You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June, 2005.
Actually, looking at the map of my upcoming summer sojourn, it will be more of a katabasis, as I will be heading down south to my home country, New Mexico, and my folks’ soon-to-be new place in central Texas, but then Xenophon’s journey was mostly a katabasis, too. Happily, my trek will not involve military defeat, treachery or perilous escapes from the depths of the Persian empire, but it will take me away from Eunomia for the better part of July, so I am bidding my friends and readers adieu for now.
Incidentally, this Anabasis comparison would, if I extended the analogy a bit further, make Chicago the equivalent of Mesopotamia, which might make Mayor Daley a new Artaxerxes II. That part of the analogy makes the most sense of all, except that it would probably be rather unfair to Artaxerxes. At the end of the month, I will be back east in New England for a few days, so perhaps I will have a chance to shout, “Thalassa, thalassa!” in echo of the intrepid Ten Thousand. More likely, I will be shouting at the New England traffic, but anything’s possible.
I’m beginning to think maybe God is watching over America. We are blessed with leaders — well, mainly one leader — so clueless, or perhaps so challenged in various ways that he can’t bring himself to do what he needs to do to save his unwise policies from rejection by the people.
Dubya simply had to do something different tonight, something to increase his credibility, something to dissipate the growing notion that he and his administration are divorced from reality over Iraq. Instead he simply repeated his standard schtick. I suspect he is psychologically incapable of admitting in public that he ever made a mistake or miscalculation, and he kept that record intact.
A poll by the ABC affiliate in Los Angeles found that after the speech support for the war dropped — by about five percentage points I think; I’ll check the Web ite in the morning, and opposition increased by about the same amount.
If he continues like this he might just innoculate the American people from supporting foreign adventures for a decade or so. ~Alan Bock, Antiwar.com Blog
As Iraqis make progress toward a free society, the effects are being felt beyond Iraq’s borders. Before our coalition liberated Iraq, Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Today the leader of Libya has given up his chemical and nuclear weapons programs. Across the broader Middle East, people are claiming their freedom. In the last few months, we have witnessed elections in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon. These elections are inspiring democratic reformers in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Our strategy to defend ourselves and spread freedom is working. The rise of freedom in this vital region will eliminate the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder and make our nation safer.
We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America’s resolve. We are fighting against men with blind hatred and armed with lethal weapons who are capable of any atrocity. They wear no uniform; they respect no laws of warfare or morality. They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will in Iraq just as they tried to shake our will on September 11, 2001. They will fail. The terrorists do not understand America. The American people do not falter under threat and we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins.
America and our friends are in a conflict that demands much of us. It demands the courage of our fighting men and women, it demands the steadfastness of our allies and it demands the perseverance of our citizens. We accept these burdens because we know what is at stake. We fight today because Iraq now carries the hope of freedom in a vital region of the world, and the rise of democracy will be the ultimate triumph over radicalism and terror. And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we will fight them there, we will fight them across the world and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won. ~President Bush, June 28, 2005
The excerpt from Mr. Bush’s speech could have come from any of a dozen of his previous speeches since the invasion in March 2003. The same could be said for most of the speech. Short remarks mentioning a few details about counter-insurgency training do not constitute a serious answer to the doubts of the public. When it comes to parroting the official line on Iraq and terrorism, one thing we can say for Mr. Bush is that he is dreadfully, mind-numbingly consistent. Consistency is often a good quality, provided that it is consistency in practicing virtues and living out noble convictions, and perseverance is even more admirable, as long as it is perseverance in the right course of action. Mr. Bush has been consistently wrong about Iraq, and yet perseveres in folly nonetheless.
For Mr. Bush, it has become axiomatic that Iraq is a vital anti-terrorist effort. He has become so enmeshed in his own rhetoric, so “on message,” that he is incapable of imagining the real criticisms of his position and finding ways to address those criticisms. If he believes the only serious criticisms concern the setting of a timetable for withdrawal or the problem of whether to send more soldiers (and from this speech, one gets the impression that he cannot imagine anything other than that as real criticism), he can dismiss these easily by simply reiterating that the mission is too important and that we want to empower Iraqis, etc. Lacking anything serious to say, he will invariably return to his boilerplate material talking about people who hate freedom, “fighting the terrorists over there” and the cult mantra “freedomdemocracyfreedomdemocracy.” If the public was expecting the president to demonstrate something other than his ability to spout cliches and the trite, hackneyed leavings of worn-out ideologies they were sorely disappointed Tuesday night.
This speech betrays a remarkable disconnection from reality, not only from the realities of Iraq but also from the political realities here in America. Mr. Bush’s numbers are at their lowest levels of his presidency, and are among the worst of any second-term president in history. Yet, in a speech designed to rally the public and give the American people some sense of direction in the Iraq war and a reason for hope of relatively speedy victory, he essentially ignored the growing disaffection and unease in the country, told us to wait just a little longer and, of course, to rally ’round the flag. His supporters can tout this brazen obliviousness to his own unpopularity as proof that he is a man of conviction–but what sort of convictions?
The insurgency has not been significantly weakened in the last year, in spite of all the “turning points” that have been reached. Iraqis are being killed much more frequently in much greater numbers than before the “handover” (which should tell us how inauthentically Iraqi and sovereign the transitional government appears to the consituencies fueling the insurgency). Our soldiers continue to die and be wounded at a steady rate, and each “turning point” in “breaking” the insurgency seems only to have spread it out and made it more aggressive. Mr. Bush paid no attention to these problems, except by way of denouncing the freedom-haters, intra alia.
What is the virtue of a political or military leader who is oblivious to present circumstances? Instead of leadership, we get a glorified press release reiterating the same, tired bullet points. This is what the cultists of the presidency venerate? One thing that can be said for our more successful wartime presidents, even those whom I loathe, is that they were adaptable and flexible (that they were sometimes as morally flexible as they were in tactics is another issue). The inability to adapt in war is a fatal flaw. Whatever the merits or demerits of the war, there should be a broad consensus in this country that fumbling along unsuccessfully for several more years is unacceptable and profoundly detrimental to our armed forces, which incidentally have a real war to fight elsewhere in the world.
Mr. Bush’s indefatigable persistence in an erroneous course of action is a threat to the welfare of our armed forces and to the security of this country. The longer this Iraq debacle drags on, the more radical the insurgents will become until we find ourselves confronted with our own versions of the Moscow theater crisis or the Beslan massacre. Mr. Bush’s incompetent Iraq policy has potentially created a new source of terrorist threats to this country, and it is only to that extent that the country of Iraq has ever had anything to do with anti-American terrorism.
Congress must impeach and remove Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney for this illegal war, or the administration will continue to blunder along as thousands more die in a profitless and pointless cause.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 51 percent of Americans disapprove of the two-term president’s overall performance, with 40 percent strongly disapproving.
Comparatively, former president Bill Clinton’s highest strong disapproval rating peaked at 33 percent in 1994, while the strong disapproval rating for Bush’s father George H.W. Bush reached 34 percent in 1992, according to the poll. ~Yahoo News
This poll result may not ultimately mean very much. At first, it might suggest massive electoral rebellion against the incumbent president’s party as we saw in 1994 and the massive disaffection from the incumbent president that we saw in 1992. Unlike Messrs. Clinton and Bush the Elder, Dobleve has the option of demagoguing his position as a wartime president, which has the same destructively attractive effect on Americans as flames have on moths. All political trends right now point to a GOP electoral disaster in 2006, but that presupposes there is an opposition party that can appear credible as a party of government once again.
Most Americans now believe that President George W. Bush’s administration “intentionally misled” the public in going to war in Iraq, according to a poll.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll came on the eve of a key speech in which Bush will seek public support for the war, which 53 percent of Americans who were surveyed said was not worth fighting.
A record 57 percent say the Bush administration “intentionally exaggerated its evidence that pre-war Iraq possessed nuclear, chemical or biological weapons,” according to the poll.
It was the first time a majority said the administration “intentionally misled” the public, the survey said.
The poll also shows 56 percent disapprove of Bush’s handling of Iraq, including 44 percent who “strongly disapprove”.
Still, 53 percent remain optimistic rather than pessimistic about the prospects for Iraq in the next year, the poll said.
And nearly six in 10, or 58 percent, want US troops to stay in Iraq until civil order has been restored, while 41 percent asked for their withdrawal. ~Yahoo News
It is worth bearing in mind that ABC/Post polls are almost always far more favourable to a sitting administration, and their figures on support for withdrawal continue to be well below those found in other polls. To those 58% who want to restore civil order, I would only note that their position would require our soldiers to stay there for the next 15 or 20 years. (Civil order is a different level of order above simply defeating an insurgency.) I wonder if the support for staying would remain the same if that estimate were put to the subjects of the poll.
In his radio address on Saturday, Bush warned that there is likely to be more tough fighting to come in Iraq. And, as he did in his meeting at the White House Friday with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Bush urged Americans to share their confidence in a positive outcome to the war.
“The Iraqi people are growing in optimism and hope,” Bush said. “They understand that the violence is only a part of the reality in Iraq.” ~SFGate.com
The electrical situation differs from area to area. On some days, the electricity schedule is two hours of electricity, and then four hours of no electricity. On other days, it’s four hours of electricity to four or six hours of no electricity. The problem is that the last couple of weeks, we don’t have electricity in the mornings for some reason. Our local generator is off until almost 11 am, and the house generator allows for ceiling fans (or “pankas”), the refrigerator, television and a few other appliances. Air conditioners cannot be turned on and the heat is oppressive by 8 am these days.
Detentions and assassinations, along with intermittent electricity, have also been contributing to sleepless nights. We’re hearing about raids in many areas in the Karkh half of Baghdad in particular. On the television the talk about ‘terrorists’ being arrested, but there are dozens of people being rounded up for no particular reason. Almost every Iraqi family can give the name of a friend or relative who is in one of the many American prisons for no particular reason. They aren’t allowed to see lawyers or have visitors and stories of torture have become commonplace. Both Sunni and Shia clerics who are in opposition to the occupation are particularly prone to attacks by “Liwa il Theeb” or the special Iraqi forces Wolf Brigade. They are often tortured during interrogation and some of them are found dead.
