Good Friday Morning! By Trumpian standards, this was a quiet week. And in the short 6-7 months of President Trump’s tenure, I’ve learned to enjoy these weeks. That’s not to say there wasn’t news and important events, but no bombshell stories hit the administration every single day.
This week I’m covering the President’s plans on sending troops to Afghanistan and why that likely equates to more of the same in the 16-year war in Afghanistan (really, it’s been that long). I’m partial to the view America needs better vision and leadership with regards to Afghanistan, and Trump didn’t fulfill that promise.
I’m also going to flesh out the concept of Reactionism, and why, as I argued last week, America is experiencing a new reactionary age, akin to the 1930’s. I’ll wrap things up with the dumbest/most surreal story I’ve read this year: ESPN removed an Asian reporter from a UVA game because his name is… Robert Lee. Best links from the web this week follow.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
There have been new advancements in human gene modification, this time with human embryos involving “CRISPR” technology. I go through why there are still many bioethical concerns with the technology and how it could dangerously devalue all human life.
You may have seen the story from CBS News about how Iceland has “eliminated” Down’s Syndrome through abortion. I cover how they achieved these numbers and why it’s a dangerous precedent that removes intrinsic value from all life.
August is the anniversary month for when the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan to end World War II. It’s become popular among liberal and libertarian circles to condemn the use of nuclear weapons on Japan. I disagree and argue that not only was President Truman justified, he saved countless lives in ending the war.
America needs to decide what it wants out of Afghanistan – that will determine “victory.”
October 7, 2001, is the official day when the United States, with Great Britain, launched Operation Enduring Freedom and began the war in Afghanistan to hunt down al-Qaeda and their leader Osama bin Laden. America is fast approaching its 16th year in Afghanistan with no defined purpose or strategy.
President Trump gave a speech in which he promised victory and a surge in troops to achieve victory. His speech reversed campaign promises on ending the war in Afghanistan. Various parts of the media enjoyed taking shots at Trump on this front, but they all miss the point: America is unclear on what it is trying to accomplish in Afghanistan and lacks the resolve to achieve that goal.
Are we nation-building or not?
There was much to like in Trump’s speech, which you can read here. In particular, I agree with him on putting pressure on Pakistan and not publically revealing our military plans to our adversaries. Both points have merit and are worth pursuing. But, he made a very curious statement regarding nation-building:
America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.
Here’s the thing, if America wants Afghanistan to take ownership of its future, it will need help from America. These types of takeovers don’t happen magically overnight, and the progress America’s made in Afghanistan with regards to ownership has been slow to bear fruit.
So while the President may talk about not nation-building anymore, it’s unclear how we can achieve his defined victory (or any victory) without nation-building. Read any report on Afghanistan in the last 5-6 years, and you find one inescapable fact: the Taliban are taking over Afghanistan again, with Pakistan’s help, and the people aren’t capable of ruling their country.
The rumors in DC suggested that Trump would send 4,000 troops to Afghanistan to accomplish his goals. To be blunt: that’s not going to cut it in securing Afghanistan or achieving victory. That’s the kind of effort that just makes losing Afghanistan happen slower rather than quickly pulling out.
Where we are
Trump is doing just enough to avoid Afghanistan lapsing into a terrorist playground, but not enough to win. Some commentators have called this the “Obama dilemma,” for Trump. Meaning, you don’t want to go full war, sending hundreds of thousands of troops to finish a task, because it is political suicide, and you don’t want to completely pull out of the country and get the blame for letting terrorists take over in the ensuing power vacuum.
The problem with the current path we’re on is that it’s akin to perpetual war. There’s no end in sight for the war in Afghanistan. To put a fine point on that: sons are now fighting the same war their fathers began. Think about that for a moment – we’ve been at war so long, a second generation is having to step into old boots.
The endpoint is this: America either needs to put forward a strategy to retake Afghanistan or leave. Either drop a full surge in the country to retake it, engage in actual nation-building, and get the job done, or leave. Either of those options is preferable to a slow burning perpetual war with no plan, leadership, or goals. We only waste blood and money on our current path.
The New Reactionary Age
Last week I wrote about how I believed we had re-entered a quasi-1930’s era. I flexed that out into a standalone article here.
I say that because I agree with the observations of both the conservative John Podhoretz, in a recent podcast, and the liberal Andrew Sullivan, who made this same remark in his piece “The Reactionary Temptation“:
Reactionism is not the same thing as conservatism. It’s far more potent a brew. Reactionary thought begins, usually, with acute despair at the present moment and a memory of a previous golden age. It then posits a moment in the past when everything went to hell and proposes to turn things back to what they once were. It is not simply a conservative preference for things as they are, with a few nudges back, but a passionate loathing of the status quo and a desire to return to the past in one emotionally cathartic revolt. If conservatives are pessimistic, reactionaries are apocalyptic. If conservatives value elites, reactionaries seethe with contempt for them. If conservatives believe in institutions, reactionaries want to blow them up. If conservatives tend to resist too radical a change, reactionaries want a revolution.
On the right, people who are reactionary are typically reacting to what they deem as an over-liberalization of society. This reaction usually manifests itself after significant advances by progressives to reshape society, or in the aftermath of a great economic crisis. The 1930’s had both.
The 1929 stock market collapse and Great Depression slammed the door shut on the Progressive Era of the 1890 – 1929. People decided they had had enough and went the opposite direction, looking for any hope in the aftermath of a great economic crisis. This reaction happened in Europe too, though for different reasons. Fascism and Communism rode the waves of despair and reactionary thought into power.
