Eunomia · May 2005

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May, 2005.

Germany’s conservative opposition on Monday nominated Angela Merkel, a Protestant minister’s daughter from the formerly communist east, as its challenger to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, giving her the chance to become the country’s first female leader.

Merkel, 50, emerged as favorite to challenge Schroeder after the chancellor called for national elections to be advanced by a year following a shattering state election defeat for his party a week ago.

Merkel, who was greeted by tumultuous applause at the conservatives’ Berlin headquarters, pledged to make her priority tackling Germany’s 12 percent jobless rate — and moved to rebut government charges that she would govern as a “market radical.”

“At the center of my thinking and action will stand ways of creating work for people in Germany,” she said. “We need an agenda for work.”

Merkel also has spoken out Schroeder’s strident criticism of U.S. policy on Iraq and says good relations with Washington should be a “fundamental element” in German policy. ~Yahoo News

I haven’t been keeping tabs as closely on the European political scene as I used to (at some point it occurred to me that it was a complete waste of time), but I have learned enough about Ms. Merkel over the past few years to know that a Union government with her at the head would be an embarrassment to Germany and the CDU. Unlike many of the Catholics in her party, who seem to be the last to retain some sense of the Christian identity and convictions that have long since vanished from Christian Democracy everywhere, Ms. Merkel thought it wise to thumb her nose at Vatican statements against the Iraq war and openly embrace the poisonous policies of Mr. Bush. That she remains proud of this and believes it will serve her well in the election only underscores how politically dense this woman is.

The last thing a German government more docile vis-a-vis Washington needs is such an obvious, cloying puppet of American interests. Merkel will taint the CDU with the corruption of supporting hegemony that has so damaged Blair, Aznar and Berlusconi, and it is only the appalling economic management of the SPD that will keep the CDU from being ousted on account of it. You can attribute her foolish encouragement of seriously considering Turkish entry to the same need to follow Washington’s lead. She says this even after Stoiber and the party took an unusually hard line against easing immigration restrictions in the last Bundestag. For a country with 12% unemployment, Turkish entry would be uniquely disadvantageous.

She has gained this chance at running for chancellor much the same way Bob Dole obtained the presidential nomination: it is “her turn,” and the party is going to give it to her on the assumption that even Angela Merkel cannot screw up a victory as secure as defeating the wounded and battered Gerhard Schroeder. This tells me the CDU is far too overconfident and will fight the election badly. The Union may still win, but will have a mandate to reign and not to rule.

Schroeder and the SPD were on the ropes at the last election as well, and all signs pointed to his certain defeat. However, thanks to Iraq and the flooding of 2002 (and Schroeder’s associated “I feel your pain” routine) Schroeder survived and stumbled along, even if his party has been routed in every state and local election (even in Hamburg!) over the past two years. This may be Schroeder’s time to fall, but Bavarian premier Stoiber would have been an all together more competent head of government. In fact, look at any of the opposition leaders besides Merkel and you will find more politically savvy individuals.

Dinara Asanbaeva, academic supervisor at a political science academy sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said the arrangement also made her doubt both men’s commitment to democracy.

“These leaders are just trying to divide up the benefits of the revolution between themselves,” she said. “It’s a change of the political elite but not of the political system.”

People are also concerned because Bakiyev will inherit a constitution — retooled by Akayev in the ’90s — that gives the president sweeping powers over parliament and makes impeachment all but impossible.

There are plans to reform the constitution by referendum in September, and Bakiyev has pledged to support such moves if he is elected. But under the current constitution, Kyrgyzstan’s 5 million citizens would have few legal options if Bakiyev were to go back on his word.

“I’m afraid that with all the power he will have after the elections, it will be very difficult for him to resist,” Asanbaeva said. “Every human being is weak, and Mr. Bakiyev has a past in [Akayev’s] government. The only reason he was in opposition was because of personal differences with Akayev, not out of principle.” ~The Washington Post

U.S. senators said yesterday that the Uzbek government’s harsh response to an uprising will affect relations with Washington, adding their voices to calls for the Central Asian nation’s leadership to allow an international investigation into the bloodshed.

The visit by Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire increased U.S. pressure on Uzbekistan to drop its resistance to an international probe amid widely varying death tolls from the violence.

The former Soviet republic is a U.S. ally in the war on terror and hosts an American military base for operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

“Without an international investigation, it will be very difficult to move forward and have the relationship that we would like to have,” Mr. Graham said at a press conference. ~The Washington Times

US troops outraged Iraq’s new government yesterday by arresting one of the country’s foremost Sunni leaders only to release him later and call the whole episode a mistake.

Firing stun grenades, American soldiers burst into the home of Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, head of the largest Sunni Arab political party, shortly after dawn. They forced a hood over his head and dragged him away along with his three sons.

Mohsen Abdul-Hamid is widely considered to be a moderate
A number of Sunni politicians and religious leaders have been accused of links to Iraq’s insurgency - but never Mr Abdul-Hamid.

A Sunni Kurd, he is widely considered a moderate and played a leading role in bringing Sunni Arabs who boycotted January’s elections back into the political process.

He was freed 10 hours later, but the US military offered no explanation for his detention and stopped short of apologising.

“It was determined that he was detained by mistake and should be released,” US central command said in a statement. “Coalition forces regret any inconvenience and acknowledge Mr Hamid’s co-operation in resolving this matter.” ~The Daily Telegraph

Insurgents determined to flout an Iraqi-led security offensive in Baghdad put on a bloody show of defiance with a dual suicide attack which left up to 30 people dead and more than 100 injured.

The attacks, carried out in the predominantly Shia town of Hillah, south of Baghdad, came on the second day of Operation Lightning, the biggest security sweep in the capital since the war ended in 2003. ~The Independent

The chief of police in Basra admitted yesterday that he had effectively lost control of three-quarters of his officers and that sectarian militias had infiltrated the force and were using their posts to assassinate opponents.

Speaking to the Guardian, General Hassan al-Sade said half of his 13,750-strong force was secretly working for political parties in Iraq’s second city and that some officers were involved in ambushes.

Other officers were politically neutral but had no interest in policing and did not follow his orders, he told the Guardian.

“I trust 25% of my force, no more.”

The claim jarred with Basra’s reputation as an oasis of stability and security and underlined the burgeoning influence of Shia militias in southern Iraq. ~The Guardian

The insurgency in Iraq is “in the last throes,” Vice President Dick Cheney says, and he predicts that the fighting will end before the Bush administration leaves office.

In a wide-ranging interview Monday on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Cheney cited the recent push by Iraqi forces to crack down on insurgent activity in Baghdad and reports that the most-wanted terrorist leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had been wounded.

The vice president said he expected the war would end during President Bush’s second term, which ends in 2009.

“I think we may well have some kind of presence there over a period of time,” Cheney said. “The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” ~CNN

There is a strange disconnect in America at the moment, with the press partly to blame but in the position to do something about it, or at least explain it. You may be surprised to learn that nearly 6 in 10 Americans feel the Iraq war is “not worth it,” according to a recent Gallup poll. Exactly 50% feel that President Bush “deliberately misled” them on the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and virtually the same number call the war an out-and-out “mistake.” More than 56% now say the war is going badly for the United States. Gallup also recently found that 46% of those polled say we should start withdrawing troops.

Yet there are few marches in the streets (or anywhere else), and even fewer editorials in major newspapers calling for a phased pullout or setting a deadline for withdrawal. But that’s not my main concern here. No matter where you stand on the Iraq war, you’ve got to wonder: What’s going on here at home? Yet few in the press have set out to explore this gap between what appears to be wide public anger and apathy: the enormous number of Americans who support our troops while, at least indirectly, devaluing their service by claiming this is a war not worth fighting.

For months, E&P Online has tracked various Gallup polls on this subject, and watched the numbers rise and fall. After the Iraqi elections in January, public opinion briefly shifted in a more positive direction, but that was quickly reversed with a return of wide violence and a rising American death toll this spring. Yet despite all the front-page coverage and punditry in the papers, it still seems that the war, and any deep feelings about it, are stuck in slow motion, or in quicksand.

That’s why every week when we consult Gallup, I’m always surprised to find the growing public doubts about the war. Most of the time, in our work and play, you’d hardly know a war was going on. There is more opposition to this war than there was in 1968 with regard to Vietnam, yet far less public and editorial protest. That 57% of Americans say the war is “not worth it” is haunting: such clarity, and such acceptance. ~Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher

This mystery of this disconnect can be resolved fairly quickly. Even after last week’s failed vote calling for a withdrawal plan, discontent in Congress remains the province of the ‘backbenchers’ in both parties, and no one of any prominence in the congressional leadership has dared to utter the word withdrawal. Without a signal from media and political elites, the public will remain docile and quiescent, even if it is furious. Such is the state of American self-government, as it is inevitably the lot of any mass political order to be guided by and be dependent on its demagogues.
Read the rest of this entry »

The U.S. Justice Department is expected to file indictments against two former senior American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffers - Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman - and, according to sources familiar with the affair, the charges will be subsumed under the Espionage Act.

A Virginia grand jury is now examining the evidence in the case, which involved receipt of classified defense information from Larry Franklin, a Pentagon official, and its transfer to the representative of a foreign country, Naor Gilon, of the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Sources involved in the case confirmed that the Espionage Act is on the agenda. However, there is also the possibility that the Justice Department is raising the intention to use that law with the purpose of reaching a plea bargain concerning a lesser offense, albeit one that is still covered by anti-espionage legislation in the U.S.

Presumably, if indeed such an indictment is filed against two former top-level AIPAC staff members, then Gilon’s name will come up, even though he is not a suspect. Israeli officials say he was never questioned in the affair. Gilon heads the political department at the embassy.

