Eunomia · August 2006

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But this system, however efficient, is valid only as a particular and subordinate sector of human relations.  In the contemporary world, the market ceaselessly extends its influence, not only geographically (economic “globalization”), but also temporally (Sundays fall increasingly under the sway of the market) and socially: the market rules more and more in sports, in culture, and in the arts.  It all but dominates the powerful machine known as television.  Its influence is visible everywhere; the drumbeat of its slogans is inescapable (in North America, advertising extends to politics and even prescription medications).  Since exchange is an activity that presupposes the consent of both parties, by what principle can the contractual procedures of the market be limited?  If (as in fact happened in California) a woman who can afford it contracts with her Hispanic maid to carry her child to full term, this is a contract like any other.  The market economy no longer serves ends beyond itself; it is no longer one element of the social order.  Rather, it tends to dominate as a form of civilization–the civilization of the market. ~Philippe Beneton, Equality By Default

We all have our faults, and I feel bad rasing those of our neighbours, since few other people are so optimistic, and few other Westerners are so willing to take necessary risks. There are forms of cant that the whole rest of the OECD is far more steeped in than the USA. But no other Western country is able to pretend that its own will is all that matters, that the only real question is how generous it feels.

Whatever our resentments, it certainly is not in my country’s interests to have some other hegemon. What we want is not to depose America as monarch of the world, but to impose a constitutional settlement on her. ~Pithlord

The following is not an original observation, but it’s one worth repeating: Much of the talk we hear from economists and government financial panjandrums nowadays treats the national economy as a thing in itself, to be egged on and expanded and caressed and cherished, without any concern for the actual citizens of this country. Sure, I’d rather live in a rich country than a poor one, and a healthy economy is a jolly good thing; but “expanding” is not necessarily synonymous with “healthy,” not for economies any more than for waistlines. A swelling economy is not ipso facto a good thing. It might lift all boats; or it might just lift a few and swamp the rest. It depends how things are organized. As Oliver Goldsmith noted:Ill fares the land, to hast’ning ills a prey,Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.” That’s about where we’re at, it seems to me. And no, it’s not a leftist remark; Goldsmith was a Tory. ~John Derbyshire

While we’re being unoriginal, contrarian and dangerously Tory (George Grant-style), consider a problem that is perhaps all too pertinent in the wake, so to speak, of the commemoration of Hurricane Katrina: suppose there is a proverbial rising economic tide and there are entire groups of people who have no boats at all?  Beneton’s Economist will say simply enough, “They will not benefit.”  The libertarian will say, “Maybe Wal-Mart will sell them a boat.”  Another will say, “The Market will provide.”  Larry Kudlow will say, “Demand for boats will rise.  I should buy some stock in a boat-building company.”  I suspect the Christian will begin looking around somewhere for some life preservers. 

Since, unlike the present, tomorrow is always imaginary, such idolatry can be manipulated in many ways.  On the one hand, of course, the Stalins of the world can demand the death of millions in the name of a future paradise.  This is an especial concern of Camus, who complains of those who “glorify a future state of happiness, about which no one knows anything, so that the future authorizes every kind of humbug.”…

Given the ironic character of history, we should, at the very least, make sure that our actions have some value in the present.  The future that we imagine is unlikely to come about, if it does come about it will not last, and when it does come about we will probably despise it. ~Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit

Update: Contra Spencer Ackerman, in light of his latest speech and this citation from Camus, I think it is reasonable to say that even if Mr. Bush has read Camus he has learned nothing from the experience.

But we should all agree that the battle for Iraq is now central to the ideological struggle of the 21st century. ~George W. Bush

Without missing a beat, Mr. Bush sets up the main war as the “decisive ideological struggle” of the century, and then turns around and insists that we all agree that Iraq is vital to the “ideological struggle,” a struggle that he has just outlined as being between those who support freedom and those who support tyranny, “terror” and totalitarianism.  It does not take much to see that Mr. Bush has lined up critics of the war in Iraq (you remember–the ones he called ”good, decent people” who are just as patriotic as anybody) as failing to support the “ideological struggle” by failing to support the war in Iraq.  And you know what they do to people who are lacking in sufficient commitment to the “ideological struggle,” don’t you?  If there is any doubt that he has linked the two, he makes it clear later:

And victory in Iraq would be a powerful triumph in the ideological struggle of the 21st century.

Mr. Bush has managed to become even more melodramatic in this new series of speeches than he has in the past.  Before, he was just going to end tyranny on earth and set the world on fire with revolution, but now he is going to save history from itself (even though the outcome is, of course, inevitable, for the course of History is known to all good dialecticians):

We will not allow the terrorists to dictate the future of this century — so we will defeat them in Iraq.  

Take note of the frequency with which he talks about “the century” and how we are doing all of this for sake of ”the century.”  There is actually an undue obsession with the future here, which, as Dienstag would tell us, is one of the flaws of optimistic theories, since they tend to rather overlook what things are actually like right now and tend to impose terrible costs on the present for the sake of an imaginary future.  (I would make some sarcastic reference about how the you-know-who liked Futurism, but I am not going to sink into the mire of flinging those labels at my political enemies as they have done at us.)  Here is Dienstag:

For all of the existential pessimists, then, optimism has functioned to displace attention from the real world of today onto an imaginary future.  Not only does this future denigrate the present, it causes us to lose touch with the present.  When the present, which should be the richest and most vivid thing in our minds, is flattened out in our imagination, it makes our option seems fewer than they are….

This focus on the present does not abjure all concern for the future.  Unamuno’s claim that “the true future is today” indicates not that we are forbidden to think about what is come, but only that we should not make the future into an idol.  If we care about the freedom of later generations, we must respect it–and we respect it best by refusing to script their lives for them.

But Mr. Bush’s Marxist language and rhetoric about saving the future are not the worst.  Worse still is his conviction that history not only has a direction, but a direction that we can discern and, in this case, in some sense direct:

The path to that day will be uphill and uneven, but we can be confident of the outcome, because we know that the direction of history leads toward freedom.

If the ideological struggle is the struggle for “freedom,” then it becomes the unavoidable conclusion of the speech: victory in the ideological struggle–of which Iraq is the most vital part–is inevitable, tovarish, because history is leading on to freedom!

“The war we fight today is more than a military conflict,” Bush told thousands of veterans at the American Legion convention. “It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century.” ~MSNBC

The ideological struggle waged by revolutionary Marxism against revisionism at the end of the nineteenth century is but the prelude to the great revolutionary battles of the proletariat, which is marching forward to the complete victory of its cause despite all the waverings and weaknesses of the petty bourgeoisie. ~V.I. Lenin

And to us the ideological struggle is not a private affair, but the affair of the whole Party, of the whole proletariat. ~V.I. Lenin

The military defeat has been completed. It will be the ideological struggle that will be the most important. ~Janos Kadar

Who talks like this?  “Decisive ideological struggle”?  It sounds very much like the sort of thing a preacher of an “armed doctrine” would say; it sounds very much like something a revolutionary propagandist would say.  It obviously is not a conservative thing to say.  It is the language of Marxists that Mr. Bush is using quite freely.  Of course, those of us who have been familiar with neoconservatism as a revolutionary, basically leftist doctrine with historic roots on the Left will not find it surprising that an adherent of the same doctrine would eventually use the same language and mentality.  But I will say more. 

If we are in the “decisive ideological struggle” of the century, that will probably mean that from time to time there will have to be “corrections” made on the home front as well–no sense winning the ideological struggle elsewhere and letting it slip at home–and casting this as the “decisive ideological struggle” will allow whoever is responsible for defining the content of “our” side in this ideological struggle to write off dissenters against policy as deviationists and thought criminals for opposing the struggle with their dissident views.  There is something deeply, deeply wrong with all this “ideology” talk that seems more than a little totalitarian in its own right and certainly more than a little creepy.  This is part of the reason why I am viscerally and intellectually opposed to the free and ignorant use of the word fascist in connection with any current foreign policy questions, because it seems to partake of the same style of rhetoric and the same eerily leftist views of who the enemy is.  This is the view of the enemy as the eternal fascist, who is everyone and no one, because the propagandists decide who a fascist is and can redefine the term as and when it suits them.

The government calculated that by eliminating Mr Bugti it would undermine the insurgency. This logic underpinned its counter-insurgency strategy, with Mr Musharraf often blaming the war on the rebellious Bugti and Marri chiefs and another aged chieftain, of the smaller Mengal tribe. It reckoned that few Baluchis, nationalist or not, would shed tears for Mr Bugti, who was arrogant and reckless, terrorised dissident kinsmen and political opponents, and betrayed his allies.

It should have reckoned differently. Antediluvian though he was, Mr Bugti was quite successful in casting himself as the champion of every angry Baluch. More progressive Baluch nationalist groups, furiously opposed to the feudal system that enriched Mr Bugti and his dissolute relatives, gave tacit support to his campaign. And indeed, another Baluch insurgent group, the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), is believed to include well-educated, city-raised youths as well as bearded tribesmen.  ~The Economist

I am curious where this habit of personalising regimes and political and religious movements comes from.  Apparently Musharraf also has this habit and acts on it.  If only Bugti dies, all will be well in this poorly governed, exploited and abused region….Well, so much for that hope. 

The death of Bugti calls for some reflection on Americans’ habits of personalising all foreign conflicts.  The fight is always against the dictator or leader, even if the only people who ever seem to get killed in these fantastic anti-dictator wars are the people.  Interventionists like to talk about the fascism of ”our” enemies, but they are the ones who always seem unduly obsessed with leaders here and abroad; they certainly seem to take foreign despots’ megalomania a lot more seriously than their longsuffering subjects do (could that be because they are assiduously cultivating their own cult of leadership here?).  Part of this problem, I’m sure, is based in the fiction we tell ourselves as we bomb other countries that we aren’t really at war with the people we’re bombing–we’re at war with the political leadership (while in the same breath justifying the bombing of civilian targets by saying that they had it coming, lousy dictator-supporting bums!).  We’re from the United States government, and we’re here to free you, “we” say, as a cluster bomb drops on your neighbour’s house.  But there must be something at once more insidiously propagandistic and stupidly pop cultish about our fixation on the leaders of other countries as embodiments of evil: call it agitprop-meets-Entertainment Tonight, the two-minute celebrity hate. 

I wonder: are we incapable as a people of thinking about foreign policy problems without casting them as a movie with an arch-villain pulling the strings?  It makes the resolution much more straightforward: knock off the henchmen and then push the arch-villain into a boiling pit of oil, or some such.  If only the problems of the world could be resolved as easily as mediocre action movies routinely are.  But many Americans seem to be unable to take a foreign threat seriously unless we can imagine the arch-villain there, sitting in his lair or a cave (or his “bunker”–there’s always got to be a bunker, doesn’t there?), preferably stroking a white cat and seeking to kill James Bond…I mean, freedom. 

Because people obsessed about Hussein himself, they thought that removing Hussein was a kind of panacea.  Then, when that silly idea was quickly discredited, the conventional wisdom was that catching him would “break” the insurgency and would be a “turning point.”  (We have had enough “turning points” in Iraq to come around full circle and begin the entire cycle again.)  Then it was Zarqawi’s turn, but his death did not “break” the insurgency, either.  Notice that, for whatever reason, we no longer have a central villain invoked as the face of evil in Iraq.  However, our political class cannot long do without one, which may explain the new obsession with the incomparably bizarre Ahmadinejad.  Why do we attribute a cult of leadership, indeed the Fuehrerprinzip itself, to people who do not really possess it in the way that we think they do?  The followers of these men do not crumble the moment their leader has fallen (they are not the dim-witted alien mercenaries from The Fifth Element, but relatively savvy trained killers who have learned during the insurgency to operate relatively independently of any other group).  But enough about them.  Back to Bugti. 

Ironically, the late Bugti was not someone who seems to have had nearly as many admirers in life as he does now in death, which is common for divisive figures who die in the name of a resistance or rebellion and become in death an untouchable symbol of that rebellion.  In killing him, Musharraf miscalculated horribly, since the man came to symbolise Baluchi nationalism most in the moment when he was struck down.  This is often the case with insurgencies and rebellions–charismatic or ruthless leaders can sometimes achieve as much by becoming a hallowed memory as they could have done by staying alive and making more enemies.  However horrid his methods or brutal his acts (and it should be noted here that Bugti was a hardened political schemer, but hardly a terrorist), once a rebel has become a symbol to be worked up into legend and song he can be more dangerous to his enemies dead than alive.  

Charles Black, a longtime GOP consultant with close ties to both the first Bush administration and the current White House, said branding Islamic extremists as fascists is apt.

“It helps dramatize what we’re up against. They are not just some ragtag terrorists. They are people with a plan to take over the world and eliminate everybody except them,” Black said. ~AP

But ”members” of Al Qaeda actually are some “ragtag terrorists.”  That they are not the Wehrmacht should not give anyone the impression that they are harmless or that they should be taken lightly.  It is the fact that they are not a monolithic, cohesive fighting force that gives them the advantage in asymmetric warfare.  They can still be villains without being a reincarnation of the SS.  Here is another reason why Islamofascist means nothing.  The word fascism conjures up images of storm troopers or well-organised corps of youth cadres, the fascisti themselves, beating up the odd communist or dissenter.  It does not conjure up images of the irregular mujahideen in the hills of Afghanistan, suicide bombers or religious fanatics.   

Now this world-domination stuff is, frankly, a lot of hot air.  They can plan to dominate the world all they like, just as Muslims have, in theory, hoped to bring the rule of Islam to the entire world, but to say that they want to dominate the world doesn’t make them fascist (nor does it mean that their plan to “dominate the world” has a chance of being realised). 

Communists wanted, in theory, to dominate the world, and they could appeal to people of all nations with a universalist ideology, which lent their plans for worldwide revolution more plausibility than any amount of rhetoric about the restoration of the Caliphate has (if this is the old Umayyad Caliphate of the early years we’re talking about, every Islamic revival movement for the last thousand years has wanted to “restore” this with no success).  But did their desire to dominate the world make them communofascists?  No, and people would call you a fool for saying things like this.  Why is it so hard to call the use of Islamofascist foolish? 

Alexander the Great certainly liked to conquer places, and perhaps if he had lived longer he would have dominated even more of the known world–would he have been a precocious Macedoniofascist?  The Mongols might have been said to have aspirations for something like global domination–was Genghis Khan a Mongolofascist?  Put that way, I would hope that intelligent people would see that this kind of cluttered, idiotic term not only does not define or describe who we are fighting but introduces layer upon layer of obfuscation and confusion. 

Why not use jihadi or jihadist?  If need be, we could expand it to Salafi jihadist, since many of the jihadists we’re really talking about are Salafists.  The Indians have gotten along for decades with the term jihadi, since it expresses very simply and concretely what these people are on about: waging jihad.  That necessarily emphasises their Islamic character, while avoiding all of the extremely stupid concoctions of propagandists.  It is the term that I normally use in my descriptions.  However, I believe describing our war as a war against all jihadis everywhere is a fundamental mistake.  Moreover, the war in Iraq is only marginally and accidentally connected with this in any case.  Our war is plainly not really or necessarily with Hizbullah or the ISF in Algeria or the Muslim Brotherhood, though this does not therefore mean that we should stupidly forge ahead in pressuring governments in the countries where these groups are found to include them in the “democratic” process.  It remains a war primarily and very specifically against Al Qaeda and its offshoots among Salafists and Wahhabis in the Near East and jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  As a short, simple term, nothing beats jihadi.  Any word of abuse that takes thirteen letters to spell out is probably not a precise term in any case, or it more likely partakes of a fine old heresiological tradition of completely made-up names that may or may not have any relationship to the group being so labeled.  Among my favourites: Sabellioarian and Aphthartodocetist.  In heresiology, these terms become a necessary evil because there are literally no other terms available to describe the groups categorised by the clunky heresy labels.  In modern political discourse when we are talking about jihadis, we are not without alternatives.  Only the intellectually lazy, or propagandists or those inured to leftist habits of labeling all enemies as fascists could be satisfied with a term as clunky, inaccurate, ridiculous and all together misleading as Islamofascist or “Islamic fascist.” 

The questions every conservative should ask the Republican who barks Islamofascist at him are these: “Why fascist?  Why make the comparison with fascism?  Why do you, Republican, have this obsession with the word ‘fascist’ that seems more appropriate to a far-left liberal?  Could it be that you have adopted leftist categories of thinking in your quest to spread “democratic revolution”?  Can it be that all of this prattling about “ideological nations” has knocked a few screws loose and sent you into Soviet propaganda mode?”  Indeed, I have to wonder whether we will soon hear about Islamocounterrevolutionaries (try saying that one five times fast!) and Islamoenemiesofthepeople.  Conservatives should be very worried that this kind of language has become part of their lexicon and should be appalled at the people who have been propagating it, not just because it is inaccurate and sloppy, but because it betrays a strange affinity to old Marxist argumentation that was historically used as a means of distorting the truth about political enemies and Soviet policy.  This sort of rhetoric should not have any part in formulating U.S. foreign policy today.  

But here is where the issue of media bias comes in. Nearly all reporting of the issue is framed by a loaded term: the solar system. Notice that this phrase presupposes the Copernican theory, the idea that all the planets revolve around the Sun. This threatens to become the whole premise of the debate. Question this theory, and you’re effectively shut out of the controversy, disfranchised, “outside the mainstream.” So much for pluralism.

The Copernican theory is just that — a theory, not a fact. It has a strong appeal to those who are too lazy to do the complex calculations required by the older, commonsense Ptolemaic view. But for generations, the simplistic Copernican spin has been tirelessly inculcated in our public schools — to captive audiences of impressionable children — by secular humanists and other self-hating Earthlings. Parents have had little say in the matter. ~Joseph Sobran

Mr. Sobran speaks up for Ptolemy and the lord of the underworld better than anyone else could.

So according to Michael Ledeen, Mohammed Khatami, the former prime minister of Iran, is analogous to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda. Quoth Ledeen, on Khatami’s upcoming visit to the United States: “Would FDR have given Goebbels a visa while the Reich was attacking Czechoslovakia?” If Khatami–you know, the “dialogue of civilizations” guy–is Goebbels, what does that make Ahmadinejad? Hitler? Super Hitler? Super-Duper Hitler? (OK, OK, Khatami and Ahmadinejad are political foes, but we’re playing by Ledeen’s rules here.) A wise man once wrote that Hitler is dead, but he apparently neglected to anticipate the rise of Extra-Strength, Protein-Packed, Gamma-Irradiated Hitler. ~Spencer Ackerman, The Plank

More to the point, if Khatami is today’s Goebbels, what country is playing the role of Czechoslovakia in this fantasy?  Lebanon?  Israel?  Does it really matter when you’re barking mad and see Nazis everywhere?  Also, to play out the analogy fully, that would mean that Mr. Bush is Chamberlain and must have “capitulated” to Iran/Germany at the U.N./Munich.  I guess if you take no account of the radically different contexts and international political scenes, the comparison is flawless.

As it happens, I happen to agree that granting Khatami’s visa to go a-roaming around the country was a mistake, but not because he is the second coming of Goebbels or because this “coddles” Tehran, which is in no danger of being coddled or even negotiated with by this administration.  It is typical that the interventionists, who berate their adversaries for wanting to build “Fortress America” and engage in “isolationism,” are terrified at the prospect of any foreign leader of whom they disapprove even setting foot in this country; I do not recall their lamentations and wailings over Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington being nearly this strained and fanatical. 

Allowing Khatami’s visit is a mistake for the same reason that it was a mistake for the Episcopalians to ask him to National Cathedral (in all seriousness, and without wanting to insult any actually faithful Episcopalians who may be reading the blog, is there anything that these sorts of Episcopalians get right anymore?).  Whatever else you might say about him, he presided over a regime that persecuted every kind of religious minority, so to have him come and speak on matters ecumenical is not simply offensive but is in itself deeply perverse.  As it is not a state function, but an entirely private tour, Khatami will not be here in an official capacity, nor will he be in any position to negotiate on anything, so that his visit does not represent an opportunity for an opening to Iran, which might justify allowing his visit, but manages to achieve nothing concrete while indulging Khatami and his liberal well-wishers in his PR campaign and their delusions of religious dialogue. 

Someone will have to explain to me how liberals in this country, who supposedly find the onset of theocracy in America to be very real and very scary, see Khatami as a sort of friendly, bearded professor of religion who has come to offer his wisdom rather than the theocrat that he is.  I don’t use the term theocrat pejoratively; it is not his theocratic tendencies as such that offend.  In my view, it is much harder to defend the proposition that serious religious believers should not implement their religious vision in the community than that they should and indeed must.  But the theos he worships and the religion he and his impose on Iran coercively do offend.  I would be inclined to let Iranians concern themselves with the problems of Iran, but if we are going to have an Islamic theocrat come to this country I think we can plainly say what we think of the man’s Islamic revolution and his form of Islam itself. 

Of course, this is the last thing that is really on the minds of the interventionist critics of Khatami’s visit; the visit offends them not because it may help to spread a false impression about Islam as the ”religion of peace,” but because it empowers some mythical “Islamofascism” and makes the hegemon look weak.  Power, not truth, is what interests these people (obviously), and you can tell this by the enthusiasm with which they embrace this heinous neologism Islamofascist.  I wonder: given the penchant for the Sovietisation of language that these people have, how long before we go from accusations of appeasement and anti-Semitism to the natural conclusion of all this “fascist” talk?  How long before their opponents are declared to be “objectively Islamofascist”? 

Presumably if a leader with as appalling a “human rights” record as Khatami has came here (like, oh, I don’t know, Hu Jintao!), but was someone who could not readily be aligned with fascists of one sort or another (unless you are of the very real ”ChiComs are fascists now” school of fascist-obsession), you would hear few complaints from the usual suspects.  Very soon the Kazakh autocrat Nursultan Nazarbayev will be received at the White House and hosted by Bush at the family digs in Maine, but, you see, he is a good autocrat, a happy autocrat, and one of ours, so all will be well.  When Secretary Rice hosted the infamously corrupt and despotic President Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (the one Mark Thatcher allegedly tried to have overthrown by a small army of mercenaries two years ago), I’m also quite sure this had nothing to do with the lake of oil beneath his tiny country, but was based in his deep and abiding respect for the norms of democracy. 

In Nazarbayev’s case, he will be received as a guest of the President, and Nguema was hosted by the Secretary of State; Khatami will be the guest of some private liberal talking shops.  But which is the one that is driving the supposed friends of “freedom” absolutely crazy?  Of course, one can justify Nazarbayev’s visit by acknowledging that virtually every Central Asian state is a despotism of one kind or another (Kyrgyzstan is a tribal society with a nice democratic veneer) and that the Kazakh despotism has been on “our” side over the past many years and that this serves some grander scheme that is allegedly all to the good.  Relations with the hideous Nguema might be seen as a necessary evil to diversify our sources for oil.  But it becomes increasingly difficult to moan and lament about the repression of Tehran while hosting the dictator from Astana or cultivating security and economic ties with such humanitarians as Turkmenbashi the Great, known in his mere mortal form as Saparmurat Niyazov (who is a solid 18 on a scale of lunacy from 1 to 10), after our relationship with our last protestor-murdering despot, Islam Karimov, got a bit rocky.  

I am not some fantasist who believes that international relations will involve alliances only with saints and “reformers,” and I fully expect that we have to deal with ugly regimes all the time, which is why the refusal to even talk to Iran strikes me as the height of fantastic idealism.  Moreover, to listen to the interventionists tell it you would think Iran was the only despotism in the area (and, I would hasten to add, the specifically democratic elements of that despotism have tended to reinforce the worst in their system, rather than alleviate it) and that allied states, such as Saudi Arabia, do not engage in precisely the same kind of repression of religious minorities that Iran does.  “Human rights” deeply concern these people, provided they can be used as a pretext for war or interference in the internal affairs of a country whose government they despise for other reasons, but are otherwise neither here nor there.  That is worth bearing in mind when enduring the screeching of pundits about Khatami’s visit.     

But inviting Khatami is precisely the sort of thing I have come to expect from ecumenism and “outreach” efforts from liberal Christians of all confessions, who somehow manage to see only Rumi and Ibn Arabi when they look at Islam and somehow manage to see only oppression and Inquisitors when they look at their traditionally-minded fellow Christians.  The entire enterprise of ecumenism as it is now constituted is one dedicated not to truth or even reconciliation nor even good relations between religions and confessions within Christianity, but simply a pose of tolerance and “making nice” with the Other on the assumption that the gravest religious error that has ever been made was to look askance on those of different religions.  In fact, one of the worst errors is to confuse those who use the whip and the knout with those who preach peace and reconciliation or to indulge a basically unreasonable Muslim cleric to justify your own myths about the reasonableness and peacefulness of Islam-in-the-abstract.

But I’m amazed by the opportunity, I’m amazed by the hope that I feel down here. ~George W. Bush

Between all the “opportunities” down on the Gulf Coast and over in the Near East, I think people might just want to rethink this whole “opportunity society” idea.


And I suspect that what you’ll see, Toby, is there will be a momentum, momentum will be gathered. Houses will begat jobs, jobs will begat houses. [sic] ~George W. Bush

And, lo, the jobs smote unemployment hip and thigh with a great slaughter!  And Bernanke spoke unto the people: ”Thus saith the Fed, fear inflation and touch it not.  You shall have no loose money supply among you, but a higher reserve rate ye shall keep all the days of your life.”  And the people murmured against Bernanke and grew sullen against the king.  

Philippe Beneton conjures for us the image of a horrifying future (or, if your name is Anthony Sacramone, a comforting utopia).  You may, of course, replace the name of the company in question with any other, be it the corporation so many love to hate, Wal-Mart, or any other megacorp, multinational or one of their imitators (as Beneton says, “By McDonald’s, of course, I mean more than McDonald’s.”):

The McDonald’s system is also a triumph of procedural rationality, a rationality appropriate to a market economy.  There, as in the supermarket, the pure spirit of the market reigns.  Nothing troubles the purely functional, abstract, impersonal relationship between the seller and the buyer.  Here every person, whoever he or she may be, is exactly like all the others; he or she is a consumer, nothing but a consumer, entirely a consumer, a consumer from head to toe.  McDonald’s is universalist; its calling is to embrace the whole world without regard to divisions.  Once one passes through its doors, an alchemy takes over and erases whatever distinguishes and separates; the person becomes a consumer and every consumer’s money is as good as any other’s.  This is the wonder of the system: it neutralizes differences and divisions among people, differences in traits of character, as well as social, natiional, political, religious, or other differences.  It makes coexistence and cooperation possible among people who have nothing in common except respect for the same rules of the game.  All over the world, in New York, Paris, Istanbul, or Beijing, McDonald’s restaurants welcome in the same way (automatic smile, guaranteed hygiene, industrial food), whether you are of the left or of the right, Turk or Kurd, Chinese apparatchik or dissident, a child or his grandfather, a policeman or a criminal, a racist or an antiracist.  McDonald’s is the missionary of a new humanity, the builder of a new world, in collaboration with all the other businesses set to conquer the world market and sharing this great cause with a view to the greatest profit.  This new world is undifferentiated, destined to unify itself on the basis of uniform consumption–an egalitarian world, except of course for the only distinction that matters (money), a world called to achieve unity by the grace of the market.  The political problem par excellence, the problem that arises from differences among human beings, is finally about to be resolved: consumers of all lands, unite over a Big Mac!

This vision of uniformity, dullness and mediocrity terrifies.  It is the world, as he says, “at once perfected and decivilized.”  It abolishes differences in time, and as for consideration for manners, propriety, station, custom, meaning, beauty, love–these are completely banished from such a world.  As he says later, “Who would declare his love over a cheeseburger?”  And before someone volunteers, let me suggest that anyone who would do such a thing profanes love and mocks his beloved. 

It summons to mind the absurd self-justifying essay of Mr. Meilaender, who prefers the tedious hegemony of Burger King (quote via Spengler): 

Making a long drive home from a meeting late last summer, I found myself hungry in the early afternoon. I needed something that would be quick inexpensive, and good. And there (providentally?) was the sign: a Burger King off the next exit. I felt like a flame-grilled Whopper, and the beauty of it is that you can “have it your way” which in my case meant hold the tomato and mayo, add justard. Hear is a realm of life where being pro-choice is just the thing for me…As I began to eat, two young boys (probaby about ten and eight years old) sat down with their parents at an adjoining table. Both boys had on Chief Wahoo caps, so I would have known they were Cleveland Indians fans even if they had not been discussing the previous night’s game, whcih they had seen on ESPN. It happened that in my hotel room I had myself spent the last part of the evening watching that same game. I decided therefore to venture a brief conversational gambit. “Go Tribe,” I said to the younger of the two boys…Our ability to watch the Indians on television even though we did not live near Cleveland created a little shared community among us as we sat there eating in Burger King. The experience was so satisfying that I went back up tot he counter for a Hershey’s Sundae Pie and stayed longer than I’d planned.

As I noted at the time, this is a deeply troubled view, and Fr. Jape agrees. If Fr. Jape agrees, there must be something to it. But Beneton’s description of what is to come (indeed it is already here!) is terrifying not just in the hideous future it holds out–and Beneton makes clear here that this is the future of a world of globalisation and multinationals–but in the recognition that breaks in as you read it that a great many Westerners would find themselves nodding in eager anticipation of its arrival. The libertarian would say, “Yes, you see, the millennium of peace and brotherhood is coming, and it will be brought to you by The Market!”

The people who yearn for this age of uniformity are the people whom Adam Wayne fought in the streets of Notting Hill; they are the people who built the Crystal Palace; these are people who still believe that the Golden Age is coming, and expect that it will be televised and available in high definition. I find it hard to conclude that they are not the enemies, unwitting though they may be, of everything vital and real in human life, another gang of political optimists with a different scheme but just as misguided and deluded as all the rest.

Finally, vital differences among individuals are effaced.  For the economist, all human beings are alike, not of course because they have some higher calling in common but because they all rationally pursued objectives that are equally irrational.  Homo economicus is cold, rational, and utilitarian; he is gifted in calculating but empty of substance.  Human beings are indistinguishable in their way of being; they can only be distinguished by their incomes, their levels of consumption or productivity.  Here, everything that Peguy loves, all that he celebrates–good manners and morals, fine workmanship, beautiful language, simple joys, bonds of the flesh, the honor of the poor, the genius of Homer–none of this has any meaning.  We are indeed in the world of equality by default. ~Philippe Beneton, Equality By Default

It’s not as if our investment is yielding great returns. In Iraq, our coalition has neither increased the likelihood of victory nor reduced costs.

What’s more, the resources devoted to our coalition have done little to help the United States gain legitimacy. According to a recent Pew Global Attitudes survey, few people worldwide believe that the United States pays attention to the interests of others when making policy decisions. In the international community, the perception of America as unilateralist is pervasive. ~Patricia Weitsman, The New York Times

But why would most of the world take seriously claims to international cooperation founded on the bought-off governments of such world powers as Mongolia and Estonia?  One basic rule of power politics is that if you can readily buy off a country, it is probably not important enough to buy off and so not worth the trouble in the first place.  If the goal is to share the burden of a war, you typically don’t ally yourself with countries that have GDPs smaller than that of Nebraska.  There has been a lot of yapping about “New Europe” over the past four years, as if we had just found a new island chain in the South Pacific full of resplendently militant Europeans who desire to do our bidding (call it Nuropa for short).  The problem with the “New Europe” story was that it was agitprop cooked up by Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar (you remember him, the ex-prime minister of Spain?), stage managed by the warmongers at The Wall Street Journal and foisted on several of the poor countries of Nuropa by their typically ex-commie governments.  The countries that were signatories to the infamous Vilnius Letter were all NATO-wannabe allies (Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovakia) or countries only recently admitted to NATO (Slovenia, the Baltics, Romania, Bulgaria).  This would include the Albanian government that sponsored the KLA, the heirs of the Ustasha, and the Slovak government that actively discriminates against its Hungarian citizens.  The rest of Nuropa consisted of the ’96 admittees to NATO, with the Czechs committed to Iraq by Vaclav Havel on his way out the door, the Poles led by “reformed” communist Kwasniewski and the Hungarians (over the objections of a vocal opposition) by former commie regime agent Peter Medgyessy, then Socialist Prime Minister. 

It was assuredly an odd group to join together for the freedom of mankind–or perhaps not so odd when you see the project as a mad revolutionary “war of liberation” like those waged on the countries of Nuropa by another, um, benevolent hegemon.  The entire Nuropean coalition would have seemed much more notable if the governments of the nations involved did not give the impression that they were, as a Russian-American friend of mine put it very aptly, ” bootlicking eastern Europeans.”  That Nuropa was joined in the fight by mighty El Salvador and the indomitable Philippines (which probably had as much real choice in the matter as the new NATO allies did) and every other small nation of no geopolitical importance did not help to dispel the impression that this was the war of the master who was calling on his lackeys and retainers to do his bidding.  One notable exception to this list of nice, charming countries with no power was Japan, which has, of course, determined to leave Iraq.

Moreover, reporters slowly began to pay unaccustomed attention to these “ethnic” voters and to the leaders who were rising from their ranks, such as Mario Cuomo in New York, Richard Celeste and George V. Voinovich in Ohio, Dennis DeConcini in New Mexico, Peter Domenici in Arizona, and Barbara Mikulski in Maryland. ~Michael Novak

Now, goodness knows that everyone can make a mistake, but as a New Mexican I feel obliged (if that is the right word) to set the record straight and make it clear that Pete Domenici (perhaps his mother called him Peter, but nobody else I know does) is our Senator and DeConcini once represented the state to our west.  Pete still is our senior Senator, and probably has more seniority now than just about anybody on the GOP side since Thurmond’s departure.  As the Budget chairman, Domenici is hardly an unknown in Washington, and he is surely memorable as the poor soul who seems to be responsible for all the “Viva Bush” bumper stickers one will see on cars all over Albuquerque–presumably on the cars of Anglos who know all of ten words in Spanish, but who think that it is cute to have Spanish slogans for their politicians (perhaps they are preparing for the future?).  Dennis DeConcini, on the other hand, finished his time in the Senate in ‘95.  Rather crucially, Pete has been a Republican his entire Senate career, and DeConcini was a Democrat, which should make them even harder to mix up. 

I know it is hard for folks back east to tell the difference between all those big, wide-open states in flyover country (I should be grateful that Mr. Novak even remembers that New Mexico is part of the United States–something that is all too frequently overlooked), and apparently even harder to remember which Italian Catholic lives where, but in my book this is pretty much the equivalent of a no-brainer.

Update: The error has been corrected at First Things.

A law of history is that power tends to generate countervailing power. It is not for me to trace how this will come about. We can do little more than guard against arrogance and over-extension and minimize the pointless sacrifices they usually entail. I am proud to have taken part in this struggle, the struggle to bring the powerful to their senses before they plunge into reckless, ruthless folly. This struggle carries no guarantee of success, for it is the quest for sanity that epitomizes the struggle of suffering humanity throughout the ages. ~Sir Alfred Sherman (via Srdja Trifkovic)

The truth is that U.S. forces and the IDF looked good fighting Arabs only as long as Arab political leaders insisted on fighting on Western terms. As long as they persisted in pitting tank against tank or fighter plane against fighter plane, Arabs were never going to get the better of either the Americans or the Israelis. His stupidity perhaps matched only by his ruthlessness, Saddam may well have been the last Arab leader to figure this out. ~Andrew Bacevich, The American Conservative

I am reminded of that old Italian joke that sprang up after WWII, “What is the Italian salute?”  (The very un-PC answer is holding up both your hands in surrender.)  For students of Italian military history, this is a grievous insult, since Italian arms have been famous for good reason for centuries before the unification of Italy.  This joke only makes sense in the context of the poor morale and complete lack of zeal that Italian soldiers had in fighting for Mussolini and more generally in fighting for the Republic since unification.  Why was Mario from Naples going to die for some idiotic northern Italian warmonger who wanted to conquer Greece?  Who wanted to die for fascism?  (Yet another reason, gentle reader, why Islamofascism is a very, very stupid word–most of the soldiers fighting for the actual Fascists had little zeal for the cause, much less a willingness to embrace death!)  Long after the Romans made their small contribution to military history, Italians have been legendary fighters and Italy has produced some of the greatest generals (Prince Eugene of Savoy, though of mixed heritage and in service to the Habsburg emperor, was such a one)–when they were fighting for something or someone to whom they had a real attachment and loyalty.  But to die for La Reppublica?  Who will fight to the last for that?  There may be some who will, but just as no one will die “for the free market” (in Beneton’s catchy phrase), relatively few people want to die for an artificial republic that does not necessarily have anything to do with their sense of local patriotism or religious faith. 

In the same way, the ill-fated Arab nationalist armies of 1956, 1967 and 1973 did not fail because of their method of warfare but because their morale, organisation and commitment to their respective nations’ causes were all of poor or middling quality.  What conscript really was ready to die for Nasser and the United Arab Republic?  The absurdity of the question already provides the answer.  Thus the Arab armies in these wars were not as effective, suffered from poor organisation and often suffered large scale desertion or surrender–not because the method of war they were using was faulty or because they were incapable or using this method, but because they did not have the moral elements needed to make that way of war succeed against highly motivated, well-organised and disciplined forces and, in my obligatory Clausewitz reference, we should remember that the moral is to the material element in war as three to one. 

Any state that loses air superiority as quickly as Iraq did in 1991 (by flying a large part of its air force out of the country for “safe keeping”–whoops!) cannot fight an open-desert tank war and not get slaughtered.  This may have convinced some Arabs that this kind of warfare was foolish (or at least that fighting this kind of war against Israel and America was foolish), and I’m sure it convinced a lot of Westerners that Hussein was a buffoon, but it does not demonstrate that it would necessarily be ineffective if Arab states could combine the kind of cohesion and zeal that Hizbullah possesses with the technological means and know-how that several of them do possess.  The trouble is that the governments of the Arab states typically cannot generate the loyalty or zeal that Hizbullah does because, well, they have no credibility and they represent nothing that anyone wants to believe in. 

Partisan warfare, though effective to a degree, did not make “the Western way of war” obsolete in 1944, and modern guerrilla fighters do not necessarily make it obsolete now.   If Israel had combined its air assault with a large ground invasion and if it had been willing to accept the casualties that go with such an invasion and if it had been willing to fight a much longer, more arduous campaign than it has fought in the past and if it were in the political position to continue a hot war against an Arab country for months or even years, Hizbullah might very well have been defeated once and for all.  Whether that would have “solved” Israel’s security problems in the north or not is another question, but the outcome of the Lebanon war, remarkable as it is, does not necessarily prove any obvious superiority of Hizbullah’s method of warfare.  It took them longer to not lose a war that was called to a halt by international intervention, but it is not clear that they could have ultimately “won” except insofar as winning means staying alive.  Their method is superior only in the sense that they can significantly drive up the costs of their enemy’s victory to a point where he is less inclined to continue to fight. 

As Prof. Van Creveld suggested in the same issue, Israel was in a sense fighting with at least one arm tied behind its back (that it chose to use its other arm to devastate an entire country to no clear purpose unfortunately does not rate much mention in his article), in no small part because of the mistaken model used for the attack on Lebanon, namely Kosovo.  Following the Kosovo script assumes two things: 1) air power alone is sufficient to achieve the objective and 2) that you have three months to bomb the enemy into submission.  The first was a flawed conclusion from the beginning, and as it turned out Israel was not going to be allowed that much time.  Had NATO called off its unjust bombings after five weeks, it would have had similarly disappointing results, because the “Western way of war” being employed in Kosovo and Lebanon is not the same kind of Western war that was applied in the Arab-Israeli wars or the Gulf War, because the nature of these conflicts differs significantly.  They represent trying to dislodge an entrenched force that is in its own country vs. conventional fighting in the open field with massive air superiority on one side.  Had the Germans fought in Yugoslavia with nothing but the Luftwaffe, they would scarcely have gotten anywhere.

However, I do take Prof. Bacevich’s larger points that, so long as Western governments wage wars as they have been doing for the last 15 years, the guerrillas and insurgents of the Islamic world are able to “deny us victory” and that there is not a military solution to the political problems of the Near East.  But we should take care not to assume that differences in the method of warfare are the crucial difference in the relatively greater success of Arab peoples in war; if they are dedicated and trained Muslim fighters, their motivation seems remarkably greater than any ever inspired by the nationalist cause, and if they are particularly fanatical in their religion they possess a moral advantage that, if coupled with the conventional arsenal of a modernised Near Eastern military, could be quite formidable.  That is not to run around  like a little child screaming that we face impending doom, but to bear in mind that having something worth fighting for sometimes makes all the difference in determining the outcomes of conflicts.      

Attempting to maintain military hegemony in the Middle East is not in U.S. interests and runs contrary to American values and that would be the case even if the majority of Iraqis would have welcomed U.S. troops with flowers. And Israel’s long-term interest lies in making peace with its Arab neighbors and ending its occupation of the Palestinians even if Israel would have been able to maintain its military supremacy for ever and its control of the West Bank and Gaza with minimum costs. ~Leon Hadar

Mr. Hadar delivers a succinct and correct rebuttal to Prof. Bacevich’s recent TAC article.  While I think Mr. Hadar and I are both in complete agreement that Iraq and Lebanon were blunders of the first order and should have been avoided, and while I certainly think we should depart from Iraq post-haste, there is sometimes a tendency among war critics to imagine some kind of indomitable insurgent force that is as invincible as the hegemonists believe the superpower to be.  Indeed, the hegemonists are continually chafing at the restraints that common decency imposes on the current war efforts, depriving them of the sight of fire-bombed cities and civilian casualties in the hundreds of thousands.  The unfortunate thing is that the jingoes might be right to the extent that worst of the insurgency in Iraq might end if we were willing to inflict a level of destruction and terror on the entire population comparable to what was unjustly done to the civilian populations of Germany and Japan.  There are no guarantees that even this would work, of course, since massive death and devastation did not break the Vietnamese will to fight, and there are plenty of reasons to believe that this is unusually counterproductive in counterinsurgency.  The native insurgent or guerrilla’s advantage lies in the hegemon’s inability to reshape the political loyalties of the people through the massive use of force necessary to severely weaken the insurgents and guerrillas.  That is why hegemony in the Near East is doomed to failure–not because their military resistance is so effective, but because their political opposition to our hegemony is unyielding.  

However, even if the massive use of force would “work,” I would like to think that no decent person in this country wishes to lay waste to an entire country to break an insurgency against an occupation that shouldn’t even be taking place.  Besides not being in our national interest, neither the indefinite perpetuation of the occupation nor some neocon fantasy of raining thousands of bombs (or just a few nukes) on women and children can be morally justified. 

The Boer War, or the South African War as it is less colloquially called, was won through some of the most appalling methods of its time.  Long after the Transvaal and Orange republics had capitulated to the overwhelming military superiority of the British aggressors, Afrikaner kommandos (it was the Afrikaners who gave us this word) carried on the war to the proverbial bitter end while their farms and homes were put to the torch and their displaced families rounded up in horrible, disease-ridden concentration camps.  The virtual take-no-prisoners approach to the kommandos, as represented so strikingly and movingly in my favourite film, Breaker Morant, was brutal and ugly but finally ‘effective’ (and in Morant we see again how the lowest imperial grunts are made to take the blame for the Empire’s sake).  More and more of the countryside was fenced in until the bittereinders were finally compelled to surrender.  The insurgency lasted approximately three times as long as the formal war of 1899. 

Of course, the British had a relatively larger military presence and overwhelming advantages in controlling the supply lines into South Africa that make their success harder to duplicate in a larger territory with less secure borders and a much more broadly based resistance as we have in Iraq, which is now complicated by the activities of Shi’ite militias.  But the point is that the British were able to crush the Afrikaner insurgency, but only by methods that the rest of the world, including the strongly pro-Boer American public (still not fully recovered from their fit of anti-British jingoism of 1895-96), regarded as unjust and barbarous. 

If we were willing to break out the B-52s and start carpet bombing Anbar, the Sunni insurgency might eventually break due to a lack of Sunnis willing to fight–but such attacks would today be widely and correctly regarded as war crimes.  As we saw in Lebanon, indiscriminate bombing and collective punishment often have no effect on the popularity of the insurgents and instead drive the people into their arms, if only for a little while.  Once you go down that path, you can make no pretense to being a liberator or friend, but have become very simply a conqueror of the most brutal kind.  That would undoubtedly suit the more bloody-minded of our neo-imperialists, but it would betray everything our people claim to aspire to and betray every claim the government has made about “helping” Iraq. 

Rather than being inept ideologues who want to somehow Christianize science and academe, I think Dembski and Marsden have made fatal concessions to the deeper institutional and ideological structures they purportedly wish to change. They are figureheads for two strategically similar negotiations between Evangelicals and established elites in the institutions and regimes of expertise, mainly the academic world. ID is a very hard-line, anti-positivist, anti-materialist-reductionist movement with specific agendas, but it actually makes major concessions to positivism and materialist reductionism as the necessary rules of the game to which one must adhere to get any hearing at all. Marsden represents or helped foment a soft and very loosely organized movement with a vague agenda of softening or subverting anti-religious secularism in universities. Unlike ID, no particular scholarly theory or goal is prescribed; this is simply advocacy for (surely not every instance of) “Christian scholarship” that proceeds by appealing (and thus conceding) to the the rules of “tolerance” and “inclusivity”—the “multicultural” model of “pluralism” that prevails in academe and other segments of American society today and which is rightly perceived by many as inherently an assault on Anglo-European and Judaeo-Christian history, culture, and tradition. Though similar as “wedge strategies,” Intelligent Design and “the outrageous idea of Christian scholarship” are not at all comfortably united efforts to purchase status, credibility (if not authority), and influence for certain Christians. (It is odd that Balmer does not seem to see the internal divisions and that Wilson was not moved to point them out.)

These “wedge strategies” have been concocted in order to make superficial gains—to acquire some mainstream intellectual careers for certain Christians of approximately one’s own kind. It has, predictably, become very much a game of “Who benefits?” (Marsden’s Pew-funded purse fed “Evangelical” and then broadly “Christian” scholars, including certain Catholics and others who are not necessarily Evangelicals in the usual sense and who may or may not be differently “evangelical” than Evangelicals.) The great common ground has been simply a desire for “Access” that is at times more and less disguised as a process of “cultural transformation” or “redemption.” This very Evangelical desire to be an “instrument” ends up becoming more than a means to an end but an end in itself as a pillar of identity. There is little discussion and no real answer to the question about ends. Why would it be good to have a Deistic Theism regarded as respectable and relevant in science? Why would it be good to have “Christian perspectives” regarded as respectable and relevant in all fields of research and education? Good, I mean, in results other than greater cultural prestige, access, and authority for certain religionists. ~The Japery

Let’s try this one again:

Here is another surely-radical opinion:

Kids, if you care for your souls and desire to find a different way than that which you have glimpsed out in the world today; if you find in yourself some strange hunger for beauty and meaning, although if you have grown up as I did in this culture these things are but enigmatic figures, opaque promises; if you have any wish to recover authenticity, life in its natural way; then, kids, do not go to college.  

Expect the derision of all for such a radical step that they will say will certainly prevent any economic achievement in your life on your part (the proof that this is their summum bonum).

Instead, before you shackle yourself beneath the gods of usury, choose to learn a trade and work with your hands, live with the poor or handicapped, find a tutor and some like-minded students, in a beautiful place, read Scripture and the Great Books in your leisure, otherwise play music and sing, dance and paint, be festive as you at last will be able to be, and celebrate the Divine Liturgy every day. (And if you find a place like this and it calls itself a “college” or “university”, if such a place exists, don’t worry, they are equivocating, for they certainly then cannot have anything in common with what a college or university is taken to mean today, and feel secure in going to that place.) ~Matt Fish

The refusal to meet Khatami is an admission of weakness, not a declaration of strength, and, as such, is a mistake. If the concern is that the Iranians will spin any meeting (which will almost certainly go nowhere) more effectively than the Americans, that should be a wake-up call that the US is making a mess of projecting its message - and isn’t prepared to raise its game.

As for the tired, desperate and thoroughly disingenuous complaint that talking to our adversaries is the act of a Chamberlain, lets look at some previous Nevilles drawn from GOP ranks. One was called Dwight Eisenhower. Prior to the moment that the Gary Powers incident messed it all up, Ike was going to talk to Nikita (”we will bury you”) Khruschev. Or if we prefer, we can look at another Chamberlain. He was called Richard Nixon, the man who went to see Chairman (tens of millions murdered) Mao, and spent quality time with Leonid (Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan, you name it) Brezhnev, as, in the case of the latter tyrant, did President Ford. And then we have remember Ronald Reagan, another unconvincing striped pants and umbrella man. Back in April 1982, he indicated that he’d be glad to meet old Brezhnev if he came to the UN that summer. ‘Unfortunately’ Brezhnev was busy dying at the time, so the meeting never took place.

What Reagan, Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford all understood was that the exercise of (sometimes meaningless) diplomacy was an important asset in the US arsenal, and if that meant they would have to sit down with monsters, so be it. They were confident that they would prevail. Is that no longer the case? ~ Andrew Stuttaford, The Corner

But as Stanley “The Horror, The Horror” Kurtz would tell you, they were just dealing with those minor adversaries, the Soviets and Mao–not a real threat like a lone Iranian nuke being launched at the U.S.  Sure, Mao may have technically had more nukes when Nixon went to China, and Mao may have technically killed tens of millions of people with his policies, and he may have technically launched a war against American forces only twenty years before, but he was small potatoes compared to Ahmadinejad and the Iranian nuke!  You mustn’t use diplomacy on weaker nations–that’s what invasions are for.

Pessimism, to Schopenhauer, means not that our civilization or morality are declining, but rather that human beings are fated to endure a life freighted with problems that are fundamentally unmeliorable. ~Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit

Is this really that controversial or remarkable a claim?  It does not seem so outlandish to me, but then I cannot recall a time when I thought that meliorism made much sense.  I will refrain from Wedding Crashers references in this instance, since I imagine that is more Michael’s territory anyway.

Lopez Obrador’s plan is to have his government help the poor, oppose privatizations and make the news media — which he has accused of ignoring him — more “truthful and objective.”

It’s not clear how he plans to do that, but his supporters are already planning to hold an alternative swearing in ceremony to rival the official inauguration on Dec. 1.

People close to Lopez Obrador say he is assuming the role of his hero, 18th century [sic] President Benito Juarez, who led a roving, “unofficial” presidency from 1863 to 1867 during the French invasion, before driving out the invaders and executing the French-installed Emperor Maximilian. ~MSNBC

Does that mean that he has hopes of executing Calderon?  I wonder.  Of course, if Lopez Obrador and his followers do manage to start a civil war over this, the peoples of Mexico and the United States will be the losers, since, besides the destruction it would cause, it would make Mexico most undesirable for outside investment and the refugees from the war would be coming here in droves. 

But what Lopez Obrador is doing should stand as a shining example to people who think that the PRD-style of politics has something to do with any kind of democracy that we would recognise here or who think that the political habits of Mexicans in Mexico have no impact on the political habits of Mexican immigrants (who can, let us remember, vote in Mexican elections).  It is the politics of direct action and street protest (and, if need be, street violence), and it is the style that many of the people coming to this country from Mexico have imbibed from their youth.  These are the political habits they have inherited, and I think we would be foolish to think that they will not keep them even once they have relocated to this country.     

The worst sort of unhappiness is produced by a lack of recognition of the limits to happiness. ~Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit

In this statement lies a vital part of the essence of every critique of consumerism, individualism, liberalism and every doctrine of revolutionary emancipation that exists or has existed.

Indeed, fundamentally, the pessimistic account of the origin of unhappiness (even, I would maintain, in Freud) has little to do with psychology itself but with a claim of ontological misalignment between human beings and the world they inhabit. ~Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit (p.33)

Dienstag is not talking about any of these things in relation to Christian theology.  Though he does mention Dostoevsky among the many pessimists of modernity (and it is perhaps by way of Dostoevsky that I have come to appreciate the insights of pessimism–it is also encouraging to think that Dostoevsky’s view was indeed as philosophical as I have thought it was and not simply a function of stereotypical Russian angst), he does not concern himself with modern Christian thought at all in this book.  But the pessimists’ recognition that man and the world are “ontologically misaligned,” that there is something deeply awry in our condition and that our predicament is one of continual mismatching of desires and achievement stands as a ringing confirmation of the Christian description of the state of man after the Fall. 

It is also true, as more than a few have observed over the years, that there is a strong resemblance between Schopenhauer’s pessimism and the teachings of the Buddha that all life is dukkha, often translated as suffering, because of the impossibility of satisfying craving and desire: either the desire or the achievement of the desideratum will be too great or too little, creating dissatisfaction, which cannot be cured except through the cessation of desire.  Many a deracinated child of nominal Christians has thought that in this teaching lies some hidden wisdom that Christianity has never taught, which would be mistaken–the extinction of desire, detachment, is the same concept and same goal of the ascetic life in Orthodox Christianity, which the early monastic writers termed apatheia (dispassion), borrowing from the lexicon of Plato and the Neoplatonists. 

Where the pessimists will not go, of course, because they do not believe in any ultimate solution of any kind, is to the Christian answer to the human predicament, but in their assessment of the predicament they are that much more realistic than the people who seek to sugar-coat the nature of the world with promises of a better tomorrow and grandiose schemes for reform and progress.  The Christian pessimist, if I can use such a term, acknowledges the finitude and createdness that are integral to our being, but he also places his hope in deliverance that is from beyond the ages and an adoption into the divine life of God.  

The pessimist’s recognition that no advance comes except at a price (and sometimes too high a price) and a related insight that you abolish a structure in human life in the name of emancipation only to find it re-emerging in its “black market” forms elsewhere (as Chantal Delsol has argued in Icarus Fallen) point to a certain structure and logic in reality that I think even the pessimists in their embrace of the absurd tend to miss.  This recognition of the costs of any change, though not framed in specifically conservative language, also can be seen as standing in close relation to conservative critiques of all forms of social engineering and the common sense view that there is no free lunch.

There are few activities in life that can be said to be more futile than blogging.  What, after all, does it do, except provide a forum for people with nothing better to do than to give a lecture on the virtues of pessimism to other people with nothing better to do than respond in kind?  We can futilely mock each other in very serious ways, and then pat ourselves on the back that we have made our respective points, having probably changed no one’s mind and exhausted part of an afternoon or evening that would have been better spent in almost any other way.  I could be reading more of my book on pessimism rather than writing this post.  It’s all very discouraging. 

There are no more fleeting accomplishments than writing “posts,” which sometimes lack in themselves even the completion accorded to more complete articles or essays.  As an entirely electronic medium, a blog is as ephemeral as can be and entire years of work could be eliminated in some sort of horrendous server crash.  Most blogging is of a topical and derivative nature (thus you have a response to someone else’s reaction to another person’s article on a press conference about a policy initiative), as sickeningly post-modern as you could want and as time-bound an activity as man can imagine.  Worse, only the inside jokes of sci-fi geeks can compare with the ultimate irrelevance that most blog posts enjoy (it is no surprise that many a sci-fi geek also happens to blog and more and more of the blogging at The Corner, for example, seems preoccupied with the latest trivia from the world of sci-fi).  Perhaps both benefit from their common unreality–one is a product of fictional stories, the other is an entire medium at a remove from the real world and one step closer to the fantasies of science fiction.     

Not only is online writing fleeting and impermanent, as well as remarkable for how little impact it has on anyone, but most blogging is of such a trivial nature that it would likely make schoolgirls with their diaries feel contemptuous of the light-weight, meaningless banter that goes on on many sites (that a great many blogs are actually just electronic versions of the schoolgirls’ diaries only confirms this–what is depressing in a way is how little difference there often is between those diaries and the prattling nonsense that passes for most political blogging, from which, of course, the author must obviously be excepted).  I’m sure someone has made similar observations somewhere (and if I spent enough time using Google Blogsearch, I could find the reference!), but blogging is the ideal cultural expression of an age of no authorities and no meaning.  The new authority might be this: I blog, therefore I have authority.     

It is perhaps doubly ironic that a proponent of eunomia should then be blogging at all, since I assume that there are things of permanent value and permanent meaning, though I am typically opposed to all modern progress-laden accounts of purpose and meaning in life.  But on the other hand, I believe that I am giving voice to some of the much neglected ideas of reactionaries of ages past and working, in however limited a fashion, to dismantling the pretensions of every kind of progressive, not unlike Dienstag’s own reappraisal of pessimism in Pessimism.  Whether it will have any lasting value is uncertain, and it would be entirely out of character–and quite inappropriate for this post–for me to be optimistic about that.  

One point that deserves emphasis here is the non-equation of pessimism with theories of decline.  While pessimists may posit a decline, it is the denial of progress, not an insistence of some eventual doom, that marks out modern pessimism.  Pessimism, to put it precisely, is the negation, not the opposite, of theories of progress.  This may immediately strike some readers as a fudge, but consider: most of those thinkers whom we could agree without argument to call pessimists, like Schopenhauer, did not profess a belief in any permanent downward historical trend.  Schopenhauer posits no long-term historical trends at all, merely a constantly regrettable human condition burdened…by linear time.  In fact, belief in a permanent decline of the human condition is relatively rare in political theory….But it is not an accident that writers such as Schopenhauer are known as pessimists–for the nonprogressive yet linear view of human existence is indeed profoundly discomfiting.  Unlike a cyclical account, where the pattern of history is essentially pregiven, pessimism is historical in the modern sense: change occurs, human nature and society may be profoundly altered over time, just not permanently for the better. ~Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Spirit, Ethic

Obviously, I am sure that even pessimists cannot show change in human nature over time one way or the other, just as meliorists and optimists cannot.  It is this constancy of human nature that convinces me that the pessimists are on the whole right, or at least more likely to be right, because even with institutional, social or political change man remains unchangeably man (even the Christian belief in grace and deification does not really overthrow this constancy of nature, so much as it transforms the quality and purpose of the energies of man–grace and deification do not really change human nature so much as they restore and fulfill it to its true purpose).

As for the lack of long-term trends in history, I am completely in agreement with the pessimism outlined here.  It is my firm conviction that believers in progress are able to believe in it largely through ignorance of human history or because of a particularly biased Hegelian idea of History, so that you can still have inexplicably prominent people use the phrase, “History is against this or that,” as if History were out there somewhere expressing a firm opinion about a topic.

In spite of what I have already said on this, someone may still object that it is impossible to embrace the Gospel and pessimism, when one of the tenets of pessimism (as Dienstag lays out elsewhere) is that human existence is absurd.  But without the Gospel, without the extraordinary act of God entering history and redeeming man, human existence would be absurd after a fashion.  The pessimists do not tell the entire story, but they do largely correctly assess the state of the world and they certainly tell more of the real story than the optimists who would generally like to rewrite the story. 

Finally, the dismissal of pessimism reflects the continuing grip that ideas of progress retain on contemporary consciousness.  Though supposedly slain many times (Lewis Mumford called it the “deadest of dead ideas” in 1932), this beast continues to rise from the ashes for the simple reason that, first, it helps us to make sense of the linear time of our calendar and, second, there is no easy substitute for it.  However much it may be denied in principle, in practice the idea of progress is difficult to displace.  And from that perspective, pessimism is especially bewildering…..Pessimism is a substitute for progress, but it is not a painless one.  In suggesting that we look at time and history differently, it asks us to alter radically our opinion of ourselves and of what we can expect from politics.  It does not simply tell us to expect less.  It tells us, in fact, to expect nothing.  This posture, I argue below, is not impossible and not suicidal.  It is neither skeptical (knowing nothing) nor nihilistic (wanting nothing).  It is a distinct account of the human condition that has developed in the shadow of progress–alongside it, as it were–with its own political stance. ~Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit

Most, if not all, political writers today are ready to recognize and reject the historical utopianism found in the philosophical descendants of Hegel.  Pessimism, however, is equally critical both of that tradition and of the less flamboyant but, from its perspective, similarly progressive liberalism found in the descendants of Locke, Kant, Mill, and Dewey.  Indeed, one of the intellectual benefits of reviving the tradition of pessimism is the way that it causes us to reassess the theoretical debates of the last three centuries so that we see more clearly how the various forms of optimism have been allied.  From this perspective, the great divide in modern political theory is not between the English-speaking and the Continental schools, but between an optimism that has had representatives in both of these camps and a pessimism whose very existence those representatives have sought to suppress.


For centuries, much philosophy, both Anglo-American and Continental, has been premised on the idea (not always explicitly defended) of a gradual improvement in the human condition.  But what if we grapple with the possibility that such a melioration cannot be expected, that we must make do with who and what we are?  Pessimism is the philosophy that accepts this challenge.  It does not preach inevitable gloom.  In a relentlessly optimistic world, it is enough to give up the promise of happiness to be considered a pessimist.  Pessimism’s goal is not to depress us, but to edify us about our condition and to fortify us for the life that lies ahead.  To build proper fortifications, one must have a proper sense of the enemy and his weapons.  For the pessimists, it is fundamentally our time-bound condition that threatens us.  But this presents a special problem since it is also our existence within time, and our consciousness of time, that makes possible many of the most excellent and glorious of human attributes, not least of which is the reason that allows us to philosophize at all.  So pessimism must suggest a kind of fortification of the self against an enemy that is already inside the gates of the soul. ~Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit

Instead of blaming pessimism, perhaps we can learn from it.  Rather than hiding from the ugliness of the world, perhaps we can discover how best to withstand it.  As I noted above, pessimism’s critics have often assumed that it must issue in some sort of depression or resignation.  But this assumption says more about the critics than about their targets.  Who is it, exactly, that cannot bear a story unless guaranteed a happy ending?  Pessimists themselves have often been anything but resigned.  Indeed, they have taken it as their task to find a way to live with the conclusions they have arrived at, and to live well, sometimes even joyfully.  If this cannot be true for all of us, it is not the pessimists who are to blame, but the problems they grapple with. ~Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit

The economist takes no account of the nature of economic goods, any more than of free goods.  Wealth and poverty, the optimum and the rational, growth and national product, standard of living and utility have nothing to do with what is beyond the world of the market.  But the GNP cannot account for the services furnished by mothers to their families–”your remark is beside the point, since these are nonmarket services.”  Consider another example: what if ugliness and boredom increase with productivity–”I do not deal with such matters.”  Or what if too much economic rationality undoes social bonds and isolates human ebings–”Why do you persist?  I tell you that this is none of my affair.”  But what if the gap widens between what is good economically and what is good for humans as humans–”I choose not to answer you.” ~Philippe Beneton, Equality By Default 

More than 10,000 Iraqis - the vast majority in Baghdad - have been killed in the past four months alone, a figure that would send shockwaves through the international community were it in any other part of the world. ~The Independent

The story also tells of reports that recent Iraqi army-Shia militia fighting in Diwaniyah ended up resulting in the army being driven out:

The intense fighting in Diwaniyah will be of particular concern to British forces stationed in the Shia-dominated south of Iraq. Reports suggested that militiamen had driven government forces out of the city and had set up checkpoints in the suburbs. If the Mehdi Army has pushed the government out of the Shia-dominated city it will be a major snub to Mr Maliki, who has promised to rid Iraq of militias. 

It is minimally encouraging that the army is actually standing up and fighting the militias; it is rather less encouraging, if the report is accurate, that Sadr’s militia is beating the Iraqi army in the field.  The latest is that the government has made arrangements with the Madhi Army to withdraw from the town, but this obviously leaves this part of the militia intact. 

The 22nd District becomes the first House seat being defended this year by the Republicans in which the Democratic nominee is rated as having a clear edge.

Corruption does eventually catch up with everyone.  If the GOP was able to hold onto Cunningham’s seat in San Diego in the special election and will probably still hold it in November, they may lose DeLay’s old seat in Sugar Land because of the somewhat baffling choice for their write-in candidate: Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, M.D. 

