Eunomia · December 2005

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Half the nation now believes the war was a mistake and wants U.S. troop withdrawals to begin. But no patriot wants to see Iraq collapse into chaos and civil war, and everything for which 2,100 Americans died and 16,000 suffered washed down a sewer. ~Patrick Buchanan

The phrasing of this last line from a rather odd Buchanan article caught my attention: “no patriot wants to see…” If it had read, “no Iraqi patriot…”, I would have no trouble agreeing. But, in all seriousness, what does being an American patriot have to do with the matter? Presumably, no one of good will wants to see Iraq collapse into civil war and chaos. That would be a perverse desire kindled purely out of spite for political opponents and a selfish desire to be proved right, regardless of the consequences in the real world. No sane person, much less any American patriot, indulges in such desires, and there ought never be any suspicion that this is the case.

Of course, it would be ideal if our soldiers had not died and been maimed for what will likely prove to be nothing of consequence. But I, for one, will not pretend that they are fighting for something worthwhile or necessary for the United States when they clearly are not–this would be the false support of the war by someone who rejects it and all it stands for.

Whatever we might want, present Iraq policy all but guarantees these ugly outcomes sooner or later. This is not because “democracy” will necessarily and inevitably fail in Iraq (though it probably will), but because it has even the slightest chance of succeeding, ensuring that the suppressed conflicts of at least a generation are channeled into repeated contestations for power, wealth and influence.

There is already chaos and there may well be civil war, regardless of what the government may still be able to do there, and there comes a time when patriots have to recognise an inherently flawed and failed policy and abandon it. That is not pessimism or defeatism, unless it is defeatism to deny that “complete victory” is possible in a war that has no tangible objectives. On the contrary, it is the sort of honesty in the setting of policy that would have stood President Nixon in good standing in 1969 if he had pursued a similar course, and it was the sort of view that President Eisenhower took with respect to the miserable mistake of the Korean War.
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By ‘national interest’ I do not mean such grandly aspirational aims as world peace and democracy. I mean that which directly relates to the wealth, security and liberty of the British people. For instance, the fate of the Croats or Bosnians or Kosovars in the 1990s, or any of the peoples of Africa today, can hardly be said to be directly related to our own prosperity and security; nor, for that matter, can the condition of the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein, or the Afghan people under the Taleban. ~Correlli Barnett, The Spectator

It is always encouraging to see the writings of Conservatives who are weary of the ’special relationship’ and the inane prattle of the last several Tory leaders on foreign affairs. The author’s remarks reflect the deeply held bitterness of many Conservatives at the overt role of lackey their nation has been made to play over the past several years, as well as a much broader dissatisfaction in Britain with the illegal war in Iraq.

This enjoyable article comes, alas, only to alert Tories that their new, vacuous leader, David Cameron, will offer more of the same poor leadership, and perhaps even intensify the worst aspects of Tory moral, political and ‘intellectual’ dependence on the GOP for guidance on policy, especially foreign policy. Mr. Cameron is in a position to reorient the Conservative Party on Iraq and the relationship with America, but it has clearly become the case that the only British politicians more keen to toady and abase themselves before the whims of Mr. Bush and the Washington establishment generally than Mr. Blair have been the last three Tory leaders. Mr. Cameron promises to extend this streak to four.

British independence and the assertion of its own self-interest in competition with or to the exclusion of American hegemonist goals would be met in America with the pained cries of betrayal and hatred that greeted the French and Germans in 2002, only in the case of Britain the resulting backlash would be all the more intense because it would come from a party believed to be more reliably “pro-American” (i.e., supine and weak-willed). It would take a courageous man to go up against the combined interests of Tory Atlanticists, the City and its minions in the press and Washington all at once. Mr. Cameron, however, appears to be little more than an empty suit.

I like the idea of self-sufficiency. I’m not opposed to trade, but I am opposed to the kind of economic centralization that makes continental populations dependent on just a handful of corporations for their incomes, their entertainment, and their food. Outside of our large cities, entire towns are employed by one or two employers that ship their goods all over the world. Everyone in the town buys all they need at Wal-Mart, who can sell for less because their size gives them certain economies of scale. Their radio stations are all Clear Channel, their TV stations are Sinclair, and their movies are all Disney. Neither liberalism nor the modern strain of conservatism sees this as inherently problematic. Agrarians do.

As an agrarian, I think that industrial, centralized agriculture is a bad thing, compared with numerous family farms. I think we would be better off if a higher percentage of our population were farmers. The ideal of self-sufficiency isn’t limited to agriculture, though. It’s a theme that runs through most of what my kind of agrarianism advocates. Freedom has an inverse relationship to dependency, and that relationship is why private property is so important. Property isn’t a consumer good, it’s a means for insuring independence. Democracy has an inverse relationship to centralization. The responsibilities of democracy are more willingly discharged when people know that their votes matter. They matter more when the political decisions are made locally, rather than nationally or internationally.

Agrarianism does not imply a distaste for cities. It doesn’t equate to Luddism, or a desire to go backward in time to the last historical moment when family farms were the norm. It does mean that we might progress furthest by recognizing those elements of our past that are superior to what we have now, instead of holding to the irrational belief that newer is always better. Agrarianism does mean a critical evaluation of new technology, and a realization that some new technologies are more harmful than helpful.

Agrarianism isn’t monolithic, either. Just like conservatism has several factions, agrarianism can be roughly divided into two major versions. One, the one that I don’t subscribe to, is a socially traditionalist philosophy that emphasizes religion and hierarchy. Russell Kirk is a good example of this version of agrarianism. The other strain, the one that I like, is best exemplified by writers like Wendell Berry and Edward Abbey. This strain emphasizes localism and respect for the earth. ~Glorfindel of Gondolin (Carey Cuprisin)

There are points in Mr. Cuprisin’s remarks that I naturally don’t agree with, and he definitely has little time for paleoconservatism as such and says as much, but his agrarian sentiments expressed above recommend his blog to paleo agrarians, traditionalists, “crunchy cons” and various and sundry reactionaries. His Tolkienian enthusiasms are also much appreciated. The permanent link to his blog on Eunomia will be the first in the category of specifically agrarian blogs.

At what level of participation, Brent Scowcroft, can the objective of democratizing a hellhole of Middle Eastern totalitarianism be deemed a partial success? After how many inspiring elections, Howard Dean, can the trope about exporting freedom at the end of a gun be buried? ~Jonathan Gurwitz,

I don’t know who Jonathan Gurwitz is, but I am fairly confident that he doesn’t know much about the “freedom and democracy” he so enthusiastically preaches. He knows the right buzzwords–he even knows to attack paleoconservatives by name! But there is little else. Leave aside those little, technical details (such as the banning of dozens of Sunni candidates for Baathist ties in a blatantly sectarian move by Shi’ites) for a moment, and let’s see if we can’t help Mr. Gurwitz with his weak rhetorical questions.

Three elections do not establish the political habits necessary to create a self-sustaining representative government or a system of electoral politics. Perhaps if–and I do stress if–Iraqis manage the same feat on a regular basis for another 30 years we can say that they have created something lasting and potentially better than what preceded it (it rather depends on whom they elect and what their elected governments do–having elected governments is perhaps the most overrated thing today). I really do hate to invoke the endlessly invoked analogy, but in 1918-19 Wilson believed he was freeing people from the “prison house of nations” (ooh, look, self-determination!) and ended up laying the groundwork for massive instability, authoritarianism and war. Even though Austrians and Germans had been freely voting for decades, he thought it a good idea to “teach them to elect good men,” and we all know, from reminders ad nauseam, whom the Germans eventually elected. Given the choice in 1945 between the Kaiser and the ruin that republican democracy had brought them (which is to say, the ruin they had ultimately brought on themselves through their blessed voting), any sane German would have chosen the Kaiser. When modern democracy succeeds, it is ugly, stupid and generally undesirable, but usually only moderately abusive, and when it fails it fails catastrophically. I would not wish such a system on my enemy.

Iraqis today are not free (it does take a wee bit more than the absence of a dictator to be free), and voting does not make someone free so long as he endorses a government dedicated to inculcating dependency on the state in one form or another. Indeed, voting is in most respects a strange and often servile act: it is an egoistic claim to power rendered meaningless by its frequent repetition and widespread imitation. Indeed, the more often one votes under an unfree regime (as most Westerners do), the more deeply implicated in and committed to the unfree regime one becomes.

At the moment, Iraqis find elections exciting and inspiring because they have scarcely seen the sorts of governments elections produce, especially the results of elections outside of the Western world. Their government will likely be venal, corrupt, nepotistic, equally heavy-handed and ineffectual in many parts of the country and will become about as popular as Alejandro Toledo is right now in Peru (he, too, was once the bright face of democratic Peru, and he, like old Evo, marked the rise to power of the Indians of that country). Now poor Mr. Toledo is reviled, because he persisted in the now much-despised “neoliberalism” of the ’90s, his government is a failure, the Shining Path has begun to return in small numbers and the nostlagia for the Fujimori years has been such that Fujimori himself was daft enough to try to return to Peru, where he is a wanted man, to run for re-election! (Fujimori was arrested in Chile at the request of Lima, and will probably soon be extradited.) Now Ollanta Humala, currently leading in the polls, proposes a nationalist and at least slightly collectivist Evo-like platform, and his main contender is an old left-wing populist, former President Alan Garcia, who presided over the ruinous pre-Fujimori years. That is the alternative a “successful” democracy offers in the developing world.
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And few would deny that the American-led demonstration of resolve is related to a movement toward decency and democracy in countries as various as Ukraine and Lebanon, with ripples of hopeful change in Egypt and even Iran and Syria. ~Fr. Richard John Neuhaus

Fr. Neuhaus’ original interview from 2003 is interesting, but more instructive are his remarks from this year. The quote given above speaks volumes for how deeply indebted Fr. Neuhaus is to the hegemonist party line espoused in varying degrees by the self-styled “radical” Wall Street Journal and the “wet” Economist. That will hardly be news to longtime observers of Fr. Neuhaus and First Things, but these remarks from October 2005 show no sign of a moderation of opinion, contrary to what The Japery has claimed, at least not on the question of Iraq. Indeed, in important ways, Fr. Neuhaus appears as more of a dedicated supporter of the whole of Mr. Bush’s foreign policy agenda than I would have thought he would be willing to admit.

It is regrettable that anyone could confuse the advance of the cause of Hizbullah (the main upshot of any greater democracy in Lebanon) and the success of the criminal Yushchenko with the advance of “decency and democracy.” In its crude, ochlocratic moments and the promise of renewed sectarianism the stirrings of greater Lebanese democratisation does showcase some of the worst of a democratic regime, and if victory for the ugliest, most bigoted sort of nationalists is a victory for decency then Fr. Neuhaus and I have very different definitions of what it is to be decent.

It is almost beside the point that these things did not come to pass because of the invasion of Iraq, but because of other forms of interventionist policy related to separate pro-Israel and anti-Russian policies, much to the detriment of the well-being of Lebanon and the Ukraine respectively. What can it possibly say about Fr. Neuhaus’ “prudential” judgement that he finds anything praiseworthy in these events? Are the election of Ahmadinejad and the outlawing of Mubarak rivals “ripples of hopeful change” by Fr. Neuhaus’ own standards of what qualifies as a desirable course for the Near East?

Granted, he is not alone in these views, but his almost verbatim recitation of hegemonist talking points would be eerie if it were not so predictable. Neuhaus’ source for Near Eastern policy analysis is Fouad Ajami–need any more be said? If anything, his only barely qualified embrace of Mr. Bush’s lunatic Second Inaugural marks him out as more of an extremist on Iraq and interventionist foreign policy than I ever suspected.

In his opinion, Judge Jones the Third declared:

“The overwhelming evidence is that (intelligent design) is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism and not a scientific theory. . . . It is an extension of the fundamentalists’ view that one must either accept the literal interpretation of Genesis or else believe in the godless system of evolution.”

But if intelligent design is creationism or fundamentalism in drag, how does Judge Jones explain how that greatest of ancient thinkers, Aristotle, who died 300 years before Christ, concluded that the physical universe points directly to an unmoved First Mover? ~Patrick Buchanan

The “debate” over Intelligent Design (ID) is one of those things I heartily wish would crawl away somewhere and die. ID theorists and their opposite number, the philosophical materialists who champion evolutionism as the explanation for the origin of life and man, are both frustratingly unscientific and impervious to criticism. Tell an ID theorist that he is not doing science, which is basically a statement of fact, and he will yell that the Darwinists are out to suppress free debate and enshrine Darwin as a prophet, and tell the dogmatic materialist that science has no answers for any metaphysical and cosmological questions of significance, which is simply a matter of logic, and he will scream that you are a madcap theocrat trying to burn him at the stake.

This “debate” is marked, for the most part, by the two camps firing almost irrelevant broadsides at each other. Aside from the fact that judges should have nothing to do with the setting of curricula anywhere, Judge Jones also muddles the issue. Whatever else ID is, it is not creationism or creation science redux. Whatever the philosophical merits of the argument from design or the almost ineluctable logic that there must have been, according to Aristotle, a First Cause, these things do not make ID into science. The Unmoved Mover is Aristotle’s answer to a problem of causality, mainly in order to avoid regression ad infinitum. ID not only takes for granted that there was a First Cause (which is not really what is at stake in the “debate”) but assumes that the mechanisms of mere cause and effect in the physical world cannot explain the rise of complex structures in nature. According to ID, the Unmoved Mover must keep moving, if you will, and directing development throughout natural history and, what is more, the structure and organisation of organisms reflect the intelligence of the Mover and insists that random selection through empirically observable material processes cannot possibly account for this structure and organisation.

Scientists do not, as far as I know, deny or affirm the idea of a First Cause as something that they can actually prove, but they may grant that it is a logical claim. In a related way, almost all scientists do not accept that the working of a Designer can be demonstrated or that theorising that the Designer has directed things to evolve as they have done will add an iota of understanding about the biological processes under investigation.

Mr. Buchanan is right to throw light on the dubious and unproven claims of evolutionists about the origins of life and the transformation of one species into another. Those claims are theoretical in the sense that they are truly speculative. However, the failures and excesses of one dogmatism do not make ID one bit more scientific. If we were to take it for granted that one species does not derive from another, however, we would find ourselves pitted against ID theorists as well–they do not object to the claim that man evolved from a common ancestor that we and apes share (Dr. Behe accepts the idea of a common ancestor), but they do object to the claim that random selection was responsible for the change. ID is not anti-evolution or even really anti-Darwin as such–it is simply opposed to a certain understanding of random evolution.

If ID were proposed as a possible philosophical answer to what the theory of evolution means for understanding the role of a Deity or Author in the universe, it would have some real merit. Because it proposes to augment the theory of evolution as science, it will never be taken seriously by most scientists and will remain an embarrassment to its defenders.

On the face of it, Mr. Bush’s extraordinary authorisation of warrantless NSA wiretaps is illegal. (Then again, many things Mr. Bush has done are illegal and there has been little attention paid to their illegality.) Viewed as a matter of strict construction, much of what the NSA does is illegal, but even by the pathetic standards of modern jurisprudence they have crossed the line. Under the Fourth Amendment, even warranted searches and seizures must have probable cause, which arguably the government might have in some of these cases. But warrantless searches such as Mr. Bush has authorised are obviously prohibited under the Fourth Amendment. As with the detention of Jose Padilla, Mr. Bush has claimed arbitrary “wartime” powers that he simply does not have, and has ignored due process then and now because, in both cases, I suspect he was worried that his actions might not seriously withstand the scrutiny of judicial review.

The Fourth Amendment obviously does not distinguish between searches done in the course of intelligence-gathering and those done in the course of gathering evidence for the prosecution of a crime–nothing derived from the powers vested in the officers of the United States can be used in such a way as to evade the clear, broad guarantees of the Bill of Rights. It is allowed that the Congress could, in time of rebellion or invasion, suspend habeas corpus (Art I., Sec. 9:2), but no such power has ever properly been granted to the executive, though some Presidents have wrongfully usurped such power. Every search requires a warrant. It really is that simple. If that is inconvenient or disturbing to defenders of the warfare state, if it seems antiquated or anachronistic to them to adhere to the rule of law, they should stop justifying end-runs around the Constitution and begin making proposals to amend the provisions of the law.

