Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saturday commute cxii: Side lines

Brent Scowcroft came out in
the pages of The Washington
Post this morning in favor
of the multi-lateral arms
accord with Iran, observing
that even though his gener-
ation is on the "sidelines"
now in policy-making, it is
an agreement such as would
have been made under the ra-
tional Presidents he served,
Gerald Ford and the first 
Bush (he dissented from the
second one's war on Iraq). 

He is 90; but policy doesn't
turn on a dime, and the pact
he's discussing is congruent
with modus vivendi of every
rational American statesman
since George Marshall, the
last Secretary of State un-
til the present one, to mob-
ilise a consensus of compar-
able unanimity in support of
American national interest. 
Only an unhinging of politics
from that policy, in the age
of the infantile enactments
of contemporary Republicans,
makes Scowcroft seem defunct.

But for that last character-
isation, we don't turn to 
our streets, but to the wife
of the Polish Foreign Minis-
ter, a summa cum laude alum-
na of Yale and a widely ad-
mired historian of the Cold
War and Stalinist penology.
today, on the infantilism of
the American Right in its
grip on the Republican Party,
makes for especially sobering
reading, in view of her own
civilised conservatism and
vigorous resistances to ac-
commodating the Putin régime.

The day only restores hope
for policy, in two simul-
taneous columns decrying
the fog of the demagogues.
Between the two of them,
they expose false patri-
otic fury as simple envy,
outraged to lack honesty.

Scowcroft does not exagger-
ate in his comparison of
this arms accord with the
tectonic shifts we've wel-
comed with China, and then
with the USSR. Applebaum
does not exaggerate the
strangulation by the ig-
norant - not of progress
yet, but certainly of 
courage. This is the el-
ement that gives their
perspective, structure,
because that is what it

Anne Applebaum

Gulag: A History
Duff Cooper Prize
Pulitzer Prize
Random House, 2003©

Iron Curtain
  The Crushing
  of Eastern Europe
  1944 - 1956
Random House/Doubleday, 2012©

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Remembering Catullus

   Embarrassment shudders now across the
   playing fields of Concord, with a spec-
   ulative school tradition in sexual de-
   light seeming to stray into oppressive
   opportunism, as if it were imaginable.
   They'd been so fluent in their Latin.

  How little one knows
  anymore of the world,
  unless naïveté's ex-
  pected. I didn't say,
  decriminalised. Pun-
  ish the unwitted ones,
  with detention in the
  library. Or shall we
  all live out denials
  of our learning?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Coasting on the hustings

What if the Other Party
should nominate for the
Presidency, the winner 
of a contest: who some-
how threaded the needle
of disdaining Trump but
sustaining his loyalty;
of disdaining Bush with-
out excessively condemn-
ing a history he must
defend. Someone who ac-
quired stature from race
to race, managing not to
succumb to anger. That
would rule out the dis-
educating Governor of
Wisconsin, leaving only
the Cuban-American who
refuses to deport the
native-born. I begin to
remember, how it came
down to Barack Obama.

I know, as I turn it
all over in my mind,
our wiser apparatchiks
have long figured out
how to disarm a child-
ish campaign slogan ~

He won, fair and square.

The most salient cri-
terion of human leader-
ship since Bacchylides
is mincemeat for those
who gave us intellect
in Walter Mondale, high
competence in Michael
Dukakis, and who stand
now ready to anoint a
candidate deflecting us
to an abandoned mother.

I anticipate the pride
it will instill in vot-
ers to submit to great-
er virtue, once again.

St Andrew's College
South Africa
Tyron Louw photo

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Getting it backwards

It is their climate,
not their mind, that
men change when they
rush across the sea.

Yet, when climates
are our emigrants,
we watch men rush-
Who can say, which
is a sorrier sight?

Martin Conte