After an end-of-summer hiatus, Enter Stage Right is back on its weekly schedule. As usual, I'm part of the line-up; this week, I center upon the current ObamaCare quagmire as an example of political cynicism gone overboard. If you're here from ESR, welcome.
I have to confess to falling back into my old habits. This long weekend, I've been plowing through Pat Buchanan's revisionist work Hitler, Churchill and the Unnecessary War. Mr. Buchanan's criticism of Churchill in the first two-thirds of the book (which is all I've read so far) have basically gone in one of my ears and out of the other. The impression that I got of Churchill was a politician who was adept at shifting with both party and popular winds. Granted that it does make him inconsistent over time, but that's what a lot of politicians are like....
My overall impression was that Britain lost its Empire because its trick that always worked, no longer did so. The U.K.'s European diplomacy strategy, centered on Europe, bears a striking resemblance to H.L. Mencken's definition of the mission of journalists: to "confort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." In Britain's case, it was "reward the co-operative and punish the bully." The aim was to keep Europe multipolar and divided. Given this mind-set, it's hard to see how the U.K. governments could have avoided their blunders in the 1930s. Any great power has to be the cat of Aesop's fable The Fox And The Cat; it has to rely upon a single trick that always works. The trouble comes when one of the hounds eventually figures out how to cut the tree down.
Hitler was that hound with respect to the U.K.'s balance-of-power tree. Now cut, it's a wreck. The EU is showing Europe's former great powers how to settle differences peacefully. The "bullies" have figured out how to be co-operative without the U.K.'s help. How to keep France and Germany, not to mention the other EU powers, at odds with each other when they're now bound by treaty?
In geopolitics, America is now the cat with the hegemony. Its trick that always works is the assumption that war is usually unpopular with the people of the warlike States, and that any regime that attacks America's allies (or America) is ipso facto unpopular with its subjects. Mr. Buchanan fears that the extension of NATO to Russia's doorstep is the same kind of folly that humbled the U.K. Although his point is a wise one, and is informed by sound strategic considerations, it seems to me to be too schematic. America is not the U.K.; they're different breeds of cat (so to speak.)
My own opinion is that America's Achilles heel - the hound that will cut down America's hegemony tree - is a a regime that is not a democratic republic, is militarily aggressive on the world stage, but neverthless has the knack of fighting wars that are popular amongst its subjects. One of the reasons why World War 1 dragged out for so long, and why the Versailles Treaty was so vindictive, was the Allies discerning that the German people seemed to like the war.
America may face its own WWI yet.
Buffett's annual letter
4 hours ago