There were also several explosions and road blocks today. It took the cousin an hour to get to work, which was only twenty minutes away before the war. Now, he has to navigate between closed streets, check points, and those delightful concrete barriers rising up everywhere. It is especially difficult to be caught in traffic and that happens a lot lately. Baghdad has been cut up into sections and several of them may be found to be off limits immediately after an explosion or before a Puppet meeting. The least pleasant situation is to be caught in mid-day traffic, on a crowded road, in the heat- waiting for the next bomb to go off.
What people find particularly frustrating is the fact that while Baghdad seems to be falling apart in so many ways with roads broken and pitted, buildings blasted and burnt out and residential areas often swimming in sewage, the Green Zone is flourishing. The walls surrounding restricted areas housing Americans and Puppets have gotten higher- as if vying with the tallest of date palms for height. The concrete reinforcements and road blocks designed to slow and impede traffic are now a part of everyday scenery- the road, the trees, the shops, the earth, the sky… and the ugly concrete slabs sometimes wound insidiously with barbed wire. ~Riverbend
Yes, the violence is only part of “the reality.” Other parts of the reality include fear, terror, frustration, discontent and resentment. There may well be some bright spots in Iraq, but it would seem that, from an Iraqi perspective, those bright spots have nothing to do with us. High time that we brought our soldiers home and let them have their country back.
The toll has been tremendous, according to the AP count: From April 28 through June 23, there were at least 161 vehicle bombings that killed at least 586 people and wounded at least 1,747.
In total, for the year from the handover of sovereignty on June 28, 2004, until June 23, 2005, there were at least 480 car bombs, killing 2,180 people and wounding 5,533.
That represents a big jump in violence from the previous year. The Brookings Institution in Washington, which keeps track of all suicide bombings as well as car bombs that kill two or more people, counted 95 such attacks from July 2003 through June 2004, when 979 were killed and 2,662 were wounded.
Altogether, the AP count shows that insurgents have killed more than 1,250 people since the government of new Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari took over April 28. ~Yahoo News
If this is what the “last throes” of the insurgency can accomplish, how many more will the insurgents manage to kill when the insurgency has supposedly been “defeated”?
The hardline Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sweeping toward a stunning presidential election victory over the former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, officials said early this morning.
“Ahmadinejad is well ahead and it seems he is the winner,” said an Interior Ministry official, who declined to be named. “Poor provinces have voted massively for Ahmadinejad.”
An official at the Islamic Republic’s Guardian Council, which must approve the election results, said that with 12.9 million votes counted, Mr Ahmadinejad had secured 61 per cent.
The official said turnout was 22 million, 47 per cent, which was well down on the 63 per cent of Iran’s 46.7 million eligible voters who cast ballots in the first round on 17 June. A final result is expected today. ~The Independent
Beset by fading public support for the war and growing violence on the ground, President George Bush flatly rejected any timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq, vowing the United States would stay until the insurgency was defeated and democracy had been established.
“This is a time of testing, a critical time,” Mr Bush acknowledged yesterday after a meeting at the White House with Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Iraqi Prime Minister. The insurgents “feel that if they can shake our will and affect our public opinion, we’ll give up on the mission. But I’m not giving up the mission, we’re doing the right thing”. The President was speaking amid unprecedented challenges to his whole Iraq policy. A week of carnage in that country was capped by news that six marines were killed on Thursday in the former rebel stronghold of Fallujah, lifting the total American death toll in Iraq to a total of 1,730.
Several victims were believed to be female marines. The Pentagon said they died when a suicide car bomber exploded his vehicle as a US military convoy was passing. The attack is the 479th recorded car bombing since the handover of sovereignty on 28 June 2004. Even more serious is the ebbing support on the home front. Polls show a majority of Americans believe the March 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein was a mistake. Some 60 per cent now favour a troop pullout, while Mr Bush’s approval rating has tumbled to little more than 40 per cent, the lowest of any second-term president since Richard Nixon in the throes of Watergate. ~The Independent
Rejecting pleas by homeowners fighting to keep their properties, the Supreme Court on Thursday said local governments could condemn a person’s home or business so the sites could be redeveloped for more lucrative uses. ~Chicago Tribune
The Tribune’s phrasing of the first sentence captures the matter surprisingly well for a modern piece of journalistic writing. The protection of property rights is not “lucrative” enough, and now apparently lucre has become the most important standard by which we weigh the just claims of the homesteader. I have never been thrilled at the prospect that a government could take my property for the sake of a utility plant or a public road, but I could at least grant that there is some interest in the common good at work here, however well or poorly it may be applied.
Here there is the illusion of seeking the common good, while really perverting the purpose of eminent domain to the benefit of limited private interests: “revitalising” a neighbourhood by driving its inhabitants out of their homes for yet another faceless strip mall, shopping center or set of chain stores serves the common good only if we measure that good in terms of money and not the life and integrity of a community, and perhaps not even then. What is more, we can be fairly sure that this “revitalisation” benefits the area only marginally, where the land of the small property owner becomes instead an outpost for some multinational or chain that can, and will, depart when it finds “more lucrative uses” for another site. That is the mechanical, efficient logic of corporations, and it never has the best interests of any community at heart.
In New London, Connecticut, it will be hotel, housing and office developments in the shadow of a Pfizer facility. Those developments will probably not even appreciably improve the economic life of New London, though it may improve the revenues of the city. Besides, property rights are not something to be traded away even for a general higher rate of economic growth. They are the last defense against the encroachment of government and corporations, the poor man’s shield as well as his vehicle to a more prosperous life, and they are the fortification that secures the domestic castle against attacks from outside. To weaken those rights or take them away is one of the most grievous acts of tyranny imaginable.
Rejecting pleas by homeowners fighting to keep their properties, the Supreme Court on Thursday said local governments could condemn a person’s home or business so the sites could be redeveloped for more lucrative uses.
In a 5-4 decision written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the court said the Constitution permits governments to condemn a person’s property, paying them a fair price for it, as part of a broader economic redevelopment plan to revitalize a distressed community.
The decision, one of the most anxiously awaited of the term, emphasized that governments have long relied on powers of eminent domain to condemn property for public uses, such as railways and utilities. The court has historically taken a “deferential approach to legislative judgments in this field,” the majority said.
The court recognized the “hardship” such condemnations may bring to property owners uprooted from homes and businesses in the name of economic development. But local governments should be given “broad latitude” to determine whether their citizens would be best served by condemning private property, especially where it is part of a broader scheme for redevelopment, the court said.
“Promoting economic development is a traditional and long-accepted function of government,” the court said, upholding efforts by the city of New London, Conn., to redevelop a parcel of land in a distressed part of town. ~Chicago Tribune
Kelo v. New London is a ruling that will enter the ranks of the most appalling, unjustifiable and unconstitutional Court rulings in history. Note the state capitalist claim for compelling government interest offered by Justice Stevens: economic development is a function of government. Sadly, in practice, Americans have allowed precedent after precedent to be set where the government is supposedly an agent for economic development, and from this state capitalist premise it would follow that property rights are only as secure as is most useful to the bottom line of the state and its corporate allies. This is to make our ownership of our own land entirely dependent on the pleasure of oligarchs and bureaucrats. Thomas Fleming has already laid out the consequences for property rights implied in this ruling in his excellent article this week.
To his incisive criticism I would also add that without secure property rights liberty simply becomes an empty word. If a man is not secure in his own possessions from the arbitrary attacks of state or private interests, he cannot be anything remotely like an independent citizen. He must inevitably become a lackey of either the government or a private master, forfeiting his personal legal, traditional rights as a citizen for the sake of economic or political protection. The road to serfdom has now effectively reached its end, and we have arrived at the destination by judicial fiat.
I would like to add a few notes from an historical parallel that occurred to me as I was working through my seemingly interminable reading list for oral exams. What the Court has allowed appears to me to be the full endorsement of the interests of what the Byzantine emperors generically termed dynatoi, the powerful, who were all those officials and landlords with sufficient influence and power in their local area to compel farmers to sell their land or be forced into dependent relationships with them. In the tenth century, as this new aristocracy of wealth began to emerge, a series of emperors attempted unsuccessfully to rein in the depredations of the dynatoi, both for the sake of moral justice (as the emperors themselves said at the time) and for the more obvious reasons of preserving the sources of state revenues and curtailing the political independence of the aristocracy. Those familiar with Byzantine history will know already that the efforts to curtail the dynatoi largely failed in the end, exacerbating structural instabilities, weaknesses and internal conflicts in the Byzantine state that hastened its collapse to the Crusaders in 1204, after which time the empire was never really in a position to recover or fend off even more aggressive invaders. The predatory habits and depredations of our modern dynatoi may not be having quite the same effects, but they are an acid dissolving the economic, political and social foundations of our country nonetheless.
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A key Foreign Office diplomat responsible for liaising with UN inspectors says today that claims the government made about Iraq’s weapons programme were “totally implausible”.
He tells the Guardian: “I’d read the intelligence on WMD for four and a half years, and there’s no way that it could sustain the case that the government was presenting. All of my colleagues knew that, too”.
Carne Ross, who was a member of the British mission to the UN in New York during the run-up to the invasion, resigned from the FO last year, after giving evidence to the Butler inquiry. ~The Guardian
Indeed, the entire life of the Church as the theanrthopic Body of Christ lies in this truth. It is in the Church that humanity is united to divinity, since it is the body of Christ that was raised to the right hand of the Father. It is in the Church that the Holy Spirit breathes His uncreated gifts, manifesting the Son and uniting man to Him, since it was Christ the Word that sent the Spirit which proceeds from the Father to His disciples. And it is to the Church that all of humanity is called, summoned to freely participate in the life of God as He partakes in humanity’s.
