Berlin

Berlin is a beautiful city and much of it is very new, but it looks old:  it is long-established and aged but with the paint still wet.

The first time I visited was not long after the Wall fell, and where the Wall  and the Death Strip had, there been was a gash through the city, increasingly filled with bulldozers as a sign of the future, but the East was still a separate city.  I could hardly recognise the place less than thirty years afterwards, and it has changed even more since.  The old East Berlin was a wreck of poorly built and neglected buildings, and the place where the wall had been was a wasteland,  One of the old hubs of the Imperial city, Potsdamer Platz, was a desert.  Now, all trace has gone, or almost all; the city surges back and forth across the old divide that is not there.  Under den Linden is once again a Belle Epoch street  as it was in Imperial days, of commerce and diplomacy, and Potsdamer Platz is a new-old hub of the commercial, social city.  Some sections of the wall stand there as a monument, and the platform on which Kennedy and Reagan spoke, but they are out of place, leaving what went before unimaginable.

One part of the city is silent: the new ‘Bundesdorf’ around the Reichstag and the Kanzlerei. Tourists and activists bumble around and wave banners in the midst of the day – I saw Peruvian pan-pipes with an Inca nationalist flag, and some group promoting a mystic conspiracy theory and all sorts I could hardly describe, but all in a narrow space by the Brandenburg Gate, where the cameras are.   In the wide, modern park between the Reichstag all was quiet (apart from a small band of Alt-Jugend types once with a Prussian state flag: had they flown a Nazi flag they would have been arrested), in the beating heart of one of Europe’s biggest cities, between the main station and the axis thoroughfare. There was no traffic, but then it is tucked beside the river and there is only a pedestrian bridge. It is still eerie in the silence though. It would be unimaginable in a natural city.

The Reichstag is stately and magnificent, even with the Norman Foster additions (which were toned down at the insistence of the German government commission).  The Imperial building is no more than a shell and all inside and on top is Foster’s work: after the Reichstag Fire in 1933 little was left, and such as survived the fire was mauled by British bombs, and such as survived that was destroyed by the Soviets. The four towers at each corner stand for the four kingdoms within the German Empire: Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg, and carving run like tapestry down the surfaces in honour of the Princes of Germany now united.

From those towers fly huge flags – the German flag of black-red-gold, and the blue European flag.

That is the oddest thing to British eyes: at the very heart of the German state, the European Union flag being flown, and it is flow over the Kanzlerei, the Chancellor’s office / residence also.  Looking into the very chamber of the Bundestag, the European ring of stars is given equal status with the German national flag.  Even before Brexit that would have been unthinkable in London.

Politics in Germany is not normal, by Anglosphere standards, and that may be a good thing as we have seen what happens to German culture when left to its own devices. The pathology behind for the ways of Germany’s politicians may be another article. Now, they face each day afresh. As I write, political parties with little in common are trying to thrash out a coalition of impossible contradictions to form some sort of government and issue the commands that the Bundestag will rubber-stamp over the next few years, and they consider this normal. It is not Weimar though, thank goodness, and life will go on.

The Bundesdorf is a silent quarter still, beside a vibrant, noisy city. Berlin was created as a capital city, built in a swamp for a Mediaeval frontier Margrave; it grew great as a city for a King with a fresh crown, and grew as his Prussia grew. It exists for rulers and is shaped by them; it was shattered  into burnt ruins because of a twisted ruler and has been rebuilt from ruins  because it has to be a capital but its life is beyond that cloistered set.

The miraculous rebirth of the city is in part thanks to the politicians, but largely because their intervention was to lift restrictions and taxes. Unbound, developers could build, and they did, sweeping away the ruins of the past and creating a new-old city. Shining office buildings and apartment blocks have appeared as if overnight, because there is profit in providing the best.  I also spotted in corners though shipping-container homes stacked high, possibly temporary – I hope so. All the glass and still speaks of hope and enterprise, allowed to run free over a city.

At the same time, the past is being restored: the old Hotel Adlon inside the Brandenburg Gate was recreated from nothing, and the Stadtschloss, the Kings’ town palace, has been too, the latter with the generous if unwilling contributions from taxpayers all over Germany. (The Crown Prince is not to be allowed to live their though: it is a museum; he has to slum it in Potsdam.) It looks as if Berliners are puzzled about whether to look at the past or the future and are getting the best of both. The Stadtschloss is new-built as a centuries-old building.

Breathless change has its blow-backs.  The voters of the city have voted by over 50% to expropriate private corporate landlords and hand their property to a faceless bureaucracy. That is foolishness. They experiment with rent-controls too, which we all know are the best way to destroy a city short of bombing, but Berlin knows all about that.

