Eunomia · January 2006

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January, 2006.

Abroad, our Nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal – we seek the end of tyranny in our world. ~George W. Bush, State of the Union Address

Peter Suderman and I must have different measures of excellence when it comes to blog comments. One man’s example of excellence is another man’s example of fallacious nonsense, I suppose. Here he signals his agreement with Will Wilkinson’s comment, to which I took so much exception earlier today, and has this to say:

Will, in his excellent comment, makes pretty much all the points I would’ve in order to counter Michael’s economic arguments. Globalization and the interdependence through trade creates far more stability than an inwardly focused economy. Technology has been the engine that has exponentially increased the potential for human productivity, allowing faster, cheaper, more available goods to anyone and everyone (goods which, I’ll add, free trade makes even more readily available, eliminating more poverty). China may not be a glittery paradise today, but Thomas Sowell recently published a column in which he quoted undercover economist Tim Harford as saying that “China is lifting a million people a month out of poverty.” While there are still clearly many gains to be made there, this is no small feat. Wealth, trade and prosperity create peace and well-being far better than nationalistic self-centeredness.

What does it mean to say that globalisation and interdependence through trade create more stability? What sort of stability do we mean? Certainly not international political stability. The world economy had never before been more integrated than it was in 1914, and the worst military conflict in world history to that point happened among the very industrial nations whose every economic incentive should have directed them to avoid conflict with one another. At the very least, these things do not discourage political instability, and in my view they can make nations even more interested in interfering militarily in the affairs of others to pursue ever more and more remote economic interests created by this blessed interdependence.

The libertarian will point to trade barriers that existed before the war, or will blame nationalism (fair enough) or the structure of the nation-state itself, but if he is right about the power of markets to create “stability” he has to explain why the most integrated international economy up till that time collapsed in a bloodbath of massive instability. The rest of this is rhetorical. What Mr. Suderman calls “nationalistic self-centeredness” I would call common sense patriotism and looking after the national interest.

Trade serves the national interest when it provides things that a nation cannot provide for itself, when it fulfills a need. To that extent, trade is natural and good. Absolute economic independence, or autarky, is obviously a practical impossibility for an industrial society, but it does beg the question why it is so objectionable as an ideal and undesirable when possible. It is the ultimate expression of the virtue of apragmosyne, minding our own business, which has nothing to do with being self-centered and everything to do with looking after one’s own kin and neighbours. It might be said that no man was ever so peaceful as when he was busily tending to his own backyard.

If past nationalists have chanced to stumble on this old piece of wisdom I am hardly going to dismiss it simply because I find nationalism offensive (as I most certainly do) or because they misused the concept. But speaking of nationalism, how is it that conservatives, almost always the most constant enemy of nationalism, are the ones getting tarred with this label? Why were economic liberals in the 19th century always the first and most obnoxious political nationalists? Because, among other reasons, they liked the nation-state as a way to break down trade barriers. No local, particularistic self-centeredness for them!

Now the nation-state constrains them and annoys them, so they will need something to come along and smash new barriers. Generally, conservatives tend to be fans of barriers of all kinds, so the liberal/libertarian proclivity for smashing them always puts us on edge. As the old conservatives would have defended a plurality of German principalities against a single German nation-state, so we today prefer a world of nation-states to any form of globalist order, be it market- or bureaucracy-oriented (with the WTO, it is becoming both). Most seem to think that “the market” or “globalisation” will break down nation-states all on their own, and the media is awash in stories about the decline of the nation-state, ignoring that in the final analysis what broke the sub-national polities was force employed by the liberal nation-state. The same thing will happen to nation-states when supranational bodies achieve some coherent, working order and turn to suppress and gobble up those “self-centered” nations that do not see the big picture a la the background to The Napoleon of Notting Hill.

Trade is not in itself a political good, which is to say a good of the polity. Trade that exists to fuel consumerism is simply a blight, a parasite on a nation. To want to curtail that is not to engage in “nationalistic self-centeredness,” and to want to encourage it is to endorse a society of consumers, at once subject to passions and politically and economically dependent in a way that makes a mockery of the claim that they are free men. No one will be able to argue successfully that a consumerist economy is morally edifying–it prizes and extols an acquisitive spirit, which is precisely the sort of spirit any traditional understanding of virtue rejects.
Read the rest of this entry »

It is encouraging when my writing is compared to heavy artillery, even when it is by a friend whose “position” that “artillery” was supporting. At the very least, that means that my words are having some impact and have (we can hope) a certain precision about them.

Turning to the original Ross Douthat and Peter Suderman posts that prompted Michael’s comments and Will Wilkinson’s dismissive response, I am surprised to find very little disagreement in principle between the two. That is the sort of amicable discussion that should be had between libertarians and conservatives on economic and moral questions, and which, unfortunately, is very often lacking.

How did it all start? We can happily assign blame to the left in this case. For the reader’s convenience, so he can skip following every link, I will lay out the evolution of this argument. The American Prospect ran a column by one Garance Franke-Ruta (what a name!), which was part of a series dedicated to helping make the Democrats competitive in the “culture debate.” So far, so boring, right? As it happens, it is a little more interesting than it sounds.
Read the rest of this entry »

It is curious what ironies and amusements life will present to you. Just the other day Michael Brendan Dougherty and I were corresponding about our respective styles of blogging (with Michael as the debonair master of fashion and style, while I play the role of the growling attack dog). Then this week Michael decides to get wildly combative and launch a full-scale attack on free trade and the deleterious effects of the market on moral life!

Well, not really, but that’s what you would have thought happened judging from the hectoring and lecturing he received from his libertarian friends for what Kevin Jones correctly called a “modest rebuke” of global capitalism. Actually, it was less of a rebuke and more of an inquiry into the costs such a system imposes on a society. Might this not be something reasonable people could discuss seriously? In one case, at least, apparently not.

For saying things far less radical than this or this, Michael was lambasted by Will Wilkinson of the Cato Institute. Mr. Wilkinson directed a string of unfortunate bromides at Michael and confirmed many of the things I have assumed about certain kinds of committed libertarians.

Before I address in more detail in another post the question at hand that prompted all of Mr. Wilkinson’s charges, let’s consider what passed for his reply to Michael. Here is one choice selection from his concluding remarks:

There’s a couple ways to understand Ross [Douthat]’s talk of “common culture” and “national identity.” One way is illiberal, repugnant, and dangerous. According to the other way, our common culture and national identity is robust and not at all endangered.

In other words, the only people who think there is a problem with the state of the culture and national identity are dangerous and should be ignored. There really isn’t a problem, Mr. Wilkinson says. So there. This is an argument? Then there was this gem:

The stuff you’re toying with here is really poisonous, Michael. This is not conservatism. This is illiberal, authoritarian, nationalist collectivism, and there is almost nothing good to say on its behalf. Bad stuff. Bad bad bad.

Nothing is more entertaining than having a confirmed non-conservative tell a confirmed conservative what conservatism is and is not. It is as silly as my entering into the fray about who is and is not a “real” libertarian or what constitutes “real” libertarianism, as if I would care anyway. But note the condescension here, which goes beyond telling someone what his own political philosophy “really” is: Michael is “toying with” these ideas, as if no serious person could actually hold them, and these ideas are “poisonous” (and, as we saw above, “repugnant and dangerous” to boot!), which means that no decent person could hold them. Nice.

Mr. Wilkinson might have some intelligent things to say on this subject. I have no idea, since he occupied himself for the most part with vilification and the invocation of demon-words designed to shut down discussion. Personally, I might find “illiberal” and “authoritarian” to be compliments, but they are inaccurate in this case and deliberately so. Besides, authoritarian is not a dirty word to a conservative, and authority is, in fact, one of the principles of genuine European conservatism. A general interest in the idea of preserving a nation’s cultural integrity is not really illiberal. But if it were I would rather be illiberal than a cheerleader for cultural disintegration. Nor is an interest in economic independence or even self-sufficiency either of these things, unless Jefferson was also illiberal and authoritarian. Let’s not even speak of “nationalist collectivism.” Words mean things, and the misuse of words suggests either a poor understanding or a perverse use of intellect. Let’s hope that it is just poor understanding in this case.
Read the rest of this entry »

I’ll take an underlying god any day over such a jealous, petulant god. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away from everyone who puts everything in his hands.

I prefer his silence. It gives us a chance to recognize we have depths to plumb, depths unknown and wasted when we’re distracted by reaching for something in the sky. His silence elevates us from sheep to shaman - we can learn to fill in the space with dancing and singing, with poetry and prose, prayers meant for our ears alone. we can breathe life into the invisible with our imaginations and our laughter. our gods are otherwise so loud and so demanding. ~fey, Fey Accompli

This came in response to an excerpt from For the Time Being by one Annie Dillard, in this case speaking on Meister Eckhart’s attitude towards loss. (By the by, Eckhart is not usually noted for envisioning a God of petulance or jealousy.) Of course, it is through the same faith in the jealous God, the Lord of Sabaoth, that we also understand that man is a microcosm as deep and profound as all of creation and that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you. Who is distracted by things in the sky?

If anyone has been distracted by things up in the sky, it is the sort of loopy, oceanic pseudo-mystics from Tolstoy to Dillard who attach divine meaning to the world even as they take it away from God. A substrate God with Whom we do not relate, Who does not speak, nor demand nor love–this is the God that the sky-gazing, immanentist intellectual wants.

At the risk of being petulant myself, I do sometimes wonder why people read (or write) pseudo-theology of the sort Ms. Dillard seems to be offering. Of the episodes recounted in her book, Publisher’s Weekly says: “each impels us to transform, build, complete and grant divinity to the world.” I guess you could call it neo-paganism, if you wanted to insult real neo-pagans by attributing something this drippy and chthonic to them.

On the Orthodox Old Calendar, this is a very impressive week for commemorating great ascetics, apologists and confessors of Orthodoxy. Today we commemorate St. Antony the Great, the great Father who blazed the trail of all later monasticism, and remember the most pious emperor Theodosios I. Tomorrow we commemorate Sts. Athanasios and Cyril, the two preeminent Patriarchs of Alexandria who combated the Arian and Nestorian heresies respectively. On Wednesday we commemorate the great ascetic St. Makarios the Great and St. Mark Evgenikos, one of the “Pillars of Orthodoxy” (along with St. Photios and St. Gregory Palamas) and the only Byzantine bishop who refused to sign the union agreement at Florence in 1439. St. Euthymios the Great, one of the major Fathers of Orthodox monasticism and a prodigious founder of monasteries in fifth century Palestine, is commemorated on Thursday. St. Maximos the Confessor, one of the foremost Greek theologians of all time (and my personal favourite) and the scourge of the heresy of monotheletism, is commemorated on Friday. On Saturday we commemorate the Apostle Timothy, and then venerate the memory of the Sixth Ecumenical Council of 680-81, which condemned monoenergism and monotheletism, on Sunday. Vechnaya pomyat!

Rod Dreher sent me a follow-up message to make a clarification about his view of the Iraq war:

I am genuinely torn over what to do now that our troops are there. I don’t have much hope that things will improve in Iraq in the short term, but at the same time I am impressed by the argument that as a matter of honor, we can’t withdraw now, as well as by the certainty that Iraq would fall into civil war absent the American troop presence. What I’m trying to work out for myself now is at what point we decide that nothing our soldiers can do will prevent civil war there, so we had better cut our losses and leave.

Rod made it clear in his message that he does not favour withdrawal, and the reasons he gives above are the reasons frequently offered for opposing immediate or near-term withdrawal (or even Rep. Murtha’s “redeployment,” which, as has been noted before, is not really the same thing). The concern about civil war is a legitimate one, of course, and the appeal to honour here is meaningful, but I do think both are missing something. I’d like to offer a few thoughts on what they are missing.
Read the rest of this entry »

I can hardly speak on behalf of the Eastern Orthodox churches about the exercise of the Roman papacy in our time. But I am encouraged to offer my opinions on the subject on the basis of the traditional Orthodox teaching testified to in the letter of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs in 1848 in response to Pope Pius IX’s epistle “to the Easterners.” This is the principle that for Orthodoxy “the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves” who desire to preserve the Church’s faith and life free from unacceptable changes and novelties. I am also encouraged by Pope John Paul’s request for forthright dialogue about the papacy in our time, and his admonition to all Christians not to be afraid. I will therefore proceed to list what I believe must happen if the Orthodox churches would consider recognizing the bishop of Rome as their world leader who exercises presidency among all the churches of Christ. ~Fr. Thomas Hapko, Orthodoxy Today

Fr. Thomas’ recommendations are all quite sound, though they will probably annoy our Catholic friends, but I would encourage everyone to read through the entire article before dismissing it. However, I think the real sticking point on a theological level will be this one:

The pope would also insist that human beings can have real communion with God through God’s uncreated divine energies and actions toward creatures, from the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

Without trying to be polemical, I can say with some certainty that Catholic doctrines on grace and God’s Being are significantly different from this doctrine. In spite of some admirably ambitious (albeit, I think, inaccurate) irenic work in this area, this is a substantial disagreement that would need to be resolved.

Rod Dreher, author of the forthcoming book Crunchy Cons, contacted me the other day and had some very interesting things to say about his change of mind on the Iraq war. With his permission, I reproduce his comments here:

I have written on the Dallas Morning News blog about my about-face on the Iraq war, and how I realized much later that my eagerness to go to war was influenced at the time by my intense emotionalism after 9/11. Having lived in NYC on that day, and seen the south tower fall with my own eyes, I wanted revenge. I wanted somebody to pay, and if Saddam was going to be the scapegoat, fine. I ignored my own doubts about the realistic chances of democratizing, or even stabilizing, Iraqi society, because to have doubted would have meant most likely staying our hand. The whole thing was a severe and chastening lesson to me about giving way to an emotional politics, and only hearing what one wants to hear. I wish now we hadn’t gone to war in Iraq, and I regret having given public assent to a policy I no longer believe in.

This response is very understandable, and I can say that I shared it up to a point. In fact, before and during the invasion of Afghanistan I distinctly remember making the same sort of blithe, fairly irresponsible assertions to friends and colleagues about American success and the reconstruction that would follow, and like all together too many supporters of the Iraq invasion I cavalierly mocked skeptics who questioned the wisdom of deploying soldiers to Afghanistan or those who even had the temerity of questioning choices of strategy. In the fall of 2001, I am sorry to say, I was one of those people until what seemed like the sheer lunacy of the State of the Union speech in January 2002 shook me out of it.

I would like to think that my support for the Afghan war still makes more sense than the Iraqi, and undoubtedly it was manifestly much more justified, but it is sobering to remember that it is somewhat possible that, but for the Iraq invasion and what it represented, I could all too easily be parroting some of the very slogans I now deride.

As I remember remarking to a generally left-leaning classroom here at the University in October 2001, we often forget the genuine anger that motivates men in moments of crisis, and that historians who attempt to study the causes of events usually do not always perceive these sentiments. In some ways these sentiments are invisible, or they mask themselves with ideas and mislead the historian into thinking that it was something as intelligible as an idea that caused a conflagration. There is, in a sense, simply no reasoning with such feelings of outrage, which is perhaps why all the rational arguments that could be readily directed against the invasion of Iraq availed nothing.

Incidentally, Rod is now on the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News and will start up a Crunchy Con blog of his own after the book is released. The book is due out on February 21.

Despite persistent disillusionment with the war in Iraq, a majority of Americans supports taking military action against Iran if that country continues to produce material that can be used to develop nuclear weapons, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

The poll, conducted Sunday through Wednesday, found that 57% of Americans favor military intervention if Iran’s Islamic government pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms. ~The Financial Times

But what worries me is not 57% of a largely ignorant public. Many of these people are following the lead of demagogues on the radio and television who tell them that Iran is dangerous, and they are responding with an inchoate desire for security and using all of the complex, rational thought of a mouse in a maze looking for some cheese. What worries me terribly is the entirety of a shockingly ignorant and foolish political and foreign policy establishment that is virtually unanimous in the conviction that Iran, nuclear or not, is a threat to the United States. In theory, they should know better, or at the very least their consciences should be troubled by foisting such an enormous fraud on the public.

The only debate over the past few months, as with Iraq, has largely been about the means of “disarming” Iran or preventing “proliferation.” There is no question in the minds of an overwhelming majority of those involved in such decisions that the purported proliferation must be stopped and, if necessary, Iran “disarmed,” which is to say bombed and/or invaded. Never mind that there would be no justification for this, whether legal or moral, and that it would be an act of wanton aggression (again).