Sekula-Gibbs doesn’t sound like a name that’s easy to remember–I have almost forgotten it in the course of writing this sentence.  As if Sekula wasn’t a tricky enough name for folks to remember, she just had to have a hyphenated name, didn’t she?  (I wonder if the modern hyphenated surname phenomenon, besides being a rebellion against patriarchal traditions, isn’t just a little bit of an attempt to have children with aristocratic-sounding names.)  People have a hard enough time getting the spelling of my last name right (you have no idea how many times people forget the ‘i’)–what are the odds that “Sekula-Gibbs” will be any easier?

This is too bad, because Dr. Sekula-Gibbs actually seems to be very bright and a decent candidate in her own right who would probably have made a good representative (anything after DeLay would have to be an improvement, I suppose), but as it is she may go down in the books as the write-in candidate who failed to hold an otherwise safe GOP seat that might ultimately cost the party control of the House.  O Stupid Party, we salute you!    

The West’s response to militant Islam tends to be alarm and horror. It hardly has categories to describe it, so it falls back on such inadequate terms as terrorism and Islamofascism, which make about as much sense as Islamovegetarianism. In fact, such words don’t get you very far at all. Fascism was a brief and superficial thing compared with the vast and ancient thing that is Islam; it flared out after a few violent years, in a way Islam is most unlikely to do. ~Joseph Sobran

At The Corner, Michael Rubin believes he has found the magic bullet to defend the ridiculous terms “Islamic fascist” and Islamofascist:

Is Islamism Totalitarian? [Michael Rubin]

These prominent Muslim intellectuals and writers think so.It makes the criticism of President Bush by some American pundits for using the term Islamic fascism seem, well, silly.  


Why, Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, among others–ever the paragons of defining normative Islam–have declared Islamism (as opposed, I guess, to plain vanilla Islam) to be totalitarian.  Along with a lot of other standard left-liberal rhetoric, they declare:

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity, and secular values for all.

That’s all very predictable, but it suggests that they would likely see  any dogmatic religion that makes extensive demands on its believers to be totalitarian in many respects.  This tends to undermine their assessment of something as totalitarian–which, if properly used, refers to the total integration of state and society (as it was originally used) or, as it is used more conventionally, the abolition of any and all barriers to the control of the state that is undertaken in most cases for ideological reasons.  Islamism and, indeed, Islam do make totalising claims about all spheres of life and their strict adherents would seek to implement those claims through government coercion if and when they obtain power, so there is reason to describe them as totalitarian.  But this has next to nothing to do with fascism. 

Indeed, if we look at the historic fascist regimes, particularly the regime in Italy, we look in vain for precisely this kind of totalising interference in every aspect of life.  As I have suggested before, to elide fascism and Islamism is basically to insult the name of fascism.  It could be argued that referring to someone as an Islamic fascist, while rhetorically useful, is even less accurate because it minimises the nature of the threat by comparing it with the relatively unthreatening and weak Fascist regime of Italy.  Totalitarianism, a term invented by the Italians, never fully existed in Fascist Italy in the way that we use it now.  The connections between the totalitarianism of secret police, control of the public through propaganda and fear, and massive state coercion and violence we associate with Nazi Germany and the USSR and fascism in Italy are very tenuous.  In any case, the two terms are not syonymous, even if we argue that a generic fascism is totalitarian. 

Next, one might ask why Ms. Ali and Mr. Rushdie would take this view.  It could have something to do with their hostility to most forms of normative Islam and their personal negative experiences at the receiving end of hatred and threats from Islamic revolutionaries and fundamentalists.  Another signatory is Ibn Warraq, author of Why I Am Not A Muslim, which ought to rather preclude defining him as a “Muslim intellectual” or Muslim writer.   

It might be that secular Muslims who see eye-to-eye with Bernard Henri Levy (another signatory of this “Muslim intellectual” statement) may not have much more authority in describing Islamism definitively as totalitarian than any other Westerner.  In fact, I think the description of “Islamism” as totalitarian is accurate, but it tells us nothing about whether the term “Islamic fascist” is accurate.  The differences between generic term “totalitarian” and the specific term ”fascist” are essential to stating and understanding things clearly.  To say that something is totalitarian (to continue to abuse a word that virtually no one understands) is not necessarily to say that it is fascist, which makes Mr. Rubin’s remark seem all the more facile and, yes, silly, unless he is prepared to start calling them Islamocommies as well.  Islamocommie does roll off the tongue more easily, but it would be just as stupid.

More basically, this is a very strange argument for Mr. Rubin to be making.  He seems to think that if he can find a few secular Muslims, Muslims in exile from their native lands or ex-Muslims who already share the ideology of liberal modernity and who also happen to agree that Islamism is totalitarian that he has somehow proved the point.  Of course, if finding Muslims to back your position on something was the key to success in argument, opponents of the terms Islamofascist and “Islamic fascist” have even more Muslim witnesses–on the order of one billion.  Rubin’s is a preposterous argument on every level, which is understandable, since defending such a preposterous term as Islamofascist should require equally preposterous arguments.

But once it was clear that the Soviet menace was gone, and the West was no longer afraid of handing one of the world’s most important countries to Moscow control, Mrs Thatcher played a significant part in the release of Mandela and the peaceful handover of power. I say this as someone who has no special admiration for Lady Thatcher and no links with the Tory Party. It just happens to be true.

By the way, it is worth noting a few other things about Mr Mandela and the new South Africa. As I pointed out in my Channel Four documentary, ‘Mandela, beneath the halo’, Mandela is not above criticism and has served as a figleaf for the ANC, often doing little or nothing to oppose or criticise its wrong actions since he emerged from prison. Given his enormous world status, it is reasonable to argue – for example - that he could have opposed the ludicrous arms deal, under which the country is spending billions on jet aircraft and submarines to fight an imaginary enemy.

Left-liberal voters will not switch to the Tories because Mr Cameron has made his ritual pilgrimage. They will never forgive the Tories for being Tories, whatever they do. His action, much more a matter of image than of thought, is yet another of those gestures which will make the Tory Party a little less unpopular among the people who will never, under any circumstances, vote for it. As for those who might vote for it, this event ought to warn them that they are dealing with a man who values appearance above substance. ~Peter Hitchens

Mr. Hitchens gives a much more thorough and detailed account of why Cameron was mistaken to dismiss then-PM Thatcher’s policy towards South Africa and gives a balanced account of the ANC’s recourse to terrorist methods.  He gives Mandela a fair shake, but also reminds us of the considerable influence of communists on the ANC.  All in all, Cameron comes off looking like the fool that he is, and Lady Thatcher comes off looking much better.

In the driving rain López Obrador told supporters not to accept the decision of the tribunal and vowed to continue the demonstrations.

“They supported the delinquent that stole the presidential election,” López Obrador said. He also said the tribunal made a “political decision, not a judicial one.”

López Obrador, of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, had demanded a full recount and has said that he would not accept the results of the partial recount. He also has said he plans to declare himself the president of Mexico, regardless of the tribunal’s decision. ~The Washington Post

You have already heard all the serious commentators tisk-tisking at Lopez Obrador for his lack of respect for the results of the democratic process, the need for electoral victories to be recognised by all parties for the integrity of the system, and so on and so forth.  But if people respected electoral outcomes, where would Yushchenko and his Ukrainian nationalists be now?  It doesn’t seem fair that illegal antics and street protests shouldn’t get you something for your trouble.  There should at least be some kind of consolation prize–like being made governor of Chiapas! 

I think the main reason Lopez Obrador did not win massive Western aid and propaganda support wasn’t that he was a member of Mexico’s leftist party or that he is more hostile to Washington, but because he did not have a colour scheme and enough impressive music concerts.  The two colours of green and red from the Mexican flag would have been very festive, and would have filled American onlookers with a peaceful feeling of Christmastime.  In New Mexico, the Green and Red Revolution could have found handy expression in chile roasting events and giant feasts of homemade New Mexican food; Gov. Richardson would probably had gone down to mediate the electoral dispute himself.  But Lopez Obrador screwed up.  He didn’t know that street protests now need to have a theme and a PR label–simple political resentment and angst is so 1960s.      

So let us take a moment to celebrate the fact that we have a PRD myth of a stolen election so soon after the Democratic myth of a stolen election.  This will help to create solidarity and understanding between our two countries, as almost everyone on either side of the border, regardless of political affinities, will have someone on the other side with whom he can identify.  Republicans and PAN men can laugh heartily at wild conspiracy theories, and Democrats and the PRD can simmer and bubble in their stew of bitterness.  The rest of us can sit back and enjoy the entertainment of such a ridiculous system for selecting a head of state. 

And, really, we should be willing to learn from our Mexican neighbours.  When Lopez Obrador finally does declare himself President, some might consider this to be in poor form or even possibly illegal, but I think he is just taking party politics to their logical conclusion.  So often we hear that a President is a President “of all the people,” but we know this isn’t really true, so Lopez Obrador has come up with the obvious solution: simply have another president to cover everyone not really represented by the winner.  Before you know it, we could have a slogan that would make the Kingfish himself proud: “Every man a President.”  It is not as poetic, but if modern presidents are anything to go by this is a much better deal for the average Joe than being a measly king. 

This dual presidency could create some problems when it comes time to organise governments, execute laws or direct the military, but I’m sure that the two presidents will sort everything out amicably, just as so many other rivals for control of the Mexican government have over the last two centuries.  Perhaps it will encourage us to dust off the New Jersey Plan and show the Mexicans up by having the three Presidents suggested by William Paterson.  So, thank you, Manuel, for showing us the way. 

Most issues can either be painted as very glorious or very repulsive, depending on the wielder of the brush. I think the role and place of women is just such an issue. It is too easy to either view women as equal in role to men, thus brushing over the glorious distinctions God has given the two sexes, or conversely to harp on the servitude of women and their need to keep a “proper place” in society. The male writer of the Forbes article did not do either, but there was still no beauty in his painting of a woman’s role, no esteem for her position. She was a statistic who shouldn’t compete with men. Period.

The Bible paints a different picture, though. Women have a different role than men. Woman is created to be his helpmeet, walking beside him hand in hand through life. Marriage is a union, a binding of two lives that the two might work together more effectively than apart. In that beautiful union, woman does take the role that is often deemed “demeaning.” She is a guard of the home, a nurturer of children. She takes the home as her sphere of influence gladly, not because it is statistically better but because she belongs there. She was created for a special purpose. She is not free household staff, but a cherished wife and a mother. And yes, she is an obedient wife. ~Susan Garrison

Such are the sensible words of Ms. Garrison, who blogs here, responding to the deficiencies in Mr. Noer’s original Forbes article and making her very succinct summary stressing the importance of complementarity in Christian marriage and emphasising the honourable and vital role of women as laid down in Scripture.  Readers should look at the entire post to determine whether the young lady is, as Mr. Suderman offensively averred, either “backwards” or a “lunatic.”  I believe that readers will find a moderate, intelligent woman who seeks to live out her obligations before God in a manner well-pleasing to Him.     

This is not the American way. Efforts to fight big chains like Wal-Mart are not either. The counterfeit Americanism of the far left and parts of the paleoconservaitve right has nothing to do with America’s core values: free competition, free access to property and markets, and minimal government interference with economic development. Now businesses, big and small, have resisted this model, seeking various forms of priviledge [sic]; but the rhetoric of free markets and small government has long been championed by the middle classes as a whole. These views have been the antidote to European-style socialism. This historically-grounded economic freedom was the banner of resistance to FDR’s New Deal. It is also the reason that all of the anti-Wal Mart hysteria is wrong-headed and un-American. ~Chris Roach

I am often puzzled how people can in the same breath talk about America’s core value of free competition and invoke Wal-Mart as the standard-bearer of that value.  Surely any behemoth company itself is most interested not in free competition, but like all firms it is interested in limiting competition.  The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a relative major corporations that grow ever larger and take over more and more markets has nothing to do with free competition.  To look back to the town near my own alma mater of Hampden-Sydney, Farmville, I remember distinctly seeing just in the four years that I was there the final death of all of any Farmville downtown shops that competed in any direct way with the services provided by the Super Wal-Mart that seemed to dominate the space of the town like a castle overlooking the lord’s holdings. 

At the time, young college student that I was, awake at all hours, the 24-hour Wal-Mart seemed like a boon to a young urbanite like myself stuck out in the boonies of Southside Virginia.  It occurs to me now that the people who lived in the town might have had different views of the matter.  In any case, the coming of Wal-Mart was not some simple introduction of new growth and money-saving opportunities, but caused a measure of dislocation in the town and, more than that, has now wedded the town’s future fortunes  much more closely to the continued presence of that Super Wal-Mart. 

I don’t know if it is “counterfeit Americanism” to find troubling or objectionable the considerable dependence of the well-being of a town on the unaccountable decisions of one corporation that has no stake and no real attachment to the place, but I would suggest that there is nothing terribly consistent with the listed American “core values” in this development.  We do well to be wary of the road to state serfdom and advocate going in the other direction, but we make a great error if we think that road to corporate serfdom does not lead in the same direction and does not eventually meet up with the other road.  The masters of both use fear of the other to aggrandise their power.  The state tells you, “I will protect you from exploitation, give me power (and money)!”  And so you do.  Then the corporation says, “I provide you services and represent your freedom from government interference, so give me money (and power)!”  And so you do.  At no point are you concerned that the corporation generally supports what the state is doing and vice versa, or that some of the money you give to each one goes towards empowering and influencing the other.  If the two parties are, as Mr. Buchanan’s memorable phrase had it, “two wings of the same bird of prey,” the state and corporations in state capitalist political economy are the talons of the same bird. 

The Hamiltonian juggernaut has triumphed, and in one of the bitter ironies of American history it has convinced Americans that bank rule and the moneyed interest are friends of liberty and that dependence on these interests is emancipation.  In all of this the dream of liberty and independence, an independent and self-governing people, is nowhere to be found.  Hamiltonianism and indeed “the American System” itself are certainly American in origin, so I will not engage in the mistaken rhetoric of declaring them un-American, but it is not at all clear that they are in the best interests of the commonwealth or the institutions of the Republic.  It has never been clear since the original system behind them was first concocted in 1789, and there is a long line of American patriots who have made credible arguments that this system is the enemy of a free Republic.

And while some did frame opposition to the New Deal in terms of economic freedom, and still others on constitutional grounds, the most vociferous opponents were the oligarchs of yesterday’s corporate giants.  We do not necessarily have to bow either to FDR or to J.P. Morgan; the choice does not have to be between Social Democracy and Wal-Mart.  An economic regime where landed property was widely diffused and securely held, where economic independence was a plausible reality and not an electioneering slogan, where direct taxation of any kind would not subvert the rights of the smallholder but public authority would not walk hand in hand with corporations would provide a means out of this false dichotomy. 

When I think of the alternative to Wal-Mart, the supposed ideal society of small shopkeeper and the family farmer, I’m reminded of the abyssmal [sic]service, high prices, lack of selection, and utter dreariness of Hyde Park, Chicago, where I went to school. ~Chris Roach

Now perhaps I have been living in Hyde Park for too long and have been taken in by the place, but the words abysmal and dreary do not pop into my mind when I think of it.  I won’t pretend that it is a marvelous neighbourhood, or that it is an instantiation of the small community ideal, but it is actually still something of an urban neighbourhood community (to the extent that this has not always been something of a contradiction in terms), which cannot be said for its counterparts in Glen Ellyn, Aurora and Naperville with their antiseptically beautiful rows of identical houses full of people who do not know each other.  Evanston is similar to Hyde Park in many of the same ways with respect to being free of the box and chain stores, and while it has plenty of problems no one I know could reasonably describe it as abysmal or dreary.      

The neighbourhood co-op does not seem to be charging such terribly expensive prices (since it is the main grocery store for the neighbourhood, I don’t have many handy comparative examples to know whether their prices are competitive–presumably, as a small co-op chain, they will not be perfectly competitive with a much larger chain such as Dominick’s), the selection seems perfectly adequate and the service in dreary old Hyde Park is no better or worse than that found in chain groceries in the suburbs of Chicago.  The neighbourhood is, of course, oriented around the University and so tends to be heavy on services (mostly restaurants) and light on other kinds of stores.  And no one would deny that the South Side surrounding Hyde Park is of an almost entirely different character from the neighbourhood.  But if we want to speak about dreary places in Chicago, the “revitalised” Cabrini Green would be a better target than Hyde Park, which remains one of the few bright spots on the South Side in part because of the presence of the University.  It is also undeniable that for things like appliances or furniture or any of the durable goods that the box stores sell in huge numbers that Hyde Park does not have stores that offer these things, but it is not hard to imagine why small stores providing these services would not exactly flourish in the age of Target and Wal-Mart. 

In any case, Hyde Park is hardly a complete hold-out against chain stores of all kinds nor is it some hard-core center of mom ‘n’ pop businesses, though you will never encounter one of the sprawling megastores here or anywhere east of the Dan Ryan and south of Roosevelt.  The city has made sure of that.  I don’t know whether native Hyde Park and South Side residents would prefer to have Wal-Mart open in their neighbourhoods, but I strongly doubt it.  Undoubtedly, opening these chain stories would save the people some money, perhaps quite a lot of money.  But perhaps there is something else about their place, for all its flaws and higher prices, that they would rather save.  Perhaps the people who live in the dreary abyss do not see it as such, but instead love it for what it is and would rather bear the costs of keeping it more as it is than succumbing to the rush to homogenise every corner of America. 

Chicagoans will certainly have their chance to turn out the city councilmen who have kept the Lords of Bentonville from entering the city, but I think we all know that this isn’t going to happen (this is Chicago, after all, not some sort of kooky democracy).  Probably in the end, in the name of growth and efficiency, the Wal-Marts and the chain restaurants will come, which will not mean a vibrant and happy Hyde Park to replace the abysmal dreariness that some remember, but simply a neighbourhood with shuttered windows on every block.  

Goaded (perhaps unwisely) by America, it has sent 80,000 troops into its tribal border area, thereby starting a war with tribesmen in which 800 soldiers have died. Lest anyone doubt these efforts, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, has often called on devout Muslims to kill Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president. On several occasions, some of them have tried to do so.

And yet Pakistan is home to a broad Islamist militant threat of which al-Qaeda is but one part, and this is less easily countered. There are scores of extremist groups in Pakistan and thousands of trained Islamist killers. Most of these have been nurtured by successive military governments, to fight their wars in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Pakistan’s own riotous cities. ~The Economist (19 Aug 2006)

Meanwhile, at home, Iranians live in a state of semi-crisis that suits the authoritarians. Those pro-democracy activists who survived the reformists’ meltdown are apprehensive and inert. The recent death of a jailed student activist who was on hunger strike, and the incarceration of Ramin Jahanbegloo, a secular philosopher whose “confessions” may soon be broadcast on state television, attest to the waning influence of the West, particularly the EU, since the election of Mr Ahmadinejad led to a deterioration in relations.

The judiciary may be gearing up for fresh assaults. An article in an establishment newspaper accused an array of prominent cultural figures, including a caricaturist, a sculptor, a conductor and a painter, of teaming up with Mr Jahanbegloo and another philosopher to plot a “velvet revolution”. With the media shackled and fearful, a lot of incidents go unreported; self-censorship is the norm.

With its regional prestige higher than ever and its coffers bulging with oil receipts, hubris alone may seem to threaten Iran’s good fortune. For all that, the stimuli for Iran’s striking revival are mostly external; inside the country, economic mismanagement, human-rights abuses and resentment among the large non-Persian minority are as vivid as ever. For most of Iran’s sad reformers, it is Mr Bush’s blunders, not the clergy’s inspired leadership, that have put Iran in its present strong position. When he is gone and if the oil price were to dive, it could be very different. ~The Economist

Where the pipelines are concerned, the nationalists appear to be gripped by a common delusion that America secretly wants Baluchistan to secede from Pakistan, in order to secure the superpower a new source of oil. Indeed, the uniformity of the nationalists’ expressed grievances and conspiracy theories, is striking. Traditionally, the government found it easy to use patronage to divide the warring tribes. Of late, however, a greater coherence has emerged. Last year, the four Baluchi nationalist parties, including three headed by sardars, formed an alliance to put their demands to the parliamentary commission. Also last year, the Bugti and the Marri ended a 50-year feud. No Baluch nationalist seems to condemn the BLA’s murderous campaign. In his handsome Karachi home, Ataullah Mengal, the third senior sardar—and another grand old man—says: “The armed struggle has begun, the Chinese engineers have been killed, bomb-blasts are going off every day. The cost will be dear, but we are asking for something dear and for that we must pay dearly, even with our lives.”

Another novelty in the nationalists’ campaign is the part played by Mr Bugti, in his blood-splattered town. A former minister of interior and of defence, Mr Bugti is no separatist. He has long sparred with successive governments for money and political influence, and has spent nearly a decade in prison. But the status quo has given him untrammelled power over his tribe and a fund of gas royalties amounting, by one estimate, to 120m rupees a year. Nonetheless, since Bugti tribesmen arose against the government in January, to decry the rape of a female doctor at the Sui gasfield, he has appeared to adopt the nationalist cause. “It’s not all about pounds, shillings and pence. Man cannot live on bread alone,” he told this correspondent—“though I’m sure it was not an Englishman who said it.” ~The Economist (5 May 2005)

Whenever people find the motivations of insurgents baffling, they should look at the now-late Bugti as a good example for understanding how a power player with no incentive to go into open resistance against government can be moved by ideas of defending status, dignity and honour to risk everything by going into rebellion against the very government that made him the power broker that he was.  What Bugti’s radicalisation also seemed to show was that armed, militant Baluchi nationalism has metastasised throughout the community of Baluch nationalists.  It’s not surprising how pervasive misrule can drive people towards ever more radical responses.  Now, if “democracy” ever comes to Pakistan, it will probably only hasten the fragmentation of the country along ethnic lines and subsequently force Pakistan to engage in an internal occupation of territory filled with a well-armed and angry population. 

For many Pakistanis, Bugti’s death is a harsh reminder of the death of another politician at the hands of an earlier military ruler - the hanging of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1979. The killing of Bugti, an avowed secularist who mocked the Taliban, is also a revealing glimpse of how the military regime treats secular politicians, while it has mollycoddled extremist Islamic leaders.Even before the killing, the government was under siege by a rejuvenated opposition made up of Islamic and national political parties, which have brought a no-confidence motion against the government in Parliament. Bugti’s death is likely to unite politicians of all political persuasions, including many in the ruling party who have been shocked and dismayed by the military’s high- handedness.The unraveling of the Musharraf era is picking up pace. The army now needs to let go and help Pakistan’s politicians map out a path toward an acceptable democracy for a nation that is critical to the world’s stability. ~The International Herald-Tribune  


The rioting across Baluchistan prompted by the government’s assassination of Bugti is just the first stage of greater unrest in the southwest of Pakistan.  The Baluch insurgency had made some news earlier this year, highlighting the escalation of the war:

To reach the cave Mr Bugti calls home, your correspondent trekked for a week through scorched valleys and moonlit hills, circumventing army pickets. Though half-crippled by thrombosis, Mr Bugti, who claims to have killed his first man at the age of twelve, was in good spirits. “It is better to die quickly in the mountain than slowly in bed,” he said, surrounded by a silent crowd of Bugti gunmen. A fan of Nietzsche and Genghis Khan, he speaks perfect English and delights in punctiliously-pronounced discourses on the love-life of camels and wreaking horrible revenge on his foes. “What is better than seeing your enemies driven before you and then taking their women to bed?” he says.

While Bugti tribesmen harry the army, a mysterious outfit, the Baluchistan Liberation Army, which the government says is also run by the sardars, is attacking policemen and soldiers across the province. Both groups are believed to have received assistance from India, across the nearby porous border with Afghanistan. In the past few years, 400 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in the conflict, as well as several hundred people in army attacks. Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission has documented government atrocities, including a massacre of 12 civilians in January.  

There was also a small piece in The Economist last year on the worsening alienation and militancy of Baluch nationalists and how foreign oil interests have exacerbated the resentments of an already embittered people:

Unwittingly, outsiders have stoked the conflict. Thirsting for oil, America and India want to build a pipeline through the province, running south from the wells of Central Asia, or, in India’s case, east from Iran. India’s dynamic oil minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar—who also dreams of a pan-Asian gas grid—has suggested that the second pipeline could be completed by 2011. On reaching the coast, the Central Asian pipeline would disgorge into supertankers gathered off the emerging port at Gwadar. Chinese engineers are building the port with an initial loan from China of $200m. As its capacity increases, Gwadar will halve the distance between Xinjiang, the westernmost province of China, and its nearest accessible port—currently some 2,000 miles (3,000 km).

Baluchi nationalists, and especially the BLA, take particular exception to the emerging port. Last May, three Chinese engineers were killed and 11 injured in Gwadar by a car bomb. The nationalists consider it another avenue for the government to plunder their resources. But more important, with an eye on the teeming slums of nearby Karachi, they fear it may draw in millions of outsiders, making the Baluchis a minority in their own land.

It is unfortunate that when this article was published for the 5 May edition of last year, there seemed a reasonable chance of addressing some Baluchi grievances and possibly staving off the widespread unrest and violence that is now breaking out.  But now the old desire to be rid of Bugti has been realised, and now Musharraf has probably forever destroyed what miniscule credibility his government ever had in a vitally important part of his country.  As a country that has quite a lot riding on just the appearance of Pakistani stability, America has a lot to lose to if the Baluch insurgency grows worse or helps to trigger other resistance to Islamabad.  If we don’t want to wake up to news of another coup or Musharraf’s untimely demise, our government would do well to take a more active interest in our most ramshackle of allies’ affairs. 

Processional icon of the Koimesis. 85Х55, 2002 


In giving birth, you preserved your virginity!
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos!
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers you deliver our souls from death!


Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos,
Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions.
For being the Mother of Life,
She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb!

The short answer is, well, no, he hasn’t. 

David Cameron seems to have succeeded in convincing the country that he is, at least, not as unlike most modern Britons as his predecessors were perceived to be. And that’s it. Standing knee-deep in the rubble of what seems to be terminal public disillusionment with Labour, the sum total of what he has accomplished is to make himself appear personable and engaging. ~Janet Daley, The Daily Telegraph

A more withering indictment of Cameron’s superficial and ridiculous approach to politics follows:

Mr Cameron presents himself as, at best, an amiable nonentity, at worst, a charlatan. Of course, the electorate wants its political leaders to be attractive people, but that attractiveness needs to be contingent on character, principle, political identity - on something that suggests that this is more than just a pretty face. I take the point that the Tories had to stop being hated - but not positively loathing somebody does not equal wanting them to be prime minister.

Not to dwell on these things too much, but I would like to note that I called Cameron’s Bush-like triviality and New Labour-like superficiality a mile off.  In the second of those posts I made this observation about the general trend of trying to become a “modern” Conservative Party, which applies with special force to Mr. Cameron’s Conservatives:

The ‘modernising’ gamble, always on the cusp with the ridiculous Michael Portillo and the elephantine Ken Clarke, will have failed them, just as all such ruses fail because they are superficial and empty.

When an NRO blogger uses that as a title for one of his posts, guess which Kirk he is referring to: is it Russell or Jim?  Of course, as long-time observers of the once-worthy NR know only too well, serious references to great conservative minds (except as throwaway lines) are long gone, and Star Trek trivia and other frivolous topics are the order of the day.

Amusingly, the topic of the post in question is the GOP’s ever more likely political misfortune at the polls this November with new predictions confirming the picture of a loss of the House.  Perhaps if the GOP had spent more time thinking like the other Kirk, they would not now need exhortations to think like the fictional captain of the 23rd century.  It is perhaps fitting for the GOP this year that the exchange Mr. Pitney cites as an example of Kirk’s spirit of adventure in adversity comes from one of the weakest Star Trek films (and it has some solid competition here), Generations, in which the selfsame Kirk dies.  That seems strangely appropriate as a symbol of the GOP’s approaching reckoning. 

Part of Mr. Bush’s legacy may well be that he robbed America of its optimism — a force that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and other presidents, like Ronald Reagan, used to rally the country when it was deeply challenged. ~Adam Cohen, The New York Times

Of course, building confidence and inspiring hope are desirable traits in leaders.  It is not desirable when the people’s trust and confidence are used as part of a swindle to rob us of our inheritance.  To the extent that modern presidents have tapped into American optimism, I think it has usually been to rob us of far more important things–our liberty, our property and our self-government.  Not all presidents are equally guilty of this, but typically it is activist presidents who want to use American optimism to fuel some cockamamie project that ends up making Americans poorer, more dependent on the state, gets them killed in a foreign field somewhere or causes some maniac to come blow up Americans over here.  Ironically, the ”optimistic” presidents are the ones most inclined to talk in rather depressing terms about all the overwhelming challenges and obstacles that exist–but which they, with our help, will surely overcome; it is the “optimistic” presidents who rattle on about how “we” will “bear any burden,” but in the same breath will tell us that we should not have to bear the burdens of the world as we have known it to date.  We do not have to endure the structures of our existence; but we ought to endure the strictures and costs of their policies.  The problems of humanity will be solved, but solving them has become our problem without end or hope of solution.  It would be my hope that the failures of political optimism would discredit this style of leadership forever, but that would be all together too optimistic. 

People continue to buy into these failed ideas because they desperately want and need for them to succeed and, more than that, they desperately need to be the kind of people who believe that they will succeed.  As sure as there are unchangeable structures in human life that the optimists will never overcome, modern Western man’s cultural need to look for improvement and to believe in grandiose visions of change is deeply rooted in his mentality and will probably never be abandoned entirely.  The durability of such cultural attitudes is precisely one of those things that optimists believe they can alter with a few turns of the institutional or political knob, and it is here where they are more wrong than usual, which is why Western man’s addiction to the idea of progress, and the particular American brand of optimism, will not disappear or significantly weaken.  A mentality that sees the 20th century as a success story will not be shaken from its certainties by something as minor as the tragedy of the Iraq war.   

Pessimism, however, is the most un-American of philosophies. This nation was built on the values of reason and progress, not to mention the “pursuit of happiness.” Pessimism as philosophy is skeptical of the idea of progress. Pursuing happiness is a fool’s errand. ~Adam Cohen, The New York Times

What thinking person isn’t skeptical of the idea of progress?  Look at the 20th century and tell me with a straight face that there is real progress, if you can.  Americans retain their optimism because they were spared most of the disasters of that century, and because most sections of the United States do not retain–or never possessed–the tragic sense that is vital to a more realistic appraisal of the world.  Southerners have historically possessed this tragic sense in greater abundance because they have experienced complete defeat, an experience that is–fortunately for us–completely alien to all other sections and largely alien to the whole of modern America. 

Pity the nation that is “built on reason and progress.”  Envy the nation that grows according to sentiment and tradition.  Both may err badly, but the latter remains closer to the ground, to the fullness of human existence because the tradition has not allowed them to forget the intangible aspects of the human predicament.  The latter has a much better chance of correcting its course and deriving some new wisdom from its traditions.  The rational and progressive nation blunders blindly on its path of self-improvement. 

Reason will lead you to think that you can solve the human predicament through better techniques, faster mechanisms, more efficient methods, and on some technical level you will even begin to see progress of a kind.  But this is the lure that traps you in the inextricable web of progressive fantasies, because with each advance your become less and less satisfied as your realise ever greater capacities to afford yourself material satisfaction.  The cult of progress neglects the cultivation of restraint and the limitation of desire, which makes the quest for real satisfaction hopeless; boundless optimism is the surest cause of despair in any man.  Nourishing and overindulging this dimension of man’s existence, the progressive races onward faster and faster, becoming more deeply entangled in the web, increasingly unaware of and indifferent to the loss of all those things that nourish a humane, full and good life.  They advance so far in solving the predicament of man’s material existence that they no longer really remember that there is any other kind of predicament or, if they remember, they no longer have the slightest clue what to do about it.  When they hear the phrase, Man does not live by bread alone, they ask, “Why not?” and begin working on trying to build a better man, a new man.

But Mr. Cohen is wrong when he says that pessimists believe pursuing happiness is a fool’s errand.  Pursuing happiness is the errand of man, pure and simple.  The wise and the foolish alike will try to seek it.  Only the fool believes that he will necessarily find it or that he has a sure-fire method to procure it without pain or effort or loss, but both he and the wise man pursue happiness.  They will, of course, not define it in the same way, which is why the fool almost never finds what he is looking for, while the wise man already possesses some part of it before he begins and has a reasonable chance of finding the rest by the end. 

Pursuing happiness is part of who we are.  But what the pessimist does say–and I think I can speak for the pessimists here–is that happiness must have its limits if it is to be possessed, it will be fleeting, as all things are in this world, and it will come at some price, be it a price in discipline, loss, suffering, regret or even the abandonment of some principle or high ideal.  It is, above all, often overrated.  In saying this, the pessimist is not trying to be gloomy or bitter, but simply honest in assessing the nature of things.  Pessimism is a reasonable position not because bad things keep happening–that wouldn’t be much of a basis for a philosophical view–but because man is a finite, flawed, created being who cannot overcome the structures inherent in his existence.  If one learns to live within these structures and accepts them as basically unchangeable, then he will know a measure of peace and happiness as he pursues his good desires within reason.  In pessimism there is hope, wisdom and, yes, even a measure of happiness.  So what are you waiting for?  Expect the worst, and be glad when you are wrong!   

These are ideal times for the release of “Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit,” by Joshua Foa Dienstag, a U.C.L.A. political theorist. Mr. Dienstag aims to rescue pessimism from the philosophical sidelines, where it has been shunted by optimists of all ideologies. The book is seductive, because pessimists are generally more engaging and entertaining than optimists, and because, as the author notes, “the world keeps delivering bad news.” It is almost tempting to throw up one’s hands and sign on with Schopenhauer.

Pessimism, however, is the most un-American of philosophies. This nation was built on the values of reason and progress, not to mention the “pursuit of happiness.” Pessimism as philosophy is skeptical of the idea of progress. Pursuing happiness is a fool’s errand. Pessimism is not, as is commonly thought, about being depressed or misanthropic, and it does not hold that humanity is headed for disaster. It simply doubts the most basic liberal principle: that applying human reasoning to the world’s problems will have a positive effect. ~Adam Cohen, The New York Times

Now, who wouldn’t want to be part of the more engaging and entertaining set?  Who wouldn’t prefer to be the sort of person who chooses to bear his burden rather than seeking to revamp entire social and political systems at unknown cost to countless others?  Perhaps Mr. Bush’s recent turn towards Camus for some light summer reading has its source in a pained recognition that political optimism is not just fatally flawed (and doomed to fail) but also deeply dissatisfying because it promises satisfaction and resolution.  Only people who believed that Iraq could be remade should be discouraged that the remaking is failing; only people who believed the government should feel betrayed that it launched a war without reason; only those who trusted in princes should feel dismayed that they have used and abused the people.  Remember, gentle reader, if there is no solution, there really is no problem.  As Chantal Delsol wrote in Icarus Fallen, it is the trait of modern man to expect solutions; it is the mark of traditional man to bear burdens and to assume that the structures of life are not problems to be solved but realities that cannot be negotiated away.  As it happens, this is also the mark of the pessimist: 

But pessimism’s overall spirit, as Camus noted, “is not to be cured, but to live with one’s ailments.”

Mr. Cohen writes that Bush has robbed America of its optimism.  Now if this optimism was anything other than a pose, a mindless embrace of myths of progress and improvement that had no basis in the real world, we should be glad to be rid of it, because it was in that case artificial, a fake belief.  If it was something more deeply rooted in our national character and history, if it was something integral to human nature itself, I doubt very much that Mr. Bush could have stripped us of it, though he might have dampened American spirits a bit. 

Hope is, of course, a theological virtue, essential to Christian life.  In my view, orthodox Christian hope and pessimism in the world are two sides of the same coin.  Only the meliorist, the gnostic, the immanentising chiliast believes that the hope of eternity and transcendence can also be more and more ours in the world if we apply the right methods and solutions, establish the right kind of regime, pass the right laws, elect the right people, kill the right enemies.  Someone preoccupied with improving the world does not really believe that the world has been overcome already; a Christian preoccupied unduly with improving the world probably lacks the conviction that Christians are not of the world.  Without a reasonable pessimism, there is no true hope.   

Local governments, which were promised aid in rebuilding facilities such as fire stations and sewer systems, have fared little better in actually getting that aid. A recent article in The National Journal describes a Kafkaesque situation in which devastated towns and parishes seeking federal funds have been told to jump through complex hoops, spending time and money they don’t have on things like proving that felled trees were actually knocked down by Katrina, only to face demands for even more paperwork.

Apologists for the administration will doubtless claim that blame for the lack of progress rests not with Mr. Bush, but with the inherent inefficiency of government bureaucracies. That’s the great thing about being an antigovernment conservative: even when you fail at the task of governing, you can claim vindication for your ideology. ~Paul Krugman, New York Times

Krugman’s line would be a bit more clever if he were referring to an “antigovernment conservative” (sometimes the old tropes aren’t the best tropes, eh, Paul?).  As it is, he is referring to George Bush, “compassionate conservative,” which means “big government conservative with a saccharine smile,” which means, in practise, ”giant hulking bureaucracies that do nothing constructive–but they do it from the heart.”  The colossal failure of Mr. Bush’s governance here and abroad is not a black eye for proponents of smaller or even streamlined government, but in fact confirms everything that Old Right and conservative critics of government have said for 70 years.  It isn’t Mr. Bush’s “ideology” that is being vindicated in spite of his administration, since he never embraced the small or anti-government view of traditional conservatives but sought to go beyond it.  His fraud of an ideology lies buried in the wreckage of Katrina’s devastation; it has been left for dead in the sands of Iraq.  Let us hope that enthusiasm for the related David Brooks-style “authoritarian conservatism” has drowned in the same floods that destroyed New Orleans.  Mr. Bush’s approach to government has met the real world, and the real world seems determined to win. 

Mr. Bush is a great one for allocating and spending money; he seems to love deficits and has never met a bill he couldn’t veto (save one) and has never vetoed any bloated appropriations bills.  Didn’t you hear?  The era of big government was just getting started again.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the Republican era of guns and butter: it collapsed under its own dead weight and corruption. 

It might be argued that the problem here is not bulky government, but an insufficiently energetic use of that bulk.  But it seems all too likely that the bulky system at DHS has consistently created more problems for the immediate and long-term recovery efforts.  Mr. Bush may have initially opposed its creation, but he was the one who created the DHS in all its monstrosity and then bragged about how it had improved national security.  Well, it hasn’t necessarily done that, and it now also seems to be less able to cope with the aftermath of natural disasters than similarly large-scale relief efforts after Hurricane Andrew. 

Certainly Mr. Bush’s diffident approach to seeing his policy commitments through stands in striking contrast to the grandiose promises the man makes.  Perhaps somewhere lurking in the back of his mind is the notion that liberal social programs’ flaw was to “throw money” at problems regardless of results.  Having duly learned this lesson, Mr. Bush does not neglect to make commitments to send government aid to people (that would be just downright mean!); he simply doesn’t make the mistake of throwing money at the problem.  No money is getting thrown or even gently handed over to anybody–and that’s a promise!  Instead, he and his subordinates throw paperwork, which is much more likely to fix things. 

But to pretend that this has something to do with any supposed scruple about government activism or spending, let us remember who it is who brought us Medicare D, the education bill, the farm subsidies bill and a little thing called the Iraq war.  If this is “antigovernment conservatism,” I’ll eat my hat.  It is antigovernment only in the sense that it reconfirms the convictions of opponents of big government and shows to the world how ridiculous reliance on government solutions can be, demonstrating the inefficacy and weakness of big government.  If you were a fan of consolidated, energetic government and interventionist foreign policy, you would almost have to think that Dobleve was secretly working for traditional conservatives and was doing his utmost to sabotage the entire thing from the inside.  That would be some explanation for why Mr. Bush has managed to govern as a walking, talking version of every worst caricature of Republicans and conservatives.  Unfortunately, Bush’s ongoing discrediting of big government and activist foreign policy (when and why did it ever have any credit in the first place?) is coming at a high price to the United States.   

In the end, Mr. Bush’s big government conservatism has delivered on only one of those three things: sheer bigness of projects and bureaucracies.  There does not seem to much in the way of government or conservatism involved in any large project that the man and his administration touch. 

Martin Hendry, a senior lecturer in astronomy at Glasgow University and member of the IAU, said: “Unless the science underlying this is rigorous, how can we expect to agree on a definition that will be not only understood by ourselves, but other forms of life if and when we encounter them?” ~Scotland on Sunday

I know I wake up in the middle of the night wondering, ”Will the alien visitors understand our system of defining planets?”  Don’t you?  My guess is that if we ever come across other intelligent forms of life somewhere in the galaxy, they would immediately have nothing to do with us if they knew how ridiculous we were capable of being over defining the number of planets in our own solar system.  For the sake of future interstellar goodwill, the IAU needs to stop meddling with a perfectly decent, arbitrary number of planets.   

When the IAU started fiddling with the definitions of what it meant to be a planet, I suspected nothing good could come from it.  Then, after the brief “pluton” compromise–which all other scientists hated because it infringed on their own plutonian terms–we found that Pluto had been cast down to “dwarf planet” status.  Now others are (sort of) going after Neptune:

Harold Weaver, from the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and a New Horizons project scientist, said: “Since many ‘Plutinos’, including Pluto, cross Neptune’s orbit, I’d say Neptune’s neighbourhood still needs some clearing.”  

This is, of course, completely logical given the guidelines used to demote Pluto to “dwarf planet.”  But what would we call Neptune?  Would it fall under the category of “gas giant-with-cluttered-orbit”?  Bit of a mouthful.  But it is time that somebody draw a line somewhere to stop this madness by making an appeal to the beautiful arbitrariness of tradition.  Pluto was declared a planet 90 years ago, and in those ninety years we have since discovered that it has a moon (or, for the anti-Plutonians out there, a sizeable neighbour).  Pitiful little Mercury doesn’t even have a moon, nor does Venus, so why pick on Pluto because it’s so small?  It sounds like interplanetary bullying to me.  Ninety years may not be much in the world of astronomy, or even in human history, but it’s long enough to establish a fine tradition.  If this means that we have to make makeshift categories to accommodate Ceres, Charon and the abominably nicknamed Xena, we should do so, but what is unnecessary to change is unnecessary to change.     

David Cameron made another break with his party’s past yesterday when he declared that Margaret Thatcher had been wrong to describe Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress as terrorists during the struggle against apartheid in the 1980s.

The Tory leader also took a swipe at her famous - or to some infamous - remark that there was “no such thing as society”. He said there was such a thing as society, but it should not be confused with the state. ~The Daily Telegraph

As I have already noted before, John O’Sullivan delivered, and I seconded, the decisive answer to this particular piece of Cameronian falderal about Thatcher’s “society” line.  The first claim is more troubling, because it suggests not only that Mr. Cameron does not know what the word “terrorist” means and that he feels a compulsion to disagree with whatever aspect of Thatcherism that the British media have disliked the most and thus diverges from Thatcherism on these points in a calculated move to win good spin.  It is the kind of Blairesque move that is only equaled in mendacity by Blair’s own declaration that he is an heir of Margaret Thatcher.  Cameron announces with little declarations like this that this new brand of Tory will lack in loyalty to past Conservative leaders, moral discernment and intellectual heft, but he will assuredly ride his bicycle wherever he goes.  As a strategy to provide excellent material for satirists and bloggers for years to come, this is brilliant.  As a stategy to revive the still-shaky political fortunes of the Tories, it is absurd.  It also raises the question of whether Mr. Cameron even understands how apartheid was ended.  Indeed, if the end of apartheid was the goal, there is an argument to be made that then-PM Thatcher’s policy of engagement was more effective–as is usually the case–than the sanctions imposed on South Africa by other nations.  That would suggest that there was a legitimate, lawful way to bring the policy to a close that did not involve the use of violence.

We are all familiar with the Official Story of South Africa to which Mr. Cameron is now paying homage.  Bad Afrikaners ruled through apartheid, and this was very bad, which means that anyone who combated apartheid by any means must perforce be very good, and as the leader of this opposition no one was more good than Nelson Mandela.  It means that we ought not look into why Mr. Mandela was in prison lo those 27 years (convicted of terrorism and treason), and we do not talk about ANC terrorist attacks, but euphemistically call him a “political prisoner” and the ANC a political opposition group.  Now that’s what I call moral clarity.  Similarly, we do not question that the rise of ANC rule has been anything but a wonder for the people of South Africa, and we look back and laugh at the silly Western leaders who said all those atrocious things about Mr. Mandela and his friendly ANC comrades.

Of course, there are plenty of other examples of terrorist leaders becoming “respected” political figures–even if everyone acknowledges that the respect shown them as statesmen is a colossal act of self-deception to facilitate some kind of future political settlement–from the big names of Lenin and Mao to the better known examples of Begin and Arafat to the lower tier of Daniel Ortega and Hacim Thaci.  The first four are deceased, but perhaps Mr. Cameron can swing around to Nicaragua and Kosovo for some quick photo-ops to talk about these other “great men.”  

Is there any more ridiculous non sequitur in this little Katherine Harris flare-up than her defensive affirmation of her avowed support of Israel?  Here is a sample from The Palm Beach Post:

Harris, of Longboat Key near Sarasota, said she has a strong record of supporting Israel.

“When I speak in temples, I say, ‘Please, I am so passionate about Israel, make certain that you are engaged and involved in the process, because otherwise you’re going to have people voting that are not going to be supportive of it.’ I have always said in my speeches in churches I stand with Israel.”

Harris has sponsored and supported numerous congressional resolutions commending Israel and condemning the attacks by Hezbollah. She also co-sponsored a resolution honoring Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

If she is trying to respond to the criticism that she “excluded” or denigrated non-Christians, what difference does her supporting Israel really make?  If she really is denigrating non-Christians, she would be saying, “Yes, I think Jewish legislators would necessarily pass sinful laws, but I support Israel, so just overlook that other stuff.”  If she isn’t denigrating anyone (and it is frankly difficult to read anything denigrating or truly exclusionary into her remarks), it is merely gutless pandering to even mention Israel.  A third, principled option was open to her: explain and defend the views you actually hold, if you hold them with any seriousness, rather than abandoning them in embarrassment and seeking rhetorical cover under the two biggest political shelters in America: being pro-Israel and caring about the Holocaust.  Under no circumstances make pointless rhetorical concessions by saying things like, “I believe that people of all faiths–or none at all–should participate in government! I’m a nice person!  Don’t hate me!”  In fact, this is what she did say:

“My rallying cry,” she said, “has always been people of all faiths should be involved.”

Okay, fine–now where is the outrage that she is clearly trying to exclude atheists, Jains and Buddhists who do not rely on faith?  Perhaps for her next trick she will assure everyone that she doesn’t want to exclude Buddhists–she supports Tibet!  Once you begin making these sorts of lame concessions you will never be free of making more in the future.    

Can you imagine any other foreign policy position that someone would invoke randomly when accused of prejudice or exclusionary rhetoric?  Is it even conceivable that any other foreign policy topic would come up in the context of a specifically domestic cultural debate during a Senate election?  Suppose it were the other way around: “I’m not anti-Christian.  I support Polish membership in NATO!”  Um, okay. 

Imagine Barack Obama saying that Democrats need to elect “progressive Christians” to “prevent injustice” (much less provocative than allowing the “legislation of sin”!) and then defending himself against an accusation of prejudice (against, let’s say, Wiccans) by saying, “I support strong ties with Kenya!”  Not only would it be just as completely irrelevant, but no one would even suppose that it had any bearing on the question at hand. 

But Ms. Harris thinks, not implausibly, that waving around her support of Israel and trotting out her grandson-of-Holocaust-survivors campaign manager will help stop her campaign’s bad press.  At first glance it makes no sense why this kind of response would be appropriate, until you consider the hypnotic, almost talismanic power that affirming support for Israel can have.  If you will not stand by the convictions of your Christian voters, I suppose the next best thing is to pay your respects to Israel and the Holocaust.  It might not save your campaign, but it saves you from the much worse political death that would follow if you did not express firm support.  And with opponents like Peter Monroe, who has already accused her of anti-Semitism (there’s always at least one who will dredge this up), the completely ludicrous and irrelevant declaration of pro-Israel views may be exactly what she needs in our society to stave off more bad press.  She will have a harder time retaining her credibility as a tough, media-resistant champion of those “Judeo-Christian values” that she maintained during the Witness interview was one of her top qualifications for office:

And I have proven that I will not kowtow to the media and all the pressure.  

That seems to have lasted all of three days.  Just imagine how easily she’ll be intimidated once she’s in Washington.

Harris ignited a furor with her Witness interview. She sounded a fervent evangelical tone, saying that God “chooses our rulers,” that voters needed to send Christians to political office and that God did not intend for the United States to be a “nation of secular laws.”

Speaking to Witness editors, Harris said:

“If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin.”

“If we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women,” then “we’re going to have a nation of secular laws. That’s not what our founding fathers intended and that’s (sic) certainly isn’t what God intended.”

On Friday, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Democrats and Republicans blasted the comments, saying Harris was suggesting non-Christians were less suited to govern or should be excluded altogether.


Monroe took particular aim at this Harris comment from the Witness interview: “Whenever we legislate sin, and say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don’t know better, we are leading them astray and it’s wrong. 


Though Harris directly addressed her remarks about church and state, she was less clear explaining her comments about God not intending for the United States to be “a nation of secular laws.”

Asked if the U.S. should be a secular country, Harris said: “I think that our laws, I mean, I look at how the law originated, even from Moses, the 10 Commandments. And I don’t believe, that uh . . . That’s how all of our laws originated in the United States, period. I think that’s the basis of our rule of law.” ~The Orlando Sentinel (via

The interview, the public outcry and the campaign’s “clarification” are all a mess, as should be the case with anything associated with Ms. Harris’ ongoing disaster of a campaign.  Let me start at the end.  In the “clarification,” the remarkable Ms. Harris went out of her way to bow and scrape before the cult of inclusion, declaring her commitment to “Judeo-Christian” values, her support for Israel (!) and, apparently, even had her campaign manager (who is, incidentally, her fourth campaign manager) use the ultimate rhetorical cudgel, Holocaust memory, to curry favour:

Bryan Rudnick of Boca Raton, Harris’ campaign manager, said in a statement, “I joined this campaign because Congresswoman Harris is a passionate supporter of Israel, the Jewish people and always has the best interests of all Floridians at heart.

“As the grandson of Holocaust survivors,” Rudnick continued, “I know that she encourages people of all faiths to engage in government, so that our country can continue to thrive on the principles set forth by our Founding Fathers, without malice towards anyone.”

Good grief.  I am not sure how using the Holocaust to spin bad press works, but I should think that it would be offensive whenever anyone trots out the travails and suffering of his grandparents as some sort of basis for political credibility–that goes for everybody.  Of course, there are professional Holocaust-users who make this guy look like an amateur, but it is particularly pathetic to try to hide a candidate, who is trying to burnish her evangelical credentials with folks in the Panhandle, behind the impenetrable forcefield of Holocaust rhetoric.  Mr. Rudnick had a nice touch with the Lincolnian flourish.  In fact, I believe he scored the modern rhetorical hat trick: getting right with Israel, invoking the Holocaust and getting right with Lincoln all in the same paragraph.  If only he could have worked in the “war on terror,” he could have gotten some kind of spin award or perhaps a talk show on FoxNews. 

Ms. Harris and her manager should be embarrassed, but we should be more embarrassed that this tactic might actually work in our society, because we should already be embarrassed that Ms. Harris should have to resort to such a tactic to defend herself against the raving hordes of the Tolerance Brigades.  The inquisitio nova rides again.  The only person who can be pleased by this fracas is George Allen, who has suddenly dropped off the radar of the national media as they have found a new sacrificial victim to offer to the gods of anti-prejudice.  Maybe the NRSC told Harris to say something really provocative to try to save Allen’s hide and she, ever loyal partisan, went along.  No, that sounds all together too clever for this outfit.   

But before anyone gets too excited about Ms. Harris and rushes to defend her to the last, let us consider her response.  Her “clarification” suggests one of two things: either she really believes all the things she said to the Witness and does not have the stomach or courage to defend them publicly, which doesn’t say much for her convictions, or she was simply trotting out time-honoured phrases designed to win over evangelical voters come the September primary and the November general election and has no more conviction that Christian truth and revelation are extremely relevant to public life than the people who are now savaging her for her supposed intolerance.  If the latter is true, it makes her just another Republican hack opportunist trying to wheedle believers into supporting the Red Republican menace.  Florida Baptists, take note: she either won’t fight for what she said she believes, or she doesn’t believe it.  For Ms. Harris’ sake, I hope she is sincere but weak-willed.   Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Shea is making sense:

As long as we prefer to console ourselves that “they hate us because we are free” instead of taking into account the actual reasons they hate us, we will not understand their motivations and we will not be able to wage war against them. Note that: wage war, not “Pity them” and not “come to see things their way”. A basic rule of common sense in war is “understand your enemy”. If you don’t you will be blindsided when they do not act according to your expectations. Hitler was blind-sided by the British refusal to subscribe to his race theory and break off the war against fellow Aryans. The French were stunned that the Germans did not just look at the Maginot Line and give up. And Americans are perplexed that our crazy and inconsistent dealings with various Islamic regimes seems only to swell the ranks of Al-Quaeda. It can’t be anything we’re doing. So it can only be due to the fact that Muslims are a differenct species whose mental processes are inexplicable.

That’s Michael Brendan Dougherty’s engaging opening line in his very good, very smartly written article on the effects of immigration on his hometown in the latest issue of The American Conservative.  Congratulations to Michael on the publication of the article–and in print, no less!

Christopher Hitchens gives us more of that neocon “deep thinking.” (Warning: explicit language)

Unsurprisingly, it is neoconservatives, whose roots are in the Trotskyist-Social Democratic Left, who are promoting use of the term. Their goal is to have Bush stuff al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran into an “Islamofascist” kill box, then let SAC do the rest.

The term represents the same lazy, shallow thinking that got us into Iraq, where Americans were persuaded that by dumping over Saddam, we were avenging 9/11. ~Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Via The Western Confucian

Neoconservatives engaging in shallow thinking–who would have guessed? 

Remember the surreal Middle East: we freed Shiites from Saddam; so Shiite Iran in response tries to destroy Shiite democrats in Iraq, who, being constantly attacked by terrorists and militias, in turn sympathize with anti-democratic Hezbollah terrorists and militias in Lebanon. ~Victor Davis Hanson

Now thanks to the nature of the campaign in Lebanon, even Maronite democrats had started to sympathise with Hizbullah, so why exactly does Hanson find it surreal that Iraqi Shi’ites sympathise with their co-religionists?  And what on earth is he talking about with respect to Iran and the Shi’ite “democrats” in Iraq–they back one of the main parties in the Iraqi government and arm their militia!  Hanson is about to O.D. on the War Party’s Kool-Aid.  Someone keep him away from the Kool-Aid! 

Only a reincarnated Chamberlain or Daladier could think that there is no Islamist commonality among the recent hostage-taking of Western telejournalists on the West Bank, Iranian threats to extinguish Israel and end the American presence in the Gulf, terrorist attacks on soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, plans of killing thousands in Britain and Germany, or plots to blow up American airliners in London — as if Japanese fascists, Italian fascists, and German fascists could not have made war in unison against the liberal democracies given their differing agendas and sects, and lack of coordination. ~Victor Davis Hanson

On the other hand, only a monomaniac who sees parallels with fascism and the 1930s everywhere (and keeps bringing them up with a ridiculous frequency) could imagine that the kidnapping of telejournalists in Gaza (no points to Hanson for accuracy), the strategic interests and anti-Israel hostility of Iran, the terrorism of alienated Pakistanis in multicultural ghettoised Britain, a resentful Lebanese man in Germany (whatever could he have to be resentful of, I wonder?), insurgents in Anbar province and the Taliban in Paktia have any substantial connection whatever beyond the fact that all of these do involve Muslims and the places where large numbers of Muslims have come into close contact with Western powers and societies.  Their common Islamic identity is relevant to understanding each one of these cases.  But does it mean that they are somehow joined together, Axis-like, in some common, coherent cause?  Hanson clearly thinks so–why else the completely inapt reference to the Axis powers?  Does it mean that they are even all generally on the same side?  Simply put, no, and only someone with the myopia of a neocon would continue to nurse this illusion.   

By the way, Hanson’s abuse of the term fascist knows no bounds–the Japanese were imperialists and militarists, yes, but to call their state fascist is really to stretch the term beyond recognition.  Theirs was a militarised, wartime form of constitutional monarchy.  It might interest the history-challenged Hanson to know that the “Japanese fascists” continued to vote during the early part of their war (which, let us remember, began in China proper in 1937), having an elected Diet up through at least 1942 (when a single-party Tojo-backed slate took complete control of the Diet), so there was no question of needing to “persuade” them to do any voting.  Whether that voting had any real significance is another question (admittedly, real party control of the Diet had ended after the assassination of Inukai Tsuyoshi in 1932), but even in his throwaway lines Hanson manages to commit errors of fact.  Someone please remind me again why anyone listens to these people. 

The majority of our political and pundit class associate “blood and soil” with the Third Reich, though they rarely associate the “proposition nation” with the Soviet Union. So, can we put those two horrors away for a moment? ~Michael Brendan Dougherty

Many readers may have already come across Michael’s fun, fortune cookie takedown of neocon arguments elsewhere, but I highly recommend the original post and the follow-up.  On a more serious note (hardly anyone will ever accuse me of being too glib), the substance of Michael’s response to Foreign Policy’s James Forsyth’s post regarding Mr. Buchanan and State of Emergency is excellent, so let me quote a little more from it before I go on with my remarks:

Forsyth posits that anyone who “believes in the value” of certain ideas is an American. If I’m supposed to take him literally then there are a number of absurdities that result : anyone in Latvia, Belize, the Congo, or China IS an American if they believe in a certain ideology. They may not know George Washington is the Father of their country, they may not understand expressions like “mom and apple pie”, they may not be impressed with American ingenuity, or literature. They don’t have any of the thousands of cultural marks that being an American imprinted on them unconsciously. They don’t even have to speak English - they believe in an idea, you see.

He goes on to suggest that Mr. Forsyth’s views on what makes an American American are not necessarily all that interesting or meaningful, since Forsyth is not an American and might be missing out on a few important things that go into making Americans who we are.  Indeed, that would almost be worse than a recently naturalised citizen declaring people with generations of ancestors in this country unpatriotic because of policy differences–but that couldn’t happen here, could it? 

Unfortunately it can, and it is precisely the kind of thing that happens and will keep happening if we define being American–and by extension patriotic loyalty to America–in terms of the political positions we take and ideological commitments we make.  But before we can successfully combat this ideological turn, we need to make clear what the origins of the ideological “proposition nation” idea are and why this idea has been increasingly misleading us for 140 years.  At first it seemed very odd to me that, along with the usual list of texts and “values” that people embrace to become American, Mr. Forsyth also listed the Gettysburg Address, but the reason for its inclusion became clear to me soon enough.  This address is rightly understood as the seminal document that expresses the idea of the ahistorical, consolidated nation dedicated to a proposition, as the opening lines say very clearly:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

The other day I referred to this as “mendacious revisionist propaganda,” which I think is a fair assessment of its character, but my reasons for saying so may be obscure to those who have not given much thought to the numerous problems with this text and the inordinate influence it has had on modern Americans’ conception of how the Union came into being. 

M.E. Bradford is our surest guide through the minefield of the Address, just as he is well-known for his powerful opposition to everything that the Address represents in the politics and rhetoric of our country.  In the following, I am including excerpts from his “Lincoln, the Declaration and Secular Puritanism: A Rhetoric For A Continuing Revolution” contained in A Better Guide Than Reason:

The reason behind this movement of mindless rehearsal into myth is then the success of Mr. Lincoln’s battlefield performance.  In such a cauldron history is easily remade.  For Lincoln’s Pennsylvania miracle is visible in the shape and surface of its accomplishment, a retreat from proposition, discussion, and argument into oracle and glorified announcement: an advance from discourse of what is believed to be into an assertion of what must be, and yet forever remain in the process of becoming.


For Americans, the effect of this epideictic encapsulation is what the Greeks called “Asiatic.” after observing its prevalence and usefulness among natiions living beyond their eastern boundaries.  It is a prerhetorical rhetoric, suited to judges, prophets, and priest/kings who instruct and command without explaining: that is, suitable to a “closed” world.  As no dispute concerning the materials it enshrined was imaginable, the end to which it was employed was obviously very different from that of the deliberative and forensic discoursings of which the Athenian philosophers approved.  Never did the epideictic serve in pure Hellenic “deciding before” or “judging after” a genuine choice.  Probably its intent was instead the affirmation of a common bond–often in its user, but always shared by those who heard or read after him.  Of course, as long as there have been “authorities” among or over their people, the style has remained a part of every rhetorician’s equipment, a magic to be used whenever what was there for the saying was less important than the saying itself.  Now, we may at first reasonably resist this association of Lincoln and Oriental despotism, especially if we know of Necessitarian Rationalism.  But before we resist too strongly, let us look at what the biblical style implies, and conceals, in his address, aqnd ask if he is not assuming the role of a Joshua, whose authority is such that he need only speak the command of the Lord for it to be obeyed.  

What troubled Bradford, and what should trouble us, is the move beyond discourse and deliberation in political rhetoric to declarations and affirmations of unchallengeable mystic truths.  The Address that fathered the idea of the “proposition nation” is spoken in the language of command and dictation–it and the idea that comes from it both demand unstinting obedience.  This rhetorical move by Lincoln began a tradition of taking sacred idiom and applying it to profane political disagreements that takes the gnostic step of seeking to realise the sacred through politics:

We were a fellowship of “the Book” and took all government and political philosophy–even the Constitution–to be practical and unworthy of mention in the same breath with Holy Scripture.  Politics might, within reason, be tested against revealed truth.  But we never imagined more than a tangency for the political and the sacred–never a holy beginning or conclusion by politics.

In this new confusion of the sacred and political, the creation of the “nation” (which he ahistorically locates in 1776) cannot be simply the separation of one political community from another, but a sign of a commitment to a timeless abstraction.  The Address’ abuse of the Declaration denies the importance of history and custom and all of the actual causes that the Declaration gives for the separation.  The substance of the Declaration itself has little to do with the timeless abstractions with which it is so often solely identified:

Prescriptive laws and kings and honor have nothing to do with the “self-evident” and “metaphysically” proved first principles of Burke’s doctors of the closet.  History is their “legitimate” ancestor; trial and error, reputation and disrepute, sifting and selection stand behind Jefferson’s appeal.  In weight, this argument from the record will not replace revelation or anointment by a Samuel.  But it is far removed from the abstractions of the Encyclopedists or mechanical universe of their perpetually absent “Creator”.  And therefore it does not pretend, despite “self-evident,” to bespeak His will.  Respected for what it is (and with its explosive sentences circumstantially grounded and converted into “mere argument” by a Whig rhetoric), the Declaration is agreeable enough.  Its implicit denial that there was a “founding”, its complexity and dialectic (recognized by most responsible American leaders who invoked the document before 1860, and acknowledged by the very different language of the 1787 Constitution) are, I repeat, inverted by Father Abraham.  And the forces which he thus released in manufacturing his “political religion” [bold added] find their tongue in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” 

So here we come to the heart of the matter.  Not merely a confusion of sacred and political, but the creation of a “political religion” that all good Americans now must confess to belong to the nation.  From the horrors of the twentieth century, we know the full destructive power that political religions can unleash, but, as Michael said, let us leave those horrors aside.  The “proposition nation” idea is even more dangerous than a generic idea of an ”ideological” nation, because it comes from our own history and possesses a mythology of its own.  The problem and the evil of the “proposition nation” idea are that this idea has been ingrained in our national consciousness; we have been to some degree initiated into the political religion of Lincoln from a very early age, perhaps before we could even reason, and many of us have been convinced that to turn against Lincoln and this religion is to set ourselves outside of the boundaries of the nation whose “founding” he invented and rhetorically invested with sacred purpose.  When someone suggests to us that being American is defined by the acceptance of certain values, the dedication to certain propositions, we are predisposed to heed this falsehood, because it is a homegrown falsehood and so it seems to us that there must be something to it. 

