01:22 Phase 3 in Ukraine? (Not your older brother’s war.)
06:39 Strategic imbecility. (Our post-Cold War blunderings.)
13:19 Neocons v. reality. (Mona Charen gets tossed and gored.)
19:43 Our imprecatory ideology. (Religion and statecraft.)
24:34 The RNC leadership election. (Two more years’ wet sand.)
27:58 House GOP almost did something. (It’s OK, they stopped it.)
30:50 Cop beating in Memphis. (The collapse of standards.)
33:54 Signoff. (With a high talent.)
01—Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, and apologies for our absence from the airwaves—cablewaves, whatever—last week. That was the result of a minor medical emergency, happily resolved earlier this week by the skill and scalpel of a local surgeon. Thank you, Sir. I shall supply details of the event in my January Diary, upcoming in a day or two.[See here for details.]
So this is your postoperatively genial host John Derbyshire with a brief survey of the news. What was happening while I was under the knife there?
What was happening? Wars, and rumors of wars.
02—Not your older brother's war. The war we're all thinking about is that war between, as I noted last April, the world's two most corrupt white nations. How's it going?
It's hard to get a clear picture. The media are all cheering for plucky little Ukraine. That's understandable; it was their country that got invaded and they're way smaller than Russia. So Ukraine'e the underdog here.
OK, OK: Afghanistan and Iraq got invaded by the U.S.A., which is way bigger that they are. Sure, but Afghanistan had harbored terrorists who'd committed a gross atrocity against our homeland. Iraq had two charges against it: supporting those same terrorists and developing weapons of mass destruction. It's turned out those charges were fabricated; but they were plausible at the time and 9/11 had put us in a vengeful mood.
Russia hasn't suffered a 9/11, certainly not one plotted by people Ukraine was hospitable to. Far from covertly developing nukes, Ukraine leads the list—it's a very short list—of nations that voluntarily gave up their nukes.
So yeah, I'm OK with Ukraine as the underdog here. However, I'm not temperamentally susceptible to wishful thinking. I said at the outset that I didn't think Ukraine stood much chance against Russia, and that's still the way it looks to me.
We've all heard the old quip that "Russia is never as strong as she looks; Russia is never as weak as she looks." Sure, they screwed up the initial operation, and came out looking weak. Russia's way bigger than Ukraine, though, with far more resources. The Russians are collectively dumb, but they're dogged. They can just keep pounding away until there's nothing left of Ukraine but rubble, with the survivors staggering around singing "Nobody knows de rubble I've seen …" Sorry, sorry.
Military analysts see this war in phases. Phase One was the all-out invasion that started a year ago but ended floundering in the Spring mud. Phase Two, which we're still in, is the war of attrition: skirmishing on the front lines for small advantages while pounding Ukrainian infrastructure with missiles.
That could just continue to the total-rubble scenario; or there could be an attempt at a big, decisive battle. That attempt would most likely be Russia's, and there are signs they're gearing up for it—for a major assault this Spring.
All that sounds a tad less scary if you notice that Putin's new commander is the same guy that was in charge of the invasion fiasco a year ago; that it's doubtful the newly-mobilized troops can be in fighting shape by Spring; and that Russian industrial production has never won any prizes. Much of the equipment they used to push back Germany in WW2 was shipped to them by America and Britain with the Arctic convoys. You're welcome!
So yeah, a lot of unknowns here. That includes some of what you might call deep unknowns, things we don't know about how a major battle goes ahead and how troops perform in a 2023 technological environment under the latest advances in drones, satellite surveillance, missile targeting, battlefield management, and so on.
Tech changes very fast nowadays. Not only is this not your father's war, it's not even your older brother's war.
03—Strategic imbecility. That's all very interesting in an abstract, war-game-theoretical way; but what's our interest here? What path should our federal government be following in furtherance of the job we've hired them to do? Which is, to preserve and advance the prosperity and security of us in our homeland. What are they actually doing?
Don't ask. Here we are in the realm of strategy: of managing our relations with other countries so as to minimize threats to our territory and our commerce. In this realm our leaders have, for more than thirty years now, practiced policies of unrelieved stupidity.
You don't have to take it from me. Geopolitical analyst Brandon Weichert supplied a nifty summary January 17th over at Asia Times. Title: "America's strategy of failure comes to Ukraine." Sample quote:
Washington's ruling class has blundered for decades at the strategic level. With each foreign policy disaster, America's overall standing atop the world system has declined until it has reached its current nadir.
