Eunomia · March 2006


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It is strange to think that it was only a little over a month ago that Crunchy Cons hit shelves and the Crunchy Cons blog began working through the claims of crunchiness, tradition, authenticity, sacramentality, conservation and religion, among others, and what these entailed for the life of a modern American conservative who purports to treasure the Permanent Things. If bloggers used ink, I would have spilled a lot of ink over this phenomenon, most of which I was instinctively drawn to support because of its close agreement with many of my commitments as an Orthodox Christian and as a paleoconservative. The enterprise was a classic effort in diagnosing the ills of modernity and offering a remedy of sane, humane and traditional conservative life. That it was frequently shouted down and belittled as often as not by uncomprehending guardians of what passes for today’s conservatism was a striking confirmation of the crunchy claim to be counter-cultural and outside of a conservative “mainstream” and proof of the need for humane dissent from what has become an all-too-predictable party line.

When the CC blog started over at NRO, there were questions from some traditionalists whether traditional conservatives ought to give it any attention. As undesirable as the NRO location was in some ways in my view, and as much energy and time as the turf fights with the NR regulars consumed, it did lend prominence to the effort and forced the hand of the more unreasonable critics. Above all, it reminded conservatives that they have an alternative to the thin gruel of Big Government conservatism, reflexive defense of corporate interests and pie-in-the-sky idealism that has supplanted an older, thinking man’s conservatism.

Because crunchiness is fidelity to eternal verities and an application of those verities in practical ethics and a sane and humane way of life far more than it is a preoccupation with organic chicken and granola, or whatever idiosyncracy critics would like to latch onto, its influence will continue to spread as more and more Americans conclude that a life premised on autonomy, consumption and gratification of desires is bereft of meaning and spiritually sickening. For those interested in continuing to find a taste of crunchiness in writing, I understand that Rod Dreher will be blogging at Beliefnet.com and Caleb Stegall and the other merry Pantagruelists will continue their labours for better understanding through mockery and seasoned levity at The New Pantagruel. Eunomia itself will continue to be a refuge for all crunchies and their confederates, as well as an arsenal for the defense of crunchiness against the spate of silly or misguided attacks that it will continue to receive as time goes by.

He has been decorated with attributes superior in dignity and splendor to those of a king of Great Britain. He has been shown to us with the diadem sparkling on his brow and the imperial purple flowing in his train. He has been seated on a throne surrounded with minions and mistresses, giving audience to the envoys of foreign potentates, in all the supercilious pomp of majesty. The images of Asiatic despotism and voluptuousness have scarcely been wanting to crown the exaggerated scene. We have been taught to tremble at the terrific visages of murdering janizaries, and to blush at the unveiled mysteries of a future seraglio. ~Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 67

Sound a little too familiar? Mr. Hamilton is complaining here about the horrible misrepresentation of the powers of the new executive by critics of the Constitution. Little did he know that practically all of these exaggerated images, diadem and purple cloak aside, would indeed come to pass in many respects, at least with respect to the sheer concentration of power in one man’s office. Little did he know that all of the warnings of the Anti-Federalists about consolidated power and tyranny were right.

It was always Mr. Hamilton’s attempt to minimise and laugh off claims of excessive concentration of power in the executive, yet it has been in this area in particular that he proved to be the least perspicacious. His promises of executive weakness and legislative overreach had everything completely backwards, as the next 200 years were to show. Yet for some reason apologists for executive usurpation cite his modest claims about the implications of the Constitution for executive power as if we should take them very seriously.

But all of this is to engage in shadowplay–one can look high and low in the Federalist Papers for anything that would remotely justify what Mr. Bush has done with respect to authorising domestic surveillance, and he will not find it. The question of constitutionality is, as Mike DeWine rather amazingly put it a short time ago, simply irrelevant to most of the people who are deliberating on this matter. Yet we are still treated to the spectacle of untrammeled executive power dressing itself in the rags of what remains of the Constitution. I suspect if I hear once more that the Founders vested the President with inherent intelligence-gathering authority, which is such a painfully anachronistic thing to say, I will either scream or laugh.

Maybe Sen. Feingold, staunch libertarian that he purports to be, should read the Federalist Papers. He might start with No. 72, in which Hamilton warned, for the sake of liberty, that Americans remain on guard against “[t]he propensity of the legislative department to intrude upon the rights, and to absorb the powers, of the other departments[.]” ~Andy McCarthy, The Corner

And maybe we shouldn’t take the monocrat Hamilton’s word for which branch of government is the most dangerous and most likely to usurp power. Besides, there’s nothing like cherry-picking from the Federalist Papers to make modern autocracy go down more smoothly. And, by the way, it is Federalist 73, not 72, and this comes from Hamilton’s defense of the veto power. If he knew the use to which his words were now being put, I suspect he would rise up and challenge someone to another duel.

If you try to understand American politics as a philosophical debate between “left” and “right,” you will go crazy. It all makes sense, however, if you see it as a struggle of shifting coalitions of ethnic groups and regions– Northeast and Midwest, South and Pacific Coast, Latinos and Jews, evangelicals and Catholics, whites and blacks. The striking correlation between ethnicity and partisanship– between being black or Jewish and being Democratic, for example, or between being a white Southern Protestant and being Republican–is impossible to explain in terms of individually- chosen ideology or even class interest, because ethnic groups and regions in the U.S. tend to vote as blocs, regardless of income. ~William Lind

Following Mr. Lind’s lead, I would add that it will also drive you crazy trying to figure out why all those religious, family-oriented immigrants and minorities don’t vote the GOP ticket. Orthodox ethnic communities might also be considered to be full of “natural Republicans” to the extent that they are full of natural conservatives, but the funny thing is that no one has ever bothered to tell the ethnic Orthodox this. Invariably, among “cradle” and most convert Orthodox alike their politics consistently and overwhelmingly skew left, or at least this has always been my impression, because as ethnic immigrants or the descendants of ethnic immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries they much more “naturally” identified with the Democrats and have retained this identification in large numbers ever since (the exception might be among Serbian-Americans since the 1990s), and the converts who join tend to enter in by marriage and often share the general political affinities of their spouses. Of course, you can find converts and “cradle” Orthodox in America on the right, but in terms of predictable political loyalties these still represent the minority.

Each individual all over the world has the God-given right to express themselves. I’m not just going to visit places where people agree with me. That would be really unfortunate. ~Condoleeza Rice

It would also drastically cut down on her travel schedule.

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Via Kathryn Jean Lopez, The Corner

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From The Washington Post

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From The Washington Times

My favourite is the caption the Times gives to the third picture: “US President George W. Bush pretends to lose his balance as he and Mexico’s President Vicente Fox walk the steps of an ancient Mayan Pyramid yesterday.” If true, does Mr. Bush think he is in such excellent PR shape on immigration that he can afford to look as if he is “going wobbly” as he walks behind Vicente Fox? The matching outfits are a nice touch.

Before crunchy cons rush to embrace Daylight Saving Time because it supposedly promotes outdoorsmanship and family values, read the piece in today’s WSJ by Michael Downing (no free link) — he points out that consumerism is a big part of the motivation behind DST, because it lets golf courses operate later and so on. But then again, as I understand crunchy cons, they like a lot of regulations. So why not regulate time itself? Just another thing, apparently, that the government can’t leave well enough alone. ~John Miller, The Corner

Since some view me as a sort of spokesman for crunchy conservatism, even though I am really more of a crunchy sympathiser, I am obliged to address this frivolous post as a perfect example of the sort of criticism the idea of crunchy conservatism receives on a regular basis.

Mr. Miller distinguishes himself with one of the most irrelevant and uninformed comments on the crunchies yet, which takes some doing. The crack about regulating time is just stupid. Having hours and clocks is already regulation of time, Mr. Miller–God did not give Moses a Rolex on Sinai.

I suspect if there were a specifically crunchy view of Daylight Savings Time, it would probably be a hostile one. As near as I can tell, and as Mr. Miller’s own post hints, DST was created and has been spuriously justified ever since as an aid to the more efficient use of energy, the mobilisation of a more effective workforce and as a means to increase consumption. DST is a glaring symbol of the sorts of idiocies modern man will engage in for the sake of privileging efficiency. It is an example of much that the crunchies reject in contemporary life. Personally, I have always found DST inane and pointless.

But, then, since Mr. Miller doesn’t understand anything about crunchy conservatism, he would have had no idea about any of that. He heard from somewhere that “crunchies like regulation,” so he shut down all critical thinking and lapsed into precisely the ideological mindset Rod accuses so many contemporary conservatives of having. Mr. Miller serves as a good example that this critique is not that of a strawman or caricature, but of conservatives who have their passel of slogans and will not be bothered to think about what any of them mean or whether they are true or not.

For a much more intelligent and fair response, see Maxwell Goss’ response to Rod’s book at Right Reason here.

Update: As I have discovered, Mr. Miller is no fan of Daylight Savings Time (who is?). He tells us one of the reasons for the adoption of DST:

As Michael Downing points out in his new book, Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, urban businessmen were a major force behind the adoption of DST in the United States. They thought daylight would encourage workers to go shopping on their way home.

Can anyone think of a more anti-crunchy, consumerist thing to do than fiddle with everyone’s clocks to get them to buy more junk? No, of course not. Everything Mr. Miller catalogues about DST is a confirmation of the lunacy that the cult of efficiency imposes on ordinary people. Crunchy conservatism proposes a remedy to that lunacy–not that Mr. Miller would know about it. Had Mr. Miller had bothered to invest five minutes in learning something about the crunchy view of things, he would not have made a fool of himself.

The reaction to the Harvard University study by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” [.pdf] has been fury by the Lobby and its partisans – and a demotion for Walt, who, it was announced shortly after the paper’s release, would be stepping down from his post as dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. ~Justin Raimondo

Update: It appears that there is no connection between Prof. Walt’s involvement with the “Israel Lobby” article and his departure from his job as academic dean. Or so reports Steve Clemons at TPM Cafe, who quotes from a message from the Dean of the Kennedy School:

And even though everyone here at the school has known for many months that Steve’s term as academic dean was coming to an end this summer, some media, in spite of our strong efforts, have chosen to portray the timing as significant. That is flat wrong and unfair.

Mr. Raimondo’s report of a key donor wielding influence behind this decision may still hold up with time, but at the moment it appears that the timing of Prof. Walt’s departure from this post was probably coincidental and not related to his article.

At the same time, the lockstep response against the two professors from all the usual suspects has Steve Sailer asking this:

In any case, doesn’t this entire controversy where the Israel Lobby en masse furiously denounces these two scholars for pointing out the existence of the Israel Lobby remind you of that scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where the Wizard shouts, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”?

This became a cause célèbre only because of the presence of American troops in Afghanistan: having Rahman killed for apostasy under their noses would have made too explicit a debacle of the already farcical neocon phantasy known as “democratizing the greater Middle East.”

No, when Christians are routinely mistreated and killed by our other trusted friends and allies of the United States in the region - notably Pakistan, Egypt, and even the “secular” Turkey - you don’t hear about it, there are no vigils, no protests, no offers of asylum. In Pakistan, murders, endemic discrimination, and constant harassment of Christians - who are mainly poor and account for a mere one percent of the population - is persistent. Any dispute with a Muslim - most commonly over land - can become a religious issue. Christians are routinely accused of “blasphemy against Islam,” an offense that carries the death penalty as Pakistan has some of the strictest blasphemy laws in the Muslim world. Charges of blasphemy can be made on the flimsiest of evidence - even one man’s word against another - and since it is invariably a Muslim’s word against that of a Christian, the outcome is preordained.

In Egypt, supposedly a friend of the United States and the second largest recipient of the U.S. taxpayers’ largesse, not a single murderer was convicted following the January 2000 massacre of 21 Coptic Christians in the village of Al-Kosheh, and smaller-scale massacres continue unabated. ~Srdja Trifkovic

Via Clark Stooksbury

My Enchiridion Militis colleague, Paul Cella, has a good post at RedState, where he says this:

My point is rather to lay out what can only be a sketch of a great and largely unremarked fact: that under an ostensibly conservative President and center-right governing coalition, the Conservatism that still characterizes the American people, and still infuriates men of the Left, has suffered blows far more crippling than any since the 1960s. A man thought to be almost revolutionary in his conservatism has in fact achieved a vast consolidation of the gains of the Left.

Until now, short-sighted conservatives have thought of Hispanics as something of a genial caricature of themselves, a caricature that accords with their personal impressions from fleeting encounters with bus-boys, landscapers, and others in service industries. The caricature is that Hispanics are quiet, docile, hard-working, and politically irrelevant people. The ideas of Hispanics themselves on wide-ranging issues–labor rights, immigration, religion, the meaning of family values–were willfully ignored. Sometimes conservatives went so far as to imagine Hispanics as they wanted them to be: “natural Republicans” who have yet to realize this fact. (I suppose that’s why Mexico, which is entirely made up of these “natural Republicans,” resembles Connecticut in so many important ways). ~Chris Roach

Mr. Roach aims even more withering fire at this idea than I did, and he does so with much greater precision and force.

“In other words, Americans understand you’re newcomers to the political arena. But pretty soon it’s time to shut her down and get governing.” ~AP Wire

Via Antiwar

Well, four months and no government later, a skeptic might be forgiven for thinking the exercise of establishing a “unity government” in Iraq rather hopeless. Mr. Bush speaks here as if the Iraqis could form a unity government but have just been dithering because they haven’t been paying enough attention to the situation around them. Some Iraqi politicos are not taking the “Get ‘er done!” exhortations very well:

In the face of growing pressure from the Bush administration for him to step down, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of Iraq on Wednesday vigorously asserted his right to stay in office and warned the Americans against undue interference in Iraq’s political process.

Of course, Mr. Bush has probably only hardened divisions and made the settlement harder because of this:

Senior Shiite politicians said Tuesday that the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, had weighed in over the weekend, telling the leader of the Shiite bloc that President George W. Bush did not want Jaafari as prime minister. That was the first time the Americans had openly expressed a preference for the occupant of post, the politicians said, and it showed the Bush administration’s acute impatience over the stagnant political process. Relations between Shiite leaders and the Americans have been fraying for months, and reached a crisis point after a bloody assault on a Shiite mosque compound Sunday night by American and Iraqi forces.

That old Jaafari, thinking that Iraqis could chose their own prime minister! What’s next? Iraqi independence? So, what is the problem with Jaafari that Washington would risk upsetting the entire process like this? Well, even though he was duly elected according to the vaunted Iraqi constitution, he was elected by some of the wrong people, the deputies who represent Moqtada al-Sadr’s faction. So, to recap, one militant Shi’ite faction (the bad one) helps a militant Shi’ite to become prime minister and Mr. Bush says that this is unacceptable. Surely the irony of opposing Jaafari’s candidacy in a Shi’ite-majority country in the name of democracy has occurred to some of the sharper minds at the White House. Jaafari may be an awful choice (he almost certainly is), but why go through the whole song and dance of offering representative institutions to these people if they are not going to be allowed to use them? Who exactly does Mr. Bush think he is kidding?

She’s a classic pragmatist, and like all pragmatists her views are, well, pragmatic. And that means that they change over time. ~Anne Applebaum, The Spectator (registration required)

Ms. Applebaum has managed to save “Condi” from being “pigeonholed” with anything so constraining as a consistent set of principles. Why this is supposed to recommend her to us more than if she were an ideologue escapes me. Being the Sandra Day O’Connor of foreign policy is not, from the perspective of conservatives, more desirable than being its Earl Warren. The one is simply the grinning enabler of the other. Being lackey to ideologues is in many respects just as bad, and does not even possess the esteemed excuse of conviction. And what might have once been called gross hypocrisy or “flip-flopping” in those storied days of 2004, if we were speaking of a certain morose Senator from Massachusetts, is proof of Condi’s pragmatism.

Some have even accused Dr. Rice (shocking!) of incompetence as national security advisor:

She was thought not up to the job of negotiating compromises between the administration’s two alpha males, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld.

Perhaps some thought this because of the not-so-subtle turf war that was constantly being played out in the press between the State and Defense Departments and her complete inability to corral the two men into one pen (which was, aside from explaining to Mr. Bush where Iraq is on the map and what a Sunni is, one of her primary functions).

It can’t be repeated often enough: War always brings unintended consequences. Nobody foresaw that the Iraq war would lead to Bush’s claim of intellectual leadership. If we had, there might have been more resistance at the beginning, even from conservatives. ~Joseph Sobran

Personally, I’d rather endure a Bush press conference than see this movie again. ~Steve Sailer

That’s just about the most damning part in a justly brutal review of a horribly overrated and really very silly movie.

I have spent, as I am sure many of you have, a lot of time in and around Hispanic culture. I don’t mean this in the sense of, “I’ve run in to some Hispanic people from time to time,” but rather in the sense of having gone frequently into their homes and partaken in their life stories. And whether Mexican, Cuban, Guatemalan, or other, I have found that they share many things in common.

They are tireless and dedicated workers. They have dedication to their families - to the principle of family - that would put us all to shame. They are highly religious people, who take their religion (most often Catholicism) very seriously. They keep their head down and go about their business. These are, in other words, Republican voters. ~Leon Wolf, Enchiridion Militis

Before I start on the potentially tangential point of whether these immigrants are in some sense potential “Republican voters,” I should note in fairness that my colleague, Leon Wolf, does argue later in the post for enforcement of the law:

All of that said, I am still a law and order guy. And, I support wholeheartedly any proposal that makes breaking the law more difficult, and more effectively deters lawbreaking in general. Bottom line: I support the Sensenbrenner proposal.

Mr. Wolf’s other points, some of which I am going to disagree with, will have to wait for another post.

Even though I grew up in New Mexico, I won’t pretend that I have spent a lot of time “in and around Hispanic culture,” except insofar as that culture permeates the general culture of New Mexico. I went to school with a fair few Hispanic kids, and we played on the same basketball team, and for the first seven years of formal schooling I went through mandatory Spanish language classes (and this was at private school), but I’m not going to kid anyone that I had close involvement with “Hispanic culture.” In school, we learned as much, if not more, about Spanish colonialism than we did about English colonialism, and our derivative cuisine was a constant reminder that we lived in Nuevo Mexico, but most of what we did learn about the Spanish and Mexican periods made the arrival of Gen. Kearny in 1846 seem like an unmitigated blessing for New Mexico. To my mind, the entry en masse of millions upon millions of Latin Americans seems to be quite plainly a reversal of that change and the introduction of the political habits and mentalities of peoples whose political systems are, in terms of constitutional republicanism, hopelessly flawed. If we want the broken political systems that drive these people out of their countries eventually reproduced here in miniature, we should keep having them come in at the present rate.

No one would challenge the work ethic of most of the people in question, nor necessarily their dedication to family and religion, which are elements of the debate that have always struck me as quite beside the point. Quite aside from the broader questions of assimilating new immigrants and whether or not we should reward illegal immigrants in some sense for having come here illegally, which are the central questions, there is the assumption that Hispanic immigrants should make good GOP voters because they are dedicated to work, family and faith. This assumption seems to be a case of believing something because it should be the case rather than believing something because it is true.
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It occurred to me that I have been approaching Walter Russell Mead’s characterisation of the “Jacksonians” the wrong way around. Perhaps, I thought to myself, he does not mean the label quite so literally as I have insisted on taking it. Maybe the modern-day “Jacksonians” aren’t supposed to have anything to do with the original Jacksonian politics or Andrew Jackson himself. But it would be a mistake to think this. Far from serving as a generic symbol, Jackson the man is the wellspring of this entire style of politics.

Mead’s Jacksonians are “new” Jacksonians in the sense that this Jacksonianism has expanded beyond its original Anglo-Celtic Democratic base and its “code” has been adopted by Americans from various ethnicities. The modern Jacksonians make up a community of shared values: honour, equality, individualism (and associated “self-fulfillment”) balanced with a certain social and moral conservatism, courage, and, rather bizarrely, a free-spending, status-seeking “financial esprit.” Except for the last point (on which more in a moment), there is some connection here with historic Jacksonians in that these people did resent hierarchies and authorities, except that the language of self-fulfillment would have little to do with the values of the hardy Scots-Irish Protestants Mead refers to (these were folk for whom self-fulfillment, had the phrase then existed, would have been a sin).

On “financial esprit,” Mead says this:

While the Jacksonian believes in hard work, he or she also believes that credit is a right and that money, especially borrowed money, is less a sacred trust than a means for self-discovery and expression. Although previous generations lacked the faculties for consumer credit that Americans enjoy at the end of the twentieth century, many Americans have always assumed that they have a right to spend money on their appearance, on purchases that affirm their status. The strict Jacksonian code of honor does not enjoin what others see as financial probity. What it demands, rather, is a daring and entrepreneurial spirit. Credit is seen less as an obligation than as an opportunity. Jacksonians have always supported loose monetary policy and looser bankruptcy laws.

Credit is a right? Borrowed money as a means for self-discovery and expression? Do these phrases sound as if they apply to 19th century Democrats? If these sorts of people have supported looser monetary policy at certain times, it was often to get out from under farm debt and their creditors in the financial institutions. That is not self-discovery and expression, but a matter of avoiding going broke. I suspect that if Jacksonians of that sort exist today, they are the sort of people who do not like debt and avoid it whenever possible. It is certainly not something they would seek to acquire status symbols.