With the rise to political power of Hamas in Palestine and Shi’ite Islamists in Iraq thanks directly to U.S. policy and the election of the colourful Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thanks in part to Mr. Bush’s short-sighted alienation and ostracisation of Iran, some kind of “democracy” is on the loose in the Near East. That I have always regarded the success of democratisation as equally undesirable as its collapse into a new era of dictatorships is no secret to anyone familiar with Eunomia, so I have an unusual perspective on how Mr. Bush’s hopes for democratisation have begun blowing up in his face.

Does everyone remember how, not two months ago, we were assured that the Iraqi elections in December showed that democratisation was succeeding and that all of us naysayers were wrong (as we supposedly usually are)? At that time, elections were the heart and soul of democracy–have an election, form a government (how are the Iraqis doing on that, by the way?) and you’re on your way. But now that Hamas has won an election convincingly and is about to form a government, we begin to hear from the democratists that “elections are not everything.” Why, you need the rule of law (except when Mr. Bush needs to spy on someone, or detain him, or start a war…well, you get the idea)! You need protections for minorities (but just ignore the Christians in Iraq and Palestine)!

Well, of course, elections aren’t everything if you want a stable, legitimate government that does not abuse its power wantonly and governs for the common good (in other words, a constitutional republic or monarchy of some kind), but elections have been everything to the democratists up to this point because nothing more complex than “democracy” has been their slogan and watchword. Rveolution. Will of the people. That’s what they wanted (not in this country, of course), and now they’re getting it good and hard. How often did silly democratists talk about “purple thumbs” and “purple ink” when the Iraqis voted, as if we should be gladdened by this? No one is talking enthusiastically about green banners in Palestine, even though the very same green banners are flying in large parts of Iraq and mean exactly the same thing there.

For anti-Islamists (which neocons pretend to be) to embrace Iraqi Islamist victory and shun it in Palestine would be like an old anticommunist celebrating the fall of Cambodia while lamenting the fall of Saigon. It is hypocritical, obviously, but it ought to make everyone question the soundness of the judgement of people who are taking these opposed, irreconcilable positions at the same time. If having Islamists in power is undesirable in principle (yes), and probably undesirable for Israel and the U.S. (yes, yes), then it is undesirable wherever it occurs, so the democratisation likely to bring these things about is always undesirable. Don’t expect that kind of “clarity” from our friends in Washington.

If there is a “domino theory” in the Near East, it is not one leading to any kind of “freedom,” obviously, but it is U.S. policy that started knocking the dominoes over. What has been Mr. Bush’s guiding assumption? That, to put it in his delightfully simple language, “democracies don’t war.” Oh, okay. So Hamas represents the pacific will of the people. Glad we worked that out.

“Conducting war is a responsibility in the executive branch, not the legislative branch,” the president said at a 46-minute press conference. “Most presidents believe that during a time of war that we can use our authorities under the Constitution to make decisions necessary to protect us.” ~George W. Bush

Not that he would be free to conduct warrantless searches in this country if we were.

Glaivester comments here on a Christopher Deliso Antiwar post about a possible method to neocon madness. Maybe they wanted Hamas and Ahmadinejad to win, as it provides them with new reasons to despise and target the respective nations involved. It is not such a leap to think that the neocons want chaos in the Near East–it gives their interventionism new life and forces America to play the part of a fire brigade trying to contain a brush fire that our government started. This part of the “war on terror” will last a generation, and they are doing their best to make sure of it, because that is how long they will need to get their claws into this country for good.

The “Democratic Peace” in Action.

(AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

Israel’s government hunkered down Friday, caught off guard by the Hamas landslide after its vaunted intelligence services predicted a slim victory for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party. ~The Washington Post

No wonder they were wrong! From the description in the article, it sounds as if the “vaunted” intelligence gathering consisted of reading newspapers and polls and talking to/listening to pundits. If this is what intelligence work is, I must be some kind of agent, because I do this all the time. Government “intelligence,” my eye!

The scale and immediacy of the problems faced by the new Palestinian government were reflected by economic data that showed the government would run out of money to pay government salaries within a few weeks.

Israel has threatened to withhold taxes that it collects and pays back to the Palestinian Authority in line with long-standing agreements.

The enmity poses another problem for the Hamas leadership as any government it forms is unlikely to be allowed to travel freely between Gaza and the West Bank through Israeli territory.

Israeli security forces would arrest any Hamas member inside Israeli jurisdiction. ~The Daily Telegraph

No, this isn’t suburban Paris, but it is another kind of disenchanted “youth”!

The New Europeans are hard-working, presentable, well educated, and integrate so perfectly that they will disappear within a generation. I have admiration for their Mittel-European sophistication, a soft spot for their historical fatalism, and a weakness for their vodka-soaked parties. I grew up with Poles and Russians circulating through my Cambridge family home in the 1970s, and spent time as a teenager behind the Iron Curtain listening to wonderful young Hungarians dream of breathing free. And now they are. They are as perfect immigrants as one could wish for.

And yet. And yet. Immigration is not just about quality but about numbers. And the numbers of Eastern Europeans arriving here in the past two years have been extraordinary — far exceeding the government’s reassuring predictions. The Home Office said that between 5,000 and 13,000 would turn up, but it was wrong by a factor of as much as 60: the latest count is 293,000. Even that, however, is almost certainly a huge underestimate. The Association of Labour Providers, which represents recruitment agencies, reckons twice as many have arrived.

The New Europeans are not confined to London, though their numbers are greatest in the capital. Newsnight discovered last week that 3,000 Poles have settled in Crewe, which has a population of 48,000. Jason Canny, the head of the recruitment agency that brought them in after opening an office in Poland said, ‘It’s quite mind-blowing the changes that we’ve gone though as a town — and I’ve been personally responsible. The migrating workforce that has come into the UK is far bigger than people realise. Not just in our area, but nationally.’ And in Crewe, as elsewhere, they are coming to settle: families are being brought over and schools are filling up with sparky Eastern European kids. One Catholic school in Crewe ended up with 23 extra Polish pupils. So much for the government’s oft-repeated claim that they are just temporary workers who would go back. ~Anthony Browne, The Spectator

I would say something about Enoch Powell at this point, but I think we all get the idea. Immigrants may be as well-educated, industrious and keen to assimilate as you please (not that most immigrants to America have most of these qualities), and if there are a great many of them they will still create upheaval in society, impose new costs on institutions and change the culture to an unacceptable and undesirable degree. In America, as in Britain, the main immigration problem is not an onrush of educated central and eastern Europeans, but Mr. Browne’s article about this very sort of immigrant only highlights that no scheme of mass immigration and the “free movement of labour” (as I once heard the late Lord Russell blithely describe mass immigration into and within the EU) can be had that will not destabilise the social and political order of a country. On the scale the old EU-15 countries are beginning to experience it, this destabilisation will be severe and ongoing.
Read the rest of this entry »

The numbers for Eunomia this month have been a marked improvement over previous months, reaching 2,000+ unique visitors for the first time since I started in late December 2004. I’d like to thank all my readers and fellow bloggers who have made the site as successful as it is, including all my readers from such varied places as Iceland, China, Japan, India, Brazil and Greece, among many others.

I’d especially like to thank Jon Luker for getting me started in blogging and keeping this place running, Michael Brendan Dougherty for spreading the word, Scott Richert for his support and encouragement, and Steve Sailer for the the permanent link and directing his readers to more than one of my posts over the past few months. I also owe A.C. Kleinheider, Clark Stooksbury, the mysterious Glaivester, Kevin Michael Grace and Andrew Cunningham my thanks for linking to the site, commenting on my posts and directing some traffic my way. If I have left anyone out, I do apologise and will make sure to acknowledge your support in the future.

The Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, and his government submitted their resignations Thursday as the radical Islamic faction Hamas appeared to have scored a major upset and defeated the ruling Fatah party in parliamentary elections.

However, no official results were expected until Thursday evening.

Fatah, which has dominated Palestinian politics for decades, was favored in Wednesday’s election and exit polls released after the polls closed projected Fatah as the winner by a narrow margin.

But on Thursday morning, Hamas leaders claimed their own count showed that the group was winning an outright majority in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council. Sixty-seven seats are needed for a majority, and Ismail Haniya, a senior Hamas leader, said the group expected to at least 70. ~International Herald-Tribune

CNN’s latest is that Hamas has won a “landslide victory,” and if the reported results are correct it will gave Hamas an outright majority of 76 to Fatah’s mere 43 in an election that saw approximately 78% turnout. Representative democracy has “worked” in Palestine: we now know exactly what “the people” want and have one more example why they should not be asked the question in the first place.

If the conventional wisdom about Iraq’s elections is right (the fragmentation and division of power among myriad partues are supposedly good things, as they will make moderation and compromise unavoidable), the opposite will apply here: Hamas will have no need to moderate its language or change its “policies.” We can safely say that the Palestinian elections are a disaster–for the Palestinians. Israel will take this as a sign that Palestinians do not seriously want a negotiated settlement, which will strengthen the hand of Likud and the National Religious Party and undermine the already weakened appeal of Kadima. Yes, democracy has come to Palestine–the only question is whether Palestine will survive it.

Many of the headlines following Hamas’ “surprise, upset victory” in Palestinian elections conveyed the shock of Western elites that voters would, given the choice, prefer the more radical and militant faction. This is shock born of the delusion that most people in any given population want peace more than anything else. The “democratic peace” thesis rests on the assumption that the mass of men will almost always prefer peace and that the democratic process will restrain the government from having recourse to war. In fact, many men quite often would prefer war and it is only the restraint of circumstances and authorities that keeps these desires in check. This must especially be true of a people so embittered and radicalised by decades of repression, and whose political discourse (if we can call it that) is filled to the brim with the rhetoric of nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism. This Western sense of shock also comes from the assumption that most will vote for relatively ‘rational’ candidates and will make their decisions based on ‘rational’ grounds. Here are the results of a study showing that, at least as far as Americans are concerned, political decisions that voters make have very little to do with rational thought. Mass politics is, as it must be, emotionally driven.
Read the rest of this entry »

Even greater participation could be achieved through the establishment of marital corporations (MCs), which could have hundreds or thousands of couples as shareholders, all sharing common values about marriage.

Couples getting married would subscribe to the shares of an existing marital corporation. Its charter documents would set forth the terms of the marriage to which the subscribing couples agree.

Here is where a plethora of choices would become available to prospective newlyweds.

A Catholic marital corporation would forbid its members from divorcing. Progressive marital corporations would allow gay marriage. Islamic or Mormon fundamentalist marital corporations could allow polygamy. Plain vanilla marital corporations would probably be popular among people who just want to get married without thinking about it too much. ~Colin P.A. Jones, San Francisco Chronicle

Via The Japery.

Fr. Jape has a great parody of these so-called marital corporations, but this will be a bit different. I’m not sure that it occurred to Mr. Jones that the “free market” system for marriage he is describing is similar in kind to the sort of legal arrangement that certain autocratic systems, particularly the Ottoman Empire, created for their several religious communities. Under the millet system, what we would call family law, along with most other ‘internal’ and ‘domestic’ matters, fell under the supervision of the head of the religious community (this is not because of any famed toleration, but simply because the Ottoman state did not have and did not want to create the apparatus for administering its subjects’ affairs to this degree, as this would diminish resources for the tax and military administration).

In the Ottoman case, the Greek patriarch, the Armenian catholicos, a chief rabbi and the shaykh al’islam were the authorities in charge–no different, in practice, from what these marital corporate boards would be. In that case, marriage followed the religious requirements of the different communities. The millets serve as a good example of what this “market” solution could create: an intensely fragmented and more segregated society, with the added bonus of an even more debased one in which “brand” or “company” loyalty replaces fidelity as the virtue to be practiced.

And what should occur if two shareholders in Catholic Marriages Inc. decide that they would really rather not abide by their agreement? (Maybe they also decide to change churches, or convert to a new religion all together?) Presumably, the corporation could sue them for breach of contract–the capitalist’s bull of excommunication. If it couldn’t, what would be the point of corporations “forbidding” or “allowing” anything? It would be like joining a society to which you owed no dues–a meaningless, superficial commitment (which is, I suspect, what marriage would quickly become if its requirements became entirely voluntary and possessed no public sanctions and regulations). In fact, legally recognised corporate bodies already exist in this country to meet this supposed “demand.” They are called churches.

But marriage, not to mention the assumed bearing of children that usually follows, is one of those things in which public authority really does have a compelling interest. We would not propose to have “driving corporations” in which drivers subscribe to different traffic laws–let us call them ‘driving style consumers’ instead of drivers–so why would any sane man argue for further privatising one of the fundamental social obligations in life? We need only look at the chaos wrought by a few decades of greater “choice” in the “market” of marriage to see where this would lead.

Forget about “the state” or government for a moment, and consider that the commonwealth or republic distinct from the government also has a natural and abiding interest in governing the norms and practices surrounding marriage and the upbringing of children. It is one of those things, like the common defense, that cannot be privatised if there is to be a res publica, because it does not involve only the couple and their families but the entire society that either benefits from a successful and fruitful marriage or suffers from its dissolution and bears the costs of broken homes.

Icarus Fallen: The Search for Meaning in an Uncertain World by Chantal Delsol (ISI Crosscurrents, 2003)

With Icarus Fallen, Chantal Delsol has written a thoughtful and timely book cataloguing the crisis of what she and others have elsewhere called “late modernity,” arising from modern man’s attempt to ‘liberate’ himself from his existential and historic condition and to (try to) eliminate the structures (i.e., politics, economics, religion, morality, etc.) that have persistently defined and filled human existence. In this reflection on the late modern condition, Delsol argues that contemporary (Western) man has emerged from the crucible of the collapse of earlier systems of meaning into what should be a veritable utopia of prosperity and peace since 1945. Modern man is confronted with the re-emergence, albeit often in different forms, of the fundamental structures he has tried to abolish, underscoring the impossibility of the original goal of elimination. However, because of the real (and perceived) disasters wrought by systems of certitude in the past, contemporary man is afraid of truth, so he banishes it only to find himself still longing for the meaning it provides, while remaining opposed to any real conception of absolute good (but still in need of a good) and trapped under the two oppressive weights of the neglect of ultimate questions and the substitute system of goods that makes up contemporary democracy and “human rights” worship.

There are many keen insights in the book, and there are passages that hint at brilliance, but there is also an uneven quality stemming from the author’s diffidence with respect to revealed religion and excessive confidence with respect to the political habits and institutions of Western societies. In the end, the book is a diagnosis of what ails late modernity and an affirmation that ultimate questions of meaning will not go away, but will become more pressing, because they are an unavoidable part of human existence, but it offers little in the way of remedies with respect to rediscovering truth and the respect for truth. Her preemptive dismissal of any sort of ‘return’ to Christianity as a way of knowing the absolute and finding certain meaning emerges from what can only be described as an intellectual’s studied detachment from authority. Even as she grants that religion is a permanent part of human life, she cannot grant that any religion has real access to the absolute, much less the only or uniquely privileged access to the absolute; even as she grants that political authority, the world of obedience and commands, is an unavoidable part of human life, I suspect she has no interest in any politics that enshrines the principle of authority. She is a good freethinking democrat (this is not meant pejoratively but descriptively), and she is warning the West that the tangible goods of the freethinking, democratic world are in serious danger under the current management with its very particular reading of the “philosophy of rights” and what democracy entails. Those of us in the religious, traditional and authoritarian camps can appreciate her observations, even if we cannot share her barely concealed hostility to most historic expressions of a rightist politics of meaning in the last 200 years.
Read the rest of this entry »

O guide of Orthodoxy and blessed teacher of virtues,* purifier and enlightener of thy homeland,* beauty of monastics,* most wise Father, Holy Sava,* by thy teaching thou didst enlighten thy people,* O flute of the Spirit, pray to Christ God for our souls. ~Troparion to St. Sava

Thou hast shown forth thy watchfulness,/ and wast a fervent Preacher of godliness:/ by the wisdom of the teachings thou dost gladden the Church’s faithful,/ Righteous Father Gregory,/ entreat Christ our God to grant us his great mercy. ~Troparion to St. Gregory of Nyssa

Unity is from God; division is from the devil. The tactic of the one who hates mankind is ancient: to rule, divide and conquer. And the root of all divisions lies in our passions: pride, self-love, envy, lack of faith—with these the devil stirs up misunderstanding and enmity among men. The Lord calls upon us to uproot within ourselves the passions which separate us and to go unto Him by preserving our conscience and peace of soul.

At this time, we are confronted by a fateful event: in May, the All-Diaspora Council will convene, at which the process of the reconciliation of the Church of Russia will be deliberated upon in council in the person of our chosen representatives.