Thus, in Orthodoxy, the Church is not merely a socio-temporal community, since it is the unity of humanity; it is not merely an institution, since it is not limited to its administrative structures and hierarchies; it is not a cultural artifact, but a mode of life, a mode of thought, a mode of being that is ineffibly interpenetrated by the life uncreated Godhead. ~Leonidas Pittos, Orthodox Ecclesiology
I would like to introduce readers of Eunomia to a new blog that has been in the works for some time and which has been inaugurated with its first post. This is Orthodox Ecclesiology, operated by a good friend and colleague of mine here at the University of Chicago, Leonidas Pittos. Leonidas is a Ph.D. student in Byzantine history, specialising in late Byzantine religion and culture, and he is a staunch Orthodox Traditionalist from the Church of Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece. He is very engaging and thoughtful, he is especially well-versed in the writings of the Greek Fathers and has what I consider to be a profound understanding of liturgics and ecclesiology.
Anyone interested broadly in Church Tradition, ecclesiology, theology, the problems of ecumenism and questions of religious identity, among many other topics, would be well-served to start reading Orthodox Ecclesiology. Leonidas provides a particular and very intelligent perspective on the problems confronting the Orthodox Church today, and his blog is a very welcome addition to a sphere where educated and rational discourse is often lacking.
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced a measure that would require President George W. Bush to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq no later than October 2006.
Republican Representatives Walter Jones of North Carolina and Ron Paul of Texas joined Democratic Representatives Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii in sponsoring the resolution, said Doug Gordon, a Kucinich spokesman.
Jones voted for authorizing the war on Oct. 10, 2002; Paul, Kucinich and Abercrombie opposed it.
“Today is the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq,'’ Kucinich said at a news conference in Washington today. “It is time to thank our troops and say, `come home.”’
The bill is the first bipartisan measure on troop withdrawals since Congress gave Bush approval to invade the country to oust former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Gordon said.
The measure would require Bush to begin removing American troops from Iraq on or before Oct. 1, 2006, Gordon said. ~Bloomberg
This is an important next step in the push for withdrawal. Only a few weeks ago there was the much weaker resolution calling for the president to create a plan for withdrawal. This measure is much stronger, and how it fares in the House will be a test of how strong popular opposition to the war has become. It is a hopeful sign that Americans may be leaving Iraq within a year and a half. This measure should also be a test for all Congressmen, and those who fail to support specific withdrawal measures should be challenged in next spring’s primaries and targeted for defeat in the autumn.
The haggard patient heaves himself into a sitting position and, with painful slowness, takes a little gruel, swallowing the disgusting pap with difficulty. He who until recently was consuming rare beef and good red wine smiles wanly at this minor, toothless triumph. The relatives around the bed exclaim with forced delight how well he has done and how good it is to see him eating heartily again. They make weak jokes and excessively cheerful remarks about how he will soon be home again. The whole scene is a ghastly, flesh-crawling deception. Everyone present knows that death is hovering a few beds away and there is no hope. Yet nobody will say it. Such is the position of the Conservative and Unionist party.
Now, if the Tory party were a person and we were its family, there would be a good excuse for this polite fraud. But the Tory party is not a person and we are not its wife and children, or even its friends. There is no point in pretending that the Tory party is going to recover. This pretence only delays the construction of a new movement, which cannot flourish until we have said goodbye to the old one. It also gives the Liberal Democrats the freedom to supplant the Tory party, unobstructed, in many of its former strongholds, a freedom they are enthusiastically using.
The Tories’ position is hopeless. No man living could conceivably unify the party’s contradictory wings. Europhile or Eurosceptic, pro- or anti-marriage, market enthusiast or moralist — each of these quarrels is fundamental and cannot be settled by compromise. To refuse to resolve them is to ask to be dragged, by events beyond our control, into places we never decided to go. ~Peter Hitchens, The Spectator (subscription required)
Mr. Hitchens’ pained denunciation of the pathetic Tories is entirely correct. Of course, it would have been correct five years ago, or even five years before that when they were still in power, and I think Mr. Hitchens knows that. The same lame arguments he decries today have dominated the internal politics of the Tories for eight years. But Mr. Hitchens’ dissection of the rotting corpse of British Conservatism is more incisive and informative than that.
“And here is the core of it. The Tory party does not know what it is supposed to be opposing. In fact, in general, it has either supported or failed to oppose all the most important actions of New Labour. These are constitutional, moral and cultural, and they are the real issue. The admirable Peter Oborne, a brave and original conservative critic of the government, insisted a fortnight ago in this magazine that the Tory party had ‘won all the great intellectual and political battles of the last quarter-century’. Regrettably, this is not so. Margaret Thatcher certainly did not win the culture wars. She did not even fight them.”
One might apply the same criticism to the Reagan administration and the Republican majority in Congress since ‘94. That the GOP has learned how to be successfully two-faced and hypocritical while still managing to motivate voters and win elections masks the same core confusion and loss of principle. Everything that Mr. Hitchens has to say about the Tories could be said, more or less, about the Republicans here, except that the GOP has answered the question of whether to copy New Labour or not with an affirmative.
Hitchens reserves a more damning indictment for later: “They cannot even understand patriotism properly. It was clearly never in British interests to join the American invasion of Iraq. The bitterest opponents of this adventure have been traditional conservative types. Yet, precisely because it is not instinctively patriotic, the Tory party grasped at the war as an attempt to prove that it still loves the country it sold to Brussels in 1972.” Likewise, faux conservatives in this country embrace war as a patriotic supplement. Having little or no family or historical connection to America, or losing it after having had such a connection, they can nourish their emaciated sense of loyalty only through enthusiasm for the deaths of others in wars waged for the interests of other nations.
There is one telling difference, and this rests in the difference between political parties here and in Britain. The Tories are losing party members to the Grim Reaper, and unlike here their membership numbers are very small, while the GOP is flush with a new generation of imbeciles and half-baked nationalists weaned on the nonsense that passes for political discourse on talk radio and cable television. It is conceivable that enough of the Conservatives could simply vanish and no party organisation would remain. Let us hope, however, for whatever little there is worth left saving in Britain that the Tories end with a bang rather than a whimper. A quiet death will probably mean that no one will bother to pick up the now-extinguished torch of Conservatism.
Laws authorizing a guardian to starve to death a ward are profoundly immoral, even as applied to those who would have wanted to die; we do not accommodate suicides. But in hundreds of cases around the country every year, such laws are enforced, and hundreds of people die like Terri Schiavo. The only extraordinary thing about the Schiavo case is that her parents have done everything in their power to prevent her death, with the result that Schiavo has received much more process and much more publicity than others to whom the same thing has happened. One commentator described the Schiavo case as the “crime of the century.” In fact it is a banal, run-of-the-mill crime of a kind that happens every day in the United States.
And for this, we cannot blame the courts. The fault lies not in our judges but in ourselves, for we have created a society in which the law allows the strong and healthy to determine that some of the weak and infirm have lives not worth living and then to kill them. ~Robert T. Miller, First Things (courtesy of Orthodoxy Today)
Nothing—not a Mickey Mouse balloon, not even a mother’s soothing voice—would have gotten a response from Terri Schiavo, the comatose Florida woman whose right-to-die case entangled the courts and mesmerized America for months. That’s according to an autopsy report released today. Any message from the world would have had to travel the neural pathway to her neocortex, where it would then have been processed and a response generated. That first step, the initial incoming route, was destroyed some 15 years ago when, with her brain deprived of oxygen, she slipped into a persistent vegetative state.
The medical examiners found no evidence of strangulation or abuse—another question raised in the legal proceedings. “They did an extremely thorough job of ruling that out,” says Karen Weidenheim, chief of neuropathology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. And the autopsy concluded that the vision centers of her brain were dead, rendering her blind.
Her death on March 31 ended a familial, legal, and political struggle over removing her feeding tube. The autopsy showed that her brain was half the size of normal, and examiner Jon Thogmartin said at a press conference: “No amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons.” ~U.S. News and World Report
Initially, I had not intended to discuss the autopsy of the unfortunate Mrs. Schiavo. What the report told us spoke for itself, and the pro-existence enthusiasts, who lost all sense of perspective and proportion during the controversy earlier this year, could read the facts themselves if they were so inclined. Short of a fideism or spiritualism that mocks the understanding of the integral unity of body and soul in the Christian faith, no Christian can seriously believe that Mrs. Schiavo was meaningfully alive as a human person during the last many years. St. Gregory of Nyssa made the common-sense observation that the brain has a unique and important role in the unity of body and soul, which he deduced from the obviously deliterious consequences to human life resulting from serious brain trauma.
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According to Americans United’s well-documented 14-page report [.pdf], the problem is not that evangelicals haven’t been able to speak about their religious beliefs; the problem is that cadets who aren’t evangelical Christians, and have no interest in converting, were dive-bombed by religious propaganda intended to convert them to the faith.
In 2004, when Mel Gibson’s controversial movie The Passion of the Christ was about to be released, Cadet First Class Casey Weinstein, a Jewish graduate of the Air Force Academy, discovered that Gibson-backers had placed promotional leaflets advertising the film on the breakfast plates of the school’s nearly 4,000 cadets.
“As the cadets ate, images from the film were flashed on cafeteria screens used for official academy messages,” the Charlotte Observer recently reported. In the next few days, more flyers would appear at breakfast and in addition, “mass e-mail messages” were sent recommending that cadets “attend special screenings of the film.”
Weinstein is the son of Mikey Weinstein, an attorney and academy graduate who over the years had expressed his consternation over the Academy’s religious practices.
In an opinion piece published by the Colorado Springs Gazette, John J. Michels Jr., an Academy graduate and former military attorney who now works in the corporate world, suggested that the incidents of bias could not have happened with the knowledge of Academy officials.
“Large crucifixes being erected in the cadet area outside of the chapel, fliers placed under doors on Easter morning celebrating the reincarnation of Jesus, and video projections of Bible verses on screens in the dining hall during mandatory meal formations do not occur without the blessing (figuratively, and perhaps literally) of the commander,” he wrote. ~Bill Berkowitz, Antiwar.com
As I read this, I wondered: what exactly is the problem? Even though the Academy is a government educational institution by definition, this is a perfect example of what the fantastic, chimerical beast “separation of church and state” does not include. There are probably institutional regulations on the books forbidding this sort of thing, no doubt adopted in the flurry of non-discrimination fever that has beset our country since the 1970s. But what we should ask is: what coercion has been taking place?
