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But who observes the observers?

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March 3, 2002

Pointed sticks Jim Henley continues to ask searching and well-considered questions about popular viewpoints:
Subthought B: All that “new kind of war talk” last fall, all the “How many divisions has the EU?” in the New Year. That is, we don’t need the Europeans because their armies suck anyway, so who cares what they think? But again, in many cases their police forces and intelligence departments don’t suck. There is surely a point of annoyance beyond which police and intelligence cooperation with the US war on al Qaeda quietly dries up. These things being what they are, we won’t even necessarily know a given country isn’t cooperating any more - beforehand. Are our fine new friends in Uzbekistan going to keep us apprised of the doings of Hamburg terror cells, and round their members up when we want? That would be a no. 9

9I dislike the EU as an institution intensely and hold no affection 9for any of its member governments. I think we’re doomed to some 9difficult times with the EU’s obnoxious regional-socialism. But 9while there is a large, well-financed and ill-tempered NGO out there 9that wants to kill as many Americans as possible, we need their 9help, and not just theirs either.

Henley, a consistently good writer, at various points calls himself a an “isolationist” and a “right-winger,” things I am not. And yet lately I find more useful thoughts in many of Henley’s comments than in a great deal of writing by people whose worldviews ostensibly match mine. Henley himself nicely catches this sense, widely felt post-9/11, of alternate ideological realities sliding and merging in unpredictable ways:
Tonight I was riding with my friend Frederick Pollack, one of the country’s best poets and a lifelong Marxist.

“Fred,” I told him, “I find myself using the word ‘imperialist’ unironically lately.”

“Are you well?”

Then on the ride home, we were discussing the history of European Jewry, about which Fred knows rather a lot. That required an adversion to the medieval Church’s theory and system of “the just price,” which, Fred noted, was declared to be the cost of production plus the cost of distribution, with no profit and interest forbidden.

“The only problem,” Fred said, “was that you can’t have a functioning economy without interest.”

“Or fixed prices,” I offered.

“Exactly.”

And not a bearded Spock in sight.

[09:50 AM]
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