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Anarchy and Alienation

March 12, 2006

For anyone wanting to get inside the Count’s head regarding the War, consider the following posts:

A Place Like Many Others (Belmont Club)

Mazarr’s Extremism, Terror, and the Future of Conflict (Austin Bay)

Both are summaries of much larger articles, both of which contemplate the future of armed conflict. Wretchard notes:

(A)fter September 11 … the question of how to destroy anarchy, already by definition in a shambles, remained.

Anarchy is self-defending, as the failed United Nations relief mission to Somalia in 1990 discovered to its cost. It will appropriate relief supplies, money and aid workers themselves as gang property, the economic basis of its system. Anarchy absorbs violence just as it absorbs relief and even gains strength from it when weapons, designed to disrupt ordered societies, are unleashed on it. Countries like Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Iran are defended less by frontier fortifications than by the sheer toxicity of their societies. Not for nothing did Saddam release tens of thousands of hardened criminals from jail immediately before the invasion of Iraq. They were his wolves upon the frozen steppes.

It would be a serious mistake to think that the problem of confronting national security threats within the context of anarchy is limited to Iraq. Iraq is simply where the West must come to grips with The Coming Anarchy because it cannot step around it. And it is not the only place. An earlier post noted how the eviction of the Taliban from Afghanistan has simply shifted the fighting to Pakistan, the country in which the Taliban was first born. The real metric in any war against rogue "states" will not be the reduction of strongpoints, like Tora-bora given such prominence by the media, but the reduction of anarchy which constitutes their energy core.

Advocates of a radical Grace filled approach to international affairs
would do well to reflect on the realities of power in an anarchic
state. Those places have become black holes, where the light of grace
may enter, but will never leave, only to be crushed and spit out at
some unknown eternal destination. To embrace the enemy in those
situations is not only foolish, but immoral, because it guarantees that
good will perish and evil increase. Visiting those in prison is
recommended because in that place there are rules; extending grace and
humanely interacting is safe only because of the wordly force imposed
upon the situation. Unfortunately, we live in a world where even the
rules of the battlefield have been discarded.

Austin Bay, quoting Michael J. Mazarr:

The dominant feature of world politics and social
development over the coming century will therefore be as it has
increasingly been for a century or more — a saga of individuals, freed
from the constraints of tradition and culture and repression, finding
their place in a changing, globalizing world, doing so in the context
of a global interdependence of awareness, information and
communications, and then trying to shape the policies of their
governments. The basic trend in conflict for which I am arguing might
be summed up this way: When an international system arises that allows
nations and other groups to conduct extensive and self-satisfying
pursuits of power and security without territorial expansion,
aggression, or large-scale warfare, the search for basic human needs
like identity, belonging, dignity, and self-respect will supplant more
traditional quests for political-military power, territory, and natural
resources as the defining form of mass national expression; and when a
massive, accelerating, and disorienting process of modernization
creates enormous social discord around the world, that search for
identity and dignity can and will generate conflict.

I also found these posts valuable because of the subtle tensions between the authors, and those commenting on them; I also found them to have what I would consider responsible critiques of current Iraq policy.

Anarchy and alienation seem to go hand in hand. And to the extent that we are all fallen creatures in need of God’s grace, those two qualities dwell in our hearts as well. I know they do in mine. The danger in them in the power they have to reduce one’s humanity to mere individuality: only I can know what’s right and wrong; only I truly understand myself.

Those that would conflate the issues of individuals and governments are correct in that connectedness and belonging are fundamental human needs that need to be reflected in governance. Where would differ is probably in the extent to which worldly power can be utilized to decrease anarchy and alienation. I’m not prepared to make an detailed account of what the limit is; it all depends on circumstance. It goes without saying that it should always be undertaken with humility and restraint- which in my mind, requires the more sacrificial undertaking:

Perhaps one of the reasons the US adopted the military approach against terrorism and struck at targets amenable to the application of force was that it was obliged to use the only instruments of national power which reliably worked. They had a bureaucratic repertoire which in any case was all they could play. All the talk about "nuanced" or "sophisticated" approaches evaded the fact that there were no effective policy instruments between a diplomatic note and sending in the Marines. After you composed a nuanced and literary diplomatic demarche there was nothing left but to order in the Third Infantry Division.

Eventually Iraq will arrive at some sort of cohesive order; it may look more like the current situation in Palestine, but at least it will not be chaos. Then, and only then, will the choices of the people and their leaders allow them to connect to the world in the manner that they choose, with the consequences no one’s fault but their own. They will have been afforded that dignity only by the great sacrifice of this nation.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 12, 2006 9:30 pm

    Good stuff, Count. Thanks.

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