Sunday, August 28, 2016

S.C.M. Paine's The Wars for Asia 1911-1949

The Wars for Asia 1911-1949 by S.C.M. Paine (Professor of Strategy and Policy at the US Naval War College) was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012 and represents an ambitious attempt to tie together events that are usually treated in isolation. Paine’s idea is that the long civil war in China which finally ended in 1949, the war between China and Japan that was waged more or less continuously between 1931 and 1945 and the Pacific phase of the Second World War from 1941 to 1945 make very little sense unless they are considered as all being part of a single multi-level struggle.

The various players in these interconnected wars made decisions that often seem incomprehensible, foolish or even suicidal but once the connections between these wars are taken into account it becomes clear that the players concerned were often choosing the best (or thought they were) from a range of relatively unpalatable options.

The starting point for the whole struggle was the collapse of the Qing dynasty in China in 1911. This left a power vacuum that proved to be a temptation not only for various Chinese  factions but for outside powers, most notably Russia and Japan and later the US.

Much of the tragedy that followed stemmed from the inability of various players to comprehend that other players had entirely different agendas and priorities. The Chinese Communists assumed that the Soviet Union would want a communist takeover of China and would therefore support them to the hilt. The Soviets however wanted a weak divided China (as a non-threatening neighbour) and they wanted Japan as an ally rather than an enemy (fearing being caught between Germany on one side and Japan on the other flank) so the Soviets were quite happy to sell out the Chinese communists and cut deals with the Nationalists and the Japanese.

Chiang wanted US aid and believed the US would back him to prevent a communist takeover. For Chiang the civil war in China was the priority. For the US the priority was their war against Japan. As a result they were entirely unable to work together as effective allies and this would eventually lead to the shipwreck of American China policy.

The author also makes some vital points about war aims, particularly limited versus unlimited objectives. The advantage of limited objectives is that your opponent is not fighting for survival so that once he accepts the unlikelihood of victory he will be willing to accept a negotiated peace. If however you have unlimited objectives, such as regime change or the total absorption of the entire territory of the enemy, the the war becomes a fight to the death for your enemy and he will fight on even victory seems hopeless. In such a situation even a relatively weak enemy can become a deadly foe - he is on “death ground” and is fighting for his very survival. Japan’s foreign policy had been spectacularly successful up until 1937 because Japan’s wars were for strictly limited objectives. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-06 for example did not threaten Russia’s survival. Once the costs of the war became unpleasantly high Russia was willing to negotiate a peace settlement. The 1931 invasion of Manchuria was another war of limited objectives. China would certainly survive the loss of a few provinces. In 1937 Japan made the fatal mistake of transforming the war against China into a war of unlimited objectives. Now China’s very survival was at stake. The many factions within China - Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang, the many warlord armies, the Communists - now stopped fighting one another and united against Japan in a war to the death, a war that was simply beyond Japan’s long-term capabilities.

Equally important was the failure of so many of the parties involved to remember that wars are fought not for military objectives but for political objectives. If you lose sight of this you can win every battle but lose the war. This was a mistake that both Japan and the US made. The Japanese almost invariably defeated Chinese forces in battle but their war against China ruined them economically, earned them the undying hatred of the Chinese and embroiled them in a disastrous war against the US. The US won the military struggle against Japan in spectacular fashion but politically the war was a triumph for Stalin and the Chinese communists and in many ways a disaster for the US. They defeated one enemy, Japan, which was never a significant threat to them anyway and conjured into existence a truly deadly threat in the form of Communist China whilst greatly strengthening their most dangerous enemy of all, the Soviet Union.

Paine does his best to avoid taking sides. He is more interested in identifying the motivations of the various players than in deciding whether those motivations were just or not. He certainly doesn’t shrink from describing atrocities committed by the Japanese although he does point out that the single biggest atrocity of the Sino-Japanese War (the destruction of the Yellow River dykes which resulted in millions of deaths) was actually committed by Chiang Kai-Shek. Nor does he minimise the corruption of the Kuomintang, the self-destructive chaos of Japanese politics or the duplicity and cynicism of both Mao and Stalin.

