The Corner

Contra Derb

A reader makes good points: “Derb—[quoting me] ‘The current Chinese constitution, as I have pointed out here before, guarantees every liberty you could wish for. So did the last constitution of the USSR.’ When did the United States military occupy and promulgate political and social reforms in either nation? Never, of course. You have there an inapt analogy to countries whose criminal minorities were never forced out of power and underground.

“As for the Anglo myth, the Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese were not, at last look, English lads. And Southeast Asians get along fine, despite inconveniently videotaped parliamentary fisticuffs. Be careful that you don’t fall too far into the ‘invention’ fallacy. The automobile and the vaccine were the West’s scientific culminations of centuries; but it is not as if the rest of the world required the same gradual progression to understand, employ and improve upon the concepts. If authoritarian tradition can be extirpated, with or without intervention, a nation can function and prosper democratically.”

[Derb] I’ll go some way with that reader. Of course, no nation’s political culture is set in stone. The Greeks went from self-governing city-states to worshippers of an oriental-style despot (though very cynical worshippers, note); the Romans went from republicanism organized around a loose clan-caste system, to imperial despotism propped up by soldiers (though attachment to the old liberties lingered on for a long time, note). And of course, the Japanese went from a feudal-military state under a god-king to a free nation under constitutional monarchy. We may hope; though surely even my reader will concede that the Muslim Middle East is a very “hard case.”

It is none the less true that WW2 was about considerably more than “knocking off criminal minorities.” Those minorities had an awful lot of popular support (as the “criminal minority” in mainland China still has). That’s why there was a war, very tenaciously fought. And the roots of that support were in deep soil — centuries of tradition, custom, religion, folkways,

ethnic feeling.

Sure, it can be done, and we may hope: but there’s a lot more to it than writing a constitution. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Is the Muslim ME ready?

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

Most Popular

Sports

It’s Time for a Change in Leadership

A lot of people -- including me -- will tell you he didn’t belong in the top job. We will tell you that nothing in his past performance indicated that he could handle the responsibility or had the right temperament for the pressures of leadership. Some of us opposed him before he stepped through the door and ... Read More
Sports

It’s Time for a Change in Leadership

A lot of people -- including me -- will tell you he didn’t belong in the top job. We will tell you that nothing in his past performance indicated that he could handle the responsibility or had the right temperament for the pressures of leadership. Some of us opposed him before he stepped through the door and ... Read More

Revolution by Shenanigan

Texans are very fond of reminding our fellow Americans that, because of its former status as an independent republic, Texas is the only state in the union permitted by treaty to leave the Union or renegotiate its status. This is a point of pride with Texans. It isn’t true. In fact, nothing you will ever ... Read More

Revolution by Shenanigan

Texans are very fond of reminding our fellow Americans that, because of its former status as an independent republic, Texas is the only state in the union permitted by treaty to leave the Union or renegotiate its status. This is a point of pride with Texans. It isn’t true. In fact, nothing you will ever ... Read More
Law & the Courts

On Judge Barrett, Let’s Tell the Truth

Once when I was a kid, my dad held up three fingers and asked, “Does this two look like a three?” Little did I know that this attempted sleight of hand would become a regular feature of the process for appointing federal judges. Watch for it in the days ahead as the Senate considers President Donald Trump’s ... Read More
Law & the Courts

On Judge Barrett, Let’s Tell the Truth

Once when I was a kid, my dad held up three fingers and asked, “Does this two look like a three?” Little did I know that this attempted sleight of hand would become a regular feature of the process for appointing federal judges. Watch for it in the days ahead as the Senate considers President Donald Trump’s ... Read More