December 09, 2006

Peter Hennessy

I've knocked 18 Doughty Street this week- so its good to praise it for once and this interview by Iain Dale of Peter Hennessy on 18 Doughty Street is superb. It might be up for a short time so watch it before it goes. The indictment of the present cabinet is vast- he labels them 'the most supine cabinet since the war' but he does it on the basis of a non-partisan basis.

A more in depth analysis of Hennessy's talk is here.

Popeye the Shanghai Man

Interesting article on Popeye in Salon- which showcases the earlier Popeye comic strips. Those early strips show Popeye almost as a Cagney character, a bruiser with an attitude. I wonder how much he was a model for Orson Welles's sailor in the Lady from Shanghai.

Culture Wars

Matthew Sinclair has replied in his usual courteous and rational way to a post here about the way that leftwingers seem to be at the centre of the production of plays, films and books. He agrees in my muddling of the picture and complicating of the ideas involved- he also agrees with me that 18 Doughty Street were a little un-nuanced in their discussions of the issue. But he does suggest ways in which he thinks that the cultural left have appropriated the image of Britain- particularly he suggests this with relevance to the past.

Matthew asks some rather good questions- why no films about Trafalgar, about Hastings, about the pageantry of British history- why no film for example about Britain freeing the slaves or no films about the Second World War. Why concentrate on World War One and not World War Two? Why concentrate on miners and doubt in the north and not Thatcherite prosperity in the South?

I would agree with Matthew that we do live in an increasingly ahistorical culture- not just on the right I hasten to add, one of the most interesting things about the change in generations in the left is the loss of historical emphasis. Go back to Michael Foot and Tony Benn, and you hear evocations of the Peasant's Revolt, English Revolution and movements for suffrage. Come forward to now and you don't hear that rhetoric at the moment at all. But there is something more to this than merely the loss of historical perspective and its something worth seeing.

Part of what Matthew wants to recreate is a kind of filmic lense on British history, to capture coronations and ceremony. The reason that Britons don't seem to do that in my view doesn't have a particularly left wing bias to it but is a consequence of our peculiar political system. Because we have pageantry embedded within a system of government- a royal around whom ceremony and defference naturally gravitates- there isn't the same appetite say there is in the United States for national pageantry. The weight of both monarchy and history is an ever present I think on those that produce culture- don't forget that they unlike many of their consumers are bred on a diet of Austen and Milton, for them there are no shortage of rightwing views, its just those views are historical (though of course most of the views attributed to them are attributed falsely and the labels used anachronistically). The crushing weight both of history and of monarchy combine, especially with those older whose formative years were lived in a more formal culture, to produce an atmosphere of debunking. Unlike in America where liberals are patriotic but are able to invent meanings for events even for their own young country, in the UK there is always this stifling sense of the past, stifling sense of ceremony which means that the left has in the main sought to look to the excluded for its heroes or in the manner of Strachey and Wilde to satirise its social superiors.

I'm not quite getting where I want to get in answer to Matthew's acute dissection of my rather inferior ramblings but I think it is in the nature of British society and the constitution of British ceremony that you need to look for the particular absense of historical films in particular. I would say that this isn't neccessarily a constant- remember that Olivier made some superb adaptations of Shakespeare, as more recently has Branagh, there have been films about Oliver Cromwell and Sir Thomas Fairfax and the monarchy itself recently. The Second World War is untreated though aspects of Chicken Run might be seen as an attempt at a description of Britain in the war- attitudes to the US and everything like that.

An interesting post from Matt- my first response here is undeveloped but I hope I'm getting to something in pointing to this cultural legacy which defines in many ways what is happening now.

Sunni insurgency

Much of the hype about the insurgency has been surrounding the Shia revolt and its support from Iran, but now we learn that private individuals in Saudi Arabia have been giving large ammounts of money to the Sunni insurgency as well. Looks like a more equal kllling field after all.

