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Director's Commentary On Chapter Eight: The Strategic Realignment: Resurrecting the Progressive Agenda

Again, I had originally planned a social-spiritual chapter and a chapter on the environment and demography, but I felt like that was splitting too many hairs, and as the manuscript kept lengthening, I knew it was better to admit I had one strong chapter out of that pair instead of two thinner ones.

As it was, this realignment chapter is the longest by far at 68 pages (econ at 48, dip at 44, sec at 42, and network at 56).

This was a challenging chapter to write, but also the most rewarding. I was surprised to get so philosophical in some places, making the chapter more work for the reader, but I realized as I was writing it that this chapter was really the book's mega-conclusion. If the realignment chapters were Roshomon-like to tell the same story repetitively from differing "character" angles, than this was the most objectively-layered final version that reveals the most clarity, the most truth and the most complexity.

Page tripping:


I had a ton of back and forth with Warren about repurposing the key elements of the "apostle's creed" on grand strategy from the cut (original) chapter 1. My first version was maybe three times longer and Mark was right that it went on too long. So I begged for another chance and boiled it down to these ten commandments and Warren relented. I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. The part that starts from the beginning of the original, rantish post I wrote way back when is #5 ("Grand strategy is not clairvoyance."


I liked the concluding bit of the intro that says the other realignments are mostly about exploiting opportunities while this one is mostly about mitigation and compromises. Again, not only does this chapter serve as the book's conclusion, it's also my usual end-of-book projection into the future.




Vonne talked me into getting the Faludi book after I saw a negative NYT review and asked her to check it out. I read the book as part of my research, but was so immediately struck by it that I did a quick column on it, knowing I would repurpose it in the book, so again, another case of selective pre-writing.


"Chosen trauma" is an old Y2K concept I got from a millennialism expert out of Boston U, Richard Landes.


To me, al Qaeda has always seemed like a Ghost Dance phenomenon in its cult of death and fantasies about a resurrected idyllic past. Deng's choice doomed radical fundamentalist Islam to this outcome.


"... seed ... has found no purchase" was inspired by the opening monologue by Nicholas Cage's character in Raising Arizona. I just loved the ag poetry of it.



I remember blogging about the Bush post-presidency soon after Katrina's impact became apparent. It was the straw that broke the camel's back, as I said in Sept 05.


I later listened to a Pentagon official in charge of homeland defense, Paul McHale, as he presented a retrospective on how well the USG responded on Katrina. It was one of the most Orwellian presentations I've ever heard.


I recall the personal tour of Blackwater's vast acreage by Erik Prince himself, especially as he explained his new domestic post-disaster offerings.


I do admit that I wonder about Lomborg since I posted the game design on the Internet about two years before he did his thing. Then again, I didn't exactly invent either rank orderings or "Survivor"! I will chalk it up to great minds thinking alike, because I really do respect his work a great deal--very sensible stuff.


I really liked Pachauri and found his approach and demeanor to be entirely reasonable.

I was glad to finally get the results of the last NewRuleSets.Project wargame into a book


I love to reference Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I really do think that interpersonal psychology is good training for thinking strategically, or at least I think it's hard to be a strategic thinker without knowing about those sorts of theories.

TM Lutas got me thinking along these lines re: India and China feeling threatened in their growth by our new focus on global warming.

"mini-me global economy" is an increasingly dated reference to the "Austin Powers" movie triology. Gotta cut back on that one.


The "aesthetics of asceticism" is an almost overly cute phrase that I became too enamored of in the planning of this chapter. I almost used it in a subheader, but then thought better of it. Felt like brick tossing.


I think I've had Lomborg in just about every book between Skeptical Environmentalist, the Copenhagen consensus book, and now Cool It!. In PNM I called him Swedish when he's really Danish. Thanks to travels since then, I've finally got the Nordic v Deutsch states clear in my head.


A big worthy quote from Lomborg. I only do big quotes from books I really love.



But clearly, I did use an equally cute bit of alliteration with demographic demagoguery, so sue me. The Steyn book (America Alone) is a bit of an inspiration here. I really don't care for that sort of fear-mongering, believing it reprehensible. My counter-education on him came during my two Dutch trips last year. Now that is a sensible government and people.


"Grandpa" Europe coming along for the ride: I remember briefing Royal Dutch/Shell execs in New York once and how differently the execs from inside the Gap took the brief compared to those from the Netherlands: the Gap execs got the logic and needed little additional convincing while the Dutch execs were more skeptical, as if the U.S. was lost without Europe's okay.


Khanna's view on Europe is a nice antidote to Steyn.


I don't think I've ever used the word "niggers" anywhere before, but I liked the alliteration from niggers to Know-Nothings. I remember seeing a number of recent Irish films where working-class types would lament how the Irish have always been the "niggers of Europe." When you read contemporary accounts of Irish immigrants in the 19th century, you do see this notion of them being non-white. You know, when I got accepted into both Harvard and Yale out of Wisconsin and Yale offered more money, my Mom told me I'd be going to Harvard anyway. It wasn't a matter of pride but bitterness: she said I had to go to Harvard because it had so long kept the Irish Catholics out and by God, her Irish Catholic son was going there now!


A rare stats-heavy pair of paras on immigrants. Felt some refuting was in order.



"Apocalypse Now" was the first R-rated movie I ever saw in a theater after turning 17. I immediately went back and watched it all over again the next night--another first. I was a senior at Boscobel High School and our little town was lucky to still have its one-screen theater built by the WPA back in the 1930s (God bless FDR). It's still there and you can still get popcorn, soda, and a couple of candies for about $2.50. It was my time machine growing up. I did an immense amount of dreaming there about what I'd be and what I'd do when I finally left Boscobel--that place and the big study desk in our old house on Superior Street. Got that now in our sun room in Indiana.

I did worry a bit about calling pre-millennialism the "spiritual foodstuff of losers"--a bit harsh. Then I follow it with yet another Mike Myers film reference: "We're not worthy" from "Wayne's World." I knew a lot of Waynes and Garths growing up in Boscobel. Been to all their basements too.


"... missing the boat--and simply inviting more boat people." "Camp of the Saints"-like image--a very obscure but controversial boat.


I used to pull out the Calgon line a lot in college as a joke. The commercial hails from the early 1980s.


Okay, the "italics and exclamation points included!" bit on Tom Friedman is poking fun, but he's a big boy. Plus I quote him repeatedly without any criticism, meaning I've internalized most of his stuff, so he needs a poke now and then.


My very long (for this book) treatment on oil that repurposes from several columns of the past. The problem with Deus ex machina stuff is that they're the equivalent of intellectual tar babies--as in, the minute you touch upon them, you get stuck having to refute them in some detail.


The Economy quote on China's environmental problems resembling our own. I wrote a blog post once about a map I saw in Ohio (road stop) that showed how forested Ohio was in 1800 and how bare it was in 1900 (with attendant lose of wildlife), but then how it had recovered so much by 2000. Point being: if you extrapolate from 1800-to-1900 period and then assume 2000 must be that much worse, then you're wrong because history is rarely a straight-line projection.



I personally found this section the most fascinating to write out of the entire book. It's where I get most philosophical, which is fun and hopefully not too esoteric.


I make this explanation to my kids all the time: religions got their codes all codified in the Malthusian before time--as in, before 1800, so there's always a ton of tension with modern life over things life homosexuality and procreation and abortion because those rules were all codified when cranking babies was the key to human survival and thus were clearly reflected in religious practice. Ditto on the "virtue" of war and warriors--another tough fit in a world that now seeks to stamp out organized violence.


The bit about "given" versus "chosen" families is a great one. A blog reader set me onto the article I cite on this. It's a tough read, I think, but really brilliant.

The nod to the Dutch on religious freedom: result of my trips last year. I am still a bit freaked, though, from lecturing with PPT in the Sacristy of a repurposed Catholic church in The Hague--a bit much for this former altar boy.


The religious angle is how you tackle the counterintuitive reality that we live in supremely revolutionary times despite Fukuyama's correct call on the "end of history": we are shifting people from familiar sustenance to disorienting abundance.


I love this line: "The bourgeoisie needed a bourgeois God." Feels like a mouthful, intellectually speaking, does it not? It just popped when I was writing. I could hear myself saying it in my brain, which is always fun when you're working--like somebody talking to you when no one's there.

The "clash of civilizations" as basically the realization that a competitive religious landscape is emerging globally thanks to globalization. I finally feel like I both get and refute my old prof's notion. Sad to see him pass last year. He was a real giant in a field which has very few.


The bit about immanent, distant and transcendent gods representing a division of labor is my extrapolation from Mark Lilla's The Stillborn God. He doesn't say it's a division of labor, and as Sean reminded me when editing, Rome doesn't care for any division-of-labor notions regarding the Holy Spirit (immanent, to me), God the Father (distant) and Jesus the Messiah (transcendent). But I left the bit in because that is my Catholic faith, and I just find that sort of theological uppity-ness so quintessentially American.


Is about as philosophical as I have ever gotten across my three Putnam books. I was surprised to write this way, and yet I enjoyed it a lot. My past dreams of being a priest, I suppose.


I really love saying the 21st century will be the most religious and then tying that--to most people--scary proposition to a global progressivism. Yes, my glass is always half-full.




Dan Abbott talked me into the Clark book (Farewell to Alms), which I found to be an agonizing read, despite the brilliance of the guy's main points--just so data-clogged that the text commanded the author rather than the other way around (as Mark always says).


I hadn't anticipated doing these shifts until I just came to this point in the text and decided to go with that configuration. This is when I'm realizing that this chapter will truly end the book


The consumption shift was inspired by a Jared Diamond op-ed.


The food and water shift was badly done the first time around, so when I wrote a column later on grain, I repurposed it in the later edit to bolster this entry.


The transpo shift inspired by the book, Zoom.

The energy shift is easily the weakest entry of the lot. Just didn't do a good job with that one.


I love the NBC bit about it really being C-N-B. I did that in a column and then inserted it into the cut "A-to-Z of grand strategy" chapter. I was glad to resurrect it here.


The comms shift is focused on the reality that the second billion of connected people will have grown up only knowing that reality. That is truly when things change.


Religious shift is also a bit weak: really just a restatement of what came earlier.

The urban shift was inspired by a cool Esquire bit about mega-coastal cities encompassing about ¬Ω of the world's population. Go Marines!


The feminine shift in law and medicine is truly fascinating to me.

The demographic shift is also fascinating because there is no previous historical experience or precedents for this.


The health shift concept of everything coming down to the question of who gets access to technology is one I've been contemplating ever since Emily's cancer struggle. I think it will be THE hugely explosive issue of this century.


The market shift is just an ode to Lovins et al. on "natural capitalism," but he deserves it. That's one very smart book.


The governance focus on institutions: listening to Qubad Talibany (Kurdish rep to US) talk about America, this is his essential point about what makes America both strong and efficient--its institutions.


The class shift is the obvious ending note for the series, getting me back to the rise of the global middle class, which--to me--is the game-changer in the 21st century along with life-extending biological advances (the two go together frighteningly well, in fact).



Obviously, a bit of a historical reference to Henry Clay. I decided to go short and sweet here as a clear wrap-up. Chapter felt long enough already and I just wanted to tie it off in a way that seemed succinct. As I wrote this, I realized the book was essentially done, so these were some of the most exciting paras in the book for me to pen. These ideas are all ones I've been cogitating on for numerous years now, but I will cite the special influence of my older brother Jerome, who likewise thinks along these lines.

Reader Comments (2)

My counter-education on [Mark Steyn] came during my two Dutch trips last year. Now that is a sensible government and people.

Tell that to Ayaan Hirsan Ali and Geert Wilders.
February 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteraelfheld

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