Weichert walks us through all the familiar U.S. strategic catastrophes of this century.
Don't even ask me about Syria. I've given up trying to figure out what we're doing there.
A strategy of failure indeed. What explains it? We are a nation of a third of a billion people. Our population of course includes many thousands of first-class minds, well-informed in history and public affairs, certainly capable of tackling and solving difficult problems. Why does our geopolitical strategy look like the product of a cage-full of chimps on crack?
And now Ukraine. What business do we have in Ukraine? None at all, actually. Or rather, we do have business there because we're in NATO and NATO has business. That, too, however, is just a consequence of our strategic imbecility.
When the Cold War ended we should have pulled out of NATO, brought home our troops, encouraged the Europeans to carry on practicing collective defense while doing all they could to improve relations with Russia, and wished everyone over there a merry "Good night!" Was that really so hard to see?
Instead we're being dragged into a war that's none of our business. No, that's not even right. It's us who are doing the dragging: pressing the Ukrainians to push forward, overthrow Putin, and humiliate—to break up if possible—the Russian Federation.
How did we generate so much strategic stupidity over so many years? Brandon Weichert blames ideology, and I think he has a point. Back when we talked about economic issues more than we do now there was a saying you heard that "politics is the enemy of economics."
Whatever may be the case with politics and economics, it seems clear that ideology is the enemy of strategy. Ideology is fired by passion; strategy is fired by reason.
America's ruling class has for thirty years been in the grip of a wild ideology, totally at odds with reality at every point. Unfortunately for us, reality has a way of winning these contests sooner or later.
Neoconservatism is of course a style of conservatism, inspired as all conservatism is by the preference declared most pithily by the Third Duke of Norfolk five hundred years ago, quote: "I would all things were as hath been in times past." End quote.
The times past that our neoconservatives hanker for were the Cold War years, when geopolitics was simpler and the map of the world was crossed by clear lines of moral distinction with us on the good side of every line. Take that hankering, season it with a dash of Jewish paranoia, and you have neoconservatism.
Today, in 2023, neoconservatism is of course seriously detached from reality. Here's a quote that returned an echo from my bosom. Quote:
I continue to be fascinated with how people perceive reality, and the process by which they either finally change their minds when faced with something that strongly challenges those perceptions, or they rationalize their reluctance to do so and retain their former beliefs.
I took that from a January 17th post at a blog titled thenewneo.com. It's a good old-fashioned blog: An intelligent and opinionated citizen sounding off on topics of the moment, with a comment thread from which lunatics have been purged. The blog is run by a lady who prefers to remain anonymous; she refers to herself just as "Neo."
Title of the blog post: "The imaginary Biden versus the real one: Mona Charen's dilemma." Mona Charen is a longtime neocon opinionator; Neo is commenting on a column that Ms Charen published at Time magazine January 14th. Title of that column: "We Elected Biden to Be Better Than This."
So this is me passing comment on Neo passing comment on a column by Mona Charen. Got it? By all means feel free to send in comments on what I am saying here. Let's see if we can get some third-order commentary going …
I should say that I have some slight acquaintance with Mona Charen, and in fact I owe her a large favor. We don't agree about much in the area of public policy, but I've never heard anything ill of her and I speak of her here with courtesy and respect.
The gist of Mona Charen's column is that she's sinking into BDS, which is to say Biden Disappointment Syndrome. She closes the column with reference to Biden's shucking and jiving around the classified-documents issue thus, quote:
That is demoralizing for those who believe that Biden's chief accomplishment—and purpose—as president has been to restore a modicum of trust to a nation that has been sunk in suspicion and bitterness for too long. Being not-Trump demands better.
Neo does a wonderful job of tossing and goring Ms Charen's column. Her January 17th blog post is a little gem of the vituperative arts.
She marvels at the fact that anyone who's been following Joe Biden for the last fifty years could be at a point where disappointment is possible. Joe has been firmly established for decades in the minds of everyone who follows our national politics as, to quote Neo, "a mendacious mediocrity at best."
I can remember journalists and D.C. insiders chuckling over what a dimwitted doofus the guy was back in the 1988 presidential campaign. Biden dropped out of that campaign after multiple charges of making up his résumé and plagiarizing other politicians' speeches. That was 35 years ago …
As Neo says, it all comes down to one's engagement with reality. When driven by ideology a person can believe anything, even that Joe Biden is a capable statesman. I repeat: neoconservatism today is seriously detached from reality.
