“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Dark Days Ahead, a Multi-Ethnic Nightmare.

"In the pre-historic state, men were designed to regard other men, the 'other', with considerable suspicion and hostility… It's quite tempting to bump off the men and steal the women. That's essentially the primitive model for human conflict. What I try to suggest is that that model is there, submerged in human beings - particularly in men - and that what happens in the twentieth century is that when civilisation is torn away so to speak, these urges are set loose; and you see people behaving with real savagery."

"We could have another War of the World"
Transmission date: Sunday 16 September 2007 Radio Netherlands

From the interview: Listen here

Niall Ferguson on the scale of violence in the twentieth century:

"What's really interesting about the twentieth century is that even though the population of the world was much much larger than in any previous century, there really were enormous numbers of people killed directly as a result of organised violence … You get up in the neighbourhood of 170, 180 million all told, with more than 50 million dying in World War II alone."

On the "prophetic" quality of H.G.Wells' The War of the Worlds:

"There you have a wonderful science fiction work written in 1898 that clearly envisions warfare as the destruction of cities by high-powered invaders, and my conceit (if you like) is to say that it happened just as Wells predicted - but without Martians. It happened because human beings were able to turn on one another, and treat one another as aliens."

On the paradox of progress in the twentieth century:

"The twentieth century ought to have been so much better. It's a century of unparalleled material progress - and yet if anything this capacity for organised violence seems if anything to grow, and to become more lethal."

On which parts of the world invite the most violence during the twentieth century:

"It turns out to be the most ethnically mixed, heterogeneous parts of the world that are the most dangerous in the twentieth century. That's why central and eastern Europe is so interesting, because [that's where] there's a sort of patchwork of different ethno-linguistic groups living cheek-by-jowl in 1900. And those really are the places where the killing fields of the twentieth century are located."

His explanation for why civilised societies can descend into savagery:

"In the pre-historic state, men were designed to regard other men, the 'other', with considerable suspicion and hostility… It's quite tempting to bump off the men and steal the women. That's essentially the primitive model for human conflict. What I try to suggest is that that model is there, submerged in human beings - particularly in men - and that what happens in the twentieth century is that when civilisation is torn away so to speak, these urges are set loose; and you see people behaving with real savagery."

On why the outcome of the Iraq War should not discredit the idea of future military interventions:

"The great danger at the moment is that the failure of the American intervention in Iraq is discrediting the project of liberal or humanitarian intervention altogether. I think that would be a terrible non sequitur. If people said, 'look what went wrong in Iraq - therefore we should never intervene in sovereign states again, we should leave Zimbabwe to go to hell in a handcart, we should leave Sudan…' - that would be a fatal wrong conclusion to draw from the history of the last seven years."
"The prospect of a nuclear armed Iran should terrify everybody … But - what do you do? If you've played the card of pre-emption once and ended up with a complete fiasco on your hands, it's much much harder to play it a second time, and this, I think, is the huge dilemma that currently confronts western statesmen - not least President Bush himself."

On the prospect of another War of the World:

"It seems to me what's happening in Iraq is very much the classic scenario where the empire [the US] loses its grip and goes down in a pretty ugly way, with insufficient forces failing to hold the line and finally running for the exit … We could have another War of the World in the making, only this time its headquarters, its focal point, will be the Middle East, rather than central and eastern Europe."

On his fears for the future:

"If history has anything to teach us, it's the vulnerability of processes of global integration, and the speed with which our civilisation - no matter how globalised it may seem - can revert to the really ugly side of human nature."

Niall Ferguson is Laurence A Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University; Niall

Listen here or here


  1. How anyone of good sense, looking out at the chaos that is the world, could favor 'open immigration' into North America, an island of tranquility by comparison, is absolutely beyond me.

  2. And Here's a man that shows some good sense.

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  4. Few favor "open" immigraton "to" North America, bob.

    The are more than a few that favor a freer migration within North America.

    Geopgraphy is not language based.
    From the Isthmus to the Artic, it's all North America

  5. To me Rat, 'North' America is everything north of the Rio Grande. It's where our ways prevail and one can feel comfortable, and relax a little.

    The tempers are rising even in Belgium just over language. We need an English only amendment. My ancestors spoke Swedish, gave it up for the common language of this realm--it conduces to peace, and understanding, in a state.


    Trish favors 'open immigration'--she said so recently--meaning I quess, just come on in, whoever you are, from where ever you are, in whatever numbers you want, even if you mean to kill us. You will have to ask Trish just what she means. I do not think she has thought that issue through to the end.

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  7. Most all of the migrants that remain to live in the US, the children speak English, just fine, for the adults, the results are mixed. My first wife never could "get it", though her son, he learned in no time.

