Behold two Imperial metropoles. Both in transition towards neo-Authoritarian politics. Both still maintaining the pretense of responsive democratic forms. And both using political kabuki theater to distract the ruled.
In Russia, the Putin regime is preparing to crack down on non-government organizations (NGOs)
. The Putin regime claims NGOs are being used by Western governments and foreign spies to fan revolution in the former Soviet Union.
And to dramaticize the situation, we see L'Affaire de Rock
. Russia has accused four British diplomats of spying. The FSB, the old Second Chief Directorate of the KGB
, has linked some of their activities to the financing of prominent private organizations, including the Eurasia Foundation and the Moscow Helsinki Group. A great collection of videos here
Russian use of foreign intelligence threats for domestic purposes is a time honored tradition. And what can one expect when a Russian newspaper reports as many as 6,000 senior posts in the government are currently held by former KGB officers?
Still, people do wonder . . .
I wonder if the rock was constructed out of fiberglass, and contained a Linux-based single board computer with both 2.4 Ghz and 900 Mhz spread spectrum frequency hopping radios, with a 3DES encrypted transport link and DSA PKI.
I wonder if the camera was a custom designed Altera FPGA with integrated CMOS imager, utilizing a 100:1 proprietary wavelet compression engine (or at least it used to be proprietary), triggered by a thermal motion sensor.
I wonder if the power source was a lithium dry cell capable of operating the rock for years without the need for a recharge.
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To maintain a facade over decades must be a draining exercise. Imagine the relief now when the full throated roar of Belief refuses to hide behind acts of pretense, and the mask falls away. Always a sign that an ideological movement feels its Moment has arrived. Divine Providence and History are going their way. Time to grab the hem of History. Before she moves on!
So it is with the Schmittean and Straussian New Authoritarians.
Guest blogger David Luban over at Jack Balkin's site has a terrific analysis of the Weekly Standard's endorsement of an overtly Straussian and Authoritarian view on L'Affaire NSA
. David writes about a piece in the January 16 issue by Harvey Mansfield, who is, lest we forget, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard.
And Dear Reader, Mansfield is one of the best-known followers of Leo Strauss in academic political philosophy. One Harvey Mansfield instructed one second year William Kristol as a student. So does the pupil now summon the master. Although, unlike the Sith, there are far more than just two of them.
Mansfield is the ideal choice by Kristol to dismiss the Constitution as a feckless scrap of paper (from a corrupt liberal modernity) unworthy of shackling a True Leader. He has worked systematically in Revisionist zeal to corrupt and pervert key aspects of the liberal democratic intellectual heritage over the years. For example, one labor has been to claim that Machiavelli's The Discourses
are not properly understood as a nuanced discussion of politics in support of classical liberal democracy (and the nature of 'virtue'), but rather their “true” esoteric reading reveals them to recommend authoritarian principles and expediency. Mansfield seeks to claim they are no different than Machiavelli's throw away pamphlet of political expedience, The Prince.
Thus, Mansfield's short and fustian Weekly Standard
piece encapsulates the long furtive but sustained Straussian hostility to classical liberal democracy. Now, Mansfield propounds their true (and unalloyed) belief in (allegedly) enlightened authoritarianism. Mansfield succinctly puts forward the Straussian and Schmittean joint belief in the “necessity” of a Leader with unfettered power. Here, Mansfield argues that the President in our time of semi-permanent national emergency, has extra-legal authority “To Do What Must Be Done”. Such a Leader, in Mansfield's imagining, can not be bound by mere law or constitutional niceties.
Luban deconstructs Mansfield's tautological thinking admirably. Here are but two samples:
: “But enemies, being extra-legal, need to be faced with extra-legal force.”
: “A total non sequitur. Worse: mere games with words. A pickpocket is extra-legal, but it in no way follows that he needs to be faced with extra-legal force.”
: “The Federalist tells us that a republican constitution needs energy and stability, terms taken from physics to designate discretion and law.”
: “Last time I checked, physics does not include the concept of discretion. A speeding bullet has loads of energy but no discretion about where to go. The Straussians have always been famous for having contempt for physical science matched only by their ignorance of it.”
And so on. Luban concludes his wonderful analysis with this accurate observation: “What's most remarkable about this article is that nearly every sentence in it is false.”
David Luban, welcome to the world of the Straussians. And while your point is well taken, it also unfortunately misses the raison d'etre
of Mansfield's exercise, I think. This rigid and declamatory piece was not intended for us Outsiders. Nor was it intended for the Initiates, who presumably knew and accepted all this years ago. Rather, Mansfield's audience are the gentleman patriots who subscribe to the Weekly Standard
. And his overt embrace of the Straussian and Schmittean agenda set out for them is a signal to those who have waited decades for this Moment - “this is our Time now”.