Prissy betters

AVI drew our attention to the Orthosphere site, where I found an article from a month or so ago about the attempt to induce conformity (mimesis) by force when one's ability to lead a coherent dance by charm has withered. He quotes Arnold Toynbee's 1939 "A Study of History: The Breakdown of Civilizations":
“Where there is no creation, there is no mimesis. The piper who has lost his cunning can no longer conjure the feet of the multitude into a dance; and if, in a rage and panic, he now attempts to convert himself into a drill-sergeant or a slave-driver, and to coerce by physical force a people that he can no longer lead by his old magnetic charm, then all the more surely and swiftly he defeats his own intention; for the followers who had merely flagged and fallen out of step as the heavenly music died away will be stung by a touch of the whip into active rebellion.”
He goes on to cite David Brooks's recent piece in The Atlantic, attempting to explain why the "creative elites" Brooks so desperately wants to belong to have become objects of scorn. Brooks calls the elites "bobos," for bourgeois-bohemians, and blames their fall on "hogging profits," that is, not throwing enough tax money out of helicopters. I think Orthosphere has a better grasp:
Brooks does not understand that the unruly plebian masses do not envy his bobo lifestyle. They are not yearning to mimic, even in a vulgar and provincial way, the manners of David Brooks and his friends. He does not understand that the unruly plebian masses, whose allegiance the bobo elite has lost, are repelled by the bobos’ pencil-necked unmanliness, their officious scolding, their sexual weirdness, and their everlasting, apple-polishing striving to attract the teacher’s eye and move to the head of the class. They are embarrassed by the bobos’ juvenile spirituality, revolted by their parvenu gourmandizing, and sick to death of their half-wit moral lectures and their infantile ideals.

Well, yes

S.E. Cupp has angst, but Ace isn't feeling it.
It's less a mental condition than a carefully-curated identity.
As a corrective I'm about to go pull weeds and listen to the audio version of "Overcome," by Jason Redman. The challenges in my life are tiny compared to the ones he describes, but the principle is the same: Cringe or thrive.

Everything isn't awful

This is from Kruiser's "Everything Isn't Awful" daily sidebar, and something I needed this morning. I appreciate Grim's two stories of successful rescues as well.

Volunteers in Afghanistan

There have been so many bleak and terrible stories out of Afghanistan, it is nice to see some genuine good news. Unsurprisingly, it is not about the efforts of the professional bureaucracy. It is about American volunteers.
With the Taliban growing more violent and adding checkpoints near Kabul's airport, an all-volunteer group of American veterans of the Afghan war launched a final daring mission on Wednesday night dubbed the "Pineapple Express" to shepherd hundreds of at-risk Afghan elite forces and their families to safety, members of the group told ABC News....

As of Thursday morning, the group said it had brought as many as 500 Afghan special operators, assets and enablers and their families into the airport in Kabul overnight, handing them each over to the protective custody of the U.S. military.

That number added to more than 130 others over the past 10 days who had been smuggled into the airport encircled by Taliban fighters since the capital fell to the extremists on Aug. 16 by Task Force Pineapple, an ad hoc groups of current and former U.S. special operators, aid workers, intelligence officers and others with experience in Afghanistan who banded together to save as many Afghan allies as they could.
There's a lot more at the link.

UPDATE: A parallel story involving CIA paramilitaries, also usually former special operators. 

Jim Hanson on Tucker Carlson

I don't watch television, and therefore I don't generally watch cable news. However, tonight my old friend and former Green Beret Jim Hanson was on to explain what ISIS-K is to those who may not have heard of them before. 

For those of you more in the mood for a rant, former Marine Jesse Kelly was on earlier in the program -- you can scroll back and catch him. Actually the whole program was pretty angry tonight. 

Great Day for this Article

"The MAGA Movement’s a Bigger Threat to America Than the Taliban"

The biggest threat to America is its own government, if you ask me. It's hard to see how this thing doesn't run off the rails, even if every MAGA voter decides to stop caring about politics and take up a hobby like basket-weaving instead. 

I suppose you could argue that it was ISIS and not the Taliban at work in today's attack, but you can't really be sure they didn't coordinate. They're different sects, and they've clashed at times, but the Taliban set their leadership free from the prison at Bagram just this month. 

