Eunomia · Europe

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That’s part of the reason why you don’t have as rich a set of religious institutions and faith life in Europe. Part of that has to do with the fact that, traditionally, it was an extension of the state. ~Barack Obama

As I said last month, most European churches had been disestablished by the 1920s, and many had been disestablished long before then, and there are numerous other, far more significant factors that explain the secularisation of Europe.  These were my main points then:

Here is a list, by no means exhaustive, of some of what were significant causes of the process of secularisation in Europe: scientific advances, materialist philosophies, the uprooting and deracinating effects of industrialisation and urbanisation, the introduction of ideological politics and mass political mobilisation, the material and moral ravages of the two wars, followed by the effects of two essentially materialist worldviews that claimed to “deliver the goods” more effectively or justly than the other.  Where the experience of Europe clearly differs from our own, and one of the reasons why Europe has gone further in its secularisation, is in their experience of the wars.  I have to wonder whether Americans would have been church-going and believing in the numbers that we are today if we had experienced the full horror of these conflicts and had endured the same losses.  There is a basic problem with the thesis that “faith thrives in a free market,” which is that there are now “free markets” all across Europe where there are no established churches or, where there are technically established churches they have no real authority over all citizens of that country who are not members, and yet faith isn’t exactly thriving and has been largely going into decline in the free, western European part since the war.  There has been some religious revival since the Cold War, but it is sporadic.  If “faith thrives in a free market,” Spain should not have undergone the rapid secularisation that it has experienced since the end of the Franco regime.  Italy disestablished the Catholic Church in 1984, which must be why religions of all kinds have been flourishing in Italy.  The Republic of Ireland hasn’t ever had an established church, yet it is experiencing the same secularisation that overtook Spain before it.  It has been the last twenty years of economic and social changes that have sapped the strength of religion in Ireland.  Clearly there is something much more complicated going on that cannot be explained with easy reference to establishment/disestablishment of religion.   

What strikes me about Obama’s comments is that they are perfectly conventional and could have come from the most anti-European neoconservative.  If Obama casts this in terms of the separation of church and state rather than describing religious pluralism in terms of “market forces,” he is nonetheless coming to the same liberal consensus answer that most Americans maddeningly endorse without thinking about whether there is any truth to it.  If our civilisation were devastated in two gigantic conflagrations and much of our territory subjected to the depredations of totalitarian governments for decades on end, we might find our religious life rather less “rich” as well. 

As America demonstrates, faith thrives in a free market. In Europe, the established church, whether formal (the Church of England) or informal (as in Catholic Italy and Spain), killed religion as surely as state ownership killed the British car industry. When the Episcopal Church degenerates into wimpsville relativist milquetoast mush, Americans go elsewhere. When the Church of England undergoes similar institutional decline, Britons give up on religion entirely. ~Mark Steyn

There’s something rather odd about this line of argument.  It’s a pretty obvious flaw that an acquaintance with the first 1,900 years of Christianity would reveal: established, state-backed religion flourished in Europe for most of European history.  Across Europe, institutional churches have lost the mass membership they once had, whether they are preaching “milquetoast mush” or very traditional orthodoxy (the latter undoubtedly fare somewhat better, but only relatively so).  Leave aside for now that the options in England aren’t just “Anglicanism or Bust!” and that Britons can (and sometimes do) choose to attend one of the other churches. 