The defense that this warrantless intelligence-gathering forms a part of presidential war powers guaranteed under Article II’s designation of the President as “commander-in-chief” is, like most other defenses mounted by this administration, shabby and false. First of all, properly speaking as a matter of constitutional law, the joint resolution of Sept. 14, 2001 is not sufficient warrant for indefinitely authorising an ongoing military conflict (it is not the same as if Congress had issued a declaration of war) and the presidential war powers associated with it.

The article in today’s Wall Street Journal claiming that the resolution is the equivalent of a declaration of war is simply wrong, particular on the case law being cited (Bas v. Tingy especially). In Bas v. Tingy, as I understand it, resolutions of Congress are sufficient for authorising limited military engagements, such as occurred with the Quasi-War that prompted the case in question. Furthermore, Justice Washington in Bas v. Tingy distinguished between the “imperfect war” that arose between members of two nations (such as the so-called Quasi-War of 1798-1800) and the “perfect war” that would arise following a formal declaration of war. No one can pretend that “Enduring Freedom” or the war in Iraq is of such a limited, “imperfect” nature. Both are, as Iraq war supporters have endlessly reminded us, large-scale, general wars. Justice Chase wrote in Bas v. Tingy:

What, then, is the nature of the contest subsisting between America and France? In my judgment, it is a limited, partial, war. Congress has not declared war in general terms; but congress has authorised hostilities on the high seas by certain persons in certain cases. There is no authority given to commit hostilities on land; to capture unarmed French vessels, nor even to capture French armed vessels lying in a French port; and the authority is not given, indiscriminately, to every citizen of America, against every citizen of France; but only to citizens appointed by commissions, or exposed to immediate outrage and violence. So far it is, unquestionably, a partial war; but, nevertheless, it is a public war, on account of the public authority from which it emanates.

To cite this ruling in particular, as Mr. Turner does today, stemming from what was generally recognised as a limited war to justify a general principle that joint resolutions = declarations of war is simply wrong, and to give the impression that this equation is a settled precedent is misleading and possibly dishonest. With respect to general wars, joint resolutions are insufficient to authorise presidential war powers–the usurpation of several presidents in the last 55 years on this score cannot and must not be taken as serious precedents. Even taking the resolution of Sept. 14, 2001 as temporarily effective in authorising the President to take those actions he deemed necessary to retaliate against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, it is impossible to grant that it carries the weight of a declaration of war and that it therefore properly invests the President with the role of commander-in-chief on an ongoing basis. The wartime powers he claims to have as being implicit to his office do not exist (as a matter of law, war powers are granted to him by the representatives of the people–the most ardent Federalists during ratification regarded this as one example of why the President under the Constitution was not in danger of becoming an autocrat). The war powers he claims on the grounds of the joint resolution of Sept. 14, 2001 are irrelevant here. The resolution states: “That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” This is an authorisation of force for retaliatory purposes with the goal of eliminating the threat to the United States.

It does not take a great legal mind to see that this authorisation does not extend to the full range of war powers (such as intelligence-gathering) to which Mr. Bush might possibly be entitled if the Congress had bothered to declare war. For Mr. Bush, his entire case for the legality of his actions rests on the myth of inherent or implied powers.

The remake of Battlestar Galactica on the Sci-Fi Channel (soon to begin its third season) has prompted a few rather weak attempts to draw parallels between the show and current events or find a political or religious statement in the new version of the amazingly campy cult series of 1978 (which understandably became more popular only after it left the air), such as this brief plug in Time for BSG as the best show of 2005 (which is true–take that for whatever it’s worth).

When I first heard of the idea of the remake, I laughed. Why would anyone want to remake a show that was, in my estimation, as exciting as Star Wars: Episode I and even less imaginative? Then a funny thing happened the night before I was to leave with my parents for Texas: I caught the tail end of a BSG marathon and, once I found my bearings in the storyline, became captivated, much to my own surprise.

There are a number of significant changes to the story and many of the characters from the original version (which can only have been an improvement). Some of them (such as making the pilot Starbuck into a woman) are as silly as they were unwelcome to fans to the old show, while the injection of a sort of theological controversy and seriousness into what would normally be yet another guns-in-space production has made the story much more engaging. The two major differences are what make the new BSG an interesting sci-fi series and a far more compelling drama than any of the shlock on offer on the major networks. The major differences are these: the Cylons are artificially intelligent lifeforms created by man that have returned to wreak vengeance/judgement/havoc on humanity and have begun to imitate humans to the point of developing their own religion, believing that they have been elected to replace mankind in the created order; second, the human, modernised followers of old polytheistic cults find themselves confronted by these militant monotheists who believe that they are delivering God’s retribution upon sinful man.

What is remarkable about the series is that, intentionally or not, the writers have managed to make the Cylons’ excessively deterministic theology (”all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again”–an idea they share with the humans) so much more credible and interesting, as well as a major factor in moving the plot forward, than much of the worn-down quasi-Olympian cult of the Colonists that it is hard not to have a sneaky sympathy with the Cylons. In the world Ron Moore has created, the Cylons appear to represent at once the most fundamental evil and the more enlightened civilisation, if you will, which may be the most intriguingly subversive idea in the entire story: if there is in this fictional universe a Cycle of Time in which things recur eternally without variation, moral culpability and freedom of the will are completely irrelevant and the genocidal horrors of the Cylons need no justification–they flow ineluctably from a mechanical God. The entire show, if it has a “message,” is a display of the moral horror of a universe in which Hegelian or gnostic fantasies about history, inevitability and progress are true. Theologically speaking, of course, the Cylons’ beliefs are so much of a gibberish of Vedanta, Christianity and Islam that it would be next to impossible to see in the Cylons a symbol for any particular religious group or religious groups in general.

For what it’s worth, the old BSG was blatantly, overtly political in a way that the new show cannot even pretend to be. The original pilot was a screaming indictment of 1970s detente and a forecast of disaster for fools who would make deals with totalitarians (in those days, the robotic Cylons were supposed to be a hostile alien race ruled by the redundantly named Imperious Leader). If the warning of the old show was an unabashed denunciation of “appeasement” and its consequences, the new one is not so clumsy or what I might call ’sci-fi preachy’.

Peter, I agree with you on Jeff Hart’s piece [in today’s Wall Street Journal]. We were in a staff meeting here at the Dallas Morning News, and my editor had to nudge me to get me to put down the Journal and pay attention, so captivating was Jeff’s essay. Crunchy me especially liked this passage:

But the utopian temptation can turn such free-market thought into a utopianism of its own–that is, free markets to be effected even while excluding every other value and purpose . . .such as Beauty, broadly defined. The desire for Beauty may be natural to human beings, like other natural desires. It appeared early, in prehistoric cave murals. In literature (for example, Dante) and in other forms of representation–painting, sculpture, music, architecture–Heaven is always beautiful, Hell ugly. Plato taught that the love of Beauty led to the Good. Among the needs of civilization is what Burke called the “unbought grace of life.” ~Rod Dreher (via Peter Robinson) at The Corner

Mr. Hart’s remarks on beauty brought Mr. Dreher’s ideas to my mind as well–it is encouraging to hear that Mr. Dreher responded in much the same way to the article. What was telling in the responses to Mr. Hart’s article at The Corner was the complete lack of any comment on the anti-Wilsonian arguments advanced therein. That is something that NRO understandably doesn’t want to touch.

In fact, she explains, she liked the way “Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it’s easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points.”

Those reasons reflect many female converts’ thinking, say experts who have studied the phenomenon. “A lot of women are reacting to the moral uncertainties of Western society,” says Dr. Jawad. “They like the sense of belonging and caring and sharing that Islam offers.”

Others are attracted by “a certain idea of womanhood and manhood that Islam offers,” suggests Karin van Nieuwkerk, who has studied Dutch women converts. “There is more space for family and motherhood in Islam, and women are not sex objects.” ~The Christian Science Monitor

It may seem odd to some, but the very “liberation” (and consequent degradation and overt exploitation) of women that defenders of Western “modernity” against Islam repeatedly cite as proof of our advancement and their regressiveness counts against the West with these women. The conversion of European women to Islam will probably not become a stampede, but the fact that it is happening at all, that supposedly “liberated” women would choose a religion that endorses their systematic subjugation to escape the modern egalitarian’s denigration of women and still claim that it is “caring and sharing” shows how inadequately serious, rigorous and vital European Christianity has become.

Via Antiwar.

What we have now is not a robust executive but a reckless one. At times like this, it’s apparent that Cheney and Bush want more power not because they need it to protect the nation, but because they want more power. Another paradox: In their conduct of the war on terror, they expect our trust, but they can’t be bothered to earn it. ~Steve Chapman

Via Antiwar.

The idea that this election was going to be a milestone on the road to genuine democracy in Iraq never made much sense, and in view of the results it makes even less. Iraq is on a path to full-scale civil war, and the election, instead of papering over ethnic and religious divisions, has only underscored them. The insurgency, instead of being tamped down, now has a new grievance to rally its forces around and make new recruits: allegations of massive election fraud. The Iranians, for their part, have consolidated and even extended their growing influence, virtually ensuring, through the victory of Tehran-backed parties like SCIRI and Da’wa, that “democratic” Iraq will soon be an “Islamic republic.” No wonder the Iranians are now crowing that the elections were a victory for “Khomeini-ism.” Thanks to the US invasion, and the subsequent triumph of SCIRI, Da’wa, and the more radical Sadrists, Iran is now effectively in control of the Iraqi government. ~Justin Raimondo

In other words, what Jimmy Carter’s passive, incompetent foreign policy did for Iran George Bush’s hyperactive, incompetent foreign policy will do for the entire region. It is somehow fitting that the fraudulent Iraqi democracy has appeared on the scene roughly one year after the rise of the fraud-ridden Ukrainian democracy of Yushchenko. It appears that the world’s need for eunomia and a regular dose of anti-democratic common sense is greater than ever.

Judging by the union’s vocal opposition to the war, the problem, if anything, appears to be the reverse: What is “good for the Jews” seems to concern the organization less than what is good for American liberalism. A premature withdrawal from Iraq would be devastating to the cause of the Jewish state. That observation does not reflect the motives for having gone to war, but simply the outcome of abandoning a fellow democracy without condition and regardless of consequence–and the obvious consequence would be Iraq’s transformation into a den of terror. None of this seems to have made an impression on the reform Jewish organization. ~Lawrence Kaplan,

Mr. Kaplan’s article performs what seems at first to be a clever sleight of hand. He tries at one and the same time to dismiss the charge that invading Iraq had anything to do with Israel (that would be silly, of course!) while castigating the antiwar Union for Reform Judaism for being insufficiently pro-Israel and inadequately committed to the welfare of the Jewish people on account of its call for withdrawal from Iraq. Following him so far?

The usual pro-war canards are trotted out: most Jews oppose the war (true, but fantastically irrelevant) and Israeli officials would have preferred that we attack Iran (as if the most vocal proponents of the Iraq invasion believed something else–Iraq was, in the memorable phrase of Mr. Wolfowitz, “doable”). Yes, most Jews oppose the war, but then most Jews are not neocons (and no one I know of has ever claimed any different, just as no serious war opponent has ever used the term neocon as slang for Jew as the neocons themselves accuse us of doing).

However, many (if not most) of the most prominent ‘intellectual’ neocons, when the term is very specifically defined, are Jewish. More broadly, neoconservatism as the ideology of ‘muscular’ use of military force to advance American “ideals” and expand American hegemony, er, leadership (Max Boot’s Hard Wilsonianism) has all-too-extensive support among evangelicals and security-state Republicans. But the fact that neoconservatism has metastasised in the body politic and spread to new tissue does not make its original cancerous cells any less dangerous. Besides Sharon’s conviction, attested before the invasion, that removing Hussein would be a great boon to Israel, there is also reason to believe that Sharon’s government cooperated seriously with key policymakers at the Office of Special Plans (OSP) in the cooking and control of intelligence information, so even the label “Sharon’s war” is not so terribly far-fetched. The only danger of calling it this would be to underestimate the desire in some circles in this country to have this war, regardless of what Sharon or anyone else in Israel might have wanted.
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The Republican Party now presents itself as the party of Hard Wilsonianism, which is no more plausible than the original Soft Wilsonianism, which balkanized Central Europe with dire consequences. No one has ever thought Wilsonianism to be conservative, ignoring as it does the intractability of culture and people’s high valuation of a modus vivendi. Wilsonianism derives from Locke and Rousseau in their belief in the fundamental goodness of mankind and hence in a convergence of interests.

George W. Bush has firmly situated himself in this tradition, as in his 2003 pronouncement, “The human heart desires the same good things everywhere on earth.” Welcome to Iraq. Whereas realism counsels great prudence in complex cultural situations, Wilsonianism rushes optimistically ahead. Not every country is Denmark. The fighting in Iraq has gone on for more than two years, and the ultimate result of “democratization” in that fractured nation remains very much in doubt, as does the long-range influence of the Iraq invasion on conditions in the Middle East as a whole. In general, Wilsonianism is a snare and a delusion as a guide to policy, and far from conservative. ~Jeffrey Hart,

It is with a certain satisfaction that I see conclude its pretentious series on American Conservatism with the veteran Mr. Hart’s article, which ridicules more than half the things their other contributors have endorsed. Since the series was a not-so-subtle retort to the founding of The American Conservative (bringing us such rubbish as Max Boot’s What the Heck is a ‘Neocon’?), it is fitting that the series concluded with an article endorsing more of TAC’s positions than it did those of the WSJ editorial board. It is truly surprising to see such dissidence from the well-known party line allowed on the WSJ’s op-ed pages–it is noteworthy for its rarity.

There is some genuine satisfaction in seeing an old hand of the “movement” belittle the idols of the new generation and all but disown the Iraq war (or at least the ideological underpinnings of it) that has become the defining event of the “conservative” political hegemony of the past five years. As the Hansons of the world ignore reality and grip even more tightly onto the failed policy of invading Iraq as a transformative event and fundamentally prudent course, even bizarrely invoking the Korean War (yes, the Korean War!) as an encouraging precedent for “staying the course” in Iraq, Mr. Hart reminds us of what real “mainstream” conservative thought used to look like before the darkness fell.

The thought of the U.S. fighting a Thirty Years War or engaging in something akin to the Peloponnesian War (which lasted 27 years) is unthinkable. These were wars fought by aristocrats, not democrats, who want chiefly to get on with their pleasurable lives. A miserably difficult war against a fanatical enemy with no conclusion in obvious sight has nothing to do with pleasure. A hard sell, this war, and Tocqueville would have bet the chateau against the American people finally buying it. For once it would be nice to see him proved hopelessly wrong. ~Joseph Epstein,

When I first read Mr. Epstein’s article in the print edition, I thought it was one of those unconvincing, throwaway op-eds the WSJ occasionally commissions to appear intellectual and “serious.” (”Seriousness” is something the WSJ desperately values and completely misunderstands.) But it was worse than that–Mr. Epstein had very nearly made a more or less consistent argument (though not one with which I would agree) and then wrecked it right at the end. More on Tocqueville in a moment.

What was it he said at the end? The Peloponnesian War was fought by aristocrats and not by democrats? If we are speaking of high-status, wealthy elites forming the leadership of Athenian politics, this statement would be partly true, but it was assuredly those same ‘aristocrats’ who convinced the democratic mass to support the war and defend Athens’ arche and the democratic Assembly again that authorised the fateful, disastrous Sicilian expedition of 415-13. It was the “tyrant city” Athens, the democracy, whose hegemony provoked what we call by the cacophonous word of “blowback”–it was not as if the war was exactly thrust on some poor, unsuspecting, pacific polis. It was the premiere democrat, Perikles, who enunciated the superiority of democratic values that would–in his estimation–cause Athens to prevail in war. Though it suffered an oligarchic coup in 411 (and the oligarchs justified their seizure of power in terms of being able to better preserve Athenian hegemony and win the war), Athens’ military supremacy at sea was based on democratic manpower in the fleet.