According to the sources, the grand jury will submit indictments against Rosen, the former head of foreign policy for the lobbying organization, and against Weissman, who was responsible for the Iranian brief in AIPAC. The grand jury is expected to hand down its indictment against Franklin this week. He is suspected of handing over the classified information. That indictment is expected to be similar to the criminal complaint already filed by the FBI. ~Haaretz

France has resoundingly rejected the proposed European Union constitution, plunging the EU into crisis and French politics into confusion.

The result of the referendum was a massive 56 per cent for the “no”, against 44 per cent for the “yes”, according to Dominique de Villepin, the Interior Minister. An unusually high turnout of 70 per cent of the 42 million voters had briefly raised hopes that the great legion of “undecided” might still tip the outcome to the “yes”.

But the results confirmed the predictions of opinion polls that a majority of French voters would repudiate all mainstream parties and plunge the EU into one of the deepest crises in its history. The French “no” is likely to encourage a Dutch “no” on Wednesday.

Rejection by a large, founding member state at the heart of Europe will, in effect, kill the proposed constitution stone dead. This would, at the least, force the enlarged 25-nation union to stumble on with institutions and rules designed for the original club of six. But last night in their initial reactions, EU leaders urged the continuation of the treaty’s ratification process. ~The Independent

Raffarin’s ministry has been an unmitigated failure from beginning to end. It began shortly after M. Chirac’s dubious, Stalinesque non-mandate of 80% in the presidential elections, trundled along stupidly through three years of mismanagement and domestic political weakness, the only highlight of which was M. Sarkozy’s law-and-order approach, and finished with a colossal failure that will leave Supermenteur’s legacy in the wastebin. I pity M. de Villepin if he is called upon to pilot this ruined government. He is an unusually intelligent man, as far as anyone can say this of a professional administrator, and would not willingly subject himself to the political damage of taking over at this point. But he also suffers from the perennial flaw of being Chirac’s loyal follower, so he will likely become PM if only to deny Sarkozy an opportunity of causing trouble in the party.

The European constitution has been, by all rights, an irremediable disaster for Brussels. European political identity has been put to the test and been found to be hugely unpopular in those very lands where it was supposed to be strongest. There will be no more browbeating new and recent entrants with lectures on being “good Europeans” who must accept the constitution without protest. The French have made sure of that.

The EU has been the belated victim of the Cold War in one way: the Soviet bloc prevented rapid, pan-European expansion of a common market early on when all the devastated countries of Europe would have been more prone to leap at the chance. During the last 15 years, while the eastern Europeans have been discovering the highs and lows of independence and quasi-self-government, we have seen expansion proceed too slowly for all member states to be integrated to a point where they might have had many more common interests in ratifying a political union (not that this would have been a good idea, of course, but it would have been more likely). Attribute slow expansion to the sclerotic bureaucracy of the EU itself and the now long-established institutional privileges of earlier members. As long as the EU was a redistributive subsidy system, older members would have little incentive to accommodate newcomers. Our federal project and rapid expansion of states in the Union did not suffer from these absurdities because the incorporation of new states was not premised on the new members getting anything except full representation in Congress. Had redistributive socialist theories prevailed in early America, our larger, wealthier states would also have had no interest in forging a “more perfect Union.”

The Irish fought the Nice treaty as long and hard as they did because they would have been losing real political clout in the decision-making process of the Union. Had it been possible for more countries been incorporated early on, the impracticality of the liberum veto-like power of each country to block changes would have become apparent very quickly. The French ‘non’ is simply the latest in a long line of signals that the older member states both treasure what sovereignty they possess and enjoy the benefits system as it stands, and no measure of babbling about European unity will overcome these tangible goods.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead” (Source: Duke University’s Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860’s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee. ~U.S. Memorial

My great uncle, Luther B. Plumer III, known to his friends and family simply as Lou, fell at Iwo Jima sixty years ago. He had volunteered for the Marines immediately after Peal Harbor. My family and I honour his memory and sacrifice even today. May his memory be eternal.

We honour all those who have died in the wars of this country, including the over 1,600 Americans who have fallen in the present, unfortunate conflict, regardless of whether those wars were just. Soldiers are performing their duty honourably when they go to war. Let us hope and pray that no more such honourable men need perish in any other fruitless conflicts.

Today’s New York Times (print edition) has a full-page advertisement on page 5 from the Council for the National Interest Foundation headlined:

AIPAC’s Agenda is Not America’s

The ad is well-done and makes excellent points, including: ISRAEL, STOP SPYING ON AMERICA! I cannot remember an explicit anti-AIPAC ad ever running in a mainstream paper.

The ad is signed by two former Congressmen, Paul Findley (R-Illinois), Paul “Pete” McCloskey (R-California), and former Senator James Abourezk (D-South Dakota). ~Eric Garris,

In 1994 Orthodox bishops from the various jurisdictions gathered in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, and agreed to work toward a united church. One approach is for each to be granted independence from its “mother church;” independent bodies can then combine into a united American church. It’s a prospect that has enthusiastic support among American Orthodox of all backgrounds, although the Ecumenical Patriarch and other leaders overseas have opposed such independence.

Three Orthodox bodies in America are the largest: Russian, Greek, and Antiochian (mostly composed of Arab Christians and those from the Middle East.) The Russian Orthodox were granted independence in 1970, and are now known as the Orthodox Church in America. The Antiochian Orthodox conference in Pittsburgh continues the process of independence for that body. The third group, the Greek Orthodox, have been having the most contentious experience, as laity desiring independence have had bitter clashes with church leaders.

A united American Orthodox Church will be much better able to speak for itself in the American culture, better able to partner with Protestants and Catholics in joint projects, better able to do outreach, evangelize, and serve. If not for the accidents of history, we would have had that united Church a century ago. The Antiochian conference is one more step toward a unity that is long overdue. ~Frederica Matthewes-Green, Christianity Today, July 2004

This is an old article, but the issue is still very current. On the face of it, and in the way that Mrs. Matthewes-Green has presented it, Orthodox jurisdictional unity in America sounds very sensible. It sounds as if sheer chance had derailed the possibility of Orthodox unity in America. Of course, none of us believes in sheer chance, so there may be a message in this experience as well as something to be learned from it other than that “unified jurisdiction is good.” Undoubtedly, the Greek Archdiocesan churches, the Antiochians and the OCA could combine their jurisdictions without much difficulty. They are on the same calendar and each could, to the extent that each parish desires, retain its own language.

That only leaves out several other jurisdictions that cannot, for reasons of important but little-understood (even by most Orthodox) calendrical disagreements and anti-ecumenism, participate in the foreseeable future in the reorganised jurisdiction, including the not insignificant Serbian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which is centered in America under His Eminence, Metropolitan Laurus.

There is another, perhaps more compelling reason for not having an American Orthodox Church, suggested to me by my first parish priest. He said that there cannot be American Orthodoxy until there are many more American saints. At the moment, there are about a half-dozen. The purpose of having autocephalous or autonomous churches on a national basis is to allow for the spiritual freedom of members of those churches to express their Orthodoxy in a way most suitable to evangelising their people, language and culture. Then it may become a vessel for preserving the transformed and Christianised people’s heritage. What would an American Orthodox Church be able to do in this regard that the existing jurisdictions cannot do?

Have the unifiers considered the detrimental effects, perhaps even scandal, that might result among our Orthodox brethren in the rest of the Americas in our identifying the jurisdictions to which they have belonged with America, by which we mean here the United States? Ironically, though quite unintended by the unifiers, I can easily see how this specifically American attempt to overcome the “problems” of ethnic jurisdictional division will reinject the problem of American nationalism into the life of the Church as a whole.

Several jurisdictions coexisting do not have to be at odds with one another, and it could be that the challenge set before Orthodox in America is to realise genuine spiritual and practical unity without resorting to the more mechanical means of a single hierarchy, at least as a temporary means to overcome the real barriers among the Orthodox here and everywhere in the world. Until the larger problems afflicting the entire Orthodox world are resolved, however, there will be many Orthodox in America who could not participate in such an American Orthodox Church, and it would be a mistake to create it without the consensus of all Orthodox bishops in America.

The House of Representatives voted down a measure, by a 128 to 300 vote, that called on President Bush to devise a plan for a withdrawal from Iraq. It came in the form of an amendment to the $491 billion budget for the Pentagon that was passed on Wednesday night.

But the withdrawal amendment marks the first time that Congress has officially voted and debated legislation that deals with a withdrawal.

“No, it won’t pass today, but it will give us a chance to talk about it,” said Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), the sponsor of the amendment. “It’s an opportunity for members of Congress who are frustrated that our troops are being killed for a war that wasn’t necessary in the first place and that there is no plan in sight to bring them home.”

Despite the overwhelming defeat, about two-thirds of Democrats voted for it and so did five Republicans – a dramatic shift from just a few months ago, when talk of a potential withdrawal was taboo for even the most progressive lawmakers.

Of the five Republicans to vote for Woolsey’s amendment, only one, Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina, spoke in favor of it on the House floor. Jones, one of the most conservative members in Congress, led the campaign in 2003 to change French fries to freedom fries. ~Mitch Jeserich,

As simply silly and trivial as the entire “freedom fries” business was, Rep. Jones should be congratulated for having the honesty and decency to admit that invading Iraq was unjustified. That he should have known that all along is true, but secondary at this point. There was no political profit for him in abandoning the party line on this major issue, which is why it is exactly such Republicans who need to be cultivated and drawn away from the leadership. He will probably be targeted in the primaries by his state party, so it might be tactically wise for antiwar advocates to lend support to Republicans who show some glimmer of common sense.