We are still living with the consequences of these three nested wars and Paine manages to make some very complex events considerably more understandable. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

am I a conservative? part two

In my previous post I talked about some of my issues with mainstream conservatism. Now I’m going to address my biggest concern of all - the issue of social conservatism.

I do very much consider myself to be a social conservative. And this is where I really come to a parting of the ways with mainstream conservatism as it exists today. Not only have mainstream conservatives surrendered on every single issue that concerns social conservatives - they actually seem to regard actual social conservatives with a mixture of embarrassment and contempt. While mainstream conservatives are prepared to go to the barricades over the issues that matter to them - tax cuts for the rich, free trade and open borders - it is obvious that they would prefer to avoid taking a stand on every single issue that matters to social conservatives.

For me social issues trump economic issues. Economic prosperity is a fine thing but if society collapses into despair, nihilism and chaos it’s not much consolation to be told that at least we have economic growth.

And our society is collapsing into despair, nihilism and chaos. 

We have reached the stage where the most precious of freedom of all is, apparently, the freedom to slaughter our unborn children. We are slaughtering them by the millions. Quite apart from the obvious moral dimension there is a social cost to this as well. To believe it’s OK to kill an unborn baby because that child might be a nuisance to its parents’ busy social life or might disrupt a woman’s career has terrifying implications that should surely be obvious to all. But mainstream conservatives have no intention of making any kind of stand on this issue.

Mainstream conservatives not only do not want to contest the issue of homosexual marriage - more often than not they actively support it. This issue has nothing to do with tolerance. Homosexuals achieved that decades ago. They don’t want their tragically unhealthy lifestyle to be tolerated - they want it to be celebrated and embraced. They want to be free to promote that lifestyle to children. Homosexual marriage is part of that agenda. But mainstream conservatives have no problem with it.

Feminism has been not only the most pernicious and dangerously deluded ideology ever dreamt up, it has also been a spectacular failure. Women have never been more unhappy, lonely and embittered than they are today. But try to find one mainstream conservative who will point out the folly and evil of feminism.

Pornography has been flooding our society for decades now. Try to find one mainstream conservative who will confront that issue.

Promiscuity is now considered to be the new normal. Long experience has demonstrated the corrosive effects of promiscuity on both the individual and society. But no mainstream conservative wants to be accused of slut-shaming. So that issue gets ignored as well.

So cowardly and treacherous are mainstream conservatives on social issues that even though I am most definitely a social conservative the very word conservative has become so devalued in my eyes that I’d prefer to be called something else. I’d rather call myself a social reactionary.

am I a conservative? part one

I’m fairly uncomfortable with the idea of describing myself as a conservative. My big problem with the label is that I keep asking myself - exactly who are these conservatives and what do they stand for? The more I look at conservatism the less conservative it looks.

I want to make it clear that I’m talking here of mainstream conservatism of the type that dominates our so-called conservative political parties. I’m not talking about the various dissident conservative groups such as paleo-conservatives or traditionalist conservatives.

What exactly are the beliefs of mainstream conservatives? They usually claim to be in favour of limited government, capitalism, free trade and personal responsibility and they usually tend to be opposed to the welfare state. These are not necessarily bad things but are they actually conservative?

There are good arguments in favour of limited government. In fact when you look at the increasingly bloated and intrusive nature of modern government there are very good arguments indeed for limited government. On the whole I’d like to see the role of government quite severely limited. I’d be quite happy to see most government departments and virtually all statutory authorities and quasi-government organisations shut down. I’d be happy to see the Public Service cut in half. So on that issue I agree with mainstream conservatives.

I have no great problem with capitalism. It can be highly efficient at producing prosperity and in many ways it has improved our lives, in a material sense at least. On the other hand I don’t see anything particularly conservative about capitalism. It has been one of the main engines driving social change and destroying traditional social structures. I’m not anti-capitalism but I do regard it with caution and scepticism. If left to its own devices it seems to lead inevitably to the destruction or at least the distortion of the very free markets it claims to promote. I’m OK with capitalism but I think it has to be controlled to a certain extent. On that issue I can regard myself as being to some degree at odds with mainstream conservatives.