Citing the Peloponnesian War was a uniquely bad choice to make his point. Athenian democracy failed that test of war, but it was because of the regime’s folly and its weaknesses in land warfare. There is nothing special in democracy that encourages a love of tranquility or peace–this is the hallmark of perhaps bourgeois liberalism or perhaps of an intellectual conservative agrarian if it is the mark of any such tendencies.

Democracy, for good and ill, inculcates a sense of common political identity with more or less unknown people who also lay claim to the mantle of citizen and encourages a sense of solidarity or, God help us, fraternity with fellow citizens. This sense of solidarity makes modern democracies surprisingly stalwart and vehement in war, provided that there is a real sense of grievance or a goal of national aggrandisement at stake, and furthermore makes them very resistant to the idea of negotiation or settlement. The idea of “unconditional surrender” was immoral and lunatic, but it was a very democratic idea and it was no contradiction that FDR was the one who employed it first as a full-blown policy.

“We” all more or less instinctively have identified with the people attacked on 9/11, even though they may have lived and worked in places completely foreign to our own experiences, and the more casualties “our” armed forces suffer in war the less likely “we” are to seek an end to war short of victory, provided that the war seems to have an intelligible purpose. Democracy is irrational, but it is not completely insane–even democrats must have more or less tangible goals for their wars that serve their interests. But note the very language Americans use about the army–an institution for which few if any Founders had any romantic illusions. Americans refer to soldiers as “our troops”: this underscores how deep the collectivist idea of fraternite has sunk into our consciousness. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn recognised this about us sixty years ago when he wrote Black Banners: in a conversation between a German aristocrat and an American airman (whose plane had been shot down), the airman reflexively retreated into the shell of “we” and “us,” while the aristocrat repeatedly insisted that he speak for himself.
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For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. ~Isaiah 9:6-7

Ecce adest de quo prophete cecinerunt dicentes:

Puer natus est nobis,
Quem virgo Maria genuit,
et Filius datus est nobis,
nomen eius Emmanuel vocabitur,
cuius imperium super humerum eius,
et vocabitur nomen eius magni consilii angelus.

Rex lumen de lumine, eia! regnat in iusticia.
Cantate, eia! de Virginis fecundia.
~Versus Ante Officium, Winchester Troper (10th cent.)

To all our Orthodox brethren celebrating the Nativity of our Lord on the New Calendar and all non-Orthodox celebrating the birth of the Saviour, I send joyful greetings and wish all a merry Christmas!

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Christos razhdaetsya! Slavite!
Christos gennatai! Doxasate!

“Intelligent design” cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial. ~CNN

Let me say straightaway that the judge’s ruling here was ludicrous. This is not because ID has scientific merit (it does not–it is not natural science), but because this is yet another example of the mystical “wall of separation” being invoked to drive religion out of schools. It is doubtful that biology class is the best place to discuss theology (which is the realm in which ID properly belongs), but if the school board in Dover wanted to have a theology class I would be the first to champion the right of public schools to instruct their students in theology. It is a matter of Western cultural education and literacy, even if it were nothing more than that.

The sad thing is that ID theorists have handed the secularists an incredibly easy target and allowed them to score a quick victory to establish yet another anti-religious precedent. It should not be the business of the judiciary to declare what is taught or not taught in biology classrooms one way or another. It is not in accordance with the Constitution to claim that any aspect of religion being taught in school constitutes “establishment” or that the federal First Amendment would have anything to say about local school districts establishing religion in their classrooms if there were, in fact, an “establishment” of religion.

Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. ~Statement of Dover Area School Board

Theory. This is a much-maligned, often poorly-used word. It is odd that theory should have become something of a dirty word in the vocabulary of religious Americans in the context of discussing evolution, since theory is an admirable term taken from the Greek for vision and contemplation and has connected traditions of philosophical and theological contemplation. In scientific language theory has a more specific meaning, where it refers to a general explanation that has been substantiated by evidence or a statement about patterns in nature that has been demonstrated to be reliably true through repeated processes of verification. To say that there are “inexplicable gaps” in the original theory (which, it should be noted, ID theorists do not reject entirely) would be like saying that there are “inexplicable gaps” in Newtonian physics because it does not or cannot account for things (such as the movement of subatomic particles) that it did not try to account for. That theories are constantly revised does not make theoretical knowledge less certain or less reliable than the “factual”–there is, or should be, the awareness that no theory ever has the final word, but that it is the best word available to us to date. Indeed, without theoretical frameworks to structure it, factual “knowledge” is often just a jumble of unrelated information. What ID proposes to do is to say, “The theory of evolution has not, as of yet, accounted for all of the complexities of biological phenomena, and therefore we declare it simply insufficient and propose to fill in the ‘gaps’ with a non-empirical, non-scientific explanation.”

I do feel a twinge of pain each time I hear a well-meaning critic of the theory of evolution say something as silly as, “It’s a theory, not a fact!” There are two problems with this: one is the bizarre deprecation of the ability to account for diverse phenomena according to general principles (men do not live by abstractions, but surely abstract thought in and of itself is an aid to understanding), which is as desirable in philosophy as it is in science, and the other is the misguided worship of the factual. Fact as modern men mean it is not Truth, and is very often the enemy of Truth. The common phrase “cold, hard facts” suggests something of why this is so–a fact is something dead, limited and, so to speak, impermeable, so that it admits of no participation, no life-giving quality, no inspiration. (Thus I also cringe a little when I read C.S. Lewis speak of the Incarnation as the Myth becoming the Fact.)

I do not have Prof. Lukacs’ Historical Consciousness handy as I write this, but his discussion of the modern emergence of Fact as the criterion of truth, or rather of accuracy, is a very important one, and in it he explains the problems with the preoccupation with facts far better than I would be able to do. Suffice it to say that I think it is fair to say that a philosophically-minded person would probably desire theoretical, scientific knowledge over sensory evidence, Doxa and Fact.

Darwin did not account for everything when he developed his theory, and over a century later scientists have not accounted for everything (nor would we expect the highly complex systems in the natural world to yield itself completely to our inquiry so quickly), but they have also not found much of anything (as I understand) to reject his basic formulation even if they have found any number of problems with some of his speciifc claims. The scientific method does not require any one man to create an exhaustive systematic synthesis that explains all things without any “gaps.” It is not a much of a real criticism of any scientific theory to say that it does not take account of everything, that it is “gaps,” or else we would ultimately have to belittle every theory that does not rise to the level of Unified Field Theory.

Science requires men to continue testing and revising theories as they find new evidence until a better, more comprehensive explanation can be offered. When ID theorists can seriously offer that explanation, then we can try to get them into science classes, but to do this they would have to begin doing science. Fundamentally, ID is not a better explanation, but an assertion that is supposed to fill the “gaps”: if no other explanation for some highly complex development is apparent, credit the Designer.

It is precisely because genuine science is not dogmatic, in which Darwinian theory is some sort of creed to be confessed, that dogmatic materialist scientists who use evolution as their cudgel to beat Christianity are bad scientists–they have already erroneously reached their final conclusions about God, the universe and everything, even when proper science admits no absolutely final conclusions.

Bandow has admitted that he took thousands of dollars from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff to write columns favorable to his clients. He resigned from the Cato Institute yesterday and apologized for his “lapse of judgment.” ~Editor and Publisher

I haven’t too much to add, except that it is a pity that Mr. Bandow apparently thought a few thousands of dollars were worth more than his integrity. Whatever the merits of so-called drug reimportation from Canada, this sort of shoddy deal will give proponents of free trade a cheap and easy victory when they have already had far too many. It is doubly unfortunate that Mr. Bandow’s connection to Abramoff also led him to endorse one of the better modern swindles, the Indian gaming casino.

Hat tips to Stephan Kinsella at LRC Blog and Andrew Sullivan.

Bandow isn’t the only think-tanker to have received payments from Abramoff for writing articles. Peter Ferrara, a senior policy adviser at the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation, says he, too, took money from Abramoff to write op-ed pieces boosting the lobbyist’s clients. “I do that all the time,” Ferrara says. “I’ve done that in the past, and I’ll do it in the future.”

Ferrara, who has been an influential conservative voice on Social Security reform, among other issues, says he doesn’t see a conflict of interest in taking undisclosed money to write op-ed pieces because his columns never violated his ideological principles.

“It’s a matter of general support,” Ferrara says. “These are my views, and if you want to support them, then that’s good.” But he adds that at some point over the years, Abramoff stopped working with him: “Jack lost interest in me and felt he had other writers who were writing in more prominent publications,” Ferrara says. ~BusinessWeek Online

My previous remarks about Mr. Peter Ferrara were based on apparently incomplete and misleading reporting in Businessweek Online’s article and subsequent reports quoting that article. According to the statements released by Mr. Ferrara and Mr. Giovanetti of the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), and distinct from the admissions made by Mr. Bandow, Mr. Ferrara apparently did not take money for writing op-eds favourable to Mr. Abramoff’s clients in the strictly quid pro quo way that Mr. Bandow has acknowledged doing.

However, Mr. Ferrara’s financial involvement with Mr. Abramoff in the form of occasional “contributions” given after the fact is hardly thoroughly reassuring, and the fact that Mr. Ferrara did not alter his views in the process hardly makes his practise a ringing endorsement for ethical op-ed writing. The fact remains that he received undisclosed payments as a result of writing things with which Mr. Ambramoff agreed, and it does not require a “naive purity standard” to see the potentially corrupting influences in the practise. The lack of disclosure is itself an ethical breach, and a cynic might see such “contributions,” when coming from someone like Mr. Abramoff, as encouraging bribes in another form. It is worth noting that The Manchester Union-Leader and The Washington Times viewed these “contributions” as being questionable enough that they have suspended Mr. Ferrara’s columns.

In fairness to IPI, whatever involvement Mr. Ferrara has had with Mr. Abramoff, none of Mr. Ferrara work for them had anything to do with Mr. Abramoff or, it seems, with anyone else and IPI categorically opposes “pay for play” op-eds. It should be said that Mr. Giovanetti did himself no favours with the phrase “naive purity standard,” which could have easily appeared to mark indifference to unethical conduct thanks to the misleading way BusinessWeek cast those quotes.

And the amazing thing in Iraq, as a part of a broader strategy to help what I call lay the foundation of peace: democracies don’t war; democracies are peaceful countries.

And what you’re seeing now is a historic moment, because I believe democracies will spread. I believe when people get the taste for freedom or see a neighbor with a taste for freedom, they will demand the same thing, because I believe in the universality of freedom. I believe everybody has the desire to be free.

I recognize some don’t believe that. That was — basically condemned some to tyranny. I strongly believe that deep in everybody’s soul is the desire to live in liberty, and if given a chance, they will choose that path.

And it’s not easy to do that. The other day I gave a speech and talked about how our road to our Constitution — which got amended shortly after it was approved — pretty bumpy. We tried the Articles of Confederation; it didn’t work. There was a lot of, kind of, civil unrest.

But nevertheless, deep in the soul are a desire to live in liberty. People have got the patience and the steadfastness to achieve that objective. And that is what we’re seeing in Iraq. ~President George W. Bush, December 19, 2005

There are a few things we know about modern democracy: it is not inherently more peaceful than other regimes (it is, all things considered, one of the more brutal and destructive and has facilitated modern mass warfare), it is perfectly capable of starting wars, it is more than capable of warring against other democracies, it is an exceedingly rare and brief form of government that has enjoyed less than two generations’ existence in countries outside of Europe and North America, and its institutions have hardly ever “spread” to a nation that has not been previously colonised and/or conquered by a people with representative institutions and democratic traditions. Yet it has never been directly and successfully exported by force of arms, even though colonised nations may imitate the models of the colonialists once the latter have departed. (Since we purport not to be colonialists, and supposedly have no intention of remaining for the decades that would be required to inculcate the political habits required, Iraq’s chances of success here are not much improved.) Modern democracy constitutes the form of government in roughly a bare majority of the world’s nations today for an apparent lack of credible alternatives, but such uniform direction in the political development of so many nations will not be sustained in the rest of this century. It is sobering to consider that no actual indigenous revolutionary movement of the last 80 years anywhere in the world has espoused a desire for democracy, liberal or otherwise, that was not heavily coloured by socialist or communist doctrines. If democracy is going to spread in the world, it will be Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales who are its prophets and pioneers and its expansion will be most unwelcome to the West.
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“From our perspective, we don’t see much as far as gains,” said Marine Cpl. Bradley Warren, the first to question Cheney in a round-table discussion with about 30 military members. “We’re looking at small-picture stuff, not many gains. I was wondering what it looks like from the big side of the mountain - how Iraq’s looking.”

Cheney replied that remarkable progress has been made in the last year and a half.

“I think when we look back from 10 years hence, we’ll see that the year ‘05 was in fact a watershed year here in Iraq,” the vice president said. “We’re getting the job done. It’s hard to tell that from watching the news. But I guess we don’t pay that much attention to the news.”

Another Marine, Cpl. R.P. Zapella, asked, “Sir, what are the benefits of doing all this work to get Iraq on its feet?”

Cheney said the result could be a democratically elected Iraq that is unified, capable of defending itself and no longer a base for terrorists or a threat to its neighbors. “We believe all that’s possible,” he said. ~Forbes

This article was noteworthy when it revealed that, for all the usual bluster and nonsense that Republican radio puts out about what the soldiers “on the ground” are seeing in the way of some vague progress, the soldiers in Iraq seem to be relying on the promise of progress on a macro level. At the same time, I think it is fair to say that most professional policy analysts and observers who see little meaningful progress on the macro level are holding out what little hope they have that small successes “on the ground” will accomplish what Mr. Bush’s “strategery” has so far failed to do. This suggests that there is little desirable taking place in Iraq, whether viewed in terms of geopolitics, Iraq’s domestic politics or “on the ground” from the soldiers’ perspective, unless, of course, having an election is supposed to be something truly significant. As I have already argued this week, democracy in Iraq is fundamentally undesirable even if it is successful and is, at best, irrelevant to achieving whatever concrete American objectives that may exist in the Near East.

America, our coalition, and Iraqi leaders are working toward the same goal — a democratic Iraq that can defend itself, that will never again be a safe haven for terrorists, and that will serve as a model of freedom for the Middle East. ~President George W. Bush

Here, in the President’s own words, is the statement of Washington’s present objective in Iraq. It does not require anyone to believe that the war was immoral or illegal to see that this goal is unattainable. It also does not require opponents of the war to quibble over tactical mistakes or engage in “gotcha” criticism the moment there are noticeable obstacles in the functioning of Iraqi “democracy.” Of course there were voting irregularities and militia intimidation in the Dec. 15 vote–opponents of the war would be the first to expect this, and conservatives most of all, as any self-styled conservative worth his salt does not really believe (whatever he may say, and whatever his favourite columnists may write) that Iraqi “democracy,” whether it relatively ‘functions’ or ‘fails’ outright, will improve that society at all or affect one whit how the geopolitical situation in the Near East develops.

A “democratic Iraq” does not need to collapse into authoritarianism and dictatorship (although it probably will) to create disaster for the Iraqis. It could faithfully represent the interests and demands of the people of the country, not only to the detriment of American interests but to the ruin of Iraqi society as well. Nothing so exacerbates ethnic and sectarian rifts as competition for real power (it is this competition, and not “ancient quarrels” that only Old World people supposedly cultivate, that has caused so many of the ethnic wars of the 1990s), and nothing entices people to believe that real power is available to them than the chimerical lies of “democracy.” If there is real, ongoing competition for power in Iraq, it will intensify every sort of division in that society and lead to blooshed (do we really believe that perpetual minorities in Iraqi elections will bide their time and accept the results as their political strength ebbs away with each election?), and if there is a false peace of “consensus” politics created by U.S.-friendly managerial elites (as there is in eastern Europe at present) the resentment and disillusionment will be tremendous and will probably spark a larger-scale popular revolution.

