Top 100 Hits Flow from the Barrel of a Gun


Jim Henley has exactly the right response to this musty 1998 New Republic article by Eliot Cohen, specifically this bit:

One cannot separate the so-called "soft power" of the United States–the global dominance of its culture, beginning with its language–from its military strength.

Rock fans around the world listen in English; so do fighter pilots.

Quoth Henley:

Cohen tries to make a nigh-Riemannian parallelism do the work of argument. He wants you to think that if we had fewer bombers, the kidz would be listening to Chinese rappers, or maybe Islamofascist ones. Curiously, the era when American (and British) bands started dominating global culture was the heyday of Team B, who insisted that the Communist bloc had the beleaguered West utterly outclassed militarily. Those where the days when a sequence of red and blue bar graphs could bring the insecure American a parapornographic thrill of doom. Look how tall the red bar is on the tanks graph! The missile graph! The fighter plane graph! "What did you scare yourself with before 'dhimmitude,' Grandpa?" "Commitude, children!"

This is funny, and it explores one of the tropes of the "the Islamofascists/Chinese are coming!" crowd.  They believe free markets are great, yes; democracy is great, Western civilization is great (Not all of them are on board for this last bit: I see you, Dinesh.). These are not just great things, but reasons why our civilization is superior, why the rest of the world aspires to be more American (or at least more European). Yet somehow the Islamofacists (or Chinese), whose societies are hot for our markets and our culture, are going to wipe all of this away unless we kill them or isolate them.

(Via Yglesias, who has smarter comments and smart commenters.)