The City of God and Rio de Janeirio

As readers of this blog will be aware, thanks to an earlier post the Brazilian film, the City of God, is one of my favourite films of the modern era. I outlined in that earlier post some of the great philosophical issues that struck me as arising out of it- issues to do with the power of tyrants to create stability and the political importance of justice- issues which I beleive the film illustrates.

Its worth noting though that those are not the only questions thrown up by this modern masterpiece. When the film came out, it came out to amazing ammounts of praise, my DVD has comparisons to a true modern classic- the Scorcese film Goodfellas amongst others on its sleeve and the majority of reviews that you can read on the net are exceptionally flattering, noting the cinematic skill and powerful performances that went into the film. One review though sticks out in my mind as raising an important issue about the film, and that is Katia Santos's review.

What Santos points out is that whilst the film portrays the favella and particularly the City of God as a nest of drug dealers and criminals, ordinary people lived there as well. As a recent study of the slums of Rio de Janeirio posits only around 1% of the population live the lives of drug crazed murder familiar in the film. Going by that study, and admittedly it is of a later period but a later period whose criminal dynamics date to the earlier time, most of the murders in Brazil aren't even committed in Rio. Furthermore Santos argues that the film misrepresents the criminals it seeks to portray- even a complete devil like Ze Pequeno had a family and was loved and loved in return. To take that out of him is to render him a devil, to take away his humanity.

Santos is right and wrong. She is right in my view to state that the film, that other dramatic pictures of a time or a place (Goodfellas would be a great example) are partial. The film stresses the violence- only one character escapes it- and the crowds of kids who as Santos remembers from her own years in the City turn away from drugs and gangs are uninteresting to the film. The film is not an account of the City of God's history- to the extent it claims to be the claim is false- but does that make the claim unjust.

As I argued earlier the City of God is in many ways an ideal history of the city. Ideal in the sense that there is a fairly obvious set of concerns about the way that people relate that flow through the film, this is a film with an agenda and a way of viewing the way that people and power relate, that character and criminality relate that goes beyond the story it tells. What the film makers are doing is not creating a history of the City of God as much as they are creating an ideal history- they are arguing through history. It matters therefore to them that we for the duration of the film only regard those incidents as mattering that support or that fall within the confines of the argument. The kids that went home to play football don't fit into the argument- they aren't counter examples- but they aren't relevant. Those that stay in the power struggles are relevant. What we are being told is an elided story, a story with the irrational and illogical taken out, in short a story and not a history.

Is this a dishonest film then, is this an act of propaganda? In a sense it is, as all art indeed as all perception is an act of propaganda. By choosing to emphasize certain things and deemphasize others, by choosing which bits of the field of vision to concentrate on yes it is an act of propaganda. But the film is not an outright lie. Violence was endemic within this society, as the study I cited above suggests and it was tied to drugs. The point of the film is to argue for an interpretive model within which to fit this violence. That interpretive model requires the film maker to emphasize parts of the narrative- the gang around Ze Pequeno not his family and not the other gangs within the locality- which are part of the story that the film wishes to show us. In that sense then it is showing us a history of the City of God- even if not the history of the City of God. A film maker to my mind can do no more- he doesn't have a canvass to allow comprehensive coverage (who does), all he can do is extrapolate a truth from the truths he chooses to film.

Consequently I find the accusations of Katia Santos troubling but ultimately I reject them. The difficulty of course is that I am writing this, not being a Brazilian and not knowing what went on in the City of God, but I'm not sure that the fact that something isn't the whole picture neccessarily invalidates it. Part of the craft of an observer of the world is fitting the world into your own incomplete and propagandist view- giving the actions that happen and might happen randomly in front of you, an order and a story- in a way that is a function of memory- to an even greater extent its a function of film.

Of course the truer story is the one that includes the most facts within its remit whilst still being a logical explanation- stories have to both correspond to the outside world and retain an inner logic. Using this argument, I don't think that the City of God deserves to be classed alongside say the Battleship Potemkin as a brilliant lie, just because it doesn't tell the whole truth, doesn't mean it doesn't tell the truth.


