Long-time readers of Gates of Vienna know how much we admire the perceptions of James Lewis. These days he mostly writes for The American Thinker, as you can see from his archives page .
For a brief month in December 2006 he had a blog aptly named Dangerous Times. Reading those few entries almost seven years later, I still feel a sense of loss that he retired from the fray so soon. But then perhaps the requirements of his job(s) didn’t leave enough time. On his About page, he says he’s a writer, scientist and consultant. A commenter or two feel compelled to deride this self-description. Odd, isn’t it, how the anonymity of the intertubes doth make rude bullies of so many? And here I thought those were just Norwegian character traits [this is a Joke. Chuckle here; nudge Fjordman] but not seen much outside, say, Oslo. Or perhaps Palestine? I wish.
Some other time this week I might reminisce on my introduction to Lewis’ essays, but for the moment let’s just consider this fine piece from last week, concerning the hard realities of foreign policy. No, it’s not about “why can’t we all just get along?”, even though the residual four year-old in all of us still whispers such sentiments sometimes. When we’re tired of it all, when we’re called once too often to witness another episode in the eternal betrayals and treasons, how tempting it is to turn away from “the punctual rape of every blesséd day” and pursue something simpler, something less fraught…with ambiguities, with slaughter…[I was going to say “senseless slaughter” until I saw again that any such event is already truly without sense, deprived surely of Reason].
We see the name of his blog, “Dangerous Times”, above. I don’t know about his other writings, but he assigned the same tag to this most recent essay. Perhaps he uses it for all his work, or perhaps he saves it to designate those writings he would have in his blog were he still maintaining one.
His theses in this current essay are plainly stated. So plain they make you say, “Oh, I could’ve written that…if I’d thought to say it”…a sure sign of a good writer is the way he speaks not just to you, but also for you. Inevitably when we call a writer “good” we simply mean he expresses for us what we knew in some inchoate sense. It’s probably why so many admired Lawrence Auster’s work. Even when you didn’t agree with him, you knew he was speaking for more than just himself.
Notice that the title of my post is not the same as the one Mr. Lewis chose for his essay here. But it’s another facet of the discussion just the same. Who wants to be stuck with a truly insane neighbor?
I certainly disliked it when a grumpy grievance collector built a house nearby, on property he’d inherited from his grandmother.
Max was, if not mad in the lunatic sense, certainly mean and angry and unable to be assuaged. He hated most everyone and most everyone found it tedious. But not surprisingly for someone who’d spent his adult years in the big city, he had a special grievance against white folks. He was annoyed to find his kin didn’t share this attitude. Not only didn’t share it, but tried to train him out of it. I’ll never forget the day his niece dragged Mad Max to our front door and made him apologize and give me a hug. Yeah, I had a big smile when Sarah explained why they’d come. I could tell it like to have killed him, having to touch me. But Max knew he wasn’t getting off our porch or out of Sarah’s clutches till he put on a neighborly smile. “Fake it” is what she said, right in his face with their noses almost touching.
You couldn’t help but notice people didn’t like Max right back, though not in equal measure. You have to be at it a long time to be at Max levels of misanthropy. We didn’t have a party when he pulled up stakes and stomped back to the big city taking his big city ways with him, but there was indeed a collective sigh of relief as he drove away. Now that fine big house, too fine and too big for our modest neighborhood, stands empty and unsold. In our sickly economy, this new white elephant has now become Max’s folly, his final albatross. Sometimes Karma is one tough dude.
We liked his wife, but Tess was a bred-in-the-bone city girl; she wanted to be able to walk to the corner store if she felt like it…she was particularly a virtuous wife for at least attempting to help her husband realize his childhood dream of returning in glory to the scenes of his childhood. The only problem was the homeplace was gone and so were all of the old folks. No audience had he when he strode onto that stage, ready to take command of us rubes.
I thought of our ex-neighbors while reading Mr. Lewis’ essay. Max didn’t deal with reality very well, but he was fortunate not to have encountered a Vladimir during his sojourn here. I do declare, though, this piece gives me some ideas for the future should Max decide to return “home” again:
Dangerous Times: Does Putin want a Nuclear Suicide Cult Next Door?
When it comes to survival, nations act in their own interest. All talk about friendship and personal warmth between national leaders is pure fairy dust. That’s for the goo-goos, while political leaders need to deal with reality.
