War

Progressives to Conservatives: You Hate Liberals For All The Wrong Reasons

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/10/2018 - 5:19pm in

Figures like Clinton and Obama are attacked by progressives and conservatives alike, but for entirely different reasons.

Why No One Wins a War over the South China Sea

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/10/2018 - 11:35am in

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War

That’s the headline for my latest piece in The National Interest. (over the fold)The central point is brilliantly summed up in this clip from Utopia.

A recent near-collision between Chinese and US Navy destroyers has focused new attention on the potential for conflict in the South China Sea and led to the cancellation of a visit to China by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/mattis-cancels-china-trip-after-chi...

China’s naval expansion in the South China Sea puts it in a position to control sea lanes used transport trillions of dollars worth of goods per year, accounting for up to a third of world merchandise trade. China has militarized islands and claimed most of the Sea as its own territorial waters, on the basis of flimsy historical claims and routinely denounced US naval operations in the region as illegal provocations.

Unsurprisingly, the response to Chinese assertiveness from much of the foreign policy community has been to demand a similarly assertive response from the United States. For example, Robert Kagan has argued that the US must resist the extension of a Chinese sphere of influence in its immediate vicinity.

Backing Into World War III

A realist perspective suggests a more cautious approach, and a more careful analysis of the economic issues. A rational assessment suggests that China has far more at stake in this issue than the US.

The crucial, but commonly neglected, fact about trade flowing through the South China Sea is that the great majority of this trade flows to and from China. That makes control of the South China Sea a crucial national interest for China, since a hostile power could potentially choke off most imports and exports. But obviously, China has no interest in disrupting its own trade. By contrast, the only direct interest of the US is in the abstract principle of freedom of naval operations.

Moreover, while the US military is far more powerful in global terms, the balance of forces is much more even in regional terms. Conflict between powers of comparable strength will generally be resolved in favor of the side with the greater commitment.

 

The South China Sea is also important to US allies including Japan and Korea, as it is part of the cheapest route for importing oil and other resources. It is not, however, the only route. It has been estimated that diverting imports might cost $600 million a year for Japan, and $270 million a year for South Korea.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/5-trillion-meltdown-what-if-china-shut...

That’s a lot of money. But compared to the potential cost of the Trump Administration’s trade policy, it’s trivial. The US imports $40 billion in cars from Japan and $10 billion from Korea. The 25 per cent tariff now under consideration, would cost Japan $10 billion a year and Korea $2.5 billion.

So, we are in the strange position where the US is deploying massive naval forces to deter a purely hypothetical threat to its Asian partners and allies, while making actual threats to impose much greater economic damage on those some partners and allies.

Similar points may be made about the Trump’s Administration withdrawal from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. From the viewpoint of the Obama Administration, which pushed the deal, the central geopolitical rationale was to set up an economic structure that marginalised China. Trump’s decision to pull out would have made sense as part of a rapprochement with China. However, the Administration’s trade policy has effectively put allies and rivals in the same camp.

A rational policy would dial down threats on both the trade war and naval rivalry and focus on issues of common interest to everyone in the region, most obviously the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Even without the added complications created by the Trump Administration, such a policy seems a long way off.

The gradual expansion of Chinese power in the South China Sea has caused great alarm. However, it should be less alarming than the looming prospect of a trade war, in which the US will be fighting alone.

 

 

Prince of Fraud

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/10/2018 - 6:00pm in


We sell the Saudis all the bombs for their regular and normal slaughtering of Yemeni schoolchildren - but now they’ve killed a journalist. Not good!

Percival Lowell: Martians Would Have Global Government to Fight Environmental Decline

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 06/10/2018 - 9:23pm in

Percival Lowell was the astronomer most responsible for popularizing the idea of Martian canals.

