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So what is Russia up to? Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian political analyst, suggests that Russia’s oil and gas oligarchs wouldn’t shed any tears over a war in the Middle East, especially if it’s a war that ensnares the U.S. and keeps oil prices high.
Even so, it may not be too late to avert a new war in the Middle East. A quiet but firm U.S. threat to boycott the G-8 summit in July in St. Petersburg might inspire Russian President Vladimir V. Putin to freeze the missile transfer. And a promise to facilitate Russian entry into the World Trade Organization might even get Russia’s oil and gas oligarchs on board. Freezing the missile sale would buy crucial time to find a diplomatic solution to the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration appears to be asleep at the wheel, too distracted by Iraq, skyrocketing gas prices and plummeting approval ratings to devote any attention to Russia’s potentially catastrophic mischief.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. ~Rosa Brooks, The Los Angeles Times
Via Kevin Drum
The Russians are taking advantage of our needless hostility towards Iran and Iran’s increasingly understandable fear of being bombed. Near as I can tell, this makes them just about the most rational actor among the nations involved in this standoff. Typical that an American pundit, for whom Russophobia is the last excusable prejudice, can get away with somehow pinning the escalation of the situation on the Russian sale of a missile defense system to Iran when it is Washington that has been declaring that “no options are off the table” and there is speculation, all together too plausible with this crowd, that “tactical” nukes could be used to strike at deeply buried Iranian nuclear facilities. If there is a war between now and September involving Israel and Iran, it will probably be because Washington has worsened the situation and may have launched strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Natanz seems an agreeable little town, perched nearly 5,000ft up in the majestic mountains of central Iran, full of dusty relics of Alexander the Great and black-clad peasants scurrying hither and thither. It is a shame, then, that we may soon be obliged to bomb it to smithereens. An even bigger shame, though, if we don’t. ~Rod Liddle, The Times Online
Via Andrew Sullivan
For his part, Sullivan had this rather zany question:
Iran, after all, is the ultimate exemplar of fundamentalist religious right government. Its regime is brutal toward women and gays and Jews. If you distrust American Christian fundamentalists, who do not condone violence or terrorism, and who are restrained by something called the Constititution, how can you not be horrified by Tehran?
There are a few problems with Rod Liddle’s article, and more than a few with Sullivan’s post. The latter speak for themselves. Sullivan doesn’t surprise, but Liddle has at least expressed fairly sensible and contrarian views about Islam in Europe and the problems of multiculturalism, which I suppose led me to mistake him for someone not normally committed to unthinking conventional wisdom. So much for that.
First there is this “we” business: “we” may have to bomb Iran, “we may soon be obliged to bomb it to smithereens,” etc. Who is he talking about? Who is this “we”? As Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s semi-autobiographical character in Black Banners said to the American, “Say ‘I’, not ‘We’.” Those who want to speak in terms of what “we” will do to Iran can pick up the slack for their desire to identify with the state–the rest of “us” would very much like to be left out of their obsessions. So will Liddle and his mates be flying the mission to bomb Natanz and the other facilities (not that he mentions the other facilities)? Certainly not. This sort of talk, into which I realise I often fall all too often, is nationalist claptrap that has poisoned our understanding of who “we” are and who or what the government is.
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The Turkish armed forces have launched their first military operation along the Iraqi border where Turkish troops have concentrated for days.
The Northern Iraqi cities of Amedi and Zaho, sheltering Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, were hit with mortar attacks in “Operation Crescent.” ~Zaman
Nineteen days, one high court decision and thousands of chest-pounding words later, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi more or less admitted today that he had lost Italy’s close national elections.
There was no phone call to his apparent successor, Romano Prodi, nor words like “concede” or “defeat.”
Asked by reporters when he would step down now that a new parliament he does not control is in session, he said simply, “The Cabinet meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday.” ~Chron.com
I was expecting Berlusconi to put on more of an outrageous, entertaining show than this. Oh, he’s made some bold declarations, but so far as I know he’s said nothing as crazy as some of the things he was saying during the campaign (”I am the Jesus Christ of Italian politics” has to take the cake for equal parts blasphemy and stupidity). But give Berlusconi credit–he made corrupt, self-serving technocratic government as colourful and memorable as anyone could.
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case, is expected to decide in the next two to three weeks whether to bring perjury charges against Karl Rove, the powerful adviser to President Bush, lawyers involved in the case said Thursday.
Documents and articles related to the case looking into the disclosure of the identity of a covert C.I.A. officer.With the completion of Mr. Rove’s fifth appearance before the grand jury on Wednesday, Mr. Fitzgerald is now believed to have assembled all of the facts necessary to determine whether to seek an indictment of Mr. Rove or drop the case. ~The New York Times
But this would appear to be only the latest example of the unseemly symbiosis between elements of the press corps and a cabal of partisan bureaucrats at the CIA and elsewhere in the “intelligence community” who have been trying to undermine the Bush Presidency. ~The Wall Street Journal
Just so we’re clear, partisans at the CIA and “elements” of the press corps are part of a “cabal” (and an “intelligence insurgency”!) aimed at undermining the President, and Cal Thomas and Tony Blankley assure us the generals are in a “cabal” with Democratic politicos to organise a mutinous conspiracy, and these accusations are all supposed to be very rational and based in reality, but when we think of a coherent group of influential, ideological policymakers who successfully push a particular aggressive line in foreign policy debates (some of whom refer to themselves as “the Cabal”) then we can be fairly sure that there is no “cabal,” and anyone who thinks there is such a thing is anti-Semitic, unpatriotic and no good. Glad we sorted that out.
Over the years, AIPAC has maneuvered to make Israel the third rail of American foreign policy. The handful of members of Congress who have been critical of Israel over the last 40 years have been publicly chastised with a figurative dunce cap, or, worse, lost their seats to AIPAC-backed opponents. Israel is an integral part of America’s body politic.
Yet the recent publication of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” an 83-page paper published on Harvard’s Web site by two prominent academics, ran into a firestorm of vilification from government, academia and the media for documenting what is already well established. ~Arnaud de Borchgrave
Alexander Solzhenitsyn has accused the United States of launching a military campaign to encircle Russia and turn it into a NATO chattel.
The Nobel laureate also delivered his strongest endorsement yet of President Vladimir Putin, surprising Kremlin critics who argue that the country is growing more authoritarian.
Replying in writing to questions from the weekly Moscow News, the 87-year-old former Soviet dissident said military action by the United States in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan underlined the menace to Russian sovereignty.
“Though it is clear that present-day Russia poses no threat to it whatsoever, NATO is methodically and persistently expanding its military apparatus in the east of Europe and is implementing an encirclement of Russia from the south,” he wrote.
He also attacked Western support for recent revolutions that toppled Moscow-backed regimes in Ukraine and Georgia.
“All this leaves no doubt that they are preparing a complete encirclement of Russia, which will be followed by the deprivation of her sovereignty,” he said.
Russia, he suggested, was all that stood between NATO and the “downfall of Christian civilization.” ~The Washington Times
President Bush yesterday said “The Star-Spangled Banner” should be sung in English, not Spanish, and condemned plans by some immigrant groups to stage a work protest on Monday to sway the debate over the nation’s immigration laws.
With passions running high over the release of “Nuestro Himno,” a Spanish-language version of the national anthem, Bush told reporters that people who want to be citizens of the United States should learn English and “ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English.” ~The Washington Post
I don’t know–what would Tony Snow say about that? Sounds a bit like “fearful fringe nativism” to me. I mean, who are we Americans to say what the language of our nation should be or what language immigrants should learn to speak? We only live here.
Dobleve cannot have it both ways. He can sell the country down the river with his immigration scheme, or he can insist that there are certain sine qua non obligations for everyone who wants to become an American citizen. Among those would have to be respect for the laws of this country. That, along with learning English, has to be a vital part of any real assimilation. If Nuestro Himno might help shake his faith in the open borders lobby, so much the better. But until he makes a commitment to American sovereignty and identity a bit more compelling than this he will have no credibility on immigration with tens of millions of his own supporters. Which is to say, he will never have that credibility.
“I always had a good experience dealing with the career people in government,” Mr. Shultz said. “But I have to say it’s almost as if there is an insurrection taking place. Particularly what is going on in the military is astonishing and fundamentally intolerable. There has to be a sense of discipline. This is something new, and for everybody’s good it has to be dealt with.”
I asked about the place of dissent in government. “Look,” the former secretary said, “in our system some people get elected and what you get out of that is the right to call the shots, and the full-time career people are entitled to have their views listened to. But it is very important to see that what is going on now is a problem that goes beyond whether someone likes Don Rumsfeld or not.” ~Daniel Henninger, OpinionJournal.com
So Mr. Shultz believes that retired generals exercising their rights is “astonishing and fundamentally intolerable”? What is it that is going in the military that is “astonishing and fundamentally intolerable”? The article doesn’t explain in any greater detail. Loose talk of “revolt” and now “insurrection” and Tony Blankley’s fever dreams of mutinous conspiracy are the real problems here. This charged language gives the impression that anything short of lockstep, mute obedience and agreement for life has the makings of a coup about it. In the age of the chickenhawk, this attitude does not seem to go down very well with military men, who are now being told to remain silent forever, apparently including after retirement, even after their expertise and experience have been cast aside to more or less disastrous results.
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It turns out, however, that many Christian leaders are choosing a completely different approach to the movie. They certainly aren’t embracing “The Da Vinci Code” and its conspiracy theories about the supposed marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the phony divinity of Christ and so on. Yet many view the film as providing an unconventional occasion–a “teachable moment,” as they say–to spread their faith. “It’s a marvelous opportunity to be positive,” said Josh McDowell of Campus Crusade for Christ in the Orlando Sentinel. “If you look carefully, truth will always stand.” ~John Miller, OpinionJournal.com
What is there to say about The DaVinci Code, except that the current excessive promotion of it by Borders has made me lose any desire whatever to patronise their stores for a very, very long time? It is very simply a sad and stupid lie, not even as intellectually interesting as Arianism but just as false (actually, it is even more in error, since Arius may have been an arrogant heresiarch but even he would never engage in the mockery of Christ and the Apostles that this book does). I feel sorry for people who have wasted time actually reading the book. Those who want to use this as a “teaching opportunity” to bring people to the Gospel are all very well-intentioned, but they are coming at all of this under the mistaken impression that when people have become inured to falsehoods they will excitedly welcome the truth when it is offered to them.
The best thing for Christians to do has to be simply to ignore it as much as possible. Most should certainly not try to “engage” with it except for the specific purposes of correcting its false claims, and even then this is not something that is desirable for everyone to do. Finally, they should encourage everyone they know to ignore the phenomenon. Ordinary Christian parishioners are not all heresiologists, and not everyone is suited to handling spiritually toxic substances. St. John of Damascus justifies inquiries into the beliefs of heretics as the necessary work of a doctor who must make use of poison to create the antidote to it, but many Christians will find in these things only sources of doubt, confusion and scandal. Good pastors would tell them to steer clear of this garbage.
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Last week Daniel McCarthy pointed to this National Journal article that discussed the strengthening of Democratic prospects in so-called second tier congressional districts (more on this in a moment). The article has this interesting detail for those interested in ‘94/’06 comparisons:
The latest Gallup poll has Congress’ job-approval rating getting a lot closer to 1994 levels. It stands now at 23 percent. In April ‘94, Gallup put the rating at 29 percent, and by July ‘94, the rating had slid to 27 percent in the Gallup survey. It wasn’t until late October ‘94 that approval ratings for Congress hit the 23 percent mark that mirrored what Gallup pollsters found this month.
Depending on what happens in the rest of the year, GOP fortunes might revive (though they have no legislative agenda worth mentioning and have already run out of time to push very much if they did have an agenda, and the war and Dobleve’s immigration buffoonery can only hurt them), but this must be a grim time to be a GOP loyalist. As the article goes on to explain, one reason why the Democratic chances of retaking Congress still seem remote is that they have recruited more “surfers,” the second tier candidates (who will ride the political wave if it comes) than able navigators.
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This one really is a slippery slope. Once you have accepted that large numbers of people voted for W solely on the basis of his evangelical protestantism, then how can you argue against people voting against him or anyone else on similar, purely sectarian grounds? Ross is right that the constitutional issue is separate: there’s no legal bar on someone of any faith from becoming president. But there is a growing social consensus that religion matters in politics. The theocons have helped bring this about; the Christianists have pioneered it; the Catholic hierarchy in Rome is abetting it. Once public policy issues become religious and doctrinal issues, all this is on the table. But it is a dangerous and divisive world we are creating. It would be ironic if Romney, the theocon candidate for 2008, were a primary victim. Stupid poetic justice, as Homer would say. ~Andrew Sullivan
Mr. Sullivan’s riposte doesn’t really have much zing, does it? Oh, there are the usual shots at Christianists (has anyone ever met a Christianist? do they really subscribe to Christianism?) and the Catholic hierarchy (never one of Sullivan’s favourites), but in the end he comes at us with the dire warning: someday someone might vote against a religious candidate because of his religion! Now that is frightening. Except that it already happened in 1928, and this has already happened in 2000 and 2004–surely there were more than a few who voted against Mr. Bush because of his religion. Today we might look down on this opposition to Al Smith, and Catholics will presumably remember it with hard feelings, but there is nothing necessarily scandalous about such opposition unless you consider strong religious belief and confessional identity to be scandals. Mr. Sullivan evidently does find both to be a bit troubling.
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Timed to debut the week Congress returned to debate immigration reform, with the country riven by the issue, “Nuestro Himno” is intended to be an anthem of solidarity for the movement that has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to march peacefully for immigrant rights in Washington and cities across the country, says Adam Kidron, president of Urban Box Office, the New York-based entertainment company that launched the project. ~The Washington Post
I really should thank the people behind the creation of a Spanish version of the National Anthem. Nothing could better symbolise the new Latino immigrants’ pride in their failure to assimilate to the language and customs of our country than a translation of the anthem into another language. Note that it is being called Nuestro Himno, Our Hymn, as if it belongs to them. I don’t think they get to claim it. Certainly not when its purpose is to serve as cover for justifying mass lawbreaking, which is what it is intended to do. Some of them already showed a preference for flying the Mexican flag in their protests, so why not sing the Mexican anthem as well? I don’t know what’s more irritating–the presumption of translating the anthem, or the political cynicism behind the effort to translate it.
National anthems may be dubious aids in helping to form national identity (a friend of mine who grew up in Europe once marveled that our anthem was just a very long question), but surely there is no sense in having a national anthem in a language that most of the people in the nation do not speak and which reinforces one of the most obvious aspects of the cultural separation between the new immigrants and the natives. But I’d be willing to compromise: if the creators of the song can tell us who wrote the national anthem, the battle to which it referred, the causes of that war, and basically recount in sufficient detail an outline of the history of the United States from independence to the time the anthem was written the rest of us might entertain having a translated version of the anthem.
The United Nations said on Friday it would cut food rations for more than 6 million people in Sudan, half of them in Darfur, due to a severe lack of funds.
Many donor countries appear to have tired of the long-term conflict in Darfur, despite signs that malnutrition is again on the rise among people living in squalid camps, the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) said. ~MSNBC
One simple reason why Darfur does not register with most Westerners is that the Sudan really is a place very far away about which we (or most of us) know nothing. The conflict there is explicitly political and territorial. Talk of genocide profoundly misrepresents what is going on there. It is a nasty and ugly internal war for control of land and water. Not all of the victims are black Africans, though many are, but belong to marginal tribes who compete with Arab groups for scarce resources. Dissatisfied with their situation, a Darfurian rebel group made the colossal error of rising up against Khartoum and they and their many innocent neighbours are now reaping the whirlwind. This is tragic, and this is awful to see, but it is inextricably bound up in a Sudanese civil war that the West is not going to be able to solve militarily without either plunging the country into anarchy or setting up an even more expensive occupation of the country (though where the soldiers would come from is a mystery to all), which would in turn encounter its own insurgency redolent of the followers of the Mahdi in the 19th century.
The shortfall in funding for something as basic and relatively easy as food and medicine–which, if we are to provide anything, it is these things that we should be providing–should tell us that another do-gooding interventionist mission to stabilise yet another blighted African country has little or no purchase on Western minds, particularly Americans who still remember the mess in Somalia. Iraq has been the war to end all nation-building, and if the allegedly “most modern” Arab state in the region does not take well to nation-building (and it does not) the Sudan would be even more hopeless.
Ukraine expects a green light to join the NATO alliance in 2008, Kiev’s Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk said Friday.
‘Ukraine’s strategic foreign policy objective - that is to join NATO - is irreversible,’ Tarasyuk told reporters after discussions with foreign ministers of the 26 NATO member states meeting in the Bulgarian capital.
Tarasyuk said he hoped NATO would launch a ‘membership action plan’ with Ukraine in September this year. Such a blueprint would be the first step in Kiev’s drive to join the Alliance. ~Monsters and Critics
This is not difficult to oppose. Ukraine has no business in NATO. Kiev should be told that we appreciate the interest, but that we are not taking any more members at this time, or indeed ever. For that matter, NATO should no longer exist, but if it is going to exist I see no reason to make security guarantees to a country whose territory has been subject to some Muscovite ruler or other for the better part of the last 500 years and whose population has a significant consciously ethnic Russian minority that distinguishes itself from the Ukrainians. Whether you accept the “clash of civilizations” business or not, in which Huntington identified the Ukraine as a fault-line between his artificial conceptions of Western and Orthodox civilisations (I consider that division arbitrary and mistaken, but there you have it), committing NATO to a war with Russia in the event that Moscow ever decides to fight with its smaller neighbour is a grave mistake and it serves no conceivable real American interest. What it does is further overextend the future commitments of our already overextended armed forces. Besides, what American is willing to run the slightest risk of nuclear or conventional war with the Russians to keep Dnepropetrovsk Ukrainian? Don’t let them do this to our country again.
Brownback joined Academy Award-winning actor George Clooney Thursday at a news conference to highlight the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan.
Also there: Sen. Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat who has worked closely with the Republican in trying to bring Darfur to the forefront of the congressional agenda and the American consciousness.
For all the efforts of the two senators over the past three years, though, both conceded Clooney’s aura probably could do more than they’ve been able to thus far — as the overflow crowd at the National Press Club indicated.
“I really want to thank George Clooney for investing your political capital — your star power — in this topic,” Brownback said.
“You’re giving voice to people who don’t have a voice. You have a lot of things you could do. You could just sit at home. But you didn’t. By you going, you draw attention, and we get this. … You give voice to people who don’t have a voice. And without this, they die. They die.”
About 400,000 have died so far. Two million more are displaced and risk starvation. Even Thursday, there were reports of helicopter gunships heading into Darfur to attack more villages, Obama said. ~Kansas City Star
I suppose now the Clooney hate-fest that has animated some portions of the right will come screeching to a halt as we all realise that in this case Clooney’s entry into the political field is deeply moral and wonderful? Except that it isn’t. It’s the same ill-informed “humanitarianism,” sentimentality and politics of victimisation that informs so much liberal activism. The Sudan is a timely target for these reflexive, unthinking reactions. It is what Thomas Fleming calls the “pornography of compassion” acted out as high policy debate. Sen. Brownback, Ross Douthat’s poster boy for “theoconservatism”, is not doing the cause of “Darfur awareness” any favours by prominently linking it to Clooney, when it is something close to axiomatic among ordinary Republicans that George Clooney is the obnoxious political celebrity par excellence these days. A lot of people may become more aware of the situation in Darfur because of Clooney’s fame and conclude (not unreasonably) that activism on behalf of Darfur is more the same liberal internationalist bleeding-heart nonsense that informs the politics of most actors and pop stars, and which pulled us into the Balkans and suckered more than a few people into supporting the invasion of Iraq. The presence of the South Side’s own Barack Obama will not improve matters. At the Oscars, Clooney exulted in being “out of touch” for the sake of upholding certain progressive ideas. Now he and the senator can be out of touch together.
Nobody is suggesting that Mitt Romney as president of the United States would be taking orders from the president of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City. The Republican whispering campaign against Mormons is broader — based on ridicule of the church’s doctrine. I have heard Republicans who have read the Book of Mormon express astonishment that any rational person could believe that.
These amateur theologians occasionally get mixed up, with some Republicans asserting that Mormons do not believe in the divinity of Christ. The first of Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s 13 Articles of Faith reads: ‘’We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.'’ It is true that the Mormon understanding of the Trinity is not what is taught by Catholic and most Protestant faiths. But nobody today seeks to disqualify Jews and non-Trinitarian Protestants from high office. ~Robert Novak
Via Ross Douthat
In short, it doesn’t really matter. Will the LDS belief in baptism for the dead affect how the man handled budget policy, and will his crediting the revelation of the angel Moroni adversely affect his views on Iranian nuclear development? Of course not. In a very practical sense, it doesn’t matter. But it does matter greatly to the voters Mr. Romney needs to get the nomination, and so it definitely does matter politically.