This explanation of Europe’s greater secularisation is amazingly unsatisfying, designed as it is to vindicate “market forces” in every area of life.  I suppose that I expect it from a venture capitalist, but I also expect conservatives to question it.  I don’t deny that alliances between states and institutional churches (or, in many countries, the subordination of the church as effectively a department of government) over the last two centuries politicised the position of the church and radicalised opponents of the regime in an increasingly anticlerical and sometimes anti-Christian direction.  But that was not the “cause” of secularisation as such.  Here is a list, by no means exhaustive, of some of what were significant causes of the process of secularisation in Europe: scientific advances, materialist philosophies, the uprooting and deracinating effects of industrialisation and urbanisation, the introduction of ideological politics and mass political mobilisation, the material and moral ravages of the two wars, followed by the effects of two essentially materialist worldviews that claimed to “deliver the goods” more effectively or justly than the other.  Where the experience of Europe clearly differs from our own, and one of the reasons why Europe has gone further in its secularisation, is in their experience of the wars.  I have to wonder whether Americans would have been church-going and believing in the numbers that we are today if we had experienced the full horror of these conflicts and had endured the same losses.  There is a basic problem with the thesis that “faith thrives in a free market,” which is that there are now “free markets” all across Europe where there are no established churches or, where there are technically established churches they have no real authority over all citizens of that country who are not members, and yet faith isn’t exactly thriving and has been largely going into decline in the free, western European part since the war.  There has been some religious revival since the Cold War, but it is sporadic.  If “faith thrives in a free market,” Spain should not have undergone the rapid secularisation that it has experienced since the end of the Franco regime.  Italy disestablished the Catholic Church in 1984, which must be why religions of all kinds have been flourishing in Italy.  The Republic of Ireland hasn’t ever had an established church, yet it is experiencing the same secularisation that overtook Spain before it.  It has been the last twenty years of economic and social changes that have sapped the strength of religion in Ireland.  Clearly there is something much more complicated going on that cannot be explained with easy reference to establishment/disestablishment of religion. 

Foreign Policy’s Joshua Keating laments the possible break-up of Belgium:

Belgium may indeed be held together only by “the king, the football team, and a few beers” as would-be prime minister Yves Leterme has said, but I’ll take that over a country held together by race and religion any day. Bonne chance and veel geluk to those working to keep the place together.

Not to be too severe, but I think that what Joshua Keating or any non-Belgian foreign policy observer would “take” or accept should have no bearing on the situation.  Nation-states that have no meaning for their inhabitants are not boons for humanity–they are artificial constructs that the people who live in them regard as injurious to their own interests.  The real point is that whatever Mr. Keating would “take” is completely unrepresentative of what most people, whether in Europe or elsewhere, will actually ”take.”  In the end, the break-up of Belgium along ethnic and linguistic lines is a function of democracy and self-government itself.  If a European identity is at odds with these political values, that European identity will receive very little respect among the people.     

If Belgium falls to sectarianism, what does that say about prospects for making Europe into a super-Belgium? ~Jonah Goldberg

But it isn’t sectarianism that is dividing Belgium, since sectarianism would imply, well, the existence of rival sects that serve as the basis for political and social divides.  In fact, one of the reasons for the creation of Belgium was the decided lack of sectarian divides among the Flemings and Walloons of the southern half of the southern provinces.  It was through common identity as Catholics that Belgians were originally lumped together.  With secularisation and the general decline of religion as a primary political loyalty, ethnic and linguistic differences inevitably have become more salient.  If Belgium breaks up, it will be partly on account of the breakdown in the original “sectarian” character of Belgian identity.

Alex Massie has more.

Commenting on this, Alex Massie writes:

I’m as glib as the next clown but this just seems, well, glib and just another opportunistic stick with which to beat the Bush administration.

Mostly, Sullivan’s post seems to be a criticism of European governments rather than Bush.  I agree that Sullivan’s claim that Turkey is “[p]erhaps our most important ally” is strange.  The British don’t seem to get a lot of credit these days for their solidarity with us.  Turkey certainly remains a strategically important ally, but the current stance of its government on a possible U.S. troop withdrawal into Turkey would suggest that it is not our “most important ally.”  The worsening of U.S.-Turkish relations is lamentable in some ways, and it will be one of the long-term costs of the invasion of Iraq.  Some of the worsening of relations was the fault of our government and entirely avoidable, and some of it comes from internal political changes in Turkey.  Turkish opinion of the U.S. is extremely unfavourable right now, and that is going to shape Turkish politics and their regional policy for years to come.  Turkish interests will also continue to diverge from our own if we insist on confrontation with Iran while Turkey and Iran pursue bilateral trade and energy cooperation.  We can either begin adjusting to such realities of a post-invasion Near East, or we can watch previously solid allies drift away from us.  Washington’s enthusiasm for Turkish EU entry, meanwhile, has simply stiffened the spine of the opponents of such a move and associated the issue with the projection of American influence.  