“Goo-goos”?? Oh, he means the kumbiyah folks. They don’t always want everyone to get along, but have you noticed they always pick out a designated victim and a designated bully ahead of time? Reason has nothing to do with their choices. It’s all about how they feel. Might as well spit in the wind as try to bring Reason into their monologue about the feelings they have for PoorPalis™ friends.
The insertion of themselves into the situation is certainly narcissistic sometimes. And very malign. Look at the ethnic Swedes being told by Their Betters that the country is going to be deluged with Syrians, like it or not. I’ll bet you there are lots of “Syrians” among those immigrant Syrians. How could a Swede, even one of Their Betters, tell an Iraqi apart from a Syrian. If the Iraqi fled his own country for the safety of Syria (and a lot of them did) back when we took out Saddam, it must be maddening to have us uproot him yet again…
…only that wasn’t our intention exactly. It’s merely that we’d moved along in our mission to save the Middle East for democracy, whether they wanted it or not. And as it happened, this time the little pictures on the slot machine came up all
cherries Syrias so it was time for the Iraqis to move again, this time with the Syrians for company. You can bet your next batch of kanelbullar that Their Betters in Sweden wouldn’t know an Iraqi from a Syrian, and they don’t plan to look that closely. After all, “Sweden has room for everyone”, at least as long as Their Betters can escape to their secure homes.
If you call the Swedes’ Ruling Class suicidally politically correct, you’d be only half right: they have no desire whatsoever to actually live with the riff-raff they’ve welcomed in via the servants’ entrance. Just like our Amnesty America proponents, they plan on a hearty but distant welcome. California and Texas can handle it, and so can the Swedes. Or at least that’s the government’s story and they’re sticking to it.
Mr. Lewis continues to examine the advantages of making strategic friendships:
That is why Russia, the United States, Israel, the Arab nations, and even Iran can become part of a new long-term truce, like the Egypt-Israel peace treaty between former enemies, for which Jimmy Carter took the credit.
The key to a new long-term truce is national security and oil.
That’s one key. Oops, that’s two keys. But you have to presume Rational Self-Interest and that’s not always in play in equal amounts for everyone. If you’ve ever seen a three year-old melt down when he’s tired you know what I mean. Getting him calm can pluck every nerve in your body.
Now Lewis gets to the crux of Putin’s lunatic neighbor dilemma:
Putin is facing two threats. One is the mullahs, a self-proclaimed Muslim suicide cult that is very close to obtaining nuclear bombs. Only the mullahs themselves know if they are willing to risk martyrdom in order to genocide Israel and possibly the oil-owning Arabs who are only 50 miles away from Iran. They talk that way every single day, by chanting Death to Israel! Death to America! Under their founder Khomeini they carried on a war with Saddam Hussein that killed one million people.
Don’t you like the way he uses “genocide” as a verb? It’s overdue, given the numbers of genocides we’ve witnessed in the last hundred years. It’s time to verbalize it.
But that particular war was started finally by Iraq, though you could say the mullahs caused it, given their apocalyptic bomb-rattling. Saddam Hussein was afraid the crazy mullahs would unleash the Iranian Shi’ites into Iraq and “free” the suppressed Shi’ites in Iraq. A not-unreasonable fear given the long history of grievance Shi’ites felt toward Sunni Muslims who ran things everywhere – everywhere except in Iran.
That ‘conflict’ was World War I brought up-to-date. It lasted for eight long years while the rest of the world averted its attention. Iraq got to test its chemical weapons on the Iranians and on their own Kurds (which is why it was never unreasonable for the Bush administration to talk about WMD. Iraq manufactured that stuff.
Mr Lewis knows this area:
Muslims have waged war against Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church for a thousand years. Putin is acutely aware of these facts, even if he is talking nice about the mullahs in public. Imagine having a nuclear Jim Jones cult a hundred miles from our borders and you can see how it looks from Moscow.
That is his national security problem. At the beginning of Putin’s rule, Moscow and Beslan were attacked with horrific mass atrocities. The killers were Muslim suiciders. Putin struck back the way Russia always has, with massed assaults and artillery bombardments in Chechnya, taking no prisoners and not caring for civilian casualties. Putin is not a nice Western humane warrior.
Iran’s suicide cult is therefore Russia’s most dangerous national security problem.
This is important, because it means that Putin is facing exactly the same problem as the rest of the Middle East neighborhood.
Putin has been talking to Israel as well as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and the rest.
