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Thoughts on the “Death of Expertise”, Bias, and the Continued Importance of History

Before I begin, please read this great piece by Tom Nichols on “The Death of Expertise.” Nichols writes of how ordinary people in his discussions with him will

“whine that I’m defending the fallacious “appeal to authority,” they might then invoke the dread charge of “elitism,” and finally accuse me (or people like me) of trying to use credentials to stifle democratic dialogue.

Nichols argues that we live in a world where people sit on Google and Wikipedia for a couple of days and are convinced that they know just as much as people with PhDs. When we look at idiots like Jenny McCarthy who rails against doctors, or how being an “expert” in something seems to be a death knell in the political world, there is little doubt that Nichols is wrong.

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ISIS is selling oil – or “why the heck does everyone care about Israel so much?”

In the latest news discussing the ongoing Iraqi conflict between the incompetent forces of Nouri al-Maliki, the Islamic State, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and so many other factions, one thing that has not been discussed is the importance of oil in the conflict.

If the Islamic State is to approach anything nearing an actual state, it is going to need oil to fund its grand ambitions. Obviously massive sanctions are in place to try to prevent ISIS from selling their oil, but recent reports indicate that ISIS in fact is making up to $1 million per day on the sale of black market oil and could make up to around $3 million assuming further campaigns against Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad are successful. The fact that ISIS has been able to sell their oil, while the Kurds are currently stuck in legal disputes with Baghdad and the United States over their right to sell oil, has meant that ISIS can buy heavy weapons and munitions which has enabled it to drive back the Kurdish forces in recent days. This is particularly concerning given that the Kurds appear to be one of the few native groups who possess the actual capabilities to stand up to ISIS.

This is just the latest turn of events in a conflict which possesses serious geopolitical ramifications for not just the Middle East, but for the world. The United States is stuck between wanting to help the Kurds and the fact that if America just abandons Maliki, it will concern other allies across the world who might view us as a fair-weather ally. Can the Islamic State buy time and power to become independent of the Sunni tribal leaders who form a pillar of their support and who have openly talked of turning on ISIS once Maliki is gone? Can Maliki continue to stretch the bounds of what it means to be an incompetent leader? What are the serious implications if ISIS emerges completely triumphant? These are at minimum interesting storylines which have real importance.

So why the heck does the media and the global population care so much not about this, but the recent Gaza conflict?

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A look at history: The Economist on Colonial India 100 years ago.

100 years ago, the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

The Economist recently re-published an article they wrote on Austria-Hungary’s declaration of the war. Needless to say, such a source is interesting from a historical perspective. As Britain debated whether it was wise to participate in yet another war, the Economist took a fairly anti-war stance. The Economist does note that while Austria-Hungary’s anger over the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was justified, the actions of the “Austrian Government” were “too stiff, too rigid, too relentless.” In discussing why Britain should stay out of the war, the Economist argued that the “commercial and working classes” would have little interest in fighting either France or Germany. Britain has no interests at stake in this continental squabble that are worth an European war. As a neutral power, they would be able to protect the interest of the smaller powers which would look up to Britain for protection instead of backing either Russia or Germany.

I believe that with the benefit of hindsight it is clear that the Economist was incorrect. Europe dominated by one power has, is, and will always be, a threat to the sovereign independence of Great Britain (something which their politicians could stand to realize sometime). Germany would have prevailed over France and Russia without British intervention, and the result would have been an Europe dominated by the Kaiser. Just as Britain fought Louis XIV and Napoleon to prevent French domination of Europe, it stands that it had to do the same thing to Germany.

The Great War aside, there was one paragraph in the article which I found of particular interest. When the Economist discusses the assassination of the Archduke, it takes a moment to compare the administration of Austria-Hungary in Bosnia to the British in India. In talking about both projects, the Economist states:

“In 35 years, law and order, and security and religious toleration, have been substituted for rapine, disorder, official tyranny, and religious persecution. Admirable roads and railways have been built, and industry has at last begun to reap its reward for the first time since the Roman Empire fell.”

It is quite interesting to see a respected magazine like The Economist talk of the British imperialist project in India in such glowing terms. I have no doubt that Marxist-Leninists would use this as just another example of how the working and commercial classes talked of spreading civilization to India in order to enrich the capitalist system. But I believe that it does show an example of how Britain was convinced of its civilizing mission in India. I will freely admit that I know absolutely nothing of the modern British educational system, but I am curious what they teach of the British colonization of India. Do they spend three-quarters of the time talking about all the terrible things Britain did, just like our American educational system at times seems to borrow from the corrupted altar of Howard Zinn when they talk of the Revolution and the Founding Fathers?

 

John Schindler with a brilliant essay.

It’s a bit off topic from what I normally write, but I just wanted to link this essay written by John Schindler, professor of National Security Affairs at Naval War College.  It is a brilliant piece of work, which acknowledges that even in the aftermath of the Iraqi War, that Americans on both sides of the spectrum have great difficulty understanding – that not everyone wants to be like us, and it isn’t because of a lack of “education” or “understanding”.  It does not make Russia uncivilized or barbaric – they are their own state, with different values, and that is all there is to it.  There is no reason to run around promoting cultural norms which are America’s and America’s alone.  Power, on the other hand, is a very different thing, which is something which Putin understands very well.