However, delaying EU entry for Turkey is hardly “myopic.”  It is at the very least an example of prudent caution, especially after member states have been absorbing the costs of the last rounds of expansion.  Yes, accession talks have been going on for years, decades even, and they may well continue for years and decades more if all parties still want to pursue it, because there remain many serious problems with the way Turkey is governed that preclude its membership in the EU.  I have no affection for the EU, but it does have its standards and it means to keep them–that is the reality of the situation.  One also need not subscribe to theories of Muslim takeovers of Europe to recognise what a huge political change in the makeup of the EU it would be to bring in a nation of 60 million people.  Extending an even-more expanded Europe’s borders to Iraq and Iran also presents security risks that a great many Europeans reasonably don’t want to take on. 

There is some hint of criticism for Bush in Sullivan’s remarks that Turkey has been “left hanging in Iraq,” which is odd since Washington has tried to placate Turkey as much as possible on the question of the PKK.  As the article Sullivan links to shows, the AKP government has been gaining in popularity in Kurdish areas and has taken a more conciliatory stance towards expressions of Kurdish identity, which in turn has made the PKK less of a real political threat to Turkey’s territorial integrity.  The rise of the AKP has fortunately to some extent blunted the issue of the PKK presence in northern Iraq, and its election victory has chastened the military and undermined the latter’s influence in the country.  That may or may not be to Turkey’s ultimate benefit, but it has reduced somewhat the tensions over a possible military incursion. 

Oh, the horror:

According to EUobserver, the Commission’s plan was to “change the map of Europe currently seen on the ten-cent to two-euro coins into a larger one going east to the Caspian Sea and including Turkey”.

However, while the final result includes Belarus and parts of Russia, poor old Turkey is conspicuous by its absence.

In other words, the new coins show all of geographical Europe up to the Urals, and does not include anything on the Asian side of the Bosphoros, which have been the defined geographical boundaries of Europe for a very long time.  The small bit of Thrace that Turkey has is still represented, so all is well.

Via Sullivan

Via Pithlord, I see that Prof. Bainbridge has commented on this story about a Dutch bishop proposing that Dutch Catholic churches use the name Allah in their services “to ease tensions between Muslims and Christians.”  Pithlord is, of course, right that the concession, such as it is, is actually only a linguistic one.  Allah does mean God, or literally “the God” in Arabic.  As far as it goes, the change is fairly innocuous as a matter of literal meaning, but therefore all the more unnecessary and symbolically discouraging in that it is another example of Dutch natives accommodating and assimilating themselves to the immigrant communities rather than vice-versa.  The Islamic understanding of God is obviously quite different and opposed to that of Christians, but the bishop was not proposing introductions of Qur’anic passages, such as Ma qataau-hu wa ma salabu-hu during Communion and La taqu thaalatha during the Sanctus.  It is a trivial proposal in a way, but this makes it all the more foolish and pointless.  It is the ultimate in condescending tokenism while also managing to introduce a pointless change into the liturgical life of the bishop’s flock.  Should Anglicans begin saying Khuda Hafiz to make their Muslim neighbours feel more at home? 

It is not exactly an embrace of relativism, as Prof. Bainbridge fears, but it is fairly stupid all the same.  It is an example of the embrace of rather pointless symbolic gestures that are intended to foster ecumenical dialogue and such, but which routinely backfire and are viewed either as insults, attempts to muddy the waters or even aggressive attempts at appropriating someone else’s beliefs.  Do you suppose that a Muslim in the Netherlands will have a better view of non-Arabic-speaking Christians if they begin using the name Allah?  Would this not, in fact, inspire some resentment against those using this name to refer to the Trinity or to Christ Himself, when Muslims recognise neither the existence of the former nor the divinity of the latter?  At best, it would not achieve the intended goal, but would become one more episode in European Christianity’s own self-marginalisation.  

Update: On the other side of the world, there is apparently no small controversy over the changing usages from Khuda Hafiz to Allah Hafiz, as this older article also relates.  I had noticed that Allah Hafiz had been cropping up in more and more Bollywood movies over the past few years, but I suppose I had not realised that this reflected such significant changes in South Asian Islam.