05—Our imprecatory ideology. Just a supplementary word about the Jewish component in neoconnery, since I made passing mention of it in the previous segment. Mona Charen is Jewish; so is Bill Kristol, her male counterpart; so are many of the other neocons running our nation's bizarre geostrategy—people like Victoria Nuland. What's up with that?
Seeking inspiration, I turned to the Old Testament. In there among the Wisdom Books of the O.T. there is of course the Book of Psalms: 150 prayers and hymns written down in the early first millennium B.C., many of them composed by King David. They show the faithful how to thank God for his blessings, how to praise his goodness and power, and how to ask him for help.
That's all good nourishing stuff—basic religion. King David was, however, as well as being a religious leader, a king in charge of his nation's geostrategy. So in among the blessings, praises, and appeals there is mixed a certain amount of statecraft.
It shows up most vividly in what scholars call the imprecatory psalms. The dictionary defines imprecation as "curse, malediction" so these psalms are wishing ill on someone—definitely a component of statecraft.
Some of them are seriously mean. Listen to what Psalm 137 wishes on the Edomites, quote (King James version):
O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
Nice. Possibly I'm being fanciful; but in the Book of Psalms, with high morality and assertions of Divine favor mixed up with with savage imprecations against enemies, I think I see the ancient early shadow of neoconservatism.
The strong Jewish influence in our nation's geostrategy has the same cause as that same influence in other areas requiring high mental and especially verbal ability—writing, lawyering, and so on. The cause is simply that Ashkenazi Jews have much higher average IQ than the rest of us.
This may not go on being the case. Jews are marrying out, diluting the gene pool. Outside the ultra-Orthodox communities, fertility levels are low. No new supplies are coming in from the old Ashkenazi heartlands of Eastern Europe. Israel has a much nicer climate.
And we've been settling high-IQ immigrants from elsewhere—Africa, China, India—in defiance of all my warnings about importing an overclass.
Indians seem to do particularly well in the verbal and political professions. That's true all over: Britain has an Indian Prime Minister, Ireland's had one for years, we ourselves have a half-Indian Vice President, …
For clues as to mid-21st-century U.S. geostrategy, perhaps I should start looking into the Bhagavad Gita.
Imprimis: Ronna McDaniel is the chairperson of the Republican National Committee, the body that organizes fundraising, plans electoral strategy, and manages the Republican National Convention every four years. She's a Mormon, in fact a niece of Mitt Romney, which may go some way to explaining why the GOP is a bag of wet sand.
I'm mildly annoyed that Mrs McDaniel isn't Jewish. If she were, I'd have a nifty example to follow on from my previous segment with: an example of smart Indians challenging Jews for behind-the-scenes political power.
All right, I'll go with what I've got. Friday last, January 27th, there was an election for the RNC chair. These elections go every two years in January. Mrs McDaniel has won the last three and on Friday was up for election to her fourth term.
A lot of Republicans are not happy with her and it's not hard to see why. Planning election strategy? How'd that work out in the midterms last November?
If Mrs McDaniel is no good at helping her party win elections, though, she's real good at what GOP congresscritters like best: schmoozing with big-money donors at events organized by the RNC. So much more fun than that tiresome business of legislating and—yecchh!—electioneering.
Friday, however, she faced a serious challenge from Harmeet Dhillon, an Indian-American—her family are actually Sikhs. In the event Mrs McDaniel won re-election on a vote of 111 to 51. That's roughly two to one, and that's probably a fair measure of how the establishment GOP currently breaks: two-thirds Romneyoid go-along, get-along do-nothings, one-third taking inspiration from the party grass roots.
A feature of the vote noted by the Los Angeles Times was that Donald Trump and his advisors were all urging support for Mrs McDaniel while Ron DeSantis, on the Charlie Kirk show the night before the vote, came out for Ms Dhillon, or at any rate for, quote, "new blood." This could get interesting.
Here's the nub of the matter, from the January 23rd Washington Post, quote:
The [border security] bill, introduced by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) and co-sponsored by 58 Republicans, would empower the Homeland Security secretary—currently Alejandro Mayorkas—to unilaterally bar all undocumented migrants from entering the United States through any point of entry if the secretary deems it necessary to reestablish "operational control" of the border. If immigration agencies cannot, for any reason, process undocumented migrants according to legal procedures, a similar response by the secretary would be required. If the secretary does not follow through, the bill would provide state attorneys general the authority to sue the federal government.
