Polemics & Exchanges: August 2022

Corrupting the Youth

I have been a fan of Chronicles for over 20 years and a particular fan of all that its current editor has written and done. However, in his review (“More Hand-Wringing About the Radical Right,” July 2022 Chronicles) of Matthew Rose’s recent book, A World After Liberalism, I wonder if Prof. Gottfried hasn’t mistaken the book’s purpose.

I do not think that Prof. Rose fears a takeover by the “Radical Right,” or even that its new acolytes pose an imminent threat to the political equilibrium. Rather, he is “fighting for hearts and minds.” His concern is that the young will be converted from philosophical liberalism toward a radical departure in the ends and moral compass of the polis and of Western Man generally, all this would portend a return to paganism. This is facially a philosophical concern, although I think it is more theologically motivated with Prof. Rose, reading between the lines.

Prof. Rose’s concern is not unfounded. I can attest, being around a number of intelligent and vital Christian youth (mostly young men), that references they make to books like [Francis Parker Yockey’s] Imperium and [Bronze Age Pervert’s] Bronze Age Mindset and to writers like Oswald Spengler and Ernst Jünger are most definitely on the rise.

I agree with much of what Prof. Rose has written regarding the five radical right figures profiled (although I, too, with Prof. Gottfried, question Sam Francis’s inclusion), and he writes about them with some interest and sympathy, even as he abhors the conclusions they draw. Where Prof. Rose and I disagree profoundly is in this abhorrence—i.e., whether to consider the resurgent ideas of these figures a looming catastrophe or a conditional good. One connecting thread that all five have in common (again, save Francis) is in being professed non-Christians. Another interesting connection, presumably inoffensive, is the five’s complete dismissal of biological racialism. But it appears to me that I and Prof. Rose (as well as those he profiled) are not in agreement on what Christianity is. I frankly consider his apparent moral vision less Christocentric than that of his subjects.

That the figures Prof. Rose profiles are “not all battl[ing] the same enemy,” I do not consider a flaw in the book, any more than I would have a problem with considering Che Guevara, Simone de Beauvoir, and Magnus Hirschfeld together. The point is whether there exist underlying connections. They all have the commonality of rejecting modern liberalism’s premise, that individuals are fundamentally equal and entitled to exist as ends unto themselves. To this proposition, the radical rightists quite clearly demur.

Prof. Gottfried sees applying this premise to the modern West’s founding fathers as anachronistic. Very true. But, as Patrick Deneen has argued, this premise is the likely inexorable outgrowth of all that the elder statesmen of the Enlightenment (i.e., the classical liberals) have wrought.

In sum, I liked the book, save the puzzling lumping in of one unconventional, but hardly radical, political commentator, Sam Francis, with four eccentric (to put it mildly) political philosophers/activists. The book may just motivate autodidacts to consider the ideas profiled. So, I believe that in writing this book, Prof. Rose has hopefully shot himself in the foot.

—Bob Salyer
Lexington, Ky.

Prof. Gottfried replies:

Since Robert Salyer and I usually agree on most matters, I read his enthusiastic defense of Matthew Rose’s work with utter amazement. It was hard for me, unlike for Mr. Salyer, to read Prof. Rose’s treatment of the anti-liberal right without noticing its glaring defects. The author offers a simplistic view of a very complicated liberal tradition (or traditions) that he suggests he is vindicating. Unfortunately, Rose is providing a truncated picture of liberalism when he tells us, to paraphrase Mr. Salyer, that “individuals are fundamentally equal and entitled to exist as ends in themselves.” I’m not sure that what Salyer describes as “modern liberalism” even teaches individual self-realization any longer. Historically, there have been many ideas and policies characterized as liberal, and, as Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, a pro-monarchist “old liberal,” demonstrates in his writings, not all of these definitions and practices have been mutually compatible.

Mr. Salyer also takes exception to my statement that Prof. Rose’s villains are “not battling the same enemy.” He then explains that he would have no problem “considering Che Guevara, Simone de Beauvoir, and Magnus Hirschfeld” all under the same ideological rubric. I would! An embattled feminist, a Communist guerilla leader who spewed forth homophobic and racist expletives, and a German Jewish advocate of sexual self-expressiveness who happened to be gay, seem to me to be very different types of “liberals.” Whether they would all have disagreed with what they read in this magazine is another matter.

