Eunomia · October 2005

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Multiculturalism is “an abandonment and denial of that which is one’s own,” and, for Americans of European descent, Christianity is at the center of what is being abandoned and disavowed. Despite President Bush’s profession of faith, his administration is, like the America it represents, at best post-Christian, and perhaps anti-Christian. With Christianity on the retreat in Europe and in America, it is no surprise that insurgent Islam is once again on the rise. If Americans truly believed in the Faith of their fathers, how likely is it that there would be an Islamic school in Rockford or an Islamic academy near Mount Vernon? The presence of these foreign elements is as much an indication of a failure of nerve on the part of Christians as is the mosque that has been erected in Rome. Until we abandon and deny the multiculturalism of our postmodern world, until we rise above our pathological self-hatred and return to the certainties of tradition and kinship and soil and memory, our faith will never match theirs in its intensity, and the Dar al Harb will, gradually but inexorably, be absorbed into the Dar al Islam. ~Scott P. Richert

Mr. Richert’s article is one of many fine pieces of commentary from the truly excellent October issue of Chronicles (and I don’t just say that because it happens to include my first published article). His specific and focused attack on multiculturalism and its practical consequences is far more telling and compelling than my rather general response to Patrick West’s little pamphlet on the same subject. Here he has described some of the consequences of the moral insanity and the cultural death-wish of Westerners who either actively turn upon their own traditions or permit renegades and newcomers to dethrone their traditional authorities.

I would observe that if Westerners have lost the Faith of their fathers it is no small part because they long since neglected the Fathers of the Church for their instruction in the Faith. Obviously, that is inevitably less true for Orthodox and Catholics, but especially for American Christians there is a dearth of knowledge of patristics. The abandonment of the study of Greek and Latin, which became effectively universal in all institutions of higher education (to say nothing of secondary schools) 40 years ago, is instrumental in the loss of our inheritance, both classical and patristic.

When I first took a serious interest in Byzantine history, I was soon embarrassed at my own lack of necessary language training, a good part of which has now been remedied. However, I am acutely aware that my knowledge even of Greek is spotty compared to someone in my position a generation ago–I am doubtful that I would have been accepted with my qualifications into a similar graduate program in my grandfather’s time. But it brought home to me just how incomplete my prior education was–and I cannot say that I went to anything but serious and fairly rigorous schools–and how cut off I was from most of my own history. What was worse was that none of my teachers ever gave me any reason to think that I was missing out on anything by neglecting the study of these languages. That this was possible in generally well regarded schools is a measure of how far we have all fallen.

If the dead, the living and the unborn are bound up together in profound obligations to one another, how can we fulfill those obligations if we cannot read or understand many of the things that were accessible and meaningful to our ancestors? How do we honour their ways unless we embrace the same true teachings that they embraced? The idea of Progress, as modern man understands it, is that of fleeing from the origin, from the home, from that which is one’s own towards something always “new,” but something which is always unsatisfying and which compels the progressive to go farther on down the road. Unlike the sweep of salvation history, which is the only true progressive narrative in existence, the lie of Progress does not offer an end, cannot offer perfection or fulfillment, because it premises our perfection on our own self-improvement (measured by increasing alienation from our own past and identity), which is doomed to fail. Our Whigs are little better than runaway teenagers on the road, going they know not where, but they have managed to drag many of us along in tow without our fully realising it. Rather than following the Heir to the Vineyard, we have walked in the paths of the Prodigal and called it wisdom.

Short of awaiting the translation of the full patristic corpus, which is still a long way off, there is nothing for it but for each of us to learn the classical languages of our civilisation if we are to have any hope of restoring the things that are lost. Perdita restaurans: this from an old Latin Nativity hymn from pre-Norman England, referring to the renewing effects of the Incarnation of the Logos. That phrase evokes the central inspiration of our Faith and the civilisation that it has inspired, which is God’s self-emptying redemption of man and the world, and it captures what should be our foremost goal in remedying the madness of this civilisation of ours bent on self-destruction.

Today is October 18 on the Orthodox “Old” (Julian) Calendar, the feast day of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist St. Luke.

As a disciple of the Word of God, with Paul you illuminated all the earth and dispelled the gloom in writing Christ’s divine Gospel. ~Kontakion for the feast day of St. Luke

U.S. President George W. Bush, seeking to rebound from a failed Supreme Court nomination, chose conservative appeals court judge Samuel Alito Jr. for the seat and set up what may be a bitter battle with Senate Democrats.

