Category Archive 'Spengler'

09 Mar 2022

Spengler Warns Against Backbone

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“Spengler” aka David P. Goldman.

On PJMedia, “Spengler” gravely strokes his chin, compares today to August 1914, and equates Putin’s yearning for a cordon sanitaire of Russian satellites and puppet states to the Cuban Missile Criss of 1962.

Vladimir Putin acted wickedly, and illegally, by invading Ukraine, but also rationally: Russia has an existential interest in keeping NATO away from his border. Russia will no more tolerate American missiles in Kyiv than the United States would tolerate Russian missiles in Cuba.

The United States could have averted a crisis by adhering to the Minsk II framework of local rule for the Russophone provinces of Eastern Ukraine within a sovereign Ukrainian state but chose instead to keep open Ukraine’s option to join NATO. That was rational, but also stupid: It backed Putin into a corner.

There is no excuse for Putin’s action, but there is an explanation that’s similar to one that applied to his forbears of 1914: Putin chose to attack before the West had the opportunity to arm Ukraine with sophisticated weapons that would raise the future cost of military action.

Well, I don’t think everybody in 1914 was equally “rational,” or equally responsible. Russia seems to me more responsible by far than average for trouble-making in the Balkans, instigating Serbian Nationalism, and then stepping in as Serbia’s protector (its self-appointed role as defender of the Eastern Orthodox) when a Nationalist fanatic murdered the Austrian Grand Duke.

I’d say Britain was responsible, too, for enormous damage to herself, by rushing to the defense of plucky little Belgium on the basis of an antiquated, widely forgotten 19th Century treaty and a heap of Jingoism.

As to the supposed equivalence of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962 and Ukraine joining NATO in 2022, there are enormous differences. The Soviet Union in 1962 was an ambitious, aggressor power who explicitly promised “to bury” the United States.

NATO, in 2022 pre-the Russian-Invasion-of-Ukraine, was a decidedly decadent and complacent defensive alliance, whose wealthy Western European members begrudged spending the 2% on GDP promised by treaty on defense, who were perfectly willing to depend for energy requirements on Russia, and all of whose members had absolutely zero claims on Russian territory or ambitions to attack Russia.

Vladimir Putin’s rational causus belli, according to “Spengler,” was potential missiles in Ukraine some fine day, but any such future missiles, assuming Ukraine was ever permitted to join NATO and assuming America kept electing hawkish Republican presidents with the cojones to defend Central Europe, those missiles would be purely defensive missiles.

NATO-member missile-equipped Ukraine would not, in Putin’s phrase, be “holding a knife to Russia’s throat.” That Ukraine would merely possess a credible deterrent.

All rational Russia was standing to lose was the opportunity unprovokedly to invade, occupy, shell, bomb, ravage, and annex a sovereign neighboring state without a shred of legitimacy.

Russia’s real position is that of the violent criminal who claims self defense in the course of gunning down an unarmed law abiding citizen, because, he says, he was afraid that in the future his victim might arm himself.

30 Jan 2020

The USA as Technology Hamlet

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Spengler delivers a Shakespearian sermon.

Here is the plot of Hamlet in a nutshell: The soldiers who meet the Ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father on the ramparts of Elsinore Castle were not posted there by accident: As they explain in the play’s opening lines, the King of Norway, young Fortinbras, will invade Denmark soon, and they are set as lookouts. The Ghost comes along and distracts them and young Hamlet, and the dramatis personae engage in various machinations until, at the end, all of them lay dead on the stage. Just as Hamlet expires, who should enter but Fortinbras, who asks: “Who’s in charge here? Uh, everybody’s dead. I guess I am.”

Shakespeare’s audience doubtless rolled in the aisles. Fortinbras, the play’s shadow protagonist, typically is cut from modern productions (for example, the 1948 Laurence Olivier film version), which makes the rest of the action meaningless. Such is the atrophy of the modern sense of humor.

In our present version of Hamlet, the role of Fortinbras is played by Xi Jinping. China wants dominant position in what it calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution – the transformation of economic life by ubiquitous high-speed communications and artificial intelligence. Industrial robots that talk to each other and work out industrial processes without human input, mining robots operated via 5G by technicians with virtual reality visors, a global medical system powered by real-time uploads of the vital signs of a billion smartphone users and digitized health records, autonomous vehicles, e-commerce and e-finance links easing the retail transactions of billions of people will become standard over the next two decades.

Meanwhile, the United States has invested virtually nothing in the driver of this revolution, namely high-speed, infinite-capacity and zero-latency broadband. Less than 1% of all venture capital investments are now devoted to hardware. The American tech giants are content to invest in high-return, infinitely-scalable software and leave the physics to Asia. In 2015 America shipped about 30% of semiconductors worldwide, but barely 10% today.

No American company offers 5G manufacturing equipment, which has become a Chinese monopoly. Huawei dominates the market with a 30% market share, but its two largest competitors, Ericsson and Nokia, depend on a Chinese supply chain, offering equipment with the same components, but a Scandinavian label and a higher price. …

Fortinbras invaded Hamlet’s Denmark. His modern avatar Xi Jinping doesn’t covet Cleveland, but aims for a controlling position in the decisive technologies of the 21st century. The United States is busy with the twists and turns of a macabre political plot that serves as a distraction from the main thread of the plot. As I wrote on January 26, the Pentagon last week abandoned attempts to further restrict US component sales to Huawei, arguing (correctly) that they would hurt American tech companies more than they would hurt China. And now the United Kingdom has asked Washington, “What have you done for us lately?”

The United States should cancel an aircraft carrier or two and announce a whatever-it-takes, Manhattan Project-style program to build out its own 5G capacity. Short of that, it has no choice but to reconcile itself to the mediocrity of its circumstances.


03 Dec 2014

Spengler Hates Star Wars

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That old grouch Spengler dislikes Star Wars & Harry Potter & Wagner’s Ring. They are too European pagan for his tastes, which evidently run in the direction of the Hebrew Bible and heathen Chinese Empire. What would Nietszche say?

George Lucas will inflict yet another Star Wars film on us momentarily. I detest the series, along with its successor, Harry Potter, and its antecedent, Wagner’s Ring cycle. Luke Skywalker is a retreaded Siegfried, with inborn powers that make him nearly invincible, asserting his will against authority (Wotan/Darth Vader). There are minor differences; at least Harry doesn’t have to kill Dumbledore. George Lucas explained on a recent American Movie Channel retrospective that he dipped into this swamp first as an anthropology student, reading the likes of Joseph Campbell.

Skywalker/Potter/Siegfried are a carryover of the pagan idea of heroes, which is simply the pagan idea of a god: a being who is like us, but better. …

I suspect that the popularity of Star Wars and the Potter series arises from the generation of obese, pimply-faced young losers we are now raising, who know their real-life prospects to be miserable, and compensate by playing the hero in video games. Very few of them know how to code a computer, to be sure, and even fewer know how to build one.

Think of Skywalker/Potter/Siegfried as the pop-culture equivalent of the self-esteem movement in education. If we can’t persuade our kids to accomplish anything, at least we can enrich their fantasy life.

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