All over Europe, the politics of identity threatens to trump the economics of individualism. ~Niall Ferguson

The Bush administration’s plans for the missile-defense shield call for a radar-tracking station to be built in the Czech Republic and for 10 interceptor missiles to be placed in Poland. The Czech and Polish governments have signaled their support even though national opinion polls in both countries show strong opposition to the U.S. plan. ~The Seattle Times

Yet dislike of Russia’s current path does not create unity. Both France and Germany are unenthusiastic about America’s planned missile-defence installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. President George Bush continues to protest that these are aimed at Iranian nuclear weapons, not at Russia. But with the exception perhaps of Britain’s Tony Blair, a lame-duck ally who will shortly leave office, he will find little support from his western counterparts. ~The Economist

It turns out that the idea is wildly unpopular across Europe, especially in those countries where the interceptors are going to be based.  The Polish and Czech governments are in favour of it, just as they have been supportive of the war in Iraq against the explicit wishes of their citizens.  Had Putin held off with his confrontational bluster, he could have easily detached most European countries from the U.S. on this particular issue.  Most Europeans don’t believe that there is a threat from Iran in any case, and they’re the ones who would be protected under any missile shield.  Iran does extensive business with Europe.  To launch missile strikes on any EU country would mean greater economic ruin for their country.  What is this strange American habit of seeing dangers in other parts of the world that the people in those other parts of the world do not see? 

If we took the government at its word, this missile shield would be built to counter threats from mighty Iran (whose Shahab missiles can probably only barely reach some parts of Europe).  However, it seems rather obvious that the current plan has nothing to do with countering an Iranian threat.  For instance, Voice of America tells us:

The U.S. plan suggests deploying 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic. The system would cover NATO members except Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and parts of Romania [bold mine-DL].

In other words, the allies closest to Iran that would be the most easily targeted by any Iranian attack would have no protection whatever under this plan.  This plan does cover all ex-Soviet and former Warsaw Pact states now in NATO that border on or are closest to Russia.  It also protects the rest of the alliance west of Poland and the Czech Republic, but our easternmost NATO allies would be out of luck.  What were the Russians supposed to conclude from the obviously two-faced nature of the official justification for the missile shield? 

Sixty years on, the attitude of Londoners towards Americans is radically different [bold mine-DL].  After September 11, 2001, the U.S. Embassy building in Grosvenor Square was supplied with large concrete barriers and bollards to ward off a car or truck bomb. Armed policemen patrol day and night and unsuccessful efforts were made to turn some streets into no-entry zones. ~Carol Gould

The first time I read this, I thought, “That makes no sense, I must have missed something.  How does that show anything about the attitude of Londoners?”  Then I read it again and I realised that the Standard had outdone itself when it comes to fits of crazy anti-European rhetoric.  Even Clive Davis finds it a bit odd.

The problem here, of course, is that all U.S. embassies around the world experienced massive increases in security in the wake of the largest terrorist attack in American history.  Why might that have happened?  Could it be that the government was not so much concerned about unruly yobbish mobs blowing up the front gate as they were concerned to avoid repeats of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam?  No, it’s obviously the evil-minded Londoners who wanted to ram bomb-laden trucks into the side of the building.  (Of course, there were and still are potential terrorists in Britain, but they are not exactly, shall we say, West Enders.  Ms. Gould could talk about the Britons who actually do hate America, but that could get dicey and involve all sorts of deviations from the party line.) 

The next bit of the article is not much better, blaming neighbours of the embassy for being concerned that their neighbourhood might enjoy the sort of explosive attentions the IRA paid to the financial center of London in 1993.  These people have probably overreacted and embarrassed themselves, but it is not difficult to understand why the residents of Mayfair don’t want a prime potential terrorist target literally in their frontyard.  It is, after all, their country and their neighbourhood.  If The Weekly Standard doesn’t like it, they can go cry to their best friend Tony, for whom probably large proportions of the Mayfair protesters voted in the last general.  Frankly, it’s easy to belittle people in central London from the bowels of the AEI building, and if there are British citizens who have hardly distinguished themselves with stoicism and hardy endurance there isn’t much tolerance at the Standard and similar vehicles for anything resembling independence of thought by Europeans.

