future. We need to think rationally about what happened in the past so we can plan properly in the future. China is not going to be a democracy. China could easily turn into a industrial dictatorship. A sort of syndicate of industrial franchises. It will not be anything you recongnize as american.

And why not. China is going to protect itself by moving the center of the world industry toward itself so it can make adjustments according to its imperitives. The communist party will do this to preserve its structure. That is what Bush ignores. Rabid arabs with sem-tex are not as dangerous as that. Nor are they as dangerous as a laughable education agenda.

Bush ignores. The democrats... what do democrats do these days?

Posted by: exclab at March 13, 2006 10:32 PM


The problem is that you think the world we've created is a mess when by any objective standard it'
s in the best shape it's ever been in. We've expanded democracy, free markets and religious freedoms to unimagined degrees with a predictable resulting level of unprecedented peace and prosperity. These are the good old days.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 10:39 PM

"Um. You're exactly what the rest of the world is complaining about."

Let me guess. You're Catholic.

Posted by: Frank at March 28, 2006 4:25 AM

Re: China & world industry

Yes, it is easy to move industries to their country when there is dirt poor labor.

What do you suggest Americans do? Follow likewise? Dismantle the welfare and entitlement system to help raise wages?

You get what you pay for, and you pro-labor types are pricing yourselves out of existance. Good riddance. You catholic populists helped bring leftism to America.

Posted by: Frank at March 28, 2006 4:28 AM