Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Civilisation and its discontents



I found this on the net by Bernard Lewis, the leading historian of the Middle East, in a debate with that insufferable bore Edward Said: 

The Roman Empire and the medieval Islamic Empire were not conquered by more civilised peoples, they were conquered by less civilised but more vigorous peoples. But in both cases what made the conquest, with the Barbarians in Rome and the Mongols in Iraq, what made it possible was things were going badly wrong within the society so that it was no longer able to offer effective resistance.
Bernard Lewis and Romanian historian Neagu Djuvara are both 100 and both think it is inevitable that Europe will become part of the Muslim world. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Both Theresa May's grandmothers were servants

The London Review of Books, a magazine that infuriates me by reflecting the unthinking left-wing consensus of British academia, has published a rather enjoyable review of a biography of Theresa May by Rosa Prince. 

It contains the interesting information that both May’s grandmothers were in service and one of her great-grandfathers was a butler. 

The biography contains an interesting explanation of why she took almost no part in the referendum campaign.

Quotations

Time does not change us. It just unfolds us.
Max Frisch

If you want to work on your art, work on your life.

Anton Chekhov

The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.
Lenin

Callaghan, the bent copper

Lord, how recent the 1979 election seems. I remember the Private Eye cover with Mr. Callaghan leaving church with his 2 granddaughters. 

One is saying:

I didn't know granddad believed in God.
And the other:
Once every 5 years he does.

Why should Great Britain or America fight for the Sunnis?



Obviously, the USA and UK should never have invaded Iraq. They should have launched a short punitive expedition into Afghanistan in 2001, restored the monarchy and then allowed the Taliban to come back. Nation-building was always (a liberal) folly: Afghanistan and Iraq were not post-war Germany, as should have been clear.

But having broken it, as Colin Powell warned, the USA bought Iraq. Leaving it alone led to ISIS. So what is the solution?

I don't know. Unfortunately, the USA may now back the Israeli-Saudi-Sunni alliance against the Shia crescent (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah). I hope Mr. Trump resists this temptation.

Almost all the terrorist atrocities against Western Europe and the USA are committed by Sunnis, yet we are constantly told that Iran, which is fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda, is the great threat. Why? 

Friday, 21 April 2017

Helen Szamuely has died


I was shocked to read of the death of Helen Szamuely, one of the founders of UKIP, whose obituary is here. I met her four or five times. She was perhaps the rudest person I ever knew, but on Facebook not in real life. She was clever and had the gift of mostly being right, especially about the EEC/EC/EU.

She died much too young, but I am very happy that she lived to see the result of the referendum. It was the triumph of her life's work.


Helen's rudeness was Waughian. 

“I notice you have no arguments just personal invective,” she wrote to one commenter. “I am proud of my enemies and you are an excellent addition to the group. I shan’t bother to reply to you again but be assured your self-satisfied silliness is appreciated.”

Will there always be an England, Europe or America, whatever the origin of their inhabitants?

But today, France’s most read and most discussed popular writers—novelists and political essayists—are conservatives of one stripe or another. They are not concerned, even slightly, with the issues that animate American “mainstream” think-tank conservatism—lowering taxes, cutting federal programs, or maintaining some kind of global military hegemony. Their focus is France’s national culture and its survival.
These words are from an article by Scott McConnell in the latest issue of The American Conservative called The Battle for France, which you should print off and read, whether or not you are interested in France. It is about the future, or lack of one, of Western/Christian civilisation. 

I came across it via Professor Tom Gallagher, the historian and commentator.

It contains a quite astonishing piece of information, which I had seen before.
Because the government does not publish statistics about race, some curious researchers have looked at the number of newborn babies screened for markers for sickle-cell anemia, a test given if both parents are of African, North African, or Sicilian origin. The figure has risen from 25 percent in 2005 to 39 percent in 2015. In the Greater Paris region it has risen from 54 percent to 73 percent.
Gentle reader, I don't suppose you have time or patience just now to read several brilliant articles about the effects on the West of mass immigration from the Third World. 

Still, I wanted to post links to another six 'must read' articles on the subject, which is almost the only important political issue of our days. You might want to bookmark this page or even print them off to read at your leisure. 

Like most nice people, I didn't give immigration from the Third World into Great Britain or Europe much thought until a few years ago. When a man I knew in MI6 tried to tell me about the dangers caused by Muslims in Europe I assumed he did so because he was a very rigorous Low Church Protestant. When Tom Gallagher told me about the late Oriana Fallaci and opened the subject of the 'Islamisation' of Europe with me I thought he was absurdly alarmist. I thought the same at first when Ruth Dudley Edwards talked about Islamisation.

Now, like everyone's, my views have changed, because the world has changed and we have all noticed. Despite the official propaganda. It is not that we become more extreme as we age, though we certainly become wiser and less inhibited. It's the world that has become more extreme.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The best comment on Brexit I've seen

I voted for the principle of national sovereignty and I expect to suffer for this choice. You do know there have been actual *wars* of independence, don't you? It will not be easily won. A lot of Remainers seem to be saying that they are *not* prepared to suffer for the principle of national sovereignty and that if we suffer just one jot of inconvenience or anxiety, we should have remained.

A strange election in which all parties will win big

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and outdoor

Theresa May summoned the television cameras and announced an hour and a half ago that she was ‘going to the country’. She told the Queen, who no longer has the power to dissolve Parliament, that she was holding an election.


The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 is ignored, as it can be because no law can be entrenched under an unwritten constitution.

It’s a very odd election because all the main parties will probably gain.