During the days leading up to this Council we must preserve with great care our peace of soul, lest passionate emotions, enmity and disputations extinguish it. For this we should apply ourselves all the more diligently to prayer, attending church more frequently, resorting to the Holy Mysteries more often.

Only in the Church can we find peace of soul, in the grace of God imparted to us abundantly in His Mysteries. Addressing himself to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul said: “I beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4: 1-6).

And so, following the advice of the Apostle, we must also maintain the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” and seek that which is of God, and not of mankind. And if we will act in accordance with the will of God, His peace will not abandon us.

In our limited perception of the judgments of God there is little room for the sober view: we see only a small part of the general picture, and that through the distorted lens of our own passions. But the omniscient God knows what is more salvific for the children of His Church: His Holy Body. Therefore, let us purify our minds and heart from passionate and vain philosophizing, and with peace in our souls let us ask the Lord to grant us understanding.

May the King of peace grant peace to our souls! ~Nativity Epistle of His Eminence, the Most Blessed Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

This comes to be replaced by the word ahabà, which the Greek version of the Old Testament translates with the similar-sounding agape, which, as we have seen, becomes the typical expression for the biblical notion of love. By contrast with an indeterminate, “searching” love, this word expresses the experience of a love which involves a real discovery of the other, moving beyond the selfish character that prevailed earlier. Love now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice. ~Deus Caritas Est

No greater love hath a man than to lay down his life for his friends. The love of which Pope Benedict speaks in his first encyclical is what we Orthodox (and not only the Orthodox) refer to as kenotic love, a love in which the lover empties himself out and succumbs to every humiliation for the sake of the beloved. This is the love that the Lord had for all men, such that He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, and it is because the Master has become a slave for our sakes that we may dwell with the Master in His court. Such love as this is found in the abandonment of our own will, the learning of humility and obedience and patience, and the doing of His will that we might fulfill the greatest commandments of love. Perfect love is realised in true unity of will, as we put aside self-will and embrace the transformed will of our restored nature, and it is realised in the synergeia of God and man and men with one another and the communion of all in Christ by the blessings of the Holy Spirit. But such love is also the font of these virtues, and without it there is no real living virtue in us.

Via Charles Featherstone, Blog.

Over at Polemics, I wrote about 24 and the sort of executive power-worshipping propaganda it put forward as the only sane approach to national security. The domestic opposition to the interventionist security state is caricatured in season 4 as a buffoonish, self-absorbed son of the Secretary of Defense, and the alternative kind of leadership and law enforcement to the routine trampling of law upheld each week by 24 is the gutless, ridiculous Charles Logan, a man so weak-willed and feeble that he would make Michael Dukakis seem like Alexander the Great by comparison. This is not a very artful depiction of the alternatives.

So what would a small-government, constitutionalist, noninterventionist conservative have to say about 24? Not much good, you would think. Yet here is Pat Buchanan joining in the idolisation of the character of Jack Bauer as the great and admirable patriot.
Read the rest of this entry »

Warning: law geeks and constitutionalists only need apply. Here were my quiz results:

You are the Plain Meaning Rule! You interpret statutes according to what an ordinary speaker of English would understand from the text. You’re upfront and direct. You claim that you’re just following the rules, but often find a clever technicality to interpret the rules however you want.

It’s pretty odd that a quiz on social behaviour can accurately rate how we would read laws, but it pretty well captured what my approach would be.

Via Glorfindel of Gondolin.

How much complexity? Under the Bush plan, a typical retiree pays a monthly premium for prescription drugs averaging $32 a month. After he or she satisfies a $250 deductible, the insurer must cover 75 percent of the next $2,000 in drug costs. The assistance then vanishes through the so-called “doughnut hole,” until total expenditures exceed $5,100, at which point insurance kicks in again to cover 95 percent of additional drug costs. A retiree who judges this proposition a good deal must choose between an integrated, Medicare managed-care plan that includes drugs, and a free-standing drugs-only plan. In the latter category, there are more than 40 choices available in most locales, including multiple options from competing insurers, each covering different brand-name drugs and offering different inducements. The only way to navigate the decision-making process is via the Internet, which I am sorry to say that some elderly people still have not learned how to use.

The failure of Bush’s reform effort illustrates an important point about psychology and economics—what writer Barry Schwartz* calls the “paradox of choice.” Given too many options, rational actors are more likely to be paralyzed than to pick wisely. To take another example, consumers now have the right to choose from a long list of electricity suppliers via their local utilities. If you are a frustrated energy trader, this is a fabulous new benefit. If you just want the electricity to stay on in your house, you’re likely to ignore the menu and accept the default setting. The potential savings from choosing a new supplier—which come with a risk of increased costs as well—don’t justify the investment of time, even for the small minority of people capable of figuring out the new system.

Beyond that, the Medicare D fiasco offers a lesson about policymaking in an age of market consensus—one that we would do well to bear in mind as we contemplate further expansion of public health-care benefits and the eternal possibility of Social Security reform. Market-based schemes for distributing public goods may begin as clear and sturdy concepts, but they tend to become increasingly convoluted as the political and legislative processes work their magic. Whatever simplicity may have been present at the outset tends to get lost. And if the plan isn’t simple enough for average people to understand, it just won’t work. ~Jacob Weisberg, Slate

This will probably always be the problem for any public-private arrangement that tries to incorporate the complexity of the market by means of the complexity of bureaucracy and leaves it to the consumer to decipher how it all works. Another practical problem with enshrining Choice as the new idol of Republican politics is that it assumes that most people want the hassle and responsibility that come with having to make these choices. Decades of voting patterns suggest otherwise. Americans have become quite accustomed to someone else making all sorts of decisions for them, and to have the government ask them to start making decisions in order to benefit from what ’should’ be a simple redistributionist giveaway program is probably as shocking as it is annoying. Of course, there should be no drug entitlement at all, or Medicare either for that matter, but that’s a post for another day.

Pakistan’s president told a senior American official Saturday the United States must not repeat airstrikes like the one that apparently was aimed at al-Qaida but killed civilians in a remote village, as officials sought to soothe public outrage over the attack.

Also Saturday, two Pakistani intelligence officials told The Associated Press a captured al-Qaida leader had informed interrogators that he had met Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, last year at one of the homes that was hit.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf assured visiting U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns that Pakistan would not waver in its support for Washington’s war on terrorism but said such airstrikes must not be repeated, a Foreign Ministry official said. The attack prompted nationwide protests calling for Musharraf’s ouster. ~Yahoo News

Via Antiwar.

Within a Rogue River farm shed, the beauty of the temporary chapel of St. Innocent’s Russian Orthodox Church has brought some of those who enter to tears. ~The Mail-Tribune

This is a good article on a beautiful Russian Orthodox church in Oregon and some insights into both the “earthiness” and “otherworldliness” of Orthodoxy that are so compelling and moving.

In my opinion, the Ashkenazi Jewish cultural tradition that I and most other North American Jews hail from is a great and noble one, one well-worth celebrating and identifying with, entirely apart from whether or not you want to buy some set of goofy myths about God and so forth. ~Matthew Yglesias

Yglesias makes an interesting statement to the effect that he doesn’t really identify with Israel and its increasingly “Middle Eastern” (I would say Near Eastern, but we get the idea) character and feels a little bit more “at home” in the old lands of the Ashkenazim in eastern Europe. This is like Zionism in reverse: now that the Jews have their own land and their own state, somehow the lands of ghettoes are more appealing as real ancestral lands to which modern Jewish people have a more immediate connection. Zionism as a utopian politics of escape ultimately does not command lasting allegiance for secular Jews from outside of Israel–as escape, it is also alienation, and it cannot be very satisfying over the long haul.
Read the rest of this entry »

Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani, the only major Iranian figure who advocated reaching out to America, made indirect overtures to the Bush administration in the period leading up to the Iranian election but was rebuffed, according to local businessman Barry O’Connell, who frequently travels to Iran.

State Department personnel referred pejoratively to Rafsanjani, the political figure best known outside Iran and most often favored by the business community in Iran and elsewhere, as “that old fox” and “that old wheeler dealer,” O’Connell said. Among feelers preceding the election last June, Iran had conveyed messages through members of its legislative assembly via business contacts, which reached the South East Asia section of the State Department. According to Department personnel, O’Connell said, messages that Rafsanjani was interested in dealing with the U.S. were relayed “upstairs” to the seventh floor offices of the Secretary of State.

The feelers were ignored. Asked whether the Bush administration opposed Rafsanjani and influenced the Iranian election, O’Connell answers, “Very much so.”

Interestingly, there were other impediments to cooperation with moderate or secular or business-oriented Iranians in the weeks leading up to the election, including restraints to travel in and out of Iranian air space, imposed with the cooperation of elements in the business community and government contractors. In any case, the administration rebuffs decreased the ability of Rafsanjani to draw support. “He was almost the only one reaching out to America, and they treated him this way?” O’Connell comments. “They [said] it to me personally, so it is reasonable to assume that they said it to others. This administration would not deal with him at all.”

Responding to questions about the other Iranian candidates, O’Connell says that the administration “didn’t seem concerned about Ahmadinejad at all.” There was no apparent concern, at the policy-making level, that some hardliner or radical fundamentalist might win the election as a result of its actions. The possibility, treated as inevitability in rightwing publications and think tanks associated with White House Middle East policy, seems not to have been regarded as an outcome to be avoided.

Since the election, Rafsanjani has increased in his powers, according to O’Connell. “He is not out of power at all.” The new President, Ahmadinejad, gets “all the spotlight” but does not have much power. ~Margie Burns, The Montgomery County Sentinel

If this is right, we can conclude one of a couple things: 1) Washington bungled the best chance at rapprochement with Iran in a generation out of incompetence; 2) Washington ignored Rafsanjani’s approaches because the goverment wanted an even more extreme figurehead whom they could more effectively vilify in order to force a confrontation with Iran. Knowing this administration, both incompetence and provocation were probably involved.

It is a credible report that Ahmadinejad’s influence is limited: like Khatami before him, as President his real powers are few, and he stumbled early on by engaging in Bush-like cronyism in his ministry selections that aggravated and antagonised the real powers-that-be (thus the over-the-top fanatical speeches, perhaps to ingratiate himself with the real power structure or to win back some public support). If Khatami was the ineffectual representative of the educated reformers, few and far between as they obviously were, Ahmadinejad is the voice of the poor Iranian common man, especially the legions of unemployed, for good and ill. As the jingoes are so fond of reminding us, the Iranian government is not particularly interested in what the common man or his representative has to say–Ahmadinejad’s influence and power have been overblown in the Western press on account of ignorance and the desire in some circles to spark a confrontation. ‘Hardliner’ that he is, he is an Evo Morales to Tehran’s ruling class, but lacking the same power as President.

Thou didst prove to be a citizen of the desert, an angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker, O George, our God-bearing Father. By fasting, vigil, and prayer thou didst obtain heavenly gifts, and thou healest the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to thee with faith. Glory to Him that hath given thee strength. Glory to him that hath crowned thee. Glory to Him that worketh healings for all through thee. ~Troparion for St. George

Stanley Kurtz continues to thump his belligerent tub for an Iran invasion, approvingly citing Fred Kaplan’s lack of an answer as a kind of endorsement of his preferred lunatic solution. But there is a bigger problem with Mr. Kaplan’s Iran article, and it starts with the title: “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Ahmadinejad?” Leave aside for a moment that it is usually the province of assassins and dictators to describe human beings as “problems” to be “solved,” and consider the bizarre, optimistic assumption that there is a solution.

After reviewing the immense difficulties of any strike against Iran and the economic fallout of a war, he says:

Still, it’s too risky simply to shrug and to hope for the best.

Huh? Who’s the one doing the shrugging? Who is the one hoping for the best? The optimist, who thinks that somehow by hook or crook Iranian nukes can be thwarted. More importantly it is the optimistic mentality that drives him on to believe that they should be thwarted in the first place. Certain kinds of optimists believe not only that every problem has a solution, but also that every solveable problem must be solved. It is a sort of obsessive-compulsive interventionism.
Read the rest of this entry »

Three years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, we are at a similar stage in the Battle of America. Our peril is actually greater. The Al Qaeda nuclear threat to our cities is more apocalyptic than the German blitz on London, yet less galvanizing for self-preservation. And the Democratic psychology of defeatism besetting President Bush is worse than anything Churchill faced from doves inside his war cabinet.

Radical Islamists, the fascist heirs of Hitler, want to nuke our great urban centers, kill us by the millions, paralyze our economy, drive us from democracy and civil liberties into desperate martial law, and destroy the United States as a nation. They have said so. ~John Andrews, Claremont Institute Blog

Actually, they have said that we should get out of their lands. They don’t seem to care very much what we do or do not do here, except as it relates to the Near East. Seriously, though, if I hadn’t seen this myself I might have thought that this was an Onion spoof of what a modern Republican writer sounds like. The “fascist heirs of Hitler”? I know, I know, “Islamofascist” (idiotic word) is everywhere on the militarist center-left (I made the mistake of referring to it as the ‘militarist right’ once, which I was realised later was terribly misleading), so Andrews isn’t saying anything new. I suppose it is just the forthright stupidity of this particular post that stuns and amazes me. For a very fat subscription price, you can get this sort of profound “Straussian” analysis delivered to your door on a monthly basis with The Claremont Review of Books.

Moreover, I agree with Rod that conservatives and Republicans often underestimate both the importance of environmental protection and the political damage done by the perception that they underestimate it. I should have acknowledged the value of what he wrote. I apologize for all of the above. That said, I still think, first, that Rod is to some extent reacting to a caricature of conservatives; second, that he does not really engage existing conservative thought on the environment; and third, that one can disagree with him about the connection between asthma and pollution without opposing environmental protection. ~Ramesh Ponnuru, The Corner

Clark Stooksbury was way ahead of Ponnuru on this one. But the negative reaction to Mr. Dreher’s original “GOP Green” post is typical of what passes for “existing conservative thought on the environment” (at least in the ‘mainstream’ organs of ‘conservatism’) and also representative of the NRO crowd’s response to the entire “cruncy con” idea. Ponnuru could be channeling Jonah “Lie for a Just Cause” Goldberg (a scary thought, that) when he complains that Mr. Dreher is reacting to a “caricature” of conservatives. That has been almost the entire substance of Goldberg’s response to the “cruncy con” idea–what self-styled conservatives, thunders Goldberg, have ever been short-sighted, wasteful, self-indulgent, blindly pro-market and slavishly pro-corporation? When have they ever just been unthinking ciphers working for the Republican Party? That’s just crazy leftie talk, that is.

Mr. Dreher would likely deny that he is responding to a caricature–it would be hard to find a better living version of the caricature of conservatism than much of the NRO crowd itself. Perhaps “caricature” was a poor choice of words to make Ponnuru’s point, because even if a caricature is an exaggeration of features to ridiculous proportions those features do exist–if Dreher is responding to a caricature of a lot of people who consider themselves conservatives, it may have something to do with the cartoonishly stereotypical behaviour of a lot of these people. If the caricature makes you look truly absurd, you’re probably not that attractive to start with.

Paleocon and reactionary bloggers, rejoice! Our friend, Jon Luker, has revived the old Polemics site where I, for one, got my start in the strange world of blogging. Don’t hold that against them, and go see what they have to say.

Leading the (rhetorical) charge against Tehran at The Corner, Stanley Kurtz points us to this amazing agitprop:

All the reasons for invading Iraq apply doubly to Iran, and with far greater urgency. Iran right now poses the imminent threat to America which Iraq did not in 2003. Iran may already have some nuclear weapons, purchased from North Korea or made with materials acquired from North Korea, which would increase its threat to us from imminent to direct and immediate. ~Thomas Holsinger, Winds of Change

The flippant reply is that the invasion of Iraq has scuppered the possibility of even thinking of doing the same against Iran, but I think we can do better than that. The key mistake that doomed opposition to the Iraq war was the concession by opponents that Iraq posed any kind of a threat to the United States at all. This was untrue in every sense of the word. Iraq was about as much of a threat to American security in 2003 as Burma, and probably less. Iran could make the government’s life very difficult in the Near East if it so chose, but even with nuclear weapons it is not even as “direct and immediate” a threat to the United States as Pakistan is today. In Pakistan it is conceivably a much shorter path to al-Qaeda itself acquiring nuclear weapons, as some ties between the ISI, the Taliban and al-Qaeda remain in spite of all official statements to the contrary. In the less-than-worst-case scenario, Musharraf is toppled and a radical faction from within the military takes over, one that is friendly to the Taliban and keen to resume conflict with India over Kashmir. Iran is the natural enemy of all these forces, and so should be considered (if we were actually making policy in our real national interest) as prospective ally, not a prospective target.