As long as support for withdrawal has an overwhelmingly Democratic face on it, large sections of the country will reflexively oppose it and the military will fight it tooth and nail, even if a majority actually agrees that the war has been a colossal waste and should never have happened. Even if Rep. Jones has only come to this late in the day, his change of heart is encouraging, because he represents the sort of overzealous nationalist who enthusiastically supported the war and will now enthusiastically oppose it because the war has become offensive to the same nationalist conception of American interests.

A real political move for withdrawal, however weak, has begun. If those against the war want to accomplish something meaningful in the second half of this year, we should begin avidly encouraging members of the majority who have begun to waver on Iraq to break ranks for basic reasons of national interest and patriotism. That is the language that the Republicans will understand, and that is the language that will motivate them to vote for a withdrawal. By the same token, stalwart supporters of this morally abhorrent policy should be targeted for defeat at every stage in the 2006 elections. We need to begin sapping confidence in pro-war congressmen now for it to take maximum effect by next November.

Many evangelicals say they’re just trying to satisfy demands not met by traditional churches. Craig Groeschel, who launched Life Church in Edmond, Okla., in 1996, started out doing market research with non-churchgoers in the area — and got an earful. “They said churches were full of hypocrites and were boring,” he recalls. So he designed Life Church to counter those preconceptions, with lively, multimedia-filled services in a setting that’s something between a rock concert and a coffee shop.

Once established, some ambitious churches are making a big business out of spreading their expertise. Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., formed a consulting arm called Willow Creek Assn. It earned $17 million last year, partly by selling marketing and management advice to 10,500 member churches from 90 denominations. Jim Mellado, the hard-charging Harvard MBA who runs it, last year brought an astonishing 110,000 church and lay leaders to conferences on topics such as effective leadership. “Our entrepreneurial impulse comes from the Biblical mandate to get the message out,” says Willow Creek founder Bill Hybels, who hired Stanford MBA Greg Hawkins, a former McKinsey & Co. consultant, to handle the church’s day-to-day management. Willow Creek’s methods have even been lauded in a Harvard Business School case study.

Hybel’s consumer-driven approach is evident at Willow Creek, where he shunned stained glass, Bibles, or even a cross for the 7,200-seat, $72 million sanctuary he recently built. The reason? Market research suggested that such traditional symbols would scare away non-churchgoers. He also gives practical advice. On a recent Wednesday evening, one of his four “teaching” pastors gave a service that started with 20 minutes of music, followed by a lengthy sermon about the Christian approach to personal finances. He told the 5,000 listeners about resisting advertising aimed at getting people to buy things they don’t need and suggested they follow up at home by e-mailing questions. Like Osteen, Hybel packages self-help programs with a positive message intended to make people feel good about themselves. “When I walk out of a service, I feel completely relieved of any stress I walked in with,” says Phil Earnest, 38, a sales manager who in 2003 switched to Willow Creek from the Methodist Church he found too stodgy. ~Yahoo Finance

Granted, I belong to a liturgical tradition in which musical instruments are officially and properly forbidden, to say nothing of “multimedia-filled services,” and normally I don’t bother to comment on the liturgical oddities and absurdities of other confessions (since they are all, in various ways, quite strange and shocking to me), but all of this is truly appalling to me. I actually feel sorry for people who think they have found true meaning in such “worship.”

If it aims to make people “feel good about themselves,” it is not challenging, instructive or edifying. And how can it be edifying in places where there is no Cross (rather important to “getting out the message,” wouldn’t you say?) and no Bible (what, pray, are these people reading if not the Bible?)? Worship has ceased to be a living relationship with God, and has indeed become a glorified self-help assembly, as if the lesson to be taken from the Gospel is in any way consonant with the language of “self-help,” which suggests a bizarre preoccupation with the self and autonomy in these churches that is itself spiritually dangerous.

What is more, liturgy is our work for the supplication and glorification of God. It is not entertainment, or something to be jazzed up to keep the spiritually bored titillated long enough to pay attention through a whole service. Consider our conventional English word for liturgical celebrations: service. Why do we call it that? Someone is being served by it, which is to say that someone is receiving the submission and obedience of others. Whom are these pastors serving, and whom are the people serving? All of the business plans, marketing jargon and “giving the people what they want” tells me that the pastors are serving the people not as a humble shepherd but in the way that waiters or customer service representatives of corporations “serve” people, and it tells me that the people are serving themselves as if the church were a buffet line and not a consecrated place in which man honours his true God.

Goodness, if some of these people found Methodist churches “stodgy,” what would they make of an Orthodox church? Of course, the more traditional and authentic a church is, the less “stodgy” or “boring” it will seem, as more traditional liturgies convey to people the words of Life and should, if the heart is willing, inspire and spiritually delight. And if people are so concerned about “hypocrites,” they should know that they will find them wherever they go. We are fallen, and at times we are all hypocrites, which is to remind us that we have quite enough spiritual labour ahead of us for ourselves without needing to worry about whether anyone else is being hypocritical.

If people are going to church to “feel good about themselves,” they have surely got the wrong ideas about Our Lord and His Church. The Lord does not ask us to feel good about our wretched present state, but calls us to take up our cross and to be perfect as His Father is perfect. Our very being being transfigured, perfected and deified by God–this is the Good for which we should yearn, rather than the pitiful, self-important, self-congratulatory, self-satisfaction of feeling vindicated by shallow, sentimental pop-worship.

It isn’t that God wishes us to be miserable, or something of that sort, but that so much of what we believe about ourselves is delusion encouraging us to “feel good about ourselves” instead of being watchful, serious and honest about the state of our souls. Christian life involves, and indeed must have, the stripping away of that delusion before repentance and salvation in Christ are possible. Surely Orthodox monastic wisdom that self-esteem is the most pernicious vice would help cure some of that delusion in these people.

Truly, this is something like the abomination of desolation (Matt. 24:15). Something sinister and corrupt stands in place of the worship of God in these churches. Pardon the apocalypticism, but if these churches are the cutting edge of the future of evangelical Christianity in this country I can only hope that the Orthodox here are ready to recover the bewildered, spiritually lost millions who will probably flee from these increasingly hollow forms of religion in a few decades’ time.

Hat tip to A.C. Kleinheider.

Rhetorically, the United States government is committed to spreading “freedom” throughout the globe; in practice, however, the interests of the U.S. state are in direct and often deadly conflict with the radical libertarian rhetoric – never more so than today. Uzbekistan is a textbook example. A free-market revolution against a murderous neo-Communist dictator is going down in flames as the U.S. presides over the carnage with calls for an “investigation” – and a wink and a nod to Karimov.

This is why the United States government – not Russia, not China, not the various thugs who loom large in the pantheon of thuggery for a moment, then are quickly forgotten – is the main danger to liberty worldwide. Precisely because its leaders raise the banner of human freedom, and then dip it in blood, soil it with every imaginable crime, and carry it into battle for reasons that have nothing to do with their professed ideals, Washington stands in the way of the realization of human freedom everywhere. This is why we oppose America’s foreign policy of global intervention – not because we don’t favor the liberation of foreign peoples from the shackles of whatever tyranny besets them, but precisely because we do favor it. We realize, though, that the interests of the American state, qua state, can only drive it to betray and actively sabotage the very ideals of “freedom” and “democracy” it pretends to export. ~Justin Raimondo

The Washington-Tashkent “special relationship” started as early as the mid-1990s, during the Bill Clinton administration. In 1999, Green Berets were actively training Uzbek Special Forces. Khanabad has nothing to do with Afghanistan: Bagram takes care of this. But Khanabad is crucial as one of the key bases surrounding Bush’s Greater Middle East, or to put it in the relevant perspective, the Middle East/Caucasus/Central Asia heavenly arc of oil and gas. It’s on a seven-year lease to the Pentagon, due to expire in late 2008.

So Karimov in Uzbekistan is as essential a piece in the great oil and gas chessboard as Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. Inevitably, there will be more uprisings in the impoverished Ferghana Valley that has reached a boiling point. Karimov again will unleash his American-funded army. The White House will be silent. The Kremlin will be silent (or dub it “green revolution” - by Islamic fundamentalists, as it did with Andijan). Corporate media will be silent: one imagines the furor had Andijan happened in Lebanon when Syrian troops were still in the country. Uzbeks in the Ferghana won’t be valued as people legitimately fighting for freedom and democracy: they will be labeled as terrorists. And Rumsfeld will keep cultivating a “strong relationship” with Karimov’s Rosebud. ~Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

I don’t endorse Mr. Escobar’s idea that there are “peaceful jihad” groups, unless the term jihad is simply being used flippantly (which is unlikely). Jihad, even the so-called “greater jihad,” with its ostensibly purely spiritual application is simply the application to religious life of the militancy towards non-Muslims explicit in the Qur’an and symbolically aligns non-Muslims with the impure nafs (soul) to be purified. This would be the equivalent of adopting a pogrom as the image of one’s Christian spirituality. (If it be objected that jihad does not equal terrorism, it is worth remembering that the technical Qur’anic prohibitions against attacking non-combatants has often been honoured more in the breach than in the observance.)

But clearly what was happening in Andijan resembled more a large-scale jailbreak than anything resembling terrorism. The secularism of Uzbekistan does not make Islamism less likely, or less potent where it exists, but ensures that as the situation becomes more desperate increasingly extreme forms of Islam will win over those suppressed by the government. A consistently secular regime shuts off or suppresses normal religious expression, leading the religious to conclude that they cannot freely coexist in such a system, which encourages them to adopt increasingly violent rhetoric and methods. Besides, most of the Chechen rebels themselves were initially relatively secular, but as the war went on they found that there was a great deal more rhetorical value and foreign money in Islamism. But Karimov cannot hide behind anti-terrorism this time. He is a butcher, and we should cut off all support to him.