It is difficult to overestimate how wrong this identification of the credit-happy, overspending middle-class Americans of today with Jacksonian sentiments is. One point on which Jeffersonians and Jacksonians agreed, and one on which the Jacksonians were even more intense and polemical than their forebears, was the hostility to credit, banks and “stock-jobbers” and all forms of exchange connected to speculation, paper and interest. Jackson’s attack on the Second Bank was a major symbol of this hostility, but it is one that re-emerges throughout nineteenth and early twentieth century history: the Populists, the Grange, the silverites and their spokesman in William Jennings Bryan were all, in their different ways, continuing this resistance to “bank-rule” and the rule of financial elites. In this they shared much with the socially conservative rural populists of Europe, who viewed city folk and their equivalent of “bank-rule” with the same distrust. Prodigality through easy credit is as far removed from these sorts of people as anything can be.

In the end, Mead is describing a very real phenomenon in American politics, but I don’t think the name works at all on any number of points. Yes, you can find certain similarities between Jacksonians then and Mead’s “Jacksonians” (but then honour and courage are values that could be shared by people of various persuasions), but much of what you can identify in historic Jacksonians is lacking in Mead’s modern equivalent. This is why I would reiterate that the people Mead seems to be describing are Middle Americans and many of them fall under the category of Francis’ Middle American Radicals. If these terms are more vague, they have the advantage of not reading the interests of modern middle-class Americans into those of 19th century Jacksonians and concluding that the two groups are essentially the same after having imposed the values of the modern group on the group in the past.

By their own lights, Jacksonians are populists (and “profoundly suspicious of elites,” according to Mead); unselfconsciously patriotic or nationalistic; and deeply religious, with a tendency toward fundamentalism and its emphasis on the individual’s relationship with God. Country music is their quintessential cultural expression.

They admire self-sufficiency, but unlike Jeffersonian libertarians, Jacksonians are not averse to finding a positive role for government as long as it fights on the right side of the cultural divide. “Jacksonians believe that government should do everything in its power to promote the well-being – political, moral, economic – of the folk community,” Mead writes. The military is part of that community: “When it comes to Big Government, Jeffersonians worry more about the military than about anything else. But for Jacksonians, spending money on the military is one of the best things governments do.” ~Daniel McCarthy

Mr. McCarthy does a fine job in this article explaining Mead’s idea of foreign policy “Jacksonians” and the foreign policy “Age of Jackson” we seem to be in, and I have no argument with Mr. McCarthy’s presentation of Mead’s idea. But, as I have in the past, I am perplexed by the use of the term Jacksonian to describe the foreign policy or indeed overall political view under discussion. I don’t pretend to have special insight into the career or presidency of Andrew Jackson, but it puzzles me that he has been associated with the aggressive, militant sort of foreign policy that he has been. Perhaps the trouble I am having with the distinction between Jeffersonians and Jacksonians is that, historically, these were in many cases the same people or the latter were the sons of the former.

Rude democratisation, the rise of the Democracy and the disappearance of the old Democratic-Republicans introduced obvious changes, but in most things Jackson was committed to roughly the same persuasion as the Jeffersonians before him and he governed in many respects as Jefferson did (whether or not that style of government contradicted clear principles of republicanism). Ascribing a more militant attitude to the Jacksonians seems to fit the administration of Young Hickory (James Polk) rather than Old Hickory, so we might call them Polkians. But even that is not quite right.

Some might argue that Polk only flourished in the political atmosphere that Jackson’s politics created, and that may be true, but we see in Polk not the aggressive and nationalistic demagogue who might be associated with Mead’s idea of Jacksonian populist nationalism but instead a retiring realist who pursued diplomatic solutions before resorting to force and someone who went to war only to achieve tangible and vital objectives in the national interest. If Jackson was a military man and personally combative, and even if he sympathised with his fellow Tennesseans in old Texico, his policy was generally and wisely irenic, as was that of his successor. The president properly associated with this stuff, for good or ill, is probably Lincoln or TR. Don’t lay it at Jackson’s feet.

Update: Going a bit more into the presentation of modern-day “Jacksonians,” I find the label less and less compelling. For instance, in the pull-quote above there are two claims: in the modern “Jacksonian” view, the government should do everything in its power to promote the well-being of the “folk community” and money is no object when it comes to military spending. The contrast is supposed to be with a limited Jeffersonian state, but historic Jacksonians likewise wanted a small, constrained constitutional government that did very little.

The modern “Jacksonians” are really Sam Francis’ Middle American Radicals, with whom the actual Jacksonians of the 1830s and 1840s would have much less in common than this theory holds. Do these two attitudes towards the government have any basis in Jackson’s policies, or those of his successors? The man who inflated the size of the standing army to gigantic proportions was Lincoln. By contrast, military spending in the antebellum period was, of course, extremely limited.

The proponents of an activist government that would work for “internal improvements” were Jackson’s bitter enemies. Jackson used his power as president to break the Bank, because the Bank was a source of tremendous power for precisely those interests that believed in a more active and involved federal government. Arguably, it might ultimately be in the best interests of the MARs to adopt the real Jacksonian politics, but that is not the sort of politics they have adopted. I implore everyone, don’t lay the preferences of the New Right, whatever their merits or flaws, at Jackson’s door. It’s simply not true.

Someone get Daniel Henninger a chair. He is swooning so much over Mr. Bush’s recent speech in Wheeling, West Virginia that he might faint (I was passing through Wheeling last week at just the same time that Mr. Bush was there, but managed not to swoon). This is a speech where Mr. Bush refers to himself as Educator-in-Chief (quick, someone call Lynne Cheney and tell her that the President wants to federalise education!…oh, that’s right, never mind). This is supposed to be real a barn-burner of a speech. All I can say is that I have to assume Mr. Henninger’s enthusiasm for it comes from the way it was delivered and not what Mr. Bush actually said.

Thus spake the Educator-in-Chief:

And it’s fine that people forget the lessons [of 9/11]. But one of my jobs is to constantly remind people of the lessons.

So as chief Educator, he thinks it is a good thing for his students (known in free countries as citizens) to forget the lessons of experience…so he can re-teach them to the students? I suppose that’s a sort of job security for the Educator-in-Chief, and the short memories and short attention span of the American public guarantee that the Educator-in-Chief will have something to do.

Here he says something true:

In other words, you want your President out there making sure that his words are credible.

Indeed we do. Yet Mr. Bush keeps talking just as he always has.

Then he says something silly:

I believe liberty is a universal thought. It’s not an American thought, it is a universal thought. And if you believe that, then you ought to take great comfort and joy in helping others realize the benefits of liberty. The way I put it is, there is an Almighty God. One of the greatest gifts of that Almighty God is the desire for people to be free, is freedom. And therefore — (applause) — and therefore, this country and the world ought to say, how can we help you remain free? What can we do to help you realize the blessings of liberty?

Liberty can mean one of a few things: it can be the state of dispassion and freedom from attachment that a virtuous man realises; it can be deliverance from the rule of the passions and demons through the grace of God; it can be a legal guarantee that you will not be arbitrarily detained, your property seized or your home searched without just cause, and that you will be left unmolested by the authorities in the way prescribed by law. It is fundamentally a state, not a “thought.” In the first two senses of moral or spiritual freedom, it is potentially available to all, but in the third sense it is limited to those societies that have developed the habits, institutions and laws that must exist for this state to exist. Many people can imagine or think of an idea of liberty, and many have, which does not mean that the experience of liberty is or will ever be available to all. There is every reason to believe that the idea of liberty on offer from Mr. Bush, which seems to differ scarcely from self-will and indulgence, directly contradicts the moral and spiritual kinds of liberty that should take precedence in any event, and which often directly undermine the restraint and discipline required for the practice of ordered liberty. The desire to be free in the sense that Mr. Bush means likely does not come from God, but from the other alternative source. For a more elaborate explanation, see The Possessed.
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Basically, Linker sets out to prove that Neuhaus is a would-be theocrat bent on Christianizing America by force - but lacking significant evidence for that point of view, he settles for proving that Neuhaus is . . . a Roman Catholic. ~Ross Douthat

That sums it up pretty well.

I am not sketching out specific scenarios, but I’m just saying that the development of a civil war in Iraq is a horrible prospect, and I in no sense want it to happen.

But if one looks at it coolly, one sees that it’s not, from an American or for that matter Australian point of view, a disastrous possibility. It’s disastrous for those involved, but not necessarily for those of us on the outside. ~Daniel Pipes

Via Scott Horton at Antiwar Blog

Pipes sounds a bit like me discussing Darfur, so shouldn’t I let him slide on this one? Withdrawal from Iraq is the right policy, so shouldn’t we let this one go? No. Because Pipes’ comments reveal the moral hollowness and viciousness of the neoconservative vision of “liberation” in full. It is quite one thing to say that American interests should take precedence and guide our policy, and that American interests ought to have dictated not invading Iraq in the first place, and that they now dictate that we should leave, but it is something all together different to say that we had a moral obligation to “liberate” the Iraqis only to let them have at each other in bloody mayhem. That is the new neocon wisdom. This is the new line from neocon headquarters, echoed by the deeply moral Charles Krauthammer, who might as well have said this: “let them kill each other, and we’ll side with the winner later.” The difference is that those of us who advocate withdrawal do so knowing that it is an awful choice, but the best one for the United States in the long view, and not out of a perfectly inhuman disdain for the people whose country our government has destroyed. Krauthammer and Pipes had no qualms about destroying the country, nor about watching it be carved up into armed camps, as these are all part of the long-term strategy of dominating the region. Washing your hands of a foreign civil war is one thing–pretending that it has nothing to do with you, when you are one of the public figures who openly promoted the war that caused these things, is something very different and most despicable.

In a way, Pipes would be right that it isn’t our concern, except for the fact that the war that he supported and endorsed created the situation he now deplores (but doesn’t deplore too much). Then there is that little thing of an invading and occupying power being legally obligated under international law to establish order and security in the country it occupies. That has never been high on the list of neocon priorities–a secure Iraq is an Iraq with nothing for us to do.

There is something profoundly duplicitous about these people (no secret, that), meaning neoconservatives, that transcends ordinary dishonesty and hypocrisy. No principle, no truth is so great that it cannot be turned on its head to serve their turn. This is not news, but occasionally the moral vacuum that these people inhabit is so amazing and awful that it requires special attention.

Three years ago the serious claim that what went on in Iraq was none of our business would have been called “irresponsible,” “craven” and virtually traitorous. Indeed, it was called all those things when many sensible people declared that what went on in Iraq was Iraq’s business and not our concern. America First, national interest, realism–these were our watchwords, and the neocons mocked or distorted them all. We were reliably told, if not by Pipes himself then by everyone Pipes was allied with, that those ideas constituted appeasement and weakness and stupidity. Now the Iraqis–the Iraqis whom these charlatans have claimed to value and respect so much–can go to the hell of civil war with their blessings as a sort of national purgation. Of course, if there was ever anything certain to kill representative institutions and the mentality needed for a free society it is endemic warfare. Which only goes to show that their prattle about bringing democracy to Iraq was, as many of us have known, a fraud and a sham (which is not to say that it would be wise or desirable to make a success of such a project).

I refer to the sheer scope, speed and urgency of the issues that go to a president’s desk, to the impossibility of bureaucracy, to the array of impeding and antagonistic forces (the 50-50 nation, the mass media, the senators owned by the groups), to the need to have a fully informed understanding of and stand on the most exotic issues, from Avian flu to the domestic realities of Zimbabwe.

The special prosecutors, the scandals, the spin for the scandals, nuclear proliferation, wars and natural disasters, Iraq, stem cells, earthquakes, the background of the Supreme Court backup pick, how best to handle the security problems at the port of Newark, how to increase production of vaccines, tort reform, did Justice bungle the anthrax case, how is Cipro production going, did you see this morning’s Raw Threat File? Our public schools don’t work, and there’s little refuge to be had in private schools, however pricey, in part because teachers there are embarrassed not to be working in the slums and make up for it by putting pictures of Frida Kalho where Abe Lincoln used to be. Where is Osama? What’s up with trademark infringement and intellectual capital? We need an answer on an amendment on homosexual marriage! We face a revolt on immigration.

The range, depth, and complexity of these problems, the crucial nature of each of them, the speed with which they bombard the Oval Office, and the psychic and practical impossibility of meeting and answering even the most urgent of them, is overwhelming. And that doesn’t even get us to Korea. And Russia. And China, and the Mideast. You say we don’t understand Africa? We don’t even understand Canada!

Roiling history, daily dangers, big demands; a government that is itself too big and rolling in too much money and ever needing more to do the latest important, necessary, crucial thing.

It’s beyond, “The president is overwhelmed.” The presidency is overwhelmed. The whole government is. And people sense when an institution is overwhelmed. Citizens know. If we had a major terrorist event tomorrow half the country–more than half–would not trust the federal government to do what it has to do, would not trust it to tell the truth, would not trust it, period. ~Peggy Noonan, OpinionJournal.com (Oct. 27, 2005)

Hat tip to Rod Dreher

Ms. Noonan expresses the anxiety that the “wheels are coming off.” Now, I tend towards the apocalyptic side myself sometimes when looking at the future, and I have always regarded people who cannot imagine colossal disasters or tremendous decline unfolding before us as people who have very poor imaginations. Nonetheless, Ms. Noonan seems to have lost some perspective.

It is often said, as a compliment, that Americans are a very optimistic people, and that certainly has its advantages in looking at the world with a certain sense of possibility, but I have to regard it as one of the sources of our greatest weakness and a reason for our profound ignorance of the rest of the world (as well as a cause of our lack of curiosity about the rest of the world). A people with no sense of tragedy cannot really understand the other nations of the world, nor can it understand their history, and because that people cannot understand or sympathise it quickly loses interest in quarrels and strife from far away and long ago that seem to say nothing about their own experience.

In this sense, we should not laugh (too much) at the revelation that prior to the invasion of Iraq Mr. Bush had no idea what distinguished Sunnis and Shi’ites from each other, because most Americans could not be bothered to learn or care about such disputes (just as they never wanted to learn or care about what distinguished a Croat from a Serb, and were perfectly willing to accept the blatant misrepresentation that the conflict was the result of “ancient feuds,” which was American code for “bizarre strangers killing each other for stupid reasons.”). As an aspiring Byzantinist with interests in heresiology, an area that seems to leave even Byzantinists cold, I perceive this general lack of interest among Americans in ancient quarrels acutely. One might expect more from the President, I suppose, but then this is part of the problem I have been talking about: people do expect more from the President, and this is where we have gone very wrong. We should not expect more from him (our system of election makes sure that our high expectations will always, always be disappointed), but rather not allow him to have as much power and as many responsibilities as he does. It would matter much less that Mr. Bush is a profoundly ignorant man if he had relatively few responsibilities and limited power–if here, in other words, the President of a republic and not an autocrat.

In one sense it is well that Americans are optimistic, because it means that we have not experienced what most nations have experienced in their time: defeat, dispersion, occupation, slaughter, ruin, general grinding poverty. In another sense, it has made us especially sensitive to every setback and inconvenience, and this has only worsened as we have become more materially successful, comfortable and spoiled.

Things may be going badly, and they may well get worse, generally speaking, whether that means a green flag and crescent flying above the capitals of Europe in another generation, the continued cultural disintegration of this country in another generation, or the end of the era of cheap credit and easy debt and the resulting financial panic that would sweep the globe. Any of those would indeed be very bad and would constitute, in one way or another, the great crack-up of the world we now know and, in spite of itself, still manage to love in many respects because it is our own, deeply flawed and in need of significant repair as it is. But Ms. Noonan is talking about something else.
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Exactly what happened on Sunday night is in dispute, but in a political sense it no longer matters. Tension between the Americans and Shia leaders had been rising for weeks, since Washington started pushing for Mr Jabr’s replacement as police minister and went on to oppose Mr Jaafari remaining as prime minister.

The Americans insisted yesterday that they had raided the complex after receiving intelligence that it was being used to hold hostages, store weapons and harbour insurgents. “In our observation of the place and the activities that were going on, it’s difficult for us to consider this a place of prayer,” said Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, a spokesman. “It was not identified by us as a mosque… I think this is a matter of perception.” A brief US communique in the first hours after the incident said “no mosques were entered or damaged”. ~The Guardian

Via Antiwar

With the vote on 99.5 percent, Kadima had a less than expected 28 seats. Labor held at 20 seats, and Shas rose to 13, making the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party the third largest faction in the Knesset.

The Likud had hoped to block a center-left coalition, but with almost all of the votes in weakened to 11 seats, far below the figures the party had hoped and a far cry from the 38 seats it won under Ariel Sharon in 2003.

Avigdor Lieberman’s Russian immigrant-dominated faction Yisrael Beiteinu captured 12 seats, positioning itself as the chief opposition party to head the nationalist camp.

In the largest surprise of the night, the Pensioners party won seven seats. The right-wing National Union-National Religious Party secured nine seats, with United Torah Judaism at six and Meretz at four. The Arab parties stood to win a total of ten seats.~Haaretz

Far from the rally to Likud that I, along with a lot of conventional wisdom-echoing pundits, expected after Sharon’s incapacitation and Hamas’ victory, the Israeli election results represent some good news from a region that has not exactly been overflowing in encouraging reports. Likud continues its decline and Netanyahu’s leadership has been judged a failure (again), which must be regarded as a victory for sanity and intelligence. The reality that the “nationalists” must rely on Russian immigrants to serve as their spearhead underscores the problems the new opposition will have in creating a coherent alternative to the projected Kadima-Labour government.

Do the theocons really want a police state? Maybe I shouldn’t take it for granted that they don’t. ~Daniel McCarthy, The Tory Anarchist

What is interesting about Neuhaus’ “End of Democracy?” criticism of the government is that its justification of contemplating the overthrow of the regime rested on the consent of the governed and the right to revolt. (Yes, there is also an older justification of resistance to tyranny, but that is not the language Neuhaus was using.) This was Neuhaus at his least enthusiastic for intrusive and abusive government (he has apparently since regained his confidence in the moral goodness of the regime and its purposes abroad and does not talk about usurpation by any branch of government, least of all the executive), so I’m not quite sure what Mr. McCarthy thinks Neuhaus was proposing that suggests anything necessarily Robespierrean. (Jeffrey Hart has amusingly called Neuhaus a “Jacobinical priest,” contradiction in terms though that should be, but as much as I might like to agree with Mr. Hart I don’t think he was applying the term Jacobinical correctly.)

The occasion for the imagined revolt against the regime was the moral bankruptcy and moral evil of a regime that abets and supports mass murder (what else do you call legalised and state-subsidised abortion?) and that does so at the whim of judges who are neither accountable nor within their authority to grant such “rights,” but the rhetorical justification was entirely a liberal one. If a radical application of contractarian theory gives you Robespierre, as it certainly can and has, this is a flaw in something inherent in that theory and inherent in liberalism and not something that can be laid at the door of the theocratic bogeymen who dwell, for example, in the imaginations of the Brothers Wachowski.

The books reminded him that some people claimed to be both Rothbardian anarchists and conservative Catholics. How dare they! Feser supports the war; here were writers who, by claiming that this view was obviously mistaken, challenged his own grasp of Catholic tradition. It was imperative, from his standpoint, that he strike back. Those he condemned as defenders of an un-Catholic social philosophy must not be allowed the upper hand. ~David Gordon, LewRockwell.com

I guess there are Rothbardians who have no problem with the label of anarchist, which really does surprise me. I must not be as familiar with what their libertarianism entails as I thought I was. I have scarcely ever encountered a libertarian who did not react with offense the moment the a-word was thrown in his face. In any event, Mr. Gordon gives Mr. Feser a bit of a dressing down on libertarian grounds, which don’t interest me very much, but the more important part of the response (and, in fact, a better answer than my own critique of Feser) is here:

Cardinal Journet, e.g., states in The Church of the Word Incarnate, Volume I, pp.306–307: “After reading this specification [by St. Thomas] for a just war we might well ask how many wars have been wholly just. Probably they could be counted on the fingers of one hand.” Cardinal Journet was a well-known conservative, and the reformers of Vatican II viewed his great treatise on the Church as defending an overly hierarchical view. Cardinal Ottaviani, the principal opponent at Vatican II of the liberals, went so far as to say “that modern wars can never fulfill those conditions which. . . govern – theoretically – a just and lawful war. Moreover, no conceivable cause could ever be a sufficient justification for the evils, the slaughter, the destruction, the moral and religious upheavals which war today entails.”

This echoes in stronger terms the quote from then-Cardinal Ratzinger I posted yesterday.

Via Daniel McCarthy

I have been impressed by the things that have tended to characterise the response to the article by Profs. Mearsheimer and Walt: the rush to find the odd counter-example (which comes off sounding like, “Well, oh yeah, what about the cease-fire in Lebanon? How do you explain that one?”), the astonishing vacuity of retort (”They’re just asserting things,” Dennis Ross asserted), the personal anecdote of how things “really” worked in high places (David Gergen says he never saw anyone privilege Israeli goals over the American interest, so we are now reassured that it never happened) and the usual recourse to idealistic reasons (democracy, freedom, etc.) for solidarity with Israel.

