Compendium #2

This site is not the only place to find my writing; I have been published at numerous other outlets across the web. In this recurring series, I’ll post some choice passages from these outside pieces and show you where to find the rest. Think of this as a mere tasting of the full smorgasbord. Without further ado, here’s Compendium #2, covering mid-April through early May 2023.

Hollywood Morphs The Incredible Story Of ‘Chevalier’ Into A Blah Black-Oppression Romance, The Federalist, April 26, 2023

In this piece for The Federalist, I reviewed the film Chevalier, a biopic of the 18th century composer/fencer/revolutionary Joseph Bologne, better known as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. I broke down how the film distorts the incredible real-life story of Bologne in service of a modern progressive narrative.

Saint-Georges was a charming ladies’ man, a virtuoso violinist, and friends with luminous contemporaries ranging from Queen Marie Antoinette and Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans (later known as Philippe Égalité) to the composers Salieri, Gluck, and Grétry. He conducted operas and networked with early abolitionists such as William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson. French revolutionaries incarcerated him as a political dissident for 18 months.

Saint-Georges did all this in little more than 50 years of life, all while navigating his complicated racial identity, as he was born to a noble white planter father and an enslaved black mother in 1700s France.

Given the rich source material, this should have been a cinematic layup. Unfortunately, the film air-balled. For anyone familiar with his life’s genuine chronology, the errors destroyed the ability to suspend disbelief. And the contrived plot points cheapened the uniqueness of the chevalier’s actual story and its less-than-perfect end.  

Read the rest HERE.

Open Oceans or Shuttered Seas?, Providence Magazine, April 28, 2023

In this essay for Providence Magazine, I detailed the long history of the mare liberum, or free sea, from Hugo Grotius to Alfred Thayer Mahan and beyond, relating it to the challenge China poses to the US-led world system. The piece tours the maritime world, hitting on China’s interest in seaborne chokepoints on nearly every continent and the threats they pose.

In 1609 the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius penned Mare Liberum (Freedom of the Seas), where he argued that the oceans should be a civilizational commons where anyone can travel for purposes of peaceful commerce. His goal was to offer an alternative vision to the mare clausum (closed sea) promulgated by the Portuguese, who sought to monopolize Indian trade to the economic disadvantage of the Netherlands. The idea of the oceans being open and freely navigable would, like so much of Grotius’s thought, live on long beyond his age.

The mare liberum would be enforced by the naval might of the British Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries, driving an era of increasing global connection, mutual commerce, and prosperity. Merchant vessels from across the world could ply their trade in exotic ports and the laying of undersea cables made communication exponentially faster than ever before. Even so, the idea of free seas was not uncontested; nations and non-state actors fought against this regnant maritime ideology, trying to close territorial waters, impede commercial rivals, or simply hijack goods for profit. These challenges could only be deterred by force, usually supplied by a sovereign state.

Read the rest HERE.

Lula’s Authoritarian Fetish, National Review, April 30, 2023

In this piece for National Review, I delve into the policy of Brazil’s president Lula and his presentation by the Biden administration as a paragon of democratic values. Unfortunately, the reality is far more sinister; Lula has more in common with the authoritarians he claims to oppose than he does with democratic politicians.

Since his inauguration, Lula has been praised, by friendly media and politicians in the United States, as a key cog in the worldwide struggle against authoritarian politics. In “Lula’s Plan: A Global Battle against Trumpism,” a recent puff piece in Politico magazine, he is promoted as the leader of an audacious attempt to stand up a worldwide progressive Left against the “extreme conservatives” who already “think of themselves in global terms.” This movement would directly link policy goals across borders, focusing on leftist hobbyhorses such as climate change, unions, “democratic values,” and anti-capitalism.

Of course, the American Left bought this, hook, line, and sinker. President Biden was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Lula after the election, alongside the likes of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro. He was invited to the White House shortly after his inauguration, where the two presidents discussed their goals of democracy promotion and climate action. On that junket, Lula also met with other progressive allies, including Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; yet others, such as Representative Ro Khanna, have been invited on a state visit to Brasília. Progressives outside of government have likewise embraced the Brazilian president. While in Washington, he met with American union leaders, reportedly offering “effusive” praise of Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

This burgeoning friendship between the progressive Left in the two biggest countries in the Western Hemisphere has been heralded as a Biden-administration diplomatic success and a return to the “normalcy” of the pre-Trump years. But the reality could not be more different. In glossing over Lula’s many flaws, Biden and the American Left have empowered a leader who has quite a lot in common with the authoritarians he purportedly opposes. Over the past few months, Lula has reverted to his norm: pivoting to the hard left domestically, using political patronage to aid his corrupt friends, and strengthening ties with anti-American dictators.

Read the rest HERE.

What Does America Owe Its Citizens Abroad?, Providence Magazine, May 4, 2023

In my most recent piece over at Providence, I break down the crisis in Sudan and the lackluster response of the Biden administration to the Americans endangered by the civil strife in that country. Historically, world hegemons have protected their own overseas; I contrast these past approaches to America’s failures in this respect over the past few years.

Since the crisis exploded, this threat has been ramping up. Tragic stories of woe from Khartoum and its environs have been filtering out. Many civilians from Europe and the U.S. are attempting to flee the chaos; their nationality seems to be playing a role in their success in that endeavor. European nations have successfully evacuated their citizens by air, while the United States has essentially said to its citizens that they should make their own plans and should not expect the help of the American government. This is in spite of the fact that we were able to exfiltrate our embassy personnel without incident. At least 16,000 Americans remain in Sudan, many of whom are struggling to escape a rapidly deteriorating situation. Two Americans have already died during this chaos.

The blasé attitude of the Biden administration in this situation has been galling, especially in light of the swift European response. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that “It is not our standard procedure to evacuate American citizens living abroad.” The State Department echoed these remarks, saying that it had reached out to Americans in Sudan with recommendations on “security measures and other precautions they can take on their own.” It also seemed to cast blame on those trapped in Sudan, claiming that the U.S. had warned them in advance. This disinterest in the well-being of Americans abroad is deeply distasteful, but not new.

The Biden administration rolled out this same playbook after its calamitous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Despite initially claiming that only 100 Americans were left in the country after our evacuation, the administration eventually admitted that it had understated this amount significantly. We also left behind nearly 80,000 Afghan allies, abandoning them to hostile Taliban forces. In early April, the Pentagon released a report on the withdrawal, laying the blame entirely on others and claiming that the Saigon-like scenes in Kabul were evidence of a successful airlift. These two events – Sudan and Afghanistan – show a worrying trend in American foreign policy under the Biden administration: a deliberate choice to leave American citizens in the lurch during foreign chaos. This is unbecoming of a hegemonic power, something history demonstrates.

Read the rest HERE.

That’s it for this edition of the Compendium, rounding up my other writing over the past few weeks. I’ll be back later this month with more snippets from my work around the web. If you just can’t sate your curiosity for that long, check out my Twitter, where I post all of my work (and a veritable hodgepodge of other nonsense) as soon as it comes out.


Leave a Reply