The Moscow theater hostage crisis was a terrorist attack. Beslan was a terrorist attack. Washington showed little sympathy for legitimate Russian fears then, because its favoured goons from the Caucasus were causing the mayhem. Now that the Uzbek government has slaughtered hundreds, Washington has essentially accepted the anti-terrorist explanation and committed one of the worst ’sins’ in neocon morality, “blaming the victim.”

Meanwhile, the property rights of thousands of enterprises are in limbo. In Kiev, rumors abound that oligarchs connected to the old regime are trying to sell their enterprises to Russian business executives and are preparing to escape the country. Naturally, executives are cutting off investment, and economic growth is screeching to a halt.

To make matters worse, a new socialist minister of privatization has been appointed who opposes privatization in principle. She asked recently: “What is so bad about re-nationalization?” Tymoshenko concurred in a recent newspaper interview: “The biggest enterprises, which can easily be efficiently managed, must not be privatized, and they can give the state as an owner wonderful profits.” This sounds like state capitalism.

The old regime doubled pensions, saddling Ukraine with the highest pension costs in the world as a share of national income. The new Ukrainian government has added to this excessive burden by raising state wages no less than 57 percent.

To finance these and other huge social expenditures, the government is scrambling to find more revenue. A lot of discretionary tax exemptions have, sensibly, been abolished, but the overall tax pressure has risen dramatically. Meanwhile, Yushchenko continues to talk about his plans for sharp tax cuts.

Incredibly, this new regime brought to power by the middle class and small entrepreneurs has abolished the simplified taxation that served those segments of society so well. The result has been that tens of thousands of small entrepreneurs have been forced to close their businesses, while others have fled into the underground economy.

Reformers have long demanded that the lawless tax police be abolished and that the tax administration be forced to obey the law. But Tymoshenko is cheering the tax police on and has declared that the performance of the regional governors will be judged by their ability to collect taxes.

Inflation is skyrocketing with increasing public expenditures. The predominantly Russian oil companies have increased their prices as world market prices have risen. Tymoshenko has imposed strict price controls on gasoline and forced the remaining state oil companies to deliver it at prices below market levels. Not surprisingly, oil supplies have declined, and gasoline shortages have erupted. She has also started controlling the price of meat, which has begun to disappear from markets. The price controls are accompanied by abuse of private producers and praise of state companies.

Tymoshenko does not talk about reform of state monopolies but instead about their reinforcement. In an additional effort to squeeze business profits and boost state re venue, she wanted to boost railway tariffs for metals by 100 percent, but settled magnanimously for a hike of only 50 percent.

The contrast between the declarations of the Orange Revolution and current government policy could hardly be greater. Curiously, this discrepancy continues. In an editorial on Yushchenko’s first 100 days, the Kiev Post points out that “while Yushchenko is making grand statements abroad, the rest of the government does not seem to follow his lead.”

The official justification for these populist policies is that they are meant to boost Tymoshenko’s popularity for the parliamentary elections next March. Both Ukrainians and Ukraine’s foreign friends need an explanation of what is going on. ~Anders Aslund

Only the credulous admirers of democracy and of that unique oligarchic democratism favoured by interventionist Americans and Europeans can feel “betrayed” by Tymoshenko and the others or believe that the “Orange Revolution” has been “betrayed” by its leaders. This is ignorance, pure and simple, or else it is ideological nonsense. Everyone who could be bothered to read a shortest background piece on the criminal Tymoshenko knew where she stood on state control of industry (having gotten rich off of defrauding privatisation, I suspect she hopes to get richer off of re-nationalisation), and everyone who was not hypnotised by the ugly orange rags of the Kiev mob knew that Yushchenko was about as liberal as Petlyura and as good of an economic manager as Jimmy Carter. Only fools can be disillusioned with such a fraudulent gang of crooks, who made their fortunes robbing the Ukrainian people going and now look to rob them coming as well.

But let me speak up for this sorry lot on one point: the government of Ukraine is and ought to be the sovereign government of the Ukraine, and it does not owe “explanations” to think tank intellectuals, American politicians or anyone else except the Ukrainian people whom it has hoodwinked so terribly. Perhaps the Ukrainians don’t mind the statism–this is, after all, supposedly the government for which most Ukrainians voted (even though the election occurred under unprecedented foreign pressure, in contravention of the Ukrainian constitution and in the wake of a concerted, dishonest media campaign that could have made even the neocons blush). Regardless, it is their country, and I for one am sick of internationalists telling anyone what to do in his own country. Perhaps the internationalists will give Yushchenko and his lot such a hard time over domestic economic policy that his nationalist supporters will finally push him to adopt a less slavishly pro-Western approach, and the fruits of hegemonist support for this criminal will disappear. Probably not, though. Never underestimate the sheer, pointless, stubborn hatred for Russia that will always push Ukrainian nationalists into the arms of people who want nothing but to exploit them and use them as cannon fodder, figuratively or literally.

If Yushchenko’s crowd gives in to its worst nationalist and populist urges, I can only say that I and others in agreement with me warned that this would come to pass. One had to blind oneself willingly to what Yushchenko was and what he represented. This is not to pretend that Mr. Yanukovych, Yushchenko’s now-forgotten opponent, was as pure as the driven snow–he was corrupt, but in that rather matter-of-fact, unobtrusive way that most leaders of such countries are corrupt because personal relations still matter more than institutions (and sometimes I have to wonder why we prefer our way). In contrast, Yushchenko and his crowd stink to high heaven with the extent of their corruption. The fact is that the Orange Revolution was always as rotten as the crook who led it, and anyone who says differently is trying to sell something equally rotten to the unfortunate Ukrainians and to our own ignorant public.

One can be critical of the Crusades, but primarily because of the great damage they have inflicted on the Christian East. As for the slaughters, what the Crusaders did to the Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem in 1099 was as bad as what the Muslims had done to countless Christian cities before and after that time. From the distance of almost a millennium, it is time to see the Crusades as Christendom’s reaction to Muslim aggression, a reconquest of something taken by force from its rightful owners. By the end of the 13th century, the last Crusader remnants in Palestine and Syria were wiped out. That was the end of the real Crusades but it was by no means the end of jihad. That same jihad that had conquered and reconquered the Holy Land continues in earnest today. With his Kingdom of Heaven, Ridley Scott has joined the ranks of its abettors. ~Srdja Trifkovic

As Karimov clamped down at home, the strategic importance of the Karshi-Khanabad base, the cornerstone of the US-Uzbek alliance, was dramatically declining. Today, many of the functions performed by the base could be easily shifted to Afghanistan. Indeed, Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants permanent US military bases in Afghanistan and the Pentagon is spending US $83 million this year to build permanent facilities at its large bases near Kabul and Kandahar.

Western powers may soon come to regret its lack of attention to civil society developments in Uzbekistan. Karimov’s repressive system has ensured that all democratic parties are banned. Unlike in Georgia Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, where democratically oriented opposition leaders were waiting in the wings, there is no democratic force at present in Uzbekistan capable of replacing Karimov, and maintaining stability.

The main result of Karimov’s authoritarian practices has been the formation of underground Islamic extremist groups in Uzbekistan. Such groups took shape in the late 1990s, receiving assistance from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The most well known group the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which was decimated in the 2001 anti-terrorism offensive in Afghanistan, but whose remnants are now based in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Over the past four years, IMU militants have reorganized and reestablished contact with supporters in Uzbekistan.

Reports of a clash near the Kyrgyz border on May 15, in which Uzbek soldiers were supposedly killed, may be an indicator that Islamic militants are again active inside Uzbekistan, and are seeking to take advantage of the chaos in eastern Uzbekistan. It should be stressed, however, that the armed group which first attacked the government jail in Andijan on May 13 did not comprise Islamic radicals, but friends and relatives of the 23 businessmen and traders who were on trial in Andijan.

There are simply no good choices available in Uzbekistan. In Tashkent, Karimov is rumored to be extremely ill, and there is a possibility of a three-way power struggle to succeed him. The main contenders for power in Tashkent are; secret police chief Rustam Inoyatov; Interior Minister Zakir Almatov; and the powerful presidential adviser Ismail Jurabekov. All these figures are considered even more ruthless and dangerous than Karimov.

Western policies have ensured that even if Karimov were toppled in an internal power struggle, his replacement would only be another dictator. The chances of a democratic movement emerging in Uzbekistan are highly unlikely. Armed struggle, even if waged by democrats in the Ferghana Valley, is unlikely to stay democratic very long.

The longer that Karimov carries out acts of repression, the greater the likelihood that Islamic extremism spreads. ~Ahmed Rashid,

Aside from Mr. Rashid’s rather credulous remarks about the “democratic” movements in other ex-Soviet republics, his article makes some very sound points and generally matches my thinking on the matter regarding this week’s massacre and the military importance of our alliance with Uzbekistan.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday the United States is pressing for facts in the political unrest in Uzbekistan late last week that may have left hundreds of people dead. She says the Bush administration has been a persistent critic of President Islam Karimov’s human rights record despite cooperation on anti-terrorism issues.

The Bush administration has credited the Karimov government with key support in the war on terrorism, including allowing U.S. forces to use an airbase to support operations in Afghanistan.

But at a press event late Tuesday with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Ms. Rice sharply rejected the idea the administration has looked the other way when it comes to human rights abuses by Uzbek authorities, and said Washington has pressed for reform in no uncertain terms.