The article proposed to explain quite a lot, but it did not propose to explain all actions ever taken in Middle East policy. The authors have been attacked for engaging in a monocausal argument (i.e., “Israel Lobby” causes all foreign policy decisions in Middle East), when it seems to me that they are allowing for a wide range of causes and sources for the strength of “the Lobby,” which is obviously an umbrella term that will encompass numerous different groups with common interests (in this case, support for the perceived interests of Israel). When their explanation does not account for every event in Israeli and American foreign policy history–which a monocausal account would do–the counter-example is offered as some sort of proof that their argument is obviously nonsense. If there are errors of fact in a few places (and there could be in such a lengthy article), this is regrettable and ought to be corrected. But most of the most telling and powerful claims have not really been addressed or taken seriously by the respondents. Is it or is it not true that Israel has tranferred military technology to China? The evidence seems to show that it is true. Is that really acceptable behaviour for a state Washington subsidises this heavily? Let’s hear the arguments why we should tolerate our “ally” aiding a potential rival and pay for the privilege. That’s not a debate these folks want to have.

The response to the idea of “the Lobby” is that there is no such Lobby as such–it is mythical! It is as if an historian studied a number of groups and individuals who belonged to a given political movement (let’s say Prohibition) because of the policies or initiatives they supported and worked for, referred to them as a movement and was then ridiculed for having made up the entire phenomenon because he called it by a name (”the Prohibition movement”) that the adherents did not use among themselves. Because there is no central headquarters issuing commands, the phenomenon is all in the heads of these authors. That is, to put it mildly, stupid. It is as if there can be no lobby in support of Israel, however diffuse and multifaceted, unless all of them carry cards and say, “I am an Israel Lobby member.”

Not that the echo chamber here in America would care, but Daniel Levy writes in Ha’aretz that the study lacked finesse and nuance, and overlooked some of the tensions that exist in the relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv, but made some fundamentally correct claims:

It sometimes takes AIPAC omnipotence too much at face value and disregards key moments - such as the Bush senior/Baker loan guarantees episode and Clinton’s showdown with Netanyahu over the Wye River Agreement. The study largely ignores AIPAC run-ins with more dovish Israeli administrations, most notably when it undermined Yitzhak Rabin, and how excessive hawkishness is often out of step with mainstream American Jewish opinion, turning many, especially young American Jews, away from taking any interest in Israel.

Yet their case is a potent one: that identification of American with Israeli interests can be principally explained via the impact of the Lobby in Washington, and in limiting the parameters of public debate, rather than by virtue of Israel being a vital strategic asset or having a uniquely compelling moral case for support (beyond, as the authors point out, the right to exist, which is anyway not in jeopardy). The study is at its most devastating when it describes how the Lobby “stifles debate by intimidation” and at its most current when it details how America’s interests (and ultimately Israel’s, too) are ill-served by following the Lobby’s agenda.

benedict.jpg

By your ascetic labors, God-bearing Benedict,
you were proven to be true to your name.
For you were the son of benediction,
and became a rule and model for all who emulate your life and cry:
“Glory to Him who gave you strength!
Glory to Him who granted you a crown!
Glory to Him who through you grants healing to all!”

It seems silly to deny that a powerful lobby on behalf of Israel exists. The real question is how pernicious it is. ~Nicholas Goldberg, The Los Angeles Times

It does seem silly to deny it, but some commentary writers and pundits earn no small part of their salary saying that and other things that are just as silly. The blogosphere is filled with silly attempts to deny the existence of what Daniel Pipes refers to as a “mythical Lobby.” David Gergen comes out and declares that there is no such thing. Let the silliness continue! What prompted Mr. Goldberg’s remarks? The now famous London Review of Books article by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt entitled, boldly enough, “The Israel Lobby.” Profs. Mearsheimer and Walt pull no punches. Here is their second paragraph:

Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.

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On the day after the Ukrainian election, with the official final results still pending, there is widespread disappointment and an air of disbelief among western observers. At first glance, the orange revolution seems to have been turned upside-down. President Yushchenko appears to have lost badly as his Our Ukraine party polled only about 17% of the vote, while the Party of the Regions, headed by Yanukovich, has emerged the main victor with about 26% of the vote so far. The result suggests that the orange revolution has changed colour within a little over a year. ~Gwendolyn Sasse, The Guardian

There is some small satisfaction in seeing the criminal Yushchenko’s party get trounced. Gwendolyn Sasse’s editorial tries to put a good face on all of this, but her optimistic description of what the “Orange Revolution” accomplished is just a list of many of the same fictions The Guardian pushed when Yushchenko was mounting his democratic coup. The bottom line is that the more pro-Russian party representing primarily eastern Ukraine has won the plurality. The drive to suck Ukraine into the EU and NATO is failing. The pathetic nationalists in Yushchenko’s party have been repudiated, as I suspected they always would be once the Ukrainians had an election that did not have the entire Western world breathing down Kiev’s neck.

Damon Linker, a former editor of First Things, sees a great battle coming. No, not a clash of civilisations. The great struggle of our time that he foresees is the assault on secular America by those dastardly theocons. Or so I gather from the title of his book, The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege (Doubleday, September 2006). The subtitle tells us the thesis: “For the past three decades, a few determined men have worked to inject their radical religious ideas into the nation’s politics. This is the story of how they succeeded.” I assume he is referring here mainly to the editors at First Things, which begs the question: what radical religious ideas? Let us keep in mind, this critique comes from someone who argued that John Paul II’s “moral absolutism” was where he went wrong (linked article requires subscription). Have your saltshaker handy while you read his bizarre book review in the latest New Republic issue with the cover title, “Father Con.” After some extensive background on Neuhaus, Linker then gets into the review of Catholic Matters itself.

Neuhaus is evidently one of the “determined men” Linker has in mind in his book, and as the chief “theocon” he seems to embody whatever it is that Mr. Linker fears most. What is striking about Linker’s indictment of Neuhaus is not what it tells us about the “theocons” or First Things, as the description of Neuhaus in Linker’s TNR piece bears little resemblance to his overall vision of the relationship between Christianity and “liberal modernity.” The striking thing is that Linker has drawn out the best ideas in Neuhaus’ book and woven them together to create an all together different Neuhaus than the one readers of First Things know. This Neuhaus is a hard-line Catholic apologist who stresses the need for authority and fidelity above all else.

To put it mildly, whatever his views of the abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church or the obligation to submit to authority (which is such a basic obligation that it is hardly “radical” or specific to Neuhaus), Neuhaus is not a determined opponent of “liberal modernity” in any sense that I can understand it. In many respects, he sees points of fairly close accommodation between “liberal modernity” and Christianity everywhere. His enthusiasm for “democracy” and the promotion of “democracy” are only the most prominent examples of this. He is a Catholic neocon, with all the contradictions and errors that implies. Random case in point: he said in his entry online last week, “I usually agree with, and always learn from disagreeing with, Charles Krauthammer.” Religious Christian radicals do not “usually agree” with Charles Krauthammer. As I see it, biased as I am, Fr. Neuhaus has done his best in his writings to make Christianity safe for secular America and to make sure that secular America prevails by giving it an occasional, small dose of religious direction.

You must know that Linker’s critique is unbalanced and ludicrous when he begins eliding Neuhaus’ invocations of tradition and authority with those of 19th century reactionaries (my sort of people) and a modern German conservative:

And then there is politics. In his insistent emphasis on the need for order, authority, and tradition, as well as in his warnings about the psychological and social ravages of modern skepticism, Neuhaus echoes such luminaries of the European (and Catholic) right as Joseph de Maistre, Juan Donoso Cortés, and (once again) Carl Schmitt, all of whom were staunch opponents of liberalism and modernity. Yet Neuhaus would have us believe that his own anti-liberal and anti-modern views are perfectly compatible with–no, synonymous with–the principles underlying modern American democracy.

Neuhaus is so far removed from the ideas of these men that I have to assume that Mr. Linker is engaged in a kind of willful misrepresentation of his former colleague. Why he would paint Neuhaus with the black brush of blackest reaction, I do not know, but as a reactionary myself I can assure everyone that it is complete nonsense.
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I saw V for Vendetta last week, and I went in prepared for the anti-Christian boilerplate that passed for one of its main lines of its political criticism, hoping that there would be something to make it worthwhile and worthy of recommendation. The anti-Christian nonsense was all there as expected: the fascistic Chancellor is made into a super-religious Tory, which is probably a contradiction in terms; the symbol of the regime represents nothing so much as a Russian Orthodox cross; we are made to believe that there is a lascivious bishop Conservative Party member closely involved in the goings-on of the regime, which is plainly absurd: bishops in the Church of England nowadays are about as likely to be sympathetic to the Tories as Gordon Brown, and perhaps less so, so we can only imagine how much more implausible it will be in 15 more years (the film is set in 2020, I believe).

Given some of the more hostile reviews I had seen I was pleasantly surprised by how much better the film was on the whole than I anticipated. However, this is not to give it an endorsement. Ross Douthat’s review might be a bit too harsh, but not by much. It came nowhere close to the amazing and wonder-inducing movie that James Wolcott dreamt up or the amazing cinematic accomplishment imagined by Butler Shaffer at LRC Blog. Few people are calling this “one of the best films” they have seen, as Mr. Shaffer did, but then maybe Mr. Shaffer does not see many films.

A good movie should be like a good meal in a restaurant. The flavour of the food, the ambience and the service should all come together in well timed coordination and balance. You shouldn’t have to brace yourself for some very watery soup or force yourself to ignore the blaring music coming in from the bar. Enjoying a film should not resemble an exercise in cultivating great depths of patience and longsuffering as you slog through scene after scene of the implausible and the simply ridiculous. Unfortunately, the Brothers Wachowski have evidently both mangled their original material and managed to import plot points so, well, pointless that someone who would have really liked this to be more interesting and well done is left struggling to see its virtues once the initial enthusiasm has dissipated.

Instead of V (Hugo Weaving) quoting Shakespeare and wielding knives to deadly effect, which are the few really bright and interesting spots in the film (without Weaving’s presence, the film would be anemic), we are treated to scene after scene of the transformation of young Evey (Natalie Portman) into radical opponent of the regime and the terrible oppression of Muslims and homosexuals that followed upon the nebulous “Reclamation.” Oh, yes, and something about state-sponsored bioterror, which was probably the most plausible element of the story. That the original writer of the “graphic novel” has dubbed the entire project “rubbish” should tell us all we need to know about all of this. To their credit, Portman, Weaving and Stephen Fry (playing the persecuted homosexual TV show host) all deliver fine performances, and I am even more puzzled why several reviewers gave Portman poor marks for her acting here. But they cannot save a film that was already expiring in the first hour.

The Wachowskis have made tremendous amounts of money off of the one idea they have ever had: fight the system. But they seem to have no clear idea why the system should be fought (except to make the world safe for Qur’an appreciation hour and homosexuality), or who is actually in control of it. Besides, predicting a super-religious reign of terror in the Britain of the early 21st century is about as far wrong as you can go.

Furthermore, they have revealed their hand in this movie: “Artists tell lies to reveal the truth, and politicians tell them to cover it up.” These are the supposedly profound words of Evey’s dead father, a political activist and victim of the new regime, whose maxim V applies quite frequently, including against Evey herself. The Wachowskis have told us that they are lying to us, but because they are doing the lying for our edification it is supposedly all to the good. They are reviving a curious form ofthe Noble Lie, which some impute with great enthusiasm to the neocons, whose lookalikes are the pillars of the regime in Vendetta (here Ben Miles gives a decent performance as minister for propaganda). But there are no noble lies. Guy Fawkes’ descendants, if he had had any, ought to sue the producers/screenwriters for character defamation.

In his voluminous but remarkably consistent writings, Neuhaus has sought nothing less than to reverse the fortunes of traditionalist religion in modern America–to teach conservative Christians how to place liberal modernity, once and for all, on the defensive. Any attempt to come to terms with the religious challenge to secular politics in contemporary America must confront Neuhaus’s enormously ambitious and increasingly influential enterprise. ~Damon Linker, The New Republic (registration required)

I haven’t had a chance to look through the entire article, but this claim alone is worth quite a lot more comment. If I have time later today, I’ll add more.

But though I have not given up my “caesaropapism” argument, it is not that argument on which I base my reasons for becoming or staying Catholic. Rather, my reason for not being Eastern Orthodox is based upon a fuller understanding of and appreciation for the Eastern churches. I have come to understand that they are true churches. Their bishops are legitimate successors of the Apostles. Their Eucharist is the Eucharist of the church catholic (i.e. universal). They have preserved the Apostolic Tradition and pray with us the Nicene creed.

But they are Eastern churches, and I am a Western man. I have grown up in a Western society and imbibed a Western culture. I was nursed in an Evangelical community which, for better or for worse, has its roots in the Western church. It is no accident that Protestantism arose in Europe. Its heresies are typically Western, but so are its peculiar insights. If the Traditional church native to Western European culture, i.e. the Roman Catholic Church, is a legitimate church at all, then it is my church, whether I like it or not.

In effect, as an Evangelical Protestant living in New Hampshire, I have always belonged to the Catholic Church. The Bishop of Manchester has always been my pastor; I just didn’t acknowledge it till 2002. To become Eastern Orthodox would be to pretend that I could stop thinking in my native, Western categories, that my understanding of the Incarnation, the Redemption, etc, could be totally divorced from my experience of culture and Evangelical worship, and I do not think that is possible. There is a reason why each church, in addition to having its own liturgy, has its own theology. The terms in which the Faith is expressed speak slightly different things to each individual culture. This does not mean that the Faith is infinitely malleable in the hands of any particular people, but only that words in any language can mean slightly different things and receive their full meaning not from dictionaries but from the shared life of the culture, i.e. from the Tradition. ~J.B. Watson, Likelier Things

Via Rod Dreher

This is the sort of argument against becoming Orthodox that I find the hardest to swallow. I am tempted to say, “Give me a good, solid Catholic rejection of schismatics any day over this sort of objection.” If we wanted to be preoccupied with the historical problems and distortions different churches have undergone over the centuries and use these as a basis for deciding whether to join one church rather than another, let me just gently suggest that it is difficult to see how the Roman Catholic Church comes out ahead. However, I don’t intend this to be an anti-Catholic post. I will not take up Mr. Watson’s challenge to prove the Western church “deficient” today, not least because those sorts of arguments have gone back and forth for a very long time and I would have little new or interesting to add to them. I will object to the post on two points: the idea of “caesaropapism” and the East-West dichotomy that he uses to justify his commitment to the Western church as a “man of the West.”

Obviously, as a convert to Russian Orthodoxy from a wholly “Western” (i.e., western and central European and American) background, I take exception to the idea that there is something amiss in being a Western convert to Orthodoxy, as if I have somehow departed from my civilisation’s roots. But I take particular exception to the idea of caesaropapism. Caesaropapism has never existed in the Orthodox world (I would also argue that it has never existed anywhere, but that is not my main concern). I cannot stress that strongly enough. It is something that modern historians and polemicists invented to wrongly describe or discredit Byzantium.

In Byzantine studies, there is now the understanding that “caesaropapism” is a crude, misleading and false description of the relations between Church and state. For more on that, I recommend Gilbert Dagron’s Emperor and Priest. Caesaropapism, if it means anything, means that the emperor or secular power rules the Church. If the term meant what it literally ought to mean, it would mean that the emperor functioned as the equivalent of the pope in the Church. The closest to caesaropapism that any Orthodox polities have ever come are post-Petrine Russia and post-Revolution Greece, when Peter adopted the style of church government then fashionable in western European Protestant lands and when the Greek church was made effectively a department of the state under the Bavarian-style dispensation under Otto I. Plainly, these are examples of departure from the customary relations of Church and state in the Orthodox world brought about by Westernising governments. The Synod established by Peter would seem as bizarre and dangerous to most Byzantine bishops as it does to anyone else. To judge Orthodoxy’s tendency for caesaropapism by this episode in the history of the Russian church would be to judge the Papacy by the Babylonian Captivity (where we see something like the French secular ruler dictating the policy of the Avignon Papacy)–clearly, not a fair assessment by any means.

Then there is the claim that “they are Eastern churches, and I am a Western man.” If we are speaking in terms of a civilisation as a basis for determining which “valid” church Westerners will choose, we are speaking of a Christian civilisation. That civilisation encompasses the heirs of Byzantium as well as the heirs of Latin Christendom. If that is the case, the distinction between what is Eastern and Western collapses rather quickly. What is an authentic measure of the mind of that civilisation, if not the common mind it possessed prior to the schism? If it is that mind that created the fundamental, defining doctrines of the Faith, and that mind was possessed equally throughout the oikoumene before the schism and was expressed in ecumenical councils that were, because of particular historical reasons, all located in the East, we cannot dismiss the “Eastern” churches for being Eastern if we grant, as Mr. Watson does, that they have a valid apostolic succession, valid sacraments and the correct definition of faith. Once we accept the latter, their “Easternness” ought to be immaterial to Western peoples. Indeed, if we see the continuities in the Orthodox Church from the early centuries until today we will be more hard-pressed to mark them off anachronistically as simply Eastern and thus unfit for “Western men.”

One Matthew Peterson over at The Claremont Institute has taken up the Pantagruelist and crunchy challenge. He takes issue with both Caleb Stegall’s article, which I have commented on before here, and my New Pantagruel essay.

One distinction that needs to be made before the discussion goes any further is one between the crunchy arguments of Rod Dreher and the more trenchant critiques of the Enlightenment inheritance made by Caleb and myself. Strictly speaking, “crunchiness” may have many points of contact with some of the arguments Caleb and I have made, Caleb himself was cited in the book and has been a leading participant at the CC blog, and I have been a keen promoter of a proper understanding of what crunchy conservatism means, but this should not allow Mr. Peterson to conflate as he does Rod’s critique of modern conservatism with the rejection of the general liberal tradition that I believe Caleb and I espouse in one form or another.

Mr. Peterson writes:

It is all too easy to critique the problems we see in modern America by simply blaming them on our regime and the entirety of the “liberal tradition.”

This is a curious thing to say about Rod’s book and the other crunchies at the blog, since I don’t get the impression that most have been doing much of blaming the “regime” or the “liberal tradition” for the problems we see. One of the unusual things about the CC blog and the book, and why it has elicited such fierce reactions, is that it proposes that the fault is in ourselves: that we, as conservatives, have more or less dropped the ball in living up to our principles. To the extent that American conservatives have been prone to these sorts of compromises because of the liberal inheritances of their national political tradition (that is, because of the preeminence of individual autonomy, choice and self-interest among modern conservatives who will, when cornered, describe themselves as “classical liberals”) and the disintegrative effects of the liberal tradition, it might be said that crunchy conservatism is indicting an excess of liberal influences on contemporary conservatism. But that is a far cry from “simply blaming” liberalism for these problems.

As much as I would very much like to provide a more extended answer to the criticisms Mr. Peterson has put forward, time today does not permit me to try to explain at very great length the parts of my essay that seemed so unclear to him. In short, I would answer that I am perfectly familiar with the theory of consent expressed in the Declaration of Independence, and I would reiterate (perhaps tersely) that the fact that Jefferson wrote it and that Locke (and, yes, Sydney) believed the same thing makes it no more compelling or true if we believe on historical evidence, for one thing, that no government has ever been established by consent of the governed and that “the people” are not sovereign. It is a pleasant fiction to believe that “the people” are sovereign, but a fiction all the same.

Consent of the governed is a nice idea, in the way that the state of nature is a nice idea: if either had a basis in human experience, they might make for useful concepts in ordering a polity. However, I believe they rise and fall together. To my mind, an affirmation of historically chartered liberties, rather than “rights” established in a law of nature, is the only way to understand and preserve the constitutional inheritance that I, for one, still greatly value. Perhaps Mr. Peterson has taken my criticism of the consent of the governed for a denial that the Founders endorsed this theory? I don’t make any such denial. What I was saying in the quote Mr. Peterson cited in particular was that Locke and Rousseau say fundamentally similar things about contractarian theory, and American conservatives have operated for quite some time on the assumption that Rousseau’s social contract is a ludicrous, ahistorical abstraction invented by a philosophe and forerunner of the French Revolution and Locke’s consent theory is just a description of the way things really are.
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Does The Da Vinci Code matter in the great scheme of things? So much so that we’re all atwitter waiting to see how the movie comes out?

Can a movie make Jesus other than as the creeds of the church say he was? That would seem the real question. Attempts to remold him after the mold maker’s fancy easily preceded Dan Brown and Sony. And will continue. But the Jesus of the creeds, “God of God, Light of Light”—it really should have struck us long ago that the likes of Dan Brown can’t lay a glove on this guy. ~William Murchison

I understand what Mr. Murchison is saying, and in one sense he has it entirely right. Christ God will not be affected by whatever lies and nonsense come out in The DaVinci Code or its movie version. But, if I may say so, that has never been the problem with the book or the movie. In the grand scheme of things, The DaVinci Code will matter no more than Gnostic gospels or the scribblings of heresiarchs. In an ultimate sense, Dan Brown’s fantasies and lies should be so far from being persuasive to a Christian audience that there should be no concerns.

But in another sense, these lies are destructive because they can scandalise and confuse Christians and sow false teachings in the minds of the faithful, or they will serve as a justification for unbelief. I know many people, unfortunately some even in my own extended family, who take Dan Brown’s account either as an historically accurate account (which is frightening on many, many levels) or as an “interesting” perspective that needs to be taken seriously. It is as if Nikos Kazantzakis’ inventions had become somehow more believable because their purveyor asserts that they are true. Almost 20 years ago, the film version of The Last Temptation of Christ caused a small furore for its blasphemy (which, gentle readers, is what we’re talking about here), and yet today we see some evangelical churches mobilising to “engage” the claims of a movie that is, if anything, every bit as blasphemous with some anticlerical vituperation thrown in at no etxra cost. There is nothing to “engage” here. And, no, a blasphemer does not have any effect on Christ God, but blasphemy is an insult to Him and a source of destruction for the blasphemer and others.

