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April 29, 2009

Living in Small, Weak Countries

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

For as long as I can remember, the United States has been a large, strong country.

At the time of World War 2 our major enemies, in combination, outnumbered us in terms of population if not in productivity. And of course we had allies. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union also had the demographic advantage even without factoring in China. Again, we had productivity and allies to redress the balance.

But for the last 20 years or so, we have been supreme.

In some respects, living in the USA is similar to what it was like in the heydays of Imperial China, and the Roman and British empires -- though we are not an empire of the classical 19th century variety, nor of the Roman or Chinese kinds.

I find that being an American is just fine, thank you; we are indeed fortunate.

But what about the rest of the world? What is the psychology of being a citizen of a country that isn't top dog? I haven't the slightest idea.

To simplify, I'll set aside flyspeck island countries or tiny continental states such as Andorra, Lichtenstein and San Marino. Ditto African hell-holes and banana republics.

What if you're a citizen of the likes of Uruguay, Lithuania, Greece, Belgium or Nepal? Your country isn't nothing, but larger and (at times) hostile neighbors are always present, implicit threats to your country's existence.

So how do you view your country and the world around you? Probably not like an American would.



posted by Donald at April 29, 2009


We may be about to find out what it's like to live in a smaller, not as powerful country.

Thanks to large scale immigration, multiculturalism, and our poltical elites' transnational or even post-American attitudes, the bonds that keep us together are getting weaker and weaker. I don't see how we continue as a nation-state, especially if larger and larger portions of the population come to view themselves through a prism of ethnicity and/or accredited victim group status.

I think our future holds a sort of "soft partitioning" and eventually a (hopefully non-violent) splitting up into 2 or 3 or more smaller, more homogenous entities. Each will have its good points and bad points, and there might even be some remaining ties such as a common currency. But as we become more "diverse" and the government imposes more and more laws to minimize the infighting and ensure an equitable distribution of the spoils, at some point a large enough group of people will decide they don't want to play along anymore and attempt to break off.

Posted by: Sgt. Joe Friday on April 29, 2009 1:21 PM

Belgium has neighbors that are a threat? Like who? Germany?

All Godwin references aside, I really doubt any Belgians are in fear of invasion.

Posted by: Usually Lurking on April 29, 2009 2:18 PM

Usually Lurking -- I didn't say that Belgium was currently threatened (re-read my exquisitely Clintonesque sentence). I had in mind the unpleasantness of August 1914 and May 1940 when I mentioned Belgium. And who's to say something like that can't happen again a hundred years from now?

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on April 29, 2009 3:30 PM

What I find interesting is how often American's *underestimate* the commercial advantage of being from a powerful, dominant country.

There is certainly a large cost to being "the world's policeman", especially recently. But there's little thought to how many contracts Amercian companies win simply by being from America.

It's the same psychology that makes people buy a major brand. There's a sense of trust that simply by virtue of its size and power, nothing that bad can happen to America (and if it does, the rest of the world is *really* toast).

This is of incalculable value and is something that Americans rarely recognize.

Sadly, the converse is also true. Many foreigners recognize the special treatment given to American companies without recognizing the enormous cost that goes into maintaining that status.

Posted by: Tom West on April 29, 2009 4:56 PM

I was just talking with my father about what life must have been like for his grandfather, who emigrated here from Lithuania in the early 20th century (and then eventually went back, finding he never fit in here. My dad's father stayed, though.)

Dad said that his older Lithuanian relatives were hard people - tough, very frugal, very "realistic" about life. You got what you could get when you could get it and you pinched a penny and you didn't let anyone get one over on you. He theorized it came from living in a small country that was regularly developed a sort of traumatized, abused national psyche that was basically pessimistic and survival-oriented.

My intuition is that that's where we're headed. The whole egalitarian/diversity/civil rights thing has only been possibly because America was so incredibly successful, so rich and powerful, orders of magnitude beyond its enemies, that the white men who ran the country could afford to let down their guard and listen to arguments about how blacks, Indians, women, gays, and so on ought to be given benefits they couldn't earn or take for themselves. So white men bought the arguments for civil rights and thus, like white South Africans, will find themselves in the minority in the country of their forefathers. Then the standard of living and the long-standing peace in the American homeland will degenerate and I suspect all the noble and flowery ideas about equality and non-discrimination will be seen for the luxuries that they are. I suspect that the grandsons of children now alive will scoff when they think back to the weak pantiwaists that their grandparents' generation was, giving away a rich country and leaving their descendents with poverty and war.

