Monthly Archives: December 2008

Paul Weyrich, R.I.P.

I am day late in posting on this, but one of the giants in the American conservative movement, Paul Weyrich, passed away yesterday. The interesting thing about getting the news yesterday, which I heard on my local talk station’s Associated Pravda…err, Press…news break was that he was only identified as one of the founders of the Moral Majority (unsurprisingly, this is wrong…what Weyrich is given credit for is coining the term “moral majority”). They left off what is probably his most enduring public accomplishment: the founding of the Heritage Foundation in 1973. He also started what has become the Free Congress Foundation, which helps support conservatives in Congress.

Weyrich, while one of the influential people that helped define modern American conservatism, was seemingly more at home in the strategy and the “doing” of conservatism, more so than many of the others that philosophically underpin conservatism as we know it. To that end, I offer up a reprint of an article he wrote for the National Review back in September 1990. The amazing thing to me is that, outside of the references to events in the 1980’s, Weyrich could very well have written that piece this past September. It gives a sense for how far conservatism had (and has) to go, even after the decade of Ronald Reagan. Ever the strategist. he gives concrete, pragmatic examples of how to shape then-current government programs to make them more in line with conservative ideals such as self-reliance and freedom. He also pulls no punches – such as my favorite line from the piece:

Most of all, by affirming traditional values and the common sense of mainstream Americans, our agenda will effectively polarize the political debate and expose the left-wing agenda as the product of a fringe element hostile to our culture and our civilization.

Awesome! Rest in peace, Mr. Weyrich.


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Filed under Conservatism, General, Politics

The Auto Bailout, the President, and politics as usual.

I have tried several times to sit down to write my thoughts about the looming auto bailout (and bailouts in general). Just when I get something crafted, the situation changes – which, I suppose, is the price one pays for writing about politics, society, and culture. I sought yet again this morning to put words to paper on the subject, but then I read this piece by Deroy Murdock in today’s National Review Online. I am not sure I could be any more cogent on the subject.

While Murdock suffers from the same love of hyperbole that I do, I am not sure that he means it in a half-joking manner when he refers to Bush as “Comrade”. His point, however, is one that is largely lost on the lefty (read that “mainstream”) media and those that think CNN is “fair and balanced”. Most conservatives, especially fiscal ones, have been at best uncomfortable with Bush’s seeming desire to spend like a Democrat. I freely admit that I have been willing to give Bush a pass on spending throughout most of his tenure because of his hawkish foreign policy and his social conservatism.

However, the past few months have brought the proverbial chickens home to roost, spending-wise. The amount of money the Federal government has thrown at the economic problem (which, in my view, is largely of its own making by meddling in the free market) is beyond most people’s comprehension. However, it was clear that most people in the country were not up for such a bailout. It passed anyway, and all we can hope for is that Paulson is in fact the genius he is made out to be.

The auto bailout, however, is another matter entirely. Whether you agree or not with the President’s decision to use TARP funds to circumvent the Congress (three guesses as to my position), did anyone really think this wasn’t going to happen? The people were largely ignored when it came to the bailout, so raising a large voice of opposition to bailing out the auto industry (except Ford, which may have just bought them a new customer next time I am in the market) didn’t seem, well, worth the trouble.

The question that needs to be asked, by all involved, is this one: “How did we get to this point?” From my perspective, Public Enemy #1 might be the UAW. Someone needs to get the message to the leadership ofthe UAW that the times, they have a’changed. This isn’t the 1930’s – the days of class warfare are over (if they ever existed in the first place).  No disresepct to anyone working for these firms, but the fact that the Big Three’s average labor cost is $79/hour says everything that needs to be said. I am all for people getting paid well for their services, but that figure is a wee bit ridiculous. Hey, auto yourselves a favor, and pry the UAW out of your factories.