As I read the report, I could see that there was no institutional coercion. That is, no one suffered academically or received any official penalty for responding negatively to the efforts at proselytism. No cadets were unfairly disciplined by the Academy, nor were they expelled. It would be at such a point that a reasonable person could conclude that religious fervour had trumped the proper running of a military educational institution by undermining the integrity of enforcing a code of conduct through arbitrary or summary treatment on the basis of religion. That is not happening in Colorado Springs.
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To conclude: Democracy has two faces—one is the face of Aristotle and Jefferson, a completely decentralized system in which power is exercised at the lowest possible level and is subject to law and tradition. As Aristotle noted, any democracy in which the will of the people takes precedence over law and tradition is only another kind of tyranny.
The other face, the false face, is that of the demagogues of the Athenian Assembly, and also of Robespierre and Abraham Lincoln and both political parties today. This is a system based on the principle of untrammeled majority rule, subject to neither law nor tradition. If the people want to overturn any clause in the Constitution, they are free to do so. This explains why the Bill of Rights, which were designed to protect the states and the people from the federal government are now used to reinforce the power of the federal government against the people and the states.
In reality, of course, the the people has no power, since we are all under the control of tiny oligarchic cliques and pressure groups that monopolize wealth, power, and prestige. How false democracy devoured Jefferson’s true democracy is a long sad story, punctuated by wars and revolutionary legislation. But if Americans ever wish to be free, they shall not only have to go back to the thinking of Adams and Jefferson but also to the ancient writers and ancient languages that formed their minds and inspired their imaginations. And even we if cannot recover our political freedom as a nation, we can liberate our minds from the propaganda of civics books and discpline our free minds on the classical curriculum. ~Thomas Fleming, The Autodidact
Aristotle and Jefferson’s visions of local, lawful democracy are very good and welcome antidotes to what most people think of as democracy. I recommend Dr. Fleming’s article in its entirety. When I have denounced democracy here and elsewhere, it has always been aimed at the distortions of these visions and the false democracy that most Europeans since at least 1789 have seen as the only sort of democracy they have ever encountered. The Swiss were, and still are to some extent, a sterling example of true, locally-based democracy as it should be practiced if it must be. But today even the Swiss endure a relatively centralised and consolidated state, and this is due to the influence of modern, European democracy on the respectable burgher self-government that grew up naturally in Switzerland.
The democracy of historical Athens degenerated and became the debased form that gave democracy such a bad name for the next 2,000 years. Athenian democracy was corrupted through the expansion of its commercial and political empire. That observation has become a commonplace, but what usually does not follow that observation is the additional observation that regimes premised on the rule of the many are often more prone to territorially expansionist policies than more narrowly-based regimes. Increased territory is most in the interest of the many, as it makes practicable the ancient popular demand for the distribution of land.
In the modern case, populist and nationalist enthusiasms have replaced the drive for land with ideological drives for advancing this or that national ideal and affirming the power of the nation. This has, if anything, made the many in any given state even more prone to expansionism and conflict than they were before. This is a short way of saying that warfare states have not been foisted on “the people,” but they have willingly embraced the small band of oligarchs who proposed to create warfare states. The many want expansion and hegemony, always and in every culture, and war is the demagogue’s best resource.
In the Roman Republic, providing land for veterans was one of the continual pressures for expansionist warfare, and thus plebeians had as much, if not more, of a vested interest in that warfare as the aristocracy. The military demands of the expanded state required the building up of permanent armies that came to identify with their commanders, which almost immediately militarised the factional conflicts of the city to the ultimate destruction of the old Republic and the establishment of the moderate, restrained dictatorship of the Principate.
The American Republic was infected by the same corrupted form of democracy as Athens, most of whose advocates were constantly urging an expansion fundamentally injurious to the stability of the Republic. (The fatal flaw in the early republican endeavour was connected to its central principle of self-government, as self-government and expanded participation in that self-government came to be regarded as one and the same thing, even though they are contradictory.) This was the perverse realisation of the greater decentralisation Jefferson imagined would result from continuing westward expansion. In practical terms, there was greater decentralisation, but with territorial expansion came a need to find bonds uniting the disparate communities, and thus there was all the greater impulse to identify with the interests of larger regions or with the Union in abstract. Instead of the distance between far-flung communities in the West inoculating whole regions against political enthusiasms originating in the cities, these communities were no less prone to embracing these enthusiasms, and perhaps more so given their lesser experience of them. Partisan attachments and popular participation in elections at the national level strengthened these tendencies to identify with interests other than those of one’s own community.
American democracy, the sort Jefferson codified and idealised, fell prey to large-scale and rather ideological democracy. It remains debatable whether this was avoidable once self-government and expanded franchise were linked in practice and the new democratic state constitutions of the 1820s and 1830s began muddling the understanding of self-government held by the Founders.
By late afternoon May 13, talks had stalled between Uzbekistan authorities and armed demonstrators inside a government building in Andijan. Speaking by phone to the gunmen, a top law-enforcement official used an Uzbek proverb to foretell the government’s next move:
“Your eyes will soon see what befalls you.”
Shortly afterward, gun-mounted armored personnel carriers raced up to Babur Square outside the building, where thousands more demonstrators were rallying against the trial of 23 local businessmen on Islamic extremism charges. Without warning, Uzbek soldiers opened fire on the crowd, survivors said.
Every other street leading from the square already had been blocked by military vehicles and soldiers. Uzbek authorities left only one way out: Chulpon Prospekt, Andijan’s main thoroughfare.
Several thousand Uzbeks, almost all of them unarmed, jammed into the broad, tree-lined street. Fifteen minutes later, the ambush began. Uzbek soldiers on rooftops, in apartment windows and treetops fired down on protesters huddled together, many with arms linked.
“The bullets rained down,” said Abdulsalam Karimov, 50. “There were soldiers everywhere with one aim–to kill everybody.” ~The Chicago Tribune
Defense officials from Russia and the United States last week helped block a new demand for an international probe into the Uzbekistan government’s shooting of hundreds of protesters last month, according to U.S. and diplomatic officials.
British and other European officials had pushed to include language calling for an independent investigation in a communique issued by defense ministers of NATO countries and Russia after a daylong meeting in Brussels on Thursday. But the joint communique merely stated that “issues of security and stability in Central Asia, including Uzbekistan,” had been discussed.
The outcome obscured an internal U.S. dispute over whether NATO ministers should raise the May 13 shootings in Andijan at the risk of provoking Uzbekistan to cut off U.S. access to a military air base on its territory.
The communique’s wording was worked out after what several knowledgeable sources called a vigorous debate in Brussels between U.S. defense officials, who emphasized the importance of the base, and others, including State Department representatives at NATO headquarters, who favored language calling for a transparent, independent and international probe into the killings of Uzbekistan civilians by police and soldiers. ~The Washington Post
As more accounts of the Andijan massacre have been forthcoming in the press, it is clear that the Uzbek government has been lying about and suppressing inquiries into an unusually blatant and heinous act of repression. The Uzbek military, which wrought the slaughtering of protesters, receives millions in U.S. aid. That connects Washington and the American tax-payer, unfortunately but inextricably, to these terrible events. It is the military of a state allied in the so-called War on Terror, and therefore its actions, even those within Uzbekistan’s borders, reflect on America in central Asia and beyond and further sully our reputation. Islam Karimov is our poster boy for the sort of regime we actually endorse in the region, whatever silly and irresponsible chatter we have heard to the contrary. Wiser statesmen in every age have known how valuable reputation is for the influence of one’s state in the world, and how impossible it is to retrieve once it has been lost. Why are we letting our reputation be ruined still more by the likes of a Karimov?
Unlike the much greater massacre at Hama in 1982 by Syrian forces, the Uzbek government cannot even attempt to claim that the people being slaughtered in the streets were dangerous Islamists or that they were even associated with Islamists. The already tenuous connections between the 23 accused businessmen and militant Islamist groups already strains credulity. Here the full schizophrenia of American policy in the Islamic world is revealed. Mr. Bush has declared support for secular, authoritarian regimes in Muslim countries to be acceptable no longer, and thus goes out of his way to encourage and strengthen Islamist forces in these countries. At the same time is not willing to follow through on this supposedly high-minded principle, even when the Islamist threat is minimal and the regime in question has committed atrocities against civilians, because doing so would threaten U.S. hegemony and a sought-after central Asian military base.
From a realist perspective, Uzbekistan is now as much of an embarrassment and political liability as it ever was a strategic asset, and it should be cut loose from all connections to America. From an America First perspective, of course, there should never have been a base in Uzbekistan, or at least it should not have lasted beyond 2002, and the sooner Americans end their military and financial relationship with Tashkent the better. We will wait in vain for Washington to impose any penalties on Uzbekistan for what its army did in Andijan, but there is no doubt that we ought to cut off diplomatic relations with any country that deliberately slaughters peaceful protesters. We did so after the Tiananmen massacre, and even if the body count is not as high in this case the principle is the same.
Nearly six in 10 Americans say the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq, a new Gallup Poll finds, the most downbeat view of the war since it began in 2003.
Patience for the war has dropped sharply as optimism about the Iraqi elections in January has ebbed and violence against U.S. troops hasn’t abated. For the first time, a majority would be “upset” if President Bush sent more troops. A new low, 36%, say troop levels should be maintained or increased.
In the Gallup Poll, 56% say the Iraq war wasn’t “worth it,” essentially matching the high-water mark of 57% a month ago.
• Of those who say the war wasn’t worth it, the top reasons cited are fraudulent claims and no weapons of mass destruction found; the number of people killed and wounded; and the belief that Iraq posed no threat to the United States.
