Saturday, November 18, 2006

Phobos, Kerdos, Doxa.

Lately I’ve become very sanguine. It’s the reading. In quick succession I’ve read Robert Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts: The American soldier on the Ground, Task Force Dagger by Robin More, about the destruction of the Taliban in Afghanistan by small (10-11 men) teams, Operation Jedburgh: D-Day and America’s First Shadow War by Colin Beavan. I am in the middle of Victor Davis Hanson’s Who Killed Homer, The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom, and just finishing Kaplan’s Warrior Politics .Waiting on the dining table is Hanson’s The Soul of Battle which will ‘larn’ me about Epamonides, Sherman and Patton. Fifteen more titles wait in the lists, Oriana Fallaci, Laurence Wright, Robert Spencer, Leo Strauss, (the St. Paul libraries have no Leo Strauss!!), Andy Bostom, Paul Berman, et. al.

From Warrior Politics: “Thucydides’ military history leads him to the following conclusion: Whatever we may think or profess, human behavior is guided by fear (phobos), self-interest (kerdos), and honor (doxa). These aspects of human nature cause war and instability, accounting for anthropinon, the ‘human condition. The human condition, in turn, leads to political crises: when physis (pure instinct) triumphs over nomoi (laws), politics fails and is replaced by anarchy. The solution to anarchy is not to deny fear, self-interest, and honor but to manage them for the sake of a moral outcome. “ (By the way, in the previous post I quoted Kaplan quoting Machiavelli quoting Livy. I haven’t read Machiavelli or Livy. I have read Thucydides’ Peloponnisian Wars.)

As I’ve said, very sanguine. Yet more composed, less reactive and volatile to the day to day alarum of the news cycle. Human nature plays out before us; mostly beyond our control… Matthew Arnold’s ignorant armies clashing by night. (Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach) So I read more and fret less.

Warrior Politics is a short book, some 180 pages, with chapters on Churchill’s River War; Livy’s Punic War; Sun-Tzu & Thucydides; Machiavelliam Virtue, Determinism; Hobbes & Malthus, (very, very interesting; abandon your conventional idea about Malthus); The Holocause, Realism & Kant; the World of Achilles: Ancient soldiers, Modern warriors; China & global governance; and Tiberius.

Quotes from James Madison, Federalist 51…”men are so far beyond redemption that the only solution is to set ambition against ambition, and interest against interest”, and “If men were angels, no government would be necessary, and Hamilton, “…the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason without constraint”, and “Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it or because it may have been planned by those whom the dislike” state Kaplan’s theme clearly. And help me understand the times.
So the Dems have taken the house and senate. And already fall into factions. The Repubs elevate to leadership the same voices. The press shifts slightly, reporting on persons, events and character which before the election, so the speculation goes, might have aided the Repubs. Let’s not be so hasty replaces the phased-exit timetable-handoff, do-this-Maliki-or-else we’re leaving music. More rockets are aimed at Israel. McConnell is a bright spot, promising that “Senator Reid can expect all of the cooperation that he extended us in similar circumstances”. I’d really like to hear the backroom talks in Vietnam. The ‘Worst Secretary of Defense ever’ says Fred Barnes is gone. (Who is third worst Fred? Eleventh best?) Gates is the ambition blocking Baker’s ambition says Douglas J. Feith in The Donald Rumsfeld I know isn't the one you know. Iran continues to say they will annihilate Israel. We’ve sent four (I say again FOUR!) of our carriers to cruise about in the salty waters near Bahrain. Condi Rice says we’ll help N. Korea with (food) assistance when they stand down from their nukes. (Does this mean we’re saying to China, you do the nukes’ squishing and we’ll do the rice deliveries? Maybe.) Four Americans and an Austrian are kidnapped by the ubiquitous ‘gunmen” in Iraq. God let them be just criminal gunmen and not the ‘other gunmen’. Phobos, kerdos, doxa.

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