On to politics as usual…I thought of writing something about the Blogo scandal in Illinois, but quite honestly…I can’t decide to laugh or cry.  I feel bad for the people of Illinois, and specifically Cook County, because once again, you are being made the laughing stock of the country. It is bad enough that Chicago gets mentioned right along with Tammany Hall in the History of American Politics 101; this just adds yet another chapter to that sad story. The problem is that the system there has been so corrupt for so long, the chances of it ever cleaning itself up is slim to none. Blogo, unfortunately, is the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

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Filed under Conservatism, Economy, Politics

2008: The Return of Realpolitik

This may come as a surprise, but I majored in Political Science in college. My concentration was international relations, so I spent a great deal of time talking and reading about this subject. Within the small enclave of Poli Sci majors, I had the reputation of being the “Realpolitik” guy. Unlike most of my classmates, I had little patience for organizations such as the UN (this hasn’t changed much). I often exasperated my political science professor with my views; I even once got the comment, “International relations is not a zero-sum game!”

While that is often not the case, I think there are plenty of examples in international relations where the actors approach the situation in question largely from that perspective. Game theory aside, the most common phrase to describe this type of foreign policy is Realpolitik. The phrase was coined, and the practice refined, by the 19th century Prussian chancellor, von Bismarck. He is generally looked upon dimly in academic circles because of his drive to replace the primacy of France in the continental system with that of Prussia largely through threats or use of force. However, his practical nature, and the very nature of the continental system itself, lent itself to this kind of competitive relations between nation-states.

Fast forward to 2008. We are close to marking the end of the last large-scale use of realpolitik, namely the Cold War. While the Cold War was born on the ideological underpinnings of the competition between liberal democratic capitalism and totalitarian communism, it was also marked by the use of realpolitik, if not under other names. The fall of communism was supposed to be the “end of history”. While communism has largely found its way (rightfully so) into the dustbin of history, it has been interesting to watch the resurgence of Russia over the past year. Starting with the “election” of the new Russian president, moving forward through the “incursion” into Georgia, and now this. Lost in all of the news about the U.S. economy and the team that President-elect Obama is putting together was the news about the conclusion of a joint navel exercise between none other than Russia and Venezuela.

So what’s the big deal? Well, unless you live under a rock (or in Hollywood), Venezuela is led by the current darling of the worldwide socialist movement, Hugo Chavez. A reasonable person could chalk him up as yet another in a long line of blowhards from Latin America, however he was one thing that most of the others did not: oil. The United States gets a significant amount of its imported oil from Venezuela, and more than once Chavez has threatened to shut off the supply. That would have a significant impact on our already-wounded economy.

So what is Russia’s part in all this? On the surface, it doesn’t make much sense. The Russian Navy doesn’t operate very much in the waters of the Western Hemisphere anymore. Every now and again they might have a ship or two make a goodwill visit to Cuba, but by and large, the Russian Navy stays close to home. So what is the answer? I submit to you that it is realpolitik. The simple fact of the matter is that Russia still sees itself as a superpower, and has been recently flexing its muscle as if to prove this is so. Russia does have considerable sway over the old Central Asian Republics, which have been a considerable source for new oil and natural gas reserves since the collapse of the Soviet Union. They also have historically coveted, if not control over the actual landmass, influence over the Middle East. Of course, that is hard to do when you primary rival to continued global influence has much of its military and intelligence resources parked in the area.

The backdoor, at least from Putin’s view of things, seems to be Venezuela. While there have been nothing but platitudes coming from Chavez about Obama, I have little doubt the tune will change once Chavez forces Obama (hopefully) to stand up for American interests. While Chavez can probably do very little real damage to the United States, he can certainly be a distraction; yet one more thing for an American administration to deal with, and take its eye of the ball when it comes to Russia’s apparent move to remake itself in a more aggressive image. Russia, despite its own issues with militant Islam, has played a very minor role in the U.S.-led war on terror. There have also been several differences of opinion when it comes to issues such as former Warsaw Pact countries gaining membership into NATO and the deployment of ballistic missile defenses.

Does this mean that a new Cold War is coming? Hardly – what made the Cold War unique was the ideological underpinning along with the unusual (from an international relations perspective) of having only two countries in a position of potential dominance. Our current system is more like the old continental system of the 18th and 19th century. Which makes the return of realpolitik all the more plausible.


Filed under Foreign Policy, International Relations, Russia

Away from the blog

I apologize for not having posted on the blog in a few weeks. Between being sick and the holidays, my brain has been elsewhere. I am working on a few new posts that I hope to have up in the next few days. Stay tuned…

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