In particular, she said the United States is looking for a very open accounting by the Karimov government of the circumstances of last week’s events in the city of Andijon, where Uzbek opposition sources say hundreds of people were killed when security forces fired on demonstrators:

“It is quite clear that a lot of people have lost their lives, and that is always a cause for concern because it should just not be the case that innocent people lose their lives. Nobody is asking any government to deal with terrorists. That’s not the issue. The issue though is that it is a society that needs openness, it needs reform. And again I think if you look at the record, you’ll find that we’ve raised that with the government of Karimov for quite some time,” she said.

This account sharply contradicts the claim of Uzbekistan’s prosecutor general, made yesterday, that not one civilian had been killed. Rashid Kadyrov said that 169 had died, all “terrorists”, apart from 30 soldiers, three women and two children who were among hostages killed by the rebels.

The developments came after Condoleeza Rice, the US Secretary of State, repeated her call for the need for openness and reform in country after meeting Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, in Washington.

The unrest, sparked by the trial of 23 Muslim businessmen, was blamed by President Islam Karimov on Islamic extremists. Residents and a local human rights activist said the uprising was prompted by local people protesting against poverty, corruption and Mr Karimov’s hard line against Muslims.

As the grieving citizens of Andijan continued the grisly task of burying the dead, more families were coming forward to claim that loved ones had been hunted down and killed in a mopping-up operation by military death squads.

From five funerals visited by The Independent ­ held in private homes for fear of the security forces still flooding the city ­ in three cases the relatives said that the bodies had gunshot wounds to the head. In two cases, they claimed, the corpses showed gunshot wounds to the body and a single shot to the back of the head.

Eyewitnesses, rights activists and local doctors have claimed that up to 700 were killed in Andijan and across the Ferghana valley but that the death toll could climb higher. ~The Independent

The silence from Washington, aside from the weak complaints emanating from the State Department, is simply disgusting. The U.S. government is “concerned” and condemns the wanton killing of civilians–what a profound, moral stand! I am waiting for the great neocon humanitarians, who could not restrain themselves from mocking opponents of the Iraq war or opponents of intervention in Sudan on the grounds of our supposed inhumanity and lack of “moral clarity,” to speak up in defense of the slaughtered civilians killed by their dictator ally’s thugs. I suspect I will be waiting forever. It does not require one to advocate killing still more people (the usual neocon answer to brutality, or anything else for that matter) to denounce decisively and clearly the appalling acts of another government, whether it is allied to our government or not. The government should at the very least recall our ambassador from Tashkent and should sever diplomatic relations with Uzbekistan. Islam Karimov has become a liability and he is an ally we do not need and should not want to have.

Update: The U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan’s website contains no statement about this week’s events. The name Andijan (or Andizhan) is nowhere to be found. I somehow seem to remember our Kyrgyzstan embassy being a bit quicker in issuing a statement in response to the events in Bishkek, but then it helps when the dictator isn’t yours and the “revolution” has been helped along by your government.

Refugees who fled from the massacre committed by Uzbek security forces agreed on one thing yesterday: the number of dead is not 500 - the most common reported figure - but could be in the thousands.

As reports continued to come in of clashes spreading outside the town of Andizhan, a sergeant in charge of the bridge at the border village of Kara Suu said he believed that 2,000 had been massacred during three days.

Kyrgz border guards check papers of Uzbek refugees at Kara-Suu
There is no way to confirm numbers offered by refugees, but it seemed likely that when the truth emerges, the massacre in Uzbekistan, an American ally in the fight against terrorism, could become the deadliest assault on civilians since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. ~The Daily Telegraph

President Bush’s father, and most of the civilised world, had the decency to sever diplomatic relations with China after the slaughter of innocents at Tiananmen. Today Mr. Bush has the opportunity to use his nonsensical rhetoric and hegemonist instincts for some small measure of good, however symbolic, by leading the diplomatic isolation of Uzbekistan. I have always been a great advocate of non-intervention and staying out of the internal affairs of other nations, and I am not calling for an intervention against Karimov, but in this case it is our government’s lackey that has murdered hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people and Washington will be partly culpable if it does not act decisively to repudiate this butcher. Whether Mr. Bush has any intention of being taken even remotely seriously, even by his own supporters, about his professed desire to reform the Middle East (even though this is not his job and it is a foolish enterprise) or whether he does not, how he responds to Karimov’s butchery will decide. Our government is not obliged to save the people of Uzbekistan from their tyrant, which would be an argument for perpetual invasions, but it is obliged to cease doing normal business with such a ruler when there is such an egregious, unjustifiable massacre of civilians. Respect for human life and basic human decency require no less.

If we receive the heterodox in order to impart to them the witness of our faith and tradition, this is holy. If we host them in order to express to them our respect and our freedom, this is noble. If, however, we extend an invitation to them in order to divvy up and pass around together with them the treasure of the true faith, this is impious. Unfortunately, the World Council of Churches is a syncretistic organization. It is a religious organization which struggles for the unity of Christians but with an earthly and worldly perception. The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church does not “pray together” but does pray for the God-given and ordained union of all. It does not discuss and dialogue with the aim of reaching human agreement, but provides its obligatory witness in order to call all of us to conversion. Nor does the Church become passionately fanatical and intolerant, or, even more so, is it seized with panic because of heterodox practices and conceptions, but rather boldly and respectably offers its confession [of faith]. ~Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogia

His Grace, the Metropolitan, speaks clearly and well on this rather scandalous ecumenist gathering in the heart of Orthodox Greece. He goes on to give what seems to me to be sage and thoughtful instruction on how Orthodox should understand heterodox Christians, especially the most liberal and ecumenist among them:

We confess the delusion which exists, however the persons who express it we respect and encounter in a dignified manner.

It is, however, absolutely essential that we be careful that the constancy and solemnity of our witness not be infected; that the peace of our mystical worship not be disturbed; that the avowed truth of our Orthodox faith not be falsified within us. Perhaps these people are better than us as it concerns their character. Their faith, however, is dangerously unsound and ailing. It is so ill that we could assert that they believe in a Christ who does not exist.

Hat tip to Uncut Mountain.

Thousands of terrified Uzbeks fled for the border Saturday but hundreds angrily returned to the square where police fired on demonstrators to put down an uprising against country’s authoritarian U.S.-allied leader. A human rights monitor said about 200 people were killed.

Protesters overran government buildings Saturday in an Uzbek village on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border, torching police vehicles and beating border guards, a Kyrgyz official said.

The fresh clashes broke out in the village of Korasuv, some 31 miles east of Andijan, the site of violence Friday that witnesses said left hundreds of people dead. Uzbek police and tax police offices were set on fire, and police cars were vandalized, a Kyrgyz official said on condition of anonymity. Uzbek helicopters were seen circling over the town.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov said 10 government troops and “many more” protesters were killed but refused to be more specific. He spoke at a news conference in the capital Tashkent a day after the unprecedented clashes in his tightly controlled country, which he has led since before the 1991 Soviet collapse. ~MSNBC

Thank goodness the glorious Kyrgyz revolution deposed a real physicist-tyrant in Akayev, whose overthrow was notable for the refusal of the “dictator” to open fire on his own people, even as they looted, killed and and destroyed a great deal of private and public property. Happily, Our Man in Tashkent, Islam Karimov, and his army have no compunctions about slaughtering anyone. Uzbekistan is not one of the countries Washington wants to see “liberated,” as it knows full well that Uzbek Islamists are waiting in the wings to exploit any instability.

There is no substantial difference between the popular raiding of prisons and government buildings in Andijan and those that took place in Belgrade and Tbilisi or the mass illegal assembly blocking the streets of Kiev, as all were cases of direct action in violation of the law. The difference is that this time the danger of popular riot was made explicit, as the crowd sought to free alleged members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a prominent central Asian Islamist movement with a strong presence in Uzbekistan, and Karimov reminded his subjects what really counts in politics: power and force. The pathetic, mewling response of the White House to these events was typical: “The people of Uzbekistan want to see a more representative and democratic government. But that should come through peaceful means, not through violence.”

What these anarcho-tyrants and neo-anarchists seem not to understand, even though they want to ignite fire in the minds of men like Dostoevsky’s revolutionary Verkhovensky, is that subject peoples in the world, encouraged by democratist nonsense and error spewed by the President, come to the same extreme conclusions that militarists in this country have reached: dictators can only be met with strength and force. Whether or not this is true, deluded, fanatical minds, or simply desperate minds, are all too willing to believe it, as it gives them perfect license for violence. (Let us not dwell on the fact that peaceable assembly, legitimate protest or anything as exotic as the rule of law are unknown in practice to the people of Uzbekistan in as many generations as one cares to count.) To invoke violence when the government wishes to depose other countries’ dictators, claiming that there is no other way, and then expect those actually living under the dictators to assemble peaceably and wait to be scattered and crushed is the normal kind of blinkered moral idiocy that passes for wisdom at the White House.
Read the rest of this entry »

Still, we can recognize crimes as crimes, which brings me back to Roosevelt. Why are Americans still treating this monster as a hero?

I hardly know where to start. His contempt for the U.S. Constitution he was sworn to defend, in everything from creating a national welfare state to putting U.S. citizens in concentration camps, is almost a minor item on his ledger. So are his deceits in getting the United States into World War II, while assuring the American public that he was doing everything he could to keep us at peace.

Long before that war began, he befriended Joseph Stalin by granting diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union, shortly after it had deliberately starved millions of Ukrainians. During the war, he made an alliance with Stalin, not as a regrettable necessity, but with effusive praise for “Uncle Joe.” He even urged Hollywood to make pro-Soviet films to dispel “prejudice” against Soviet Communism and lent a hand in the production of the egregious propaganda movie Mission to Moscow. (Jack Warner later called the film the worst mistake of his long career.)

