The latest issues of my two standard “paleocon” reads, The American Conservative and Chronicles, include fewer really noteworthy articles than average. The election of Mr O as president and a solidly Democratic Congress freed them to turn from the constant struggle to show how they differ from the Bush/ Cheney Right and toward standard-issue conservative territory, denouncing government spending, unconventional family structures, etc.
In The American Conservative, Daniel McCarthy argues that George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign triggered a transformation of the Republican Party by driving Cold War liberals into its ranks. Mary Wakefield reviews Richard Dowden’s Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, Wakefield reports that Dowden, the current director of the Royal African Society, is deeply pessimistic about western programs to aid Africa, but deeply optimistic about Africans’ ability to build a future for themselves if left alone.
Sheldon Richman offers a succinct explanation of the Austrian school of economics’ theory of malinvestment and uses this theory to explain the current financial crisis. David Gordon reviews a book by the most celebrated living opponent of the theory of malinvestment, Paul Krugman.
Jim Pittaway, licensed psychotherapist and friend of the late Michael Aris, applies his professional expertise and his personal animosity to Aris’ widow, Aung San Suu Kyi, to an analysis of western policy towards Burma. The professional expertise part is quite illuminating. Suggesting that we should view the Burmese regime’s relationship to its people as one of captor to hostage, he asks us to apply “the biggest rule of hostage crises: unless you can take him out right now, don’t threaten the perp.” Since the 1990 election, the West’s dealings with Burma have consisted primarily of a series of idle threats, and the hostages have paid the price.
As for Aung San Suu Kyi, “It is the great misfortune of the Burmese people that in 1988 a spontaneous and long overdue popular uprising… happened to coalesce around a political novice whose identity and program made her, from day one, entirely unacceptable to the regional superpower [China,] not to mention the rest of the country’s neighbors.”
Suu Kyi’s own unyielding stand, like the hectoring pieties of the West and its servants, have simply played into the hands of the generals. “Her program translates to ‘put yourselves in manacles and order your pilots to deliver you to the Hague where you can be tried by your former colonial masters for crimes against humanity. Oh, and by the way, take your criminal Chinese sponsors with you because we don’t approve of them either.’”
Pittaway doesn’t stint in his description of the awfulness of the generals and the natural desire filling everyone who has ever come into contact with their regime to punish them. But: “When it comes to the people in the here-and-now, the actual compassion index, the regime and its critics post what amounts to a draw. Both agree that the people who made the sweatshop lady cry are disposable in service to greater ends: Western democracy on one hand, preservation of power on the other.”
The desire to punish, to destroy, the Burmese regime will likely fill readers of this month’s issue of Chronicles. Harry Nicolaides reports on a Burmese site just across the Thai border where child pornography is openly sold. Apparently vast quantities of the stuff are available there, depicting the binding, rape, and torture of thousands of children. The victims are all between the ages of 4 and 12. Most of them appear to be from Europe or North America, most of the rest from Asia. The Burmese and Thai governments must know of the existence of this market, yet neither even pretends to do anything about it. The Burmese let it operate freely, the Thais let its customers and vendors cross the border without the least inconvenience. If there was ever a case that called for military intervention that would “take the perp out right now,” surely it would be this. Assuming of course that it didn’t make things worse; wars very often do result in increased sexual exploitation of children.
Tom Piatak reviews Justin Raimondo’s Reclaiming the American Right, pausing in the midst of his paean to the old-style conservatives Raimondo celebrates to complain that Raimondo is unfair to his favorite, James Burnham. I’ve always thought Burnham’s most influential ideas were plagiarized from Lawrence Dennis; though Raimondo is a fan of Dennis, he doesn’t make this charge, instead accusing Burnham of having been “the first neoconservative.” For Chronicles readers, ”neoconservative” is a term of abuse considerably worse than “plagiarist.”
UPDATED: The horror of Nicolaides’ article about child pornography is so mind-numbing that I forgot to mention another of the really remarkable pieces in this issue, an anonymous note called “Kiss Wall Street Goodbye.” It begins with the question “Does the public stock market actually serve a purpose?” and proceeds to summarize a paper by George Washington University professor Lawrence E. Mitchell arguing that “The only American business sector to rely upon public stock issuances as an important source of financing public activity is the financial industry itself.”