Take the next item: complaining about opposition to an American trying to buy Arsenal.  First of all, any sensible person knows that you don’t want to buy Arsenal, for goodness’ sakes–you would want to buy a respectable team.  (I will be now be deluged with death threats.)  If the people who own Arsenal don’t want to sell a controlling stake to an American, that seems to me to be a legitimate business decision.  Having endured the delights of foreign oligarchs from Russia buying up football teams, it might be that football owners and fans have had quite enough of making their national sport into a field for foreign venture capitalism.  If Canadians or Brits tried to buy an NFL franchise or, an even more serious threat to national pride, a NASCAR team, the American sports media would raise holy hell over it and every conservative would throw a fit about how “those people” don’t know anything about our football.  This has the virtue of being true.  As for the whining about too many stairs and no A/C in the Tube–suck it up!

The last time I was in Britain, which was admittedly eight years ago now, I was shocked at how accommodating and Americanised people had become.  People in London were short-tempered and rude, as almost all big city people are, but most Britons were decent, pleasant people who gave us no grief.  Yes, this was pre-9/11, pre-Bush, pre-Iraq, but what stunned me was that the once unforgiveable crime of putting ice in tea had become a commonplace thing.  In spite of what they must have regarded as an evil importation of bad taste, the British have accepted iced tea and now do not stare at you uncomprehendingly when you request it.  I don’t know whether it is actually progress–some might take it as proof that Britain really has gone down the drain–but it seems bizarre to regard the British today as being more anti-American than many of them were at the height of the CND days.  The main examples Ms. Gould uses are examples where Britons are reacting against symbols of American wealth and power, which always put people on edge in every corner of the world when they are wielded by foreigners in your own country.  It may not be terribly edifying, but there is nothing strange about it, nor is it necessarily representative of seem broader shift in British attitudes.  They are not turning against Americans or America as such, and therein lies all the difference in the world.       

There is a certain lovely irony that Nicolas Sarkozy is one of the foremost opponents of Turkish entry into the EU, since part of his family comes from Salonika (mod. Thessaloniki, classical and Byz. Thessalonika), which happens to have been the hometown of Mustafa Kemal and the heart of the CUP in its early days before the Balkan Wars restored it to the Greeks. 

Then again, it is quite appropriate that an heir to minor Hungarian aristocracy should be resisting the incorporation of Turkey into Europe, since it was long the mission of the Hungarians to keep Europe from being incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.  In those days Belgrade (Mag., Nandorfehervar) was the front line fortified point protecting the Hungarian Plain from invasion.  As someone who also has Hungarian ancestry, let me say to the soon-to-be President of France, Isten aldd meg a magyart.

In Istanbul last Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the nomination of Abdullah Gul as president of Turkey. In Paris next Sunday, Nicolas Sarkozy will very likely be elected president of France.  These two events are geographically distant but closely connected in political terms. Together they explain a bald fact of life: Turkey is not going to join the European Union. And they also illustrate one more contradiction—and failure—of the neoconservative project. ~Geoffrey Wheatcroft

There is a relationship between the events unfolding in Turkey and France, and happily both do signal setbacks for the politics and policies neocons in America would like to see in these countries.  But tying these events in with neoconservatism is a bit overdone.  Goodness knows I would love any opportunity to point out yet another example of neocon failure, but this time their failure, such as it is, is a pretty small part of the story.  The protests against Abdullah Gul represent the profound schism within Turkish politics between the predominantly secular elite and urban middle class and the rural masses and the working class.  The neocons might never have existed, and this would still have happened.  Sarkozy’s rise is the result of a backlash against the rather more multiculti, hands-off approach to questions of immigration and assimilation (and, related, law and order) that France had sought to pursue under both Socialist and Gaullist governments.  The 2005 riots discredited lax law enforcement and the lax approach to integration and made Sarko the man to watch, because he alone among top-level French politicians seemed to understand that this was a burning issue (no pun intended) that had to be addressed, both for his own political advantage (naturellement) and for what he considered the good of the country.  Likewise, these events internal to France would have occurred in one form or another had The Weekly Standard never wasted the life of a single tree by being printed. 