As the war progressed, Roosevelt ordered the massive bombing of Japanese and German cities for the express purpose of killing as many civilians as possible. His victims, from Tokyo to Berlin, numbered in the millions. He was uninhibited by the ancient principle of Christian civilization that warfare should spare noncombatants.

But that wasn’t enough. Meanwhile Roosevelt launched the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb, which could obliterate whole cities in a flash. He thereby took the world into a dreadful new era in history, which concerned him not at all.

Long after Pearl Harbor is forgotten, the name of Franklin Roosevelt should “live in infamy.” Yet the United States still officially honors him when an official apology to the entire human race would be more fitting. ~Joe Sobran

Bashing George W. Bush has been the thinking person’s sport for four years now. Foreign policy intellectuals play their own version of the game: bashing neoconservatives. This is Bush-bashing with a Ph.D. It has proven surprisingly popular, attracting onto the field not only liberals but also some traditional conservatives and many conspiracy theorists, for whom the neocons are the new Trilateral Commission. Sadly, a lot of this commentary is plagued by the same vices as Bush-bashing in general: chronic exaggeration, fast-and-loose connection-drawing, and over-the-top hyperbole. Reading it is enough to turn you into a fervent anti-anti-neoconservative.

This is a pity, because with Bush’s re-election “the neoconservative question” is ripe for debate, and this high-stakes debate should be as well-informed as possible.

Instead, vitriol has already poisoned it. To blame are at least two propositions put forth by many critics of the neocons, including the authors of both these new books. The first is that there is such a thing as a tightly-knit and highly ideological community of neocons obsessed with unilateralism, military force, preventive war, and social engineering in the Middle East. It hardly helps that neocons have been defined not by themselves but by their critics. The second premise is that after 9/11, this group seized control of—Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke actually use the word “hijacked”—U.S. national security policy by virtue of their zeal and the on-hand nature of their pre- packaged agenda.

These premises lead many critics of neoconservatism, including these three authors, to make three crucial errors. First, viewing neocons as an ideological community invites these critics to treat neocon thinking as a self-contained text, subject to exegesis, as if it were a religious doctrine or a text-driven ideology like Marxism. (It may be relevant that Gary Dorrien is a professor of religion, not international relations.) This has one big consequence: it invites many critics to summarize and present neocon thinking (sometimes fairly, as in Dorrien’s case) without rendering the crucial service of evaluating its validity compared to alternative schools of foreign policy thinking such as traditional realism and liberal institutionalism.

Second, the “hijacking” imagery invites critics to oversell neocon influence. These and other commentaries suggest that when 9/11 drove up “demand,” so to speak, for new policies, a single factor on the supply side—the ruthless zeal of neocon ideologues—caused Bush to adopt a new foreign policy. This overlooks the rest of the “supply” situation: the fact that other ideas on offer at the time were, to put it kindly, unpersuasive. Finally, the combination of these two premises leads nearly all critics to grossly mischaracterize post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy as systematically unilateralist and militaristic, when in fact is has been multifaceted and highly experimental.

Halper and Clarke are self-declared Reagan-style conservatives, though of an exceedingly curious kind. They draw inspiration from Howard Dean, and Clarke, for his part, is a resident fellow at the Cato Institute, whose foreign policy is usually called isolationist. They trace the intellectual roots of today’s neocons to the people who first earned that label in the 1960s. This is bad intellectual history. The fact is, the first group called “neocon” wasn’t especially homogeneous; the second group isn’t much more so; and the two put together aren’t at all. Even when today’s neocons are literally the descendants of those so labeled in the 1960s, change is at least as evident as continuity in their assumptions about how the world works and what to do about it. ~Gerard Alexander

Mr. Alexander’s “review,” if we can designate this article with such a name, of two recent critiques of neoconservatism in foreign policy has missed quite a lot. He seems to treat these books as if they were the only word on anti-neoconservatism, ignoring the small library of essays, articles and books that might have satisfied his interest in a credible approach to the “neoconservative question.” I cannot address whether or not the books in question are as unconvincing as he claims, as I have not read them, but since this is the sort of response critiques of neoconservatism always receive I am immediately suspicious of everything Mr. Alexander has to say. More later.

The evidence is even scarcer that non-democratic regimes inevitably generate extremism among their citizens. Some may have, such as Nicaragua and Iran in the 1970s and Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian territories since the 1980s. But in Africa, Latin America, and East Asia, non-democratic regimes have not, as a general rule, generated violent extremism. Most of Western Europe’s historic dictatorships incubated more moderation than radicalism, which is why many of them evolved peacefully into today’s consolidated democracies. For that matter, well over a dozen substantially Muslim countries in Africa and Central Asia have so far not generated much extremism, despite durable authoritarian rule. Indeed, one of Sharansky’s core cases doesn’t support his claim: the USSR seems to have incubated apathy, not extremism.

This highlights a fundamental contradiction in the book. Sharansky argues that non-democratic regimes are doomed to see their citizens move increasingly in the direction of freedom. But a few pages away he argues that non-democratic regimes inevitably produce enraged and profoundly illiberal citizens who are easy fodder for radical recruiters. Which is it? If tyrannies produce not only Mohammed Attas but also Natan Sharanskys, then they must have effects far more complex than he suggests. To make matters worse, violent extremism has been bred, and sustained, in democratic Northern Ireland, and jihadis have found ready recruits among Muslims who are lifelong residents and even citizens of democratic Britain, France, and Israel. ~Gerard Alexander, Claremont Review of Books

Have intelligent Straussians abandoned Sharansky’s lunatic revolutionary call for democratising the world, echoed not so long ago by the President? Let’s not get carried away. Claremont Review, ere long a stronghold of Straussian-cum-militarist writings (and proud of it!), was not likely to criticise Mr. Sharansky unless it was to encourage hegemonism in another form.

As Mr. Alexander goes on to conclude:

Sharansky, like Joshua Muravchik and others before him, reminds us that dictatorial abuses remain a moral stain on our world and urges us to push at the limits of the currently feasible by setting our sights on the global expansion of democracy. It is surely true that there is no reason for Americans to be indifferent to regime-type when a democracy is within reach; there is every reason for us to want democratic reformers to become the future leaders of their countries; and there is little wisdom in America being identified with vicious dictatorships doomed to be overthrown. Then again, given the limits of our knowledge, it is also true that worldwide democratization is a project quite possibly of many generations and that, in the meantime, it calls for experimentation and pragmatic deal-cutting with dictatorships that we may well have to live with for a long time.

The good news is that U.S. policy since 9/11 looks a lot like that. Elections have been urged peacefully on several regimes, but force has been used against only two, and the Bush Administration has worked successfully with many dictators in the war on terror. We are pushing at many limits, but are feeling our way. A dictator of Mexico once explained his complex choices by saying that his country was so far from God, and so close to the United States. America’s margins of maneuver are greater than ever before, and much greater than Porfirio Diaz’s ever were, but we, like him, remain closer to the ugly realities of political variety than to the cosmopolitan ideal of harmony. The journey toward the latter is the noble task that Americans now confront. But nobility alone is still not a winning strategy.

For Mr. Alexander, as with so many hegemonists, there must be a “winning strategy” in ridding the world of dictatorships, as if this were the purpose of U.S. foreign policy, God’s will or perhaps both. Dictatorships are not a moral stain on our world simply for being dictatorships, nor are liberal democracies any great shakes for inculcating the practice of virtue and the upholding of moral truth. Dictatorships are “moral stains” when they commit atrocities, and for that they are justly condemned, but at no point does it become our obligation to abolish them from the earth. Always be wary of people who define particularly political ‘problems’, such as the existence of dictatorships in the world, as moral problems, such that ideology and policy take the place of ethics, as they are usually very willing to reduce grave moral problems at home to political “issues” or non-political questions all together.

It is a dubious claim to superiority that a regime allows people to be free in the way that liberal democracies allow, which is social and personal licence inside a cage of political conformity. The liberal democratist slogan might be: “Do what you will, provided you have ‘moral clarity’ on Israel, interventionism, secularism and democracy.” It is depressing how exhaustive that is of the liberal democratic view of the world–this is the system that will satisfy the yearnings of billions? Not likely. It is a product of our virtually unique, distinctly American capacity for voluntarily stifling debate and engaging in a kind of self-censorship that the greatest dictatorships could never teach. Who wants it? I think if the oppressed millions knew that this was their likely reward of liberation, they might not be so keen on the idea.

Besides, all earthly governments are subject to the taint of sin, because they are staffed by mortal men, and there are no structural safeguards that can be put up that will remove this taint from any government. The genius of mixed government, when it once existed, was that it limited the damage that any unadulterated form of government could do while theoretically keeping government at a minimum on account of the persistent rivalries among the powerful. Mixed government, of course, requires a sense of restraint cultivated by a religious and self-disciplined people–this is unmitigated Polybian political theory, yes, but it has something to recommend it.

Hat tip to Orthodoxy Today.
Read the rest of this entry »

To His Beatitude, the Archbishop
and the Most Reverend Metropolitans
of the Church of Greece

Your Beatitude,
Most Reverend holy Hierarchs,

The Church of Greece’s impending organization and hosting of the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism of the World Council of Churches (W.C.C.) brings sorrow, bewilderment and indignation to our souls. For this reason, permit us to communicate with you by means of the present memorandum, humbly setting forth the following thoughts, both from awareness of our responsibility towards the souls that we shepherd and instruct spiritually as well as from pain for the Orthodox Church, which, as a unique possessor of the revealed truth about God, cannot participate in inter-Christian activities of such a sort without altering her ecclesiological self-awareness, betraying her faith and scandalizing the multitude of her faithful.