It was the Italian astronomer, Schiaparelli, who first claimed to have observed watercourses he called ‘canali’. The Italian word was translated ‘canals’, but it also means simply ‘channels’. And many astronomers regarded them simply as that, natural features. However, at the end of the 19th century many confidently believed that Mars was the home of intelligent life, though astronomers were increasingly aware that Mars was not as hospitable as Earth. They believed it was a planet of vast deserts. Lovell, an American astronomer with an observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona, was convinced that not only was there intelligent life on Mars, but that the Martians had a highly advanced civilization. They had constructed the canals he drew and mapped to bring water from their dying planet’s polar regions down to the equator to sustain life and civilization. He realized that the canals themselves would have been too small to observe from the Earth, but believed that the lines he saw were the surrounding tracts of lush, green vegetation, flourishing amid the encroaching Martian desert.

And he had a highly optimistic view of the moral progress of their civilization.

I found this brief passage quoting Lowell, and commenting on his view of the people of the Red Planet in The New Challenge of the Stars, by Patrick Moore and David A. Hardy, with a foreword by Arthur C. Clarke, (London: Michael Beazley Publishers Ltd 1977). Moore writes

Perhaps we may look back to the words of Percival Lowell, written in 1906. He may have been wrong in his interpretation of the so-called Martian canals, but at least he put forward an idealistic view of the attitude of his ‘Martians’. Whom, he believed, had outlawed warfare and had united in order to make the best of their arid world. There could be no conflict upon Mars. In Lowell’s words: ‘War is a survival among us from savage times, and affects now chiefly the boyish and unthinking element of the nation. The wisest realize that there are better ways of practicing heroism and other and more certain ends of ensuring the survival of the fittest. It is something people outgrow.’ Let us hope that we, too, have outgrown it before we set up the first base upon the red deserts of Mars. (p. 18).

The passage is shocking in its espousal of Social Darwinism, and the ‘survival of the fittest’. Moore himself had extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant views. But he was also firmly anti-War, no doubt strongly inspired by the death of his girlfriend during an air raid in World War II.

And would that humanity had outlawed war! We too also need, if not global government, at least global far-reaching global co-operation to fight the environmental decline of our own planet through climate change and mass extinction. Hardly a day goes by without another report in the papers about the immense seriousness of the environmental catastrophe. This last week two documentaries in particular on British TV warned us further about its extent. One was Drowning in Plastic, presented by Liz Bonnin, and the other was the final edition of Andrew Marr’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea on BBC. This last programme appeared to trace the origin of the science of ecology to Darwin, and claimed that humanity’s destruction of the world’s ecosystem was partly due to ignorance of this aspect of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

It’s a contentious claim, as I suspect that the awareness of the interconnectness of living creatures actually predates Darwin, and that other scientists and naturalists, like the German explorer Humboldt, also made their own important contributions to development of ecological awareness.

But regardless of Marr’s claim about Darwin, we do need to be more like Lowell’s Martians to develop the global political, economic and social systems we need to fight our species’ destruction of the environment and its myriads of living creatures. And sadly, this is still being fought by vested corporate interests, such as the oil industry in America, led by the Koch Brothers, and right-wing Conservative parties. Such as the Republicans and Donald Trump, as well as the Tories and Tweezer over this side of the Atlantic. Lowell’s Martians don’t exist, but Lowell idealistic vision of them still has lessons for us in our own world, beset by environmental degradation and corporate, imperialist warfare.

Vox Political: Guardian Journos Outraged at Speaking Invitation to Editor of The Canary

Mike over at Vox Political today also put up another story about an attempt to silence a very able and outspoken woman of colour. This time it’s Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the editor-in-chief of the Canary. She’s another friend of Mike’s blog, and mentioned it and other leading members of the new left media when she appeared on Newsnight in 2016.

Mendoza has been invited to give this year’s Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture. These talks are organized by the National Union of Journalists Black Members’ Council in honour of the pioneering Black lady journalist. It has zilch to do with the Guardian-Observer branch of the NUJ, but for some weird reason they’re outraged that Mendoza’s been given this honour. They sent an email out to their members, asking them to send in complaints to the NUJ’s equalities people and were threatening to hold a vote.

The Guardian journos’ audacity as White, university-educated people complaining and threatening to vote to stop one of the very few BAME editors from giving a talk to commemorate a black journalist as part of Black History Month provoked an immediate backlash. Mendoza herself said

I’m a proud member of the National Union of Journalists and honoured to be invited to give the Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture this year.