Alito, 55, has a markedly different resume than that of White House Counsel Harriet Miers, whose nomination Bush withdrew last week amid opposition from conservatives. Alito is a former prosecutor and Reagan administration official with 15 years of experience on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Newark, New Jersey, and a developed record of judicial conservatism. ~Bloomberg

In choosing Judge Alito, Mr. Bush has managed to regain some ground lost over the past weeks with the Miers debacle, and he has once again surprised critics such as myself by choosing one of the better judges on the bench today as Associate Justice. Along with his choice of Bernanke for the Fed, the nomination of Alito seems to mark a recovery of some minimal political judgement at the White House after two months of complete confusion. Once again, Mr. Bush has regained the initiative against an incompetent opposition, and he has dared the Democrats to employ their extaordinary plan of filibuster. Even if the Democrats could pull enough members of Sen. McCain’s little band to their side to defeat the nominee without resorting to a filibuster, Mr. Bush would have a highly visible election issue that would motivate the people whom he has, in fact, slighted with the Miers withdrawal.

In a sense, the failure of Alito’s nomination from the obstruction of the opposition might benefit Bush politically more than if Alito was confirmed with the same ease that the Senate confirmed Judge Roberts. As potentially damaging or even disastrous 2006 midterm elections approach, the GOP needs something that will mobilise voters with something close to the same intensity as what I would call Mr. Bush’s 2002 “Khaki Election.” Without low, but intensely Republican turnout, all signs point to Democratic victory in 2006–provided that they can manage to appear as something other than the ship of fools that they are. The failure of Alito’s nomination might serve as a symbol of leftist intransigence that the RNC could marshal in support of its candidates. While the direction of the judiciary is not a high priority for most voters, it is the priority for increasingly estranged evangelicals, who saw (however foolishly or unrealistically) in Miers their representative and who have taken her abandonment rather poorly. If Alito’s nomination failed, these voters would be highly mobilised to make one last push to get their sort of nominee. It would provide the culture war mentality that helped, despite his own best efforts to ignore or disown state marriage amendments, get Mr. Bush over the top in 2004. Should Alito be confirmed, this would be an important success Mr. Bush could tout, but it would be nowhere near as politically useful as failure.

But what about Harriet Miers and the supposed revolt on the part of “the base”? Conventional press accounts have it that “conservatives” (whatever it supposed to be meant by this) opposed Harriet Miers, and the impression has been that the more conservative someone was the more strongly he would have opposed her nomination. Not exactly. Secular conservatives and neocons opposed her precisely because she was personally religious and insufficiently highbrow–the failed attempt to browbeat the Senate Republicans with accusations of “elitism” (as well as “sexism”) revealed that the administration knew what the source of opposition to her was, even if they were extremely clumsy and stupid in how they responded. Of course, they were joined by thinking conservatives of all stripes who found the nomination to be a joke (and a bad one at that). Part of this was a result of embarrassment on the part of thinking conservatives, when they realised that any one of them had done more serious thinking on constitutional law than had Ms. Miers, and another part was frustration with such a politically inept pick, simply adding one more mark of incompetence to an administration riddled with it. In a strange convergence, pundits throughout the “conservative” universe, broadly defined, found themselves in agreement that Miers had been a bad choice. This is just about the only issue on which Pat Buchanan and Charles Krauthammer have agreed in the last 30 years.

Evangelical leaders and, to the extent that they were following events, ordinary evangelicals were, as far as I was able to gather, quite pleased with the selection of Miers. Some liberal columnists somewhat reasonably perceived in her initial statements shades of Robert Bork in her open endorsement of strict construction (even though Judge Bork himself was bewildered by the choice and would probably have been unamused by any comparisons), and to the extent that ordinary conservatives in “the base” saw this in Ms. Miers, lack of documentation notwithstanding, they were willing to give Mr. Bush more of the benefit of the doubt than the Washington and New York sets were. Ms. Miers was not a good choice, if we are talking in terms of merit, but what she was meant to symbolise to Republican evangelicals was a surprising departure from Mr. Bush’s usual reliance on the party and Washington establishments. It was also an odd burst of populist appeal on a domestic issue for an administration that has saved most of the tawdry demagoguery for its wars.

I should reiterate that the Miers choice was quite poor, because she seemed to have dedicated as much time in her career to constitutional theory as Mr. Bush has. However, one thing we should all be clear on is that it was not backlash from the “far right” or evangelical Christians that brought her down, but instead it was mostly a backlash from established Republican activists and pundits.
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Today on the “Old” (Julian) Orthodox Church Calendar, the Orthodox Church commemorates, among others, St. Martin, martyr and bishop of Tours, St. Cosmas the Hymnographer (contemporary of St. John of Damascus), and St. Symeon the New Theologian. Vechnaya Pomyat!