There has always been something deeply worrisome about the phrase “credal nation,” so closely tied as it is to a similar notion of “proposition nation”, and it is in the likening of the nation to the Church and the transformation of political ideals into the equivalent of the Deity.  If taken literally, this is blasphemy and idolatry.  Even if taken only metaphorically, it is extremely dangerous to the continuation of reasonable discourse and deliberative politics of the kind fundamental to our republican system and our common experience.  The “proposition nation” idea possesses all of the same dangers. 

In its potential to exclude or denounce dissenters as traitors or enemies of the nation, the “proposition nation” idea is perhaps the single most poisonous idea in American thought today.  That it is taken up with the greatest zeal by those who seem to glory in causing upheaval, violence and revolution around the world and by those who are the heirs of the prophet of “perpetual revolution” should not be a surprise.  It is a revolutionary idea designed for the furtherance and continuation of political revolution.  For this and other reasons, conservatives–if they are to be conservatives–cannot have anything to do with it. 

The Pew religion poll has many interesting items related to religion, politics and public life, but the item that strikes me as most remarkable (though it is probably not a new phenomenon) is the percentage of Protestants and Catholics that does not believe in the Second Coming: 17% of all Protestants and 30% of all Catholics don’t buy it.  One wonders what they think is going to happen.  One also wonders what it is they think they’re doing as Christians if they have no hope of the general resurrection.  Of course, the Protestant numbers are hugely affected by the mainline churches (only 60% of mainline Protestants believe in the Second Coming), while the white evangelical (95%) and black Protestant (92%) numbers are a lot closer to what I would expect them to be.  Silly me, I would expect the numbers to be somewhere around 99%.  Part of this is undoubtedly related to how the people in question view the authority of Scripture with “literalists” being more likely to believe it than others, but I would guess that another part of it must be the neglect of regularly confessing a creed that contains the promise of Christ’s return or, if such a creed is regularly recited, there is no sense that making that public confession is anything other than a rote or perfunctory obligation that has no meaning.  It would have been interesting if the researchers had asked whether the people being interviewed routinely confessed a creed and what creed it was that they confessed.  There should probably be some significant correlation between knowing and reciting a creed and believing in what the creed says 


Musa was indeed one of the 12 Imams and is revered by Shiite Muslims, but does that make him a saint? In the generic sense, if there is one, I guess he is a revered as a saint, but as explained here, it’s not quite the same in Islam as it is in Christianity.

In the Protestant tradition, anyone who displays the qualities of a good follower of the faith can be considered a saint. While it’s fine to consider one’s grandmother a saint, in that generic sense, one would have difficulty tagging John Calvin or John Knox with the title.

In the same sense it is wrong to tag a Muslim Imam with the term in a journalistic setting because there are more accurate ways to refer to him and it places him in a category that doesn’t even officially exist in Islam. ~Daniel Pulliam, GetReligion

I suppose it is a fair point that it could be misleading for a Western audience when someone refers to one of the Imams as a saint, since this carries certain connotations in a Christian context that could create confusion about the figure being so described. But is it really an inaccurate or inappropriate term to use? Is it wrong to use the term saint when speaking of Islamic holy figures? I don’t think so, not least because the word itself simply means “holy one,” and there are numerous examples in Islam of venerating and praying to their holy figures to honour them and ask for intercession.

In modern literature on Sufism, it is commonplace for scholars to refer to fakirs, wonderworking mendicants, as saints and their graves as shrines. To be called wali Allah (friend of God) is to be acknowledged as just such a saint–this is a well-known popular title of Caliph Ali himself. Certainly the veneration their graves receive bears striking similarities to practises at the shrines of saints. This is an aspect of Islamic popular religion that may not always have express support in Islamic scripture or tradition, but which takes place nonetheless. In the centuries after his death, the mystic and “martyr” al-Hallaj was venerated in such a fashion because he was respected and honoured for his piety in spite of being executed in 922 for the blasphemous utterance, Ana al Haqq (I am the Truth). (It is of passing interest that this statement, so similar to that of the Lord in Jn. 14:6, led some early enthusiastic scholars of medieval Islam to suppose that he was some kind of oddball heretical mystic Christian, but this seems entirely untenable.) Further, the famous mystic of the 13th century, Ibn Arabi, got himself into some trouble by stressing the superiority of sainthood over that of prophethood; in any case, the distinct concept and category of Muslim holy figures comparable to those whom we would normally call saints was a well-established one in medieval Islamic thought. As the Wikipedia article Mr. Pulliam cited itself says of Muslim saints:

Saints are believed to have a power of intercession with God (Allah), and thus the ability to perform miracles and to give power or blessings known as baraka.

If this is true among Sunnis, how much more true is it among the Shia, whom takfir Sunnis routinely castigate for praying to men (i.e., the Imams)? Structurally, Shia Muslims treat the Imams as spiritual intercessors and holy figures in a way similar to, albeit not the same as, Christian venerations of saints. They do this in recognition of what they believe to be the special spiritual status and perfection of the Imams, whom they venerate in anticipation of the coming of the Mahdi. This is particularly true of Iranian Twelver Shi’ism, the branch to which Iraqi Shia belong.

But the Founders failed to see that they were setting a time bomb.  To begin with the autonomous individual and his rights is to open up a dynamic process, that of the sovereignty of the individual, in which the rights of man break every bond with nature.  It is to open the way to what was to come, to the results we see today.  Whereas Christian thought said, “Here are your duties, and may God help you,” contemporary thought declares, “Here are your rights, and to hell with you.” ~Philippe Beneton, Equality by Default

Prof. Beneton’s conclusions are very good, though I am not convinced that the Founders understood the rights they were defending as “the rights of man” in this sense or that they were “beginning with the autonomous individual.”  For them, constitutional rights came from the traditional inheritance of Englishmen in relationship with their past and with one another.  That their language of chartered liberties was then hijacked and appropriated into the language of the rights of the autonomous individual was a different, later process that now obscures the fundamentally historical and traditional understanding of legal rights that was decisive for the Founders.  More important for them than theoretical natural rights were the actual rights guaranteed them as part of the English constitutional tradition.

But the mentality of victimhood has been carried too far. The Pakistanis are muttering about ending their tour of England and abandoning the one-day series if their captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq, is suspended from international cricket as a result of events at the Oval. But the Pakistanis are entirely the authors of their own misfortune. They could have made a protest about Darrell Hair’s judgment without refusing to play, but instead they chose to behave like spoilt children, locking themselves in the dressing room and showing no respect for the laws of the game or the paying public. They knew what they were doing by failing to come out on to the field after tea on Sunday and now seem reluctant to pay the price of breaking the law.

Sadly all too many commentators have indulged the Pakistani protest by exaggerating its importance. We are told that this is cricket’s ‘darkest hour’, that the sport is now ‘in turmoil’. A little sense of perspective is required. No lives have been lost, unlike in the notorious Soccer War between El Salvador and Honduras in July 1969, when tensions between the two Central American nations spilled over into armed conflict after Honduran fans were beaten up during a World Cup match in San Salvador. In the aftermath of the soccer violence, diplomatic relations were broken off, and revenge killings were perpetrated against Salvadoreans. The antagonism descended into war, which saw 2,000 civilians killed in military offensives before a ceasefire was called. Now that really was a sporting crisis.

Even within cricket, the Darrell Hair row is pretty small beer. It has little of the resonance of the bodyline controversy of 1932–33, when Australia threatened to withdraw from the Empire because of England’s brutal strategy of short-pitched fast bowling. Nor does it have the grandeur of the long-running boycott of South Africa, which was prompted by the apartheid government’s refusal to accept the England touring team of 1968 because it contained the non-white player Basil d’Oliveira. The boycott ultimately helped to bring about the end of white-only rule, whereas the current Oval dispute will achieve nothing except to lose English cricket money. ~Leo McKinstry, The Spectator

An American equivalent might be if the Dallas Mavericks, disgusted by the horrendous officiating in the Finals this year, decided to not show up for Game 4, or closer to the British scene it would have been as if England’s team had walked off the field after Rooney was ejected with a questionable red card.  Most people would understand that any team that did this would forfeit the game in question.  I can understand why the Pakistani team was upset at the ball-tampering ruling, but that is really no excuse.

The experts cited in his story think that professional women are more likely to get divorced, to cheat and to be grumpy about either having kids or not having them. But rather than rush to blame the woman, let’s not overlook the other key variable: What is the guy doing? ~Elizabeth Corcoran, Forbes

What?  Rush to blame the woman?  Good grief.  Why is it that no one can ever make observations about statistical trends without someone else feeling oppressed by these observations?  Young men might resent having it pointed out to them that, on average, they engage in riskier and more reckless behaviour than almost every other demographic and consequently must often pay higher insurance premiums.  Naturally, the young men who are not particularly reckless will find this annoying, but it is eminently logical that the rates should be what they are.  You don’t hear a lot of complaints about how we shouldn’t rush to “blame the young men.”  We’re talking about compilations of data.  The statistical analysis is not making accusations or laying blame.  They represent trends based in the study of the real world, where it is more likely that marriage to career women will be a less happy and less stable arrangement than others.  We’re talking about probabilities, not iron laws that apply in every case.  Who can say that in all or even most of these cases the career woman is the one to bear most of the blame?  Indeed, where has this language of blame and guilt come from?  It wasn’t in the original article.  Its introduction in the rebuttal is a tactic to make the author of the original piece–and those who took his report seriously–feel like a heel for attacking the poor, defenseless career women.  This is not a real argument. 

The rest of the rebuttal is, near as I can tell, a dedicated effort to ignore most of the significant claims of the article and show all the ways that marrying career women can be “exciting”!  Yes, well, divorce and unhappy marriages can be their own kind of excitement, I suppose.  And it should be said that men who govern their choices in life by careful statistical risk assessment are usually considered rather odd (for a pop culture example, see Ben Stiller in Along Came Polly), but that is no reason to shoot the messenger when he brings you information about the potential risks of choice A rather than choice B.

There is no longer any alternative to exhibiting in broad daylight the hollowness of pure, formal democracy, to plainly stating the dependence of democracy on understandings of human dignity that cannot be extracted from the pure form of democracy. ~Ralph Hancock, “Translator’s Preface” to Equality by Default

Ross Douthat makes the best point on a movie topic I’ve seen all month: Starship Troopers is terrible and stupid.  It is a simple point, but a powerful one that needs to be made every once in a while.  When I was in college, a friend of mine dragooned me into driving him and our friends to Richmond to go see this catastrophically bad movie.  Between making numerous laps around the city thanks to poor directions and the frustrations of being stuck in Friday night traffic, I was positively thrilled to reach the theater after an exceedingly long drive and I was actually initially glad to see this wretched waste of two hours of my life.  Of course, by the end of those two hours, my enthusiasm had dissipated completely. 

It isn’t just that Robert Heilein’s vision of the militaristic future of humanity is boring (of course, no one has ever before imagined a future where people would be trapped in an oppressive state that ruled by war propaganda and media control), or that, as Mr. Douthat notes, the movie’s attempt to be clever falls flat and bores you still more, but that it is impossible to enjoy any movie that thinks the ideal casting for the nefarious propaganda bureaucrat in the film is Neil Patrick Harris.  Doogie Howser as Goebbels?  Please.  Denise Richards as a front line shock trooper also requires a little too much willing suspension of disbelief. 

What is sad is that this is not a bad movie in the Sam Raimi bad-in-order-to-be-funny genre of the Evil Dead movies (now those are great silly movies, made greater by Bruce Campbell’s slapstick and comic timing), but that it fails on every level.  ST is not funny in spite of itself, and it is not intended to be funny, so it generally manages to push you more and more towards sympathising with the bugs in the hopes that they will put the main characters out of their–and our–misery.  Did I mention that I didn’t like it?

Iraq doesn’t have a government. It has a collection of warlords, demagogues and thieves with official titles. It’s time to put our own politics aside and face reality: If Iraq’s elected leaders won’t stop looting their country long enough to pull together and defeat the foreign terrorists, internal insurgents and militias killing Iraqis, we should not ask our troops to defend them. ~Ralph “I’m Not A Racist!” Peters

Of course Mr. Peters isn’t a racist.  Just as everyone who said before the elections that the whole democratisation plan was a terrible idea wasn’t a racist.  At the time, they were something far worse in the eyes of the administration (and Mr. Peters): realists.

Now, all of a sudden, neocons and their hangers-on have rediscovered the importance of culture.  Here is Peters, sounding more like your average contributor to TAC c. 2002 than the lunatic neo-imperialist (and author of such masterpieces as New Glory: Expanding America’s Global Supremacy) that he really is:

Arab states are another story: Their social, political, economic and cultural structures leave them catastrophically uncompetitive with the developed world. Societies divided down the middle by religion, inhibited by tribal loyalties and conditioned to accept corruption can’t build healthy democracies.

I’m shocked, simply shocked by the defeatism and lack of resolve!  Mr. Peters probably just wants us all to roll over and die, doesn’t he?  Well, no, but to listen to Mr. Peters a year or two years or three years ago, you’d know that that was exactly what he and his allies thought of people with more foresight than they had.

But if we look closer, the same contempt for normal, more traditional societies that seems to motivate everything the neocons do also fills Mr. Peters’ throat with bile when he contemplates the Near East:

Even the seeming bright spots, such as Lebanon, aren’t true democracies. The Lebanese voted for clans, tribes and faiths, not for policies and programs.

In other words, “true democracies” can only have people who are alienated, deracinated, atomised and stripped of real religious loyalties–you know, members of the “ideological nation,” the “proposition nation.”  Of course, even in modern democracies ethnic and religious loyalties have considerable significance in shaping political values and political affiliations; we pretend that we all vote based on “policies and programs” when far more of us vote according to the same natural, human attachments that people everywhere use to define their political interests, together with our irrational enthusiasms for individual candidates.  For Mr. Peters, things should organised according to a certain kind of merit, “rationality” and the idols of this world.  All of what he says might well be true of mass democracy–perhaps loyalty to clan, tribe and religion are real impediments to its success.  This is why it, as a system of organising political life, will probably fail to endure in most parts of the world that still place high value on “clans, tribes and faiths” or, as Charles Krauthammer put, “tribe or religion or whatever.”  It will thrive among those who put no stock in loyalty to kin, place and religion, but why would any people want to become the kind of miserable people for whom these attachments were not powerful and essential?  Why does any people in the world want to remain in such a miserable state?

My copies of two fairly new ISI books arrived today.  I will be getting around to reading them soon, and then I will probably have some remarks or perhaps even reviews (if time permits) about Philippe Beneton’s Equality by Default and Chantal Delsol’s The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century.  Mr. Buchanan’s State of Emergency is on its way, and I am sure I will have some more to say in connection with that once I have finished it.

In war we naturally adopt a double standard, with one vocabulary for our side and another for the enemy. Americans still cherish the memory of Axis atrocities in World War II and justify their own, particularly the intensive bombing of German and Japanese cities — things nobody would have predicted, much less advocated, before the war broke out. Even today, we commonly justify the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for “shortening the war” and even saving Japanese lives. ~Joseph Sobran

As Fawaziah al-Bakr, a Saudi promoter of educational change and women’s rights, said, “There is no question that the US has lost morally because of the war. Even if you like the people and the culture of the United States, you can’t defend it.” 
This summer’s wars of miscalculation will cast a long shadow down the decades to come to the detriment of this county’s national interests. ~H.D.S. Greenway

What remains somewhat puzzling to me is how willing so many Americans, pundits and ordinary citizens alike, have been to give the war in Lebanon more credit and approval than just about any other group of people.  Our national reputation has been greatly sullied and marred by support for this war.  Besides the injustices of the Lebanon war, it simply never made sense to me how American interests were served by it.  Then again, I remain unclear on how invading and occupying Iraq have done anything but damage our country, its armed forces and its place in the world. 

Another fateful Israeli decision was to take the war to Lebanon - even attacking Lebanese military facilities - rather than restricting its efforts to degrading Hezbollah. Destroying the lighthouses of Beirut symbolized this campaign of counterproductive destruction to get the Lebanese to act against Hezbollah or suffer intolerable pain. Although there were many in Lebanon, and indeed the Arab world beyond, who blamed Hezbollah for all that it had unleashed, the inability of the Israelis to crush Hezbollah, plus the mounting death toll on hapless Lebanese civilians, drowned the anti-Hezbollah voices from Baghdad to Beirut, and created a legend of heroic Hezbollah resistance. ~H.D.S. Greenway, Salt Lake Tribune

Via Antiwar

The attacks on the lighthouses really were among the more inexplicable and bizarre of the entire war.  Almost two weeks, Robert Fisk wrote about one of the attacks on Lebanese lighthouses on 10 August:

We order green tea and then there’s the roar of an explosion in the sky. An Israeli missile screeches right past us and crashes into the old French Mandate lighthouse, a brown-stone tower built in 1938 from which the Vichy French once sent out their propaganda.

Never have I seen the great and the good of Beirut society hurl themselves from their seats at such speed, overturning tables amid splintered glass, racing from the café for their chauffeur-driven cars, crashing into each other’s vehicles - and failing to pay their bills. I see a panic-stricken motor-cyclist thrown on to the road. He rolls down the side of the traffic island, then runs for his life.

A second missile streaks past us into the tower. Do the Israelis think that Hizbollah’s television station is broadcasting from here?

“Fisk!” Leena roars, almost as loudly as the rocket. “Why do you always bring trouble with you?” We finish a second cup of green tea and The Independent pays the bill. I am left wondering: what has Israel got against the French Mandate?

Israel’s relationship with Turkey, its closest ally in the region, has been put under severe strain by the Israeli army’s discovery that one route Iran used to resupply Hezbollah in Lebanon ran through Turkey into Syria.

The intelligence, described by one Israeli official here as “irrefutable,” found that in the days prior to the August 14 cease-fire, a shipment of spare parts and components for mobile missile launchers was sent by truck through Turkey to Syria and then into northern Lebanon before being funneled down to front-line Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon.


The American diplomat said, “Nobody was aware of” shipments through Turkey “before the war started, not us or the Israelis. It may have been a reaction by Hezbollah to find a new route. The Israelis raised it directly with the Turks. By the time we were raising it with the Turks, they said they did not know about it and asked us to help shut this down.”

He added, “They told us that this was rough terrain. If they had known about it, they would not have let it happen. I think it would be a mistake to say they were allowing the shipments deliberately.” ~The New York Sun

That last bit should set at ease the minds of those who seem all too ready to jump on the anti-Turkey bandwagon.  Of course, there are plenty of reasons why Turkey should not join the EU, and there are plenty of reasons why we shouldn’t trust the “reformed” Islamist government of Erdogan, and it is possible that Turkey and Iran could come to some arrangement over cooperating against Kurdish rebels that would involve making back-door deals against Israel.  But the Turkish military–which is the institution that’s really in charge–has no interest in jeopardising the alliance with Israel.  The people offended by that alliance are the fine, democratically elected Islamists of AK.  Yet more proof, if we needed it, that ever greater democratisation and the creation of governments that really reflect the desires of the people in the Near East are likely nightmares waiting to happen.

Terrorist supporters know we have this capacity, but because of worldwide public opinion, which often appears to be on their side, coupled with our weak will, we’ll never use it. Today’s Americans are vastly different from those of my generation who fought the life-and-death struggle of World War II. Any attempt to annihilate our Middle East enemies would create all sorts of handwringing about the innocent lives lost, so-called collateral damage.

Such an argument would have fallen on deaf ears during World War II when we firebombed cities in Germany and Japan. The loss of lives through saturation bombing far exceeded those lost through the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. ~Walter Williams

Via Lew Rockwell

If Dr. Williams’ generation would have winked at the nuclear holocaust of countries that have not attacked us, I am pleased to be of a different breed.  I think he does his own generation a disservice.  But, indeed, we wouldn’t want any handwringing about the deaths of innocents.  That might be vaguely human.  Better to set them all on fire and raise a toast to human freedom.  I never thought I would see Walter Williams calling for unprovoked nuclear attacks.  In fairness, he says we shouldn’t “rush” to use our nukes on them–give it a little time!  So much for the principle of nonaggression!  There is something truly pathetic about a once-principled libertarian shilling for mass murder.  Krauthammer, Podhoretz, Sowell, Barnett–their contempt for the lives of innocents I can understand.  It is sheer ideological self-justification for them.  But Williams has normally been a fairly consistent opponent of government excesses and a serious libertarian.  Perhaps he has always held these views about the virtue of wartime atrocities and I missed it.  In any case, I am sorry to see Dr. Williams go down this very dark road.  Interventionism is poisoning our country and dragging some of its more thoughtful men into the moral mire.  It must be stopped. 

Larison chides me for allegedly not being willing to recognize her commitment and submission to her faith, trying to make it seem as if my argument was that she made a bad choice by deciding not to go to college. But that wasn’t my point at all: I wasn’t alarmed at Suzy Homemaker’s choice for herself; I was bothered that she seemed to take it as correct Christian doctrine that her decision was the best, most sound decision for the majority of Christian women. She was, to be blunt, making a fairly plain statement that, due to their faith, Christian women should generally avoid going to college. And, at the risk of being harsh, I would continue to characterize that as a backward, fundamentalist, lunatic notion. ~Peter Suderman

Now Mr. Suderman didn’t just object to her broader recommendation that Christian women not go to college, but declared essentially that her view had no validity.  That seems pretty well pointed at declaring the decisions of this “misguided” young woman, Ms. Garrison, to be very bad indeed.  But perhaps I did not state things properly last time.  I tried to acknowledge that her general recommendation to other Christian women is that they ought not go to college because college does nothing for preparing for those duties that they believe they are called to do in the rest of their lives.  She specifically does not argue that they should stop learning or stop studying, but that they avoid institutions of “higher” education.  Her assessment of the value of going to a university (and a secular university at that) was that it was not worthwhile from the perspective of a Christian woman interested in becoming a wife and mother; she believed her time could have been better spent in other ways and recommended that others avoid making what she believed was a mistake.  Throughout all of this she seems to be on fairly sound Biblical ground about the role of women in the family and the church.  But perhaps someone can show me the passage in Ephesians that speaks of women being called to an MBA.  Ms. Garrison extrapolates from these teachings to conclude that spending time on a college education that does not contribute to her fulfillment of these fundamental duties is a waste and a distraction.  In other words, she puts her duties first. 

That many modern Americans are prone to view traditional Christian attitudes towards relations between men and women or the role of women as “backwards” or even “lunatic” is a problem, sure enough–a problem that these modern Americans have.  I called on Mr. Suderman to acknowledge that  her position is a serious one based in Scripture and the traditional arrangements of Christian societies lo these many years.  He opted to demean that position again in the most pejorative terms.

It’s not just Mario Loyola who gets down on his knees to thank President Bush for all of the blessings he has bestowed on us.  Via The Plank, here is John Hinderaker (he of the “President Bush is an artist ahead of his time” school of personality cult), who has surpassed the bootlickingest of the bootlickers, the lackeyest of the lackeys, the servilest of the servile:

I had the opportunity this afternoon to be part of a relatively small group who heard President Bush talk, extemporaneously, for around forty minutes. It was an absolutely riveting experience. It was the best I’ve ever seen him. Not only that; it may have been the best I’ve ever seen any politician. If I summarized what he said, it would all sound familiar: the difficult times we live in; the threat from Islamic fascism–the phrase drew an enthusiastic round of applause–the universal yearning for freedom; the need to confront evil now, with all the tools at our disposal, so that our children and grandchildren can live in a better and safer world. As he often does, the President structured his comments loosely around a tour of the Oval Office. But the digressions and interpolations were priceless.

The conventional wisdom is that Bush is not a very good speaker. But up close, he is a great communicator, in a way that, in my opinion, Ronald Reagan was not. He was by turns instructive, persuasive, and funny. His persona is very much that of the big brother. Above all, he was impassioned. I have never seen a politician speak so evidently from the heart, about big issues–freedom, most of all.

I’ve sometimes worried about how President Bush can withstand the Washington snake pit and deal with a daily barrage of hate from the ignorant left that, in my opinion, dwarfs in both volume and injustice the abuse directed against any prior President. (No one accused Lincoln of planning the attack on Fort Sumter.) Not to worry. He is, of course, miles above his mean-spirited liberal critics. More than that, he clearly derives real joy from the opportunity to serve as President and to participate in the great pageant of American history. And he sees himself as anything but a lame duck, which is why he is stumping for Republican candidates around the country.

It was, in short, the most inspiring forty minutes I’ve experienced in politics.

If Mr. Hinderaker didn’t exist, it would be necessary for Bush critics to invent him.  He is at once fanatically loyal and impervious to reality in a way that perfectly captures everything that is wrong with this administration.  He is a perfect mirror of his master (which, to him, would be a compliment of the highest order).

Your family could have arrived on the Mayflower or in the back of a van, but if you believe in the values of this country as embodied by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, and the Civil Rights Act, then you are American. ~James Forsyth, Foreign Policy Blog

Hat tip to Michael Brendan Dougherty

I remember Bob Dole saying something like the first part of this in 1996: 

A family from Mexico arrives this morning legally has as much right to the American Dream as the direct descents [sic] of the Founding Fathers.

At the time, I was not old enough to vote, so it didn’t cost Dole my vote (it definitely cost him my father’s), but I found it offensive nonetheless.  This is because in such a statement lies a contempt for the historic America and the peoples who have comprised the historic America, as if any group of people from anywhere might have gathered together and created the same kind of country.  It expresses an indifference to inherited culture that would be incredible for a conservative to utter.  It assumes that the people who arrived today have the same claim and the same stake in this country as people whose ancestors have lived here for almost four centuries–this is deeply wrong.  It does make a difference and it should make a difference whether your family arrived in 1607 or 1997–and it does not matter where you are coming from.

Mr. Forsyth objects to Mr. Buchanan’s call for American identity to be rooted in “blood, soil, history and heroes.”  I confess to being perplexed as to why this call should actually be controversial.  Yes, I know why many people think it is controversial, but their position makes no sense.  No real national identity of any kind, and certainly none that ever lasted, has ever endured without being solidly based in these things.  Indeed, what else could our national identity plausibly be rooted in?  Most Americans today do not hold to the political philosophy of the Founders in their attitudes towards consolidated government and their preference for the rule of law over the rule of men.  This is unfortunate, but it will happen in the course of time that peoples adopt different and even diametrically opposed political creeds.  The Loyalists did not accept the ideas of the Declaration, but they were real Americans whose fathers had helped to create our country in its colonial days.  The Antifederalists did not accept the Constitution, but they were real Americans who helped win the War of Independence and forge the Confederation.  The Confederates would not have accepted the Gettysburg Address and did not accept the so-called “new birth of freedom” to be realised at the expense of Union and Liberty, but they were real Americans who maintained their fidelity to the principles of ‘87 and sought to reenact the drama of independence to secure the liberties protected for them by their ancestors.  In the same loyalty to the Constitution, much of the early modern conservative movement opposed the Civil Rights Act as the federal usurpation that it was (and is)–they, too, were real Americans.  Indeed, the formulation that Mr. Forsyth has put forward retroactively must strip many of our most noble and admirable patriots of the name American.  Any definition of American that could conceivably exclude Patrick Henry and Robert E. Lee is a meaningless, ridiculous definition. 

As for myself, I have strong reservations about the “values” expressed in the Declaration, at least if we are to take the platitudes expressed therein as claims of truth about the real world; I respect and honour the Constitution, but recognise the serious consolidationist flaws in it; I cannot in good conscience accept anything in the Gettysburg Address, mendacious piece of revisionist propaganda that it was, nor can I accept the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act or the enthusiasm for egalitarianism that inspired it.  According to Mr. Forsyth, I am not an American, though some part of my people have been here since 1634 and most of my family has been here since the early 1700s.  I obviously cannot and will not accept such a definition of my nation that would put me–and a considerable number of my countrymen–outside its boundaries.  I cannot countenance a definition of national identity that makes one’s loyalty to a political position the basis for belonging to the nation.  I want no part of any “ideological,” “credal” or “proposition” nation–you cannot love a proposition. 

There is nothing more artificial, more insubstantial and more dangerous than categorising a nation according to ideology–this is to make honest disagreement over political principles a betrayal of the nation itself.  It is to make dissent into a kind of treason; it is to make fidelity to older traditions that contradict the reigning ideology a mark of disloyalty to the nation.  Fundamentally it is also to confuse ideas for concrete realities and to give them the loyalty we owe to real things.  It is to ignore the concrete realities of kin and place and our memory of our kin and place down through the centuries for the sake of abstractions.  This sort of thinking may very well make it easier for people to enter the country, but it makes it impossible to say any longer what kind of country it is, where it came from or who we are as a people.        

Powell and Raspail were ostracized for what they said and wrote. Their stories are related in my new book, “State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America.” Time to revisit the question: Were these men false prophets rightly reviled, or prophets without honor in their own countries? ~Patrick Buchanan

“Don’t marry career women” is a pretty blunt title for an article, but Forbes runs with it, providing a fairly convincing list of reasons why marriages to career-minded women are statistically doomed to unhappiness. This is no doubt problematic for all those women who’ve been told that they can’t have happiness and empowerment without a degree and a job, but it’s also terrible news for guys like me who’re attracted to those educated, accomplished, motivated women who stalk the city streets in their heels and suits—much better looking intellectual sparring partners (who often seem to thrash us mercilessly in the ring). ~Peter Suderman

Mr. Suderman makes a good point here that the confirmations of the advantages of more traditional social arrangements do indeed seem very problematic to professional men and women alike.  The women have been taught to strive to be professional women; the men have been taught to strive after women who want to be professionals.  Entire cottage industries have sprung up aimed at defining and discovering compatibility in terms of sameness (which very likely has less to do with compatibility than they or their unfortunate clients will ever realise), which almost requires professionals to pursue and marry other professionals, thus apparently being more likely to doom them all to less happy lives. 

On a related note, domestic life dominates American society in strange ways, and its influence has grown with time as the public places where men congregate with other men–the plaza, the cafe, the bar–are no longer (or, in some contexts, never were) so much places for men to socialise among themselves as they are now venues for the pursuit of the ever elusive “sparring partner.”  But let us be serious: are we talking about creating a marriage and a family, or are we setting up a debating society?  In the past there has, of course, been the same desire for women who are highly educated ”sparring partners”–a desire fulfilled by courtesans in most pre-modern societies–but rarely has it become such a widespread attitude that it affects choices for marriage as strongly as it does today.  Much of this comes ultimately from detaching marriage from many of its social and familial functions and making it principally into a love-match, which encourages all of the unrealistic expectations Mr. Suderman rightly criticises and raises the bar even higher for what constitutes “compatibility.”  For these bizarre and confused notions of human relationships the 19th century Romantics and English novelists have much to answer, but even worse are their modern disciples and admirers.    

The sorts of things that modern men look for in potential wives (the “educated, accomplished, motivated” sparring partners that Mr. Suderman describes) would simply baffle and bewilder almost every generation of men that has come before.  All of those things are very nice in their way, but none of them ever had very much to do with marriage before a very short time ago.

But I have to say that I understand what Mr. Suderman is talking about with respect to the effect of movies on our conceptions of relationships and marriage only too well.  If you make the mistake of watching too many Bollywood movies (someone will murmur that watching one is too many), which are even more excessive in their glorification of unrealistic expectations of happily ever after among the beautiful people, you may come away with very distorted ideas and expectations.  In the Indian context, I expect that these movies are a sort of protest against the way that relationships and marriage still are governed by the demands of family and station in a way now completely alien to us and so may not have nearly so many deleterious effects, but when we in the West are exposed to them the damage is even worse than that inflicted by our own films.  If regular romantic fare from Hollywood is like cocaine, Bollywood melodrama is the cinematic equivalent of crack for its potentially destructive, distorting influence on what we expect in relationships.  If some have an unhealthy obsession with the “indy girl” and Natalie Portman in Garden State, it is even worse to have an obsession with the Indian girl and Rani Mukherjee in Hum Tum.  Both are quite unrealistic, but the latter is simply as fantastical and unobtainable as the Indian movies themselves.    

It’s almost enough to make you give a somewhat serious reappraisal to otherwise obviously backward, fundamentalist loonies like this poor young lady, who writes:


In general I would not recommend college to other women. I think, in general, that young women would make better use of their time and spiritual development by pursuing studies on their own and serving their family and their church during their years of singleness.


Only “almost enough,” of course, because there’s really no question that even if one were to grant some credence to the validity of sentiments like hers (I don’t), it’s totally laughable (not to mention probably morally wrong from any reasonable perspective on gender equality) to turn back the clock toward a society like what Suzy Homemaker wants. ~Peter Suderman

I don’t mean to dwell overmuch on patriarchy and the Forbes article on career women today, but Mr. Suderman’s post makes some interesting points that I would like (in as non-Ender-Wiggin-like fashion as I possibly can) to discuss further.  First there is the problem of Mr. Suderman’s condescension towards Ms. Garrison, the “poor young lady” (as if she is deranged or in need of medical attention), and the characterisation of her as an “obviously backwards, fundamentalist” looney.  The young lady does seem to be a fundamentalist, or at the very least a very traditional Christian woman, which does not seem to me to make her either looney or “backwards” (one of those terms, like hidebound or obscurantist, that conservatives should take care in applying to others when it can so readily be applied to them).  She is one of those people who adheres to a living religious tradition (whether or not, as a fundamentalist, she thinks of it in terms of a tradition) and actually submits herself to its requirements rather than skipping over the bits that she finds inconvenient.  For some reason, quite a few modern Christian conservatives develop a visceral dislike of people who actually live the tradition that they, the conservatives, talk about all the time as the very thing that they, the conservatives, want to try to preserve.  It is almost as if there is an unspoken rule: traditionalist rhetoric, si, lived tradition, no.  And if the young lady is “backwards,” what, one might ask, is terribly appealing or admirable about being “forward-thinking” in this case?  Perhaps there is some happier middle ground between the two extremes (the time-honoured tradition of women’s colleges preparing young ladies for their MRS. degrees has often been a successful, if much-mocked compromise), but the young lady’s view is neither so bizarre nor so unreasonable as Mr. Suderman would have us believe. 

Her determination that college is largely useless for young women who hope to be wives and mothers is fairly unusual in our time, and particularly in my generation (in all honesty, I have never once met a young woman who held this view, but then there would obviously not be a lot of these women roaming the UofC campus), but in holding this view she is a) more like most generations of women, including most of our ancestral mothers up till a very recent time and b) more or less right. 

First of all, it seems to me that we declare her ”backwards” and “looney” at the risk of denouncing our grandmothers or at least our great-great grandmothers.  Someone will say, “Not so.  My great-great grandmother ‘had no choice’, but this young woman does and so must be a looney to prefer the role women have traditionally held.”  That is quite a strange position to take in the way that it peremptorily dismisses the habits of generations with the flick of the wrist.  We could also denounce Xenophon as backwards and looney for his Oikonomikos and his portrayal of a wife’s proper role, or we could consider what in the Oikonomikos is reasonable and true and what, if anything, is looney.  Indeed, as conservatives it is incumbent on us to justify our particular, personal views in the light of the traditions to which we belong. 

She is more or less right that college education has nothing to do with being a good wife and mother (quite a few women have managed these things very well without college); if she believes this is what her proper and main role in life is, she is making a fairly rational decision to not waste time–as she sees it–on developing skills that will be of little use to her while developing other skills that will have limited application in her real life.  Not surprisingly, the young lady’s rational choice and her calculation of costs and benefits in living her own life don’t seem to count for much in this case for Mr. Suderman, who could pass over them in silence (or not mention them at all) but feels obliged to declare her sentiments as potentially morally deviant (she strays from the true path of gender equality–aiee!) and dismiss the implementation of her view as “laughable.”  Why?  Do we, as conservatives, actually believe that something called “gender equality” exists?  Do we believe that equality even exists?  If so, in what sense does it actually exist and how does it even necessarily pertain to the question at hand?  (Does a woman who opts for a life simply as a wife and mother in lieu of other avenues forfeit this equality?  Does she lose the dignity and respect that men are obliged to show a lady?  Is she somehow less reputable, less worthy of respect?  Are we supposed to believe that this traditional arrangement actually degrades and oppresses women across the board?)  If we do not believe that these things exist (and I have to say that I think very few of us really believe it when it comes to our own lives), why would we form opinions or judge others’ opinions as if we thought they did?  

I have some mixed feelings about the young lady’s view, since it seems to me that Christian women who aspire to teach their children, particularly those who wish to homeschool, ought to have as much education to their credit as they can.  Of course, I must be careful and not make an assumption here.  The young lady clearly states that she is not recommending opting out of education and learning (which is surely the only thing that Mr. Suderman could find offensive about this view), but opting out of college, and the two are very different things.  I am also keenly aware that most of what passes for “education” in most colleges has less and less to do with the sort of things that good Christian women (there’s a quaint phrase!) would want to be teaching their children.  Certainly the social atmosphere at many colleges and universities is often downright hostile to living a faithful life.  Once upon a time, the idea of sending your daughters off to university would not have simply seemed bizarre or socially unacceptable for other reasons, but would actually have been seen as detrimental to the moral character of these women.  The modern vast moral wasteland that includes many American universities and colleges (there are assuredly a few exceptions–typically limited to the backwards fundamentalist looney corners of America) is a testament to how right that view would have been.  In the present age, perhaps the only thing as important for a father to do for the sake of his daughter’s future as keeping his daughter “off the Pole,” as the saying has it, is to keep her out of university.  If you think I am engaged in hyperbole or that I am being ridiculous, you have evidently not lately been to an American university. 

There is an argument to be made in the present age of rampant divorce that, because marriages are so unstable and the protection it provides women so uncertain, a woman would need a degree at the very least as something she could rely on to support herself if and when the marriage dissolves.  Indeed, the young lady quoted here finished her degree to provide just such a “fallback position.”  But here we encounter the rather grand irony of the whole thing: the Forbes article warns against marrying professional women because their own careers create tensions and strains that make divorce more likely, but the response of a young woman to avoid becoming one of these professional women–thus giving herself a better chance of remaining in a stable, lasting marriage–is decried as backwards and looney.  Near as I can tell, it is supposed to be backwards and looney because it is motivated by religious injunctions about a woman’s place in the home and in society, which, as We All Now Know, can’t possibly be true or good–or can they? 

This young lady, Ms. Garrison, states certain inconvenient truths about Biblical teaching on the role and place of women, and she applies this teaching rigorously–more rigorously, indeed, than the members of most churches today.  Perhaps in her rigour she has gone astray somewhere, and we could talk about that without dismissing her outright.  These are truths that the people who believe the onward march of egalitarian democratic capitalism as God’s will or the people who are ready to bow before Equality but not prostrate themselves before an icon of Christ do not appreciate.  Since I would like to think Mr. Suderman is neither one, he might refrain from belittling the young lady’s beliefs quite so enthusiastically.  As someone who presumably takes Biblical teachings rather seriously (when was the last time you read an account of a young woman this distraught over failing to honour her parents’ wishes?), this young lady seeks to live her life in accordance with them, which rather necessarily means ignoring shibboleths of gender equality, progress and all those other entertaining fictional stories that liberals tell their children at bedtime.  I find her attitude rather creditable; it is certainly not entirely unreasonable. 

We might consider whether, from a conservative or indeed a Christian perspective, the young lady is actually wrong, or if she has simply stated something we would rather not address because it would force us to say things about revered “gender equality” that would be controversial.     

Though the article is several months’ old, and there may not be that much more to say that hasn’t already been said, here is my belated post on “The Return of Patriarchy.” 

As governments going back as far as imperial Rome have discovered, when cultural and economic conditions discourage parenthood, not even a dictator can force people to go forth and multiply.

Throughout the broad sweep of human history, there are many examples of people, or classes of people, who chose to avoid the costs of parenthood.  Indeed, falling fertility is a recurring tendency of human civilization.  Why then did humans not become extinct long ago?  The short answer is patriarchy.

Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule.  Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of proper station.  It competes with many other male visions of the good life, and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles.  Yet before it degenerates, it is a cultural regime that serves to keep birthrates high among the affluent, while also maximizing parents’ investments in their children.  No advanced civilization has yet learned how to endure without it.

Through a process of cultural evolution, societies have adopted this particular social system–which involves far more than simple male domination–maximized their population and therefore their power, whereas those that didn’t were either overrun or absorbed.  This cycle in human history may be obnoxious to the enlightened, but it is set to make a comeback. ~Philip Longman, Foreign Policy (March/April 2006)

The article came out shortly after the Crunchy Cons blog had started up, and the participants there made a few remarks on it.  Ross Douthat also commented on it at the Scene just before bringing it into the crunchy conversation.  Steve Sailer discussed the article as well.  This theme of more traditionally patriarchal families having more children than their countercultural, liberal or non-traditional rivals (if we think of this in evolutionary terms, the two groups are rivals for resources, territory and status) has cropped up several times this year in other ways, mostly related to the connections between demographics and political preferences in America.  Steve Sailer analysed the “baby gap” and the “marriage gap” between the red-staters and blue-staters and the conservatives and liberals within each state (the last part is an important qualification that Sailer has seen too many others miss).  More recently Arthur Brooks has made an attempt at doing something similar, which Sailer then criticises here.  In his criticism, he mentions the negative effect that a high cost of living has on young people starting families, and refers to his article on “Affordable Family Formation.”  The problem of affordable family formation in turn calls to mind Ross Douthat’s recent criticisms of Jeremy Beer (whose article I approvingly cited here) and the crunchy cons and Rod’s response to them.  Thus we have come full circle.  Isn’t blogging fun?  I have already written a post and managed to say nothing of my own–sort of like compiling a florilegium

Now if Brooks’ claim is true that children tend to overwhelmingly (80% of the time) identify with the party (and presumably many of the political values they think are associated with that party) of their parents, that would suggest that the political values of the people who have more kids are more likely to reproduce themselves, so to speak, and outpace the reproduction of competing values.  It intuitively seems even more likely, on the whole, that the transmission and reproduction of religious and cultural values would be even more successful if part and parcel of these religious and cultural values is a commitment to be fruitful and multiply.  Might it not be the case that the specifically religious origin and nature of the drive to have larger families and the different valuation of children as gifts of God rather than the fruits of lifestyle choices actually serve to further dissuade the secular liberal from having children or at least dissuade them from having more than one or two children?  (Might the new Battlestar Galactica be an elaborate commentary on liberal anxiety about their own birth dearth and their own fears of perceived religious zealots–inhuman zealots at that–outbreeding them?)  In that case, all other things being equal (i.e., no large infusion of immigrants with radically different values), it seems very likely that people with these values will be more successful in passing on their genes and, in turn, their progeny will be more successful than those of their rivals in reproducing their parents’ cultural and religious memes. This would suggest, as many commentators have already averred, that the race of the culture wars goes not to the swift or the politically well-connected, but to the prodigiously fertile.   

There’s more: According to a wide-ranging review of the published literature, highly educated people are more likely to have had extra-marital sex (those with graduate degrees are 1.75 more likely to have cheated than those with high school diplomas.) Additionally, individuals who earn more than $30,000 a year are more likely to cheat. ~Forbes

So marrying a professional woman with a graduate degree would be a particularly bad idea.  Hm, this is not promising for certain graduate students who shall remain nameless.

If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do ( Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill ( American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier ( Institute for Social Research).

Why? Well, despite the fact that the link between work, women and divorce rates is complex and controversial, much of the reasoning is based on a lot of economic theory and a bit of common sense. In classic economics, a marriage is, at least in part, an exercise in labor specialization. Traditionally men have tended to do “market” or paid work outside the home and women have tended to do “non-market” or household work, including raising children. All of the work must get done by somebody, and this pairing, regardless of who is in the home and who is outside the home, accomplishes that goal. Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker argued that when the labor specialization in a marriage decreases–if, for example, both spouses have careers–the overall value of the marriage is lower for both partners because less of the total needed work is getting done, making life harder for both partners and divorce more likely. And, indeed, empirical studies have concluded just that.  ~Forbes

Why? Because if many social scientists are to be believed, you run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage. While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it. A recent study in Social Forces, a research journal, found that women–even those with a “feminist” outlook–are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner. ~Forbes

Patriarchy is having a good PR year.  First Foreign Policy talks about the return of patriarchy this spring (sorry, by the way, for never having come back to talk about this article as I had said I would), and now Forbes reports that marriage to a professional woman is–surprise, surprise–likely to have many more unhappy consequences (and having husbands as the primary earners tends to have some happier consequences).  Before you know it, Filmer will be required reading in every school and they’ll start founding colleges named Laud-Filmer across the United States instead of naming them after certain Whig heroes.  Too optimistic?

Update: At the bottom of the linked article, see also Forbes‘ “Nine Reasons To Steer Clear of Career Women” in pictures.

Today Doug Bandow discusses the depredations of SLORC, the meeting of cultures in northern Thailand and the delights of “highly seasoned dog.”  Says our man in Thailand: “It tastes a bit like pork.”

U.S. involvement in Iraq has been incredibly successful and developments there have been “nothing short of a miracle,” Sen. James Inhofe said Monday.  ~Tulsa World

Via The Plank

Oh, it’s pretty incredible, all right.  Maybe Sen. Inhofe means to say that it is nothing short of a miracle that it hasn’t gotten worse faster?  Unfortunately, no, that’s not what he means.  

The unbelievable Max Boot cooks up a new phrase, certain to enter the history books as one of the sillier propaganda phrases of the last five years, “the Quartet of Evil” (Hamas must be the cellist) and declares that Israeli preemptive war against…Syria is the only logical thing to do.  Because toppling Assad (which might very well be the result of any Israeli or American attack on Syria) would make the region less volatile, I’m sure.  Because destabilising Syria and pushing it into the arms of the Muslim Brotherhood would be a victory against jihadis everywhere.  Because bombing another civilian population and creating a refugee crisis in yet another country would solve Israel’s problems with Hizbullah.  Oh, but that’s right, stability is the problem, not the answer.  Why didn’t Metternich ever think of that one?

But then comes the big punchline:

It is, of course, hard for a liberal democracy such as Israel to contemplate war if it hasn’t been attacked directly…

It gets even harder to go to war if the democracy hasn’t been attacked at all by the country in question, but Max always finds a way to support those wars, too.

One reason al Qaeda and “al Qaeda types” seem not to be trying very hard to repeat 9/11 may be that that dramatic act of destruction itself proved counterproductive by massively heightening concerns about terrorism around the world. No matter how much they might disagree on other issues (most notably on the war in Iraq), there is a compelling incentive for states — even ones such as Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Syria — to cooperate in cracking down on al Qaeda, because they know that they could easily be among its victims. The FBI may not have uncovered much of anything within the United States since 9/11, but thousands of apparent terrorists have been rounded, or rolled, up overseas with U.S. aid and encouragement. ~John Mueller, Foreign Affairs

Via David Weigel

Here is a clear example of why cooperating with countries such as Syria and Iran against the jihadis makes more sense than antagonising those countries and provoking conflicts with them.  Syria has been reasonably cooperative with the U.S. in the past in sharing information and working to help squelch jihadism, and Iran was reasonably cooperative during the opening stages of the Afghan War before it was declared an axis member.  There is no reason why the U.S. should not cooperate with these nations when it serves the American interest, and there are many reasons why making these governments into near-permanent enemies does not serve that interest.  This article also provides another argument for why lumping together any and all Islamists, regardless of sect or objective, into the meaningless generic category of “Islamofascist” is misguided and a distraction from fighting these sorts of jihadis.

He will likely evaluate the claims for God’s existence based on objective evidence. And here I have to revert to the question of why very bad things happen to good people, a topic which must be infinitely tedious to believers, because I find Novak’s arguments for God’s love more conclusory than evidentiary. ~Heather Mac Donald

The topic is “infinitely tedious” because it is something very like a non-issue.  It is not just a non-issue for believers, but for anyone who gives the claims of Christian theology serious weight and consideration.  Some theologians beat their breasts and lament about human suffering before they get around to offering an explanation for why these things happen–or rather, why they are permitted to happen in a cosmos ruled by an omnipotent and just God–though I think this is often to avoid appearing callous rather than to add anything to our understanding.   

Whether a rationalist finds the Christian answer credible or not depends very much on whether he (or, in this case, she) believes that sin, which is to say disordered desire and flawed will, exists in the world.  Rationalist conservatives ought to be inclined to acknowledge that such a thing does exist, since they root their acceptance of conservatism in their own empirical judgement that man is fallible and incapable of perfecting himself through changes in his material environment.  If they acknowledge the reality of sin, conservative tradition points them inevitably to the Christian understanding of ancestral sin as the explanation for where this flaw in man came from.  We are not here talking about generic theism or generic proofs of God’s existence, but a specific argument against Christianity on account of an inability to reconcile a good God with evil in the world.  Pardon me if I sound obnoxious, but this is one of the easiest to answer in specifically Christian terms. 

“Bad things happen to good people,” as the saying goes, because of the existence of sin in the world–not necessarily because of those individuals’ sins (and everyone has at least a few) but because of the disorder and corruption that have entered into the world through sin–and sin exists because God has given man free will and man, as Scripture tells us, fell of old in pursuing a life of autonomy that turned him away from God and disrupted the communion between God and man. 

As man the microcosm went, so went all of creation into the violence and death that pervade what we typically generically call “nature.”  So long as man remains at all free to will the Good or turn away from it, so long as it remains within his power and energy to enter into communion with God or drift away into autonomy, the possibility (and unfortunately very often the reality) of evil remains.  Because of the fallen state of the entire world, man will also suffer violence from the natural world.  I would hasten to add that, pace Orthodox theologian David Hart, this is not always merely permitted by God, but sometimes willed by Him as a chastisement of the wicked and a chastening of those whom He loves.  This idea generally horrifies atheists, because they seem to regard it as a kind of sadism rather than seeing it, like permitting the existence of death, as the charitable limitation of evil.  But this is the Christian’s Biblical answer to the tiresome question. 

As Dostoevsky said (and I’m paraphrasing), evil exists because freedom exists.  We could no more be completely preserved from the fruits of sin–the bad things happening to good people–that we could be coercively saved against our own will.  This is one reason why Christianity preaches salvation from this predicament in Jesus Christ.

And, even though fascists were collectivists to the core, people who opposed collectivism were called “fascists” by the left — as they are today. ~Jonah Goldberg

Does that mean when neocons call someone an Islamofascist they are referring to a Muslim who opposes collectivism?

But it’s a false comparison between, say, Muslim immigrants who settle in Rotterdam and refuse to integrate with Dutch society, and Mexican immigrants who go to Catholic mass and long to become American citizens. The former pose a real challenge to a society’s stability, but the latter can be sucessfully assimiliated if policymakers want to assimilate them. ~Dave Weigel

Following the Powell Doctrine (Enoch, not Colin), I would observe that the most crucial problem with mass Mexican and Latin American immigration of the kind we have been having for the past two decades is the sheer number of immigrants.  Immigration in large numbers prevents the kind of social pressure necessary to make assimilation succeed; if the number of immigrants is too great, assimilation breaks down because the native society’s acceptance is no longer nearly as necessary for the immigrants to make their own way.  

Two other main problems, both of which others have pointed out time and again, are the proximity of the home country of these immigrants–which weakens whatever assimilation they do embrace and reinforces their old national identity–and the unwillingness of many of them to adopt the habits of the natives.  I understand why they would retain the culture of their ancestors, and I respect that piety; what I do not understand is why we should want them to transplant that culture to our soil or why we expect their ancestral culture to have no political and social consequences. 

A fourth, but very relevant point is the question of the political traditions of the countries from which these immigrants are coming: most Latin American countries have inconstant, shaky histories of representative government and democratic practise or they have had long traditions of fraudulent one-party rule dressed up as democratic government, and this is certainly true of Mexico. 

Fifth, the vast majority of the people coming from the south may be Catholics, but it is a kind of Catholicism entirely unlike the Catholicism of the Americanised ethnics of the last 150 years, and they come from those populations in Latin America with the most superficial acquaintance with European culture.  How well will millions of these people adapt to our European culture?  How accommodating will their version of Catholicism be to American habits and political life?  Besides that, how accommodating will their admittedly very left-wing politics be to the American political system? 

You may not have to worry about caudillos overthrowing democracy, but you may have very real reasons to worry about future American Lopez Obradors, Evo Moraleses and legions of homegrown Chavistas.  Saying this is not intended to be a scare tactic, but simply an acknowledgement that the democratic expression of Latin American Indios has been for racial identity politics, socialist or quasi-socialist political economy and authoritarian populism, and these people have opted for these things because they believe them to be in their self-interest.  That self-interest does not change because they have shifted to another country. 

“Democracy” of some sort or other may do splendidly in our future New Mexico writ large, but it will be an abusive, illiberal democracy that ignores the rule of law, fosters corruption and organises itself through a padron system.  Every dysfunctional aspect of modern New Mexican politics will be set free to misrule the Southwest and it will be even more dysfunctional than New Mexico has ever been at its worst.  If that is the sort of future people wish for the Southwestern United States and beyond, be my guest and let things continue as they are going.     

Pat Buchanan’s newest book, State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, is now available and has already shot up to #1 at Amazon today.  Also take a look at his new blog

An attack of this sort is not accidental, and it also does not appear to make much sense.

Which is why this regime, as unpredictable as it is fanatical, requires a united response from the civilized world. ~Hugh Hewitt

Yes, never again will the civilised world stand idly by and allow Iran to seize a Romanian oil rig in the Gulf!  You tell ‘em, Hugh.  Now, does it really make the Iranians unpredictable if they fail to carry out the super-crazy nuclear apocalypse that some people wrongly predicted for today?  Or does it make the anti-Iranian hawks seem rather like bellicose buffoons?  I suspect that if the Iranian government issued a statement about unemployment, Hugh Hewitt would declare it to be further proof of Tehran’s madness and perfidy.

As it happens, the seizure of the rig was the result of a commercial dispute.  It seems that the Iranians have reacted in an oddly heavy-handed fashion to make their point–whatever that point might be (the Post story was remarkably unhelpful in explaining what the nature of the dispute was)–and that is all it is.  Harming good relations with relatively neutral foreign countries, oil men and investors doesn’t seem to make any sense given Iran’s interests in maintaining good relations for its oil and gas trade, so it is difficult to say what prompted this show of force.  

Well, I guess Iran hasn’t dropped a Nova Bomb into the Sun today, or whatever impossible-to-deter apocalyptic terrorist plot it was that Professor Bernard Lewis claimed in the WSJ that they were going to perpetrate on August 22 for obscure Shi’ite religious reasons.

Remind me again, who exactly are the dangerous lunatics? ~Steve Sailer

And we are generally wary about putting too much stock into one campaign’s internal polls. An exception carves out when those polls are openly released and touted — and when the opposing campaign fails to respond or responds in a way that suggests their internal snapshot looks much the same.

Fresh from the field, the DSCC released a poll conducted by the Berenson Strategy Group showing an 11 point lead by Bob Casey in a three way Pennsylvania Senate race with Sen. Rick Santorum and Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli. In a two-way race absent Romanelli, Casey leads by 14 points. ~Hotline

The sample is small, but the people questioned are apparently likely voters.  What is interesting to see is how little difference the presence of the Green candidate seems to make at this point.  In New Mexico, nobody loved the Green Party more than former state GOP chairman John Dendahl (who is incidentally now running for governor after the party committee replaced a snoozer of a nominee), and he had some success in diverting Democratic votes to the Greens to protect the GOP hold on NM-1; the Greens even once tallied as much as 19% in a race for the open NM-3 seat, but it was such an overwhelmingly Democratic district that even then Udall pulled out the victory. 

But the constituency for the Greens in La Tierra del Encantado is much larger because of our weird blue-state white demogaphics caused by liberal Californians (other Californians seem to move elsewhere), who are sick of the expense of living in California, overrunning everything and wanting to turn New Mexico into New California.  In Pennsylvania Santorum will have much less luck using the Greens as a club to beat the Dems, and he will in all likelihood not simply lose but lose badly. 

He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we’re learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he’s still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can’t get enough of fart jokes. He’s also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that. ~U.S. News & World Report

But fortunately Mr. Bush is defending the honour and integrity of the office.

I am beginning to get that odd feeling I had in December 2002 and January 2003.  At the time, everyone who mattered–except the prominent weapons inspectors who knew what they were talking about–was positive those WMDs were there.  After hearing this stuff for months, along with other equally unpersuasive pro-war arguments, I began to think that the Iraqis just might be telling the truth.  Maybe Iraq really was disarmed.  Wouldn’t that be a hoot?  And, as it turned out, those few inspectors who rejected the official story were proved right and my strange intuition that the jingoes were full of it turned out to be correct.

Now it occurs to me, on Apocalypse Day itself, that besides being ridiculously alarmist and exaggerating everything threatening about Iran to put it in the worst possible light (that sounds familiar) the same sort of rock-solid certainty about Iran’s nuclear program is carrying the day.  Just suppose–and I know it’s difficult for those who can’t grasp the idea that some people prefer rigorous, even draconian religion to “freedom”–that Iran really does just want a nuclear program for energy.  That would make a great many important people look very foolish (again), which is one reason why nobody entertains the thought for very long. 

Of course, in Iran’s case there is a real possibility of using a civil nuclear program to create a weapons program, and Iran has strategic interests that make acquiring these weapons understandable and even, in a sense, rational.  They might, like Pakistan did, be playing the world for fools, buying time and waiting for the moment to unveil their nuke program.   But what is so amazing about the entire debate going on in the West is that none of us–including the government that supposedly “knows more than we do” as the delightfully servile phrase has it–has any reliable information to confirm this theory, except that we think their President is looney, our government despises theirs and many of us actually believe that Iranians–and we’re talking about Iranians here–are some set of wild-eyed, suicidal maniacs who will just as soon annihilate themselves in some kamikaze nuclear war as look at us.  In just the same way that the government railroaded the country into a war in Iraq on premises that were always preposterous, the administration and a sizeable part of the population of this country are once again positive that they know what Iran intends, when we are merely supposing and guessing–just as we did with Iraq.  In fact, what is going on is the making of policy based in paranoia and fear, which is by definition not all together rational or well considered.

For that matter, suppose that Ahmadinejad is just a replaceable, demagogic blowhard with no real control and whose rants have no implications for real-world policy.  His bluster could just as easily be propaganda, or a calculated scheme to intimidate neighbours or designed for public consumption to keep the ordinary folks placated.  The masses in every country love to hear their president sock it to some dastardly firenghis and show “strength” by blowing a lot of hot air about future victories.  It is probably like Arab solidarity with the Palestinians–completely meaningless, but something that all public figures are required to engage in (like a Republican in the primaries saying how much he respects the sanctity of life, for example) to retain a certain level of credibility with their populations.

TEL AVIV – Um…something’s not right. Iran is supposed to nuke Jerusalem today, and today is almost over. All they’ve done so far is harass the Romanians. Well, that’s the Middle East for you. People around here just don’t respect time the way Westerners do. Everything is done at the last minute, late, or never. At least I made it through dinner at that fancy French place on the corner with the piano next to the bar. ~Michael Totten

Details of the offer, which was presented to diplomats in Tehran today, more than a week before a UN deadline for Iran to stop enriching uranium, were not immediately available but Iranian officials said that they expected negotiations to be able to resume after months of deadlock.

“Although there is no justification for the other parties’ illegal move to refer Iran’s case to the Security Council… the answer was prepared… to pave the way for fair talks,” Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, told the country’s student news agency.

“Iran is prepared to hold serious talks from August 23.” ~The Times

Anyone notice a small snag in the predictions of doom?  If Iran is going to destroy all of us today, that won’t leave much to talk about starting tomorrow.  Or perhaps the wise seers will inform us that Iran’s “new formula” for negotiating a settlement about its nuclear program is actually a secret, magical formula to destroy life, the universe and everything.  But I would be very disappointed if superstitious hawks did not continue to speculate about the end-times. 

I mean, you really have to give them credit for cooking up a real whopper, a true fish story worthy of the best propagandists who ever lied during WWI (or WWII!).  This is much more entertaining than hearsay about aluminum tubes, yellowcake or the surprisingly mobile one-legged terrorist (i.e., Zarqawi, who turned out to be unusually bipedal for a one-legged man) or UAVs launched off of fishing boats to attack us with that deadly dose of degraded, ineffective mustard gas.  The anniversary of Saladin’s capture of Jerusalem was even a remotely plausible occasion for some sort of anti-Israel attack.  Not that nuking Jerusalem really makes any sense for Muslims of any stripe (for their next trick, they will blow up the Kaaba just to keep us guessing!), but why stop when you’re on a roll?  Can we all please stop taking the WWIII/WWIV folks seriously now?  Please?   

If you read nothing else at First Things this month, read Joseph Pearce’s piece on the true kings of England (and one rather entertaining pretender) where he refers to the “Inglorious Revolution.”  Here is a sample:

Thereafter, the Jacobites tried in vain to restore the true king to the throne, but as “King” Anthony rightly laments, we’ve had a dynasty of German usurpers on the throne ever since. It might indeed be the sad truth that the English are destined to wait until Doomsday for the Return of the King, but it is at least consoling to know that several of the true kings in exile are now buried in St. Peter’s in Rome. If the English monarchy is really dead and buried, then what better resting place than in the company of the saints and martyrs.

Michael Totten keeps his eye on the apocalyptic ball here, here, here and here.  So far, so good.  The Twelfth Imam seems to still be in occultation, and all’s right with the world.

I think that the hate-the-illegal-but-love-the-immigrant mantra is in many cases the 21st century version of the 19th century movement called the “know-nothings”. Ashamed and aware of the revulsion which polite society held toward their anti-immigrant views, they simply refused to state them openly. When asked what their party stood for, they claimed to know nothing about it. Everyone knew, of course, that they didn’t like immigrants. ~Jerry Bowyer, TechCentralStation Daily

This article is like a hanging curve ball on a humid summer’s day in Houston–it’s just sitting there, waiting to be smashed into the distance by Lance Berkman.  However, since the Astros can’t generate any offense lately, the metaphor doesn’t work as well as I might like.  But this ridiculous claim about the Know Nothings is still begging to be knocked out of the park.

The context of Mr. Bowyer’s remarkably inaccurate statement about the Know Nothings (the colloquial name given to members of what would later become the American Party) is, of course, an argument in favour of amnesty.  This is an argument where being a “nativist” is bad, but the opposite, being a “foreignist,” is admirable and virtuous.  But Mr. Bowyer gets so carried away in his foreignism that he forgets that in the bad (read good) old days of the mid 19th century nativists didn’t have to hide their sentiments from a disapproving public and they certainly never did.   

The Know Nothings did operate as a semi-secret organisation, so that their members were supposed to answer, “I know nothing” when asked about what went on at their meetings.  In this they would not be different from Masons or other lodge brethren today who keep the proceedings of their gatherings confidential.  What the phrase did not mean, what it could not possibly have meant, was that they did not openly express their nativism and anti-immigrant sentiments.  They weren’t playing coy with the public.  They didn’t like the Irish and the Germans, and they particularly didn’t like the Catholics, and they let everybody know it.  Their nativism and anti-immigrant sentiments were the declared principles of their movement–the candidates affiliated with them ran on nativist platforms and vowed to appoint only the native-born to office.  Here in Chicago a Know Nothing mayor barred immigrants from all city jobs–so much for keeping a lid on the “secret”!  Here were several of the American Party’s platform positions:

  • Severe limits on immigration, especially from Catholic countries.
  • Restricting political office to native-born Americans
  • Mandating a wait of 21 years before an immigrant could gain citizenship.
  • Restricting public school teachers to Protestants.