There will be no political transformation, no “model of freedom,” but a turn to alternative models within Iraq inside a hollow shell of empty rhetorical salutes to “freedom and democracy.” Iraq stands a very good chance of experiencing some sort of homegrown Bonapartism–there is a reason the “man on the horse” is often desired by the masses, and that is because they or their representatives flounder and quarrel to the general disgust of all in their early days in power. If Iraq does not rapidly have its own supreme Ayatollah, it will have a supreme generalissimo or sultan (regardless of the title he chooses to employ). This is not because (or not only because) of some defect in Iraq’s organic constitution (as opposed to the meaningless document that goes by the name of constitution), but because of a basic flaw in man and the basic predicament of human political organisation.

We know full well how disillusioned many of us are with mass managerial democracy, and it is our own invention and something that many of us (pretend to) treasure because it is part of our history–imagine how disgusted and frustrated Iraqis will be after a year or two of such government, especially as that government fails to quell internal violence, cannot provide the socialist services to which a majority of the people have become well-accustomed (and which the new government will commit itself to restoring at some level) and remains permanently tainted, Weimar-like, by the stain of collaboration with foreign powers.

Even if–no, especially if Mr. Bush is successful in establishing a “democratic Iraq,” it does not promise to be a beacon to its neighbours, but a warning signal of why they should avoid this model at all costs, and in its persistent instability it does promise to be a beacon to jihadis worldwide. In any event, our continued presence only ensures that our soldiers will be the most attractive targets for those jihadis, and our continuation of the war in Iraq will serve as fuel for the jihadi cause just as Soviet-occupied Afghanistan did once before. In other words, even with what an idiotic Western observer might regard as passably ’successful’ democracy Iraq will become what Mr. Bush hopes that it will not become (a terrorist magnet and haven) and will not become what he hopes that it will (a “model of freedom”). Mr. Bush’s stated objective is madness.
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On the Traditional Orthodox (Old) Calendar, the Orthodox Church commemorates St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra (Lycia) on Monday, St. Ambrose of Milan on Tuesday, St. Patapios the Righteous of Thebes on Wednesday, celebrates the Feast of the Conception of the Theotokos and commemorates the Prophetess Anna, the mother of the Prophet Samuel on Thursday, and St. Daniel the Stylite on Saturday. Holy Fathers and Mothers among the Saints, pray to God for us! Most Holy Theotokos, save us! May their memory be eternal!

Today the bonds of barrenness are loosed; for God listened to Joachim and Anna. He promised them ­ although it was beyond hope ­ that they should bear a divine child. From this child was born incarnate the Infinite God, Who told the Angel to cry to her: Rejoice, full of grace; the Lord is with thee. ~Festal Troparion for the Conception of the Theotokos

The new sacraments—conduits of grace—in the Age of Willow are the yuppie pastor, the Praise Team, and the Sacred Video Projector. But their superfluous nature is manifest in that even they can be set aside in place of “family time” around the tree. These things are important, but they cannot give what the enfleshed Savior can—which is the whole point of Christmas to begin with. ~Aaron Wolf

Mr. Wolf does a fine job elaborating the liturgical, specifically Eucharistic reasons why Christians should assemble to worship and glorify our God on Christmas and, indeed, for any festival of the Church. I also recommend everyone to review the entire “Battle for Christmas” collection of articles on the Chronicles site.

What I might add to his article is a more general criticism of Christian participation in what Josef Pieper might have called the pseudo-festival of “religious” Christians celebrating Christmas without any actual festivity. As Pieper has laid it out in his book on the theory of festivity, In Tune with the World, festivity requires at least two things: it must be public, and it must be an interruption of mundane, ordinary time. Sitting at home with the folks on Nativity to the exclusion of public, corporate worship is almost an act of anti-festival, a negation of a holy day, the transformation of sacred time into something profane, or rather a mark of indifference on a day when all attention should (certainly for Christians) be on the contemplation of the astonishing and miraculous birth of the Child Who is before the ages, the glorification of the Incarnate Word and His salvific condescension for our sake, and the veneration and praise of the All-Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary together with St. Joseph the Betrothed.

Feasts and festivals are extraordinary events, and there are few in the Christian calendar more extraordinary than the Feast of the Nativity (Pascha probably being the only more important), on the occasion of which St. Gregory the Theologian enthused in his homily on the Theophany (at which time in the fourth century Nativity and Epiphany were celebrated together), “Christ is Born! Glorify Him! Christ from the heavens, receive Him! Christ upon the earth, be ye exalted!” There could be nothing more hostile to Christmas as a Feast and as a glorification of Christ than to stay at home and “spend time” with the family, as if going to church were somehow a menial task to be set aside during “the holidays.” It is ideally the menial and the everyday that one should set aside on a festival day, not the feasting to be set aside for more of the everyday. There is no reason in the world why families could not give festival together where they, as Christians, are supposed to be. Christ is Born, Glorify Him!

To the contrary, the relentless harping on American casualties by the mainstream media is part of an increasingly desperate effort to portray Iraq as another Vietnam: a foolish and futile (if not immoral and illegal) resort to military power in pursuit of a worthless (if not unworthy) goal. ~Norman Podhoretz,

Via Orthodoxy Today Blog.

The Pod is surprisingly perceptive in this one statement (the rest of the article might provide a quick cure to insomnia), though I suspect he gives the MSM far too much credit in advancing this agenda with much zeal and is far too ready to believe that this portrayal of Iraq is “increasingly desperate.” The one who reeks of desperation, who appears like the drowning man flailing for a lifeline, is Pod himself as he thrashes about in unfocused hostility now at the MSM, now at Zbig, now at Scowcroft. The “why aren’t they reporting the good news?” obsession stinks of late 2003 jingo agitation and betrays the same staleness and repetitiveness of thought that is both perfectly normally for Pod and representative of the administration’s own deer-in-headlights response to mounting criticism and opposition. Were Pod to have gone on much longer, he would have had to dig deep into the bag of neocon trops and mention French perfidy, the lie of “Werewolf” terrorism in post-war Germany and the reconstruction of Japan (the latter being dusted off for the President’s speech on Wednesday morning). Invoking the later Jacobin-loving Tom Paine as some sort of moral and political guide and cursing opponents of the war as Tories (a designation I regard as a badge of honour for a number of reasons) can only be understood as a measure of how delusional Pod is (nothing new there).

If corporate media outlets were the dedicated ’subversives’ Pod casts them as being, it is difficult to see how Mr. Bush’s War could ever have received the sort of favourable, credulous coverage it received from early 2002 through the start of the invasion. The preoccupation of the (liberal) MSM with mistakes, failures and “bad news” in Iraq has been exceeded only by the astonishing credulity with which they have dutifully accepted every lame rationale thrown at them–what Pod and friends dislike is the media’s all-too-naive attempt to match the administration’s stated goals with its actual ‘accomplishments’ (thus mainstream reporters can seriously talk about things like ‘election fraud’, Sunni turnout or possible coalition-building as if Iraqi democracy were a genuinely viable thing to be understood and analysed as other democracies are).

Where the loyalist MSM media more or less unquestioningly parrot what the administration wants to hear (look, Iraqis are fighting terrorists and voting, just like the Master said they would!), the liberal MSM media have the temerity to question the practicability of some of the administration’s goals, but they never seriously questioned the war in principle or the ludicrous claims about Iraq and terrorism. If the MSM quibbles with the administration designation of Iraq as the “central front” in the “War on Terror,” they never really question that it is a front. Indeed, “quibble” is the only way to describe most MSM criticism of the administration–were it not for the amazingly slipshod governing style of this buffoonish crowd, the MSM would have nothing to feed on. These reporters simply have not full-throatedly, unthinkingly endorsed administration claims as happened at the WSJ and FoxNews–that is their unforgiveable error.

But there is no voice in the MSM today questioning the basic desirability of “democracy” in the Near East or in the Islamic world in general (even though it seems extremely questionable whether it is either intrinsically good or good for American security to encourage such things), and every conventional Democratic criticism from Rep. Murtha to Howard Dean rests on the assumption that Iraq has been bad for American hegemony and, especially in Dean’s case, for policy against Iran. Even NPR has been covering the prospects for the Iraqi election with all the diligence and seriousness of people who are, alas, genuine believers along with the President in the wonders of democracy. The realists also never deny the desirability of all of Mr. Bush’s objectives, including democratisation–they only question whether they can be achieved and find Mr. Bush and his team (not surprisingly) insufficiently technocratic and competent to reach them. Pod (who, I believe, once enthused about Mr. Bush as a “most eloquent” man) is not exactly a reliable judge of the administration’s abilities.

One of the great interventionist tricks is for interventionist members of each party to convince their respective fellows that the other party desires “retreat and defeat” (as the GOP has begun saying of the Democrats) or some other slanderous accusation of abandoning America’s strategic position in the world. Coming from a genuine opposition to hegemony and empire, I can assure Pod that the liberal MSM, like most of the Democratic Party, remains firmly committed to both–they simply want a different management style and a different set of managers. In a sense, though, that is really the worst for a lackey like Pod: an insider rival who stands a good chance of replacing you and your crowd in the top positions of privilege and access, and who basically agrees with you often enough to be able to replace you fairly easily, is far more threatening and frightening than the marginal critic who rejects your entire system.
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When we combine these three elements: chance, necessity and the fertility of the universe, we see clearly that evolution, as many hold, is not simply a random blind process. It has a direction and an intrinsic destiny. By intrinsic, I mean that science need not, and in fact cannot methodologically, invoke a designer as those arguing for intelligent design attempt to do.

How are we to interpret this scientific picture of life’s origins in terms of religious belief? Do we need God to explain this? Very succinctly, my answer is no. In fact, to need God would be a very denial of God. God is not the response to a need. One gets the impression from certain religious believers that they fondly hope for the durability of certain gaps in our scientific knowledge of evolution, so that they can fill them with God. This is the exact opposite of what human intelligence is all about. We should be seeking for the fullness of God in creation. We should not need God; we should accept him when he comes to us.

But the personal God I have described is also God, creator of the universe. It is unfortunate that, especially in America, creationism has come to mean some fundamentalistic, literal, scientific interpretation of Genesis. Judaic-Christian faith is radically creationist, but in a totally different sense. It is rooted in a belief that everything depends upon God, or better, all is a gift from God. The universe is not God and it cannot exist independently of God. Neither pantheism nor naturalism is true. God is working with the universe. The universe has a certain vitality of its own like a child does. It has the ability to respond to words of endearment and encouragement. You discipline a child but you try to preserve and enrich the individual character of the child and its own passion for life. A parent must allow the child to grow into adulthood, to come to make its own choices, to go on its own way in life. Words that give life are richer than mere commands or information. In such wise ways does God deal with the universe – the infinite, ever-expanding universe. That is why, it seems to me, that the Intelligent Design Movement, a largely American phenomenon, diminishes God, makes him a designer rather than a lover. ~George Coyne, S.J., The Tablet (registration required)

Via Mirror of Justice.

Generally, this is very good–this cuts through all of the myriad false defenses of ID-as-science and returns the faithful mind to contemplating a personal God. I suspect that Fr. Coyne would have little patience with this apology for ID.

But in the crush of the marketplace, where everyone is exploiting everyone else, authenticity gets drained, even just a little bit, out of the moment. The key in LWW, of course, is Aslan’s sacrifice. The way it all occurs in this film, less-than-deeply rooted in any sense of broader, deeper purpose, it comes across as clearly a Christ moment, but almost here as a trick, as a convenient, easy-to-grasp symbolic action that might certainly remind some, if not most, of the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, but doesn’t spark much of any sense of the role of this sacrifice - the scapelion’s resurrection ends up being more of a “Here he comes to save the day” moment than a moment of restoration. ~Amy Welborn

Very nicely put. From what I have read, that is exactly the impression I received.

So what I’m doing by weighing in on the traditionalist side is renewing an old and useful debate on the Right. I believe American conservatism, and America itself, has given itself over too much to the spirit and principles of libertarianism, and that we should have a conservative corrective (IOW, I’m arguing for John Paul’s teachings on personal and social morality). But like I said, I’ll be pleased to discuss this in detail when the book comes out. ~Rod Dreher at Amy Welborn’s Open Book

This is from a comment thread on one of Ms. Welborn’s posts, and Mr. Dreher makes a couple interesting remarks like the one given above.

If all goes as planned, tomorrow I’ll begin making my way home to Albuquerque for Christmas, so I’ll be away from posting and checking the site for at least a couple of days. There will be some posts from New Mexico, but Eunomia will be slowing down considerably after the anniversary of its first post (Dec. 23) passes. My dissertation proposal isn’t going to write itself, and as much as I enjoy this hobby it has eaten up far too much time over the past several months.

Alexander Cockburn and Steve Sailer both have new items related to Rep. Murtha’s recent news conference.

Bear in mind that the number of troops in the Iraqi theater includes those in adjoining and nearby countries. According to the US Congressional Budget Office (CBO), “The US occupation forces in the Iraqi theater has required about 16 to 18 combat brigades, or 160,000 to 180,000 personnel.” From the viewpoint of being able to sustain US forces in Iraq, a withdrawal can’t come soon enough. According to the CBO, the US military can sustain 67,000 to 106,000 personnel in Iraq over the long term.

Another difference is that to a far greater degree than was the case in 1991, the US military has outsourced its logistics functions to the private sector. Companies like Halliburton and its Kellog, Brown and Root subsidiary will have to coordinate with the military to an unprecedented degree, through the Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), which Halliburton was re-awarded in 2001.

US forces will also have to assist allied military forces in redeploying their forces.

Just getting troops to an embarkation point will be challenging. An article earlier this year in Army Logistician noted, “During Operation Iraqi Freedom II, thousands of vehicles traveled over the dangerous roads of Iraq daily to transport supplies to more than 20,000 soldiers at 28 forward operating bases (FOBs). These FOBs were geographically dispersed over an area of 146,000 square kilometers in the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) area of operations (AO).”

According to Chris Preble, director of foreign policy studies at the Washington, DC-based Cato Institute, “The rule of thumb is three to four months to physically withdraw the troops. This assumes an orderly withdrawal, no one under fire. Maintaining an over-the-horizon presence makes the problem only slightly less onerous, as we have substantial bases in Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.” ~David Isenberg, Asia Times

Via Antiwar.

“I have no fear in saying - and saying loudly - that we’re not just anti-neo-liberal, we’re anti-imperialist in our blood,” he told the rally.

Morales, who has already been involved in toppling two presidents, has come close to winning the presidency once before, and is now running strong against conservative former President Jorge Quiroga and several other candidates. If no one wins an outright majority next Sunday, Congress will choose between the top two vote-getters.

The latest poll by Ipsos-Captura shows Morales with 32.8 percent, five percentage points above Quiroga, and gives a margin of error of two percentage points.

“Symbolically, he would represent a fundamental change,” said Jimena Costa, a political science professor at Bolivia’s Universidad Mayor de San Andres. “It’s not just the first time an Indian would win the presidential elections, but he would be doing it with the support of a sector of the white and mestizo community and urban populations.” ~Salt Lake Tribune

Via Antiwar.

But there was another recent war based on mistaken intelligence that has occasioned little commentary: the United States’ war against Serbia on behalf of Kosovar Albanians. We were told about mass graves of Albanians killed by hateful Serbs. Instead, no mass grave sites have been found, several years after that conflict’s termination. Yet Clinton’s mistakes were ignored at the time and remain undiscussed, his presidency a supposed halcyon era of US respect for truth and international standards.

This all suggests that the real motive of the anti-war movement is not concern for truth, or the Iraqi people, or the lives of US servicemen in harm’s way. The real motive is visceral Bush hatred by the American left. The war is just a pretext. ~Chris Roach

Mr. Roach is having us on, right? “Clinton’s mistakes”? The administration then knew perfectly well that the ‘atrocities’ they were citing were simply fictions. It was, once again, not “mistaken intelligence” but willful aggression that started the war against Yugoslavia–whatever could be spun to that end would be spun, and whatever could be lied about would be, and if a useful ‘massacre’ could be staged for the benefit of the idiots at CNN then so much the better. Racak is the most famous example of an obviously staged ‘massacre’ that was turned into propaganda fodder for NATO’s attack. If it makes Mr. Roach feel any better, there were some far left folks who opposed that war (such as the late Sen. McCarthy), too, and there were, of course, the “freakazoids” (as he calls them) at Antiwar who have consistently opposed all illegal American wars over the past ten years. Frankly, I can’t speak for the loons at ANSWER and MoveOn, whose main concern is political advantage, and I don’t care what drives them. If Mr. Roach were as concerned about Mr. Bush’s integrity and policies as he is about the motives of the President’s critics, he might begin to notice the man’s violations of the Constitution. Still, if anyone doesn’t, at some level, genuinely hate a tyrant like Mr. Bush, he has no business pretending to love liberty.