Unfortunately, our nation is the first Orthodox country to dare to host such a conference, and we believe that this fact constitutes, not an excuse for boasting, as its organizers proclaim, but one more black page in the recent ecclesiastical history of Greece. ~Uncut Mountain (PDF file linked)

Today I will present my first academic conference paper. It is not all that noteworthy, but it will be a first for me. The paper is a brief synopsis and analysis of two late seventh-century Armenian documents, a chronicle and a dogmatic treatise, somewhat related to the Byzantine heresy of monotheletism and directly related to the problems of Byzantine-Armenian church relations of that time. As I was looking over the paper last night, it occurred to me that some of the likely assembled Armenians would find my use of the conventional term monophysite either ‘reductive’ or polemical.

It is, of course, a polemical label, invented in the late seventh century by St. Anastasios of Sinai in his running battles with Coptic monophysites, but it has been used conventionally and unproblematically in Byzantine history and church history for so many decades that the new vogue in patristic studies and theology to dance around or avoid the term is a little frivolous at best and potentially menacing at worst. The new, ecumenical style of the last decade or so is to refer to monophysites (who are, in fact, basically that by their own admission, whether or not its implications are what we ‘Chalcedonians’ say they are: they do teach one nature after the Incarnation, which all other Christian confessions concerned with such definitions see as unduly confusing and confused) as non-Chalcedonians, anti-Chalcedonians or, worst of all in my estimation, Oriental Orthodox.

I imagine the trend has been developing for longer than this, but it has penetrated into the mainstream of patristics studies, even among Orthodox scholars, including the estimable and impressive Prof. (and now also Father) Andrew Louth, and I cannot help but think that this change in terminology is calculated to provide some intellectual justification for the continued, unacceptable efforts at the Patriarchate of Antioch to allow monophysites to partake of the Orthodox Eucharist. This is not to mention the already partial recognition of monophysite sacraments granted by the Patriarch of Alexandria, all of which is detailed in the Thessaloniki conference’s conclusions, which can be found elsewhere on this site or at Uncut Mountain.
Read the rest of this entry »

The case of legally constituted sovereign authorities and declarations of war is logically indistinguishable from these. It does not follow just from being such an authority that a state may properly declare war; further conditions must be met. These conditions are specified by the ius ad bellum. And that there are such conditions is just what it means, logically speaking, for there to be a presumption against the action in question—and, further, for the burden of proof to rest upon those who would show that the conditions have been met. There is in this sense—the only interesting sense, conceptually speaking, so far as I can tell—a presumption against war enshrined in the just war tradition. And if this is right, Weigel, Johnson, et al., must be wrong, at least about this matter.

That the anti-presumption-against-war crowd is wrong is derived from the logic of the matter alone. It is simple confusion to think otherwise, and Johnson’s recent effort (see FT January) to construe presumption-against in terms of worries about the inherent morality of war, or about the nature of prima facie duties, amounts to nothing more than the blowing of thick clouds of smoke. The position I’ve advocated is compatible with thinking war often justified, sometimes justified, or (even) never justified. What it is not compatible with is thinking there is no presumption against war in the tradition. The presence of reasoning about ius ad bellum suffices to show this to be false. ~Paul Griffiths

Let’s clarify one thing that really shouldn’t need clarification, but which evidently does. If by “presumption against war” we mean that those thinking within the just war tradition ought to prefer that there not be wars, fine. Having spent nine years of my professional life working for the World Without War Council, I don’t have any problem with that; and I rather doubt that James Turner Johnson, a scholar and army veteran, would, either. But the very fact that that statement of the obvious has to be made suggests one of the problems with the way the so-called “presumption against war” operates today: it subtly suggests that those who do not accept the smuggled pacifist premise within the “presumption”—that the use of even proportionate and discriminate armed force is, at the outset of the moral analysis, presumptively deplorable—are somehow thought to be warmongers. How any of this constitutes an advance in moral reasoning or moral sensibility over the classic just war understanding—that the use of armed force can be noble or wicked, just or unjust, depending on who is using it, toward what ends, and how—is unclear to me.

There are several other problems with the “presumption” and its current functioning among religious leaders and religious intellectuals (not to mention political leaders throughout Western Europe). As I have argued in these pages and elsewhere, the “presumption,” by detaching the just war way of thinking from its proper political context—the right use of sovereign public authority toward the end of tranquillitas ordinis, or peace—tends to invert the structure of classic just war analysis and turn it into a thin casuistry, giving priority consideration to necessarily contingent in bello judgments (proportionality of means, discrimination or noncombatant immunity) over what were always understood to be the prior ad bellum questions (“prior” in that, inter alia, we can have a greater degree of moral clarity about them). A similar inside-out distortion of thinking happens when the “presumption” gets to work on the ius ad bellum. For here, the “presumption” tends to give higher priority to what were classically understood as important but secondary criteria, like “last resort” and “probable chance of success,” over the classic first-order criteria: competent authority, just cause, and right intention (about which, to repeat, we can have a greater degree of moral surety). ~George Weigel

There are perhaps pacifist theologians who deserve Mr. Weigel’s scorn, but his arguments have never been any more credible than theirs. Specifically related to the present Iraq war, Mr. Weigel has been fixated on justifying an unprovoked invasion of a country that had done nothing to the invading country. Here he rather comically invokes “competent authority, just cause, and right intention,” which are indeed the primary qualifications for just war, when there is no question that there is no just cause for launching an unprovoked invasion (which, properly speaking, applies to the first Gulf War as well) and the President does not possess competent authority to launch such an invasion according to his own wishes. No one can possess right intention if he chooses to wage a war of simple aggression. If Mr. Weigel wants to leave the decisions of war to the magistrate, then his magistrate must observe the secular laws that constrain the magistrate’s powers and he cannot wage war legitimately if he violates them.
Read the rest of this entry »

Rich is wrong about most things, but he’s painfully on target in noting the incongruous pandering now taking place by some in the cool-kids clique on the Right. Conservatives criticize Hollywood relentlessly, but as Rich notes, “the embarrassing reality is that they want to be hip, too.”

Which brings me to Mrs. Bush. She demonstrated at the celebrity-studded White House Correspondents’ Dinner this weekend that you can entertain without being profane. Most of her humor was just right: Edgy but not over the edge. But her off-color stripper and horse jokes crossed the line. Can you blame Howard Stern for feeling peeved and perplexed? And let’s face it: If Teresa (”I’m cheeky!”) Heinz Kerry had delivered Mrs. Bush’s First Lady Gone Mildly Wild routine, social conservative pundits would be up in arms over her bad taste and lack of dignity.

The First Lady resorting to horse masturbation jokes is not much better than Whoopi Goldberg trafficking in dumb puns on the Bush family name. It was wholly unnecessary.

Self-censorship is a conservative value. In a brilliant commencement speech at Hillsdale College last year, Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner called on his audience to resist the coarsened rhetoric of our time: “If we are to prevail as a free, self-governing people, we must first govern our tongues and our pens. Restoring civility to public discourse is not an option. It is a necessity.” ~Michelle Malkin

The furore over Mrs. Bush’s vulgarity, which is to say her debasement to the level of rhetoric appropriate for the vulgus, the common people or, more accurately, the rabble, only recently came to my attention by a chance hearing of Michael Savage’s radio show. Savage sometimes loses a proper sense of moral balance in his furious indignation, but here he and Ms. Malkin have been entirely right and the oh-so sophisticated replies from the Volokh Conspiracy, among others, have been quite wrong. (Besides the fact that there is nothing more tiresome than a libertarian telling conservatives what conservatism is, Volokh is simply mistaken, because for moral conservatives there is properly no public venue in which crass, vulgar or obscene jokes are acceptable or entertaining.) The real question ought to be this: who now takes Mrs. Bush seriously as representative of the “moral values” of the evangelical and other Christians who have supported her husband? If these moral values involve watching decadent programs such as Desperate Housewives, their dissolution and disappearance from this country will not be lamented.

Although the site is called, anyone who thinks clearly is represented here. If an article is compelling, if it employs sound moral thinking and analysis, it’s worth reading, in my opinion. You may notice however, that most authors don’t think in a spiritual vacuum. They recognize a touchstone higher than themselves. ~Fr. Johannes Jacobse, Orthodoxy Today

Orthodoxy Today is one of the more prominent pages of online commentary connected to Orthodoxy in America. As such, there are certain things one expects to find there and others one expects never to find there. One does not expect to find any writing by avowedly anti-Christian bigots, who ought to be persona non grata in any enterprise concerned with moral renewal or the revival of Western culture.

Orthodoxy Today is not exclusively an Orthodox enterprise, of course, and claims in its mission statement to serve readers interested in “articles that bring a moral perspective to pressing cultural questions.” But one might ask, which moral perspective? I opened the page today, to which I have hesitantly linked Eunomia, to find not just George Weigel (which comes on the heels of a link last month to the ridiculous Michael Novak), whose presence might be understandable on certain issues, but also the appalling Christopher Hitchens. Orthodoxy Today does not claim to be a clearinghouse of Christophobes such as Mr. Hitchens, even when he waxes indignant about the oppression in North Korea.

Mr. Hitchens might happen to be perfectly correct about the moral horror of the North Korean regime, and still I wouldn’t waste my time on such a dreadful, anti-Christian person, much less would I associate my site with anything of his, unless it was to criticise and oppose something he wrote. Perhaps this is to be rather inflexible about what constitutes “sound moral thinking and analysis,” but it is fair to say a priori that Mr. Hitchens usually lacks sound moral thinking and analysis. One would think a despicable anti-Christian leftist would not be capable of representing any kind of morality welcome to an Orthodox audience. It is only slightly better when it comes to the prophets of aggressive war, Weigel and Novak, but at least here their relatively sensible contributions have been related to religious and cultural matters instead of their heinous politics and foreign policy views.

