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One Size Seldom Fits All

Yesterday, I spent Memorial Day in what I consider an entirely appropriate manner -- at the home of a friend of mine who is a Navy vet, honoring his wishes -- having a cookout and a solid four-player tabletop war game. (Blitzkrieg Commander, if you must know.) I only recently started playing, and I seem to have a decent knack at it.

(For the terminally curious, it was a battle based on the Battle of Stalingrad. Which means that there were no "good guys" to win, but I am pleased to report that the Rodina was saved from the Fascists.)

Anyway, while driving to the gathering, I heard a bit of a special on the radio, recounting the turbulent days of the 1980's and 1990's. The highlight was the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of militant Islam.

Hearing the two discussed in that context -- the shifting of the West's greatest threat and foe -- brought a thought to mind, one that probably should have occurred to me sooner. And that was how, in one very important way, Communism and militant Islam are very similar.

Yeah, I'm talking about Godless Commies and Militant Religious Fanatics here. Bear with me here.

Communism is not just a political philosophy. It's also an economic system and a social system, as well as the "replacement" for religous systems. It's "one-stop shopping" for the totalitarian-minded who want to seem like they care about the masses. And if you dare question it, OFF TO THE GULAG!

Likewise, to the fanatics, Islam is not just a religion. It's a social system, an economic system, a political system, and a judicial. It literally has all the answers to all of life's problems, if you just look hard enough (and turn off your brain). And if you dare question it, OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!

Likewise, Nazism. It was a political and social system, with tentacles into the judicial, economic, and "religious" spheres. And it failed utterly.

One of the hidden strengths of America is we don't buy into "one size fits all" when it comes to such things. We have our political system (democratic republic), our economic system (capitalism), religious system (whatever), and social system (again, whatever). We don't invest too much faith in any one belief system that we want to apply it in more areas of our lives.

And that seems to be what works around the world. The only exception I can think off off the top of my head is Judaism, which -- depending on context -- is a religion, a culture, or a race -- or any combinations thereof. But I think that it gets away with it because Judaism is hardly monolithic -- it doesn't lend itself to collecting large numbers behind a single interpretation. Further, it's tremendously insular -- it's very hard to impossible to convert to any form of Judaism. "Jewish Evangelist" remains one of my favorite oxymorons.

And if you dare to challenge Judaism, OFF WITH YOU! Or, brace yourself for a most enthusiastic argument.

That may be why socialism has "succeeded" (to some very specific and limited meanings of "success" -- it's Communism stripped down to just the economic aspects. Those are pretty bad in and of itself, but without the other elements, it's not as dangerous.

In a way, it's symbolic of the essential American nature. We pick and choose what we accept, rejecting that which we think doesn't make sense. We don't have any overarching ideology that we must force everything else, Procrustes-like, to fit into. Or, as P. J. O'Rourke put it so elegantly,

America is not a wily, sneaky nation. We don't think that way. We don't think at all, thank God. Start thinking and pretty soon you get ideas, and then you get idealism, and the next thing you know you've got ideology, with millions dead in concentration camps and gulags. A fundamental American question is "What's the big idea?"
We don't like big ideas. We don't trust big ideas. We don't need big ideas.

And it's certainly worked out pretty damned well for us so far. Certainly a lot better than other nations and societies, who have tried to push some "Big Idea" or other.

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Comments (20)

All of the above do have on... (Below threshold)
mag:

All of the above do have one thing in common: control. They want to control every aspect of everyone's life.

Totalitarianism has many ma... (Below threshold)
davidt:

Totalitarianism has many masks.

Back a few decades ago (the... (Below threshold)
Don L :

Back a few decades ago (they go so fast) there was a bestseller out titled, "Up the Down Staircase." It was a tongue-in-cheek spoof on the silliness of the rule makers (in school)

Well. those rulemakers have graduated now into PC police and since you're writing about a topic that is not to be approved of by those topic police - you are inarguably guilty of going up the down--staircase, which was once a mere dentention but, I's really sorry to inform you have been elevasted to a crime resulting in immediate beheading - done in an environmentally safe manner, I assure you.

Nice, haven't played a good... (Below threshold)
Todd:

Nice, haven't played a good board strategy game for years. Played Blitzkrieg before, not bad. I used to enjoy the Squad Leader series from Avalon Hill back in the day.

Contra Jay Tea's perception... (Below threshold)
James H:

Contra Jay Tea's perception, I offer an alternate:

We have lived for seven decades now under perceived existential threats: First communism, the Islamic fundamentalism. Regardless of the actual scope of these threats, they strike me as rather convenient excuses to expand the power of the federal government to meet the crisis ... the current crisis and an unspecified "next crisis."