Razib at Gene Expression has interviewed Byzantine Studies Prof. Warren Treadgold here. It has a few interesting points for anyone keen to learn more about Byzantium.

Via Russian Dilettante.

So what’s going on at First Things? In sum, Bottum contends that accepting the modern state requires the abandonment of any political theology and the concurrent abandonment of natural law in favor of the positive law. Bottum does accept the modern state and therefore is compelled, by intellectual honesty, to abandon man’s experience under nature and within a cosmic narrative, at least in its political form. Neuhaus, on the other hand, contends that to abandon political theology altogether is social suicide, resulting in politics as naked power grabs and constant warfare by other means, and he prescribes as a remedy a renewed attention to natural law.

If it is true that a demythologized modern state has no room for political theology or natural law as Bottum says, and if it is true that a state without a political theology will devolve into raw power politics, either in the open or more likely hidden behind lip service paid to positive law, as Neuhaus says, then the sheer circularity of their contradictory conclusions is dizzying. The fact that Bottum and Neuhaus are so hung up in this intellectual feedback loop is useful for what it reveals: namely, that despite all the valiant efforts of the First Things crew over the years, the modern public square really is naked–which is to say, shorn of any real political theology or mythology–and will always remain so. Better to abandon the liberal project altogether, at which point a penitent, Christian, political theology will again be possible. ~Caleb Stegall, The New Pantagruel

Mr. Stegall’s article is closely argued and interesting, but I will need to dwell a little longer on how he reached his very admirable conclusion. More of a response will be forthcoming in future. The conclusion does strike at the heart of First Things‘ confusion, which seems to have been the desire for public discourse informed by the Faith combined with the editors’ allergic reaction to much of Christianity’s traditional political anti-liberalism. My hostile reading of First Things‘ response to the “naked public square” suggests that their motto ought to be, “Making Christianity safe for the liberal tradition.” To date the bridge that has made Neuhaus’ accommodationist model possible has been natural law–it is the only even nominal common ground between the two traditions First Things tries to fuse together, and if Mr. Stegall has read Bottum correctly (and I am guessing that he has) it would appear that the current editor is removing that bridge and with it whatever intellectual integrity the First Things approach had.

Taken another way, to borrow a concept from the perhaps unlikely source of Chantal Delsol’s Icarus Fallen (and, yes, my comments on this book really are coming soon), I think First Things has misunderstood (at least in the Bottum era) the modern goal, which the liberal tradition embodies and shares, of eliminating politics, what Delsol calls the structure of “command and obedience,” as a desirable goal for Christians in the world. Christian preoccupation with contract and consent models mistakes the willing obedience of the free Christian to be the same as the willful pursuit of advantage for the self that contract models assume to be “natural.” Yet it is precisely that self-will that is our autonomous rebellion against God, our revolt against our own proper nature.

Neither the Apostle in the Epistle to the Romans, nor Bl. Augustine, nor St. Photios imagines that Christians can eliminate the political structure in the world. Certainly, we can transform, reorient, leaven the political order, but we cannot escape the structures of the City of Man. From a reactionary, Bonaldian perspective, it is positively undesirable for Christians to pursue a political order in which command and obedience are not the defining features–Bonald assumed, not unreasonably, that hierarchy and authority were part of the structure of human existence and could not be eliminated without terrible social and political consequences. The editors’ acquiescence in the modern project of eliminating the constraints on man, the project of freeing him from his condition, has left First Things grasping for some sort of coherent vision of order.

At the risk of being impolite, I’ll bring Mr. Brimelow’s latest post at the VDare Blog to everyone’s attention.

Ruth Marcus’ Washington Post article was amusing to me. Where are the menorahs and dreidels, she cries! Having been fortunate (at least viewed in certain ways) to attend private schools for my formative education, I have a special perspective on the intrusive, obnoxious form Ms. Marcus’ “inclusivity” can take. Growing up, I was not raised as a Christian and did not go to church, so I was none the wiser when every year in elementary school we were blessed with a lesson on the Maccabean revolt, watched videos on the miraculous light in the Temple, made latkes and learned to spin the dreidel. Somewhere I probably still have the multiple dreidels I accumulated over the years of this none-too-subtle brainwashing. If that’s inclusivity, I’ll happily throw it out the window.

At the time, this was all just so much of an ordinary class activity (not that we ever did it for any other religion, mind you), and then later on it occurred to me that if the same thing had taken place and Christian parents had proposed doing the same sorts of activities in class they would have been run out on a rail. I know exactly what opponents of the “War on Christmas” are talking about. It is not only open hostility to Christmas, as a few may display, but the massive move towards indifference and the supplanting of Christmas as the festival of the overwhelming majority of the people in this country by doing as much as possible to emphasise all the most secularised aspects of the celebration and ensure that the religious significance of the day is muffled and kept out of sight.

The “War on Christmas” is the broader effort to make sure that if the symbols of the marginal, minority sects are not given prominent treatment the symbols of the majority religion will be pushed to the side as much as humanly possible. Thus creches are allowed, when they are allowed, only as part of some meaningless pluralistic smorgasbord, the Adoration of the Magi side by side with the lights of the menorah and cries of “Eid mubarak!” That this is a travesty of all the symbols and celebrations involved never seems to occur to anyone.

But Ms. Marcus can find some comfort in this. At my local co-op here in Hyde Park, every check-out line is awash in Hannukah colouring books. There is not a Christian item anywhere in sight. That’s inclusivity, all right.

Yesterday on the Orthodox (Old) Calendar, the Orthodox Church commemorated the Great Martyr St. James the Persian, on Monday we will commemorate the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called and St. Frumentius, Enlightener and Archbishop of Abyssinia, and on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday respectively the Prophets Nahum, Habbakuk and Zephaniah. In one week we will commemorate the Great Martyr Barbara and St. John (Chrysorrhoas) of Damascus.

O first-enthroned of the Apostles,
Teachers of the Universe:
Entreat the Master of all
To grant peace to the world,
And great mercy to our souls! ~Troparion for the Holy Apostle Andrew

O Prophet Nahum, thou didst shine forth in the Law/ and proclaim the consolation of grace from of old in the Spirit./ Even so, by appearing unto men,/ God the Word gladdened mortal nature./ Intercede with the compassionate Trinity to grant us His great mercy. ~Troparion for the Holy Prophet Nahum

Of old thou didst describe the Virgin Mother of God as a mountain/ from which the God of all would shine forth in the flesh for our sake./ Hence we honour thee as a God-proclaiming prophet/ and beseech thee to make us partakers of grace by thy intercessions,/ O glorious Habbakuk. ~Troparion for the Holy Prophet Habbakuk

The Spirit of God revealed your brilliance, O Prophet Zephaniah,
For you proclaimed the coming of God:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Proclaim him, O Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to save mankind! ~Kontakion for the Holy Prophet Zephaniah

O honorable and victorious Barbara,
You believe in God the Holy Trinity:
You renounced the multitude of heathen idols,
And fought for your faith with great courage.
You were not frightened by the threats of your persecutor,
But cried out in a loud voice:
I adore one God in three persons! ~Kontakion for the Holy Great Martyr Barbara

O champion of Orthodoxy, teacher of purity and of true worship,
The enlightener of the universe and the adornment of the hierarchs:
O all-wise father John, your teachings have gleamed with light upon all things.
Intercede before Christ our God to save our souls! ~Troparion for St. John of Damascus

Hat tip to The Japery at New Pantagruel for the link to an interesting pair of studies on the beneficial effects of the (moderate) consumption of alcohol and coffee. The bad news for me is that I am basically a teetotaler with only a few exceptions, and I probably drink too much tea and coffee.

If pilgrims worshipping in the Church of the Nativity look up at the roof, they will see a battlefield threatening the future of one of Christendom’s most holy sites.

Squabbling over crucial roof repairs between the three Christian communities who share custodianship of Jesus’s birthplace is endangering the 1,500-year-old basilica.

Large holes in the 500-year-old lead roof have let rainwater flood inside for years. It streams down the walls and threatens to wash away Crusader-era murals and destroy Byzantine mosaics. ~The Daily Telegraph

Via Orthodoxy Today Blog.

The need for preserving one of the greatest shrines and pilgrimage sites in the Christian world, to say nothing of the importance of preserving the church’s images for their historical and art historical value, really must transcend all other considerations. As an aspiring Byzantinist, I find the disrepair of this site especially appalling. Of course, I am Orthodox, and I won’t quibble with the claims the Orthodox have made with respect to the arrangements concerning the church’s management and control, but it is an embarrassment and a terrible failure to allow one of our greatest churches to fall into such a state of disrepair. If it were simply a problem of the necessary resources or expertise, I find it hard to believe that all local Orthodox churches would not come to the aid of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Cameron has assembled a shadow ministry of almost all the talents. But Hague, Clarke, Fox, Letwin et al will need to be more than political eye-candy. If the Tories are to look economically competent as well as likeable and socially concerned, the party needs to carry out the kind of strategic rethink that Keith Joseph and Geoffrey Howe masterminded in the four years before Margaret Thatcher came to power. Gordon Brown masterminded a similar exercise for Labour in the years leading up to the 1997 victory. ~Ferdinand Mount, The Daily Telegraph

Via Andrew Sullivan.

Note that the “strategic rethink” in the 1970s didn’t involve becoming more like the party of Government–the Cameron era promises loads of Blair-like “initiatives” and tremendous heaps of Bush-like “compassion,” and if the British people don’t gag first it might just fool them for the duration of one parliament.

John O’Sullivan, for his part, has a much less enthusiastic review here with this gem of a quote: “Britain’s main opposition party has consequently taken a giant leap into the dark by electing him leader. It shows a thoughtless daring of Gorbachevian proportions.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. In the rest of the article he tears down Mr. Cameron’s shining new image with a number of other withering observations.

I do not understand this “war against Christmas” nonsense. Nor do I understand the claim that somehow American society is “anti-Christian.” I don’t see it. I guess that might be true if your idea of Christianity is somehow tribal, or that you believe God and Caesar need to constantly validate one another, or you believe in Christendom and have the expectation that you should live in a “Christian society,” whatever that is.

We no longer live in Christendom. That is not a bad thing, it is a good thing. It allows those of us who truly believe in the Gospel and a calling to live the Gospel to disentangle it from social rules, expectations, coersion [sic] as well as social and political authority. Besides, this “war against Christmas” nonsense is all about Conservatives keeping their popular base motivated and resentful. Because resentment is all Conservatives have, and have ever really had.

Another point re “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas.” There is something called manners or politeness — being kind and thoughtful –which are very important and easy to acquire and cultivate, especially in a society where social relationships are not easily discernable by appearance. I do not know who shares my faith when I meet them, and I don’t much care. I know I am not entitled to expect that everyone in the world will cater to me. Why offend people needlessly, especially when the real significant Christian occasion is not the birth of Christ, but rather his crucifixion and ressurection? Why care about what trees are called or what cards or even stores say? Why on earth does any of it matter? ~Charles Featherstone, LRC Blog

Yawn. I haven’t waded into the annual chatter about the “War on Christmas” till now because I haven’t really had much original to add to the usual arguments. Fortunately, this libertarian has provided me with some material. Mr. Featherstone is right in one respect–American society is not so much anti-Christian as simply indifferent to the Faith and committed to the things of the world. There are many anti-Christian people abroad in the land, and it has been activists of this kind who have forced Christian imagery and even the name of Christ out of the public square for decades. That Christians should somehow be indifferent to this puzzles me.

Everyone seeks to bring the society around him into line with his vision of how things should be, his vision of order. Libertarians do this every day, as do we all. If Christians in a land are serious about translating their Faith into action and incarnating their Faith in the world, a Christendom-like arrangement is inevitable. Controlling space and language in the name of Christ redounds to the glory of Christ. It is a fairly recent development that Christians have become indifferent to such glorification, as if it were somehow unseemly to praise God whether in great monuments or the simplest of expressions.

At its most basic level, Christendom is wherever Christians dwell, and a Christian society is what one would expect Christians to have and to seek. To “disentangle” the Faith from social rules and social and political authority is in some very real sense to make it the ephemeral, privatised and internal ’spirituality’ that Rev. Leithart rails against in his book, Against Christianity, and to make it irrelevant to the way we live of our life. I don’t want to go on too much more about this, as I am preparing an article on a related topic.

I will say a little more about the ridiculous appeal to “politeness.” It is not “politeness” for someone to substitute “Happy Holidays” for Merry Christmas–it is usually fakery designed to avoid a lawsuit or personal discomfort. I make it a point of wishing people a merry Christmas, because this is what I am actually wishing them. Not knowing which holidays, if any, they may be marking, I choose instead to wish them a happy celebration of the Nativity of the Lord, not least because He is the Lord of All and not simply “my” God. His Nativity is a cause for them to rejoice as well, and I will not be so stingy and tribal as to pretend that it has nothing to do with them.

To what does “Happy Holidays” refer in reality? It refers to Christmas and the minor-league Jewish festival of Hannukah, which is itself a belated hanger-on inflated far beyond its traditional value to provide Jews with their “own” winter festival. Anything else that has been added over the past 20 or 30 years is so marginal, so irrelevant as to not be taken seriously. To say “Happy Holidays” is to accept the fruits of a marketing strategy for a cultural good rather than affirm the cultural good and festival that “Happy Holidays” feeds on like a leech.

Calling the Feast of His Nativity to mind glorifies Him and reminds others of Him–it is a form of witness. Deliberately avoiding references to Christ and Christmas, whether out of disbelief or “politeness,” is in a very real sense a deliberate denial or rejection of Him. The systematic exclusion of all references to Him is a form of cultural repudiation of Christ–that is what the “War Against Christmas” represents and why it causes such outrage. For non-Christians, I suppose it makes sense that they would avoid these terms. But if we’re going to raise the issue of “politeness” (which is really beside the point), it should follow that it’s downright impolite of non-Christians not to wish us a merry Christmas.

In this piece for the Times, Mr. Kaletsky reiterates the main objections I made to David Cameron as the new Tory leader. Anthony Gregory at the Lew Rockwell Blog agrees.

The Class A war criminals had already paid for their crimes on this earth through their deaths and executions. The Japanese point of view on this matter means that these people had paid their debt to society. This type of thinking should be very easy to understand for people coming from a Christian background. If these people are not to be redeemed after their death, then when will they be? Only God can answer this question and not man. This is why the Japanese war dead – regardless of their circumstances while living on this earth – are enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine. ~Mike Rogers,

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Intelligent Design holds that the universe and its living things are not simply the product of random chance; an intelligent cause is behind their existence. Intelligent Design does not conflict with Darwinism’s belief in evolution ­ that living organisms will change over time. It does run counter to the new school of Darwinism that holds random selection drives evolution. Chance mutations occur without reason. Intelligent Design challenges this direction head-on based upon its belief that changes occur due to a reason. ~Paul J. Weyrich (courtesy of Orthodoxy Today)

What Mr. Weyrich should have said was that in random selection “chance mutations occur without a demonstrable reason.” All that ID tells us is that there are complex structures and then infers that, because most complex structures we know are the product of intentional design, all complex structures owe their structure, origin and development to a Designer. It does not actually explain anything more about the processes of mutation and selection–it presupposes them, and then covers them with some philosophical frosting. He does have it right when he says that ID challenges neo-Darwinism “based on its belief that changes occur due to a reason.” ID is just that–a belief, a philosophical claim, reasonable enough in a certain sense but not a scientific hypothesis. Unlike philosophical claims, which are never definitely confirmed or rejected, a scientific hypothesis can be repeatedly tested and found to be true true or false.

