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The disgust is only the beginning - Elf M. Sternberg
The disgust is only the beginning
Once upon a time, I read National Review. Writers like John Derbyshire and Victor Davis Hanson were, a few years ago, interesting, fresh with new ideas, and startlingly intellectual. Hanson has since devolved into a cheerleader for the President because he can't imagine an alternative, and Derbyshire recently shot himself in the foot by referring to the victims of Virginia Tech as "cowards" for refusing to take on an armed assailant all by themselves.

And then I am reminded that the senior editor at National Review once said that the goverment should mandate that every positive HIV diagnosis in this country should come with a tattoo warning for potential sex partners, preferably on the buttocks. I wondered what should be written there. "Abandon every hope, ye who enter?"

But an entry today by Thomas Sowell reveals the vicious mindlessness to which they have descended:
When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can't help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.
That's all you need to read. Really. Go ahead and "enjoy" the rest of the article, but really, that encompasses the whole of his thought.

Tags: ,
Current Mood: disgusted

21 comments or Leave a comment
fallenpegasus From: fallenpegasus Date: May 3rd, 2007 03:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Is it a vicious statement?

I often have the same desparing fear. I/He don't *want* a coup, but he/I can forsee one...
elfs From: elfs Date: May 3rd, 2007 03:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, it's a vicious statement. It's quite clear from his complaints that he's the anti-Virginia Postrel. He's a self-declared enemy of the future, but he'd actually enjoy a military coup to prevent it from happening.

If a coup is what it takes to make sure that you someday die of natural causes, he's all for it.
solarbird From: solarbird Date: May 3rd, 2007 03:30 am (UTC) (Link)
It's also pretty well in line with the Wall Street Journal's opinion page op-ed column today calling explicitly for a "strong president" specifically not bound by rules of law, calling explicitly for a Prince. Honestly, it's an outright condemnation of the rule of law. Here's a quote:
Now the rule of law has two defects, each of which suggests the need for one-man rule. The first is that law is always imperfect by being universal, thus an average solution even in the best case, that is inferior to the living intelligence of a wise man on the spot, who can judge particular circumstances...

The other defect is that the law does not know how to make itself obeyed. Law assumes obedience, and as such seems oblivious to resistance to the law by the "governed," as if it were enough to require criminals to turn themselves in. No, the law must be "enforced," as we say. There must be police, and the rulers over the police must use energy (Alexander Hamilton's term) in addition to reason. It is a delusion to believe that governments can have energy without ever resorting to the use of force.

The best source of energy turns out to be the same as the best source of reason--one man. One man, or, to use Machiavelli's expression, uno solo, will be the greatest source of energy if he regards it as necessary to maintaining his own rule. Such a person will have the greatest incentive to be watchful, and to be both cruel and merciful in correct contrast and proportion. We are talking about Machiavelli's prince, the man whom in apparently unguarded moments he called a tyrant.
Ripped straight from the pages of absolutist monarchial and fascist history. This is where the Bush movement has gone. It's really quite horrifying.
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: May 3rd, 2007 03:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ripped straight from the pages of absolutist monarchial and fascist history. This is where the Bush movement has gone. It's really quite horrifying.

One point:

The Wall Street Journal and the Bush Administration are hardly the same thing. They're at their closest, allies.

Now, if I really thought that the Administration was considering a coup from above, I would be horrified.
solarbird From: solarbird Date: May 3rd, 2007 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't say Bush administration, though they have been making the same arguments in slightly different language - specifically that the executive branch cannot be constrained by Congress or its tools, which is to say, law - but the Bush movement, which is the power currently led by Mr. Bush, but soon to be led by someone else now that Mr. Bush has exhausted his usefulness.

And I further don't think that calls for dictatorship have to come from the chief executive to be horrifying. The Wall Street Journal's editorial board (which is actually separate from the rest of the paper, which is fine; the news sections are quite good) which publishes the OpinionJournal pages form one of the major voices of the neoconservative movement, and, to a lessor degree, the conservative movement. This movement has dominated American politics for the six years previous to the last round of elections. That major voice is now calling for dictatorship. That's bad.
solarbird From: solarbird Date: May 3rd, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

I overstate very slightly.

Since you can't edit comments:

The editorial board itself is not calling for dictatorship. They're publishing one of their allies in the movement calling for dictatorship. It's not the same thing, because the authors are different, but I'm pretty sure that if they had wild disagreements over the direction of the editorial, they likely would not have run it.
ideaphile From: ideaphile Date: May 4th, 2007 12:00 am (UTC) (Link)


That's an amazing article on so many levels. Amazing that it was written at all, doubly amazing that it was written by a Harvard professor, triply amazing that it was published anywhere, quadruply amazing that it was published in the Wall Street Journal.

Most people figure out why the old "benevolent dictator" idea isn't so great within a few months of hearing it for the first time-- usually, during the sophomore year of college.

Maybe this guy never actually finished his sophomore year, and that's why he's still at Harvard.

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bikerwalla From: bikerwalla Date: May 3rd, 2007 03:57 am (UTC) (Link)
If the 50 governors mobilized their National Guard units and pointed them toward Washington, that would be a military coup as well. We could hope it wouldn't come to shooting, that maybe someone in the Joint Chiefs would blink first.

Eh. Maybe.
bikerwalla From: bikerwalla Date: May 3rd, 2007 03:58 am (UTC) (Link)
The last time I saw a Republican express outrage was 1991,

I stopped reading at that point. This guy's a loon.
srmalloy From: srmalloy Date: May 3rd, 2007 04:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I suppose you'd have to tattoo it in English; I doubt there would be enough people who'd recognize "Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate"; it's not common enough knowledge any more...
rfmcdpei From: rfmcdpei Date: May 3rd, 2007 12:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Some people are just in love with death, is all I can say.
sirfox From: sirfox Date: May 3rd, 2007 12:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, he's a nutjob.