I don’t see free trade as being in any way conservative. Quite the reverse. Free trade within nations is generally beneficial. Free trade between nations is another matter. It seems to me that that leads to results that are totally at odds with any kind of genuine conservatism - it has lead to the destruction of our manufacturing industry and the devastation of communities and it leads to instability. 

Personal responsibility is a fine idea and generally speaking I’m in favour of it, but I think there are limits to it. Complete personal responsibility is in its way a somewhat utopian ideal - it assumes that we all have total control over our own lives and that appears to me to be an unrealistic assumption.

The welfare state is a tricky one. There’s no question that the welfare state has been used, disastrously, as a tool for social engineering. It has contributed to the destruction of the family. On the other hand there are many institutions that can be used for evil purposes without being evil in themselves. The police can be used as a tool of oppression. That does not mean we should eliminate police forces. That would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Personally I think that the Industrial Revolution made the welfare state inevitable and unavoidable. When people lived in small close-knit mostly rural traditional communities it was quite possible for families and private charities to take care of those who could not take care of themselves. The Industrial Revolution destroyed the continuity of traditional life, it destroyed extended family structures, it lead to massive urbanisation and it uprooted established communities. In these changed circumstances I just don’t see any way a welfare state can be avoided.

I think the welfare state should be radically reformed. For one thing I think all welfare payments to single mothers should be abolished, except to widows and deserted wives (and that should not include de facto wives). On the other hand I’d like to see welfare payments to actual deserted wives with children increased so that they can raise their kids decently without having to work. I believe we need a much better and much more family-oriented welfare state, one without the social engineering agenda, but I do think a welfare state is on the whole essential.

I recent years mainstream conservatives suddenly decided that open borders was a core conservative belief. This seems to me to be about as anti-conservative a policy that could possibly be imagined.

So overall I find myself with not a great deal in common with the conservative mainstream. Certainly not enough to be comfortable applying the label conservative to myself. My big problem is that conservatism doesn’t seem very conservative in any way that makes sense to me. If conservatives aren’t interested in conserving the family, or established communities or even our sense of national identity then what exactly do they want to conserve?

I do consider myself to be very much a social conservative but that’s another issue probably best dealt with in a separate post.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

SJW circular firing squads working overtime

The Social Justice Warrior circular firing squads have been working overtime this week. First victim was Ellen DeGeneres for her supposedly vile racist tweet featuring sprinter Usain Bolt. Even the fact that Bolt himself thought the tweet was amusing couldn't save her and she's had to do some heavy-duty groveling.

Then a lesbian feminist website had to indulge in some delightful ritual self-humiliation after being foolish enough to allow a white person to write a movie review. Needless to say the review turned out to be more vile racism. Who knew that lesbian feminists were actually closet white supremacists?

It must be great fun being a white SJW. You get to apologise and apologise and apologise and then when you're through apologising you get to apologise some more. But of course it's never enough to wipe out the Original Sin of being born white. The only conclusion I can come to is that there's a certain type of white person that really enjoys self-humiliation. Sad.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

exploring the popular culture of the past


For a while now I've been pushing the line that not only is modern popular culture poison, it's a poison that can be avoided. The popular culture of the past is easily accessible, is relatively free of political correctness and it's a lot more fun than today's trash.

So I suppose what I should do is give some examples of fine pop culture from the past. It will at least make for a more light-hearted and optimistic post! As it happens I run a couple of blogs that focus exclusively on pop culture from the past - Vintage Pop Fictions and Classic Movie Ramblings.

One recent read that I think is definitely worth checking out is G.K. Chesterton’s The Wisdom of Father Brown (in which the little Catholic priest uses his spiritual insights to solve crimes).

For those who enjoy golden age detective fiction I’d recommend Christopher Bush (a very neglected writer whose The Body in the Bonfire is a particularly fine mystery, Freeman Wills Crofts (whose Inspector French is possibly the most dogged and methodical of all fictional detectives). All the early Crofts are excellent, with The Sea Mystery and Sir John Magill’s Last Journey being especially good. John Rhode is another unfairly overlooked mystery writer of the golden age. I particularly enjoyed The Motor Rally Mystery. J.J. Connington is also excellent with The Two Tickets Puzzle being representative. 