It took a world war to squash fascism and a half century Cold War to defeat communism.
Reactionary Thought has Returned
Reactionary thinking takes diverse forms, and it’s not just a conservative point of view. Violent forms of socialism and communism, and indeed the strengthening hold these ideas have, are often outgrowths of reactionary thought. Antifa defines itself as a reactionary movement against white nationalism.
I also believe the internet revolution has shifted all political thought into reactionary politics. While everyone has personal beliefs, they don’t use them in politics; they react purely on what they see. Right now politics are instinctual, not reason.
It is, in a sense, a reversal of the Enlightenment and Reformation which relied heavily on logic and reason to change the course of history. Our modern history has seen the advent of 24-hour cable news, the internet revolution, the social media revolution, and the shrinkage of all political ideas into 140 character tweets and memes. Each format is designed to sensationalize and attract outrage, i.e., get a reaction out of a reader/viewer.
Reactionary politics is only capable of reacting to the other side. It’s not a coherent worldview unto itself. Our modern form of reactionary culture is spiraling out of control, and it’s made people defend anyone remotely on “their side.” Hence why you see people carrying water for abhorrent groups like the alt-right and antifa purely because attacking one side elicits a defense from the other.
The Reactionary President
Donald Trump is most likely the first reactionary President in American history, which is one reason he is so out of place in American politics. He represents an ideology that’s never seen the White House in American history.
He also doesn’t have a coherent philosophy about the world, he just “fights,” the generic left, the media, and anyone who attacks him. When a conservative attacks him, they’re immediately vilified as RINO’s, or fake conservatives, even though most people on the right who criticize Trump are conservative, while he isn’t.
Tribalistic reactionary concerns outweigh any and all principles. Those with principled beliefs get left without party or community.
The path out
In the 1930’s, war and economic prosperity squashed these ideas. In the 1960’s, big legislative victories, non-violent protests, and economic prosperity won the day. It’s unclear how our problems will get solved.
History does offer one warning though; if an economic recession or collapse happens when reactionary moods are high, those on the extremes will push even further. Political violence will increase to the point of breaking the entire system.
The dumbest and most surreal story of the year: ESPN pulls announcer from a UVA broadcast because his name is “Robert Lee.”
From local Nashvillian and rising sports media star Clay Travis:
In a story that seems made for The Onion, but is actually true, according to multiple Outkick fans inside ESPN MSESPN decided to pull an Asian college football announcer named Robert Lee off the William and Mary at University of Virginia college football game because they were concerned that having an ASIAN FOOTBALL ANNOUNCER NAMED ROBERT LEE would be offensive to some viewers.
And not only was this crazy story confirmed, but ESPN also confirmed the story with a statement:
We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name,” ESPN said in a statement. “In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play-by-play for a football game has become an issue.
In other words, ESPN was so hypersensitive to rioting liberals they forced an Asian man to switch broadcasts. This is the same network that regularly pushes progressive politics, as Travis notes:
ESPN is a left wing sports company. If they just admitted it, fine. But they are trying to argue they are completely unbiased and I’m the biased one. Yet you guys aren’t dumb. From Michael Sam to Caitlyn Jenner to Colin Kaepernick to apologizing for a fantasy football draft to firing Doug Adler for using the phrase “guerilla effect” to firing Curt Schilling for his personal political opinions to moving a guy off a football game because he shares a name with a long dead Confederate general, ESPN’s a liberal organization.
It speaks volumes that no one at ESPN even thought, for a moment, that this was a bad idea. Robert Lee is nearly like saying John Smith; it’s a common name that NO ONE in their right mind would associate with Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
You only have that as a concern if you’re so far out in leftist politics that it becomes an issue. No football fan would have noticed this, or if they would, it would have been a tiny segment. Now ESPN has destroyed the reputation of Robert Lee and made him forever known as the announcer with the “controversial name.”
When I talk about reactionary politics going too far, this is Exhibit A. When reacting politically to events distorts even the ability to think straight, people have lost their minds.
Best links on the web this week
The Media Is Trump’s Evil Empire – Rich Lowry, Politico Magazine
Three and a Half More Years! The case against driving Trump from office – Kevin D. Williamson, National Review
Foreign Exchange – Ron Miller, No Walls Ministry
We need to start befriending Neo-Nazi’s – Bethany Mandel, Forward Magazine
Yelling ‘Wolf’ in a Crowded Theater? Nancy Pelosi Flunks Constitutional Law – David French, National Review
The obscene effort to shame ‘Trump’s Jews’ – Seth Mandel, The New York Post
Removing monuments to save other people from themselves – Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine
Why Today’s Conservatives Are Useless Debaters: They don’t have the grit nor guts to make coherent arguments. – Paul Gottfried, The American Conservative
Ukraine and Us – Jay Nordlinger, National Review
England’s Online Speech Crackdown: Hate speech is free speech. – Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary Magazine
2018 House Midterm Forecast – Decision Desk HQ
Satire piece of the week
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has received approval from the president to rename nearly a dozen bases after many petitioned the service to change the names of posts that honor Confederate generals, sources confirmed today.
Ten bases, including Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, will have their names changed in honor of President Donald Trump, the service said. Fort Hood, for example, will be renamed to Fort Trump, while Fort Bragg will be rebranded as Fort Trump International Airborne Barracks and Jump Tower.
Thanks for reading!