At The Economist: Bagehot defines British Exceptionalism, a comment by Political Reporter

Bagehot is a talented writer as his unsparing polemic against Jeremy Corbyn demonstrated:
In this essay he uses his power to evoke various melodramatic scenes from the National Security State files, in defense of :

‘This state of affairs is regrettable, not least as it makes it harder for the country to take the initiative and exercise international leadership.’

And this :

‘Britain’s evolution from a “force for change” to a “force for order” (in the words of Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute, a think-tank) makes sense.’

Bagehot has what can only be described as a highfalutin notion of the British State in 2015. ‘Exercise of international leadership’ and ‘evolution from a “force for change” to a “force for order”’   As far as one can judge from recent events America and Russia are providing ‘international leadership’ no matter how maladroit that ‘exercise’ may appear. As Britain acts as part of a nearly fictive European Coalition of the Willing, to use a discarded rhetorical frame.

Two instances of Bagehot’s practice of British self-inflation, as indispensable international political actor:

‘If Britain is to play this role—as a networked, surgical power—it should do so properly.’

‘At a time when Britain is putting ever more emphasis on its distinctive knack for gathering and disseminating knowledge, reacting quickly and forging alliances, it is odd that it should let one of its most relevant and admired global assets go to seed.’

Then Bagehot tells, quite inconveniently, on himself as not an ‘objective journalist/commentator’ but as part of the technocracy of the National Security State apparatus, or at the least one of its employees:

‘A recent report (to which Bagehot contributed) published by Chatham House, another think-tank, proposed a long-term doubling of the proportional diplomatic budget to 0.2% of GDP; a totemic target to sit alongside the defence and aid ones. A savvy SDSR would pay such suggestions heed: in an age of uneasy coalitions, asymmetric threats and scrambles for information, the word in the ear can be as decisive as the gun in the hand. ‘

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At The Economist: Bagehot on Political Apostate Jeremy Corbyn, a comment by Political Reporter

Before reading Bagehot’s utterly predictable attack on Political Apostate Jeremy Corbyn, read his, at times, illuminating essay here on the by-election in question, as political litmus test for Mr. Corbyn:

A few highlights,like this bit of manufactured political nostalgia for 1899:

FEW places, in 1899, better encapsulated Britain’s industrial pomp than Oldham. Its skyline was the Manhattan of its day: a forest of smoke stacks emanating from the cotton mills, the Pennine hillsides freckled with mansions housing the country’s largest concentration of millionaires.

Or this bit of Oxbridger casual snobbery :

A party once confined to the comfortable gin-and-jag belt around London is now a serious presence in the bitter-and-bus-pass belts around Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle.

This is surprisingly insightful:

Excessive this may be, but playing out on the streets of Oldham is a story repeated across Europe; a suspicion of political elites borne of stagnant living standards, doubts about globalisation borne of deindustrialisation and in particular hostility to immigration borne of shifting demographics and pressures (however unrelated) on housing, wages and services. Support for nativist parties, ranging from Britain’s blokeish UKIP to France’s hard-right National Front and Hungary’s overtly racist Jobbik, is squeezing traditional social democratic parties more comfortable discussing redistributive social policies than flags, nationhood and identity. UKIP plans to squeeze Labour hard on this in Oldham, concentrating its campaign on immigration, defence and Mr Corbyn’s obvious ambivalence towards patriotic symbols from the armed forces to the royals.

But in ‘Labour’s sensibles are starting to push back—but they should push harder’ Bagehot presents an estimation of the political character, or lack thereof, of Mr. Corbyn. Note the the rhetorical frame of ‘ugly blend of sanctimony and moral relativism’ in sum he is not one of us! The ‘Political Other’ in our midst.

Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the ensuing debates has cemented the impression—as if any cement were needed—that Labour’s newish leader is out of his depth, ambivalent about things that should be clear and craven to the ugly blend of sanctimony and moral relativism whose sudden metastasis through his party propelled him to its leadership in September.