Though in the flesh thou wast zealous to emulate the choirs of heaven, and whilst on earth didst compose hymns to God in the highest; like a harp of holy wisdom thou didst hymn in enlightenment God the Word. O divinely inspired Cosmas, we praise thee with hymns. ~Troparion for St. Cosmas the Hymnographer

O holy father Symeon, you received divine illumination in your soul.
You were shown forth to the world as a most radiant light dispelling all darkness.
You call all men to seek the Grace of the Holy Spirit, which they had lost.
O righteous father! Pray unto Christ, our God, the He may grant us great mercy! ~ Troparion for St. Symeon the New Theologian

Cardinal Newman’s remarks about St. Cyril’s exegetical method, quoted in the previous post, made me reflect a little on the radically different (and sometimes terrible) conclusions different approaches to Scripture produce. How a person perceives the written Word determines to a remarkable degree his vision of the Church and his understanding of the role of Church Tradition in interpreting Scripture. Without wanting to overstate the matter, it seems fair to say that the greater willingness one has to perceive multiple layers of meaning in any one passage of Scripture (in particular, the greater one’s willingness to embrace allegorical exegesis), the greater one’s willingness to understand the Church in Her mystical and Eucharistic reality, as well as the greater the willingness to preserve the paradoxes about Christ without seeking to force a reconciliation that will, according to our limited understanding, diminish the glory and mystery of God Incarnate. The less one desires to perceive Scripture in a merely “carnal” manner, the more one can embrace the Church as Christ’s Body incorporating all living Christians, whether reposed or still on earth, as well as embracing what I might call ecclesial exegesis. This is nothing other than the perfectly traditional habit of interpreting Scripture in the light of the Church’s living reality and the continuing inspiration of the God-bearing Fathers in the Holy Spirit. We cannot judge Scripture “on our own” or even simply according to natural reason, because we do not exist or worship in this way.

If I were to approach Scripture carnally, I might have difficulty finding a ready warrant for, to take a typically Orthodox example, the veneration of icons (after all, where are the panel paintings mentioned in the New Testament?). But, if I were to approach Scripture ecclesially, I would be able to see that God already presents to us the most resplendent and glorious Icon in Christ, Who, as the Image of the Father (Heb. 1:1-3), is the Icon by nature on Whom all other icons are predicated and to Whom all icons ultimately refer. In this lies the truth of the Incarnation and its consequences for the redemption of all of creation, but it is not readily apparent to just anyone who happens to read the Bible, nor should we expect that it would be. It would be difficult for someone schooled in reading texts only for outer meaning or, at best, moral lessons to become accustomed to the constant typological and allegorical readings the Fathers provide for us. Yet being accustomed to these sorts of readings is essential to any basic understanding of Christian doctrine, because it was just in this manner that the Evangelists and Apostles wrote (and so it was in this manner that later Fathers read them), as anyone who even briefly acquaints himself with the Gospel of John or the Epistle to the Hebrews may be able to see.

The traditional fourfold interpretation of Scripture (literal, moral/tropological, typological, allegorical) familiar to early medieval Latin Fathers and their successors was the product of a catholic and ecclesial view of exegesis that sought to incorporate and encompass as many valid and mutually reinforcing meanings in Scripture as possible. The victories of the churches of Alexandria, Rome and Constantinople respectively at the Third, Fourth and Fifth Ecumenical Councils went a long way in keeping the most basic, often least instructive, literal, “carnal” sense of the Word represented stereotypically by the Antiochene tradition from impoverishing the religious imagination of the Church.

Here Cyril was certainly bolder than the Latin theologians, but the lack of theological daring in Latin Christology has somewhat slanted McGuckin’s interpretation of Pope Leo I, whose famous Tome was read out before the assembled bishops at Chalcedon to unanimous acclaim: “Peter has spoken through Leo!” The standard Western account of that episode claims for Rome a balance of approach lacking in the more disputatious Greek theologians, who were still too besotted by the neo-Platonic speculations common in the East. McGuckin disagrees. He points out, rightly, that the bishops not only accepted Leo’s intervention as the voice of Peter but went on to say, “So also did Cyril teach.” (Cyril had died seven years before Chalcedon.) According to McGuckin, the bishops accepted Leo because, and only because, he taught the same thing as Cyril, who alone was the test for Christological orthodoxy. McGuckin also makes the much more radical claim that the decree of Chalcedon was meant as a deliberative corrective to Leo’s Tome.

