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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Strategic Failure of Cultural Marxism

Whatever else he is, Obama is a cultural Marxist. As such, he is under the dangerous delusion that everyone else thinks and believes like him--especially rulers of other states and powers. So it was interesting to see two articles discussing the dangers of this delusion. The first--"Know Thy Enemy"--doesn't reference Obama specifically, but notes the general problem and, by reference to the Battle of Salamis, where a combined fleet of Greek vessels defeated the much larger Persian fleet. The key part, though:
Good strategy requires a sound understanding of one’s rivals. A rival in any walk of life is, in a sense, an interlocutor. To engage him effectively in debate one must understand his speech and reasoning patterns. Without that knowledge, conversation is at best pointless, at worst self-defeating. So it is in strategy. It is futile to engage in competition with a rival power without having at least an inkling about his thoughts, fears, and desires. 
The modern Western penchant for trusting in the equal rationality of all suggests otherwise. According to this conceit, there is no reason to plumb the nature of an enemy’s thinking because it is no different in essence from one’s own. But this is wrong. A rival’s response to one’s strategy is not predictable as a simply rational and universal reaction that can be generalized and grasped with relative ease. Rival states or groups respond to similar actions in different ways based on their culture, worldview, history, and the proclivities of their leaders. Good strategy, as Bernard Brodie once put it, “presupposes good anthropology and good sociology.”
It is this very capacity which the multicultural elite lack. Sure, they may understand domestic political rivals, but do they understand the motives of our geo-political rivals or foes? In his article, "The Dangers of Obama’s Cognitive Dissonance," Bruce Thornton argues that they--at least Obama--do not. He writes:
It is the contradiction between fact and fiction, evident in every line of the president’s speech, that typifies progressives in general. This cognitive dissonance may simply be nothing more than the grubby machinations of those who will say and do anything for political power and the wealth and influence it brings. In other words, they know they are hypocrites. But it also could be something more dangerous than a venal character and moral corruption. One gets the feeling that many progressives actually believe what they say, that they are reciting the mantras of their ideological cult, no matter how contrary to reality or their own actions. What’s more important is that whatever the source, this failure to acknowledge reality, to think critically, and to respect intellectual coherence is dangerous to all of us, especially in the many foreign policy crises that have mushroomed on Obama’s watch. 
And the worst crisis we face is the relentless progress Iran is making toward creating nuclear weapons, a development that would set off an arms race in the Middle East and destabilize an already chaotic region. The Islamic Republic has already extended its malign influence into Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, creating a Shi’a crescent that threatens our allies in the region, especially Israel, Jordon, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. If a failed gangster-state like North Korea can demand so much international attention just because it possesses nuclear weapons, think what Iran––with 3 times the population and the world’s 3rd largest oil reserves––could do. Oil won’t stay cheap forever. 
But in the face of this threat, Obama has appeased the mullahs under the guise of diplomatic “engagement” and negotiations, the time-proven way to avoid action while pretending to do something. Indeed, so besotted is he by his faith in diplomacy that he has threatened to veto a Congressional bill that would strengthen his negotiating position by toughening economic sanctions, the best non-lethal shot we have for changing the Iranians’ behavior, given the current decline in their oil revenues. But what we see here is a problem that transcends any one president or Secretary of State, for it reflects the intellectual error and failure of imagination peculiar to modernity. 
The heart of this mistake is the belief that whatever their professed beliefs, all peoples everywhere are just like us and want the same things we want. Since our highest goods are peace and prosperity, we think other nations’ privilege the same things. If peoples behave differently, it’s because they are warped by poverty or bad governments or religious superstitions, and just need to be shown that they can achieve those boons in rational, peaceful ways, especially by adopting liberal democracy and free-market economies. Once they achieve freedom and start to enjoy the higher living standards economic development brings, they will see the error of their traditional ways and abandon aggression and violence, and resolve conflicts with the diplomacy and negotiation we prefer. 
The problem with this scenario is not that other peoples don’t want freedom and prosperity, or are incapable of achieving them. Rather, it is that they often have other goals more important than the ones we prize. Like religion, for example, or national honor, or revenge. We may think such motives are irrational avatars from an uncivilized past, but they are still drivers of action in individuals and nations alike. They may be, to quote Orwell on the Nazis, “ghosts” out of the premodern world, but they’re still “ghosts which need a strong magic to lay them.” 

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