There are also a couple of criminally neglected American detective fiction writers from this era - Anthony Abbot’s About the Murder of the Circus Queen and Rufus King’s Murder Masks Miami are wonderful. King’s nautical mysteries such as Murder by Latitude are also superb.

If you’re a fan of thrillers you can’t go past the British thriller writers of the interwar years. Leslie Charteris is terrific. His early Saint stories are all tremendous fun with The Saint Meets His Match being a good example. The Saint stories should if possible be read in sequence. H.C.McNeile’s Bulldog Drummond books are equally enjoyable. They absolutely have to be read in sequence, starting with Bulldog Drummond. Among the postwar thriller writers Alistair MacLean is a standout. MacLean was a surprisingly complex writer and he’s quite fond of throwing in unreliable (or partially unreliable) narrators. Night Without End might well be his best work but all his stuff up the early 70s is excellent. If you enjoy submarine adventures (with spy dramas as well) then MacLean’s Ice Station Zebra is very highly recommended.

I was for many years a keen science fiction fan. These days I confine myself entirely to science fiction written before 1960 but still there’s plenty of superb stuff to choose from. I’ve recently enjoyed revisiting John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos. If your tastes run more to space opera there’s Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Space

Any genuine science fiction fan must also read Rudyard Kipling’s science fiction stories. Kipling’s With the Night Mail is one of the most important science fiction stories ever written.

I’m personally quite partial to stories featuring diabolical criminal masterminds. Australian writer Guy Boothby’s Dr Nikola was probably the first of all villains of this type. The most famous is of course Sax Rohmer’s Dr Fu Manchu and the Fu Manchu books are enormously enjoyable. The Mask of Fu Manchu is one of the best in this series. Rohmer created another equally interesting diabolical criminal mastermind in the person of Sumuru who wants to create a world without violence and ugliness even if she has to kill everybody to do it! Sumuru first appeared in The Sins of Sumuru.

The two giants of pulp fiction are of course Lovecraft and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Lovecraft seems remarkably prescient today with his concerns about cultural decline and disintegration (as outlined vividly in stories like The Shadow Over Innsmouth. When it comes to sheer imagination no-one can hold a candle to Burroughs. I’m inordinately fond of the Caspak Trilogy, starting with The Land That Time Forgot, and the Pellucidar novels (starting with At the Earth's Core)

One pulp writer who must not be overlooked is A. Merritt, the master of the lost world story (The Moon Pool is a good place to start). 

As for historical fiction, for my money no-one has ever surpassed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The White Company is one of the masterpieces of the genre. 

I've only mentioned the better known writers - in all these genres there are lesser know authors who are often every bit as good.

Whatever the genre that appeals to you there is an absolutely enormous wealth of top-notch fiction from the past that can be obtained very easily and generally quite cheaply. There's simply no reason to bother putting up with the politically correct sludge of today.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

what motivates a globalist?


One of the more confusing things about our world today is that our leaders seem to be either monumentally incompetent, insane or simply evil. How can it make sense for national leaders to pursue policies that will destroy their own nations? How can European leaders be so blithely unconcerned about the rising tide of terrorism?

The first thing you need to understand is that our globalist leaders have absolutely no sense of identification with the citizens of their own countries. They do not consider themselves to be Frenchmen, or Americans, or Germans or whatever. They have no affection for the countries in which they were born and no affection for their countrymen. Their only loyalty is to their kind - fellow globalists.

The most terrifying thing about the true believer globalists who run our world is that their motivations are entirely rational. Their actions make perfect sense, if you accept their initial assumptions.

The objective is power. Absolute power. Their dream is of a world of compliant consumers who will do whatever they’re told to do and who will never ever question the authority of their globalist masters.

In order to achieve this it is necessary to eliminate any possible source of resistance. First of all this means the destruction of Christianity. Most importantly it means the destruction of the Catholic Church, this being the only surviving institution wealthy enough and powerful enough to provide genuine opposition. The fact that the Catholic Church has not been very successful in opposing the globalist agenda does not matter - the Church still has the potential to offer very effective resistance. As a result the globalist-controlled media has been going all out for decades now to discredit and undermine the Catholic Church.