I feel that I am perfectly justified in asking whether Prof. Rose is putting together his rogue’s gallery in an arbitrary manner. Carl Schmitt, Ernst Jünger, and Oswald Spengler, for example, are all authors identified with the German conservative revolution of the interwar years. These figures intermittently advocated a national authoritarian government and were strongly critical of Western political tendencies. Stefan Molyneux and Jared Taylor are modern libertarians who, because of their tendency to bring racial differences into their politics, are now consigned to the “radical right.” Francis Parker Yockey, Julius Evola, Sam Francis, and Alain de Benoist are, for Rose, other objects of attack, but I’m not sure he proves their commonality. The fact that they were all anti-liberal in some sense does not mean that Rose shows they all belong together ideologically.

Unless I’m mistaken, Mr. Salyer expresses at least implicit admiration for the figures Prof. Rose clearly dislikes, and he is delighted that Prof. Rose has decided to devote an entire book to them. Whether one can find masses of young people reading the anti-liberals in question is another matter. Having taught at various universities for over 40 years, I rarely encountered a colleague or student who had heard of any of these social critics. The only exceptions were a few anti-fascist zealots who were researching monographs going back to the early 20th century on the now-supposedly-pervasive right-wing danger.

I was not even aware of the Bronze Age Mindset until my much younger colleagues at Chronicles called my attention to it. Now I occasionally read online material written by its “Bronze Age Pervert” author, together with Curtis Yarvin’s neoreactionary outpourings. All of this “may be on the rise,” but seems to have a far smaller following than do the multitude of leftist websites. The last time I checked, neither the Deep State nor our national media were citing Spengler or Ernst Jünger. Sam Francis does come into their conversation but usually only to tell us that he was a vile racist and a threat to our liberal world order.

I am actually delighted that the “intelligent and vital Christian youth” to whom Mr. Salyer refers are reading at least some of the authors Rose warns us against, if only to broaden their cultural horizons. But the fact remains that these readers are having no discernible influence on our mainstream culture or politics. Perhaps this will change, but I can only judge by what I’m observing now.

The Bear’s Blunder

I’ve always looked foward to Prof. Trifkovic’s columns, so today when Chronicles arrived, given the situation of the world in general and in the Ukraine, I immediately went to read his contribution first (“A Fork in Europe’s Road,” July 2022 Chronicles). While he had many good points, his persistent berating of Vladimir Putin left me rather disappointed and puzzled, and compels me to write.

Prof. Trifkovic states “Putin cannot win” and characterizes Mr. Putin’s special military operation as a “blunder,” and does so twice, to make sure we readers get the point.

Why? Is this really Prof. Trifkovic speaking, or was he edited into saying so, in Chronicles’ version of political correctness?
It seems Prof. Trifkovic himself undercuts his own statement in his concluding sentence, where he correctly states that if the West had accepted the idea of a neutral Ukraine, there would be no war.

So let’s analyze Mr. Putin’s “blunder.” What would Prof. Trifkovic have done differently? Would he send a diplomatic cable or write a letter warning the West? Would he have signed an agreement? Didn’t they do that—in Minsk?

Prof. Trifkovic knows more than most that since the violent Western-sponsored coup of 2014, the Ukrainian government has embarked on a process of “de-Russification,” banning the Russian language. Were the 14,000 people who died in Donbas [before Mr. Putin’s invasion] really killed or is that Russian propaganda? Did the residents of Crimea not vote overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia? Should Putin have waited until he had satellite images of U.S./NATO missile batteries in the Ukraine so he could send [Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey] Lavrov to the United States-dominated United Nations Security Council and mimic Adlai Stevenson 60 years ago?

The U.S. abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty. Then the Russians watched as the U.S. parked ABMs in Romania and Poland, supposedly to protect against Iran. Please! Those missiles, if they work as advertised (which is a big if), seriously undermine Russian security by making a U.S./NATO first strike more likely.

