Author: Sumantra Maitra

‘If I Want to Hold Seminars on the Topic of Empire, I Will Do So Privately’: An Interview with Nigel Biggar

“Crete, unfortunately, made more history than it can consume locally,” Saki once wrote. The same can be said about the University of Oxford. Perhaps England’s last struggling bastion of meritocracy and intellectual hierarchy, Oxford is lately under relentless attack from equity activists trying to install affirmative action, and historical revisionists and ideologues trying to wreck Western canon in the name of ‘decolonization.’ I was invited at Christ Church College to take part in a private and secret colloquium and roundtable (a lot of the participants didn’t want their name and photos out because their careers might be jeopardized), on colonialism and imperialism. The chief speaker was Portland State professor Bruce Gilley, whose article argued that colonialism was much more nuanced than presented in modern Marxist and post-colonial discourses, and was then predictably retracted by Third World Quarterly, after protests by social justice activists. Somewhat similarly, at Oxford, professor Nigel Biggar was targeted immediately after his project “Ethics and Empire” was launched.  The colloquium itself went smoothly without protests perhaps because it was a secret, with …

Balancing Threat in the Middle East

Last month, the BBC asked will Saudi Arabia and Iran go to war? The question is redundant as they are already at war. Iranians are currently engaged in propping up a Shi’ite crescent from Iraq to Syria. The Saudis are blockading Qatar, threatening Lebanon, and bombing Yemen back to the Stone Age. To quote the Prussian general and the sage of warfare, Carl von Clausewitz, “War is merely continuation of state policy by other means.” By that definition, the Saudis and Iranians are already engaged in a vicious struggle for control of the Middle East in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, and Yemen. So what is prompting this hegemonic aspiration from both sides? What are the sources of Iranian and Saudi foreign policy and what prudent options there are for the West to adopt? The prudent question for the West is not whether there will be a land war as such, but what grand strategy the West should follow. Arab-Persian Rivalry or Shia-Sunni Differences? Historically, Persia was a rightful hegemon of the region, since the time of …

Intersectionality and Popper’s Paradox

Conservative rationalist Karl Popper wrote in The Open Society and Its Enemies that “unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.” In a society that tolerates intolerant forces, these forces will eventually take advantage of the situation and bring about the downfall of the entire society. The philosophical foundation of this belief can trace its roots to Plato’s ideas of the republic or Machiavelli’s paradox of ruling by love or fear, and a practical example of this in action is jihadists taking advantage of human rights laws. Nothing should be absolute and without reasonable boundaries, not even freedom. In light of this, there are three observable, identifiable ways in which this latest fad of intersectionality is taking advantage of and destroying the rational enlightenment roots of Western academia from within. The approaches are, namely, infiltration, subversion, and coercion. *** On the face of it, infiltration at first sounds conspiratorial and even counterintuitive. There is, of course, no grand conspiracy or a cabal with a smoke-filled headquarters in the Swiss Alps led by a bald, …

Nationalism, Liberalism and the European Paradox

Imagine for a moment that an ethnic group declared a referendum of independence in an Asian country and the nation state in question promptly sought to take the act of rebellion down. Imagine that in the ensuing chaos over 800 people were injured in a brutal police crackdown. Imagine the international disgust if this had happened in Asia, or the Middle East, or Latin America, or even in parts of Eastern and Central Europe. There would be calls for interventions, the topic would be urgently raised at the Security Council —and there might even be talks of sanctions or the arming of moderate rebels. Of course, nothing of that sort happened as the Spanish state declared the Catalonian independence referendum a farce. Despite threats and coercion, over 2.2 million people voted in the Catalonian referendum—as the Spanish Guardia Civil attempted to crush the protesters—and  clashing with Catalan local police. Of the Catalans who managed to vote, 90% voted for independence. And today, thousands of people took to the streets in nationalist rallies in both Madrid …

The German Election—A Conservative Analysis

The Germans have a word for everything, as they say on this side of the English Channel. The German word, for the leader of opposition is Oppositionsführer, and suddenly in a strange twist of fate seems surprisingly apt. After 60 years of post-Cold war consensus, the far-right is back in German parliament in a poll defying show, scoring 13.5% of the vote. The unlikely Oppositionsführer however, is a lesbian West German single mother, academic and former banker, who is fluent in Mandarin, and whose partner claims Sinhalese heritage. Unusual for a far-right party in Mittel-Europa, whose standard demographic is anti-immigrant, primarily East German males, and who are instinctively opposed to LGBT rights. Germany is a country which takes politics seriously. Chancellor Angela Merkel is an academic herself. So is Alice Weidel, the unlikely star leader of AFD. Yet, for a nation which is so thoroughly qualified and post-modern, and regarded the most stable in Europe, Germany proved once again, that even in 2017, it has not bypassed the golden rule of classical Burkean conservatism. For …