This is not, like some heresies, a difference in understanding the relationship of Christ’s two natures, a dispute over how to understand Christ’s full divinity and full humanity. It is an out-and-out denial of Christ’s divinity portrayed as reality. Dan Brown takes up the fallen standard of Arianism and advances the claim that everyone before Nicaea believed as Arius did, which is easily disproven by reading any Christian theologian before the fourth century.

If there are Christians daft enough to believe this farrago of lies, I am deeply sorry for them, but it is to guard against the possibility that this nonsense will cause our fellow men to stumble and fail to find Christ (or to lose Him once they had found Him) that we should denounce and undermine this film in every way fitting available to us. If we think of the book and film as neo-Arian propaganda and not simply the scribblings of a sad apostate (in the end, the two alternatives are fairly close), that ought to spur us to a little more disdain and opposition.

As some of you will already be aware, Michael Brendan Dougherty’s blog Surfeited with Dainties marked its first anniversary on Monday. I regret that it has taken me a few days to put up a proper post acknowledging and celebrating this occasion, especially when Michael offered such oustandingly generous words for me and my blog, but I would like to assure you all that my delay is by no means any measure of the genuine respect and admiration for the work Michael has been doing there and elsewhere. Michael has been an extremely strong supporter and promoter of this blog, and he has been an equally fast friend and well-wisher to me. He had the foresight to imagine a network of genuine conservative writers working in close cooperation with one another, and he has been instrumental in forging numerous connections among like-minded writers to create the beginnings of that network.

Surfeited with Dainties itself is a fairly remarkable and unique blog that stands out from the crowd of bloggers with their cookie-cutter formats and their one or two hobby-horses that they (myself included) ride relentlessly. It is a blog with broad and varied interests that nonetheless conveys a sort of coherence and unity of vision that most blogs cannot begin to match. Michael has taken up the role of cultural critic in the broadest sense of the term, examining everything from music to fashion to sports to religion to foreign policy to economics to immigration to the more conventional battlegrounds of the culture wars with a sense of discretion and taste and a refreshing mix of wit, irreverence and serious reflection. It has been a pleasure to lend him what little I have had to offer by way of support for his work, and I look forward to the day when the name Surfeited with Dainties confuses and befuddles millions upon millions of readers.

I won’t be wasting my time and the time of my readers slogging through the second installment of Mr. Feser’s attack on paleoconservatives at Right Reason. As far as the question of right intention is concerned, I addressed that in my first post responding to Mr. Feser. The third installment deserves an answer, but not much of one.

Right off, Mr. Feser loses a certain amount of credibility when he includes among paleoconservatives the four “categories” of “anarchist,” Third Positionist, isolationist and so-called “cultural pessimist.” The “anarchists,” by which he means the paleolibertarians chiefly associated with Lew Rockwell, are not paleocons. They are also not anarchists (and more than a few would, I suspect, take offense at this label), and to call them this shows a certain tendentiousness that we can see in the other installments as well.

Paleocons and these libertarians often see eye to eye on a great many things and often collaborate with each other, but if the critique here is aimed at paleocons it should be aimed at what paleocons say about the relation of Catholic social doctrine and economics and not what “Rothbardians” say about economics (which, it should be duly noted, most paleocons do not endorse and often will criticise precisely because it is not in keeping with their understanding of moral theology). This is important, if only because it underscores the consistency of those paleocons who do privilege Catholic social doctrine in their understanding of economic and social questions while also remaining, as far as I can see, more faithful to the just war standards of Catholic tradition. It is this consistency Mr. Feser proposes to disprove in his third installment, and he can only achieve this by pointing to those exact areas in economics where paleocons and paleolibertarians have their strongest disagreements and imputing the paleolibertarian view to the paleocons.
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…it must time for another anti-libertarian post.

Here is Karen DeCoster asking a particularly dumb question about crunchy cons:

I guess my real question is: how do a bunch of self-described conservatives with neoconservative politics and eclectic, oddball, personal preferences become a segregated ideological group practice?

Ms. DeCoster has dubbed the crunchies “idiotic” and “stupid.” Profound thoughts, these. If it is actually possible, she has managed to outdo John Podhoretz in making irrelevant, dismissive and vacuous remarks about the CCs. Normally I pay Ms. DeCoster no attention, and this post is a good example why. Clearly knowing nothing about the discussion that is going on at the CC blog, oblivious to the actual politics of the people she labels as being “neoconservative” in their politics (a designation that is as laughable as it is wrong), she has the gall to talk trash about these people? It is libertarians like Ms. DeCoster who have always given and will always give libertarians a bad name in the eyes of us “self-described conservatives” who generally sympathise with much of their view of the world and get kicked in the face for our trouble all the same.

Note to aspiring fusionists: with friends like these, traditionalists don’t need enemies.

V for Vendetta fever has reached the LRC Blog, perhaps too much so, with Anthony Gregory making the necessary excuse-making for why Vendetta’s obvious anti-Christian references and anti-clericalism are not really anti-Christian because, well, we all know that real Christians would never act in the way that the Wachowski Brothers portray them as acting. That’s rather like saying that a bigot isn’t being bigoted against anyone when he uses a stereotype that the target of his mockery does not accept. Because the bigot uses a false stereotype, even though he believes it to be true, the person he ridicules and attacks has no need to worry about being stereotyped in a negative and hateful way. And I’m sure that the Preacher “graphic novel” isn’t hostile to Christianity, even though it engages in screaming polemic against everything Christianity teaches and outstrips The DaVinci Code in inventing lies about Christ. Yeah, sure.

My enthusiasm for Guy Fawkes seems to have caught on in an undesirable way. Here is Casey Khan’s affirmation that Guy Fawkes was rebelling against the state-church alliance established by Henry XVIII [sic].

A word to the wise libertarian: perhaps one small reason why more than a few Christians in this country find themselves siding with ludicrous worshipers of state power and disdaining libertarian and liberal critiques of the regime is because of the extraordinary lengths some libertarians will go to in defending a movie that seems, by many accounts, to regard Christians as the natural allies of fascism and despotism. Given the choice of siding with opponents of the regime who mock their faith or make excuses for those who mock their faith (whether the opponents of the regime think they are doing this or not) or with supporters of the regime who pay lip service to their faith, many will reflexively side with the supporters of the regime.

Vendetta might serve as a powerful indictment of the tyrannical autocracy taking hold in this country and the many abuses of the government over the past many years, and this may make it worth watching in spite of its many typically Wachowskian flaws, but I think we should have no illusions that it does not engage in an extremely hostile, bitter and not very veiled attack on Christians and Christianity as props of incipient fascism. It apparently does, it is apparently not subtle about it, and we should not kid ourselves on this score.

Of course there’s a long-running conservative critique of the cult of progress – it’s comes from the cult of tradition — and in the 20th century in particular this critique of progress was mostly ineffectual; which is why I’m surprised it’s so lovingly embraced here. One of the great contributions to conservatism made by the neoconservatives was in recognizing the limits of the trad argument in a post-Enlightenment age; neocons encouraged a turning away from the obscurantism of trad con writing and thinking. What is different today that would convince crunchy cons that trad arguments will have any greater resonance than when neocons replaced them with a reliance on empiricism? ~Nick Schultz, Crunchy Cons

Note that: the critique was “ineffectual.” No word on whether it was true or not. Perhaps the folks at the CC blog might think this idea would have resonance today as more and more people awake to the bankruptcy not only of the cult of progress, but also of the very idea of progress as it has been conventionally understood. The critique of progress in the 20th century gained less traction because a great many people were convinced, all things considered, that overall progress had taken place without a loss of anything that really mattered. Now the costs of that progress are becoming more clear, and fewer people are willing to accept the sacrifices that Progress claims is necessary.

Obscurantist is a word for people who think that tradition is something from which man needs to be freed, a bondage from which he must be emancipated. It is a word for someone who believes scrapping tradition is enlightenment and holding to tradition is to hide in the dark. The only thing more dismissive of and insulting to a traditionalist might be “hidebound.”

I understand why neoconservatives would use the term obscurantist, because they have never had much time for anything that dates before 1920. Most other conservatives take a somewhat longer view and place tremendous value in the enduring habits and customs of our civilisation (as well as in many worthwhile habits and customs that have not endured as well but should in some measure be revived).

Why we “trads” (would that make our opponents into progs?) should find the accusation of obscurantism against our intellectual forebears is less clear. The difference between today and 20 or 30 years ago may be that fewer conservatives are going to fall for the arguments of putative conservatives that traditionalism is somehow less conservative than progressivism, managerial government and creating a more efficient welfare state. Indeed, the “cult of tradition” is opposed to the cult of progress, broadly speaking. Mr. Schultz’s observation on that score answers his own question as to why conservatives, crunchy or no, would embrace it and why they will stand against the concrete pourers and cement mixers and those that sing their praises. In brief: Treebeard, yes, Saruman, no.

One might start the bill of particulars with the mask itself. It’s a caricature of Guy Fawkes, who in 1605 tried to blow up King James I and both houses of Parliament and as a consequence is burned in effigy each Nov. 5. It’s true, I suppose, that as time has passed, Fawkes’s memory has eroded into something warm and cozy. But the real Guy Fawkes was a bit of nasty business, and had he succeeded, it would have been the 9/11 of British history, and his reasons were as spurious as the guys’ who took the planes into the buildings: It was religion vs. religion. You’d think that stuff would be gone from the world, but four centuries later it’s still around. ~Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post

After reading the reviews by Daniel McCarthy and Leon Hadar, I was already looking forward to seeing V for Vendetta. Aware that John Podhoretz has trashed the movie, I was becoming very keen to see it on the assumption that someone so wrong about so many things also probably has bad taste in movies.

Then I read Stephen Hunter’s review, which in some ways actually strikes me as worse and more annoying than Podhoretz’s, but for an entirely different reason. He doesn’t like the movie, of course, but then he takes this odd shot at Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot with one of those statements that required just enough knowledge to show Mr. Hunter to be semi-educated.

It has reminded me of something else potentially far more worrying than strange characters blowing up government buildings: progressives really believe in Progress and think a significant part of Progress is the diminution or irrelevance of religious belief as a significant motivating factor in human affairs. After 400 years, it should be a thing of the past, yet it keeps cropping up–how unfortunate! After 400 years, shouldn’t we all have moved past even remembering, fondly or not so fondly, a character such as Guy Fawkes? Someone who moved to fight a tyrannical government from purely political motives (”for freedom”) would be lauded and approved, I suppose, but to do it for “spurious” reasons of religion suddenly makes Fawkes an undesirable.

Give a Guy a Chance!

One gets the impression that if Guy Fawkes had had “good” reasons to blow up Parliament (you know, like the promotion of greater democracy, which makes the bombardment of Iraqi villages moral and upright) everything would be fine. If, like Aristogeiton and Harmodios’ private murder of Hipparkhos, he had killed James I over a homosexual lovers’ quarrel, the official progressive story would tell us that Guy Fawkes was a hero and a great defender of the rights of Englishmen, etc. He would also be lionised out of all proportion as a conscientious hero, who fought against a regime that oppressed him and his fellow Catholics.

Oh, but wait, there’s the rub. You can’t be a Catholic fighting against Protestant oppression. Certainly not in the 17th century, and not really at any time after that. (It’s also very, very hard to be a traditional Catholic and engaged in a homosexual lovers’ quarrel.) Everyone who believes in Progress knows that Catholicism hasn’t got anything to do with resisting tyranny–no, in the official story, Catholicism is part of the oppression (as is Christianity more generally, but of the different kinds of Christianity Catholicism is among the ‘worst’ in the progressive hall of shame) and nothing more. I’ll leave it to actual Catholics to explain how the entire theory of the justified resistance to tyranny is one of their contributions to our civilisation, and to tell how no other religious tradition other than the Christian has ever so consistently and thoroughly elaborated such a theory.

In the progressive view, to commemorate Guy Fawkes would be like commemorating Andreas Hofer’s resistance against Napoleon or admiring the resistance of the Don Cossacks fighting the Bolsheviks. No one would want to say anything in praise of some “backwards” Tyrolean patriot resisting the godless French or the crude, often brutal Cossacks who had more of a sense of honour and decency in their moustaches than all the Bolsheviks combined possessed. No, it is far better to venerate right-thinking people who order whole cities to be fire-bombed, allow entire regions to be laid waste or order attacks on countries for reasons that are not so spurious as “religion vs. religion.” You know, like freedom.

That reminds me of a great quote from Chesterton’s Napoleon of Notting Hill (an unfortunately named, wonderful book–honestly, I have never understood Chesterton and Belloc’s enthusiasm for the French Revolution and her impious offspring). Here is Adam Wayne, the hero of the novel, speaking to the cynical King Auberon:

I say here, and I know well what I speak of, there were never any necessary wars but the religious wars. There were never any just wars but the religious wars. There were never any humane wars but the religious wars. For these men were fighting for something that claimed, at least, to be the happiness of man, the virtue of a man.

Ostensibly or actually “reactionary” opponents of tyranny and political insanity cannot be admired when they resist injustice, because the progressives’ commemorating opponents of injustice has usually had less to do with defending a principle of justice and more to do with using history to batter their opponents in the present. Thus the basically honourable men who fought on the “regressive” side of so many conflicts are treated with contempt, turned into jokes a la Guy Fawkes or simply forgotten, while the “progressive” side, no matter its atrocities, moral ambiguities and dishonourable conduct, will receive nothing but praise and lauds. In the official story, in which all that silly religious superstition ought to have died out long ago (and along with anyone supposedly daft enough to be motivated by his religion to take direct action), there can be no starkly religious opponents of injustice fighting against oppression commemorated, unless they fit into the far more “warm and cozy” mould of a Bonhoeffer. Once religion has been cast in the role of a prop for oppressors and the tool of villains, as it usually is for the progressives (and also perhaps for the makers of Vendetta), the idea of a committed religious person who is not simply using religious language as a prop for expressly political concerns (be it social justice or the Union) ceases to make sense. Someone who is at once traditionally religious and motivated by his religion to take political action of one kind or another can only be frightening and threatening, and not heroic in any way. Chesterton disagrees, and so do I.
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It’s less a sweeping call for a new movement than a plaintive plea for inclusion in the old conservative movement, which Dreher views as overly market-oriented and, so, disdainful of crunchy values. ~Maggie Gallagher

It has been suggested by one of my readers that the “crunchy” folks at the CC blog and I did not take Maggie Gallagher’s objections seriously enough and did not address her “reasoned critique.” I don’t think that’s the case, but I want to entertain the possibility that I have overlooked something. So I thought I would return to her column for a closer look, to make sure that I had not missed something really serious and reasonable.

She begins by calling the book a manifesto, which others have done as well. There is a manifesto in the front of the book, a set of points that sums up what the book describes, but the book is an extended argument based in the anecdotes recounted by Rod Dreher. To call it a manifesto is to misunderstand it before you have begun and, for many a conservative, to have already dismissed what it has to say (conservatives generally not being great fans of manifestos).

Then she says it is “less a sweeping call for a new movement,” which it really isn’t, and more of a “plaintive plea for inclusion in the old conservative movement,” which it really isn’t. Where she would get this impression frankly puzzles me. This confirms my impression that she thinks the book is one, long exercise in begging the “mainstream conservatives” for some crumbs of respect from their table: “Please, sir, may we have some more? We’re really conservative! Please let us have your scraps!” To put it mildly, this could not get things more wrong. If this were what the book was saying, its claims would not have put so many folks’ backs up. Irrational fears of incipient statism and a granola theocracy would not now be haunting many an NR reader’s dreams if the book were just a “plaintive plea” to belong. The “crunchies” know that they belong to the world of conservatism. The challenge they put to the rest is this: “If you do belong to the same world and believe the same things, why not start acting like it a bit more?” Not exactly plaintive, is it?

But let’s assume that the really substantial and serious stuff is yet to come. Maybe this is it:

If you want the key to Rod and his fellow crunchy cons, I think it is in statements like, “Beauty is more important than efficiency.” Well, gee sure, but only if you live in a society where the great public health threat to the poor is obesity. This level of affluence is what allows educated women to stay home, throw organic dinner parties, and home school their children instead of spending time at the hard labor of spinning wool, churning butter and chicken-farming. Rod knows this, of course.

So Ms. Gallagher is saying that beauty is only important to wealthy people? Beauty is all very well and good as a priority, but only for people who can afford it? So, beauty is a luxury. Let the minds and souls of the poor be left without nourishment–yes, I can see the wisdom in that, can’t you?

This does puzzle me. Most pre-modern civilisations treasured lasting beauty, transcendent beauty, as a cultural good to a far greater extent than most of us do today, and they were much, much poorer than we. Some might say, with some justice, that they were poorer because they placed spiritual and cultural goods ahead of material ones. But at least they had lasting spiritual and cultural goods, and these are what give life meaning. The principle Rod elaborated means simply this: when there comes a time to choose between increasing efficiency or preserving the beauty of a landscape, the integrity of a community or the sacred rhythms of life, the conservative should prefer the latter. The paved-over anthill of atomised individuals where each sings his own tune in obnoxious cacophony is undesirable.

The alternative she poses is not a serious one. No one disputes that affluence affords us opportunities that poverty does not, and likewise no one pretends that most people will any time soon revert to churning their own butter. This is almost a purely silly objection, stemming from what I suspect has to be a superficial acquaintance with the argument. Preoccupied with the organic food itself, she misses out on why Rod values organic food. Yes, on one level it is the greater aesthetic enjoyment he takes from it, but on the more substantial levels it is the support it provides for the local and agrarian way of life he holds to be an important good. He wants to divert the the flood of affluence into certain channels that irrigate and conserve what is meaningful to him, just as Kirk recommended all conservatives do when confronted with disruptive change.

But, wait, there’s more!

But in his restless, dissatisfied search for Something More, Rod appears to me as less a traditionalist than a fellow postmodern, rootless, cosmopolitan American desperately seeking an identity group where he can believe and belong.

Of course, until someone has found a tradition to which he can belong he will not be a traditionalist, and until he has put down roots he will be rootless. Until he identifies with a place, he will be a sort of “cosmopolitan” in the sense that cosmopolitans belong nowhere. Whatever was Rod thinking, trying to belong anywhere? Ms. Gallagher’s reply seems to be, “Don’t start putting down roots, Rod! You’re one of the rootless people. You can’t start putting down roots! That’s crazy!” For Ms. Gallagher, either you are a redwood (and there are no redwoods left) or a tumbleweed, and tumbleweeddom is the “only available way.”

But she allows as how this is normal for Americans:

We live in a society where ultimately our sense of who we are is self-created, not something that can be given at birth. This produces both an exhilarating sense of freedom and terrifying intuition of the lightness of our very being. If my identity is just something I chose one day and can unchoose another, how can I believe my self is real?

The idea that Americans do not possess identity at birth (even if it is an inherited sense of being a “people on the move”) is just wrong. We are not exempt from inheriting culture from our parents–the only people who do not have their identities given to them in youth are orphans, and even the experience of being orphaned is something that was given to them. In this sense, no one “makes” himself what he is.

It is a typical dichotomy of Old World/New World where the poor Oldies suffer under the weight of custom, station and tradition and the Newbies are somehow unburdened by the conditioned nature of human existence. New continent, new human nature! Put that way, few conservatives would agree with that, but that is the assumption behind Ms. Gallagher’s blithe comment that rootlessness is the American condition. Perhaps that is a significant component of American history, but it is a trend that conservatives should not want to celebrate and should seek to tame and direct towards a better end.

This has nothing to do with devaluing the experience of Americans in the past. We can admire the people who settled the frontier, not because they were going out into the unknown with a cosmic sense of adventure and self-creation, which many of them did not have, but because they settled what was unsettled and civilised what was wild. That is the admirable conclusion to every frontier story and every Western worthy of the name: the end to the rootlessness and wandering.

Everyone belongs to a tradition into which they are born and in which they had no choice about joining. There is always a givenness about your original identity, just as there is a givenness in what you inherit from your parents. But that identity is not static, and obviously you can add to or take away from it. There is something irreducible about who you are and where you came from that, even in your rejection of it, will always define you. This why Americans, even secular, post-Christian Americans, belong to the traditions of the European and Christian civilisation they despise or ignore. You can disrespect your ancestors, but you cannot deny them completely. Perhaps many generations will pass before the descendants honour their ancestors and their ways properly again, but that will redound to the credit of the descendants who revive the old ways and not the intervening generations who believed those ways no longer worth bothering about.