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But is that as true as it appears? Certainly, today’s Democrats can’t simply return to the philosophy that was defeated in the late 1970s. But at the same time, let’s recognize a new historical moment when we see one: Today, for the first time since 1980, it is conservative philosophy that is being discredited (or rather, is discrediting itself) on a scale liberals wouldn’t have dared imagine a few years ago. An opening now exists, as it hasn’t in a very long time, for the Democrats to be the visionaries. To seize this moment, the Democrats need to think differently — to stop focusing on their grab bag of small-bore proposals that so often seek not to offend and that accept conservative terms of debate. And to do that, they need to begin by looking to their history, for in that history there is an idea about liberal governance that amounts to more than the million-little-pieces, interest-group approach to politics that has recently come under deserved scrutiny and that can clearly offer the most compelling progressive response to the radical individualism of the Bush era. ~Michael Tomasky, The American Prospect
Via Rod Dreher
Big Ideas can be fun to talk about, but very often it is the Big Ideas that lead to ludicrous social engineering programs that, on one side, destroy entire communities, lock whole classes of people in poverty and undermine the integrity of families (LBJ’s gifts to posterity) or, on the other, explode federal debt, cause the deaths of tens of thousands of people, bog down the military in a pointless conflict and subvert any and all legal checks on executive power (some of Bush’s greatest hits). It is therefore hardly consolation for the rest of us that Democrats are getting back into the Big Idea business. It makes great copy for political junkies, but it fills me, a non-GOP conservative, with the same dread I would feel if Mr. Bush were allowed a third term.
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Last week, Salih Mahmoud Osman, a Darfurian Muslim and human rights activist, came to our newspaper to meet with the editorial board. He told us that not a single outside Muslim group has come to Darfur and expressed sympathy with the suffering of its people at the hands of the Janjaweed militia and the government of Sudan. In fact, he told of one Egyptian professional organization that came down, looked around, and went back to Egypt to denounce the claims of genocide against Darfur’s black Muslims as a conspiracy cooked up by the Zionists and the Crusaders. ~Rod Dreher
Rod’s post points to an interesting Dallas Morning News editorial discussing bin Laden’s endorsement of Khartoum’s proxy war in Darfur and the noticeable silence of Muslims elsewhere regarding the Muslims of Darfur. My own views about the “genocide” in Darfur aside for a moment, I am not entirely sure why this ought to surprise anyone. The reason for bin Laden’s enthusiasm for Khartoum’s war seems fairly straightforward: Khartoum is a hard-line Islamic regime of the type that warms bin Laden’s heart, and it was the same regime that sheltered him for several years before the Sudanese government was persuaded to have him depart. Exterminating insufficiently zealous and pure Muslims is par for the course for this sort–the Hazaras’ Islamic credentials counted for nothing in Afghanistan, because they were Shi’ites, and Darfurian Muslims likely will be viewed through the same lens.
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As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have been reading Lauro Martines’ Fire in the City, a revisionist account of Savonarola, which I plan to review more fully in another post. But let me offer some preliminary remarks first. The book goes a long way towards increasing my understanding and my respect for this often misunderstood and denigrated figure. If the purpose of history is to understand men in the past in terms of their own time and place, Martines’ Fire in the City is one of the best works of history I have ever read. It has also confirmed my impression that those who invoke Savonarola’s name as a term of abuse or compare their adversaries in debate to Savonarola as a way of dismissing their arguments must know next to nothing about the man’s career and unwittingly align themselves with forces of tyranny and moral corruption. This is not simply because Savonarola preached against moral corruption and the tyranny of the Medicis, though he did this, but that the targets of his preaching were in many respects every bit as bad as he made them out to be. His claims to a kind of prophecy were extreme and hard to credit, but as Martines explains 15th century Italian preachers frequently claimed that God was speaking through them.
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My own reading of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper found it unremarkable, a bit sloppy and one-sided (nothing here about the Arab oil lobby), but nothing that even a casual newspaper reader does not know. Its basic point — that Israel’s American supporters have immense influence over U.S. foreign policy — is inarguable. [italics mine] After all, President Bush has just recently given Israel NATO-like status without so much as a murmur from Congress. “I made it clear, I’ll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel,” Bush said. This was the second or third time he’s made this pledge, crossing a line that previous administrations would not — in effect, promulgating a treaty seemingly on the spot. No other country gets this sort of treatment. [italics mine]
Israel’s special place in U.S. foreign policy is deserved, in my view, and not entirely the product of lobbying. Israel has earned it, and isn’t there something bracing about a special relationship that is not based on oil or markets or strategic location but on shared values? (A bit now like Britain.) But I can understand how foreign policy “realists” such as Mearsheimer and Walt might question its utility and not only think that a bit too much power is located in a specific lobby but that it is rarely even discussed. This may be wrong, but it is not (necessarily) anti-Semitic. In fact, after reading the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, the respected Israeli newspaper Haaretz not only failed to discern anti-Semitism but commended the paper to its readers. “The professors’ article does not deserve condemnation,” Haaretz stated in an editorial. ~Richard Cohen, The Washington Post
Via Steve Sailer
The word on the wires is that Tony Snow is a “critic” of the President, which supposedly makes him more interesting than the yes-man every Press Secretary in recent memory has been. Is he critical of Mr. Bush? Well, yes and no. He does seem to take issue with Mr. Bush in his failures to be more autocratic, blunt and obnoxious than he already is. He criticises Mr. Bush not for his egregious patterns of lawbreaking and usurpation or any of the things that have alienated traditionalist conservatives from this President–he criticises Mr. Bush for not going far enough in many of these destructive, anti-conservative directions. Oh, yes, Mr. Snow does regret all the wild spending. That takes a lot of principle!
Tony Snow is not the sort of “conservative” critic who has found the general thrust of Mr. Bush’s administration contrary to conservative principles–on precisely those areas where Mr. Bush is loathed and opposed by more and more even in his own party, particularly foreign policy and immigration, Tony Snow has been dutifully galloping to the left to keep up with Mr. Bush’s policies (then again, as a faithful FoxNews man, he probably did not have very far to go to reach Mr. Bush’s positions).
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Fox News has confirmed that Tony Snow will be presented as the new White House Spokesman wednesday morning. Sing that song “I’m so excited” with me!!
I’m so psyched about this news. Rumor has it that Tony Snow is probably going to take the job as White House spokesman. Hat tip to Rebecca for sending me the article this morning.
A friend and I were talking and we think McClellan definitely contributed to Bush’s low poll numbers. He was Bush’s face and he sucked at it. We think Tony Snow may even be better than Ari was. Yahoo!!!!! ~Little Miss Chatterbox
Yes, it must have been Scott McClellan’s fault that Mr. Bush had such low poll numbers. So many people must be watching the daily press briefing at the White House and that is their their source of information. I had to read this over again a couple times to make sure I wasn’t missing some subtle irony. There was none. This woman is genuinely excited about a change in Press Secretary. So she must be positively thrilled about the dashing, new OMB man, Rob Portman. Have we reached such a low point that Americans exult in the swapping out of the President’s men? Maybe if some of them have some kind of influence on major policy questions you take an interest as an informed citizen, but who actually gets excited? It’s just plain strange. On the other side, how can people on the left get so worked up about Tony Snow’s appointment?
Both Hart and Carey are disappointed by the younger generation of conservatives who run National Review and other conservative journals for subordinating conservatism to transitory politics. They believe that conservatives should maintain a healthy distance from the Republican Party, because the nature of politics necessarily involves compromise and reliance on leaders of dubious quality and motives. The conservative movement also gets dragged down when bad Republican leaders engineer political defeats for the party, as seems likely this fall. ~Bruce Bartlett
This is a clearer statement of what I was trying to say in my usual roundabout way yesterday.
In a sense, the universality I have in mind does transcend historical circumstances: Particular manifestations of goodness, truth and beauty do not exhaust their normative source. We also do not have control over what can properly be called goodness, truth and beauty. These values have their own intrinsic authority. But, in another sense, universality that has not yet been in any way articulated in the concrete remains opaque to us. To become more truly known, universality needs to acquire historical shape. The universal needs the particular and vice versa. They form a union, a synthesis. Without the concretization that the universal receives in particular works of morality, thought and art universality does not quite show itself in the world of human beings. Usually we have to work hard to know what ought to be. To the extent that works of goodness, truth and beauty have previously been created, it is easier for those who live now to orient themselves to the universal. Earlier achievements help those who are now trying to articulate their sense of higher value to hone their sensibilities. ~Claes Ryn
Prof. Ryn continues to show a great deal of patience and consideration in his responses, which is probably the most impressive thing about his already impressive, thoughtful response to his Claremont critics.
If commanders are denied the power to manage campaigns as they think right, it is unjust to allow them to accept blame when these go awry. In the new world, the generals’ revolt seems a legitimate response to political mismanagement of operations. If a civilian such as Donald Rumsfeld seeks to exercise from Washington functions that were traditionally those of soldiers, he should take the customary consequences. The most conspicuous historical example of a politician presiding over a military fiasco was that of Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty. He sponsored the 1915 Dardanelles campaign — and was forced to quit. ~Max Hastings, The Washington Post
If true, she was faithless to her oath, betrayed the trust of her country, damaged America’s ties to foreign intelligence agencies and governments, and broke the law. The Justice Department is investigating whether McCarthy violated the Espionage Act.
Yet, while she may be headed for criminal prosecution and prison, the Post reporter to whom she leaked intelligence on the secret sites, Dana Priest, just won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing the existence of these sites.
Also copping Pulitzers were two reporters for the New York Times who revealed that, since 9-11, U.S. intelligence agencies have been intercepting calls and e-mails between terror suspects and U.S. citizens.
President Bush had implored the Times not to publish the story, lest exposure of the spying program alert al-Qaida to U.S. capabilities and operations. ~Pat Buchanan
Let’s suppose that Mary McCarthy has almost certainly broken federal law, and let’s grant that she did make use of privileged information to subvert a CIA operation. She must have known that this was what she was doing–why would someone do that, barring conspiracy with a foreign power, except to thwart an operation her conscience dictated was probably immoral? Now it just so happens that this “operation” was possibly in contravention of international conventions for the treatment of prisoners, and that there is plainly something more than a little distasteful about running a secret chain of prisons, no matter the reason for them. Since we are not legally in a state of war with anyone, but are enduring what are properly understood as two rubber-stamped, unconstitutional presidential wars, it is becoming increasingly tiresome to hear people, especially those who should know better, speak about how things must be done “in time of war.”
And if we’re going to get on Mary McCarthy’s case for breaking the law, how about holding Mr. Bush to the same standard for manifestly breaking the law and violating the Constitution with his domestic surveillance program? Or does the rule of law only apply to underlings and mere subjects and not to the perpetual Augustus himself? As you might expect, Tom DiLorenzo takes a rather dim view of Mr. Buchanan’s call to imprison reporters who reveal these sorts of policies to the public. I would not be quite as blunt or hostile as Prof. DiLorenzo was (does anyone really think Mr. Buchanan is a “media mouthpiece” for the “Dubya-ites”?), but particularly on the surveillance program story I can think of no reason why any reporters should be locked up for revealing its existence. For once, the watchdog press did something right and actually helped bring government misconduct to light, and we’re supposed to want to prosecute them for doing this? I have to confess I don’t understand that view at all.
On the April 22 edition of Fox News Watch, co-host and nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas repeated a theory — first proposed by Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley — that the retired generals who have recently called for the ouster of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld are part of a “cabal.” Thomas, however, expanded upon Blankley’s original theory and claimed that the alleged cabal is “possibly assisted by Democrats for political advantage.” ~Media Matters
When one man utters lunatic fears in his own editorials, we can assume there is something amiss with him. But how is it that any serious news organisation (and, yes, for the sake of argument, let us assume that FoxNews is as much of a serious news organisation as its competitors) would air stuff like this? Or, to put it another way, if talk of influence of neoconservative figures in the administration–based on the actual presence of avowed neoconservatives in the administration–is a kooky conspiracy theory (oh, yes, and anti-Semitic to boot), as these same men have claimed repeatedly, what would that make Blankley and Thomas’ genuinely paranoid delusions about mutinous and seditious conspiracies against the government? Why, it might be downright un-American!
But, in all seriousness, how delusional do you have to be to fear a secret conspiracy of the overwhelmingly Republican and often quite conservative officer corps with the ridiculous Democratic opposition? It would be like Pompey working hand in glove with Catiline or Ludendorff allying himself with the Social Democrats.
There is another reason active-duty commanders may be less likely to dissent these days, according to Irvine. “All of the people currently in positions at the two-, three- and four-star level have been extensively interviewed and handpicked by Rumsfeld. Some people would say there’s nothing unusual about that, but I think there is.” Historically, Irvine said, the top generals are selected by military promotion boards. “Yes, they are political positions, and the defense secretary has final say in the appointment. But in the past there has been more deference to the boards. I don’t know that there has been this level of politicization of the generals’ officer corps under any prior administration.” ~Salon
There are a lot of Johnny-Come-Latelys to the cause of worrying about the rule of law, constitutionalism and defending the Republic against incipient Caesarism. Tony Blankley is eagle-eyed and on the lookout for a military insurrection! I haven’t seen this much fake constitutionalist fervour since the Republican talking points instructed everyone and his brother in the conservative commentariat to claim that the threatened filibuster of judicial nominations was a threat to the Constitution! The very people who have never met a war or an executive order they didn’t like (provided it was penned by someone from their own party) are suddenly horrified at excessive chatter from military men and the possible dangers of authoritarianism resulting from this.
What has brought about all of this enthusiasm for the good old republican spirit? It has been occasioned by retired generals taking issue with the competence of a Secretary of Defense who has already egregiously politicised the upper echelons of the military. In other words, everyone prattling on about the retired generals as threats to the political “neutrality” of the military is by and large coming to the defense of a civilian administrator who has done more to politicise the upper ranks of the military than just about any SecDef before him. Maybe, for the sake of keeping the military from becoming more politicised than he has already made it, Rumsfeld should go.
Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, on Monday came under more fire after another retired general joined the growing list of retired brass gunning for his resignation.
Retired Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, a three-star general who retired in 1997, told Fox News that Mr Rumsfeld was not capable of leading the Pentagon effort in Iraq. He is the eighth former general to call for Mr Rumsfeld to step down. ~The Financial Times
And as we approach the ‘06 race, the question looms again - is it better for conservatives if the GOP loses control of the House or the Senate? For now, my tentative answer is yes. Not just because the Congressional Republicans increasingly seem like “a bunch of bungling, spend-thrift, unreformable, tin-eared, unimaginative, hysterical pols,” as Rich Lowry puts it, and because the odor of the K Street Gang still hangs thick around the current leadership - though that has something to do with it. But more importantly, 2008 is shaping up to be a tremendously significant election: perhaps I exaggerate, but at the moment it seems as if the whole future of post-Bush conservatism might be determined by whom the GOP nominates in ‘08 and whether he can win. Bush’s presidency will be an albatross around that nominee’s neck no matter what happens, but as Rich points out, the Republican Congress is actually far more unpopular than the President - and having Frist, Hastert, Boehner and company to kick around for another two years is only likely to strengthen the Democrats’ hand. At the same time, winning - or not-losing, at least -in the midterm elections exponentially increases the chances that the Republican Party, ever an establishment-minded institution, will select an “establishment” choice for the 2008 nomination . . . which in this case probably means a Bush-lite (shudder!) choice like George Allen, rather than someone - anyone! - who’s willing to consider breaking with certain orthodoxies, and backing away from certain blind alleys. ~Ross Douthat
I like playing at political prognostication as much as anyone (after all, I’m largely a political blogger–what else do I have to talk about in an election year?), and I happen to agree with Mr. Douthat on the question of the ‘06 elections in that we both think it would be best if the GOP lost. But he phrases it in an interesting way: would it better for conservatives if the GOP lost in ‘06? Without wanting to be too flip or idealistic (I’m not good at being either one), given the GOP’s track record of governance over the last ten years it is difficult to imagine how anything but a GOP defeat in ‘06, in ‘08, in ‘10, etc., would be good for conservatives. But that’s not what really caught my attention here.
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But the administration likely didn’t want to be viewed as unnecessarily provocative with Iran. ~Stanley Kurtz
Note that Mr. Kurtz seems to be under the impression that the administration (of “no options are off the table” and possible tactical nuke fame) has only now started being provocative with Iran with Rumsfeld’s attempts to connect confronting Iran with winning in Iraq. You just have to marvel at folks like this, don’t you?
It’s always gratifying to hear from a Bush supporter who realizes that Saddam and Osama aren’t the same person, but I doubt that this year’s elections will be decided by these documents. Bush and his base are doing their utmost to deliver the broad middle, who reelected Bush and the GOP in 2004, to the Democrats in 2006 and 2008. And maybe beyond.
Anything can happen in politics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bush becomes the new Herbert Hoover — another conscientious Republican president whose name became a lasting synonym for disaster. Hoover didn’t actually cause the Great Depression, but he might as well have. His memory ensured Democratic hegemony for more than half a century, until Ronald Reagan exorcised it (largely by playing a sunny FDR to Jimmy Carter’s inept Hoover).
Bush asked to be judged by his conduct of the War on Terror, and he is getting his wish. If he has made an unholy mess of that war, and wants to keep doing it in Iran, the public (minus 38 per cent) has lost faith in his competence, and this applies to other matters too, such as immigration reform. Even Republicans are asking what kind of “conservative” would spend money and expand Federal powers and programs to the tune of trillions of dollars as he has.
If his party isn’t ruined, it’s not his fault. The most diabolical Democrat — and the Democrats are nothing if not diabolical — couldn’t have dreamed up an opponent so destructive to their foes. Bill Clinton held his own, but he didn’t weaken the Republicans permanently. It has taken Bush to achieve the reversal of the Republican Revolution. ~Joseph Sobran
Yesterday was the anniversary marking the beginning of the Armenian genocide of 1915-23. April 24, 1915 was the day when the leading Armenian politicians, intellectuals and other public figures in Constantinople were rounded up by the government; all were executed in the following days and weeks. Across eastern Anatolia in particular the systematic massacre and forced “relocation” of the Armenians of Cappadocia and the Lake Van region proceeded apace, resulting in the forced march of an enormous Armenian population to the Syrian desert where they were left to die. Such are the fruits of the marriage of Islamic societies, political modernisation and “progressive” nationalism.
Back in the world of blogging on this Bright Monday, I found (thanks in part to Clark Stooksbury) that Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Con blog at Beliefnet has been up and running for several days. Thanks to Rod for the link to this blog. New critics of crunchiness have reared their heads (HT to Michael Brendan Dougherty), which obliges to enter the lists again to restate certain obvious things about the crunchy con idea.
For those still interested in the futile “debate” with the Straussians (in which their critics make arguments of greater or lesser power, and they baselessly accuse their critics of abandonding reason, truth and, now, the entire Western intellectual tradition for lack of being able to make an argument of their own), Joseph Baldacchino of the National Humanities Institute has taken up for his colleague, Prof. Claes Ryn, here, and the ever-excitable Mr. Peterson provides us with this.
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The retired generals, who claim to speak for their active-duty brethren, premise their uprising on two complaints. First, many (though not all) say we should not have gone into Iraq in the first place. Former Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold calls it “the unnecessary war,” and former Gen. Anthony Zinni claims that “containment worked remarkably well.”
That is a highly questionable judgment, and one that is not for generals to make. They are experts in how to wage war, not when to wage it. If we had listened to their advice, we would not have gone into Kuwait or Bosnia or Kosovo. ~Max Boot, The Los Angeles Times
When Max Boot puts it that way, I am beginning to see the virtue of letting generals make these sorts of decisions. He is trying to say that not going to Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo would have been Very Bad Things (why, Kosovo’s churches might still be standing, and we couldn’t have that!), but as time goes by the generals’ advice looks wiser and wiser every day.
Perhaps if civilian leaders were not so astonishingly foolish in jumping into wars that do not serve the American interest, all of which in the last 16 years have been unnecessary, retired military men would not now be inclined to question the strategic judgement of the civilians.
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His analysis is now widely accepted, yet we are in the early stages of another stab-in-the-back myth in which officers line up to blame their civilian bosses for the setbacks we’ve suffered in Iraq. In the last few weeks, six retired generals and counting have called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
As it happens, I agree with their advice. As I first said on this page two years ago, I too think that Rumsfeld should go. But I am nevertheless troubled by the Revolt of the Generals, which calls into question civilian control of the armed forces. In our system, defense secretaries are supposed to fire generals, not vice versa. ~Max Boot, The Los Angeles Times
Via Steve Sailer
Whatever else Max Boot is, he is not subtle. He sets up his comments with an unusually reasonable observation that the old myth about how the politicians lost the war in Vietnam by holding the military back (a strain of the Vietnam syndrome I noted here earlier this month) is at least misleading, and then proceeds to apply this unusually reasonable observation in the very Boot-like, ham-fisted way he always does. The retired generals are now engaged in a new “stab in the back myth,” which is neocon (sorry, I mean “hard Wilsonian”) talk for accusing the generals of shades of Nazism.