We pick and choose what... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

We pick and choose what we accept, rejecting that which we think doesn't make sense.,,
We don't like big ideas. We don't trust big ideas. We don't need big ideas.


Jay seems to be talking about a distant Jeffersonian republic. My reading like James, is that there are considerable vested, ideological interests, that make such detached rational choices impossible. Follow the money, of both parties; "too big too fail" policies that save the rich banksters of Wall Street, are anything but Jeffersonian-.

Further, most conservatives abhor big government or say they do. They don´t understand that a huge military and a large security state, whose idea of "limits to power" doesn´t sit well, but a "permanent war footing" does, is very big government.

Steve and James, you should... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Steve and James, you should read, if you haven't already, "Bomb Power" by Garry Wills. I recommend it to all, actually.

Thanks Bruce, I did read a ... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Thanks Bruce, I did read a review. Obama is certainly under a lot of pressure to spare no expense or veneration of the Pentagon´and national securty state,- the rest of the government for conservatives can take a hike- and just in case Obama isn´t sufficently 'in shock and awe', there will be the Sarah Palins to remind him as she did, yesterday,


Palin said, "This is the greatest fighting force in the world, the U.S. military. It's not just one of the greatest fighting forces. And I sure hope our president recognizes that. We're not just one of many. We are the best."

Historically nations either... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

Historically nations either spend treasure and sweat in peace, or blood by the gallon in war. We see above what our resident leftards prefer.

Palin was, and is, correct. The current Armed Forces of the United States are without peer. They are more capable than any other (or any two or three) Armed Forces in the world. They represent one of the very few instances of Federal Tax Dollars well spent.

Then again our leftards may prefer the third option, which is to live under an oppressor's boot.

Hands out for largess or up in surrender, the classic two poses of the left.

Historically nations either... (Below threshold)

Historically nations either invest in the future or in fear. I can see what some resident rightards prefer.

Palin and others would do well to realize that the military isn't the only thing that Federal government can do well. Other examples are, of course and as usual: NASA, the FDA, interstate roads, rural electrification, and on and on and on.

Of course our rightards may prefer a fourth option, which is to treat people trying to genuinely solve problems as oppressors because thinking otherwise would require taking in new facts, changing opinions and even - God forbid - admit a Leftist might even be right once in a while.

Corporations are hands out for largess while the GOP is hands up in surrender to big business - and pays the corporations from the taxes of everyone else. The two classic poses of the Right. And you all know it.

Palin started this by bashi... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Palin started this by bashing Obama for his Arlington National Cemetary speech,

This day is about you, and the fallen heroes that you loved. And it’s a day that has meaning for all Americans, including me. It’s one of my highest honors, it is my most solemn responsibility as President, to serve as Commander-in-Chief of one of the finest fighting forces the world has ever known.

What happened to one of the hidden strengths of America is we don't buy into "one size fits all".

But if we are unquestionably" the finest fighting force" the world has ever known, more than the Marines in Pacific or Patton´s seventh army in Italy, with the added support of Nato, shouldn´t we at least have defeated the Taliban by now? Why are are spending 113 billion dollars this year on the war in Afghanistan, against the Taliban on a war, now in its tenth year supporting a government in Kabal whose total national budget is 1.2 billion dollars. These I guess are some of your "federal tax dollars" well spent, including,

Recent supplemental appropriations to fund the war, which have included billions of dollars for construction and equipment, “have been like crack” cocaine for the military, said one officer in southern Afghanistan.“We’ve become addicted to building.”

We have lived for seven ... (Below threshold)
Murgatroyd:

We have lived for seven decades now under perceived existential threats: First communism, the[n] Islamic fundamentalism. Regardless of the actual scope of these threats, they strike me as rather convenient excuses to expand the power of the federal government to meet the crisis ... the current crisis and an unspecified "next crisis."

James, aren't you forgetting a decade and a couple of earlier existential threats?

Ever hear of a man named Roosevelt? You know, the fellow who told America that it needed a massive dose of government and state control of the economy to prevent our entire civilization from sinking back into the Stone Age during the Depression? And then after that, in the first of your seven decades, some Germans and Japanese caused a spot of trouble for us. That fellow Roosevelt expanded the power of the federal government even more because of them ...

Damn that Roosevelt! He musta been one o' them RethugliKKKans, always out to build up the power of the State in the guise of "protecting" us.