Russia’s second big problem is the likely crash of energy prices when shale production expands around the world. The energy stranglehold of the Gulf oil nations, including Iran and Arabia, is going to decline steeply in the next five years. In ten years it will be gone, and the Gulf will be one of many sources of oil and gas for the growing industrialized world, including China and India. OPEC will not be able to control energy prices any more.
That would be a major problem from Russia, which is a major energy exporter to Europe. Germany pays four times the world price for natural gas to Russia, to keep the Russian bear from starting the eternal cycle of European wars again. The EU is buying peace with Russia, at a price. All the green nonsense about global warming has a very great benefit to the oil producers and to European socialist elites: it gives them control over the price of energy in Europe. That allows Angela Merkel to fly to Moscow and talk to Putin about buying peace with Russia.
That’s the Syria/Russian alliance in a nutshell. And Russia and Turkey. And Russia and Qatar. In other words, Russia wants to continue its monopoly on oil to avoid the domestic problems Putin would surely face if the price of fossil fuels plummets and the economy tanks with it. And he would have to surrender his current pleasure of dominating the Europeans.
As Lewis puts it:
Putin’s problems therefore come down to two: He has to chain the pitbull next door before it gets nuclear weapons, and he has to somehow keep the cost of energy from crashing. Russia can adapt to a gradual decline of energy prices, because it can produce domestic shale energy. It cannot afford a rapid crash in oil and gas prices.
Those are the two biggest, unavoidable national interests the Russians have. It has nothing to do with the fact that Putin doesn’t like Obama, and vice versa.
Here’s the nitty-gritty, a bottom that Obama is trying to avoid having anyone see:
Syria is not the biggest problem in the Middle East today. It is a proxy war between Iran and its allies, Assad Hizb’allah and the Sunni Arab nations, the Saudis, Egypt, and Turkey, backed by the United States. We have been supplying the Al Qaida rebels in Syria to fight Assad, along with the Saudis and Turks. That is the truth Obama keeps lying about to the world.
Well, it’s one of Obama’s lies. He has a million of ‘em. It may be that given the choice between a boring truth and a fancy lie, Obama’s characterolgocial make-up would pull him toward the elaborate, fanciful untruth, especially if it offered him a leading role.
Mr. Lewis asks if the the U.S. and Russia can “act as co-guarantors of a new Middle East standoff, a détente”. He also questions whether the mullahs would go along and answers in the affirmative because he says Iran knows the Russian Bear has bigger, better weapons. He also lists the many assassination attempts (some succeeded, some didn’t) and after delineating Russia’s umm…robust response to both internal and external problems (it involves a lot of dead people), he says:
Putin is perfectly capable of assassinating any Iranian mullah who poses a danger to Russia. The mullahs know that. If Ayatollah Khamenei dies tomorrow from an unexpected heart attack, they know Putin could have done it.
There is only one power today that can instill fear in the mullahs’ hearts, and that is Russia.
But don’t expect the MSM to talk about that. In fact, if you look at Obama’s stance in the last few years toward Iran, you could call it benign neglect. He knows we don’t have any skin in the game, not like Russia has. Mr. Lewis doesn’t mention, though, and I wish he had, the danger the U.S. faces from an EMP – a present from Iran. That would no doubt please Iran’s Bear neighbor, too.
It would behoove our President and his whole administration to play very politely where Iran is considered. Not weakly, because that would give them more reason to EMP us. We ought to have learned by now that Islam abhors any sign of weakness in an adversary. Kind of like the vacuum that Nature can’t abide…
Again, the Whole Essay is here . James Lewis has lots of details on Russia’s removal of perceived enemies at home and abroad. He also outlines the inevitable plentitude of oil in the coming years. If our President doesn’t remove our access to our own energy supplies, we could limp through these next years until he’s out of office. But somehow I don’t think he’ll allow that.
Our president reminds me of Mad Max. He’d bite off his nose to spite his face and besides, there are so many lovely opportunities to reduce us to beggary. His tax plans, his game of chicken with Congress, his rule by directive and regulation and fear, his nightmare legislation, the Affordable Care Act. That last horror will reduce us to impotent tears.
Act Five? Why he’ll start a Race War he can’t finish, doesn’t want to finish. But that’s for another essay. When it comes to building a work-around for all Mr. Obama’s harms, we need to remember Christ’s advice: to be as innocent as a dove and as wise as a serpent. Both those qualities might save us from that Royal Scorpion locked up tight in the White House, safe from the peasants he loathes.