This blog has become all too serious recently. To lighten the tone, via the Inky Circus I discovered this particular video- as their blogger Katie puts it there is plenty of David Attenborough to go around, personally I see this as a public service, the more of David and ducklings the world sees the better. As for the spurious justification for this being on a vaguely political blog, I'm pretending I'm justifying the license fee- see posting videos of ducklings on their intrepid explorations towards lakes is vaguely political- I told you this blog had a broad definition of the political- and BBC videos of ducklings leaping from trees and over and under logs comes under that definitely- go watch the video and enjoy.

And then I promise we can discuss Iraq, torture, rape, murder, economics and the gross national product again...

But first these are ducklings- these are divebombing ducklings!

December 08, 2006

Iran and Iraq

Ken Pollack in the New York Times seems to be making a point I keep emphasizing here which is that we should not assume that the Shia groups in Iraq are just proxies for Iran. They are supported by Iran but they are independent actors themselves. What Pollack doesn't quite see is that Iran has a perceived duty now to defend their interests- consequently irresponsible actions from the Shia groups, not Tehran, could lead Tehran if its not careful into Iraqi politics. But he seizes on the vital points which are that Tehran's motivations in all of this flow as much from fear of what we might do as from a plot to bring theocracy to the world, that Shia and Sunni interests are different and that the parties within Iraq are not mere proxies for the countries without- its more complicated than that. His suggestion of a contact group is an interesting one.

(I should add I got to the article courtesy of Rich Lowry at the National Review.)

Carnival of Cinema

Its up and there are some fantastic global offerings here.
Incidentally the host blog Nehring has been nominated for a weblog- a kind of blogging award- his blog is here and is very good, worth reading. If once reading him, you feel like voting for him, you can here.

December 07, 2006


The case for and against torturing terrorist has been made in several places by several people. One of the more interesting contributions is this recent article from the History News Network by Dr McCoy which shows that the United States has used torture since the 1950s at least and has exported and trained other regimes in the use of torture. Its interesting as well because of the links it draws between the way that the UN charters on torture were incorporated into US Law under President Clinton and the drafting by President Bush of the military Commissions Act to exclude psychological torture. Showing that US torture policy has historical roots, definitely explains why torture has become quite quickly amongst the first responses of the US state to the terrorist threat.

ID cards

A nightmare in pizza revealed courtesy of Iain Dale. Make sure you have the sound turned up.

Iraq Study Group- how not to respond.

I haven't yet read the Iraq Study Group report (text here but others have- and others have responded. The thing is that some of the responses have laid bare exactly why the strategy so far in Iraq has failed and have illustrated some of the problems that we face so neatly that responding to them seems fair enough, despite not having read the report itself.

Of whom could I be speaking in such stentorian tones of disapproval? Well the National Review, a leading magazine of the American right, has today in its editorial condemned the group's report in these terms.

Bush has to work on his own to try to save our position there, and he must do it by acting in the real world that it is always the great luxury of bipartisan commissions to ignore.

The National Review may be right- the report may be hopeless- just gathering together the great and the good does not generate out of certainty a good conclusion, it can generate muddled thinking. The grounds for why this report, which I repeat I haven't yet read, might be wrong though are important. By identifying the grounds for which the report is wrong you are effectively analysing the situation and coming to a different assessment and forming a different reccomendation of how we deal with Iraq. So what are the National Review's criticisms of the report and why are they wrong?

The National Review's critique boils down to these points:

1. Iran and Syria have no interest in the stability of Iraq under a US dominated regime, therefore there is no prospect in holding negotiations with them, particularly as the price in terms of nuclear laisser faire and Lebanon would be too high.

2. Neither of them have an interest in leaving the status of International Pariah- when Libya did it they did it under the threat of force to Saddam and no change of policy, in Israel or on WTO accession could convince them to come into the fold.