Lowering the Bar Through the Floor

I keep thinking that I am done talking about Afghanistan. We've surely covered all the idiocy possible, right? No, we have not. 

How bad was this evacuation? The CENTCOM commander just said we were relying on the Taliban to search for suicide bombers in the crowd. Granted, they are subject matter experts on suicide bombers; especially their Haqqani allies probably know more about that than anyone else in the world. Still, how much would you trust the Taliban to keep suicide bombers away from your people after twenty years of them sending suicide bombers in to your people? 

Apparently we trusted them a lot. In order to help get Americans and Afghans safely out of the country -- fleeing the threat of the Taliban, remember -- we gave the Taliban a complete list of the names of the ones they were looking for. So that the Taliban could help them the Taliban's enemies get through Taliban security, you see.

Well, hopefully the Taliban were serious about that amnesty they said they were offering. 

After today's suicide bombing and complex attack, which killed dozens of Afghans and a dozen American servicemembers, the evacuation is pretty much over. The new layers of security they'd have to put up to prevent this from becoming a daily occurrence would slow the trickle of passengers to a halt anyway. If we are still going to meet that 31 August deadline, we'll need to be pulling out tomorrow -- and there are reports that we started pulling out paratroopers today.

Maybe the Russians can help us get the remaining Americans out afterwards. Maybe the Taliban will let them go in return for ransom money, although I imagine the Chinese might pay more to get to visit and interrogate them in Afghan prisons. 

Never Again

The Daily Telegraph (UK) says that allies can never trust this president again

They’re a conservative paper so they don’t say “America.” But in fact that is the lesson; our politics will sometimes swing this way, and our institutions align to it. Indeed if you’d asked them, the Europeans would have said that the Democratic Party was the more trustworthy. (It’s not, though, not since Vietnam.)

There’s a good chance that this is the beginning of the end of the Republic. European states are turning to Russia and China to get their people out once the US Hegemony ends. Our government is spending like they don’t care about being a reserve currency. Lose both and what holds it together? Love among our political factions?

The world will be worse without America. For a while, anyway. Perhaps a new beginning may in time bring better things; and in the final word, God is supposed to rule the world. 

Here We Are, in New South Wales

They are shooting rescue dogs in Australia, to keep people from rescuing them because the people might meet for a few seconds in the process of turning the dogs over.

They're also building a mandatory quarantine camp near an airport in Queensland that is expected to hold thousands. Perhaps it's wrong to call it a "concentration camp." That's emotive language. But they are definitely going to put people in there with guns, and hold them with guns. Perhaps they'll later let them go, so that the fully-vaccinated ones can enjoy an hour of recreation time -- on top of their exercise hour!

This is the danger of giving an inch.

But hey, here's the Clancy Brothers.

An Iraq War Vet Visits Afghanistan

Also a Congressman, but at the moment we won't hold that against him. Hear what he has to say.


The answer to 'What about the Secretary of Defense and the Congressional leadership who don't approve of your visit?" is "We don't work for them." 

Chicago Boyz: Following Orders

This piece caught my eye on AVI's sidebar, and it's exactly how I feel about it. 
The debacle in Afghanistan is so complete, so total – that I honestly can’t believe that the abandonment of Bagram AFB, the withdrawal from Kabul – is due to incompetence. Sorry, the military that I knew and remember just did not swing that way. Orders to destroy or remove essential gear, orders to set up a system to evacuate American, Allied and Afghan employees – should have been given, should have been given weeks or months ago. Anyone of any degree of authority ought to have seen the hazards in the road to an orderly, efficient, and complete withdrawal – and so the logical mind has to fall back upon calculated malice. Which is it, people? Did the Biden administration calculate to give in to the Taliban for purposes of their own, and at the bidding of whoever has bought them? And why have not any of the military officers involved not resigned their commissions over receiving orders to kark up the withdrawal from Afghanistan? Have they all been bought and paid for with comfortable sinecures at various corporate and media establishments?
It's astounding. This should never have happened, and it happened without a hiccup. 