In Washington, Pakistan is considered for various reasons, some reasonable and most not, to be on par with our NATO allies, so it seems only reasonable that we could avoid a war with the Iranians, when their nuclear program poses less of a threat to us. As long as opponents of a strike against Iran grant that Iran threatens the United States in any meaningful way, the jingoes will, just as they did three years ago, retain the initiative and “win” the argument by having defined all of the terms and predetermined the outcome of the debate. There is a certain twisted logic that runs from the false assumption that Iran is a threat to the conclusion that “Iran must be stopped.” The entire edifice could be brought tumbling down by the refusal to accept the patently false assumption.

This all points to a deeply worrying conclusion: the Marriage Gap—and the inequality to which it is tied—is self-perpetuating. A low-income single mother, unprepared to carry out The Mission, is more likely to raise children who will become low-income single parents, who will pass that legacy on to their children, and so on down the line. Married parents are more likely to be visiting their married children and their grandchildren in their comfortable suburban homes, and those married children will in turn be sending their offspring off to good colleges, superior jobs, and wedding parties. Instead of an opportunity-rich country for all, the Marriage Gap threatens us with a rigid caste society. ~Kay Hymowitz, City Journal

Via Chris Roach.

This should hardly be news, as it confirms what practically every reactionary and conservative has had to say about the social importance of marriage since this natural relationship began to questioned and ridiculed as outmoded, oppressive or what-have-you. Nonetheless, it deserves to be discussed often, and articles like this are a good indication that the misguided nicety of lauding the ‘hard-working single mom’, as if the burden of her labours and her marital status were unconnected, will soon be just another ugly relic of the 1990s.
Read the rest of this entry »

Not since Joseph Stalin have American politicians and opinion leaders fawned so revoltingly over a foreign ruler. President George W. Bush calls Sharon “a man of courage and peace.” Neoconservatives regard him as a hero, almost beyond criticism — except when he makes concessions to Palestinians. The New York Daily News hails him as “the world’s best hope for peace in the Middle East,” “a leader of unparalleled vision and courage,” and “the personification of the nation’s centrist aspirations.” Like Stalin, who had his own Amen Corner, Sharon has many well-placed apologists in this country, ready to justify him at every turn. Rush Limbaugh has likened him to George Washington.

Sharon achieved his greatest worldwide fame in 1982 when he led the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and arranged the grisly slaughter of about 2,000 refugees, including women and children of all ages, in the Sabra and Shatila camps near Beirut. Hundreds of thousands of shocked Israelis protested in the streets, but after an official inquiry he got off with a reprimand. ~Joseph Sobran

Incidentally, it is great to see Mr. Sobran in the pages of Chronicles starting in the February 2006 issue. I have read Mr. Sobran’s columns for many years, and occasionally corresponded with him in the past, so it is very gratifying finally to see his work in a magazine that is worthy of him.

When Thou wast baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest! For the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, calling Thee his Beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of his Word. O Christ our God, who hast revealed Thyself and hast enlightened the world, glory to Thee! ~Troparion of the Feast of the Theophany of Christ

Today Thou hast appeared to the universe, end Thy Light, O Lord, has shone on us, who with understanding praise Thee: Thou hast come and revealed Thyself, O Light Unapproachable! ~Kontakion of the Feast

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of Him. But John forbad Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. ~The Gospel according to St. Matthew 3:13-17

Via Orthodox Christian.

Andrew Cunningham’s blog, I, Ectomorph, turned one yesterday, and Michael Brendan Dougherty and I, among others, are apparently “swashbuckling Yanks.” That is without a doubt the first time I have ever been described as swashbuckling by anyone.

The paleocons are not really a part of the Republican coalition, and they have opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. In some ways they see Islam as an even greater threat than the others; in most other ways, less so. They are concerned more by what they regard as the intrusions of Islam into the Western world, mainly through immigration (both legal and illegal) and through the proposed admission of Turkey into the European Union. The more reasonable among them believe that a modus vivendi with Islam can be reached by withdrawing the intrusive Western (mostly American) military presence from the Middle East and ceasing financial and military support for all regimes in the region. That coupled with some real border security would render us safe at home and allow us to consign the Department of Homeland Security to a bad memory. However, there are some crazy paleos who can rival the neocons in the stridency of their hysteria. One actually accused Ridley Scott of “aiding and comforting the enemy,” treason, a capital crime under the U.S. Constitution. Others have called on Mel Gibson to make a real movie about the Crusades, one that depicts the Muslims in all their villainy.

Certainly, there is a case to be made for a more restrictive immigration policy (on many grounds) in Europe and North America alike (while leaving a wide scope for study, travel, and commerce); and William Pfaff, writing in the New York Review of Books (July 14, 2005) has argued eloquently against Turkish membership: “The EU is not an international aid or development agency; it is not aimed at reforming humanity or reconciling civilizations”; “the first obligation of any political society, whether national or multinational, is to itself, its own security, integrity, and successful functioning.” But it’s not necessary to demonize Turkey, or Muslims, or exaggerate the threat posed by Islamic extremism, and still less to indict Hollywood movie directors for not stoking the fires of paranoia and fear. -H. Arthur Scott Trask,

Before I criticise Dr. Trask a little for his unfortunate boosting of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, I did want to note my appreciation for the generally fair and accurate descriptions of paleo positions. This is understandable, since Dr. Trask has written on many occasions for Chronicles. I appreciate that there can be amicable disagreements about this film and the kind of criticism to be leveled against Islam. However, such amity should not preclude the correction of mistakes and anachronisms, both in the film and in Dr. Trask’s review. I would also like to make a note of the short description of paleocons he gives that I find pretty accurate: “a dissenting minority, intellectually formidable, who are without much influence.” Yes, and now I must begin my (let’s hope) intellectually formidable dissent that will, alas, likely have little or no influence.

Dr. Trask takes aim at the “crazy” paleos who, among other things, do not repeat saccharine untruths about the religion of Muhammad and who (correctly) do not regard Islamic aggressiveness or violence as some latter-day aberration that can be solely explained by any kind of Western involvement in the Islamic world. In point of fact, I think most who would call themselves paleoconservatives would agree with the substance of most of what the “crazy” paleos, particularly Dr. Trifkovic (to whom I assume Dr. Trask is referring), have to say about Islam. Dr. Trask includes references to what I assume must be Dr. Trifkovic’s review of the film from eight months ago (there was no link in the original article), and I will also be returning to that review from time to time.

There is, as I understand it, a major problem with Ridley Scott’s movie. It is not only, as virtually all historical movies are, inaccurate, but it is deliberately and consciously propagandistic so that its errors of fact (which are apparently considerable) are part of an orchestrated argument against Christendom’s all together meager and belated attempt at self-defense and the protection of other Christians (a.k.a., “the Crusades”) and ultimately against any effort to defend our civilisation and Faith.

That is the larger, anti-Christian argument to which the movie’s paleo critics have objected, even if I were convinced by the argument that showing the institutional Church in a horrible light while affirming pietistic, moral individuals was not fundamentally hostile to at least a broad section of traditional Christianity. How often do the “men of Christian faith and principle” actually, I don’t know, refer to Christ or pray? I’m not a dramatist, but it would be rather hard to make a movie about medieval people and avoid prayer, yet my impression from everything I have read about the movie is that it might well be prayer-free.
Read the rest of this entry »

Second, I must register my respectful disagreement. The Koran indeed can be interpreted. Indeed, Muslims interpret the Koran no less than Jews and Christians interpret the Bible, and those interpretations have changed no less over time. The Koran, like the Bible, has a history. ~Daniel Pipes,

Who would have guessed that Pope Benedict XVI would understand Islamic teaching about the Qur’an better than Daniel Pipes? I would have. As I have mentioned before, Pipes is this weird combination of neocon Islamophile apologist for a completely fictional Islam with the usual intense contempt for actual Islam (which is not because it is a false religion, but because it is “pre-modern” and so gosh-darned religious). To say that a Muslim can interpret the Qur’an the same as a Jew or Christian interprets their Scriptures is to say something completely false. It is not only that the Qur’an is considered by Muslims as the unalterable, eternal, unchanging Word of God, which is one issue related to interpretation, but there is also a long-standing tradition that interpretation is no longer permissible even if it once was.

Muslims are not free to interpret their scripture allegorically, typologically or symbolically–it was quite a while before the use of analogy was considered acceptable by some of the more liberal jurists. Unless Pipes is prepared to argue that the general consensus of scholarship on Islamic intellectual history is flat-out wrong, he must know that for the majority Sunni tradition the door of ijtihad have been closed for a very, very long time and I imagine no one short of the Mujaddid or Mahdi could conceivably re-open it (of course, for most followers of putative Mujaddids or Mahdis, reinterpreting Islam in a happy, liberalising, modernist direction is not a top priority). Besides which, even if some interpretation is possible (though it is obviously still far less than anything Jews or Christians are allowed), this does not mean that all interpretations are permissible. Since Pipes claims to be a scholar and a specialist on Islam, he must either be very bad at his job (always a possibility) or he is trying to deceive his audience into accepting the false hope that Islam can be “reformed.” He cites one 20th century Islamic religious scholar (who, as Lawrence Auster helpfully points out, was executed as an apostate by the Islamic government of Khartoum) as evidence against the overwhelming bulk of the Islamic tradition that contradicts him.

The only sanctions that might conceivably have any effect would be a boycott of Iranian oil. No one is even talking about that, because no one can bear the thought of the oil shock that would follow, taking 4.2 million barrels a day off the market, from a total output of about 84 million barrels. ~Charles Krauthammer

Via Kevin Drum.

To answer Mr. Drum, Krauthammer is perfectly serious about the boycott. Of course it’s loopy and mad, but that’s Krauthammer for you. But he knows that the boycott won’t happen, which means that Krauthammer will be forced, alas, to advocate military action. Besides, what’s a little global economic depression when the fate of Israel is supposedly on the line?

Drawing on both extensive qualitative and quantitative analyses they and other political scientists have conducted, Professor Mansfield and Professor Snyder demonstrate that emerging democracies tend to have weak political institutions and are especially likely to go to war. Leaders of these countries attempt to rally support by invoking external threats and resorting to belligerent, nationalist rhetoric and slogans. They point to this pattern in cases ranging from revolutionary France to contemporary Russia. One of the most interesting case studies is the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. ~Leon Hadar,

If emerging democracies are “especially likely to go to war” (and I have no reason to doubt this), a policy of democratisation on a global scale, which is to say a policy of creating a lot more emerging democracies, is a recipe for bloodbath after bloodbath.

Here’s Hadar again with some fun, contrarian points:

If anything, the history of Europe in the 19th century suggests that authoritarian governments were more successful in maintaining a relative peace in the continent for close to a century. Similarly, the most peaceful European states during World War II and the ones that avoided entering the war were Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, and Turkey, three non-democratic regimes, and Switzerland, which granted women the right to vote only in 1971(!).

Perhaps the time has come for an innovative political scientist to conduct research to determine whether – and I know it’s not very PC – non-democracies are actually more peaceful than democratic states.

What had the chanceries of 19th century Europe found to be the cause of wars in their recent past? Ideological enthusiasms, revolutionary ferment, the stirring up of national identities and the promise of emancipation–these were the things the autocrats and conservatives of the 19th century wanted to suppress, and with good reason. It is precisely all of this garbage that Mr. Bush holds up as the means of our deliverance. Bring back Metternich!

Stephen Harper is what David Cameron hopes to be when he grows up. ~Kevin Michael Grace

And where does Byzantium fit into this picture? The whole story of the “fall” of Rome and the coming of the Dark Ages becomes quite a bit more muddled if we but turn our gaze eastward, where we will see with little difficulty that the Roman Empire endured and light never vanished. Classical civilization did not really die when the Eternal City fell to the barbarians: It moved east with the Eastern Empire.

The Byzantines called themselves Roman—and for good reason—for a further thousand years. But when classical civilization retreated to the east, darkness did fall on Western Europe, and from the ruins of those former Roman provinces, a new thing emerged: a thing possessed of its own unity and integrity—unity and integrity that were, in turn, threatened with dissolution with the successive waves of revolution of the Modern Age.

That Christianity was integral to each of the eras of the West is evident to all but the most benighted; that it was the creative engine of all but the latter stages of our era (when true creativity was abandoned) is more controversial but still true. But that the same institutional manifestation of Christianity lies behind each is, it seems to me, an argument the author of a book like this—published by a secular publisher with no indication that it is written solely for Catholics who accept its central assumption—must lay out at some length. ~Paul Cella III

Via Paul Cella.

When I had first read somewhere that Mr. Cella had criticised Prof. Woods’ new book, I was intrigued. Fortunately, for those of us who do not subscribe to Touchstone, Mr. Cella provided an electronic copy of his review.

It seems quite clear to me that the universities and schoolmen were of decisive importance in the future development, both good and ill, of Catholic Europe, and the most notable technical and scientific thought from the late middle ages through early modernity came from Catholic countries or through the sponsorship of Catholic monarchs. Oddly enough, though I am obviously not a Catholic, I am more sympathetic to the idea of institutional continuity as a historical matter than Mr. Cella precisely because of the example of Byzantium. Many people would laugh if I told them that the Roman Empire fell on May 29, 1453, but I think that is a perfectly accurate statement, because the Byzantines called themselves Romans not in any pretentious, affected way (not even the Germans in the Holy Roman Empire maintained an idea that they were Romans) but as a statement of fact. Their state had been the empire of the Romans in 450 and so it was in 1450.

That there were changes and elaborations in the structures of the state and radical transformations of the culture over that millennium is in no way denied, just as I think Prof. Woods would not deny that the Papacy of Leo X was markedly changed from that of Pope Leo I. He would argue, I think, that in significant ways, in substantial ways, continuity outweighed change and that there was a conscious effort both in Rome and Constantinople to cultivate a sense of the eternal and unchanging so that these institutions changed fairly little. Perhaps Prof. Woods did not flesh out this point in his book, but Prof. Woods’ point does not have to be a confessional one or one made on an unproven assumption. If he takes the continuity of the Roman Catholic Church for granted, it is because it is very difficult to see where that continuity breaks down. I think it fair to say that the historian assumes change and must prove continuity, but in some cases the continuity simply stares us in the face and fills us with astonishment.

I am grateful to Mr. Cella for rising to the defense of Byzantium, and I would strongly agree that any account of the building of “Western,” much less Christian civilisation that omits or obscures the role of Byzantium is a partial and incomplete account. It depends a great deal on what we are willing to include as part of our civilisation and what we allow to belong to it. We Byzantinists do like to point out that if Justinian had never re-codified Roman law and reconquered Italy, the law school at Bologna and the revival of Roman law in western Europe, for example, would have been unthinkable, but there was something qualitatively different about the western medieval re-appropriation of things the Byzantines had possessed all along, and this substantially affected how those things were used.

The Byzantines had most of the Aristotelian texts that promoted the expansion of scientific learning in the west, and it is mostly the Byzantines whom we owe for transmitting the bulk of what we still have from Greek antiquity, but for various reasons (including, I think, a more thoroughly Christianised culture than prevailed hitherto in the west) they did not make terribly great use of them. The Byzantines devoted most of their energies to the study of divinity, as we might put it, and saw everything in terms of its importance for salvation and deification. Thus they retained as a culture that certain practical, “Roman” genius for building and engineering, but did not engage in the theoretical science and speculation more typically associated with their ancient Greek ancestors because of a basic lack of incentive. If for the scholastics theology was still the queen of the sciences, for Byzantines it was the only science of any ultimate importance and so the one on which most of the educated men spent most of their time. I think it fair to say that Byzantium was responsible for laying up much of the Deposit of Faith, and so I regard it, from a Christian perspective, as a superior civilisation in spite of its relative lack of technical and theoretical curiosity and experiment, while the Western church was responsible for laying the groundwork for later theoretical and scientific advances.

As I recently pointed out the WMD issue was and remains the best and most important justification for the invasion of Iraq. Promoting democracy is critically important as a long-term goal, but even it does not compare to the urgency and importance of blocking nuclear proliferation in rogue states. Hanson notes that a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could provoke a Shiite revolt against the U.S. in Iraq. That would be very bad indeed. But even that is not as important as preventing Iran from getting the bomb.