3. Reducing the number of US troops in the country takes out the only stabilising force- from the Iraqi security forces and leaves them vulnerable.

4. The Iraqi government is not succeeding because of a lack of domestic security forces not because its dependant upon US troops to succeed.

What should we make of each of the four criticisms and the suggested conclusion which is to increase US forces inside Iraq by up to 50,000 troops and sack the generals, Abuzaid and Casey, in command of US forces. Firstly I should clarify one thought- I have no idea how the generals are performing and what constraints upon them have been put by the Pentagon and whether sacking them is a good idea. But beyond that how does the National Review's strategy look.

The problem is that it doesn't look good- unravelling it from the top is a good thing to do. The 50,000 troops don't seem to exist, especially given the fact that US forces are already under pressure, and the UK its major ally is running out of spare troops to rotate into Iraq fairly quickly- a hope built on increase in troops rests on an increase in the size of the US army, something that with training and recruitment could take years- we don't have years in Iraq.

As to Syria and Iran. The National Review seems very pessimistic about the chances of engagement. But it might be possible especially in Syria to detach one ally of Tehran from it- to negotiate separately instead of together. Syria's reason for coming to Iran is fear of regime change- what about a guarentee issued by the West of Syria's existing borders and a guarentee that Israel won't attack them as was threatened in the Summer. The National Review is simply wrong about Libya- my understanding is that the process of normalisation in Libya dates back to negotiations conducted at a low level under Clinton and so far before the Iraq war, Libya was not not a consequence of Saddam and thus offers us some hope for movement on the Syrian side in particular.

As to the interests of Iran inside Iraq. Its worth stating that there is a worse problem for Iran than the National Review seems to think and that is that if US forces leave- Iran could be dragged by the force of its own rhetoric, by its need to be seen protecting the Shia in the region and also by its underlings in Iraq into an Iraqi civil war. A bloody conflict which would cause massive problems for Iran, especially in its claim to popularity in the other Sunni regimes of the region- not neccessarily a good thing for Tehran. The National Review might therefore be being unduly pessimistic about the chances of an Iranian raprochement.

Lastly the National Review is unduly sanguine about the presence of US forces within a country. If the rhetoric of quisling can be heard in the UK, how much worse would it be in Iraq. Similarly so long as the Iraqi security forces are associated with the United States, how far do they become a force of occupation and not one of liberation. We must be mindful of the force of nationalism- something that we underrated on the invasion and have underrated before (see Vietnam). Again the presence of a visible US Foot maybe contributing to instability.

All of this is not to say that the ISG will bring success, nor is it to say that diplomatic efforts or troop withdrawels will definitely help, but the National Review seems locked in a mindset in which diplomacy can't work and only increases in troop numbers can. That's not neccessarily a sensible approach, as I've argued above. The basic fact about it is that it ignores how much of the vulnerability and strength of the US position depends upon the hatred felt for the US across the Arab world. That hatred makes it very difficult for a government sustained by the US to survive but equally makes an artificial unity behind Iran against America. The National Review's analysis ignores the first fact and thinks the unity isn't artificial. They are wrong. It remains to be seen whether the ISG have come up with the golden bullet, as the new US Defence secretary suggested in the recent hearings there may not be such a thing, but whether the ISG have come up with it or not- the one thing that President Bush shouldn't do is get to his policy by the same logic as the NR, he may following a different logic end up in their position, but their analysis is faulty and I'm not sure that their conclusions aren't impossible as well.

LATER Both the ISG and the National Review reccomend more training for Iraqi forces- this suggests that the training efforts undertaken so far have been fundamentally flawed by a lack of training for the trainers- particularly in languages.

LATER STILL Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan in the Weekly Standard are also arguing for raising troop levels by 50,000, where do these troops come from? I understand that armies can be increased- but in weeks can you train fifty thousand men to be ready to go to Iraq, I doubt it.

December 06, 2006

Why is Culture almost never Right?