Another FBI Fronted "White Supremacist" Group

This time the FBI actually paid the owner of a publishing company that produces and distributes white supremacist literature. This is exactly the wrong thing to do if your concern is trying to combat the spread of a troubling ideology. 
The publishing house is Martinet Press, fine purveyors of Atomwaffen Division-approved books such as Iron Gates and Liber 333. The former is a book about a Satanic cult roaming a post-apocalyptic America, which opens with a scene of a child being murdered. The apparent informant is Joshua Caleb Sutter, a man with longstanding ties to white supremacist organizations. 

If the real problem is that there isn't as much white supremacy as you'd like to justify your bureau's power and budget, I suppose it makes more sense.  

Slipsliding away

Just say no.

Codevilla on the Troubles

If you're not familiar with the good professor's history, you might not realize that he's one of the most qualified to discuss Afghanistan.
Between 1979 and 1985, when I took the lead on Afghan matters for the Senate Intelligence Committee, the CIA had no sources in Afghanistan, and had assigned all of one-and-a-half full-time persons at its station in Islamabad to Afghan matters. None had direct contact with Afghans. When I took two CIA officers to meet with the Mujahedeen, along with a staff delegation, they were the first to have any contact. But the Agency’s ignorance of the place did not prevent it from being a major player in U.S. policy.
This piece is very much worth reading. 

Aggressive Liars

The White House is demanding the media join them in praising the evacuation of Afghanistan. Some particularly dishonorable people are doing so. 

[White House Chief of Staff] Ron Klain... retweeted Murphy’s comment as well as MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell calling it “the best run evacuation from a war America lost.” He’s spotlighted lesser known figures too, including RT-ing a retired IBM executive who compared the current mission to the Berlin airlift, the post-WWII era operation that was one of the largest humanitarian aid missions in history.

"...from a war America lost" narrows the field substantially, but if you consider the Iraq War one that we lost -- I would argue that it was the withdrawal that lost it, the war being won before that -- this claim is untrue by orders of magnitude. Remember how many Americans we left behind enemy lines without support when we withdrew from Iraq? Remember the rushed evacuation of the embassy? 

Of course you don't, because that didn't happen. I was at US Central Command in 2011 during the planning for the withdrawal, and it was done correctly in a disciplined and military manner. Even though I thought the decision was a mistake, as did many others, the execution of the order was proper. Joe Biden was the Vice President then, and allegedly had the Iraq profile delegated to him by the President. 

Even Vietnam doesn't qualify. The United States withdrew forces by March of 1973, and Saigon didn't fall until 1975. What people remember was the evacuation of the Embassy in 1975, which until now was the measure of a humiliating retreat from a falling foreign ally. Yet even then, how many American citizens were left to fall into Communist hands? 

By the way, the reason Saigon fell in 1975 was that Congress voted to deny any President money to support the Republic of Vietnam in any way. Joe Biden was in Congress then and voted in favor of cutting off support for our allies. He's been at the back of all three of these 'wars America lost.'

UPDATE: Here is a piece by one of our allies Joe Biden cut off this time. "We were betrayed."

"The final days of fighting were surreal. We engaged in intense firefights on the ground against the Taliban as U.S. fighter jets circled overhead, effectively spectators. Our sense of abandonment and betrayal was equaled only by the frustration U.S. pilots felt and relayed to us — being forced to witness the ground war, apparently unable to help us. Overwhelmed by Taliban fire, my soldiers would hear the planes and ask why they were not providing air support. Morale was devastated. Across Afghanistan, soldiers stopped fighting."

Yes, you were. You were betrayed by the same man who betrayed our Vietnamese allies, and our Iraqi ones. 


"Our Brothers the Taliban"

I suppose there is some sense in which all men are brothers, and even Ministers of Gender Equality.
Monsef, an Afghan Canadian, said: "I want to take this opportunity to speak to our brothers the Taliban; we call on you to ensure the safe and secure passage of any individual in Afghanistan out of the country. We call on you to immediately stop the violence, the genocide, the femicide, the destruction of infrastructure, including heritage buildings."