This regeneration by free enterprise has made a broken city flourish It is a lesson to the world.

Other cities in Germany have grown big and prosperous, but they are not the same, having different roots. The federal system imposed on Germany after the War was meant to spread power all over the country and allow local towns to stand on their own, and they do well but Berlin is unique.

From disaster we must build

Twenty years and the dust was still falling, not even settling, and the nation beneath it coagulating, uniting. It began though an age of nations dissolving.

America is blessed.  In the dust of the disaster, they had unity of purpose and the structure of the nation and the government was unshaken – no one could take advantage and Osama Bin Laden’s boast that the United States would become Disunited, is bizarre. It is a fractured society today in a way it was not twenty years ago, true enough, but that has nothing to do with the events of that day, and it is fracturing of ideas, not of the nation itself.

Other nations are not so blessed. Tumult has destroyed many states in the last twenty years and it is naïve to think that dissolving a tyranny will ensure a free democracy will arise naturally from its ashes. Mankind does not work like that, which millennia of experience should teach us, but we are foolish optimists. America after the chaos of revolution, rose with a working, peaceful and largely democratic state, but that was only possible because the colonies had enjoyed a century and a half of democratic engagement on their own shores born of a centuries-long English culture of freedom and participation and pew-level Protestantism and the education it brought. Without that, chaos breeds only chaos.

Democracy is unnatural: an accident sprung from circumstances of the time in a few lands and surviving only through inertia and necessary myth. It is a strong myth in nations long bathed in it, as the English-speaking word is, but we cannot assume that of other nations.

It is a necessity a Law of Nature in Hobbesian terms, that we seek protection for ourselves and our families and in this is the necessity of creating a Common-wealth. Into this step adventurers. It would be lovely to think that would-be rulers will be benevolent princes accepting the responsibilities of government for selfless reasons, or that liberal democracy would spring up naturally. As we saw though in Afghanistan and in Iraq and in Libya and elsewhere, it is just whoever manages to slay their way to the throne.

Outside the culture of the Anglosphere, a disaster may weaken or destroy a government, and they we may fear an adventurer stepping in to take advantage. A dictator is as good as any in such circumstances.

This subjection of an individual to a new government is of necessity. From disaster we must build; build something however grotesque, to provide some common keeping-in-awe for our own protection. Accordingly it is by covenant and not by a right invented by the political ideas of a moment.

So it appeareth plainly, to my understanding, both from Reason, and Scripture, that the Soveraign Power, whether placed in One Man, as in Monarchy, or in one Assembly of men, as in Popular, and Aristocraticall Common-wealths, is as great, as possibly men can be imagined to make it. And though of so unlimited a Power, men may fancy many evill consequences, yet the consequences of the want of it, which is perpetuall warre of every man against his neighbour, are much worse. The condition of man in this life shall never be without Inconveniences; but there happeneth in no Common-wealth any great Inconvenience, but what proceeds from the Subjects disobedience, and breach of those Covenants, from which the Common-wealth had its being. And whosoever thinking Soveraign Power too great, will seek to make it lesse; must subject himselfe, to the Power, that can limit it; that is to say, to a greater.

In the fall of a government, there is desire to create another, but no immediate agreement: Rousseau’s “general will” is a laughable idea. The sceptre is as likely to fall to however first grasps for it, for good or ill. It would seem scandalous to us in nations long used to participatory democracy and equal laws, but not elsewhere, in desperation, and it is not democracy but political wiles which preserve the ruler, just as they raised him to his seat.

In those Nations, whose Common-wealths have been long-lived, and not been destroyed, but by forraign warre, the Subjects never did dispute of the Soveraign Power. But howsoever, an argument for the Practise of men, that have not sifted to the bottom, and with exact reason weighed the causes, and nature of Common-wealths, and suffer daily those miseries, that proceed from the ignorance thereof, is invalid. For though in all places of the world, men should lay the foundation of their houses on the sand, it could not thence be inferred, that so it ought to be. The skill of making, and maintaining Common-wealths, consisteth in certain Rules, as doth Arithmetique and Geometry; not (as Tennis-play) on Practise onely: which Rules, neither poor men have the leisure, nor men that have had the leisure, have hitherto had the curiosity, or the method to find out.

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UnClausewitzian wars

The first principle of war, von Clausewitz says, is not military at all but political: war is politics continued by other means. Every war has a political objective and must be conducted in order to achieve that objective. Once the aim is achieved and is secure, the war is finished.

What can one say about the Fourth Afghan War?