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CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD,
TRAMPLING DOWN DEATH BY DEATH,
AND UPON THOSE IN THE TOMBS
CHRISTOS VOSKRESE IZ MERTVIKH,
SMERTUYU SMERT POPRAV
I SUSCHIM VO GROBEH
CHRISTOS ANESTI EK NEKRON
THANATO THANATON PATISAS,
KAI TOIS EN TOIS MNEMASI
Let God arise, and his enemies be scattered: and let those that hate him flee before his face.
A sacred Pascha has been revealed to us today, a new and holy Pascha, a mystic Pascha, an all-venerable Pascha, a Pascha that is Christ the Redeemer, an unblemished Pascha, a great Pascha, a Pascha of the faithful, a Pascha that has opened for us the gates of Paradise, a Pascha that makes all the faithful holy.
As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish, as wax melts at the presence of fire.
Come from that sight, you women, bearers of good tidings, and say to Zion, ‘Receive from us the good tidings of joy, of Christ’s Resurrection. Exult, dance and be glad, Jerusalem, for you have seen Christ the King like a bridegroom coming from the grave.
So shall the wicked perish at the presence of God; and let the just be glad.
The myrrh-bearing women at deep dawn came to the grave of the giver of life. They found an Angel sitting on the stone, and he addressed them and said, ‘Why do you seek the living with the dead? Why do you mourn the incorruptible as though he were in corruption? Go, proclaim it to his Disciples.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
A Pascha of delight, Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha, an all-venerable Pascha has dawned for us, Pascha. Let us embrace one another with joy. O Pascha, ransom from sorrow! Today Christ shone forth from a tomb as from a bridal chamber, and filled the women with joy, saying, ‘Proclaim it to the Apostles’.
When Thou didst descend to death 0 Life Immortal, Thou didst slay hell with the splendor of Thy Godhead! And when from the depths Thou didst raise the dead, all the powers of heaven cried out: O Giver of Life! Christ our God! Glory to Thee!
The angel standing by the grave cried out to the women: Myrrh is proper for the dead, but Christ has shown himself a stranger to corruption.
Jawad al-Maliki, the Shiite politician selected Saturday to be Iraq’s first permanent prime minister, is decisive and direct and known for speaking his mind but has little experience in governing, Iraqi political leaders said.
Mr. Maliki, 55, appeared stiff and nervous before television cameras as he spoke for the first time after his nomination by Shiite political parties on Saturday morning. Flanked by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Iraq’s most powerful Shiite politician, as well as Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the former prime minister, he tersely addressed the Sunni Arab fears that he would be too Shiite for the job. ~The New York Times
Come, O faithful! Let us enjoy the Master’s hospitality: the Banquet of Immortality! In the upper chamber with uplifted minds, let us receive the exalted words of the Word, Whom we magnify!
When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of their feet before the supper, the impious Judas was darkened by the disease of avarice, and to the lawless judges he betrayed You, the Righteous Judge. Behold, this man because of avarice hanged himself. Flee from the insatiable desire which dared such things against the Master! O Lord Who deals righteously with all, glory to You!
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept,
Alike the Conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone,
That memory may their deed redeem,
When like our sires our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, or leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and Thee. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
231 years ago today our War for Independence began in the morning after Paul Revere’s ride at North Bridge on the Concord River. Beginning with a stray shot (which side fired it remains unknown), the colonists harrassed the British column along its retreat, the running battle ending in skirmishing with a reinforced British force later that day in Lexington. Though militarily unimportant, the symbolic importance of that resistance was long a staple of the American mythos and imagination, marking the day when our fathers struck against arbitrary government and usurpation and made known their determination to secure their prescribed and inherited rights as Englishmen. Today I suspect that April 19 has little meaning for most Americans, particularly those who preen themselves over their own dedication to the founding moments of the Republic, but for some of us it is still a day with powerful significance.
I have transgressed more than the harlot, O loving Lord, yet never have I offered You my flowing tears. But in silence I fall down before You and with love I kiss Your most pure feet, beseeching You as Master to grant me remission of sins; and I cry to You, O Savior: Deliver me from the filth of my works.
While the sinful woman brought oil of myrrh, the disciple came to an agreement with the transgressors. She rejoiced to pour out what was very precious, he made haste to sell the One who is above all price. She acknowledged Christ as Lord, he severed himself from the Master. She was set free, but Judas became the slave of the enemy. Grievous was his lack of love. Great was her repentance. Grant such repentance also unto me, O Savior who has suffered for our sake, and save us. ~Hymns of Orthros of Holy Wednesday
It’s come to this: The chief project to restate Democratic economics for our time was unveiled a couple of weeks ago, and it’s named after the father of American conservatism, Alexander Hamilton. ~Harold Meyerson, The Washington Post
Before Mr. Meyerson gets himself tangled up in too many knots at the betrayal of Democrats going all wobbly on the question of the Bank of the United States (I do believe old Woodrow threw in the towel on that one, to the chagrin of all republicans, constitutionalists, sound-money men and silverites alike), a minor correction: whatever Alexander Hamilton was, and whatever he may have happened to get right in his career, he was not the father of American conservatism. For starters, no conservative of note I know of has ever claimed him as such. Second, it makes no sense. (Then again, neither does the Democrats’ so-called “Hamilton Project,” which involves resurrecting the corpse of the DLC’s economic agenda complete with Bob Rubin as financial guru–it is the New Democrats, not the old Hamiltonians, who really bother Mr. Meyerson.)
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Certainly, generals and admirals are traditionally given more leeway to publicly assess war policies than is given to those in lower ranks. But with that broader, though limited, discretion comes the responsibility not to be seen to in any way contradict the absolute rule of civilians over the military in our constitutional republic.
The president has his authority granted to him by the people in the election of 2004. Where exactly do the generals in “revolt” think their authority comes from? ~Tony Blankley, The Washington Times
In an article entitled (I kid you not) “Seven days in April,” Mr. Blankley gets very huffy about the “revolt” and whether it is the beginning of a mutinous conspiracy (!) organised in contravention of military regulations. (Certainly, if there were a mutinous conspiracy, it would be in violation of regulations, but Mr. Blankley’s proof comes from Richard Holbrooke, notable liar and wrecker of the Balkans, and a lot of loose talk about “revolt.”)
Update: Clark Stooksbury has a good take on the response to the generals. He notes that Mr. Blankley is at it again. Here is Blankley citing his agreement with the recent Post editorial with this gem:
And it is on exactly that point that the Post correctly fears a dangerous precedent is in the process of being set. They rightly fear that based on what is currently happening to Secretary Rumsfeld, “will future defense secretaries have to worry about potential rebellions by their brass, and will they start choosing commanders according to calculations of political loyalty?”
(Via Clark Stooksbury)
I have seen some lame complaints about the “generals’ revolt,” but this has to take the cake. After all, there have never been internal political struggles at the Pentagon; the DOD evidently has operated like a well-oiled machine until now. Not that I think politically-motivated choices for selecting commanders are wise or desirable in any military structure. But it is astonishing that Rumsfeld’s tenure, which has been notably riddled with forcing out people who did not toe his political line and who were not suitably loyal to him and his vision (that’s a Cabinet secretary’s prerogative, but it can come back to bite you), is now being defended by an appeal against choosing officers based on considerations of politics and loyalty! Again and again, the name Shinseki resurfaces to mock the claims of the Rumsfeld admirers–if that was not a case of a man being forced out for political reasons, I don’t know what is.
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As Anne Norton writes in Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire (which I highly recommend), “Bloom, far more than Strauss, has shaped the Straussians who govern in America. Bloom taught both the most powerful and the most vociferously ideological of the Straussians.” That does not include the Claremont Institute folks, though — they descend from Jaffa, not Bloom. They’re the “West Coast Straussians” and don’t always see eye-to-eye with “East Coast Straussians” like Bloom. It’s like Biggie and 2Pac.
There are further divisions among Straussians as well, just to complicate things more, and not all followers of Strauss are neoconservatives — there are a few left-Straussians and at least one Misesian-libertarian Straussian. There’s an emerging Catholic Straussianism, too: “We’re not yet famous enough to merit Ann Norton’s or Shadia Drudry’s critical attention,” says Catholic Straussian Peter Lawler in his recent book Stuck With Virtue, “but watch out!” Watch out is right.
I’m as guilty as most anti-Straussians of blurring the distinctions between the various subcultures, but it’s quite fair to say that there is a main stream of Straussian thought, of which East and West groups are tributaries, and that it’s statist, belligerent, and neoconservative — if I may be a little redundant. ~Daniel McCarthy
Mr. McCarthy continues to do an excellent job of making sense of the bewildering array of Straussians and their ideas. I appreciate the links to my previous posts and the generous comments he has made about my forays into the “debate,” though I fear my frustration with the sheer implacability and fairly cheap debating tactics of some of the Claremont folks has probably made my arguments worse than they should have been.
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Ryn is descended from the political alliance that defeated Napoleon, and celebrated the ancien regime. Its main themes were taken from Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution. Burke’s critique of the so called rationalism of the French Revolution has ever since been a mainstay of the school Ryn represents. Russell Kirk is perhaps the best known American adherent of that school. Kirk’s notable contribution to the conservative movement, was his 1953 book The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Santayana. A later edition extended the Mind to T.S. Eliot. But the conservative mind, properly so called, did not originate with Burke. Burke himself embodied a tradition whose roots and branches were in Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, Richard Hooker, John Locke, Jefferson, Madison, the Federalist, and Abraham Lincoln. Burke fits within this galaxy but is not apart from it. Lincoln called the principles of the Declaration of Independence his “ancient Faith.” That faith, however, embodied an “abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times.” ~Harry Jaffa
This is a good display of the sort of distortions by critics that traditionalists have to contend with all the time.
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David Dreier (R-Calif.) explained, sort of. He said he voted against McCain-Feingold because “dictating who could give how much to whom” violated the First Amendment, but now he favors dictating to 527 contributors because McCain-Feingold is not violating the First Amendment enough: It is not “working as it was intended.” That is, it is not sufficiently restricting the money financing political advocacy. ~George Will, The Washington Post
Such is the fate of some Republicans in Congress who went from opposing a bill at least partly on principle to embracing its logic once McCain-Feingold became a signature “accomplishment” of the Bush administration. That is what Republicans’ commitment to the Constitution really amounts to, and it is yet another reason why the GOP has, in Will’s phrase, “earned defeat.”
Actually, it [firing Rumsfeld] would be the absolute wrong thing to do now, anyway, given, as has been noted, the damage that would be done to civilian rule. ~Dan Thomasson, Scripps-Howard
Let me see if I follow Mr. Thomasson here: even though the generals’ criticisms may be perfectly accurate, and even though the generals here are retired, it would be damaging to civilian rule for the President to remove his Secretary of Defense and select another one? At what point can the President accept the advice of retired military officers, including that given in public, without damaging “civilian rule,” if even this scenario is considered damaging?
As I noted some time ago, the old Battlestar Galactica movie had its own preposterous political message suited to the atmosphere of 1978 America. In a not-very-subtle dig at detente with the Soviets, the old BSG plot has the bumbling Quorum of Twelve (advised, as always, by the sinister Gaius Baltar) on its way to make peace with the Cylons, ignoring the urgent warnings of Adama (Lorne Greene), whereupon almost all of humanity is annihilated by a surprise Cylon attack. It was a sort of an inverted Seven Days in May: the desperate longing in some quarters for a Burt Lancaster or Lorne Greene military commander who should have seized power and saved humanity! No more Munichs! Hurrah! The contempt for civilian government (at least when not run by your kind of people) that the original BSG exuded (something the new BSG does not possess, thank goodness) is as absurd as the contempt for the military conveyed by Seven Days in May. They are mirror images of each other, both being hysterical fables embodying the most irrational fears of neocons and liberals, and it is therefore not a surprise that both movies are also really, really bad.
In addition, caving in to the demands of a handful of retired generals would establish a dangerous precedent that could threaten the entire relationship between the military and its civilian bosses, including the president’s constitutional role as commander in chief. That principle, above all others, has protected the republic and its democratic foundation from the “Seven Days in May” potential that has afflicted so many other nations. ~Dan K. Thomasson, Scripps-Howard News Service
I’m not going to rehash why I think the recent fears of military unrest in America are silly and overblown, which Kevin Drum bizarrely refers to as “something that has a bit of a sense of palace revolt against the civilian leadership of the military,” but I would like to say something more about the all-too-frequent references to a stupendously awful movie, Seven Days in May, which was supposed to depict the potential dangers of a military coup in the early days of the Cold War when the President pushes for nuclear disarmament (as we all remember, there was a lot of worrying about a military coup in the Reagan years!). I have actually seen this movie (not exactly Kirk Douglas’ finest production), and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in laughing at it as one of the goofier versions of the “It Can Happen Here” stories.
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At a moment when Washington is confronted by the enormous challenge of how to respond to Iran’s catastrophic nuclear programme, the Defence Department has become an institutional eunuch and the CIA is paralysed by introspection. If this continues, the diplomats will do about Tehran what it is their custom to do about most acute dilemmas: (1) deny the problem is imminent; (2) insist that words alone will make an opponent “see reason”; (3) capitulate if that “ reason” is not forthcoming.
A new Defence Secretary is the minimum precondition for a policy debate that is more meaningful. If not, the United States could find itself in a surreal situation where it has removed one dangerous tyrant with ambitions to hold weapons of mass destruction yet stood by while another in a neighbouring state triumphs where Saddam Hussein failed.
That Mr Rumsfeld must leave to allow someone else — in ideal circumstances, the Democrat Senator Joseph Lieberman — to make the case for threatening to exercise American power is both painful and paradoxical. Yet there it is. ~Tim Hames, The Times
One of the ideas that is beginning to make the rounds out there these days is that the “generals’ revolt” stems, in reality, from the horror-filled reactions of senior commanders as the prospect of launching (possibly “tactical” nuclear) attacks on Iran becomes more and more likely.
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I’m glad Larry Kudlow came into the Church, and Robert Novak, and many others. But they are not exactly like the converts of an earlier era. ~Joseph Bottum
There’s quite an irony here. Ever since his tenure as governor of Texas, Bush has cultivated a reputation as a party-builder — “the greatest Republican party builder since William McKinley,” according to the Economist’s John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. Now, although the numbers still suggest that Republicans might keep the House in November (and the Senate is not a write-off either), it’s starting to look as if the post-Bush Republican Party might be a shipwreck. Bush could wind up having more in common as a party-builder with McKinley’s successors, Roosevelt and Taft, who failed to reconcile the GOP’s conservative and progressive wings, costing the GOP the House in 1910 and, thanks to TR’s third-party run, the White House in 1912.
If John McCain succeeds Bush, he could well both delay and exacerbate the crack-up. He’s personally popular enough to have some coattails in 2008, helping to make up for ground lost in 2006. But a McCain presidency could set off the fault lines in the party over social issues and the war in Iraq, which McCain would prosecute even more vehemently than Bush has. And he’s not exactly the man to settle the party’s internal differences over immigration that are now causing Bush so much trouble. ~Daniel McCarthy
Mr. McCarthy’s post is very good, and I agree with pretty much all of it. But I will say that Sen. McCain’s popularity is pretty chimerical and very media-driven, and it will amount to very little come the ‘08 primaries.
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The news that a group of retired generals have come out front and center against the war strategy of this administration ought to be – and is – music to the ears of the antiwar movement. ~Justin Raimondo
If “the antiwar movement” were a coherent and cohesive group that possessed a single purpose of bringing an end to the Iraq war (it is not, and doesn’t), the “movement” would not particularly rejoice in every tale of mismanagement and incompetence in this administration. Every day that the administration bungles something is another ten or twenty days that Americans will remain in Iraq, because all “responsible” opinion still maintains at this late juncture that it would be “irresponsible” to leave now.
It is important to have these critics, if only for the purposes of accountability, and the tremendous incompetence of the administration does encourage people to lose confidence in the war effort. This discontented public might then be harnessed to an “antiwar movement,” if one existed beyond the confines of ANSWER and other such organisations of dubious repute. Since there is no such animal that will mobilise the disaffected public into some sort of meaningful political force, the critics mostly serve to exculpate themselves and pin all the blame on the (admittedly very culpable) civilian leadership and, by extension, any military leaders still in service who continue to prosecute the war in the “wrong” way.
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Their ascent to influence has come about not because Straussians sound like Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Russell Kirk or even Robert Taft – or indeed anyone as far to the right as a classical liberal. Many Straussians would be now associated with the official left except for two complicating factors. The Democrats are less inclined than the Republicans to push the war policies favored by the Straussians. Although this reluctance may be due to their preoccupation with social questions at home, the Democrats are less open than the Bushites to Straussian imperial projects at the present time, if not necessarily for the future. Moreover, the establishment Right and its Republican organizational structure have become scavengers, living off yesterday’s leftist rhetoric. What Ryn calls the “new Jacobinism” of the neoconservative- and Straussian-controlled pseudo-Right is no longer “new.” It is the warmed-over rhetoric of Saint-Juste and Trotsky that the philosophically impoverished American Right has taken over with mindless alacrity. Republican operators and think tanks apparently believe they can carry the electorate by appealing to yesterday’s leftist clichés. But the Straussian grid into which they have placed themselves should not be confused with any intelligible or historical Right. Nor should Leo Strauss be placed on this side, to whatever extent he shared the views of his disciples. ~Paul Gottfried
A former commander of NATO, Wesley Clark, has joined six other retired United States generals in calling for the resignation of the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. ~ABC News (Australia)
Many politicians are using the open criticism of Rumsfeld to step up attacks on him, the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. “My view is that the secretary should step aside,” said Bill Richardson, the Democratic governor of New Mexico and a possible presidential candidate on CBS’s Face The Nation.
“Besides the fact that the Iraqi war has been mismanaged, that a lot of brave American men and women, over 2,300, have perished,” he told Bob Schieffer. “We should listen to what these generals are saying.” ~CBS News
When the man who wanted to start WWIII over Kosovo (Clark) and the man who presided over the most ineptly managed administration at the Department of Energy in living memory (Richardson) both agree that you are not fit to hold a job, you are probably doing a lot better than most people give you credit for.
Gov. Richardson, when he is not busy glad-handing with Richard Branson (to build the “Spaceport,” no less!) and forcing spending commitments on New Mexico at breakneck pace (trains, planes and spaceships, all for Bill’s glory!), fancies himself a foreign policy whiz because he played at being an expert negotiator for a captured American in North Korea and presided over a DOE that seemed unusually capable of “losing” hard disks containing sensitive data on nuclear lab work and letting in people without sufficient clearance around the same time then-Secretary Richardson invited representatives of the Chinese PLA to tour the facilities at Sandia. Then again, maybe it takes one incompetent Cabinet Secretary to recognise another. In any event, with critics like these Don Rumsfeld doesn’t need defenders.
Behold, the Bridegroom is coming at midnight. * Blessed is the servant He shall find awake. * But the one He shall find neglectful will not be worthy of Him. * Beware, therefore, O my soul! Do not fall into a deep slumber,* lest you be delivered to death and the door of the Kingdom be closed to you. * Watch instead, and cry out: * Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God. * Through the intercession of the Theotokos, have mercy on us!
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion, Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, 0 Christ God! Like the children with the branches of victory, we cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!
So what is to be done? We need fresh ideas and fresh faces. That means, as a first step, replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach. ~Gen. Newbold
I wonder who the “many others” might be. The possibilities are virtually endless with this administration!
Flaws in our civilians are one thing; the failure of the Pentagon’s military leaders is quite another. Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard. When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military’s effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction. ~Gen. Newbold
For that reason, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent statement that “we” made the “right strategic decisions” but made thousands of “tactical errors” is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it. ~Gen. Newbold, Time
While some view these calls by retired military officers as a “revolt of the Generals” and a challenge to civilian control of the military, this episode pales in comparison to the 1949 revolt of the Admirals. ~Lawrence Korb, Time
As Mr. Korb’s article outlines, this 1949 episode was a far more intense public opposition to civilian leadership over a matter of policy. In that episode, officers on active duty openly supported the critics (which is not even what Gen. Newbold has called for officers to do now), ultimately to no avail. But the civilian leadership was never really “undermined”–the civilian leadership ultimately got its way on the matter under dispute.
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BUT IN THEIR eagerness to settle scores, Rumsfeld’s pursuers are flirting with ideas that can only be regarded as subversive. Newbold, for one, has resurrected the notion that a senior officer’s primary obligation lies not to those atop the chain of command but to the Constitution.
This theory last surfaced during the Korean War, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur publicly derided the proposition that soldiers “owe primary allegiance and loyalty to those who temporarily exercise the authority of the executive branch.” In citing a higher allegiance, MacArthur was attempting to justify the flagrant insubordination that had cost him his job. Wrong in 1951, MacArthur’s theory is equally wrong today. To grant even the most narrowly drawn exceptions to the principle of civilian control is to open up a Pandora’s box of complications. ~Andrew Bacevich, The Los Angeles Times
Prof. Bacevich is probably correct that Gen. MacArthur’s actual insubordination was indeed completely out of line, but I’d like to consider Gen. Newbold’s claim that the Constitution should have the highest claim on an officer’s loyalty. Here is what he actually said:
Enlisted members of the armed forces swear their oath to those appointed over them; an officer swears an oath not to a person but to the Constitution. The distinction is important.