18 Doughty Street asked last night why cultural artifacts always seem to come out leftwing. Some of the commentary is good, some of it noticably that from Douglas Murray, who I've rebuked before, is infantile. Particularly infantile is an uncritical version of anti-establishment conservatism, to whose flaws Matthew Sinclair recently pointed on his blog, the idea of a massive leftwing conspiracy originating in the Universities and spreading across theatreland, films and television is as ridiculous as it is untrue. There is rightwing culture out there: films for instance like the upcoming release involving Will Smith that enjoin people that anyone can be a stockbroker should they wish to be or tv serieses like ones which invite kids to be reeducated 1950s style are hardly in the vanguard of the revolutionary movement. Its worth noting that much more of the cultural landscape is dominated by the right than many of them would choose to remember, its also worth remembering that plays and books don't neccessarily or indeed often fit simply into a left-right dichotomy.

But what accounts for this sense of leftwing culture. Partly its because of a more general fact about intellectuals- they tend left. In the United States for example, in 2004, PhD and degree holders voted more leftwing than people who had left university before they obtained a degree or only obtained a high school diploma (source CNN). As intellectuals constitute the core and most loyal audience for plays and books, if not for films- it makes sense for books to be marketted to them. We need to distinguish here obviously between the mass market and the art market. The mass market contains all consumers within society- and ferociously rightwing books like Anne Coulter's make lots of money- but for a less mass market publication it often pays to trend left, afterall the most loyal audience trends left.

The real problem with 18 Doughty Street's look at these subjects was that it didn't reflect the fact that culture really doesn't have a political side to it. Culture, whenever it reflects upon human beings, attempts to take us into their minds, to make us reconceive their conceptions. In that sense, rather than being particularly rightwing or leftwing, culture makes relativists of us all in that it introduces us to new ideas and new concepts through the media of our imaginations. It enhances what Adam Smith would have called our sympathetic faculties. Often that bends and warps the cultural artifact in a way its maker could not have predicted- I have a friend who read into Malena, a profoundly feminist film, an anti-feminist message. Unlike political manifestos culture doesn't neatly fit, partly because it can't neatly fit into the caricatures of snarling politicos.

This is a subject that needs more than one blog entry. I want though to end on one last point which I think Doughty Street didn't capture and that is part of the problem for the right within culture is that one of the things that our culture is very good at doing is showing things, one of the things it isn't so good at doing is arguing things. I myself have been involved in television, and in an apolitical production was told off for trying to introduce ideas- its much easier to film situations. So whereas along the same logic, its easy to film a beggar and at the same time film the computer parts being unloaded at Heathrow from China that take him out of a job, its very hard to film the free trade argument. The camera and the stage are media in which the situation is all important, and its very easy to make an argument for collective action based on pity for a situation- its very hard to argue using a camera for free trade or against pity.

This is a very incomplete answer and I will return to this subject in days to come- there is something interesting here- I don't think 18 Doughty Street captured at all what is going on and I don't think they presented the issues in all their subtlety, I hope this post contains some worthy thoughts on the subject, though even I in taking it up am unsure as I hope you can tell about the purview of these terms right and left and their relevancy to culture.

What ultimately the politics of culture are I'm not sure.

December 05, 2006


Mr Higham has done it again, linking to a discussion of neo conservatism here in his latest blogfocus- but he has put together some other great posts too- including one by Tim Worstall on why economic professors do what they do?

America's Mayor

Apologies for not posting much today- but I thought I'd put in a link to this attack on Guiliani, one of the more intriguing nominees for President, which attacks him wholeheartedly. An interesting piece especially for those of us from outside America who know him only as the mayor who reduced NY city crime and the mayor on 9/11.