Posted by: Mark on April 29, 2009 5:08 PM

the white men who ran the country could afford to let down their guard and listen to arguments

Right. Arguments made by other white men. Or rather a subset of white men, disproportionately concentrated in a particular group. They successfully installed a version of their standard "divide n' conquer" software in the heads of everyone here, as they have in so many places in the world.

SWPLs are told to hate lower class whites by Tim Wise because they're "racist". And poor whites are told to hate the "rich" by Thomas Frank.

Young men are encouraged by Lior Cohen to gravitate towards the chaotic black anomic violence of rap, whose message is to destroy your civilization and women rather than to protect them.

And young women are taught by Linda Hisrchman and Gloria Steinem to distrust men as rapers, abusers, and sexists...and thus to liberate themselves -- from family, from childbearing, from society and ultimately from happiness itself.

And so it goes.

Posted by: asdf on April 29, 2009 5:21 PM

The future US will be acted upon by foreign powers. That is foreign to us.

I do derive some dark amusement from thinking about a future situation when Tom West, Chris White, and all their NGO friends are suddenly out of money. They managed to win, to kill or tax or mix the poor, racist kulaks into oblivion -- the poor, racist kulaks who powered the USG which they hated so much.

And now it's rather bankrupt, and foreigners -- say, Chinese -- are funded by Chinese interests to come and meddle with them. Bwahahaha. Can you imagine it? "Free Tibet...I mean Alabama! The Dalai George Wallace is being attacked by imperialist USG forces!"

Posted by: asdf on April 29, 2009 5:29 PM

I have some considerable experience with one of the countries you name. What surprises me is the amount of self-hatred and despair that young people express about their countries. There is an almost total lack of ambition beyond getting a do-nothing, secure government job. It really is depressing.

Posted by: thaprof on April 29, 2009 5:32 PM

1) The U.S. during WW II was larger and more populous than any of the Axis nations - more people (132M) than Germany (84M) and Italy (45M) combined.

2) Another reason Americans have relatively little feeling for life in a small country is that our chief outside cultural source is Britain - a dominant power for most of its history, and even today a relatively large and powerful country. More anglophone culture comes from the Dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) whose view of the world was as parts of the mighty British Empire.

Ireland is a major anglophone cultural source and has a different experience, of course. But Ireland's recent history is that they saw off the British and aren't in the least worried they might come back.

Of course in general, small nations are small presences in world culture, and isolated by language from large audiences. (Spanish and Arabic are the only two languages that are widely spoken in small countries.) Germany, Russia, and France we hear from: but they're not small. Georgia, Finland, Hungary, Cambodia: no one else speaks their language.

I'm not sure the idea of bigger neighbors as existential threats is very widespread. Latin American borders have been remarkably stable for a long time, considering. Some borders in Europe, likewise. What does spawn worry is that the Big Boy next door may make demands or intrude in some irresistible way.

Mark: "civil rights" = "benefits they couldn't earn or take for themselves"??? Civil rights means letting all people have what they earn, not stealing from some people for the benefit of some hereditary elite. And not giving anyone more rights and privileges because of who their parents were. No white child "earned" or "took" the right to vote; they were born with it.

(None of which justifies the present diversitocratic tyranny.)

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on April 29, 2009 6:38 PM

Rich -- Remember we were fighting in the Pacific as well. So toss 73 million Japanese into the pot.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on April 29, 2009 6:46 PM

Of course three of the smaller countries mentioned in the original post, Belgium, Greece and Lithuania, are part of the European Union and therefore not the same as unaffiliated smaller countries.

Posted by: Peter on April 29, 2009 9:17 PM

So how do you view your country and the world around you? Probably not like an American would.

But like an American will, after a few more years of open borders, borrow-and-spend, and concentration of power in a globalist elite to whom mere citizens are an annoyance.

Posted by: Rick Darby on April 30, 2009 10:07 AM

It's more about having nasty neighbors, I think. Look at the Poles: anti-Semitic and paranoid, but how'd you like to have Germany and Russia as your neighbors? Not to mention having your country split in 3 by Prussia, Austria, and Russia after they conspired to put a wimpy king on the throne... Can you imagine what kind of national traumas might make a country *want* a foreign power's missiles within their borders?

