Month: September 2014

What Is “Containment”?

Like most other subjects, international relations quickly degenerates into an infinite regress of questions, competing theories and interpretations once one thinks about it for longer than a few minutes. In no field is the word “expert” less appropriate than in that which takes the entire globe as its laboratory.

Some of the confusion derives from the ambiguity of certain words and concepts in political theory. Since these words continue to influence the foreign policy of the United States and its allies, it is important to revisit this vocabulary on a regular basis. For instance, in a piece in Commentary back in February, Seth Mandel touched on the problem when he wrote: (more…)

Nationalism and Self-Pity

Over at The Spectator, Douglas Murray considers the case for Scottish independence:

I have listened carefully to the Nationalists. And I have heard them endlessly say things like ‘The Scots need to get their pride back’. And I still cannot quite believe that they have carried so many people along with them. Not just because it’s so such an undignified, ahistorical and self-pitying claim, but because mere aromas like this are so insubstantial compared to the risk of losing our country and breaking up one of the most successful unions in history.

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“Fall” or “Autumn”?

Ah, fall. It’s upon us. Summer seems long gone, though it was only a moment ago. Everything is different now—the morning light, a bit meeker; the days, a bit shorter; the air, a bit harsher. It’s a time for scarves, thicker socks, and stronger coffee. And taking long walks at dusk, the wind blowing eddies of leaves at your feet. And feeling like a kid! I haven’t been a student for a while, but I still feel those back-to-school blues in the depths of my stomach. I suspect it’s something that never really goes away.

Oh, by the way, do you say “fall” or “autumn”? If you’re an American, you likely say the former; if you speak British English, it is almost certain you use the latter exclusively. Does it make a difference? I happen to think both are lovely words, so I use both, though without any conscious reason or consistency. (more…)

We’re Still Standing. But Can We Walk Forward?

The author Paul Johnson once described anti-Americanism as an “intellectual disease” similar to antisemitism. Mr. Johnson is correct. Each ideology uses the same intellectual and rhetorical tropes to lay all the world’s problems at the feet of its chosen enemy. Inter alia, both are totalistic: they offer a comprehensive explanation of human events. Both are also pitiless and, ultimately, genocidal. If you talk to their adherents long enough, you will eventually hear them propose some kind of final solution to the eternal problem.

It’s worth bearing this in mind on September 11, the day on which, thirteen years ago, the United States learned what kind of fate its enemies had planned for it. It was to be brutal, public, brazen, and theatrical. It was to disrupt the rhythms of America’s free life by attacking its civilian centers. It was to be relentless, totalistic, and, ultimately, genocidal. (more…)