• Of the 42% who say the war was worth it, the top reasons cited are the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, the need to stop terrorism and a desire to end the oppression of the Iraqi people. ~USA Today
The popular weariness with this war was as inevitable as the fatuous enthusiasm for it in the beginning. Because it was always an unnecessary and unjustifiable war launched in aggression and supported by deceit, the “buyer’s remorse,” if you will, was always going to come more quickly and be more intense than in previous American conflicts. The plodding, uninformed American public, as usual, goes along with most anything for a short time if its leaders claim it is patriotic and high-minded, but like a mule it reaches a point beyond which it doesn’t want to go and simply stops.
The stunning thing about these figures is that, even as uncommitted people have gradually drifted to the antiwar position and attached themselves to the roughly 30% core that has opposed the invasion from the beginning, the numbers steadfastly in support of the war have remained constant for over a year. There is a roughly 40% foundation of support for this war that seems impervious to evidence, reason, common sense and all signs that point to a colossal waste of lives, military resources and wealth. This is not surprising when we look at the reasons this bloc gives for its support: 9/11, anti-terrorism and liberating Iraqis. At least relatively few are still claiming that Iraq was on the verge of attacking us with WMDs!
9/11 obviously has no connection to the war in Iraq (that it requires saying at all is troubling), but for this crowd such a common sense view is tantamount to siding with bin Laden. In spite of Mr. Bush’s deceit about al-Qaeda connections to Baghdad, Iraq never had anything to do with anti-American terrorism (and scarcely had anything to do with terrorism at all), which makes the second point irrelevant. It is already a cliche, so obvious is it, that all terrorism in Iraq today is a result of our invasion. That leaves liberating the Iraqis as the last remotely reasonable justification for the war, and from an American perspective this has nothing to recommend it. How perfectly ironic it is that the worst of the American chauvinists and the millions of well-meaning, but apparently easily duped patriots of the heartland have been reduced to defending a policy that has no specific, pro-American reasons to be in this war. Withdrawal has clearly become the patriotic course of action. The GOP majorities would be wise to notice the changing attitude of the public on this and hasten to end the war through their power of the purse.
Three historical topics make most modern conservatives terribly uncomfortable: the Civil War, the civil rights movement and WWII. They are uncomfortable because all their principles and their instincts tell them that the outcome of these events in American history were, in one way or another, ruinous for the Republic and the country that they love, but they are also keenly aware that the received history of these events instructs them to believe the opposite. In the official version, not only were these events not disastrous, they were the defining moments of what America is, those moments when some among us rose to embrace the full calling of the high ideals of the Founders while the intransigent reactionaries of one sort or another blocked the way. Such valorisation is rubbish historical investigation, but it also does as much violence to the evidence as can be done. Lately, following the 60th anniversary of V-E Day commemorated by Presidents Bush and Putin, traditional conservatives have been reflecting on American participation in WWII, the outcome of that war and, in short, whether the war was worthwhile or not.
Prof. Andrew Bacevich, an international relations scholar, regular contributor to The American Conservative and foremost critic of American empire and the phenomenon he has labeled with the title of his new book, The New American Militarism, has also joined in the debate in the June 20 issue of TAC. His argument was essentially threefold: traditional conservatives are uniquely situated to reinterpret and define the history of American international relations against the inadequate narrative of the internationalists (thus creating a “usable past”), it would be folly to exhaust our energies in fruitlessly rehashing the problems of American involvement in WWII, and the Old Right arguments against Roosevelt’s chicanery getting us into the war, American involvement in the war generally and Roosevelt’s sell-out of eastern Europe are utterly wrong. Obviously, it is the third point that is surprising and disheartening.
Suffice it to say that reading such a vigorous defense of the thorough rightness of WWII and the relative blamelessness of Franklin Roosevelt in a journal that self-consciously prides itself on its America First heritage and convictions comes as a bit of a shock. Coming from a major contemporary critic of liberal internationalism and American hegemony, it is rather astonishing. Faithful readers of TAC are well aware of the splendid variety of ideas that the editors and contributors bring to the magazine for our general edification, and arguments favourable to American involvement in WWII should be entertained and engaged on their merits. It is precisely here that Prof. Bacevich has so disappointed.
He has reproduced nothing other than the utterly conventional rhetoric that we have all heard in our American history courses, read in our textbooks and received from our sloganeering politicians: Germany posed “a compelling and immediate threat to America’s future well-being,” and allowing Nazi Germany to establish itself in Europe was to “court suicide.” Most surprisingly, Bacevich claimed that “Roosevelt yielded to Stalin only what the Soviet dictator already owned.” The last point is quite misleading, especially as far as eastern Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were concerned–Patton’s forces could have reached most of the territory of those countries before the Red Army and was deliberately held back by the administration. But that is to quibble about what should have been done at the end of a war in which we should never have been involved. That sort of quibbling is not my concern here. It is the inaccurate and tendentious claims of a Nazi threat to American security and welfare that puzzle and disturb me, and I will now turn to answering them.
Pejoratively labeling the concern for truth about the war “neuralgia,” Prof. Bacevich dismisses the America First critique of the war with his two extraordinary claims about the Nazi threat and national suicide. Besides the logical problem that there cannot be an “immediate” threat to “future well-being,” as he awkwardly put it, this is the sort of claim that needs a great deal of evidence, but this evidence is always lacking. How did Germany pose a “compelling and immediate threat” to the United States? Notice how the debate always centers on the European theater, the part of the war for which we had less compelling justification and far less visceral motivation. This is because, I think, we all know that no one could credibly argue that Japan posed a “compelling and immediate threat” to the United States, except insofar as it was provoked into war with us, and even after that the Japanese never posed a serious threat to America itself.
The question is: why do we believe this about Germany, which was never able to strike at American possessions even once, when we do not believe it about the Japanese who almost entirely destroyed our Pacific fleet? German power on land was formidable, and German submarines were always been powerful weapons in naval warfare, but in what fantasy world must one live in to imagine Germans posing a trans-Atlantic threat to the security or welfare of the United States? Had the Germans constructed a massive surface fleet in the wake of some imaginary victory over Britain (since the Germans could not accomplish this even in 1941 with fighting on no other fronts before we were involved, it defies understanding how they were supposed to have done it later on), America would have had years to prepare coastal defenses and a considerable fleet of our own.
In what way did they, or could they, threaten American well-being? Economically? This is at least possible, but in an age when our currency was backed by specie and we were not awash in imports it is difficult to see how the American economy would have suffered unduly from any single power controlling all of Europe. None of this is to say that such domination would have been beneficial for any of the peoples of Europe, or that it would have been anything other than the coercive domination that it was. But what must be answered is this: what business of ours was it? Prof. Bacevich does not answer that, but in this he is hardly the first and will not be the last to dodge the question by invoking frightening Nazism, as if it really were as invincible as the Nazis themselves believed it to be. What we do not like to admit is that the creaking nightmare of the Soviet Union did almost all of the heavy lifting in WWII and would have defeated Germany eventually through sheer attrition and single-mindedness or would have so worn down the German war machine and pushed back German armies that the spectre of a unified Nazi Europe is probably just that.
No one doubts that western Europe was better off in the post-war period for the defeat of Nazi Germany, and no one really doubts that eastern Europe was generally better off for the defeat of the USSR, but what is not apparent in either of these cases is that it was America’s responsibility to defeat them or contribute to their defeat. It seems to me inescapable and undeniable that America would today be more free, more prosperous and more faithful to her own cultural and constitutional traditions had Roosevelt never involved our country in WWII. She may have become “dictatress of the world,” but she is no longer “mistress of her own spirit,” and Roosevelt bears a large share of the blame in stealing her, our, spirit.
Surely, the United States themselves and American commerce were under much greater threat during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, yet our statesmen saw that studied neutrality was the safest and wisest course overall. It did not matter, from the American perspective, whether Napoleon and Tsar Aleksandr ruled all of Europe together, or if one of them ruled it alone, or if Napoleon was gone and the “balance of power” was restored. I submit that the same was true in the 20th century in WWI and WWII, and that our involvement solved Europe’s perennial problem of internal conflict at the cost of taking on the conflicts in various parts of the world unrelated to any continental American interests. To fear that Nazi Germany would or could have seriously threatened the United States is to overestimate grossly the potential of that state to project power, the limits of which had already been reached in 1942 even before the first Americans had encountered the Wehrmacht. It is to credit the regime with far more ambition and staying power than it did, in fact, possess.
Let us suppose that, instead of FDR’s liberal internationalist regime, some conservative Garner-like Democrat or Coolidge-like Republican administration had been in power in the 1930s. Would America have been ruined or conquered without Rooseveltian skulduggery leading us into the maelstrom of war? How, and at what point, would German domination of Europe have been detrimental to American interests to such an extent that a far-seeing statesman of the 1930s would have seen a vital American interest in going to war to prevent this from happening? If the threat was so “compelling and immediate,” I don’t suppose it should have to have waited for anything so technical as the German declaration of war–the idea of an “immediate” threat to “future well-being” begins to sound an awful lot like the justification for preventive war bandied about by neocons in 2002. But there was no compelling threat to America from Germany in 1938, 1939, 1940 or 1941. The Germans were rather preoccupied with other matters. When would it have arisen? After Germany supposedly defeated all of the powers arrayed against it?
At what point do we pretend that American security would have been in peril from a German-dominated Europe? More to the point, even if the threat did come into existence, how would a counterfactual German-dominated Europe have differed substantially from the actual Soviet-dominated one, except that it would have been more internally free, more prosperous and less inclined to encourage subversion of governments abroad? Instead of the historical commitment to nuclear war to defend western Europe, in the counterfactual world America would have only been responsible for defending herself. Prof. Bacevich needs to explain how this scenario is either seriously flawed or how this would have constituted national “suicide.” Would it not have been rather less suicidal as a nation to preserve the lives of the 500,000 men we lost, as well as avoiding the hundreds of thousands more wounded, than in frittering them away for no appreciable gain? From the American perspective, staying out sounds eminently sensible and responsible.