Posted by: SFG on April 30, 2009 7:56 PM

Peter: Iffy. Most of these countries have long histories of being bothered by everyone on either side. And, realistically, Lithuania is next to the Rooskies; do they think if Russia starts rumbling, the US is going to risk nuclear war to save their butts? Greece is probably a little safer given their symbolic position as the birthplace of Western culture, but if Turkey becomes a regional power that might not save them.

Belgium...well, the country might split in two, but I suspect apart from a lot of signs being changed nothing bad will happen. Western Europe doesn't do the war thing anymore. After WWII you kind of can't blame them.

Posted by: SFG on April 30, 2009 8:11 PM

Living in a small country surrounded by larger and hostile countries (Israel in my case) can be stimulating. Our situation imposes on us discipline and purpose. I look at American youth and feel that many are living empty, aimless, meaningless lives.

Posted by: j on May 1, 2009 12:44 AM

Don: yes, we were fighting Japan, too. But before Japan attacked us, they were already at war with China, and they also attacked the British Empire. So it is really kind of bogus to say that the Axis populations outnumbered the U.S. in any way.

Actually, in retrospect WW II seems rather predetermined: a group of second-tier powers (in population, resources, industry and land area) took on the three biggest powers. At no time did the Axis control more than a small fraction of the world - actually two disconnected fragments in an overwhelmingly Allied world. Look at a world map during the war and it's pretty clear - even if the map gives French West Africa an Axis tint.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on May 1, 2009 1:19 AM

Look at the Poles: anti-Semitic and paranoid

Might be worth talking to some Polish Holocaust survivors.

Polish women's accounts of Jewish men focus on the period immediately following the Soviet invasion: they condemn Jewish men for welcoming the Red Army, serving in Bolshevik militias, replacing Polish administrators, denouncing their Polish neighbors, and assisting the NKVD in the arrest and deportation of Poles.


Polish men also accuse the Jews of welcoming the Red Army into Poland and serving the new regime there. They state that, full of hatred, the Jews criticized Poland, instigated fights with Poles in prison, and allegedly collaborated with the NKVD, informing on Poles and taking positions of authority in the camps, serving the Soviets with enthusiasm.

This is, as you know, concordant with Yuri Slezkine's account of active collaboration with the NKVD.

Posted by: asdf on May 1, 2009 2:33 AM

Small countries are actual countries, unlike larger countries, which tend to be a hodgepodge of different ethnicities.
But then you'd have to define "small country", because by American standards most countries turn out to be small.
To me, the real difference is between homogeneous and heterogeneous countries, in a cultural and racial sense.

Posted by: Proofreader on May 1, 2009 7:04 AM

The Jews...instigated fights with Poles in prison...

Those darn Jews! Why don't they pick on somebody their own size? Obviously they generated the myth of the Holocaust to cover up all those fistfights they were instigating.

"But they murdered six million of us." Man, how many times have you heard that excuse to justify getting into a fight with somebody?

Wears thin, people! It wears thin! Might want to update that schtick there!

Just speaking as an admirer of the most successful Darwinian social in-group maximal strategists ever.

Kevin McD

P.S. What do Karl Marx and Albert Einstein have in common? They both have beards, except for Einstein. Hah! Don't you just love Jewish humor?

Posted by: Kevin McD on May 1, 2009 11:04 AM

"But they murdered six million of us." Man, how many times have you heard that excuse to justify getting into a fight with somebody?

Quite a lot actually.

Since the end of World War II, the accepted narrative of Jewish history has been a simple, linear one: from Holocaust to redemption; Israel as the retort to Auschwitz. In a deeper sense, the post-Holocaust era brought with it a new mission for the chosen people — to bear witness to the horrors of genocide, to see to it that memory would be preserved and that never again would such horrors be permitted. For the past 60 years, Jews everywhere have seen the rise from the ashes of a reborn Jewish state as the symbolic and physical embodiment of that mission. For most of us, remembering the Holocaust and cherishing Israel have been the two interlocking pillars of modern Jewish identity.

Overall this is the first of a series of predictable retorts. First the mocking: "where's my check from the conspiracy". Then the accusations that one thinks they are "superhuman". Then the appeals to the site owner to shut down the conversation. Then the attacks on the site owner himself, should he refuse. If that doesn't settle the issue, ADL organized media campaigns and boycotts. Next come fines and imprisonment for hate speech. The final solution is targeted assassination from the Mossad's Metsada division.