It’s a sign of the entitlement of our establishment journalists that they would behave so poorly in response.

I think we’ve reached peak Guardian. A group of mostly white, middle class journalists trying to stop one of Britain’s only working class, BAME editors in chief from giving a speech for Black History Month.

And the Groan’s hacks also shot themselves in the foot with the timing of their outburst. It came just when a national boycott was being organized against the Guardian under the hashtag,#BoycottTheGuardian for the hours between 7 and 9 pm, September 27, 2018. This shot the hashtag campaign up to No.1.

And the peeps on Twitter also weren’t silent themselves about the Guardian and its presumption. Tom Pride, Aaron Bastani, Craig Murray, Alex Tiffin, Nadeem Ahmed, Jimmy Lacey and the MP, Chris Williamson, also sent Tweets wondering what the Guardian thought it was doing, alienating its left-wing readers when nobody on the right reads it. They deplored its political coverage, and said that while Britain needs a left-wing paper, it seems increasingly irrelevant. They also pointed out that it was Neoconservative and had done its level best to damage Corbyn and the Labour party, especially by running stories linking them to anti-Semitism.

Mike makes the point that the tweets attacking the rag’s attacks on the Labour party would have received far less attention if the hacks had kept their mouths shuts and their mitts away from the keyboard. He goes on to say that it’s not clear what will happen next. He concludes

It is possible that the Establishment will try to hush up the fact that there has been a huge protest against what can be seen as a clear example of racism by mostly white, middle-class university-graduate journalists.

If that happens, we’ll just have to run another campaign – bigger, louder, and impossible to ignore. Repression always incites rebellion.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/28/journalists-outrage-at-canary-editors-speech-invitation-leads-to-boycott-the-guardian-campaign/

Despite its reputation, the Groaniad isn’t a far left rag. In at least seven elections since the 1970s, the newspaper has urged its readers to vote Liberal/Liberal-SDP Alliance/Lib-Dem. The last time they did so was in 2010, and the result was the disgusting coalition between the Lib-Dems and the Tories. And they do seem to have a very strong Neocon bias. There have been articles in Lobster pointing out that the newspaper has a very long history of supporting Zionism and Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. And I have a very strong suspicion that they, or some of their journalists, were also busy writing articles defending and promoting Blair’s wars in the Middle East. From a left-wing point of view, of course.

They’re also massive hypocrites when it comes to the use of unpaid, intern labour. They got into Private Eye several times a few years ago because they published articles attacking the use of unpaid interns by big companies, while at the same time they were the newspaper that most extensively exploited such unpaid aspiring journalists.

Quite why they should take it upon themselves to decry Mendoza’s invitation to give this year’s Claudia Jone’s lecture is a mystery to me. I have no idea why they think it is any business of theirs, but there seems to be more than an attitude of entitlement, as if they feel that as one of the country’s leading left-wing papers, they somehow have some kind of right to decide who gets to speak on issues like this. It seems very strongly to me that they feel threatened not just by Mendoza herself, but also by what she represents. The Guardian, like the rest of the national papers, is losing readers and money. Private Eye has reported in its ‘Street of Shame’ column several times that the Guardian Media Group is at least tens of millions in debt. I think the real figure may even be over a hundred million.

By contrast, people are increasingly turning to the internet for their news and information. Mendoza’s invitation to speak shows just how influential the Canary has become, and, by implication, the new left media of which it, and Vox Political, are a part. The Guardian, like the lamestream media generally, is losing its audience and its influence. The previous editor, Alan Rusbridger, used to speak regularly at political gatherings and events. It seems that the people at the Groan felt that it should have been someone from their paper, or who at least worked in print and shared the lamestream media’s bias. And it really couldn’t tolerate that the Black Members’ Council had chosen someone different. Someone from outside. Hence the tantrum about Mendoza being invited to speak.

