Dear Spengler,Re: In praise of premature war: Should the West not then be grateful to Osama bin Laden, and should you not be acclaiming the attack on the World Trade Center as the glorious, decisive act that started the war and saved the world from a “tragic and unnecessary” war of attrition? Osama shot first, not Bush. And, you argue that “keeping the peace requires prospective combatants to maintain the balance of power,” but also that a balance of power leads to devastating wars of attrition. This is oxymoronic, though perhaps tragically true, in that there can be no peace without devastating wars from time to time. Finally, the logical conclusion of your argument is that the powerful must always be attacking potential
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Dear Spengler,
Re: In praise of premature war: Should the West not then be grateful to Osama bin Laden, and should you not be acclaiming the attack on the World Trade Center as the glorious, decisive act that started the war and saved the world from a “tragic and unnecessary” war of attrition? Osama shot first, not Bush.

And, you argue that “keeping the peace requires prospective combatants to maintain the balance of power,” but also that a balance of power leads to devastating wars of attrition. This is oxymoronic, though perhaps tragically true, in that there can be no peace without devastating wars from time to time.

Finally, the logical conclusion of your argument is that the powerful must always be attacking potential rivals so as to prevent a balance of power. The result is either perpetual small wars or a cowed world living under the iron rod of the global dictator, i.e. peace of a dismal sort. Why is such an outcome worthy of the gratitude of non-Americans? And for Americans, one guaranteed outcome is more Osamas and World Trade Centers, for which they should be grateful because it tells them that they are still on top (just as the existence of the mosquito lets the human know that he is the dominant species).

Seems to me you’re arguing in favor of global dictatorship by the US, but are trying to say so politely. Why not call a spade a spade, and add, “Thanks, George AND Osama.”
AQ

Dear AQ and others,
Sir John Keegan’s characterization of the First World War as “tragic and unnecessary” is a contradiction in terms, for tragedy implies necessity. Both the strength and the weakness of the West incited the Muslim world against it; strength, because the American model threatens to dissolve traditional society, and weakness, because the demographic collapse of Western Europe reopens the prospect of Islamic expansion for the first time since the 17th century. If the Islamic world adapts to the American way of life, as the White House seems to propose, it will end as an unhappy caricature. Westernized Muslims, who well know the West, provide the toughest cadres of the terrorist resistance. In that respect the Muslim world takes the position of the Slavs of 1914, who took up the bomb and pistol to avoid absorption into the German cultural sphere.

I no more favor an American dictatorship today than I would have favored Wilhelmine hegemony in 1905. But German dominance following a quick defeat of France and Russia would have been infinitely preferable to the Great War that ruined Western civilization. By that measure, Kaiser Wilhelm II was the great tragic figure of the 20th century, whose Hamlet-like indecision led to the terrible outcome of 1918 and indirectly to 1939. A repellent personality, Wilhelm II devoured the racial theories of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Nonetheless I regret that he did not put paid to France in 1905. Never mind that Germany and France fought for reasons I consider repugnant, namely a nasty brand of nationalism (Siegfried rather than Christ). They were going to fight, one way or the other, and better to have done with it quickly.

By the same token, American hegemony today would be infinitely preferable to a contending mob of nuclear-armed states. Premature hostilities and a general mopping-up of the nuclear pretenders is the least horrible alternative.

Abraham Lincoln, whose bloodthirstiness I have extolled in this space, qualified the American Civil War as a divine judgment upon both North and South in his Second Inaugural Address. Days after delivering this speech he wrote to Thurlow Reed, “I expect the [Second Inaugural] to wear as well as – perhaps better than – any thing I have produced; but I believe it is not immediately popular. Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case, is to deny that there is a God governing the world. It is a truth which I thought needed to be told.”

Personally, I do not think the Almighty has anything at all to do with the war now in gestation. Nor do I believe in Fate and Nemesis. The fault lies not in our stars, but in us. Given who we are, war will come whether we wish it to or not.

Bruno-Ken Shiozawa asks about my criteria for ethnic and tribal continuity. All the factors he cites (language, historical traditions, memory, genetic continuity) contribute, which helps explain the often-observed similarities between the Indians, Chinese, and Jews. The overseas Chinese often are called “the Jews of Asia” due to their success in trading, emphasis on education, and family cohesion. No people fuses all of these qualities as effectively as the Jews, who maintain not only genetic continuity, memory and language, but also a canon of revealed literature as well as a widely-accepted tradition of scriptural interpretation. “Revealed” is the key concept, for the Jewish god uniquely combines omnipotence and pathos: the creator of Heaven and Earth suffers along with his human creations. This Jewish concept underlies Christianity, the most successful movement of religious conversion in the history of the world.

A MacDonald asks whether atheism saps the fighting will of soldiers, but then characterizes Soviet communism as religious. It seems a bit more complicated to me, but the simple version is that humankind’s sense of the future derives from some form of belief in life beyond the grave. We do not breed children by instinct, but in the hope that something of us will remain on the earth after the worms have had their way with us. Why should a man whose vision of life ends with his own demise be willing to lay down his life for future generations? I have tried to respond to his question about Canada, but my mind goes blank.

G Traven confounds what I diagnose and what I prescribe. What I prescribe, to coin a phrase, is that every man should sit under his own vine and fig tree and that there should be no one to make him afraid. Sadly, the revenge of tribal identity will delay this outcome for some time to come.

To DH, who is wrestling with religious faith in a country of secular humanists, I recommend the first and last pages of Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption. All religion begins with the certainty of death, Rosenzweig states at the outset. But where does all his thought lead? “It leads – to life!” Life is what conquers death; we do not know what is beyond the grave, and that makes us fearful. We require courage to live: courage, after all, is doing what we ought despite our fears. One wants to scream at the French, Germans and Russians of 1914, “Get a life!” Faith is a wager, said Pascal; more precisely, it is a wager on life. Live well, DH, and thank you for the kind words about my writing.