Obviously, they were deeply ashamed about their views.  The platform tells us what every schoolboy used to learn in his American history classes: nativism was virtually their entire appeal, tied together with related anti-Catholicism, and it was practically the only thing they had going for them.  Had they supposedly hidden their hostility to immigrants under a cloak of secrecy, for fear of some mythical “polite society” that did not exist in the 1850s, they would have received no votes!  It would be like a labour party that never campaigned on labour issues for fear of what people might say, or a prohibition party whose members could only abstain from liquor in the privacy of secret conclaves because they were ashamed of their own opposition to drink! 

The Know Nothings made no bones about their opposition to the immigrants themselves; they were not hamstrung by tiresome arguments that require pro forma declarations of love and admiration for all legal immigrants but a deep concern over immigrants who break the law.  Like them or not, these people did not hold back their real feelings on the matter. 

That Mr. Bowyer actually thinks the Know Nothings were “ashamed” of their own nativist views, which they then kept hidden, or that there was a ”polite society” that viewed these ideas with revulsion (this came quite a lot later) renders his opinions on any related historical question essentially worthless.  Why should pro-immigration writers be taken seriously when they haven’t any clear idea about the history of immigration (or the history of nativism) in this country?  Why do others cite this sort of nonsense without comment, as if it were some sort of incisive or intelligent analysis of the problem?

Update: One of the commenters at Amy Welborn’s site dubs the article a product of “the Wall Street Journal-TCS-libertarian axis of stupid.”  Nicely put.  

President Bush’s attempt to apply Hollywood’s Western genre of Good vs. Bad Guys to make sense of the complex and atavistic political animosities of the Levant area and its peripheries was a costly misjudgment, as was his decision to recruit as his adviser on the Middle East an aging raconteur of oriental fantasies, Bernard Lewis. In Lewis’ Book of One Thousand and One Nights – in the first night the United States “liberates” Iraq and discovers weapons of mass destruction – the tale of making the Middle East “safe for democracy” would figure prominently. But the vision promoted by Lewis and other neoconservative fanatics was that of a Democratic Empire, a creature that could have been conceived only through an unnatural union between President Woodrow Wilson and Queen Victoria.

Bush would have been better off killing two birds with one stone – watching a great film at the same time as he learned something about the Middle East – by watching Lawrence of Arabia. Perhaps he might have realized how difficult it would be to impose an imperial order in the Middle East – the feuding Hashemites and Saudis, the never-ending killings between Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, establishing order in divided Iraq – even without adding the Wilsonian soundtrack of democracy and free elections. Why would you want, anyway, to dispense freedom to the same people over which you seek to impose an armed hegemony directly (Iraq), indirectly (Lebanon), or through proxies (Palestine)? Why provide the stick (power through elections) to the same players who want to stick it to The Man (who happens to be you)? ~Leon Hadar,

Mr. Hadar’s analysis is very good, as usual, and his assessment of Bernard Lewis reminds us yet again why we should not take Lewis’ agitation over the significance of August 22 seriously.  Since it is already nearly midday on the 22nd in the Near East as I write this, we are halfway through Doomsday and (so far) there is a considerable lack of doom. 

At VDare, Steve Sailer says all of the Things That Must Not Be Said about the recent Andrew Young flap.  Here he has some good remarks on something that is well-known to even the occasional viewer of Mind of Mencia:

That’s because there is a major disjunction in American public discourse between the relatively wide latitude you are allowed if you claim to be engaged in ”observational comedy” and the much more limited set of facts you are permitted to use when seriously analyzing how the world works. That’s a big reason America has better comedy than public policy.

Where Young went wrong was in acknowledging black resentment against the small store owners prevalent in the community.  This is, as we are ritually required to declare to one another, terrible racism, which tends to reinforce my impression that when someone says “racism” he means “talking about ethnicity and race as if they existed and mattered.” 

If he talked about the exact same reality and cast it in terms of improved efficiency, higher quality and better service–deeply important principles that all Americans will understand and embrace–rather than community resentment at the ethnic merchants who are seen as profiting somehow unfairly at the expense of the community, the partisans of Wal-Martification (or is that Wal-Mortification?) would sing the man’s praises.  Of course, he was talking about Wal-Mart’s relative service and quality while he referred to this resentment, but he made the mistake of expressing that resentment in terms of ethnicity–had he simply talked about greedy storeowners, exploitative businessmen, quite a few people would have nodded their heads approvingly.   Instead of receiving the hosannas that libertarians routinely offer up to the ones whom Scott Richert calls “The Lords of Bentonville,” he has received mostly calumny for saying things that seem to be substantially true. 

Certainly, as a corporate rep he should have learned to use the weasel language that professional sports management has mastered when it comes to talking about race; local Chicago sportswriters could give him a lesson in how to feign mock outrage at the slightest inappropriate slip of the tongue related to such sensitive topics; the anti-prejudice brigades, once they have finished disembowling Mel Gibson, will be along shortly to straighten out Mr. Young.  The maintenance of anti-prejudice does bear some considerable resemblance to religious purification laws, and the verbal assault on Mr. Young is a sort of rhetorical stoning.  Someone rather famous said something about who should cast stones, and something else about judging, but when it comes to the ritual public show trial and punishment of a deviationist these teachings seem to fade into the background.  

The rest of Mr. Sailer’s article happens to point to two important things about Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart is most beneficial to and most welcome in those areas that have no strong sense of community and, arguably, it benefits from the social fragmentation and ethnic resentments encouraged by mass immigration.  It is thus an ideal company for the world of the atomised Open Borders man.       

On the credit side, Syria had never been guilty of a terrorist outrage comparable to the outrage of Lockerbie, yet Libya’s Gaddafi—having done his penance—has been rehabilitated. In the aftermath of 9-11 Damascus passed on to the United States hundreds of files on Al Qaeda and other anti-Western terrorist individuals and movements throughout the Middle East, many of which targeted Jordan, Saudi Arabia and others besides the United States. In an interview with the New York Times in 2004, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said Syrian officials “gave me some information with respect to financial activities (of insurgents in Iraq) and how we can cooperate more fully on that.” In brief, Syria has the potential to become America’s more useful partner in the “War on Terror” than Saudi Arabia has ever been. Any “regime change” in Damascus remains a perilous proposition for as long as the Muslim Brotherhood represents the only likely alternative to Assad. ~Srdja Trifkovic

Today the 1,600th post of Eunomia (including my 70 old Polemics posts) was put up in a little over two years since I first began blogging at Polemics and then moved over here in December ‘04.  It is rather shocking to think that almost a quarter of that production has come in the last month, but that is the case.  Here’s to the next 1,600! 

Can you imagine?    Take the hippies for example — by which I mean the Howard Dean left.  These folks are the heirs of the European and American leftists who, during the Spanish Civil War, went to Spain to fight the rise of a fascist dictatorship.  Their slogans (”Attack Hitler Now” and “Fascism Means War”) are now long forgotten. These same people now think that fighting fascism is a terrible crime.  But what do they really think?  Do they regret their intervention in the Spanish Civil War — their finest hour? [bold added]  Do they think that fighting fascism was a mistake because war is bad even in the defense of life and liberty?  Do they now think that dictatorships are o.k. as long as there is stability?  (Michael Moore clearly thinks that, if little else).  So … a little dose of police state and loss of liberty is fine, so long as there is general security?  Is that what they think? ~Mario Loyola, The Corner

Of all the bizarre 1930s-era things for someone at an allegedly conservative blog to invoke, complaining that Howard Dean et al. lack the zeal of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade is about as strange and perverse as it gets.  Maybe on liberals’ own terms they ought to want to fight “fascism” wherever it is found (whatever they think “fascism” means at any given time), and maybe liberals do look back with longing at the “good old days” of siding with Soviet puppets and sympathising with the people who committed heinous atrocities against clergy, monastics and other innocents in a vicious anti-Christian war, but I see no reason why anyone on the right would want to encourage leftists to resume the enthusiasms and activities of their disreputable past.  Defense of life and liberty?  Who, for the love of all that is holy, was defending life and liberty in the Spanish Civil War?  The Republicans?  Were the Bolsheviks defending life and liberty, too?  I spit on such an idea.  That is the sort of “communication” it deserves.   

Perhaps liberals ought to be just as enthusiastic about Mr. Bush’s “freedom agenda” as anybody, but complaining that they have lost the zeal that made them hate Franco and Catholic Spain is surely a very odd thing for a Catholic at National Review Online to say.  I know the old days of Bozell and apologetics for Franco are long, long gone, but the only thing more bizarre than this would be a National Review diatribe against a liberal who had come around to supporting the work of Joe McCarthy: “Don’t these liberals realise the man was conducting a witch hunt?  Oh, the oppression!” Jonah Goldberg would say stentoriously.  (Actually, for all I know, someone at NR already has done this–if any readers happen to know of such an instance, I’d be interested to hear about it.) 

Maybe if the identification of Islamic jihadis with fascists wasn’t so completely senseless and misleading, this obnoxious invocation of left-wing sympathy for the Second Republic would then at least have some remote application to our present predicament.  As it is, it just shows the kind of appalling thinking that passes for conservative commentary these days.  But, really, what’s next?  Lauding the Vendee massacres?  Praising the Great Leap Forward?  Saluting the noble ideals of the Khmer Rouge?  After all, they were just killing counter-revolutionaries and reactionaries…for progress and humanity, of course. 

Sullivan ought to go on vacation more often.  This item from guest blogger Ana Marie Cox is more incisive and fun than a thousand Sullivan posts (I know that doesn’t mean very much, but it is a compliment):

Surely I can’t be the only person who notices that when George Bush is trying to make a point, HE STARTS TO KIND OF SHOUT. AND PUNCUATE. THE WORDS. WITH PAUSES. He’ll start off basically normal  then, when he gets to a talking point he’ll go all Steve Carrel in Ron Burgundy: “LOUD NOISES!” It’s as though he thinks that the reason the press corps doesn’t agree with his relatively rosy take on Iraq is because they can’t hear him.

This morning’s press conference was notable for both the President’s volume and a certain schizophrenia — Bush rarely tries as hard to get a laugh as he did this morning, even, in desperation, making jokes about dancing with Helen Thomas. (ew.) I’m surprised the DNC hasn’t already made an ad out of his shocking concession that Democrats who oppose his policies are just as patriotic as he is. And then, just to keep things interesting, he started channeling Lou Reed: “Sometimes I’m frustrated. I’m rarely surprised. Sometimes I’m happy. The war is not a time of joy. These aren’t joyous times. These are challenging times. These are difficult times.” I believe the next verse is “I thought of you as my mountaintop/I thought of you was my peak/I thought of you as everything/I had but couldn’t keep.”

Mr. Bush’s new pet phrase early on in today’s press conference seemed to be to say how “interesting” something was whenever he answered a question.  It is a more subtle way of dismissing people who disagree with him–”good, decent people” (his other new phrase), you understand, not like those terrorist-loving isolationists he normally talks about–than saying, “I just strongly disagree.”  Perhaps he saw Joe Scarborough’s discussion of Mr. Bush’s apparent lack of intellectual curiosity and decided that he was going to show everyone how “interested” he was in things.  Here are the examples:

You know, it’s an interesting debate we’re having in America about how we ought to handle Iraq. There’s a lot of people —- good, decent people —- saying: Withdraw now.


And what’s very interesting about the violence in Lebanon and the violence in Iraq and the violence in Gaza is this: These are all groups of terrorists who are trying to stop the advance of democracy.

But that doesn’t mean that he won’t go back to his trusty style of concocting straw men and then strongly disagree with a position that no one holds:

Now, I recognize some say that these folks are not ideologically bound. I strongly disagree.

Who says that?  “Some folks”–good, decent folks…you know, not like those damn Lamont voters giving aid and comfort to “al Qaeda types” or George Will.  But Mr. Bush is not without his generosity.  He allows as how his critics are also Americans, Americans with whom he strongly disagrees:

And again, I repeat: These are decent people. They’re just as American as I am. I just happen to strongly disagree with them.

Well, we just happen to strongly disagree with Mr. Bush when he says silly things like this:

But, in the long term, the only way to defeat this terrorist bunch is through the spread of liberty and freedom.

But at least Mr. Bush would never suggest any kind of connection between Iraq and 9/11!

And so my answer to your question is that —- imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.

Well, all right, he might occasionally make those sorts of connections, but he doesn’t deny that his critics are Americans, and that’s a big step forward!  So what does Mr. Bush think is necessary to combat all of this resentment?

And one way to defeat that —- you know, defeat resentment —- is with hope. And the best way to do hope is through a form of government.

Nobody “does” hope like Mr. Bush’s does hope–he’s hoping mightily that rejiggering a few institutions will eliminate resentment against policies that have next to nothing to do with the form of government in any of these countries, least of all in Iraq.  But that doesn’t get Mr. Bush down, because he “fully believes” in what he’s doing:

I fully believe it was the right decision to remove Saddam Hussein, and I fully believe the world is better off without him.

Well, as long as he fully believes it and he’s not holding out on us, how can we good and decent people say anything against him?  That’s a very interesting question.

There is nothing more unstoppable and absurd than a media frenzy about something truly unimportant.  Hot on the trail of George Allen’s macaca remark, liberal bloggers and the MSM have “discovered” George Allen’s cameo in Gods and Generals (an excellent film, perhaps the best yet made about the War, that captures the time and the mentality of the people as well as the Shaara novel on which it was based).  He is seen singing The Bonnie Blue Flag along with the other Confederate officers.  As others have pointed out, it is unusual that Allen the Californian took an interest in the Confederacy after moving to Virginia, but I have yet to see anyone explain why his attempts–forced and artificial as they may be–to take an interest in the history and heritage of his adopted state are in themselves objectionable or scandalous.  If anything, as a transplant and a Yankee he should make some effort to acquaint himself with the history of the state he claims to represent. 

What Does It Mean?  Allen Doesn’t Have A Clue

Of course, I know why we are supposed to believe this to be the case, but what is actually more striking about Allen’s interest in the Confederacy is the way in which the constitutional and political principles that motivated secession are not to be found anywhere in Mr. Allen’s real-life worldview.  This makes his affection for the Confederacy rather less compelling, and makes it seem to be something more like a pose than a serious attachment. 

If there is anything that is really offensive about Allen’s cameo, it is that he sings The Bonnie Blue Flag in the movie with no appreciation in real life for what it means, and he works in the Senate without any sense of what the principles that inspired the Confederacy would mean for how he should view the autocratic tendencies of Mr. Bush or the imperial war that he unflaggingly supports.  The scandal is not that he sings a Confederate song or that he has a battle flag–in this he is no more scandalous, indeed less so than people who sing the blasphemous Battle Hymn of the Republic–but that these are mere trinkets with no more importance for his own politics than some collectible antiques.  Whatever else you might say about him, Jim Webb, who had ancestors who fought for the Confederacy, understands more about the constitutional principles and the duty of the men represented in Gods and Generals than George Allen ever will.  I’d like to think that is one reason why Mr. Webb opposes the dreadful war in Iraq, and I would also like to think that Mr. Allen’s incomprehension of the real meaning of The Bonnie Blue Flag is one reason why he continues to support it.          

Lee Smith is an American journalist who moved from Beirut to Jerusalem during the Lebanon war. He likewise invited me on a walking tour of the Old City on the ill-fated date. Americans may be the only ones in the world taking this seriously. But that’s only true of Americans far from the scene. In Israel, August 22 is Tuesday, not Doomsday. ~Michael Totten

Sullivan’s guest bloggers are certainly providing some more interesting fare than is usually on offer at his blog.  As I argued before, the hawkish alarmism about August 22 doesn’t even make sense on the Shi’ites’ own terms.  It has never helped the reputation of this alarmist tale that Prof. Lewis and the Journal have their obvious biases against Iran and have been known to exaggerate the extremity of a threat to Israel and the known universe from certain allegedly unstable despots in the past.  Americans, with their love of end-of-the-world scenarios and a stunning ignorance of the actual tenets of other peoples’ religions, are unusually susceptible to the suggestions of qualified experts who will fill their heads with all sorts of dark visions of madmen unleashing doom on the world, and the spread of the August 22 apocalypse warning only confirms this.  That such a thing could have been published in a reputedly respectable American newspaper, rather than being relegated to The Weekly World News along with all the other prophecies of Armageddon, speaks volumes about the credulity of uninformed Americans and the extent to which anti-Iranian hawks are willing to go to push their belligerent policy.

The Kurdish state-within-a-state is, in some ways, more dangerous to Turkey and, to a lesser extent, Iran, than Hezbollah is to Israel because there are about 14 million Kurds in Turkey and 5 million in Iran while there are very few Shi’ites in Israel. If the Iraqi Kurds were to wind up with oil fields of northern Iraq, they could finance a lot of trouble in Turkey or Iran. After all, even without oil money, the Kurdish rebellion of the 1980s and 1990s in Turkey killed dozens of times more than the recent Israel-Lebanon war. ~Steve Sailer

Turkey and Iran here face a serious threat of destabilisation (is stability in the Near East still a problem that we need to keep solving?), and if attacks from Kurdish rebels continue they will eventually come to the conclusion that they have no choice but to establish their own security cordons and buffer zones inside Kurdish Iraq.  They will have as much (or as little, however you look at it) justification in this as any other state in a similar situation. 

The threats to the internal stability and integrity of these countries are very real, and there may come a time, especially in the case of Iran, when the U.S. and Iraqi Kurdish failure (or what will be perceived as their failure) to restrain or control the PKK inside Iraq will exhaust the patience of the two governments.  There is no love lost for America in Turkish public opinion, so if anything a Turkish intervention in Iraq–which would obviously severely damage the alliance–would make Erdogan’s government very popular, at least in the short term.  The Kurds have always been the wild card in the Iraqi equation.  If Washington really wants to keep the wider region from completely melting down, it will do what it can to coordinate with Turkey against the PKK and help secure the interests of an actual NATO ally rather than encourage the separatist sympathies of the PKK’s ethnic brethren.  Failing that, Turkey will look to its own interests and the strength of the alliance, already put under tremendous strain by the invasion of Iraq that Ankara did not want, will be greatly reduced. 

Our longstanding alliances have already suffered terrific damage because of this war.  It would be grossly irresponsible if Washington were to neglect an important regional ally in a misguided attempt to, shall we say, appease Kurdish nationalist opinion.  This neglect of the PKK problem will come back to bite the U.S. in a big way that the administration will not be expecting. 

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said countries that don’t have diplomatic relations with Israel should not be permitted to contribute troops to an international peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon. That would eliminate Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh — among the only countries to have offered front-line troops for the expanded force. ~AP

Via Antiwar

The tenuous cease-fire in Lebanon continues to erode, which I suppose is not very surprising considering the half-baked nature of the cease-fire in the first place, but what continues to surprise me is the Israeli resistance to having peacekeepers from any countries with which it does not have diplomatic relations.  That would, unless I am very much mistaken, include most of the Islamic world.  Many of the nations willing to put their soldiers into Lebanon (even though they will assuredly be no more effective than any other U.N. force of any composition) are Muslim nations that do not recognise or do not have relations with Israel–yet arguably this is precisely why they are considered acceptable donors by the Muslims of Lebanon.  Were they not Muslim nations with some interest in the conflict, they would be hemming and hawing over committing ground forces in any sizeable number–like Germany, France and the rest of Europe.  I can appreciate why it would be less than desirable from an Israeli perspective to have soldiers from these countries, but if Israel objects to the participation of the three largest Muslim nations in the world–including Bangladesh, which has always contributed to virtually every major peacekeeping operation for the last twenty years–it seems to be a signal that it now objects to any U.N. force, because it has already ruled out the only nations that have made it realistically possible to assemble such a force in any reasonable period of time.  A U.N. force probably will be incapable of carrying out the mandate it has been given in Lebanon, but then it causes us to ask why Israel agreed to the force only to refuse to accept it in the form that it was always likely to take (i.e., including a large number of Muslim peacekeepers).   

St. Gregory Palamas once said, The Logos became flesh, and the flesh became Logos.  Taken out of the context of Orthodox Tradition and the finely balanced doctrine of Christ held by the Orthodox Church, this statement might seem shocking or even heretical, but it is because St. Gregory’s formulation was closely tied to the entirety of Church Tradition that this radical statement of the reality of deification expresses the profound paradox of the truth of the Incarnation.  The statement is strongly Cyrilline in its inspiration, recognising that, as Donald Fairbairn has acknowledged in his important book Grace and Christology in the Early Church, Cyrilline Christology implies that Christ’s own humanity has received the adopted divine sonship that the Son naturally possesses: Christ’s humanity is His deified humanity and, what is more, His deified humanity is made equally the adopted son of God by grace that the Son is by nature. 

It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that in Orthodoxy in particular the significance of John 1:14, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, stands out as a defining feature of all subsequent Orthodox theology.  This is not to deny the importance of the prologue to the Gospel of St. John to other confessions; it is, of course, fundamental to all Christian confessions in its statement of Christ’s divinity and the cosmic dimension of the Incarnation.  However, it is in the strong embrace of the idea of theosis in the Greek tradition that Orthodoxy finds it particular expression.  It is not an exaggeration to say that essentially every controversy of any significance in the Orthodox world before 1453 was a controversy over the nature or possibility of deification, which is to say the nature or possibility of God’s Redemption of mankind and the reception of His saving grace. 

If God became man that men might become gods, in the famous statement reiterated by St. Athanasios (following a long tradition stemming back to St. Clement of Alexandria), the reality of God’s becoming man and the integrity of His remaining fully God were essential to the entire rationale for the Incarnation itself.  If the paradoxical mystery of the Incarnation was to make any sense, it must retain the possibility of the deification of men for which the Word undertook to take human flesh and a rational soul.  Central to this is the reciprocal relationship of the two transformations: the changeless becoming of God taking the form of a servant, obedient unto death, yea, even death on a cross and the transfiguration of created flesh into illumined and deified flesh raised by grace to the level of divinity according to energy. 

As the Orthodox on the Traditional Church Calendar marked the Feast of the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord this past weekend, which our New Calendar Orthodox bretren marked two weeks ago, we were reminded of the meaning of the Psalmist’s declaration that You are gods (Ps. 82:6) and shown the way to our fully restored state of purified, illumined and deified human nature shining with the uncreated light of Mt. Tabor.  This is the purpose for which every man has been created; this is the reality of our salvation realised before us in the living witnesses of the saints and martyrs who have received the perfection of harmonious synergeia between their wills and the will of God; this is the transformation of flesh by grace confirmed in the icons of Our Lord, His Mother and the holy saints and prophets; this is the participation in the Life of God made possible through partaking of the Holy Sacraments.  God became man that men might become gods–this is as essential to the truth of the Faith as believing on the reality of the Resurrection, for they are in fact one and the same thing.  Without Resurrection, deification is impossible, and without the possibility of deification the Resurrection of Christ was in vain for the salvation of our race.      

The conventional wisdom on Iraq is dead.  Long live the conventional wisdom on Iraq!  That seems to be the view of the two authors of a lengthy article in the Post detailing all of the potential consequences of a full slide into general civil war in Iraq.  While there are some problems with some the examples they cite in their article, that is not what concerns me so much as the assumption that the United States must remain to manage a conflict that has so far shown no signs of being manageable.  First, they admit that any effort to manage the conflict may only be postponing the inevitable, which underscores the need to get out while they getting is good. 

The authors’ estimate that 450,000 soldiers would be needed to impose a settlement of the conflicts in Iraq is probably accurate, but what puzzles me is where the authors believe we will find the necessary extra 300,000 soldiers to accomplish this and how exactly they expect any administration to convince the public, already weary of this adventure, to support a policy of managing the deteriorating situation.  Because we should be under no illusions if we go down that road–it means at least 10 to 15 years of direct management, which would involve large-scale deployment of military and civil assets to the virtual exclusion of all other foreign policy initiatives.  The country would in all likelihood have to be formally returned to the status of an occupied country (not that it has ever really ceased having that status), the sham Iraqi government that presently exists–because its military is simply a front for one side in the civil war–would have to be dissolved and the days of American soldiers putting force protection as priority number one would be gone for good.  To defeat the old insurgency and suppress the sectarian violence we would require the development of long-term working relationships between the occupying forces and the native population that would preclude frequent massive rotations and would, in all likelihood, require the end of a volunteer military as the basis for the army of occupation.  None of this guarantees success, but it would be the bare minimum required if we were going to make a serious effort to stop the collapse of Iraq into civil war.   

Clearly, as a matter of American interests, none of these necessary things is tolerable, much less desirable.  Managing an Iraqi civil war, whatever its knock-on effects in the region, would be a devastating drain on national resources.  Imagine if, even after the collapse of the USSR, Russia were still in Afghanistan today with no end in sight–that would be our future in 2020.  Imagine 15,000 more American dead and possibly six times as many wounded before it’s all over.  Iraq would become little more than our protectorate for the next generation, and possibly longer than that if we could retain control that long.  If you commit to managing the civil war and preventing the consequences of Iraq’s collapse, you are committing yourself to an endless obligation, because the longer Americans remain as ”protectors” of Iraq the harder it will be to justify leaving.  If today we have a solid core who believe we cannot have let the soldiers who have died in Iraq die in vain, we will have an even larger number in 25 years who will be even more committed to making a go of Iraq, as it will have become the national endeavour above all else.  

An Iraqi civil war will result in terrible instability, but it will in the end result in a new, stable balance of power if Western interventionists do not prolong and counterbalance against whichever side is winning at any given moment, as they did in the Balkans.  The only real reason why the foreign policy establishment grimaces at the thought of not preventing this conflict is that they refuse to accept the likely strengthening of Iran that follows from an Iraqi civil war.  Washington does not fear chaos and a vacuum in the Near East–they fear the alternative order, the alternative “new Middle East” that they have unleashed but did not plan to have.   

What, then, is America’s role in all this? Israel’s American supporters would like us to believe either that Israel is a just nation that never does wrong or that her interests are identical with or even supersede our own. Whatever the motives of these people—religious hysteria for some, fundraising for others (I think especially of the disgraceful role played by Pat Robertson), ethnic loyalty for others, none of them should be listened to by decent Americans and all of them, so far as possible, have to be eliminated from a public debate that should focus primarily on two things: the principles of justice and the American national interest. ~Thomas Fleming

Sometimes it takes people awhile to come to the sober realization of what forces create stability and what don’t. ~George W. Bush


As Jonah’s reader points out, our concepts of limited representational government stem far more from the Greco-Roman tradition than they do from the Old Testament. ~Heather Mac Donald

The Greek and Roman political traditions do have some direct bearing on the formation of the political ideas and ideals of modern European man (and, as Bradford argued, the Roman inheritance was deeply important for leaders of the War of Independence and the Framers), but it is telling that the societies where our tradition of “limited representative government” comes from were those least touched by these traditions until arguably the 16th and 17th centuries.  For that matter, the rise of the Cortes, French parlements, the Imperial Diet and Parliament in England was not related to some great nostalgic revival of senatorial practises or a longing for the good old days on the Areopagus, but arose from the pragmatic needs of government in medieval Europe. 

Medieval Christians remembered Rome, and none more so than the Byzantines, who maintained (with quite a lot of justification) that their polity was the Roman Empire, but wherever the practise and memory of imperial Rome was strongest you see constant challenges to the sort of consultative and decentralised government in the Cortes and the Diet or the complete absence of any such institutions.  The Roman tradition that medieval Christians remembered was that of the empire; the Republic would enjoy its revival as a model in the 17th and 18th centuries. 

In Byzantium, where the Greco-Roman tradition was joined with a thoroughgoing Christian worldview, you typically see small-scale consultative government apparatuses appearing only late in the empire in the time of the Comnenians during the revival of the Byzantine city, and there is never any question of the emperor needing to consult with anyone.  In England, we see the rise of Parliament as an adjunct to a strong central monarchy that nonetheless required consent to raise new revenues to wage the endless campaigns of the Plantaganets, and it is only during the the seventeenth century crisis over the King’s wars and the raising of revenue that we first see serious claims for the supremacy of Parliament and the practical application of entertaining fiction that sovereignty rests with “the people.” 

In any case, it is mainly in the seventeenth century that we see the reconfirmations of the chartered rights that our ancestors inherited and defended, pointing the way back down the winding road of specifically English legal and constitutional precedent.  There was a political application of covenant theology that expressed political compacts in terms of covenantal relationships, and this sort of language continued to be used in the colonies at the time of the rebellion, so it is fair to say that Christianity was not irrelevant to the development of representative government but it was something that was added on to an existing constitutional scheme and did nothing in particular to create that scheme.    

This constitutional tradition and even the liberalism that went along with its later stages are worthy of consideration insofar as they are our patrimony.  We are who we are in part because of these things, and that is worth acknowledging and respecting, but it does not require us to stop thinking about the truth of their claims and assumptions, especially when they seem to stand in conflict with much more essential aspects of our inheritance. 

But what frequently puzzles me about these sorts of arguments is why anyone, Christian or non-Christian, should care to defend or approve of Christianity because it helped pave the way in some sense for these political developments rather than because it is the heart of our civilisation, the source of all our meaningful cultural accomplishments and, well, the True Faith.  It may be interesting to note how certain forms of Christianity facilitated the rise of this kind of government in a very few countries, whence it has since spread, but surely it is relevant that in most Christian societies this form of government has arisen through the efforts of people starkly opposed to Christian tradition and Christian authorities.   

Liberal revolutions in Protestant countries, and I am principally thinking of England, have typically taken on a less overtly, simply anti-Christian colour, because there is much less in the way of institutional and social Christianity that impedes the liberal political vision and because historically the revolutions often take on a confessional tinge of defending “the true protestant religion,” as Sydney put it, against the innovations of crypto- and not-so-crypto-Catholics. Protestant Roundheads and Whigs could always take out their revolutionary hostility on High Church Anglicans and Catholics, rather than focus it on Christianity as a whole.  In every Catholic and Orthodox country where liberalism has arrived its rise has been much more hard-fought and adversarial because the churches in these countries have typically been opposed to liberal ideas–more readily recognising them as being basically incompatible with Christian teaching in many respects–and because liberals have viewed both the institutional and social roles of the churches as barriers to the different kinds of emancipation they want to usher in. 

Today this previous opposition to liberalism among the Catholics and Orthodox is supposed to be embarrassing to their modern brethren (as if Bossuet is more embarrassing than Voltaire), but I am increasingly of the opinion that many of these Christians did well not to fall for the siren song of liberalism.  Therefore I am also frequently puzzled by the need of some Christians to justify their religion in the strangest terms, as if to try to make people who are otherwise indifferent or hostile to the Faith appreciative that, but for Christianity, they would not be able to vote!  This is, of course, not really true, and the contortions into which some people must put themselves to make the arguments at one and the same time for orthodox Christianity and the role of Christianity in spurring on liberalism (even though the Christianity of political liberals through the ages has not always been exactly orthodox) are really quite remarkable. 

Christianity has been supremely important in shaping the mores, culture, literature, music, art, architecture and much of the philosophy of our civilisation, and if we need to dwell on the material culture that Christianity has inspired there are far more interesting things than liberalism and representative government to talk about.  I suppose I can understand that Christians wish to show that they are part of contemporary society in some way, and that Christianity is “relevant” to the modern discourse about freedom and rights and all the rest, but I am not sure I really understand what they hope to gain from this–except the occasional acknowledgement of Christianity’s historical importance from people who otherwise pay no attention to the Gospel.  There is an obsession with liberalism among certain Christians, captured rather well in the unfortunate expression of Mr. Bush that “freedom is God’s gift to humanity,” that does not seem to make very much sense, and in their arguments claiming Christian and divine origins for liberal notions they are really doing a disservice to all of the beautiful and remarkable fruits of Christian civilisation that are more important and which will outlast the airy abstractions of freedom and equality.

Heather [Mac Donald] writes: “I simply don’t know what to make of…the president claim[ing] that freedom is God’s gift to humanity.” Oh, come on. Bush is offering here a conscious echo of the Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In other words, Bush is harkening back to the foundational document of the United States, the political source of our universalist conviction. That’s what to make of it.  ~John Podhoretz

I suppose people who wrongly think that the Declaration is the “foundational document of the United States” (the ratified Constitution established the Union and to that extent “founded” the United States) will also put incredibly great store by the platitudes in its first two paragraphs.  But I have to say that I am more with Ms. Mac Donald and the skeptics when they express puzzlement at the strange formulations of Mr. Bush.  This is not because I am skeptical about God’s role in history, as they are, but because I am skeptical that God has given ”freedom”–except in the most important ways of the Redemption and Resurrection–to all mankind.  Indeed, moral freedom as it is frequently defined today in terms of self-will and choice is fundamentally the opposite of the free will that God created in man.  According to St. Maximos, our free, natural will freely wills the Good and obeys God; our choosing will (gnomikon thelima) is simply man’s fallen indecision and hesitation about willing the Good.    

It is reasonable to see the blessings of liberty as God’s gift to any particular people who enjoy those blessings, and it makes sense for free people to give thanks to God for those blessings, much as they would give thanks for any of the other myriad blessings that God gives to a peaceful, bountiful nation, but it does not make sense to assume that this liberty is therefore automatically or necessarily given to all men, that specifically political ”freedom is God’s gift to humanity”–when it clearly is not.  This is to make the truly significant and meaningful deliverance that God has given us through His Son only one part of the deliverance.  If we believe Mr. Bush, God also has a sort of program of earthly liberation.  It is an attempt to immanentise the spiritual liberty of Christians as political liberty, while at the same time stripping this liberty of any association with revelation.  It is a modern gnostic error.  Though the statement is brief, it is also strangely reminiscent of liberation theology in which the Gospel serves as a means of legitimising social and political revolution.  As well as being Mr. Bush’s ideology, this phrase is a rhetorical gimmick to baptise revolution with the appearance of holiness and to keep conservative religious Americans from raising objections to the fundamentally revolutionary and liberal nature of Mr. Bush’s entire enterprise.  If we judge by looking at who still supports his foreign policy, the gimmick seems to be working.    

It is also correct to say that because God made man in His image and likeness that man is free in a way relatively like unto God’s freedom, but this means that man is autexousion, and has free natural will, and not that God invests man with any “rights” with respect to political constitutions.  Perhaps Mr. Bush is thinking of the Declaration when he makes his far-fetched, enthusiastic claim, but just as there is no reason to put great store by those “self-evident truths” (which were not at all evident to generation upon generation of Christians) there is no reason to put much store by Mr. Bush’s odd, quasi-heretical view. 

The more basic difficulty that skeptics and believers alike have to have with Mr. Bush’s formulation is a difficulty that crops up again and again as conservatives keep trying to make the dysfunctional marriage of Enlightenment social and political philosophy and Christianity work through increasingly strained and incredible rhetoric.  Mr. Bush’s God of Freedom in the end has little more to do with the living God of Scripture, the One God in Trinity, than does Robespierre’s Supreme Being or the clockwork god of the Deists.  One wonders, of course, whether Mr. Bush really believes that Muslims also worship this same God as he has claimed in the past about the common worship of Muslims and Christians (”different routes to the Almighty,” indeed!). 

This post’s title sounds like the name a bad martial arts-cum-horror film, but it is apparently a fitting one for George Allen’s recent woes, as he has lost considerable ground in the polls over the ridiculous macaca flap.

Senator George Allen’s alleged slur of an opposition campaign worker of Indian descent, recorded on video, has provoked a furious controversy in the state. In the wake of the controversy, support for Allen has dipped below the 50% mark for the first time this year.

The latest Rasmussen Reports election poll in Virginia shows that Allen has lost a few percentage points of support and Democrat James Webb has gained a few. The incumbent now leads 47% to 42%, a six-point decline in his lead over Webb since July.~Rasmussen

There is something deeply sad about the idea that George Allen can ludicrously and falsely tar his opponent as a Beltway elitist and support an indefensible war and his numbers don’t change a bit, but what really gets him in trouble with the average voter is some off-the-cuff slur at an opposing campaign worker that most of the average voters wouldn’t have recognised or understood had they heard it themselves.  I’ll be glad to see Allen lose because of other things, if he does manage to lose, but I have to question seriously whether any electorate that takes macaca more seriously than war deserves to have better representation than George Allen can provide.

President George W. Bush speaks to reporters after his annual meeting with his top economic advisors at Camp David, Maryland, August 18, 2006. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

No frustration here

“I sensed a frustration with the lack of progress on the bigger picture of Iraq generally — that we continue to lose a lot of lives, it continues to sap our budget,” said one person who attended the meeting. “The president wants the people in Iraq to get more on board to bring success.” ~The New York Times

Although fighting between Turkish security forces and PKK militants is nowhere near the scale of the 1980s and 90s - which accounted for the loss of more than 30,000 mostly Turkish Kurdish lives- at least 15 Turkish police officers have died in clashes. The PKK’s sister party in Iran, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (Pejak), has stepped up activities against security targets in Kurdish regions. Yesterday, Kurdish media said eight Iranian troops were killed. 


Frustrated by the reluctance of the US and the government in Baghdad to crack down on the PKK bases inside Iraq, Turkish generals have hinted they are considering a large-scale military operation across the border. They are said to be sharing intelligence about Kurdish rebel movements with their Iranian counterparts.

“We would not hesitate to take every kind of measures when our security is at stake,” Abdullah Gul, the Turkish foreign minister, said last week. ~The Guardian

I assume that we will be bombarded by numerous articles and television appearances by pundits declaring Turkey and Iran’s right to defend themselves against terrorism and we will hear a lot of complaints about the “Kurdish state within a state,” right?  Isn’t it obvious that their war is our war?  In fact, I think we might be on the verge of WWVI against the united forces of “Kurdish fascism.”  We certainly have to keep an eye on the Kurds’ state sponsors and the forces occupying Iraq.  What choice will Iran have but to bombard Baghdad for allowing this sort of thing to go on in their own country?  I mean, the Iraqis even have a Kurdish president, so that must mean Iraq is responsible for everything that is happening.  Really, if you think about it, this is a golden opportunity for the region.   

As regular readers will have noticed, I have added a number of new permanent pages to the sidebar.  These categorise and arrange the posts I consider the most worthwhile and (I hope) edifying in several broad groups.  Solon’s Favourites, the oldest of the permanent pages, still includes the posts from the last two years that I consider to be among my best.  However, I have taken many of the more philosophical posts and placed them in The Agoge page, referring to the rigorous educational regimen imposed by the ancient Spartans on their young men (on account of Sparta’s tendency to prefer eunomia as a principle of government).  Posts related to the Lebanon war may be found in Burning Cedars (this has not been recently updated in the last week); posts related to my defense of The Passion of the Christ are available in Passio Christi; posts pertaining to the work of M.E. Bradford are in A Better Guide Than Reason; posts on my anti-Whig, “Jeffersonian Jacobite” views of Anglo-American constitutional history are in The Whig Party’s Treason.  The continuing series of posts on The Rockford Institute’s summer school will be collected in The American Agrarian Tradition.  There are also pages for essays and articles that have appeared elsewhere, and a page for a couple of poems that I have offered for your consideration.


You were transfigured on the mountain, O Christ God, showing your Disciples as much of your glory as they could hold. Let your eternal light shine also upon us sinners, through the prayers of the Mother of God. O Giver of Light, glory to You. 


On the mountain You were transfigured, O Christ our God, and your Disciples saw as much of your glory as they could hold, so that when they should see You crucified, they would know that You suffered willingly, and would proclaim to the world that You are truly the Splendor of the Father.

And here at home, a celebrity actor, the staff of a failed congresswoman in Georgia, and a crazed Muslim with a gun in Seattle all shout about the evils of the “Jews” — a good cross-section of just how insidious is the growing anti-Semitism. ~Victor Davis Hanson

Naturally, the ravings of a drunk man, the bitterness of people who work for someone widely regarded to be a lunatic and conspiracy-monger (McKinney) and the deplorable violence of someone who should be institutionalised are all rock solid evidence of the “insidious” anti-Semitism spreading across America by leaps and bounds.  What this suggests, actually, is that you must either be drunk or mad to have or indulge these sentiments in modern American society.  But it is really in the paranoid style of Mr. Hanson, who sees shades of the 1930s in literally everything, that something rather insidious lurks.    

And then there is the great controversy about Islam and terror and something called ‘Islamic fascism’ Beware of this word ‘Fascism’ George Orwell pointed out years ago that this was now a meaningless word, except insofar as it always meant ‘a person I don’t like, and you shouldn’t like either’. There are a number of conservative commentators who are convinced that Islamic militants are at war with ‘the West’ and that something called ‘Al Qaeda’ is constantly seeking ways of making physical war on us. I am unconvinced. And though I do think there is an Islamic danger to Europe, I think it is of a different kind.

I do not think there has ever been any such organisation as Al Qaeda, which is at most an ideology (see Jason Burke’s illuminating book on the subject). Muslim militants confuse the issue by adopting the name ‘Al Qaeda’ on various websites for various groupings in various places, but this is in a long tradition of people adopting the names their enemies have given them. There is no bearded Bond Movie villain sitting in a cave controlling all Islamic terrorism like a vast spider’s web. ~Peter Hitchens

What, then, does that make our bombing of German cities, especially the deliberate targeting of densely-packed working class areas (where opposition to Hitler was concentrated) with the deliberate intent of killing as many people as possible? I cannot see the logic here. If we are right (as we are) to be outraged about the Nazi tyranny’s loss of morals when it attacked our civilians, how can we defend our own decision to follow (and redouble) their example? Had our attacks been effective, I suppose a case could be made out for them. But they diverted valuable aircraft from the Battle of the Atlantic, the gravest single threat to our survival in that war once the Battle of Britain was won. The idea that our bombing of German civilians saved us from the Nazis seems to me to be entirely false. How did it do this? What did it prevent them from doing which they would otherwise have done?

This is emphatically not hindsight. The military scientists Henry Tizard and Patrick Blackett, among others, argued strongly in Whitehall that Arthur Harris’s bombing of civilian homes would not destroy German morale or do much damage to their war industries. Equally importantly Bishop George Bell of Chichester, a far from naive man who had before the war been in close touch with anti-Nazis in Germany and who intervened to help Jewish refugees reach Britain from Germany, attacked the bombing of unarmed women and children as early as 1941, and continued to do so throughout the war. He also argued that the bombing, by failing to distinguish between people and regime, doomed German opponents of Hitler to fail in their 1944 plot. He was in a position to know.

I think the argument remains a valid one, and we should not be afraid to have it. If you do things to others when you are strong, you licence those others to do the same to you when you are weak. We may, at present, be a relatively strong and stable country protected by effective armed forces and alliances from predators. The incompetence of our current government, its bungled foreign policy, its mishandling of the economy, its rundown of our military and naval capability and its unbelievable neglect of such things as education, the family and social order mean that Britain may - in the lifetimes of some now living - sink in status. It may cease to be one of the strong countries which does things to others, and become one of the weak and vulnerable countries to which things are done. I suspect that, if we are prepared to face the facts about our own actions honestly, we are more likely to remain strong and free than if we wrap ourselves in myths. ~Peter Hitchens

The Mac Donald blog fest goes on, prompting this remarkable statement from Wesley Smith at First Things:

Regarding Michael Novak’s post about Heather Mac Donald’s discomfort with talk of God: I too have grappled intellectually with how to analyze crucial concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, in a society that seems so pluralistic morally that it frequently appears not to be a true society at all. Yet, if we look carefully, we can discern a common frame of reference underlying many of these arguments. Indeed, amid the cacophony of competing voices—whether Christian, Jewish, secularist, atheist, or none of the above—I find it encouraging that all sides in most cultural controversies at least give lip service to the belief in universal human equality.

Why is it encouraging that all sides in most controversies pay lip service to something that isn’t true?  Would it be encouraging if all sides in the debate on evolution paid lip service to the fantastical Young Earth theory?  Would it be encouraging if all sides in Egyptology paid lip service to the belief that the pyramids were landing platforms for alien spaceships?  I ask because I regard “universal human equality” to be approximately as accurate an assessment of the human condition as those other claims are accurate assessments of the respective truths in each area of inquiry.  All of them are pleasant or amusing ideas (entire sci-fi universes have been constructed around the latter), and none of them seems to have any empirical basis in reality.  As near as anyone can tell in real life, universal equality doesn’t exist, the earth really is several billion years old, and the pyramids were built by people for the Pharaohs as monumental tombs.  The first and third claims have something else in common: those who believe in each one also believe that sinister, oppressive institutions have at one time or other hidden “the truth” from the people. 

I know, I know, Mr. Smith would not have made the statement if he didn’t believe “universal human equality” actually existed.  Some will say, “Surely you believe in the equality of man!”  Alas, no. 

It is interesting that this comes as part of an ongoing response to Heather Mac Donald’s article in defense of the “skeptical” (read non-religious, non-believing) conservative’s claim to being a real conservative.  Of course, no one had really denied the skeptical conservatives their place, though I did suggest that conservatism and full-on materialist atheism don’t really make a lot of sense together, but the basic argument was that skeptical conservatives come to their conservatism through a solid grounding in experience and empirical evidence and that they can reach basically conservative conclusions on all sorts of things from politics to morality to culture largely by means of their own critical and rational thinking.  Supposing this is true, why would a skeptical conservative be inclined to accept something like “universal human equality” and pay lip service to it?  What reason would a secular or atheistic conservative have to believe this?  Indeed, since it is one of the basic principles in the conservative tradition that such equality is not real, why would any kind of conservative be so inclined? 

To the extent that there is any truth to the idea of the equality of man it would be based in a metaphysical and spiritual claim, because it is plainly false if we are to judge by any other standard.  (It is important to remember that, as Bradford and Tonsor have told us, metaphysical or spiritual equality has no necessary connection to questions of any other kind of equality.)  I have never been entirely clear where the idea of spiritual equality itself came from. 

In all seriousness, it does not, to the best of my knowledge, appear in the early Fathers–or rather it is not even a question that much exercised the Fathers.  The Gospel may invert or subvert conventional worldly hierarchies, but the belief in some sort of hierarchy is always present, particularly from the Apostle onwards. 

In patristic theology, questions of equality arose in relation to the status of the Son in relation to the Father, and later the Holy Spirit in relation to both.  Because of their common essence, they are co-equally God.  The assumption here was that those that share the same nature possess an equality in that nature, which means that all those who share in human nature are all equally human.  It does necessarily follow that all individual human beings are therefore equal, except to say redundantly that they are all human.  Arguably, our two prelapsarian ancestors possessed the fullness of created nature, which was diminished in the Fall, and the Redemption has provided the possibility of recovering the fullness of our true nature, which suggests that the only spiritual and fully natural equality of man that exists is one realised by grace among the deified.  Otherwise, all that can be said with certainty is that all men are under sin and in the need of God’s grace–I submit that it is in this, and in nothing else, that fallen men are equal.        

Someone will object and say, “But the point of this other post was not so much about equality itself, but how people should treat one another, whether or not everyone is entitled to the same protections and dignity.”  That is what the rest of the post was about, and I am getting to it.  Mr. Smith discusses a number of moral questions, most of them related to the protection of life, and frames them in terms of equality.  Now, as a matter of description, I believe he is correct that most people do argue about these controversies in terms of equality and equal rights, but this is not something that I find “encouraging.” 

For example, what can it mean to say that an unborn child is equal to his mother and has equal rights?  Does it mean that she treats her unborn child with respect and dignity only to the degree that he is equal with her?  Clearly, the child loses in any such approach.  That would suggest that we ought to treat those weaker, more defenseless and more dependent with less respect and dignity than we would those who are more our equals.  This is clearly an unjust and cruel way to treat the weakest and most vulnerable people in a society. 

So perhaps someone will invoke a metaphysical right–the child has the same rights as anybody else.  Yet all of this rights talk presupposes the child’s autonomy in a way that seems hard to credit; the child, particularly the unborn child, is not autonomous in any meaningful sense and will not be for many years.  Rather, why do we not recognise the stark inequality in such cases and acknowledge that justice and charity require of us to treat the weakest and most vulnerable with the same respect and dignity that we would if they were our equals?  Indeed, if men treat their equals with equal dignity, that is to be expected, so where is the virtue and merit in this?  Rather, does it not follow from the teachings of the Gospel that we are to treat those who are not our equals with the respect and dignity that we would give our equals?  For if human equality were true, charity would become superfluous. 

Jonah Goldberg for calling Venice “the closest thing Europe has to an Epcot Center exhibit.”  There are tourist traps in ancient, beautiful cities, and then there are fake, hokey tourist traps.  If Goldberg thinks Serenissima is like something at Epcot Center (which, even seen at a distance, it is not), I move that the Venetians ban him for life on account of bad taste.

That is the basic sentiment of yet another self-exculpatory statement by Sullivan on the war:

I plead guilty too. I bought the democratization line and the WMD threat and was passionately pro-war. My only defense is that within days of the invasion, I started to worry about the troop levels, and the dissonance between what I had been told and what was actually being done opened up. Then Abu Ghraib; then the refusal to add more troops; well, you get the picture. 

In short, he lacked the vision and judgement to see the profound flaws in the pro-war argument when it mattered and lacked anything resembling resolve and integrity to seriously stand by the enterprise he had so vociferously backed only moments before.  There are names for people like that, and they’re not complimentary.  It is one thing to have really believed the war to be right or believed the administration to be capable and then discovered otherwise on later reflection, and something else to have been as hawkish as they come and then suddenly play the part of arch-dissenter, a part that Sullivan likes to play at in all things.  But it is a title he, who prior to the outbreak of the war was good a lackey as any, does not deserve.

When the war in Iraq started, I wrote some over the top satirical emails to my friends declaring the glories of “the People’s Disarmament” after the inimitable Ari Fleischer intoned: “The opening stages of the disarmament of the Iraqi regime have begun.”  I would always write these emails as if they were propaganda letters from one of the higher-ups in the Party and, knowing the current WSJ editor-in-chief’s excessive biases in favour of the invasion, always signed it, ”Comrade Gigot.”  Well, it turns out that Comrade Gigot was even more of a Politburo type than I thought. 

He apparently ran off Mark Helprin–one of the last remaining glimmers of intelligent thought at that place–because Helprin, familiar with the region and its history, thought the idea of democratising the Near East was preposterous and also undesirable.  This reconfirms my sense of how rapidly the WSJ op-ed pages degenerated in just a few years to a level of party-line conformity that was absolute and somewhat stunning in its inflexibility.  Of course the WSJ had long had interventionist attitudes and took many appalling positions during the 1990s on all sorts of foreign policy questions, but the extent of the uniformity was never quite so total until Gigot took control.  I speak as a recovering Wall Street Journal reader, and one who was rather stupidly bewildered by the entire process of purging dissidents prior to the war, as if it were really that surprising.  But at the time it didn’t make sense to me, and what I couldn’t yet wrap my brain around was the obvious truth that these people were not only not conservatives but were the embodied essence of anti-conservatism.  More than that, what I couldn’t yet grasp was that there didn’t need to be good reasons for doing this–it had been decided on, so, like the administration’s own approach, reasons were shaped to fit the decision.  So it was quite natural, when the time came, to chuck out anyone exhibiting the slightest hint of real conservative instincts on Iraq.  I don’t know why I thought there was any reason to expect better of the Journal–or indeed why I thought any semi-official party organ would do anything other than spew propaganda–but it was still something of a surprise that a paper I had grown up reading could take a position so abominable and mad.  But enough about me.  Here’s the relevant section from the interview with Helprin. 

Kelly Jane Torrance spoke with Helprin for AFF’s Doublethink, and here’s what happened (via Tory Anarchist):

DT: What I’m thinking of specifically is thinking that we can change an entire civilization.

MH: I’m really on record about that one. Henry Hyde invited me to speak, and I went up to Washington to one of the House office buildings and there was a lunch. And I got up in front of the lunch, and it was covered on C-SPAN, and this was before we actually debated Iraq, and I gave a speech that lasted 45 minutes or an hour, followed by a long question period. And one of the questions was about the democracy initiative, about changing Iraq into a democracy, and I am on record as saying—I don’t quite remember exactly, but I said more or less—I think it’s insane. I emphasize it like that, because among other things, if you count intensive language courses I took there in the summer as preparation, I spent almost three years in graduate school at Harvard in Middle Eastern Studies learning about Middle Eastern history, Arabic. And it was very clear to me, from the very beginning, that it’s impossible. If you know anything about Islamic civilization, or about the contemporary Middle East, about the sociology and the anthropology of the people who live there, and their recent history, and their religion, and their motivation and everything, then you realize that it’s not going to happen. It’s just not going to happen. And even if it were going to happen, it certainly wouldn’t happen with 125,000 soldiers who are also at the same time fighting an insurgency and trying to bring electricity to the capital, and make water projects, rebuild schools, and protect themselves, and cook and clean, and run the convoys, and all that kind of stuff. It’s the same ratio of police to population as the city of New York. Imagine if the police in New York City were at the end of an 8,000-mile supply chain and didn’t have Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds. They had to bring in all their food and cook it, and had to protect themselves in a camp, didn’t speak the language, weren’t familiar with the culture of the city, and didn’t even know the geography of the city, and were facing a population that is armed to the teeth, with machine guns, artillery shells, mines, rocket-propelled grenades, and other such things. And who hated them viciously, I don’t think they would get very far. It was just a crazy enterprise and the only reason that it happened is the people who embarked upon it knew absolutely nothing about the reality of the region which they were entering.

Even if it could be done, I don’t think it’s a desirable goal. Particularly as a Jew, I don’t like missionary work. I’ve had it focused on me, and I don’t like it. Let people be what they want to be. Now that doesn’t mean that we can’t explain what our point of view is. I would never back down from the American ideals, and we should make them known, whatever way we can, but the idea of actually embarking upon—and a crusade is a perfect word for it—a crusade to transform a culture, another culture . . . well, has it ever ended up in anything other than war? When we did it with Japan and Germany, it was after the war. They made on war on us, we hit them, and then we said, Okay, this is what we’re going to do. But the object of the war was not to—even though the propaganda may have said so—was not to change Japan and Germany into democracies. They both were democracies, to a large extent, already, but the object was to check them. My positions on this are complicated, but simple—and they’re all available.

DT: Have you found that your colleagues at places like the Wall Street Journal are unhappy with your criticism?

MH: Yes, I no longer am with the Journal.

DT: Is it because of this? Your thoughts on these issues?

MH: Pretty much, yes. And change of management, I guess. Bob Bartley died, and it was just like what happened to me at the New Yorker in 1992: You don’t fit. It changed. Either I didn’t and it did or I did and it didn’t, or we both did, or whatever, but it happened.

Actually, the term “Islamo-fascism,” if taken literally, doesn’t make sense. The “fascist” part might fit Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, with its militaristic nationalism, its secret police and its silly peaked officers’ hats. But there was nothing “Islamo” about the regime; Iraq’s Baathists tried to make the state the real object of the people’s devotion.

That’s why it’s odd to describe repressive theocracies like the Taliban as fascist — just as it would be for Savonarola’s Florence, John Calvin’s Geneva or the Spain of the Inquisition, all of which reduced the state to an instrument for enforcing God’s will. The Islamic world doesn’t seem to offer very fertile soil for fascist cults of the state. In a 2005 Pew Global Attitudes survey, majorities in most Muslim nations said their loyalty to Islam came before their loyalty as citizens.

But in the mouths of the neocons, “fascist” is just an evocative label for people who are fanatical, intolerant and generally creepy. In fact, that was pretty much what the word stood for among the 1960s radicals, who used it as a one-size-fits-all epithet for the Nixon administration, American capitalism, the police, reserved concert seating and all other varieties of social control that disinclined them to work on Maggie’s farm no more.

Back then, conservatives derided the left for using “fascism” so promiscuously. They didn’t discover the usefulness of the elastic f-word until the fall of communism left traditional right-wing slurs such as “communistic” and “pinko” sounding quaint.

Time was when right-wingers called the ACLU a bunch of communist sympathizers. Now Bill O’Reilly labels the group and others as fascist, with a cavalier disregard for the word’s meaning that would have done Jerry Rubin proud. Of course, it’s the point of symbolic words such as “fascist” to ease the burden of thought — as Walter Lippmann observed, they “assemble emotions after they’ve been detached from their ideas.” And it may be that Americans are particularly vulnerable to using “fascism” sloppily, never having experienced the real thing close up.

But like “terror,” and “evil” before it, “Islamic fascism” has the effect of reducing a complex story to a simple fable. It effaces the differences among ex-Baathists, Al Qaeda and Shiite mullahs; Chechens and Kashmiris; Hezbollah, Hamas and British-born Asians allegedly making bombs in a London suburb. Yes, there are millions of people in the Muslim world who wish the U.S. ill, and some of them are pretty creepy about it. But that doesn’t mean they’re all of a single mind and purpose, or that a blow against any one of them is a blow against the others. As Tolstoy might have put it, every creep is creepy in his own way.  ~Geoffrey Nunberg, The Los Angeles Times

Via The Western Confucian

Except for the silly crack about Savonarola, which is hardly fair to the poor friar, this article makes all the right points–points that I have been making for some time.

Thanks to Jim Antle at 4Pundits for drawing attention to my Lebanon article and Michael Dougherty’s review of Size Matters in a post called “Young turks.”  As for the appellation, well, see the above.

When the neo-cons (like me) said that we would be greeted with garlands of roses in Iraq, we meant it. [italics added] We couldn’t imagine anyone preferring an 8th century theocracy to freedom and liberty. But subsequent events in Iraq and Palestine have had to give any thinking person pause. The people of Palestine democratically opted for a government that promises non-stop war with a much more powerful enemy. Where the people of Iraq stand remains opaque.  ~Dean Barnett

Actually, I think they prefer mid-tenth century theocracy the best.  It is smoother, with only a hint of Hanafite jurisprudence.  I’m sorry, am I not taking Mr. Barnett’s article seriously?  Where are my manners?  This is very serious commentary.  Okay, right, I’m listening now. 

Of course, the people in Iraq in March 2003 weren’t living in an 8th century or even 21st century theocracy–but we took care of that problem, did we not, Mr. Barnett?  One might look at the Shia revival in Iraq in terms of the greater meaning that their religious identity provides them relative to vacuous abstractions like freedom–perhaps then the choice becomes more intelligible.  In a way, it is like the burst of nationalism in Yugoslavia: after decades of being told that you could think in these terms, you could not take pride in your national identity, there was a natural pushback that attached even more significance to these things because they had been denied you for so long.  Likewise, after decades of having to keep their religion more subdued, when the opportunity for the Shi’ites to express it in all its frenzy and fanaticism came they took it.    

But, really, why should we listen to anyone who literally cannot imagine why other human beings would prefer another way of life besides his own?  Why heed the recommendations of someone so abominably wrong about Iraq and, through his support for the invasion, about the broader conflict of which the Iraq war is not really a part? 

What sort of illiberal (in the sense of uncultivated and narrow), parochial sort of person is literally incapable of entering, figuratively speaking, into the mind of another view of the world, if only superficially, to perceive things differently in order to understand?  As usual the people who put the greatest store by their cosmopolitanism and universal values have the most limited horizons, the least knowledge and often have the most profound bigotry towards every other way of life that is not cosmopolitan and in harmony with universal values.  People who don’t know where they belong, where they’re from or who they are, because they are equally at home (or rather equally alienated) from every place and define themselves by their values and not their folks and their place, are apparently incapable of understanding people different from themselves.  “Flyover country” must be as much a mystery to neocons as it is to the coastal liberals. 

Most of human history is filled with people who didn’t prefer “freedom”–the question in many cases never really came up or, when it did, was sternly rejected as a route to license and immorality (well, now that you mention it…) or a prideful rebellion against God (well, you know, they may have had a point there…).  Quite a lot of people, including more than a few of all our ancestors, preferred what we today disdainfully call theocracy of one sort or another, but which they saw simply as fulfilling their obligations to God and man.  I have no truck with Islam and find its vision of order repugnant, but I can grasp why someone would prefer that to the sort of life offered him by Freedom.  In the war between a life of meaning and a life full of empty choices, the former will always prevail among sane people. 

Since we think we have no obligations to God–and can go around willy-nilly firebombing cities if we must (of all the bombings to invoke, why do they always cite one of the most heinous atrocities, the bombing of Dresden, as an example of a legitimate precedent?)–we call these people ignorant and declare it irrational theocracy and pat ourselves on the back for being sufficiently godless.  When they fail to become as sufficiently alienated and openly irreligious as our culture has become, we consider this to be their failure rather than proof of the undesirability of what we’re “selling.”  Neoconservatism, in short, is nothing other than the complete failure of imagination.  Lacking imagination, its only solution is the solution of every tyrant and thug in history: kill them, kill them all until they admit that it is over.  But if someone views the world through the lenses of an “8th century theocracy,” and they view the war as a sacred obligation, it will never be over.  To follow Mr. Barnett’s madness to its logical conclusion, America will be obliged to annihilate whole nations.  And Mr. Barnett will shrug and say something about fighting Nazis.  That is the face of neoconservatism today.   

Getting to victory will be an ugly thing. Our weapons will kill innocents, just as they did in Nagasaki and Dresden. And we will suffer our own losses. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that America will have to suffer a grievous loss before unshackling its own might. And our first grievous loss will not be our last. Like any global conflagration, this one will be full of horrors, horrors that most refuse to contemplate. ~Dean Barnett

Via Prof. Bainbridge

In typically shrewd neocon fashion, the ultimate logic of Mr. Barnett’s argument is, so far as I can tell, kill them all and let God sort them out.  Why we tolerate such savage ideas–particularly from the people who have already demonstrated monumental ignorance of the people in the region they deem so vital to our interests–escapes me.  Before the end Mr. Barnett and his friends will be saying, “The horror, the horror.”

As the columnist Yusuf Kanli put it in the Turkish Daily News: “Things are changing in Turkey. People are becoming more conservative. Conservatives are becoming more nationalist. And nationalists are becoming racist.” He asks, like many of Erdogan’s critics, why “Turks [should] die in Lebanon for the security of Israel but not . . . in northern Iraq for the security of Turkey”? Lebanon is a diversion, some argue, from Turkey’s own battle against Kurdish separatist rebels in the southeast. ~The Times

It is interesting to see Erdogan’s Islamist constituents pulling him in one direction and at the same time the increased nationalist sentiments that his government has actively encouraged pulling in another.  On the one hand, the Turks are being drawn into Lebanon in part because of Muslim solidarity, and on the other nationalists see this as a waste of resources that ought to be focused on fighting their real, immediate security threats.  When we compare the Turkish example with the U.S., it would appear that our ideological and idealistic interventionists are most like Turkish Islamists, while realists and America Firsters are concerned with the national interest.   

The fact is that Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, and the late Yassir Arafat all embrace the Third Reich. ~Mark Levin, a.k.a., El Guapo

Levin links to sites that tell us that, well, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem cavorted with Nazis back when, which everyone knows and which everyone also can see does not tell us much, much less does it prove that all these people “embrace the Third Reich.”  With Arafat, it is at least possible, and with the Baathists there are better reasons to at least associate them with fascism (see below).  But Ahmadinejad?  I know lots of people here like to talk as if he were the new Hitler, but that does not mean that he himself embraces the regime or legacy of Hitler.  There is a lot of sloppy thinking going on out there.  Since Ahmadinejad denies that the Holocaust happened, and it is fairly clear that he despises Jews, why would he particularly feel obliged to embrace a regime that, according to his revisionism, didn’t engage in in the mass murder of Jews?  Somewhere along here there is a problem.  Why we need to link all of these people to the Third Reich baffles me; presumably the crimes and villainies of most of these people are already proof enough that they are appalling people, are they not?  

How old Osama has anything to do with admiring the Third Reich, we will never know.  It is quite one thing to say that jihadis are totalitarian and use the same methods of violence and an ethic that the ends justify the means–all of which I grant you without a fight–and another to say that these people “embrace the Third Reich,” as if they were members of the NDP sitting around singing Nur der Freiheit gehoert unser Leben and thinking wistfully on the New Order that might have been.  In fact, from everything we think we know about him, Osama pines for the good old days of Cordoba and the Caliphate and probably does not give a thought to the ideology of a failed secular Western megalomaniac–unless he could find in it some useful rhetorical point to use against us.  The people who seem more preoccupied with the legacy of said megalomaniac are people who write political commentary in this country.  They need to turn off the History Channel and pick up a book about, oh, I don’t know, Venice or maybe the history of salt.  Then we could hear them make equally inane comparisons between Osama and Enrico Dandolo, which would be just as stupid but might be more entertaining. 