I’ve only heard her on the radio and TV, but she came across very strongly as an excellent speaker with a keen, critical intelligence, able to dismantle and rebut the arguments and lies of the right. I have absolutely no doubt that she is an excellent choice of speaker, and wish her all the best.

Chapo Trap House Presents: The Funny Pages

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 28/09/2018 - 5:00pm in


The hosts of the Chapo Trap House podcast imagine your local comics section at some seminal events in the history of US Imperialism.

Jeremy Corbyn: Labour In Office Would Recognise a Palestinian State

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/09/2018 - 12:34am in

This is a very short clip from RT of Corbyn’s speech, in which he states that if Labour gets into power, they will recognize a Palestinian state.

He begins by saying that a quarter of a century on from the Oslo Accords, we are no closer to justice or peace and the Palestinian tragedy continues while the outside world stands by, as his late Israeli friend, Uri Avnery, who sadly died a short while ago put it to him, ‘What is the alternative to peace? A catastrophe for both peoples’. And in order to help make that two-state settlement a reality, Labour will recognize a Palestinian state as soon as it takes office.

This will really set the cat amongst the pigeons, as it raises all kinds of questions that will be extremely difficult to answer, and which will be vociferously and acrimoniously attacked by the Israel lobby.

It’s clear that Israel has not intention of giving up their illegal settlements, whatever noises they, Joan Ryan and the rest of the Zionists may make about supporting a two-state solution. When someone broached the issue a little while away, Israel loudly denounced any suggestion, claiming it was anti-Semitic and compared it to the Jews being forced out of Nazi Germany. At the same time, I cannot see any possibility that the settlers themselves will submit to majority Palestinian rule. It seems to me that if a Palestinian state ever did become a reality, with Palestinian autonomy, the settlers and Israelis would immediately try to dismember it, just as the Serbs and Croats wanted to dismember Bosnia during the war in the former Yugoslavia.

And without effective rule over all the currently occupied territories and Gaza, Palestinian autonomy becomes a dead letter. That’s why the Oslo Accords have not brought peace. They set up a Palestinian Authority, but effectively Palestine is still occupied and governed under military rule by the Israelis.

Nevertheless, all Labour has done is simply take Israel at its word of wanting a two-state solution to the issue of the Palestinians. He’s called their bluff, although he probably isn’t so cynical that he sees it like that. The ball is now effectively in their court about what they will do to support a two-state solution.

But as the smearing of Jean Fitzpatrick by Joan Ryan of Labour Friends of Israel shows, the Israelis and the Israel lobby have no real solution and aren’t really interested in a two-state solution apart from its value as a rhetorical device. Fitzpatrick asked Ryan about the settlements. Ryan couldn’t answer, got embarrassed, and seized on another remark Fitzpatrick had made, which she then proceeded to misremember. And then she smeared Fitzpatrick as anti-Semite.

Israel and its lobby won’t have any answers to Corbyn either. Watch them now start and intensify the smearing and hysterical false accusations again.

US Power and the New Course Towards War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/09/2018 - 9:57pm in

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China, imperialism, War

image/jpeg iconus-china.jpg

We live, and have been living, in an epoch of capitalist decadence. Notwithstanding longer life expectancy, technological advance, and the claims of its defenders, the capitalist system is incapable of addressing existential questions such as the destruction of the environment via man-made climate change. After all, to do so would get in the way of making profits. Short-term expediency portends long term disaster.

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Eisenhower’s Speech Warning about the Military Industry Complex

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/09/2018 - 2:58am in

This short video from RT, posted on YouTube, was under the title ‘Speeches that Still Matter’. It’s American president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech of January 17th, 1961, warning America about the threat posed by an unrestrained military-industrial complex.

After a few words about the structure of society at the beginning of the snippet, Eisenhower declares

We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It has become one of the classic speeches in modern American history, and is referred to whenever activists and politicians criticize the military-industrial complex. Because since Eisenhower’s time, it has grown and seized power. The American military machine and armaments industry sponsors American politicians, and generals, senior civil servants and politicians frequently take up positions on the boards of armaments firms after their military or political career has ended. And the American government gives billions, if not trillions to its weapons manufacturers and armed forces.

