Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

A terrible loss

Words fail me at the news of the great Steven den Beste’s death. I’ll content myself with echoing Bill:

In the beginning, the towering figures of the Blogosphere were Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, Charles Johnson, and, perhaps the greatest of the long-form bloggers, Steven Den Beste.

Daily Pundit owes equal credit to Instapundit and the U.S.S. Clueless for its very existence, as both provided primary inspiration for my own comparatively paltry efforts. And though Steven and I fell out and parted ways some years ago, I will miss him terribly.

The Blogosphere has lost some great ones over the years. Steven was one of the greatest.

Thank you so much for everything, Steven. Rest now.

Amen. Just…well, that’s all. For those of you who weren’t around back in those early post 9/11 days (and how quaint that sounds to me now, as if something unforgettable happened that day), den Beste made the case for the West’s proactive self-defense against the hateful savagery of Islam better than just about anybody.

He made the same mistake most of us did back then: assuming that there was something the Moslem world would find irresistibly attractive about Western-style freedom and democracy, something that would pipe them inexorably away from a hideous 7th century barbarism and bring them into the light of modernity.

He was wrong about that; so were we all. The Moslem world preferred to double down on murderous revanchism and the dark, primitive savagery that is the core of their misanthropic pseudo-religion; they turned out to be not just uninterested in any sort of enlightened moderation of their ass-backwards death cult, but actively hostile to it.

Which does not at all indicate any sort of delusion or ignorance on his part, I think. Rather, it speaks to a very human optimism and hopefulness, a granting of the benefit of the doubt that the Moslem world turned out to be unworthy of.

His arguments were always impeccably constructed; his writing was beautifully lucid and engaging. The flaw at their core was the Moslem world’s, not his. In the end, he hoped for more from them than they could live up to. There are exceptions to that, of course, and we can only wish those pitiful few well and hope for the best for them, and try to support and encourage them as and when we can.

In the end, Steven’s writing stands on its own. The Moslem inability to live up to his ambition and hope for them is their failure, not his; it detracts from his stellar work not one whit. One of Bill’s readers has graciously archived the old USS Clueless site here, and if you aren’t one of us old OG farts, you really ought to set aside some time and go dig in. It’s a deep well indeed, and well worth your attention, although there’s way more there than just what we used to call warblogging. It’s a crystal-clear snapshot of a moment in time before we really knew just what kind of darkness we were doomed to struggle against, and as such is enlightening in more ways than I can begin to explain.

Rest easy, Steven. You won’t be forgotten.

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7 thoughts on “A terrible loss

  1. He was indeed, one of the greats. It was his posts that allowed me to understand exactly why we were going to war in Iraq, the kind of effect we were hoping such a crushing defeat would have on the Islamic world. And, you’re right, for the most part, in that the failure was not his, though I would argue that the rules of engagement our troops were forced to fight under, and other policies from both the Bush and Obama administrations, caused the war to go on longer than it should have. The result we see now may still have been inevitable, but those policies arguably hindered the effort.

    Though I don’t know of Steven ever wrote about it, I suspect we relied too strongly on the example of Imperial Japan. The atomic bomb shook their society to its very core, specifically the Emperor himself. Without it, we still would have won, but I’m willing to bet that Japan would not have become the nation it is today without it. In the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we didn’t really have anything comparable. We had overwhelming force, but it was all conventional. We simply would not use nuclear weapons, but even if we had, given the history of Japan, it would not have been as much of a shock as it was in 1945.

    You will be missed Steven den Beste. The world is less bright today with you now absent from it.

  2. He made the same mistake most of us did back then: assuming that there was something the Moslem world would find irresistibly attractive about Western-style freedom and democracy, something that would pipe them inexorably away from a hideous 7th century barbarism and bring them into the light of modernity.

    I think many of us, including Steven, based that on the experience in Japan after WWII. But that meant we also realized we were biting off a multi-decade commitment, and the American people can no longer commit to anything longer than next week, because they’ll be distracted by the next celebrity divorce or sex tape.