And yes, I do blame much of our current dilemma on the dovish Democrats. If the country was now united behind the Iraq war, Iran would not be risking our ire on the nuclear issue. We lost 80,000 soldiers in the Battle of the Bulge. Of course, the loss of even one soldier is tragic. Yet history teaches that without a willingness to defend ourselves, our democracy cannot survive. Now the loss of 2,000 troops has paralyzed us to the point that it is difficult imagining an attack to prevent Iran from obtaining nukes. ~Stanley Kurtz, The Corner

Via The Plank (where Noam Scheiber proves that he’s just as much of a warmonger as Kurtz–that’ll show him!).

What can you say to someone who thinks WMDs are the “best and most important” justification for invading Iraq? It was the dishonest justification, the bureaucratic justification, the one the administration used publicly and subsequently ditched as soon as their bluff was called–this is the “best and most important justification”? Leave it to a jingo to make a better antiwar argument than I could.
Read the rest of this entry »

Back during the eight years from 1997-2005 when Iran had a relatively moderate, non-frothing-at-the-mouth President, the neocons constantly assured us that he was just a figurehead and had no real power. Now that the Iranians have elected a mouth-frother as President. the neocons are telling us that the new President has absolute life-or-death power and will no doubt plunge the world into nuclear war on his whim. ~Steve Sailer

The problem of American slavery was intractable. The great historian Shelby Foote insisted that slavery was the worst thing that happened to black Americans but that emancipation was the second worse. That may not make sense at first - but the question slavery posed to men of a certain mind was “How can you free people who have no property?” ~Michael Brendan Dougherty

When Michael says that Foner is “miles better than Howard Zinn,” I would normally take that as damning with faint praise, but he seems to be doing more than that. In any event, the Foote reference is helpful, and I agree with the late, great historian of the War. It seems to me that the question was not so much how to free people who have no property (which is the emancipators’ problem), but how people with no property can actually be free (which seems to be the more significant problem). Liberty and independence require a man or a man and his family to be largely self-sufficient. Dependence on others will breed political servility.
Read the rest of this entry »

But let’s be honest with ourselves — and I’m referring here to the critics of the war and the entire Empire Project — there was a lot of expectation, well, wishfull thinking that the tide was turning against the neocons and the other members of the War Party. Pundits were fantasizing about Senator Chuck Hagel emerging as a Republican presidential candidate not to mention all the talk about the Democrats taking control of Capitol Hill in November,followed by Congressional investigations of the war, and who knows? Impeachment?. Stop dreaming, my friends in the Reality-based Community. It ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. The Democrats may gain a small advantage in the House. A few U.S. troops with return home and others will be deployed to Iraq. But America is going to be there for a long time to come. ~Leon Hadar

Via Antiwar.

First, if I am not mistaken, the thrust of Bush’s position regarding the warlike character of democracies is that they are less likely to go to war than despotisms and especially less likely to go to war with each other than with despotisms. What truly democratic nations have the United States gone to war with? It is difficult to conjure up democratic bona fides in our enemies, old or new. ~Richard Reeb, Claremont Institute Blog

This comes from a response to Mark Helprin’s skeptical article questioning the administration’s “democracies don’t war” (Bush’s words) thesis. To answer Mr. Reeb’s challenge, it does depend on how broadly we want to define “democratic.” If we take Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s hard-line approach and identify all mass political movements of the 20th century as being fundamentally democratic (but also fundamentally illiberal and leftist), and accept his claim that democracy, fascism and communism are all competitors working in the same vein, it is very easy to recognise the 20th century as a series of wars that pitted one kind of democratic regime against another (perhaps the liberal vs. the illiberal, if you like). In other words, K-L would probably tell us that it is in constitutionalism, parliamentarism and (perhaps) classical liberalism that governments are more likely to be restrained and refrain from going to war, and that it is, if anything, democracy that breaks down restraint and precipitates mass conflict.
Read the rest of this entry »

Reminiscent of the contemptuous anti-Kennedy crowd in the early 1960’s, wary of electing the first Roman Catholic to the presidency, there are those who balk at pulling the lever for a Mormon. The fact that there are governors, cabinet members and currently five US Senators and thirteen members of the US House of Representatives of both parties who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints should serve to quell such unreasonable concerns. Sen. Harry Reid aside, most faithful LDS adherents tend to hold traditional values. ~Carol Turoff

But those who “balk” at voting for Mormons don’t doubt that they “hold traditional values,” but are more than a little disturbed that they believe that the con-man Joseph Smith was a prophet and accept the farrago of mish-mashed theology he and his successors have presented as the truth.

There are, of course, good reasons for the ubiquity of political talk. In a time of war, terror and social upheaval, the stakes of these debates are very high. But if we can’t transcend our differences at the waters’ edge, can we at least have a truce where the beer flows? ~W. James Antle III

Former Vice President Al Gore said today that recent revelations that the Bush administration monitored domestic telephone conversations without obtaining warrants “virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.” ~The New York Times

This means, first of all, exporting its Islamism to Iraq and Afghanistan, undermining their relatively pro-American regimes. Second, it means undermining the secular regimes in Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia and attempting to establish a pan-Islamic confederation that both controls a significant portion of the world’s oil supplies and, with Iranian and Pakistani nukes, remains relatively invulnerable to international pressure. ~Michelle Simpson, The Reform Club

Having ripped Niall Ferguson to shreds over his silly foray into future history, and seeing that Justin Raimondo has stomped on those shreds, it’s too bad to see that his dire predictions are being taken so seriously. Let’s recap some very recent history and consider whether any of Ms. Simpson’s forecasts make any sense.
Read the rest of this entry »

But I would quibble with John Pod on one small point, knowing I am fully open to the charge of nitpicking and pedantry. He says there is no conservative position on immigration. This strikes me as untrue. There are, I believe, some minimal principles all conservatives agree on and I think those who disagree really aren’t conservatives. Conservatives agree that there should be borders and that these borders have significance. Conservatives agree that citizenship has a definition and that there are rules, rights and responsibilities which come with it. Conservatives believe that it would be, at minimum, preferable if immigrants didn’t come here illegally. Conservatives agree that there is something called American culture (though we debate it’s adaptability and power to assimilate). Beyond that, I think John’s right to say there’s no single conservative position on immigration policy. But if you disagree with these principlees you’re either simply confused or you’re an adherent of some other orientation or ideology. ~Jonah Goldberg, The Corner

Via Kevin Drum, who has an interesting question.

Of course, neocons don’t necessarily agree that there is something called American culture (or at least they don’t agree that any historic American culture is something that needs to be preserved, except in its most abstract, ahistorical form of freedom, equality, democracy), and they certainly don’t all assume that borders have significance (even if they will grant reluctantly that borders do actually exist). Goldberg does have it right for once–conservatives do need, at a bare minimum, to accept the conditions he set down to still be conservative, and those who can’t aren’t really conservative. This is what the folks at VDare, Chronicles and TAC have been saying about the Open Borders crowd for years.

Also, here are some fairly good points from O’Sullivan and Krikorian.

It’s curious that just as immigration “restrictionists” are beginning to have some greater influence in Washington some of the pro-immigration crowd at the Corner are re-discovering the need for civil and open debate on the question, which is “clearly more ambiguous” (Little Pod) than one position alone could comprehend.

So history repeated itself. As in the 1930s, an anti-Semitic demagogue broke his country’s treaty obligations and armed for war. Having first tried appeasement, offering the Iranians economic incentives to desist, the West appealed to international agencies - the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council. Thanks to China’s veto, however, the UN produced nothing but empty resolutions and ineffectual sanctions, like the exclusion of Iran from the 2006 World Cup finals.

Only one man might have stiffened President Bush’s resolve in the crisis: not Tony Blair, he had wrecked his domestic credibility over Iraq and was in any case on the point of retirement - Ariel Sharon. Yet he had been struck down by a stroke as the Iranian crisis came to a head. With Israel leaderless, Ahmadinejad had a free hand.

As in the 1930s, too, the West fell back on wishful thinking. Perhaps, some said, Ahmadinejad was only sabre-rattling because his domestic position was so weak. Perhaps his political rivals in the Iranian clergy were on the point of getting rid of him. In that case, the last thing the West should do was to take a tough line; that would only bolster Ahmadinejad by inflaming Iranian popular feeling. So in Washington and in London people crossed their fingers, hoping for the deus ex machina of a home-grown regime change in Teheran. ~Niall Ferguson, The Daily Telegraph

Hat tip to Michael Brendan Dougherty.

The foregoing drivel is an excerpt from Mr. Ferguson’s imagined future history of a “Great War” breaking out in 2007. The obsession with the interwar period is as silly as it is pointless. Ferguson and neocons who also write in this fashion are like the new Cylons, blathering on about how “all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.” They apparently believe in a Cycle of Time in which the 1930s are constantly repeating themselves (happily without all of the discomfort of global depression), and in each iteration they are the prophetic voices warning us, Cassandra-like, of the umpteenth coming of the Nazis.
Read the rest of this entry »

A deeper problem for Wheaton, though, the problem of which the rejection is ultimately a symbol, is that in rejecting a Catholic in accordance with Evangelical principles, it has passively endorsed the continued tenure and influence of its liberalizing Evangelicals whose anti-Christianity Litfin and Wheaton, along with almost every major Evangelical institution, have admitted as fully Evangelical. The path to secularism–of which egalitarianism is the principal gate and adornment in our time, and successful resistance to which is our own day’s peculiar test of fidelity to the Christian faith in this part of the world–is being kept wide open by the more respectable sections of the Evangelical academy. Wheaton may be devoted to the Bible, but its interpretation is, among Evangelicals, falling into much worse hands than those of the Catholics. In valiant, Protestant resistance to the authority of the pope, Wheaton, with high principle and courage, is solemnly submitting to that of the devil. ~S.M. Hutchens, Touchstone Magazine/Mere Comments

Since Wheaton College is literally just down the road from where I go to church, this was an interesting local story but not one that I thought was really worth following. An evangelical college fired a faculty member upon the latter’s conversion to Catholicism. As I understand it, in the judgement of the administration the professor, as a Catholic, could no longer fully subscribe without significant qualification to the statement of faith that the school requires its faculty to believe. It is a question of institutional character and the purpose of the college. Shockingly, I found myself in almost perfect agreement with none other than Joseph Bottum on this:

But the general response of serious religious believers, Protestant and Catholic alike, is likely to be: “Good for Wheaton.” Or, rather, “Good for Wheaton—given that the evil of Christian disunity exists.”

Duane Litfin, the president of the school, insists that a Catholic “cannot faithfully affirm” the twelve-point Wheaton faith statement required of faculty members, though Hochschild says he was willing to sign it, and, as the Wall Street Journal notes, the statement “doesn’t explicitly exclude Catholics.”

Maybe Hochschild would have to affirm the statement in a special sense as a Catholic. Indeed, he was doing that even while he was an Episcopalian: At his hiring interview, the Wall Street Journal reports, Hochschild told the school’s president that he agreed with the faith statement’s assertion that the Bible is “of supreme and final authority,” though, he added, that Bible should be read according to “authoritative traditions.”

Via The New Pantagruel.
Read the rest of this entry »

To be part of the Anglosphere requires adherence to the fundamental customs and values that form the core of English-speaking cultures. These include individualism, rule of law, honoring contracts and covenants, and the elevation of freedom to the first rank of political and cultural values.

Nations comprising the Anglosphere share a common historical narrative in which the Magna Carta, the English and American Bills of Rights, and such Common Law principles as trial by jury, presumption of innocence, “a man’s home is his castle”, and “a man’s word is his bond” are taken for granted. ~James Bennett, An Anglosphere Primer

Via Albion’s Seedlings via Steve Sailer.
Read the rest of this entry »

Intellectual descent: Darwin’s place in the lineage of liberal thinkers such as Adam Smith is more clear to the British, whereas conservatives in America often just don’t get the connection between Smith’s economics, of which they approve, and Darwin’s biology, of which they don’t. ~Steve Sailer

Mr. Sailer makes a great point here (in addition to an entertaining Jeeves and Wooster reference elsewhere in the post), which incidentally touches on something that Tom Bethell said in one of his articles from the last two months when he acknowledged the affinity between laissez-faire and Darwin’s thought as a way of discrediting Darwin.
Read the rest of this entry »

The vacuum after Sharon - which apparently ‘will not soon, if ever, be filled’ (5) - is more than an empty chair in the Cabinet office missing a leader. It is a vacuum of vision and values and of any idea about what Israel stands for today; it represents an uncertainty about how Israel should be led and where it should be led to. This was captured in the name of Sharon’s new party Kadima, which means ‘Forward’. Forward to what? And why? It was as meaningless as that New Labour slogan, ‘Forwards, not back’. Since the 1980s, Israel has been rocked by a series of crisis periods. Following the end of the Cold War in particular, when Israel was robbed of its key role as a Western-supported block on Soviet influence, Israeli leaders have struggled to find a contemporary mission for Zionism. Sharon’s stroke has brought to the surface this sense of self-doubt. ~Brendan O’Neill,

This seems to be a perennial problem for people who believe that nations and states exist to fulfill ideological purposes: at some point, too few people in the nation or too few citizens in the state believe in the official or semi-official ideological purpose to which they are supposed to be dedicated and for which they are supposed to be willing to sacrifice all the natural affinities and goods in life, including life itself. The welfare of the commonwealth alone no longer seems meaningful or important enough to command allegiance or loyalty, even though this is the one political good that is most naturally and commonly desired. Instead, the commonwealth must be bled dry to serve still some other goal or ideal. Yet something as simple as the mortality of one man can puncture this illusion with a sobering dose of reality, as Sharon’s own volte face on Gaza had already started to do: a state founded on irredentism and old-fashioned romantic socialism and nationalism has been forced to come to terms with the demystification of its raison d’etre and the mortality of one of its preeminent figures. To the extent that democratic politics does actually make a party or party leader a symbol of the nation, the terrible health of such a party leader calls forth all sorts of reflections on the terrible health of the polity. Inasmuch as modern democracy inculcates a servile mentality and encourages people to leave government to the proper experts and managers, it is little wonder that, as Mr. O’Neill says, Israelis and Palestinians feel disenfranchised and not in control: the focus on Sharon’s person is a testimony to the tendency in democracy, even one as notoriously fractious and divided as Israel’s parliamentary system, towards autocracy, which helps explain the obsession with the health of the ruler. But regardless of its purported loss of vision or direction, Israel is dying demographically and will be, unless trends change, subsumed in an Arab tide. That is Israel’s real crisis, and one that will not be resolved no matter who wins the election in March.

Via Antiwar.
Read the rest of this entry »

Or so the results of my Christian Science Monitorneocon quiz” tell me. Here is isolationism according to CSM:

The term isolationist is most often used negatively; few people who share its beliefs use it to describe their own foreign policy perspective. They believe in “America first.” For them, national sovereignty trumps international relations. Many unions, libertarians, and anti-globalization protesters share isolationist tenets.


Are wary of US involvement in the United Nations
Oppose international law, alliances, and agreements
Believe the US should not act as a global cop
Support trade practices that protect American workers
Oppose liberal immigration
Oppose American imperialism
Desire to preserve what they see as America’s national identity and character

It is interesting that isolationist was the only category that required explanation, as if the others were self-evident. It is strange that there is still the need to categorise this oldest and most enduring American foreign policy tradition with such a pejorative and potentially misleading label, as if there were no other words to describe it. It seems pretty clear that conservatism as embodied by Sen. Taft held to a foreign policy view that was fully in the tradition of U.S. policy to date, so why not simply call what they call “isolationism” conservatism? The CSM’s example of an earlier “isolationist” is Coolidge, who is something of a conservative avant la lettre (he more or less adhered to the Constitution, which is a small victory in itself in the 20th century), but he was also responsible for such a silly Carteresque treaty as the Kellogg-Briand accord “outlawing” war. Listing Coolidge as an “isolationist” is thus fairly misleading, and it stems from the internationalist polemic of the interwar years that has subsequently dominated historical memory in this country. Thus the two decades of the greatest expansion of American influence and activity overseas up till that point and the rise of America, alas, to global power status are absurdly cast as some sort of ‘turning inwards’ and ‘retreat from the world’ because our Senate wasn’t daft enough to subscribe to the League of Nations. A real model for conservative, noninterventionist or neutral foreign policy, which is what “isolationism” really is, would be Van Buren.

The main things I would criticise about this quiz are the characterisations of certain individuals: thus Colin Powell is made out to be a realist (he certainly didn’t act the part in recent years) and Ronald Reagan is considered a neocon. Whatever else one might say about Ronald Reagan’s puerility (Lukacs) or his undesirable optimism or his watered-down, pro-market liberalism (Dreher), and despite the fact that neocons first began rising to prominence in the GOP and government during the Reagan years, I think it is an insult to President Reagan to describe him this way (and it was probably calculated to be an insult).