Granted, while he might only nick the idea tangentially, there's a sad fact that the same political groups who go at each other tooth and nail, constantly reciting the same ideological battle cries, used to be able to at least occasionally compromise on something.

Next to nothing gets done, problems get worse because they're ignored by politicians and media alike, anybody calling for reform is shouted down, and the media encourages all sides indiscriminately, and pockets their advertising money with a chuckle.

I'm not sure of the best way out of all this, and it gives all the appearances of being a self-perpetuating cycle. One of the only encouraging signs i've heard recently is that the fastest growing political group in the USA is "not affiliated with any party". I would really love to see nationwide, a provision that on all ballots, there's the option of "None of the above". Should that one win, the election gets re-run, with all new candidates. (this will let people vote out even somebody running unopposed) In the few states that have this implemented, apparently "none of the above" has come in second a few times.

I want to believe that the American people as a whole aren't so lazy and apathetic that they're willing to sit back and enjoy being spoon-fed mindless entertainment while the world falls apart around them. I just kinda worry about just how BAD it has to become, to get a majority of America off of their couches, and out into the streets to finally say "no, this will not continue."
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: May 3rd, 2007 03:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Getting people "out into the streets" is rarely a good way to solve any problem -- it generates a lot of heat and noise but very little light. It also means that the political situation is moving from rule-by-constitution to rule-by-violence (or the threat of violence), and remember:

1) Goon squads beat peaceful demonstrators, and
2) Troops beat goon squads,

so in the end this leads to rule by an alliance of goon squads and the military. This is how the Weimar Republic fell, in the early 1930's.
sirfox From: sirfox Date: May 3rd, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
i was thinking more of the peaceful protests and work stoppages in Ukrane in 2004, in response to a horridly corrupt and illegally conducted election.


ideaphile From: ideaphile Date: May 4th, 2007 12:31 am (UTC) (Link)

I don't think Sowell is crazy...

But I don't think he's thought this through very well, either.

Damiana_swan probably has the truth of it-- a military coup would not be a good thing for the Republican or Democratic parties.

After all, a military coup in the US wouldn't be like a military coup in, for example, Libya. We don't have a bunch of madmen like Qaddafi running our military. With few exceptions-- and probably none at the highest levels-- our military leaders are very sensible fellows who have devoted their lives to preserving freedom and democracy in the US. They tend to be scholars, businessmen, leaders, and nice guys all at the same time.

In the last 40 years there must have been hundreds of Army and Air Force generals and Navy captains with the power to decapitate the Federal government, but it's never happened. The fraction of Presidential candidates who would overthrow the government if they could appears to be much higher.

Bottom line, if I had to choose between a military coup and electing some of the current candidates, I'd take the coup with no hesitation.

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mikstera From: mikstera Date: May 4th, 2007 11:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I don't think Sowell is crazy...

I somehow doubt you'd be as happy about your stance a few months into the coup...

ideaphile From: ideaphile Date: May 4th, 2007 11:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I don't think Sowell is crazy...

I wouldn't be happy about the coup per se to begin with, but comparing the history of accomplishment of these men vs. that of Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, or some other notable candidates, I know who I'd rather have in charge:

General T. Michael Moseley, US Air Force http://www.af.mil/bios/bio.asp?bioID=6545
General George W. Casey, US Army: http://www.army.mil/leaders/leaders/csa/index.html
Admiral Michael G. Mullen, US Navy http://www.navy.mil/navydata/bios/navybio.asp?bioID=11
General James T. Conway, US Marine Corps http://www.usmc.mil/cmc/34cmc.nsf/cmcmain

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mikstera From: mikstera Date: May 5th, 2007 05:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I don't think Sowell is crazy...

Nope, no sale. No coups for me... I don't want anyone in office that I can't vote out, and I don't want the Head Office to change due to the barrel of a gun... and I don't care how peachy keen the guy with the gun happens to be.
elfs From: elfs Date: May 13th, 2007 05:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I don't think Sowell is crazy...

"I, _____, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

I find your reasoning absurd: all of these men have sworn the oath above, and have gone through the most rigorous training the world has ever seen to indoctrinate them to the idea that the overthrow of the government by the military is absurd or impossible. What you're asking for here is the final stage in the Failure of Generalship, at which point not one of these men has any idea how to put the republic back together or where to find leaders better than the ones you dismiss.

I mean, why you'd want to condemn the US to the kind of political mess we've left in Iraq is beyond me.
ideaphile From: ideaphile Date: May 13th, 2007 09:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I don't think Sowell is crazy...

I didn't say it was possible any of those men would violate their oaths. I agree with you on that point-- I don't think it is.

I don't think they've been indoctrinated to believe in the absurdity or impossibility of a military coup in the US, though. I don't think it's "impossible" at all, and what does "absurd" mean in this context? I'd go along with "inconceivable," though. I doubt any of them would consider it for a moment.

And whether or not they believe they have some potential as political leaders, I bet they all have little lists of where to go for better leaders than the politicians I mentioned, none of whom could lead the country in any good direction. After all, they probably understand they might need such lists in the event of catastrophes entirely unrelated to military coups. Preparing for extreme if unlikely scenarios is just part of the job.

I don't know how Iraq figures into this-- our military leadership has had essentially no role in guiding political development there.

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