The perilous facts that made democratic construction the best choice among insufficient alternatives in the Spring of 2003 still remain valid today. Three years ago, when the United States military toppled Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in Iraq, the Bush administration recognized two things: 1) the status quo in the Middle East characterized by authoritarian dictatorships presiding over rabid Islamist dissenters marked an acute security threat for the United States, and 2) democratization and liberalization marked the uniquely effective means of altering that status quo in a manner capable of creating a viable long term solution to Jihadist terrorism. ~Michael Brandon McClellan, TCS Daily

Mr. McClellan (the party hacks’ Irish answer to Michael Brendan Dougherty?) wraps his conventional defense of the war-for-democratic-enlightenment project (what he calls “democratic realism”) in what is supposed to be a critique of Fukuyama’s “After Neoconservatism” article and offers these gems for our consideration. Mr. McClellan reprises the “swamp” and “drain the swamp” theories. Obviously, it is much better to remove the authoritarian dictatorships that repress the Islamist dissidents and open the field to the Islamist dissidents themselves. They are much more amenable. Cut out the middle man–that’s always the best way to get wholesale-priced jihadis! It must be an ideal solution to the problem of jihadism to introduce the kind of government that can be most easily infiltrated and taken over by said Islamists in a completely “legal” way. Tell us more, O sage!

Then there is this gem:

However, he [Fukuyama] does so in a way that evidences his fealty to the eminently ineffective Woodrow Wilson. Wilson foolishly believed that peace could be promoted and that freedom could be defended in the absence of force.

Yes, that old wimpy peacenik Wilson. He doesn’t believe in using force. Except against the Germans. And the Bolsheviks. And Haiti. And Cuba. And Panama. And Mexico. And Nicaragua. No, no use of force and no use of the military for our man, Woodrow! I don’t know which is more pitiful: a Wilsonian who doesn’t know anything about Woodrow Wilson, or the “hard” Wilsonian who knows something about him and still thinks he was a good president. Get ready, Max Boot and Michael McClellan: the race to the intellectual bottom is on!

The home-schooled kids I’ve seen from personal relationships and from coaching soccer are too often little hot-housed flowers. They aren’t used to taking orders from strangers and they are unskilled in the give and take of peer relationships. This is a particular difficulty for boys who must get used to the tough pecking-order relationships that boys naturally develop and are mirrored in the working world. The parents (mostly mothers) of home schoolers will complain about the discipline and want special treatment for their children. They are more likely than public or private school kids to drop out regardless of their natural athletic ability.

As far as the extra closeness blah, blah, blah. I defy you to find a closer parent-child relationship than I have with my son because I have never see it. Where I can’t provide the best for my kids, I have no problem paying people who are more capable and I work like hell to provide that ability. My son goes around without prompting saying: “my life is awesome” and “my life is all about opportunities.” He is well aware of where I came from and how hard I worked to move up. I have a saying that we have adopted as our motto: “you stand on my shoulders.” I work a more than full-time job and my wife teaches high school. We live and work to provide the best opportunities for our kids and I defy you to find more successful parents than we are. ~ “Steve” quoted at Crunchy Cons

For what it’s worth, Rod never denied that children who go to conventional public and private schools can have strong family relationships, and he does not mandate homeschooling for everyone. He does, however, hold it up as an alternative to submitting to the chaotic public schools or, I might add, to the leftist politicisation of students that takes place in most private schools.

I take it as a given that homeschooling is generally far more normal and natural than the meat processing plant approach that passes for education in most schools today. As it happens, I am currently running an online church history course for some homeschooled Orthodox high school students, so I am in one sense personally committed to the support of homeschooling. Many, if not most, of the families in my church homeschool, and their children all seem to be mature and confident, for lack of a better word.

But I would not be honest if I didn’t say that homeschooling sometimes inspires a certain anxiety in me. Because education should be first and foremost an instruction in what is needful to live a good life, rather than simply technical schooling, I grant that it involves the cultivation of the whole child that most schools cannot (or at least today usually will not) provide. This involves moral and religious instruction that private schools positively do not provide, public schools are currently forbidden from providing (and which they positively undermine in a number of obvious ways) and which even religious schools in this country can provide only to a certain degree.

At the same time, however, I am frequently underwhelmed by the level of schooling and preparation most homeschooled high school students I have encountered possess. They are usually quite bright, but the level at which they have engaged their materials is so often very rudimentary. In my experience so far, grammar is usually fine and sometimes largely flawless, but many of the teenaged homeschooled children I have dealt with seem to have had little experience with formal writing of any kind.
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Islam has, throughout the history of its aggression against the West, benefited immensely by, and in many cases cunningly exploited the divisions within the West. Some of the first Byzantine provinces to fall after the Mohammedan Revolution were those, like Egypt and North Africa, whose internal repose had already been shattered by the conflagrations of the great heresies of Christian antiquity. Many Arian, Nestorian, and Donatist communities had been subject to oppressions and persecutions from the Empire in the decades immediately preceding the rise of Islam, and they welcomed the Muslim invader, even, in some cases, collaborated with him. ~Paul Cella, Enchiridion Militis

Paul Cella’s post makes on the one hand a very important, albeit somewhat indirect appeal for Christian unity against Islam and on the other points to the Islamic world’s capacity to absorb the resources of the regions it takes over and redirect them against its new foes. All of that makes a good deal of sense (though I am not quite so sanguine at the prospect of an Islamic Europe being in any meaningful sense preferrable to the current dispensation), and I applaud and recommend the post on those grounds.

However, the Byzantinist in me cannot really go along with the first paragraph of the post, because it is my firm opinion that the myth of collaboration, specifically monophysite collaboration, with the Islamic invader is unfounded in the evidence and anachronistic in its interpretation of the attitudes of the Roman Christians whose loyalty to their ecumenical polity is being traduced. Very simply, there is no evidence of monophysites collaborating with the Islamic invader. In fairness to Paul, this is something that Byzantinists have only been coming around to in the last 20 years or so and it has not penetrated very far beyond the scholars themselves. In fact, I am taking a view that is a bit contrarian, so you will be able to find a number of learned authors who would challenge the interpretation I’m giving here, but I want to assure everyone that this seems the most reliable interpretation of the evidence that we have so far.

There were cases of opportunistic individual collaboration during the invasions, as there always would have been, but every monophysite source we know condemns these collaborators and the invaders alike. There are examples in the seventh century of certain Armenian princes who sided with the Muslims as part of their resistance of the authority of the empire, and this was never entirely separate from resistance to church union imposed from Constantinople, but such collaboration as and when it did happen was determined by very specific political circumstances and was the exception and not the rule.

To the mind of the monophysite bishop and historian, John of Nikiu, who flourished at the end of the seventh century, the coming of Islam was a disaster brought on their empire by the Chalcedonians. Earlier, the Chalcedonian poet George of Pisidia had regarded the monophysites as Persian collaborators–not because there was evidence of any real collaboration during the invasion, but because they were supposedly objectively hostile to the Roman empire on account of their false doctrines. They had to be collaborators, because collaboration is the sort of thing heretics would do. But all other evidence points to the opposite conclusion. Moderns who may be looking for popular guerrilla uprisings of monophysites against the Islamic invaders or the like (which is apparently the only thing that would convince some people that the schism had little significance for the success of Islam) are expecting to see something that would never have happened in a late antique or early medieval society. Attributing capitulations of cities to religious dissent overlooks rather more straightforward answers, such as wanting to avoid having one’s city sacked and devastated, and seeks deep structural reasons for Byzantine military failure that are sometimes as easy to explain as the Byzantines’ losing particular engagements in the field for reasons that are mostly limited to the tactical situation in the battle itself.

The polemical constructions of seventh century imperial elites and the very modern assumptions of historians about what religious loyalties must have meant for pre-modern political loyalties (heretics must be traitors in an Orthodox empire when push comes to shove), based more in the history of the 16th and 17th centuries or perhaps even in the experiences of colonialism, have conspired to make the monophysites into the people who practically opened the gates to the Islamic invasions. However much it might flatter certain attitudes towards the monophysites, it was not the case and we should not base any analysis on history that is this badly flawed.
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Crunchy Cons is meant to be a book about culture, and how our most basic ideas about what people are for dictate the way we choose to live in a number of areas. T.S. Eliot wrote about how the shock of 1938 forced Britons to reconsider their confidence in their “unexamined premises,” and to wonder if there was more to their civilization than an aimless group of people interested in nothing much more than advancing prosperity and its fruits. September 11 forced me to do this kind of thinking, and still does. If I made a mistake with the book, it was in not making this theme more explicit. The thing is, I didn’t want the book to be grim and heavy, because that’s not how I am, and that’s not the spirit in which I live out my convictions. The people I know who call themselves crunchy cons are among the most joyful and confident people you’ll ever meet. It was my hope that Crunchy Cons would provide a genial entry point into a discussion of the way we live today, and how it reflects deeper convictions we have — and in particular, how we conservatives can and should change our lives so that we can better honor what we say we believe in. To the extent that the way I wrote the book leads people to think I’m just trying to baptize organic broccoli and Birkenstocks as right-wing, I regret it. ~Rod Dreher, Crunchy Cons

That’s part of the problem with what has been written on the blog (I haven’t read the book). Whatever is good, true, and noble is, by their definition, “crunchy.” By that token, whoever recognizes the importance of transcendence is dragooned as a “crunchy”; if they resist, they are mourned as a hapless victim of consumerism or denounced as a hypocrite. ~Email posted at Crunchy Cons

When K.J. Lopez posted this email, she must have thought it was making an interesting point. I suppose it is interesting that there is a persistent misunderstanding at work in this “discussion” that leads readers to conclude what this one did. The discussion has gone something like this:

Crunchy Blogger: Transcendent realities of Beauty, Truth and the Good require us to live in ways that do not egregiously violate them, and require instead a life of virtue. As conservatives, we all theoretically subscribe to living a virtuous life and believe in the importance of transcendent Truth and pursuing the Good, but some of us seem to be better at the ‘theoretically’ part than actually living out these convictions. Here are my observations on how modern Americans are living that seem to be seriously out of alignment with those goods, and these are my alternatives…

Anti-Crunchy Blogger 1: You’re trying to make politics into a religion! The politics of transcendence is scary and fascist! Don’t be like a fascist! I believe in a partial philosophy of life. You know, the kind that doesn’t require anything from you.

Anti-Crunchy Blogger 2: You’re trying to tell me how to live! I like transcendence, but please don’t pester me about details.

Anti-Crunchy Blogger 3: I’d be willing to entertain ideas about how transcendence applies to my life, but obviously you all are just talking about a “mere” sensibility and not real ideas. I don’t even like granola.

John Podhoretz: [Irrelevant obnoxious remark goes here.]

Anti-Crunchy Emailer: I care deeply about transcendence. Just don’t expect me to examine my life in the slightest, and stop being so mean!

Anti-Crunchy Columnist: There’s room enough for all you pathetic, tradition-constructing crunchies at my table anytime. (Just so long as you acknowledge that your way of life is hopelessly outmoded and fake.)

Actual physical aggression or the threat thereof is one potential jus ad bellum (ground for war), but so, according to the standard moral theology manuals of the 1950s, are freedom from tyranny and liberation from religious oppression whereby a nation is prevented from worshipping God. Even a grave dishonor to a country can be a good reason for going to war. And the standard pre-1960s theology books also teach that it might be an act of charity for a nation to go to war to bring orderly government to a country in chaos. ~David Oderberg, NRO

The larger argument of Prof. Oderberg’s article is contentious, if not ludicrous (Mr. Bush has a better understanding of traditional Christian ethics than John Paul II did), and, I imagine from a Catholic perspective, potentially quite offensive in its remarks about John Paul II himself. It is somehow held against the late Pope that he “never seems to have met a war he didn’t abhor,” when there were arguably no actual just wars during his pontificate (none leaps to mind). In any event, abhorrence of war is usually considered a good trait in most Christians and especially in bishops. All of this hints at a sort of sneaky disregard by Prof. Oderberg for the spirit of just war theory, which is charity, and a subtle desire to find the exceptions to the prohibition against killing other people so that good Christians can support shedding blood just like everyone else. A thoughtful Christian might have to make sure he is sitting down when he reads things like this: “When it comes to applying tradition to life-and-death moral issues, Bush 43 wins hands down over John Paul II.” Given nonsense like that, it is not exactly a mystery why someone in the Neo-CONNED! volume might have referred to Oderberg as a neocon, even if the label in this case might be a little tendentious.
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Many of the contributors to Neo-CONNED! are Catholic traditionalists in this sense, as are some other paleoconservative critics of the war. They claim, as the book’s editors put it, that “the principles of the Catholic just-war tradition… convict the war in Iraq of manifest injustice” (emphasis mine). Like so many left-wing critics of the war, these people are not content to say that the war was unwise, ill-advised, or poorly thought-out; they insist on branding it as evil through-and-through, and its architects as moral monsters. I find this attitude completely indefensible, indeed preposterous. I do not deny that reasonable people can disagree about whether the war was a good idea, or even, on balance, the morally best course of action. But I think there are no grounds whatsoever for claiming that it was “manifestly unjust,” at least not in traditional natural law theory. In my view, the natural law tradition – especially as understood by the pre-Vatican II thinkers the paleoconservative critics would claim to follow – quite clearly shows the war in Iraq to have been, at the very least, a morally defensible (even if not the only morally defensible) course of action. And paleoconservatives who claim otherwise are, I would argue, often motivated less by traditional Catholic or natural law thinking itself than by certain other ideological commitments – commitments that are not only distinct from the Catholic and natural law traditions but sometimes even incompatible with them. ~Edward Feser, Right Reason

It would be easy enough to poke holes in Mr. Feser’s accusations of a “lack of charity” from the paleo side (and also exceedingly easy to catalogue the vituperative hate directed against paleo and other opponents of the war), but why rehash all of that? Here he makes a far more serious set of claims. His main claim is that the war is morally defensible on the traditional Catholic understanding of just war and natural law. “Our” main claim, if I may be so bold as to speak generally for all paleoconservatives here, is that a war of aggression can never be morally defensible and any war of aggression has to be recognised as a “manifest injustice” (to use the language of the Neo-CONNED! books). Why this is “completely indefensible, indeed preposterous” truly does escape me, but let’s try to understand it.

Why would an aggressive war be unjust? For starters, an aggressive war cannot be proportional, because it is not in response to any injury or slight, and it cannot be from right motivation, because aggression is the fruit of a fundamentally disordered soul and stems from a vicious will. If the motivation of the magistrate in launching the invasion was some kind of libido dominandi, which seems at least plausible, the war is automatically unjust. Aggression cannot be setting right a grievance, because it is itself an injury and not a remedy, and it cannot be redressing a wrong, as it is itself fundamentally wrong because it is spiteful, cruel and vicious.
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The United States does not have proof that Iran’s government is responsible for the presence of Iranian weapons and military personnel in Iraq, the top U.S. military officer said on Tuesday.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also said the United States may slightly increase its troops in Iraq from the current 133,000 to provide more security for an upcoming Shi’ite pilgrimage amid worry about further sectarian violence.

President George W. Bush said on Monday components from Iran were being used in powerful roadside bombs used in Iraq, and Rumsfeld said last week that Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel had been inside Iraq to stir up trouble.

Asked whether the United States has proof that Iran’s government was behind these developments, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing, “I do not, sir.” ~Reuters

So, has there been an Iranian act of war? I think not.

I think most on the Crunchy Con blog have overlooked Maggie Gallagher’s most important (for me) point: the American tradition defies being rooted to one place. As someone who’s been in the military all his adult life, this is truer for me than most. The great (maybe mythical) American tradition says that our ancestors left England (or other parts of Europe) to escape being trapped into the same place, occupation, and social class as their fathers. To be American means that I am judged on what I do, not on what my father did. If there are better opportunities for me in other places, I should go. The military forces this on all its members, for reasons more related to readiness than virtue. However, we learn that the place is not what matters, the family does; and one can find a community worth belonging to in any corner of America, given a willingness to look and meet new people. My wife, three girls, and I have lived in ten different places in my 17 years in the Army. In every one we’ve found a vibrant United Methodist congregation in the local civilian community, a support group in my unit, and a group of friends, civilian and military, that we enjoy spending time with and that share our values. What holds these groups together is not where we live, but what we believe. Tying that to a geographical area cheapens the ideal of America for me. ~”Jason” quoted at Crunchy Cons

This man, Jason, is making the best out of what I would regard as a bad situation (10 places in 17 years sounds absolutely dreadful to me, and I can only imagine what it sounds like to more settled people than I), but it seems to me that he has mistaken the “survival” mechanisms he has discovered to keep his family and faith intact for something superior to an actual traditional community that is all together its own “support group.”

Refugees also come together and form communities to support each other after being violently uprooted and driven from their homes, but they at least have the good sense to recognise that a DP camp is not superior to the old homeland. Furthermore, they don’t willingly make themselves refugees as so many Americans do in their desperate, I daresay slightly insane, need to get away from home when they are young.

We construct an entire ideology about our history (and thus falsify our own history) that tells us that we have always been refugees from some persecution or oppression (the flip side of the “nation of immigrants” nonsense) and that our virtue lies in not getting tied down or being settled. Of course, what real refugees from persecution would have wanted was to remain where they were, and when they could not do that they would want nothing more than to create a new, stable and enduring home for themselves. But even if some of the first Americans were refugees from persecution, we do not need to keep running away from our obligations to imitate them in perpetuity.

Of course, someone once said that the great enterprise of American conservatives is to try to get Americans settled down. Yes, conservatism has been an effort to stop Americans from acting like refugees in their own country. That involves adopting a radically different attitude towards place, ancestors, history and custom from the one Jason and probably tens if not hundreds of millions of other Americans espouse.

Note the last phrase he uses: “the ideal of America.” This is a pervasive attitude in our country that tells us that our country must have or be an ideal, it must “represent” something. Not like those tired, old European countries or the ancient “tribal” affinities of other continents. No, none of that. No sense of place–not in space, and not in society. No ties, no limitations, and also no belonging except what you can conjure up with your fellow refugees. To the extent that everyone carries his home with him, refugees can try to recapture something of what they have lost in a new place, but it will never be comparable and there will always be a yearning for what was lost. All the more reason not to center an entire way of life around constant flight and movement. This sort of ideal American exists as a permanent exile from his own country, living nowhere because he has lived everywhere.
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He is right, and this is really at the heart of the disagreement. Does anything matter? Really matter? I asked yesterday the Augustinian ethical question: What do we love? Lying behind that question may be the question: Is there anything out there worth loving? Too many conservatives simply give in to the tide of cultural nihilism as Gallagher does at the end of her review. If the choice is between a careful reevaluation of what is really worth pursuing with our “moral imagination” as Kirk called it, even at the risk of being called a narcissist, a romantic, pretentious, intellectually immodest, sentimental, a puritan, a jerk, or even quirky, on the one hand, and adopting the false sophistication of the cultural nihilists on the other, it seems clear which road, bumpy as it might be, provides a possibility of recovery. ~Caleb Stegall, Crunchy Cons

Maggie Gallagher’s review of the book just reminded me of a slightly different, but related post of mine from a few months back. Jeffrey Tucker at the Mises.org blog wrote this dismissive post about the agrarianism/small town issue of Chronicles from last autumn:

It’s fine and great to love the eternal verities, be in awe of baroque churches, listen to the music of Josquin, master ancient poetry, recite poetry in Middle English. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use a cell phone, know Html, listen to a podcast, and spend your free time improving Wikipedia entries. We do not have to choose between modernism and antiquarian affections. Capitalism allows us to have it all.

Now compare with Gallagher’s dismissive remark:

Is there room at the great conservative table for people who love God, family, Arts and Crafts architecture, ancient liturgy, Birkenstocks and organic chickens?

Sure, Rod, I’ll dine with you anytime. But is this really a very important question?

Taken one way, Ms. Gallagher shows all the signs of Mr. Tucker’s “you can have it all” mentality. In this world, there are limitless choices–you do not have to sacrifice anything. Except, of course, for the traditional way of life that you may actually want to have. That is the one thing that is off the “table” for both Tucker and Gallagher. You can, like Mr. Tucker, pay lip service to eternal verities while paying relatively little attention to their consequences or, in Ms. Gallagher’s view, browse the buffet of tradition and still live in the suburban sprawl and pursue a life of endless acquisition because it is the “only available way.” You can have it all, and you have no other options. Choice abounds, and you have no other choice except to embrace this expansively narrow and stifling way of life.

But perhaps when Ms. Gallagher asked if it was an “important question” she thought she was saying that it wasn’t an important question whether “there was room at the great conservative table” for “crunchy” cons. I suppose she thinks there is room at “the table.” Great. But that was never the main issue as far as Rod was concerned (I suppose it was a tangential issue to the extent that he describes a basic disagreement between “crunchy” and mainstream conservatives). He had been saying, more or less, that people similar to those of the crunchy disposition have been sitting at the table for a very long time (in fact, some of them were the craftsmen who made the table by hand), and that it was high time for the other conservatives to start paying attention to the craftsmanship of the table and the values that stand behind it and taking those things seriously.

Perhaps because she completely misunderstood what the book was trying to do (which was not to justify the place of “crunchies” at the table, but to say that the other conservatives have stopped sitting around the table and have opted for the fast-food drive thru instead), she was talking about an entirely different “question.” Because she did not perceive the very important questions Rod was asking (how she did not perceive them is a bit mysterious, but there it is), she concluded (I suppose reasonably) that Rod was asking a fairly silly question: “Can I please sit at your table?” He wasn’t asking that, but apparently she thought he was. She phrased it so awkwardly and had otherwise understood the book so poorly that it was difficult to see that the first time around.