I’ve read left-wing analyses of this situation which suggest that this is a deliberate policy of the American government to stimulate the economy. It’s a form of Keynsianism, but as the right-wing ideology of free trade and laissez-faire prevents the government from openly stimulating the economy through public works projects and a proper welfare support network that allows the poor enough to purchase the goods and services they need, which will also stimulate production and industrial growth, the only way the government can actually do so is by giving more and more money to the arms industry.

And all those planes, tanks, ships, missiles, guns and bombs have to be used.

The result is endless war in which small countries in the Developing World are invaded and their leaders toppled, their industries and economies plundered and seized by American multinationals, and Fascist dictators or sham democracies are installed instead. All in the name of giving more profits to the military machine. If you want an example, think of the close connections between the Bush family and the massive industrial conglomerate Haliburton.

When Martin Luther King said in one of his speeches that America was the chief exporter of violence in the world today, he had a point. And our government under the Tories and Blair has been no better. Blair lied to us to get the support of the British public for the Iraq invasion. Maggie Thatcher promoted British arms exports, as did Blair, as did Cameron, drooling all over the ‘wonderful kit’ produced in that BAE factory in Lancashire.

And all the while ordinary people have seen services cut and the infrastructure of countries – roads, railways and so on – left to decay by the profiteering firms that should be maintaining and building them. There are cuts to public services and even more attacks on welfare payments, all in the name of ‘austerity’, ‘making work pay’ and the other lies and buzzwords used by the right to justify their impoverishment and victimization of the poor. And this is done to give massive tax cuts to the already bloated rich.

It’s high time this was stopped, the military-industrial complex reigned in, the wars for their profits ended, and the government invested instead in proper economic growth, domestic industries, infrastructure, public services, a proper welfare state and medical care, and giving working people a proper, living wage.

On Plato and Kant and War-Conduct

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/09/2018 - 5:21pm in

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War

[I]f we are at all concerned to preserve friendly relations with the other Greeks. Rather we shall fear that there is pollution in bringing such offerings to the temples from our kind unless in a case where the god bids otherwise...And in the matter of devastating the land of Greeks and burning their houses, how will your soldiers deal with their enemies...In my view,...they ought to do neither, but confine themselves to taking away the annual harvest...In my opinion, just as we have the two terms, war and faction, so there are also two things, distinguished by two differentiae. The two things I mean are the friendly and kindred on the one hand and the alien and foreign on the other. Now the term employed for the hostility of the friendly is faction, and for that of the alien is war...Consider, then, if this goes to the mark. I affirm that the Hellenic race is friendly to itself and akin, and foreign and alien to the barbarian...We shall then say that Greeks fight and wage war with barbarians, and barbarians with Greeks, and are enemies by nature, and that war is the fit name for this enmity and hatred. Greeks, however, we shall say, are still by nature the friends of Greeks when they act in this way, but that Greece is sick in that case and divided by faction, and faction is the name we must give to that enmity...Then observe,” said I, “that when anything of this sort occurs in faction, as the word is now used, and a state is divided against itself, if either party devastates the land and burns the houses of the other such factional strife is thought to be an accursed thing and neither party to be true patriots. Otherwise, they would never have endured thus to outrage their nurse and mother. But the moderate and reasonable thing is thought to be that the victors shall take away the crops of the vanquished, but that their temper shall be that of men who expect to be reconciled and not always to wage war.” “That way of feeling,” he said, “is far less savage than the other.” “Well, then,” said I, “is not the city that you are founding to be a Greek city?” “It must be,” he said. “Will they then not be good and gentle?” “Indeed they will.” “And won't they be philhellenes, lovers of Greeks, and will they not regard all Greece as their own and not renounce their part in the holy places common to all Greeks ?” “Most certainly.” “Will they not then regard any difference with Greeks who are their own people as a form of faction and refuse even to speak of it as war?” “Most certainly.” “And they will conduct their quarrels always looking forward to a reconciliation?” “By all means.” “They will correct them, then, for their own good, not chastising them with a view to their enslavement or their destruction, but acting as correctors, not as enemies....They will not, being Greeks, ravage Greek territory nor burn habitations, and they will not admit that in any city all the population are their enemies, men, women and children, but will say that only a few at any time are their foes, those, namely, who are to blame for the quarrel. And on all these considerations they will not be willing to lay waste the soil, since the majority are their friends, nor to destroy the houses, but will carry the conflict only to the point of compelling the guilty to do justice by the pressure of the suffering of the innocent.” “I,” he said, “agree that our citizens ought to deal with their Greek opponents on this wise, while treating barbarians as Greeks now treat Greeks.” “Shall we lay down this law also, then, for our guardians that they are not to lay waste the land or burn the houses?” Plato, Republic, Book 5 470-1, Translated by Paul Shorey.