Spengler

Dear Spengler,
Re: In praise of premature war: Should the West not then be grateful to Osama bin Laden, and should you not be acclaiming the attack on the World Trade Center as the glorious, decisive act that started the war and saved the world from a “tragic and unnecessary” war of attrition? Osama shot first, not Bush.

And, you argue that “keeping the peace requires prospective combatants to maintain the balance of power”, but also that a balance of power leads to devastating wars of attrition. This is oxymoronic, though perhaps tragically true, in that there can be no peace without devastating wars from time to time.

Finally, the logical conclusion of your argument is that the powerful must always be attacking potential rivals so as to prevent a balance of power. The result is either perpetual small wars or a cowed world living under the iron rod of the global dictator, ie peace of a dismal sort. Why is such an outcome worthy of the gratitude of non-Americans? And for Americans, one guaranteed outcome is more Osamas and World Trade Centers, for which they should be grateful because it tells them that they are still on top (just as the existence of the mosquito lets the human know that he is the dominant species).

Seems to me you’re arguing in favor of global dictatorship by the US, but are trying to say so politely. Why not call a spade a spade, and add, “Thanks, George AND Osama.”
AQ

Dear AQ and others,
Sir John Keegan’s characterization of the First World War as “tragic and unnecessary” is a contradiction in terms, for tragedy implies necessity. Both the strength and the weakness of the West incited the Muslim world against it; strength, because the American model threatens to dissolve traditional society, and weakness, because the demographic collapse of Western Europe re-opens the prospect of Islamic expansion for the first time since the 17th century. If the Islamic world adapts to the American way of life, as the White House seems to propose, it will end as an unhappy caricature. Westernized Muslims, who well know the West, provide the toughest cadres of the terrorist resistance. In that respect the Muslim world takes the position of the Slavs of 1914, who took up the bomb and pistol to avoid absorption into the German cultural sphere.

I no more favor an American dictatorship today than I would have favored Wilhelmine hegemony in 1905. But German dominance following a quick defeat of France and Russia would have been infinitely preferable to the Great War that ruined Western civilization. By that measure, Kaiser Wilhelm II was the great tragic figure of the 20th century, whose Hamlet-like indecision led to the terrible outcome of 1918 and indirectly to 1939. A repellent personality, Wilhelm II devoured the racial theories of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Nonetheless I regret that he did not put paid to France in 1905. Never mind that Germany and France fought for reasons I consider repugnant, namely a nasty brand of nationalism (Siegfried rather than Christ). They were going to fight, one way or the other, and better to have done with it quickly.

By the same token, American hegemony today would be infinitely preferable to a contending mob of nuclear-armed states. Premature hostilities and a general mopping-up of the nuclear pretenders is the least horrible alternative.

Abraham Lincoln, whose bloodthirstiness I have extolled in this space, qualified the American Civil War as a divine judgment upon both North and South in his Second Inaugural Address. Days after delivering this speech he wrote to Thurlow Reed, “I expect the [Second Inaugural] to wear as well as – perhaps better than – any thing I have produced; but I believe it is not immediately popular. Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case, is to deny that there is a God governing the world. It is a truth which I thought needed to be told.”

Personally, I do not think the Almighty has anything at all to do with the war now in gestation. Nor do I believe in Fate and Nemesis. The fault lies not in our stars, but in us. Given who we are, war will come whether we wish it to or not.

Bruno-Ken Shiozawa asks about my criteria for ethnic and tribal continuity. All the factors he cites (language, historical traditions, memory, genetic continuity) contribute, which helps explain the often-observed similarities between the Indians, Chinese, and Jews. The overseas Chinese often are called “the Jews of Asia” due to their success in trading, emphasis on education, and family cohesion. No people fuses all of these qualities as effectively as the Jews, who maintain not only genetic continuity, memory and language, but also a canon of revealed literature as well as a widely-accepted tradition of scriptural interpretation. “Revealed” is the key concept, for the Jewish god uniquely combines omnipotence and pathos: the creator of Heaven and Earth suffers along with his human creations. This Jewish concept underlies Christianity, the most successful movement of religious conversion in the history of the world.

A MacDonald asks whether atheism saps the fighting will of soldiers, but then characterizes Soviet communism as religious. It seems a bit more complicated to me, but the simple version is that humankind’s sense of the future derives from some form of belief in life beyond the grave. We do not breed children by instinct, but in the hope that something of us will remain on the earth after the worms have had their way with us. Why should a man whose vision of life ends with his own demise be willing to lay down his life for future generations? I have tried to respond to his question about Canada, but my mind goes blank.

G Traven confounds what I diagnose and what I prescribe. What I prescribe, to coin a phrase, is that every man should sit under his own vine and fig tree and that there should be no one to make him afraid. Sadly, the revenge of tribal identity will delay this outcome for some time to come.

To DH, who is wrestling with religious faith in a country of secular humanists, I recommend the first and last pages of Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption. All religion begins with the certainty of death, Rosenzweig states at the outset. But where does all his thought lead? “It leads – to life!” Life is what conquers death; we do not know what is beyond the grave, and that makes us fearful. We require courage to live: courage, after all, is doing what we ought despite our fears. One wants to scream at the French, Germans and Russians of 1914, “Get a life!” Faith is a wager, said Pascal; more precisely, it is a wager on life. Live well, DH, and thank you for the kind words about my writing.

Spengler

https://web.archive.org/web/20100117081713/http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/FJ26Aa01.html