Hat tip to A.C. Kleinheider.

Cameron has already gone soft on immigration, and that Stalinist Letwin is talking about redistribution of wealth. If they’re Tories, I’m Ariel Sharon. ~Taki, The Spectator

In 1872 Lord Salisbury suggested, in an article about the failure of Gladstone’s policy in Ireland, ‘The optimist view of politics assumes that there must be some remedy for every political ill, and rather than not find it, will make two hardships to cure one. If all equitable remedies have failed, its votaries take it as proved without argument that the one-sided remedies, which alone are left, must needs succeed. But is not the other view barely possible? Is it not just conceivable that there is no remedy that we can apply for the Irish hatred of ourselves? …May it not, on the contrary, be our incessant doctoring and meddling, awaking the passions now of this party, now of that, raising at every step a fresh crop of resentments by the side of the old growth, that puts off the day when these feelings will decay quietly away and be forgotten?’ ~Andrew Gimson, The Spectator (registration required)

Ever since I researched the Venezuelan boundary dispute in a class on American foreign policy and I became familiar with the character of Lord Salisbury, I have been nothing but impressed with the man’s intelligence and wisdom (his acquiescence in the dreadful Boer War notwithstanding). I regret that men of his calibre are no longer in government service (indeed, that there may no longer be men of his calibre at all thanks to the degradations of mass society), and I observe that democratic societies are uniquely unsuited to producing men of this sort. Lord Salisbury was one of the last of a dying breed of an aristocratic servant of the Crown before the British aristocracy descended into complete decay and frivolity, and his departure from the political stage heralded the rise of the new men of “Tory democracy,” such as the guttersnipe imperialist Joseph Chamberlain, and also of the opportunists, such as Churchill. When Lord Salisbury indicts the foolishness of “optimists,” it carries an especially great weight.

There are times when, as Burnham said (I am roughly paraphrasing here), there is no problem because there is no solution. Some predicaments do not have solutions, at least not man-made solutions. It is the lunacy of all modern political ideologies to believe that their plans can solve all major human predicaments; now trans-humanists and the nuttier nanotechnologists believe that they can eliminate basic predicaments that are part of our very nature.

There is something astoundingly naive in the conviction that there is always a solution, always a way out of a jam. That is the cardinal tenet of an irresponsible man or of a Hollywood writer: the difference is that the latter gets paid to create fantasies, while the former tries to live out his fantasies without any concern for what it might do to other people. Optimism takes this occasional irresponsibility and makes it into a creed, indeed into a way of life. But in a world where men are mortal, fallible and subject to passions, some consequences are final or irremediable, except by the miraculous, except by grace. Because they deny or minimise this, many “optimists” are really very impious.

There are some genuinely religious people who make the mistake of identifying the virtue of hope with “optimism,” but hope is a theological virtue because it is closely related to and dependent on faith, which requires confidence and trust in God in spite of whatever we may encounter in the world. Hope is the proper attitude of man to anticipate the enduring goodness of God–it is not really some wistful belief that “everything will come out right.” Hope does not rule out all manner of terrible trials, suffering and what the world would regard as spectacular failures. Hope is the expectation of deliverance by God in the midst of all those calamities that shake our confidence in God. If we have hope, it is very hard for us to be “optimists.”

We like to believe that there is always a way out, especially when we have created the mess. This is a very human trait. It also happens to be one of our greatest failings, a kind of delusion that allows us to believe that, contrary to everything we (especially we conservatives) say, actions don’t really have lasting and (oftentimes) irreversible consequences. The “optimists” will retort, for example, to very reasonable criticisms of the Iraq war: so what if we have turned Iraq into the new Afghanistan, the new Jihad Central? So what if we have created a colossal mess? We can fix it (with democracy!), the “optimists” tell you, provided you lousy “defeatists” out there don’t get in our way. Like the compulsive gambler or some other perennial loser, certain that “things are going to change soon,” an optimist of this sort does not know when to quit–indeed, he cannot allow himself to quit without betraying his core convictions. Chances are he is also one of those people who “believes in himself,” and as Chesterton once wrote mental asylums are full of such people.

Sometimes repairs cannot be made, and sometimes injuries, whether to a person or a polity, are too severe. This is not to encourage fatalism of any kind, but to recognise limits and constraints imposed by nature, necessity, contingency and God. You don’t have to be a godless cynic like Voltaire to recognise that, except in some grand, providential sense that we cannot perceive or understand, things do not often work out “for the best,” nor are there always resolutions to intractable conflicts.
Read the rest of this entry »

The belief has taken root that those of us who oppose optimism are enemies of life itself. According to Matthew d’Ancona, ‘In 2005, the Islamists made brutally clear, yet again, that they are determined to destroy life, economic success and optimism wherever they encounter it.’

Not for the first time, one could not help feeling a twinge of sympathy with the Islamists. The facile optimism which characterises a certain kind of liberal imperialist would be laughable if it were not so dangerous. We go out to save Iraq, or Africa, or the planet itself, and think ourselves noble for taking such trouble, and consider ourselves ill used when not everyone is as grateful as they should be for the gifts we bring of democracy, debt relief and slightly smaller carbon emissions. ~Andrew Gimson, The Spectator (registration required)

On the Julian Calendar, tomorrow is December 31st, which makes it a sort of New Year’s Eve. Perhaps more importantly, it is the feast day of St. Melania the Younger, a remarkably charitable and pious aristocratic lady from early fifty century Italy who led the way in pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and St. Theophylact of Ochrid, who was responsible for the building up of the Church in Macedonia and Bulgaria in the late 11th century and the beginning of the Comnenian era. It will also incidentally be my 27th birthday.

Mr. Derbyshire makes this riposte rather nicely, and I am glad to note that it is right along the lines I was arguing yesterday:

Human agency indeed causes many things to happen — books to be written, flints to be knapped, and so on. That human agency arises from non-material origins is, however, a metaphysical hypothesis, outside the purview of science. When an anthropologist, via material evidence, has tracked an artifact back to human agency, he ceases his enquiries. (Unless he has a night job as a neuroscientist, in which case he might proceed further.) That is the scope of anthropology. It is the study of human communities and their artifacts. An anthropologist is no more concerned with the neurophysiological, possibly non-material, springs of human action than a chemist is with String Theory, or a geologist with cosmology. It’s not his scope. It is news to me that anthropologists, paleo- or otherwise, necessarily regard human agency as having non-material sources. My guess would be that some anthropologists do, some don’t. If a purely materialistic explanation for human nature were to be irrefutably established tomorrow, it does not seem to me that anthropology would thereupon implode, or cease to be practiced. I am not an anthropologist, however, and will humbly take contradiction from any reader who is. ~John Derbyshire, Out of the Corner

If Ukraine attempts to join the Germano-Polish west, which exploited her people cruelly up to the 17th century, then the Moskale (Ukrainian for Russians) will show who is boss. And maybe - maybe - it is for the good of us all. Europe needs a functioning Russia much more than a semi-functioning Ukraine. ~Norman Stone, The Daily Telegraph

And I thought I was hard on the Ukrainian nationalists!

Via The Russian Dilettante.

Here’s an excellent point from the Russian Dilettante:

What Moscow failed to anticipate is the negative and mostly unfair coverage in the Western media. But what did they expect? This anti-Russian sentiment runs deep; the Soviet Union seems to have gotten better treatment than Russia. Moscow needs its own Anne Applebaums in the newspapers of record. Western journalists once queued to serve uncle Joe — often for free. Russia’s current government — a paragon of decency in comparison — must be a terribly unattractive master.

George Will has made one accurate criticism of the idea he so dislikes: “The problem with intelligent design is not that it is false but that it is not falsifiable. Not being susceptible to contradicting evidence, it is not a testable hypothesis.” This is true; but he should have added that Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is not falsifiable either. Darwin’s claim to fame was his discovery of a mechanism of evolution; he accepted “survival of the fittest” as a good summary of his natural-selection theory. But which ones are the fittest? The ones that survive. There is no criterion of fitness that is independent of survival. Whatever happens, it is the “fittest” that survive — by definition. This, just like intelligent design, is not a testable hypothesis. As the eminent philosopher of science Karl Popper said, after discussing this problem that natural selection cannot escape: “There is hardly any possibility of testing a theory as feeble as this.” Popper was the first to propose falsification as the line of demarcation between theories that are scientific and those that are not; both intelligent design and natural selection fall by this standard. ~Tom Bethell

So Popper’s standard of falsification rules out ID as science, as Mr. Bethell grants. So what is there really to argue about when it comes to intelligent design-as-science? That evolutionists are too often dogmatic and the theory of evolution is an ongoing, revisable explanation of natural phenomena that does not as of yet have all the answers? We already knew that. What else?

It is very important to note, as I have tried to do time and again, that some of the leading ID theorists, such as Michael Behe, do not reject man’s descent from a common ancestor shared with primates, nor do they disagree with much of the rest of evolutionary biology. Where they differ fundamentally from “evolutionists” is, of course, in the latter’s attribution of randomness and purposelessness to the process by which change takes place, but they do not (as far as I know) actually seek to deny or minimise that these changes do seem to have taken place. They should not even necessarily deny or question that life originated in some primordial soup of the Pre-Cambrian Period, but would only assert that the Designer prepared the soup because it is an irreducibly complicated soup.

Paul Nelson of the University of Chicago points out that paleoanthropology, to cite one science, would be impossible without the concept of agency. Scientists use it to distinguish between tools and accidental rubble. “A trained scientist in the field of paleoanthropology can look at something and say, ‘that is an artifact. It is a tool for stripping meat’,” Nelson said. “There’s a whole body of literature in how these things are detected, and the concept of agency is the active ingredient in all such analyses. Materialism strictly applied in such cases is a science stopper.” ~Tom Bethell, “Out of the Corner”

I can only guess what Mr. Derbyshire will have to say to this sort of objection, but citing paleoanthropology seems to me to be a bit of a red herring. Mr. Bethell was objecting to Derbyshire’s claim, “Material causes only are admitted in science.” As a statement of how science is done today, Mr. Derbyshire is right. If he weren’t right, we wouldn’t be having debates about whether we should only admit material causes. But Mr. Derbyshire is also making an ‘ought’ statement: material causes are the only things that should be allowed in science, because, if I might extrapolate, anything else is not empirically demonstrable and testable. Even here I am a bit at a loss as to why he is mistaken.

My response to Mr. Bethell is this: of course, we assume agency in all forms of anthropology, because, if I understand correctly, scientific anthropologists (we will not even worry about the cultural anthro people at the moment) assume reasonably enough that humans and early hominids were capable of volition and cognition more or less as we are. We assume this about prehistoric man because of the similarities between our physiology and his. It seems doubtful to me that we can make similar assumptions about agency in the rest of the natural world.
Read the rest of this entry »

Besides my other objections to the term theocon, it occurs to me that “theological conservative” (which is what I assume theocon must mean, if it is to mean anything) has generally been a term that refers to a person’s theological leanings and method and that to be theologically conservative need not directly relate to political conservatism of any stripe. Thus there are, for example, millions of Orthodox Christians in this country whose politics are decidedly non-conservative in many ways, but whose theology, so to speak, is much more “conservative” than the legions of evangelicals who tend to vote the other way. To adopt this term, or a shortened version thereof, to describe another political faction muddles this distinction without, I think, sufficiently describing the faction in question. But to each blogger his own. (I promise I will not write on something as completely ‘inside baseball’ as conservative faction labels for at least another week!)

The secret training took place primarily at three camps–in Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak–and was directed by elite Iraqi military units. Interviews by U.S. government interrogators with Iraqi regime officials and military leaders corroborate the documentary evidence. Many of the fighters were drawn from terrorist groups in northern Africa with close ties to al Qaeda, chief among them Algeria’s GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Some 2,000 terrorists were trained at these Iraqi camps each year from 1999 to 2002, putting the total number at or above 8,000. Intelligence officials believe that some of these terrorists returned to Iraq and are responsible for attacks against Americans and Iraqis. According to three officials with knowledge of the intelligence on Iraqi training camps, White House and National Security Council officials were briefed on these findings in May 2005; senior Defense Department officials subsequently received the same briefing. ~Stephen Hayes, The Weekly Standard

The urban legend of the Salman Pak “terrorist training facilities” has been circulating in the fetid swamps of the militarist right for years and was thoroughly incredible even before the invasion revealed any such facilities to have been training grounds for Hussein’s fedayeen. For whatever it’s worth, in the May 12, 2003 New Yorker Seymour Hersh has reported the rather more reasonable claim that the Salman Pak camp, at least, was designed for counter-terrorism. Thus Hersh:

In separate interviews with me, however, a former C.I.A. station chief and a former military intelligence analyst said that the camp near Salman Pak had been built not for terrorism training but for counter-terrorism training. In the mid-eighties, Islamic terrorists were routinely hijacking aircraft. In 1986, an Iraqi airliner was seized by pro-Iranian extremists and crashed, after a hand grenade was triggered, killing at least sixty-five people. (At the time, Iran and Iraq were at war, and America favored Iraq.) Iraq then sought assistance from the West, and got what it wanted from Britain’s MI6. The C.I.A. offered similar training in counter-terrorism throughout the Middle East. “We were helping our allies everywhere we had a liaison,” the former station chief told me. Inspectors recalled seeing the body of an airplane—which appeared to be used for counter-terrorism training—when they visited a biological-weapons facility near Salman Pak in 1991, ten years before September 11th. It is, of course, possible for such a camp to be converted from one purpose to another. The former C.I.A. official noted, however, that terrorists would not practice on airplanes in the open. “That’s Hollywood rinky-dink stuff,” the former agent said. “They train in basements. You don’t need a real airplane to practice hijacking. The 9/11 terrorists went to gyms. But to take one back you have to practice on the real thing.”

Maybe, just maybe there were some Algerian Salafists running around Iraq with Hussein’s knowledge and backing, and maybe somewhere along the way these Salafists had dealings with al-Qaeda (of course, c. 2000 we still had dealings with the Taliban and in 1999 we actively aided Islamic terrorists in taking over a part of Europe–does that put us in league with al-Qaeda?). We know that the Sudanese government settled bin Laden himself for some time, only to give him the boot when “we” insisted, so wouldn’t we target Sudan ahead of Iraq in any event if we cared about connections this tenuous? If Hayes and the crowd at the Standard think that pathetic (and probably false) connection justifies invading Iraq, they are more ridiculous than we thought.

Ukraine’s parliament voted to fire the government today over President Viktor Yushchenko’s gas accord with Russia, as divisions persist about the nation’s ties to its former Soviet partner a year after the Orange Revolution.

The vote raises the possibility of a constitutional crisis in Ukraine, the main gateway for Russian gas shipments to Europe, before March 26 parliamentary elections. Yushchenko, who is on a visit to Kazakhstan, said the decision contradicts the constitution and the government said it will challenge it.

“We fired the government because it signed an unclear agreement which undermines Ukraine’s independence and national interests,” said Andriy Shkil, one of the lawmakers that approved the firing. ~Bloomberg

Mr. Shkil can play the nationalist if he wants, but he and his colleagues have just voted in rebellion against the sort of deal that will, in time, wean Ukraine away from Russian gas. He has just voted in favour of virtually permanent Russian control of the source of Ukraine’s energy. And now, in an amusing turnabout, it is Yushchenko’s turn to invoke the constitution and complain that the MPs are breaking the law! The good news is that Yushchenko has been undermined and his “revolution” will be buried and forgotten–by the representatives of “the people,” no less!

A.C. Kleinheider makes an argument that the term theocon is “appropriate and necessary,” and he makes several points that are worth addressing with a new post. First, he is right to go back to Jacob Heilbrunn’s original distinction between neocon and theocon, which is here:

And this war is fundamental. It is rooted in a battle over the identity of the American nation. The neoconservatives believe that America is special because it was founded on an idea–a commitment to the rights of man embodied in the Declaration of Independence–not in ethnic or religious affiliations. The theocons, too, argue that America is rooted in an idea, but they believe that idea is Christianity. In their view, the United States is first and foremost a Christian nation, governed ultimately by natural law. When moral law–moral law as defined by Thomas Aquinas and enunciated by John Paul II–conflicts with the laws of man, they say, the choice is clear: God’s law transcends the arbitrary and tyrannical decrees of what the theocons increasingly refer to as an American judicial “regime.”

