Do states need governments? 5

At present, every country in the world is over-governed.

The Covid pandemic made it easy for governments to impose authoritarian rules on entire populations.

Seth J. Frantzman raises the question whether governments are necessary in an article at Middle East Forum, which we quote in part.

It is about Iraq, which seems to be functioning well enough without a central governing authority.

Iraq’s non-leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who usually makes headlines for being unwilling to take charge of anything despite having the support of millions of Iraqis, withdrew his party’s 73 parliamentarians, making it harder for Iraq to form a government.

The miracle of Iraq is that, after years of political chaos, it continues to function despite having no real leaders.

At first glance, Iraq might be considered one of the first post-states, proof that people can live without governments. However, this assessment breaks down upon recognition that the country has been taken over, at least in part, by Iran in the center and south, and by Turkey in parts of the north.

Between these two powerful neighbors there are other governments, including the wealthy, stable, and relatively powerful Kurdistan autonomous region. There is also the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, the system of militias that run parts of Iraq. And there is a competent counter-terrorism force.

A competent counter-terrorism force! In the same country where Iran rules in the center and south, forcing its will on the population with a “system of militias”!

Still, Iraq is something of a miracle because it has gone from once being a stable and wealthy state governed by the genocidal maniac Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, to living under sanctions in the 1990s, to the US invasion of 2003, to the chaos of insurgency and then ISIS genocide in 2014, and now non-leadership.

Frantzman provides a description of governmental confusion worse confounded. The central government is dissolving away.

The Kurds are threatening to withdraw from the political process and return to undeclared independence.

The clash with the Kurds over the management of the oil fields in northern Iraq has become a constitutional clash. This prompted the Kurdish leaders to suggest that they would be the first to leave the political process, unless their demands regarding the independence of Kurdistan’s oil wealth from the authority of the center were met.

So Al-Sadr found all options closed. He couldn’t get Kurdish parties on board; he didn’t have Iran’s backing.

Yet, Frantzman repeats, the country continues to remain relatively stable despite the absence of any real leaders.

Which prompts the question: could a country be well managed, could freedom be reliably protected, if there were only local councils to make laws, and a central office of co-ordination?

Posted under government, Iraq by Jillian Becker on Friday, June 24, 2022

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The question 9

The Constitution is discarded, the rule of law abandoned, the nation-state abhorred, national borders removed, the people disarmed, the family destroyed, the past obliterated, the language befouled and diminished – so what remains to hold the United States of America together?

We ask this both here and in our Forum.

We invite answers, here or there: argument, denial, confirmation, analysis. We’ll not object to anger. We’ll even read soothing messages of sweetness and light.

 

Posted under Miscellaneous by Jillian Becker on Saturday, June 11, 2022

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In defense of Trumpist conservatism 1

This article by William Voegeli at the Claremont Review of Books is presented as a review of The Conservative Sensibility by George Will, but reads as the author’s own animadversions on contemporary conservatism. The Right Now, it is titled.

We found very little in it to agree with. But we confine ourselves to arguing against a few passages which we consider most mistaken.

Quotation:

Trump could be seen as a culmination, revealing intentions and qualities inherent in the conservative enterprise all along. [That] interpretation is one shared by some of Trump’s conservative admirers as well as nearly all of Trump and conservatism’s most vehement critics. “If Trumpism was the Right’s end point,” asks historian Timothy Shenk, co-editor of Dissent magazine, “then wasn’t it an act of naïvety—maybe even complicity—to pretend there was more to [conservatism’s] story than crude bigotry?”

What “crude bigotry”? Not a trace of it in Trump or – therefore – in Trumpism. But Voegeli does not contest the allegation.

Quotation:

The Never Trump differences with the larger part of the Republican Party and conservative movement are profound, but its objections to the progressive agenda are increasingly difficult to specify. The main problem, as Never Trumpers see it, seems to be that progressivism is bad politics rather than bad governance. As Bulwark policy editor Mona Charen recently complained, Democrats’ ineptitude and the power of their far-left wing prevents the party from discharging its “overriding obligation”, which is to keep “the Q-Anon-indulging, Putin-friendly, truth-optional, insurrectionist party from returning to power”.

Surely Voegeli should declare with indignation that the Republican Party is not “Q-Anon-indulging, Putin-friendly, truth-optional, insurrectionist”.

And what are those “profound” differences? Do they exist? Or is Never Trumpism nothing more than shallow personal antipathy?

Quotation:

[E]very Biden proposal approved by Congress and deplored by conservatives—every executive branch appointment and policy decision rendered by those officials, every judicial appointment and ruling delivered by those jurists over the next 40 years, every spending increase crammed into a reconciliation bill—could have been prevented or mitigated if Trump had displayed a modicum of responsibility, restraint, and intelligence. What are we trying to conserve? Well, significantly less now than there would have been but for Trump’s signature blend of solipsism and nihilism.

Neither solipsism nor nihilism characterize Trump. Nothing could be further from him than either of these isms, and nothing could be further from his followers than nihilism.

When was he irresponsible?

Restraint? Did he not show restraint  – especially in foreign relations, and when he might have used the military to quell the murderous violence of Leftist mobs in (for instance) Seattle, Portland and Baltimore and did not (perhaps unfortunately).

As for intelligence – was it unintelligent rulership that gave us four years of prosperity, dissuaded foreign dictators from aggression, and made an astonishing rapprochement between Israel and certain Arab powers?

Quotation:

This dereliction of a party leader’s duties is a miniature of Trump’s dereliction of a national leader’s duties. Despite Trump’s outsized personality, Trumpism started out as about something—above all, repudiating Bush-era nation-building, entitlement reform, and immigration amnesty. Some of what Trump promised got done, while most of it proved harder than he made it sound in 2016. But since Election Day 2020, “All that is left of Trumpism are Trump’s grievances and aspirations,” as Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote this year in National Review. The entirety of Trump’s agenda now is to “restore his tarnished honor and make credible his belief in his own victory”.

Trump’s “dereliction of a national leader’s duties”? No mention of the unprecedented campaign of sabotage, the sustained lies, the vicious conspiracies hindering him. And If Trump’s own “tarnished honor”, and the victory he won being snatched from him by fraud, obsess him to the exclusion of anything else, why does a massive majority of the Republican Party continue to support him, as is the case?

What else has he proved he cares about? Chiefly: making America great again and saved from global socialism; upholding the rule of law and equality of all before the law; sealing the southern border; encouraging American manufacture; lowering taxes, ending inflation, achieving full employment; making America energy independent; augmenting America’s military strength; handling foreign enemies with personal tact while keeping an iron fist in the kid glove; ending racist indoctrination in the public schools and the universities; opposing abortion on demand; preventing the sexualization and prurient corruption of children; and, above all, protecting individual liberty.

If liberty is the highest value – and doesn’t American conservatism hold that it is? – all forms of collectivism are abominable, and the Never Trumpers are politically blind.