It'd be fine with me if they simply focused their activities on Muslims -- but Jorg Haider died at a very convenient time, for example.

Posted by: asdf on May 1, 2009 1:57 PM

The final solution is targeted assassination from the Mossad's Metsada division.

I wish you were joking about this. But you're not. You really do think this, don't you?

Posted by: PatrickH on May 1, 2009 3:02 PM

PatrickH: I didn't believe it myself till recently. Google the Lavon affair to see the kinds of games we're talking about. And then imagine how much has never been made public.

Michael Corleone: My father is an important man, like a president or senator.
Kay Corleone: Don't be so naive Michael, presidents don't order people to be killed!
Michael Corleone: Oh? Who's being naive now, Kay?

Posted by: asdf on May 1, 2009 5:32 PM


-- has the Mossad ever assassinated anyone?
-- if so, have some of them been nationals of other countries?
-- if so, do you think any Israeli PM in his right mind would let a xenophobic Austrian politician with an anti-Semitic history and a name like H****er come to power?

Bonus: even if he survived, if he claimed it was an assassination attempt he would have been "paranoid".

Posted by: asdf on May 1, 2009 5:39 PM

The Lavon Affair refers to the scandal over a failed Israeli covert operation in Egypt known as Operation Susannah, in which Israeli military intelligence planted bombs in Egyptian, American and British-owned targets in Egypt in the summer of 1954 in the hopes that "the Muslim Brotherhood, the Communists, 'unspecified malcontents' or 'local nationalists'" would be blamed.[1] It became known as the Lavon Affair after the Israeli defense minister Pinhas Lavon, who was forced to resign because of the incident, or euphemistically as the Unfortunate Affair (Hebrew: העסק הביש‎, HaEsek HaBish). Egypt retaliated against its Jewish community. The spies acted seemingly without Prime Minister Moshe Sharett's knowledge, and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion would later resign from his post after being unable to get the full investigation he insisted on.[2] Israel admitted responsibility in 2005 when Israeli President Moshe Katzav honored the nine Egyptian Jewish agents who were involved.[3]

Posted by: asdf on May 1, 2009 11:25 PM

Here's the full quote:

Michael Corleone: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.

Kay Adams: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don't have men killed.

Michael: Oh. Who's being naive, Kay?

Posted by: asdf on May 1, 2009 11:28 PM

If you are an Andorran you feel powerful, and counted, much more powerful and much more of a somebody that a nobody powerless armed-up-the-nose American - to be an American is what...? To be an anonymous creep addicted to money? To be a christian bigot? To be a crazy war-monger? Who can be proud of being a disgraceful bully!

An Andorran on the other hand knows he belongs to a millennarian race of Pyrenean peoples, and an Andorran speaks Catalonian, the most beautiful language in the world.

Don't count out anybody. And what can it be that you call "hellholes"?

Have you not been in any hellhole in America? Have you been in certain suburbs? Have you been in Las Vegas? In the freaking bible belt? In the gang-riddled neighborhoods of Los Angeles?

Give me a break. And give one yourself, "ugly Amerdican"... Remember maybe... Pride before the fall, etc.

Posted by: marc aureli vallbona on May 3, 2009 12:09 PM

To simplify, I'll set aside flyspeck island countries or tiny continental states such as Andorra, Lichtenstein and San Marino. Ditto African hell-holes and banana republics.

I know you probably think chances are that an African would be reading your blog are nil but still...given that you don't write frequently about African countries, it does not take much not to sound dismissive and derogatory the few times you mention the region.

Maybe being from a large, powerful country makes one oblivious to sensitivities of others in less fortunate countries? :)

Posted by: K.N. on May 4, 2009 5:42 PM

K.N.: I'm sure you love your country, whichever one that is (does 'K.N.'= 'Kenya Native'? Well, whatever.), but most of us here in the First World see your continent's lack of democracy (with some exceptions), its extreme poverty, and strife-riven, war-torn state, and overall, general state of being a place of great human suffering, as a hell on Earth. Seems to me that you personally must be reasonably well off to (a) afford online access and (b) get all sensitive about, and take issue with, what is really a conversation between First Worlders, and none of your bloody business. In which case, if you don't like that we think of most of your countries as hell-holes, then get off your chair and do something about that; change them. But don't blame us for recognizing reality as it is.

Posted by: anon on May 5, 2009 1:50 PM

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