Yet Mr. Kohn said he found the chorus of attacks disquieting. He was disturbed, he said, by an assertion made by Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, who retired from the Marines, in an essay for Time magazine, that he was writing “with the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership.”
“That’s a fairly chilling thought,” Mr. Kohn said. “Chilling because they’re not supposed to be undermining their civilian leadership.”
He also said he feared that the public statements would “poison the civil-military relationship inside the Pentagon and with the president,” sowing mistrust between senior civilians and officers.
“It’s not the military that holds the civilian leadership accountable,” he said. “It’s Congress, the voters, investigative journalists. Things have been turned upside down here.” ~The New York Times
In my last post, I did not dwell on the rather silly question of whether the “Generals’ Revolt,” as it has been called, undermines civilian control of the military. I call it silly not because undermining civilian control of the military is an unimportant problem, but because this situation is so far, far removed from any threat to civilian control of the military that it suggests a kind of paranoia about the role of the military in this country’s politics on the part of those doing the worrying.
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The major reason the nation urgently needs a new defense secretary is far more urgent. Put simply, the failed strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be fixed as long as Rumsfeld remains at the epicenter of the chain of command. Rumsfeld’s famous “long screwdriver,” with which he sometimes micromanages policy, now thwarts the top-to-bottom reexamination of strategy that is absolutely essential in both war zones. Lyndon Johnson understood this in 1968 when he eased another micromanaging secretary of defense, McNamara, out of the Pentagon and replaced him with Clark M. Clifford. Within weeks, Clifford had revisited every aspect of policy and begun the long, painful process of unwinding the commitment. Today, those decisions are still the subject of intense dispute, and there are many differences between the two situations. But one thing was clear then and is clear today: If the man at the center of the military chain of command remains, the policy will not change.
That first White House reaction will not be the end of the story. If more angry generals emerge — and they will — if some of them are on active duty, as seems probable; if the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan does not turn around (and there is little reason to think it will, alas), then this storm will continue until finally it consumes not only Donald Rumsfeld. The only question is: Will it come so late that there is no longer any hope to salvage something in Iraq and Afghanistan? ~Richard Holbrooke, The Washington Post
No one would confuse me with a supporter of Mr. Bush and his war, much less with a fan of Donald Rumsfeld. Nonetheless, I find Leon Hadar’s arguments against firing Rumsfeld fairly compelling. Likewise, I find the assumption that if only Rumsfeld were to go the war in Iraq might still be “won” to be incredible.
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Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi today maintained his refusal to concede victory to Romano Prodi in national elections that ended four days ago, prolonging a dispute over the closest vote in Italian history.
Berlusconi continued to reject the outcome, even after provisional results today showed that the number of contested ballots was too small to change the result in his favor.
“Nothing has changed, regardless of how the official recount ends and whoever gains the majority in the Chamber,” Berlusconi wrote in a letter to the editor-in-chief of Corriere della Sera, Italy’s biggest-selling newspaper. “We are faced with a stalemate situation, one in which, at least on the basis of the popular vote, there are no winners or losers.” ~Bloomberg
Berlusconi has discovered a new kind of democracy, where no one ever has to lose. What an ingenious solution to the dangers of majoritarian rule!
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Some are small-government enthusiasts distressed by GWB’s LBJ-style expansion of the nanny state. Some are immigration obsessives hellbent on keeping the foreigners from our shores. Some are self-styled paleocons, or worse. Some are war hawks disappointed with the course of events in Iraq and beyond. Some are outright libertarians. Some are fiscal conservatives utterly alienated by the profligacy of the past six years. ~Josh Trevino
And if the new document invites us to consider a new perspective on Judas himself, that might be consistent with the season’s message of salvation and redemption. ~E.J. Dionne, The Washington Post
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name: those that Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. ~Gospel of St. John 17:12
As many may recognise, the title of this post comes from the prayers before Communion that Orthodox say before they approach to receive Holy Communion. It is followed by the contrast, “but like the Thief do I confess Thee.” It is a powerful reminder of the different responses to God that we can offer, and a reminder that even those to whom much is given may become the most wretched if they lack in faith.
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Like the Apostles long ago,
O Holy Father Innocent,
you accepted the Lord’s command
to baptize all peoples in His name;
you left your homeland to proclaim the truth
to an island people sitting in darkness.
With them lead us down the path to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Like the betrothed of the Theotokos,
you worked in humility with your hands;
and through you, like Constantine, churches blossomed throughout the land,
built for the feeding of the flock
you gathered and led into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Like the Holy Brothers from Thessalonica,
who brought illumination to your forefathers,
you labored to bring this same inheritance
to untaught peoples placed in your care,
that worshipping the One True God in words of many tongues,
they might, by the Word, be led into the Kingdom of Heaven.
~ from the Great Vespers of the Feast of St. Innocent
In thee, O Mother, was exactly preserved what was according to the divine image. for thou didst take the cross and follow Christ, and by thy life, didst teach us to ignore the flesh, since it is transitory, but to care for the soul as an immortal thing. Therefore, thy spirit, St. Mary, rejoices with the Angels.
We need a good dose of muscular multiculturalism, not in the cause of undermining the American nation (the radical Left’s favorite use for it), but of advancing one of its most important foreign-policy goals.
McMaster’s approach takes time and intellectual energy, much more than many people will ever want to devote to understanding rival tribal sheiks. As Packer writes in The New Yorker, the U.S. military is increasingly employing the opposite strategy of holing up in big bases where no one has anything to do with Iraqis.
Historian Niall Ferguson might have been correct when he urged the application of U.S. power in far-reaching corners of the globe, but wondered whether we had the right stuff to pull it off: “America’s brightest and best aspire not to govern Mesopotamia but to manage MTV; not to rule the Hejaz but to run a hedge fund. Unlike their British counterparts of a century ago, who left the elite British universities with an overtly imperial ethos, the letters ambitious young Americans would like to see after their names are CEO, not CBE [Commander of the Order of the British Empire].”
The military does have foreign-area officers, experts in a given region who, like one profiled in The Wall Street Journal, can speak Arabic with a Yemeni accent and hold long conversations with Bedouins about the joys of the drug qat. But there were only 145 foreign-area officers specializing in the Middle East as of last fall, according to the Journal. ~Rich Lowry
A phrase like “muscular multiculturalism” hardly passes the laugh test. Multiculturalism for the sake of preserving American hegemony would almost seem to be a contradiction in terms if domestic cultural fragmentation was not also the desired goal of the forces of consolidation. But focusing on the silly phrase itself is to miss what’s really wrong here. Besides the assumption that we need to marshal national resources for flawed policies of interventionism, rather than readjust our strategy in ways that suit our national character and resources, there is the mistake in confusing multiculturalism with a genuine interest in and knowledge of other cultures.
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The conflict in Iraq is not marked by front lines or raging battles between warring Iraqi factions. There is no Green Line separating sectarian militias, as in Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s, nor are there clearly defined armies and commanders. But by any measure, Iraqis will tell you that their country is embroiled in what amounts to civil war.
Since the Feb. 22 bombing of the al-Askari mosque, a Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra, waves of suicide bombers have struck other Shiite targets, killing hundreds of civilians. They have been followed by reprisals in the forms of assassinations and kidnappings, with hundreds of Sunni Muslims bound, gagged and shot in the head across Baghdad and surrounding towns. ~Chicago Tribune
The title above was the headline that greeted Chicagoans this morning, as the Tribune seems to have the distinction of being the first major American paper to describe the situation in Iraq unequivocally as a civil war in its news coverage. No longer are journalists simply quibbling over words at round tables on Sunday talk shows (or, more often, on NPR programs where half the contributors and most of the listeners oppose our war there anyway). If the public’s response to past foreign conflicts are any guide, the more complicated the Iraqi situation becomes and the more it becomes a question of our keeping warring factions from fighting each other the less support the war in Iraq will have at home.
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Argh, I can’t help myself! I have a preliminary thought, subject to much revision. Ryn makes much of incarnation and synthesis, and, apparently, of the Incarnation as an example of synthesis. Which comes first for him, synthesis or Incarnation? If the former, then he strikes me as, ultimately, a polytheist opposed both to Judaism and Christianity, on the one hand, and to philosophy as Strauss understood it, on the other. ~Joseph Knippenberg
Why, oh, why won’t these people stop? Happily Mr. Knippenberg will be putting these remarks through “much revision,” because they certainly need it. No word yet on whether accusing Prof. Ryn of polytheism and apostasy is “uncharitable.”
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Today, there are no BNP councillors in the east London borough of Barking and Dagenham. That will change. The BNP says that it expects to win 12 seats — almost one quarter of the total — on 4 May. This may be too optimistic, but even the local Labour MP Jon Cruddas says that the party could pick up six seats. That would be enough to make the BNP the second largest party on the council. The Tories and the Lib Dems are nowhere. It’s a straight BNP–Labour fight.
Labour voters are switching to the BNP in large numbers because they believe that only the BNP articulates what they are thinking. This is a story being repeated up and down Britain in local elections — Leeds, Burnley, Keighley, Dewsbury. Racist politics is on the march. Today’s BNP possesses the local campaigning skills and ability to make a personal connection with the voter that mainstream parties have forgotten. In a recent council election in Amber Valley, Derbyshire, literature was produced street by street. The BNP promised to remove the graffiti outside No. 23, shift the problem neighbours in No. 56, etc. The Barking and Dagenham Patriot, distributed by BNP workers, also plays brutally on local fears. ~The Spectator (registration required)
Via John Derbyshire
Of course runaway and arrogant elites invite populist backlashes. ~Jonah Goldberg
I love immigrants from all places, of all colors, ages and backgrounds. But my feelings are particularly strong toward Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants, and when I think of why, two things come to mind. One is that most of them are Catholic, which for me means that for all our differences in language and experience I share with them the biggest essential. They love Our Lady of Guadalupe and so do I. They know Jesus. You don’t get more basic than one’s deepest beliefs, one’s understanding of the truest facts of life. So Mexican immigrants are more like me than some of my neighbors are, and in my heart I don’t see them as immigrants but cousins. (I am aware it is a faux pas to admit this. In the modern world we’re not supposed to like our own. Sorry.) ~Peggy Noonan
I think Ms. Noonan’s rebellion against “the modern world” is just fine. There should be more of liking “our own,” provided we know what we’re talking about. Engaging in xenophilia and pretending that people who are in most respects unlike yourself are your “cousins” is not the right place to start. Ms. Noonan happens to have come out against illegal immigration in the past, and has made fairly bold moves, considering her position as a regular WSJ contributor, in calling for such crazy things as enforcement of the laws. But the bulk of her article is such a confused mish-mash of sentiment and misinformation that someone who does not have firm and clear ideas about immigration policy will come away thinking, “Gosh, they’re such great people, they love America, and they’re virtually our cousins, so why not let them all in?” But this is not only a choice between letting in all those nice, young “cousins” of Ms. Noonan and enforcing the laws. It is a choice between imagining that legions of Mexicans and Latin Americans are basically just like us and will, given time and the right incentives, fit right in (despite their tremendous strength in numbers and close connections to their home countries) and rejecting this sort of wishful thinking to remember certain basic traits about what continues to be our predominantly Anglo-American culture that these immigrants, when they come here en masse in such numbers, are not going to adopt. Why won’t they? Because they will see no need to, because there will be no disadvantages in not doing so, and the many Peggy Noonans around the country who get weepy at the sight of Mexican Catholics will have no stomach for doing the things needed to push them to assimilate and acculturate (indeed, without the latter, the former doesn’t even really happen).
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And yet—to anticipate the thesis of the essays I am working on—the massive immigration of Mexicans to the United States will be our final undoing. There are several reasons for this, some of them as obvious as the fact that most of the immigrants come from this poorest, least-educated, least “Europeanized” segments of Mexican society. Others are more subtle. Let us grant the most extravagant claims for the virtues of the Mexicans—and the more I see of Mexico the more I am wiling to grant them. Nonetheless, these virtues are, for the most part, not quite our virtues (such as remain to us), and even where we use the same language, we mean something different by such terms as courage, honor, manliness, chastity, and marital fidelity. They are Latin and Indian—brave, Stoical, and passionate—but they also exhibit a tendency toward irrational violence, inertia, and erotic melodrama. Octavo Paz, in his famous musings on the “Pachuco” phenomenon, thought Anglo-Americans were frightened by these dandy hoodlums. Perhaps we were not frightened, but we were and are profoundly disturbed by a people far more alien than any European. ~Thomas Fleming
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Fleming and Scott Richert in Rockford about this, among many other things, and I found Dr. Fleming’s impressions of Mexico very instructive. A long-time New Mexican, I have never gone to Mexico, mainly because I never saw much reason to go, so these impressions were very helpful in fleshing out a picture of what Mexico is like today. I highly recommend the entire article.
The Bush administration has demonstrated, in too many ways, that it’s better at starting fights than finishing them. It shouldn’t make that same mistake again. Threats of war will be more convincing if they come slowly and reluctantly, when it has become clear that truly there is no other choice. ~David Ignatius, The Washington Post
While I have been preoccupied with fairly fruitless arguments, some other bloggers have been doing some excellent work on questions of more immediate importance.
Also on immigration, Chris Roach at Brainwash has an excellent post noting the political consequences of the last great, pre-1965 wave of immigration that resulted in the radicalisation and leftwards drift of our entire political life. Or to put it another way: if that wave gave us FDR, what sort of politics will this wave give us?
Leon Wolf, my colleague at Enchiridion Militis, the other blog to which I contribute, has some thoughtful comments for this Western Holy Week on the wayward, self-serving spirit in all too many American churches.
On a slightly more academic note, Edward Feser at Right Reason announces the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Hayek.
Judges began checking tens of thousands of contested ballots Thursday, as Italian politics was thrown into turmoil after Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s demand for a recount of rival Romano Prodi’s narrow parliamentary election victory.
Official returns gave Prodi’s center-left coalition the majority in both houses of parliament in the April 9-10 elections but the margin was a mere 25,000 votes in lower Chamber of Deputies. ~ABC News
Schroeder and the SDP’s defeat in the German elections last year was not as close as Berlusconi’s loss in this case, but he did briefly put on a show of not acknowledging his defeat. Berlusconi, always more of a showman, will make the post-election controversy into a surreal circus worthy of a Fellini movie. I will be fairly disappointed if he steps aside gracefully at this point–it would be so out of character!
It does appear that his coalition partners are embarrassed enough by all of this to move away from his claims publicly.
I really should apologise. One simple question of mine has unleashed an avalanche of nonsense on the reading public, and there seems to be no stopping it. So much for my offer of a cease-fire. On the plus side, it did confirm Prof. Ryn’s claims and provide him with an opportunity to explain his position again.
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You offered us your teachings as fruits of everlasting freshness,
To sweeten the hearts of those who receive them with attention.
O blessed and wise John, they are the rungs of a ladder,
Leading the souls of those who honor you
from earth to Eternal glory in Heaven!
With natural right now created by tradition, it was only one small step for the West to move into Historicism ― and, hence, progressivism. As much as traditionalists like to distance themselves from big-government progressives, their underlying assumptions are identical. ~K.M. Walker
Well, in fact, no, they are not identical. The “underlying assumptions” of traditionalists and progressives are just about as far removed from one another as can be imagined. Those minimally versed in political philosophy will have learned this in high school.
But I don’t know why Mr. Walker has such an animus against “big-government progressives,” since Claremont’s hero, Lincoln, was the first of these to be President and did more to expand the scale and scope of the federal government than any other president in his century, and he allegedly did so for such high-minded progressive notions as equality. K-L’s image of the Procrustean Bed as the choice instrument of leftist revolution fits rather nicely with what Mr. Lincoln did to the Republic. Progressives cannot stand the thought that someone out there somewhere is doing something that might be contradicting one of his cherished principles–they must be stopped! Decentralism, variety of habits, local differences of custom and tradition all offend the progressive mind–they must be eliminated! Using violent means allegedly to cleanse and purify a society of its traditional holdovers and unwanted heritage–such was Lincoln’s method, and such was the method of the radical French Revolutionaries. Those who wish to construct unwieldy philosophical justifications for this attitude bring the label of neo-Jacobin upon themselves with a fair amount of justice, since they seem to possess the same sort of mind with respect to established institutions and traditional authorities.
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Here is a sort of a reply to Prof. Ryn’s recent answer to the Claremont brigades. To sum up, Mr. Voegeli seems to hold that for someone to believe that transcendent goods can only be experienced and known in particular, historically contingent forms he must also be agnostic or uncertain about the morality of slavery. As if to confirm everything Prof. Ryn has said so far, Mr. Voegeli seems to offer the alternatives of Promethean certainty and shrugging one’s shoulders in confusion. Anything less than an embrace of the modern idolatry of reason must perforce be irrational.
After all, unless you embrace those “self-evident truths,” you apparently can’t really believe in abiding truths about human dignity. You would apparently also have no recourse to any of the moral teachings of your religious tradition or any other part of the “heritage” that Mr. Voegeli finds so lacking, nor would you be able to use discernment between good and evil without scrapping your entire tradition (there can be no combination of traditional authorities and reason for those at Claremont–you must choose the latter). No relying on the human heritage, because slavery is part of the human heritage!
This, I submit, is just about the laziest answer there is. Prof. Ryn may attempt a more thorough response, but given how his attempts to reason with the Straussians have gone so far this month why would he (or anyone else) bother?
There is a historicist approach that is compatible with the notion of transhistorical order and probably even with the notion of transcendence, understood in a new way. ~Claes Ryn, “Defining Historicism,” Humanitas 11.2 (1998): 86-101
Thanks to reader Michael Keegan for sending me a copy of Prof. Ryn’s article on historicism. This presents a much more interesting view of an idea that I unfortunately first encountered by way of Karl Popper’s very odd interpretations of history and ideas in history.
On a somewhat related matter, it strikes me as particularly funny that those of us who were defending the “crunchy con” idea were frequently accused by one group of “sacralising politics” and putting too much emphasis on transcendence and the Permanent Things and now find ourselves accused on the other side of rejecting transcendent truth because we place too much importance on tradition. That suggests to me that we are probably close to the right balance, or we are at least headed in the right direction.
I ask again (and again): what is the fundamental difference between traditionalism and progressivism? I see none. ~K.M. Walker, Many Things
Mr. Walker, who seems to be playing the part of some anti-Straussian’s parody of a Straussian, is under the bizarre impression, among other things he is confused about, that Prof. DiLorenzo “and his gang” (which gang would this be?) “denounce” the “principles of the Declaration of Independence.” Anyone remotely familiar with Prof. DiLorenzo’s work would know this to be entirely false, and that it is partly on the basis of the Declaration that he indicts Lincoln as an ideologue who perverted and/or ignored the plain meaning in the Declaration’s statement concerning the “consent of the governed” because Lincoln had to have known that the logic of that idea vindicated secession and made his position untenable. I suggest the following remedy: forget esoteric readings for the time being. Just try regular reading for a little while, and see how it goes.
In light of Mr. Peterson’s attempt at offering an olive branch, I have little interest to rehash last week’s debate over Prof. Ryn’s remarks at The Remedy, but I see that they have posted Prof. Ryn’s own response. The entire response is worth reading, but here is one of the most incisive parts:
Curiously, Peterson criticizes my taking Strauss and Jaffa to task for discrediting philosophical respect for tradition and history and for regarding ahistorical reason as alone worthy of respect, but then confirms my view of them in his own explication of their ideas.
In the spirit of Lent, I hope to be able to avoid any more disputes on this question, at least for some time. Let us hope that Prof. Ryn’s corrections may bring an end to this fruitless dispute, and that there are indeed Straussians, as he says elsewhere in his response, who will not feel the need in future to resort so quickly to less than desirable debating techniques.
Thank goodness we have Garry Wills to tell us What Jesus Meant, to use the title of his latest short book, because clearly no one else has had many compelling ideas on the subject. In a New York Times editorial, Mr. Wills tells us all about it:
There is no such thing as a “Christian politics.” If it is a politics, it cannot be Christian.
All those Byzantines who kept referring to the empire as the “Christ-loving politeia” must be kicking themselves now that Garry Wills has explained things to all of us. If only St. Photios had known what Garry Wills now knows! Here’s a question: Garry Wills is Catholic (so I have read), so what does he make of a figure like St. Louis or the proposal to beatify the Austrian emperor Karl? How in the world does he reconcile his apolitical Christianity with a tradition that, on first, second and third glance, seems to make the claim that men in politics can become saints and that part of the way they do this is by carrying out their political duties in a particular way.