This thesis will not stand up to scrutiny. The decree the Eastern bishops supported clearly represented a middle passage between the extremes of Antioch and Alexandria. Cyril had favored the term “hypostasis” to denote the union of divine and human in Jesus, while the Antiochenes preferred “person.” Chalcedon used both terms. Similarly, Cyril generally spoke of a hypostatic union “from” two natures, whereas Leo and the Antiochenes insisted on the union taking place “in” two natures—and that is the formulation Chalcedon chose. Finally, we know that the Alexandrians themselves detected these “concessions” to Antiochene theology because Cyril’s more hotheaded successors (Eutyches and Dioscorus, primarily) actively rejected the Council. That rejection soon led to the Monophysite heresy, which lives on to this day in the Coptic and Ethiopian churches.

That problem aside, John McGuckin’s Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy is a book to be welcomed and recommended. Students of this difficult period will be amazed at the verve and clarity the author has brought to his study. Its erudition and speculative brilliance recall John Henry Newman’s The Arians of the Fourth Century. Even more, McGuckin has amply justified Newman’s famous observation in the Development of Doctrine that Antioch is “the very metropolis of heresy” whereas it “may almost be laid down as an historical fact that [Cyril’s] mystical interpretation and orthodoxy will stand or fall together.” ~Edward T. Oakes, S.J., First Things

By chance, I happened to pick up Fr. McGuckin’s book on Friday after experiencing the relief of passing my field examinations. I have not had the chance to get very far into it just yet, but so far this book on St. Cyril is refreshingly detailed and insightful, and full of Fr. McGuckin’s clear, powerful prose that has made his biography of St. Gregory the Theologian such a pleasure to read (even if time constraints have so far prevented me from finishing it). The extensive section of translations in the back is a wonderful asset for anyone interested in fundamental Christological works. My assessment of Fr. McGuckin’s thesis will have to wait until another time, but so far I have little reason to expect any grounds for serious criticism.

There was one small, nagging point that left me a bit perplexed as I began the book: why are terms such as Christian, Christology and European left entirely uncapitalised, whilst “Oecumene” and a few other Greek and English terms (e.g., Genos, “the Emperor,” etc.) are uncharacteristically or artificially capitalised? Is there some new fad afoot in theological writing that keeps us from capitalising the word Christian while still capitalising Judaism and even choosing to capitalise Paganism, which is often written entirely in lowercase? After all, if Christology is the doctrine about Christ, surely it makes little sense for a theologian effectively to de-emphasise Christ by writing “christology” and “christian”!

Honestly, I cannot fathom the reason for this particular grammatically incorrect (as well as inconsistent) practise. If there is some PC fad about such things out there, I would not have expected it to infiltrate St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Obviously, this does not detract from any of the substance of what Fr. McGuckin is writing, and it is probably not worth dwelling on for so long, but it has a somewhat jarring or puzzling effect on the unsuspecting reader. It is made all the more odd by the capitalisation of Orthodox and Novatianist–if we’re worried about reifying religious categories or attaching undue significance to these labels, why not orthodox and novatianist? I would be genuinely interested to find out if anyone knows what the thinking is behind such a strange move.

The new St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press edition of this volume on St. Cyril (originally published in 1994 by Brill) is largely free of the wimpy apologetic refrains that often end up saying, “yes, Cyril was an intolerant, obnoxious person, and it’s a real shame about Hypatia, but he had some nice theology.” I was reminded of these refrains, which hang over most Cyrilline books like a shroud, whilst reading Fr. Oakes’ review, as it is loaded with all of the usual apologies to modern readers for bothering them with something so potentially “mind-numbingly arcane” and irrelevant as Christology. (That Fr. Oakes does not, in fact, find theology mind-numbingly arcane might easily be lost on the innocent reader.)

Incidentally, I have suspected for some time that one reason why theology is regarded as poorly as it is by most modern people is that theology’s own defenders are quite embarrassed about their own discipline and seem almost to believe the charges of vain disputation and irrelevance leveled against most theologians. (Academic theologians may indeed be guilty of these charges, but it certainly does not apply to the men responsible for laying the intellectual gridwork of Christian doctrine, of whom St. Cyril was one of the foremost.)

I feel confident that I can already heartily endorse Fr. McGuckin’s book, and I would also recommend as useful reference guides the Westminster handbooks that he has either edited (on Origen) or authored (on Patristic Theology). More reflections on the book will follow once I have had a chance to review it more thoroughly.

Asked what he thought the odds were of a team that once was 15 games under .500 winding up in the World Series, Lance Berkman gave it some thought.