Prof. Bacevich concludes with a curious statement: “After all, the history that cries out for reassessment is not the history of 1939-1945 but the history of 1914-1938 and especially of 1946-2001, during which the habits, routines, and doctrines of liberal internationalists gave rise to the policies that have landed us in our current predicament.” The WWI and inter-war period has undergone excruciating and extensive revision by conservative interpreters and non-political professional historians. Tom Fleming’s book on Wilson and WWI is just one example of the revision that has long been in the works. Conservatives no longer feel obliged to apologise for the Senate defeating the Versailles Treaty ratification, nor do they maintain the illusion that the League of Nations would have worked with American involvement. They recognise that the follies of Wilson and the vindictiveness of the Allies produced much of what went wrong in the inter-war period. Traditional conservatives have also been rediscovering the wisdom of Robert Taft in his opposition to many of the basic structures of the Cold War, and lately they have rediscovered George Kennan’s wisdom in opposing the militarisation of containment as well as his criticism of limitless intervention. We know where American foreign policy went awry in 1914-38 and 1946-2001, and some of us know where it went wrong in 1939-45, but somehow to examine that period seriously from a non-interventionist, indeed America First perspective, is to discredit ourselves before we begin. That cannot be right. We cannot pretend that the internationalism and ‘idealism’ that misguided Wilson and Truman (and now Bush) were somehow different from the internationalism and ‘idealism’ that misguided Roosevelt, who belonged to the same foreign policy tradition, political party and general worldview as the internationalists on either side of him in time.
1914-38 and 1946-2001 are the periods least in need of reassessment–we have already been doing that, and we are well on our way to developing our alternative histories of those periods. Besides, one cannot as a good historian pluck out one event or period from an entire century, when the misinterpretation of the century inevitably affects how we understand one period and the misinterpretation of that one, central period shapes how we think about the rest of the century. As far as I know, there has been scarcely any revision of the conventional history of WWII since its modern, politically correct version emerged in the 1970s. No one has wanted to challenge the basic ‘goodness’ of the ‘Good War’, either because it is professional suicide among modern historians or simply because people have been drowned in so much bad history about the origins of the war that they could not formulate an intelligent argument advancing a different view.
WWII is the sacred cow of American historiography, in many ways more untouchable than the myths of the Civil War’s inherent rightness and necessity, because in the case of the latter there is an entire section of the country and an entire historiographical tradition that repudiated that myth from the beginning (it is also much harder to avoid the conservative critique that it irreparably destroyed the Constitution). The reason why it is too painful for some to critique WWII is that we are still too near to it in time, and many of our parents or grandparents who fought in it are still alive. It was, only very technically, a war of defense and so retains a certain mystique because of that, and in conservative circles wars are usually mistaken for moments of great patriotism (the soldiers are being patriotic, of course, but no real patriot statesman has ever sought out a war). Some might feel as if a new generation was being ungrateful for what the soldiers suffered on behalf of our country, but that is certainly not the case. Every non-interventionist, young or old, is grateful to WWII soldiers, but this does not change our responsibility to inquire and understand all of our past with the same critical thinking that we should apply to everything else.
Prof. Bacevich has roped off WWII from revision, as if to say, “This history is off limits to serious criticism, at least from the right.” If this were simply a matter of political tactics (i.e., it is not helpful to contemporary foreign policy arguments to revisit arguments about WWII), he might have a very good point, but that is not what he said. Prof. Bacevich has told us that to challenge the idea that WWII was necessary and right for American national interest is “dead wrong,” just as the America Firsters themselves were “dead wrong.” So much for a variety of ideas on the Right! It is difficult to understand why he holds this view and still finds fault with the disastrous internationalism of the rest of the century, except that we all know that this is the view of WWII all good Americans are supposed to hold. He certainly chose the right audience to address, if his goal was to insult a fundamental historical assumption and the intelligence of most traditional conservatives who read the magazine.
The central logical problem with the entire argument is that the post-war internationalism from which we suffer today was a product of American involvement in WWII, and there was very little chance, as Sen. Taft and George Kennan discovered in subsequent years, of reeling back the impulse to interventionism once the old restraints of American neutrality had been destroyed by Roosevelt’s mischief. Retrospectively, if we regret the ongoing ruin caused by interventionism, as Prof. Bacevich also does, we cannot applaud or defend the involvement in the war that made that interventionism possible and also made it seem necessary. In fact, I would be rather more sympathetic in understanding the choices of the men, who were confronted with the harsh realities of the post-war world and the perceived lethality of the communist threat and who erred in their interventionist schemes, than I would be towards Roosevelt, who was under no obligation, moral or legal, to involve us in any conflicts overseas and still did so. Many of the architects of the Cold War were stuck cleaning up Roosevelt’s mess, while others were simply continuing in his footsteps in making more entanglements for our country. We cannot revise our understanding of the last sixty years of American history if we are not allowed to question the value of entering WWII, because the two are too closely intertwined and how we think about the war shapes how we think about the post-war world.
What Prof. Bacevich does not seriously address in his article is the illegal and underhanded way in which President Roosevelt helped to provoke the German declaration of war through a year of open American naval warfare in the North Atlantic, or the internationally illegal interruption of normal trade in peacetime with Japan that ultimately provoked the Japanese attack in 1941. He dismisses this briefly with reference to “Roosevelt’s deviousness in the months leading up to war,” which Bacevich claims not to endorse, but assures us later that the war was “just and necessary,” even though without that “deviousness” there would have been no American war with the Axis powers. Perhaps Prof. Bacevich sides with those liberal historians who acknowledge that Roosevelt’s “deviousness” was necessary to get into the war, and that this is perfectly excusable in view of the necessity of fighting Hitler–if so, his ideas obviously have nothing to do with constitutional republicanism or non-interventionist foreign policy. Once the war began at Roosevelt’s provocation, there might have been a certain justice to it (that is the genius of getting the other fellow to fire first), but how was it necessary?
Roosevelt should have been impeached and removed from office for what he was doing in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and he knew he would have been if many of his activities had been known at the time. If these are “hoary” or baseless attacks, then I insist Prof. Bacevich demonstrate that they are rather than peddling interpretations more suitable for the bankrupt ruler cult of a tyrant. For real conservatives, this is not a minor issue–FDR is either one of the two worst, most anti-constitutional presidential tyrants in our history and the war he provoked is one of the greatest disasters of our history, or the traditional conservative and constitutionalist vision of government and foreign policy have no meaning. We cannot hold to the latter if we do not insist upon the former. For us, Prof. Bacevich’s “usable past” is of no use.
These charges against Roosevelt are not in any way comparable to leftist apologies for Alger Hiss or the Communist Party–that Prof. Bacevich believed these to be appropriate for comparison is simply baffling. It is certainly ironic that he should choose to invoke leftist denial of Hiss’ communist espionage when it was under the wretched Roosevelt that Soviet spies infiltrated American government at very high levels (the only thing debatable about this is whether Roosevelt knew about them at the time)–but that is another aspect of Roosevelt’s dreadful presidency that awaits comment some other day. Roosevelt ought to suffer damnatio memoriae for what he did to this country with his foreign policy alone, except that abolishing his name from memory would allow us to forget the crimes he perpetrated against our people. He certainly does not need any more defenders, least of all in the pages of a conservative magazine and from a contributor who should know better.
None of this was inevitable. If the horrors of the Napoleonic wars had remained fresh in people’s minds – rather than having conquests glorified by “progressives” – and if the laissez faire policies of Richard Cobden and John Bright had been continued, there never would have been a world war. Maintaining a separation of the economy and the state would have prevented politicians from turning business competition into political and military conflicts. There wouldn’t have been nasty trade wars and empire building, contributing to paranoia and the arms race. If governments had let people live their lives as freely on one side of a border as on the other, there wouldn’t have been much political support for war. What would have been the point? ~Jim Powell
Mr. Powell presents a sweeping case that laissez faire and unfettered free trade will secure peace among nations. This is one of the oldest liberal myths. It relies on the assumption that the greed of the state for power and territory will somehow be magically restrained by the prospect of better long-term profits in the private sector, as well as the idea that people do not identify with their nations but with rational economic self-interest. Above all, it works from the mistake that wars usually have economic causes, when most have not–they are almost always disputes over the right to rule a state or a quarrel over a particular patch of land. Our own War for Independence is a sterling example of how economic interests have relatively little to do with political conflicts: the costs of the taxes imposed by Britain were minimal, almost farcically small, but our forefathers insisted on the principle that was at stake. No trade policy will eliminate those disputes, and no amount of economic interdependence between neighbours or any two nations will be able to overcome a policy conceived to be in the national interest. Instead of economic causes, men will find patriotic, ideological or specifically nationalist reasons to go to war.
What Mr. Powell consistently neglected to mention in his summary of 19th century history is that there were not even nominally liberal governments outside of Britain for the first 40 or 50 years after the Congress of Vienna. Half a century of peace was accomplished under those terrible Restoration monarchies and their benighted trade policies! The only great violent disturbances of those first 50 years were the liberal revolutions themselves, most of which were thankfully put down.
In his run-down of the backlash against liberalism in Europe, he neglected to mention the reason for the backlash in the 1870s and afterwards: the franchise was opened up to all the people disadvantaged, dislocated and generally ruined by the introduction of laissez faire and free trade, and not surprisingly they voted their economic interest and chucked the liberals out in every country save Britain. What became of all the poor liberals beset by a tide of economic irrationality? Almost to a man they either embraced nationalism, never very far from the liberal heart and the principles of 1789 they embraced in the first place, or lost their faith in laissez-faire and became socialists. What is more, without the success of the liberal revolutionaries in the 1860s and 1870s, the flourishing of nationalism in central Europe and elsewhere would not have been possible. The ousting of Metternich, who represented all that was international, pacific and honourable in the Old Europe, as the price of quelling the Vienna rabble of 1848 was the first step to European self-immolation. Well done, liberals.
If Disraeli ordered quite a few overseas wars, it was only to compete with the imperialism of Gladstone’s Liberals who inaugurated the imperialist frenzy in the conviction that they were civilising and liberating those whom they subjected to British rule. Sound familiar?