Baathism does have certain similarities to fascism–the only “Islamic fascists” in the world are arguably secular Baathists, who are Islamic mostly in name only, and not the Islamists who want them dead–and builds on similar ideas of combining nationalism and socialism.  Baathism’s main origins lie in Arab nationalism and socialism.  The name of the party (Renewal) does suggest a palingenetic drive for restoration, which Stanley Payne has identified as an important element in fascist ideologies, but many other kinds of revolutionary ideologies use the same sort of language (”new birth of freedom” ring any bells?).  But as was made clear time and time again before the war Hussein’s “role model,” so to speak, was Stalin, not Hitler.  That doesn’t say much for Hussein’s taste in role models, but it does suggest that the pervasive desire to link the present fight against al Qaeda, jihadis or just Bad Guys in the Near East as a struggle against the Sons of Nazism is more than a little deranged.

“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.

“Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect,” the expert said, “but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.” ~The New York Times

Nothing wrong with thinking about alternatives.  But if we are considering alternatives (perhaps one of those terrible stability-inducing dictators who, I don’t know, actually succeeds in providing security to his countrymen?), why do we still go through the song and dance of talking up the “freedom agenda”?  Why does Mr. Bush continue to insult our intelligence with this stuff?  No one out here in the country with much sense takes it seriously anyway, and it forces Mr. Bush into all sorts of awkward positions (like, say, declaring his support for the democratic government of a country that his ally is bombing to smithereens).  But the real problem is that all of this democracy nonsense has actually taken priority over the real work at hand, as if it was a cure-all that would eliminate all the other problems if we just had enough elections.  (Defenders of the war will harumph and say that they know democracy means more than having elections–they’re not a bunch of stupid hippies, after all!–but they then get very silent when asked to provide evidence that those other things necessary to a successful, lawful representative system of constitutional government are actually present in Iraq.) 

The first responsibility–indeed, really the only obligation of an occupier–is to provide order and security for the people under his supervision.  In chasing after the will o’ the wisp that is Iraqi democracy, we have managed to organise several elections while failing to provide even minimal levels of security in the capital city.  Had Saigon been this anarchic by 1968, public opinion about the war back then might have been about as low as it is in the current war.  Under the circumstances, I would be looking for “alternatives,” too. 

Our enemies set out their goal with neon clarity. ~Michael Gerson

Neon clarity?  What?  This guy was a speechwriter?

The past half century has shown that the cultural obstacles to democracy are less formidable than many predicted, from Roman Catholic Southern Europe to Orthodox Eastern Europe to Confucian Asia. ~Michael Gerson

The last half century?  Now Spain had some form of constitutional government on and off for the better part of a century before Franco; Italy had a constitutional monarchy with a representative legislature from the time of unification to the rise of fascism; Orthodox Greece was the first European nation outside France to successfully embrace revolutionary liberal politics and establish an independent constitutional monarchy.  The history of liberalism and representative government in these countries certainly did not begin in the post-1945 world, and few have seriously maintained that these nations were unfit or unsuited for these things because of their culture–rather crucially in Europe because these are Christian countries with an all together different understanding of the role of the state from that of Islamic tradition. 

But what these examples also show is that even in these countries, where the conditions were much, much more favourable, the establishment of constitutional government was frequently difficult and contested, sometimes resulting in collapse, and even then it took most of the last 150 years for these countries to reach a point of having relatively stable representative government.  It is theoretically possible that Iraq, or the bits into which Iraq will break up, will someday experience something similar, but neither we nor our grandchildren will ever live to see it.  In the short and medium term, we will be resented and hated for our trouble, and our interventions will make us less secure–which, if we believe Mr. Gerson, is the main rationale for why we have this policy. 

I don’t say these things as boasts or compliments–it is my opinion that liberalism has done more harm to Orthodox Greece’s living Orthodoxy in many ways than the Turks did through their despotism–but simply as statements of historical truth, a truth that seems conveniently to elude Mr. Gerson.  No one, except perhaps Slavophobes and those who look at eastern Europe through the lens of Orientalism, has ever seriously believed that Orthodox Europeans are incapable or culturally averse to constitutional, representative or even democratic government. 

The Slavophiles–and there is none more Orthodox in most rspects than they were–were Russian conservatives and even nationalists of a sort who sought and found, however implausibly, the indigenous sources of what they believed ought to be their own liberal and democratic order based in the experience of the city-states of medieval Russia and the (largely romanticised) memory of the Zemskii sobor.  Of course, their political ideas had limited impact, but the coherent pairing of these sets of ideas in the minds of Russians–intense commitment to Orthodoxy and a largely decentralised political order (under a paternal monarch)–undermine Mr. Gerson’s claims on this point in particular.  

Typically, if constitutional government has taken root slowly in these countries it is because the liberals who have promoted it have been by and large hostile to the traditional Christianity of the people and the Christian identity of the nation.  Far more than flawed theories of the origin of government (and they are flawed), it has been contempt for traditional values and the attempt to replace them with liberal ones that has doomed most attempts at constitutionalism throughout Europe down through the decades.  (Now that the replacement is in many societies more or less complete, we see the terrible cost of such “progress.”)  In the Islamic world, the introduction of liberal democracy cannot but trample on the traditional values of Muslims and it will predictably and understandably provoke resistance and defiance.   

In foreign-policy circles, it is sometimes claimed that past nuclear proliferation—say, to India or Pakistan—has been less destabilizing than predicted. In the case of Iran, this is wishful thinking. A nuclear Iran would mean a nuclear Middle East, as traditional rivals like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey feel pressured to join the club, giving every regional conflict nuclear overtones.  ~Michael Gerson

What prevented the 1999 Kargil War from blowing up into the fifth full-scale Indo-Pak war?  The fear of nuclear escalation on both sides.  It is that same fear of escalation that has prevented numerous cross-border provocations by Pakistan-based terrorists from turning into shooting wars.  By all rights, India should be able to smash Pakistan in any conventional war, just as she has effectively done each of the four times before, but the nuclear deterrent prevents such large-scale responses to provocations and now has maintained a continued, albeit sometimes tense, peace in the Subcontinent for several years with the reasonable prospect of many more years of peace in the future. 

But this is to take Mr. Gerson’s gloomy forecast to represent something resembling reality.  What “regional conflicts” are there in the region?  When exactly have Turkey and Iran or Iran and Saudi Arabia, much less Egypt, ever been at war with each other in the post-Versailles period?  What would be the likely causes of such ”regional conflicts”?  If, and this still remains an if, Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it might well prompt other nations in the region to acquire their own.  Like Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, it would be regrettable, but like Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons it is something that is manageable. 

In theory, every incident of cross-border terrorism in Kashmir and India as a whole has the potential to precipitate nuclear war.  While Mr. Bush was spinning yarns about Iraqi mushroom clouds, the world very nearly saw India and Pakistan go over the edge in the summer of 2002 in the wake of the Parliament attack of December 2001 and escalating tensions, but Musharraf and Vajpayee alike had the good sense and self-interest to step back.  To hear Mr. Gerson and Mr. Bush tell it, the peoples of the Near East are perfectly capable of adopting every manner of Western political habit, but they are apparently incapable of acting out of basic self-interest and self-preservation if and when they acquire the means to build nuclear weapons.  The calculations of self-interest do not require a democratic or benevolent polity; according to these calculations, deterrence has worked and will continue to work. 

It would, of course, be preferable if none of these nations ever acquired nuclear weapons (it would be much better if such weapons did not exist), but there are some problems for which there are no solutions; in this case, they are not really problems, but simply realities to be borne and endured and managed as best as one can.  Now we can either manage the rise of nuclear Near Eastern states intelligently and seek rapprochement with Iran in the interests of future regional peace, or we can be fools and attempt to stop Iran from acquiring the technology that Iran sought under the Shah and will seek again when all the ayatollahs are dead and buried, because it is in the strategic interest of Iran to develop these weapons and will be as long as its neighbours possess these weapons.  The alternative is to try to stop Iran which means (and everyone knows this) full-scale war with Iran, which we do not want and which we cannot, short of a return to conscription, successfully fight.  As speechwriter, Mr. Gerson has conjured up his last bogeyman; let us ignore him, as we should have ignored Mr. Bush’s dire warnings about Iraq all those years ago.     

The problems of the current Middle East extend beyond those “Islamic fascists” who proselytize a skewed, militant version of Islam. The present conflict includes secular Arab despots who flout the rule of law, violate human rights, and crush political dissent. ~Mohamed Eljahmi, NRO

This sums up the essence of exactly what is wrong with this dishonest label of Islamic fascisct/Islamofascist.  It presupposes jihadism is a “skewed” form of Islam, as if it were unrelated to “real” Islam.  That is a fundamental mistake in definition and will consequently muddle efforts to combat jihadis.  Furthermore, it appears obvious that in Mr. Eljahmi’s case the label serves as a way of pushing together all actors in the region that he or “we” are supposed to dislike, so all of sudden Islamists and Baathists are in it together (remember the last time we heard this absurd claim?) and we have to fight them as part of the same war against “Islamic fascism.”  It starts to become clear how some people understand the term.  It means: anybody and everybody in the Near East who doesn’t work for us.  In fact, that is too generous of a definition.  Under his definition, even Gadhafi qualifies as an Islamic fascist.  At that rate, President Bouteflika of Algeria might as well be included, too, so meaningless and arbitrary is the term’s application.

Surprisingly, Goldberg understands far more about this particular question than I ever thought he would (and this is not only because he happens to agree with my analysis of the flaws in the idea of thinking of jihadis as fascists), even going so far as to say:

It’s easy to argue Communism or Nazism were “alien ideologies,” it’s much more difficult to call “Islamism” an alien ideology to the Islamic world.

But he wouldn’t be Goldberg if he didn’t turn around accept the use of the term anyway, even though he just finished explaining why the term is wrong and misleading.  Oh well.

Andy McCarthy states it well:

Although I have used the term “Islamo-fascism,” I’ve never been comfortable with it. It’s a term used with much thought, but, like other similar terms — “radical Islam,” “militant Islam,” “political Islam,” “Islamism,” etc. — it conveniently allows us to dodge the question that begs answering: Is the terrorism we are dealing with globally a result of unadorned Islam?

Here is the problem: There is an interpretation of Islam that says everyone on earth must become a Muslim or submit to the authority of the Islamic state (meaning, pay the jizya tax and make one’s own freedom to worship subject to the regulatory whims of the Sharia authorities). This is to be brought about by jihad. Now, that is commonly called “Islamo-fascism” or “radical Islam” (among other things). But is it really fascist or radical? I don’t think so.

Bat Ye’or, not surprisingly, states the case as well as any I have seen:

However, unlike Fascism, Islamism is deeply imbedded in a jihadic ideology, with its legal framework of permanent war derived from religious scriptures, consolidated by a history of 13 centuries of warfare, conquests, and subjugation of infidels. Unlike fascism, all its references are religious, and its hatred targets equally Jews and non-Jews. Codified in 8th-century Islamic jurisprudence, Islamist warfare tactics conform exactly to a sharia-jihadic worldview, set in an enduring, theological pattern. Similarities with fascism emerge from a shared totalitarian mechanism, despite divergences in the two movements. Promoters of jihadism define their actions as a jihad, using its terminology and history. But they object to Westerners adopting this view negatively since for Muslims jihad represents the highest sacred duty in the path of Allah, and it is this positive interpretation of jihad that they want to impose on its victims. Being unfamiliar with jihad, Westerners do not understand that the fight against terror is against a 21th-century jihad and they do not realize the breadth of its scope and constituents.

What this government desperately needs is people of reason and intellect. ~Jim Webb


Everyone is dead wrong. I have to get this out before the influence of the gin fades away. Guys DO NOT want the indie girl - the “manic depressive, without the depressive part.” They do want the girl who will save them from themselves but it boils down to this: Any man worth his salt wants a woman who will lift him up when he has cast himself too far down, and  who will put him down when he is on cloud nine. Men do not want our women to be nerds. Men want women to redeem us from our nerd-dom. Instinctively we know that women are emotional on the outside; they want “connection”,  and “to be on the same wavelength” - etc etc… But at their core - women are calculating. First and foremost, they have to protect themselves and their children from men who are stronger than they are. When all the lovely trappings of civility are stripped away:  when the man has lost his job and seems unwilling to find work, when he can’t pay the bills, when he proves himself a third or fourth time to be irresponsible with the resources needed to maintain the lives of the woman and the children  - she will make the cold rational decision to leave. Men, on the other hand can survive, as Dave Chapelle wisely noted, in a cardboard box. The only reason we get dressed, the only reason we shave, or buy furniture from Crate and Barrel; the only reason we love wine, or learn about sports, or politics and philosophy is to impress you. It may be indirectly. You may not care about philosophy. But you care that we took the trouble to learn about Descartes and Kant; that we can out duel each other in our ability to explain these things - and on and on. The only thing we do for ourselves and our own enjoyment is start and maintain blogs. ~Michael Brendan Dougherty

There is no question that democratic societies are more likely to respect human rights, less susceptible to ideological extremism, more respectful of neighboring countries, more easily trusted with nuclear technology. ~Michael Gerson

More likely to do these things than what?  Soviet communism?  All right, check on at least three of those.  But Swiss republicanism?  That would be a big negative.  I suppose it’s easy to take down vast overgeneralisations based on ideological slogans, but then a lot of official policy seems to rest on just this sort of reasoning: if we let the people rule, they would never tolerate an aggressive war!  Oops.  Scratch that. 

Less susceptible to ideological extremism?  Well, that all depends on what country and whose democracy we’re talking about.  Democracy was responsible for what Michael Burleigh calls the “franco-French” genocide in the Vendee; democracy elected You Know Who and led to further unpleasantness all over the place; universal male suffrage didn’t stop Japan from whacking every neighbour it had; the only state to ever drop a nuke on anybody was, you guessed it, a democracy (you’d think the Nagasaki anniversary would jog the old memory).  As for respecting neighbours, after a couple dust-ups with our neighbours (see 1812, 1846) our democratic republic thought it would be a fine idea to kick around small countries in various parts of the world (Philippines, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Cuba, etc.).  We stopped that for a while, but have since returned to a time-honoured tradition of projecting power with no clear sense of national interest against countries that couldn’t have beaten us in a conventional war if their lives depended on it (which, as it happened, they did). 

Democracies have a mixed record when it comes to aggressive warfare; there are no guarantees they won’t fight other democracies.  The two things they allegedly have going for them–accountability and a preference for peace–are not borne out by any of the evidence I’ve seen.  What, pray, is so desirable about it?  Here at Eunomia, we assume that the burden of proof is on the fans of democracy to vindicate their system, which has generally been ruinous of the liberties of every country that has ever experimented with it on a national scale.  (For any Swiss readers out there, I am willing to grant the merits of canton-level popular government.) 

Nearly everything that makes “democracy” worthwhile–guaranteed rights, rule of law, supposed checks and balances, stable public institutions–isn’t really democratic but the residue of aristocratic and republican politics that have not yet been completely wiped out in the bureaucratic, managerial democratic age.  So either praise the virtues of constitutionalism and republicanism, which are the only admirable things in our system, or stop pretending that “democracy” is any great shakes.

The Jihadists have shown us how brilliantly they can manipulate for their own purposes something as irrelevant as half-a-dozen cartoons in a Danish newspaper. Thus, it is rather unimportant whether Israel’s destruction is or isn’t their main goal (it isn’t). They seem to have discovered through trial and error that the hatred of Jews is alive and well in the West and, as the Nazis did before, they are using it not only to further their own different goals, but to recruit collaborators and to paralyze whole countries and societies as well. It goes without saying how terrible this is for the Jews themselves, but it is at least as dangerous to the rest of the West that is allowing anti-Semitism to be used against itself. Hatred of the Jews and of Israel is the loaded weapon the Jihadis are putting in the hands of a civilization that’s willing (again) to commit suicide. ~Nelson Ascher,

Naturally, “Faster, Please” Ledeen is thrilled with this, but I suppose I must raise the inconvenient question: where exactly are the legions of Western anti-Semites upon whom those clever jihadis are relying?  For that matter, where is the active hatred of Israel outside of a very, very limited fringe?  I count myself one of the more intense critics of Israel during recent weeks, and I can’t say that I could be bothered to care enough about Israel or any other country enough to hate it.  How can any ordinary Westerner actually, honestly hate Israel?  Israel has even attacked American sailors in the past, but I am not inclined to make that a cause of lasting hostility; neither am I likely to be joining any enthusiastic booster clubs on its behalf. 

Why does anyone take this nonsense seriously?  Why are people who take this seriously (such as Ledeen) considered serious observers of international affairs by anyone?  Why is it taken seriously at National Review, and why does anyone listen to National Review if it encourages this sort of nonsense?  Anyone? 

What I heard here — and in subsequent interviews at the National Governors Association convention in Charleston, S.C. — from one Republican after another signaled serious trouble for the GOP across a broad swath of states from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma in key midterm election contests for House, Senate and governor.

The impression these Republicans had is that support for GOP candidates had nose-dived this summer — in part because of the chaos conveyed by the daily televised scenes of destruction in Iraq and Lebanon and in part because of the dismal reputation built by the Republican Congress that is home to many of the endangered GOP candidates. ~David Broder, The Washington Post

Read the article and look at the part where one of the Ohio GOP leaders speaks ominously about a repeat, not of 1994, but of 1974, the year of the Watergate and general anti-GOP backlash.  It’s tough being the ruling party and having nothing but failure to show for your record over the last several years.  After a while, that really has to wear out your constituents, most of whom would normally prefer a competent GOP over the Dems any day–the trouble is that no such party any longer exists on any issue that matters to GOP voters.  The patience of GOP voters may have just about run out.

As the politics in Iraq have grown more polarized since the elections in December, in which many Sunni Arabs voted, attacks have soared, including sectarian clashes that have killed an average of more than 100 Iraqi civilians per day over the past two months. ~The New York Times

Reinforcing, legitimising and politicising sectarian rivalry have been some of the biggest, most overlooked errors of the occupation.  It was assumed that by going ‘gently, gently’ and not establishing the new Iraqi constitution on the basis of a shared nationality–however artificial–that Iraq would settle down into a relatively stable internal political situation, when it has resulted in politicising sectarian and ethnic identity by making them the definitive source of political loyalties and the holding of political power.  Nothing exacerbates and strengthens claims of identity and hostility towards other groups more than making group identity the basis for possessing power.  Political contestaion sharpens and hardens identity, and in a society with imperfect or nonexistent experience with political discourse this contestation will often translate into bloodletting and vendetta.   

The number of roadside bombs planted in Iraq rose in July to the highest monthly total of the war, offering more evidence that the anti-American insurgency has continued to strengthen despite the killing of the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Along with a sharp increase in sectarian attacks, the number of daily strikes against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January. The deadliest means of attack, roadside bombs, made up much of that increase. In July, of 2,625 explosive devices, 1,666 exploded and 959 were discovered before they went off. In January, 1,454 bombs exploded or were found.


The increased attacks have taken their toll. While the number of Americans killed in action per month has declined slightly — to 38 killed in action in July, from 42 in January, in part reflecting improvements in armor and other defenses — the number of Americans wounded has soared, to 518 in July from 287 in January. Explosive devices accounted for slightly more than half the deaths. ~The New York Times

Prime Minister Maliki today went outside the Green Zone to talk about Iraqi forces — to talk to Iraqi forces, not only to thank them for their efforts, but to encourage them. And it’s significant to note that the one thing he said was that Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Sunni, Shia and Turkmen should be united with each other to form a country united to defeat terrorism. And I think what you saw there, at least according to General Caldwell, was a very passionate speech delivered by the elected head of Iraq. ~Tony Snow

Why do we continue to tolerate the deaths and injuries of American soldiers for the sake of the Iraqi government?  Bring them home.  Come home, America.

Peter Suderman doesn’t seem at all excited about the lifestyles of the young and ridiculous and whose tone sounds, well, a bit like that of the redoubtable Fr. Jape:

It doesn’t change much from there on out: The screen-dream fantasy won’t be Garden State, but you’ll still be dressing like your college aged nieces and nephews. You probably won’t have kids, but if you do, you’ll raise them as accessories while spending all your time bitching about them on anonymous internet message boards, always status conscious, always inferior. And then someday, you’ll forget about them entirely as they sneak away to their own impossible, secretly depressing glamour fantasy in the neon sprawl of the city, hoping one day to star in a reality show of their own, and maybe date a Gen-Y yuppie who reminds them of someone from a movie.

Someone more splenetic than I might suggest that all of these abominable trends have something to do with a certain relaxed attitude towards cultural and moral authority, a worship of the self and an overvaluing of choice as a good in itself, but I, for one, am glad to welcome Mr. Suderman to the camp of so-called cultural pessimists.  After all, as every good pessimist knows, we aren’t really pessimists–we are realists.

Why isn’t a form of the argumentum ad Naziam considered a fallacy when debating war, just as the reductio ad Hitlerum is fallacious when arguing with an opponent whose position you reject?  Why isn’t there some sort of corollary of Godwin’s Law for arguments about war?  It would prevent a whole host of bad or tendentious arguments from being made. 

Thus, under this corollary, when your first response to the Iranian nuclear weapons program is, “We have to stop the new Hitler!” your credibility ought to be drastically reduced by, say, 50%.  If you persist in this line of argument, your credibility will decrease geometrically each time you make this claim.  Under this rule, each time your first response to any argument against the evils of war or against going to war is, “But what about the Nazis?” your credibility will likewise be drastically reduced.  I think this corollary could also be extended to cover false alarms over “new Holocausts” and genocide in general. 

The basic premise of this is that if your first instinct is to compare every situation and every moral problem to the problem of Nazism, you really haven’t very much to contribute because you apparently cannot or will not see things except in terms of one conflict with one set of circumstances that blind you to the rest of reality.  The tendency to rely on the argumentum ad Naziam hints that you may be unaware of the fact that we are not, in fact, at war with the Nazis any longer or that the Nazis are all dead.  It is liable to make you support horrendous arguments for how wars should be waged (see argument from war crimes) by saying things like, “Well, if we could torch Dresden, we can certainly blow up a few villages…” or “If it worked in fighting the Nazis, it must be okay…” or “I suppose you wouldn’t have been willing to lay waste to German cities to fight the Nazis, eh, would you, Nazi-lover?”  These are not serious, moral arguments.  They are the complaints of people who find themselves at odds with their moral tradition and the moral authorities which they purport to acknowledge and respect; they are the complaints of people who have become so accustomed to making excuses for government and the abuses of power that they no longer have their right bearings when it comes to questions of war.  They are the complaints of people who frequently endorse unjust wars and then wrap themselves up in their “moral tradition” to find some tenuous rationale for what they have done, so they are naturally offended when anyone happens to draw attention to the moral deficiency of their position.  

I have made some satisfactory progress in my other writing, and I see that the Morality Clarity Brigades are on their usual tour of Pope-bashing, so I am returning rather soon to write a lengthy post.  What horrible thing did the Pope say this time that would draw down the ire of the wise men of First Things?  First, Pope Benedict said the following:

We do want to appeal to all Christians and to all those who feel touched by the words of the Holy See, to help mobilize all the forces that recognize how war is the worst solution for all sides. It brings no good to anyone, not even to the apparent victors. We understand this very well in Europe, after the two world wars.

Oh, no, he said something against War!  Quick, we have to put a stop to this!  Now, as I read my copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (and, yes, as an informed Orthodox Christian, I do have one) on war, it says:

The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life.  Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.

All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. (CCC, 2307-2308)

Notice how it doesn’t make nifty provisos that excuse the “good” wars from these ”evils and injustices”?  Notice how it doesn’t engage in all the moral shilly-shallying of war supporters?  Following these sections are those sections that list those circumstances under which war may be legitimately waged as a means of defense.  Now what did the Pope say that contradicts the statements cited above?  What possible objection could anyone have to a bishop counselling peace and condemning war as evil?  Well, of course, you already know what objections the usual suspects will have.  Here, first, is Robert Miller with his anti-pacifist-cum-Holocaust red herring:

I find it difficult to understand how the pope says this. Along with many others, I often invoke the Second World War as the paradigm example of a just war, of a case where morality not only permitted but required the use of armed force in order to combat evil. But here Benedict, expressly mentioning the world wars, says that they brought no good to anyone. No good to Elie Wiesel, and all the other prisoners liberated from Buchenwald? No good to the peoples of France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and others saved from Nazi domination? No good to the Poles and other Slavs, destined to slavery to support the Third Reich? No good to the young Joseph Ratzinger, who, freed from service in the Wehrmacht, was able to enter seminary, study theology, become a priest and a professor, and live to become pope?


As it stands, this statement from Benedict is unsupportable. All serious people know that war is a terrible reality to be avoided whenever possible, and Benedict should certainly say this. But he is also a great theologian, well able to make moral distinctions. He ought not make statements that can so easily be understood as endorsing a dangerously naive pacifism that is incompatible with the Catholic moral tradition.

Of course, conceiving of WWII as a “paradigm” of just war doesn’t really start you out on the right foot, but let us suppose that it is.  I feel compelled to ask why certain Christians constantly feel obliged to find fault with exhortations to peace or why they must see in the clear expression of the fundamental moral truth that “war is the worst solution for all sides” some kind of potential endorsement of “naive pacifism.”  Surely one of the evils of the world is that men are only too happy to resort to the use of arms and only too willing to shed blood and find all sorts of convenient reasons why they have done so–none more so than the old playground excuse of “he started it!” 

The great problem of our time is not Pope Benedict stating the obvious truth–which should be all the more obvious in the wake of the tragedies of Lebanon and Iraq–that war is the last resort because it is “the worst solution” and those who treat it as a last resort acknowledge as much.  The great spiritual problem, the great danger to which people who live in powerful nations are most prone, is the belief that war is good.  Not justified by certain circumstances, not necessary and unavoidable in certain cases, but good and the bringer of good

For someone who wants to take the Pope to task for a failure to make moral distinctions, Mr. Miller’s objection is unfortunate.  Of course the deliverance of innocent victims from brutality and violent death was good.  Of course the restoration of peace was good.  You have to really want to find a flaw in Pope Benedict’s position to assume that he does not know this or meant to ignore these things.  Surely the point of the statement was to emphasise that, on the whole, war truly profits no one because of the evils and injustices inherent in it.  If see WWI and WWII as one gigantic orgy of violence, we see an entire train of events starting in 1914 and leading to incalculable human loss and misery stemming from the belief that war is not the worst solution but, for many of the belligerents, the most expedient and the best.  How many tens of millions had to die for the “good” Mr. Miller describes?  How many hundreds of thousands of innocents were indifferently slaughtered in pursuit of that “good” by the Allies alone?  War may be a means to limit evil, and is therefore justified under strict definitions (which, strictly speaking, WWII did not meet) but it does not accomplish anything good.  Pope Benedict is telling us that we cannot valorise war itself, that war is always “the worst solution,” and we cannot make it into anything better than that. 

Deliverance from the excesses of war and the good things that come after the cessation of war are the products of ceasing hostilities and resuming peaceful, civilised life.  Why is there such a need, at First Things and elsewhere, to pretend that the problem of our age is not a tendency to go to war too quickly and rashly and without just cause and to wage war excessively, but a tendency to refrain from it when we are obliged to fight for our community and our people?  Why is it that some Christians think that the just war tradition is not a high standard of justice to be rigorously applied to the use of force but a loophole that means, “war is OK for Christians”? 

Three years into a war of aggression in Iraq, a week after the devastation of Lebanon, are some people really so inured to war that the simple truth that it is “the worst solution” and brings no good to anyone sounds offensive and contrary to Christianity?  Because it does bring no good to anyone, and we should not pretend otherwise.  By resisting aggression or redressing injustices, it may restore peace and create the circumstances in which men can pursue and cultivate the Good, but it does not do anything good in itself. 

Even the victors suffer spiritual and moral costs, particularly in total war where charity and justice are not to be found, and heretofore decent men are sometimes called to do reprehensible things.  War is evil.  It is something that is a necessary evil in certain cases, but evil nonetheless.  We ignore or minimise this truth at our own peril.  Indeed, some Christians in this country must seriously consider why they have been only too happy to go along blithely with every and any war of the last few years and whether that is really in keeping with their moral tradition.  For starters, they might hold off from belittling a prominent Christian authority when he says something that, by the standards of official Catholic doctrine and more generally by the common witness of Christianity, seems not only undeniable but essential for our present moment.         

It appears that an old territorial dispute over the Kurils, an island chain north of Hokkaido claimed by both and administered by Russia, is flaring up between Russia and Japan now that a Russian ship has fired on a Japanese fishing boat and killed one of the men on board.  The Japanese claim that the incident took place in their waters and are demanding an apology.  It is most unlikely that this will lead to anything else, but it certainly badly sours relations between the two countries and may have some indirect impact on future cooperation on North Korea. 

According to recent polls in Germany, Chancellor Merkel’s approval rating has dropped almost twenty points since the end of January to 37%.  As the magazine Stern puts it: “Merkel puts off voters.”  She is as unbeliebt as Mr. Bush, and she has dragged the CDU down from its weak September showing of 35% to a meager 31%.  She is still the preferred option for Chancellor over the SPD leader Kurt Beck, but she has obviously lost a great deal of ground–and her close association with Mr. Bush cannot have helped her.  My only question all along has been: why did the Union ever think that she was the suitable candidate to be Chancellor in the first place?

Ross Douthat points to an interesting question by John Derbyshire on Korea: why don’t the South Koreans go to war on behalf of their miserable fellow Koreans in the North?  Would the U.S., he asked, have stood by had an independent CSA sunk into a similar state?   

Speaking of impolitic thoughts, a more interesting counterfactual scenario for me would be whether the CSA, had the Confederacy successfully broken away, would have felt obliged someday to intervene to deliver the miserable Yankees from the yoke of consolidation, wage slavery and corporate corruption.  But then intervening in other people’s business for their own good is always such a Yankee thing to do that I doubt it would ever cross their minds.  One suspects that the Yankees for their part would have intervened in their neighbour’s affairs regardless of how well or poorly the people there were doing; they would intervene because that is simply what they seem to like to do.

Which reminds me of a great quote from the character of the Southern landowner in Ride With the Devil, Ang Lee’s superb drama of the War of Secession in Missouri:

Before they [the Yankees] built that church they built that schoolhouse. They rounded every pup into that schoolhouse because they fancied that everyone should think and talk the same freethinking way they do, with no regard to station, custom, propriety. And that is why they will win. Because they believe everyone should live and think just like them. And we shall lose because we don’t care one way or another how they live. We just worry about ourselves.

Okay, so I have one last post to offer up before I go away for a while.  Enjoy. 

More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. “I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States,” said another person who attended. ~The New York Times

If the characterisation of Bush’s attitude at this meeting is accurate, it goes a long way towards explaining the man’s limitations: the limitations of his imagination, his knowledge and his grasp of the politics of the region.  Here is someone who seems to earnestly believe that we have done the Shi’ites a great service and that they should be appropriately grateful.  As I suggested the other day, gratitude of the sort we might expect might simply not be possible for them to give.  But in any case Mr. Bush’s frustration seems to stem from the fact that he cannot see why anyone would be terribly upset over our providing weapons and political support to the people bombing their co-religionists.  Surely their gratitude for liberation should outweigh anything so meager as religious solidarity!  Herein lies the core problem: the belief that these people will prefer their new liberated status so much more than their previous religious loyalties (loyalties which they have only just recently been able to start expressing openly and ebulliently again–thanks, indeed, to the invasion) that their gratitude to the liberator will trump solidarity with their fellow Shi’ites.  We truly have become a profoundly secular culture if Mr. Bush, supposed embodiment of evangelical religious enthusiasm, cannot perceive the reasons for Iraqi Shi’ites expressing their support for other Shi’ites in a time of conflict.  Given his anemic or rather nonexistent expression of concern for the Christians of Lebanon, perhaps this response should not surprise anyone. 

Well, folks, I’ve been blogging pretty furiously for the last two weeks, racking up an unconscionable 258 posts since the start of the month.  That is more than most professional and paid bloggers do in six months, and I’d like to think that most of the posts have been of sufficiently high calibre that they were not entirely a waste of time.  Before I go on a brief hiatus away from Eunomia to do some other writing (the dissertation isn’t going to write itself, after all), I will leave you with a selection of the best posts of the last week.  Here, thenare what I consider the fifteen best examples of the last week’s work.  Please also visit Brainwash and read my article on Lebanon.  

The tragedy is that the conservative movement cannot take credit for this groundswell of conservative feeling—not here nor, I suspect, anywhere else. These small, local, civic groups, all of them trying to protect goods necessary to human flourishing, do not appeal to the conservative tradition in making their cases, nor do they attract (for the most part) right-wingers to their causes. The more self-conscious today’s conservative man is of his conservatism, the more likely he is to be suspicious of such organizations. He has been taught to think in terms of ideological abstractions. Say the word “conservation” or, heaven help you, “sustainability,” and he merely flips to the flash card in his head marked “Environmentalism: Bad.” Appeal to tradition or inherited rights, and he reminds you that, In This Time of War, Sacrifices Must Be Made. And, besides being the price of capitalist progress, he has been assured that studies actually show Wal-Mart is good for communities; meanwhile, his own town has lost, oh, half a dozen or more locally owned businesses since the Smiley Face moved in ten miles down the road, finishing the community-killing work started by the federal purse and the federal bulldozer. But what does personal observation count in the face of the great think tanks’ official authority? ~Jeremy Beer

Isn’t it remarkable how much attention Heather Mac Donald’s TAC piece is getting all over the place?  It’s also rather remarkable that almost every person who has cited it has managed to talk about it without once mentioning where it was published and only once did anyone mention the symposium of which it was a part (according to Ponnuru it is part of “a symposium,” with no other details required).  It takes real diligence to ignore a publication with this kind of consistency. 

What may be more remarkable is that the one article from the symposium to receive the widest coverage is the one that I found least compelling and least relevant to the actual topic of discusson, which was on what the opposed terms liberal/conservative and Left/Right mean today.

I was going to let the George Allen thing die, maybe even talk about how this is the sort of stupid thing that people obsessed with prejudice blow way out of proportion, but I saw this and it actually made me angry (I know it probably seems like I’m always angry, but this really bothered me for some reason):

In singling out the Webb campaign’s cameraman, I was trying to make the point that Jim Webb had never been to that part of Virginia – and I encouraged him to bring the tape back to Jim and welcome him to the real world of Virginia and America, outside the Beltway, where he has rarely visited. I also made up a nickname for the cameraman, which was in no way intended to be racially derogatory. Any insinuations to the contrary are completely false.

This is a scurrilous claim about Jim Webb.  Not only has the man been outside the Beltway throughout Virginia, but he’s been a veteran and a decorated war hero.  And where was this place that Jim Webb had supposedly never been?  Breaks Interstate Park, a bit north of I-64 near Waynesboro, which is probably about as rural and off the beaten path as George Allen has been in years.  I wonder if George Allen has ever been up in the Appalachians much at all, or if he’s often been down in the tobacco country of the Southside–that’s the “real world of Virginia.”  Since he didn’t even live in Virginia until he was a teenager, and only then in the Washington area, I find it hard to believe that he wants to make this into an issue of who the one with the deeper roots in Virginia is. 

As this excerpt from Born Fighting, his book on the Scots-Irish–Jim Webb’s people–ought to show, he understands more at a visceral level about the “real world of Virginia,” the Valley and the “mountain people” of the Appalachians than George Allen the Californian will ever know.  Here’s a taste of it:

The mountains are beautiful, smoky from the haze that the sun makes when it burns into the pine. My mind plays tricks. I tell myself that I’ve been right over there, once upon a time, or at least my blood has, taking water straight from a stream and staring out into the wild unknown, dreaming of the majestic deliverance that must be just over the next horizon, hiding in a valley that no white man has ever seen before. Or maybe the next horizon, or the next one, or the next one after that….

…From Gate City, I follow narrow, winding roads along rushing streambeds and past small frame houses built at the bottom of the ridges. The mountains loom above me. Trucks are parked along the roads. Little wooden footbridges cross the streams, leading to the front doors of the houses. American flags are frequent, on the trucks and in the yards and on the porches. America got bombed and mountain people don’t forget, even if it happened in New York and Washington, because when it comes to fighting wars, mountain people have always been among the first to go….

…On top of the mountain the wind, heavy with oxygen, hits my face. I look over at the deep green waves of mountains that surround me, thinking on the one hand that it reminds me of being in the open sea, and on the other that I can now see all the way to Tennessee. And I know this is what my ancestors must have thought as well. Another mountain, and then another. Why should I stop here? And I think not only of my great-great-grandparents lying underneath my very feet, but of all the others who made me, whose lives passed through these mountains and others just like them to the north and south. Perhaps they were brave. Perhaps they were merely desperate. But they were daredevils, not only to have shown up, but also to have had the courage to leave. 

When Webb was inside the Beltway, he was working for that classic Hollywood left-winger Ronald Reagan.  Anybody who has lived very long in rural Virginia knows that it is Democrats like Jim Webb who represent the people, the real people of Virginia, and not some perfumed Senator who has always lived in the D.C. suburbs of NOVA, which, as any good Virginian could tell you, isn’t really Virginia anyway.  

Here is an excerpt from Jim Antle’s excellent article on Jim Webb in The American Conservative

Webb’s biography is impressive enough to make all this praise seem less hyperbolic. A 1968 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was a varsity boxer, he served as a Marine officer in Vietnam. Twice wounded, he earned the Navy Cross, the Silver Star medal, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. Webb went on to collect a law degree from Georgetown, serve as counsel to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, receive appointments as assistant defense secretary and secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, win an Emmy Award, and pen six bestselling novels.

What has George Allen accomplished by comparison?  He has proven himself expert at two things: getting elected, and supporting Mr. Bush’s illegal, unjust war.  Come home, Virginia.  Vote for Webb. 

Update:  Here are some of Jim Webb’s fine words on his Confederate ancestors, the duties of soldiers and the cause of the Confederacy:

I am not here to apologize for why they fought, although modern historians might contemplate that there truly were different perceptions in the North and South about those reasons, and that most Southern soldiers viewed the driving issue to be sovereignty rather than slavery. In 1860 fewer than five percent of the people in the South owned slaves, and fewer than twenty percent were involved with slavery in any capacity. Love of the Union was palpably stronger in the South than in the North before the war — just as overt patriotism is today — but it was tempered by a strong belief that state sovereignty existed prior to the Constitution, and that it had never been surrendered. Nor had Abraham Lincoln ended slavery in Kentucky and Missouri when those border states did not secede. Perhaps all of us might reread the writings of Alexander Stephens, a brilliant attorney who opposed secession but then became Vice President of the Confederacy, making a convincing legal argument that the constitutional compact was terminable.  And who wryly commented at the outset of the war that “the North today presents the spectacle of a free people having gone to war to make freemen of slaves, while all they have as yet attained is to make slaves of themselves.”

And so those of us who carry in our veins the living legacy of those times have also inherited a special burden. These men, like all soldiers, made painful choices and often paid for their loyalty with their lives. It is up to us to ensure that this ever-changing nation remembers the complexity of the issues they faced, and the incredible conditions under which they performed their duty, as they understood it…

There are at least two lessons for us to take away from such a day of remembrance. The first is one our leaders should carry next to their breasts, and contemplate every time they f ace a crisis, however small, which puts our military at risk. it should echo in their consciences, from the power of a million graves . It is simply this: You hold our soldiers’ lives in sacred trust. When a citizen has sworn to obey you, and follow your judgment, and walk onto a battlefield to defend the interests you define as worthy of his blood, do not abuse that awesome power through careless policy, unclear objectives, or inflexible leadership…

I am compelled today to remember a number of ancestors who lie in graves far away from Arlington. Two died fighting for the Confederacy — one in Virginia and the other in a prisoner camp in Illinois, after having been captured in Tennessee. Another served three years in the Virginia cavalry and survived, naming the next child to spring from his loins Robert E. Lee Webb, a name that my grandfather also held and which has passed along in bits and pieces through many others, such as my cousin, Roger Lee Webb, present today, and my son, James Robert, also present…

The BBC is on the case of the orphanage massacre in Sri Lanka. Good for them. But the MSM seems eerily silent. What do you think the coverage would be if the Israeli government killed 61 children in an anti-terror bombing campaign? Front-page A-1. Sri Lanka? Nada. And people wonder why some of us believe much of the media has an anti-Israel bias. ~Andrew Sullivan

It is unfortunate that the Sri Lanka school massacre has gone unnoticed.  I have already commented on it and believe that it ought to have the same kind of prominence in international attention that Qana received during the Lebanon war.  But who am I kidding?  There are no Muslims fighting–which means there is no way to fit it into the handy narrative of WWIII/WWIV, no way for Gingrich to make asinine comments about the conflict–and Israel isn’t involved, which means there is no way for evangelical preachers to root for one side and describe the destruction of a nation as a “miracle,” and no way to spin this as part of the “war on terror.”  Because of this, Secretary Rice cannot say stupid things about the “birth pangs of a new Tamil homeland.”  President Bush will be unable in this case to call the deaths of children an “opportunity.”   

It is an old-fashioned separatist war, the same one they have been fighting for 20-odd years, based on “tribe or religion or whatever” in the immortal phrase of Charles Krauthammer, and there is nothing more likely to put an American audience to sleep than two ethnic groups they never heard of killing each other in a country they can’t find on the map over disputes that they don’t understand.  Imagine the perplexity if you explained that there are also Tamils in the south of India, and mentioned that it was an Indian Tamil who blew up Rajiv Gandhi because he opposed the LTTE, or the bewilderment at the revelation that the Tamil Tigers were the ones who invented suicide bombing as a terrorist tactic.  That might mean that terrorism has something to do with occupation or resistance to someone else’s rule, which obviously cannot be true, can it?  

Why would your average newspaper or cable news service devote any of its time to the deaths of combatants or noncombatants in a war that most people don’t even know about?  How often did the slaughter in Ivory Coast get anyone’s attention outside The Economist?  How’s the civil war in Nepal going?  Anyone know what’s cooking on the Eritrean border these days?  No?  Why not?  Oh, yes, it must be the anti-Israel bias in the media.  Because the anti-Israel bias in the American media is so pronounced, so very overwhelming, rather than evidence that our media are almost as ignorant about the rest of the world as the general population is.

In fact, I suspect that this is more proof that our media has such an undue, positive, myopic obsession with Israeli conflicts that similar conflicts elsewhere in the world don’t even rate a mention because, well, Israel is not somehow implicated and therefore it’s just a bunch of foreigners killing each other.  The fact that the first thing that pops into American bloggers’ heads when they see a bombing in Sri Lanka is “I wonder if this will get as much coverage as Israel’s campaign” should tell you a lot about the sorry state of our media culture with respect to foreign affairs.  Everything–including conflicts that have nothing to do with the Near East or Muslims–apparently must be viewed through the lens of how it relates to Israel and the way Israel gets covered in the media. 

How many front-page stories do atrocities in Chechnya get?  None, that’s right, because nobody running the media companies cares how many Chechens or Russians die in that war.  There is media outrage over excesses and civilian deaths in Israeli wars because everyone is paying attention to everything that happens.  This is not because everyone in the MSM has it out for Israel, but because everyone in the MSM is microanalysing every detail of every minute of every Israeli action.  You have to feel sorry for the Israelis on this score, since it is true that no other nation is put under such scrutiny in our media–but then no other nation gets so much attention far out of proportion to its size and strategic importance as Israel does in our press.   

There are no “good guys” in the Sri Lankan war (quick, Sullivan: what is a Tamil, and what is a Sinhalese? who represents the forces of Light?), no “reliable allies” to cheer for, and no way for our government to tar our national reputation further by dismissing the suffering of innocents killed by bombs that we sold the government that is using them to lay waste to an entire country.  The American MSM occasionally includes some criticism of Israel when Israel errs and commits terrible excesses, but if any other country did to its neighbour what Israel did to Lebanon the cries of “genocide” would have been deafening.  They would, as it happens, also have been wrong, but the fact that you never heard any such thing, especially not in American coverage, ought to tell you something about how favourable our media are towards Israel in most respects. 

Interestingly, what is the news service that has been following the developments in Sri Lanka?  The terrible, horrible BBC, which is routinely accused on the right of pernicious anti-Israel bias.  Maybe it is biased–I don’t know, I don’t watch their broadcasts–but it is also just about the only global news organisation that is paying much attention to this atrocity in the Sri Lankan war.  Put that in your media bias pipe and smoke it.   

Update: One of Sullivan’s readers gets it.

I am a sick man. … I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don’t consult a doctor for it, and never have, though I have a respect for medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine, anyway (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious). No, I refuse to consult a doctor from spite. That you probably will not understand. Well, I understand it, though. Of course, I can’t explain who it is precisely that I am mortifying in this case by my spite: I am perfectly well aware that I cannot “pay out” the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don’t consult a doctor it is from spite. My liver is bad, well–let it get worse! ~Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes From The Underground

An experienced politician operating at this level is simply not allowed to make gaffes like this. Yes, some of the commentary might be unfair; yes, the media coverage might be over-blown, etc., etc. But this is a blatant unforced error, and to make a mistake with the slightest tinge of race about it is doubly damaging for Allen.  This will be in the backs of the minds of Republican primary voters for a long time to come. ~Rich Lowry

It’s easy to pick on predictions, but this one seems to be begging for a little ridicule.  Except for the 1-2% of the country that actively worries about presidential primaries two years before they happen, not only will no one will remember Allen’s odd, apparently ill-chosen “macaca/macaque” reference during this campaign come ‘08, but I doubt strongly that Virginia Senate voters will remember it in three months’ time.  The Plank is getting excited at the thought of Allen jeopardising his re-election with this.  Give me a break.  I like Jim Webb and I think he’s excellent on the war, but right now it’s going to take a lot more than an obscure French racial slur to bring George Allen’s campaign down.  Who now remembers the Confederate battle flag hooplah that was supposed to doom Allen’s political future?  If anything, that might have helped keep parts of the Southside of Virginia in his corner. 

The most offensive thing about the speech to my ears was not his use of the slur, but the implication that he, preppie Californian transplant and Beltway insider George Allen, was some sort of down-home boy who was in touch with the real people, while the veteran Jim Webb, proud son of Scots-Irish stock, is supposed to be a wine-and-cheeser off partying with Hollywood types.  I would really like to see Webb win this one, but I have no illusions: his fundraising is simply dreadful, and he needs a lot more exposure if he is going to knock off someone like Allen. 

This is one of those episodes that the other side’s partisans will remember for eternity; they will make references to it at social mixers in 2014 during (I hope not) President Allen’s second term (thick in the middle of the war to save Guyana from IslamoMaoism) to show that they always knew that George Allen was a bad guy, because he once said something about some Indian kid during the ‘06 campaign that…well, what exactly did he say?  Well, almost no one is exactly sure, but it was racist.  (In fact, there does seem to be something to the claim that he was using a derogatory term for North Africans, but again all of 1-5% of people in the country would know this.)  If Allen does lose the Senate race this year, it will be because of the anti-incumbency surge nationwide and opposition to the war.  If he doesn’t lose, hardly anyone will bother to bring this up in two years’ time.  When they do, it will not faze GOP primary voters, most of whom won’t even know what the commotion is about.   

Maybe I just can’t help myself, but I’m afraid Mr. Douthat offers up a target too good to pass by.  Unfortunately, I don’t subscribe to the WSJ, so I have not read the editorial itself, but I did look over the synopsis at NYT.  The basic question is the year being invoked as the foreign policy comparison with the present moment.  Readers will already be familiar with my thoughts about the 1938 option.  Other contenders are 1942, 1948, 1972 and 1919.  Now I appreciate the 1919 comparison, which is described as the paleo view, but as tempting as it is to see the fires of self-determination/democratisation creating all sorts of disastrous consequences that will consume entire regions as a result of Mr. Bush’s policies I don’t think that’s really the most apt comparison in any case.   

If I believed in these sorts of comparisons, which I think are misleading and tend to produce the conclusions that you bring to the inquiry in the first place, I would put on my history cap and, in true reactionary fashion, say that our predicament resembles that of the Habsburgs c. 1630.  No measly 20th century examples for me, thank you. 

Pushing beyond the settlement in the Treaty of Luebeck (1629), Ferdinand II overreached and believed that he was on the verge of re-Catholicising the entire Empire and started abusing the Lutherans of the Empire accordingly.  This heavy-handed triumphalist measure succeeded in nothing so much as pulling Sweden (and France–on the side of Sweden) into the conflict and fundamentally altering the balance of power in the war for the next almost twenty years.  In the end the Empire lost ground and lost any chance of recovering the Protestant lands of the Empire for Rome, and even then only after decades more of conflict.  Thus, as Geoffrey Parker might say, success is never final

Lebanon might have been our 1629 moment of overreaching, when we thought we could show the Iranians who was boss by having our proxy smash their proxy.  The comparison is hardly exact, because these comparisons are always hodgepodges that never really work, but I think unfortunately that the arrogance and presumption behind the U.S.’s full support for the Lebanon war may mark the high-water mark of U.S. power in the region. 

But as this example shows, these comparisons are not very helpful.  Because this is what I think the current predicament is, I found a comparative example that suited what I already thought.  The neocons always think it’s 1938, because they have no way of thinking in any other terms: take away talk of appeasement and dictators, and they have no foreign policy expertise to offer.  Beinart is bound to think it’s 1948, because otherwise no one would pay any attention to all of his Truman-babble.  The stay-the-course geniuses have to say that it’s 1942 (presumably we’re looking at this from the American, and not the Axis, perspective) because it means that there can only be progress from here on out.  Paleoconservatives may see a replay of 1919, though probably the more pessimistic among us may think that this refers to the Russian Civil War and Wilson’s other stupid interventions in the Old World, but more likely other paleos would be skeptical of making these comparisons because of the unrepeatable contingencies of every period that make these sorts of arguments less than illuminating. 

So I would have to conclude that we are, in fact, in 2006 and we are in a situation that is basically new and unprecedented.  There has never been quite this confluence of forces in the region, and there has rarely been a moment before now where conventional military power has been of such limited value in deciding international disputes.  There are things we can glean from previous historical examples, but every difference in detail makes the present moment unique and almost guarantees that if we approach the current situation as if it were very similar to another situation we will make the wrong calculations and get ourselves into a bigger mess than we might have otherwise if we attended to what is actually happening now rather than riding our respective hobbyhorses and issuing dire warnings.  

Many of the miscalculations in the July crisis of 1914 were made because everyone relied on the experiences of the immediate past: Austria concluded that it could get away with punishing Serbia just as it had gotten away with formally annexing Bosnia; Germany concluded that it would not back down as it had in 1905; Russia decided that it must come to the aid of Serbia to check Austrian ambitions, unlike its inaction in 1908 after the annexation (of course, for some reason, the government did not ponder the consequences of their last ill-fated military adventure, which provoked widespread revolution).  All of them were in some sense foolish to think in this way.  (These three were the major Powers that contributed to the general war more than any other, except perhaps Britain with her dithering and indecision, so I focus on them.)  Instead of making decisions centered in the crisis of the moment, each Power assumed that the other would back down or act in precisely the same way as each one had done in the past; if everyone had done what he was “suposed” to do, if everyone had acted in just the same way as in 1908, there would have been no general war and the world would be much better off today.  Except that 1908 was unique and did not repeat, and because the July crisis was entirely different in nature–and this should have been clear to everyone at the time.  But the actors did not want, or were unable, to acknowledge many of the differences and plunged ahead. 

If it is a truism that every army fights the last war–and this is taken as an indictment of the military’s slowness to adapt to new circumstances–what can be said for foreign policy thinkers and public “intellectuals” (if we must call them that) who routinely embrace the idea of reliving the diplomacy and refighting the war of three or four wars ago?  If militaries are slow to adapt, these people show signs of being genuinely maladaptive in their inability to see things except through the lens of their preferred paradigmatic examples of international crisis.  Indeed, these paradigms are likely to distort and confuse us more than help our analysis of the situation, not least because certain examples–particularly the 1938 one–impose a moral and emotional weight on the debate that is dangerous and irresponsible.  If you treat this as 1938 and you really think Hitler is on the rise and about to launch his war, nothing is going to deter you from taking action against him, knowing what you know about Hitler.  This makes people get very excited and muddles their thinking.  There is also the problem that Hitler is dead and we are not actually facing Hitler redivivus.  Indeed, it may be that if we act now as some believe the West should have done in 1938 we will precipitate precisely the kind of disaster that we believe we are going to prevent.  Comparisons of this kind are fun, and they give us historians work to do, but they cannot be the basis for analysing international tensions with any effectiveness.  Besides, any ten year old can come up with these comparisons after watching enough History Channel propaganda.  Historians more than anyone know that it is our attention to historical differences that can tell us the most about any given period relative to others.  

Perhaps it is easier to argue that the problem (Muslim anger) has a solution (change of foreign policy), rather than recognize that our belief in rationality and our optimism about human nature are sometimes misplaced. It is a legacy of the Enlightenment that we find it so hard to deal with madness and fanaticism. We are always inclined to seek an alternative explanation: There is a cause — our policies — there is an effect — their anger — and there is a solution — our change of policy. ~Emanuele Ottolenghi, National Review

God forbid that I ever say anything really favourable about the Enlightenment, and I have made my strong objections against political optimism known on several occasions, but I tend to find that people who are otherwise so thrilled with the promise of the Enlightenment, rationality and freedom when it comes to the blasted “freedom agenda” suddenly become very cautious and hesitant in assuming that it will, in fact, do very much good when applied by Westerners to discern intelligible causes of our policy screw-ups.  Reason will light the way across the Near East and eliminate the causes of terrorism, but it apparently cannot help us devise a better Near Eastern policy. 

On questions of policy we must remain mute, because obviously you can’t change anything with changes in policy–in spite of what Enlightenment theories about politics, society and culture claim.  When lumieres get depressed, they come off sounding more morose and pessimistic than any reactionary, because they are coming down off the big high of actually believing in their absurd theories about the innate goodness of man, the state of nature and all the rest of it. 

Maybe the Enlightenment in its entirety is a bunch of hokum (I generally think so), perhaps its concept of rationality is deeply flawed, its optimism about human nature absurd and its belief in solving every problem with recourse to reason naive and dangerous, but it is amazing how quickly otherwise steadfast believers in said hokum run for the exits the moment the possible answers conflict with their deep-set prejudices against changing policy in the Near East.  Because certain of our neo-lumieres approve of current policy, we must now devise some elaborate explanation of why this problem of resistance to our policies–unlike all of the others–has no solution. 

Now I don’t think every problem has a solution (as Burnham would say, such a thing is not really a problem anyway), but I am skeptical about the reasons for the sudden loss of confidence of friends of the Enlightenment the moment that a rational solution does seem to present itself to us.  As I have said several times this month, withdrawal and ending occupations are not the complete answers, they do not solve everything, and there are indeed some aspects of the Islamic world we will never be able to ”solve” (because these are simply realities integral to Islamic societies and not some sort of political and social structural flaws that we can repair), but I have to say that the only thing more offensive than the arrogant confidence of the hubristic Enlightenment man is his despair after he has encountered some impasse in thinking about a problem.  He suddenly adopts the most fatalistic, tragic airs and laments about his poor lot instead of rethinking his assumptions and doing something to get out of his predicament.  Reason offers him no guidance, so he must resign himself to endless violent conflict!  There is, of course, always a better guide than reason (more than one, I should think), but in this case I think Mr. Ottolenghi hardly gives the power of reason enough credit.  His is a vision that has clearly been overwhelmed by the weight of ideological presuppositions–ridiculous presuppositions, by the way, that must be laid at the door of Enlightenment rationalism–that tell him that religious fanaticism has no reason and cannot really be understood.  By defining rationality in his typically limited, dessicated way, the Enlightenment man cannot perceive the method and logic that exists even in the mind of the religious fanatic.  Needless to say, the distraction of thinking of it in terms of fascism or even totalitarianism does relatively little good. 

Let’s think about this: changing our policies, which the Islamists positively state are the causes of their violent actions, will supposedly avail nothing, because these people are fanatics…but bringing secularism (which they do indeed hate), liberty (they’re not big fans) and democracy (they like it only on certain occasions) will revamp the entire region and instill the spirit of peace and brotherhood among the nations.  Does anyone see a disconnect?  (Steve Sailer, by the way, offers a different sort of disconnect that makes a lot of sense.)  In other words, giving the region’s peoples something they claim to want–changes in foreign policy–is useless, while giving them something that they may or may not want and may actually despise in practise will reduce the scale of the problem. 

If the “freedom agenda” crowd is even 1% right about the transformative potential of the new ideas they propose on the grounds that, given the chance, most people will opt for a different set of values from the ones the Islamists offer (which is doubtful but not completely impossible), they have to grant that there is some chance that there are other incentives and changes that can be offered and made that would reduce the level of the threat from Islamic jihadis, chief among which are significant changes in policy in the region.  If they believe firmly that changing policy will avail nothing, they must also acknowledge that attempts to transform political culture will also avail nothing; they have defined the cause of jihadi attacks in such a way that there never could be any “solution” short of perpetual warfare.  If they really believe this, why do they waste our time and resources with all this babble about democratisation, which they must believe to be futile?

But at the root of all this lumiere moaning and groaning is a deeper misunderstanding: thinking of our foreign policy as if it were just some sort of abstract question no more personally or immediately relevant than the raising of taxes.  Mr. Ottolenghi displays his stunning aloofness here:

For why should it be logical or even understandable that Muslim anger at Western foreign policy solicits terrorism? Should anger at high taxes, inefficient health care, poor environmental standards, or disagreeable op-eds solicit “understandable” similar responses? Should we condone people blowing up airliners because they think the highest tax bracket should not be higher than, say, 30 percent? Should we “address their grievances”? By, say, lowering taxes? What if someone decides to blow up, say, the Guardian because they are fed up with the political inclination of its Comment section? Should the Guardian address their grievances by becoming right-wing? Can we not call it blackmail, instead, as it should be the case? Can we not say that differences of opinion are only legitimate when voiced in the peaceful forms amply provided by the open societies we are part of? That what makes people angry is no excuse for killing people?

Well, I don’t know.  Some rather famous people, with whom Americans may be familiar, who objected to tariffs and started killing people over that seemed to think there was an excuse, or rather a justification, because their disagreement wasn’t just about tariffs but about claims of right, justice and a certain sense of their own dignity and status.  They took their disagreements, as the saying has it these days, to “the next level” in the belief that they no longer had peaceful options left.  It’s all very well to say that this sort of behaviour is inexcusable, but every daft idiot who praises the liberal revolutions of the last two centuries must acknowledge that it was also wrong to take up arms over what were, in some respects, much more trivial and unimportant political disagreements.  If you are not willing to condemn Bastiat, Garibaldi and Michael Collins, spare us the lecture on the need to resolve all our differences peacefully.  And whatever you do, don’t pretend that the current round of using violence to redress perceived grievances is really that different.  Its methods may be different, but its logic is the same as the logic of every revolutionary–which is why I oppose them and the revolutionaries of every age. 

What they all have in common is a shared objection to policies that directly wound, or are perceived to wound, the community and the community’s sense of justice, its sense of how it ought to be treated.  Because foreign policy, particularly ours in some parts of the Near East, directly impacts the daily lives of millions and affects the sentiments and perceptions of hundreds of millions, it is not hard to see how the exercise of our power in their part of the world–particularly military power–rankles in a way that a change in the marginal rates never would.  Particularly if that policy leads–or is simply perceived to lead–to an allied government mistreating its people or to the use of U.S.-provided weapons on their villages or the direct use of American firepower in their country or even the mere presence of American troops in their country (regardless of why they are there), that policy will elicit a fierce and predictable response.  Removing these provocations is a first step towards eliminating the broader support and rationale of groups that feed off of the outrage over these policies.  

Of course, in another era now long gone, the suggestion of direct taxation would have been met with fierce political resistance and even violent resistance in this country–this seems irrational to the modern wage slave who trusts his government and may even want it to take more of his money “for the good of all,” but it really was that important for maintaining personal and political independence and liberty.  If men used to kill each other over this, we can surely understand why they would respond vehemently to the perceived humiliation of their peoples and their countries.  

It’s very sad that you have a party that has put anti-war against fighting an enemy that has attacked us, that is trying to continue to attack us, that is at war with our men and women in uniform, and their principal strategy is to argue for withdrawal and argue for spending more money at home to protect ourselves. ~Rick Santorum

Who is the enemy in Iraq, and when did it attack “us”?  What on earth is he talking about?  Presumably, Sen. Santorum thinks that we should not be concerned about dedicating the necessary resources to protect ourselves at home.  That would appear to be his position.  I’d like to hear him defend that one to the folks in Pennsylvania.  His motto might be, “More war, less homeland security.”

Withdrawing from Iraq now would usher in a new dark period in the U.S., one in which the nation makes clear it is unwilling to confront emerging threats. Leaving Iraq in chaos would leave the U.S. a hobbled nation that would be unable or unwilling to protect its own national security interests. Foreign policies are built as much on the psychological makeup of a nation as they are on its economic and military prowess. If the U.S. turns tail rather than confronting jihadism and the insurgency in Iraq, would it somehow muster the strength to confront the serious threats posed by a nuclear armed Iran or a missile touting North Korea? ~Brendan Miniter

Of course Mr. Miniter is, as usual, mistaken.  Withdrawing from Iraq will not signal an era of being unwilling to confront emerging threats, but a refusal to fight chimerical, invented or otherwise exaggerated threats in a reckless, self-destructive manner.  It will be a recognition that some threats are containable, others are not our business, and still others must be defended against with something other than the use of blunt force.  It will not be the ’70s all over again, not least because almost all of the conditions of those years do not now exist.  It will not detract from the American public’s willingness to use force when necessary, but it will make the American people much more cautious and skeptical in accepting the pie-in-the-sky fantasies of the incompetent and the ideological among us.  For America, these are “the Dark Years,” and it is Mr. Miniter and his coterie who would like to keep us enshrouded in the darkness of war perpetually.  The damage that the War Party has done to the country will take time to repair, and withdrawing from Iraq is by no means a panacea for the real threats that do exist, but it is always necessary to stop the bleeding before more thorough treatment is possible.

- Many adults in the United States believe their country will be unable to prevent sectarian violence in Iraq, according to a poll by Opinion Dynamics released by Fox News. 67 per cent of respondents think the U.S. will not stop the situation from becoming a civil war. ~Angus Reid

In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we face a vicious insurgency that has worn down the will of the American public. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we have failed to cut off the enemy from re-supply. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we have had ever-shifting military strategies. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we have had trouble building effective, clean governmental institutions in the soil of an alien culture. Most importantly, in Iraq, as in Vietnam, we face the prospect of defeat. ~Rich Lowry, National Review

It does perplex me more than a little how people who foresaw these things and warned against them even before the invasion were horrible, terrible people to make their objections known back then when it might have done some good, but that it is somehow a mark of wisdom and prudence to admit that things are going down the tubes months or years after everyone else has already done so. To make the same arguments about lack of strategy, incompetence and failure today that we made four years ago is suddenly to be responsible, whereas it used to be dangerous and disloyal and even “unpatriotic” in the unhinged minds of some. Go figure.

Now one looks in vain in Mr. Lowry’s article for anything resembling the “positive” proposals that he faults the Democrats for not having, and the entirety of NRJoe has been bemoaning the one actual proposal that some Democrats–and a considerable portion of the American public–support, namely phased or complete withdrawal. (Kevin Drum notes a similar lack of any “positive” contributions from Bill Kristol’s latest editorial.) The only practicable option that is in American control (because Mr. Bush has outsourced a supposedly vital national security question to the likes of Mr. Maliki) is withdrawal, and yet this is the one that the GOP and all its minions refuse to consider for a moment.