I happen to agree with the argument from design as a philosophical argument. It seems reasonable to me that there is a general orderliness to the laws of nature, which the practise of science assumes, and this orderliness tends to suggest that the universe has been arranged and well-arranged by an Intellect. But this is not proveable or demonstrable in the way that the acceleration of gravity can be demonstrated to be 9.8 m per second squared. The claim is just simply not scientific. There is nothing inherent in complexity and structure in nature that compels conviction that evolution is guided and directed. This should not scandalise Christians, even though some have become so enamoured of the possibilities of natural theology that they forget that our God is a hidden and mysterious God.

Physicists tend to see patterns of order as evidence that strengthens belief in an Author of the universe, whereas biologists find random mutation so unguided and without apparent purpose that it is much more difficult for them to accept a sovereign Deity. What ID theorists would like to do is affirm that there is a purpose to random mutations, as indeed I think there is, but that affirmation is not an affirmation derived from scientific study nor can it be repeatedly demonstrated nor proved by experiment. There seems to be a muddling of reasons why things change and happen–their purpose–and their material causes.

ID simply lacks everything, including scientific method, that would pass muster as science. Citing the Discovery Institute, the headquarters of the ID-as-science fraud, does not inspire confidence in Mr. Weyrich’s argument. Mr. Weyrich is right to note, as I have done before, that ID is really as far from creationism as East is from West, but that does not make ID more scientific.

But there are deeper problems here. Insofar as the movie adheres to Lewis’s text, it’s a knockout. But as Adamson wedges in original action sequences, he willingly sacrifices far too much of Lewis’s most essential dialogue. Peter Jackson had no choice but to severely abbreviate The Lord of the Rings in order to contain it in feature-length chapters, but Adamson’s challenge was quite the opposite. Lewis’s story is short, simple and concentrated—every episode, every line counts.

For no good reason, conventional adventure spectacle replaces the joys of long, memorable sequences like the melting of the witch’s dominion, a woodland Christmas party, and the thawing of prisoners. Adamson’s more excited about inventing a frantic fight with wolves on a frozen river, and 20 minutes of elaborate, Jackson-esque, CGI warfare, as if to ensure there’s enough material for a video game tie-in. Lewis, preferring beauty to violence, only gave the war a page or two.

Those who don’t know the book won’t find anything amiss. Those who do will realize that Adamson’s excisions do more than just quicken the pace—they change the nature of important characters.

The beavers, vividly voiced by Ray Winstone and Dawn French, are a cartoonish but likeable pair. But they’re robbed of significant lines that build our apprehension of meeting Aslan and help us understand his kingship. The book’s devotees will be dismayed to find that Mr. Beaver is denied his famous speech about Aslan’s power and authority: “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (Tumnus and Lucy echo this sentiment later, but it doesn’t serve the same purpose.)

Meanwhile, our dear, benevolent Professor has been reduced almost to a bit role, with many of his key lines of dialogues seriously abbreviated or outright dropped. It staggers the imagination as to why he’s been minimized to just a couple of grandfatherly interjections. An expanded “special edition” is in order.

As for the character we’ve all longed to see—Aslan—let’s face it: He’s not the Aslan who gave that novel its bold and beating heart. He’s given a voice of nobility and gentleness by Hollywood’s favorite warrior-mentor, Liam Neeson. Thanks to the animators, he’s a beautiful sight, if not quite as convincing as the CGI characters in Jackson’s Middle-Earth. But Adamson, working with Emmy-winning co-writers Ann Peacock, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely, has severely altered Aslan’s presence and power in the script.

While other characters’ roles have been expanded, the lion’s appearances are painfully brief. He doesn’t have the time onscreen to earn our affection and awe the way we might have hoped. And scene by scene, the writers consistently skirt the issue of Aslan’s authority, eliminating most references to his history, power, and influence. Aslan’s father, the Emperor Beyond the Sea, is never mentioned. Instead, the lion waxes philosophical like Obi-Wan Kenobi, mentioning the Deep Magic that “governs” his “destiny.” Huh?

Just as Aslan’s majesty has been diminished, the strength of the Witch has been upgraded. She bears little resemblance to the sorceress who made Mr. Beaver declare, “If she can stand on her two feet and look [Aslan] him in the face it’ll be the most she can do and more than I expect.” In the novel, Jadis went into terrified hysterics at the mere mention of Aslan’s name—here she barely flinches. When they face off, she’s fearless. Did Adamson make the White Witch a more threatening villain to increase suspense? That’s a practical idea. But Lewis would have objected. This Aslan is essentially muzzled and bound long before the Stone Table scene. ~Jeffrey Overstreet, Christianity Today

This all sounds very disappointing, but what were we to expect from Disney and a director who didn’t give much thought to the religious side of the story? If Mr. Overstreet is right, this adaptation does as much violence to the substance of the allegory as possible short of rewriting the narrative–his own review is far too kind to Adamson and the hack editors who decided to minimise the role of the one character who cannot be reduced without making Narnia into just another roleplaying game universe. It is worse than Jackson’s neglect of Aragorn’s Christ-like royal powers in the adaptation of Return of the King–it is more like cutting out all reference to the Ring and the Ring-bearer. I won’t be bothering to see this one.

Director Andrew Adamson knows that you tamper at your peril with one of the past century’s most beloved fantasy adventures.

But there was one particular line in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe that he just couldn’t stomach.

It comes in the sequence where the four Pevensie children have arrived in snow-bound Narnia and are soon to embark in their epic battle against the evil White Witch. Her potential downfall has been signalled by the arrival of Father Christmas on his sleigh — and it was in this scene that Adamson encountered what he considered to be “a sexist aspect” of C.S. Lewis’s novel.

“It’s when Father Christmas gives weapons to the kids and says to the girls: ‘I don’t intend to use them because weapons are ugly when women fight.’”

The 39-year-old New Zealander was determined to be faithful to the Lewis narrative and to the author’s Christian faith. But he was very conscious of the fact that he had just come off two movies — Shrek and Shrek 2 — which empowered girls, and he didn’t want to blot his copybook by giving Father Christmas such a chauvinistic line in the movie opening Dec. 9.

“I understand that C.S. Lewis might have had these dated ideals, but at the same time there’s no way I could put that in a film,” Adamson says now. So he turned to producer Douglas Gresham, who was also the late writer’s stepson, for advice.

“Doug really was the one who came to the sort of compromise that worked, which is just Father Christmas saying: ‘I hope you don’t have to use them because battles are ugly affairs’ — which could apply to both girls and boys.” ~The Vancouver Sun

The main change appears to be a minor, but important one: instead of Lewis’ affirmation that it is “ugly” when girls and women fight, we have a bow to the egalitarian Zeitgeist. It would undoubtedly escape a modern director (especially the director of Shrek) why it is indeed “ugly” when girls and women fight, or why someone trained up in the literature of courtly romance and chivalry as Lewis was would view women partaking in combat, Valkyrie-like, as something abhorrent and disordered. (Of course, it is not simply a holdover from medieval literature–there are obvious, good reasons why men find violent women transgressive and “ugly.”)

Tolkien’s stories could embrace the world of shieldmaidens and Valkyries because his epic was substantially inspired by Norse and Germanic sagas, and I can only guess that Lewis would have found the character of Eowyn as agitating as Tolkien found Lewis’ use of allegory. Call it his “reactionary” Christianity if you like, but a consistent theme of all Lewis’ allegories and stories is that the glory of women lies in purity and humility and not in hubris and action. Why this admirable idea has to be changed at all really does escape me.

We must not forget libertarianism is not a teleological dogma striving for a certain end; it rather sees individual freedom and rights as the natural point of departure for a just society. When people are truly free, whatever will be will be. Hence, the question is not what the effects of a certain immigration policy would be, but whether there should be one at all.

From a libertarian point of view, it is not relevant to discuss whether to support immigration policy A, B, or C. The answer is not open borders but no borders; the libertarian case is not whether private property rights restrict immigration or not, but that a free society is based on private property. Both of these views are equally libertarian — but they apply the libertarian idea from different points of view. The open borders argument provides the libertarian stand on immigration from a macro view, and therefore stresses the libertarian values of tolerance and openness.[2] The private property argument assumes the micro view and therefore stresses the individual and natural rights. ~Per Bylund, Mises Economics Blog

Even if we grant that this is a fairly extreme libertarian view of the question, what is there to do but laugh this to scorn?

Those murders on the airport road symbolise the battle that is taking place throughout Iraq. For all the mistakes made by the US-led coalition, its mission is creative — to help the Iraqi people build a decent society for the first time in their lives, and to encourage other states in the Middle East in the same direction. By contrast, the mission of the terrorists who killed Sergeants Wisdom and Clary and so many thousands of other Americans and Iraqis, including women, children and teachers, is only destructive. They have nothing to offer Iraqis except vengeance, religious insanity and death. ~William Shawcross, The Spectator

The word Manichean gets thrown around too often, especially in Europe by people who clearly don’t know what it means, but I think it is right to say that Mr. Shawcross falls into the category of the genuinely Manichean. Thus he can say, presumably in all seriousness, that an invasion and occupation of a country is in some way “creative.” To create something is to bring it into existence, so properly speaking none of us actually “creates” anything but only composes it. At the level of man fashioning things, however, the virtue of ‘creativity’ depends on the inclination of the will and the purpose of the creation. To say that we are trying to create something, while the enemy only wants to destroy is a trope so old and unconvincing that I doubt Mr. Shawcross himself really believes that. There is scarcely anyone alive who desires only destruction–even violent anarchists and fanatics desire destruction of the present order to create something else. Of course, we do not desire that something else, but it is the supplanting of the present order that most of us fear, and not nearly so much the prospect of mere physical violence and devastation.

We do not fear sheer nihilism, because we are confident that it is bereft of life, energy and durability. What we fear in any enemy is what they will create if the contest of strength against strength turns in their favour. In Iraq we have the rather unusual circumstance of being confident that we cannot be compelled to leave by force combined with the knowledge that we will never be able to compel the near-unanimous obedience to the new order required to make it work. Whatever is born after December 15 will be suffocated by the continuation of the war. Fledgling representative states that must simultaneously invent their institutions and practises, hitherto unknown in their land, while also fighting a protracted war, whether internally or not, do not survive–they collapse into dictatorships or oppressive oligarchies. Aggressive wars do not beget the creation of anything.
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But let’s be clear about this. Americans are still permitted to do a great many things, though not as many things as their ancestors could take for granted. Fine. But permission isn’t freedom. The privilege of a subject isn’t the right of a free man. If you can own only what the government permits you to own, then in essence the government owns you. We no longer tell the state what our rights are; it tells us.

Such is the servitude Americans are now accustomed to under an increasingly bureaucratic state. Permission, often in the form of legal licensing, is the residue of the old freedom; but we’re supposed to think that this is still “the land of the free,” and that we owe our freedom to the state, its laws, and especially its wars. The more the state grows — that is, the more it fulfills the character of national socialism — the freer we’re told we are. ~Joseph Sobran

There was a problem, however: FDR could not overcome the isolationist resistance to “Europe’s war” felt by most Americans and their elected representatives. According to the revisionists, Roosevelt therefore resorted to subterfuge and maneuvred the Japanese into attacking the United States. His real target was Hitler: he expected the German dictator to abide by the Tripartite Pact and declare war on America, and hoped that Hitler’s decision would be facilitated by a display of America’s apparent vulnerability and unpreparedness. Accordingly, even though Roosevelt was well aware of the impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he let it happen, and was relieved and pleased when it did take place.

The evidence to support this interpretation is circumstantial but extensive. The more important elements of the scenario proceeded as follows:

On October 7, 1940, a Navy intelligence analyst, Lt.Cdr. Arthur McCollum, prepared a memorandum for Roosevelt on how to force Japan into war with U.S. “It is not believed that in the present state of political opinion the United States government is capable of declaring war against Japan without more ado,” McCollum wrote. He therefore suggested an eight-point action plan in pursuit of two strategic objectives: to cajole Japan into attacking preemptively; and to facilitate that attack by not interfering with Japanese preparations and by making the potential target vulnerable. Specific measures that McCollum recommended were:

A. Make an arrangement with Britain for the use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore.

B. Make an arrangement with Holland for the use of base facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies.

C. Give all possible aid to the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-Shek.

D. Send a division of long range heavy cruisers to the Philippines or Singapore.

E. Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient.

F. Keep the main strength of the U.S. fleet in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands.

G. Make the Dutch refuse to supply Japan with oil oil.

H. Completely embargo all U.S. trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British Empire.

“If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war,” McCollum concluded, “so much the better.” Over the ensuing months all of his recommendations were put into practice. Furthermore, the denial of oil from the Dutch East Indies was followed, on August 1, 1941, by the imposition of the U.S. oil embargo on Japan. ~Srdja Trifkovic

Where is Britain’s Bill O’Reilly or its

I’m slightly obsessive about the American model and have to guard against it. The US is not a perfect model. It depends on too many unhealthy connections with big money, for example. I also know that it couldn’t easily translate to Britain. The religiosity of America’s conservatives would never work here for a start. All of these reservations aside, however, I still think that there’s much for us to learn from the way that American conservatives haven’t allowed the conservative movement to be dependent upon who is in power in the White House. The conservative movement has many leaders and when Bush recently took it for granted – in his nomination of his close friend Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court – it rebelled and killed her nomination. ~Tim Montgomerie, The Spectator Blog

Mr. Montgomerie may be forgiven for mistaking the sheer numbers and constant chatter of the American “conservative movement” for vibrancy and health, since any alternative would look good to a Tory languishing in the shadows of Conservative irrelevance for the past eight years. For Tories these days, winning a general election, which the GOP does on the national level with relative ease, is one of the greatest goods imaginable, and anything that will bring them a bit closer to that goal is worth trying. Now granted that political parties exist to contest and win elections, and granted that political activists do not worry about political ideas for their own sake, it is worth keeping in mind that the “movement” has many members and has won several important elections, but only at the price of surrendering everything of value to the party and receiving next to nothing in return. Misreading the defeat of Miers’ nomination as proof of “conservative” strength in the GOP does not help Mr. Montgomerie’s case.

What Mr. Montgomerie misses is that FoxNews and the think tank regime have managed to have an enervating, stultifying, uniforming effect on conservative thought–indeed, they have taken the thought out all together. British Tory intellectuals during the last, pre-Thatcher exile did perfectly well in preparing the revived Conservative Party of nearly thirty years ago. If good policies had no connection with coherent and sound thinking, this might be all right, but the sheer ideological stupour of what remains of American conservatism today has managed to damage severely the very variety and vibrancy that once made the same network of think tanks, even as late at the mid-90s, potentially quite creative and productive places. But the movement that brought you the 1994 election victory and what it was supposed to represent died long ago, or rather acquiesced into irrelevance when its goals were thrown aside. It has since become the loudspeaker for the very limited interests of small sectors of the GOP and its leadership.

Men whom “conservatives” of this sort have elected now run the government, but it is the least conservative government of the last 40 years. At the risk of some exaggeration, the very same think tanks that paved the way for the (admittedly ephemeral and excessively hyped) Reagan Revolution are now factories that turn out the “conservative” equivalent of Soylent Green. The Tories do not need that kind of success, provided that they actually desire to stand for a certain philosophy of government distinct from New Labour and one that serves the best interests of their constituents. If that doesn’t much matter to them, by all means imitate the failed American conservative movement.

I leave the merits of ID entirely to the side here, for they are irrelevant to my point. But let us posit, arguendo, that ID does prove capable of beating back the “materialist plague” in the West, and thus kindling a new-found respect for Westerners among Muslims. Are we to believe that this development would dim the passions of totalitarian Islam and remove the goad that drives fervent men to jihad? I don’t think we can reasonably expect that. ~Paul J. Cella

Mr. Cella makes this point better and more clearly than I did yesterday in my post on Akyol’s article.