That may be why socialis... (Below threshold)
michael reynolds:

That may be why socialism has "succeeded" (to some very specific and limited meanings of "success" -- it's Communism stripped down to just the economic aspects.

Uh huh. That's why France has collective farms and Sweden's government decides how many shoes to produce for the next five year plan. It explains why Germany sets prices without regard to the market and the Netherlands forbids advertising. Because economically communism and socialism are the same thing.

Do yourself a favor and don't talk about history. Or economics. Or anything.

Gee, michael, what prompted... (Below threshold)

Gee, michael, what prompted you to finally come over here? Whatever it was, feel free to stick around.

You caught me on a stylistic slip. What I meant when I said "very specific and limited meanings of 'success'" (and what I should have spelled out) was "hasn't catastrophically failed as yet, like Communism." I was rushing to my main point, and should have spelled out what I meant.

I think I might have been rushing because that collapse could happen at any minute in Europe, as you noted. Either way, I wasn't as precise as I should have been. Thanks for giving me a chance to revisit that.

Oh, and michael? We do have a couple of women who occasionally post here. We'd appreciate it if you reined in your misogyny if you started commenting on their articles -- or them.

J.

Murg:Did I cite an... (Below threshold)
James H:

Murg:

Did I cite any particular party above? Seems to me that the pursuit of power for the central government is a rather bipartisan pursuit.

jim x informs us @ 10:... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

jim x informs us @ 10:

Historically nations either invest in the future or in fear.

Rubbish. The future, being difficult to predict at best, offers not an opportunity for investment, but a gamble. Systems which hold the future to be predictable and which "plan" for same inevitably ground on the rocks of reality. See also the USSR.

Nor is defense spending based on fear. It is based on the most basic of real politic observations: The world is, has always been, and likely always will be a dangerous place.

...Other examples [of beneficial Federal programs] are, of course and as usual: NASA, the FDA, interstate roads, rural electrification, and on and on and on.

The NASA which will soon no longer be capable of manned space flight?

The FDA, which takes longer to approve new drugs for use than any other such regulatory agency in the world?

Interstate roads [highways, actually], an Eisenhower Administration DEFENSE program to improve logistics and troop movement across the continent?

Rural electrification, which program still exists and has had no real demand for thirty years or more?

Heh.<a href="http:... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:
Jay:Oh, and mi... (Below threshold)
michael reynolds:

Jay:

Oh, and michael? We do have a couple of women who occasionally post here. We'd appreciate it if you reined in your misogyny if you started commenting on their articles -- or them.

I'm glad you brought that up. Here's what you said, Jay, about my wife.

Conversely, would you mind terribly if I were to comment on that presumed photo of Mrs. reynolds, which you posted purely in the context of her physical appearance, and say that she is exceptionally appealing, and I especially appreciate the slightly downturned angle of her head, which facilitates fantasizing about her performing fellatio on me, preferably while unclad?

Is my wife a politician? No. She writes kid's books. And that is what you said about her.

michael, I'd recognize my s... (Below threshold)

michael, I'd recognize my sparkling wit and brilliant style anywhere. Yup, them's my words. Thanks for affirming that they did get under your skin enough to come on over here.

But as exceptional as my words are, I think they require a bit of context.
I said that after you first called Sarah Palin a MILF (Mother I'd Like To Fuck) and GMILF (Grand-Mother I'd Like To Fuck) and said she looked like a lipstick lesbian, then posted a photo of your wife to demonstrate her attractiveness, then insisted that your habit of sexualizing Palin is NOT any kind of insult or sign of misogyny at your part. (I might have the sequence of those last two backwards, but it hardly matters.) I chose those words and thoughts precisely to demonstrate how sexualizing a woman in such vulgar fashion is insulting, demeaning, sexist, and crass.

And while you deny getting that message, your appearance here and linking it to my comment about your wife show the truth -- you did get the message I intended to send.

Thanks! And feel free to stick around -- our current batch of leftists is decidedly lacking (I suspect too much inbreeding), and they could use some fresh blood.

J.

Yes, Jay, I got the message... (Below threshold)
michael reynolds:

Yes, Jay, I got the message you wanted to send: that you want my wife to blow you. And that you felt you should say that directly to me in a public forum.

And I'm sure the women who come here -- the ones about which you expressed such tender concern -- get the message, too.

Maybe we should get your fellow bloggers into the conversation. I think the entire blog should actively endorse your position which is, in brief, that a snide remark about a politician warrants a crude sexual reference to a woman completely outside of politics. Why don't you ask them to comment? It would be good to take the temperature of the room.




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