She continued: "We call on your to return immediately to the peacekeeping table, to the peace deal that was negotiated, and to ensure women and minorities voices are a part of that discussion in a meaningful way."
Nothing to worry about, sister Monsef! The Taliban will be on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. What higher claim to authority could they have to decent treatment for women than a seat on the global body overseeing such matters? 

What's A Tragedy Without A Bit Of Laughter?

Biden To Make Sure No Americans Are Stranded In Afghanistan By Stripping Citizenship Of Everyone Stranded There

Biden Says We May Need To Reinvade Afghanistan As They Have Weapons Of Mass Destruction Which We Gave Them

Trump Sneaks Back On Twitter By Disguising Self As Taliban Spokesperson

AOC Goes To Afghanistan To Warn Refugees Not To Come To Oppressive Racist America

Exclusive: We Have Obtained A Copy Of The Taliban's First Draft Of Their New Women's Bill Of Rights

Red Lines Abound

Now the military is dictating to the Commander in Chief: if you want us to stay past the 31st, you need to tell us today.
Military advisers have told the White House that the decision must be made by Tuesday in order to have enough time to withdraw the 5,800 troops currently on the ground, as well as their equipment and weapons. If the President agrees, the military anticipates “a few more days” of trying to evacuate as many people as possible before the drawdown of US forces begins, possibly at the end of this week.
So we don't have until the 31st, if Biden is going to honor his promise to the Taliban. We have until the end of the week.

UPDATE: Biden administration accepts military's red line, will withdraw all forces by the 31st.

That's really the only play if we aren't going to double down by deploying new forces, and it's a relief that they can see that it is. If they'd tried to bull past 1 September, they could have lost battalions of Marines and Paratroopers in addition to the civilians they'll leave behind. We don't have artillery fire support in the country, air support is limited to what can fly in from outside Afghanistan (and for as long as it can afford to dwell between refuelings, and the Taliban have brought mortars and heavy machine guns into the city that can range the airport. We have to leave while there's an opportunity to leave, or else we'd have to fight out overland. 

So far few evacuees have been American citizens, though, and it's hard to see how they'll get the rest out on this schedule. The odds are a lot of former USAID and State Department employees are going to have to be left behind to whatever fate the Taliban approves for them. 

This woman is clearly terrified of that fate. She begs for people to come and help her as quickly as they can. John Kirby's answer to her and those like her is, "We'll get as many as we can."


Good Lord.

Greater than Germania, Cooler than Kennedy

The White House Chief of Staff rebroadcasts a claim that, actually, the Biden administration’s efforts in Afghanistan surpass the Berlin airlift

Election Security

California is having a sensitive recall election. Let’s look in
Torrance police are investigating the discovery of hundreds of recall election ballots in a vehicle where a felon was found passed out with drugs, a loaded firearm and multiple driver’s licenses one week ago, authorities said Monday. 

Approximately 300 ballots were recovered from the vehicle…. Officers also discovered a loaded firearm, methamphetamine, thousands of pieces of mail, a scale, and multiple California drivers licenses and credit cards that were in other people’s names… Xanax pills were also located on the unidentified male subject, who authorities described as a felon.

Sounds like everything is under control.  

Taliban: There Will Be No Extensions of the US Military Presence at the Airport

August 31st is the drop-dead date for American forces to withdraw from the small sliver of Afghanistan where they are stationed. 

I'd like to give you an estimate of how many Americans per day we'd need to evacuate to meet that deadline, but the government says it has no idea how many there are to evacuate. Currently they say they've evacuated 37,000 people, but mostly not Americans. American citizens are currently advised not to come to the airport because it's too dangerous -- as they have been for two days now.

Speaking of things I'd like, I'd like to believe the administration is just pretending to go along with this while getting forces in place to do what will really be necessary to rescue our fellow citizens. 

However, Jen Psaki just said that no Americans are stranded in Afghanistan at all. This is because, she claims, the Biden administration intends to bring them home. They're just experiencing flight delays, I suppose, plus an unusually challenging gauntlet of airport security

I also like the way Psaki says, "Americans who want to come home," as if there might be plenty of them who are just planning to set up house under Taliban rule. "I've always considered converting to radical Islam, maybe taking a second or third wife, burning an amusement park. This might be the perfect opportunity!"