So what does Wills mean here? Taken in its basic sense, ta politika, those things that have to do with the life of the polis, cannot entirely exclude Christianity so long as there are Christians in the polis. On that point alone, this statement is untrue. Wills does point to the verse in the Gospel according to St. John, My Kingdom is not of this world (and I insist on using the King James translation, rather than whatever it was that Wills was using), which is equivalent to saying that the Church, where we have a foretaste of the Kingdom, is not of this world. Yes, thanks for that clarification. We had already picked up on the idea that the Mystical Body of Christ is of an entirely different order from the Post Office.
To say that Christians have nothing to do with politics in the broadest sense, and that there is not in some sense a kind of politics that is more consonant with and guided by the Gospel than others, is to become the worst kind of quietist. That there is not a vision of Christ that will neatly fit someone’s political program is obvious to serious Christians who are confronted with the programs of modern secular parties. But to say that there is no possibility of any kind of Christian politics is akin to saying there is no possibility of Chistian life and transformation.
Wills makes a classic error when he says, “We cannot do what Jesus would do because we are not divine.” That would be right, except for all the passages in Scripture that call us, on the one hand, to be perfect (now that’s a scary idea!) and on the other promise our regeneration and, as the Fathers understood, our deification, our becoming like God by grace, our adoption as sons by grace. What else does the Psalmist mean when he says, Ye shall be as gods?
That is really taking us away from the question of politics itself, but it cannot be entirely unconnected, as Wills’ denial of our ability to follow Christ because of our human frailty is a basic denial of God’s continuing work in the world as well as a denial of the efficacy of the ministrations of his own hierarchy. Indeed, the efficacy of the Church’s ministry would have to be very much in doubt if we listened to Mr. Wills. And that, one suspects, is part of his project. It isn’t simply to keep out an “institutional Jesus” from the political world, but to reject all those “institutional” forms of Christianity (including any episcopal hierarchy you’d care to name) that supposedly commit the same errors in attempting to “tame” Christ by continuing to do His work.
It is very fashionable in theological circles to say dismissive things about “institutions,” and it is true that the Church is not a mere “institution” or “religious organisation,” but that She has always had a certain kind of orderly structure with lines of authority and discipline to preserve the community of the faithful should not be in doubt, nor should it be viewed as a departure from the Lord’s teachings.
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Who says we can’t deport 12 million interlopers? I bet we could if we set our minds to it. That open border is open in both directions. ~John Derbyshire, The Corner
It puzzles me how the loose talk about “nuking Mecca” shortly after 9/11, which everyone pretty much dropped almost at once, was supposed to be horribly provocative even as rhetoric, while the proposal to actually launch a first-strike with nukes against Iran, even if we are only speaking of its military and nuclear facilities, has been openly discussed in the Western press with the sort of equanimity we reserve for talking about reforming Social Security. Surely if we think that the mere suggestion of attacking Mecca will inflame sentiments, what do we suppose actually using nukes on a Muslim country will do to radicalise the sentiments of Muslims who may dislike our government but have not yet committed themselves to attacking us? How many more Muslims will view the use of nuclear weapons against American targets as being justified?
Aside from all those pesky problems of aggression never being justifiable, and aside from the serious international repercussions of making the use of “tactical” first-strike nukes a legitimate policy option for major powers to use against their inferiors, any one of which could wind up sparking a major nuclear exchange between rival major powers, let’s just consider a smaller aspect of this insane policy, namely what the political consequences here would be.
For the next generation at least, “conservative” would be a word associated purely and simply and without any qualification with belligerence and nuclear attacks, and the GOP would truly be considered the preserve of the sort of trigger-happy maniacs who used to exist only in the perfervid imaginations of the far left. If these nuclear strikes did not result in a new war, or some even larger escalation with other nuclear powers, everyone might breathe a sigh of relief and never trust these sorts of people with power again. In a perverse way, that would be the “bright side.” More likely, this sort of “strong” stand against the “new Hitler” would be wildly popular, and Mr. Bush’s “decisiveness” would be praised to the heavens…at least until the costs it will impose on us in the future begin to hit home.
Mr Bush and others in the White House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official told Hersh. “That’s the name they’re using. They say, ‘Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?’ ”
Despite America’s public commitment to diplomacy, there is a growing belief in Washington that the only solution to the crisis is regime change. A senior Pentagon consultant said that Mr Bush believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy”.
Publicly, the US insists it remains committed to diplomacy to solve the crisis. But with Russia apparently intent on vetoing any threat of punitive action at the UN, the Bush administration is also planning for unilateral military action. Hersh repeated his claims that the US has intensified clandestine activities inside Iran, using special forces to identify targets and establish contact with anti-Teheran ethnic-minority groups. ~The Daily Telegraph
Hat tip to Daniel McCarthy
It is also one of the problems with people in power who, like Mr. Bush, have no sense of historical perspective any greater than a regular viewer of The History Channel.
Update: Thanks to Chris Roach for pointing me to this article of his on the neoconservatives and their historical obsessions.
We have no direct evidence that President Bush decided to declassify top-secret information for the sake of punishing that windbag Joe Wilson. But it looks really, really bad to me. We know he wanted to get the NIE information out to the press to counter the claims Wilson was making about Niger and yellowcake. If he was on the up and up, why did he go about it sneakily? If he had the right to declassify it, why didn’t he simply do it and come out with a press release? Why did he pass the word to Scooter Libby through VP Cheney, and have Libby sneak around speaking on double-secret background to top reporters? ~Rod Dreher, Dallas Morning Views
Although the classical and Christian view of human nature has eroded, big government still has a bad name in America. Challenging the Constitution outright remains risky. Americans attracted to the Jacobin spirit have therefore sought instead to redefine American principles so as to make them more serviceable to the will to power. They have propounded a new myth—the myth of America the Virtuous—according to which America is a unique and noble country called to remake the world in its own image. The myth provides another sweeping justification for dominating others.
An effort has been long underway to transfer American patriotism to a redefined, Jacobin-style America, seen as representing a radical break with the Western tradition. According to Harry Jaffa, “The American Revolution represented the most radical break with tradition . . . that the world had seen.” “To celebrate the American Founding is . . . to celebrate revolution.” In Jaffa’s view, the American revolution was milder perhaps than the “subsequent revolutions in France, Russia, China, Cuba, or elsewhere,” but it is, “the most radical attempt to establish a regime of liberty that the world has yet seen.” America thus reinvented is founded on ahistorical, allegedly universal principles summed up in such words as “freedom,” “equality,” and “democracy.” These principles, the new Jacobins assert, are not just for Americans; they are, as Allan Bloom insisted, “everywhere applicable”—a theme echoed today by George W Bush. ~Claes Ryn, “Which American?”
Jaffa agrees with Bork, he says, that, “the notion that the Justices of the Supreme Court may in any way alter or amend the law of the Constitution by importing into it ideas or principles drawn from outside the Constitution itself is utterly abhorrent to sound jurisprudence. Like Judge Bork, I am devoted to the principle that the Justices of the Supreme Court are bound unqualifiedly by the positive law of the Constitution, and that the positive law of the Constitution is to be understood in terms of the original intent of those who framed it and those who ratified it.” What Bork fails to understand, according to Jaffa, is that “natural-law principles are present within the Constitution, as elements of the positive law of the Constitution.” Thus, Jaffa insists that he is, like Bork, a positivist — a proponent of the view that the only function of judges is to enforce enacted law — despite being a believer in natural law. In fact, he is chasing an oxymoron, “positive natural law.”
Jaffa offers only two items of evidence in support of his implausible theory. First, his theory or something like it was asserted in the Republican Party platform of 1860, on which Abraham Lincoln ran for President. That platform, however, was another document created in an attempt to justify a non-legal or extra-legal violent action, the North’s waging war on the South to prevent its withdrawal from the Union.
I must admit to feeling, however, that my demonstrating that Jaffa’s statements are false is somehow beside the point. I can be sure at least that it will have absolutely no effect on Jaffa; he has been doing his thing for much too long to be stopped now by logic or fact. If his treatment of Bork and Rehnquist (and others) is any indication, he will consider it a sufficient and appropriate response to issue a slanderous ad hominem attack. Thomas Pangle has noted that Jaffa “seems incapable of arguing issues in moral and political theory without labeling his opponents and their views immoral.”
My difficulty with Jaffa is not that he is interested in discussing such things as “the goodness of the created universe” but that he wants to make it sound as if he is discussing law. He is not a professional theologian or moral philosopher, but a political scientist who claims to instruct on constitutional law. While metaphysics and theology are beyond my ken, constitutional law is my field of professional interest. I find it necessary to point out, therefore, that it is not constitutional law — or any form of human law, law created and enforced by government officials — that he is discussing. ~Lino Graglia, National Review
My thanks to one of my readers, Ian, for tracking this article down. After reading it, I am even more of the opinion that Jaffaism is to real constitutional law what Intelligent Design-as-science is to real science. If I had any doubt about my characterisation of what Harry Jaffa thought about the Constitution, it has been erased. In addition to being wrong about how the Constitution should be understood and interpreted (his own “incorporation” doctrine is even more laughable than the better-known, incorrect doctrine of the same name), this theory would empower the Supreme Court as high priests who interpret the meaning of natural law as revealed through the quasi-scripture of the Constitution. Not only does this have nothing to do with the ideas of the Founding Fathers concerning the role of the Court and the intent behind the Constitution, it is a positively dangerous intellectual justification for modern judicial tyranny or indeed an abuse of power by any branch of government that takes upon itself the mantle of Defender of the Faith of the Declaration. That Lincoln was the one who made this nonsense prominent and put it into a kind of action fits perfectly with Jaffa’s general logic of apologising for that tyrant. It explains why he would twist the Constitution to fit his scheme, because that is just what his hero did as it suited him. That is a kind of Jacobinism, and it is a kind that all real conservatives will always and everywhere oppose as the ideology of usurpation that it is.
4. Jacobin ideologues have unquestioning faith in their own moral superiority. This explains why the Straussians so often behave in such a completely vulgar, mannerless, and uncivilized way whenever anyone questions any of their precepts. This is radically different from the normal state of affairs in academe where such criticism is viewed as the means of arriving at the truth through discussion and debate. It is also why the Straussians are so despised (and largely ignored) by the rest of academe.
The Straussian Jacobins are not necessarily interested in the pursuit of truth: they already know THE TRUTH. Harry Jaffa and other cult leaders have revealed it to them. That’s why they so often attempt to assassinate the character of anyone who dissents with the views of the cult leader. A case in point is the viscous and hysterical smear campaign against the late Professor Mel Bradford, a preeminent Lincoln critic, after President Reagan nominated him to head the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1981. He eventually withdrew his own nomination in disgust.
Several years later, in an article entitled “Against Lincoln: A Speech at Gettysburg,” Professor Bradford cynically recalled how “I have found that I ‘favor slavery,’ consider it to be a ‘tenuous multiracial experiment’ yet to receive the final verdict of history, and that I censure Lincoln because of ‘what he did for racial equality.’ My reservations [about Lincoln] are described as ‘insulting to Lincoln’s idea of liberty.’ And the very errors embodied in such wild charges, requiring as they do some rejoinder, ‘prove’ that there is something wrong with my character, regardless of their implausibility. . . . I have ‘overturned the Declaration of Independence,’ called Lincoln a ‘villain,’ and argued that ‘there is no right principle of action but self interest.’ None of which can be documented from anything I have written” (emphasis added). He was also falsely accused of being a “Hitler admirer.”
What we had here was one of the first shots in the Straussian/Jacobin/neocon takeover of the old conservative movement that really did believe in limited government. Thus, Jaffa can be thought of as a sort of Iranian Mullah light. He has no ability to issue a death warrant to any Salmon Rushdies who might question or mock his “civil religion” (a coin termed by Rousseau, the ideological godfather of the French Jacobins and one of Jaffa’s favorite phrases), but he can orchestrate smear campaigns against them such as the one that was directed at Professor Bradford.
This episode, and many others like it, prove the truthfulness of another of Professor Ryn’s characteristics of a Jacobin ideologue: 5. The desire to dominate and silence one’s ideological opponents rather than engage in civilized discourse with them. ~Thomas DiLorenzo
It is probably not entirely a coincidence that Prof. DiLorenzo’s article comes on the heels of an embarrassing string of attacks on Prof. Claes Ryn at Claremont’s blog, The Remedy. That last point in the quote pretty well reflects my experience with “debating” Straussians this week, which concluded with a warning against my Southern deviationism in a facile attempt to shut down debate or try to intimidate those who might have otherwise found the posts of Mr. Peterson less than compelling.
Prof. DiLorenzo’s references to Mel Bradford and the attacks against him are especially important for helping to distinguish conservatives, such as Dr. Bradford undoubtedly was and many of his enemies politically on “the right” were not, from the ideologues. This is not to make these distinctions a question of personalities, but to point to a gentleman and scholar who represented a venerable tradition of Southern conservatism on the one hand and the sort who would smear and insult such a man because he does not possess their unfortunate vision of American history.
The reason is that the Left sees Islam as a de facto ally—as Marxists would say, an “objective ally”—in the destruction of the vestiges of the traditional society based upon Christianity and its moral code, and traditional cultural patterns. So what they are doing is using Islam as the battering ram and as a would-be fellow-traveler, in their grand anti-Christian, Christophobic design. They hope that once they create their brave, new multiculturalist Utopia, Islam can be tamed, that soft porn and state education will convert the Muslims’ offspring to the general multiculturalist melange.
We know they’re wrong because we know that second and third-generation Muslim immigrants in Western Europe, particularly in France and Britain, are far more radical and far more Islamic-minded than their parents and grandparents. The explanation is very simple: the tepid, non-descript multiculturalist pap that is being offered by the dominant elites cannot inspire these young men and women. They need something that gives meaning to their lives, and so they fall back upon the religion of their forefathers—and once they do that, they cannot do otherwise but turn against the multiculturalist host-society. So the Leftists are making a colossal miscalculation. Far from being the clients of their future global welfare state, the Muslims—in the Western world in particular—will be the agents of revolutionary change not only against the remnants of Christianity today, but also against the secularist, multicultural Utopia of tomorrow. ~Srdja Trifkovic
This used to seem strange to me, until I began to think on it more. You see this sort of sneaky admiration for Islam or Islamic societies already creeping in among some intellectuals during the Enlightenment, where Voltaire’s praise for the “enlightened” despotism of the Sultan is probably best known: “The great Turk is governing in peace twenty nations of different religions. Turks have taught to Christians how to be moderate in peace and gentle in victory.” (As a side note, as we approach the annual day of commemorating the Armenian genocide on April 24, it is worth noting that this quote seems to be frequently pulled out of its context in Candide by Turkish nationalists and the current Turkish government to deny the slaughters of 1915-23 in a way similar to pro-Israel pundits’ uses of Mark Twain’s diary to justify the expulsion of the Palestinians by claiming erroneously that the Palestinians were the relative newcomers.)
That Ottoman “moderation” and “gentleness” were somewhat different in reality, but Voltaire’s fantasy about the Ottoman world has frequently become the Western view of the Ottoman treatment of its Christian subjects. Bat Ye’or’s study of the fate of the dhimmis in The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam has helped to correct this imbalance, but hers is by no means anything close to the consensus view in scholarship. It is essential to understanding the left’s attempts at tactical alliances with Islam against Christians. The real attraction of Islam to Western radicals is in its historic opposition to Christianity and its capacity to weaken severely or eliminate entirely Christianity in the lands where it takes hold.
We saw this on a policy level most recently and most clearly in the joint liberal and neoconservative enthusiasm for “helping” poor, victimised Muslims in choice places during the 1990s (thus the Chechens, Bosnian Muslims and Albanians in Kosovo are oppressed and in need of our aid, because they are fighting Christian nations). The fights of Muslims elsewhere seem to attract less interest, because they lack the potential to strike at places and peoples associated with Christianity (neocons shed no tears for the people of Kashmir). When the interests of Muslims and Christians conflict, it is typically the response of those on the left, including the neocons, to instinctively side with the Muslims (which they may even phrase in terms of “winning” Muslim gratitude, which has so far had a miserable track record).
The Azeris enjoy the benefits of being an oil-rich nation while also being locked in a stalemated war with Christian Armenia over Karabagh, which guarantees that Washington will continue to favour Baku as part of its general anti-Russian and anti-Iranian policy in the Caucasus. The present Islamist Turkish government (it is fashionable to call it “Islamist-based,” which is a meaningless attempt at evading what it is) receives Washington’s blessings as it seeks entry into the EU even as it engages in a weird cultural neo-Ottomanism that creates places such as this (one of the more striking symbols invoked at this consciously Ottomanist display is the bridge of Mostar in Bosnia, to affirm that the Balkans were and, by extension, should be Islamic and Turkish) and works to make the life of its few remaining Christian minorities more and more difficult. Unleashing the Islamist firestorm in Iraq and destroying the ancient Christian communities there may not have been, for some of the architects of the war, an all together unfortunate result or unexpected side-effect. Desiring to achieve the same result in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon, whether by invasion or “democracy,” seems to be a priority in the current center-left government (given the way it governs, what else can one call it?). But along with the Christians, the next to go in any new Islamic order will be the minority of secularists and leftists in those countries, just as the Euro-left will follow them into oblivion as the Islamicisation of Europe advances.
Cross-posted at Enchiridion Militis
If the American constitutional system emerged through an evolutionary process, why not see the human nature it is designed around emergent as well? And once we’ve granted that, why not just evolve it out of its own human problems through the power of an administrative state? “Human nature” is at the heart of the Neo-Jacobin problem anyway; if we’ve disregarded that and hung everything on history and experience, why not traditionalize ourselves into angels instead? ~K.M. Walker, Many Things
Via Matthew Peterson
What does one say to such statements? One might point out that history is, by definition, a process of change and development (that dreaded evolution!), and that one of the fundamental continuities of all historical experience is a common human nature that makes it at all possible to interpret past human experience. Neo-Jacobins, like many such ideologues, tend to view human nature as a universal to which they can reduce every man in all his contingency, complexity and diversity (the role of the administrative state in making this happen is fairly noticeable). This is one reason why, gentle reader, they are not conservative.
Oh, they believe in some kind of human nature in the sense of some constant or model they can measure everyone else against, I suppose, but it is not any human nature anyone has ever actually encountered in the real world. The Jacobin and neo-Jacobin urge is to eradicate distinction, diversity and anything that deviates from the archetype. But this Mr. Walker cannot even recognise that there is an alternative to this abstract Man other than some Heraclitean flux. Mr. Walker’s last sentence is ludicrous, but it reveals everything we need to know about the contempt for tradition that abides at Claremont.
Of course, there are religious traditions that propose that God makes it possible for man not only to be angelic (the monastic life) but also to become like God (deification). But that’s all very regressive and traditional and so very, very Christian. Let’s talk about the Founding instead, because that’s where the meaning of life resides.
What, exactly, do they want to conserve? ~Matthew Peterson
Hm…could it be Christian civilisation, the family, local communities, constitutional republicanism, the rule of law, American sovereignty, the best of the entirety of the venerable Greek and Christian intellectual traditions, among other things? For starters, he might refer to Chilton Williamson’s introduction to The Conservative Bookshelf to understand what “we want to conserve.”
If Mr. Peterson had more than a cursory acquaintance with the conservative intellectual tradition, as his remarks this week suggest he has little more than that, he would already know what we want to conserve, because the older luminaries of that tradition have already told him. In this, as in my life in the Orthodox Church, I strive to embody the principle stated by St. John of Damaskos: “I say nothing of my own.” That seems a far more secure path to travel than whatever it is that goes on at the Claremont Institute.
At a loss for anything else to say, Mr. Peterson at Claremont’s blog has pointed to my approving link to the League of the South and misrepresented my statements to claim that I “[disagree] with the Declaration of Independence,” whatever that is supposed to mean. I disagree with parts of it, because I regard some of its philosophical claims as untrue, as did no less an estimable Founder than Gouverneur Morris (who found its affirmation of equality and its neglect of property rights disturbing), but Mr. Peterson would be well advised to note that this actually puts me out of sympathy with the League of the South, which is nothing if not firmly, undeniably Jeffersonian in its inclinations. Someone engaged in something more than an attempted smear job would have noticed that.
The League of the South is a reputable organisation dedicated to the very same principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and, unlike some, actually takes the reference in that document to the “consent of the governed” seriously. They reserve the right to withdraw their consent, just as their ancestors did and Jefferson did before them. I may find the underlying notion of “consent of the governed” to be an invention of philosophers and not a true statement about the origin of government, but I certainly prefer opponents of consolidated government to those who laud the authors of usurpation. Mr. Peterson regards the ideas of the antebellum South as “radically modern,” which suggests that Mr. Peterson does not know very much about the Southern intellectual tradition or indeed the political philosophy of half of the Founders whose “Founding” he claims to adore. No doubt he would regard much of European conservatism, with which the Southern tradition has some affinities, as “radically modern.” I leave it to the readers to judge whether this is a well-informed judgement of 19th century conservative political thought.