The second possible source of resistance is democracy. While it’s true that democratically elected governments can now mostly be relied upon to serve the globalist agenda there is still the frightening possibility that electors might take it into their heads to vote for non-approved candidates or parties. Brexit proved that the threat presented by democracy cannot be entirely ignored. Occasionally people will still vote the way they want to rather than the way they’re told to. Clearly it is necessary to eliminate all remaining democratic institutions. Parliaments and presidents must be replaced by more reliable unelected bodies and leaders.

The problem is that this is a step that could provoke real resistance. What is needed is a combination of circumstances that will allow democracy to be eliminated without the risk of a backlash. What is needed is a crisis. From the point of view of the globalists a crisis would be a very positive thing indeed. It would offer the opportunity to announce that as an emergency measure democracy is to suspended. Temporarily of course. In fact the suspension of democracy will turn out to be permanent.

A crisis offers other equally enticing opportunities. It can be used to justify massively  increased surveillance, ever more sweeping censorship, the further militarisation of police forces and best of all it can be used as justification for rounding up and silencing dissenters (who will of course be described as dangerous extremists).

A big enough crisis could allow the globalists to strangle democracy permanently and abolish what little remains of freedom of speech.

That’s where terrorism comes in. For the globalists it is the perfect crisis. The more their policies encourage terrorism the more opportunities are provided to further the globalist agenda.

The way that globalist elites behave might seem crazy and inexplicable on the surface but once you recognise that they have none of the loyalties that ordinary people take for granted and that they are entirely indifferent to the interests of anyone outside of the elite then it all starts to make sense. They might be evil but they are neither stupid nor crazy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

fighting the culture wars in the culture

I don’t know much about Andrew Klavan but he seems to be one of those mainstream conservatives who is wrong about most things. On the other hand he does seem to be right about at least one thing. He says

“Fight the culture wars in the culture. The culture wars are problematical because too often conservatives come across as anti-freedom or bigoted. That makes victory tough. I feel passionately about some cultural issues and indifferent to others, but I believe all of them should be fought on a cultural and informational level rather than a political one. For instance, I believe that abortion is the taking of a human life and that government therefore has a right to forbid it. But just speaking bluntly and honestly, I don't think I can win that fight in the political arena right now. Happily, the truth may do what politics cannot. The truth is on my side and the more the truth gets out about what abortion looks like, how it's done, and who the people who support it are, the more the public will know that it is unacceptable. Then we can win politically.”

There is at least some truth to this. The strategy of cultural marxism has been to change the culture first. The final political victories of the cultural left on issues like homosexual marriage have simply been mopping-up operations after the real battles were won. And the real battles were fought out in art and literature, in television series, in movies, in popular music. The idea of homosexual marriage had already been normalised in popular culture before to became a political issue. By the time it did become a political issue social conservatives had already lost.

If you look back you’ll find that the same method has been adopted in every major battle of the culture wars. The decisive battles are fought in Hollywood movies, on network TV series, in pop music. 

When you can to a very large extent control what people read, what they will see on television, what kind of movies they will watch, then you have pretty much total control of that society. If you have the schools and universities as well then you do have total control. The political process then becomes entirely irrelevant. The cultural left has always understood this. Very few conservatives have had any comprehension of this. Conservatives unfortunately have shown zero interest in actually fighting the culture wars in the culture.

It has to be admitted that the overall strategy behind cultural marxism was absolutely brilliant and it has been extraordinarily successful. 

Sadly conservatives have been unwilling to copy the successful tactics of the cultural left. The cultural left believes in winning at all costs. Any method is legitimate if it brings victory closer. When leftists gain a foothold in any organisation they start stacking it with their own supporters. It would never occur to them to hire on merit. If you have the correct political views you get hired. If you don’t have the correct political views you don’t get hired. End of story. Once cultural leftists gain control of an organisation they drive out their political opponents.

If conservatives actually want to win they need to be equally ruthless and equally indifferent to fair play.

Fifty years ago most of our cultural institutions were controlled by conservatives. Conservatives gave up their control through a monumental act of folly - they assumed that the cultural leftists were reasonable fair-minded people with whom it was possible to compromise and peacefully co-exist.

Amazingly, and tragically, most conservatives still accept that absurd assumption.