America at the Crossroads: Intellectual Honesty

The next post in the America at the Crossroads series, Inner Life thread. This one discusses the importance of fostering and demanding intellectual honesty.

This is the third post in the “America at the Crossroads” thread dedicated to examining America’s inner life.  The second looked at optimism as a habitual mindset for conservatives.  The next one will discuss the importance of knowing history.

Some years ago in the late 1980s, when I was a junior officer supervising a watch section in one of the major fleet intelligence centers, I remember a senior civilian analyst exercising a beneficial brake on the snap judgments to which we younger, less experienced professionals were sometimes prone.  In one particular instance, we young Turks were sure we had gotten it right in figuring out what was going on with some Soviet nuclear submarines.  All the individual intelligence data points fell into place beautifully.  It was clear to us what was going on.  There was no need to even consider alternate theories: the best explanation was right before us, and it all hung together.

The senior civilian stood with us at the great wall-size map and listened thoughtfully.  He agreed that the signs looked pretty obvious.  If he were in our shoes, he’d call it just the way we had. Continue reading “America at the Crossroads: Intellectual Honesty”

America at the Crossroads: Русский газ

Russia’s aggressive pursuit of energy resources versus American post-modern attitudes.

“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”

Winston Churchill

If Churchill made that comment today, he might suggest the whole of the Russian enigma was wrapped in gas – natural gas, with oil in the mix as well.  And once you wrap Russia in gas, she’s not much of an enigma, and you can divine pretty easily where her leaders think the national interest lies.

As we begin this survey it’s important to note that the mindset I approach it with is not one of “doom and gloom,” or anger that Russia is having the unmitigated gall to buy up oil and gas contracts.  But neither is it valid or correct to depict Russia as merely one actor in a commercial competition.  Russia works in a way other nations do not to subvert the independence of her neighbors who are also oil/gas actors, behaving toward Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, and others in ways that would draw the vociferous ire of politicians and the media, if a Western nation did these things.

Oil and gas calculations have very real influence on national policies, Continue reading “America at the Crossroads: Русский газ”

Amateurs

Russians whiff in political snark attempt.

Ben Smith at Politico picks up on a Russia Today ad campaign in which images of Obama and Ahmadinejad are superimposed on billboards next to the question, “Who poses the greater nuclear threat?”  According to RT, US airports declined to display the original version of the ad, but did accept a version in which the subject’s eyes and mouths are blacked out.

Redacted

Smith, of course, keys on the fact that RT is an arm of Russia’s state-owned media.  (It’s channel 236 on Time Warner Cable in my area.)

But that tends to be indicative in more ways than one.  Looking at the older ads RT has lined up for inspection at the link above, one has the sense of a Soviet-era zeitgeist unrecovered from. Continue reading “Amateurs”