The Brains Trust of Intersectionality

Munroe Bergdorf, a trailblazing transgender model was sacked from L’Oréal after she tried to defend her comment that all white people are racist. In a bizarre rant, she further stated that Western society as a whole is a system rooted in structural racism and white supremacy, and tied herself in proverbial knots, defending the claim that even Heather Heyer (the woman recently murdered protesting racism in Charlottesville) is in fact also a white supremacist. In a simultaneous case, the UK’s Channel 4 interviewed someone, who declares herself an “Islamist anti-colonial feminist” named Nadia Chan. The trouble was, she is also a virulent racist and anti-Semite. In a now deleted segment, which caused heavy backlash as soon as it came out, Nadia said, that Muslims like London mayor Sadiq Khan were equivalent to traitors. When asked, if she would be okay with more Muslim representation she replied she wouldn’t be, as that would mean diluting her identity to appease the British public, her identity, in this case, meaning her religion. These might be two separate and superficially different …

America’s Real Pivot

Trump’s Warsaw speech marks an era defining the rebalancing of Euro-American relations Donald Trump’s speech in Poland, for lack of better words, marks the beginning of a new era in global politics. Speeches change history. Speeches mark the direction a great power is going, a pivot, if you will. That word has become a catchphrase in the last decade, but it can be used for Trump’s Warsaw speech, which marked the solidifying ideological lines of our times. Trump is no great orator. He isn’t linguistically gifted, either due to age, or due to his New York-ish snappy rhetorical style. Notwithstanding those limitations, this speech will possibly go down in history as one of the most important speeches of his presidency. Here’s the full speech in text, for the more academically minded. Everything about the speech was planned pitch perfect. The choice of the venue is Poland, a central European civilizational powerhouse, with immense historical importance. Poland has made cultural contributions and has a scientific legacy that can put any other European country to shame. In …

Is America Heading for a Civil War?

The National Rifle Association’s latest advertisement has been described as a “whisper shy of a call for full civil war“. Dana Loesch, NRA spokesperson, paints a Manichaean picture for U.S. citizens that can only be resolved through the “clenched fist of truth”. If you haven’t seen it, watch it now.   This advertisement comes less than three weeks after an assassination attempt at the Republican Congressional baseball team, carried out by a Bernie Sanders supporter, which some of the Left seemed to tacitly support. The escalating political rhetoric on both sides has led Pat Buchanan to ask openly what some on the American Right have been pondering privately for a while: Is American system broken beyond repair? John Podhoretz agrees there’s a sense that America is descending into chaos. Kevin Williamson blames it on the acceptance of political violence by the Left. This concern isn’t new. A year ago, Ross Douthat also wondered whether American society was unravelling. Is America heading for a civil war, and what would be the global implications of such an event? Only …

A Summer Night, London, 2017

What might take place on a random summer Saturday night in a European capital city? It might be full of armed police rushing to a pub, barking at patrons to lie down immediately, because there’s a possibility of a bomb that might go off. There will be texting to colleagues who work in an area, to ask if they are okay. Friends will call each other advising them to avoid certain “no-go” areas. There will be a constant refreshing of one’s Twitter feed or the feeling of being glued to a news channel if you’re at home. It is BBC writing there’s a “Van incident at a bridge”, a euphemism, of course. But everyone will know what it means, what just happened, and who might be responsible. No one talks about it in civilised circles anymore, and certainly not on the BBC. It is watching a high trust society behave like a war zone. It is police tweeting and asking public to “run, hide and tell”. It is police making hundreds of late night revellers walk in a straight …

“The EU is Essentially a German Empire”: Peter Hitchens on Geopolitics and the Future of Europe

“When the bugles call, the conservative’s instinct is to rally to the tattered…” Tattered what? Was it colours or banners? I was trying to remember the end of this line as I walked towards Café Phillies on Kensington High Street. To my surprise, the venue was unusually full, the average age of the patrons around seventy. I checked my Twitter feed. Macron had won in France and the EU bourgeoisie were predictably ecstatic. I ordered a coffee, took a table next to the door, and waited for Mr. Peter Hitchens. For those too young to remember the birth of this century, the aforementioned quote is from an essay entitled “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” published in The Spectator during the buildup to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. I was eighteen, an idealist, fairly radical (as people usually are at that age) and an admirer of Peter’s elder brother Christopher. In the wake of the 9/11 outrage, there was a widespread feeling that we were on the cusp of a civilisational conflict that would define a generation. It was also the first …