In my original post, I had neglected to use Heilbrunn’s definition, which would have clarified things a little, not least his own misunderstanding of the people at First Things. As my readers will have guessed by now, I don’t agree with many of the things the editors there write and I found their more or less open shilling for the invasion of Iraq to be a tremendously ugly and deviant thing for a supposed journal of Christian religious and cultural intellectuals to do, so I don’t intend any of what I have to say about them to be a compliment. But I can say with confidence that they are not the “theocrats” of Mr. Heilbrunn’s fevered imagination, nor are they the wild-eyed revolutionaries the secular neocons tried to make them out to be. They are not Theonomists, nor are they even all that convinced of the “Christian nation” thesis imputed to them by Heilbrunn, except insofar as they accept the notion that the “universal values” that America purportedly embodies are the same “universal values” of natural law.

Unless I am much mistaken, or they have significantly changed positions in the last few years, First Things‘ focus on natural law is, in part, as the bridge between Christianity and the Enlightenment project. This is part of what they regard as the genius of America, namely that it can embrace both traditions and reconcile them. No Catholic Counter-Enlightenment for them.

They do not invoke natural law as a theocratic device designed to reorder American society along traditionalist Christian lines, but they use it (in my admittedly hostile reading) as a way to reconcile serious Christians to a fundamentally secular moral order in which they can still perceive some trace of the “Judeo-Christian” tradition. They do read foundational American political thought with a peculiar kind of Catholic lens, and they imbue the “rights” language of Enlightenment thought with theological significance, which is an old Catholic assimilationist move to create harmony between Catholicism and Americanism.
Read the rest of this entry »

Unfortunately for those spinning this simplistic tale of bully and bullied, Gazprom’s ‘unacceptable conduct’ is actually something we have been requiring of it. For in raising the prices they charge for gas in Eastern Europe, the Russians are merely going part way towards meeting demands made by the European Union over several years. ~Paul Robinson, The Spectator

Given all this, Gazprom’s decision to charge market prices to Ukraine is, on the surface, one for which the EU should be congratulating it. It represents at least a small step in a general Russian policy towards liberalisation which has been slowly gaining pace over the past five years, in part due to EU pressure and in part due to the needs of the Russian economy. One of the problems of subsidies is that they distort economic behaviour, creating wastefulness and inefficiencies in the allocation of resources. Ukraine is not the world’s sixth largest consumer of natural gas because its industry requires such enormous consumption, but because its subsidised prices make it indifferent to energy-saving. Paying more for its energy might actually do it some good.

In short, the increase in gas prices is fully in keeping with the West’s desire to complete the process of creating a genuine market economy in Russia, Ukraine and the other countries of the CIS, as well as progressing towards fulfilling the environmental demands of the Kyoto accord. It is an entirely welcome gesture from the perspective of any free-market economist, not to mention any environmentalist.

From the way the Gazprom price changes had been reported in the West, one might be forgiven for thinking that the Russians were just playing a bit of hardball with those countries that had started tacking towards the West by reducing the level of subsidy while ‘loyal’ countries were to be rewarded with even more heavily subsidised rate. But the important point of the story is always missed: Russia is reducing the level of its subsidies in the Ukraine when it demands higher prices, which means that the Russian state will in the long-term have less control over its neighbours and, theoretically, competition in the European energy sector should increase. Of course, the short-term price hikes and the consequent pain felt in the affected countries are probably also intended as punishments of neighbouring states whose elites have stupidly pursued a pro-EU, pro-NATO course regardless of the actual interests of their countries, but contrary to the views of American pundits the Kremlin is capable of slightly more sophisticated policy than crude intimidation of smaller countries (for the most part, the Kremlin leaves this sort of thing to Washington these days).

As it happens, it would appear that this is one of those occasions where adjusting energy prices closer to market levels (which should make market-lovers thrilled, right?) also happens to give Russia a temporary advantage and provide it some leverage against its neighbours. This is what independent nations do with their advantages in natural resources, and it is what we might expect in an international market. If I were a hack of Wall Street Journal standards, I would say something dismissive like, “Markets are messy.”

But instead of approving of the Russian state bringing Gazprom more into line with international price standards (and thus actually loosening their artificially strong grip on the energy sector), as we might expect real friends of market economics to do, there has been unabated breast-beating and moaning about Russian perfidy and imperialism, etc. These are usually the same people who warned Russia against interfering in the Ukrainian election while cheering on the American-backed agents who were busily interfering in it. But of course the Russians didn’t mean well with their interference. As the British soldier said of the Germans in the classic anti-imperialist Australian film Breaker Morant, “They lack our altruism, sir!”

Some Westerners complain about Gazprom and the rate hikes because it suits them to attack President Putin, who has become for mysterious reasons a hate figure second-to-none in the establishment press in America and Britain (I guess the only thing worse in the pundits’ view than a feckless foreign leader is a moderately competent one), but if the shoe were on the other foot and it was an approved, “democratic” state turning the screws on an “authoritarian” regime “we” would be loudly applauding the policy and contemplate doing the same thing ourselves to various dictatorships.

Pure is the present night, in which the Pure One appeared, Who came to purify us! Let our hearing be pure, and the sight of our eyes chaste, and the feeling of the heart holy, and the speech of the mouth sincere.

The present night is the night of reconciliation; therefore, let no one be wroth against his brother and offend him.

This night gave peace to the whole world; and so, let no one threaten. This is the night of the Most Meek One; let no one be cruel.

This is the night of the Humble One; let no one be proud.

Now is the day of joy; let us not take revenge for offenses. Now is the day of good will; let us not be harsh. On this day of tranquility, let us not become agitated by anger.

Today God came unto sinners; let not the righteous exalt himself over sinners.

Today the Most Rich One became poor of our sake; let the rich man invite the poor to his table.

Today we received a gift which we did not ask for; let us bestow alms to those who cry out to us and beg.

The present day has opened the door of heaven to our prayers; let us also open our door to those who ask of us forgiveness.

Today the Godhead placed upon Himself the seal of humanity, and humanity has been adorned with the seal of the Godhead. ~St. Ephrem the Syrian

Christ is born, glorify him! Christ is from heaven, go to meet Him! Christ is on earth, be ye lifted up! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing out with gladness, all ye people. For He is glorified. ~First Ode of the Christmas Canon

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined upon the world the light of knowledge; for thereby, they that worshipped the stars were taught by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee. ~Festal Troparion

The Virgin today gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. Angels and shepherds glorify Him, and wise men journey with a star. For a young Child is born for us, Who is the eternal God. ~Nativity Kontakion

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

My apologies for posting this a bit after the fact (the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord according to the flesh was, of course, on Saturday), but this weekend was unusually busy with Christmas celebrations. S prazdnikom!

In recent days, overtures by the largest Sunni Arab party to join political negotiations with Shiite and Kurdish leaders have brought hope for forming a new coalition government that could help deflate the insurgency. The interlude of relative calm surrounding the elections on Dec. 15 has been at least partly attributed to efforts by some Iraqi insurgents, as opposed to Qaeda fighters, to not attack Sunni voters in hopes of Sunni parties’ gaining more power in the soon-to-be-formed government.

But hours after Thursday’s bombings, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, accused both Sunni Arab political parties and the United States of responsibility for the last two days of massacres.

Sunni Arab groups that have warned of potential civil war “bear the responsibility for every drop of blood that was shed,” said Mr. Hakim, whose party is allied with Iran and is the most influential group in the governing Shiite coalition. He said “pressure” from American forces had impeded the Interior and Defense Ministries from “doing their job chasing terrorists and maintaining the souls of innocent Iraqi people.”

“We’re laying the responsibility for the blood of innocents shed in the past few days on the multinational forces and the political powers that declared publicly their support for terrorism,” he said. “Our people will not be patient for much longer with these dirty sectarian crimes.” ~The New York Times

In other words, if we continue to try to prevent the Shi’ite militias from torturing and murdering Sunnis we are as guilty as the bombers (and perhaps our soldiers will be targeted in the same way?). Observe that this is what our soldiers are fighting to establish–a government in which, if they get their way, SCIRI and its goons will have free rein to terrorise and kill their sectarian enemies. Sounds like an Arab Switzerland is only a few years away at this rate…

Via Antiwar.

Mass immigration lovers can rest easy with the recess appointment of Julie Myers to head the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as the impressive consensus is that she is unqualified for the post and, therefore, just another Bush appointee rising through the ranks through the Presidente’s favour and patronage. On matters of immigration and national security, such a post is too important to be left to another unqualified lawyer whom Mr. Bush happens to like. That Mr. Bush would appoint a flunkey (and an unqualified one at that) to a major law enforcement bureau tasked with securing America’s borders tells us all we need to know about his commitment to the “national security” he so routinely waves in our faces to justify his power grabs. However, Joe Guzzardi at the VDare Blog does offer this silver living.

Via Prof. Bainbridge.

Such are the stakes in the current debate over whether President Bush has acted ultra vires— beyond his legal powers, even in violation of the Constitution he swore to uphold — in ordering surveillance for what is called national security. His defenders appeal to the president’s “implied powers,” the right-wing answer to liberalism’s “penumbras formed by emanations” as a device for infinitely elastic interpretations of plain words, words their authors mistakenly assumed anyone could understand, even an ordinary Yale graduate. ~Joseph Sobran

It was Podhoretz, however, who gave neoconservatism its most explicitly Jewish cast. The August 1968 issue of Commentary featured Emil Fackenheim’s famous essay, “Jewish Faith and the Holocaust: A Fragment,” which included Fackenheim’s contention that afàer Auschwitz, Jews had a moral responsibility to defend Jewish interests so as not to hand Hitler a “posthumous vic-tory.” By February 1972, Podhoretz himself wrote a piece titled, without irony, “Is It Good for the Jews?”

Holocaust consciousness was growing in the 1970s, as was a renewed sense of threat to Jews and a feeling that, as Podhoretz put it, the postwar “statute of limitations” on anitisemitism had run out. Israel’s security, threatened in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War — both events that gave Jews existential pause — suddenly became a top American Jewish concern. Podhoretz came to identify more and more with the defense of Jews, and by the 1980s, half his articles on international affairs focused on Israel and threats to the Jewish people.

This sense of threat, both historically informed and contemporary, gave a very particular tint to the fierce anti-communism professed by neoconservatives. Hannah Arendt had already drawn a moral equation between communism and Nazism, writing in her “The Origins of Totalitarianism” that both represented “absolute evil,” just two sides of the same totalitarian coin. And that was where Podhoretz and his friends picked up in the mid-1970s. Unlike the Irish-Catholic anti-communism of Joe McCarthy and William Buckley, whose hatred of the Soviet Union came out of an almost religious opposition to Soviet godlessness, this Jewish anti-communism was born out of a kind of historical analogy, filled with a moralistic fury against another totalitarianism whose ideology and power threatened the world.

As Ruth Wisse points out in her contribution to the Commentary collection, neoconservatives projected the threat they instinctively understood as Jews onto America as a whole, and it sharpened their sense that only an aggressive defense of the country and its values was appropriate and that any appeasement was criminal. Or as former neocon Michael Lind recently wrote: For neoconservatives, “it is always 1939.” ~Gal Beckerman, The Forward

Strangely absent from Friedman’s books [The Neoconservative Revolution, Commentary in American Life] is any discussion of the latest and certainly riskiest manifestation of the “neoconservative revolution”: the push to unilaterally invade and democratize Iraq. It’s a strange oversight for a book published two years after the start of the war. Friedman wouldn’t have needed even to introduce new characters. Among the war’s most passionate supporters, after all, were Norman Podhoretz and William Kristol (son of Irving).

The omission is glaring. Not just because Iraq is the next chapter in the neoconservative story, but because it is in Iraq that neoconservatism will be either vindicated or buried forever. Maybe even more than Reagan’s Cold War policies, the Iraq War was the most dramatic embodiment of two key Podhoretz tenets, the “aggressive” side that would keep America on the initiative, and the “idealistic” that dreams of making theworld safer by remaking it in our image.

Mr. Beckerman’s review is well worth reading, even for those who are familiar with the neoconservative story.

Furthermore, while a number of prominent neoconservative intellectuals are of Jewish background, they have tended not to be religious nor have they, despite their support for the current right-wing Israeli government, been strongly identified as Zionists. ~Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus

What a laugh! Neoconservative intellectials are not strongly identified as Zionists? What on earth are they to be identified with strongly if not with Zionism? Even the laughable Max Boot admitted this much at the very moment when he was denying the existence of “neocons” in his forgettable What the Heck is a ‘Neocon’?:

First, many of the leading neocons aren’t Jewish; Jeane Kirkpatrick, Bill Bennett, Father John Neuhaus and Michael Novak aren’t exactly menorah lighters. Second, support for Israel–a key tenet of neoconservatism–is hardly confined to Jews; its strongest constituency in America happens to be among evangelical Christians.

As the late Dr. Francis pointed out last year, it was quite a trick for Boot to deny the existence of neocons at the same time that he acknowledged that support for Israel was a “key tenet” of neoconservatism. Boot’s larger point (which was stupidly to adduce anti-Jewish rhetoric to the use of the term ‘neocon’ and then show it to be foolish because “many neocons aren’t Jewish”–which no one ever denied) is, of course, worthless.

Mr. Zunes then makes this misleading claim in Boot-like fashion:

To argue that support for Israel and/or pressure by supporters of Israel was a crucial variable in prompting the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq assumes that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has been good for Israel.

Of course, one does not have to assume any such thing. What is necessary to make the argument is to show that supporters of Israel were foremost in calling for, justifying, provoking and sponsoring the war, and here the public statements of known neoconservatives condemn them where they stand. Some vocal critics of the Iraq war, such as Peter Hitchens, have made just the opposite argument: invading Iraq is a bad idea, pushed by neocon ideologues, that will hurt the security of Israel.
Read the rest of this entry »

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don’t think it’s exactly wiretap, it’s eavesdrop on them.

MATTHEWS: What’s the difference?

BUCHANAN: Well, the difference is you’re not putting a wire, going over somebody’s stuff. What they’re doing is picking this stuff out of the air and going through it. It’s eavesdropping. Yes, he’s got the inherent constitutional right to do this, we’re in a war.

And in addition to that, the president has come out and openly defended it. He talked to Congress. I haven’t heard a single Democrat come out and say, “Mr. President, what you did is illegal, it’s criminal, stop it right now.” So the president has won this argument. ~Hardball, MSNBC

Via Scott Horton at Antiwar Blog.

Ramesh Ponnuru was, of course, terribly mistaken when he argued that the point of consensus for conservatives was protecting the Constitution. Quite the opposite might seem to be the case. Oddly, what inexplicably seems to bring together conservatives of many different stripes is deference to presidential power. As I have already suggested, for strict constructionists there can be no such thing as implied or inherent powers. These are as elastic, vague and fictive as anything that might emerge from a “living Constitution.” Such simple perversions of the Constitutions are, in fact, the beginning of usurpation, whether it is Hamilton’s abuse of the “necessary and proper” clause or Justice Marshall’s arbitrary invention of judicial review or any number of other creations that find no warrant in the fundamental law.

It stands to reason that if the president did have such inherent powers, he would have them not only in wartime but at all times. It would mean that he would, for ‘national security’ purposes, be perfectly legally justified to spy on anyone he deemed to be a threat, overseas or here in America; indeed, he would be justified in routinely violating protected rights of those whom he deemed dangerous, citizen or not, just as he has done with Jose Padilla and, apparently, as he believes he can do at will because he is the “commander-in-chief.” That is where the road of “inherent powers” leads, and it is the road to despotism.

Regardless of how “targeted” or “limited” any given program may be, Mr. Bush’s actions in the NSA case derive from a belief that citizenship provides no fundamental guarantees from arbitrary government detention, surveillance or seizure of property when it serves the national interest according to his definition thereof. That is plainly tyrannical. Enthusiasts for inherent presidential powers should ponder just what it is they are endorsing.

Regardless, whatever powers the officers of the United States have or do not have, they are not free to violate guaranteed rights when they deem it necessary. They do not get to make that decision. In other words, they are not free to break the law, but this is precisely what Mr. Bush did when he authorised warrantless surveillance inside this country, which is to say warrantless searches. Officers, like all other citizens, are, theoretically, subject to that law, which is supposed to be what distinguishes free men from subjects of another man. It is the difference between living in any kind of republic and an autocracy, and all together too many conservatives and pseudo-conservatives are abandoning whatever republican spirit they have left to serve as apologists for a usurper. Some, such as Mr. Buchanan, are doing this in a sincere conviction that it is what is necessary for the security of this country, but there can never be enough security to make living under an autocrat acceptable. Foreign enemies will come and go–the usurpations of all our tyrants remain with us and continue to bind us far into the future.