I have never made any secret of my membership in the League of the South, and the link to its site has been up ever since Eunomia first started, so I have to assume Mr. Peterson’s sudden discovery of this fact stems from a complete lack of anything else to say. I have previously defended them once before on this blog when critics of Prof. Tom Woods thought they could make some hay by pointing to his association with the same organisation in a pitiful attempt to discredit his new book on American history.
Mr. Peterson has entitled his post “Crunch With Caution.” The message to “the crunchies” is not subtle: beware of the people who actually share your view of the world because of associations they have that we, who mostly mock and belittle your ideas, find unworthy or unpalatable. Of course, self-identifying “crunchies” and their friends can repudiate me if they so desire, and that is their prerogative if they feel that my approval of a group that happens to affirm the fundamental principles of the Declaration of Independence while also affirming a distinctive Southern culture and the right to self-government mars or tarnishes their association with me, but how desperate must Mr. Peterson be that he has to resort to a vain attempt at what he thinks is proving some kind of guilt by association?
…but I actually agree with Andrew Sullivan when he writes this:
The bottom line is that the president clearly used his prerogative to classify and declassify intelligence data to leak selectively to the press to give a misleading notion of what his own government believed about Saddam’s WMDs before the war. He was personally involved; and he tasked his veep to coordinate it. The most plausible explanation is that the president believes grave national security prerogatives can be used for political purposes and/or that he had something embarrassing to hide. Bottom bottom line: we can’t trust him to be fully honest with us on one of the bases on which he led us to war. That matters, doesn’t it?
“These numbers are scary. We’ve lost every advantage we’ve ever had,” GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio said. “The good news is Democrats don’t have much of a plan. The bad news is they may not need one.” ~MSNBC
When my dad and I talk about politics, which is fairly often, he reminds me of the old adage that “you can’t beat somebody with nobody.” That’s undoubtedly true. But maybe you can beat an incompetent somebody with a ridiculous nonentity. Hey, if it can work for Bush…
Speaking of Mr. Bush, here are some interesting numbers to look over:
Only 40 percent of the public approves of Bush’s performance on foreign policy and the war on terror, another low-water mark for his presidency. That’s down 9 points from a year ago. Just before the 2002 election, 64 percent of registered voters backed Bush on terror and foreign policy.
The GOP in Congress doesn’t fare any better:
By a 49-33 margin, the public favors Democrats over Republicans when asked which party should control Congress.
That 16-point Democratic advantage is the largest the party has enjoyed in AP-Ipsos polling.
Now being the party of immigration and Dubai is beginning to wear thin even with men, the dedicated core of regular GOP voters:
On an issue the GOP has dominated for decades, Republicans are now locked in a tie with Democrats — 41 percent each — on the question of which party people trust to protect the country. Democrats made their biggest national security gains among young men, according to the AP-Ipsos poll, which had a 3 percentage point margin of error.
US legal experts say that President George Bush had the unquestionable authority to approve the disclosure of secret CIA information to reporters, but added that the leak was highly unusual and amounted to using sensitive intelligence data for political gain.
“It is a question of whether the classified National Intelligence Estimate was used for domestic political purposes,” said Jeffrey Smith, a Washington lawyer who formerly served as general counsel for the CIA.
The experts also said that if the claim by Libby proved correct, Mr Bush’s actions would have violated a traditional, unwritten understanding that any declassification decision would be made in close consultation with intelligence officials.
“He doesn’t have a legal obligation to check with the CIA, but he certainly has a professional obligation to check with the CIA,” said Mr Smith, the agency’s former general counsel. ~Sydney Morning Herald
While I was at the bookstore getting my Savonarola book, I picked up a copy of the March/April issue of Foreign Policy, even though much of it is online here. The reason for getting it was that it contains Philip Longman’s frequently mentioned article on demographic trends and the likely rise of patriarchy in the future, “The Return of Patriarchy,” and I will be trying to string together a few comments about his article when I get a chance.
Here is some interesting news I discovered this morning: there is a new Savonarola book that has been published this year. It is called The Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence by Lauro Martines, and its dust jacket tells us that Prof. Martines offers a different, more sympathetic account for the 15th century Dominican friar of “bonfire of the vanities” fame.
There are possible pitfalls in any revisionist account of the friar’s career, which fall into the categories of the painfully anachronictic “forerunner of the Reformation” mythology with which Savonarola used to be more directly associated and the equally anachronistic “tribune of the people” or “voice of the oppressed” sort of interpretation that Marxists and postmodernists alike tend to apply to any “dissident” figure in pre-modern history. I am fairly hopeful that this will be neither, and will instead challenge the simplistic depiction of Savonarola as fanatic and demagogue and will attempt to understand the man in the context of his time and give a full accounting of the different aspects of his character and career. This will probably not make him out to be a saint, as some Dominicans have tried to make him out to be over the years, but it should show him as something more than the stereotype of a terrifying theocrat from Damon Linker’s nightmares. Those better versed in Italian history are in a better position to judge whether Prof. Martines has succeeded with this work, but I will offer my own meager assessment from my perspective as a student of another field of history once I have had a chance to read it.
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Anyhow, the contradiction of the day is this: if the ideas of Leo Strauss and Harry Jaffa are somehow behind the Bush doctrine and the Iraq war, why are Harry Jaffa and so many of his students critical of the Bush doctrine and the Iraq war? While many students of Strauss happen to agree that the conflict in Iraq was necessary or justified on the basis of national security, this is a prudential argument, not a philosophic one. When it comes to the philosophic argument that democracy, in a radical and unqualified sense, is inherently good, right, and true and ought to be exported by force throughout the world—well, of course this is a dangerous idea, and this is exactly what Professor Jaffa and many of his students have argued against. ~Matthew Peterson
Mr. Peterson casts Prof. Ryn’s distinction of conservative and neo-Jacobin, and Ryn’s criticism of Jaffa and Strauss, strictly in terms of the Iraq war, which is not entirely correct. These are connected, but not nearly as simply as Mr. Peterson claims. He seems to imagine that if he can show that Harry Jaffa and others at Claremont have expressed reservations about the more lunatic aspects of current policy in the Near East, then he will have acquitted them of the charge of neo-Jacobinism. Alas, no.
Mr. Peterson goes down this road because he misunderstands Prof. Ryn, and actually does not seem interested in understanding. What is the connection Prof. Ryn actually makes between Straussian ideology and the disastrous foreign policy unfolding before us? He tells us here (hat tip to Daniel McCarthy for pointing out this article):
Led by the Straussians, neoconservatives have long tried to transfer the patriotism of Americans from their historically formed society to the ideological America more to the neoconservatives’ liking. They have tried to make the so-called Founding, including the work of the framers of the Constitution, seem the implementation of an ahistorical idea conceived by anti-traditional lawgivers. In recent decades the neoconservatives have even tried, with considerable success, to redefine American conservatism accordingly. Far-fetched though it may sound, they have, in effect, persuaded many Americans of limited education to think of conservatism as celebrating a radical understanding of America. Irving Kristol’s son William has long argued that, for America to be able to carry out its universalist ideological mission in the world, American government must have great military and other governmental might.
So we see that he charges the Straussians with offering a flawed, ideological interpretation of the early republican period that has paved the way for others who view America as an ideological or propositional nation with a similarly ideological mission in world history. If the Straussians are not exactly the terrible simplifiers that have been let loose on the world, they have helped create the intellectual atmosphere that makes the terrible simplifiers not only somewhat credible but acceptable as conservatives. Which, of course, they are not.
Mr. Peterson makes a lot of other hot-headed and false claims about what we supposedly confused “neo-traditionalists” believe, to which I may return later, though I suspect any answer I give would only result in an even more contemptuous reply. My short answer to some would be: Lincoln was a tyrant, as anyone who actually respects the Constitution could admit without shame, and the Declaration of Independence does indeed make some philosophical claims that are not, or are not necessarily, true. Against Prof. Ryn he makes the charges that he made “sloppy, misleading, and unprofessional remarks” in his talk in Philadelphia. That’s quite a charge, and he hasn’t even come close to backing it up. If Mr. Peterson wants to see what sloppy, misleading and unprofessional looks like, he can re-read his most recent post.
Over the weekend, the Philadelphia Society held its annual meeting. Michael Dougherty was there for practically all of it, and gives his account of his experience here. He tells some interesting stories about the people there, his encounters with them and his impressions of the different talks. At the Society meeting, Prof. Claes Ryn gave a talk that was not all together irenic (”the neo-Jacobins should have been flushed out long ago,” he concludes) to Leo Strauss, Harry Jaffa and the neo-Jacobins. This week, I noticed that the talk was available online via LewRockwell.com, cited from it and pointed to a quote critical of the Straussian idea of “the Founding”:
They love to speak of the “Founding,” because that term suggests that America does not have historical origins but emerged afresh from enlightened minds.
On the whole, nothing that anyone at The Remedy, the Claremont blog, has said so far tells me that this characterisation of their idea of “the Founding” is fundamentally wrong. Alerted to the Claremont rhetoric surrounding “the Founding” (the use of quotes, for those who were annoyed by them, is not to ridicule the Founding Fathers or their work, but to emphasise the peculiar use of the phrase that is specific to Claremont) in an earlier argument with Mr. Peterson of the Claremont Institute, I wondered what he would make of this critique of one of Claremont’s favourites, Harry Jaffa. Well, he didn’t wait long to tell me. Since then, it has spread to The Corner and now Daniel McCarthy has also offered his comments, which are far more informed and insightful about Strauss than anything I could have hoped to write about him.
Jaffa, I am reliably told, has written about the Constitution. About that I have little doubt, and if his writings on the Constitution are anywhere as bad as his writings on Lincoln I will strive to avoid them in future. And I don’t think I claimed that “Founding” enthusiasts didn’t talk about the Constitution. I did say that the enthusiasm for “the Founding,” whether as Lincoln’s mystical compact of Union before the states (historically wrong), the providential reconciliation of Reason and Revelation (slightly bizarre) or the creation of a “regime based on truth” (vague and potentially very dangerous) does not extend to enthusiasm for the Constitution (certainly not as it is written, and certainly not as it was originally understood), the rights of Englishmen (which are the only actual “rights” the colonists possessed and the only basis on which most patriots based their resistance to the excesses of Crown and Parliament) or the limited institutions established by the Constitution. Their delight in choice phrases of the Declaration of Independence as the font of truth tends to confirm this relative disdain for the Constitution. Noting that Jaffa has written about the Constitution is supposed to make up for the ahistorical, ideological way he writes about it and other things, but it does not.
These are sentences that could have been written by any thoughtful conservative or traditional (ancient or Christian) student of truth. But then the crazy talk begins:
The Jacobin suffers from no such humility. Who needs history when there are universal principles that are also self-evident? It’s all so clear. Traditions are but historical accidents, props for old elites that should be replaced by the enlightened and virtuous, people like him. Leo Strauss and his disciples have taught us to disdain “the ancestral” and heed only principles of reason.
Just these five sentences give us plenty to refute. Four quick points:
First, Leo Strauss is one of the key figures responsible for bringing back the serious study of ancient and Christian political philosophy over the last 100 years. This is a simple fact, accepted by those who completely disagree with Strauss and all of his students. Modern political science rejected the traditional study of politics, but Strauss sought to return to it.
Second, ancient and Christian traditional political philosophy, as opposed to modern political science, is concerned above all with what is good, right and true, not with what is ancestral or cultural. It doesn’t make much sense to blame Leo Strauss for what traditional political philosophy actually argued.
Third, to say that Leo Strauss, who is likely most famous for his claim, contra many modern thinkers, that reason is unable to disprove the claims of revelation, would have us heed “only the principle of reason” is manifestly absurd.
Fourth, we live in a regime where our tradition itself proclaims that it is based on truth. Either one thinks, given our particular historical circumstances, that what the Founders proposed is good and true, based on both reality and the transcendant (reason and revelation), or one rejects the founding. Either way, of course, you must give an argument if you want to do more than babble.
Dr. Ryn, I suppose, would have been happy to rid Athens of that pesky Socrates, who dared judge tradition by means of human reason. I suppose that Plato must have been the ultimate Jacobin, what with his obsessive striving to know what The Good truly is combined with his constant meddling in the politics of his day based on his radical, reason-based doctrines. And what about the Jacobinical screeds of Aristotle, who dared to argue about what the best possible regime might look like—even to the point of reasoning about the comparative merits of “the ancestral” in different nations? We will leave aside the likes of that arch-Jacobite [sic], Thomas Aquinas, who dared to use dirty human reason to say things about God himself. Of course, the ultimate Jacobinical political statement must be the Declaration of Independence, which makes some very specific claims about universal, self-evident principles. ~Matthew Peterson, The Remedy
The other day I asked what Mr. Peterson would make of Prof. Ryn’s remarks on “the Founding,” and now I get an idea. I suppose the attacks on Jaffa and Strauss were bound to elicit a response from the folks at Claremont, but I admit that it came more quickly and was a little more aggrieved (Mr. Peterson refers to it as a “rant”) than I expected. I see that it is called “Claes Ryn’s Cartoon Conservatism I,” so we can expect more installments along the same lines.
So, according to Mr. Peterson, Prof. Ryn’s conservatism is “cartoon conservatism.” Not really sure where that came from, but there it is. Cartoonish, apparently, because Prof. Ryn has cast doubt on “universal principles” perceived by unaided reason or questioned the wisdom of “principles” divorced from the lessons of historical experience? I can think of things one could call this, but “cartoon” is not one of them. The core of Prof. Ryn’s distinction between conservatives and Jacobins (or neo-Jacobins) may be found in this description of the conservative attitude towards how knowledge of the truth should be applied:
To feel obligated to look for and to do the right thing is not the same as to know just what it is in particular circumstances. The complexity and unpredictability of life disincline the conservatives to sweeping, categorical assertions.
Hence the importance of experience, history, tradition, all of which serve as guides to help a person possess some greater certainty about how to be just and how to live well. That this is more desirable than reinventing the wheel or remaking the world with the fashionable conceits of one or two or even ten generations should be plain.
I don’t propose to dispute about what Leo Strauss did or did not say, as this is an area in which I generally have little competence. In spite of being at U. of Chicago, my desire to read Leo Strauss has ranged between nil and zero, and consequently I am familiar with his ideas only at second hand through the Straussians at Claremont. Incidentally, I do not consider myself the worse for having neglected these readings.
Mr. Peterson says:
Third, to say that Leo Strauss, who is likely most famous for his claim, contra many modern thinkers, that reason is unable to disprove the claims of revelation, would have us heed “only the principle of reason” is manifestly absurd.
If someone claims that reason cannot disprove the claims of revelation, he has done nothing other than take a rational and empirical agnostic stand on the claims of revelation. He has admitted that there are things he cannot know by means of reason–this is not to say that anyone can know them by other means, or that, knowing them, anyone should do anything about what he has discovered.
He has neither endorsed nor rejected those claims and their content, and he has made no recommendations on how to make use of that content. Perhaps elsewhere Strauss affirms that we must embrace the claims of revelation as a function of an intellectual or spiritual faculty greater than reason, but as it stands here Strauss’ acceptance of the limitations of reason does not prove that he heeds anything other than reason as an authority or guide. If he then heeded nothing other than reason, he would have some famous company with many Enlightenment philosophers and their modern epigones, but his possession of a fully “conservative mind” would be less certain.
Dr. Paul Gottfried’s discussion of Leo Strauss’ thought a few years back in Chronicles leaves me with the impression that Strauss may be making claims in this area that are more involved than the call to “heed only the principles of reason.” Then again, he may be making just that claim. But Prof. Ryn also says that he said that we should disdain “the ancestral”–now, is this a true claim, or not? My sense, if Straussians are any measure of what Strauss believed (though I should note that Dr. Gottfried made a point of distinguishing between the two very clearly), is that this is true about Strauss, which creates a serious problem for a conservative.
Mr. Peterson tells us elsewhere in his post that philosophy has undertaken to investigate primarily the Good, True and Beautiful, not the “ancestral” and the “cultural.”
Second, ancient and Christian traditional political philosophy, as opposed to modern political science, is concerned above all with what is good, right and true, not with what is ancestral or cultural.
Of course, Mr. Peterson seemed less than enthused about investigations into the same in his comments on the “crunchy con” phenomenon, but let us set that aside for a moment. All philosophy is primarily concerned, broadly speaking, with truth. One will labour in vain to find Prof. Ryn suggesting otherwise anywhere in his talk or his other writings. Surely we can all see that Prof. Ryn is making claims of truth, and that he claims that the Jacobins, as he calls them, have an insufficient grasp of truth.
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Now at The New Pantagruel, Patrick O’Hannigan writes on Theocracy as a Parlor Game and Gavin Miller writes an obituary for naturalist John Livingston, and there is also poetry from David Wright and Mike Hickerson.
Mr. O’Hannigan’s exercise in imagining the face of a very unlikely American theocracy is a valuable antidote to the hysteria now gripping Kevin Phillips’ and Damon Linker’s minds about theocrats and theocons on the march.
Oct. 7, 2003: “I’ve constantly expressed my displeasure with leaks, particularly leaks of classified information.”
Sept. 30, 2003: “There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. …” ~ABC News, quoting George W. Bush
Fellow blogger Chris Roach makes the valid point that what Mr. Bush did was in all likelihood legal and was not exactly a “leak” in the usual sense, because it received authorisation from the top. Yes, the President has the authority to declassify documents. But I would be interested in hearing which previous administrations declassified something and then shuffled it on over to a newspaper to use that newspaper as a front in its propaganda to start a war. Put that way, it doesn’t sound so innocuous.
I’d like to hear from defenders of the President if they think it is desirable that the executive uses his power to declassify sensitive information to manipulate domestic press coverage of a question of national security, and I think we’d all like to know just what sensitive information Mr. Bush authorised his underlings to relay to The New York Times. It would be especially interesting to know if the information in question was even confirmed or verified, or if it was another one of the single-sourced, shoddy pieces of intel that the administration and the press routinely treated as “fact” before the invasion of Iraq. If declassifying this information was unobjectionable and perfectly above board, why not use it publicly and directly themselves in the debate about whether to invade? Why slip it to the “paper of record” instead, unless it was aimed at pushing shoddy or false information into the public debate through an ostensibly reputable news source (remember that this was the era at the Times of Jayson Blair and Judith Miller, Friend of Chalabi)? Maybe I’m too cynical about this crowd, but after everything we have seen from them who wouldn’t be cynical?
For those inquiring minds who wanted to know what Eliot “Don’t Ever, Ever Listen to the Generals in Wartime” Cohen thought about Profs. Mearsheimer and Walt’s article, “The Israel Lobby,” they had their chance in a scurrilous attack piece in the Post (Clark Stooksbury refers to it as a “shoddy hit job,” which is even more apt). Entitled, “Yes, It’s Anti-Semitic,” in case anyone might miss this point in what followed, Prof. Cohen begins by invoking David Duke’s endorsement of the study as some sort of proof for the study’s anti-Semitism. If everything David Duke endorsed was thereby proven to be anti-Semitic, we might find a great many very ordinary things placed on the Index of Forbidden Thoughts and Items. Of course, the Post plays regular host to Charles Krauthammer, who believed it was axiomatic that The Passion of the Christ was an irredeemable heap of anti-Semitic garbage, so there’s no surprise that a scurrilous screed would make its way onto their op-ed pages when it is time to denounce falsely the latest iteration of anti-Semite.
Cohen’s attack has to be an all-time speed record in a race to the intellectual bottom (sorry, Max Boot, but I think you’ve lost that particular competition) and the fastest that anyone has abandoned any pretense of reasoned debate. Usually it starts with some anecdote about how academics should not resort to libeling opponents and engaging in ad hominem attacks…right before proceeding to libel his opponents and engaging in ad hominem attacks. Prof. Cohen skips the formalities and jumps right in:
The Iraq war stemmed from The Lobby’s conception of Israel’s interest — yet, oddly, the war attracted the support of anti-Israel intellectuals such as Christopher Hitchens and mainstream publications such as The Economist. America’s anti-Iran policy reflects the dictates of The Lobby — but how to explain Europe’s equally strong opposition to Iranian nuclear ambitions?
If Profs. Mearsheimer and Walt had engaged in “piss poor monocausal social science,” as their colleague, Prof. Daniel Drezner, has maintained, it might be telling to point out other contributing factors and causes to show where the authors missed something important. But that is not what they did. The authors did not maintain that there were no other factors in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, but that it is only through the decisive influence of what they called “the Lobby” (shorthand for a congery of various pro-Israel groups and interests) that America has been as involved in the Middle East in the distinctly and overwhelmingly pro-Israel way that it has been involved. Pointing out other supporters for the invasion of Iraq as some of positive proof against the reality of pro-Israel activists who pushed for the invasion simply makes no sense. Prof. Cohen has surely heard the adage that politics makes strange bedfellows, and so there is nothing surprising about a given policy having supporters from a number of different sources. That does not tell us why a given policy is adopted or who is most responsible for pushing it. Here’s a question for Prof. Cohen: if David Duke had supported the invasion of Iraq, would that have made the war anti-Semitic and also bad for Israel?