“Well, how many times has it happened — ever?” Berkman replied. “Once in history, right? (Right.) And that was in 1914, right? (Right — by the old ‘Miracle’ Braves.) So what does that tell you? That it’s virtually impossible. But somehow, we did it. It’s hard to believe, really.” ~ESPN

With all apologies to my White Sox fan neighbours exulting in their latest World Series trip, Houston’s 5-1 win last night, clinching the National League series 4-2, was by far the more impressive achievement and the far more meaningful event, if we can really ever attribute much meaning to sporting events. Not only do teams that started off as poorly as the Astros almost never reach the World Series, but Houston has had an unusual run of missed chances, two of which I remember painfully and distinctly (the fateful 1986 series against the hated Mets, and last year’s choke against the Cardinals). Normally, I don’t write about sports or the teams that I have followed for years, but, as an Astros fan since I first saw them in 1984 in the Astrodome, I am breaking with my usual silence to pay tribute to one of the few genuinely admirable baseball teams still around.

All the stories about this Astros team seem like a strange throwback to a bygone era where players stayed with their teams for their entire careers (see Biggio and Bagwell) and there was still some modicum of real hometown loyalty. Thus you have seen Roger Clemens, 43, returning for still another year to help his hometown club alongside his friend, Pettite. There is Craig Biggio, the seemingly tireless, gritty warhorse, who has finally reached the championship series in what may now well be his final year after a record 2,564 regular season games without going to the World Series (and whose all-time HBP record and trademark tar-stained, dust-covered helmet remind us of a time when professional baseball players were not the pathetic, posing prima donnas of the present). Then there is the entire team, in spite of one of the ugliest starts of a season I can remember in 21 years of following the team, managing to scrape and struggle back to the wild card and get to the championship. If Americans love those sorts of stories, they should love the Astros.

Even though I moved away from east Texas when I was six, I have never stopped supporting the Astros. That loyalty was not misplaced. Yes, it is only a game, and it has no great significance in the scheme of things, but I can’t help thinking that there is something basically good in this team’s success. Go Astros!

To identify results in these terms, I inspected the political history of each country after the troop withdrawal. I looked for events betokening the collapse of democratic rule, including the suppression of opposition leaders or parties, major infringements of freedoms of speech, press, and assembly, violent transfers of power, murder of political leaders by other leaders, and significant civil war. I required large and multiple failures along these lines as evidence of democratic failure. A few arrests of opposition leaders were not be enough to disqualify the country as a democracy nor a few assassinations of ambiguous meaning nor a simple military coup nor the resignation of an executive in the face of massive street demonstrations. If numerous free and fair elections were held, this was taken as strong evidence that democracy survived. Elections that were one-sided and to some degree rigged by the incumbents were taken as a negative sign, but they did not, in themselves, disqualify the country as democratic.

The results of applying these principles to the political outcomes in the 51 cases of intervention are shown in the following table. Overall, the results indicate that military intervention succeeded in leaving behind democracies in 14 cases—27 percent of the time. The conclusion, then, is that nation building by force is generally unsuccessful. A president who went around the world invading countries to make them democratic would fail most of the time. One group of countries that seem especially resistant to democracy-building efforts are the Arab lands. There have been are nine interventions in Arab countries in the past century. In no case did stable democracy follow the military occupation. ~James Payne, The American Conservative

Mr. Payne’s article is well-timed, at least for me, since I recently discovered Mark Pietrzyk’s International Order and Individual Liberty, a thorough critique of the theory of “democratic peace” that at least indirectly informs that democratic nation-building projects of the 1990s and today. At the moment, I have no time to delve into the matter at length, but I do hope to return to more regular posting next week once my qualifying exams are over (and, let us hope, successful). Mr. Pietrzyk’s sound criticisms of the “democratic peace,” a theory which I have frequently excoriated as something between ignorant utopianism and lunacy, are all the more important for repudiating this theory. The criticisms are coming from someone who seems to be a conventional and genuine believer in the virtues of contemporary liberal democracy in the managerial states in the West. If anything, I believe that his effective repudiation of the idea that democratic institutions and practices produce international peace is too generous to the “democratic peace” theory in some respects, particularly when it insists on ascribing the liberal-democratic designation to modern Italy while denying it to the very real constitutional, representative systems of Germany and Austria prior to 1914. His alternative argument that it is a stable and peaceful international order that allows democratic institutions to flourish, and thus it is periods of instability that encourage authoritarian and consolidated government (rather than wars being, say, the result of the existence of despotic regimes), is essentially right.

Where the entire analysis in Pietrzyk’s book may be weakest is in the historical caricaturing of the rival systems of government as they have developed in the West. Thus “democratic” Britain avoids excessive centralisation, and “autocratic” pre-WWI Germany suffers from it, when any observer of modern British and German histories could see immediately the intensive centralisation of all political power in London generally and Whitehall specifically, whereas Imperial Germany was, much as Federal Germany is today, a relatively decentralised political and administrative structure owing to its unique process of unification.