After arriving a few days later in Washington, and reading neoconservative op-ed commentaries and watching the pundits on Fox News television, I had no choice but to conclude that the anti-EU Constitution votes in France and Holland were nothing less than a great victory for the United States.
Of course, many of the American foreign policy “experts” who were spinning the French and Dutch votes as reruns of the collapse of the Berlin Wall were also the same guys who had predicted that Americans would find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, uncover the links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, and be welcomed as “liberators” by the Iraqis. So in a way, I shouldn’t have been too surprised that Washington’s faith-based community would once again impose their wishful thinking on the reality in Europe and elsewhere.
Hence the new scene in the neocon-produced theater of the absurd. Recall that only recently, we were asked to believe that the coming-to-power in Baghdad of a radical Shi’ite political-religious bloc with links to Iran marked the triumph of Western-style liberal democracy. Now we are expected to buy into the notion that it’s a great day for the US of A when a coalition of radical left-wing anti-globalization activists, veteran communists, anti-immigration groups, and ultra nationalists in France and Holland – anti-Americanism is the only idea that unites them – succeed in winning the support of the majority of voters. ~Leon Hadar
This is not an argument for the credibility or intelligence of the neocon pundits who are celebrating the collapse of the EU’s political structure. They are ignorant chauvinists beating their same old drum of supremacism, and they have all of the insight into European politics of an American schoolboy. The failure of the EU superstate is good news for all Americans committed to the survival of the real, historical America founded in Anglo-European Christian culture and organised according to her English political inheritance, because the failure of the EU constitution is the failure to create the ultimate fake “proposition nation.” The neocons enjoy this because it preserves America in their minds as the one and only ideological nation left standing, thus giving it some mandate to dictate that ideology of the world. They are, as usual, delusional.
But they have missed the point: one “proposition nation” has been strangled in its crib by popular indignation and contempt, and the neocons’ ideological nation is next. The neocon celebration of EU failure is the same typically short-sighted response we would expect from people who cannot plan or think a month in advance–they are really cheering the approach of their doom and historical irrelevance. The failure of the EU is the first sign that Western peoples have some limit to how long they will suffer distant, obnoxious managerial fools controlling their lives, even if in the European case the rejection came from those who want to keep the managerial elite closer to home. Even in the European left’s bizarre view that the EU is an evil capitalist enterprise coming to destroy the welfare state there remains some hint of identification with their individual nations, if only by default.
Nonetheless, it is good news for America, though not necessarily for Washington’s plans, that anti-American blocs are winning majorities in referenda. Most of these so-called anti-Americans, particularly those of the right, are tired of being deluged with our tawdry culture, commerce and politics, and who can blame them? Most serious conservatives here are tired of the same things. Whether or not they “like” Americans, they would have far fewer problems with the United States if Washington did not loom so large on the European scene. Besides, come regular general elections, the same staid conventional Atlanticist parties will form the governments of the main western European states, so there is no need as yet to run screaming in panic.
I should add that Mr. Hadar’s observation that Chirac and Schroeder represented the relatively pro-American side of the constitution debate is correct. This is what the neocons have somehow missed: the EU is the soft power support to American hegemony in Europe and beyond, and it is aimed at the same goals overseas, broadly speaking, that they are. Those who perceive the EU as a “balancing” force against hegemony are forgetting how closely tied in to Washington all the ruling establishments in western Europe are; what is actually a global “good cop, bad cop” routine has been mistaken for real strategic disagreement. Of course, the Europeans would usually prefer not to bomb every country that becomes slightly inconvenient, but they got over their reluctance when it came to Yugoslavia and I’m sure they could find plenty of other “humanitarian” causes to support with heavy weapons. However, the neocons, spoiled brats that they are, cannot play well with others and insist on reaping all the glory (or dishonour) for themselves. There is nothing they could have done to save the EU constitution, and their support would have been toxic, but it shows how dense they are that they see the failure of the EU as a good thing.
In May, the Bush economy eked out a paltry 73,000 private sector jobs: 20,000 jobs in construction (primarily for Mexican immigrants), 21,000 jobs in wholesale and retail trade, and 32,500 jobs in health care and social assistance. Local government added 5,000 for a grand total of 78,000.
Not a single one of these jobs produces an exportable good or service. With Americans increasingly divorced from the production of the goods and services that they consume, Americans have no way to pay for their consumption except by handing over to foreigners more of their accumulated stock of wealth. The country continues to eat its seed corn.
Only 10 million Americans are classified as “production workers” in the Bureau of Labor Statistics non-farm payroll tables. Think about that. The United States, with a population approaching 300 million, has only 10 million production workers. That means Americans are consuming the products of other countries’ labor.
In the 21st century, the U.S. economy has been unable to create jobs in export and import-competitive industries. U.S. job growth is confined to nontradable domestic services.
This movement of the American labor force toward Third World occupations in domestic services has dire implications both for U.S. living standards and for America’s status as a superpower. ~Paul Craig Roberts
The United States has come under fresh international pressure to close its military base in Uzbekistan and drop the country’s President as a strategic ally after Human Rights Watch released a damning report into the recent Andijan massacre.
The New-York based human rights organisation said its investigation into the events of 13 May left it in no doubt that the Uzbek government had systematically slaughtered hundreds of its own citizens in a “massacre” and then tried to cover up the atrocities. The evidence it had uncovered was so compelling and the Uzbek government’s duplicity, guilt and intransigence so obvious, it added, that Washington was morally obliged to shut its air base in the south of the country.
“Camp Stronghold Freedom”, or K2, an air base near the southern town of Khanabad, was originally set up to supply the US invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan, and continues to play a role in Washington’s “war against terror”. Human Rights Watch said Washington was in negotiations that would allow it to keep a base there permanently. It called upon the US to insist upon an independent international investigation, something the government of Islam Karimov has repeatedly rejected, and to sever military and financial ties in the event of continued refusal. ~The Independent
The report’s recommendations are very welcome, but they don’t go quite far enough. Governments funded in part by our taxpayers that use their militaries to brutally murder hundreds of people should not only lose all finanical and military connections, but should be cut off from diplomatic contacts with our government. What is more, the State Department should pursue the diplomatic isolation of Uzbekistan and seek an international resolution condemning the massacre. Anything less is a betrayal of Mr. Bush’s supposedly high ideals (no surprise there). Far more importantly, it would be a betrayal of basic human decency to continue to do business with Karimov after what he and his government have done.
Earlier in the session the euro came under heavy selling pressure after
calls from an Italian minister for the country to re-adopt the lira in parallel with the euro.
In an interview with the daily La Repubblica, Welfare Minister and member of the euro-sceptic Northern League party, Roberto Maroni said Italy should consider introducing a temporary dual circulation of the euro and the lira.
He said the introduction of the euro has not been an adequate measure to tackle an economic slowdown and a decline in competitiveness in Italy.
Though analysts noted that it may be unsurprising for a member of a far-right party to make such comments, they come in the midst of market jitters on the subject. ~Forbes
At first sight, the report of any Italian government minister calling for a return to the lira would seem bizarre, given all of the Euro-agitprop that all eurozone countries with absurdly inflated currencies, such as Italy had, were thrilled to have at last a real currency. Naturally, a Northern League minister is not exactly representative of most Italians, alas, but it is telling about doubts in Italian government circles that he would feel secure enough in his position to say such a thing.
Unfortunately, the strength of the euro has been its undoing in those countries, just as it has participated in slowing down economic growth throughout the eurozone. I can say with some satisfaction that I foresaw the failure of the euro occurring in just this way when it was first introduced. While writing for my college newspaper five years ago, I observed that the new currency would be bolstered in its early days because of its political inspiration, the ECB would keep it artificially high to lend it credibility so as to compete with the dollar in foreign reserves, and consequently the eurozone, which desperately needs more liquidity, among other things, would stagnate and stall. This was manifestly not in the American interest for two reasons: one, obviously, was the weakening of the dollar, and the other was the negative knock-on effect of European slowdown, as we do so much of our business with Europe that slow growth or recession in Europe gradually drags us down as well.
The crisis in Europe has shown just how badly the French model is broken. The single currency is stuttering, its stability pact broken, its members busting their budgets in competitive borrowing. The economy is not up to the challenges it faces from the US, China and India. The ludicrous CAP — which gets German taxpayers to fund French landscape management — is held together by the French veto. The Common Fisheries Policy has succeeded in simultaneously destroying both Europe’s fish stocks and its fishing communities. The EU loses credibility because its parliament has to pay tribute to French pride by decamping to Strasbourg every month. The EU has not just lost the support of its citizens but is destroying support for European co-operation.
The ‘old Europe’ model worked wonders in the fractured post-war world, but it is still fighting the last battle, unfit for the challenges of the 21st century. There is clearly a need for an EU — just not this EU. In a dense patchwork of countries, so close that if one sneezes another gets sneezed on, there is a need for rules to ensure good neighbourliness. With such intertwined economies, ensuring open borders and common standards makes us all better off. Working together, we can often achieve far greater things — such as compelling Microsoft to stop abusing its near monopoly, or enticing Ukraine out of the grip of Russia — than any country could do by itself. ~Anthony Browne, The Spectator (subscription required)
Mr. Browne’s basically Europhile attack on the absurdity of the European Union was an interesting one, and it was as revealing in some ways about the Europhile mentality as it was brilliantly scathing in its attacks on “the French model.” Notice the two examples of “great things” that European cooperation can accomplish that Mr. Browne thought worthy of mention: regulating Microsoft and “enticing Ukraine out of the grip of Russia.” Of course, economically Ukraine is still in the grip of Russia, and Europe had very little to do with the outcome in Kiev. Today the Ukrainian elites are apparently so enamoured of their version of the “French model” that they are engaging in wholesale statism after the brief honeymoon of economic growth under the much-despised, corrupt, but evidently more competent Kuchma and Yanukovych.