Sounds to me like a good sensible bit of legislation. Senate Democrats would crush it of course, but at least the GOP would have put a marker out there.
Fuhgeddaboutit. The bill was thwarted by moderate Republicans in the house, perhaps responding to a three-line whip from the Romney family.
One of the thwarters, Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas, expressed his opposition thus, quote:
We can't allow the Republican Party to be hijacked. Trying to ban legitimate asylum claims—one, it's not Christian, and two, to me, it's very anti-American. So a lot is at stake.
Yeah right. While leaving the border wide open and increasing numbers of illegal aliens by two million a year, there is nothing at stake there, nothing at all. Remind me, please: The point of voting Republican is … what?
Item: Among the week's other headliners was the beating of young black man Tyre Nichols by five black Memphis police officers. The beating left Mr Nichols unconscious; he died from his injuries three days later.
It was all caught on video of course—what isn't nowadays? The fact of everyone involved being black was vexing to the anti-whites, although they did the best they could with it. Al Sharpton, speaking at Nichols' funeral, said, quote: "I believe that if that man had been white you wouldn't have beaten him like that that night," end quote. Nice try, Rev'm Al, but no cigar.
What do I make of it? The phrase that comes to mind is "collapse of standards." This is all part of the poisonous legacy of the evil and unconstitutional Civil Rights Act of 1964; in particular of its demon spawn, the doctrine of Disparate Impact.
For the physically and mentally challenging work done by police, firefighters, and the like, you need good strict selection standards. The only way to get them is to put applicants through tests of fitness, intelligence, and character. As I wrote back in 2009 when the Supreme Court was hearing Ricci v. DeStefano, quote:
The unhappy fact is that different ethnic groups exhibit different profiles of results on tests. Attempts to devise a test on which this does not happen have all failed, across decades of effort, criticism, and analysis.
Faced with that unhappy fact, authorities nationwide have given up on objective testing and just hire by race quota.
In the case of cops, the anti-police movement has only made things worse. Who wants to be the next Derek Chauvin? Forces are having trouble recruiting, and take what they can get. Mature, experienced cops are retiring. All this is happening while progressive legislators and DAs are loosening the bail laws and emptying the jails.
We're going to see a lot more of what we saw in Memphis.
07—Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for your time and attention, for your comments and donations, and for your many, many heartwarming expressions of sympathy and hopes for a fast recovery. I am now home; my spirits are high; my gall bladder has been consigned to the incinerator; and I shall soon be back to my fighting weight.
For signoff music, something off the beaten track.
My own approach to news about our society and culture is to try to personalize it a little. When pondering a news item of this kind I try to relate it to some particular human being. The person I pick on is hardly ever someone of my own acquaintance. Most often it's a figure from history or literature.
I like to think that clothing a story in some familiar human flesh like this gives me extra perspective on what's happening. That may be an illusion but it gives me a kind of assurance. Illusions can be handy.
So let's consider the current fad for surgically altering children who say they want to be the other sex. Who do I personalize that with? With Alessandro Moreschi, that's who. (There should probably be "whoms" in place of those "whos," but the heck with it.)
Serious music buffs will know where we are here. For other listeners, let me explain that Alessandro Moreschi was a castrato. Prior to puberty he had a very beautiful little-boy's voice and loved to sing; so they cut off his testicles and his voice remained that way into his adult life.
This was common practice all over Europe from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, especially in Italy and the Papal States. It sounds cruel, but it wasn't a bad deal in the harsh pre-modern world.
If you made it into a cathedral choir and kept your little-boy voice (not all castrati did) you had a life that was comfortable and respectable, with—in the later years, anyway—a pension when you retired. It beat shovelling cow poop on a farm or being a domestic servant. Anne Rice wrote a rather good novel about the lives of castrati: Cry to Heaven.
Alessandro Moreschi was one of the last of the castrati. He died in 1922, just over a hundred years ago; and he wasn't very old, only 63. His fame arises from the fact that he lived into the age of sound recording. Other castrati did, too, but I think Moreschi was the only one to make solo voice recordings.
Here is the most famous one, recorded in either 1902 or 1904 when Moreschi was in his mid-forties: the Ave Maria of Johann Sebastian Bach and Charles Gounod.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Alessandro Moreschi, Ave Maria.]