Arguably, while Bismarck’s wars did produce centripetal forces that created a united Germany, and the basic association of war and consolidated power is correct, British history since 1746 shows an increasing centralisation of power quite separate from the sort of strategic vulnerabilities that supposedly forged “autocratic” governments in Europe. The memory of Napoleonic invasions did inform the drive to unite the German states, but the persistent vulnerability of German states to invasion did not spur them to actual unification for half a century. At the same time, liberalisation has almost always resulted in centralisation whenver it has occurred (e.g., Switzerland in 1848, Austria in 1867).

Today, to criticise multiculturalism, one is invariably derided as ‘right wing’ or ‘reactionary’. Conversely, to champion multiculturalism, one is invariably perceived as ‘progressive’ or ‘of the left’. But it should be, and historically it has been, the other way around. Multiculturalism represents the antithesis of the Enlightenment principle of colour-blindness and the notion of the universality of humankind - while the fetishisation of ethnic particularism is a quintessentially Tory ideal. The liberal-left’s love affair with multiculturalism today is a betrayal of what it used to stand for. ~Patrick West,

It is interesting to note that the introduction to Mr. West’s pamphlet, The Poverty of Multiculturalism, is apparently written (perhaps for maximum effect) by the author of The Liberal Mind, Kenneth Minogue. Indeed, Mr. West’s aim in this article (in addition to relocating ethnic particularism on the Right and making clear that it is a very bad thing) might be seen as an attempt to sort out the contradictions of the liberal mind, which desires at once the universal and rationalistic ordering principles of the Enlightenment as well as an (insane) confidence in the wisdom of allowing maximal freedom and expression to individuals and, by extension, entire groups. But, as we will find, the contradictions are really only apparent–the lumiere and the diversity-monger share common beliefs and goals. Though it may not be readily apparent to Mr. West, many liberals’ embrace of religious minorities and their advocacy for those minorities to practise their religions at work and school, for example, are aimed at dissolving and overthrowing the cultural norms of the old society they are trying to obliterate.

First, some remarks on multiculturalism might be in order. Multiculturalism is a nonsensical word and a ludicrous concept. Many cultures may exist side by side, they may borrow from one another and they may gradually merge together or disappear, but no society can be “multicultural.” No conservative has ever been a multiculturalist, nor can he ever be without ceasing to be conservative.

Believing that ethnic difference is normal and desirable, that one’s own ethnic loyalty is something that is part of sane life and one’s own ethnic identity is something to be cultivated, which form a part of a paleoconservative view, is not to believe that myriad peoples should live cheek by jowl under a regime of enforced tolerance for one another’s contradictory and alien values and customs. The latter is multiculturalism. It exists solely as a vehicle for the self-destruction of the decaying dominant cultures in Western countries. It is something used by cultural renegades to destroy their own way of life, a way of life that they have come to despise. A love and respect for one’s own place, history and people does not translate into an amorphous delight in all places, histories and peoples, which is what multiculturalism proposes to embody.
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There has been little cheer in Germany’s business community now that Angela Merkel is headed to take the chancellery from Gerhard Schroeder.

The country’s leading tabloid, the Bild, flashed the conservative leader’s smile across the front page after the deal with Schroeder’s Social Democrats Party (SPD) was announced.

But one of the top business dailies, Handelsblatt, picked a more sobering shot.

It showed Merkel with her hands in the air as she tried to put positive spin on progress toward a so-called grand coalition.

“Merkel pays a high price to move into the chancellery,'’ it headlined.

The Social Democrats lost last month’s election by just 1 percent, and — in less than three weeks of negotiation –secured more than half the ministries in the government. ~CNN

Actually, Pat, it is PROTECTIONISM that does all those things: 1) Being protected from competiton with tariffs or quotas causes the “protected” industry to become lazy and lethargic; why work so hard if there’s no competition? 2) Businesses that accept corporate welfare in the form of protectionism become, effectively, wards of the state every bit as much as any welfare mother. Once a business accepts such subsidies, it no longer can legitimately complain about or oppose other prosperity-destroying regulations or taxes. It does not engage in free speech for fear of losing its subsidy. It loses all of its independence, in other words. ~Thomas DiLorenzo,

Hat tip to Michael Dougherty.

Thomas DiLorenzo, known and respected by many traditional conservatives as a very competent historian of the War of Secession and Lincoln and author of The Real Lincoln, has decided to have a new war over tariffs with Mr. Buchanan. You know the libertarian drill: whine about government interference in the market and call your opponent ignorant. Prof. DiLorenzo throws a fit when Mr. Buchanan claims, using the imagery of a man destroyed by drink, that free trade makes nations dependent and weak and ultimately leads to their ruin. DiLorenzo is the historian, is he not? Why then is it that it is Mr. Buchanan who makes the cogent historical argument that our protective tariffs coincided with and fostered American industry, and it is DiLorenzo who seems to be throwing the “tantrum”?