Iraq has harmed American interests; the damage there is done. It will only get worse as we continue in that unfortunate country. The people who took us into this war and cheered it on have no credibility in advising anyone about foreign policy; they have extremely poor judgement in assessing what a given policy will and will not achieve. Why on earth should anyone listen to them now?

What would be worse: to have Iraq fall apart under our very noses, or to extricate ourselves from the disaster before it explodes in our faces? Those are the realistic options. If that offends the precious sensibilities of those who have no understanding of the Near East, the limits of power or the priority of the national interest over other considerations, important as they may be in some ways, I don’t much care. Their precious sensibilities got us into this mess; their deep concern for the Iraqi people, whose country they have destroyed, got us into this mess. The least they could do is get our soldiers out of it. If we think of Iraq as a live grenade and not as a precious piece of fine democratic china, we will put as much distance between ourselves and it as we can, and we will see that this is the only sane thing to do.

It is regrettable that Mr. Bush illegally committed us to an unjust war for no good reason that he was unprepared to fight and which he and his administration never properly understood, but why are American soldiers and the American people being forced to continue to pay for his grievous errors? There comes a time when you must say that enough is enough and that you will not pour more American blood into the desert and pull down America’s reputation even more to chase the will o’ the wisp that is a victory that was lost long ago. There might, might, have been a chance for some kind of victory three years ago. In the last year that chance almost certainly vanished. It is not returning. At this point we can let our country and our armed forces be dragged down still more, or we can do the necessary damage control that is in our national interest, which must be the priority at this point, and depart from the unfolding tragedy of a land that the supporters of this war have irretrievably turned into a charnel house.

And the fundamental question is: Can it? And my answer is: Absolutely, it can. I believe that freedom is a universal value. And by that, I mean I believe people want to be free.

One way to put it is, I believe mothers around the world want to raise their children in a peaceful world. That’s what I believe. And I believe that people want to be free to express themselves and free to worship the way they want to. ~George W. Bush

Via Jim Bovard

Really, mothers want their children to live in a peaceful world?  I didn’t know that.  Perhaps that should have been on someone’s mind before he started the war in Iraq. 

There is something disturbingly Leftist about your [John Podhoretz’s] penchant for shrill, uninformed criticism that scorns the interlocutor rather than dealing in a mature way with the substance of his arguments.


In place of analysis and evidence, you offer slogans — and you frame those who differ with you as if they were all realpolitic lackies.


You can keep pretending, if you’d like, that the problem here is “tyranny” and “terrorism” and that things would turn around if only we injected a little freedom into the equation.  But that is not going to deal with the “root cause,” and it is not going to make Muslims like you better (as we are seeing in Iraq on a daily basis).  You insult these millions of Muslims profoundly because the logic of your argument is that no one who was truly free would choose the life they sincerely believe God has commanded.  You are stuck in a pre-1979 mindset which refuses to acknowledge that a religion-based revolution is possible, and that the millions of people are freely choosing a belief system that opposes Western democracy. ~Andy McCarthy

Podhoretz, always appreciative of constructive criticism, suggests that “if you really believe that, you are in need of serious psychiatric medication.”  Advantage McCarthy, I think. 

Democrats aren’t wrong when they say that the Lamont victory was a defining moment. It defined the Democratic Party as a vigorous, motivated, organized force that is … completely out of touch with mainstream America. ~Kathleen Parker

Sixty percent of Americans oppose the U.S. war in Iraq, the highest number since polling on the subject began with the commencement of the war in March 2003, according to poll results and trends released Wednesday.

And a majority of poll respondents said they would support the withdrawal of at least some U.S. troops by the end of the year, according to results from the Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted last week on behalf of CNN. ~CNN 

Perhaps Ms. Parker can explain how the “perfectly respectable” candidate, the “attractive” Ned Lamont, who expresses the feelings of all those who are “disgusted with the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war” represents a far-left “machine” that is personified by Michael Moore.  Michael Moore, as many will attest, is neither attractive nor “perfectly respectable,” and rather crucially has nothing to do with what happened in Connecticut.  Ah, but, of course, it is not just Michael Moore’s charming demeanour and his “manifesto” that offend.  What is the real problem with the Connecticut primary result?

But Americans also share a reflexive resistance to Stalinist tactics. 

Of course.  How could I have missed the gulags of Greenwich, the collective farms of Danbury, the show trials of Hartford?  The 2006 Purges were particularly harsh.  But I must have been out of touch with the “mainstream” that perceives an incumbent’s loss of his party’s nomination as a result of Stalinism. 

Last I checked, “Stalinist tactics” referred to the tactics of Iosif Vissarionovich Dzughashvili, Soviet Georgian mass murderer and all around despot, whose preferred method of eliminating rivals consisted of denunciation, show trial, Siberian exile and/or execution.  Sometimes he would change it up by working you to death or starving your entire nation into submission.  Other times he would simply unleash the Red Army on your country.  Ms. Parker likes her appalling comparison so well that she brings it back again later:

Moore’s manifesto, through which he may have lost a few grammarians, is straight out of Stalin’s playbook under ‘P’ for purge. Like Stalin, the operatives who ousted Lieberman are determined to remove dissidents from The Party.  

Yes, holding elected representatives’ feet to the fire over an unwise and unpopular policy is just like what Stalin did to his political enemies.  How did I not see it?  Joe Lieberman’s situation is just like that of Kamenev!  NEP, DLC, it’s all the same!  Who could possibly think otherwise, except for some kind of Stalinist? 

Now has Lieberman been sent to Siberia?  Is he even now in a cell in Solovki?  Has he been shot by some NKVD goon and buried in an unmarked grave?  If so, he seems awfully lively for a victim of “Stalinist tactics.”  And if he has suffered from “Stalinist tactics,” does that make Ned Lamont into Stalin?  I cannot think of a more perverse sort of comparison.  What an offensive way to triviliase the deaths of tens of millions of people, making a cheap talking point out of one of the worst tyrants in history over something as petty and small as a New England Senate primary.  Not even the “centrist” Democrats, who have more of an immediate stake in Lieberman’s loss than GOP hacks ever will, have been resorting to this level of filthy, appalling rhetoric.

Question: when the White House and Tom “the Hammer” DeLay engaged in massive arm-twisting to force the House GOP to approve the abominable Medicare D plan–in contravention of every alleged conservative principle for which the GOP was supposed to stand–was that an exercise in party discipline or was it Stalinism?  When the White House consistently lends its support to incumbent candidates in primaries, including such awful Republicans as Arlen Specter, is it wielding the truncheon of Stalin and purging dissidents or is it following a consistent, if flawed, plan to support incumbent office-holders?  As bad as the Medicare policy itself was and is, I don’t remember a lot of conservative pundits complaining about Stalinist this or Leninist that.  When the GOP imposes discipline and order–whether for good or bad policies–it is supposedly an example “leadership.”  When the other side does it, and opposes a policy to which the GOP is joined at the hip, it is extremism, “lynching,” and, of course, an example of “Stalinist tactics.”    

Earlier today I called the violent language of certain GOP hacks the rise of a “fascist style,” but perhaps I was mistaken.  Perhaps it is really more along the lines of the sort of Newspeak that the Soviets themselves mastered, where language meant what the ruling party wanted it to mean and treason and counter-revolution were what they decided it was.  Today’s ruling party apparatchiks–those who belong to the War Party–seem equally keen to bend and abuse language and ideas to suit their purposes, including such outlandish charges as this.  In their world winning an election against a candidate that the Party favours is to engage in Stalinism, while the Party’s unflagging support for a war of aggression must be purely and truly American.    

IN A LIVE BBC interview recently, I called Hizbullah “Islamo-fascists.” The interviewer said nervously, “That’s a very controversial description.” I replied that it was merely accurate. She brought the interview to a swift close.

But how else should one describe a military machine that marches under the banner of a demagogic leader who seeks above all to kill Jews?  ~William Shawcross, The Jerusalem Post

Now, let’s see: demagogic leader, military machine, killing Jews…what prominent historical figure might Muslims look to who fits that description?  Hint: it aint Hitler.  But Mr. Shawcross provides a perfect example of an old leftist recycling anti-fascist language to describe specifically Islamic jihadis.  Why else would we need to add the fascist to Islamic, except that we are working on the assumption that the problem isn’t something to do with the terrorists’ being Islamic but with their fascistic methods?  European media coverage may well be going out of its way to avoid connecting the London plot with Islam, which is a ridiculous and enervating bias that prevents their audience from understanding the nature of the threat, but using clapped-out rhetoric about a political movement that effectively died 61 years ago is no more illuminating and reflects a confusion about the nature of the enemy almost as profound and dangerous as European denial about the threat of Islam from within.

I also suspect that a very large number of people suffer from cognitive dissonance and think they believe in God but at the same time live their lives on a daily basis as if they do not.  I don’t have evidence handy at the moment, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. And I think this reality results in a lot of people disliking or resenting authentically religious people for a constellation of reasons, high among them envy.  ~Jonah “Lie For a Just Cause” Goldberg

Hm, that sounds an awful lot like what Rod and the various and sundry traditional conservatives were saying at the Crunchy Cons blog a few months ago on a closely related topic.  The question then wasn’t whether people believed in God or even professed Christianity, but how they lived in an apparently materialistic way while nonetheless claiming to be very sincere believers (what was in doubt was never their sincerity, but the coherence of their beliefs and their way of life).  Except that it wasn’t applied to some generic band of “agnostics,” but was focused on conservatives and Christians who seemed to be unduly preoccupied with consumption, materialism and the things of this world for people who ought to have been adhering to convictions that emphasised the priority of the life of the spirit and the practise of the virtues.   At the time, Goldberg was, shall we say, less than amused by the whole idea and said that we were falsely accusing people of suffering from “false consciousness”:

How is one supposed to read this as anything but an invidious slap at conservatism? Not only is Rod saying here that non-crunchy conservatives are grotesque materialists concerned only with “wealth and power,” not only is he questioning the sincerity of their religious convictions, but he is also saying that these conservatives are fools, suffering from a kind of Marxist false consciousness, if they deny that they are only concerned with wealth and power. Because, you see, “that’s not how they live” — because Rod says so.  

Might it be that the hysterical reaction against the entire crunchy conservative idea at NRO was a result of the sort of “envy” towards the authentically religious folks whose examples Rod cited in his book and on the blog?  In any case, what’s good for the agnostic goose is good for the mainstream conservative gander, so I’ll take this as an unwitting admission that Goldberg simply hadn’t thought the problem through or, more likely, was engaged in a strident ideological defense of consumerist capitalism and its works because he was unwilling to countenance the possible alternatives.  But maybe I’ve missed something.  Perhaps he can explain how the charge of ”cognitive dissonance” is perfectly acceptable to apply to people who claim to believe something and act in a contrary manner, while what Rod was doing was an insulting, reductionist caricature.  One of the main flaws with the book and the entire crunchy argument, Goldberg assured us, was that we lacked evidence, which is different from his view on agnostics, where he says: “I don’t have evidence handy at the moment, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.”  So Rod went out and collected a sizeable amount of anecdotal evidence, but was engaged in “making up” an entire phenomenon, while Goldberg has no evidence but is “pretty sure” he’s right.  That makes sense. 

Is it simply a difference of the groups of people being described?  If so, that doesn’t say much for the integrity or coherence of the anti-crunchy position. 

Lieberman seems to be doing well for someone who has been knifed, killed (by “Taliban Democrats” no less!) and lynched to boot.  Do the people who use this kind of language have any idea how completely mad they sound?  Is the result of a hard-fought election really the equivalent of being stabbed in the back or hung from a tree?  Is a primary defeat to be likened to an assassination or the vigilante murder of an angry mob?  This is careless, even inflammatory language, the sort of thing I would expect from the usual suspects on the left inciting their followers to view their domestic opponents as enemies to be targeted for elimination (see the assassination attempt on George Wallace or the murder Pim Fortuyn for examples of what such incitement can do).  It has become standard procedure on the neocon right for years to deny their enemies’ patriotism, morality and sanity.  Now that the GOP’s precious war policy is even slightly threatened by an antiwar candidate, they–the ones who routinely apologise for real violence and real aggression against civilian populations–have the gall to liken the antiwar candidate’s victory to murder.   

I might think someone out there would find this sort of preposterous language of violence offensive to those who have actually suffered from violent crime.  What is next?  I wonder if these people would find it at all inappropriate to use metaphors borrowed from the world of terrorism.  Thomas has already aligned the Democrats with the Taliban, so presumably Lamont will next be likened to bin Laden.  Take the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s line:

Funny these similarities among the truly intolerant, whether they roam the sands of Iraq or Connecticut’s bedroom towns. 

Ha, ha!  Yes, that’s very funny!  Describing your political opponents as being like terrorists who set off car bombs in crowded markets and insurgents who blow up American soldiers is hilarious!  That must make Lamont’s primary victory the same as a terrorist attack.  No wonder the Red Republicans are so exercised–what happened in Connecticut wasn’t an election, but terrorism.  That is what they think of real representative government when it, well, represents what the constituents want rather than what party loyalists have been told to believe.   

Is the rhetoric of GOP lackeys so debased (yes), is their moral understanding now so perverted by warmongering (yes), that they can no longer appropriately speak as if there were meaningful differences between the peaceful expression of popular dissatisfaction and brutal violence?  There is a creeping fascist style in the language being used to defend Lieberman–and it is showing up in no less a venue than The Wall Street Journal–that tells you how little these people actually respect the processes of our representative government.  Our system of government is worth respecting so long as it delivers the right result

This also seems to be what the word “democracy” itself means in a managerial state: democracy is no longer a kind of polity, a way of organising government, a process for selecting a leadership, but the desirable set of outcomes approved by the managerial elite.  If anything opposes those desired outcomes, it is aligned with the enemies of “democracy” and depicted as violent usurpation.  Not only is it idiotically denounced as “extremism” (I am unsure what could be more extreme or dangerous than continuing to shill for a war of aggression), but it is deprived of any legitimacy and likened to a crime. 

This is foul and despicable rhetoric.  It is also precisely the kind of rhetoric that leftists have used against conservatives for decades.  Those “conservatives” who now take up this rhetorical style confirm what their dreadful policy positions have long suggested, which is that they are lacking in all those qualities of temperament and mind that may have once qualified them as conservatives. 

There is far less public debate of Israeli policy in the US, in fact, than there is in Israel itself.

This is less a reflection of American Jewish opinion - which is more diverse than is suggested in the media - than it is a commentary on the power of pro-Israeli lobby groups like Aipac, the American-Israeli Political Action Committee, which bankrolls pro-Israeli congressional candidates. That, in turn, is frustrating to liberal Jews like Michael Lerner, a San Francisco rabbi who heads an anti-war community called Tikkun. Rabbi Lerner has tried to argue for years that it is in Israel’s best interests to reach a peaceful settlement, and that demonising Arabs as terrorists is counter-productive and against Judaism. ~The Independent

The media, more generally, has left little doubt in the minds of a majority of American news consumers that the Israelis are the good guys, the aggrieved victims, while Hizbollah is an incarnation of the same evil responsible for bringing down the World Trade Centre, a heartless and faceless organisation whose destruction is so important it can justify all the damage Israel is inflicting on Lebanon and its civilians.

The point is not that this viewpoint is necessarily wrong. The point - and this is what distinguishes the US from every other Western country in its attitude to the conflict - is that it is presented as a foregone conclusion. Not only is there next to no debate, but debate itself is considered unnecessary and suspect.


Often, the coverage has been hysterical and distasteful. In the days following the Israeli bombing of Qana, several pro-Israeli bloggers started spreading a hoax story that Hizbollah had engineered the event, or stage-managed it by placing dead babies in the rubble for the purpose of misleading reporters. Oliver North, the Reagan-era orchestrator of the Iran-Contra affair who is now a right-wing television and radio host, and Michelle Malkin, a sharp-tongued Bush administration cheerleader who runs her own weblog, appeared on Fox News to give credence to the hoax - before the Israeli army came forward to take responsibility and brought the matter to at least a partial close.


The hysteria has extended into the realm of domestic politics, especially since this is a congressional election year. Republican have sought to depict last week’s primary defeat of the Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, one of the loudest cheerleaders for the Iraq war, as some sort of wacko extremist anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli stand that risks undermining national security. Vice-President Dick Cheney said Lieberman’s defeat would encourage “al-Qa’ida types” to think they can break the will of Americans. The fact that the man who beat Lieberman, Ned Lamont, is an old-fashioned East Coast Wasp who was a registered Republican for much of his life is something Mr Cheney chose to overlook. ~The Independent

This is an interesting outside view, which provides another example of the way in which our perception of the rest of the world and particularly the conflicts in the Near East is shaped inordinately by what I think we can all acknowledge to be heavily slanted news and editorial coverage.  Every position starts from the assumption that Israel is basically in the right, because there is the assumption that anyone hostile to Israel is obviously in the wrong; you may be able to express sympathy for civilian victims on both sides, but there is no way, particularly on the right, that you can entertain for a moment that the cause of Israel is anything but a good one and, what is more, it is extremely difficult even to maintain the basic distinction between their cause and our own.  We like to think this is because everything is very clear and only deluded (and prejudiced) Europeans are unable to see it, but it is actually a function of the complete bias of all our sources of information and our lack of anything resembling free discourse on one of the rather more pressing issues of the day. 

What is particularly remarkable about our media is the capacity it has to put forward an almost identical message in every newspaper, every television broadcast, in ways that would and do strike Europeans as bizarre and frighteningly uniform.  Many have commented over the years on our media’s capacity to repeat, state television-like, the exact same phrases and report on exactly the same stories, but when it comes to the Near East and particularly in the last several years it has become even more noticeable. 

Somehow, perhaps thanks to the consolidation of media companies into a relatively small number, our “free” institutional media manages to come up with more or less the same analysis and reporting.  It is as if it were being centrally organised, but it is not–there is simply an understanding, an awareness of the right sort of uniformity of opinion that all should embrace, that would, if we saw it in another nation on any other issue, strike us as stunningly conformist and almost like a state of being conditioned for mindless obedience.

Immediately after the London plot was disrupted, a “senior administration official,” insisting on anonymity for his or her splenetic words, denied the obvious, that Kerry had a point. The official told The Weekly Standard:

“The idea that the jihadists would all be peaceful, warm, lovable, God-fearing people if it weren’t for U.S. policies strikes me as not a valid idea. [Democrats] do not have the understanding or the commitment to take on these forces. It’s like John Kerry. The law enforcement approach doesn’t work.”

This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional. But perhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike “the law enforcement approach,” does “work.”

The official is correct that it is wrong “to think that somehow we are responsible — that the actions of the jihadists are justified by U.S. policies.” But few outside the fog of paranoia that is the blogosphere think like that. It is more dismaying that someone at the center of government considers it clever to talk like that. It is the language of foreign policy — and domestic politics — unrealism. ~George Will, The Washington Post

Will is correct to draw the lesson from the London plot that intelligence-gathering, law enforcement and international cooperation have been shown to be not only necessary elements in counterterrorist operations but the vital elements.  This makes the administration’s bizarre theories about democratisation and neocon blather about “draining the swamp” appear like so many old welfarist theories that held that changing the socioeconomic conditions of the urban environment would reduce crime.  Mr. Bush, for his part, adds to that fundamentally liberal prescription for doomed social engineering a willingness to use main force in a vain attempt to eliminate all criminals from a neighbourhood. 

Of course there will always be those jihadis who will not care about any change in policy, because they are carrying out a basic religious obligation–as they see it in any case–and will always be hostile to the non-Islamic world.  Everything we do to swell their numbers and increase their base of supporters simply worsens this basic, but far more manageable problem. 

And insofar as this unavoidable jihadi mentality is true throughout the Islamic world as a whole (that is, all Muslims are under the same obligations to make the same struggle against infidels, so all Muslims should be equally likely to be radicalised), it cannot intelligibly explain the choice of targets or the particular origins of the terrorists, which have been overwhelmingly men either from or closely connected to nations under allied, despotic governments that are, for the most, officially hostile to Islamists in politics and society (Egypt, Pakistan), or from nations that were then under the occupation of Western armies (Saudi Arabia). 

One can find outliers that can be explain with reference to the Islamic duty of jihad–a Tunisian here, some Yemenis over there–but is it not remarkable that you do not have swarms of Malaysian hijackers and legions of Azeri suicide bombers?  The Libyan terrorist, once the symbol of violent fanaticism in my childhood days, seems to be a thing of the past.  Admitting a causal connection between occupation and terrorism does not have to be treated as an admission of indirect culpability for the terrorist acts themselves–this is what people seem to get hung up on in their “never blame America” mindset–but simply an acknowledgement that occupation exacerbates the problem, regardless of whether or not the problem existed before the occupation began.  Consider: you might be interested in treating a cancer, and you might be trying very hard, but if your idea of treatment is exposing the patient to loads of carcinogens you have substantially reduced your odds of success.  If the jihadis are the cancer, reckless intervention and occupation are all those things that worsen the condition.  This is not difficult to understand, and there is nothing shameful in acknowledging one of the most obvious political truths of the modern world.    

It is the talking point of the U.S. and U.K. governments that 9/11 preceded Afghanistan and Iraq, which never ceases to amaze for its irrelevance, since everyone paying attention knows that it was the presence in Saudi Arabia that, more than any other single political cause, precipitated the attacks–something that is both tacitly and openly admitted by the departure from Saudi Arabia after the invasion of Iraq and, as Fiasco records, Wolfowitz’s arguments that the cost of containing Iraq, which necessitated a presence in Saudi Arabia, had included provoking the 9/11 attacks (as well as the attacks throughout the ’90s).  When it served their turn members of this administration had no problem admitting that occupation bred terrorist responses–not that it would stop them from inaugurating another occupation of another Muslim country with prominent sacred sites in it. 

Occupation, whether or not it is actually an occupation aimed at degrading or humiliating another nation (which is again irrelevant to how it is perceived), breeds terrorist resistance, as does resentment against allied nations with represssive governments–to the extent that those governments are seen as our puppets, we become the focus of that resenment. 

I am often curious why warmongers in this country mention all the aid the U.S. has lent to Muslims over the years in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and so on (unless it is to highlight their own stupidity in having supported all of those interventions), because in the same breath they will tell us that our presence in X country couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with terrorism because Islamic fanatics failed to be grateful for our help in Y country.  You see, it should work both ways, according to the warmongers: resentment and gratitude.  This assumes that gratitude towards us is an option for such people, which is quite an assumption, far more far-fetched in its way than a common sense notion that every people resents foreign domination.  A belief that occupation breeds resentment is rooted in a more general knowledge of the experience of virtually every occupation army in the last 200 years or more; all that this idea requires is the assumption that people will hate a foreign invader who seems to them to trample on their people’s dignity–whether or not there is any trampling going on–and will fight back by whatever means available.  The evidence for this view is copious and well-known; one would think the WWII buffs who seem incapable of making any other historical references outside of the 1938-1945 timeframe would remember the role of partisan warfare and national resistance to occupiers in various theatres around the globe.    

Now does anyone think that there would be as much Islamic terrorism in India were it not for the dispute over Kashmir?  Is it not significant that most Muslim nations tend not to send forth nearly as many terrorists as others?  For example, we do not come across a lot of mujahideen from Oman.  If Muslims targeted any and all non-Muslims indiscriminately out of their hatred for us and our way of life, why are South Africa and Switzerland not routinely targeted as well?  We should not have to be having this argument five years later, but a clunky mixture of irrational ”America has only ever wanted to help Muslims” sentiment (which, even if true, has no necessary bearing on how our “help” is perceived) and the abandonment of any attempt at discerning intelligible causes for the action of mindless “fascists” have conspired to keep us disputing something that should have become obvious on September 12, 2001.  Any foreign policy view that cannot take seriously the significance of occupation in worsening the terrorist threat is itself party to the same unrealism Will criticises in the administration. 

Contrary to Professor Jaffa, it is my view that the Declaration of Independence is not very revolutionary at all.  Nor the Revolution itself.  Nor the Constitution.  Only Mr. Lincoln and those who gave him support, both in his day and in the following century.  And the moralistic, verbally disguised instrument which Lincoln invented may indeed be the most revolutionary force in the modern world: a pure gnostic force. ~M.E. Bradford, A Better Guide Than Reason

Equality as a moral or political imperative, pursued as an end in itself–Equality, with the capital “E”–is the antonym of every legitimate conservative principle.  Contrary to most Liberals, new and old, it is nothing less than sophistry to distinguish between equality of opportunity (equal starts in the “race of life”) and equality of condition (equal results).  For only those who are equal can take equal advantage of a given circumstance.  And there is no man equal to any other, except perhaps in the special, and politically untranslatable, understanding of the Deity.  Not intellectually or physically or economically or even morallyNot equal!  Such is, of course, the genuinely self-evident proposition.  Its truth finds a verification in our bones and is demonstrated in the unselfconscious acts of our everyday lives: vital proof, regardless of our private political persuasion. ~M.E. Bradford, A Better Guide Than Reason

A political tradition which argues its view of human rights as properties to be understood only in the continuum of a particular history, as having no meaning in vacuo, has many advantages not to be found in what Professor Oakeshott has rightly labeled “the teleocratic regime.”  A societas seems to me preferable to a universitas–at least for free men.  The only freedom which can last is a freedom embodied somewhere, rooted in a history, located in space, sanctioned by a genealogy, and blessed by a religious establishment.  The only equality which abstract rights, insisted upon outside the context of politics, are likely to provide is the equality of universal slavery. ~M.E. Bradford, A Better Guide Than Reason

I was curious to see what I had posted on a year ago this week, so I went rummaging through the archives, and this is what I found.  Apparently August is always ideology and Islamofascism month.  Since ideology has kept cropping up in the last couple of weeks, here is an interesting post of mine from August 10, 2005 commenting on Mr. Bush’s unfortunate adoption of the habit of speaking in terms of ideology: 

When Kirk first wrote The Conservative Mind in 1953, ideology was something principally connected with totalitarian regimes and was viewed as something exceedingly artificial and also something specifically Continental. Living philosophical and political traditions could not be compressed or compacted into programmatic bullet points, as in a manifesto, because there was a richness and breadth to real philosophy (in part because philosophy was interested first and foremost in truth, not power) that could never be distilled and boiled down into a simple political creed for mobilising supporters or made into a utopian scheme for reorganising society.

Almost by definition, such idea-shards and uniform plans for social engineering based on those shards were doomed not to take root in the rocky ground of reality, because they were the pruned and dessicated remnants of a once-living organism that were being taken as the essential organising principles of society. Anglo-American tradition had little to do with ideology, either in the Comte de Tracy’s sense or the Marxist sense, and likewise a conservatism nourished in that tradition could only be an anti-ideology.

A little earlier in August 2005 I took Joseph Bottum of First Things to task for, among other things, the habit of using the word Islamofascist:

First, I have a very hard time taking anyone seriously who uses the word “Islamofascist.” It occurs to me that anyone who uses this term as if it meant something either knows nothing about fascism and Islam or is simply using the ignorant label to redefine those who are a civilisational and religious foe as a repeat of the only enemy they find acceptable to vilify, namely fascists. (Besides, it is a lazy, leftist trait to see fascism everywhere that it isn’t and define all enemies in terms of being fascist, while simultaneously ignoring the extensive common ground between most leftists and historical fascists.)

Still, the Sunni terrorist would, and will once given the chance, make war on their Shi’ite counterparts once they inhabit the same expanse of land. Peel a layer off of the resentment and you’ll find the resurrected, feral war between Sunni and Shi’ite. ~Dennis Dale, Untethered

Mr. Dale’s post discusses the various problems of adhering strictly to the “occupation” narrative (hegemony breeds terrorism) in the light of the persistent hostility towards the West within Islam per se, and he makes a number of telling observations.  He is correct that hegemony and occupation do not explain everything, and they certainly don’t excuse anything that Islamic fanatics do.  But that isn’t actually what I wanted to talk about in relation to his post. 

What caught my attention was the above quote, which, in connection with the line from David Brooks the other day about the “Sunni-Shi’ite style of politics,” got me to thinking about something that I came across in recent years.  This was my discovery, hardly news to Islamicists (that is, scholars of the Islamic world), that the conventional description of the origins of the two sects in Islam–the dispute over succession to the Caliphate, made worse by the death of Husayn at the hands of Yazid–does not really describe the origin of the sharp sectarian divisions that later became much more stark, violent and significant.  The events of the seventh century acquired new and added significance as they were marshalled in the creation of much starker sectarian identities in later conflicts–perhaps similar to the process that early modern historians refer to as “confessionalisation.”  Though the first real hardening of the lines came in the ninth century, the establishment of the Fatimid caliphate in 969 was a significant event in re-politicising a dispute that had by and large had only limited political impact. 

I have heard it persuasively argued that real, ongoing sectarian hostility did not exist until it was actively fomented by the Safavids and the Ottomans starting in the late 16th century, as their fellow sectarians in the disputed lands in Mesopotamia became the tools of the rival imperial policies.  However, under the Qajars Iran exercised no aggressive foreign policy designs in the west and the sectarian rift ceased to have as much real political significance.  It is my impression that this had remained the case in most countries until very recently, except perhaps in Lebanon, where Shi’ites’ identity was strongly politicised during the civil war, and Pakistan.  In Iraq, however, obviously the disparity between the sect that had the preponderance of power and the sect that the government suppressed brutally in living memory politicised these divisions in a way that was not really typical of most other mixed Muslim communities (Pakistan, hotbed of jihadism, remains an important exception here). 

What brought all of this to mind was the description of the Sunni-Shi’ite divide as a “resurrected, feral war,” as if it were a primordial, visceral resentment based in centuries of traditional opposition, an “ancient hatred” to use the phrase invoked so often in the Balkans, when the communal hostility is of much more recent provenance with intelligible political causes.  Like the Serb-Croat bitterness inherited from the Croats’ genocidal handiwork in WWII, most of the scores being settled now in Iraq are likely to be relatively recent, probably even within the lifetime of the people settling the scores.  These conflicts draw on the ancient disputes and martyrs of the seventh century for their symbolism, but the violence we are seeing between the rival death squads is not so much “resurrected” from another time as it has simply been bottled up for years and then unleashed and allowed to run rampant.  Perhaps this is a lot of arguing over not much, but I recall that one of the basic problems Westerners had in understanding the Balkan conflicts was their presumption that they understood it by reference to the Schism of 1054 and the alleged “ancient hatred” that motivated the three sides, when the sources and reasons for their hatreds were very modern and rooted in the actions of the current actors’ immediate ancestors. 


The word “fascism” means an extreme totalitarian system that suppresses human rights and democratic freedoms. ~Janet Daley, The Daily Telegraph

Ms. Daley’s definition is wonderful for being tremendously broad and unhelpful.  Oh, it suppresses human rights and democratic freedoms, does it?  Well, the same general description might be applied to communism, autocracy and theocracy.  Some might even note that the phrase “democratic freedoms” could very easily be a contradiction in terms–democracies can and do suppress freedoms.  Does this make them fascist?  Given the terminological stupidity of our age, I wouldn’t be surprised if we could find some way to align Dororth Day’s pacifism with fascism.  Goodness knows Ms. Day hindered our right to go to war to “protect” “human rights”! 

In fact, calling Islamic fundamentalists Islamic theocrats, while somewhat redundant in one sense, would make a great deal more sense than calling them Islamic fascists.  Fascism has a specific, historical meaning that tends to be confined to secular regimes and political movements between 1919 and 1945.  All self-avowed or so-called “neo-fascist” groups in Europe today look to this period for their inspiration.  The “al Qaeda types,” to use another terribly precise phrase of the Vice President’s invention, do not sit around thinking on the good old days under Mussolini.  To be very precise, fascism does not really refer to anything other than the political philosophy of Mussolini and the Italian state between 1922 and 1943.  In Italy itself, the rule of fascism was so relatively benign in terms of “suppressing human rights and democratic freedoms” that referring to Islamic fanatics as fascists is an insult to the fascists.  We see here the use of fascism not as a real descriptive term, but a demon-term embodying everything that is the opposite of the equally vacuous god-term democracy. 

Even calling Nazism fascist is something of a blurring of boundaries between things that are not really the same.  Fascism, in the sense of Italian fascism, was a mildly annoying form of authoritarianism compared to the insanity of Nazism, and Fascist warmongering was equalled only by the inefficacy of Italian arms in the field.  But at the very least Nazism and fascism possess significant similarities as post-war, secular revolutionary modernising political programs that reject international socialism, international capitalism and parliamentary government and which tend to prefer corporatist, state capitalist and syndicalist theories.  Can you imagine how stupid you would sound calling someone an Islamic syndicalist?  To those who know what the term means, Islamic fascist or Islamofascist sounds equally stupid

Islam (or if we must use the circumlocution, Islamic fundamentalism) and fascism do not possess these similarities.  Islamic fundamentalists are no more fascists than they are communists.  If they fall under some grand general definition of “totalitarian” (another word people don’t understand properly), as post-WWII anticommunists argued for in showing the similarities between fascism and communism, that is one thing, but to call them Islamic fascists would be like calling someone a commie fascist or a Nazi commie.  Nazism and communism may have many things in common to the point where you can oppose both as an antitotalitarian, but you cannot refer to them interchangeably anymore than you can refer to liberalism and socialism as if they were the same things.  For the purposes of identification and conceptual understanding, you might as well start lumping together all sorts of incongruous labels when describing people.  Calling Islamic fanatics fascists obscures far more than it reveals, and fundamentally confuses our thinking about how to fight them.  It is a revival of old Marxist tropes, according to which everyone to the right of social democrats (and occasionally including some social democrats) was fascist or “objectively fascist,” and it is above all an attempt to pretend that this is some sort of disagreement about regime type and economic system that operates within the normal field of our political debates, when it is a disagreement about an all-encompassing worldview.

Tomorrow Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, probably best known in this country for his big hair and his Elvis impersonations, will mark the surrender of Japan in WWII by visiting–as he usually does every August 15–the Yasukuni Shrine commemorating Japanese war dead, including the condemned war criminals who led the Japanese war effort (the latter’s commemoration was added to the shrine in 1978).  There is always some wailing and gnashing of teeth that Koizumi would go to this shrine to mark the end of the war, because the inclusion of the war criminals supposedly taints it and his visit to the shrine allegedly tacitly endorses the truly horrendous deeds of these men.  The late emperor Hirohito apparently even stopped visiting the shrine on account of this.  The shrine also boasts the latest in Japanese nationalist revisionism that overlooks or denies Japanese atrocities and aggression.  So there may be an argument that visiting the shrine endorses something quite perverse. 

Unfortunately this outrage over Koizumi’s decision–and what constitutes unacceptable Japanese revisionism–is often tied up closely with Americans’ own preoccupations about FDR and the war.  Here is Gary Bass in The Houston Chronicle:

Yasukuni’s museum claims that Emperor Hirohito wanted peace until the very end, but an unyielding Franklin D. Roosevelt schemed to force Japan into war. The inconvenient fact of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor is portrayed as a strategic necessity. 

Now I cannot speak for Hirohito, but FDR’s scheming to get into the war is not something that serious historians of left or right dispute.  The Japanese certainly viewed the attack as a strategic necessity.  That does not make an act of aggression excusable, but it does not remove FDR’s responsibility for having brought it down on this country.  Many historians try to justify FDR’s schemes as necessary, because we simply had to get into WWII, and they will defend his provocative and illegal actions for the same reason, but outside of the clique of professional nationalist hack pundits no one who knows the history leading up to Pearl Harbor denies that FDR’s scheming provoked the attack and was designed to provoke an attack.  This used to be something that Republicans and conservatives remembered and about which they insisted on reminding people, but those days are long gone.  But the message here is that when the shrine recalls an inconvenient truth about one of our past leaders, that allegedly adds to its faults.  Sorry, I don’t think so. 

Now five days ago was the 61st anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, which stands out as one of the greatest single war crimes in the history of the world.  But no official tribunal ever said that it was a war crime, and so it becomes instead just an unfortunate incident on the way to V-J Day.  Now let me ask which is worse: is it worse to have the head of a government going to a traditional, if considerably flawed, shrine to commemorate a nation’s war dead or to build a national monument to the man who ordered and oversaw the creation of the device that was used to butcher hundreds of thousands of civilians (and which could scarcely have had many other practical purposes except for laying waste to cities) and who inaugurated the doctrine of unconditional surrender that ultimately led to the use of such a weapon on civilian populations?  (FDR was fortunate to pass on before having to bear the terrible burden of ordering those bombings, though he had approved enough “strategic bombing” in his own time.)  We have such a monument to FDR standing in Washington today (his shining face also looks back at us from every dime we have), and I doubt very much that anyone even thinks twice about our politicians visiting it or saying exceedingly favourable things about Roosevelt, in spite of the fact that he and Truman might both be reasonably considered war criminals every bit as much as Tojo.  As near as I can tell, the reason for the difference in treatment is that FDR was on the winning side and, perhaps more importantly, on our side; there is no fundamental difference from the evil results of the decisions of Tojo and his fellows and the sorts of abhorrent, evil things to which FDR’s decisions led directly. 

This is not a view a lot of people like, because it suggests that we are capable of the same myopia and hero-worship with respect to our political leaders as any other people, and because it suggests that the ‘Good War’ was capped off by some of the most heinous atrocities known to man. 

If that were not bad enough, there is a regular corps of apologists for Truman’s decision (some of them will invoke the slaughter as cover for other people’s excesses–witness the recent recourse to the argument from war crimes), and every year in New Mexico, home to the impiously named Trinity site, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, we are routinely treated to the faux debate between people who talk about how “necessary” it was to massacre hundreds of thousands of innocents and the people who suppose that it is probably always horribly evil to do this even if it is deemed “necessary” by some inhuman political calculation.  I call it a faux debate because treating it as a debate assumes an equivalency between the two positions that does not really exist.  It as if one or the other position had an equally likely chance of being rational and moral, when it is rather more clear that the brutal appeal to necessity has no claim to being either.  Personally, I am against this sort of moral equivalency between massacre and charity.  Perhaps before we worry about whether the Japanese are honouring their war criminals, we should ponder why we honour ours. 

The size of government, that is.  Michael writes a solid, favourable review of Joel Miller’s Size Matters at AFF’s Brainwash and considers the problems of deregulation in a society lacking in any strong bonds of cultural and moral community.  Here is a snippet:

There may be a chicken and egg debate here. Were the people adventurers and innovators because they were free? Or were they free because adventurers and innovators assert and maintain their own freedom? The question for today may not be “What happens when the people are not free?” but, “What happens when the people do not want freedom?”

What is one of the main jingo knocks on Ned Lamont and his supporters?  They are supposedly single-issue people.  Now this is supposed to be proof that they are unserious, lacking any interest or understanding of any other problem.  Of course, Lamont has a whole platform, most of it typical liberal Democratic boilerplate with some extra-fine support for gay marriage that you might expect from a New Englander, but let’s suppose for a moment that they really are single-issue people and that this represents a shallow and limited political vision.  What, then, does that say for the hacks who have rushed to embrace the imaginary “McCain-Lieberman Party,” which is not an example simply of a single-issue candidate or single-issue voters but a single-issue political movement?  The issue is none other than supporting the war in Iraq (which its supporters deviously smuggle into the broader war against al Qaeda).  There is something less ridiculous about a single-issue protest candidate, whose popularity has risen because of one particularly important policy question, than an entire political reliagnment defined by nothing except a position on a war most Americans don’t even support.

They point out many of the same things that others have said, but it’s handy to have it all on hand in one place.  The Unholy Alliance of the “McCain-Lieberman Party” has no natural supporters outside of the editorial offices of a few self-important magazines and newspapers and certain circles of the foreign policy establishment, but it is good to show it for what it is when we can.  My favourite was that Lieberman’s ACU rating has actually gone down since 2000, when it was at a whopping great 20.  Sounds like somebody from the kooky fringe left to me, and we know what the Republican media think about those people.  By the way, McCain got an 80 rating from the ACU for 2005 (lifetime 83) compared to Lieberman’s 8–which I think exaggerates his conservatism by leaps and bounds, but no matter–so the two of them have only two things in common: fawning admirers in the media and an enthusiasm for foreign conflict.

Update: To put these ACU ratings in context and to provide some warning about using the ACU’s numbers as a measure of true-blue conservatism, consider that George Allen received a 100 for 2005 (lifetime 92), Elizabeth Dole received a 96 (lifetime 89) and Bill Frist received a 92 (lifetime 89).  If these people are really that truly conservative, I’ll eat my hat.  Of course, what passes for conservative at the ACU doesn’t really make the cut in my neighbourhood.

A pro-rebel Web site reported that Sri Lankan jets on Monday bombed a children’s home in the country’s rebel-held northeast, killing 43 schoolgirls who were there taking a first aid course.

An additional 60 girls were wounded in the morning air raid on the home in the Mullaitivu district, which lies deep inside territory controlled by the Tamil Tigers, the TamilNet Web site reported, citing rebel officials. ~The Houston Chronicle

AT least 15 people were killed and many more wounded when shells hit a church where residents had sought shelter near Sri Lanka’s Jaffna peninsula, the pro-rebel website said today. ~The Australian

It is unfortunate that just as the war in Lebanon is supposed to be winding down, the war in Sri Lanka is resuming after several years of a tenuous cease-fire.  These incidents are deplorable if true (and I stress that they have not yet been verified), and indeed would perhaps be even more deplorable than what happened at Qana.  The bombing and slaughter at Qana were abominable, but here the Sri Lankan government seems to have had even less reason to bomb this location and none at all to shell a church.  The latter, if true, is clearly a war crime. 

If these reports are verified, I would hope that Sri Lanka meets with the same international indignation over this bombing and shelling as Israel did with Qana.  Even though this is a conflict internal to Sri Lanka, and it is Sri Lanka’s legitimate business to suppress terrorist separatists, that does not free it from its obligations to the civilian population–its own citizens–nor does it excuse crimes like the ones that have apparently taken place.

If you haven’t had enough of my Lebanon commentary, I have distilled some of my thoughts into an article at AFF’s Brainwash.

The Pentagon consultant told me that intelligence about Hezbollah and Iran is being mishandled by the White House the same way intelligence had been when, in 2002 and early 2003, the Administration was making the case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. “The big complaint now in the intelligence community is that all of the important stuff is being sent directly to the top—at the insistence of the White House—and not being analyzed at all, or scarcely,” he said. “It’s an awful policy and violates all of the N.S.A.’s strictures, and if you complain about it you’re out,” he said. “Cheney had a strong hand in this.” ~Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker

Kosovo has been cited publicly by Israeli officials and journalists since the war began. On August 6th, Prime Minister Olmert, responding to European condemnation of the deaths of Lebanese civilians, said, “Where do they get the right to preach to Israel? European countries attacked Kosovo and killed ten thousand civilians. Ten thousand! And none of these countries had to suffer before that from a single rocket. I’m not saying it was wrong to intervene in Kosovo. But please: don’t preach to us about the treatment of civilians.” (Human Rights Watch estimated the number of civilians killed in the NATO bombing to be five hundred; the Yugoslav government put the number between twelve hundred and five thousand.) ~Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker

Curious, isn’t it, how virtually nobody in this country, or anywhere else in the West, seemed to see the connections between the two campaigns?  The Israelis apparently noticed them quickly enough, and no wonder.  The two bear many striking similarities to those who paid close attention to Kosovo.  But here’s a question: if Mr. Olmert believes that 10,000 civilians died in the Kosovo War (which is higher than any figure I have ever seen cited from any source), and he believes that was justified, how many Lebanese civilian deaths would have been considered acceptable for what he considered his far more justified war?

In the early discussions with American officials, I was told by the Middle East expert and the government consultant, the Israelis repeatedly pointed to the war in Kosovo as an example of what Israel would try to achieve. The NATO forces commanded by U.S. Army General Wesley Clark methodically bombed and strafed not only military targets but tunnels, bridges, and roads, in Kosovo and elsewhere in Serbia, for seventy-eight days before forcing Serbian forces to withdraw from Kosovo. “Israel studied the Kosovo war as its role model,” the government consultant said. “The Israelis told Condi Rice, ‘You did it in about seventy days, but we need half of that—thirty-five days.’ ” ~Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker

I am actually a little shocked that I had this right all along–what sort of buffoon would use the Kosovo War as an example of a successful air campaign?  It was, by the standards set by the administration when it started, a failure in every respect except that it did eventually result in the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo–eight weeks after it was supposed to have already been finished.  Did the Israelis really think they were going to break Hizbullah in half the time it took NATO to force concessions from Milosevic? 

The Israelis could not have been unaware that the population of Yugoslavia rallied around the despised Milosevic in just the same way that the Lebanese rallied around Nasrallah–not because they really admired or even tolerated the man, but because the people bombing them had made him the embodiment of all evil and thus, ironically, a symbol of their common resistance to the punitive measures being used against their entire country.  In defiance of such brutal treatment, people will latch onto the most disreputable figures as their champions for lack of an alternative. 

The initial plan, as outlined by the Israelis, called for a major bombing campaign in response to the next Hezbollah provocation, according to the Middle East expert with knowledge of U.S. and Israeli thinking. Israel believed that, by targeting Lebanon’s infrastructure, including highways, fuel depots, and even the civilian runways at the main Beirut airport, it could persuade Lebanon’s large Christian and Sunni populations to turn against Hezbollah, according to the former senior intelligence official. ~Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker

Now, I ask you, does that even remotely make sense?  Engage in collective punishment in order to separate part of the population from Hizbullah?  This is beyond stupid–the Christians and Druze already were against Hizbullah when the war started.  The bombing brought them together!  It’s not as if this was something that no one could have foreseen–people always rally around the leader or the group that represents the resistance when their entire country is under attack.  What would we do if an enemy started bombing our roads, ports, power stations and airports?  Would we say, “Thank you for convincing us to turn against George Bush”?  I should think not.  If this report is true–and it seems to me the only thing that makes sense of the general devastation of Lebanon’s energy and industrial sectors–it confirms that the Israeli government was not simply unjust in its methods but phenomenally, indefensibly stupid in the way it went about trying to achieve its goals. 

Whenever anyone says to you that the government knows more about a situation than we mere citizens do, don’t believe them.  Whatever secret intelligence they have, we at least have common sense, which seems to be more than we can say for most government leaders.

“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.” ~Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker

Via Pith and Substance

You’d think knowing that the “demonstration effect” of Iraq lay in demonstrating how limited American power was would discourage enthusiasm for more “demos.”  What has been the result of the “demo”?  A demonstration of the limits of Israeli power and the priceless propaganda for all anti-American forces offered up unwittingly in such clever phrases as “birth pangs of a new Middle East.”  No more demos, please–we can’t afford many more ”opportunities” like this one. 

In their place is bitter anger at the United States, which has once more shown that neither Lebanese democracy nor Arab civilian casualties, nor anything else in the Arab world, counts in American calculations when Israel’s perceived interests (and President Bush’s “war on terror”) are at stake.

This is also the impression left in the Arab world by the reduction of a third Arab country–Iraq, Palestine and now Lebanon–to smoldering ruins as part of what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the “birth-pangs of a new Middle East.” No one there any longer takes seriously the idea that U.S. policy has anything to do with democracy. The crushing of an elected Palestinian government (many of its leaders kidnapped by Israel) and the humiliation of an elected Lebanese government at the hands of Israel and the United States have dissolved the last illusions in the region as to this flimsy pretext for American actions. ~Rashid Khalidi, Chicago Tribune

Suppose for a moment that the administration and its supporters are in earnest (no laughing, please) about their desire to bring ”freedom and democracy” to the peoples of the Near East.  If it was their hope to make a success of this dubious project, can anyone think of how they could have managed foreign affairs in a more counterproductive way?  For my part, in their own way I think many of the ideologues , supporters, and Mr. Bush himself are telling part of the truth when they sing the praises of democracy and claim a desire to bring its gifts to the world.  As a cynical strategy for control and hegemony, active encouragement of democratisation–however superficially the administration may understand the consequences and nature of what they are doing–makes no sense and never did.  Viewed cynically, it has always provided the perfect cover for any other goals–it was more difficult to accuse Mr. Bush of hegemonic designs, when it seemed clear to those who looked at Iraq’s Shi’ite population that majority rule meant pro-Iranian governments in Baghdad and the creation of a land bridge between Iran and its cat’s paw in Lebanon.  This is easy to see now, but there were some folks who saw it (and many other things) coming a long way off.  But if we think a little more on this we will see that the only thing that explains the unhinged, essentially irrational commitment to the policy in the region is the ideological fervour of a true believer who thinks he is bringing the political goods he claims to be bringing.  The world doesn’t understand the ideologue’s methods now, but in time History will show that the ideologue knew what he was doing.  That has to explain it–I am at a loss to explain it in any other terms.   

It is the administration’s ideological certainty that makes me regard them as more dangerous than mere cynical political actors manipulating the aspirations of other people.  If they were cynical actors working according to pure self-interest they would have liquidated the Iraq campaign long ago and changed the subject.  They would be desperately trying to make us forget that it had ever happened.  It is true that their policy decisions have tended to give priority to hegemonic control and the interests of Israel, but everyone must understand that from the perspective of the revolutionary ideologue there is no contradiction between the policies of the revolutionary empire and its stated goals of liberation and democratisation, especially if the ideologue takes it as axiomatic that American and Israeli power are the bases for the liberation and liberalisation of the region–it follows from the frighteningly genuine belief in what they are doing that maximising the power of the two governments in question will increase the chances of success.  (That the entire policy may actually be weakening, not increasing, the power of these governments is something that the ideologues are unlikely to acknowledge or realise–it is impossible that pursuing the ideal could weaken or destroy its messengers!)  For the ideologue, the advance of the empire’s power and the genuine spread of democracy go together essentially flawlessly–the empire exists only to bring freedom and the fruits of the revolution to all.  (Indeed, the revolutionary imperialist will not admit that he is an imperialist, or at least not one in the conventional sense–he is a friendly hegemon who will leave once the revolution in the new land is secure from its enemies.)  The means of wielding power over a region will inevitably taint the “gifts” that the hegemon offers to the nations he has “liberated,” but a supporter of the revolutionary cause of the empire simply will not see it in this way–manifest contradictions between ideal and real are simply “bumps in the road” (stuff happens, after all) to be smoothed out by more rigorous application of the ideal…and force to help smooth out the rough edges and root out the “rejectionists.” 

It is really a perfect combination, because it automatically identifies those who resist your use of force in bringing liberation and political change as enemies of the political ideal itself, whether or not this is true or even relevant, which only reinforces your will to prevail for the sake of the ideal.  Those who want to give up on the effort can be readily branded as lacking in loyalty to the ideals of the revolution (in this case, freedom, democracy, etc.) and more easily dismissed; critics become almost ipso facto traitors to the cause, because anyone who truly believed in the cause would know that it was going to succeed, no ifs, ands or buts.  Because you, the revolutionary, have also convinced yourself, as the administration has in Iraq, that the realisation of the ideal is essential to your security, you also feel obliged to persist out of a deluded sense of self-preservation, even though you are surely increasing the danger to you and yours every day you remain.  

Thinking in this way is a cruel and terrible trap to fall into, because you feel obliged to remain and make the liberation work, even if you own violence has fatally undermined any possibility of its success, and the more you try to hold onto the gains you believed you had the faster they slip through your fingers.  At the same time, you cannot ever really allow yourself to yield the power you have acquired over a place, because you have convinced yourself that your power is the key to the freedom of millions, which is a very potent idea and can captivate the mind any man if he entertains these thoughts for too long. 

Revolutionary ideology in this way functions like a drug, and like an addict the ideologue will perpetually make excuses and cook up implausible explanations to justify his own increasingly erratic, self-destructive and dangerous behaviour.  There is also the activist, paternalist and do-gooder’s dilemma that the solution of the problem makes the do-gooder superfluous, which encourages the activist, paternalist and do-gooder to keep redefining the mission and redefining the problem or ignoring the fact that the problem has been solved in order to still have something to do.  The revolutionary cannot ever really let the revolution end–new goals (and new enemies) must be found to move ever onwards, whirling-whirling towards freedom.     

And because of the conviction that the fate of millions rests in your hands, you think that the country you have “liberated” will never really be stable enough, will never really be ready to run its own affairs without your help, because you are unwilling to let go of the creation and see whether it will stand or fall on its own.  Besides the arrogance that must motivate such reluctance to let go, there is a terrible fear that you have been wrong all along and that the entire project–if it hasn’t already–will turn to ash in front of you.  That would mean that either you or your ideal were wrong in some way.  The ideal (in this case, the goodness and universality of freedom and democracy and their peace-creating properties) cannot be wrong, of course, but increasingly you come to the conclusion that insofar as you are embodying and realising the ideal in the world you, too, cannot really be wrong.  Yes, you might make practical mistakes here and there, but at the core you are irrefutably right.  It becomes a matter of pride that prevents you from acknowledging that, even if the ideal is sound (and let’s imagine for a moment that it is), you have failed to realise that ideal in the world.  

Read the rest of this entry »

If x were to represent how reactionary you were, and you were to take the limit of x as it approaches an arbitrarily large number, you couldn’t be as reactionary as Larison. ~Pithlord, “You Can Learn Something From a Paleocon,” Pith and Substance

Many thanks to Pithlord for a very fine compliment–that’s probably the best thing someone’s said to me all summer.  I’m also pleased to hear someone say that paleocon arguments and ideas, at least on Iraq (and I would hope a few other things as well), are making sense on their merits.  

Van Dyck’s Portrait of Charles I

If I had to think of one thing that prevented our War of Independence from degenerating into something like the dictatorship of the Commonwealth, I think it would have to be that our ancestors were never in a position to execute their King and were never forced to take that final, dreadful step of the revolutionary that so deeply tainted and marred the English, French and Russian Revolutions.  We could dismiss George III–we did not need to eliminate him.  In simply detaching ourselves from the monarchy, our rebellion remained identified with what our ancestors were fighting to preserve rather than institutions we were seeking to overthrow and destroy–though we were, of course, seeking to throw out the monarchy and its ministers–and so retained a basic sanity, a sense of limits and a respect for law that the Commonwealth, the Assembly and the Bolsheviks either never had or were unable to acquire after the shedding of royal blood.  It is interesting to note that Charles I was canonised by the Church of England after the Restoration for his refusal to reject the episcopacy, and Tsar-Martyr Nikolai is now venerated as a saint along with his family, the Holy Royal Martyrs, for their witness to the Faith at the time of their brutal execution by the Bolsheviks. 

This idea of a martyr-king typically strikes low church folks as obscene and tends to offend the more liberally inclined, even among the Orthodox, but it is something that all hierarchical churches seem to be able to understand and accept (the Catholics have St. Louis and pre-Conquest England had Edward the Confessor) in the conviction that the title Defensor Fidei or its equivalent means just what it says and is not a piece of grandiloquent fluff.  The martyr-king is the highest realisation of the role of Defensor Fidei, which makes his murderers by implication just about the epitome of apostasy and infidelity.  

It did not take long for the Shahanshah War’s servants to begin bowing and scraping at his feet, chanting, “McCain-Lieberman!  McCain-Lieberman!”  This horrifying combination receives a warm welcome here (Austin Bay), here (Sullivan again) and here (Barone).  Barone makes the incredible claim that a McCain-Lieberman GOP ticket (did Joe change his registration when no one was looking?) would win–but who exactly would vote for it?  We’re talking about John McCain, Russophobic apologist for Chechen terrorism, who tramples on your First Amendment rights and hasn’t met an international crisis he didn’t want to throw troops at.  This is a Republican who thinks mass immigration is AOK and doesn’t much like people who bring religion into politics–who exactly are his supporters?  What is his natural power base?  That mass of pro-immigration, secular war supporters among GOP primary voters?  The legions of ”centrist” Democrats who desperately want to have another Republican President?  Pair him with old Joe, who has never met an abortion procedure he didn’t approve of and has apparently never seen a war in the last 20 years he didn’t like.  The “new center” comes off sounding a lot like the party of politicians’ egomania and death.   

Experience was the highest authority honored in their discourse of prudential things.  And by experience I mean, first of all, recorded  history, both written and remembered.  In Philadelphia, and then more frequently in the state ratification conventions, the Framers of the United States Constitution (Federalists and Antifederalists) argued from circumstance–from settled attachments, closed questions, prescriptive values, and the record–not from definition.  And, as we should learn to recognize, they reasoned thus with consequences that affected the final results of their exchange and the subsequent unfolding of our political history as a people. ~M.E. Bradford, Remembering Who We Are

In the political history of Western man, these narratives [of Iceland, Venice and the Netherlands] are not exceptional, but normative.  Quem patrem, what father, has more often than not been the political issue in the origination and development of European states which take their places on the stage of history before A.D. 1789.  I reflect on only a few of my favorites.  On that stage most men have either experienced despotism or the shelter of inherited rights.  On that stage almost no polity that was in any sense “founded” ever appears.  And those regimes which most thorough ignored the connection between ”the ancestral and the good” are those which we all despise: Cromwell’s England, Jacobin France, the Marxist tyrannies of the Soviet Union, or the People’s Republic of China, and Nazi Germany.  What modern men have done in the name of their favorite political paradigm is not an argument for a new Lycurgus or stricter devotion to what are usually called “political principles”–abstract theories concerning the essential nature of man before he enters the social condition. ~M.E. Bradford, Remembering Who We Are  


David Brooks, bringing you “development and modernization” as he gets them

The reason there are such wide variations in ticket rates is that human beings are not merely products of economics. The diplomats paid no cost for parking illegally, thanks to diplomatic immunity. But human beings are also shaped by cultural and moral norms. If you’re Swedish and you have a chance to pull up in front of a fire hydrant, you still don’t do it. You’re Swedish. That’s who you are. ~David Brooks, The New York Times

The Swedes may be grateful that an American columnist on the right has finally made a reference to them that does not involves references either to socialism or selling weapons to Germany during WWII, but you still get the sense that if Brooks understands that human beings are not simply products of economics they are not a lot more than that.  The item he chose to illustrate cultural difference was parking habits by nationality, which might tell us something about certain national habits when it comes to obeying ordinances and signs and respecting the relative orderliness of urban space, but even so to call this observation superficial would be to give superficiality an even worse reputation.  It’s almost as if Brooks doesn’t quite want to accept the existence of virtually ineradicable cultural difference, so he tries to demonstrate it in the least disturbing way possible: Chadians and Sudanese thumb their noses at parking restrictions, but Scandinavians and Israelis are very puncitilious in parking legally.  Perhaps it is an irenic attempt to say that the differences aren’t really that great; cultural difference, at the end of the day, is really just a small disagreement about parking etiquette.  Perhaps this has a far more powerful meaning for people in a parking-strapped city awash in foreign diplomats, but does an attitude towards parking really reveal the significant obstacles to “development and modernization” in these cultures?  Probably not, but let’s move on.

In some ways, a conservative should like the idea of development.  He might even be expected to like development when the term is applied to the social, political, and economic spheres in certain ways.  It is an organic, psychological and physiological metaphor based on the idea of natural (physical, spiritual and emotional) development of human beings.  Like a person, the idea goes, a society has stages of development: infancy, adolescence, adulthood, old age and, of course, finally death.  It lends itself to a cyclical theory of history, though it can be fairly easily hijacked and used for progressive narratives of history as well, and this is what Brooks does with the term.  But, in many ways, development is a worthwhile concept for thinking about society and political order as things that have grown and come into being over time rather than having been ”founded,” which no sane social or political order ever has been. 

Nowadays development is also a rather troublesome term.  Today it is associated with the Reconstruction of small towns to suit the interests of business, developers, “growth” and local government revenues in the post-Kelo world.   (To paraphrase Prof. Lukacs, growth is not necessarily progress–cancer is also growth.)  There is definitely a sense that increased uniformity, drabness, ugliness and dependency on distant economic masters are the things that are being developed and these are the things towards which talk of “development” leads here at home.  Overseas it is typically associated with the latest dispensers of “economic development,”  and this has crept into every part of our language when we talk about the rest of the world and ourselves: there is no more First or Third World but developed and developing nations, as if we were the flowers in full bloom and they were the bulbs still waiting to spring forth, and we are ready to dump copious amounts of fertiliser via the WTO and the Doha round on those bulbs to help them “grow.”

The thrust of the article is that cultural difference accounts for different rates of development, but then this presupposes that Brooks’ idea of development is some innate, obvious or otherwise self-evident standard of development to which everyone would objectively agree were it not for their cultural hang-ups.  There is a general standard for determining the sanity and well-being of a society, and this is human nature.  It is commonplace to assume that Brooks’ kind of “development and modernization” (and it is important to note that the pairing here is really more of a redundancy–for Brooks, the two are one and the same) are basically well-suited for human nature, bring out more of the full potential in man than would otherwise be the case and do not fundamentally contradict that nature.  But I would submit that the sort of development that corporations are foisting on “developing” nations and the towns and countryside of America alike has little relationship to man’s proper nature and works insidiously against that nature to try to reduce man to the level of an economic functionary.

Harrison points to many other factors — leaders who encourage economic liberalization, movements that restrict the power of the clerics — but the main impressions he leaves are that cultural change is measured in centuries, not decades, and that cultures are separated from one another by veils of complexity and difference.

If Harrison is right, it is no wonder that young Muslim men in Britain might decide to renounce freedom and prosperity for midair martyrdom. ~David Brooks, The New York Times

Again and again Brooks seems trapped on the other side of the “veil of difference,” literally unable to imagine a mind that does not acknowledge the meaning of what we are calling “freedom and prosperity.”  If these are things in which the airline bombers put no stock, if these are things that mean nothing to them because they find them empty and bereft of any higher purpose (which, in a world where supposedly ”individuals control their own destinies,” they would almost have to be), they are not “renouncing” them when they choose to become terrorists in the cause of Islam.  You cannot renounce what you never claimed as your own.  Their alienation from a society and its values is a phenomenon in which, for example, the “freedom and prosperity” of British life never belonged to them even if they came from well-to-do, “assimilated,” middle-class families because they never accepted these things as their own.  In any case, what are “freedom and prosperity” but means to an end?  That raises the question of the purpose towards which “freedom and prosperity” are supposed to go.  Lacking any definite answer, alienated Muslims will see nothing worthwhile in these things and will not need to “renounce” them–they never really embraced them in the first place and, what is more, have less and less reason to do so the more vacuous and vague the chief values of Western liberalism seem to be.  Read the rest of this entry »

People need the coherence their culture provides and value it even more than easy parking. ~David Brooks, The New York Times

Who said neocons had a superficial grasp of human nature and society?  See, they know that culture is more important than easy parking–that’s why they were so well-prepared for what we encountered in Iraq.  You know, with all the sophisticated analysis that they put together about ethnic and sectarian differences shaping the political future of the country…and the planning, don’t forget the planning!

But Brooks has a lot more Deep Thought than that (you have to hope that he does):

All cultures have value because they provide coherence, but some cultures foster development while others retard it. Some cultures check corruption, while others permit it. Some cultures focus on the future, while others focus on the past. Some cultures encourage the belief that individuals can control their own destinies, while others encourage fatalism.

Not to lose my keen sense of “moral clarity,” but those who have thought about the problem of culture and the meaning that a people’s culture gives to them would start raising all sorts of objections here.  Take the claim that some cultures foster development and some retard it.  This is true up to a point in an obvious sense (for example, cultures that place a lower priority on material production and consumption tend not to be as highly productive and consumptive as those that do), but it forces you to ask: development into or towards what?  Fukuyama’s Edenic End of History where the liberal democrats lie down with the capitalists?  (People who speak airily about development seem to assume that we are all agreed on what it is that is developing, that it to say literally unfolding before us.  Everyone is supposed to be thrilled when “developers” come to “develop” the town, but into what are they developing it?  Perhaps we like things enveloped as they are.) 