Although his campaign has been criticised for being light on detail, supporters predict he will bring the same grit shown in deflecting questions about his drug use to championing the “modern compassionate conservatism” he believes in and bringing the Conservatives back to power. ~The Daily Telegraph

So David Cameron has (yawn) won the Tory leadership contest. Not that anyone was surprised by the outcome. The reason for it could be as simple as the fact that this was his first leadership race, while Mr. Davis is at least a two-time also-ran (well, actually, he simply did not run against Howard, but would have lost if he had). David Davis was undoubtedly the more serious and philosophically conservative of the two contestants (if that can actually be said about anyone in the upper echelons of the Conservative Party), but as in the last two races the proponent of William Hague’s rehashed Bushian “compassionate conservatism” has won the day on the mistaken assumption that the Tories are failing because they do not “care” enough and do not have a sufficiently superficial style of government like Mr. Blair’s. Conservatives in America made that mistake in anointing Mr. Bush, and after some initial electoral successes the GOP and the conservative movement are caught in the death-grip of the most liberal and statist administration this side of FDR. There is an alternative direction the Tories could have gone, but it would require the Tories to reconnect with the public in a way that no one in the Party wishes to do. It would require them to make a live, central issue of the literally burning question of immigration. That alone would not save them, but it would make them more interesting to people in the North and in the major cities most affected by immigration. It is an open mockery of Toryism that the Tories have allowed themselves to be less credible as defenders of British identity than the BNP (British Nationalist Party), but that is exactly what has happened. They can continue, as they have just done, to cling to an establishment consensus view that immigration is an untouchable issue, and they will continue to lose general elections. They have no appeal for urban populations. Coming out for radical immigration and asylum reform could possibly change that.

However, the “hideously privileged” Etonian Mr. Cameron can no more really relate to the British voter than Mr. Bush can understand the real concerns of Middle Americans. In the democratic age the surefire way to hasten the growth of managerial government and strengthen elitist disdain for the people’s concerns about immigration and crime is to appoint upper-class men to leadership positions, where they can atone for all the guilt they have learned to feel for their privileged status. After their last three leaders, which included two nebbishes and one incompetent, the Tories needed to choose someone who both had and appeared to have conviction. Instead, they chose someone who adamantly avoids the question of whether he used drugs in his youth. Sound familiar, Republicans?

If culture is truly more important than politics and economics, it’s because culture is essentially religious and as both Tocqueville and Kirk have pointed out, once the moral underpinnings provided by the cult (in this case, Christianity as informed through Northern European particularly British institutions) begin to erode the society in which we live cannot and will not continue to thrive. ~Ron Nelson, CrunchyCon

Here Mr. Nelson at CrunchyCon was responding to my rather precipitous judgement about how well his site matched up with its name, and I have to admit that I was wrong in so readily dismissing the site for lack of “crunchiness.” (For the record, it would hardly have been the end of the world if the site lacked in “crunchiness.”) The above quote is a good example of someone genuinely working in the tradition of Russell Kirk in expounding a humane conservatism in which traditional Christianity has a vital role. Elsewhere, he approvingly cites Kuyper, which should be of interest to our friend Josh, the Reformed Catholic.

This is a meaningful issue at the moment because of the Iraq war and our broader confrontation with the culture of the Islamic world. The view of the neoconservatives seems to be that “our” idea of liberty stands for a universal passion. The masses yearning to be free and all that. That’s why the Iraq war is said to be a good bet: if we create the conditions for freedom, the people will naturally take it. Unlike a lot of conservatives, I think that this is true in the case of Iraq, or that it is likely enough to be true to make it a hypothesis worth testing. But I wouldn’t necessarily extend it to every other place in the world or support military action of this sort indiscriminately. And many “liberals” are left in the odd position of arguing that Bush’s invasion was a bad idea because Iraqis just don’t want what Bush wants them to want–what the Enlightenment, in its quintessentially “liberal” form, thought every man wanted. This seems to mark a change from what was almost reflexively believed 20 years ago when “We are the World” was not merely mawkish sentimentality but a genuine credo concerning what we in the West saw as “our” “global village”. ~Andrew Cunningham, I, Ectomorph

I appreciate Andrew Cunninghmam’s post on the problem of universal values and what we might call a ‘crisis’ in confidence in universal values among contemporary liberals, as well as his recommendation of my remarks about Akbar, Islam and religious “tolerance.” In his discussion of this question and his remarks about my Akbar post, Mr. Cunningham wondered what view I might take of the prospects of particular cultural ideals, such as religious “tolerance,” emerging in other cultures to which they have not historically belonged. Thus he writes:

It is too easy, as he [Larison] points out, to forget that the whole world does not share our admiration of tolerance, and that in other places, and other ages, what we call “tolerance” is/was dismissed and reviled as heretical “syncretism”. Of course this was once true in the West as well, but the critical question is whether it disappeared as the result of some inevitable development of the human character that happened to occur here first, or as the result of a chance series of historical events that are unlikely to be repeated anywhere else ever again. My point of departure from what I suspect is Mr. Larison’s properly conservative answer is that even if the truth is closer to the latter than the former, there remains a strong possibility that the lessons can be indirectly learned, if we are aggressive enough in trying to teach them.

My answer on this is that it is entirely possible for new ideals or symbols to be appropriated or incorporated by a culture that did not create them. If a certain ideal appears good to an appropriating culture, and let’s take religious tolerance as an example, they could learn from the Western experience of the religious wars, the Enlightenment and the development of legal toleration in Protestant states and decide that legal toleration and a broader ideal of tolerance make for more successful societies and reduce the prospects of religious violence. (For the purposes of this discussion, I am fudging the rather important distinction between toleration and tolerance, as neither is necessarily considered exactly desirable in traditional, monotheistic societies).

But that assumes that religious tolerance is really desirable for any of the cultures that might adopt it. It is actually only truly appealing to extremely small religious minorities or extremely large religious majorities; all other exclusivist religious groups (which would be quite few) view it as something either to be endured or overthrown. That many Westerners find it to be self-evidently good is neither here nor there.

To value religious tolerance requires a belief that truth and power are basically unrelated, or even that they are opposed, and what is more that truth and social organisation are unrelated. In other words, it is irrelevant for political and social arrangements which, if any, of a host of religions is true. Even if absolutely true, it will receive no privileged status or authority. I submit that to the mind of a traditional society this is lunacy. How could it be irrelevant?

Moreover, even legal toleration is something that is only granted as a condescension by a majority group or sect when it either no longer feels threatened by dissent or no longer believes dissent to be destructive–certainly in the Islamic world these attitudes have not historically been the norm, and the brief secularist escape from sectarianism in the 20th century in some countries remains exceptional and exceedingly fragile. More ingenious efforts to justify such tolerance rely on arguments from within religious traditions to defend an abdication of conviction on expressly humanitarian grounds–truth is all very well and good, but it does not and should not really impose significant obligations on society. Religious tolerance privileges social harmony over religious commitments, which often sounds good to those in government and those not so keen on religious commitments, but for everyone else it sounds rather awful.
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There are many other attacks on ID in the media, and they are all useful in that they demonstrate the true intellectual force behind Darwinism: a commitment to materialism. The most common argument against ID, that it invokes God and so cannot be a part of science, is a crystal-clear expression of that commitment. Instead of asking, “What if there really were an intelligent designer active in the origin of life?” the Darwinists take it for granted that such a designer doesn’t exist and limit the definition of science according to that unproven premise. Similarly, the evidence for the existence of a pre-Sumerian civilization would not be “a part of history” if you define history as “the discipline that examines the past of human societies starting from the Sumerians and never, ever, accepting the possibility of something else before.” A saner approach would be to question the definition of the discipline that is challenged by evidence — not to ignore the evidence in order to save the definition of the discipline. The reason this saner approach is not the mainstream view in biology is the same old dogmatic belief: materialism.

Of course, Darwinians have the right to believe in whatever they wish, but it is crucial to unveil that theirs is a subjective faith, not an objective truth, as they have been claiming for more than a century. This unveiling would mark a turning point in the history of Western civilization, by reconciling science and religion and letting people become intellectually fulfilled theists. Moreover, it would mark a turning point in the history of the world, by changing the meaning of “the West” and “Westernization” in the eyes of Muslims. They have been resisting the influx of godlessness from the West for a long time; they would be much less alarmed in the face of a redeemed West.

Phillip E. Johnson once said that the ID debate is about the question whether the U.S. is a nation under God or a nation under Darwin. We Muslims see the latter as a plague; we have no problem with the former. We might have disagreements, but we agree on the most fundamental truth of all — that there really is a God out there, and He is the One to Whom we owe our very life and existence. ~Mustafa Akyol, National Review

Hat tip to View from the Right.

A couple points are in order. Unless Thomas Fleming and I have somehow been magically transformed into philosophical materialists, Mr. Akyol’s charge against critics of ID-as-science is misleading and certainly too simplistic. Any religious “common ground” between Christian and Muslim is a will o’ the wisp put forward by Muslims, Western renegades and soft-headed theologians–on this point I agree with Mr. Auster of VFR that Akyol’s article is an (implausible and silly) attempt to sucker the West into accommodation with the Islamic world. The Islamic world has been, generally speaking, persistently hostile and at odds with the West, long before our civilisation slid into its morass of secularism and modernity. Akyol’s article does make one thing clear about what ID theorists are really doing–they are making a religious argument in scientific guise to combat the genuine cultural damage philosophical materialism has done to Western societies. They are right to oppose that materialism and its consequences, but they are doing it in such a cackhanded way that I’ll wager they will do more damage to their cause than to anything else. As for those who are supporting ID because they think it is better science, I have nothing to say to them.

I didn’t notice John Derbyshire making any comments at The Corner about this particularly silly article, but it has something everyone can ridicule. Then again, maybe having a Muslim make a forthrightly foolish argument like this will so completely undermine ID in the eyes of NR readers that Derbyshire would welcome the easy target it provides.

Correction: Derbyshire did comment here on why he wasn’t commenting on this article and others like it. Here are a few good remarks from that post:

I will just offer this, though, as a parting shot. Malraux (I think it was) said that there are two reasons to be a socialist: You may love the poor, or you may hate the rich. There are similarly two reasons to get worked up about I.D.: You may love science, or you may hate religion.

My entire and sole motivation in writing against I.D. has been love of, and reverence for, science, and indignation that people should claim a place for their theory at science’s table when they have done no science whatsoever to back it up, and plainly have no intention of doing any, and when their fundamental premises are not merely unscientific, but willfully anti-scientific.

For what it’s worth, I find ID-as-science obnoxious both because it is a travesty of science and an insult to theology and philosophy. ID theorists could make their claims about a designed cosmos all they like if they were willing to advance them seriously as what they are, theological and philosophical claims. It is the conscious disparaging of theology and philosophy implicit in trying to make ID a scientific claim that truly agitates me. In a strange way, ID supporters are as trapped in a materialist worldview as the practitioners of the “scientistic” abuses they decry: they remain beholden to some extent to a view that only what is empirically proveable is true, and so they dutifully set about trying to prove revealed claims to be true by turning to empirical evidence for confirmation. But when they actually turn to this evidence, they do not handle it scientifically, as the evidence requires, but impose causal explanations pulled, as it were, from the sky.

Imagine someone attempting to do history in this way in the conviction that God rules over all of history in His Providence (as indeed He does): instead of doing the real work of source criticism, translation, verifying source claims (to the extent this is possible), testing one source against all other available evidence to determine how and why something happened and then making a plausible argument from all of this, the ID historian would simply say, “Deus vult!” That is, God willed it. In a very real sense, that is true (provided it comes with a number of qualifications), but it is not an historical argument and someone who makes that claim is not much of an historian. How much more the case when it comes to the physical sciences!

That’s what C.S. Lewis thought when he sat down over five decades ago to write a little story for his goddaughter. It became seven stories, including the second one called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

And now the big-screen version comes out Friday amid discussions that it’s a thinly veiled story of religion disguised as a major epic film. The lion character has been described by some as a metaphor for Jesus.

“I never talked about these things with Disney,” says the director. “To me, religion was never an issue with this film. I think we’ve adapted the book for people of all belief systems.” ~The Chicago Sun-Times

That’s amusing–”described by some as a metaphor for Jesus.” Well, in case there was any doubt, there is this non-revelation about the meaning of Lewis’ stories. About a month ago I re-read most of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe after many, many years away from the Narnia stories (I think the last time I had picked them up there were no American armies anywhere in the Persian Gulf, so it was practically a lifetime ago). What struck me was how perfectly obvious the entire allegory was, and that any remotely educated person would be able to see it straightaway. It would take a Herculean effort of rewriting and cutting to eliminate the intensely Christological nature of this story. It cannot be “adapted” for people of “all belief systems” without depriving it of its entire content.

So the director’s ignorance may be a blessing in disguise–someone so daft as to not see the deeply structured Christian story in The Lion will be hard put to distort the message of the story even if he wanted to, since he clearly has no grasp of what the message is. If the narrative is kept basically intact, the myth and its deeper magic will prevail. On the other hand, a director with such a poor grasp of his material cannot make a very good adaptation of it. From the brief glimpses I have seen, it will be visually impressive (as we would expect in the CGI age), but the director’s remarks fill me with a feeling of dread. Of course, that’s what comes of putting the work of a Christian apologist in the hands of Disney.

Update: On the other hand, this venomous, spite-filled garbage from The Guardian suggests that the director has done enough right in faithfully rendering the story to really agitate the Christ-haters out there.

Here we have a guy [Kristol] who plainly doesn’t believe in God, but who thinks that well-padded intellectual elitists like himself ought to evade the issue in public for fear of demoralizing the proles and perhaps jeopardizing some padding thereby. I can’t think of anything nice to say about that; and in fact, the only things I CAN think of to say would not be suitable for a family website.

I can’t see the parallel with your argument. Infinity is whatever it is, and whatever can truly be said about it, is true. I might indeed take different tacks in explaining it to different persons; but if I thought that P were a true proposition about infinity, I should not affirm P in the privacy of my chambers, while denying or evading it in the public square, which is the kind of thing Kristol & Himmelfarb are doing. A noble lie is still a lie.

These are the people who are pushing “intelligent design” in the conservative movement. Not only am I glad and proud to have spoken out against this preposterous hoax, I wish I had done so more forthrightly. These are people filled up to their meritocratic nose-holes with contempt for ordinary people. That’s conservatism? Ptui, I spit. ~John Derbyshire, The Corner

The origin of Mr. Derbyshire’s remarks is this Reason article about certain neocons, their “religious beliefs” such as they are, and their (public) claims about ID, evolution and social utility of religion. This ties into Mr. Derbyshire’s long-running opposition to “Intelligent Design” (ID), the reheated and watered-down theological view that its loyalists are trying to push into science classes as an alternative, or really just an augmentation, to evolution. Mr. Derbyshire’s own unfortunate indifference to the claims of theologians and philosophers is not the issue at the moment. Unfortunately, the Bailey article is not as compelling as I first imagined it would be when I read Mr. Derbyshire’s remarks.

I would add that the point of ID, as I have argued on several occasions, is not to “deny” Darwin as such, in the sense that ID theorists are denying the reality of evolution, but simply that they would prefer to be able to use metaphysical claims to explain scientific evidence. To the extent that they are “denying” Darwin, they wish to “deny” Darwin’s work its near-canonical status and question the philosophical claims made as a result of the theory of evolution.

In principle, at least as far as criticism of Darwin goes, this might be nothing different from what Stephen Jay Gould did in advancing criticisms of evolutionary theory. However, where Gould, as I understand, recognised and attempted to address flaws or holes in Darwin’s theory on the basis of interpreting the evidence, ID relies on poking holes in materialistic readings of evolutionary theory on logical and philosophical grounds.

Aside from the oddity in the Reason article of lumping in Robert Bork with neoconservatives, which seems to me to stretch the term well past the breaking point (unless I am very confused about where Mr. Bork stands on a few things), it shows very clearly that a number of prominent neocons have taken up for ID theory just as a number, such as Krauthammer, have denounced it with every secularist fiber of their being.

What is more interesting, aside from demonstrating (again) the likely intellectual laziness of many well-known neocon figures, may be the pure cynicism with which these people are operating. However, arguing for this rests on Ronald Bailey’s very easy assumption that Strauss and the “Noble Lie” have struck deep roots in neocon thinking, and as Dr. Paul Gottfried argued (I believe it was last year in an article for Chronicles?), Strauss is more complicated than many quick summaries have allowed and his influence of the neocons has been a bit exaggerated.