    From The Washington Times
    NAFTA and our borders

    The Senate's decision this week to reject funding for a pilot program that would give Mexican trucks freer access to U.S. roadways is a shameful reneging of America's responsibilities under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

    It's no surprise that Democrats acted this way, cowing to the interests of anti-trade labor unions afraid of competition. There is, however, a measure of disappointment that 25 Republicans crossed over to support Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, whose amendment to the Transportation Department funding bill killed the program and flew through the Senate with a veto-proof 75-23 margin. Ostensibly citing safety concerns, these Republicans rejected an alternative amendment offered by Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, that would have imposed stiff inspection standards, similar to the ones applied to U.S. and Canadian trucks, and required the Transportation Department's Inspector General to certify the safety of every Mexican truck and driver entering our borders. A one-year pilot program supported by the White House would allow some 100 Mexican trucking lines access to U.S. highways. Freer trade is now stymied.
    We have long supported NAFTA — flaws and all — and safety standards is a legitimate concern. But nothing we say in support of allowing Mexican carriers entering our borders means we are less concerned about both tighter border security and stricter cargo inspections.

    When the United States entered into NAFTA under President Clinton in 1993, it agreed to allow Mexican trucks entry into the United States by 1995. This aspect of NAFTA was temporarily halted when U.S. officials cited safety concerns that proved serious enough to stall the measure. Understandably, Mexico was flummoxed but cheered later when a NAFTA settlement panel sided against the United States for violating the agreement. Under the ruling, the White House has said Mexico, which is losing as much as $2 billion a year under this protectionist policy, has the right to retaliate in the form of tariffs on U.S. exports.

    The administration has not done enough on our porous borders, but we still support NAFTA. We urge Congress to restore our legitimacy and credibility among our southern neighbors.

    Treaty obligations are Treaty obligations.

    Would not want to prove Professor Lewis right, again, do we?

  8. It is an odd thing about language, and human beings. The kids are able to pick it up just like that, but the older folks, no way. Yet some people--Sir Thomas Browne, an old English poet and divine--just have a knack, and can handle five or six languages just like that. I used to take El Excelsior, a Mexican newspaper, and taught myself to read Spanish, many years ago, but gave it up. I can understand some words and phrases on Spanish radio. But I have a hard time with it. Reading a newspaper is a good way to try and pick up a language.

  9. And I think it is true, that President Bush makes a better speech in Spanish, than in English:)

  10. Mr Bush's Spanish speaches are shorter.

    Mr Gates admits that the US may be Iraq for years to come, like Korea.

    Should have presented a strategic vision from the beginning, but Team 43 never does, just lets the opposition set the tone of the story. Then rides through the buffetting. Never charts a course to tell a positive story.

    A genetic "vision thing" with the Bush family?

  11. The passage of those benchmarked Iraqi laws are fading off into the distance.

    Democracy at work.
    An "End Game" tactic, played early in an attempt to win the War in Iraq, without fighting a war. A tactical effort that we no longer control, and is spinning as forecasted.

    Iraq...faced a deepening political crisis with Saturday's announcement that anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's followers were withdrawing from the Shiite alliance in parliament. Al-Sadr's followers hold 30 of the 275 parliament seats.

    The announcement, made to reporters in Najaf, means the Shiite-led government can count on the support of only 108 parliament members _ 30 short of a majority. However, it could probably win the backing of the 30 independent Shiite parliamentarians, as well as some minor parties.

    Still, the decision by al-Sadr's followers will complicate further U.S.-backed efforts to win parliamentary approval of power-sharing legislation, including the oil bill and an easing of curbs that prevent former Saddam Hussein supporters from holding government jobs.

    An adviser in the prime minister's office, Sadiq al-Rikabi, played down the significance of the departure.

    "It is the right of political forces to form coalitions among each other on the condition that they don't endanger the nation and people's security," al-Rikabi said. "The Sadrist bloc was not supportive of the government in the past months."

    He acknowledged the Sadrists were likely to vote against government-backed laws: "We don't expect much from them now."

    In Iraq, an ever changing ebb and flow of politcal debate and rational discussions, ain't life grand!

    5,700 troops home for Christmass

  12. It turns out to be the most ethnically mixed, heterogeneous parts of the world that are the most dangerous in the twentieth century.

    And empires will always fall apart.

  13. Now, bewiderment at the White House.

    "For months and even years, we've heard this is a president who won't listen to alternative options, who won't listen to the idea of bringing troops home, who's so stubborn he won't do anything else," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "It's a little bit surprising that Democrats wouldn't want to take yes for an answer."