The unstated assumption of every advocate of modernity is that culture fosters or retards development towards modernity-as-we-know-it, which tends to end up offering the not very illuminating explanation that some cultures will not develop into the modern cultures that Western moderns will recognise as sufficiently modern, which is to say that Chinese modernity or Indian modernity will not necessarily be our modernity and so has somehow failed to develop as it should.  There is such an expectation of this kind of uniform development that Islamic modernity, because of its particular antecedents, looks shockingly regressive or “medieval” to a Western modern, as if there were some sort of time warp engulfing entire parts of the planet.  The assumption here is that there is a single standard, a single modernity towards which everyone is or ought to be developing, and cultures that do not keep pace in reaching that state are said to be lacking or deficient.  Mr. Bush’s “single model of human progress” is the thing towards which all cultures, all nations should be moving.  Except that, because of the irreducible and contingent differences in the world’s cultures, this will never happen (thank goodness).

Then take the corruption charge.  Everyone in the West knows what we mean by corruption: taking and soliciting bribes, the abuse of public office for private ends, “pulling strings,” nepotism, etc.  To much of the rest of the world this is only not exactly corruption, but is an inevitable way of getting things done in any society that remains more heavily based on personal, face-to-face dealings, family relationships and personal connections, all of which take precedence in a society without strong institutions.  I am reminded of when I was listening to the commentary on Hotel Rwanda with the director and the hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina, whose story the movie tells (more or less accurately by most accounts), and Rusesabagina repeatedly denied that anyone ever “bribed” anyone else in Rwanda or that he had “bribed” anyone in the course of his efforts to save the people trapped at the hotel from the genocidaires.  He kept insisting that this was not bribery, but simply the way things were done, an ordinary business practise.  It is all very well to say that certain cultures are more prone to corruption, and this is not exactly a false statement so much as it is misleading, because what we are calling corruption (and it may well be very venal, very self-interested and very “inefficient”) is the workings of a society that has not internalised (and perhaps does not wish to internalise) a sense of abstract duty to faceless institutions and adherence to codes of conduct that seem entirely irrational.  After all, why wouldn’t you use your influence and your position to help your immediate family and relatives?  Are you some kind of barbarian? Read the rest of this entry »

Like the current Democratic insurgency, the conservative movement was driven by activists who combined journalism with partisanship. Just as today’s insurgents often post their analyses and self-described “rants” on Web sites like Daily Kos, so the conservative rebels of an earlier day poured forth their opinions in the National Review, the biweekly magazine founded in 1955 by the 29-year-old William F. Buckley, Jr. ~Sam Tanenhaus, The New York Times

That’s a cute comparison, and it works to the extent that the two share the characteristics of fighting against listless, pathetic party establishments.  The only minor differences between the old National Review contributors and the Kossacks being the vast difference in the profundity, learning and wisdom of the people involved.  If Moulitsas is Buckley, does that make Atrios into James Burnham?  No, please, don’t say any more–I won’t be able to stop laughing. 

There really are stunning, significant differences between the two, chief among which is that NR conservatism was, like the “movement” in its better, early years, something of a real intellectual enterprise as opposed to a collective exercise in party political infighting with the all the depth of a small puddle.  If NR took what appear now to your average middle of the road American to be hard-line or extreme positions on things, at the very least they took up positions and gave more or less coherent reasons for them.  Does anyone know, or care to know, what the Kossacks’ views are on anything besides Iraq and the competence of George Bush?  Do they have other views? 

Moreover, it’s increasingly clear that Lieberman’s loss is his own fault. He was far too slow to recognize the seriousness of Lamont’s challenge. He ended the campaign with $2 million unspent. And his decision to now run as an independent was a disaster, confirming the central accusation against him, which was that he cared more about his own standing than his party. If he had just declared in advance that he would abide by the result of the primary, he probably would have won, and he’d have Lamont campaigning for him today.

Lieberman’s decision to run as an independent after contesting the primary is not illegal in Connecticut (unlike other states, which have “sore loser” laws prohibiting such a gambit), but it is poor form. The primary is an essential element of the two-party system, and the process is subverted when losing candidates feel free to circumvent it. (Which is the problem with Ralph Nader-esque, suicidal third-party runs.) If the primary voters veer off too far toward the extreme, there’s a built-in sanction: They will lose the general election and moderate their ways next time. ~Jonathan Chait, The Angeles Times

When one of the The New Republic writers who fought the Kossacks tooth and nail on Lieberman’s behalf decide that it’s time for him to go, it appears that the only pundits who think Lieberman should remain in the race are the sundry columnists at NRJoe whose Liebermanliebe knows no bounds.  If Peter “Truman Will Save Us” Beinart also turns against him, the Kossacks will have managed not only to humiliate their enemies in the party but extract embarrassing concessions from the people who have been committed to limiting the influence of the progressives in the Democratic Party. 

Q: What about the GOP’s charge that the left has hijacked the Democratic Party?

McGovern: I won’t think that will happen. I’ve always been proud to be a liberal. I’ve never thought of myself as a big left-winger. How the heck do people think I got elected in South Dakota? I never felt like some wild-eyed left-winger. I had a few of those people supporting me—I needed votes wherever I could get them. The Republican Party was a great party. That’s the party that’s been hijacked. ~MSNBC

George McGovern 







George isn’t wild-eyed 


I’m cheered by this win in Connecticut. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lamont goes on to win in November even if Lieberman is in the race as an Independent. I’m here in Montana, which is pretty Republican, and I go into this town, Stevensville, once in a while, and I listen to these Republicans talk and they are as disgusted with the war as Democrats, even more so because they know they’ve got control of the whole thing—the White House, the Congress. Something is going on out there that can’t be quieted. ~George McGovern

Via Hotline Blogometer

A good set of observations from Glenn Greenwald on Israel-Lebanon and the implications of Lebanon for our own war in Iraq:

These columns illustrate several important points:

1) Many Israelis are openly acknowledging that the Israel-Lebanon war has been a disaster for Israel;

2) Waging unnecessary wars, particularly when they are waged poorly, makes a nation much weaker, not stronger (see, e.g., Iraq);

3) Contrary to the reprehensible accusations in this country that opposition to, or criticism of, the Israel-Lebanon war is evidence of anti-Israel bias or even anti-Semitism, many people are opposed to the war — and critical of President Bush’s foolishly unrestrained support for it — precisely because it is so harmful to Israel;

4) Israel’s democracy is sufficiently healthy that journalists and other citizens not only can criticize the country’s leader in the middle of a war but can call for his resignation — without being branded a traitor, a subversive, a coward and all of the other slurs to which Bush critics in the U.S. are routinely subjected.

However, it should be noted that Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit’s call for Olmert’s resignation comes from the hawkish Israeli left devastatingly dissected here and mirrors neocon criticism that a good and necessary war had been bungled by timid leaders–not all of the wartime dissent in Israel is coming down on the side of objecting to the war itself.  These sorts of objections are like those of Kristol and McCain that we need to send more troops to Iraq and that we need to be more aggressive.  One wonders, though, how many Americans will continue to be “more Zionist than the Israelis,” so to speak, and fail to see Israelis themselves turning against an ill-conceived, unwise and unjustly executed war.  

NRJoe notes that Rasmussen now shows Lieberman up by 5 points, 46-41, which they describe as a “surge,” neglecting to mention that the ridiculous Republican Schlesinger had his support cut in half from 13 to 6.  In other words, GOP voters are abandoning the Gambler and moving on to one of the two other candidates.  Previously, Lieberman and Lamont had been tied at 40 apiece.  What is interesting is that the numbers would suggest that at least part of Schlesinger’s support went to that crazy McGovernite Lamont.  Lieberman’s bump is entirely GOP-driven following the post-election hysteria about the “knifing” (Henninger) and “killing” (Thomas) of Lieberman; it is not, I repeat not, a function of Joementum.

Congressional Quarterly is projecting that the GOP will hold the House and the Senate.  However, the projection for the House is based on the assumption that the GOP will win all seats currently listed as safe, favoured or Republican-leaning.  CQ explains the dangers for the GOP:

Just as worrisome for Republicans, they hardly have a lock on the 220 races now tilted in their favor. In 20 of them, the Republican has only a slight edge because of incumbency, fundraising advantages or political demographics. And so the Democrats could win any or all of them if their candidates’ strengths gain a bit of traction — or if the voters’ mood shifts much more against the GOP, or against incumbents in general.

Only 10 seats now held by Democrats, by contrast, are that closely competitive.

Beyond these races that are tossups or “leaning” to one party or the other is a third category: contests in which the front-running candidate has serious advantages that make election likely, but where other factors make an upset plausible. And here is where the partisan imbalance is greatest of all: There are 25 seats where Republicans are favored — pretty solid, but not quite safe — but only eight seats where Democrats are similarly vulnerable to an upset.

It is always possible that the GOP will buck the ”sixth-year” trend and lose relatively few seats, and the Dems may not be able to exploit their advantages in this election, but the fundamentals (approval of Congress, wrong-track numbers, signs of anti-incumbency cropping up all over the country) are pointing towards a repudiation of the GOP in November.  National Journal would not keep talking about an electoral “hurricane” if there were nothing to back it up. 

Naturally, the folks at NRJoe spin it in the best possible way, noting that if the election were held today the GOP would win.  But anti-incumbency tends to grow like a wave and will accelerate as campaign season begins and people begin to be reminded what they don’t like about the majority party.  Three months before last Tuesday no one had ever heard of Ned Lamont, much less expected him to win.  Three months is an aeon in politics. 

I asked Matt Dunn how the Lincoln Fellowship several years ago has figured into his approach as a rookie candidate. He said it colors his whole approach to campaigning, and his aspirations as a would-be legislator. “You learn to really think about the fundamentals of the American experiment — the meaning of freedom, the meaning of limited government — until that just becomes a part of you. And the best person to help you do that is Lincoln.” ~John Andrews, The Remedy

Perhaps Mr. Dunn turns to Lincoln to understand freedom and limited government by seeing what Lincoln did and making sure that he does something entirely different?  Lincoln is certainly the go-to guy in the American context for how to reduce or destroy freedom and limited government .  I suppose it might be a valuable thought experiment, like turning to Marx to help you better appreciate the importance of private property or turning to FDR as an cautionary tale that will reinforce your respect for the Constitution. 

In 1930 twelve Southerners, scholars, men of letters, poets and patriots, issued their defense of a way of life and an understanding of how to live well that they had received from their arts, their fathers and their Southern patria: the book of essays in defense of the Southern agrarian tradition, I’ll Take My Stand.  They were, as M.E. Bradford described them, “the natural heirs of Randolph of Roanoke, John Taylor of Caroline, and the better side of Jefferson–anti-Hamiltonian, antistatist, conservative Democrat….Community was their a priori ideal–an informally hierarchical social organism in which all Southerners (including the Negro, insofar as the survival of that community permitted) had a sense of investment and participation.  In brief, a patriarchal world of families, pre- or noncapitalist because familial, located, pious, and “brotherly”; agrarian in order not to produce the alienated, atomistic individual to whom abstractly familial totalitarianism can appeal; classically republican because that system of government best allowed for the multiplicity that was the nation while at the same time permitting the agrarian culture of families to flourish unperturbed.” (Remembering Who We Are, p.86) 

As Dr. Tom Landess recounted to us in a talk last month, the South to which the Southern Agrarians referred and which they defended was neither an imaginary product of nostalgia for the antebellum South nor a the fruit of longing for the days of the Southern aristocracy.  The South of their hopes and loves was the South of the small farmer, the yeoman, the small businessman, the shopkeeper, the South that existed, the one which they knew, and the one which they knew was threatened and in danger of passing away under the new onslaught of industrialism and abstract notions.  In that land, there was a way of life not unique to the Southern experience but one that was nonetheless peculiarly present in the region that was attuned to the “rhythm of the seasons and the uncertainties of life,” tied to nature and to the passage of time, and thus to history, in a way that, as Dr. Patrick reminded us in his talk on Allen Tate, cultivated a mind all together more historical and culturally European than the mind malnourished in the cities of the Northeast. 

On account of the agrarian way of life of the smallholder and the farmer and the culture of the people who settled the South, the region’s people had a keen sense of place that itself grew from an awareness of being fixed and rooted in a place and forming part of the continuity across the years that bound ancestor and descendant.  That experience could fuel the imagination of a Faulkner to tell the story of the Sartoris clan where the generations of a family together formed a character in its own right, for perhaps the most complete story and the most fully formed characters come from the experience of multiple generations bound by place and their relationship to that place. 

Memory across generations ties a people to their past and lends the place where they live meanings that had been hidden by the veil of time.  This sense of the past was fed by the reception of memories from their fathers in the form of simple stories told and retold, the recollecting of their people’s lives that wove together anecdote, gossip and report into the remembrance of who they were and what they were doing in the particular time and place where they were.    

The Southern mind saw history as something concrete, the fruit of a series of events that does not move us onwards towards a goal but is embodied in the tangible reality of habit and memory (and Bradford tells us to love the inherited nomos of our place and people rather than rush on madly towards the telos of the teleocrat).  This mind saw history as a process of growth and change that those closest to the land understand better, and it remembered that history through the telling of the stories of their kin.

Receptive to memory, the Southern mind was also submissive to nature and God.  As the “Statement of Principles” in I’ll Take My Stand tells us:

Religion can hardly expect to flourish in an industrial society.  Religion is our submission to the general intention of a nature that is fairly inscrutable; it is the sense of our role as creatures within it.  But nature industrialized, transformed into cities and artificial habitations, manufactured into commodities, is no longer nature but a highly simplified picture of nature.  We receive the illusion of having power over nature, and lose the sense of nature as something mysterious and contingent.  The God of nature under these conditions is merely an amiable expression, a superfluity, and the philosophical understanding ordinarily carried in the religious experience is not there for us to have.

And in its piety the Southern mind did not, like some Eunomian heretic, scrutinise and weigh the essence of God. On the contrary, it tended to set anything that smacked of rationalism to one side in the understanding of the Faith such that the Southern religion might even be called in many respects “arational,” as Dr. Patrick explained to us, and in its spirituality potentially and dangerously prone to think of religious experience as an escape from history rather than a living out of the Word incarnate and the Word enfleshed and embodied in us in the sacraments.  And yet it was this same religious spirit in the South that does instinctively recognise the createdness of things and the dependence of the being of all things on the will of the Creator, a recognition that comes and must come in no small part from the relationship to the created order of one who tends and cultivates rather than one who uproots and exploits, which is to say an agrarian relationship rather than that of an industrialist and a consumer.  It is there in the tending of the “cultivated garden” that man understands his place before creation and his Creator, particularly by being in his own place where he will give praise to his God for the bounty that has been provided in God’s goodness.  It is there that he remembers who he truly is, seeing his connections to his place across the generations in the fields and groves that nourished him and made him into what he is.   Then, having remembered, he will tell his sons and daughters of their history on that land, so that they will know it is loved and should be loved, and to see that they must love and care for it because, in a way, the land has already loved and cared for them.  As Bradford concluded his essay in defense of the Agrarians (and all agrarians), so will I conclude today, with a few lines from Donald Davidson:

Is good, but better is land, and best
A land still fought-for, even in retreat:
For how else can Aeneas find his rest
And the child hearken and dream at his grandsire’s feet?  

That enemy is the establishment, in this case the Democratic Party’s establishment leadership, which dutifully kicked in endorsements and cash to Ned Lamont before Lieberman’s political corpse had even cooled. Overnight Lamont and his networking rebels had to hand over the insurgency mantle to none other than Lieberman, who is now the underdog outcast independent in the Connecticut Senate race. ~Jim Hoagland, The Washington Post

The article is entitled, “Joe Lieberman, Insurgent.”  Yeah, good one, Jim.  Is Mr. Hoagland showing us his refined sense of humour?  Is he being ironic?  I certainly hope so.  As the inimitable Rumsfeld might say, “My goodness!”  There are a few things that we can know with a fair amount of certainty about the Connecticut primary, and one of them is that the party establishment has no particular investment in Lamont (no more than it has in any other safe Dem nominee), whom most of them did not support and who will still have to finance his campaign with his own efforts and resources.  The view from the top is that the seat will remain “blue” no matter what happens (Schlesinger, the GOP’s man, is pulling a whopping 9%, making him a less credible threat than non-existent WMDs).  What it does not want is a fratricidal contest continuing on all year long that will divert attention and resources away from their major battleground races.  In this situation, instead of insurgent, it might be more reasonable to call Lieberman a “dead-ender,” to use another of Secretary Rumsfeld’s favourite phrases of yesteryear. 

Nothing is more ridiculous than painting the last few days as a fight between ”the establishment” and an “independent,” much less an “insurgent.”  Bob LaFollette and the real Insurgents must be spinning in their graves at the very notion that Lieberman could be associated with them in any shape, way or form.  (Of course, insurgent is a word these days that most politicians would not care to have pinned on them–particularly not a prominent hawk on Iraq!) 

Was Mr. Hoagland referring to the Insurgents of the early 20th century when he came up with this title?  It seems hard to believe, but what else are we meant to think of when we hear the word insurgent in an American political context?  Of course, it is poorly chosen and doesn’t suit Lieberman very well.  LaFollette, who embodied the Insurgent spirit at the start of the last century, was known for opposing foolish Wilsonian wars before it was trendy to oppose Wilsonianism.  Insurgents were not known for defending wars or the administrations that got us into them.

Finally, here’s another item:

Who better to represent the anger and even hatred that constituents feel for the sinister, unseen forces messing with their lives than this about-to-be-fired pol who was done in by a rich entrepreneur backed at first by elitist techies and now by incumbent party bosses who previously were for Lieberman?  

Yes, there’s nothing that says, “Stick it to The Man!” like voting for the pro-war nebbish incumbent.  For their next trick, the disaffected and alienated people of America can amend the constitution and re-elect Bush to a third term!  Let’s get the petitions started!  Perhaps Mr. Hoagland is telling a very clever, elaborate joke and I have simply not caught on this early in the morning.  But, alas, he is not joking.  You see, we need Lieberman.  Why?  Mr. Hoagland tells us:

Come to think of it, we sure could use the seasoned and usually sober Joe Lieberman to help find the center of gravity for a better approach on Iraq.

The man has had three years to “find the center of gravity for a better approach to Iraq,” and has not succeeded to the satisfaction of his Democratic constituents.  He shouldn’t get to be able to have a “do-over” after he failed to do the job and was judged wanting by his core supporters.       

Israel is more than a country; it is an archetype.  The Jewish state is the supreme embodiment of the national principle: of the desire of every people to have their own state. ~Daniel Hannan, The Daily Telegraph

Do people who say these sorts of things expect to be taken seriously?  The nation-state has had many an “archetype” like this, many of them having rather unpleasant and destructive histories in service to an ideal principle of nationality.  Now I don’t begrudge these peoples their desires to have political independence; unlike most people, I do not run in terror from those who think that a community constituted of people mostly like themselves is the sane, normal and natural sort of community to have.  By and large, these sorts of people are right, and cosmopolitans, multiculturalists and the Church of Kumbayah are dead wrong when it comes to understanding what makes for functioning societies.  But I object strenuously to taking a real country with real people, which are far more important than any “national principle,” and making them seem less important than the abstraction that they are supposed to be embodying or representing.  “America is more than a country; it is a universal nation” is the sort of statement that makes me feel queasy, and the same goes when it is applied to other nations.  That Mr. Hannan dresses up his love of abstraction with support for British Euroskepticism (where does this come from?) and somehow makes this into an argument about Europe and basic assumptions about national and cultural identity is more annoying. 

That he would make the (in my view) appalling connection between “Zionist Conservatives” and the Roundheads and Whigs of Britain’s liberal tradition only serves to strengthen my feelings of contempt for this article, which has the outrageous title, “When we question Israel, we question democracy itself”.  Now, as readers will have gathered, I have no great love for democracy (the site is called Eunomia, after all), but this is a dirty rhetorical trick that can’t go unchallenged. 

What, you might ask, on God’s green earth do Roundheads have to do with Zionism (except perhaps for the Puritans’ rather unfortunate habit of identifying their dreadful regimes with the City on the Hill)?  Well, Mr. Hannan will tell you:

They [the Roundheads] believe in democracy, however messy its outcomes. They distrust elites and their opinions, and want power devolved to the lowest practicable level.

Yes, messy outcomes like massacre, regicide and oppression–”stuff happens,” does it not?  What that last part has to do with the concentrated power of a nation-state or a heavily socialised society such as one finds in Israel, no one can tell.  Of course, Roundheads also believed in treason, rebellion and regicide leading to republican despotism and government by the military.  They believed in religious oppression and social leveling.  The Whigs for their part were wealthy oligarchs who abused their positions to shape policy to suit private interests; they were traitors to their country on at least one prominent occasion; their understanding of human nature and society was risible.  If I were a Zionist, I would be deeply offended by the comparison, especially since this is supposed to be an argument in favour of Israel.  If I were a present-day democrat, I would be appalled that my values are being compared with those of Cromwell.  Parliamentary rule and revolutionary enthusiasms did lead to Cromwell’s dictatorship, which bears some characteristics of democratic depotism for that reason, but it was first and foremost a military dictatorship ruled by force and fear.

What about the other side?  Those Euro-loving Arabists?  Well, Mr. Hannan has a story about them, too:

The Euro-enthusiast/Arabists are Cavaliers. They think that democracy sometimes needs to be tempered by good sense, order and seemliness, and worry lest the wisdom of generations be overturned by a transient popular majority.

Now, mind you, this is showing up in the Telegraph, flagship paper of Toryism.  The modern Conservatives have relatively little to do with the Tories of old (alas), but British Toryism was foursquare in the tradition of the Cavaliers and the Royalists who came after them.  The name itself derives from a slur directed at Catholic Royalists in Ulster, toraigh (Gael., highwayman).  In short Mr. Hannan says that all good Conservatives today are the heirs of Lloyd George insofar as they support Israel and “democracy,” and anyone who dissents must be a “Cavalier”–as if this were some sort of insult for people who really understood what the old Tory tradition involved!  But I am confident it is intended as an insult–what greater ideological crime is there today than to be skeptical of democracy, much less a loyal defender of absolutist kings? 

Anyone who calls himself a Conservative and isn’t worried about tempering democracy with “good sense, order and seemliness” and who doesn’t worry that it will overturn the wisdom of generations in a fit of popular enthusiasm doesn’t know what conservatism is.  He doesn’t really have much business calling himself conservative at all, much less lecturing other people about what they as conservatives should or shouldn’t believe.

But there’s more.  Get a load of this contrast:

The Roundhead is philo-Semitic: it was Cromwell himself who brought Jews back to England. When he looks at the Middle East, his sympathy - in the literal sense of fellow-feeling - is with Israel, a state that, even while fighting for its survival, has retained a boisterous parliamentary system, a free press and independent courts.

The Cavalier, by contrast, regrets the displacement of a traditional, hierarchical society by a brash and consumerist one. His sympathy is with the simple Bedouin in his flowing robes. He admires Glubb Pasha and T. E. Lawrence, and believes that Britain has obligations to its old friends - Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf monarchies.

So Mr. Hannan apparently believes that Britain has no obligations to old friends and seems to align being philo-Semitic with an enthusiasm for brash consumerism (which, if uttered by one of the Arabists, would be taken as positive proof of the man’s anti-Semitism).  Is any of this supposed to make the Arabists feel that they have gone awry?  As far as I’m concerned any conservative worthy of the name regrets the onset of brash consumerism and the departure of traditional, hierarchical society.  That does not make him an automatic friend of Bedouin sheikhs, nor does it make him into a member of the T.E. Lawrence fan club.  There is hierarchical society, and then there’s hierarchical society.  What any of it has necessarily to do with a man’s view of Israel’s campaign in Lebanon or his view of Israel in general is entirely obscure. 

But it doesn’t stop there (how could it?):

The Roundhead is pro-American. He loves the story of a nation founded in a popular revolt against a remote regime. He inclines, in particular, toward the Republicans: heirs, both lineally and ideologically, to the American Whigs. He revels in the pluralism of US democracy, where everyone from the sheriff to the garbage man is elected. The Cavalier, on the other hand, thinks that so much democracy opens the door to populism and crassness. He thinks that American foreign policy, especially in its current form, is crowd-pleasing and lacking in subtlety.

But American foreign policy is lacking in subtlety.  Whether it is “crowd-pleasing” any longer is debatable (ask the 60% who oppose the Iraq war whether they are pleased or not).  Democracy does  open the door to populism and crassness–look around you!  Now it might be that democracy has virtues, or it might be that it is the best system of government available (I deny both claims), but to deny that is encourages the mediocre and debases the culture is to deny what the last century and a half of history in the West has shown us.  The Roundheads, Whigs and Red Republicans are linked together indeed, but why on earth would a sane Tory want to have anything to do with any of them?  Mr. Hannan then tells of one of the contemporary “Cavaliers”, a Mr. Soames, MP:

Like all good Cavaliers, he values outcomes over process, and frets that Britain’s interests are being jeopardised by a dogmatic foreign policy.

But isn’t it the democratist and neocon complaint that their opponents are obsessed with process and uninterested in concrete results?  Now the “Cavaliers” are preoccupied with outcomes and not process, and this is supposed to be a mark against them?  How?  How is valuing competence and success over idealistic procedures of voting and popular government the wrong way to go?  But before  he concludes he offers a horrifying vision of the future:

Time would seem to be on Mr Gove’s side. Most younger Tories are pro-Israel, pro-Washington, anti-Brussels. A majority of the new intake has endorsed the manifesto of Roundhead Conservatism, Direct Democracy, first serialised in this newspaper, which proposes the massive decentralisation and democratisation of the British state, and whose very language is Cromwellian: the authors call for a “New Model Party”, whose politicians should adopt a “Self-Denying Ordinance” towards the exercise of state power.

I cannot comprehend why anyone would boast of his intellectual and spiritual affinity to one of Europe’s first dictators.  If they are truly committed to decentralism, surely the language of Harrington or Bolingbroke or some other member of the Country tradition would be far more suitable.   I can entertain friendly thoughts about authoritarianism now and again under certain conditions, but full-on fanatical despotism backed by no legitimacy except brute force?  That is the language and symbolism that Tories have chosen to take into the future? 

Peter Hitchens is right–the Tories ought to be dissolved, if this is the sort of hideous political morality their younger members are imbibing.  Can you imagine a Frenchman boasting that his party’s members owe their inspiration to Robespierre?  Actually, that might not be surprising–Americans wrap themselves in the mantle of Lincoln with a sickening frequency, so what’s one more cult of personality for a brutal despot?  Perhaps Cromwell represents what Daniel Pipes called a “democratically-minded strongman.”  You know, like Chiang Kai-shek, friend of democracy.

So what was the point of this torturous journey through the highways and byways of Whiggish ideological fervour?  It is, as it began, all about Israel (or rather explaining why it isn’t really about Israel, which makes everything Israel has done OK):

The current controversy isn’t only about Israel. It is about whether sovereign states can act unilaterally, whether we trust the UN and other supra-national bodies, whether the West is prepared to use proportionate force in defence of its values and, ultimately, whether democracy is worth having.

This is almost unworthy of a response.  But it seems to be typical of today’s Roundheads: if you make reasonable criticisms of Israeli excesses, you are not only subverting the entire Western world (dubious) but are also attacking our very system of government at its roots (a lie).  No one on the British (or American) right rejected Israel’s right to defend itself; no one rejected Israel’s right to “act unilaterally”; no one rejected the objective of punishing Hizbullah’s provocations.  What many people, including “Cavaliers” on both sides of the ocean, have rejected is the excessive means Israel has used and the punishment it has inflicted on all of Lebanon, which might also have some claim to the same rights under the law of nations that Mr. Hannan so vigorously upholds on behalf of Israel. 

And another thing: if Israel were using proportionate force, I would have no strong objections to the campaign itself.  Certainly, my criticisms would be much less severe.  I might question the wisdom of it and ask whether the long-term consequences would be what Israel’s government wants them to be, but I would hardly have criticised the campaign itself to the extent that I have. 

But, to use the categories that Mr. Hannan has chosen to use, Israel’s apologists here and in Britain have typically cheered on the campaign or at least looked on it with indifference with the very same spirit of cruel fanaticism and violence that inspired the Roundheads.  The moderate, humane Cavalier gentlemen, by contrast, look at this zeal with the same horror that they felt when the rebels butchered their King or sold their country to a Dutch invader; they view with disdain the paper theories of Neo-Roundheads and Neo-Jacobins and consider them the source of great misery and human suffering, and not without reason.  Why the Tories should want to go down the dark path that leads to the feet (and boot) of Cromwell, whom all decent Tories have loathed since time immemorial, is a mystery; why Mr. Hannan thinks this love affair with Cromwell is something to celebrate is baffling. 

It would truly be a shame if honest sympathy and goodwiil for Israel, such as that displayed by Mr. Hitchens, were to be yoked inextricably to the revolutionary fanaticism of Pym and Cromwell, the Covenanters and the Whigs.  It is just such a fanatical mentality that precipitates these crises and encourages the worst instincts in men.  It has nothing to do with an appreciation for democracy, which would be rooted in a respect for all men, and it has no bearing on sympathy for Israel, which may finds its roots in a genuine feeling of belonging to a common history, and everything to do with a bizarre obsession with power, of which Cromwell’s illegitimate, bloody dictatorship is the perfect symbol. 

Perhaps there is need to dig up Cromwell’s body again and stage yet another mock execution, as Charles II did after the Restoration, to drive the point home that the man was a traitor and a scoundrel.  Those who would create a Cromwellian style in politics or use Cromwellian language are not simply unconservative; they are verging on very dark and troubled ideological territory.  If the new Roundheads cannot see the evils of Cromwell, why indeed should the “Cavaliers” take seriously their arguments about the morality of the war in Lebanon or indeed about much else?   

The new proposals of the Beirut government have lit red lights in Jerusalem. The Lebanese government proposes to deploy 15,000 Lebanese troops along the border, declare a cease-fire and get the Israeli troops out of Lebanon. That is exactly what the Israeli government demanded at the start of the war. But now it looks like a danger. It could stop the war without an Israeli victory.

Thus a paradoxical situation has arisen: the Israeli government is rejecting a proposal that reflects its original war aims, and instead demands the deployment of an international force, which it objected to strenuously at the start of the war. That’s what happens when you start a war without clear and achievable aims. Everything gets mixed up. ~Uri Avnery,

Mr. Podhoretz is having none of it. “I always knew they didn’t like this policy, the Bush doctrine,” he says, speaking of increasingly vocal antagonists like George Will and William F. Buckley. “They had doubts about it going in, and not just because it violates in their view conservative principles but, you know, it’s hubris, it’s Wilsonianism, it goes beyond the limits of power, it’s nation-building, and so on. But for reasons of solidarity or because they were not willing to join with the left or the far reaches of the Buchananite right, they were careful, they voiced their doubts only through hints or veiled asides. So when they came, so to speak, out of the antiwar closet, I certainly was not all that surprised.

“They’ve declared defeat, basically,” he continues. “What can I say? I think they’re wrong. I think Iraq has gone not badly but well, is not a disaster or a crime or a delusion, but what’s more is a noble, necessary effort.” ~Norman Podhoretz in

Against such disastrous delusion, what is there left to say?  What do you say to someone who views the disintegration of a country and the ruination of its future as something that is “going not badly but well”?  Perhaps Mr. Olmert will say, “I think the campaign in Lebanon is going not badly but well.”  But of course the triumph of freedom is assured (History tells us so!), and neocons don’t exist anyway, so why worry? 

As someone on the “far reaches of the Buchananite right” (it’s the only place to be!), I think it is unfortunate and tragic that supposedly conservative men with considerable influence on the national debate who knew the war to be mistaken did not object publicly and more strenuously when it mattered.  But better to protect your “responsible” reputation and let thousands of Americans be sent to their deaths than let something as trifling as principle move you to speak when it would have made a difference, right? 

What is astonishing about Podhoretz pere is not that he has no regrets for what he and his have helped to foist on the nation, and it is not even that he thinks Iraq has basically been a success (which any ideologue would maintain under pressure), but that he thinks it has something to do with successfully fighting Islamic fanaticism.  The war that his cohorts helped push this country into has done more good for the vitality of especially fanatical Islam than anything else in the last 15 years.  In the last 50 years, it is probably fourth only to Khomeini’s revolution, the Saudis’ massive funding of Wahhabism overseas and the war in Afghanistan in the ’80s in its significance for empowering such people.  Not only was it unnecessary and criminal, but it was nothing short of mad, assuming that the goal was to weaken and undermine Islamic terrorism in the world. 

At certain moment, you realize with stunning clarity how empty and absurd our political clichés really are. “Democracies don’t start wars,” Condoleezza Rice repeated the other day.  What can that possibly mean in the real world?

Taken literally, this simple formula implies that any time a democracy is at war with a nondemocracy, the nondemocracy must have been the aggressor.  Since the United States is a democracy, it is unthinkable that it may be even partly to blame.  Thus the Iraq war must have been Iraq’s fault.

As you see, the logic tends to be rather, well, Soviet.  You may recall that the Soviet Union was never the aggressive party in any conflict.  It was always defending itself against capitalists, reactionaries, and fascists, just as the United States is now defending itself (and world freedom, democracy, et cetera) against Islamofascists.  Whenever the Soviets invaded a country, they said they were “liberating” it, the very verb the United States now uses to describe its military mischief abroad.

By the same taken, the state of Israel, another democracy, is always the victim in any conflict.  Apologists like Abe Foxman, Alan Dershowitz, and Charles Krauthammer have made this point so often that you may wonder if the laws of probability have been suspended.  One could believe that Israel is in the right more often than not, considering some of its enemies.  But is it possible that the Israelis are never, ever even partially at fault, just a wee little bit? ~Joe Sobran

Not only does Condi “I’m a student of history” Rice not distinguish herself well here (the list of wars between democratic states, while not huge, is surprisingly long) and not only does she reveal the administration’s penchant to run its strategy according to the speechwriter’s soundbite, but she also conveys very much the sense of someone uttering a bit of Newspeak that you find it hard to believe that she, an allegedly well-educated person, can possibly believe.  Whenever someone says, “Democracies don’t start wars,” he might as well be saying, “I like democracy, and I don’t like war, therefore any wars that happen were not started by democracies, least of all by my own.”  It is what some might call denial, and others would call ideological blindness.  Secretary Rice and her boss have both in spades.

A century ago, it was conservative stalwarts, not liberal reformers, who were the natural party of government. And they were forthright about what they stood for as well as what they were against: They were for rule by a better class of people, for a Hamiltonian state in which business was unified with government. And conservatism is still for those things, tacitly at least. Just look at the résumés of the folks the president has appointed to the Departments of Labor, Agriculture and the Interior. Or scan one of the graphs that economists use to chart the distribution of wealth over the last hundred years. The more egalitarian society we grew up in is gone, snuffed out by the party of tradition in favor of an even rosier past that lies on the far side of the 1930’s. ~Thomas Frank, The New York Times (sorry, NYT Select)

Well, actually, conservatism isn’t for either of those things necessarily, and certainly not the latter.  Mr. Frank doesn’t understand Kansas, and he doesn’t understand what motivates ordinary conservatives, either.  The second point of “business unified with government,” has been a hallmark of Republicanism from day one, and there used to be a time when the plain republicans and conservatively-minded folks in the Country tradition recognised that the Republican combination of government and business interests was pernicious, oligarchic and dangerous to the Republic.  They managed to believe this without becoming New Dealers.  As for being ruled by a “better class of people,” it was Jefferson who believed in the virtue of an aristocracy of those with talents and gifts, and I think he was right to believe that.  In my view, the real conservative tradition in America is the one that kept faith with the Country tradition of dissent.  To the extent that orrdinary Republican voters belong to the same tradition, they can continue to kid themselves that they are not enabling massive corruption that benefits the few of the Court, but no one should be fooled into thinking that the GOP is lacking an establishment mentality.  They have used the language of populism, but in its leadership and its politics the GOP has never ceased to be a party of the Eastern Establishment and its cronies.

On the plot to attack U.S.-bound jetliners, Dr. Trifkovic makes the vital point:

The plotters were motivated by Islam—by Muhammad’s faith as such, and not by some allegedly aberrant variety of the creed.

The longer we remain preoccupied with fantastic “Islamofascists,” the longer it will take us to get a handle on the real nature of problem.

Though he has moved on from editing NR, he seems to heed all the magazine’s memos informing him of the official “good conservative” positions that one ought to take.  Buckley laments the “purge” of poor Lieberman by “single-issue” voters and proceeds to endorse Lieberman on, well, a single issue:

Which leaves support for him enlivened by gratitude for his tenacity on the terrorist question.

Except that his “tenacity” has not been on “the terrorist question,” as Mr. Buckley’s evasive, vague phrase has it, but on “the Iraq question.”  They are not the same, no matter how many times supporters of the war say that they are tied together. 

Which upsets a Bush loyalist more: Joe Lieberman’s defeat on Tuesday or the adoption of a U.N. resolution 1701 calling for end to the war in Lebanon?  At NRJoe, it would be a toss-up.  But in the case of PowerBlog’s Paul, it’s no contest:

The JPost says there’s a good chance that the wobbly Olmert government will accept this resolution. Over at NRO’s corner, John Podhoretz contends that this would mean the end of the Olmert government. I’m tempted to suggest that our government, having seemingly lost its will to oppose (or even to let others oppose) our deadliest enemies, deserves the same fate. But let’s wait until the facts are in. 

A Haaretz columnist is calling for Olmert’s resignation.  The neocons have been close to calling for the same thing for weeks, and will probably jump on the dump-Olmert bandwagon with numerous references to the treachery of Chamberlain and the need for a Churchill (read Netanyahu) to save the day.  Will the collapse of Kadima as a governing party be far behind?  In one sense, this is extremely bad news for Israel, but not in the conventional way that most will probably expect: with Olmert and Peres and, by extension, Kadima and Labour significantly discredited on managing Israeli security as people who are trigger-happy but lacking in “resolve,” this returns the initiative to Netanyahu and the sort of reckless nationalists who would have persisted with this campaign had they been in government.  If the major criticism of the Olmert government proves to be that it simply fought the war cackhandedly and ineffectively, there is no guarantee that the lesson of this war won’t be that Israel should launch full-scale invasions in response to future provocations. 

The Israeli Cabinet is set to vote on the resolution on Sunday, and Olmert will recommend accepting it.  Until then, however, the campaign continues.  The resolution calling for an end to the war is good news, but the fallout from this war will be with us for a long time.

Others have asked before, but I will ask again: how is someone like Lieberman, who has an ADA rating of 80 and ACU rating of 8 (2005), a “moderate”?  And you know that ACU rating of 8 was probably related entirely to his “hawkish” foreign policy views.  In other words, the man probably hasn’t got a reliably conservative bone in his body, so how is he supposed to represent the “sensible” center?


Tucker Carlson, sans bowtie, shakes a leg

Via Rod Dreher

When Andrew Sullivan, David Brooks and Bill Kristol latch onto an idea, you can be pretty confident that it will involve either calls for war or preachy self-importance.  In the creation and transmission of the “McCain-Lieberman Party” meme, we get both, where the central figures of this new “party” are both pro-war (which war? name one!) and preachy, self-important men.  But the “McCain-Lieberman Party” idea is not a new thing of the last few years.  It is the same convergence of ”hawks” that America has seen over the last two decades during each conflict or international crisis.  During the 1990s and especially during the Kosovo War we saw a similar convergence of opinion, represented best by The Weekly Standard and The New Republic as each tried to outdo the other in calling for more aggressive action in the Balkans.  Indeed, “aggressive action” might as well be this group’s motto, since that seems to be the standard by which it judges all other foreign policy ideas lacking and according to which it deems a politician to be “responsible” or not.  McCain-Lieberman serves as a handy substitute for this convergence, since McCain is the poster boy and hero of the Standard (he was their favoured primary candidate in 2000 over George “humble foreign policy” Bush) and Lieberman has become the personification of Democratic interventionism beloved of Marty Peretz and Peter Beinart at TNR.  We might also call this the Hegemony-Democratism Party.  If you like both of those ideas, you’ll love the McCain-Lieberman Party.

In its obsession with foreign policy this “party” bears all the hallmarks of crisis unity governments, such as those of Britain in WWI or Israel under Sharon during the second intifada.  Because certain “gloomy hawks” believe that America in particular now must endure a situation similar to that of Israel, the parallel with an Israeli unity government may be the most instructive.  For such alliances the crisis and foreign policy are dominant and perhaps even all-consuming–they are the alliance’s reason for being and, as such, there is an all too natural tendency on the part of alliances forged during crisis to want to exaggerate the scope of the crisis and imagine that the threat is far, far more dire than it may actually be.  This not only suits the interests of the alliance itself, but also suits the priorities of the constituent members of the alliance who have made facing down foreign threats (real or imaginary) the fundamental litmus test of all “responsible” politics in their respective camps.  

Because the ”party” conceives of the situation as an emergency, normal rules of dissent, the rule of law and representative government are no longer necessarily binding and must be bent to accommodate the crisis.  One might also note that this “party” is an entirely elite party in its inspiration and membership, a party that dictates policy and ideology down to the lower orders, who depart from the script that is written for them at the peril of being declared by their masters unpatriotic, extremist or in some other way insane.  As detached from their constituents as the two (real) major parties have become, as miserable as their record of serving their constituents’ best interests certainly is, they remain relatively popular parties based in real constituencies–even if those consituencies are routinely used simply to serve the interests of a few.  The McCain-Lieberman Party is a “party” made up of ideological cadres whose influence and worth is based solely in their adherence to party doctrine, which is nothing other than support for projecting power and maximising hegemonic control in the world.  The party of democratism does not need a lot of the rabble meddling in its plans.  McCain-Lieberman is shorthand for, “We’re in charge, we always know better, so sit down and shut up.”  

Like ancient satraps, the interventionists govern their respective provinces (conservatives on the one hand, progressives on the other) and make sure that they continue to pay tribute to the Shahanshah, War.  But like any Shahanshah, this party’s master demands slavishness and servility from its subjects and rules by the whip and the knout.  Free men and patriotic Americans do not prostrate themselves before this party’s master.  If the “party” would make their devotion to War the thing that defines them and gives them meaning, let us consider them its subjects and servants and judge them accordingly.   

My criticism of Israel is this. That I suspect a strong leader ( which Ehud Olmert is not ) would have refused to be provoked by the ambush and kidnapping on the Lebanese border. Terrorists operate by provoking their targets into over-reaction, and into starting wars they cannot possibly win. The only worthwhile victory for Israel in this war would be one that involved a renewed Israeli occupation up to the Litani river, the very arrangement Israel abandoned in 2000 and which I think is impossible now. No UN force would dare take on Hezbollah, and a buffer zone under UN control would quickly fill up with Hezbollah rocket sites once more. America and France have learned the hard way, by heavy casualties, that Western troops in Lebanon are more likely to be targets than enforcers.

Then there is the issue of proportion. I hate to agree with the liberals and the creepy foes of Israel who say that this war is ‘disproportionate’, but the fact that these people are what they are, doesn’t mean they are wrong. I was against the bombing of Belgrade, and the bombing of Baghdad (unlike Jack Straw, who managed to stay in the government drawing a cabinet salary while these things were going on, and whose objections to Israeli bombing are therefore worthless whining).

I was against them because I have in recent years found out what aerial bombing actually does. I grew up in a Britain which cheerfully accepted that it was right to bomb Germany to rubble, because they had started it. I entirely agreed with this view for many years. Then I began to read the full details of what happened when our bombs fell. I was particularly struck by the repeated accounts of the mad women, made insane by the loss of their homes and families, who roamed about Germany carrying their dead babies in suitcases; also by the reports of adult human figures, baked in airless cellars for so long during the Dresden firestorm that they were shrunk to the size of children; and of the great clouds of bluebottles gathered over the ruins of Hamburg after an RAF raid, so devastating that there was nobody to clear the wreckage or bury the huge numbers of civilian dead beneath the rubble. We may not have known then. We certainly know now. This is not a form of warfare that a Christian country can use. ~Peter Hitchens

On the question of proportionality and the use of aerial bombing of civilian centers, there are few better statements than this one.  It is such a relief to read a serious response to these events after the stacks of recent columns justifying the mass murders of Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, and on and on, or the ones that will keep returning to the fact that Hizbullah, a guerrilla group, hides among civilian populations, as if this freed other people of their obligations.  If a hostage-taker has a roomful of hostages, we do not typically regard it as successful or really excusable if the police storm the building and get many of the hostages killed in the process; if they cannot even manage to get the hostage-taker in the process, it is even more difficult to defend.  We wouldn’t stand for it in our own cities, so why should any of us apologise for it when one of our allies does it in another country? 

I give Mr. Hitchens quite a lot of credit for retaining his ability to discern and maintain the difference between having strong sympathy for Israel (he is a self-proclaimed Zionist) and giving approval, tacit or otherwise, to the methods of the Israeli campaign in Lebanon.  He applies a moral principle to this campaign as he has done to others in the past and shows an admirable consistency.   

Many of the bitter controversies in every corner of the globe inevitably raise the same ancient question: why does the world hate the Jews? ~Michael Medved

Yes, it’s hard to argue with a thing like that.  Hard because it is such a preposterous way to begin an argument that one almost doesn’t know where to begin.  I’m sure that as the  war between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tigers begins to heat up again, the Tamils all look at one another and say, “Why does the world hate the Jews?”  In defense of “the world,” I can’t imagine most people outside the Islamic world even caring that much about Israel one way or the other, much less getting exercised about ”the Jews.”  Besides, it’s not as if the reaction to the campaign in Lebanon is completely inexplicable without reference to prejudice–other recent wars waged by Western nations have elicited similar opposition and outrage, frequently justified, and in fact Israel initially enjoyed much broader international support for attacking Hizbullah than the U.S. received when Washington took NATO into Yugoslavia or again when Mr. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq.  “The world” is not criticising who the Israelis are, but what they have done in Lebanon. 

Glenn Greenwald brings up the interesting observation of other liberal bloggers that the Lamont/McGovern rhetoric coming from the GOP noise machine is entirely misplaced: Democratic opposition to Vietnam hurt the Democrats because it was primarily their war and they turned against one another when the war seemed to be going nowhere fast. 

Now, if you wanted to make comparisons between then and now, which party is suffering increasing skepticism, criticism and opposition to the war among its members?  Which party, three years after the major commitment to the war had been made, faces increasing internal dissent against the President and other party leaders?  Does that make this year the GOP’s 1968?  Which party was it that led us into Iraq?  If you are looking for the possible electoral equivalent of a McGovern trying to unite a party fractured by the consequences of horrible foreign policy adventurism, look on the GOP side of the aisle in ‘08 or, to keep the parallels intact, in ‘12.    

In an Aug. 10 telephone interview from Beirut, the cardinal [McCarrick] said his visit was meant to be a sign of solidarity with the suffering people of Lebanon, the same kind of visit he has made in the past to Israel in the wake of terrorist attacks.

So the victims are the same? Does that mean the Israelis are morally equivalent to terrorists? McCarrick’s presence seems to play into Hezbollah’s PR campaign. If he is only there to call attention to the civilian suffering (already VERY well reported) and say “the world must do something” (that’s really his quote, believe it or not), then the most he appears to do is call attention to himself. ~”Dave“, AmSpecBlog

Wow.  Just watch this guy’s head explode at the mere suggestion that victims of the Israeli campaign might be human or deserving of the slightest charity.  How you make the leap from Cardinal McCarrick’s “showing solidarity with suffering people” in Lebanon just as he had done in Israel to the ”moral equivalence” of Israelis and terrorists is something I will never understand.  In answer to the question, yes the victims, the civilian victims, are the same on both sides: innocent victims of war.  It’s almost as if Lebanese people were human beings, isn’t it, Dave?  Anyone who cannot see that or refuses to grant it really has no business talking about the morality of this or any other conflict. 

The line of the fight between civilization and barbarism runs right along the Israel-Lebanon non-border. If it’s not won there, it won’t be long until the front line is right here, and then it will be too late. When George Bush stands up for Israel, he stands up for the whole future of mankind. Yes, he has flaws and has made serious mistakes, but right now, he is a hero for the ages. ~Ben Stein, The American Spectator

“The whole future of mankind”?  Pardon them if the Lebanese don’t feel quite so enthusiastic.  Does anyone take Ben Stein seriously these days?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller? 


Thomas wonders where his conservatism went  

 Mr. Lieberman’s one “sin,” in the eyes of the Taliban Democrats, was that he supported the effort to defeat the insurgent-terrorists in Iraq. As a Jew, Mr. Lieberman is particularly sensitive to those who have targeted the Jewish people for extinction. But even if he weren’t Jewish, he would still “get it,” because he understands what’s at stake in the region and has correctly concluded that the consequences of American failure in Iraq would be catastrophic. ~Cal Thomas 

Via Doug Bandow

Taliban Democrats?  What would Mr. Thomas think if I referred to his party as the Hizbullah Republicans?  Of course, when it comes to purging their own, nobody has the Red Republicans beat–they purge their researchers and intellectuals, while making sure that the ‘wrong’ kind of people never get on the ballot in the first place.  

Now I remember the outrage on the right when Julian Bond, then president of the NAACP, referred to Mr. Bush and Co. as representing the “Taliban wing” of American politics.  That was in the old days before 9/11, but it was still an offensive comparison.  Conservatives were right to be outraged at the time at this preposterous comparison.  If there are conservative pundits with any integrity who objected to that then, I look forward to reading their critiques of Thomas’ blithering. 

Also, have the Sunni insurgents been particular preoccupied with attacking Jews or have they focused on American soldiers and Iraqis who work with the new government?  In conservative punditry these days it’s always a good time to imply that the Iraqis we are fighting hate Jews (which may be true but is usually irrelevant to the problems at hand) so therefore, I suppose the thinking will go, anyone who wants us to leave Iraq must somehow approve of that view.  

Update: Doug Bandow has a good moniker for the proponents of indefinite American presence in Iraq: the Stay and Die Republicans.  A bit catchier than “cut and run,” wouldn’t you say?  I can already see their motto: it will be an adaptation of then-PM Thatcher’s infamous speech: “We will go on and on and on…”

…and he’s not going to take it anymore!  On Giuliani’s pro-Lieberman remarks:

This nonsense needs to be fought at every turn. Democrats have to make it absolutely clear, every single time somebody spouts this rubbish, that supporting the Iraq war doesn’t mean you’re “on offense against terrorism.” Nor does opposing the war also mean you oppose fighting jihadism. The truth is closer to the exact opposite, and chapter and verse should follow if necessary.

This needs to happen Every. Single. Time. We can’t allow the Rudy Giulianis and Dick Cheneys of the world to get away with this. They’ve dug us into too deep a hole already, and we can’t afford to let them dig it any deeper.

Of course, this isn’t true only of Democratic opponents of the war or even of war opponents in general, but of everyone who prefers serious analysis and understanding of our current predicament over cant, deception and nonsense.

The danger is not al Qaeda per se. Rather, it is the totalitarian ideology that animates it and other counterpart Sunni and Shiite cabals. Were we to focus exclusively and successfully on Osama bin Laden and his followers — an idée fixe for many Democratic politicians — we would simply ensure that we are destroyed by other Islamofascists, instead. ~Frank Gaffney

Yes, if we focused too much on the groups that attacked us, we might someday bring an end to the conflict, which will hardly be very helpful for those who would like perpetual war.  Never mind that every significant attack in Europe and here has been launched by al Qaeda or one of its associate groups, including the foiled plot to attack the jetliners.  No, the threat must not be al Qaeda per se–that would be all together too rational and predictable! 

But why would we “be destroyed” by other “Islamofascists”?  Just because.  That’s about the level of insight Mr. Gaffney has to offer us.  Does he really suppose that we will “be destroyed” by any of these people?  Threatened, yes.  Harmed, possibly.  But destroyed?  This over-the-top rhetoric made sense in the heat of the moment five years ago.  Now it is just embarrassing.

Also, I am making a rule.  You may call it Larison’s Rule, if you like.  Here it is: each time someone uses the word Islamofascist (a term whose absurdities I lay out here) or a variant thereof, his credibility on whatever topic he is discussing in relation to said “Islamofascist” decreases by 10% on account of the apparent lack of understanding of who and what we are fighting.  In Mr. Gaffney’s case, he used Islamofascist or a related term four times in the course of his short essay, costing him -40% of whatever credibility he had to start with. 

Update: Here is a fine dissection of the basic problems with the term ”Islamic fascist” or Islamofascist. 

The same goes for the Dems as a whole. Until the opposition party presents a progressive, democratic agenda to reform the Middle East - as Blair has done in Britain, for example - there’s no reason to take them seriously on national security. ~Andrew Sullivan

Very nice how Sullivan is willing to accept antiwar criticism, provided that it provides an ideological roadmap that is identical to the one he already endorsed and which is entirely fantastic in its expectations.  In other words, Sullivan refuses to listen until antiwar people say exactly what he already wants to hear, in spite of the fact that at least some antiwar people, myself included, think that creating a “beachhead of modernity and democracy” in the Islamic world is somewhere between foolish and mad. 

To the extent that “Islamist terror” is rooted simply in Islam, there is no “progressive, democratic agenda to reform the Middle East” that anyone in the West can propose that will significantly change a thing.  To the extent that it is a response to occupation and hegemony, liquidating the hegemony and ending the occupation would be significant strides forward; they might not “solve” the problem (which may not have a “solution” at all), but they would assuredly “contain” it.  To the extent that it is itself a hybrid of modernity and Islam, ”political Islam”/Islamism is not something that can be uprooted anymore than we can get the Chinese to cease being Chinese nationalists.  It is, like Islam itself, an unavoidable part of a reality that we cannot substantially alter nor should we feel as if we are obliged to alter it.  Vigilance, defense of our own country, targeted, limited responses to violent provocations and a guiding principle of avoiding all unnecessary interventions would be among the first things in my list of recommendations for an alternative approach to the entire policy area. 

There continues to be an astonishing amount of arrogance among the ideological supporters of the war that the notion of fundamentally reodering and transforming the Near East in a controlled, more or less directed way is not only still desirable but actually feasible.  If the last year has shown anything, it is that intervention has knock-on effects that we cannot control and may not even be able to foresee.  Above all, pushing this agenda in the Near East plainly has nothing to do with national security, and everything to do with ideological posturing about our devotion to modernity and democracy; the ideologues who want to push these things in the rest of the world do not wish to do so to benefit the recipients, but simply to confirm their own commitments and demonstrate their fidelity to the idea of progress.  Like all other believers in that idea before them, they will fail and produce heinous catastrophes, some of which may come back to haunt this country.  So again I ask, what does national security have to do with Sullivan’s “progressive, democratic agenda” and why should anyone opposed to the Iraq adventure have to provide a policy to try to accomplish something that may be impossible and is certainly unwise?   

To the region, America’s apparently unconditional and unbounded support for Israel and its occupation of Iraq are part of the same picture. For a military historian, the question arises: will history see Iraq as America’s Stalingrad? If we kick the analogy up a couple of levels, to the strategic and grand strategic, there are parallels. Both the German and the American armies were able largely to take, but not hold, the objective. Both had too few troops. Both Berlin and Washington underestimated their enemy’s ability to counterattack. Both committed resources they needed elsewhere and could not replace to a strategically unimportant objective. Finally, both entrusted their flanks to weak allies – and to luck. ~William Lind,

Some of the main themes in Thomas Ricks’ Fiasco are the complete lack of any sense of strategy among both civilian and military leaders responsible for the war in Iraq and the ignorance of what kind of war we were going to be fighting (and the persistence in ignoring the reality of that war when it was upon them).  In much the same way as we fought an unconventional war conventionally for years (there has been some improvement, but acquaintance with proper counterinsurgency doctrine only came on in later stages), we are supposed to be in an entirely “different kind of war” that we continue to organise and conceptualise as if we were Napoleon marching on the capitals of his enemies or Allied forces racing to Berlin. 

It is a “different kind of war,” but everything from the strategy (overthrow dictatorship, reconstruct country, establish democracy), such as it is, to the rhetoric (those Islamic fascists again) betrays an obsession with refighting WWII on the assumption that the valid strategy to win that war–the paradigmatic war of goodness and light, after all–must be the one that will triumph everywhere at all times.  It is the model: WWII seems to inspire and define the response of the administration and its backers in every situation, as if this were in any way helpful to fighting present-day jihadis, as if Jihadi Number One is hiding in his bunker as the Red Army closing in on him to finish off the resistance.   

The embarrassing obsession with this “fascist” language betrays real confusion about who and what we’re fighting and why, to say nothing of wreaking havoc with what we think the resolution should be.  When you fight “fascists,” Islamic or otherwise, you expect that once you topple the state apparatus the conflict is over.  If you are fighting jihadis, which we are, you do not make that sort of foolish assumption, since these people operate outside of any constraints or rules of the state apparatus.  But what is the typical administration focus?  They focus on particular states, to the apparent neglect of any of the things that fuel the political and ideological strength of jihadis.  There is no sense that the way that we have been accustomed to defining conflict and victory may need to be changed to meet changing circumstances.  Instead, and far worse than simply refighting old wars, victory has been defined in almost childish terms: make people free, stop fascists.  

The Stalingrad comparison is unfortunately accurate, particularly in the way that it has become a question of sheer pride and stubbornness to “hold” Iraq just as it became an obsession to hold Stalingrad, regardless of whether it was actually aiding the objectives of the campaign and regardless of whether holding the city was really necessary to obtain victory in the East.  It became a question of holding it in order to hold it, simply to prove that they could, which worked fine right until it led to complete disaster.  We are doing no different in Iraq.  But presumably the Daniel Henningers and David Brookses of the world would have advised General von Paulus to stay in Stalingrad, too, to show the nation’s resolve and show the enemy that we don’t “cut and run” (even when said running is manifestly in our self-interest).

Wednesday Rep. Rahm Emanuel, head of the House Democratic campaign committee, said: “This shows what blind loyalty to George Bush and being his love child means.” Pretty clever. But the mindset that outputs humor like that is likely to produce a politics that rubs swing voters the wrong way in, say, Ohio. ~Daniel Henninger

Um, would that be the same Ohio where party loyalist and war supporter Mike “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Constitution” DeWine trails Sherrod Brown by eight points in a state that Mr. Bush won two years ago?  Granted that Ohio GOP woes have a lot to do with local problems and the self-inflicted wounds of the most corrupt state party in the nation (okay, you got me, the Illinois GOP is the most corrupt state party), these numbers say a lot about voter dissatisfaction and resentment against the current majority. 

You get the sense in all of the shrill attacks on Lamont for his alleged McGovernism that these people know that the public is fed up to here with the deceit and abuses of GOP rule, so they are hoping to bludgeon the public back in their direction by imputing some sort of strategic blindness to people who think that depriving al Qaeda of its chief recruiting tool and greatest symbol–a Western occupation at the heart of the Islamic world–might be a wise move.  But the warnings against McGovernite electoral weakness don’t ring true here–there is real fear that when offered a choice to leave Iraq or to stay the public will choose the former, and if the people choose that option the deceitful Republican media will have a difficult time spinning it as a lack in patriotism or insufficient concern about national security. 

What the British plane plot shows, incidentally, is that branches of al Qaeda (which is who I’m assuming was behind this for the moment) continue to go about their business much as they had before Iraq and that invading Iraq has not only made no positive contributions to fighting al Qaeda it has manifestly weakened us.  To listen to the rhetoric of people like Henninger I would almost be inclined to draw the conclusion that people who continue to support the war don’t care about our national security and have no idea what would be best for the nation–but that would be the sort of scurrilous, repulsive accusation that only a Wall Street Journal hack would make.

Yes, we know; they support the war on terror but are merely against George Bush’s war in Iraq. How does that work? ~Daniel Henninger

Perhaps much the same way that one might have supported the war against Spain but found it highly objectionable to annex the Philippines and crush the native insurrection there, since that had nothing to do with the aims of the original war and was actually entirely unjustified.  But that is too generous to people who put out such tripe–it assumes that there is any legitimate relationship between the two things.  In fact, people oppose Iraq and support the war against al Qaeda in the way that someone might have opposed attacking France in the middle of the Mexican War.  Since the two have literally nothing to do with one another, as I would like to think a growing number of Americans are beginning to understand (even if half still think Iraq had WMDs!), questions like this one remain part of the same dishonest attempt to tie Iraq to the broader war that is still necessary and worth waging.  You might expect as much from someone who thinks that a free and fair election result is equivalent to the “knifing of Joe Lieberman.” 

These people can keep trotting out their one-trick pony of crying “war on terror! national security!” everytime they are in a tight spot and everytime they screw up, but that act is old and it convinces fewer and fewer people.  A reckoning is coming for them, and not a moment too soon. 

That doesn’t mean it will inevitably spiral out of control. The wars of the Balkans in the 1990s were civil wars as well, but the West managed to intervene to promote a stable, if imperfect, settlement that ended the killings and prevented the violence from spreading more widely. ~National Review

Part of the problem here rests with the failure to use precise definitions of what constitutes a civil war.  People seem to use the phrase to refer to everything from a battle for control of one polity (as in, say, Spain, c. 1936-38) to secessionist wars (such as the War of Secession, 1861-65) to irregular guerrilla insurgency to sectarian bloodletting.  What is essential to the definition of “civil war” is that it is a fight between citizens of the same polity–in this sense, Iraq clearly is enduring a civil war, whereas Yugoslavia in the ’90s was by and large, as far as most of the belligerents were concerned, not.  Unlike, say, a Roman civil war, the secessionists were not trying to take Belgrade and create a new Yugoslavia more to their liking, but to get out all together.  This may seem pedantic, but false definitions lead to false concepts and false understanding.

Now I know that history isn’t necessarily the strong suit of the editors at NR (perhaps Condi, the “student of history,” could help them out from time to time), but could they have made a less accurate description of the fighting in Yugoslavia in the 1990s?  There were secessionist wars all over Yugoslavia, and there were attempts throughout the decade to prevent secession in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, but let’s remember a couple other things about the “civil wars” of the Balkans: it was the West, starting with Germany and then coming to include the U.S., that encouraged and then legitimised the secession of Slovenia and Croatia in 1991 and then did the same thing again with Bosnia in 1992.  It was the West that legitimised the seceding republics’ actions and turned the conflict overnight into an international war.  It was the West, and particularly the U.S., that insisted on supporting the unitary state of Bosnia when its constituent populations wanted to secede from that state.  In short early Western involvement precipitated the break-up of Yugoslavia, ensured that it became an international conflict and also sustained the most vicious fighting in Bosnia through Western support for the government of Sarajevo.  Then later, once the region had calmed down somewhat, NATO aided secessionist insurgents in Kosovo in their drive to break away from Serbia.  So whatever else the West may have done in the interim to patch up the country that it helped to destroy, it is hardly an encouraging precedent or model for what the future holds for Iraq policy.  

“Guimul” (“The Host”) is a monster movie, and a monster hit, drawing a record audience of 6 million — equivalent to one in eight South Koreans — in its first 11 days. It’s about a child-snatching mutant that rears up into Seoul out of the Han River, spawned by toxic fluid carelessly discharged from — guess where — an American military base.

Harmless fiction? Not quite. The director, Bong Joon-ho, says he based it on an incident in 2000 when a mortician with the United States military was arrested over a discharge of formaldehyde. Though the incident was regrettable, the uproar it created was out of proportion. There was no lasting pollution, much less any monsters.