The Failure of Thatcherism/Blairism as the twin harbingers of economic/political catastrophe is well established, except for the apologists for that ignominious failure. For an informative discussion of Hayek,  his epigones and the mirage of a particular form of regressive economic/political utopianism, see this issue of  Critical Review  titled Hayek : The Good, the Bad, the Ugly:


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At The Financial Times: Philip Stephens on European complacency, a comment by Political Reporter

The fact that Mr. Stephens recites, with attention to a complex  set of ideas, almost all the cliches of the current iteration of bourgeois political orthodoxy, displays an enviable kind of talent, with the proviso that  any absent idea is just an oversight!

‘Europe’s complacency’, ‘corrosive moral relativism’, ‘ the fault of the west in general and the US in particular.’Saddam Hussein as a victim, Hugo Chávez a hero and Russia’s Vladimir Putin as a bulwark against Nato expansionism.’, ‘Listen to Jeremy Corbyn’, ‘Or that the caliphate replaces liberty with theocratic intolerance, subjugates women and murders homosexuals.’, ‘Even Fidel Castro thinks it is time to move on.’, ‘Enlightenment’,’ Mr Putin’, ‘NATO’,’Edward Snowden’s revelations’, ‘The original sin was the assumption that the end of the cold war did indeed mark the end of history.’ (For shame, Mr. Fukuyama!), ‘the financial crash of 2008’, ‘Russia’s revanchism'(one of the cornerstones of The New Cold War), ‘’What is required is a readiness to fight.’

Underlying all this, call it a bellicose polemic,  is the Old Cold War and Huntington’s ‘Clash’, both monuments to Western/US Paranoia wedded to the self-exculpatory: we are innocent of the crimes we have been accused! In fact, like the good Stalinist we are without blame, except we haven’t destroyed the voluminous historical evidence! A proclamation of our political/moral virtue will have to do.

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At The Financial Times: Three views of Paris, November 13, 2015, Part Three

Gideon Rachman’s November 16, 2015 essay titled ‘Do Paris terror attacks highlight a clash of civilisations?‘Subtitle ‘Multiculturalism is not a naive liberal aspiration — it is the reality of the modern world’

As much as Mr. Rachman denies the power that Mr. Huntington’s cultural paranoia has on the apologists for Western Civilization, as not just primary, but the measuring device that places all other Civilizations in a subordinate position. Despite the admonition of President George W Bush the ‘Clash’ has had remarkable staying power as idea and also as  a kind of sub-text that underpins so much of respectable bourgeois political opinion.

Mr. Rachman goes on to describe the various national iterations of anti-Muslim prejudice,Islamic radicalism indeed a realization that within the more moderate forms of Islam there is a growing  discontent:

Mr Erdogan has been labelled as “mildly Islamist” by The Economist and others. But there was nothing mild about his statement in 2014 that westerners “look like friends, but they want us dead, they like seeing our children die”.

The War on Terror has been waged with utter contempt for Muslim lives, if we are honest. The essay ends with a short resume of the No-Nothing Republican’s stance on the refugee problem: what escapes Mr. Rachman’s grasp, or is simply inconvenient, is that the Dixiecrat Migration to the Republican Party brought with it a virulent racism, that has metastasized over time. Also Mr. Rachman’s faith in Western Liberalism redemptive power is misplaced, recall that the Vietnam War was pursued by Liberals, another political inconvenience.

Quite obviously Mr. Rachman has missed the scholarship of Ulrich Beck whose books ‘Cosmopolitan Vision’ and ‘Twenty Observations on a World in Turmoil’ offer not a vision of ‘Multiculturalism’ but about a Cosmopolitanism, that enjoys the status of being already existent in the world, as an unacknowledged fact of contemporary life.