But note that the two “great things” that European unity can accomplish are interfering in the market and meddling in the affairs of other nations. Perhaps Mr. Browne sees Washington doing these two things and so believes them to be the natural functions of any continental government. This reveals, to my mind, the impetus behind most projects of European unity, namely to create a larger, more intrusive continental government with aspirations to be an anti-Russian force.
Such European unity will prove to be an auxiliary support to American hegemony, to the detriment of Europeans and wrecking the prospects of ending that hegemony, as both hegemonists and Eurocrats are interested in the same goals in the east. Even if arranged on a federal basis at first, the consolidation of power in one center is inevitable. If the Europeans feel the need to have some international convention or forum where they can sort out disputes between states, that seems sensible, but what is the need for political consolidation of any kind?
The president and vice president have artfully dodged the central question: ‘’Did the administration mislead us into war by manipulating and misstating intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to Al Qaeda, suppressing contrary intelligence, and deliberately exaggerating the danger a contained, weakened Iraq posed to the United States and its neighbors?”
If this is answered affirmatively Bush and Cheney have committed ‘’high crimes and misdemeanors.” It is time for Congress to investigate the illegal Iraq war as we move toward the third year of the endless quagmire that many security experts believe jeopardizes US safety by recruiting and training more terrorists. A Resolution of Impeachment would be a first step. Based on the mountains of fabrications, deceptions, and lies, it is time to debate the ‘’I” word. ~Ralph Nader, The Boston Globe
Hat tip to A.C. Kleinheider.
Two American Presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, failed to perceive the nature of this conflict — leading to what Merry paints as blundering, arrogant interventionism. “Moralistic impulses” by Clinton led to favoring the Muslims in the Balkans with a bombing campaign. Merry accuses Bush’s Iraqi intervention of “taking his military into the heart of Islam and planting his country’s flag into the soil of a foreign culture based on flimsy perceptions of a national threat.”
Merry is hard on neo-conservatives generally and fellow journalist William Kristol in particular. He accuses Kristol of “agitations on behalf of American hegemony and the export of Western democracy throughout the world.”
Merry is not a liberal who denies the United States is at war beyond Iraq, and in fact describes our position as hazardous. “The West is in decline,” he writes. Masked though that decline is by U.S. economic and military power, he adds, “no longer can the West dictate the course of world events as in days of yore.”
As a good reporter, Merry knows neo-conservatives want the government to target Syria and Iran. He says attempted destabilization of the Iranian theocracy would be a “disaster,” thwarting the country’s internal impulses toward democracy. “America has neither the troop strength nor the will to carry out any reckless plan to take on nations such as Syria and Iran,” Merry contends.
Bob Merry’s closely argued thesis does not fit either Republican or Democratic talking points. His calls for Western unity and protection of unpopular regimes in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan from Islamist insurgents do not fit any American political agenda. But his thesis is worth consideration by ordinary citizens when he concludes that America, in assuming its “heady new role as Crusader State . . . would no longer be the nation our founders created and that has thrived so brilliantly and wonderfully upon the earth for the past 200 years.” ~Robert Novak, New Hampshire Union-Leader
Whatever else I might say about Robert Novak, I am grateful for his review of this book. It does not sound as if Mr. Merry has offered anything new or especially insightful here, but I don’t mean this as a criticism. It is in the calm reiteration of the dire warnings uttered by members of the Old Right that will make this book an important contribution to delivering the country from the dangerous ambitions of unsound men who feign patriotism and mouth words of loyalty to mask their true intentions. From the looks of it, Sands of Empire may be just the vehicle to translate intense, genuinely conservative criticisms of neoconservatism and its lunatic interventionist policies to a broader audience.
Both Robert Merry’s professional reputation and Republican affiliations should help blunt the attacks of the hatchet-men who are undoubtedly already preparing to savage the man for speaking the truth, and they should also make the claims in the book that much harder for the interventionists to dismiss. The interventionists will dismiss the book with their usual scurrilous attacks, but those attacks will become less and less credible as they target not controversialists and paleoconservatives, who have few sympathisers, but mainstream, solid journalists.
Mr. Novak is, of course, mistaken when he claims that “calls for Western unity and protection of unpopular regimes in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan from Islamist insurgents do not fit any American political agenda.” Certainly, no “mainstream” political agenda proposes policy in terms of civilisational unity or realist foreign policy in the American interest, but there are those out there who do advocate much the same view as what Mr. Merry appears to be proposing. As Mr. Novak ought to know, Pat Buchanan, Thomas Fleming and Srdja Trifkovic, among others, have regularly argued for uniting the West (including Russia) against its civilisational enemy of Islam (though each may phrase it differently), balanced with a realistic understanding of the dangers to American interests if the current Saudi or Pakistani regimes were to fall to even more Islamist forces. This is not to pretend that the Saudi or Pakistani governments are doing anything other than working against the best interests of the United States, but that they are the unavoidable evils that must be tolerated to avoid worse evils.
Finally, I would just add that Mr. Merry is being far too generous to attribute “moralistic impulses” to the Clinton administration for its Balkan interventionism. I realise the phrase “moralistic impulses” in the context of Mr. Merry’s foreign policy discussion is intended as an insult, but even to credit Clinton with a sort of simply foolish moral idealism here is to be gravely mistaken about the causes and larger significance of the Balkan interventions. On a very basic level, they were a way to give NATO new life and help clear the road for its ever-eastward expansion. Those interventions, not unlike Iraq, spring in part from the same deluded assumption that Muslims generally are potentially friends of the West and just need demonstrations of good faith to secure their cooperation. Thus support for Muslim causes by Western nations and eventually support for the “liberation” of Muslims from oppressive rule will win the West some sort of credit with the Islamic world, as if it were either monolithic or as if it would be grateful to the fools selling them the proverbial rope. The Balkan interventions also sprang from a reflexive contempt for Christian nations that is shared by secular liberal and neoconservative alike, aggravated by a narrowly Western prejudice against the Orthodox world that is as ingrained as it is inexplicable and short-sighted.
A British government memo that critics say proves the Bush administration manipulated evidence about weapons of mass destruction in order to carry out a plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein (search) has received little attention in the mainstream media, frustrating opponents of the Iraq war.
The “Downing Street Memo” — first published by The Sunday Times of London on May 1 — summarizes a high-level meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) and his senior national security team on July 23, 2002, months before the March 2003 coalition invasion of Iraq.
The memo suggests that British intelligence analysts were concerned that the Bush administration was marching to war on wobbly evidence that Saddam posed a serious threat to the world. ~FoxNews
The most telling part of the memo was this: “There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.” (emphasis mine)
The regular accusations of dishonesty and incompetence that antiwar critics have directed at the administration are entirely vindicated by this memo, of course, but what is remarkable is that the British knew well in advance that there was no post-war planning of any meaningful kind and still allowed themselves to be dragged into this fool’s policy.
There are the legal aspects that the memo touched on as well that are thoroughly damning. “It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.” Again, this is nothing that those of us opposed to the war haven’t been saying for years. But look at it again: a clear statement that the upper echelons of both governments knew that Iraq’s WMD capability was less than Libya’s, even when Libya had scarcely any program and was soon to dismantle what little it did have through the earlier diplomacy of Britain. What honest person can deny that Bush systematically deceived the American people? Who can deny that he deceived the Congress as well?
Of course, for a constitutionalist all of these violations just worsen the egregious breach of the Constitution in the president’s launching of the war on his own authority. He has not been the first usurper in this regard, but it is high time that one of them was held accountable. It is very simple to do. Impeach Bush and Cheney. It is the only way that most Republicans in Congress could ever reclaim their honour.
Q: At the Naval Academy last week you spoke of a midshipman named Edward Slavis, who graduated and has served in Iraq. And you quoted him as saying that the mission will be a success, and 20 or 30 years from now historians will look back on it and consider it America’s golden moment. I’m wondering, sir, if you agree with that assessment, and, if so, why?
THE PRESIDENT: I do, David, because I believe that as a result of the actions we have taken, we have laid — begun to lay the foundation for democratic movement that will outlast this administration; a democratic movement that will bring peace to a troubled part of the world. …
You know, I reminded people that because Japan is a democracy, Japan is now a great friend, we work together on big issues, and yet it wasn’t all that long ago that we warred with Japan. In other words, democracies have the capability of transforming nations. That’s what history has told us. And I have faith in the ability of democracy to transform nations. And that’s why, when I talked about Iraq earlier, that we’ve laid the — begun to lay the foundation for a democratic, peaceful Iraq. Someday an American President is going to be dealing with an Iraqi — elected Iraqi President, saying — or Prime Minister, saying, what we can we do together to bring peace to the region? In other words, it’s a platform for peace. And, yes, I do believe — I agreed with the man. ~Editor and Publisher
A few pointers for the delusional Dobleve. History does not “tell” us anything. The events of history are interpreted, and we are the ones who lend meaning to them. Second, Japan has been peaceful because it has been legally hamstrung from being otherwise, its people have been made to feel ashamed of national pride for sixty years and it has found diversion in making a great deal of money. Change any of those elements and Japanese democracy will encourage the most virulent nationalist and expansionist politics and have no means to stop such attitudes from developing. Democracy did not change Japan–having the country devastated, occupied and dominated by a foreign power did that. As far as I’m concerned, in many ways it is an open question whether Japan is the better for the change. Third, if Iraq is our golden moment, I shudder to think of what our Age of Iron will be like.
The triumph of the so-called Orange Revolution has meant the victory of statism on every front. The burgeoning power of the Ukrainian state over the economy has plenty of overtones as far as the country’s precarious civil liberties are concerned: for example, the ability of the anti-government NTN television network to secure and keep its broadcasting license – in the face of continued agitation by pro-government groups to kick them off the air – remains very much in doubt. Yushchenko’s March 5 speech to the congress of the ruling Nasha Ukraina coalition, in which he denounced the “clan” that controls the anti-government media, did nothing to alleviate fears that the new regime would resemble the old. “The entire spectrum belongs to another clan,” he said, declaring he does not want his children to be “taught by such clan-run media.” ~Justin Raimondo