The U.S./NATO track record since the dissolution of the USSR is abysmal: Yugoslavia; Kosovo (certainly Prof. Trifkovic knows more about this than I do); Iraq; 20 years in Afghanistan; Libya; and Syria. We bomb and disrupt—because we can.

In 2008, NATO publicly stated that it would consider Ukraine and Georgia for membership, did it not? The Russians objected.

If anything, the “blundering” Mr. Putin has had the patience of Job. Again and again, he has expressed his concerns diplomatically and publicly. No matter! The Deep State globalists plow forward. Enough already! Mr. Putin put Russia first: the Ukraine war is an existential struggle for Russia. Losing Ukraine to NATO would seriously weaken Russia in the future. To paraphrase [the fictional Corleone family capo] Frank Pentangeli [from The Godfather Part II], “Hit em’ now, while we got the muscle.”

Mr. Putin and Russia—thankfully for them and for the world—possess weapons of mass destruction and decent conventional capability. They don’t have to put up with this crap (like Greece must put up with Turkey, for example). The West left the Russians no choice. The least bad option was to carry out the special military operation and invade Ukraine. Fortunately for [the Russians], and for the world, it seems to me, the Russians are methodically expanding their area of control, and they are grinding down the Ukrainian military. Let Zelensky send the15-year-olds and 60-year-olds from western Ukraine to the meat grinder, if the residents of Lviv actually decide to go along.

I’m also disappointed Mr. Trifkovic didn’t inform his readers that the more weaponry—especially long-range artillery or missiles—that the U.S./NATO sends to Ukraine, the larger the buffer must be, and hence the longer the war will go on. The longer the war goes on, the less of Ukraine that will be left, since the Russians, understandably, are unlikely to give up hard-fought gains for which Russian soldiers have died or been wounded.

The U.S.-led sanctions on Russia have been very effective—against the West! They have boomeranged. The ruble has declined to 50-something against the U.S. dollar. China, India, and soon Brazil and the Global South will lap up Russian resources as fast as the infrastructure to do so can be put in place. If the U.S./NATO Deep State’s objective was to impoverish Europeans and to challenge Americans even more,they have succeeded spectacularly. Just wait until winter.

Remember that Ukraine is a dictatorship at present. Unless enough Ukrainians rise up and overthrow their government and sue for peace, this will go on until Russia occupies everything east of the Dnieper River. At the very least, Russia needs to secure Odessa and control all access to the Black Sea.

At least a humiliated U.S./NATO could be a good thing for world peace. A unipolar U.S. is not viable.

I perceive that writers and sources I think highly of—including Messrs. Trifkovic and Patrick Buchanan, and writers on Antiwar.com—all like to take shots and put down the Russians and Mr. Putin, without offering an alternative course. The Russians tried an alternative course, the Minsk accords. They were rebuffed.

I commend Prof. Trifkovic for pointing out the visceral hatred of Russia, among Western elites, that has come out into the open. It didn’t just start on Feb. 24. The West doesn’t like nominally Orthodox countries that aren’t pliable. It’s like anti-Semitism, except in the West, Russia-bashing is approved and encouraged.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to Prof. Trifkovic’s next column.

—Thomas Stathopoulos
Berkley, Mich.

Prof. Trifkovic replies:

Mr. Stathopoulos makes a series of valid points. We mostly agree, except for my statement that “Putin cannot win” and my characterization of his special military operation as a “blunder.”

Let us start with the what-if. “What would Prof. Trifkovic have done differently?” Mr. Stathopoulos asks. The answer is clear: I would have intervened in Ukraine in February 2014, right after the Western powers stage-managed the coup against Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych. In the name of the “Responsibility to Protect,” I would have sent troops into Ukraine in May of that year at the latest, after the horror in Odessa, when 48 people, nearly all of whom were anti-Maidan demonstrators­—peaceful and unarmed—were burned to death by murderous thugs in the Trade Union Hall, and a few survivors were then bludgeoned to death as they tried to escape the inferno.