Von Clausewitz cut through the guff and bluster of war. It does not exist on its own in a cloud of brass and trumpets as a natural part of sovereignty fought for its own sake: war exists to further a defined purpose, perhaps for territorial aggrandisement or for defence or to distract the people.

The Romans may have thought differently: for them, war was an act of worship, in devotion to Mars. There was gross barbarity in their civilisation and we have suffered from giving too much acclaim of the Romans.

All this said, technically (Hobbes would remind us) all independent states are in a state of war with each other in a sense:

There Is Alwayes Warre Of Every One Against Every One Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man. For WARRE, consisteth not in Battell onely, or the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the Will to contend by Battell is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of Time, is to be considered in the nature of Warre; as it is in the nature of Weather. For as the nature of Foule weather, lyeth not in a showre or two of rain; but in an inclination thereto of many dayes together: So the nature of War, consisteth not in actuall fighting; but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is PEACE.

Put more specifically, Hobbes observes:

But though there had never been any time, wherein particular men were in a condition of warre one against another; yet in all times, Kings, and persons of Soveraigne authority, because of their Independency, are in continuall jealousies, and in the state and posture of Gladiators; having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another; that is, their Forts, Garrisons, and Guns upon the Frontiers of their Kingdomes; and continuall Spyes upon their neighbours; which is a posture of War. But because they uphold thereby, the Industry of their Subjects; there does not follow from it, that misery, which accompanies the Liberty of particular men.

Popular visions of the glory of war are just means to encourage martial prowess in soldiers and to persuade the population to tolerate the depravations that come from the war effort. The mucky political business of why the war is fought is not to be discussed in polite circles, where the glint of the blade and the honourable death are celebrated. So they must be, and a soldier who fights as a true warrior deserves all the celebration he receives and far more – unless you have been there, you have not an idea of even a fraction of it.

However, politics is at the heart of it, and generals must understand it, for war is directed to an aim. If a prince lusts after the wealth of a neighbouring province and invades to seize it, there is no point in his generals’ conducting their campaign so as to destroy that province.

This point sounds obvious in the cold light of peace, but it is reads as a novel suggestion in On War. In the context of earlier works it looks like as an unwelcome sullying of the purity of the soldier’s craft.

The art of war has been studied intently in all cultures of the world across the ages, and written about in learned theses in various civilisations. In all the great writings until the Nineteenth Century, from Caesar, Sun-Tzu, Bonaparte and others, the emphasis is on how to fight – strategy, logistics, tactics and psychology. It was von Clausewitz who started with why to fight. That is of crucial importance: it shapes the whole thrust of the campaign.

In short, if a state launches an attack because a neighbour is threatening its territory or vital interests, the attack need only destroy the enemy’s offensive capacity and all is achieved. During the Falklands War a journalist asked Mrs Thatcher if Britain was going to invade Argentina – maybe jingoism would think that, but the war aims were quickly concluded on the islands and the seas about them. War must not exist apart from its aims.

Aims may change or develop, and the enemy may be deceived about the true aims of a campaign, but an actual aim is a necessity.

In the four Afghanistan Wars to date, the first was unprincipled foolishness, the second a regrettable perceived necessity, the third purely defensive. The fourth has been defensive, to destroy terrorist establishments threatening Britain and America, but that achieved many years ago, and the fighting seemed to go one just out of its own internal logic.

The phrase ‘Something must be done” is not an aim nor any reason for war.

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The Fourth Afghan War

If I were to give an analysis of the failures in Afghanistan, what credibility would I have? I have never fought there, never been there, I know few Afghans. I prefer to listen to generals who commanded and soldiers who were on the ground, and to Afghans.

The result of the Fourth Afghan War has been much like all the others: the army went in, defeated the enemy, drove them from Kabul and put down rebellions relentlessly, then went home, and left the crazies to reassert themselves.

The previous Afghan Wars were to keep the Afghans from troubling India , maintain a buffer to keep the Russians away from India and ensure future compliance from the Emir, without interfering with his treatment of his own people.

This time round the objectives were outwardly similar. Firstly it was to stop Afghans and their ‘guests’ from pouring out of their valleys to attack the West. Secondly, unspokenly, the Russians were to be kept out (though they  were not likely to try it: they still have their hands burnt from the Soviet occupation in the 1980s). A friendly Emir or whatever other ruler might be installed was more difficult.

The commentaries keep coming in from those who were there. A repeated theme is that the soldiers were there to keep down an insurgency that could just slip into the next valley and wait for years, and to assist the Afghan Army, while leaving a native government to work without guidance. Unguided as it was, the Americans expected the Afghan government to work like a Western central government. It could never be that though: a country with no culture of democracy or limited government could not become a model liberal democracy, and a country with no tradition of centralised rule could not abide one nor know how to run one.