West's Founding XII: Which Virtues Should America Teach?

West's book has a pretty good structure. For the most part, with only small deviations, I've divided my review of it as he divided his own argument. Thus, today I'm on the twelfth part of my review, which is of his twelfth and thirteenth chapters. This is also the end of his Part II, leaving only the last (and shortest) part of his work. 

In today's section West gives a list of the particular virtues the Founders sought to encourage, and then examines other virtues they definitely did encourage but didn't add to their lists. The listed virtues are what West calls 'social' virtues; he gives lists from five early state constitutions that all included justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality. There are minor variations in the additional ones included by state, but those appear to be the big five that make the lists. West deduces this may be because of a famous (at the time) magazine article called "Social Virtue" that lists these five and gives definitions of them. (272-4) 

West points out that industry and frugality are not only social virtues, but republican virtues as well. By this he means that no government of the people can survive if most of the people aren't pretty industrious and frugal, because otherwise the people will vote themselves access to others' wealth rather than earning their own. As a result (and this is exactly Aristotle's conclusion about democracies in the Politics), a government by the people absent those virtues will become unstable and overthrown. (274)

Two virtues that only appear in Massachusetts and New Hampshire are "piety and religion." Yet we know that the states of the era generally had state churches; likely the government thought that those virtues were less a matter for government than for the churches themselves.

The same two states add "wisdom and knowledge." Georgia's state seal to this day declares for "Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation," thus combining one of these rarer virtues with two of the famous social ones. West adds that "responsibility" has to be added to the list even though, he admits, the Founders don't seem to have used the term. 

Now he begins to defend the list against various critics, beginning with Nietzsche. Nietzsche complained that the aforementioned list of virtues makes up a "herd animal morality," which leads to men being degraded into unobjectionable members of the herd -- but not great, powerful, or noble warriors. (This is parallel to the argument Chesterton is frequently at pains to defeat from Nietzsche, that Christianity leads men to be too peaceful; odd, Chesterton notes, given that Christianity is also said to have led to war that smokes to the moon. So too here.) "This concern is not unreasonable," West says. (279) 

However, he points out that other writings show that Nietzsche has a wider understanding of 'herd morality' that does embrace the martial (West often says 'manly,' and sometimes 'strong') virtues. He gives a long quote that I shall partly reproduce:

Liberal institutions... make men small, cowardly, and hedonistic... These same institutions produce quite different effects while they are still being fought for; then they really promote freedom in a powerful way.... the war for liberal institutions... educates for freedom. For what is freedom? ... That one becomes more indifferent to difficulties, hardships, privation, even to life itself.... Freedom means that the manly instincts which delight in war and victory dominate.... Danger alone acquaints us with our own resources, our virtues, our armor and weapons, our spirit -- and forces us to be strong. (281)

West goes on to show numerous Founding era documents that argue for these strong, martial, manly virtues. These include Congress' 1775 Declaration on Taking up Arms (pre-declaring for independence, note), proclamations on the heroic spirit necessary for resistance, and especially Washington's General Orders of 1776: 

The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army -- Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us no choice but to resolve to conquer or die; Our own country's honor, all call upon us for a vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. (283)

The Founder's cry of 'Liberty or Death' was also echoed in their wartime usage of the Bedford flag, which translates as "Victory or Death." The rattlesnake flag was an emblem of vigilance and danger to one's foes. (285-6)

So why do these martial virtues not make the list? West says that the Founders believed -- as Plato and Aristotle did -- that not everyone is capable of them. The social virtues are things everyone must be asked to do, and can be expected to do; courage, prudence, and wisdom are not going to be things of which every man is capable (and certainly not equally capable). Like the ancient philosophers, the Founders wanted a society that was virtuous throughout insofar as all are capable of virtue; also like them, West argues, they attended to finding the very best for leadership positions out of a recognition that not all were worthy. (288, 294-6)

West defends this proposition also with quotations from Machiavelli and Hobbes, although he repeats that he does not think the Founders held Hobbes in much regard. (296)

He closes his Part II with a further examination of the difference between the Founders and Classical theorists on the role of society as regards virtue. "In Plato's Republic, virtue may be said to be the purpose of political life," he says (299, and correctly, as in the Laws). The ancients are not concerned with individual rights; whereas the natural rights of individuals -- rather than their virtues -- is the purpose of government for the Founders. 