    However, in recent years I have started to wonder if the problem isn’t deeper than I realized. A former NYT science writer named Nicholas Wade has an excellent set of books on human genetics, and what we can conclude about history based on them. In the latest book, A Troublesome Inheritance, there’s a lot about how our “trust radius” is partially genetically programmed. That is, how likely we are to trust those outside our immediate family isn’t just a choice; it’s partially an instinct.

    The smallest trust radius is apparently in Africa, with the Middle East Arabs and Persians not much greater. Europeans have the largest trust radius – we routinely trust people we will never meet with our lives. Asians are somewhere in between.

    The hypothesis is that the rise of commerce began an evolutionary change. Those who fit into a commercial world, which requires a larger trust radius, began to out-reproduce those who did not fit. Eventually, the average trust radius got larger, so Europeans went to larger societal units during feudalism, eventually leading to the modern nation state, and eventually to the British-American style open society. (This is, of course, heavily over-simplified. I’m just trying to get you interested in the book.)

    I’d recommend reading Before the Dawn for an introduction to human evolution in the last 50,000 years, and then read A Troublesome Inheritance. The book in between concerns the genetic basis for religion (The Faith Instinct). It’s good, but I think A Troublesome Inheritance is more relevant. By the way, ignore the bad reviews for A Troublesome Inheritance on Amazon. The “race is a social construct and has no genetic basis” idiots turned out in full force to savage the book.

  3. I remember USS Clueless well. Truly some of the best work done anywhere in those years. It was a goto site for me. I remember a bit of a shock when he quit political blogging.

    I never knew anything about Steven Den Beste other than his writings on that site and, peripherally, his interest in anime since he announced the creation of Chizumatic on USS Clueless just before he wrapped up the old site. He sounds like a fine man. A loss to us all, then and now.

    I’m grateful to Cold Fury and other sites of similar vintage for letting us know of his passing.

  4. Both Bill and you have written eloquently of perhaps the first “Great” man, and blogger online

    He wrote with a precision and grace, with a sense of persuasion present in the really great writers.

    But I think, as others have said, the criticism that so came so heavy from his greatly inferior enemies, eventually took its toll. I can’t say it led to his health problems, but perpetual criticism and negativity wear on a body, and soul.
    He believed the best about the worst, but like most westerners, he could not fathom the barbaric evil and hatred that is Islam. Anyone pretending to be a moderate Muslim is a heretic to the faith, according to the Koran.

    Requiescat in pace, Steven.

  5. People forget exactly how badly we worked Imperial Japan over prior to its surrender and how very restrictive the terms of that surrender were. Compare that to our “minimum casualties” approach to Gulf War 2 (Now a Continuing Series!) and our velvet-glove approach to peacekeeping afterwards. If you want to remake a society you have to start by completely destroying the old one, and we went though a lot of pains to avoid that in Iraq.

  6. He made the same mistake most of us did back then…

    At the time, I was the artist known as dipnut. I remember how proud I was of our Iraqi friends when they came out to vote in the first election and defiantly showed their dyed fingers, in spite of the threats and bombings at polling places. I really thought that Iraq was basically a modern nation which just happened to have fallen under the sway of the atrocious dictator Saddam Hussein. A free, stable, prosperous Iraq seemed like a possibility, with him out of the way.

    As it turned out, the Iraqis regarded democracy as just another weapon in their age-old blood feuds. Those happy voters weren’t interested in a civilized, pluralistic society. They were Shiites who wanted to elect a government to put their former Sunni masters up against the wall. Voting was nothing more than the prelude to vengeance. No real regrets about wasting Saddam, but at least that iron-fisted old lunatic could kind of keep a lid on the place.

    We learned our lesson. At least we’ve got that going for us. The antis didn’t learn a damn thing.

    Too bad about Steven. It came as a surprise; I hadn’t heard he was ailing.

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