Later in Mr. Buchanan’s article, which is not “recent” (it is dated Aug. 11, 2005), as DiLorenzo claims, and to which DiLorenzo provides no link, there is this important section:

But in the Clinton-Bush free-trade era, Alexander Hamilton is derided as a “protectionist.” Woodrow Wilson’s free-trade dogma is gospel. Result: our trade surpluses have vanished, our deficits have exploded, our self-sufficiency has been lost, our sovereignty has been diminished, and an industrial base that was the envy of mankind has been gutted.

And for what? All that junk down at the mall? What do we have now that we did not have before we submitted to this cult of free trade? ~Pat Buchanan

Perhaps I’ve missed where Mr. Buchanan has made an error–do we, in fact, have enormous trade surpluses and is our manufacturing sector growing stronger daily? “All that junk down at the mall” (or at the superstores) is exactly what an economic regime dedicated strictly to commerce and “service” jobs provides. Note that DiLorenzo makes no claim that a free trade regime can secure a country’s manufacturing base, because he knows he would be easily ridiculed with the present reality of our miserable manufacturing sector. We are supposed to be satisfied with a regime that leaves us dependent on the productivity of other nations for all finished and manufactured goods, which in the real world where nations clash and seek advantage against one another leaves our country vulnerable to economic extortion, deprives us of our freedom of action in international relations and steals our initiative in foreign affairs.

The free trade ideal might be summed up like this: Sell American independence to the lowest bidder, as long as we can have our Wal-Marts. The question between free trade and protection is not a question, ultimately, of economics alone, but of the kind of America that should exist. On the one side, there is a nation of dilapidated factories, shuttered plants and collapsing small towns shivering in the shadows of anti-social, dehumanising megalopoleis, while our people are awash in the latest imported vanities. On other side, there is the nation that might not necessarily have as much in sheer quantity but can rely on a steady level of productivity that meets the needs of our people, rather than being egged on to ever greater consumption and materialist desire for trivial things. Indeed, the cultural and spiritual fruits of a free trade regime are perhaps the most abhorrent and most rotten of all.

One could advance a radically different sort of argument against protectionism, the sort advanced by the old Jeffersonians. A tariff or high tariff regime can be very inimical to agricultural sectors, which is one reason why the historically predominantly agricultural South and West have traditionally supported the party opposed to tariffs. They opposed high tariffs not because it was destructive of an industrial economy, but exactly because they knew it was not. They did not want a world of cities, industry and “bank rule,” and their vision for America would assuredly have been better (for one, we could never have gone abroad in search of monsters to destroy if we had not become such an industrial power), but once we became a thoroughly industrial nation we no longer had the option of choosing the Jeffersonians’ vision. We now have the choice of continuing as the world’s consumerist dumping ground amid diminishing quality of employment and eventually diminishing standards of living, or we can reclaim some measure of economic self-determination, so to speak, and break the chains of commercial dependence on the production of nations that are, quite naturally, using all their economic leverage to gain as much for themselves at our expense as they can.

The Jeffersonian understanding of tariffs then, oddly enough, vindicates the Hamiltonian Mr. Buchanan today. In an increasingly industrialising world, that has become more, not less, true. When Western industrial nations were still the only game in town, they could afford to allow greater freedom to market forces in international trade. Now that the number of competitors has increased, the luxury we once had to enjoy healthy industrial production and a free flow of commercial goods has diminished considerably. We can choose greater national self-sufficiency, or we can choose the “junk down at the mall.” Or we can, like DiLorenzo, shout idiotic abuse at the people alerting us to the serious choice at hand.

And yet, it is precisely the utopianism of this interventionist project, whether defined in Richard Holbrooke’s terms or Paul Wolfowitz’s, that has led me at least to a re-education in realism. These doubts have two sources: the actual degree of success the U.S. has attained in Iraq and in the Middle East, and, far more importantly, the wisdom of such engagements, whether or not they succeed.

First, a little proportion about Iraq. Even those who view the country’s progress from the most optimistic perspective tend to unite in crediting Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s majority Shiites, with having held the country together and used his commanding authority to legitimize January’s democratic elections. Ayatollah Sistani’s own medieval views on subjects ranging from Sharia law to the status of women are presented as being of little concern. “You can’t get to Thomas Jefferson without first having Martin Luther,” is the way the conservative Middle Eastern specialist, Reuel Marc Gerecht, once put it to me.