The Balance of Power in the Middle East

Simon Tisdall's briefings in the Guardian always seem worth reading. None more so than today's which focuses on Lebanon. Tisdall reports the growing worry not merely in the West but amongst the Sunni powers in the Middle East about the long reach of Iranian power into the Lebanon via its present satallite Syria. As another dimension to what is going on in the Middle East- this is an interesting insight because it demonstrates that not merely the United States but also its traditional Sunni princely allies have lots to lose through the introduction of Shia Iranian theocratic power throughout the region. As the Economist reported Bahrain is facing tensions at the moment between its majority Shia and minority Sunni populations (the article is unfortunately behind a wall here but is available in the print edition where I read it) and the Economist perceives a danger of radicalisation should the Shia be denied democratic rights. At the moment bogged down in Iraq and overawed in Lebanon, Washington looks overwhelmed- but just because its proving difficult if not impossible for the Americans to control the situation- doesn't mean that the adjustment of the Iranians to the reality based community couldn't also prove painful.

An American withdrawel from their Vietnam, Iraq- could prompt an Iranian advance into the same country- an Iranian Afghanistan perhaps. Predictions however are almost always difficult so far from the action- all that will be guessed here is that the profit of the Mullahs is not something welcomed neccessarily in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Djibouti or even within some of the establishment in Damascus.

December 04, 2006

Mike Ion's Appeal

Mike Ion the Labour blogger has had a great idea: to make the political blogosthere into a charitable network for Christmas and use our powers not merely for hitting each other, but also for charity. Mike's post including the links to Crisis is here so show a little Christmas Spirit Mr Scrooge!

African Rape

The Umpire has already alerted the Blogosphere to one set of almost forgotten but still continuing atrocities in Tibet. The phenomenen documented below though is possibly more obscure than Tibet, yet its extent may be just as bad or even worse.

This is a disturbing report from Salon about rape in Africa. Its not a story that you come across often- but it does strike me that its worth airing- especially as I would expect that much of this is sex without condoms and much of it seems to be underage sex. The difficulty of gathering statistics especially in rural countries blighted by civil war like the Congo or Angola makes data unreliable. Given the statistics cited here for South Africa- I'd fear to know what the rate was in the Congo for instance. This is a truly sobering moment- one that Marcella Chester and her bloggers about sexual violence would probably know more about than I. Read the story.

LATER Typically Marcella got there before me on this- she reports a figure of a quarter of a million rapes in the Congo over the last four years, some of which resulted not merely in the terrible aftereffects of the rape but also in (presumably vaginal or anal) fistulas (defined medically as the abnormal passage between organs that don't connect normally.) Words fail me to express the horror both of Marcella's report, of the New York Times report, of the Newsweek report and the Salon report (follow the links from Salon and Marcella to get to the Newsweek and NYT articles), upon which this article is based.

I can't express enough with words to describe this continuing calamity.

As if life weren't complicated enough...

This post from Professor Cutler makes clear that some people within the US Foreign Policy establishment view what is happening in Iraq not as part of a wider war against Islamo-Fascism but as part of a wider contest with Russia over energy resources all across the Middle East and central Asia. These Hudson Institute hawks are thus worried about Iran- not as a sponsor of Shia terrorism through the middle East- but as a potential ally for Putin on his southern flank- and consequently they want the United States to move closer to Iran. They seem split as Professor Cutler notes in the way to effect that goal- some advocating an alliance with Iran which would involve US withdrawel from Iraq and diminishing support for Israel and others wanting regime change within Iran.

Both policy options to me seem flawed as does the overall conception- Russia's problem with radical Islam is at least as big as the West's- see Chechnya and anyway its influence especially in Central Asia is declining, whereas China is the true competitor for energy reserves out there, partly because it like the West doesn't have sufficient for its own needs. Furthermore in the long term Russia's population and comparative economic position (removing raw materials) trends down- it needs our assistance particularly in economic terms. The Ayatollah-Putin alliance is a possible informal relationship but only in the context of both having a bigger enemy to fear and being terrified of in the first case attack and in the second being undermined in its traditional areas of influence- see the Ukrainian elections for example.