I’m sure I have something more important I should be doing instead, but now that I have started today with the “crunchy” business, I will write one more post. Goldberg accuses Rod of being “quirky” and making what you might call an “argument from quirkiness.” This is simply wrong, and it is getting tiresome that Goldberg thinks he is contributing something with this one-note song of his:

I’m sure you don’t really disagree, but in your rush to prove the authenticity of your domicile you sound really, really quirky to a lot of us. Quirkiness is good. Quirkiness is valuable. Quirkiness is fun. Why, right now I’m wearing a very quirky hat. But quirkiness is not a foundation for a political philosophy or even a conservative “sentiment” nor is it sufficient grounds to condemn those who don’t subscribe to your definition of the good life. A conservative philosophy or sentiment creates room for quirkiness, not the other way around. “The nature of man is intricate,” wrote Edmund Burke, “the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity; and therefore no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man’s nature or to the quality of his affairs.”

Quirkiness means strangeness of habit. So, in one sense, the life that Rod describes would seem quirky to someone living the conventional life he criticises. Stable, centered and rooted lives might well appear eccentric to people living fragmented and dispersed lives, but that does not mean that they are actually eccentric. There is the very real possibility that Goldberg and many others are so far removed from where they should be in life that many aspects of the good life appear bizarre and foreign to them (probably the way that, say, Lenten fasting appears to most modern Christians, even though some form of serious Lenten fasting was at least obligatory for most Christians until fairly recently and represents the rule and not the exception). The seeming bizarreness of Rod’s way of life in Goldberg’s eyes is not an argument in favour of Goldberg’s argument against the “crunchies.” It only makes Rod’s argument for him as to how alienated from the permanent things the Goldbergs of the world have become.

To this Goldberg will probably only shout, “Narcissism!” But it is not the “crunchies” who are quite so obsessed with self-image in this sense (the book, especially the chapter on homeschooling, is replete with quotes from the various “crunchy” exemplars about how they no longer care what other people think), and that is what really bewilders so many of the critics. They seem to be saying subliminally, “Why aren’t you crunchies more concerned with what we think about your way of life? Why won’t you submit to the conventional attitudes and accept the roles that we have accepted?” If they look carefully through the book once more, they will find the answer to those questions.

Is what really a very important question? God? Family? Architecture? Liturgy? Birkenstocks? Organic chickens (which I understand to mean “the kind of food we eat”)? No, Maggie, footwear is not an important question, and people who actually read my book know that I don’t make an issue of it, except as an example of how I let a silly cultural prejudice against a brand of shoes keep me from trying out a product that has given me good service. So okay, footwear is not important. But all the rest of it, yeah, it’s important. ~Rod Dreher, Crunchy Cons

I think Ms. Gallagher hit a nerve. Of course, she would do that by making the sort of careless and unbalanced criticisms that she made in her column. I didn’t touch on her annoying remarks about Rod’s religious practises in my last post, but they are revealing:

There is something movingly pathetic in watching the Drehers drive through different religious identities, for example, searching for one that “fits.” Worshipping at a Lebanese Maronite (Catholic) Church, for example, because they like the taste of ancient tradition, even if they are neither Lebanese nor Maronite. Tradition itself becomes a kind of consumption item, to be produced and consumed by crunchy cons.

Read Rod’s response to this by clicking on the link above. As a convert to Russian Orthodoxy, I understand Rod’s reasons for attending the Maronite church perhaps better than many, especially better than those who have had the good fortune of finding a spiritually enriching, solemn, traditional church or the even better fortune of being raised up in such a church. That Rod and I have both felt drawn to more traditional Christianity, a Christianity that requires an active denial, or better yet the disciplining and proper redirection, of the desires of the self, should suggest that something other than religious consumerism is going on here. This is why the language of asceticism crops up so often in Rod’s book. In many of his chapters, he is talking about incarnate faith and practical askesis, and all Ms. Gallagher can see is organic chicken and “exotic” Arabic liturgy. That’s a pity. Maybe she’ll see something more if she reads closer. Pace Goldberg, people who concluded in “good faith” that Rod was simply substituting his personal experiences for the basis of an entire way of life may have had a lot of good faith, but they did not pay very close attention to what he actually said.

That Rod and I concluded that this sort of traditional Christianity was available for the most part only in the more “exotic” churches of the Maronites or Russians says something meaningful about the substance of what is on offer in the thoroughly modernised and Americanised churches. If we were religious consumers going for an eccentric “taste,” we would not find the stability that just such a traditional church offers because we would be interested only in partaking superficially and not submitting ourselves to the healing disciplines and services of our respective churches. Likewise, I suspect the “cradle” and more serious members of our parishes would grow weary of such a superficial commitment fairly quickly.

Sure, Rod, I’ll dine with you anytime. But is this really a very important question? ~Maggie Gallagher

Ms. Gallagher had many other dismissive things to say about the “crunchy” idea, but this one captures the spirit of the entire column. Here she happens to be taking issue with Rod’s ideas about food, but she could just as well be talking about anything else in the book. You can hear her saying, “Sure, homeschooling is nice, in theory, but is educating children well really a very important thing?” Of course, she wouldn’t want to say something like that. So she picks on Rod’s food talk, because it is easier to mistake this for something unimportant. Easier, but not really defensible.

When Rod describes the “sacramental” nature of a meal and speaks of it in terms of “communion,” he has tapped into the mind of the Christian tradition to which we are all heirs. The Eucharist, the sacrament of koinonia, in Scripture and in patristic interpretation is represented with the symbolism and language of wedding feasts and meals. It is in one sense the embodiment of all other festivity–all other festivity is festivity to the extent that it resembles this sacred reality of fellowship, thanksgiving, unity and love. In the early Church, the profane agape meal after the Eucharist had to be separated from the liturgical service proper because early Christians too easily blended the two together in an improper way–but this easy confusion reflects the close similarities between holy sacrament and profane feast. This imagery likely made a great deal more sense to traditional peoples because their feasts and meals were more like this than ours are today.

Behind every snarky or even every polite rebuttal aimed at the “crunchies” is the question: do you people really believe that these things matter? It might be nice to have these things, Ms. Gallagher suggests, but why should anyone care? In this, she has shown that she really didn’t understand the purpose or meaning of the book, which, incidentally, was not a call to “create” anything but to restore and return to the even older conservatism that, alas, she and her colleagues tend to forget.

In other words, the problem isn’t just that Rod and his family don’t have their own “native” tradition to return to and must create one (which would make them like everyone who has ever participated in a tradition anywhere at any time), but that they are actually more interested in seeking that authenticity, virtue and wisdom of a good life than living a conventional, forgettable life, the “only available American way.” It wasn’t always the “only available American way,” and it does not have to be the American way. It is the only available way if you believe that you must maximise opportunity, attenuate all natural affinities and make your own way to be a successful person. Most generations of Americans have not thought in this way, and it is ultimately an unnatural way to live, exacerbating many of the worst spiritual and practical habits that flesh is heir to.
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Savoranola? Rhymes with granola? Maybe he was just in a hurry to dash off his dismissive insult and didn’t check the spelling. But what would Savonarola have to do with any of this? Maybe he means that Caleb is an unusually brilliant thinker dedicated to moral and political reform? Maybe not. Maybe it just confirms that Podhoretz naturally buys into the textbook Western Civ boilerplate that reproduces liberal historians’ prejudices about any Christian figure who was more than moderately serious about the requirements of his religion.

In a post entitled, “Sorry, Savoranola” [sic], Little Pod complains:

Funny that Caleb Stegall should seek to impose a loyalty test and oath on me… It seems like I was editing a magazine a decade ago that was pro-life and anti-gay-marriage while you were building your log cabin…

This is a typical activist response: I was busy talking about virtue (or anything else you’d care to name) while you were out in the world actually living the good life. In other words, Podhoretz is saying that he is the better ideologue. I think we can let him have that particular “honour.” After all, he was editing a magazine and supporting policy proposals and discussing legislation! Aren’t these the things that really matter in living the good life?

As an NR contributor, Little Pod would know all about loyalty tests and oaths. He’s probably passed them all with flying colours and also probably enjoyed watching others fail them over the years. But isn’t it interesting how the commissars themselves are always the first to think in terms of loyalty oaths and always the first to complain about being dictated to and imposed upon?

What Barnes calls paleo-conservatism is the conservatism of the common man, rooted in tradition and wisdom born of experience. It is not the Big Government, open-borders, free-trade, interventionist, globaloney of the neo-cons and their Rebel in Chief.

Conservatives don’t trash their countrymen, even if they think they’re wrong. It is slander to say opposition to the Dubai deal exposed some deep, dark strain in the American soul.

The cakewalk crowd doesn’t understand America because it doesn’t live there. It lives in an ideological world of its own creation, which, as it denies aspects of reality, is forever colliding with reality.

And more collisions are coming. ~Pat Buchanan

Which brings up another point: The idea that people “choose” where they live. It’s never as simple as that. People live where in some proximity to where they work, and they want as much home as they can afford. They’re willing to brave traffic and, yes, even some appalling aesthetics to have the kind of home they want. Once again we see the key contradiction between the contributors to this blog and the vast majority of ordinary Americans. You guys live ideologically. You make choices that gratify you because they represent a fulfillment of ideas you hold. Most people don’t live this way, and to presume that they should is, well, the sheerest snobbery. ~Little Pod, Crunchy Cons

I take it from Little Pod’s dismissive remarks that he thinks that the “vast majority of ordinary Americans” have no ideas to which they hold. They do not choose where they live. Perhaps they don’t choose anything at all. That would be very “self-conscious” indeed. Or if they have any ideas, they don’t actually believe them, because they do not live in such a way as to fulfill them. Only wine-and-cheese granola snobs would be so “self-conscious” as to pursue the fulfillment of their idea of the good life. And it isn’t as if the good life would be similar for everyone. It isn’t as if truth is one or that the same Good is sought by all. It isn’t as if all men possess the same nature and have the same ultimate purpose.

No, apparently the “vast majority” have no choice–they are trapped in a web of desires! The inextricable bonds of dukkha have ensnared them! Alas! Fortunately they have the pneumatikos, John Podhoretz, to enlighten them on occasion while they muddle on in their drab world bereft of ideas.

Note that Podhoretz keeps saying that the “vast majority” of folks seek to get as “much home” as they want. Behind that desire to maximise the size and space of a house, for example, is an idea that says that it is more desirable to have more and to possess as much as one can reasonably afford. To say that this is “normal” is to say that it is a commonplace thing for fallen man to desire, which is also to admit that, at some level, it is probably disordered desire. But leave that aside for a moment. People who live according to that idea, who seek to fulfill that idea in the way they live, have chosen to live that way because they have already accepted the assumptions that go with that sort of life.

Podhoretz accused the “crunchies” of “living ideologically” because they live according to their ideas of the good life. In the context that Podhoretz used the word “ideologically,” Stuart Buck and Caleb Stegall both affirmed that everyone lives “ideologically” in this way. As Caleb put it:

People basically know what they want — they know what they love. If the state, market, culture, etc., make it easy for them to pursue these things as the path of least resistance, so much the better. And as Frederica has pointed out, our society has essentially decided that what we love best of all is to give unrestrained expression to our basest appetites [italics mine-DBL]. It is true, people usually don’t explicitly calculate the naked truth of their decisions — human nature is too clever and deceitful for that. However, as Iris Murdoch put it, “At crucial moments of choice most of the business of choosing is already over.” This is because our choices don’t spring into being ex nihilo, but rather come out of the order or disorder of the soul. The most fundamental ethical question, then, is: What do you love? What does our society love? Everything else — including the choices that we make long before they are outwardly made manifest — flows from that.

An important point should be made here: Podhoretz used the word ideologically in a rather clumsy way that later allowed him to accuse the “crunchies” of being self-conscious ideologues. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. A man who lives according to a vision of the good life does not live ideologically. He lives according to principles, or better still we might say simply that he lives virtuously. There is something programmatic and artificial about living “ideologically” that distinguishes it, and most people are capable of recognising it when they see it. But that is not what the “crunchies” do, and it is not what Podhoretz can be referring to when he applies it to them.

Ideology is one of those words, like fascist (and perhaps conservative!), whose original meaning is so far gone and lost for most people that it would be easier to retire the word and start over with some new term. Nowadays many people, including apparently John Podhoretz, think that it means consciously adhering to ideas or principles (which, apparently, he thinks the vast majority of Americans does not do). If Podhoretz thinks that someone must be able to articulate and defend a philosophy justifying his way of life to be considered as someone who adheres to principles or ideas, he is kidding himself.

Men reproduce or fail to reproduce customs and traditions all the time depending on the meaning these things have for them (this is not to deny that they are shaped and formed by those traditions in ways they do not always notice or know). In myriad ways in everyday life, people consciously adhere to or depart from their traditions. Traditions endure, among other reasons, because they fulfill so many functions that we do not even recognise that we need until they are no longer being provided, but this does not make our adherence to the tradition any less conscious or deliberate. If we cannot articulate a reason why we do something, we nonetheless do understand the reason at some level. This is why the details of everyday life are a vital part of realising the common good. It is by these customs and habits supposedly “unthinkingly” repeated, but in reality consciously embraced, that traditions live or die.

One of the things that distinguishes the ideologue from the man of principle is that the former scarcely has substantial ideas, or when he does have substantial ideas he is perfectly willing to contort, distort and manipulate them to serve those in power. It is in that sense, I believe, that Kirk pejoratively used the term ideology and it was against that kind of ideology that he set up conservatism as the antithesis and antidote. It is, incidentally, one of the principal criticisms of the book against modern conservatism that it has become just this kind of coat-holding lackey for Republican Party interests and has engaged in the contortions and betrayals of real conservatism to facilitate the party’s exercise of power. The “crunchy” idea, as I understand it, is in its simplest form an attempt to correct that perversion of conservatism and to seek the Good once more.
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This is the grisly underbelly of the modern American college; the deep, dark, hidden secret that many parents suspect is there but would rather not face. The long-term damage to our children is difficult to measure. But it is too obvious to deny. I remember once hearing that the British lost the empire when they started sending their children away to boarding schools. I do not know whether anyone has ever seriously proposed that thesis. I am prepared, however, to ask whether America might not be lost because the great middle class was persuaded that they must send their children to college with no questions asked, when in fact this was the near-equivalent of committing their sons and daughters to one of the circles of Dante’s Inferno.

I have lived long enough to understand and be thankful for the fact that the sins and indiscretions of youth may be forgiven and overcome. Nevertheless, the behavior of our American colleges and universities is inexcusable. Their mendacity is doing great harm to our children, whom we entrust to them with so much love, pride, and hope for the future. ~Vigen Guroian

Via Orthodoxy Today

Nowhere better exemplifies the collapse of moral standards and constraints enforced by college rules than my undergraduate college, Hampden-Sydney, which has a certain distinction in maintaining the fiction that it is still educating “gentlemen.” H-SC remains a men’s school, one of only two colleges in America to pursue that now-quixotic path, and it was that environment and the rhetoric of training up Southern gentlemen that lured me to the sleepy Southside of Virginia rather than going to a more conventional liberal arts school elsewhere. Soon after I arrived, I realised that it was I who was playing Don Quixote for imagining that young men were still seriously expected to learn Southern gentility and manners at the college, at least when it came to how to treat young women.

To attempt to court a young woman with any measure of reserve or restraint was to become an oddity if not a social failure. It was certainly far from the norm to even bother with such niceties. Oh, yes, we learned table etiquette and some proper manners in how to address our elders, and there was still then something to recommend the college as an educational institution, but our college and its counterparts in the women’s colleges of western Virginia were committed to ignoring any kind of restraint when it came to sex. Facilitating transgression of traditional boundaries of decency and morality was the order of the day to maintain the fiction that these single-sex schools, which ought to have everything to recommend them as superior places for education, were harbours in the chaotic storm of co-ed higher education.

It was a frequent part of the sales pitch to prospective students at Hampden-Sydney that the college was routinely swamped by women from the neighbouring women’s schools on the weekends. (After all, who would really want to go to an all-men’s school in this day and age if this were not the case, right?) Those women, of course, stayed in the dormitories in just the sort of chaotic, debased environment Prof. Guroian describes. They were used (or, by my quaint standards, misused) constantly and then discarded. They accommodated themselves to this environment quickly enough, which made all social gatherings at the college seem like rather ugly affairs. As I read his article, Prof. Guroian’s mention of the names of Sweet Briar and Hollins conjured up images of women in my memory quite different from the young ladies whom he knew. All of this made a mockery of the college’s aspiration to train up young gentlemen, though a few may have managed to find their bearings quite in spite of the environment the college permitted, and hardy lived up to the school’s high-flown rhetoric about honour.

The phrase on the gates of my old college remains, “Where boys become men.” But what sort of men? That is a question no one at Hampden-Sydney, or at any of the other colleges and universities around the country, wants to answer.

US military intelligence sources have said that increasingly powerful IEDs, with greater armor-piercing power and sophisticated triggers, have been traced to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, or to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia in Lebanon.

Bush said that there was evidence that some components in the most powerful IEDs came from Iran, and that coalition forces had “seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran.”

Last week, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld directly accused the Islamic government in Tehran for the first time of sending Iranian Revolutionary Guard into Iraq to make trouble. ~Agence France-Presse (via Yahoo News)

SCIRI: Your friendly, neighbourhood Islamic revolutionaries

Elsewhere in the story government officials reportedly have made references to ties between Tehran and Moqtada al-Sadr, which surpasses the old Hussein-bin Laden link on the incredulity meter. Maybe they got the Badr brigades, the armed wing of the officially Tehran-backed Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (which has been sitting in government in Baghdad for months), confused with Sadr, an Iraqi nationalist and past opponent of the constitution on the grounds that it was excessively sectarian. Naturally, in the world of this administration, it would be the Iraqi nationalist who eschews Shi’a sectarian identification who would be working with the Tehran government and not the armed faction that has been funded by Tehran for over a decade. Why would any serious person believe any of this?

If there has been Iranian support for the production or use of IEDs against our soldiers, Iran’s agents are more likely to be found among our “allies” in the Badr brigades and SCIRI than among Sadr’s minions, in which case delivering power into the hands of SCIRI has proven to be a colossal blunder and yet another bitter fruit of Mr. Bush’s foolish war. More likely, however, this entire story is probably just the latest in a string of deceptions designed to encourage military confrontation with Iran.

Tens of thousands of protesters marched Tuesday to the offices of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, demanding his resignation over allegations that he improperly enriched himself in a massive telecommunications deal.

The demonstration was one of the largest since long-simmering grievances among Bangkok’s middle class erupted into outrage two months ago after Thaksin’s family sold its controlling shares in the Shin Corp. business empire for $1.9 billion to a Singapore investment company.

Although the rally passed peacefully, Thaksin warned Tuesday he would declare a state of emergency and call military troops into the streets if demonstrations turned violent. ~The Washington Post

Thaksin Shinawatra, for those who have not been following Thai political affairs very closely, is the leader of the Thai Rak Thai party, whose name literally means “Thais Love Thais.” Governing with a populist platform of expanding government supports and subsidies in a number of areas, Shinawatra has also made himself into something of a democratic authoritarian ruler with a heavy-handed and brutal “drug war” in the country’s south. Because Thailand also suffers from a small Muslim insurgency in its south, American and international pressure on Thailand to do slightly better than meting out summary executions to accused drug dealers has not been forthcoming. Now corruption also makes its appearance in the Thaksin era, which does not come as much of a surprise. However, Thaksin and his party benefited from an enormous, all together democratic victory last year, helped no doubt by the generous spending and government programs his government has pushed through, so whatever you may hear in the coming weeks about democracy or “people power” in Thailand as Thaksin comes under increasing pressure most Thais are still strong supporters of Thaksin. Thaksin is the face of democracy in Thailand–no wonder there is a movement to empower the king! His is just another example of democracy encouraging bad government, lawbreaking and personality cult. This is not proof of Thailand’s flawed democracy, but of the flaws of democracy itself.

A liberal Democrat is proposing that Congress censure President George W. Bush for authorizing domestic eavesdropping.

“The president has broken the law and, in some way, he must be held accountable,” said the Democrat, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. He spoke in an interview Sunday.

A censure resolution would, in effect, simply scold the president. Such a resolution has been used just once in U.S. history - against Andrew Jackson in 1834.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., called the proposal “a crazy political move” that would weaken the United States in time of war.

Feingold’s five-page resolution will be introduced today. It contends that Bush violated the law when, on his own, he set up the eavesdropping program within the National Security Agency following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. ~AP (via STLToday.com)

It’s not much, but I suppose it’s at least something.

There was the Dubai ports deal, rejected by a congressional uprising part nationalistic, part isolationist. There’s immigration, soon to be debated on the Senate floor and always high on the paleocon list of concerns. Excessive government spending, a worry of all conservatives but especially paleocons, is a major topic this year. And the intervention in Iraq and President Bush’s crusade for democracy face sharp criticism, with paleocons in the lead among the critics.