The “significant” stroke that felled 78-year-old Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Wednesday probably also doomed his crusade to transform Israeli politics.

The initial reports of Sharon’s stroke were sobering. It would be bad enough for any 78-year-old man who is clearly very overweight (Sharon is reputed to weigh around 300 pounds, despite being short in stature) to suffer a stroke followed by bleeding in the brain. The prognosis must be even more sobering when it follows so quickly on an earlier stroke, described as mild at the time. It is commonly the case that that strokes following on each other in quick succession will have much more deleterious long-term effects than a single major one. The questions about his health will now take center stage.

Regardless of Sharon’s physical prognosis, even if he makes a good recovery from this affliction, his credibility as the leader of his new centrist Kadima political bloc will be devastatingly damaged.

The problem is not that there is no natural successor for Sharon waiting in Kadima’s wings: It is that there are far too many of them.

For Sharon and the Israeli public’s overwhelming trust in him was the one thing that held the Kadima juggernaut together. The movement in only a matter of a few weeks had brought together the man who was the driving force behind the Oslo Peace Process — former Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Shimon Peres — and the man who had done most defeat the Second intifada that exploded when that process collapsed — current Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. They are miles apart politically and, for that matter, neither of them enjoys a fraction of the charisma or trust with the Israeli public that Sharon does.

The same holds true for Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Sharon’s closest and most trusted political ally who has taken over effective political power while the old prime minister is incapacitated. Olmert is the former mayor of Jerusalem and a lifelong leading figure in the nationalist Likud Party but he left that party along with Sharon after it became clear that he did not have a chance of defeating former Prime Minister and former Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Likud leadership. ~Martin Sieff, UPI

It is an irony of politics that Ariel Sharon’s deteriorating health will probably save from oblivion or marginalisation the party to which he has dedicated much of his life, namely Likud. Without Sharon as the center of Kadima and its public face, as Mr. Sieff’s analysis explains very well, the new party will not hold together or be particularly successful. Likud is the main beneficiary of such an outcome, which is unfortunate for Israel and for all her neighbours. Likud has increasingly defined itself against Sharon’s peace plans and against the Gaza withdrawal. These positions will command enough support, especially in the absence of a really credible alternative, to cripple any chance at a settlement for some years to come.

Even after just four weeks of the brave new dawn, I’m bored by the sensation-seeking, turning-over-the-furniture, épater les bourgeois predictability of the new, Labour-lite Conservative Party. It’s just so last year.

It’s not really of an intellectual standard worthy of my wanting to engage in debate with it. And, fundamentally, it is irrelevant. Wanting to maintain high levels of taxes, abuse capitalism, leave sclerotic public services unreformed and become more politically correct than Sir Ian Blair may be irritating, but it is not important. It will only become important in the event of the Conservatives winning power. And, frankly, we are still some way off that jolly day. ~Simon Heffer, The Daily Telegraph

And here is the conclusion to Mr. Heffer’s bruising critique of Cameron’s folly (with which I could not agree more):

What Mr Cameron needs most to worry about, as he travels this tortured and deceptive road, is that when the electorate finally has its choice between a real social democratic party and a recent imitation of one, it will incline once more towards choosing the real thing rather than deciding to play with the replica.

Many on Capitol Hill say the Abramoff affair could eclipse ABSCAM. With Abramoff’s help, federal prosecutors say, they are unraveling an “extensive” corruption scheme. While prosecutors have not disclosed the number of lawmakers under investigation, speculation runs from a half-dozen to as many as 60. At least a dozen FBI field offices are now involved in the investigation. ~The Christian Science Monitor

Abramoff’s plea bargain and the damage his case promises to do to establishment Washington are, of course, all over the news. Only now are Bush and Hastert getting rid of Abramoff funds (the money is going, of course, to charity).

There is every reason to expect a great many heads will roll (and not only Republican heads), or at least a great many indictments will be issued, according to the San Jose Mercury-News:

The plea agreement signed Tuesday by Abramoff implicates only one lawmaker, Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio, but it indicates that future information would ensnare other public officials. The agreement refers broadly to trips, campaign contributions and entertainment offered up to public officials “in exchange for agreements that the public officials would use their official positions and influence” for Abramoff’s benefit. That suggests there were specific quid pro quos that could yield additional charges of bribery and public corruption.

2006 may be the Year of Abramoff.

The Bush administration is facing new charges over its handling of pre-war intelligence, with a book alleging that the CIA ignored a mass of evidence gleaned from Iraqi weapons scientists, months before the 2003 invasion, that Saddam Hussein had abandoned his WMD programmes.

According to the book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, Sawsan alHaddad, sister of an Iraqi nuclear scientist, was one of 30 foreign-based Iraqis who agreed to contact relatives supposedly working on weapons development. Every one reported that the programmes did not exist. ~The Independent

Here’s a fun quote from the same article:

The book provides detail of the tension over Iraq between George W Bush and his father. It recounts how Mr Bush “angrily hung up the telephone” after his father, who was President from 1998 to 1992, complained that his son was allowing the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, “and a cadre of neoconservative ideologues” to exert excessive influence over foreign policy.

Any true conservatism should begin by recognizing and reducing the current supremacy of the natural sciences in our world and promoting a restoration of a complete education in the humanities, including the concomitant of a moral and religious education. Young people spend most of their waking hours in school, six to seven hours per day. The cost of teaching them that moral matters are simply debatable “matters of opinion” with no certainty compared to Boyle’s Law does inestimable harm to the type of society we live in. This is not a question of politics so much of culture. What we read, what we teach, and what we assume about knowledge directly affects the decisions we make, policies under which we live, and the texture of our lives. Moral renewal of any kind depends on rejecting the widely held premise that scientific knowledge is the only real knowledge. ~Chris Roach

Mr. Roach’s post is very insightful, and he points to the gnostic perversions that science is, not surprisingly, prone to have in a way startlingly reminiscent of Eric Voegelin’s essays on the various forms of gnosticism in the modern world. The key to understanding the connection between the two, or more accurately between magic and scientism, is the role anthropocentrism plays in both, as both claim that men are the source of power and meaning rather than recipients of both from the Lord. (Another point from Prof. Lewis was that the practise of magic and the enthusiasm for magic are very modern phenomena.) I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Roach’s call for a renewed emphasis on the humanities and divinity.

Mr. McConnell’s newfound pessimism about America’s role in the world springs, I would suggest, from distinct sources on the paleoconservative Right. There is a natural affinity between nativism at home and defeatism (or worse) abroad. After all, who are we—mongrelized and cosmopolitan as we have become—to serve as any sort of model for the rest of the world? What good can come of trying to promote overseas the very sort of liberalization that, in the paleocon scheme of things, has corrupted our own once proudly Anglo-Saxon polity? ~Gary Rosen, Commentary

Via Surfeited with Dainties (Michael Brendan Dougherty) via Andrew Sullivan.

When I saw Mr. Sullivan’s remarks about a “smackdown debate” on foreign policy, I foolishly expected more of a debate and less of a rhetorical “smackdown” on Mr. Rosen’s part. It is telling that Mr. Rosen takes seriously only those criticisms that come from Messrs. Walt and Ellsworth (he does not even need to note his agreement with Mr. Balch and his ludicrous description of Secretary Rice as a realist). His rebukes to Mr. McConnell of TAC and Messrs. Preble and Logan from the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy are not very serious arguments (I know it virtually goes without saying, but it has to be said). My friend Michael Dougherty has already done fairly well laughing Mr. Rosen’s “criticism” to scorn in his own post. Rosen’s response to Mr. McConnell does not have any real rebuttal in the realm of foreign policy, as the non-sequiturs about anti-Semitism and the bizarre invocations of Anglo-Saxon identity clearly show. How odd that he would imagine that paleoconservatives, many of whom are of predominantly Celtic and German extraction, are eager to restore a specifically Anglo-Saxon polity. Michael also does a fine job of dismissing this point.

On foreign policy, Mr. Rosen cannot have it both ways: if there are purportedly “mundane” (i.e., non-”Israel lobby”) reasons why America supports Israel to the extent that it does (as he lectures Mr. Walt) and (it seems to me) this support would in turn reasonably extend to our government’s Near Eastern policies (including the invasion of Iraq), how can it be so wrong to think that some American policymakers (and perhaps, not incredibly, some of their Israeli counterparts) believe that Israel will benefit disproportionately from an aggressive American Near Eastern policy and that they act accordingly? Of course some American policymakers do believe this, and this has been one of their express goals in furthering such an aggressive policy.

For what it’s worth, it is not at all “obvious” and never has been “obvious” that Mr. Buchanan’s indictment of Sharon, Likud and Israel as the chief beneficiaries of the Iraq war has any resemblance whatever to Nazi slogans. This is a despicable and low accusation that was started, oddly enough, by Tony Blankley. Only someone who is perpetually obsessed with Nazism and sees Nazis in every corner would imagine this. Usually it is the person who reads random things into other people’s statements, or who twists those statements and rips them out of context to serve his turn, who is under suspicion of paranoia, delusion and prejudice.
Read the rest of this entry »

However, a second new saying is now whispered in the halls of America: Theocon (i.e., theologically-minded neo-conservatives), ironically the very same name given to an anti-asthma prescription -chemically composed of theofillina and guaiphenesina. This would suggest that theocons are “breath of fresh air” for neocons. And, Judge Bork is certainly one of them, first as a Presbyterian and, today, as a Catholic. The former was the faith of his Protestant upbringing, his parents being of two different Presbyterian denominations. He was then baptized a Catholic just this past July 21 by Msgr. William Awalt and Fr. John McCloskey III. ~Marco Respinti, www.chiesa (October 6, 2003)

There are useful labels and then there are rather stupid labels. As much as I enjoy categorising and labeling things, and even as much as I understand the legitimate and necessary reasons for engaging in such categorisation and labeling (heresiology is perhaps my favourite subject in Byzantine history), there comes a time when the labels cease to mean anything or they become empty symbols that suggest difference or agreement where none exists. Theocon is just such an empty label. What is more, theoconservative is one of the uglier neologisms in a galaxy of ugly neologisms to describe different bands of conservative.

Unlike neoconservative and paleoconservative, which are terms consciously used on the one hand by the adherents of the neoconservative revolutionary ideology (even if they sometimes conveniently wish to deny their own existence) and on the other used by those who subscribe to a vision of humane, conservative order, theocon (or theological conservative) is a term invented as a new way to attack those whom the critic finds to be excessively religious while being politically conservative. Joseph Bottum actually gets something right when he laments this development and anticipates some of the objections I am making here.

The names neocon and paleocon at least seem to refer, however vaguely, to what the two persuasions represent. To listen to them tell it, neocons are supposedly a “new” kind of conservative and I think it is fair to say that paleoconservatives adhere in many respects to traditions of the Old Right (the ‘paleo-’ prefix nonetheless really only being added to distinguish real conservatives from the neocons). Theocons, unlike neocons, never identify themselves as such. Theocons are not, as their silly, abbreviated name might suggest, conservers of God or divine conservatives. Even though there are a couple of prominent theologians that have been labeled theocon, several so-called theocons (e.g., Bork, Neuhaus, Novak) are not even “theological conservatives” in the sense that their theology underpins much of what they have to say about politics, except in the most general sense.

Indeed, what will strike a theologically literate reader or a reader of Theonomic or even mildly theocratic tendencies about First Things is how little, in a theological journal, theology proper impinges on their political and cultural criticism. This is a product, I suspect, of the odd marriage of Enlightenment social and political models with what is purportedly traditional Christianity. In such a marriage, theology has very little to say to its unhappy spouse, the social contract. The extent of their “theoconservatism” is, in the case of First Things’ editors, an argument that religion has an important place in public policy and discourse (which is admittedly better than the conventional neocon argument that public religion is useful for keeping the people in line), but it only very rarely really extends beyond calling for a place at the public table for “religion.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Mormonism is far less “Christian” in the evangelical mind than Catholicism. Catholicism is just “dead” and not bible based. Mormonism is heretical. They have a whole other book. Their theology is all out of sorts. Hell, mainline churches don’t even recognize their baptisms. Corner an evangelical you know well and ask them their true thoughts on the Church Latter-Day Saints. They might hem and haw a bit but they won’t deny their belief that it’s a cult.

I, personally, have no opinion about Mormonism either way. But, if the Religious Right has any say in the matter, the Republican Party will not nominate a Mormon. It’s that simple. ~A.C. Kleinheider, Hard Right

When I read Taranto’s article last week I was tempted to post on the ‘predicament’ of Mormons in the GOP and the relationship of the LDS to Christianity (in my view, I take it is a given that Mormonism is related to Nicene Christianity even less than Arianism). However, it slipped my mind and I was returning to Chicago shortly afterwards, and now I see that Mr. Kleinheider has beaten me to the punch. His post covered most of the bases, and I recommend it for its political analysis (plus an intriguing suggestion that Mr. Buchanan’s Catholicism may have had a role in 1996 in alienating evangelicals from his campaign). I will add just a couple points.
Read the rest of this entry »

Mr. Dreher’s generally sensible idea of “crunchy” conservatism (his new shorthand way of referring to Kirkian, pro-conservation, localist and traditionally religious conservatives) has temporarily gone off the rails with what seems to be an inexplicable endorsement of David Cameron, the toffy new leader of the Tories, as a crunchy con. The endorsement, if we can call it that, is based on a thorough misunderstanding of what Mr. Cameron represents. In other words, crunchy cons are nothing like Mr. Cameron–more’s the pity for the Tories. Thus Dreher writes:

We now know that the free market is not enough; that there is, as Cameron has said, such a thing as society. We need to recover what the Romans called pietas. That is, respect for authority, respect for our obligations to family and community, respect for the generations that came before us and which will come after us.

Of course, as John O’Sullivan pointed out when the Tories selected Cameron, the “there is such a thing as society” drivel (drivel because it was done entirely for the benefit of the media and possibly to placate wobbly Labourites who are sick to death of Tony) does not reflect some greater sense of the need for stable, local communities and the strengthening of a sense of familial and social obligations. As Mr. O’Sullivan pointed out, Lady Thatcher denied that “society” existed in the sense that she denied that society-as-abstraction meant anything–society is made up of nothing other than the bonds of family, community and friends that form the very stuff of ordinary life.

To prove to the fawning press corps that he was not a serious Thatcherite, David Cameron affirmed the existence of the abstraction–he confirmed that he is just the sort of New Class, denatured, deracinated globalist that Lady Thatcher has never been and that, presumably, crunchy cons dislike very much. Cameron has embraced the New, the Global and the Abstract (to use Mr. Dreher’s own terms) and pays lip service, if he even does that, to the things Mr. Dreher values.

What’s more, if Mr. Dreher identifies being crunchy with being fairly religious (or at least that a lot of crunchy cons are seriously religious), he would be disappointed to find that Mr. Cameron is actually less pious, in simple church-going terms, than Blair. That would hardly be surprising for someone of his “hideously privileged” background, but it is the case. Dr. Trifkovic has a fine, withering dissection of Mr. Cameron, in which he explains why Cameron represents the death of old-fashioned Toryism.

It is a capital mistake to take Mr. Cameron’s posturing for some return to the spirit of the village-and-shire Toryism of Lord Salisbury’s day, for example, or an attempt to reorient British Conservatism away from its latter-day market and individualism fetishes. Hague and Duncan-Smith were bad leaders, but they were not the complete sell-outs to Mr. Blair’s Britain that Cameron clearly is–they were the last defenders of a real, albeit ineffectual, Tory Opposition.

If Blair pursued the Third Way by adopting some of the old Thatcherite pro-market rhetoric and generally being favourable to corporations, Mr. Cameron now goes to meet him in the fields of the center-left to lay a Tory claim to Labour’s mantle through more overt nods to Labourite socialism. This is not because crunchy conservatism has much, if anything, in common with such socialism, but because Mr. Cameron is simply a cipher, whose role it is to hollow out what remains of the Conservative Party by making it as “compassionate,” “diverse” and progressive as Mr. Bush’s GOP. There may be crunchy cons in Britain (indeed, I expect there are a fair few), but they will not turn out for Mr. Cameron. What will become horrifyingly clear to the Party is that nowhere near enough other British voters will turn out for him, either. The ‘modernising’ gamble, always on the cusp with the ridiculous Michael Portillo and the elephantine Ken Clarke, will have failed them, just as all such ruses fail because they are superficial and empty.
Read the rest of this entry »