A theme from many commentators has been that the Taliban never retreated – they ran their own local governments, and very effectively (and very brutally) by all accounts. If the writ of central government could not run beyond Kabul, then ordinary Afghans can be forgiven for calling on the Taliban to assist them.

An accusation made by the rebels against the Kabul government was that it was an American puppet – but it was never that. The government was a harsh, Islamist government; just not as harsh as some wished. It would have been better for the Afghans if their government had been a puppet, just as ordinary Indians in past days were thankful if their brutal rajah was guided and moderated by a British Resident. Instead of just holding strongpoints by rifle and bayonet and deferring to Kabul, It would have been better if the Western allies had nurtured traditional governors in the villages and valleys. Without effective local chieftains or councils people will go to the nearest alternative. Where a farmer has a dispute with his neighbour, it would once have been resolved locally, not relying on a distant, impotent and corrupt national government. It is no wonder if they went off instead and paid the local Taliban.

The Americans can always be accused.  Their army went in having watched Rambo films: the British army in contrast had read Kipling. The Americans might have assumed, as they did in Iraq, that with an old government swept away, the people would spontaneously choose a benevolent, liberal government of selfless politicians. As in Iraq, that is shown to be criminally naïve.

On the planners’ desks should have been Thomas Hobbes, not De Tocqueville.

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Despoticall Dominion, How Attained

Dominion acquired by Conquest, or Victory in war, is that which some Writers call DESPOTICALL, from Despotes, which signifieth a Lord, or Master; and is the Dominion of the Master over his Servant. And this Dominion is then acquired to the Victor, when the Vanquished, to avoyd the present stroke of death, covenanteth either in expresse words, or by other sufficient signes of the Will, that so long as his life, and the liberty of his body is allowed him, the Victor shall have the use thereof, at his pleasure.

And after such Covenant made, the Vanquished is a SERVANT, and not before: for by the word Servant (whether it be derived from Servire, to Serve, or from Servare, to Save, which I leave to Grammarians to dispute) is not meant a Captive, which is kept in prison, or bonds, till the owner of him that took him, or bought him of one that did, shall consider what to do with him: (for such men, (commonly called Slaves,) have no obligation at all; but may break their bonds, or the prison; and kill, or carry away captive their Master, justly:) but one, that being taken, hath corporall liberty allowed him; and upon promise not to run away, nor to do violence to his Master, is trusted by him.

Not By The Victory, But By The Consent Of The Vanquished

It is not therefore the Victory, that giveth the right of Dominion over the Vanquished, but his own Covenant. Nor is he obliged because he is Conquered; that is to say, beaten, and taken, or put to flight; but because he commeth in, and submitteth to the Victor; Nor is the Victor obliged by an enemies rendring himselfe, (without promise of life,) to spare him for this his yeelding to discretion; which obliges not the Victor longer, than in his own discretion hee shall think fit.

And that men do, when they demand (as it is now called) Quarter, (which the Greeks called Zogria, taking alive,) is to evade the present fury of the Victor, by Submission, and to compound for their life, with Ransome, or Service: and therefore he that hath Quarter, hath not his life given, but deferred till farther deliberation; For it is not an yeelding on condition of life, but to discretion. And then onely is his life in security, and his service due, when the Victor hath trusted him with his corporall liberty. For Slaves that work in Prisons, or Fetters, do it not of duty, but to avoyd the cruelty of their task-masters.

The Master of the Servant, is Master also of all he hath; and may exact the use thereof; that is to say, of his goods, of his labour, of his servants, and of his children, as often as he shall think fit. For he holdeth his life of his Master, by the covenant of obedience; that is, of owning, and authorising whatsoever the Master shall do. And in case the Master, if he refuse, kill him, or cast him into bonds, or otherwise punish him for his disobedience, he is himselfe the author of the same; and cannot accuse him of injury.

In summe the Rights and Consequences of both Paternall and Despoticall Dominion, are the very same with those of a Soveraign by Institution; and for the same reasons: which reasons are set down in the precedent chapter. So that for a man that is Monarch of divers Nations, whereof he hath, in one the Soveraignty by Institution of the people assembled, and in another by Conquest, that is by the Submission of each particular, to avoyd death or bonds; to demand of one Nation more than of the other, from the title of Conquest, as being a Conquered Nation, is an act of ignorance of the Rights of Soveraignty. For the Soveraign is absolute over both alike; or else there is no Soveraignty at all; and so every man may Lawfully protect himselfe, if he can, with his own sword, which is the condition of war.

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