The Bailey article does include an important admission about one of the ID theorists that Kristol and Himmelfarb have encouraged:

Behe, in a letter to The Wall Street Journal, frankly acknowledges that his is “a distinctly minority view among scientists on the question of what caused evolution.” But Behe wants it clearly understood that he is no biblical literalist: “In the book I specifically say I am not a creationist, agree that the universe is billions of years old, [and] believe in descent of life from a common ancestor.”

This should underscore once and for all that whatever may be theologically or philosophically true in the arguments of ID theorists, ID theory does not purport to scrap the theory of evolution or seriously challenge it. In fact, it practically augments the theory of evolution so little that the entire enterprise, as a professed scientific endeavour, is an amazing waste of time.

If big business is getting its way, then its way does not lead towards freedom and laissez faire.

Indeed, take two of the most notorious giants of industry, Wal-Mart and Phillip Morris, and look at what they are doing in Washington.

Wal-Mart made news last month when it called for a raise in the federal minimum wage–something Democrats typically welcome. Despite its reputation for paying slave wages, Wal-Mart on average pays its hourly full-time employees $10.53 per hour, according to the company’s website. The current federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour.

So, if minimum wage goes up, Wal-Mart might not pay an extra dime in wages. But Mom ‘n Pop corner stores–Wal-Mart’s competition–who employ local High School students at or near minimum wage will be in a pickle. The small stores might just have to close their doors, driving even more business to the retail giant–that is if Wal-Mart gets its way in Washington.

And what about evil Phillip Morris? What is it lobbying for on Capitol Hill? Check the company’s annual report to find out. The 2005 Altria Group annual report states that the company: “endorsed federal legislation introduced in May 2004 in the Senate and the House of Representatives, known as the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which would have granted the FDA the authority to regulate the design, manufacture and marketing of cigarettes and disclosures of related information.”

In other words, Phillip Morris is on Ted Kennedy’s side in supporting greater federal regulation of tobacco. This regulation, of course, would be more burdensome to smaller cigarette companies than to Phillip Morris, which controls nearly half of the industry.

So, conservatives and libertarians ought to agree: yes, big business influence in Washington is dangerous. ~Timothy P. Carney, Brainwash

Mr. Carney tackles some of the deleterious effects of big business, or in this particular case the effects of big business influence on government, in a way that should be appealing to traditional conservatives and libertarians, albeit for different reasons. His examples also serve as welcome reminders that large-scale corporations can often benefit from greater government regulation to the extent that the regulation itself reinforces monopolistic tendencies in their sector. Being someone that Wal-Mart might regard as “pro-business” is obviously a far cry from being someone who values the integrity of a competitive market. It is this sort of common sense aversion to the power of the national and multinational corporation that Mr. Dreher and his “crunchy con” folk seem to share.

In Codevilla’s fevered imagination, instead of the Iraq war, we should be having the Arabian war. We could take the same results that we have achieved in Iraq (going from zero Americans killed by Iraqi terrorists in a year to a thousand killed) and just multiply it by 700 million Muslims worldwide.

Codevilla makes a few other completely bizarre statements, mostly about Israel.

Buchanan’s antipathy toward Israel clashes with traditional American statecraft, since few things are clearer than the natural tendency of Bible-reading Americans, from John Winthrop to Ronald Reagan, to identify with Israel. Buchanan does not see why that makes us, as much as Israel, a target for Islamic radicals. Hence in practice he does not favor war against this set of America’s enemies.

Well, maybe it’s because Buchanan is neither insane nor a traitor.

Codevilla then accuses Niall Ferguson of ‘blaming America’ because Ferguson says ‘the U.S. helped “Israel establish military superiority over the Arab counties, forcing the Palestinians to resort to terrorism….”‘ ~Thrasymachus

For a time my father subscribed to, and I read, The Claremont Review of Books. Then came 9/11 and the Great Unhinging of Angelo Codevilla’s Mind, somewhat exemplified by his latest article, that made it painful even to contemplate looking at a copy of the Review. My compliments to Thrasymachus on making short work of one of the true looneys of our time.

In advance of President George W. Bush’s speech to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis on November 30 the White House released a 35-page brochure called “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq” (NSVI). Like the Holy Roman Empire of yore, this document’s title has three misnomers in three words: it is not “national,” it is not a “strategy,” and it promises no meaningful “victory.”

The last time America achieved the degree of domestic consensus on a foreign issue that justified the notion of a “national strategy” was during World War II. Whether the attack on Pearl Harbor was hoped for by FDR (or even known to him in advance) is perhaps debatable. But that attack, and Hitler’s ultimate folly of declaring war on the United States on December 10, 1941, enabled Roosevelt to create an overwhelming national consensus for the war—including the notion that defeating Germany would have a priority in the overall strategic design.

The wisdom and honesty of political reasoning behind America’s strategy in 1941-1945 or 1917-1918 could be doubted, but not the existence of the strategy itself. In Iraq, by contrast, Mr. Bush and his team continue to confuse operational effectiveness with strategy. ~Srdja Trifkovic

As always, Dr. Trifkovic’s article is well worth reading, and it is a better critique than my lengthy piece that tended more towards ridicule.

In Crunchy Cons, [Rod] Dreher reports on the amazing depth and scope of this phenomenon, which is redefining the taxonomy of America’s political and cultural landscape. At a time when the Republican party, and the conservative movement in general, is bitterly divided over what it means to be a conservative, Dreher introduces us to people who are pioneering a way back to the future by reclaiming what’s best in conservativism—people who believe that being a truly committed conservative today means protecting the environment, standing against the depredations of big business, returning to traditional religion, and living out conservative godfather Russell Kirk’s teaching that the family is the institution most necessary to preserve.

The thesis of this book was apparently the topic of some extended intra-NRO squabbling three years ago. Normally I would say, along with the Tsarist from Darkness at Noon, “The wolves are devouring each other!” But with the forthcoming release of Mr. Dreher’s book, his idea of “crunchy cons” might deserve some more sympathetic consideration.

Of course, when I hear the word “crunchy” in a political context, I think of it the way that I have seen the English use it. I happen to know that Mr. Dreher does not mean the same thing–his crunchiness refers to, I am not kidding, granola. In political chatter, “crunchy” is usually something more liberal and “wet” sorts say about their curmudgeonish, vaguely reactionary neighbours, which is to say normal people. I think Viktor Orban, leader of the center-right Fidesz and former prime minister of Hungary, was once described by The Economist as “crunchy,” and I was pretty sure this was not intended as a compliment.

Here is a “manifesto” from the book description:

1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.

2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.

3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.

5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.

6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.

7. Beauty is more important than efficiency.

8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.

9. We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”

Sound familiar? Granola aside, Mr. Dreher’s “crunchiness” refers to some sort of traditional, humane conservatism. The manifesto listed in the book description would go over much better with a roomful of paleos than with a lot of Mr. Dreher’s colleagues at The Corner. Indeed, the very idea of “crunchy cons” has had Jonah Goldberg tying himself in knots–this has got to be proof that Mr. Dreher is doing something right. The 2002 article that began this inside-baseball furore, continued by Jonah “Lie for a Just Cause” Goldberg, is here.

Mr. Dreher should be applauded for recognising and praising conservatives who love the small and particular and treasure authenticity and the Beautiful, and also for being one. It is fascinating that someone who understands conservatism in this way still hangs on at NR, if only because it is such an unexpected thing. If Mr. Goldberg cannot quite grasp what Mr. Dreher is saying, perhaps he should look in the mirror or glance over FoxNews or the Standard to see the lock-step fanaticism that passes for conservatism in the “mainstream.”

(I had an encounter with a liberal friend of mine similar to one that Mr. Dreher described in his article, where my friend assured me that I must be against historic preservation, presumably because I tended to be against government regulation. He was quite astonished for some reason to find that I, an aspiring historian, put store by preserving historic buildings.)

In one sense, Mr. Goldberg has been right: there is nothing new about the “crunchy cons” (not that Dreher said that there was), at least not as far as their more general principles are concerned. Particular eccentricities of taste and habit are neither here nor there (I don’t much care for vegetables, organic and fresh or not), and it would be a stupid mistake (one that Goldberg makes) to think that any one particularity of Mr. Dreher’s “crunchy cons” constitutes some sort of philosophical claim–rather each different habit represents a commitment to smallness and particularity to which, I suspect, Mr. Goldberg is simply allergic.

Except for the fact that I doubt that paleos could ever actually have a “manifesto” with positions, the manifesto of crunchiness accords pretty well with what I believe, as far as it goes, and might not be entirely out of place in the pages of Chronicles. The gentlemen there have been preaching for a great many years that small is beautiful, that the natural world should be preserved in responsible, “homocentric” stewardship as God has ordained, that corporations are often the bane of local communities and humane life and that the crass practise of consumerism and debased popular culture were rotting America out from the inside. They have said all this and more, and have long represented the non-ideological, humane conservatism Mr. Dreher hints at, but it is good that Mr. Dreher has begun writing about some of the same sorts of things.

Consider Mr. Dreher’s description of himself and his family:

It never occurred to me that eating organic vegetables was a political act, but my colleague’s comment got me to thinking about other ways my family’s lifestyle is countercultural. Julie is a stay-at-home mom who is beginning to homeschool our young son. We worship at an “ethnic” Catholic church because we can’t take the Wonder Bread liturgy at the Roman parish down the street. We are as suspicious of big business as we are of big government. We rarely watch TV, disdain modern architecture and suburban sprawl, avoid shopping malls, and spend our money on good food we prepare at home. My wife even makes her own granola.

In other words, everything that is fake, hollow and dangerous about modernity appears fake, hollow and dangerous to Mr. Dreher and his family. Perhaps before long Mr. Dreher will start singing the praises of agrarianism–okay, let’s not get carried away. His disdain for “Wonder Bread liturgy” shows an intuitive drive for meaningful, traditional religion, and his suspicion of big business is both perfectly sane in itself and the natural response of the lover of the local, the community, the personal, the normal and the good. Home-schooling is the normal and natural thing to do. Naturally, Goldberg chastises him on this score and calls home-schooling a “retreat.” A retreat from what? Trying to rehabilitate a far-gone school system that is dedicated to alienated our children from everything that is theirs and teaches them to despise their own history and people?

Elsewhere he says, “we are citizens before we are consumers.” Who else has said that? Oh, yes–Pat Buchanan. That is what really gets Goldberg’s goat–Rod Dreher has started preaching Russell Kirk-style conservatism and a sort of paleo-lite, and I think Goldberg is shocked to find that sort of thing back in the pages of NR after he and his have done their best to get rid of it. What is more, Mr. Dreher seems to have reached his views through living what seems to him to be the most sane, humane and normal way of life possible. Perhaps the lesson is that a sane life will lead you to believe many of the same things that paleos believe, for the simple reason that we derive our understanding from the broad sweep of Western tradition, have gleaned its wisdom for humane and sane living and endeavour to follow it. Except for the apparent preoccupation with granola (who likes granola?), this makes a lot of sense. That it can no longer really make a lot of sense to Goldberg et al. is not surprising–Kirk’s “permanent things” rank pretty far down their list of priorities these days, if they were ever on it.
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Britain is a democracy. And so, contrary to protestations, the war was done in all our names, and we cannot waive our responsibility with a placard. But some of us - the invasion enthusiasts - are more responsible than others. We stoked the will to war. Today I am haunted by a picture I saw last year, not quite inadvertently, on one of those ghoulish atrocity websites, of the body of a girl with her head staved in.

What have we done? This week, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff accused Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld et al of “daydreaming”, and perhaps he is right. It is easy to say, looking back, that the principle was good but the practice was bungled. But it is not enough to have a vision of liberty without an understanding of the mission to get there. For two years we have struggled to make the practice conform to the principle, and the time might be approaching when we must accept that the principle was always impractical, and the project should never have been attempted. ~Danny Kruger, The Daily Telegraph

This is one of the few columns of the limited remorseful war supporter genre to emerge in the last two years, and it is certainly one of the most honest and thoughtful. It is definitely the only one I know of that acknowledges the special moral responsibility of war supporters who publicly urged the start of hostilities. Of course, Mr. Kruger reverts to the usual optimistic cant at the end, but there is at least the sense that his optimism stems from a sincere desire not to have defended completely futile and immoral war rather than the usual indifference to the consequences. What is lamentable is that there is simply so little evidence of such pangs of conscience among most war supporters here. Among these there is an obsessive certitude about the rightness of a war that, by all our traditional standards, would normally be denounced if someone else were doing it. Mr. Kruger’s unease with the war is as refreshing as its virtual uniqueness is disheartening.

Indeed, the White House billed the address as the first of a series that, taken together, will provide a comprehensive restatement of America’s objectives in Iraq and the broader War on Terror. ~The New York Post

It is easy to lose track of how many times “America’s objectives” in Iraq have been restated, how many imaginary “corners” there have been turned and how many re-launches of the same failed initiative Mr. Bush has attempted in a sad imitation in foreign affairs of Tony Blair’s excuse for domestic governance. It became something of a running joke even before the 2002 election that all Mr. Blair knew how to do on domestic policy was to hold press conferences where he would launch or re-launch his policy initiatives with much fanfare and euphemistic drivel. New Labour effectively meant a new polish and a good spin on a lot of fatuous nonsense, backed up by a lot of serious-sounding figures and projections.

The San Jose Mercury News had this observation about the figures of Iraqi battalions ready for combat:

Bush has steadfastly said that as Iraqi troops stand up, American troops would stand down. And suddenly, the Iraqis are standing tall, in great numbers. Battalions of Iraqi soldiers who were ill-prepared six months ago, by our own generals’ admission, are fit, trim and hardened now. Cadres of police will take charge, enabling U.S. troops to retreat from cities and go chase down the main terrorists.

In the New Labour spirit Mr. Bush re-launched the Iraq war yesterday, or rather re-launched the initiative to make the Iraq war credible for what seems like the fifth or sixth time in the last two years. For someone who is “staying the course,” he certainly has a strange need to keep reiterating his intention to do more or less the same thing he told us he was going to do before. We got the message the first time–Mr. Bush has no idea what to do, and so he gives us more or less the same rehashed talking points. There was a greater quantity of detail about the training of Iraqi forces, but Mr. Bush remains firmly committed to staking something he regards as vital to the security of the United States on the competence of Iraqi security forces.

The Boston Globe rightly observed a curious divide in the speech:

President Bush gave two speeches in one yesterday. The first reported steady progress in training Iraqi security forces, offering hope that the bulk of US troops would be able to leave soon. The other spoke of victory in Iraq in such grandiose terms that it seemed US troops would remain far into the future.

Note that definition of victory:

Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq’s democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation.

Under the circumstances, that is as unsatisfying a definition of victory as there is. Iraq’s “democracy” will be imperiled by some sort of terrorist or other for decades, and if the enemy is automatically defined as Saddamist and terrorist (as Mr. Bush has done) there is theoretically no end to the time when “Saddamists and terrorists” threaten Iraq’s “democracy.” The third leg of the enemy tripod, the “rejectionists,” are supposed to be won over by persuasion and the benefits of working within the democratic system–can he be serious? All any rejectionist Sunni would have to do would be to run the numbers to see that he has a far better chance of extracting concessions by violence than through voting.

Note that the endgame has been for well over a year that the United States government premises its military objectives on the competence of a ramshackle foreign force. This is an admission that our military cannot achieve victory in Iraq. But Mr. Bush nonetheless continues to expose our soldiers to danger until such time as Iraqi forces manage to suppress an enemy that our armed forces could not.

All of this rests on the assumption that native Iraqi forces will be more effective in infiltrating and disrupting terrorist attacks. This is a tremendous assumption, and one I suspect that is made on the false assumption that there is sufficient homogeneity among Iraqis to make this sort of infiltration and intelligence-gathering possible. What sane Sunni would assist a presumably impermanent government (which probably appears illegitimate to him anyway, and not without reason) against his own kin, tribe and sect if he has relatives or friends among the insurgents? Our strategy is based on the gamble that normal Sunnis will prefer Allawi and a regime of crooks in Baghdad to their interests and their own people and cooperate with the Iraqi police and army in ways that they would not do with us–this is lunacy. As far as Iraq serving as a base of future terrorists, we were closer to victory on that score in 2002 than we will be for decades.