Historical analogies (and their 300-year lag times) aside, there is at least as compelling an alternate scenario: That what Ayatollah Sistani has done is used the democratic process to secure power for the Shiite community. In other words, that it is less that he and his fellow ayatollahs in Najaf share Washington’s project of democratizing the Middle East so much as the Bush administration’s commitment to initiate the vast project of a social transformation of a whole region by force of arms happened to dovetail with Shiite political ambitions and that the moment these interests no longer dovetail, it will become clear what kind of Iraqi society American blood and treasure has really brought into being. And that is assuming the war against the insurgency really is being won: The fact that two years after Saddam Hussein’s fall the road to the Baghdad airport is still not fully controlled by U.S. forces and Iraq is still importing oil suggests that the outcome is still very much in doubt. ~David Rieff,

Hat tip to Michael Dougherty.

Being pressed for time today, I will have to be relatively brief. First, if Reuel Marc Gerecht is the sort of person in our country who qualifies as a Middle East specialist, our Middle Eastern policies are doomed to fail. Second, we had better hope that Mr. Gerecht specialises in Middle Eastern affairs, as his knowledge of our own history is simplistic at best. This is Mr. Gerecht’s insightful comment: “You can get to Thomas Jefferson without first having Martin Luther.” Let me say right off that this is something of an insult to Luther, who may have been a rather confrontational and ill-tempered monk but was still a man of serious and broad learning in patristics and the humanities–that he used that learning to little good end is not the point–and the Ayatollah has no such claim to our tradition or any comparable tradition of humane learning. I would add a last note: on the road from Luther to Jefferson Christendom had to destroy itself in disastrous internecine wars, almost succumb to the Ayatollah’s co-religionists and ultimately abandon much of the ancestral Faith to the ravages of rationalism, so if anything good will come from this the region would have to pass through a century of nightmarish violence first.

Handed a once-in-a-generation opportunity to return the Supreme Court to constitutionalism, George W. Bush passed over a dozen of the finest jurists of his day — to name his personal lawyer.

In a decision deeply disheartening to those who invested such hopes in him, Bush may have tossed away his and our last chance to roll back the social revolution imposed upon us by our judicial dictatorship since the days of Earl Warren.

This is not to disparage Harriet Miers. From all accounts, she is a gracious lady who has spent decades in the law and served ably as Bush’s lawyer in Texas and, for a year, as White House counsel.

But her qualifications for the Supreme Court are non-existent. She is not a brilliant jurist, indeed, has never been a judge. She is not a scholar of the law. Researchers are hard-pressed to dig up an opinion. She has not had a brilliant career in politics, the academy, the corporate world or public forum. Were she not a friend of Bush, and female, she would never have even been considered. ~Pat Buchanan

As Mr. Buchanan observes elsewhere in the article, the lack of a paper trail was decisive in Ms. Miers’ selection. This is not unlike Judge Robert’s very limited “trail” of actual judicial rulings, which, unlike his legal briefs for the Reagan administration or private casework, could provide some clue as to how he might rule in the future. When I correctly guessed that John Roberts would be the nominee, I had known this from the first time I read about him when I saw that he had few court decisions with which the left could bludgeon him. Mr. Bush likes the appearance of success, whether or not it actually achieves anything, and in this he is simply a more obnoxious version of what all modern politicians are by habit. As with Judge Roberts, so with Harriet Miers: Mr. Bush wants no contentious confirmation battles, and so has chosen what he believes is the safest option, namely Souter encore, in the belief that breaking faith with his constituents will cost him nothing. So far, most “conservatives” in the GOP have given him no reason to fear a backlash. Mr. Buchanan says that the “conservative movement has been had” yet again, but an old saying comes to mind: “Fool me once…” Mr. Bush has betrayed many, many conservative principles, as anyone could see, so why should anyone have trusted that he would not, in the end, betray a constitutionalism in which he evidently does not believe?

He has wanted no contentious battles because, as he has shown with almost all of his nominees at least since the pitiful support shown Mr. Estrada, he will never rise to their defense or risk his own position on any domestic question of any size. He has shown that he will always keep his precious “political capital” tightly in his hands, like Smeagol grasping the Ring.

As Mr. Buchanan also notes, all of the bad instincts that Mr. Bush seemed to suppress in the Roberts’ nomination came back with a vengeance. Besides his desperate need to pander, in domestic politics, to official victim groups and their loudspeakers in the press, there the pathetic inclination to exalt hangers-on and old supporters with substantial and significant positions that should, one might think, be chosen on exceptional merit and not the sort of undue personal connections and influence that tend to drive Mr. Bush’s personnel decisions (think of FEMA’s Brown and Condi Rice). But I predict that, however disappointed “conservatives” in the GOP will be, these same “conservatives” will line up behind Mr. Bush yet again.