It’s a paleo moment in America. “It’s a little bit late,” Buchanan says. He’d rather it had occurred in 1992 or 1996, when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination, or in 2000, when he ran as the Reform party candidate. Chances are, the moment won’t last. But it’s a moment that could be politically painful for the president and harmful to Republicans in the midterm election in November. The paleocon message is not an electoral winner–unless you believe voters are eager to hear ideas that are gloomy, negative, defeatist, isolationist, nativist, and protectionist. ~Fred Barnes, The Weekly Standard

Via Clark Stooksbury

Barnes’ larger point, such as it is, is that the widespread popularity of “paleo” views on the Dubai ports deal and immigration somehow threatens GOP electoral prospects by…being so very popular. Because the paleos are making Mr. Bush look bad (by criticising policies he has stubbornly advocated against the wishes of most of the people in his party–more the fault of the stubborn president, methinks), the party’s electoral fortunes are in danger…because everyone in the party is abandoning Mr. Bush’s undesirable policies in a last-ditch effort to salvage the party’s electoral fortunes.

Apparently the Congressional GOP believes their voters are eager for some of that supposed defeatist gloom, or they would not have turned on Mr. Bush so vehemently over the ports and on immigration (the revolt over excessive spending will not come from the Congress, as they are part of the problem, and most of the House GOP is so hopelessly inured to the Iraq war that they will not come around on that for another two years at least). Everyone, except perhaps for Mr. Bush, knows that restricting immigration is hugely popular, especially among GOP voters. It was only a matter of time before the party capitulated to this overwhelming sentiment in its own ranks.

Because the GOP is revolting en masse against Mr. Bush on the ports deal and on immigration, the cause of the revolt is somehow to be found among the paleos, whose influence on policymakers in Washington has to date been nil. This is rather amusing. When we paleos argued that the neocons had an unduly large role in pushing the Iraq war, because most of the leading policymakers were themselves confirmed neoconservatives or closely tied to them and their neoconservatism directly informed their buffoonish policy decisions, we were in turn absurdly accused of concocting ludicrous conspiracy theories and engaging in perfervid anti-Semitic rants. For the record, to be clear, neither of these charges was in the least bit true.

Now that things have turned against the neocons across the board and the “Big Government Conservatism” Barnes championed is making Republican voters sick, the paleocons are supposed to be insidiously inspiring the GOP’s “nationalist” and “isolationist” turn by…being nowhere near the centers of power and by having no influence in government at all (unless Rep. Paul has suddenly become a powerful chairman without anyone knowing about it). How have we done it? We are clever, aren’t we?

Maybe, just maybe, the “nationalist” and “isolationist” turn of the GOP is the sensible one and the one that their constituents desire! If that’s the case, I suspect the folks at the Standard will have to make clear once again that their enthusiasm for democratic and representative government simply does not apply to this country.

But if 2006 is the “paleo moment,” as he tells us it is (funny, it doesn’t really feel like a paleo moment), wouldn’t that suggest to a cagey political strategist that the right play for the GOP is to pretend to take paleo concerns seriously? Not that the GOP leadership is committed to these ideas, of course. But their constituents seem to be responding to the “paleo” appeal, sure enough. We should thank Barnes for one thing, though: he has to be the first writer at The Weekly Standard to imply that the “paleo” position is the more popular one on national security (i.e., on the ports)!

Oh, right, going “paleo” will cost the GOP Hispanic votes (because we are supposed to believe, contrary to the actual preferences of Hispanic voters on Prop. 187, for example, that Hispanics are reflexively committed to suborning mass lawbreaking out of a vague ‘ethnic’ solidarity). What about all the votes indifference to immigration and willful disregard for national security would cost? It would be difficult for the Democrats to win over the GOP’s “nationalist” voters (to refer to Prof. Lukacs’ discussion of our party politics), but a double-dose of Mr. Bush’s open borders/open ports approach to immigration and security might be enough to make even the party of Howard Dean sound more credible on both. If the GOP ignores what the core of its party wants on these two very explosive questions (and its core is not Hispanic), it will almost certainly lose one of its majorities in Congress. If the party does not want that to happen, it will stop listening to the Fred Barneses of the world, who helped to bring them to this pass in the first place.

AND this plainly teaches us that the beginning of our good will is given to us by the inspiration of the Lord, when He draws us towards the way of salvation either by His own act, or by the exhortations of some man, or by compulsion; and that the consummation of our good deeds is granted by Him in the same way: but that it is in our own power to follow up the encouragement and assistance of God with more or less zeal, and that accordingly we are rightly visited either with reward or with punishment, because we have been either careless or careful to correspond to His design and providential arrangement made for us with such kindly regard. And this is clearly and plainly described in Deuteronomy. “When,” says he, “the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which thou art going to possess, and shall have destroyed many nations before thee, the Hittite, and the Gergeshite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, seven nations much more numerous than thou art and stronger than thou, and the Lord thy God shall have delivered them to thee, thou shalt utterly destroy them. Thou shalt make no league with them. Neither shalt thou make marriage with them.” So then Scripture declares that it is the free gift of God that they are brought into the land of promise, that many nations are destroyed before them, that nations more numerous and mightier than the people of Israel are given up into their hands. But whether Israel utterly destroys them, or whether it preserves them alive and spares them, and whether or no it makes a league with them, and makes marriages with them or not, it declares lies in their own power. And by this testimony we can clearly see what we ought to ascribe to free will, and what to the design and daily assistance of the Lord, and that it belongs to divine grace to give us opportunities of salvation and prosperous undertakings and victory: but that it is ours to follow up the blessings which God gives us with earnestness or indifference. And this same fact we see is plainly taught in the healing of the blind men. For the fact that Jesus passed by them, was a free gift of Divine providence and condescension. But the fact that they cried out and said “Have mercy on us, Lord, thou son of David,” was an act of their own faith and belief. That they received the sight of their eyes was a gift of Divine pity. But that after the reception of any blessing, the grace of God, and the use of free will both remain, the case of the ten lepers, who were all healed alike, shows us. For when one of them through goodness of will returned thanks, the Lord looking for the nine, and praising the one, showed that He was ever anxious to help even those who were unmindful of His kindness. For even this is a gift of His visitation; viz., that he receives and commends the grateful one, and looks for and censures those who are thankless. ~St. John Cassian, Third Conference, chapter 19

WHEREFORE in this passage we ought to take “flesh” as meaning not man, i.e., his material substance, but the carnal will and evil desires, just as “spirit” does not mean anything material, but the good and spiritual desires of the soul: a meaning which the blessed Apostle has clearly given just before, where he begins: “But I say, walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the desires of the flesh; for the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh: but these are contrary the one to the other, that ye may not do what ye would.” And since these two; viz., the desires of the flesh and of the spirit co-exist in one and the same man, there arises an internal warfare daily carried on within us, while the lust of the flesh which rushes blindly towards sin, revels in those delights which are connected with present ease. And on the other hand the desire of the spirit is opposed to these, and wishes to be entirely absorbed in spiritual efforts, so that it actually wants to be rid of even the necessary uses of the flesh, longing to be so constantly taken up with these things as to desire to have no share of anxiety about the weakness of the flesh. The flesh delights in wantonness and lust: the spirit does not even tolerate natural desires. The one wants to have plenty of sleep, and to be satiated with food: the other is nourished with vigils and fasting, so as to be unwilling even to admit of sleep and food for the needful purposes of life. The one longs to be enriched with plenty of everything, the other is satisfied even without the possession of a daily supply of scanty food. The one seeks to look sleek by means of baths, and to be surrounded every day by crowds of flatterers, the other delights in dirt and filth, and the solitude of the inaccessible desert, and dreads the approach of all mortal men. The one lives on the esteem and applause of men, the other glories in injuries offered to it, and in persecutions. ~St. John Cassian, Fourth Conference, chapter 11

Note: St. John’s feast day is officially February 29, but is marked today (which is February 28 on the Julian Church Calendar) in non-leap years.

For whom would he not dare to try, who did not keep from his treacherous attempts even on our Lord Jesus Christ? For, as the story of the Gospel has disclosed, when our Saviour, Who was true God, that He might show Himself true Man also, and banish all wicked and erroneous opinions, after the fast of 40 days and nights, had experienced the hunger of human weakness, the devil, rejoicing at having found in Him a sign of possible and mortal nature, in order to test the power which he feared, said, “If Thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Doubtless the Almighty could do this, and it was easy that at the Creator’s command a creature of any kind should change into the form that it was commanded: just as whenHe willed it, in the marriage feast, Hechanged the water into wine: but here it better agreed with His purposes of salvation that His haughty foe’s cunning should be vanquished by the Lord, not in the power of His Godhead, but by the mystery of His humiliation. At length, when the devil had been put to flight and the tempter baffled in all his arts, angels came to the Lord and ministered to Him, that He being true Man and true God, His Manhood might be unsullied by those crafty questions, and His Godhead displayed by those holy ministrations. And so let the sons and disciples of the devil be confounded, who, being filled with the poison of vipers, deceive the simple, denying in Christ the presence of both true natures, whilst they rob either His Godhead of Manhood, or His Manhood of Godhead, although both falsehoods are destroyed by a twofold and simultaneous proof: for by His bodily hunger His perfect Manhood was shown, and by the attendant angels His perfect Godhead.

Therefore, dearly-beloved, seeing that, as we are taught by our Redeemer’s precept, “man lives not in bread alone, but in every word of God,” and it is right that Christian people, whatever the amount of their abstinence, should rather desire to satisfy themselves with the “Word of God” than with bodily food, let us with ready devotion and eager faith enter upon the celebration of the solemn fast, not with barren abstinence flora food, which is often imposed on us by weakliness of body, or the disease of avarice, but in bountiful benevolence: that in truth we may be of those of whom the very Truth speaks, “blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled .” Let works of piety, therefore, be our delight, and let us be filled with those kinds of food which feed us for eternity. Let us rejoice in the replenishment of the poor, whom our bounty has satisfied. Let us delight in the clothing of those whose nakedness we have covered with needful raiment. Let our humaneness be felt by the sick in their illnesses, by the weakly in their infirmities, by the exiles in their hardships, by the orphans in their destitution, and by solitary widows in their sadness: in the helping of whom there is no one that cannot carry out some amount of benevolence. For no one’s income is small, whose heart is big: and the measure of one’s mercy and goodness does not depend on the size of one’s means. Wealth of goodwill is never rightly lacking, even in a slender purse. Doubtless the expenditure of the rich isgreater, and that of the poor smaller, but there is no difference in the fruit of their works, where the purpose of the workers is the same. ~St. Leo the Great, Sermon 40

That the spiritual habits and disciplines of the Christian aim at such formation, the cultivation of virtue and the pursuit of holiness, ought to be obvious; when a Christian abstains from some evil act, it is for reason of the deformity such an act would introduce into his being. Moreoever, when, say, an Orthodox Christian observes the fasting season of Lent, he does so as an act of piety and obedience, yes, but also because, given his beliefs, it is an eminently rational or logical thing for him to undertake. If one believes that human nature is pulled hither and tither by the stimuli of pleasure and pain, and thereby rent into pieces, dominated by multitudinous passions attached to sensible and imaginary things, then not only petition for mercy but abstention from objects and acts that enkindle the passions becomes a logical and spiritual therepy for the disorder of one’s being. One’s travail is not an ordeal of the intellect alone, but is existential, involving the whole of one’s being; one must then not only refrain from an excess of attachment to things intellectually, but actually, for what inner detachment can a man cultivate if he never really detaches himself from the pursuits, the inordinate loves of things, that disorder him? ~Maximos (Jeff Martin), Enchiridion Militis

Jeff brings together a number of connected strands (I think successfully) over at EM: crunchy conservatism, the disciplines of Lent, Orthodox anthropology and the latter’s antithesis in the autonomous and consumerist models of the modern individual man. He also cites approvingly from Claude Polin, an editor of Chronicles, towards the end of the post, so that there is practically something for everyone.

The Great Canon for Clean Thursday is in .pdf form here.

The mass media reported that in the new edition of the “Annuario Pontificio” for 2006 the pope’s title “Patriarch of the West” has been dropped. Now the official list of titles includes: “Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God”.

Some analysts saw in this omission the desire to improve the relations with the Orthodox Church. The former prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini is reported to have said that the deletion was a “sign of ecumenical sensitivity” on the part of Pope Benedict. The cardinal said that in the past some people used the title to provoke negative comparisons between the claims of universal jurisdiction by the worldwide “Patriarchate of the West” and the more restricted size and jurisdiction of the traditional Orthodox patriarchates. According to the cardinal, the pope’s gesture “is meant to stimulate the ecumenical journey.”

However, it is not at all clear how the removal of the title could possibly ameliorate Catholic-Orthodox relations. It seems that the omission of the title “Patriarch of the West” is meant to confirm the claim to universal church jurisdiction that is reflected in the pope’s other titles, and if the Orthodox reaction to the gesture will not be positive, it should not be a surprise. ~Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev

Via Orthodoxy Today. A belated hat tip to Michael Brendan Dougherty.

Read the original article in French at Orthodox Europe.

Update: This Catholic priest views the matter as being unrelated to ecumenical considerations of any kind.

AVC: What do you make of the varying political interpretations of your films? Some have read them as being deeply conservative.

WS: I don’t know. I try to stay away from any characterization of the films, because it just gets in the way of other people enjoying them. I try not to delve into why people might dislike or like them, and it’s one reason why I’ll really think hard about doing any more commentary tracks. I sort of like the idea that you make the film and people can do with it whatever they want. You want them to like it and get something out of it, but I don’t really like commenting on the films. Peter Becker, who worked on the Criterion DVD of Metropolitan, told me, “You know, we don’t have to do a commentary track.” That’s an interesting thought, that maybe it’s better not to do them. They can just get in people’s way, and hurt you if there’s too much visible thought or analysis.

By the way, there’s a publication, I think it’s called First Of The Month, that did a rebuttal to the conservative interpretation of the films. It was pretty funny. I’m glad people can approach the films from any ideological point of view. ~The A.V. Club

Via Ryan McMaken at LRC Blog.

There are, for example, climate scientists who believe that the principal cause has been land-use changes, in particular urbanisation (the so-called urban heat island effect) and to some extent forest clearance for farming. But much more important is the fact that the Earth’s climate has always been subject to natural variation, nothing to do with man’s activities. Again, climate scientists differ about the causes of this, although most agree that variations in solar radiation play a key part.

It is well established, for example, that a thousand years ago, well before industrialisation, there was what has become known as the mediaeval warm period, when temperatures were probably almost as high as, if not higher than, they are today. Going back even further, during the Roman empire, it was even warmer — so much so that the Romans were able to produce drinkable wine in the north of England. More recently, during the 17th and early 18th centuries, there was what has become known as the little ice age, when the Thames was regularly frozen over in winter, and substantial ice fairs held on the frozen river became a popular attraction.

Even during the period since 1860, for which we have accurate temperature records, the picture is complicated. While the amount of man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has, since the industrial revolution, steadily increased, the corresponding temperature record is more cyclical, displaying four distinct phases.

Between 1860 and 1915 there was virtually no change in northern hemisphere temperatures. Between 1915 and 1945 there was a rise of about 0.4oC. Between 1945 and 1965 the temperature fell by about 0.2oC — and alarmist articles by Professor James Lovelock and others began to appear, warning about the prospect of a new ice age. Finally, between 1965 and 2000 there was a further increase of about 0.4oC, thus arriving at the overall increase of 0.6oC over the 20th century as a whole. Although, so far this century, there has been nothing to match the high temperature recorded in 1998, it would be rash to assume that this latest upward phase has ended. ~Lord Nigel Lawson, The Spectator (registration required)

The whole of Lord Lawson’s article makes for very good reading on the realities of climate change, as opposed the usual hysteria surrounding the subject, and the need for a sober assessment of the causes and consequences of climate change. I wholly share his skeptical view when it comes to man-made causes of climate change, and I wholly approve of his balanced treatment of the possible boons and dangers that gradual (and it is surely gradual) climate change bring.

While I applaud South Dakota’s boldness in attempting to ban abortion and create a statute with which to challenge Roe v. Wade, I’m somewhat mystified that the state taking the lead on this is South Dakota? Wouldn’t one expect the state to do so to be a place like Utah or somewhere in the Deep South? Is this nondescript midwestern state that conservative? I’ve never been there and don’t know much about the place, in particular I don’t know much about its political culture. Until recently, it was the state represented by Tom Daschle, notorious hack-Democrat majority leader. John Thune narrowly defeated Daschle, which suggests a state whose politics are fairly centrist. ~Chris Roach

In some respects, it would be fair to describe South Dakota as centrist, but my impression is that its habit of returning Democratic representatives to Congress is a mixture of the state’s historic tendency to favour Democrats together with its relative poverty, which now reinforces that traditional loyalty with the desire to get the best subsidy from Washington. Broadly speaking, South Dakotans are heirs to an old association with the Democrats (and Populists) who represented, well, practically everyone west of Ohio and south of New York for a very long time. They have obviously not been people given in any way to the cultural radicalism that the Dems have been pushing aggressively for 30 years, nor would you have expected solidly continental people in a very rural state to view the world as the “coastals” would.
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The Great Canon is available in .pdf form here.

Via Orthodox.net

The Great Canon is available in .pdf format here.

Via Orthodox.net

The Great Canon is available in .pdf format here.

Frederica Mathewes-Green discusses the Great Canon during an interview over at NRO about her new book, First Fruits of Prayer: a Forty-Day Journey through the Canon of St. Andrew.

Via Orthodixie.

Wash yourselves, and ye shall be clean; put away the wicked ways from your souls before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17. learn to do well; diligently seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, consider the fatherless, and plead for the widow. 18. Come then, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: and though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow; and though they red like crimson, I will make them white as wool. 19. If then ye be willing, and obedient unto Me, ye shall eat the good of the land; 20. but if ye desire not, nor will obey me, the sword shall devour you, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. ~Isaiah 1:16-20

For a larger image, go here.

We believe man in falling by the [original] transgression to have become comparable and like unto the beasts, that is, to have been utterly undone, and to have fallen from his perfection and impassibility, yet not to have lost the nature and power which he had received from the supremely good God. For otherwise he would not be rational, and consequently not man; but to have the same nature, in which he was created, and the same power of his nature, that is free-will, living and operating. So as to be by nature able to choose and do what is good, and to avoid and hate what is evil. For it is absurd to say that the nature which was created good by Him who is supremely good lacketh the power of doing good. For this would be to make that nature evil - than which what could be more impious? For the power of working dependeth upon nature, and nature upon its author, although in a different manner. And that a man is able by nature to do what is good, even our Lord Himself intimateth, saying, even the Gentiles love those that love them. {Matthew 5:46; Luke 6:32} But this is taught most plainly by Paul also, in Romans chap. i. [ver.] 19, {Rather chap. ii., ver. 14.} and elsewhere expressly, saying in so many words, “The Gentiles which have no law do by nature the things of the law.” From which it is also manifest that the good which a man may do cannot forsooth be sin. For it is impossible that what is good can be evil. Albeit, being done by nature only, and tending to form the natural character of the doer, but not the spiritual, it contributeth not unto salvation thus alone without faith, nor yet indeed unto condemnation, for it is not possible that good, as such, can be the cause of evil. But in the regenerated, what is wrought by grace, and with grace, maketh the doer perfect, and rendereth him worthy of salvation.

A man, therefore, before he is regenerated, is able by nature to incline to what is good, and to choose and work moral good. But for the regenerated to do spiritual good - for the works of the believer being contributory to salvation and wrought by supernatural grace are properly called spiritual - it is necessary that he be guided and prevented by grace, as hath been said in treating of predestination; so that he is not able of himself to do any work worthy of a Christian life, although he hath it in his own power to will, or not to will, to co-operate with grace. ~Decree XIV of the Synod of Jerusalem (1672)

We praise Christ’s Apostles as bright stars illumining the ends of the world, glorious Philemon, Onesimus, Archippus, and with them, wise Apphia, crying: Pray unceasingly in behalf of us all.

Archippus was one of the Seventy. The Apostle Paul mentions him in his Epistles to the Colossians (4:17) and to Philemon (2), calling him his fellow-soldier in the battle. The Christians’ gathering-place for prayer in the town of Colossae was in the house of Philemon. The Apostle Paul, writing to Philemon, calls this ‘the Church in thy house’. This was in the time when the apostles were consecrating their disciples to the episcopate - some to permanent sees and others as missionaries, travelling to various places. Philemon was one of these latter. Apphia, Philemon’s wife, remained to serve the house-church with fasting. At the time of a feast of the pagan goddess Artemis, all the faithful in Colossae were, as was their custom, gathered at prayer in the house of Philemon. The pagans came to hear of this gathering, rushed in on them and seized all the Christians. They flogged Archippus, Philemon and Apphia as their leaders, then buried them up to the waist in the ground and stoned them. Philemon and Apphia died of this, but they took Archippus out of the hole barely alive and left him for the children to play with. They took knives and stabbed him all over, and thus this fellow-soldier of Paul’s in the battle made a good end of his earthly road. ~St. Nikolai Velimirovic, The Prologue from Ochrid

There is a glaring fallacy in the contemporary presumption that idolatry is found only in polytheism. I admit, of course, that all polytheism is necessarily idolatrous, but it seems not to have occurred to most folks that the confession of one false god is just as idolatrous as the confession of several. Monotheism is no defense against idolatry.

This modern misunderstanding about idolatry, moreover, is the twin and steady companion of another, the strange fancy that all monotheists necessarily confess the same divinity.

Arguably the clearest spokesman for the latter fallacy may be that C. S. Lewis character who forthrightly declared, “Tash is another name for Aslan. All that old idea of us being right and the Calormenes wrong is silly. We know better now. The Calormenes use different words but we all mean the same thing. Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know Who. That’s why there can never be any quarrel between them. Get that into your heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan: Aslan is Tash.”