The biggest blunder of Vladimir Putin’s career was his failure to act immediately. I cannot explain that failure. Many of my Russian friends and associates were at a loss to explain it then, and they remain so today. In early 2014, Ukraine’s military and security services were yet to be subjected to eight years of intensive NATO training and indoctrination, and Mr. Putin himself was the most popular politician in Ukraine. The operation would have been over swiftly; it would have been both morally and legally justified, and there would not have been eight years of rabid Banderite indoctrination and NATO weaponizing Ukraine as an overt and zealous anti-Russia.

This is not ex post facto reasoning. Just 17 days after the coup in Kiev, on March 2, 2014, I said in a Russia Today interview that Russia had the right to intervene in Ukraine, not only because of the threat to millions of Russians living there, but also because its status as a great power would be undermined if NATO were allowed to play havoc on the eastern borders of Ukraine, causing extreme disruption in the geopolitical balance in Eastern Europe.

I said that, for the West,

[Ukraine] is simply a geopolitical playing field in a game of surrounding Russia and exercising what an American geopolitical expert called the ‘anaconda strategy’. So I think that the sooner Russians react and protect both the Crimean peninsula and the surrounding eastern and southern areas, the better, because the quicker the action, the less of a reaction there will be from the West.

Two weeks later, I was an observer at the Crimean referendum on rejoining Russia. At a press conference in Simferopol I said, “Putin should have intervened to reverse the outcome of the Western coup d’etat in Kiev.” The following evening, I repeated this view over dinner to the late National Public Radio reporter Cokie Roberts, a liberal unsympathetic to Russia. She also expressed her surprise that Mr. Putin had not done so, saying, “We [America] would have huffed and puffed, but we could do nothing.” And in November of that year, in Donetsk, I expressed the same opinion on live television, to the approving nods of the audience. I have repeated this view many times over the past eight years, for example in the article, “Putin’s Collapsing Credibility” (Chronicles Online, May 2, 2018), I wrote:

Eventually the Russians may be forced to respond to ever-escalating provocations. The price of their current appeasement will be a radically reduced maneuvering space, however, and therefore an exponentially greater danger of lethal escalation … Ever since the second Ukrainian crisis erupted in the winter of 2013-2014, to many observers of the Russian scene it was clear that Putin was not a master strategist who plots his moves well ahead of his opponents.

A month later, I further elaborated this theme (“Putin, the Manager,” Chronicles Online, June 1, 2018), writing that Putin’s hesitating response to the crisis in Ukraine had made it clear since early spring of 2014 that Russia does not have a serious strategy:

An adequate response would have entailed prompt despatch of Russian forces to protect the Russian-speaking population, from Kharkov in the northeast to Nikolaev in the center and Odessa in the southwest, in accordance with the R2P doctrine. Instead, there was a consolation prize [Crimea], rather meager for the loss of 500 miles of strategic depth inhabited by a pro-Russian majority.

As for Mr. Putin’s current “blunder,” I defined it in another online article, “Putin’s Miscalculation” (Chronicles Online, March 22, 2022), written three weeks after the beginning of his operation in Ukraine.

The claim that Mr. Putin has been pushed into this war is valid, I wrote, but it is the job of a statesman of stature not to be coerced into making forced moves. However the battle turns out, I went on, the strategic outcome is likely to be a weakened Russia in two significant respects:

The most important negative consequence for Russia in the long term—not just geostrategically but also culturally and psychologically—is that Putin’s action will have contributed to the previously divided Ukrainian nation’s coming of age … Ukrainian dissociation from Russia is likely to be the most significant legacy of Putin’s operation, regardless of the political settlement which will end the conflict … The second aspect in which Russia likely will be weakened by Putin’s action is in its global position as an autonomous great-power actor … From now on, sanctioned and crudely maligned by the collective West, and likely damaged by losing Ukraine in the cultural sense … the Bear will be pushed into an ever tighter embrace of the mighty Dragon in the East.

This article defined my position less than a month after the beginning of Mr. Putin’s operation, and it still does in the last week of July. I fail to see in what manner I undercut my views by stating that “if the West had accepted the idea of a neutral Ukraine, there would be no war.” That much is true, just as it is true that Mr. Putin has not played his hand well in Ukraine over the past decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.