But the theme rumbles on. The United States is returning 59 military bases to South Korea, which has complained that many have unacceptable soil pollution (Washington says it’s being held to an unfair standard). The allies have been wrangling for two years about who will clean up. ~Aidan Foster-Carter, The New York Times

Does anyone see a pattern in anti-American themes cropping up in the popular culture of allied nations, particularly those where we have large military deployments?  In Turkey, people read Metal Storm and cheer the hero as he nukes Washington.  In South Korea, people watch Guimul and think, “You know, this is just the sort of thing that happens all the time because of the Americans.”  (No, I don’t think they actually believe that U.S. military pollution spawns monsters, although to judge from their modern cinema I wouldn’t rule it out completely.)  Now I know it will sound terribly McGovernite (or is it Buchananite?), but perhaps the reason why South Koreans can no longer see the danger in front of their noses in North Korea is because they have become deeply resentful of the presence of U.S. forces there; that seems to me to be one excellent reason to move those forces elsewhere or, better yet, bring them home.  Of course, the McCain-Lieberman Party will not approve, so it must be a crazy and extremist idea.

And then came the election. Final pre-election polls showed my coalition in the lead or tied with Mr. Calderón’s National Action Party. I believe that on election day there was direct manipulation of votes and tally sheets. Irregularities were apparent in tens of thousands of tally sheets. Without a crystal-clear recount, Mexico will have a president who lacks the moral authority to govern.

Public opinion backs this diagnosis. Polls show that at least a third of Mexican voters believe the election was fraudulent and nearly half support a full recount. ~Manuel Lopez Obrador, The New York Times

Now, think back a couple years to a scene of massed protesters demanding a recount in an allegedly fraudulent election in which the poor, longsuffering forces of Yushchenko were disenfranchised and denied victory.  The West was outraged.  Fraud in a democratic electionWe must support democracy in Ukraine against an oppressive and corrupt oligarchy

Of course, when it comes to taking seriously complaints of fraud in Mexico, which is ruled by none other than a corrupt and some might say rather oppressive oligarchy, the same governments who made the cause of the ridiculous, criminal Yushchenko their own have nothing much to say.  It probably doesn’t hurt that PAN rule suits Western interests perfectly or that Obrador’s left-wing populism horrifies members of the “McCain-Lieberman Party” up here; it probably doesn’t hurt that the concern for the integrity of Ukrainian democracy was a sham or that Yushchenko’s “revolution” was a none too subtle U.S.-backed effort to topple a pro-Russian government in ex-Soviet space.  However, if a large part of the Mexican population believes the election to be illegitimate, that creates a real danger of political instability on our southern border that is a lot more important than whether a criminal lush gets to be president in Kiev.  If Obrador has genuinely lost, as most outside observers have already assumed (indeed, who has been paying any attention to Mexico in the last month?)and as I would be happy to see, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have that verified beyond any reasonable doubt to prevent Mexico from descending into political unrest that will only aggravate the already significant flow of immigrants into the United States while also worsening conditions in Mexico.     

Take a look at Thomas Ricks’s “Fiasco,” the best account yet of how the U.S. occupation of Iraq was mismanaged. The prime villain in that book is Donald Rumsfeld, whose delusional thinking and penchant for power games undermined whatever chances for success the United States might have had. Then read Mr. Lieberman’s May 2004 op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, “Let Us Have Faith,” in which he urged Mr. Rumsfeld not to resign over the Abu Ghraib scandal, because his removal “would delight foreign and domestic opponents of America’s presence in Iraq.”

And that’s just one example of Mr. Lieberman’s bad judgment. He has been wrong at every step of the march into the Iraq quagmire — all the while accusing anyone who disagreed with him of endangering national security. Again, on what planet would Mr. Lieberman be considered “sensible”? But I know the answer: on Planet Beltway. ~Paul Krugman, The New York Times (sorry, NYT Select)

“Sensible,” like another euphemism in Washingtonese, “responsible,” is a word that can cover all manner of sins.  Typically it means that you accommodate yourself to the prevailing wisdom of the establishment, even when that view has ceased to be conventional wisdom everywhere else (normally because it has been shown to be horribly wrong), and do not turn on the establishment when times get tough.  Sensible men are, as Francis Urquhart might say, “sound men,” who will follow wherever they’re led.  Normally it is people like Francis Urquhart who put a high premium of this sort of “sensibility,” because it is useful to their scheming and not because it has any relationship to common sense.  People who say Joe Lieberman is “sensible” are probably likewise up to no good, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

For starters, Lamont is neither a radical leftist nor a single-cause campaigner. Why, he’s not even in favor of the domestic issue that often separates lefty true believers from pragmatic progressives: single-payer healthcare. Instead, he’s an employer-mandate man. If it’s true he is largely a political neophyte, he’s also a successful entrepreneur and a personality type comfortable for Connecticut: the gregarious prepster. ~Scott Lehigh, The Boston Globe

As I noted yesterday, pegging Lamont as a far-left radical just never tracked.  How is it that Lieberman thought Lamont’s real political weakness was his supposedly racially-insensitive country club membership if he represented the wild and wooly denizens of the fringe?  Country club folks of both parties will probably have less severe or hard-line politics than those that would be associated with the stereotypical leftist radical, even if they have more conventionally liberal views on a host of cultural and social issues.  Nothing can ruin a nice drinks party like a monomaniac ranting about social injustice or imperialism.  But, conventional liberal or no, Lamont is not simply some empty suit or a rabid left-wing maniac from the perfervid nightmares of David Brooks (his bourgeois bohemians have lashed out against the war, and he’s feeling grumpy!).  Lamont is definitely an opponent of the ungodly “McCain-Lieberman Party,” which, if it really existed, would be the concentration of most of what was wrong with our political life in one toxic dose.  (By the way, what in the world is the “Sunni-Shiite style of politics” and what does it have to do with Connecticut or America?  Did Lamont’s militia kill Lieberman’s supporters in Bridgeport while no one was looking?)  

Contrast the bitterness and smug superiority of the McCain-Lieberman duo (what a pair!) with Lamont.  Here, for example, is his appearance on the Report, where you will find someone who espouses the usual liberal platitudes about “reinvesting in America,” but who also expresses the basic sentiment that the war is not serving the American people or the national interest.  On this, if on nothing else, he is absolutely right and he does not deliver it in the Markos Moulitsas-foaming-at-mouth style but makes instead a measured, reasonable critique of disastrous policies.  It is difficult not to like Lamont at least a little, and not just because his opponent’s new allies are some of the lowest of the low.  He reminds me, at least at a superficial level, of Russ Feingold, who is one of the few Democratic Senators to consistently oppose Bush administration usurpations of Congress’ authority and violations of the Constitution.  Connecticut could do a lot worse–and for the last 18 years it has done. 

Just consider, on the most superficial level, the tone of the two candidates–who comes across as the more optimistic (supposedly a feature sorely lacking on the wacky left, but obviously omnipresent among the “gloomy hawks” of the GOP)?  The GOP doesn’t seem to care about that anymore.  It is now simply the party of war and the party of the smear, the party of baseless accusations and the odd rhetorical and political bastinado for those who object.

Whatever else it may be, this is a war between palpable unequals: a giant nuclear-armed power with the most advanced western military hardware and a potential ground force of up to 650,000 trained men, against a tiny third-world guerrilla force of around 5,000 fighters, armed largely with second-hand former eastern bloc hardware (the first Katyusha rockets were developed in the early 1940s) and castoffs from Iran and Syria.

The idea that the latter can pose an existential threat to the former, under any foreseeable circumstances, is risible at best and disingenuous at worst. While it can hardly be comfortable for northern Israel’s civilian population to be forced into shelters for four weeks, the physical safety of the overwhelming majority - unlike that of their counterparts in much of Lebanon - has never been seriously at stake. And while Hizbullah’s supposed targeting of Israeli civilians has yielded relatively few victims, Israel’s repeated “mistakes” in Lebanon have maintained a civilian death rate of about 100 Lebanese to every three Israelis. The opposite side of this coin is that while Israel’s hi-tech “surgical strikes” have killed hundreds more civilians than Hizbullah fighters, the Lebanese resistance’s low-tech weapons have killed about three times as many Israeli soldiers as civilians. ~Ahmad Samih Khalidi, The Guardian

This new Congressional Quarterly assessment of the race ratings of a number of contests across the country show that the GOP is still losing ground going into campaigning season.  This includes a weakening in the prospects of the GOP holding two of the three Republican districts in Connecticut.  Shays’ race is now considered a toss-up, and Johnson’s rating has been downgraded to Republican-leaning rather than favoured.  Those are the ones that are supposed to be in good shape now that the GOP is kissing up to Lieberman and tying themselves to his sinking ship.  Their candidates elsewhere do not seem to be having any more luck.

When you read and write as many words as someone with my acute case of logorrhea does, certain words begin to bother you because of the frequency with which people use them, often seemingly unaware of how bizarre or cacophonous they sound.  Two of these are nowadays commonplace, the third is beginning to make the rounds (unfortunately) and the fourth is a technical scholarly term that is fairly obscure but deserving of scorn all the same.  These are Islamofascist, Judeo-Christian, theoconservative and miaphysite. Read the rest of this entry »

But more important than what the loss says about the parties involved is the opportunity it may bring for serious alternatives in 2008. If Lieberman wins the general election as an independent, it could be a galvanizing force for the silent majority of voters standing between two party extremes. This momentum could very well produce an independent presidential ticket from one or both sides of the aisle.

Imagine the possibilities: Giuliani-Lieberman, McCain-Rodham Clinton, Biden-Gingrich? OK, that last one’s a little far-fetched. But the idea of center-right and center-left coming together is not. The center-left is anxious to distance itself from the more pacifist elements in the party. On the right, a once stable bridge between libertarians and social conservatives is now on fire as a result of the Bush administration’s embrace of big government and congressional Republicans’ obsession with constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and flag burning. ~Michael Van Winkle, The Chicago Tribune

Does the “silent majority” want more and more wars?  A McCain-Clinton ticket would make sure they got them!  I don’t know which combination listed above horrifies me more.  The convergence of the the “hawkish” wings of the two parties suggests to me that any combination of two such hawks on the same ticket would mark out any new “centrist” position as one made up of hegemonism, an ideological nationalism and a constant desire to resort to military action to fight the latest incarnation of Hitler.  It would be a party built around little more than the aggrandisement of government power and the reckless projection of power into places where have no business being.  If that is “moderation,” “extremism” is not only preferable but becomes positively virtuous.  

Lebanon who has just gone through its much celebrated Cedar Revolution, getting Syria to withdraw its military troops from the country, followed by the holing open democratic parliamentary elections and the gradual strengthening of its economy, has now been transformed into an basket case, with its two major economic sectors, tourism and commerce, totally destroyed. Best case scenario: A long process of economic rebuilding and political reconciliation that would involve the disarming of Hizbollah. Worst case scenario: The country collapses into another long and bloody civil war that helps Hizbollah establish gain more power.
Even if Israel succeeds in destroying the Hizbollah’s military infrastructure in southern Lebanon, it will find itself in a more vulnerable position in the Middle East. Not only would it find itself confronting a more hostile Arabs world, but its failure to win the military confrontation with Hizbollah in a swift manner – this is the nation with a military that had defeated thee Arab countries in six days in 1967 — is bound to raise major questions about its ability to deter future challenges to its survival by non-state groups as well as states in the region. American leaders are also going to begin questioning their long-held axiom that Israel is a “strategic asset” of the United States in the Middle East. Some would argue that it proved to be a “burden” for U.S. interests this time.
Hizbollah may have gained some short-term benefits from the crisis as Arabs and Moslems hail its success in standing up to mighty Israel. But the Lebanese-Shiite militias will be blamed by many Lebanese for the destruction of their country, a sentiment that could increase pressure on the Hizbollah to disarm. A refusal to do that by the militias could lead about a civil war in which the militias could find itself isolated and unable to count on outside aid. If anything, Hizbollah could prove to be the weakest link in a Shiite Crescent led by Iran and backed by a Shiite-led Iraq. ~Leon Hadar

No one knows for certain what the world will look like in detail in three years’ time, but the challenges that we will face are already reasonably clear and it is necessary for the Conservative party to spell out its strategy and analysis. Put simply, we will need a foreign policy that is Conservative and not neo-Conservative, principled but not ideological, and rooted in the real world of cultural diversity and competing interests.


But the Conservative party needs to part company with Blair in three crucial respects. First, there must be a clear recognition that the invasion of Iraq was a serious mistake that has helped the terrorists. It has also made Iran the power in the Gulf. While the government may be in denial, there is no need for the Conservative party to be. That does not mean, however, that British troops should be withdrawn from Iraq. It is essential that they remain there as long as their presence might help the Iraqis.

Secondly, Conservatives should not accept Blair’s simplistic belief that all Muslim terrorism is part of a single plot. Conservatives are rightly suspicious of a Manichaean division of the world into good and bad; terrorist and freedom-loving. The war in Chechnya, for example, is between Chechen nationalists and Russian nationalists, not between terror and freedom. The same applies to Kashmir.

The Israeli–Palestinian issue is also much more than a battle against Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism. As Yitzhak Rabin, a former general, realised, it will require a political not a military solution. Ignoring the complexity of terrorism does little to resolve the problems.

Thirdly, Conservatives should reject a philosophy of pre-emptive wars (or, as Blair prefers to call it, liberal interventionism) fought by ‘coalitions of the willing’. The alternative is not, as he implies, a policy of appeasement, nor one of indifference. War should only be initiated either if we are attacked, as with the Falklands, or if we have a treaty obligation, as with Poland in 1939. The only other circumstance where war should be acceptable for Conservatives is when there is a serious threat to the international community and no other remedy is available. This would normally require the approval of the UN Security Council, but we cannot always allow the single veto of China or Russia to prevent action supported by the rest. It was Aneurin Bevan who remarked that the one thing worse than my country right or wrong is ‘the United Nations right or wrong’.

The absence of UN approval should, however, require not a coalition of the willing but a ‘coalition of the relevant’. Estonia and the other minor states that the United States assembled for the Iraq war enhanced neither its legitimacy nor its acceptability. If, however, as with the Gulf war, neighbouring countries such as Egypt and Turkey had been part of the coalition, it would have demonstrated that Saddam was seen by his potential victims as a threat.

So a Conservative government should not offer unconditional support to the United States, but be willing to support military action when necessary, either under UN auspices or when a coalition of relevant countries believes that there is a grave threat that needs to be countered. ~Malcolm Rifkind, The Spectator

This is a quality article expressing a rational foreign policy view and a wise emphasis on the British interest, which may not always be the American interest.  It offers some mild encouragement that the Tories still retain some granule of collective common sense (in spite of selecting Cameron as leader).  Unfortunately I fear that Sir Malcolm will have a rather hard time convincing the party leaders to follow this path. 

Under David “Look at My Nice Bicycle!” Cameron the Tories will have none of this sort of sensible thinking on foreign policy.  Ever since Hague the bungler was in charge of the party there has been an increasing Republicanisation of the Tories that must make its older members rather ill, especially considering that Red Republicanism is not quite the sort of American export they experienced when Reagan was in office, and with this has gone not only an idiotic embrace of “compassionate conservatism” (also Hague’s doing) but increasingly neoconservative foreign policy positions as well.  When 70% of Britons opposed entry into the Iraq war, the Tories under Michael Howard were, if anything, more ineffectual and gutless under the new manager than they had been under the unremarkable nebbishes who had preceded him.  Tory skepticism was, like its American cousin, pushed to the backbenches and told to shut up.  So much for Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.  Sir Malcolm offers a credible alternative to the neocon/New Labour glop that Americans and Britons alike have been forced to accept.  Mr. Cameron ought to stop riding his bicycle for a moment and listen up.


In practice, this results in aerial tactics which are in no major way different from those used by Nato against Yugoslavia in 1999. In Lebanon, the IDF’s aim (to coerce a foreign power by inflicting intolerable damage on its national infrastructure), the targets (roads, bridges, TV stations, and so forth), and the consequences (roughly similar numbers of innocent deaths given the comparable length of the combat), are very similar. Those who oppose Israel today but supported Nato in 1999 perhaps need to reconsider either their current opposition or their previous support. ~Paul Robinson, The Spectator

Likewise those who questioned or criticised the consequences of the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 ought to reconsider seriously whether Lebanon is not very much like the campaign they wanted to criticise in the past.  It is interesting that Mr. Robinson should cite this example, which some people think has no bearing on the matter and which scarcely anyone else but myself has invoked since the war in Lebanon began, since my view of the two conflicts has been that they are strikingly similar in their unnecessary endangerment of civilian lives and the relatively weak justifications that have been invoked to wage the campaigns as they have been waged.  Mr. Robinson’s entire article is a very intelligent consideration of the different sides of the question of proportionality, and he concludes with a valuable point:

The result of putting this ethic into practice may thus be increased opposition to the state. Perhaps, therefore, the question we should be asking of Israeli actions is not so much whether they are moral as whether they are wise.

But there is something that seems missing in the context, and I think this is a reason that some are having a hard time taking what is being said from the Vatican with the seriousness it deserves. For whatever reason, only part of the big picture is being painted - there are reasons  for the violence and terrorism that stand in oppoosition to the Gospel on every level.

So when people struggle with this, I think what they are saying is this: This is not a doctrinal issue, but we know we should still be taking the Pope seriously on this, and we want to. He has a perspective none of us as individuals have, and in his attention to global, rather than nationalistic, priorities, he teaches and challenges us. But in the statements, we don’t hear the foundations of the weight of the present threats and conflicts addressed, some of which concerns fundamental human rights of freedom and justice. So how can we receive this as a prudential judgment we should take seriously if we don’t hear all of the elements of the situation addressed? ~Amy Welborn

Via Rod Dreher

Now I am not a Catholic, so perhaps that disqualifies me from saying something about this, but what I have found striking about Pope Benedict XVI’s response to the war in Lebanon is his sense of equanimity and justice.  Like Benedict XV, I think it is fair to say that the current Pope has worked to “preserve complete impartiality in relation to all the belligerents, as is appropriate to him who is the common father and who loves all his children with equal affection.”  In this approach that eschews taking sides, I think it is also fair to say that the current Pope has worked ”to endeavour constantly to do all the most possible good, without personal exceptions and without national or religious distinctions, a duty which the universal law of charity, as well as the supreme spiritual charge entrusted to Us by Christ, dictates to Us.”  As I read over Benedict XV’s statement, he is certainly making many recommendations for how to resolve particular problems (the authority of the Pope was, at least in some countries, still something fairly potent even during the insanity of the Great War),  but I see none of the deep structural or causal analysis of why the war happened in the first place that Ms. Welborn seems to be looking for.  I suspect that the modern Vatican is reluctant to make specific proposals, because even when it ventures to speak on questions of war and peace in any way its statements are frequently dismissed as ultimately irrelevant (it is up to the “prudential judgement of the magistrate!”).  More than that I suspect it is doubly reluctant to weigh in on theorising about the causes of violence in the way that Ms. Welborn seems to want.  From a Christian perspective, the causes of violence are always in the corruption of human will and intention away from the goods proper to his nature–everything else is ultimately secondary and incidental–and the remedy for this disordered will is the proper mix of charity and justice.  It is the bishop’s task to exhort and teach what the Gospel tells us, particularly with respect to mercy and charity in circumstances such as these, and from what I have seen this is what Pope Benedict has done.  He has held both parties accountable because both are accountable, and he has excused the crimes of neither side.  He has summoned them to make peace, and they have, predictably enough, ignored him.  If we expect Pope Benedict to speak in terms of the narrative that we use to describe events in the Near East, or expect him to categorise the problem in the terms to which we are accustomed, we are likely to be repeatedly disappointed.  At bottom, people dissatisfied with Pope Benedict’s stance on this war seem to want him to take sides in some small way, and I do not believe he believes himself free to do that and I expect that he would believe such an approach would be unwise and possibly detrimental to the establishment of peace.  That is my speculation on why the Vatican has not been more forthcoming in its criticism of the role of Islam in all of this and why the response may seem lacking. 

“I’m worried that too many people, both in politics and out, don’t appreciate the seriousness of the threat to American security and the evil of the enemy that faces us — more evil or as evil as Nazism and probably more dangerous that the Soviet Communists we fought during the long Cold War,” Lieberman said. ~AP

Show me a man who thinks Sunni insurgents or al-Qaeda jihadis are more dangerous than the USSR, and I’ll show you a man with no sense of proportion.  And he calls antiwar people extremists? 

Cap seems to be displeased with the return of the politics of polarisation.



Superman, as you can see, is clearly one of those fringe Lamont voters and works for  Moderate Democrats, watch out!

Hat tip to Michael Brendan Dougherty for inspiring this post.

I’m a student of history, so perhaps I have a little more patience with enormous change in the international system. It’s a big shifting of tectonic plates, and I don’t expect it to happen in a few days or even in a year. ~Condoleeza Rice

Via Fred Kaplan

Mr. Kaplan has been on a tear lately, giving Dobleve and Condi a considerable amount of grief over their bungled response to Lebanon.  He has a great collection of Condi’s History Moments, where she literally begins each thought with, “I’m a student of history…”  To someone who actually studies history, people who say, “I’m a student of history” come off sounding as ignorant as people who say, “But some of my best friends are…” sound, well…you get the picture.  It’s like the manager from The Office assuring everyone that he has a plan to get them out of working weekends, when he’s just saying that to seem managerial.  Condi says, “I’m a student of history” so she can seem intellectually respectable (and reassure a jittery crowd that at least somebody in that confounded administration has bothered to pay a little attention to history–not that it has made a bit of difference).  

It is part of the administration’s style.  Mr. Bush’s favourite riposte is usually the uninformative, “I just strongly disagree.”  No reason, no explanation–he just disagrees, and that’s all you need to know, thanks very much.  Rumsfeld will respond to every incisive, biting question by appearing flabbergasted that he has to put up with these whippersnapper reporters at his age and begins every sentence with a sigh and says, “Goodness, what sort of a question is that?”  Classic stuff.  Will we miss them when they’re gone?  Well, no. 

Kaplan digs in even deeper:

The point is, we see a pattern emerging, in which Condoleezza Rice (Ph.D., Graduate School of International Studies, University of Denver) invokes her academic credentials to evade responsibility for decisions that she’s made or for policies that she’s helped devise.

Was her administration’s strategy in Iraq disastrous? Well, she says, it may seem so now, but History may deem otherwise, may even regard the strategy as brilliant. Did her administration err in letting Osama escape at Tora Bora? Oh, it’s a waste of time to pass judgment now; History will render a verdict after I’ve retired or died. Was it smart to let Israel escalate the war on Hezbollah? Patience, please; tectonic plates take weeks, months, years, decades, eons to settle.

It’s really a pity Fukuyama has jumped off the neoconservative ship, because he could really have fun with this crowd.  Condi could say, “I’m a student of history…” and Fukuyama could chime in, with a girlish giggle, “Really?  So am I!  What direction do you think History is going?  I think it’s going up.”  Then they could debate–dialectically, of course–the merits of teleologically overdetermined theories of history and retire to the parlour for drinks while Lebanon burns.  Let History be the judge of that. 

What exactly are we hoping for? I somehow doubt that after Bush the neos, paleos, movementarians, and libertarians are going to just kiss and make up and pretend that opposition means “Happy days are here again! Let’s pick on George Soros as we pick daisies together. ” ~Michael Brendan Dougherty

Michael makes several good points.  Of course, the Dems cannot be trusted, and given half a chance they would start bombing Sudan…or Burma (sorry, SLORC, I mean Myanmar!)…or whatever country they happened to see on the latest Children’s Fund ad.  They might prefer to target Christian countries under attack from Muslims and get back to the good old days of “crushing Serb skulls,” but there are relatively few conflicts that they can meddle in where this would be possible.  But they are not to be trusted for a second, least of all on foreign policy.  Nolite confidere in principibus, don’t you know.  Or, as our Greek Orthodox friends would say, Mi pepoithate ep’archontas.

This is because most of their foreign policy set, whether currently antiwar, “realist,” “progressive realist,” “really progressive” or DLC hack, have a view of America’s role in the world at least as misguided, if perhaps slightly less bloodthirsty for the moment on the whole, as anything the boys from the Standard have thrown our way.  My hopes are fairly modest, and I do not look forward to the new, bad government that will succeed the current, bad government.  I have no expectation that Democratic victory in ‘06 or ‘08 will make anything much better at all, but I do think it is essential to have some kind of accountability and punishment for such astounding misrule and abuse of power if any modicum, any particle of even remotely sane representative government is to survive the decade.  If there is some price for such reckless adventurism, overspending and contempt for the law this might serve to restrain the future tyrants a little.  That, in all its pessimism, is what I’m hoping for.  If there are still any conservatives out there, returning for a little chastening in the wilderness might shake them out of their doldrums and make them into a more serious force than they have been.  I find it very mildly encouraging that Pat Toomey seems to be shaking things up and has succeeded in pushing one of Bush’s anointed candidates out of the picture; it’s also a nice little bit of payback for Toomey.

Now, on immigration Michael has a very strong point, and this is a pickle.  If the Democrats take the House Bush might get the Senate bill he wants and would have a chance to sign it.  That is a real problem, but that is the battle that will have to be fought then.  When enough lobbyists and interested parties wanted to kill the health care bill in ‘93, the GOP minority managed to scrounge up enough opposition to it to stop it.  If put in the same position, perhaps they can kill any amnesty that comes down the line.  The idea is immensely unpopular, and if you can decode the jargon about “comprehensive immigration reform,” so that ordinary folks know that this means amnesty, you will see a surge of resistance.  A Dem-controlled House is a significant problem on this question, but these are the sorts of problems you are bound to have when the party of Immigration, Imperialism and Insolvency is up against the party of Lots and Lots of Immigration and Insolvency. 

The crucial thing this year and next would have to be preventing/countering the WSJ/Standard/FoxNews axis from spinning a GOP loss in the House as a repudiation of an anti-immigration stance, because you know that will be part of the official narrative.  “If only we had had more Hispanic voters, we might have been able to hold NM-1!” they will lament.  On that score, I believe Heather’s disenchanted Anglo voters are sharpening their figurative knives for Election Day, but that won’t matter to the spinners.  Opponents of amnesty have got to be ready in advance for that sort of nonsense–it will be post-Prop. 187 all over again. 

Incidentally, this is how the Lieberman enthusiasm fits in–by pretending that this is a fight for the “sensible center” against wacky extremists the neocons are trying to frame the argument against both antiwar folks on the left and anti-immigration people on the right, because they quite rightly see both as serious threats to themselves.  It’s more of that unruly populism, and they want to nip that in the bud.

There is no antiwar Right, at least not beyond the very limited number of contributors to and readers of magazines like Chronicles and The American Conservative. We could all fit into a college football stadium and still have plenty of seats to spare. There is, to be sure, a conservative intellectual tradition critical of war and militarism that outshines anything the belligerent Right or neoconservatives can offer. To one extent or another, Richard Weaver, Robert Nisbet, Michael Oakeshott, John Lukacs, and Russell Kirk are all in the anti-militarist camp. Up to a point, right-wing militarists can be brought around to the side of peace and nonintervention by showing them that the best conservative arguments are against war, especially total war, and a quasi-imperial foreign policy. But the number of conservatives who are smart enough to understand such arguments, or interested enough to listen, is very small indeed.

It gets steadily harder to deny that militarism is the sine qua non of “conservatism” as it is actually practiced in America. So perhaps Lieberman’s bedfellows are not so strange as they might appear, regardless of whether Lamont or any of the rest of us who oppose this stupid bloody war are “far Left” or not. ~Daniel McCarthy

I’d like to be able to say that there was more of a constituency out there for the antiwar Right, that there are just hordes of real conservatives waiting to be shown the right path or waiting to be woken out of their stupour, but it isn’t so and I think I realised that it wasn’t so after ‘04.  The Khaki Elections of ‘02 and ‘04 confirmed a lot of my suspicions. 

For one thing, it confirmed that trusting the good sense of the people was a bad idea; for another, that there is no policy so misguided that it will not win public approval at the time if it is dressed up as something that will enhance “security”; finally, that there are very few conservatives left whom any of the men Mr. McCarthy mentions would recognise as such, which means that there are very few left period.  That is not really meant as an accusation here, but simply an observation.   

We are seeing the divide that Prof. Lukacs has been talking about for years (and I’m paraphrasing more than a little here)–the split between patriots and nationalists, people who prefer the village common, so to speak, to concrete jungles and those who would rather walk down Main Street to the neighbourhood shops than drive thirty minutes to Wal-Mart to save $5.  These groups might not all perfectly overlap, but they are likely to cross paths more often than not.  In my experience, I routinely find myself more in sympathy with my green and “far-left” friends (and I tend to have far more friends of this stripe), most of whom have probably identified with the “far-left” because they were unaware that there was a humane, decent and moral alternative on the Right now or ever–and no wonder they didn’t know about it, considering what passes for the mainstream of conservatism.  They are typically among the more sane and decent people I know.  Obviously, we are not in agreement on everything, and they can no more really understand my religion than I understand their enthusiasm for activism, but there is a surprising amount of common ground for people who are supposed to be diametrically opposed to one another. 

As it happens, I am fairly sure that Lamont is a pretty conventional liberal Democrat in most respects, and while he is against the Iraq war (and good for him that he is) his other policy positions on foreign and domestic affairs are perfectly routine and predictable–they might as well come out of the “consensus” script.  This is especially why the charges of far-left extremism are a joke–not only is it no longer “far-left” or “far-right” to oppose the Iraq war (if 60% oppose the war, that makes the “moderates” into the oddballs), but Ned Lamont hardly fits the former label in any sense.  I know a number of far leftists, far leftists are friends of mine, and Mr. Lamont is not one of them.  But on Iraq, at least, he is a lot closer to them–and to me–than the shrieking banshees who are howling about poor Joe Lieberman, which would tend to put him in more of the “patriot” than “nationalist” camp and that seems like a very good place to be.  

This vast city of seven million people, almost the size of London, is breaking up into a dozen cities, each one of which is becoming a heavily armed Shia or Sunni stronghold. Every morning brings its terrible harvest of bodies. Many lie in the street for hours, bloating in the 120F heat, while others are found floating in the Tigris river.

In June, 1,595 bodies, often tortured with an electric drill or by fire, were delivered to the Baghdad morgue. In July, the violence was far worse.

In all of Iraq, in June, 3,149 civilians are known to have been killed, more in one month than the total death toll in Northern Ireland in 30 years of violence. ~Patrick Cockburn


The time of the bomb is in the past, it’s behind us. Today is the era of thoughts, dialogue and cultural exchanges. ~Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

If Ahmadinejad were running for Senate in the United States, this is the sort of rhetoric that would get him tarred as a hippie McGovernite!

The power of the anti-war sentiment was highlighted by the defeat Tuesday of Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary, as well as by a new CNN poll showing that 60 percent of Americans oppose the Iraq war, the strongest opposition since the war began in March 2003. ~The Chicago Tribune

Ancestry plays a complex role in American electoral alignments. While not the primary structuring mechanism, long held attachments help structure political conflict and attitudes in ways that continue to resonate long after immigrant populations have settled. In this election we see those old ties still having their way with the structure of political choices. ~Charles Franklin, Political Arithmetik

For those just dying to have statistical breakdowns of the Lieberman-Lamont race, Franklin’s site is a good place to go.  He investigates how the vote broke down along areas with different ethnic concentrations.  Lamont seemed to do best in the “English” and German-concentrated areas, and Lieberman did best in the ethnic Italian and Polish areas, so to some degree this really was an old American/new American split.

According to Wall Street Journal polls, the anti-incumbent mood in the 2006 cycle mirrors that of the 1994 midterm election in which Democrats lost control of both chambers of Congress. In the latest Journal/NBC News survey, 38% of voters said their representative “deserves re-election,” while 48% said it is “time to give a new person a chance.” Such numbers have in the past been a good indicator of a coming congressional shake-up. ~The Wall Street Journal

“I think it would be irresponsible and inconsistent with my principles if I were to just walk off the field.” ~Joe Lieberman

Apparently chief among those principles is getting re-elected, no matter what you have to do to make it happen.  In other responses to decreasing Joementum, the Boston Globe smacked Lieberman around for his “polarisation” rhetoric and the ridiculous Kennedy and dessicated Kerry made their pitches for Lamont.  Normally I would not dwell this long on a primary race in a state with which I have no connection and in a party that I generally hold in contempt, but the jingoes have made this one of the decisive contests of the year and their repudiation counts for something.

Why did the pilot target this particular house [in Qana]? I don’t know. What can be said is that the overall level of civilian casualties indicates that the air campaign is being fought with nothing like the precision and carefulness that Israel has claimed [italics added]. Certainly the civilians I have spoken to who have been attacked in their vehicle convoys — and there have been many [italics added] — would find it impossible to accept such an assertion.


We are good people. What have we done to them?’ one Maronite woman asked as we both cowered under Israeli shelling in the largely Christian village of Rmeich. A few minutes earlier I had descended into the basement of the church of St George to find several hundred terrified and hungry refugees. Many Christians do not like or trust Hezbollah but they are furious at being driven from their homes and at the huge cost in civilian lives. When you are being shelled in your village and then again as you try to flee, you are not inclined to go back along the chain of responsibility and blame Sheikh Nasrallah for ordering the original attack.

The bad news for Mr Bush and Mr Blair is that the people of the ruined villages rail against them too. There was bitter ironic laughter when the American ambassador appeared on television donating humanitar-ian aid for the refugees. It did not escape the notice of the Lebanese that at the very same time the Americans were sending, via Britain, fresh supplies of bombs to be dropped on them by Israel.

No phrase in recent memory has caused so much offence in Lebanon as Condi Rice’s ‘new Middle East’. I have had it thrown in my face by elderly refugees trudging around the massive craters in the roads that lead from the town of Bint Jebiel, a place bombed into the stone age during fighting between the Israelis and Hezbollah. ~Fergal Keane, The Spectator

Mr. Keane’s article has done a good service in firmly rejecting the attempts of apologists to change the story of what happened at Qana. 

It is only natural that Condi’s appalling phrase should cause outrage, as all sane people will be disgusted at having death and destruction likened to birth in the terms of the language of revolutionary fanaticism.  As a matter of rhetoric, it is not much better to say that these are the “birth pangs of the new Middle East” than it is to say about the violent deaths of human beings ”you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.”  Goodness knows what that makes the suffering people of Lebanon in Condi’s mind.

Ned Lamont cannot be feeling a lot of pain right now.  Besides succeeding in the difficult task of toppling an incumbent senator (only four incumbents have lost in a primary in the last 25 years), his adversary has gone slightly mad in his bitterness at the defeat and the establishment press and the neocon running dogs in the media have all come out in praise of his opponent, which only underscores just how much a part of a broken establishment Lieberman is.  Oddly, old Joe seems to think that the oppressive weight on our political process comes from the fringes of the two parties, rather than from the bloated, unresponsive center where “consensus” reigns.  Strangely enough, with the bubbling up of anti-incumbency sentiment all over the country yesterday, no one else seemed to think that the problem was the crazy “fringe” of “extremists” but the tepid, pathetic middle that is most closely identified with the administration and its ruinous policies.  The problem is not that Mr. Lieberman worked with President Bush as such, nor simply that he supported the war, but that he demonstrated no grasp of the concept that he should heed the voters rather than the other way around.  He fell victim to anti-incumbency outrage because he was playing the part of the stereotypically outrageous incumbent.  Had any candidate anywhere differed as sharply with his constituents over a major policy question, he could be expected to be rebuked in just the same way.  That the policy question at issue was one of the worst policies undertaken by the U.S. government in my lifetime only made it worse.  It required a campaign that reeked of hubris and indifference to voters to eliminate the considerable advantages that incumbency brings to a politician, and Mr. Lieberman offered plenty of both.  If it is extremist to expect accountable and answerable politicians, I think quite a lot of people would prefer extremism to whatever it is that is being dished up by the incumbents of both parties.

Figures compiled by the city morgue indicated Wednesday that the number of killings in the Iraqi capital reached a new high last month, and the U.S. military said a new effort to bring security to Baghdad will succeed only if Iraqis “want it to work.”

The Baghdad morgue took in 1,815 bodies during July, news services quoted the facility’s assistant manager, Abdul Razzaq al-Obeidi, as saying. The previous month’s tally was 1,595. Obeidi estimated that as many as 90 percent of the total died violent deaths. ~The Washington Post

1,600 people one month, 1,800 the next, almost all of them violent deaths–what sort of horror will come when the “real” civil war starts?

Whatever the outcome is Tuesday night in the Lamont-Lieberman race, this contest should be remembered for the clear emergence of an ugly and alarming development — namely, the unabashed and undiluted use of anti-Semitism accusations as a partisan tool to win elections. And that tactic is clearly part of a growing right-wing reliance upon the basest and most divisive tactics of identity politics and religious tribalism. ~Gleen Greenwald

I don’t know where Mr. Greenwald got the idea that there has been some great reliance on “identity politics” and “religious tribalism” on the right wing (unless he reflexively identifies neocons with the right wing, which would be silly), but he hits on an important phenomenon: the standard GOP, Weekly Standard and New Republic response to war criticism keeps falling back again and again on this insult to shut people up, but it is having less and less effect as it is used ever more recklessly.  The extension of this tactic, employed against the neocons’ own enemies on the right for decades, to intra-Democratic squabbles reveals the extent to which the neocons’ mentality and methods have begun to seep into the entire political culture.

He thus intoned: “I am disappointed not just because I lost, but because the old politics of partisan polarization won today. For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot and will not let that result stand.” This man of principle “will not let that result stand” — “that result” being the considered decision of the voters whom he has claimed to represent for the last 18 years. ~Glenn Greenwald, Salon

I noted this remark yesterday.  It was remarkable that he would let something like this slip (arguably, it is a poorly phrased statement against partisan polarisation, not against the will of the voters), but perhaps it reflects a deep-seated hatred of his own supporters that no one ever knew about.

With his behavior Tuesday night, Lieberman has turned himself into the most vivid symbol of the insular, arrogant, corrupt and power-desperate Washington establishment, the sheer cravenness and corruption of which are what catalyzed the campaign against him in the first place.

Those who compose that entrenched Beltway power establishment — the endlessly reelected political officials, the hordes of consultants and lobbyists who feed off and control them, and the pampered, self-loving “journalists” who enable it all — are characterized by a single-minded quest to perpetuate their own power, flavored by a thinly masked contempt for the masses on whose behalf this system ostensibly plods along. Lieberman’s conduct last night was a perfect textbook for all of those afflictions.

Like the establishment mavens who rushed to defend him, Lieberman exposed himself as a man driven by a single, overarching motivation — a desperate desire to cling to his source of power, his Senate seat, not because of any political ideals he wants to pursue but solely because of the personal satisfaction, attention and benefits it provides him. Embodying one of the defining attributes of the permanent Beltway class, Lieberman plainly craves — has become addicted to — the petty trappings of his role in the grand Beltway court. The only cause that seems to stir Joe Lieberman to anger, aggression and confrontation is the glorious struggle for Joe Lieberman to cling to his Senate seat. ~Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Via Glenn Greenwald

And in embracing Lieberman so tightly, the GOP has signalled that the only things that matters to it are the war and protecting arrogant incumbents.  If there is any common sense left in the public, they will see through this scam and the GOP will go down to great defeat this year.  Let the fun begin!

…”the old-money way“, even though he is not from old money?  He is from Greenwich, after all.

  • As expected, the war in Iraq played a significant role in the race with “a significant majority” of primary voters saying they disapproved of the U.S. decision to go to war with Iraq, and most of them cast their ballots for Ned Lamont. Of those surveyed, 78% disapproved of the decision to go to war.
  • Among the war’s opponents, 60% cast their vote for Lamont, while 78% of the smaller group who supported the U.S. decision to go to war voted for Lieberman.
  • Lieberman’s relationship with President Bush was also a factor in the race. 59% of Democratic primary voters said Lieberman was too close to the President, while 41% didn’t think so. Those who said Lieberman was too close to Bush voted overwhelmingly for Lamont.
  • 61% of voters rejected the notion of Lieberman running as an Independent candidate in the fall, something he has promised to do. 39% supported it. Moreover, one in five Lieberman voters does not think he should seek an Independent run in November. ~Political Wire

Via Kevin Drum

Drum has some good remarks on the poll numbers.

About three years ago, I saw Krauthammer flip out in synagogue on Yom Kippur. The rabbi had offered some timid endorsement of peace — peace essentially on Israel’s terms — but peace anyway. Krauthammer went nuts. He actually started bellowing at the rabbi, from his wheel chair in the aisle. People tried to “shush” him. It was, after all, the holiest day of the year. But Krauthammer kept howling until the rabbi apologized. The man is as arrogant as he is thuggish. Who screams at the rabbi at services? For advocating peace? ~M.J. Rosenburg (via Kevin Drum)

In addition to the increasingly unhinged charges of anti-Semitism against Ned Lamont by Mark “El Guapo” Levin (his uncle was a pacifist in WWII, and so must have been objectively Nazi! Jesse Jackson supports him, so he must hate Jews, too!), the NROniks have gone into overdrive to not only endorse Lieberman (I guess the Republican candidate can just stay home!) but wail and gnash their teeth as much as possible over the terrible, terrible thing that was Connecticut democracy.  Once again, we see that “democracy” for these folks means a narrow range of positions dictated by the “consensus” elite, not any sort of political representation or expression of popular sentiment.  Once again, we see their devotion to “democracy” is only real when it serves the interests of the “consensus” positions.  Read the rest of this entry »

The lesson that neocons take from Beirut and Mogadishu is that our retreats from those occupations showed us to be a weak horse to bin Laden. And so they did. Their solution is to continue such missions no matter how unrelated to the national interest they might be.

An equally, and perhaps even more valid lesson, is to not get involved in such situations in the first place. Beirut and Somalia were unrelated to our national intersest, while Iraq was contrary to the national interest from the start. Perhaps we should stay home next time and look like a horse that can mind our own business. ~Clark Stooksbury

Clark nicely dissects the tiresome refrains of the anti-Lamont, “didn’t you realise there’s a war on?” crowd, in this case Mark Levin (who refers to Namont as Little Neddy–Three Amigos viewers will get the joke) and Cliff May (NRO has really been providing fat targets lately, haven’t they?).  His rebuttal raises the question to the wise men who have criticised the withdrawals from Beirut and Somalia: would they have really kept American soldiers in Lebanon in the 1980s indefinitely to suffer more and more attacks, and would they have persisted in a senseless mission to make a nation out of the fractious clans of Somalia?  If their answer is yes, I don’t see why anyone with an eye towards the American interest should ever give these people the time of day, much less take their pronouncements on anything seriously.  But what do I know?  They are the voice of “responsible” foreign policy–the sort that gets Americans killed on a regular basis.

David Franke and Daniel McCarthy both make good points in response to Byron York’s warning of what will come if the Democrats take back the House, namely that they will start impeachment proceedings against Mr. Bush.  For both of them, as for me, this would be very good news, perhaps restoring some minimal confidence in the mythical “checks and balances” about which we all heard so much in our childhood. 

I cannot help but recall the delirious intensity with which Republicans went after Clinton for “presidential lying” and how they came up with all sorts of pretty sensible arguments about why having presidents who lie egregiously to the public and also under oath is dangerous to the country and how it also obviously undermines the integrity of the office of President.  Now, with another liar in office, and one whose lies have cost us far more than some national embarrassment and a large expense account for Ken Starr, Republicans and lockstep “conservatives” are horrified at the prospect of the same ethical principle coming back to bite one of theirs.  Of course, Mr. Bush’s real crime, the one that should merit his impeachment and removal, is launching an unconstitutional war.  Having no lawful authority for what he did, he violated the Constitution and broke his oath of office.  That is his offense–it is proveable and it is actually illegal.  Then again, Andrew Johnson was impeached not because he had really broken any laws, but because he had frustrated the political designs of the Radical Republicans, so impeachment does not strictly require a proveable crime.  However, if the Democrats really want Bush removed from office (which, let us not forget, would mean one or two years of the hilarious President Cheney, which might conceivably be worse in some ways), they will focus on his proveable constitutional transgressions (of which there are so, so many) and avoid the rhetorically useful but unfortunately legally irrelevant theme of “Bush lied.”

Over at NRO, Victor Davis Hanson once again indulges in the neocon obsession over the 1930’s, in a column titled “The Brink of Madness.” (Hanson may want to save that title for the next collection of his columns.) But this time, he also swings at some targets that no one at National Review would have attacked in the magazine’s heyday. He compares the “rise of fascism” in Spain to the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, ignoring the fact that Franco fought to save Catholic Spain from Communist butchery, kept Spain neutral in World War II, and was later an American ally in the Cold War, facts well known to an earlier generation of National Review writers. Indeed, James Burnham’s successor as NR’s foreign affairs columnist was Brian Crozier, a biographer of Franco and an unabashed admirer.

Even more amazingly, he criticizes the “fantasies” of “Pope Pius,” writing that it is “baffling to consider that such men ever had any influence.” The great historian does not tell us which Pope Pius he is criticizing, Pius XI, who authored the anti-Nazi encyclical “Mit Brennender Sorge” and told Belgian pilgrims in 1938 that “it is impossible for a Christian to take part in anti-Semitism,” or Pius XII, who saved tens of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust and who so enraged the Nazis that there were plans to kidnap him. In any event, either Pius is a giant in comparison to all the neocon pygmies such as Hanson, and the truly baffling thing is why anyone listens to the counsel of those who thought that Iraq would be a “cakewalk,” that American troops there would be welcomed as liberators, and that the example of Iraq would create a pro-American democratic movement throughout the Middle East. ~Tom Piatak, Cultural Revolutions Online (Chronicles)

Tom might also add that any real student of 20th century history would know that Franco’s regime had only a smattering of the syndicalist Falangists and that Franco consistently limited their influence and power in the regime.  Besides the Falangists, there were no fascist elements worth mentioning in the Franco regime, which was distinctly Catholic, conservative and authoritarian in nature, as Stanley Payne has set down in great detail in his History of Fascism and The Franco Regime.  Proper students of fascism are aware of the significant difference between conservative authoritarian regimes and genuine fascist regimes.  Inded, the careless, flippant (dare we say ignorant?) use of the term fascist by those on the neocon “right” not only betrays their debt to the tired harangues of Marxists but also their inability to categorise any political system they reject in terms that do not refer to 1930s-40s Germany and Italy.  Once again the sadly limited historical perspective of the neocons is on display.

Let that be a lesson to those who wait for the collapse of regimes in Iran, North Korea, or Palestine because of long-term economic failure and/or economic sanctions. Yes, popular uprisings happen (as in Iran against the Shah). Yet it’s also clear that a posture of anti-Western defiance, combined with nationalism, ideology, and dictatorial rule is perfectly capable of sustaining a miserable, poverty-stricken, failed system far, far beyond the point that Westerners would consider tolerable or believable. ~Stanley Kurtz, National Review

Via Rod Dreher

Does this mean that Mr. Kurtz, the “gloomy hawk,” will be supporting a lifting of sanctions on any of these regimes as a means of integrating them into the world and destroying the powerful drug of solidarity in isolation and adversity that their governments have used to keep them in line?  Certainly not–you can’t go around “appeasing” people like this, because they are unappeasable!  Yes, it’s very troubling when you put yourself on the horns of a false dilemma–I would get gloomy, too. 

There is actually not one example where sanctions brought down a regime.  Sanctions can weaken regimes in some ways, but they are usually incapable of doing this in the way that matters most: it does not undermine the legitimacy or popularity of a regime, but tends rather to reinforce both as the regime can plausibly point to foreign interlopers as the cause of the people’s distress.  The more isolated the people become from the outside world, the easier it is for them to credit everything the government says about itself, the conditions in the country and the outside world.  (Here in the States, the people manage to isolate themselves from the outside world through a devotion to stunning ignorance about foreign countries and a steady diet of FoxNews, which has much the same effect in reinforcing credulity and obedience.)  

If the entire world seems to be ganging up on your country’s government, you will probably be prone to see this as unfair and excessive, especially if you believe as, say, a majority of Iranians do that developing nuclear technology is a sort of “inalienable” national right.  It is almost impossible to overstate how infuriating some Iranians will find Western attempts to dictate the use of their internal resources and the running of their internal affairs, since this has been the theme of modern Iranian relations with Great Powers in the last century from the Anglo-Russian division of the country into spheres of interest to Mossadegh’s overthrow to today.   

In time, contact with foreigners and interest in their countries or languages become grounds for suspicion of being an enemy agent, and the government makes the world’s relative isolation of it into an advantage for retaining control (which is, of course, the main thing they care about).  The obsession of the Soviets with foreign currency, spoofed so brilliantly in The Master and Margarita, was an example of rooting out such “contamination,” as if the economic woes of the 1920s had been caused by foreign currency.  But given a state of relative isolation, or given a state when the entire world seems bent on vilifying your country, do we expect the people in these countries to respond in any way other than rallying around their governments out of a sense of national and ideological loyalty?  Would we do any differently, even under the most difficult circumstances?  It puzzles me how solidarity and persistence in adversity seem to be virtues to many Americans when, say, the Brits endured the Blitz or the Russians resisted Nazi depredations, but we seem incapable of understanding that the same reaction–and the same virtue–is present in the peoples of hostile states and that this genuine reaction bolsters the regimes we are trying to overthrow in such a way as to make future conflict increasingly likely.

However, I should acknowledge that Mr. Kurtz has hit on something here that I agree with strongly, namely the power of a potent ideological cokctail of national solidarity, anti-imperialism (however that might be defined) and postcolonial resentment can not only make people endure terrible hardships but convince themselves that the austerity and harshness of conditions in their country make them morally and perhaps spiritually superior to the decadent bums of the West.  In the sense of acquiring a certain powerful virtu that is the will to endure and resist, they may have a point there.  The implacability of the ideologically committed, who are by definition more resilient after setbacks and repudiations because they are certain that they are right and because they view life in terms of struggle against long odds, is as notorious as it is powerful. 

This is one reason why I am convinced that persisting in confrontations and punitive policies with these militarily weak, economically chaotic, second or third or fourth-rate powers can only bolster the regimes that we find so obnoxious, prolong the misery of their peoples and guarantee senseless and destructive conflicts down the line.  We are not going to “break” them psychologically or politically with sanctions, and we will not intimidate the others with another “preemptive” war, because we have signally failed to intimidate anyone with our first “preemptive” war.  Frankly, Mr. Kurtz is wrong that there is no possibility of bargaining with these people, and it is this ideological commitment to the notion that hostile regimes are purely irrational enemies that continually blinds Mr. Kurtz and friends to the possibility of reaching an arrangement with them. 

There has probably never been a political movement more insane and destructive than Maoism, yet we managed to broker a deal with Mao that helped force the USSR into a corner and reduced the possibility of an outbreak of war.  We can wait, as we did with China, until Iran has nuclear weapons, or we can seize the initiative and strike a deal with them while it will still seem as if we are conceding their development of nuclear technology.  Once it is a fait accompli, our options will be much more limited.    

As I have argued before, there would be no better time for a grand rapprochement with Iran than at this time.  To minimise or neutralise Iranian hostility and take the steam out of the general pan-Islamic solidarity that Iran and Hizbullah are managing to cook up now, the time to make the Nixon-to-China move is now.  It would be bold, daring and risky, but Iran, which is still ultimately ruled by the Ayatollah and not by Ahmadinejad, would take the deal rather than face international ostracism and opprobrium that the regime does not want.  For his part, Ahmadinejad needs to avoid an economic meltdown if he is to carry through on his domestic policies, which are the source of his political power and the main reason why he is President, and this cannot happen if Iran is put under a strong sanctions regime. 

I have come to distrust profoundly claims about hostile regimes’ sheer irrationality, because each time it has been invoked in the past to justify some sort of confrontational policy–in Yugoslavia and Iraq most notably–it has been shown to be an erroneous assessment of the self-interest these regimes have in self-preservation.  “Don’t let the madman do this!  Don’t let the madman do that!” earnest voices cried at the time, when the man was neither mad nor likely to do the things in question.  Now that we have a religious “madman” in view, the rhetoric has doubled and trebled in intensity, because we purport to know Ahmadinejad’s apocalyptic vision and we assume that his apocalyptic vision has something to do with Iranian security policy. 

When Khatami was president, the hawkish line was that the Iranian President had no power and no control over anything and that it was stupid to treat him as anything other than a figurehead (which was a fair point, but typically one used in the service of agitating for conflict with Iran), but now that Ahmadinejad, whom the clerics opposed in the election, is in charge the Iranian Presidency is the font of apocalyptic doom and nuclear nightmares.  Pardon me if I don’t take this very seriously at all.  The histrionics of the usual suspects who have pushed for every war in living memory rather confirm that this alarmism is wrongheaded and dangerous. 

It seems as if for the past fifteen years we have had a new Hitler every year or so, and every year we were assured that he was unstoppable, could not be contained or checked or reasoned with, and on the basis of these tired analogies and sloppy thinking we entered into a conflict or confrontation.  In every episode, realistic incentives and disincentives would have elicited some measure of cooperation, but our political class was convinced in each case that there could be no bargaining or reasoning with the regime because of just this sort of stark, apocalyptic rhetoric about this or that dictator being the very essence of evil.  Far from being right or productive, this sort of thinking has gotten us into at least two significant wars that were entirely unnecessary.  If we heed the voices of the Kurtzes of the world, there will be more unnecessary wars that might have been avoided had we given these people the slightest credit for being rational, self-interested actors. 

No politician or revolutionary leader gets into the business of politics or leading a revolution because he wants to die for his cause (he may want other people to die for his cause, but his instincts of self-preservation are quite intact), but because he wants power and wants to stay in power, which is a powerful check on any supposed fanatically suicidal motivations he might have.  

If Israel thought that by slowly strangling the life out of the Lebanese capital, by blockading it from land, sea and air, it would turn Christians against their Muslim neighbours it appears to have miscalculated. The tragedy on Hajjaj Street, which killed at least 31 and wounded 60, was Beirut’s single biggest loss of life since the war began, bringing the total to more than 1,000. It hardened the public mood. Even those in the Christian half of the capital, who were beginning to call for a ceasefire at any price, spoke yesterday of their disgust at what Israeli warplanes were doing to their city.

George Serrin, 42, a businessman, has no love for Sheikh Nasrallah and his militia, but said: “Of course I care for my family’s safety and want this war over now. But I am sickened at the needless ruination done to my city, our city.”  ~The Times Online

In the first days of the war, Israeli air strikes hit a major Lebanese army base on the hills above Beirut, killing several soldiers. A radar station was demolished near the northern city of Tripoli. Twenty-nine Lebanese soldiers have been killed by Israel in this war so far, the vast majority in attacks in the north of the country.

In the past few days, Lebanese army posts have been struck south of the Litani river, the very region which Israel wants as a buffer zone and from which it says Hizbullah must be excluded. Israeli officials believe the Lebanese army at best turns a blind eye to Hizbullah’s military operations and at worst supports them. ~The Guardian

The damage inflicted on it is colossal. More than 70 bridges and 60 big factories have been destroyed. Fishing fleets have been sunk. Hospitals turn away patients for want of fuel, beaches are deserted and scarred by oil slicks from bombed fuel tanks. There is a pervasive sense of isolation. ~The Times Online

It was preposterous, scandalous, shameful to listen to these robed apparatchiks - most of them are paid, armed or otherwise supported by the West - shed their crocodile tears before a nation on its knees. The Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, had already said in Cairo that the Beirut meeting “is a clear message to the world to demonstrate Arab solidarity with the Lebanese people”. In the southern suburbs - where they do not take this nonsense seriously - Abbas was telling me of a female neighbour who had supported the rival Shia Amal movement until her house was destroyed by the Israelis. “She told us, ‘We are all Hizbollahi now’,” And I recall that less than three years ago, we - we Westerners, we brave believers in human rights - were saying that we were all New Yorkers now. ~Robert Fisk, The Independent

If anyone wanted to raise the status of Hizbullah and give it a new dose of political credibility with all Lebanese, I know of no better way than the way Israel has been proceeding over the last four weeks.

And why was the building struck? The Israelis have slaughtered hundreds of civilians, attacking convoys of refugees they themselves ordered to leave. But Saadieh, Ali Rmeiti’s sister-in-law, has a story which matches those of two other survivors. Before the missiles exploded, she said, an Israeli drone flew over the Shiyyah district, a pilotless reconnaissance aircraft which sends live pictures back to Tel Aviv. “Um Kamel”, as the Lebanese call them, whined around for a time and then, without warning, someone drove down Assaad al-Assad street on a motorcycle and fired into the sky with a rifle opposite the Rmeiti home.

Then he left, some youth who wanted to prove his foolish manhood. You can’t destroy drones with a rifle, as any Hizbollah member knows. But not long afterwards, the two missiles came streaking down on the homes of the innocent. ~Robert Fisk, The Independent

So much for Ehud Olmert’s “humanitarian corridors”. Two weeks after the Israeli Prime Minister’s comforting assertion - which no one in Lebanon believed - the Israeli air force has blown up the last bridge across the Litani river, in effect ending all humanitarian convoys between Beirut and southern Lebanon. Requests from humanitarian organisations for clearance from the Israelis are now being refused. Even the Red Cross admits there is now, in effect, a blockade on a vast area along the Lebanese border where thousands of civilians are still cowering in their homes.

David Shearer, the UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator in Lebanon, has pleaded with the Israelis to end their attacks against the country’s infrastructure and end all activities which threaten the transport of humanitarian aid to the displaced. But convoys since have been cancelled or forced to make long detours across the country and along the edge of the Lebanese-Syrian border. Truck drivers are frightened to risk their lives under Israeli air attack. I myself was on a Red Cross field trip from Qlaya to Jezzine when, close to the village of Arab Selim, an Israeli jet dropped a bomb on the road 80 metres in front of us. On the Litani river, north of Tyre, the main road bridge had been blasted away but the Lebanese army had constructed a temporary bridge over the water to the west. Now that, too, has been ripped to pieces by Israeli bombs. ~Robert Fisk, The Independent

Lieberman, pledging to seek reelection as an independent, said today that Lamont’s victory – “a very narrow victory'’ – will send a message across the country that the Democratic Party is not listening to “the mainstream'’ of America but has been taken over by extremists. That was Lieberman’s message this morning on ABC’s Good Morning America. ~Mark Silva, The Swamp (Chicago Tribune)

Apparently Lieberman thinks vilifying half of the estimated 50% Democratic turnout in the primary race as “extremists” is a sure-fire way to win the general election.  He could easily alienate the supporters he already has by savaging the loyal members of his old party, and he could already be losing his primary supporters on the grounds that they were willing to support an incumbent in a primary but are not going to support a self-important pol on a third ticket. 

Hamas was elected in Gaza because the Palestinian Authority was unable to negotiate the removal of a single Israeli checkpoint. Checkpoints which make life impossible for any Palestinian to live even a less than normal life. If anyone disagrees, and I’m sure there are many, all they have to do is read Mona El-Farra, a Palestinian doctor’s dispassionate of what it’s like living with fear and resolve. No access to drinking water, 22 hospitals without electricity, no fuel for generators because the borders in Gaza are sealed, children in intensive care and renal dialysis patients dying. Hundreds of operations postponed, absence of refrigeration, 30,000 children suffering from malnutrition. Yet when an Israeli soldier is kidnapped, while several hundred Palestinian women and children are locked up in Israeli jails, it triggers a response which has shocked civilised people everywhere, including, of course, in Israel. ~Taki

The problem with Bush’s freedom rhetoric is that it appears to not be true. Hezbollah and Hamas, and the populations that support them, desire the destruction of Israel above all, and are willing to endure warfare and dysfunctional societies to bring it about. The Sunni insurgents in Iraq want power more than anything else, and are willing to kill and maim to gain it. The Shia militias, in turn, desire revenge against the Sunni. ~Rich Lowry, National Review

Via Doug Bandow

Let me say first that it is extremely rich that the callow, ridiculous editor of National Review would presume at this point to speak about deeply held conservative principles and understandings about the fallen nature of man, since these things hardly ever came up at NR c. 2002-03 when wiser counsel about the complexities of culture and the passions of men might have availed something.   

But there is something a little odd and more than a little condescending about this.  It is as if the liberal universalist yuppie has taken his first steps out of his own, sheltered neighbourhood to meet with a brusque reception at the local bar full of people he has never seen before (except maybe on TV) and does not really understand.  After an evening at the bar that sees him get into a nasty brawl with someone over an ill-chosen phrase about liberation, he is confident that ”those people” are simply savages who simply want to obey their lower desires.  That must be what they want more than anything else.  Nobody likes people like this yuppie, because he makes no effort to understand the motivations of his fellow man.  “If they do not respond as I do, or as I would wish them to, they must be bent solely on evil or destruction or vengeance–that’s the only explanation!”

For the dedicated Hamas and Hizbullah types, destruction of Israel is probably high on their to-do list, but I think we would make a terrible mistake if we assumed that this is what even many of these fanatics desired “above all.”  Presumably many of them do desire power, of course, and wish to lord it over their neighbours and avenge old slights, and this is true in the Iraqi context as well, but then every man desires power of some sort.  Even the urge to “be free” is a desire for a certain kind of power, an autonomy, an immunity from mistreatment, a means to express one’s will and, in a democratic context, a desire to participate in government.  To speak of equality is also to make a claim about power–you believe that no one else should really, ultimately have more power than you, at least not permanently.  You believe there is a certain minimum level of power that you should always retain–over yourself and vis-a-vis other people.  That is what “rights” are supposed to be–embodiments of power that you are able to use to protect yourself.  No one wants to have a vote unless he also wants some measure of power–but it is typically power as a means to something else. 

Thus it is with most men.  Rare is the maniacal lunatic who simply wishes to keep acquiring power; most seek power and use violence to achieve certain ends, of which the destruction of their enemies may be only one and perhaps not even the most significant.  Most often we can tell what motivates a man by looking at his loyalties, associations and actions.  Hizbullah has changed and morphed over the years to become a Syro-Iranian front group, no doubt, but its members and sympathisers presumably see in it something more than that and understand their allegiance to it in terms beyond the old “death to Israel” motto.  Whether they are profoundly mistaken or not does not matter if we are trying to understand their motivation–even if they are profoundly mistaken, as indeed they are, they have committed themselves to an idea that will not permit them to so easily acknowledge this in any case.  And so we must try to understand what function this allegiance plays in winning the loyalties of so many people.  Read the rest of this entry »

Bush repeats the phrase at every opportunity, and it is the premise of his push for democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere: Given a free choice, it is assumed, people will choose freedom and the political system best suited to foster it. ~Rich Lowry, National Review

Of course, therein lies the first and perhaps gravest problem of the whole mess: the assumption that “democracy” is the political system best suited to foster “freedom,” both of which are, of course, never defined or given much thought.  But those who have given it some thought (like, say, Tocqueville) have tended to conclude that democracy, premised on equality and majoritarian rule, is not only not the system best suited to foster freedom or liberty, but may be among liberty’s worst enemies.  This conceptual error alone dooms and condemns Mr. Bush’s vision, long before we ever get to thorny questions of cultural context, traditions of self-government or any of those things that tend to make a mockery of the delusions of democratists.

The article also fails to mention that, while Syria has the appearance of a democracy, the Sunni-dominated country is essentially an authoritarian regime and it would be quite difficult for a Christian, or anyone for that matter, to speak freely on religion without risking the wrath of the majority. This type of conditioning has been going on for hundreds of years. ~Daniel Pulliam, GetReligion

Mr. Pulliam objects to Reuters’ coverage in this story.  First of all, while it is important to keep the context of Baathist Party rule in mind, as an explicitly secular state that has been historically hostile to Islamic fundamentalism it affords the Christians of Syria rather more latitude in their ability to practice their religion and to speak candidly about it.  The Christians in Syria are decidedly not living under Islamic law, do not pay the jiziya or suffer from the sorts of restrictions that they would if, say, they lived in certain parts of “liberated” Iraq. 

Then there is the “context” of Syrian Christians being Arabs, who are reasonably more likely to sympathise with fellow Arabs, especially when there are Christians among them, when these people appear to them to be (and indeed are) under attack.  Since Christians in Lebanon, including no less than