    As I said the other day, the President could promote the withdrawal, through to the end of his tenure, with a "Plan" for beyond.
    Claim it to fulfill the Democrats desires, then watch them scamper. But it has to be presented like a Strategic Plan, not something decided on the basis of a day or two's testimony, by a General.

    In fact, although senior officials did not use the term "exit strategy," the outlines of one emerged from the various statements and speeches they made last week. Petraeus plans to begin redefining his mission in December from leading combat operations to partnering with Iraqi security units and eventually to supporting them. At least 21,700 troops, and perhaps more from the buildup, will be pulled out by July. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters he hopes to bring the overall force, now at 168,000, down to 100,000 by the end of next year. And Petraeus told The Washington Post that he foresees "sustainable security" in Iraq by June 2009, a point at which the U.S. presence could be scaled back even more.

    Although Petraeus did not define what that would mean for U.S. deployment, other senior officials have said the goal would be to get to a force of perhaps 50,000 once Iraq is secure enough for its own forces to take over. Whatever its precise size, that residual force would then remain for years, much as U.S. troops did in South Korea after the Korean War. Rather than be in the middle of sectarian warfare, the remainder force would engage only in counterterrorism, training, support and border protection. Leading Democrats have envisioned such a long-term smaller presence, as well.

    Because the Team 43 never let US know what the "End State" would look like, it leaves the Democrats to shape the ideas. 50,000 US troops, to stay behind, is the low end estimate I've had, for years. Team 43 made a decision not to define the "End Game", Mr Bush saying at a news conference that it'd be up to his replacement to decide on that.

  14. DR: 50,000 US troops, to stay behind, is the low end estimate I've had, for years.

    Really? Polls of Iraqis have them at about 70% in favor of us getting out. Does this mean we truly have abandoned all pretense of a democracy in Iraq? Yes.

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  16. What's the ethnic breakdown of those that want the US out?

  17. There you go, Ms T.

    Differing perceptions to the same reality. One reason why the US should have solidified its' position, this past summer or still even now, to map out a course for the next ten years that General P says his COIN Doctrine program will need to succeed.

    What will be the scheduled troops formulations, as the Iraqi Forces stand up over the next 18 to 24 months forcasted by General Jones?

    What, if any, will the "Stay Behind" presence be?

    aQ as a terrorist band, nor any of the other miscreants, present a militarily capable force for stopping the transition.

    If the US has done it's job, trained and indoctrinated enough of the officer corps of the Iraqi Army, it will behave in the Turkish model, as a moderator or the political center.

    We'll have had six years in, when the next President is sworn in Jan 09. Seven years, total, if there were an immediate withdrawal ordered, then.

    Do or die, if we can't get the Iraqi officers to see the light, by Jan 2010, we never will.

  18. Team 43 demanding benchmarks of the Iraqi Government.
    While not setting any of them for it's own.

    The process of the representitive Iraqi Government, that is the key. Not the passage of laws the US wants.

    Three cheers for al-Sadr and his 30 delegates!
    Breaking ranks with Sistani and the UIA!
    Three Cheers!
    Mr al-Sadr "gets it".

    He has bought into the Game.
    As have the 1920's

    Local police & National Army
    US stationed in Anbar at Saddam's old base, scattered about as FACs and trainers, where required.
    But the local police, augmented by militias, will control the streets.

    The US as Peacekeepers, between the semi-organized factions.

  19. The Iranian empire the Syrian empire the Iraqi empire the Pakistani empire the Turkish empire the Egyptian empire, mini Jihadi empires buttressed by Western political elites. Why?

  20. Stability, accountability, ease of remembering the names.

    There have always been Empires in those Regions mentioned. Persia & Egypt, the Ottomans, the Pashtun. With Buffer "States" in between.

    Only with oil did Arabia begin to matter.

    Maintain the status que, keeps the bankers happy. That and the Military Industrial Complex.

    Truely radical idea, to desstroy the status que. Replace it with self-sustaining Tribal lands, which the "West" has alway divided, to conquer.
    The Brits drew tha maps, they had an agenda when they did.

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  22. “Stability, accountability, ease of remembering the names.”

    That’s a poor excuse. Iraq Iran Egypt Turkey Pakistan Syria etc, are anything but stable regimes. Neither are they accountable regimes. What they are, is dictatorial political juntas clothed in the banner of cultural and political Jihad to keep them in power.

  23. It's not meant to be an excuse.

    If the General President was status que when you take office, when you leave either the General President or a reasonable facsimile retains the status que, success.

    Radical change is not judged as success.
    You advocate radical change, that's the truth of it.

  24. dRat,

    What I see is a radicalization caused by these totalitarian regimes. Trying to maintain the “status que” is just adding more dynamite to a situation that inevitably is going to blow.