Surely, if we are engaged in a serious investigation (and Prof. Cohen here clearly is not), we would need to weigh the relative influence of Christopher Hitchens, The Economist and the variegated interests, individuals and groups that “the Lobby” includes on the decision to go to war. Who has more influence on Middle East policy in Washington, the anti-Zionist Chris Hitchens, the “mainstream” Economist or the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC? Profs. Mearsheimer and Walt were crazy enough to answer that the latter has more influence, and indeed together with its many fellow pro-Israel groups and individuals it has more effective influence on U.S. foreign policy than any other “Lobby,” broadly defined.
Prof. Cohen invokes as proof that the paper used anti-Semitic canards any claim that would align The Washington Times and The New York Times, to cite one pairing, on a question of foreign policy, as if there has not been a pro-Israel and an internationalist-cum-interventionist consensus on both sides of the aisle and in both these newspapers specifically for years. Why, Brookings and AEI couldn’t agree on something in foreign policy! That would be crazy. That would be like The Weekly Standard and The New Republic both endorsing the bombing of Yugoslavia and the invasion of Iraq…oh, wait, that did happen. Probably mentioning those two magazines in the same sentence is in itself supposed to be vaguely anti-Semitic.
Brookings and AEI have agreed, in broad terms, on Iraq policy for over a decade and have both been more or less pro-Israel for just as long. This ardent support for Israel, which one sees on a regular basis in both the WSJ and NYT, and in major outlets of the conservative and liberal media, is what affiliates these institutions with “the Lobby.” That is one of the most important criteria of being in “the Lobby.” Someone, I implore you, please make a credible case for why this unparalleled support for a small, relatively irrelevant country is in the national interest! Oh, that’s right, there isn’t one. So supporters of Israel must resort to this increasingly tired accusation that no longer has any credibility.
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President Bush authorised the leak of secret intelligence to the New York Times to help defend the war in Iraq, a former top White House aide has said.
The claim comes from Lewis Libby, the former chief-of-staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney.
Mr Libby is facing trial for allegedly obstructing an investigation into a different leak. ~BBC News
Will the myriad witless pundits who wanted to prosecute the leaker for revealing state secrets regarding domestic surveillance be out for Mr. Bush’s blood now that he has colluded with them in “endangering national security”? Yeah, I didn’t think so. After all, he was leaking secret information to help start a war, which is perfectly acceptable.
If this is a compromise, what on earth would a surrender look like?
Details of the latest bi-partisan version of the Senate immigration bill are still coming out, but early reports suggest that any illegal immigrant who has been in the U.S. for five or more years would be on an immediate path to citizenship if the bill finally becomes law with that provision. How can anyone possibly argue that is not an amnesty?
But the amnesties don’t end there. Illegal immigrants here between two and five years get to “leave the country” by visiting a U.S. international airport, walking through the immigration line (”How many days have you been out of the country?” “Er, fifteen minutues.”), and then embarking on their own path to citizenship. Illegal immigrants here for two year or less have to go home and come back really–something many of them do now for vacations.
But we are assured that these things are not amnesties since getting to full citizenship will require some effort–learning English etc. I am reminded of Malcolm Bradbury’s remark about a poor state university: “You have to pass an intelligence test to go there–you have to be able to find out where it is.”
The apparent principle underlying these proposals are that the longer and more comprehensively you have broken the law, the better deal you will get from the federal government. But everyone illegal has won and all shall have prizes.
I can see why the Democrats favor such a bill. It is a giant Democratic voter registration scheme paid for by the federal government. Maybe this one action will save them electorally from all their other follies. But the Republicans are voting for their own marginalization–in the long term because they are importing low paid workers likely to vote Democrat; in the short term by ensuring that the continuing battles over this legislation (with noises off coming from illegal immigrant demos sheltering under the Mexican flag) will drive their base ever more nuts as the election approaches. ~John Derbyshire, The Corner
In other words, the Senate will act on the following logic: In order to have fewer immigrants, we must admit more of them. In order to halt illegal immigration, we must legalize it. And in order to enforce the law, we must reward those who have broken it.
The illegal-immigration lobby has not been keen to estimate the costs of this imported poverty. But a Barrons’s writer compared the likely economic impact of amnesty alone to the costs of importing East Germany into the U.S. economy.
Far from living “in the shadows,” as President Bush piously remarked, the demonstrators occupied the public square in their thousands. Though asked by the politically cautious organizers to bring along only American flags, half the flags they waved were Mexican. They brandished placards and shouted slogans accusing the United States of stealing their land. In these and other ways they showed loyalty to other sovereign states while demanding the rights of U.S. citizens to which they were not in fact entitled.
The right wing hates this movie, and it isn’t hard to see why: it explodes all their pretensions about being the party of “freedom,” and it pretty clearly parallels the hypocritical cant of the War Party as it pretends to battle “terrorism” while engaging in a campaign of state terrorism that far surpasses anything a small band of amateurs could possibly hope to dish out. They must find particularly galling a subplot in which evidence emerges that a deadly series of biowarfare attacks attributed to “religious fanatics” (and we don’t mean George W. Bush and Jerry Falwell) turn out to be the work of a sinister cabal inside the government – the perfect excuse for a crackdown. All of this – economic collapse, political turmoil, the dictatorship of “the Party” – is clearly identified in the film as the product of a series of wars, stretching from Iraq to Syria to Iran and beyond. I was particularly intrigued by references to “the former United States of America,” and hints of a future history in which imperialism has drained the once mighty U.S. until it is a pitiful husk of its former self, crippled by economic dislocation and embroiled in civil war. ~Justin Raimondo
It might seem that I tend to pick on libertarians a lot, especially in the last few months, but I would like to think that I give them the benefit of the doubt and don’t go out of my way to find fault with them until they make arguments that are just impossible to take. But the libertarian enthusiasm for V for Vendetta, one of the weaker “graphic novel”-based movies of recent years(perhaps only Daredevil surpasses it in stupidity) and one of the worse movies of the year, is really too much.
It is not a big surprise to me that many libertarians have taken to a movie that takes note of a number of their cultural shibboleths and redacts a Catholic soldier (not exactly a libertarian icon) as an anarchist revolutionary archetype, but what I suppose does surprise me is how they have taken the negative reaction of Christians to the movie as proof of enduring “red state fascism.” It also surprises me that Mr. Raimondo would elect to describe opposition to this movie as coming from “the right wing,” when it is his stated purpose to make out these “right wingers” into statist cheerleaders and therefore all together left-wing. When Mr. Raimondo chooses to anoint this substandard film as a sign of cultural resistance to the regime, we can see that his standards for what passes for culture are apparently not especially high.
If V for Vendetta is a cultural symbol, as I suppose it could be, it is that of the paranoid and hysterical left that fears, a la Kevin Phillips and Damon Linker, incipient theocracy and concentration camps for homosexuals. Ultimately, the message of Vendetta is as vacuous as the program of the nihilist Bazarov in Fathers and Sons: it is not our task to worry about what will be built later, but only to destroy what exists! So let me blow up Parliament, and apres moi, le deluge. If Vendetta is supposed to be the “anarchist” and libertarian cinematic symbol, libertarians should not be surprised when few Christians (or real conservatives) find anything libertarians have to say very compelling. If we can bestow the name “culture” on this travesty of film, it is a cultural symbol that announces loud and clear that libertarians have an inherently very dim view of Christian conservatives and assume that the latter are just waiting for the chance to send them and everyone they know to the equivalent of Guantanamo (or worse). If this is true for some today, and if it is it is usually not because of their Christianity (not that the movie would be able to make that distinction, so flat and superficial is it), it is also unjust to a great many others, quite a few of whom usually regard libertarians as generally being on the right side of a great many political questions.
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Second, and more fundamentally, what is fusionism? Christ was fully man and fully divine. I don’t think anyone has ever tried to claim that “fusionist” conservatism can be wholly traditionalist and wholly libertarian. You can have very different kinds of fusionism depending upon which parts of each perspective you choose to throw out the window. It’s possible to splice together a paleo-fusionism — not without its tensions and ultimate incoherence, but functional nonetheless — that emphasizes decentralism and a non-interventionist foreign policy; and of course, as Moser implies, one can be wholly libertarian in politics and quite traditionalist in culture. The “fusionism” midwifed by the Republican party, on the other hand, combines the very worst elements of both: the self-righteousness and crusader mentality of the traditionalists with the vulgar materialism and utilitarianism characteristic of many libertarian types. It’s a marriage of Ayn Rand and Elmer Gantry, a union that issues in George W. Bush. ~Daniel McCarthy
Mr. McCarthy summons up a very powerful and rather terrifying image there at the end of his post (I can already picture the relevant horror movie called Son of Rand). He makes many excellent points against the effort to recast Goldwater as Bush lackey after the fact, and he takes apart the standard fusionist position pretty well. On problems of fusionism, read this. One suggestion: the self-righteousness and crusader mentality is mostly not the traditionalists’ gift to fusionism, but the fairly liberal fusionists’ attempt to appear righteous and virtuous a la Claes Ryn’s America the Virtuous and the model is not Gantry but the moralistic, despotic Robespierre.
Both the realists and the traditionalists reject the Bush Doctrine’s emphasis on expanding liberal democracy, mocking this enterprise as “muscular Wilsonianism.” But the expansion of like regimes can be found in Thucydides, who noted that an important goal of both Athens and Sparta was to establish and support regimes similar to their own, democracies in the case of Athens and oligarchies for Sparta.
Indeed, the Bush Doctrine endorses this very Thucydidean perspective. ~Mackubin Owens
Clark Stooksbury might have another nominee for his non sequitur competition–what possible relevance do the policies of Greek cities in the 5th century B.C. have for justifying neo-Wilsonian fantasies? And how did that policy work out for Athens and Sparta? Oh, there were some high times for Sparta (and also some colossal disasters for Athens), but in the end it meant the wreck of the Athenian regime and the effective subservience of Sparta to Persia. If they were at all relevant, it would be as a cautionary tale against doing anything similar. To compare current policy to that of the Greek cities in Thucydides is not to pay the administration any compliments, so why does Mr. Owens think he has made a compelling point here?
Incidentally, since when has Jimmy Carter ever been confused for a “traditionalist” (i.e., Buchananite or non-interventionist) in foreign policy? He is the man, as neocons never tire of mentioning as a way to evade their own part in the current debacle, who inaugurated our policy of reserving the right to intervene in the Middle East to “protect” oil reserves. The “traditionalist” school, if so it may be called, has been notable for eschewing intervention for this or most other reasons. (Mr. Owens also misunderstands Prof. Bacevich, who I believe considers himself to be a foreign policy realist.) There are undoubtedly more things to say about this article, but the problems are many and there are only so many hours in the day.
I’ve been meaning to say this for a week or two — American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia, edited by Bruce Frohnen, Jeremy Beer, and Jeff Nelson, and just published by ISI Books, is absolutely magnificent. It’s the sort of thing that makes you think that we really can immanentize the eschaton. Folks, that’s conservative geek humor — and if you get it, or think you sort of get it, or really want to get it, then this book is for you. ~John Miller, The Corner
From everything I understand from those who have seen it, talked with those involved in making it and/or collaborated in its publication, the Encyclopedia really is as excellent as Mr. Miller claims. (I have just ordered my copy.) ISI should be applauded for putting it together.
Now, I like “conservative geek” humour as much as anyone, since I must qualify for the “conservative geek” appellation as much as anyone, but wouldn’t the joke have been better if he had said that the Encyclopedia is the sort of thing that will make you think that we really cannot immanentise the eschaton? Otherwise, the entire book will not have done a very good job conveying conservatism, will it?
Iraqi leaders shelved talks on forming a government despite a warning from the United States and Britain against any further delay, as at least 23 were killed in violence across the country. ~Agence France-Presse (via Yahoo News)
There’s no reason to believe the two men [Blair and Brown] ‘disagree’ about anything fundamental. It would be hard for them to do so because Mr Blair has never suffered from opinions on anything anyway. Insiders assure me that Mr Brown was just as keen on the Iraq war as Mr Blair. Do they differ over schools, tax, the EU, transport, identity cards, anything important?
So why the quarrel? Far more likely, it seems to me, that the two pretend to be bitter rivals to give the political journalists and bored backbenchers something to do. They can spend ages wasting time and space on this pointless Kremlinology, when otherwise they might have to worry about the fact that there is no opposition, that British liberties are vanishing so fast they’ve almost disappeared, or the fact the country is now so far down the plumbing that it will take Dyno-Rod to get us out again. ~Peter Hitchens
Mr. Hitchens’ sage observations on the internal squabbles of the Labour Party might just as well be applied to the entire two-party system in America. Mr. Blair can be the GOP, and Gordon can be the Dems. The respective pairs put on pretty much the same show here as there. Thus every election cycle we are treated to the “deep divisions” in America and the “radical” separation of the two kinds of America (no, not Jon Edwards’ two Americas, thank you very much), when there has never been, for all practical purposes, a moment of greater, more mind-numbing convergence in American electoral politics than right now.
Tom DeLay warns us against massive Democratic tax increases in the event of an end to the GOP majority (is he saying that Mr. Bush will be happily signing a lot of tax increases in 2007?), but seems to have neglected to mention who was responsible for the massive deficits those tax rises would theoretically (and only theoretically) be put towards. Somehow the old shtick of warning against the tax-and-spend liberal isn’t going to fly when you are a spend-spend-and-spend-again “conservative.” But it keeps the crowd amused.
Delay’s nickname, of course, is The Hammer, the same as that of the great Frankish leader Charles Martel (which means the Hammer), who saved Europe from Arab conquest in 732 and labored for decades subduing the barbarians in the forests of Germany, spreading Christianity and rule of law. ~Lawrence Auster
Mr. Auster and his readers are getting weepy over the political demise of Tom DeLay, who was supposedly going to bring the Martel down on the immigration lobby in Congress in his own reprise of the battle of Poitiers. The problem with this weird hero-worship of a disgraced and dishonest man, besides the obvious, is that Mr. DeLay supports immigration restriction the way I support democratising the Middle East. Well, that’s not quite true. He does at least claim to support enforcement of existing immigration laws. He also supports the authorisation of a guest worker program that would make all of the talk of enforcement fairly meaningless. It is rather like securing the door against an intruder before inviting him. That would make him not so much like Charles Martel as it makes him look like Francis I, all around failure and practically the first Christian ruler to collaborate with the Ottomans against the Empire.
Leftists, crunchy cons, and paleo cons hate Wal-Mart. As I looked around that vast space of real service to the least among us, I could only think: God bless this great enterprise. ~Lew Rockwell
Via Scott Richert at The Rockford Files
A word that often comes up in debates about the “crunchy cons” is sanctimonious. Critics use it with great frequency. “Don’t be so santimonious!”, they tell me and others on my side of the debate. No one on the other side has, of course, ever purported to take the moral high ground or judge crunchy conservatism as, say, akin to a revival of Levitical dietary practices and the Law–that would be ludicrous, right? You might think so.
This often seems to mean that criticism of anyone’s habits is simultaneously a claim to righteous superiority, when it is no such thing. I have never stopped to ask them if they know what it means (that might then add “pedantic” to the list of crunchy and paleo flaws). A good example of what it means might be the post above, where we are treated to the description of Wal-Mart as a virtual charitable institution benefiting the poor.
Whenever I hear a libertarian praising this or that for benefiting the poor, I begin to think he must be having me on. Surely these cannot be the same people whose view of social solidarity is something like “Laissez-faire and let God sort them out.” A Christian libertarian will answer, “We may believe in a kind of solidarity and charity. Communities and churches can do it, and meanwhile we’ll let market forces play out!”
And then what happens when you point out that it is precisely corporations like Wal-Mart that transform those very communities beyond all recognition, making the possibility of community self-help less and less practicable (and indeed making it seem quaint and vaguely absurd)? What happens when the small firms, which foster the sense of community that will create the networks and bonds of support necessary for communities to engage in effective self-help, are driven out of business because of their inability to compete with the megacorp?
At a loss for anything else to say, the libertarian will start telling you about how wonderful the low prices are. “Look at all the stuff the poor people can buy now!” If we were speaking simply of necessities, that would be one thing. But it is really more like this: “Look at all the unnecessary things corporations with cheap commodities and bulk buying encourage poor people to buy!” An abundance of cheap, ready-made junk only serves to incite desire to possess those things, which is assuredly not something worthy of praise. Perhaps God will bless the enterprise, but why do I get the sneaky feeling that God does not bless untrammeled materialism?
And who or what will come in to provide other “services” that the now dessicated community once provided to its members? The state, of course, and the libertarians will wonder how it all happened.
“We know that there’s a hurricane coming, and it’s going to hit the Republicans in November,” says Charlie Cook of the non-partisan Cook Political Report. “We’re just trying to figure out how big this thing is.”
Democrats’ biggest advantage: Americans are increasingly worried that the country and Congress are moving in the wrong direction. In a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll last month, 29% of those surveyed said they were satisfied with the way things were going in the nation; 68% were dissatisfied. At this point in 1994, 35% were satisfied.
In the latest survey, registered voters said they were leaning toward Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans by 55% to 39%. That’s the biggest lead Democrats have had since they lost control of the House.
Presidents matter, too. In 1994, Democrats’ loss of Congress was in large part a rebuke to Clinton. His complicated proposal to overhaul the health care system and early fumbles on issues including gays in the military pushed his job-approval rating as low as 39% in September and October. By Election Day, it was still below 50%.
Bush’s approval rating in the latest survey, taken last month, was 36% — one percentage point below the low point of Clinton’s presidency. It hasn’t been as high as 50% in almost a year. ~USA Today
My own judgment is that our party will continue to succeed because we are the party of ideas. ~President George W. Bush
When you stop to consider this for a moment, you realise that it’s true. The GOP is the party of ideas. Horrible, socialist, utopian and cretinous ideas, but ideas nonetheless. Then again, given that track record, I might prefer to be the party that hasn’t had a new idea in 30 years.
A Democrat Congress in 2007 would, without doubt or remorse, raise hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes, summarily cut and run from the war on terror and immediately initiate an unconstitutional impeachment of President Bush. ~Tom DeLay
Now I’m not as well versed in the finer points of the law as Mr. DeLay must be these days, but how can impeachment proceedings be unconstitutional? Arguably, if the Democrats tried to impeach Mr. Bush, it would be the one example of fidelity to the Constitution they would be likely to show for the entire term. Were the impeachment proceedings DeLay helped bring about also unconstitutional? He can’t resign now, when he has this treasure trove of constitutional knowledge that he has so far kept to himself! Come back, Tom! It is a shame that mere indictments for fraud and money laundering have deprived of us such a profound legal mind at such a critical juncture in the nation’s history.
Neo-Jacobins undermine American constitutionalism by radically redefining its meaning. They have little loyalty towards the culturally distinctive, historically evolved America. This country, neo-Jacobins assert, represents a sharp break with the past. They love to speak of the “Founding,” because that term suggests that America does not have historical origins but emerged afresh from enlightened minds. Harry Jaffa and others insist that to celebrate America is to celebrate radical innovation and revolution. ~Claes Ryn
Via Daniel McCarthy
The foregoing comes from Prof. Ryn’s Philadelphia Society talk, made available online at LewRockwell.com.Unlike my fellow bloggers of the right, Daniel McCarthy and Michael Brendan Dougherty (who should be offering up some of his reflections on the weekend before too long), I did not attend the Philadelphia Society’s meeting this past weekend, but given the prominent repudiation of the neo-Jacobins here, Prof. Lukacs’ indictment of the failures of the “movement,” and what I understand was a very powerful speech by Prof. Bacevich on foreign policy I have to say that I regret that I missed it.
Reading Prof. Ryn’s entirely correct criticism of Harry Jaffa and those who speak mystically about “the Founding” is a powerful one and it cuts to the heart of the flaw in these virtual worshippers of “the Founding.” Some of the people over at Claremont will speak as if “the Founding” possessed the sort of “incarnational significance” that a certain theologian reserves for capitalism, or that some of the (false) philosophical ideas invoked in late eighteenth century documents should be universally binding on all conservative Americans until the end of time.
But if I am “crunching the Founding,” because I (allegedly an arch-crunchy con) have questioned the validity of Enlightenment contract theories and their compatibility with the Christian tradition, as Matthew Peterson at Claremont claimed, what is Prof. Ryn doing to Claremont’s conception of “the Founding”? Moreover, if Prof. Ryn is right about “the Founding,” as I think he is, why should anyone put any stock in this ahistorical ideological vision of our early republican history? To judge from the rhetoric of enthusiasts for “the Founding,” which usually has little to do with enthusiasm for the Constitution, the historic rights of Englishmen or the limited institutions established under the Constitution, Americans are obliged to parrot (false) philosophical notions from the late eighteenth century until the end of time because they happen to appear in one prominent and historically significant document of the age.