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At The Financial Times: Three views of Paris, November 13, 2015, Part Two

A November 15, 2015 editorial titled ‘Time for engagement, not fearful retreat‘ Subtitle ‘Solidarity and thoughtful action are the only means to defeat terrorism’

The rhetorical farming of this editorial : ‘civilised world’ vs ‘mindless barbarity’ and ‘Further co-ordinated action is demanded by all concerned outside powers to destroy this totalitarian menace on the ground.’ More bellicose rhetoric, framed as Western Rationalism’s response to Political Islam’s demonstrable irrationalism: a monument to the myth of Western political blamelessness!

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At The Financial Times: Three views of Paris, November 13, 2015, Part One

The Financial  Times responded to the attacks in Paris with these three essay:

Philip Stephens’ essay of November 14, 2015 titled ‘There is no hiding place from global disorder‘ Subtitle: ‘Syria’s civil war transfers almost casually to the heart of one of Europe’s great cities’

A November 15, 2015 editorial titled ‘Time for engagement, not fearful retreat‘ Subtitle ‘Solidarity and thoughtful action are the only means to defeat terrorism’

And Gideon Rachman’s November 16, 2015 essay titled ‘Do Paris terror attacks highlight a clash of civilisations?‘Subtitle ‘Multiculturalism is not a naive liberal aspiration — it is the reality of the modern world’

Mr. Stephens presents this argument in his second paragraph :

The refugees making their way across the Balkans to Germany and Sweden are running from violent sectarian chaos. The murders in Paris show once again how easily this violence can reach deep into the European continent. After this year’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket perhaps the latest crimes should not have been a surprise. The sense of shock this weekend is no less for that.

The empirical  failure of the National Security State apparatus to detect and foil the operations of ISIS terrorists is  glaringly absent from his essay. His attack is upon ‘global disorder’ a capacious looming monster of the title. ISIS is a real existential threat, as the Paris attacks make clear.

Mostly likely, there will be more such moments. The hard fact is that we live in an age of systemic disorder.

A departing European colonialism, Globalisation, identity politics, and technology are identified as the historical actors in  this melodrama of the ‘global disorder’ phenomenon. What remains off stage is the history of Western egregious political meddling that didn’t end with the departing colonial powers or with the post WWII emergence of the American Imperiam. Hollande’s declaration of war, the demand for answers and action and more foreshortened history. But surprisingly in his last two paragraphs Mr. Stephens offers something like what political wisdom might resemble, despite its bellicose rationalization :

The case for a more ruthless assault on Isis is a powerful one. Destruction of its strongholds in Iraq and Syria will not wipe it out — just as al-Qaeda survived the US march into Afghanistan — but you have to start somewhere. This time, though, the west must remember what it forgot after the attacks of September 11 2001. There are no military solutions.

Ending the Syrian civil war, and thus depriving Isis of its organising mission, requires a political agreement. Most probably it will be an ugly one. Almost certainly, it will require western leaders to retreat from past rhetoric. But Europeans will feel safer in their cities only when there is a settlement of sorts in Iraq and Syria.

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Some late night thoughts on Paris, a comment by Political Observer

Roger Cohen at The New York Times engages in a measured even a well reasoned  Western indignation about the Paris attack, yet still expresses a newly invigorated War Fever, as a solution to the vexing problem of ISIS. Instead of the current restraint we should engage in scorched earth?

William Kristol at The Weekly Standard doesn’t actually write about Paris but quotes at length from Mark Steyn’s essay “The Barbarians Are Inside, And There Are No Gates.” And admonishes his readers to ‘Read, and re-read, the whole thing.’ Unlike Cohen, Steyn is a vulgarian whose essay is a collection of wise cracks, as might be said in another America era. The essay doesn’t have the high seriousness of Cohen’s war mongering but makes up for it with it’s pulp fiction toughness, and it’s unintentional comedy.

For an antidote to these two writers see Andrew J. Bacevich’s essay ‘A war the West cannot win’

See also Vijay Prashad essay ‘We are in pitiless times’:

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