In Context Socrates and Glaucon are discussing the Guardians's behavior toward foreign enemies. Socrates anticipates here an argument that I think of the less dominant strain in Kant's Toward Perpetual Peace: (recall) a kind of argument from enlightened self-interest to the conclusion that one must be willing to restrict voluntarily one's conduct in war. The enlightened self-interest of restraint in war, makes possible decent relations after war. And, in fact, Socrates anticipates a key point of Kant's that the way one conducts oneself in way is a means toward looking forward to a reconciliation. For, conduct in war is a signal toward the kind of outcome one (is willing to) foresee(s).

Now, in my piece on Kant's Toward Perpetual Peace, I noted that there is a more dominant strain of argument (clearly indebted to Hobbes) in Kant's work: to take Hobbes's idea that the very point of a state is to escape from the state of nature seriously and to adhere to that even in the conduct of war (and so to prepare a durable escape from the state of nature). That conduct in war (say of the stronger party), can become self-undermining because it facilitates an outcome which is a permanent state of nature. 

Socrates also anticipates the spirit of this second Hobbesian argument. (I say 'spirit' because in context he is not connecting the argument to a social contract.) But he does so in terms of a principled distinction between self and other, or a version of would-be-friends and would-be-permanent-enemies (along what we would call civilizational, ethnic, religious, or even nationalist lines). And hostilities among one's own are for Socrates really a form of civil war, which undermines the whole point of having a state. That is, Socrates comes extremely close to treating intra-Greek war as undermining the very rationale of the polity.

The last sentence of the last paragraph is probably too speculative for most. But notice that Socrates quietly inserts a useful myth (one that anticipates a Kantian position), which Plato's readers know can barely sustain scrutiny even if it appeals to a self-conception that one may wish to have about one's fellow citizens: that the wars among the Greeks are always and everywhere caused by minority factions (who have a self-interest in war) and that the majority of each polity wishes to have friendly relations with others.* The last comment by Glaucon quoted above suggests that in reality Greeks are savage with each other. And in Book VI, when discussing the greatest corruption of would be philosophers in a democracy at say 494ff, Socrates makes clear that moderation is incompatible with nearly all political life. So, what I am calling Socrates' myth is a normative idea (would the world be like that the majority of wars are caused by minority factions.)

I have mentioned Hobbes and Kant a few times already, because Socrates assumes that relations between Greeks and non-Greeks is one of permanent would be enmity (the Hobbesian state of nature). And while I am not claiming that Socrates anticipates Machiavelli's dream of national (Italian) unification (recall), it is notable for Socrates the relationships among Greeks should be governed by an ideal of fraternity (470A).+

Socrates and Plato are often treated as idealist who demand a reform of human nature and peddle unattainable ideals (and (recall) one sees comments to this effect in, say, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Hume, and Kant--sometimes More's Utopia is the target sometimes Plato). One can understand the charge when one focuses on the internal order of Kallipolis. (The previous sentence leaves open that the charge is mistaken.) But once international relations are brought into the picture a more distressing (or realist) feature of Socrates's analysis emerges: if there are would-be-permanent enemies, this entails that (preparation for) strife is permanent.

*That we're in the realm of wishful thinking is clear from the assumption that the winning side in a way tends to be the innocent side.

+Socrates does not mention the possibility of confederation, but there would have been conceptual space for him to do so here.

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