In his memoirs, Aurel Kolnai commented on the oddity of the American people being trapped in eighteenth century categories of political thought, while nations with a sense of a continuous and lengthy history (a history that Americans also possess, but which they truncate for reasons of political identity) possessed a national identity that transcended and extended beyond any particular set of ideas that may have been fashionable at one time or another. I suspect that this reality has made our countrymen vulnerable to the sorts of ideological manipulations of our history, like those perpetrated by Jaffa, and made the manipulations seem more plausible than they ever should have done.
Here is Prof. Ryn again:
Only a major intellectual or moral flaw in American conservatism could have made so many susceptible to the neo-Jacobin bug. Many who caught it were myopically preoccupied with practical politics and Republican partisanship. They lacked historical perspective and philosophical discernment. Others dimly recognized what was happening but went along to reap financial rewards and advance careers. They concealed almost from themselves that they became hired guns advocating the positions expected of them. Both groups made alliances that will prove compromising. Historians will wonder how so many could have been so easily swayed and manipulated.
As for the major intellectual flaw, I offer my suggestion for what it was here.
I wasn’t surprised because like Shikaki, The Economist has become a font of CW [Conventional Wisdom]. And that’s too bad because I think that since the magazine emerged in the 1990’s as the leading organ of the ruling political and business elites of the Global Economy, a Davos Weekly, it has been starting to lose some of its pizzazz and has become kind of predictable (which is the worst thing that you could say about a weekly magazine). That means that what I’m now getting in The Economist is a concise summary of what’s I’ve been reading all week in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times plus some nuggets from the Weekly Standard and The New Republic (all of which have referred to Shikaki as a “respected Palestinian pollster”). And, yes, as departing editor Bill Emmott notes in the new issue, the magazine’s decision to support the American invasion of Iraq has been “the most controversial decision” of his editorship. Moreover, the British magazine continues to insist that America should “stay the course” in Iraq and seems to assume that America has the obligation to use its military power to spread democracy in the Middle East and worldwide. I do hope that the magazine whose classical liberal orientation I share will get a little bit more exciting, more original, more provocative under the new editor, John Micklethwait. He could start by refraining from carrying the CW of that “respected Palestinian pollster.” ~Leon Hadar
There was already a marked decline in the quality of The Economist’s reporting starting around 1995 or 1996 after a change in editors. Its leaders were always a nauseating mishmash of PC and the typical “wet”–not crunchy–liberalism that it had espoused for years, but they became even worse and more conventionally center-left (as suited the readers of a Davos Weekly). Young, ignorant and libertarian, much of its view of the world seemed to make a lot of sense. Ironically, the one area where I disagreed with them consistently in the early days was in their criticism of Netanyahu and Likud, as I had imbibed reflexive extreme Zionism from all the conventional conservative sources and believed that Bibi was a great man–it is embarrassing to think back on how astonishingly ignorant I used to be.
There was just enough of a sense of history and perspective in their reporting to make you think that you had really found the inside scoop on whatever was happening in Guinea-Bissau or Madagascar this week. There was a certain nerdy glamour in knowing what was happening in Tajikstan or being able to discuss with at least some minimal competence the internal politics of Yemen, but as the magazine become more overtly politicised in its reporting the less you could actually learn from the articles except for what the official Western view of government X or policy Y was going to be. Early on, their correspondents were usually very well informed and appropriately skeptical of the latest political fads–theirs was usually a pleasant British distaste for the bombastic rhetoric of idealists, but already in the Balkans wars it fell into the astonishingly ignorant groupthink of the Western press and, because it was one of my chief sources of information growing up, I was fed the Serbophobic nonsense they regularly dished out. As I came to learn more, the Economist leaders on the Balkans ceased making any sense and seemed motivated by the same sort of petty spite that causes them to hound Silvio Berlusconi with regularity and engage in a running vendetta with the ruler of Singapore. However, until a few years ago it was unmistakably the best world news magazine available, at least in English, and then its news department began to fall under the influence of what Mr. Hadar calls CW.
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Mark Krikorian at The Corner says that today is Armenian Appreciation Day. Mit’e? Yes ayd chishtoren ch’gitem. Shnorhavorum em im hay enkernere irents’ orva vra.
But when the “party of life” is in power, its advocates will lurch to the opposite extreme, deferring to political authority, shutting down critical thinking, giving in to the worst temptations of American exceptionalist and providentialist thinking. We’ve seen some of this in the Bush administration itself and quite a lot of it among his theocon supporters, especially with regard to the war in Iraq. ~Damon Linker at The American Scene
Mr. Linker does happen to be right about this, particularly with respect to the attitude of editors at First Things about the present administration and the war, but not exactly for the reasons that he gives (more on that in a moment). Yes, there really is a “culture of death” (one of those “absolutist” phrases that makes Linker criticise John Paul II), and one of the places where the GOP and many conservatives tend to muddle their own critique of this is in their sometimes fairly slippery grasp of what justice requires with respect to different kinds of war. There is also something of a “culture of life.” Of course, Linker’s own extreme conclusions about what the reality of these would imply should not be mistaken for anything like the serious view of what a “culture of life” entails. The problem, according to Linker, is this:
The use of the rhetoric of the “culture of death” to describe such issues as abortion and euthanasia, which in my view is both alarmist and irresponsible. Is one of the two political parties in America today — and one of its three branches of government — in the hands of an elite that is spreading an ideology of “death”? And is, then, the nation’s other party toiling away to spread a “culture of life”? I find it hard to imagine a closer approximation to the Manichaean rhetoric of the “children of light” and the “children of darkness” against which Reinhold Niebuhr warned several decades ago. If this is the American reality — as theocon ideology maintains — then every incendiary word of the “End of Democracy?” symposium was warranted. Then the populist indignation and contempt for the rule of law displayed by the Republicans who intervened in the Terri Schiavo case was fully justified. Then theocons such as Robert P. George and Hadley Arkes are right to propose absolutist, uncompromising solutions to the problem of abortion by seeking to outlaw (and presumably punish) it in all cases. After all, death is death, life is life, and murder is murder. End of debate, discussion, and compromise.
Wow. So if there really was a “culture of death,” the rule of law no longer has any importance whatsoever? If it exists, all deliberation and discussion must cease? Only total war against the Darkness remains an option? Linker’s frenzied imagination of what a “moral absolutist” must think explains a fair amount about why he is so terrified of them.
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I suggest that sacramentality, self-reliance, rejection of mass culture, and attention to the non-economic requirements of human flourishing lie at the heart of the movement, though I am still working on figuring out how these and its other elements fit together. ~Maxwell Goss, Right Reason
Mr. Goss gets a great deal right in his assessment of what is fundamental to crunchy conservatism, and I have to say that reading someone who has genuinely engaged with the substance of the idea is a real breath of fresh air after the level of some of the criticism in the last month. To these core elements that Mr. Goss identifies I would add, in no particular order, a certain degree of the spirit of self-denial and asceticism, festivity and (as an aspect of sacramentality) communion, in the sense here of being closely bound to a place and the people in the community, as well as cultivating a sense of obligation before religious tradition and local community. Additionally, a key idea running throughout all of these is right proportion or right measure, which finds its expression in the principle of moderation that informs the crunchy attitude and the appreciation of beautiful things in terms of their proportion, balance and harmonious arrangement of space. Part of moderation involves curtailing and restraining desire, rather than “the multiplication of desires,” which is unwelcome in itself, and which the crunchies tend to regard as the moral consequences of the rhetoric of “economic freedom.”
The Tories, even after the events of the past few days, are much closer to that collapse than Labour and their supporters can actually make a big difference if they want to. If Dave Cameron fails badly in the 2007 local elections( as he did at Dunfermline) it is very hard to see what can hold his party together. We can, actually, help them to fail by the simple action of not voting for them, and of writing, in a clear, literate hand “None of the above” on our ballot papers. By this quiet, determined abstention, we could set off the political earthquake that might just eventually bring about a political reformation and so return these islands to the government desired by their inhabitants, as someone once put it. Nothing else will work, least of all voting Tory. ~Peter Hitchens
The GOP is nowhere near as poorly off as the Tories (and given our electoral system, it will probably never be that poorly off before it implodes), but the advice Mr. Hitchens offers his readers is the same I would offer to mine. In this cycle, the worst thing would be to vote Republican. It would reward (again) multiple betrayals and failure and ensure more of the same.
This is his problem, that he [Cameron] simply does not understand the middle class. He seems to think everyone can afford spacious homes, a neighbourhood of ordered peace, and either private schools or select, untypical state schools in nice areas.
He doesn’t know how hard they have to work simply to stay in the same place. He doesn’t know about the crime and the disorder that follow the drugs he is so soft on. He speaks for sheltered London toffs with second homes, but not for the great millions of people with just one home. ~Peter Hitchens
Hat tip to Daniel McCarthy
However, the Harry Potter fanclub extends well beyond Tory supporters, in part because the books have a visible element of diversity. The problem is that it is little more than a veneer. While women make up many of the main characters, they receive little attention. Even Harry’s friend, Hermione Granger, is a well-worn stereotype: the middle-class “girly swot” who tries to talk Harry out of taking risks. It’s no surprise to learn that her parents are dentists. The only times Harry competes with women as equals - Cho Chang on the quidditch pitch and Fleur Delacour in the triwizard tournament - he defeats them both. All of the central evil characters and senior authority figures in the books are men. ~Richard Adams, The Guardian
Via Steve Sailer
First, a caveat. I am not a “Potterer,” as they are called, and my acquaintance with the story comes only through the four movies released to date, so I am familiar only with the Potter of Hollywood (who is, however, supposed to be fairly similar to the Potter of the written page). Given that Toryism today is represented by a toffy idiot in David Cameron (who is not, repeat not, really a crunchy conservative), the Tories would be thrilled if the left wanted to identify this incredibly popular fictitious character with the ideals of Toryism. (Of course, if Harry Potter’s secret Toryism does for the Tories’ electoral fortunes what The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia have done in shaping British political history, which is to say nothing, the Tories might be less than enthusiastic about claiming him.)
That being said, who is Mr. Adams kidding? One might point out from the first that these are kids’ stories about wizards, and not a nostalgic evocation of the good old days when Britannia ruled the waves (nor is there much coded pining for Bonnie Prince Charlie, but I guess that will be forthcoming in other books).
In my only other public remarks on the Potter stories, where I put paid to the idea of Harry Potter-as-libertarian, I did note that the stories contain certain aspects of Etonian priggishness and an emphasis on class distinctions, but this is to miss the constant theme of mocking the pretensions of the upper class and making Potter’s main enemies the arrogant, twisted, privileged Malfoys. If there are stereotypical privileged aristos obsessed with their pedigree at Hogwarts, they usually appear as foils to the wizard equivalent of poor gentry in the Weasleys, plus the “muggle-born” and “mixed-blood” sort, such as Hermione, who make up Harry’s friends. This is very well-suited to the prejudices of an American audience, as Americans are taught early on that to come from privilege or to have ancestors who actually prepared for the future is to be guilty of something terrible. Americans like the story of self-made men and hard-luck cases whose lives come out right, which is probably why the story of a special orphan wizard boy hits all the right notes. If these themes are made more obvious in the movies, that is because these are the themes Rowling (who has had as much creative control over the adaptations of her books of any author in modern times) wanted especially to emphasise.
The message is entirely clear: the mixing of wizards and muggles, and by implication the mixing of peoples of all kinds, is not only acceptable but positively morally preferable (the alternative is to become Lucius Malfoy), and people born to privileged backgrounds are just as likely as not to be exclusionary, prejudiced servants of the Dark Lord. Not very subtle, but also not readily identifiable with Toryism, either. The stories approve of an egalitarian, multiculti Britain that nonetheless loses none of its very English manners and charm, because this is the lie that multiculturalists tell to people: multiculturalism simply enriches and improves a society, and does not change any of its fundamental core values. In Rowling’s depiction, you can have the best of both worlds, and it is suitable that the stories are fantasy, because that is exactly what its political vision is.
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Nearly eight times as many Iraqis died last month in execution-style sectarian killings as in terrorist bombings carried out by insurgents, new US military statistics show.
Until now, the Sunni-led insurgency was seen as the greatest threat to US plans in Iraq, killing hundreds and at times more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians per month. But the new figures suggest that the Shi’ite militias, loyal to powerful Shi’ite politicians, are poised to become as great a threat to Iraq’s security.
The military said 1,313 Iraqi civilians perished in sectarian murders in March, compared with 173 killed in suicide bombings. The victims, an average of 36 per day, included Sunni men found with holes drilled through their heads and Shi’ite men with the words “traitor” written or carved across their bodies. ~Boston.com
It might be helpful to keep in mind that after 2,000 people had died in one year of insurgency and counterinsurgency in Kosovo, the media dubbed it not only a “civil war” without any hesitation but also “genocide.” There followed the NATO bombing, in which more than twice as many as had died in the previous year were killed by NATO forces in two months–this was what some call progress.
What is happening in Iraq is, of course, not “genocide” or anything like it, but it is obviously now a civil war without any qualification. The “good news” (and who says that the media doesn’t report the good news from Iraq?) in this grisly tale is that American fatalities are declining as the Iraqis turn on each other. At this rate, American deaths will fall to zero and there will just be Iraqis massacring Iraqis. Somehow that does cast a bit of a pall on the allegedly noble cause for which all those Americans have died.
For the record, this is almost always what happens whenever sectarian, tribal or regional identities are politicised and the groups in question begin contesting mass political power. Democratising such socieities is and always has been a recipe for violence, civil disorder and slaughter. Most democratic polities are or quickly become entirely illiberal (and also often quickly collapse into despotism of one kind or another) because powerful pre-existing group identities are the most successful vehicles for mobilising political support and manpower and the claims of these groups almost always trump the requirements of a liberal order. (By the way, there is rarely a happy period of sustainable liberal democracy, as liberalism invokes the powers of mass politics that quickly sweep away the restraint and limitations a liberal order imposes on democratic forces.) That is incidentally why the genuinely committed democratists usually despise the claims of tradition, religion, ethnicity and history, because these perfectly natural and good affinities are impediments to the manipulation of the deracinated mob and the exercise of mass power. It is also why those who value tradition, religion, history and ethic heritage should be very wary of, if not hostile to, democracy and plans for democratising other nations.
It is telling that the label of civil war has never seemed to be difficult for the media or pundits to apply to the Balkans, because according to the official story “we” were coming to the rescue to “end” the “civil war,” be it is Bosnia or Kosovo (in reality, “we” were coming to make sure that the side most hostile to the Serbs won).
In Iraq, no such lie about America intervening to stop the civil war can be successfully propagated, because it was our invasion that made the civil war possible and it was our invasion and post-invasion policy, if so it may be dignified with a sense of coherence and planning, that empowered the very Shi’ite thugs who are now running amok. Guaranteed minority rights, the rule of law, and all of the non-democratic trappings that might make a democratic polity tolerable, and the only things that make the export of “democracy” anything other than a crime against the recipients of this gift of dubious value, will not survive in a climate where sectarian supremacy is the goal.
Domenech deserved to be let go; but in the course of celebrating his demise, liberals have missed the real lesson of this entire episode. Instead of hiring a conservative, the Post hired a caricature of one; Domenech’s blog would have been less a product of red America and more a product of what blue America understands red America to be. More than anything else, the sad saga of Ben Domenech reveals just how simplistic blue-state elites have become in their understanding of American conservatism. ~Rob Anderson, The New Republic
As tempted as I am to agree that Ben Domenech might be called a “caricature” of a conservative, if I did so I would have to apply that label to a great many of his political confreres. What is supposed to make Domenech a caricature? Mr. Anderson explains:
He was not known for producing thoughtful conservative think-pieces, or even for intrepid reporting. On the contrary, he was better known for his vitriol.
In other words, he was as qualified to run the blog as half of the contemporary “conservative” commentariat. But what passes for unreasonable and vitriolic in Mr. Anderson’s book would condemn quite a few of the better known figures in contemporary conservatism:
The right has its share of bigots and xenophobes. And vitriolic right-wing pundits like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin always seem to shout the loudest. But just because these strains of conservatism exist doesn’t mean that this is what conservatism is reducible to. If the Post really wants to add a meaningful voice to the political debate, it should know better than to simply turn to Ann Coulter’s male counterpart.
In other words, the Post should have hired some nice academic from Claremont or a neoconservative who had interned at AEI (you know, one of the “good,” manageable conservatives who basically doesn’t disagree with the good liberals on most of the really controversial questions), and not someone who had worked with or wrote in the style of the likes of Michelle Malkin. I mean, goodness, that woman opposes illegal immigration! Where will the madness end? You can’t have that sort of sentiment at a respectable newspaper’s website. In case there was any doubt, Mr. Anderson confirms that this is exactly what he means when he approvingly cites the list of possible replacements for William Safire as a model for what the Post should do:
Who will Brady pick as Domenech’s replacement? He might want to take a look at these lists (here and here), compiled by Slate’s Jack Shafer when The New York Times was looking for columnists to replace William Safire. For the most part, Shafer’s suggestions include respected, or at least respectable, conservatives: Heather MacDonald, Steve Chapman, John Ellis, Stuart Taylor Jr., Jonah Goldberg, Mark Steyn, and James Lileks. Then again, the Post will probably pass on all of them: Not one conforms to a liberal’s caricature of what a conservative should be.
Excluding Steve Chapman, who is a frequent dissenter from the good news of the Bush Era, it is my initial impression that all of these are people who do fit the conventional stereotype of contemporary conservatives (maybe not a “liberal’s caricature” of one, which usually involves protruding horns and the ability to belch fire). They would say all the predictable things in reflexive defense of the administration on most matters, occasionally offering up a little criticism to show that they were not completely mindless and generally serving as the easy foil to the ready-made liberal counter-arguments. Ben Domenech might have been more blunt about these things, but the end result would have been fairly similar.
If Mr. Domenech does represent a particularly thoughtless brand of conservatism, he is not alone among many of his fellow conservatives. However, I suspect that Mr. Domenech’s past work is being put in the worst light to score a larger point against those aspects of modern conservatism liberals find most terrifying (opposition to immigration and homosexuality, etc.) and construct a conservatism that the readers of The New Republic would be comfortable around. This is not necessarily to say much in praise of the Ann Coulter style of conservatism, but to see that TNR is trying to shrink the limits of permissible debate even more than they already have been.
The word “oil,” however, appears in the document exactly seven times–all of them generic or trivial. None of the references relate to the systemic U.S. dependence on foreign crude or, more to the point, to the truly powerful lobby that has worked for many decades to satisfy it through arranging that the producer governments get what they want: mainly protection against radical Muslims or Muslim radicals and against fuel-efficient cars. Israel’s friends–foreign affairs idealists and realists, rightists, leftists, centrists, Christians, Jews, nonbelievers–know the power of this oil lobby, with which they have tangled to ensure that the United States supports an ally against its many unworthy enemies. ~Martin Peretz, The New Republic
It is distasteful to me to cite from Mr. Peretz, but he provides a window onto what is becoming a fairly typical response to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s description of the influence of the Israel Lobby: it is obvious the undue influence of oil lobbyists, not Israel lobbyists that accounts for our policy in the Near East. Yes, of course.
But, just in case the obvious perfidy of the Oil Lobby does not convince a credulous TNR reader, Mr. Peretz offers up this doozy of a statement:
Support for Israel is, deep down, an expression of America’s best view of itself. Mearsheimer and Walt clearly have no clue that U.S. support for the Jewish restoration, rather than a result of Zionist machinations, dates back to the Puritans.
Here are a few other critical responses to Damon Linker’s bizarre attack on Fr. Neuhaus, plus Ross Douthat’s latest response. Even more unforgiving is Mark Gauvreau Judge’s counterblast, James Panero’s remarks at The New Criterion blog and these comments at No Left Turns by Paul Seaton.
Hat tip to Stuart Buck for the Mere Comments and Mirror of Justice links.
Here is part of Mr. Seaton’s comment:
He [Linker] doesn’t understand the notion of “regime,” he doesn’t understand the fundamental distinction between “separation” and “strict separation,” he doesn’t understand that the Catholic intellectual tradition combines reason and Faith, he doesn’t understand the distinction between principle and prudence.
However, Linker is not entirely alone. The Kossacks (well, actually, just Philocrites) have ridden to his defense! Here is the blogger Philocrites thanking Linker for alerting us to those “dangerous” trends in Neuhaus’ thought:
His [Neuhaus’] efforts to revive Christendom, however, and the antiliberal and antidemocratic dimensions of his thought must be challenged.
His efforts to do what now? Which dimensions? I’m sorry, but Philocrites is too credulous by far and has apparently very happily swallowed Linker’s snake oil. I don’t know that Linker would even have put things quite that bluntly–it is literally impossible to see Neuhaus as “reviver of Christendom,” because he holds no brief for that period of Christian history and generally agrees with Christendom’s critics about its flaws and why it had to go. That’s not surprising, since most people alive today probably take the same view, including some Christian conservatives to the right of Neuhaus, but to imagine that Neuhaus is pining, Novalis-like, for the old days of a united Christian world or yearns, Bonald-like, for the days of hierarchy and authority is to confuse him with, well, me, which I imagine Fr. Neuhaus would find most unpleasant.