As for the US wooing Iran, that would involve ceding control of massive parts of Iraq to the Iranians in a grand bargain that would involve the establishment of Shia power in the South of the country. Regime change though equally seems impossible- with US and UK forces overstretched at the moment- indeed possibly so overstretched that as Andrew Sullivan argues there aren't enough troops in reserve to make the neccessary increases of forces in Iraq up- let alone invade Iran.

This post doesn't really answer any questions just raise them, it doesn't seem to me that the Hudson Institute hawks are any nearer though to the answer than me or Professor Cutler- maybe the only answer is to be Nixonian and address the instability between the great powers rather than playing a cold war game in the Middle East.

December 03, 2006

Poor Standard

This article from the Objective Standard by C. Bradley Thompson epitomises the flaws of journalists tackling historical and philosophical subjects. Bradley Thompson understands that the Bush administration has increased domestic spending more than other administrations before him did- but beyond that his article is a farago of nonsense and distortion.

I want to take two claims in particular on.

Firstly he argues that compassion is a virtue that the compassionate conservatives acquired from Rousseau and that it is a profoundly anti-capitalist virtue. This statement is so ridiculous that it really needs little refutation. Compassionate conservatism owes almost nothing to Rousseau- Rousseau's vision of the state under the general will is something that has nothing to do with compassionate conservatism. Compassionate conservatism owes much more to the Bible and a reading of biblical teaching. The injunction to charity as a virtue (curiously our author thinks that charity isn't a virtue but a rational choice- quite how charity could ever be rational for the selfish egotist he describes a person as later on he does not explain) is medieval and dates back to a reading of the gospels- wherein for instance Christ says that the meek should inherit the earth. Compassion as a virtue stems less from Rousseau than it does from Adam Smith and David Hume who found within mankind the sentiment of empathy and grounded upon that fellowfeeling theories of morals. In Smith's view his theory of the market was supposed to hold up his theory of morals. Rousseau indeed was precisely reacting against Smith- Rousseau held that man could only be compassionate if society was negated and dictatorship installed- Rousseau did not beleive in a compassionate ego inside capitalism nor did he believe in moderate luxury- he believed in primitivism. It was Smith and Hume who believed in the market coexisting with morality and compassion.

Secondly he claims that neo-conservatism is an ammoral philosophy of anything goes in government, of using government to sustain a particular position within society and of using government to make sure the 'right' people rule. There is more truth in this- though his bizarre assertion that the Neo-Cons would have been Trotskyites in the 1930s, Liberals in the 1960s and Gingrichites in the 1990s needs analysis- I'm not sure personally that he understands the words Troskyite or Liberal, if he did he wouldn't throw them around so cavalierly. Also no proof is offered for this statement.

Back though to the second assertion- the idea that Neo-conservatism is Machiavellian is hardly a surprise. It might come as a surprise to our author that America was founded by Machiavellians. By people who wished to maintain a republic by craft as well as moral example. Go and look at the reasons why the US is built the way it is and in the Federalist Papers you will find reasons which are precisely to do with elevating the right people to power. Machiavellianism is not really neo-conservative- it dates to a far earlier trend in politics- made incarnate by the Prince- of literature which seeks to instruct a politician not merely in what his ends should be, but in how to attain those ends. In that sense William Kristol is the author of modern 'Mirror of Princes' literature, instructing Republicans in the how of politics not the what for of politics. He is right to say therefore that Kristol isn't involved in ideology but wrong to say that Kristol's project is neccessarily anti-ideological. In this setting that would be like accusing Kos from Daily Kos of being anti-ideological just because his interest is in the mechanics not the principles of politics.

I could go on- suffice it to say that this article's sloppy thinking allows its author too confidently to express an unbridled faith in individual rights. He is ultimately a monist, who sees the world in one way and reinterprets it to fit his vision. Beware such creatures, especially writing in journals and papers, their visions have a seductive simplicity that belie their factual and philosophical inexactitude. We have here both an error of fact and a category error- there are more- but they all originate from a sloppy piece of work to support a one eyed view of the world.