Likewise a virtue for the Founders but not Plato is vigilance against their own government. It is part of the duty of the good citizen to keep an eye on the government, hold it within its limits, and abolish it when it grows destructive to the proper end of defending natural rights. (299-300) Plato hoped to put the wise so firmly in charge that the less-competent people would necessarily be helping themselves by being guided by the state; the Founders recognized that the powerful, however wise, can become corrupt. 

He also concludes that the Founders held "humanity" to be a virtue, in something like Kant's sense (though again he never mentions Kant), i.e., a general benevolence to mankind. This is more Christian than ancient, but West says that it is obvious in Plutarch and therefore not as strong a departure as some believe. (300)

West notes a matter I have mentioned here and elsewhere, which is that there is a kind of proto-pragmatism in Aristotle's approach to virtue. Virtue is good not merely for being noble, but for being useful. Courage is good because it is noble, but it is a virtue because it brings success in wars and therefore freedom from oppression. (302)

Finally West defends the Founders against those who think that their approach 'eclipses the higher virtues,' such as intellectual contemplation. He points out that Jefferson's founding of the University of Virginia (and there were parallel projects across the early nation, including the University of Georgia in 1785) suggests that this concern is greatly overstated. (303-4) He gives examples also from Washington, Adams, and James Wilson to show that the Founders also appreciated these 'higher' virtues in great measure. (304-6)

Nevertheless he agrees that they were not themselves philosopher kings of the sort Plato had hoped to find. 

They were statesmen and gentlemen, admiring from afar, just as Aristotle's gentleman looks up to the philosopher in the Ethics, and Plato's Glaucon learns to admire philosophy in the Republic. Political life cannot and should not attempt to produce philosophers or poets, but a well-governed polity can provide a place for the life of the mind[,] (306)

Philosophers in my experience are very keen on defending the idea that the vita contemplativa is higher than the vita activa of action, war, and political life. My own life having embraced both at turns, I am not sure that this is true; the eudaimonia of being fully engaged in all your vital powers in working the good is sometimes more evident at war than at peace, as are the deep and powerful friendships that are the subject of the end of Aristotle's Ethics. War, for one thing, does much to level the social inequality that Aristotle thinks will make friendship difficult; but under fire together, there is a true equality in that you and the man beside you are in equal danger of death. There is good to be had in both lives, and one may not in fact be higher than the other except for those whose contemplation truly allows them to approach the divine. 

But West is writing about what the Founders thought, and of the worth of their thought, and he has given a defensible account of both.

Maybe you can do it

Brit Hume dared me not to laugh out loud on reading this querulous PuffHo pearl-clutching (not to worry, the link is to RedState, with an excerpt):
As President Joe Biden ended his news conference on Friday afternoon about the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, a reporter called out an especially bellicose question.
“Why do you continue to trust the Taliban, Mr. President?” the reporter said.
[T]he reporter’s criticism-masquerading-as-query was the culmination of a week’s worth of dramatic finger-pointing and fretting from a Washington press corps that usually prides itself on neutrality.
Although the White House’s failure to foresee the rapid fall of the Afghan government and prepare accordingly has exacerbated the chaos of the U.S. withdrawal, Biden and his allies are furious with what they see as reporters’ and pundits’ unduly hawkish coverage of the exit.
“The media tends to bend over backwards to ‘both-sides’ all of their coverage, but they made an exception for this,” said Eric Schultz, a deputy press secretary under President Barack Obama. “They both-sides coverage over masks, and vaccines, and school openings and everything else. Somehow [the Afghanistan withdrawal] created a rush to judgment and a frenzy that we haven’t seen in a long time.”
If Americans and their allies were not being slaughtered right now, I'd feel more glee about the spectacle of these clowns' new outrage over journalists' "criticism-masquerading-as-query," loss of "neutrality," "rush to judgment," and "frenzy." Next the White House will be calling them political operatives with bylines. "Hey, guys, can I get another scoop of that neutrality?"

Back to the drawing board