The election is very good news for Labour because they will be annihilated now, not in 2020. They will therefore get to choose a new leader in June. There is no obvious leader but any leader will be very much better than the present extreme left leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The election is very good news for the Liberal Democrats because Labour will be annihilated and the Lib Dems stand to gain many formerly Labour votes and some seats (though the Lib Dems are stronger in Conservative seats).

Many Conservatives will vote Liberal Democrat using the election as a second referendum on leaving the EU.

It is even possible that the Lib Dems might replace Labour as the second party. Seriously.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

12 pieces of careers advice

I don't like work — no man does — but I like what is in work — the chance to find yourself. Joseph Conrad

It's never too late to be what you might have been. George Elliot

Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Franz Kafka

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Boris Johnson is Hillary Clinton in drag


I am delighted that British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been made to look an ass. 



His proposal that new sanctions should be imposed on Russia for supporting the Syrian government was rejected by the G7 Summit which he chose to attend at the cost of cancelling his visit to Moscow.

So much for an independent British foreign policy.

Sanctions were very rightly imposed on Russia for invading Ukraine and seizing Ukrainian territory. By doing so Russia became an outlaw. 

In Syria, on the other hand, Russia is aiding the internationally recognised government suppress its enemies. This may be very objectionable or praiseworthy or neither but it is not illegal.

But was Russia complicit in the use of chemical weapons which, after all, they gave the Syrians back in the 1970s?

No, I don't think so. There is certainly no reason to think that Russia knew that the Syrians were using chemical weapons and no reason to suppose they approved of them being used. In fact neither is remotely likely. The AP story that the CIA believed the Russians had foreknowledge of the use of chemical wepons has been retracted.

Boris Johnson was playing a game to get the other G7 powers to try to make regime change their policy. They refused to play ball.

In my view, an intervention to get rid of Mr. Assad would be disastrous but, whether I am right or not, it would be a mistake for the West to give away the moral high ground that it occupies with regard to the invasion of Crimea by mixing that issue with the Syrian conflict.

Boris begins to look like Hillary Clinton in drag, but with a better brain and a sense of humour.

Even though it is probable that Syrian government forces did use chemical weapons this cannot be proven in the fug of war. In fact, there is no proof that the regime used them in 2013 and there is no doubt that the rebels on occasion have used sarin.

Ed Stafford, a recently retired American diplomat who used to be in Bucharest, has co-written this analysis for The Hill of the American bombardment of Syria. It points out that Messrs. Trump, Tillerson and McMaster have made it clear that the strikes do not mean America intends to intervene in the conflict against Assad but were a limited response to the use of chemical weapons.

I hope this does not change. 

If it does not, I do not see that Donald Trump has betrayed the people who believed in him and voted for him.

Historians have no more idea than anyone else about what is going to happen

'If you bother to read some of the serious analysis of Trump's support, you realize that it's a very fragile thing and highly unlikely to deliver what he needs in the crucial first phase of the primaries. ... By the time we get to March–April, it's all over. I think there's going to be a wonderful catharsis, I’m really looking forward to it: Trump's humiliation. Bring it on.'
At the World Economic Forum annual meeting at Davos in January last year a lot of people were worried about Donald Trump, but not British historian Niall Fergusson.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Trump's victory pushed Harvard post-graduate students into 'an "existential" crisis of sadness and despair'

You might imagine that the Harvard and Yale student bodies would be dominated by Republicans, but it's not so. Most students are Democrats and even most student Republicans do not like to mention Donald Trump's name. 

Republican students' celebration of his victory in the universities was very sotto voce and half hearted indeed. Conservatism always stands in contrast to the platonic ideal of youth, but it is not clear if the new President is even a conservative. His are the antithesis of the values of future American leaders. 

The anguish about his victory still has not abated. How different things are in France where Marine Le Pen's supporters are disproportionately young.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Has Donald Trump been turned? Not necessarily


On Thursday night there were a lot of interesting news stories. 


A horrible story about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.17 suicide bombs had briefly opening the road out of Mosul, presumably allowing the leader of ISIS to escape. The story or non-story about Donald Trump's nefarious links to Vladimir Putin trundled on, now involving Carl Bernstein. 

When we woke up yesterday there was only one story. President Trump had bombed Syria because of the pictures he had seen of dead children, including 'beautiful babies'.

I feared and more than half-expected that Mr. Trump would be turned by the American foreign policy establishment. Now that danger is acute. Especially since Rex Tillerson said the day before that the US still wanted regime change in Syria.

Steve Bannon being shoved off the National Security Council was a worrying sign, as was the destruction of Mike Flynn by the FBI. Instead of a National Security Advisor who worried about Islam the USA has one who worries about Russia. 


Donald Trump has many good instincts and insights, which is why he is President, but a very short attention span. He has surrounded himself with a bunch of people, including James Mattis and Nikki Haley, who do not share any of his vision of the world, possibly because there are few experienced people in public life who do.

Steve Bannon is Mr. Trump's conscience and must be very beleaguered.

Mr. Trump could turn out to be another Republican president who cuts taxes for the rich and sends soldiers to kill and die in pointless wars in the Middle East. Ones from which Saudi Arabia and Israel benefit, rather than America. While taking in as many refugees as Obama did and doing not much more about illegal immigration.

But it does not have to be like that.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Quotations for Friday


Everyone who says frankly and fully what they think is doing a public service. 


John Stuart Mill


It is desirable... that people should be eccentric... eccentricity in society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius...

John Stuart Mill

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Christopher Caldwell Tells Us How to Think About Vladimir Putin

Christopher Caldwell is the most interesting journalist I read. Do read this talk he recently gave, gentle reader. 
'Yet if we were to use traditional measures for understanding leaders, which involve the defense of borders and national flourishing, Putin would count as the pre-eminent statesman of our time. On the world stage, who can vie with him? Only perhaps Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey.