Author Archives: Cody Boutilier

Cody Boutilier: Give me your wretched refuse

In the latest issue of National Review, editor and publisher Adam Bellow of Liberty Island Media writes on the need for a conservative countercultural movement in fiction. Commenting on political correctness, which is arguably our era’s greatest threat to liberty, Bellow suggests that “the tide is turning. People are getting fed up with the humorless enforcers of the Left.”

This is true of a great many people, but passivity and inertia are ingrained in the human genetic code, and my optimistic prognosis is that a full-scale assault on the tyranny of left-wing thought control won’t ensue for at least another generation, if ever. Things will get far worse before they get better, particularly for devout Christians, but in effect for everyone. Revolutionary leftists go on periodic attack against their fellow progressives, but what’s worrisome about the Left’s current cultural ascendancy is its foundation not in violent revolution, but in Gramsci’s long march through the institutions of power. Leftist beliefs have taken root in the Western mind because Westerners have never had to suffer under totalitarian leftist governments. The Western terror will be as spiritually destructive as the French and Soviet terrors and Chinese Cultural Revolution, but bloodless and drawn-out. We won’t need guillotines, tribunals, struggle sessions, or gulags. Popular prejudice, self-preservation and timidity, and the armies of tweeting red guards will suffice to relieve society of its counterrevolutionary refuse.

I’ve long toyed with a theory that apparently sounds premature to everyone I’ve shared it with. As the vise of PC dogma tightens around the heads of religious traditionalists and the other sundry enemies of a strikingly exclusive “inclusivity,” less enlightened but semi-developed nations will discover the self-interest of offering asylum. This is hardly unprecedented. The Netherlands offered refuge to Spinoza and the Puritans; Prussia to the Huguenots; Catherine’s Russia to Mennonites; the Soviet bloc to the nonconformists of the Western bloc, and vice versa.

Jamaica and Russia, countries where political correctness is practically extraterrestrial, come to mind. Russia in particular would savor the propaganda victory of highlighting the de facto intolerance of the West. The powerful Russian Orthodox Church is notoriously hostile to Russian Protestants and other sectarians, but I think the political advantage of sheltering the West’s persecuted Christians would offset the negligible dent in the country’s religious demography.

Will this come to pass? As the Left gains concrete power, and its roll call of enemies lengthens, I think it probably will.

The Hustings

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Cody Boutilier: WWI and the Willy-Nicky telegrams: A historian responds

Dave Wetzel, my favorite historian and an expert on modern Europe whom I cited in a recent piece on Russia’s role in World War One, has responded with a self-correction. Recent reading has modified his views on the fateful days of 29 July – 1 August 1914. Referring to a telegram from Kaiser Wilhelm II assuring his cousin Tsar Nikolai II that Germany meant Russia no harm, Wetzel writes,

I had long thought this more significant than it was.  Writes Christopher Clark, in his terrific book, The Sleepwalkers: “The Willy-Nicky telegrams, as they came to be known, have exerted an endless fascination because, reading them, one seems to be eavesdropping on a private conversation between two emperors from a now vanished Europe, and partly because they convey a sense of a world in which the destinies of nations still rested in the hands of extremely powerful individuals. In fact, both impressions are misleading….At both ends of the conversation the content was was carefully vetted by foreign office personnel.

[But] the telegram of 29 July was exceptional. It arrived at a very special moment when, for once, everything hung on the decision of the tsar because…his permission was required for an order of generalization.” (513)

According to Wetzel, Clark portrays the tsar as a far more decisive and independent individual than the dithering dunce we imagine him to have been. Wetzel’s lecture stated that Foreign Minister Sazonof prevailed upon the tsar to order general mobilization. Wetzel has since revised his evaluation, and concludes that Sazonof’s views only reinforced the tsar’s established opinion that “all attempts to satisfy Germany had failed.”

Thanks to Professor Wetzel for the generous feedback!

The Hustings

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Cody Boutilier: The arrogance of Ted Cruz

I’m heartened that a Texas straw poll places Sen. Ted Cruz at the head of the pack among potential 2016 GOP presidential nominees. Despite being a committed and prominent Tea Partier, Cruz rejects the homo economicus simplicity of the Koch brothers, the faction’s libertarian founders. He doesn’t compromise on social issues, and recognizes the cruciality of American strength abroad – unsurprising for the son of a Cuban immigrant. He has made official visits to Ukraine, Estonia, and Israel, an itinerary that would be unthinkable for the cloud-dwelling, hidebound isolationist and polezniy durak Rand Paul.

I would be thrilled to see Cruz receive the nomination. But. . . .

As befits a politician, he seems to possess insufferable arrogance. He was the object of right-wing criticism when he attended Nelson Mandela’s funeral. I think the criticism missed the point. Cruz is intelligent and seems like a sincere political thinker, and I doubt he was unaware that Mandela’s moral record was patchy at best, and the state of his South Africa even less commendable. Cruz had no intelligible connection to Mandela, and it’s possible that he attended the funeral solely so to make a dramatic exit once Raúl Castro came to the podium.

Mark Steyn writes: “I confess I’m not quite sure about the etiquette of walking out during a funeral. Unlike Senator Cruz, whom I doubt Mandela had even heard of, the Castros were old friends. It seems a little churlish to show up at the funeral of a longtime Communist and complain that they’ve booked the president of Cuba.”

Exactly. That Cruz would have flown to South Africa to snub Castro, imagining that in a room full of global leaders the stunning impact of his exit would justify the mileage, is entirely plausible, and suggests a degree of mind-numbing narcissism that would make Obama blush.

I’ll be glad to vote for Cruz, but this episode will always bother me.

The Hustings

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Cody Boutilier: How Russia is to blame for the First World War

The summer of ’14 is upon us. As the cliché goes, victors write the histories, and this could hardly be more apt in the case of the Great War. I will quote at length from a lecture of UC Berkeley’s Dave Wetzel, one of my instructors and a brilliant historian.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Sazonof adopted the idea of general mobilization of the Russian army, with the enthusiasm of a convert. He tells the tsar that the Austrians have begun shelling Belgrade, which is not true, and that he has received a stiff note from foreign minister Bethmann-Hollweg in Berlin. Bethmann-Hollweg says that further Russian mobilization will compel Germany to mobilize. Nicholas II sees these arguments very clearly, and he orders the general mobilization of the Russian army. He then receives a telegram from Wilhelm II assuring him that Germany means Russia no harm, and orders the cancellation of the general mobilization. Sazonof, outraged, goes to Nicholas with the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in tow and says that Wilhelm is a liar, telling Nicholas, “if the order for general mobilization is not reinstated you’re going to bring down the wrath of the pan-Slavs in the Duma.” The patriarch says, “Your Majesty, it is a question of faith, of defending Holy Russia against the Teutonic hordes.” Nicholas responds, “it is not a question of Holy Russia, it is a question of sending to their deaths millions and millions of men!” Ultimately, Nicholas picks up his pen and signs the order for the general mobilization of the Russian army, on the evening of 30 July 1914.

The Russian mobilization left Germany with no choice but to honor its blank check with Austria, just as Germany’s implentation of the Schlieffen Plan left Britain with no choice but to honor its guarantee of Belgian neutrality.

And so, a hundred years ago, Russia ended generations of peace and stability on the continent with the aim of “protecting” its Slavic co-confessionalists from the rapacious West.

As they say in French, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The Hustings

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Cody Boutilier: The futility of the International Criminal Court

A recent New York Times article highlights America’s hitherto tepid support of the International Criminal Court, which the Obama Administration is attempting to bolster.

As a conservative, I’m instinctively opposed to involuntary globalist institutions that impinge on national sovereignty. The ICC is an especially egregious example of the impotence and sheer uselessness of transnational bodies, irrespective of such violations. As the article’s author Somini Sengupta points out, the war criminals tried in The Hague tend to be disproportionately African. I don’t think this selectivity is a product of racism—it would be racist not to hold blacks to the same moral standards as whites—so much as convenience. Vladimir Putin, in his actions in the North Caucasus, is as guilty of war crimes as Charles Taylor, but Russia is not Liberia. Despotic supranational organizations like the ICC are only capable of imposing themselves on inherently weak, chaotic states.

The selectivity and fortunately-limited reach of the ICC is reason enough to completely defund it, but a more significant intrinsic flaw is the origin of the notion of “international justice”.

I am referring of course to the Nuremberg Trials of 1946, the mythologized paradigm of international cooperation in bringing war criminals to justice. Frankly, I don’t think there could have been an alternative means of bringing Nazi leaders to justice: the Soviets, as well as the Western Allies, had undisputed sovereignty over their sector of occupied Germany, a country that had ceased to exist. That the Soviets had been allowed to march on Berlin in the first place—read American Betrayal—is a separate issue, but under the circumstances of postwar Europe, their prominence at Nuremberg was perfectly fair.

Due to the Soviet presence, however, Nuremberg fails as a model of international justice. Never mind the gulag, the man-made famine, and the domestic show trials—the Soviets had been Germany’s allies for two fruitful years, and had indeed been co-conspirators to the very war that the trials condemned, which makes the whimsical charge of “crimes against the peace” especially distressing. Most obnoxious was their sole responsibility for the Katyn massacre, a major wartime atrocity that the Western Allies ignominiously agreed to falsely blame on the Germans.

The hypocrisy of Nuremberg should have been a harbinger of the moral futility of global jurisprudence. Ideally, domestic courts are bound by laws and constitutions; the ICC is an artifice of arbitrary raw power.

The Hustings

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