The telltale line in that discourse, I submit, is “We know better now.” On matters respecting God, I can’t think of anything we know better now. ~Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Via Orthodoxy Today.

The rise of raunch culture in the West seems counterintuitive to some. What about conservative values and evangelical Christianity? they wonder. But raunch culture transcends political parties both in America and the UK because the values people vote for are not necessarily the same values they live by. Even if people consider themselves conservative, their political ideals may be a reflection of the way they wish things were, rather than an indication of how they plan to lead their lives. ~Ariel Levy, The Spectator (registration required)

Relying, therefore, dearly beloved, on these arms, let us enter actively and fearlessly on the contest set before us: so that in this fasting struggle we may not rest satisfied with only this end, that we should think abstinence from good alone desirable. For it is not enough that the substance of our flesh should be reduced, if the strength of the soul be not also developed. When the outer man is somewhat subdued, let the inner man be somewhat refreshed; and when bodily excess is denied to our flesh, let our mind be invigorated by spiritual delights. Let every Christian scrutinise himself, and search severely into his inmost heart: let him see that no discord cling there, no wrong desire be harboured. Let chasteness drive incontinence far away; let the light of truth dispel the shades of deception; let the sweelings of pride subside; let wrath yield to reason; let the darts of ill-treatment be shattered, and the chidings of the tongue be bridled; let the thoughts of revenge fall through, and injuries be given over to oblivion. In fine, let “every plant which the heavenly Father not planted be removed by the roots.” For them only are the seeds of virtue well nourished in us, when every foreign germ is uprooted from the field of wheat. If any one, therefore, has been fired by the desire for vengeance against another, so that he has given him up to prison or bound him with chains, let him make haste to forgive not only the innocent, but also who seems worthy of punishment, that he may with confidence make use of the clause in the Lord’s prayer and say, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” Which petition the Lord marks with peculiar emphasis, as if the efficacy of the whole rested on this condition, by saying, “For if ye forgive men their sins, your Father which is in heaven also will forgive you: but if ye forgive not men, neither will your Father forgive you your sins.”

Accordingly, dearly beloved, being mindful of our weakness, because we easily fall into all kinds of faults, let us by no means neglect this special remedy and most effectual healing of our wounds. Let us remit, that we may have remission: let us grant the pardon which we crave: let us not be eager to be revenged when we pray to be forgiven. Let us not pass over the groans of the poor with deaf ear, but with prompt kindness bestow our mercy on the needy, that we may deserve to find mercy in the judgment. And he that, aided by God’s grace, shall strain every nerve after this perfection, will keep this holy fast faithfully; free from the leaven of the old wickedness, in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, he will reach the blessed Passover, and by newness of life will worthily rejoice in the mystery of man’s reformation through Christ our Lord, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen. ~St. Leo the Great, Sermon 39 (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, vol. 12)

From the throne of thy priesthood, O glorious one,/ thou didst stop the mouths of the spiritual lions;/ thou didst illumine thy flock with the light of the knowledge of God/ and with the inspired doctrines of the Holy Trinity./ Thou art glorified as a divine initiate of the grace of God.

The natural needs of the individual beng, such as nourishment, self-perpetuation and self-preservation, become an end in themselves: they dominate man, and end up as “passions,” causes of anguish and the utmost pain, and ultimately the cause of death…As St. Maximus puts it: it means an existence which does not come to fruition, which shuts itself off from the “end” for which it was made–life as love and communion…

The fall arises out of man’s free decision to reject personal communion with God and restrict himself to the autonomy and self-sufficiency of his own nature…’In the day you eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall be as gods’ (Gen. 3:5). This provocation places before man the existential possibility for nature on its own to determine and exhaust the fact of existence. This kind of “deification” of human nature goes against its very truth: it is an “existential life,” a fictitious possibility of life. Man’s nature is created and mortal. It partakes in being, in true life, only to the extent that it transcends itself, as an existential fact of personal distinctiveness. ~Christos Yannaras, The Freedom of Morality

The value of fasting consists not in abstinence only from good, but in a relinquishment of sinful practices, since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence of meat is he who especially disparages it. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him! If you a friend enjoying honor, do not envy him. For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast by being pure from avarice. Let the feet fast by ceasing from running to forbidden spectacles. Let the eyes fast by being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances. For looking is the food of the eyes, but if it be unlawful or forbidden it mars the fast and overturns the safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be an instance of the highest absurdity to abstain from meats and from unlawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to feed on what is forbidden. Do you not eat flesh? Do you not feed on licentiousness by means of the eyes. Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear is not to receive evil speaking and calumnies. ‘You shall not receive an idle report,’ it says. Let also the mouth fast from foul words. For what does it profit if we abstain from birds and fish, and yet bite and devour our brethren? ~St. John Chrysostom, Lenten Homily (taken from The Bible and the Holy Fathers for Orthodox, Friday of Cheesefare Week)

With this in mind, Eunomia will be slowing down quite a lot over the next several weeks. If there is something edifying or worthwhile to post, such as a quote like the one from St. John given above, I will put it up, but to try to take Lent seriously and not serve as a stumbling-block to others the blog, which is of dubious spiritual value at any time, will not be hosting the usual mix of politics, policy and polemics.

I intend “Crunchy Cons” as a call to return to fidelity to living out the Permanent Things in every aspect of our lives. ~Rod Dreher, Crunchy Cons

Modernity is the process of turning crunchy systems into soggy ones. ~Caleb Stegall, Crunchy Cons

This comes from an interesting post on an old definition of crunchiness from The Economist. This is amusing for me, as my first post on Rod’s book included my recollection of first encountering the word crunchy in a political context in an Economist article. In that case, its application was not necessarily complimentary (it was a sort of backhanded way of describing Viktor Orban, Hungary’s then prime minister from the center-right), but the Economist’s usage might be even more meaningful to a number of conservatives who are still wary of the granola.

Maybe we’re not reading the same newspapers, but I could swear conservatives — and not primarily the crunchy ones — have been making a quite a fuss about issues which offend their sense of spirituality, morality, and community for quite some time. Let’s start 20 years ago. In 1987 there was the fight over Robert Bork. Free-market economics were a pretty minor part of that fight. Ditto Clarence Thomas. Then there was Dan Quayle versus Murphy Brown. The early 1990s were largely consumed with debates over illegitimacy, affirmative action, flag-burning, and gays in the military. Bill Clinton’s character, including his draft status, came up a few times too. The Heritage Foundation — which surely must qualify as the stygian heart of Mordor in Rod’s worldview — dedicated itself back then to a restoration of civil society. In the late 1990s, we were informed by Andrew Sullivan and everyone to his left that the GOP had been taken over by “scolds” and Cotton Mathers. More recently, conservatives have expended a great deal of time and effort on gay marriage, abortion, public displays of the Ten Commandments, and other issues hard to pigeonhole into Milton Friedman’s worldview. The Republican-controlled Congress went ass-over-tea-kettle about Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube, not over imposing a flat tax. Indeed, most of us conservatives have spent the last decade arguing primarily about social and cultural issues, not economic ones. ~Jonah “Lie for a Just Cause” Goldberg

As Western Lent is now upon us, and Orthodox Lent will soon be starting, let me try to respond to this as charitably as I can. After all, Goldberg chose not to write Rod out of conservatism (yet), so why spoil this outpouring of goodwill?

It may be that Goldberg and Rod have been talking past each other this entire time. When Goldberg says he doesn’t understand Rod’s “crunchies,” it could be that he somehow thinks, in spite of everything in the book and everything all of the crunchies and friends have said on the blog, that this is a book about political activism. So perhaps he thinks that Rod is saying that there are no activists banging the drum of religious values and moral order. Which is exactly what Rod is not saying.

Then Goldberg protests against the unfair caricature of the “mainstream conservative” (whose archetypes, in my view, sit on the WSJ editorial board) because, well, Republicans and movement types sure do talk and argue about morality, restraint, “social issues,” the sanctity of life and on and on all the time. Some of these people even invoke Kirk fairly often. Why, even Mr. Bush says vaguely supportive things about marriage now and again! Problem solved, right? Obviously not.
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But, having spent 3 years reading and writing about fascism, I will say I have become more libertarian and vastly more sympathetic to the freedom side of the freedom-virtue fusionist coin (though few would have ever confused me for a virtucrat). What may sound libertarian in my response to things Crunchy is my opposition the what scholars of fascism refer to as the sacralization of politics (note: students of Voegelin (like Caleb) will understand this doesn’t merely refer to theocratic enterprises, but Progressive enterprises generally). ~Jonah “Lie for a Just Cause” Goldberg, Crunchy Cons

Maistre famously said: “If there you wish to conserve all, consecrate all.” Does this mean that Maistre and conservatives who tend to agree with this statement want to “replace” religion with politics, as Goldberg suggests is the danger with crunchy conservatism? Obviously not. Maistre’s consecrated order has nothing to do with the created, political transcendence championed by fascists with their political liturgy and secular religion, and everything to do with joining all of man’s life to a sacred order (literally, a hierarchy) that connects God and man and shapes the life of men in the broader world. The ecclesiastical hierarchy, obviously, is the central and tremendously more important hierarchy that join God and man, but that God has a claim on our entire life is a complement to this.

Consecrated order presupposes that, far from politics replacing religion, the claims of the Transcendent should take primacy in the affairs of the world. But the Transcendent in no way “replaces” the immanent, nor does it “substitute” for the world. To use theological language, the Uncreated does not replace the created, but will raise the created up to itself by God’s grace and energy to its perfection, but only if the creature turns back to the Uncreated. In our lives, we may freely open ourselves to God’s drawing us to Himself, and if we do this God will transform us and how we live. Conservatives should oppose man-made metastasis, not divinely-gifted metamorphosis.

If the two “spheres” interact, as Goldberg allows, one of two things will happen: either the City of God will increase, or the City of Man will. Without any presumption or expectation that here below the City of Man will ever be completely transformed, which is a heretical fantasy, it seems patently obvious that a conservative who “emphasises” the transcendent should want the eternal verities of the City of God to advance and transform as many people as possible. The distinction between the two Cities was intended as a means to explain where the ultimate and proper loyalty of Christians lay. It is not, as it seems to be as it is used here, an excuse for people to focus most of their attention on the affairs of the City of Man and have religion do as relatively little “informing” of values as humanly possible.
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Once it was accepted that a present generation could spend freely and leave its debts to posterity, the American commonwealth was doomed. ~Clyde Wilson

Even if the Coalition of Crunch was calling for the most common sense policies in the world (and they may be), they can’t see that they’re often using the exact same language and justifications as the most power-hungry liberals and the Hillaryite do-gooders. I keep waiting for someone to justify something by saying, “it’s FOR THE CHILDREN,” and have no idea why that message is no longer compelling to a conservative audience. We’ve seen every policy proposal that comes down the pike justified under “building a stronger community,” “it’s for the common good,” “it’s for the children,” “what, do you hate children or something?” and “If you don’t support HR12345, innocent puppies and kittens will suffer.” ~Jim Geraghty, Crunchy Cons

I’m sorry, but why does anyone find this sort of rhetorical gamesmanship credible? Mr. Geraghty doesn’t like the “arrogance” of the crunchy manifesto. Well, I don’t like the faux humility of the critics who act as if they have never engaged in cultural criticism or never pointed out the flaws with other conservatives. They do it all the time, and are doing it even as they are resentfully pouting about the mean, old crunchies.

Personally, I am sick to death of people who think that comparing someone to Hillary Clinton constitutes a serious argument. That was hilarious back in, oh, 1995. Get some new material, please. For my part, I think Rod mistakenly gave his critics an easy target by favourably quoting That Woman, but I understand he was trying to be “provocative” while also reclaiming the language of community and the common good from the very sorts of government welfarists and leftists who have so damaged these ideas by casting their ruinous policies in those terms.

Finally, I am getting very bored with the constant recourse to complaining about the incipient centralised state coercion of the crunchy revolution. To my mind, that has nothing to do with what Rod is talking about, and anyone who had read even a small part of the book (unlike Mr. Geraghty) would know that. Modern conservatives are so hopelessly inured to reacting allergically every time someone mentions the commonwealth, which they mistakenly take to mean Leviathan or Big Brother, that it seems that they are almost literally incapable of understanding that most people of conservative mind have viewed the world according to the principles that Rod describes rather than according to whatever it is that his critics happen to invoke at any given moment.
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At first, the term [crunchy con] sounds like a meaningless hook. Defining and redefining the various right-wing groups has long been a conservative pastime, and so it would be tempting to ignore this book as a publishing exaggeration. That would be a mistake. “Crunchy Cons” (Crown Forum, 259 pages, $24), even with its weaknesses, may be a clarion call for conservatives who have come to realize that the most important things in life cannot be found either in politics or the marketplace, and that what passes for political discourse is largely empty of meaning.

This is no academic treatise but rather a look at what America has become since the revolutions of the 1960s and the Reagan era. The ethos of “do your own thing,” promoted by 1960s radicals and latter-day libertines, has been combined with a capitalist system all too happy to separate people from traditional commitments and to remake them instead into atomistic consumers tossed amid the “creative destruction” of the marketplace. The results have been broken families, destroyed neighborhoods, environmental degradation, and neglect of the duties one generation owes to another. ~Gerald Russello, The New York Sun

Mr. Russello seems to understand the book pretty well. He does reprise the “it might end up being only a ‘lifestyle’” critique, but I hope it is becoming clear in my other posts why that critique is insufficient and really misses the larger claims of the book. If Rod’s book were simply a glorified defense of his own predilections and nothing more, no one except people who shared exactly the same predilections would care and no one else would read it. That there is more at stake, because there is always more at stake in the way that men live than we seem willing to grant today, should start to become clear, if it isn’t already.

…but why in the world would Rod want McCain to be a presidential nominee? Not to get “tribal,” but McCain is personally and politically as close to crunchiness as FDR was to being a constitutional republican.

…can be found here.

Hat tip to Michael Schweppe and The Scholastic.

One of the leftish sensibilities on display in Rod’s book is its emphasis on organic holism — the idea that all good things must go together and that religion, politics, economics, aesthetics must all click into a state of synchronicity. Conservatism, in my book, is a partial philosophy of life. ~Jonah “Lie for a Just Cause” Goldberg, Crunchy Cons

This is simply wrong. The “organic holism” Goldberg rebels against is the normal state of affairs for men of the conservative persuasion. There are false conceptions of that “organic holism,” which you do see in socialism, communism and fascism, just as there are false conceptions of the Good–that does not mean that we toss out “organic holism” or the idea of the Good. Abuse does not invalidate use. Remember that one?

If conservatism is a mentality or sensibility, it would permeate the whole of one’s life. If it is a “philosophy of life” (talk about your New Age, self-help language!) at all, it would inform the whole of life. How does one have a partial philosophy of life without having a “partial life”? A partial philosophy of life is moral schizophrenia. There is something false and fragmented about this approach to things, as if each “sphere” of life were hermetically sealed and preserved from interference from the other “spheres.” But what we believe to be true about God must affect what we believe about truth, beauty and virtue, and that in turn must affect what we believe about human relations, and that in turn must affect what we believe about the different sorts of relationships (political, economic, social, etc.) that men have. Goldberg has lost the sense of the what the Slavophiles called integrality–he shouldn’t feel too bad, as they believed that this was something the West had lost some time ago, but it is precisely that fragmented mind that Rod perceives and criticises. Goldberg is making Rod’s point for him, though it will undoubtedly once more be beyond him why this is so.

If conservatism is at all rooted in the Western intellectual tradition (and I rather think that it is), there is one Good in which all other goods participate and resemble. What is good in political life cannot diametrically oppose what is good in aesthetics, because of the unity of the Good. Yes, that is Plato, but I find Plato convincing here. So did Weaver. If conservatism does not understand this, it is little more than a fad, a pose, maybe a hobby or perhaps a kind of cult (in the negative sense). Worst of all, it could simply be an ideology. If someone claims to seek the Good, the True and the Beautiful, he cannot then be indifferent in practise to ugliness when it stares him in the face. That is Rod’s point. The difference between that and the idealisation of the Volk or the proletariat is so vast that Goldberg should be embarrassed to have drawn a connection between them.

One can find all sorts of reasons why this should be so beyond the unity of the Good. As confessing Christians, many conservatives place a high premium, to put it mildly, on catholicity, by which I mean here wholeness or completeness, and on oneness of mind. Looking to any of the spiritual wisdom of the Christian tradition, broadly speaking, we see the same discipline towards the wholeness and unity of mind and away from fragmentation and dispersion. The Slavophiles, the main representatives of a Russian conservative intellectual tradition before Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn, understood community in sacramental terms as sorbornost (communion), and it is no accident that in Greek the word for community and communion are the same (koinonia). Orthodox Christology (and here I mean the Christology accepted at Chalcedon and shared by most Christians) stresses the fundamental unity of Christ realised in the Person of the Son made flesh. The unification and reconciliation of opposites is at the very center of our civilisation’s cult and is the basis for our salvation.

Furthermore, anything partial is deficient in being and therefore untrue. If conservatism is only a “partial philosophy of life,” what good would it be? If it is a sensibility or a philosophy, it would need to have a comprehensive vision of the good life. If it does not have it, why would anyone waste time on it? Conservatism is not salt to be sprinkled on the meal of modernity to give it flavour (the meal of modernity would in any event be preprocessed and laced in sodium already), but it would instead, in this analogy, be the art of preparing a full and balanced meal.

How you can tell me that I shouldn’t dismiss Marxists out of hand when they have something useful to say, while your book serves as one long ad hominem against two dimensional, greedy, “mainstream conservatives” is really quite beyond me. ~Jonah “Lie for a Just Cause” Goldberg, Crunchy Cons

One major point: the book does not use ad hominem arguments. It is precisely a critique of the ethics championed by “mainstream conservatives.” Ad hominem arguments are fallacious because they attempt to disprove a man’s argument by citing an irrelevant or spurious fact about the man. Thus the man would say, “It seems to me that all knowledge comes from sense perception,” and his opponent would shout, “What would a fascist like you know about epistemology?” That is ad hominem. There are varying levels of it, but one will read in vain to find anything like that in the book. Rather like labeling people “unpatriotic” for taking a different view of foreign policy. Sound familiar?

Hortatory rhetoric is something all together different. Hortatory rhetoric engages in criticism, and often it is criticism of a man’s habits because the habits are detrimental to the man and tend towards his moral and (if it is in a homily) spiritual ruin. It would not surprise me that it is beyond Goldberg to know the difference between exhortation and ad hominem.

On the question of citing Marxists when they happen to say something insightful (always in spite of themselves and their ideology), Goldberg’s complaint does not make a lot of sense. When Marxists agree with the conservative tradition, we can recognise that and acknowledge the agreement. The Conservative Mind itself is an extended effort to discern conservatism in what might appear to be the most unlikely of places (Santayana!–why, wasn’t he an atheist?) and claim the sensibility Kirk discerned in them as a conservative one to weave a conservative tradition in the English-speaking world that treasured the same goods. That is, to be blunt, the entire point of the book. The point of Rod’s book, for those folks who have still missed it, is to show the ways in which the way of life of “mainstream conservatives” cannot really be squared with the conservative tradition Kirk was describing. Goldberg revolts against Rod’s eclecticism, but a major strand of the modern American conservative movement was born from a labour of eclecticism. There might be reasons to criticise some of the eclectic choices here and there, but the method itself is one that Kirk himself did use. That part of the conservative inheritance is apparently also beyond Goldberg.

Intellectual honesty is more important than conservatism, so if you think leftists are right about something, you should say so. But I don’t think you should automatically conclude that what the leftist says is conservative. Individuals will always deviate from any orthodoxy or ideal. What we should not do is narcissitically label every deviation a new orthodoxy or a truer expression of that ideal. Conservatism needn’t demand total obedience. I think Michael Oakeshott would get my back on this one. ~Jonah “Lie for a Just Cause” Goldberg, Crunchy Cons

He really does make it too easy. Now that he is out of conservative ammunition, Goldberg has started playing the “You cite leftists!” card. This is an interesting window onto what’s really baffling Goldberg about this whole enterprise: Rod is articulating a conservatism completely different from Goldberg’s “ideal” (but remember, according to Goldberg, that Rod’s description of the “mainstream” as ideological and party-line is a strawman) and where it deviates from Goldberg’s “ideal” it must not be authentically conservative. That is, to put it mildly, a big leap.

His proof for deviancy (notice the language he uses there) is that Rod has sometimes cited men conventionally aligned on the left. He also cites Russell Kirk, who was originally a socialist and someone who never had much use for the “ideal” Goldberg seems to be defending and from which Rod is so terribly deviating. Moreover, when Rod claims these ideas as conservative (which seem to be entirely in agreement with things Kirk and the Agrarians might say), this is supposed to be narcissistic, because…well, I can’t quite make out why. As far as I can tell, it is narcissitic when Rod labels something conservative, but orthodox and proper when Goldberg does.

The last two sentences are the most bizarre. After dressing down Rod for his deviancy, he grants that such deviants will always crop up. But they are not allowed to say that their deviant beliefs are conservative–that is something that the big tent of Goldberg’s “ideal” conservatism will not allow. My guess is that this sort of miserable browbeating would have made Oakeshott ill, but I will leave that to others to judge.