If Orthodoxy Today claimed to be a place where various, more specifically political views were presented to the public, there might be less reason to complain about including Hitchens. But why associate one of the most visible sites dedicated to Orthodox commentary with men who are clearly neocons, who are nearly as far from an Orthodox or generally moral view of the world as it is possible to be, especially when it comes to one of their most disreputable and offensive representatives?

So far, the commentariat and blogosphere (both left and right sides) have been curiously quiet about the news that Pentagon official Larry Franklin was arrested for improperly passing classified information to AIPAC.

Last summer, you may recall, there was quite a bit of analysis–from colleagues I respect and admire–downplaying the case.

Despite the arrest and the gravity of the charges, the NY Sun is continuing to pooh-pooh Franklin’s alleged actions.

“To us this sounds more like Sandy Berger or John Deutch than it does, say, Jonathan Pollard,” the Sun says. Um, not really. Both Berger and Deutch mishandled classified information–a serious crime–but neither was accused of deliberately passing on that information to others, as Franklin allegedly did.

There is, as they saw, a war on. Franklin’s alleged actions are scandalous. The apologists and apathetic are troubling. ~Michelle Malkin

Showing a surprising degree of independence from the party on this, Ms. Malkin is making sense. As usual, a “conservative” pundit such as Ms. Malkin seems to be a latecomer to the understanding that this was, at best, a serious breach of security. At worst, it is the tip of an iceberg of Israeli espionage inside the government (which would scarcely be very surprising). That she finds the silence about this curious, however, betrays either a great deal of naivete (and no one would accuse Ms. Malkin of being naive) or shows that she knows perfectly well why no one is talking about this case, which is the same reason why she is pretending not to know.

Hat tip to Justin Raimondo.

Col. David H. Hackworth, the United States Army’s legendary, highly decorated guerrilla fighter and lifelong champion of the doughboy and dogface, groundpounder and grunt, died Wednesday in Mexico. He was 74 years old. The cause of death was a form of cancer now appearing with increasing frequency among Vietnam veterans exposed to the defoliants called Agents Orange and Blue.

Col. Hackworth spent more than half a century on the country’s hottest battlefields, first as a soldier, then as a writer, war correspondent and sharp-eyed critic of the Military Industrial Complex and ticket-punching generals he dismissed as Perfumed Princes. He preferred the combat style of World War II and Korean War heroes like James Gavin and Matthew Ridgeway and, during Vietnam, of Hank “The Gunfighter” Emerson and Hal Moore. General Moore, the author of “We Were Soldiers Once and Young,” called him “the Patton of Vietnam” and General Creighton Abrams, the last American commander in that disastrous war, described him as “the best battalion commander I ever saw in the United States Army.”

Col. Hackworth’s battlefield exploits put him on the line of American military heroes squarely next to Sgt. York and Audie Murphy. The novelist Ward Just, who knew him for forty years, described him as “the genuine article, a soldier’s soldier, a connoisseur of combat.” At 14, as World War II was sputtering out, he lied about his age to join the Merchant Marine, and at 15 he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Over the next 26 years he spent fully seven in combat. He was put in for the Medal of Honor three times; the last application is currently under review at the Pentagon. He was twice awarded the Army’s second highest honor for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, along with 10 Silver Stars and 8 Bronze Stars. When asked about his many awards, he always said he was proudest of his 8 Purple Hearts and his Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

A reputation won on the battlefield made it impossible to dismiss him when he went on the attack later as a critic of careerism and incompetence in the military high command. In 1971, he appeared in the field on ABC’s Issue and Answers to say Vietnam “is a bad war…it can’t be won. We need to get out.” He also predicted that Saigon would fall to the North Vietnamese within four years, a prediction that turned out to be far more accurate than anything the Joint Chiefs of Staff were telling President Nixon or that the President was telling the American people.

With almost five years in country, Col. Hackworth was the only senior officer to sound off about the Vietnam War. After the interview, he retired from the Army and moved to Australia.

“He was perhaps the finest soldier of his generation,” observed the novelist and war correspondent Nicholas Proffit, who described Col. Hackworth’s combat autobiography About Face, a national best-seller, as “a passionate cry from the heart of a man who never stopped loving the Army, even when it stopped loving him back.” ~PRNewswire

Col. Hackworth was a great and outstandingly patriotic man. He was among the finest soldiers in American military history, as well as being an effective and honourable advocate for the welfare of American soldiers to his last days. He always put the welfare of this country and the men of our armed forces ahead of everything else. For all these things he should be honoured and remembered as long as our country exists. The ignorant and fatuous military men and militarists can breathe a sigh of relief that one of their greatest foes is gone. Fortunately, Col. Hackworth’s Soldiers for the Truth remains, and I would urge everyone who admired Col. Hackworth to support his organisation in the future.

It is one thing for persons without education, or perhaps with only a child’s capacity for reasoning, to rest on a simple, more or less unquestioned faith. My mother was a simple person, without a college education, but God tested her through very great suffering, including the murder of her second son and a near-fatal car accident to a beloved daughter, among many other griefs. She was cruelly tempted to doubt the goodness of God and even the existence of God. Her love for God, even in the darkness, held firm. She could not, however, good woman that she was, offer a reasoned case for what she was doing. Her faith was deep, and tested, and wise, but not verbose or highly cognitive.

It is another thing for intellectually talented and well-trained minds to practice an unquestioned faith. That would be an abuse of God’s gift, a failure of application, a classic case of intellectual sloth, and a lack of honesty and courage. To think unquestioned faith a standard to be aspired to would be an outrage. In its infantile conception of the God who made the sun and all the stars — and all the brains within the universe — to think unquestioned faith a good would be a blasphemy.

God does not wish us, in coming to Him, to go down on all fours. He wishes us to come to Him erect and free and questioning and attentive. He wishes the worship, not of blind and dumb slaves, but of intelligent and free women and men.

Andrew Sullivan is a brave witness to both love for the Church and brave questioning. He has taught a lot of us more about homosexuality and its inner life than we would otherwise know. To the best of my knowledge, he has not been chastised by the Congregation of the Faith, or any bishop, or any priest for his probing and his quarreling and his often quite strident and grievously pained cries of disapproval. His questioning is a service to the church, as to all persons of good will who come in contact with it. I do think some of his allegations over the top, such as those cited above. Even so, he is entitled to cry out as he sees fit. ~Michael Novak, NRO

A good question might be to ask why Michael Novak has any credibility as a theologian with any serious Catholic when he says things like this. A better question would be why anyone who claims to be a serious Catholic feels the need to justify the whining of an apologist for unrepentant sinners, whose complaints consist chiefly of his church not being accommodating enough with his and other moderns’ sinfulness and disobedience. It is rather disturbing to think that “religion in the public square,” the theme of First Things, of which Mr. Novak is an editor and to which he contributes regularly, is being defined by men with such evidently deficient moral and theological discernment. The appropriate response to Mr. Sullivan’s hysteria after the election of Pope Benedict XVI would have been a curt, concise dismissal of unbalanced and bitter writings.

Hat tip to Tom Piatak and Cultural Revolutions Online.
Read the rest of this entry »

The Inter-Orthodox Theological Conference “Ecumenism: Origins – Expectations – Disenchantment” was convened on September 20th, 2004 in Thessaloniki, Greece and carried out its work until September 24th with great success. The conference was organized by the Department of Pastoral and Social Theology of the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Society of Orthodox Studies. Conference sessions were held in the Ceremony Hall of the University.

The conference commenced with a proclamation by His All-holiness Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki. In attendance were many Metropolitans and Bishops, as well as the mayor of Thessaloniki (Mr. Panagiotis Psomiadis), members of the Greek Parliament, and university professors, who offered greetings to the conference attendees.

Over the five days of the conference, sixty respected speakers, including Hierarchs from various Orthodox Churches, analyzed every aspect of Ecumenism before a packed audience of the abbots of holy monasteries, clergy, monks, and laity, among which were many theologians, professors from both Theological Schools, and students of the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki

Conference participants came to the following conclusions, based on the numerous presentations and accompanying discussions (PDF file linked).

Hat tip to Uncut Mountain.

Christ Is Risen! Christos Aneste! Christos Voskrese!

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life. ~Paschal Troparion

What is of far greater concern to U.S. commanders and analysts is that despite this broad strategic sense of when, and even on what scale, the new attacks would come, U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies have so far proven totally unable to prevent them. This appears to graphically demonstrate that U.S. forces in Iraq two years after occupying the country are losing the most important front in the war — the intelligence one.

In this sense, indeed, the position of the U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies, for all the overwhelming superiority of U.S. forces and firepower, is far inferior to that in Vietnam during the 1967-72 period. For the Phoenix counter-insurgency program did indeed inflict devastating damage on the political, undercover and intelligence forces or cadres of the Viet Cong. By contrast, U.S. forces and those of the new Iraqi government have so far signally failed to systematically penetrate the insurgent forces and significantly disrupt their organization.

Instead, evidence has been accumulating that extreme Islamist groups including al-Qaida have systematically penetrated the new Iraqi police and security forces and that they enjoy excellent and lethally efficient intelligence on their personnel. ~The Washington Times

Military affairs are not my specialty, but I am fairly sure that a war in which there is extensive superiority of intelligence on the other side is a war that cannot be “won” in any meaningful sense. Knowing more about the location, organisation and strengths of an enemy than he knows about you, as seems obvious, is decisive in determining the outcome of a conflict. It is already a given that this war will not end on conventional, state vs. state, second generation warfare terms. We unsurprisingly quickly won our conventional “second generation” war in 2003 and have been losing what William Lind describes as a fourth generation war.
Read the rest of this entry »