Both events do repudiate core ideas of latter-day neoconservatism: that nations are a function of shared ideals and “values” and nothing more; that Muslim populations can and should be smoothly and easily incorporated into the West and/or that Islam and democracy are readily compatible; that mass, non-Western immigration is a good in and of itself and must be maximised.  Either in Turkey or in France or sometimes in both countries, these ideas are not doing very well at the moment.  However, all of the actors in these events are not thinking about the neocons at all, except when they completely misunderstand what a neocon is and think that Nicolas Sarkozy, who is a kind of French Thatcher if not even a French Pat Buchanan in certain ways, fits the bill.  In fact, the failure of Turkish entry has as much to do lately with Turkish hyper-nationalism, the continued denial of the Armenian genocide, the prosecutions of dissidents who insist on talking about the genocide and the state-encouraged murder of Hrant Dink as it has to do with anything related to AKP per se.  Turkish poverty and booming demographics would make the EU wary of admitting the country regardless of anything that was happening in Turkish politics.  Except for the despicable coat-holding that the administration does for such genocide denialism, one cannot actually pin any of that on the neocons, either, though their general silence and implicit hypocrisy on this matter are amazing.  They ignore genocide denialism while they are only too happy to meddle in every foreign crisis by calling it a genocide and demanding that something be done about it. 

So it is true that neoconservatives tend to be unduly enthusiastic for Turkish entry into the EU.  They seem to like to encourage anything that would weaken and/or destroy Europe, especially when it comes to Christians in Europe, and they continue to operate under the strange assumption that advocating for Turkish entry into the EU will somehow win America a nice finish in the Global Muslim Opinion Derby.  This is like the sad spectacle of Republicans voting for Puerto Rican statehood in a lame attempt to win Hispanic votes in California and Texas, when these voters don’t care about Puerto Rico, or the sadder spectacle of selling out on immigration in a desperate bid to win over Hispanic voters who don’t like illegal immigration anyway.  How many times have we heard the neocon lament: “Why don’t these Saudi and Egyptian Muslims appreciate all that we’ve done for the Albanians?”  Um…maybe because they‘re not Albanians?     

In the end, Mr. Wheatcroft does not demonstrate any clear connection between neocons and the secularist resistance to Gul or the voters’ support for Sarkozy.  He only vaguely outlines the connection between Turkish membership in the EU and Sarko’s popularity.  The connection is obvious, if we understand that Sarko’s popularity is driven in no small part by French anxiety about Muslim and African immigration.  If French leftists think of Sarko as a “neocon with a French passport,” they obviously don’t understand neocon views on immigration.  Mr. Wheatcroft mentions that the war has inflamed Turkish anti-Americanism, which is true, and it has encouraged the worst tendencies of the Turkish hyper-nationalists in viewing the Kurdish population as a fifth column and traitors, but if anything opposition to American policy in Iraq and opposition to an independent Kurdistan have served as things holding together such disparate political forces as the hyper-nationalists, the CHP and AKP.  Turkey is badly politically divided, but with their war the neocons have given all Turks something they can all hate together.  In the end, neocons are not even on the stage in these dramas.  Indeed, they have become entirely irrelevant to large parts of the world they would try to rule, and that may be the most damning indictment of them one can make.

So Sarko and Royal have advanced, pretty much restoring French presidential politics back to its dreary pre-2002 normality, even though the major parties have hardly done or even said much to suggest that they are understand the deep apathy and disgust with government of so many of their citizens.  There are obviously two important differences between now and 2002.  The first is the existence of a sizeable center vote (18% for Bayrou) over which the major parties must compete.  The second is that Sarko has apparently found a way to pilfer Le Pen’s voters without actually doing all that much to get them, because Le Pen has thrown away his immediate political support from France’s native working-class population for the sake of making a bargain with the Muslims for the future.  The oft-mentioned 8% of Muslims backing Le Pen and Le Pen’s open embrace of the cause of the people who tried to burn sizeable parts of France to the ground probably went over badly with his natural constituencies.  Go figure.

Unfortunately, the competition over the center will make both Sarko and Royal pursue ever-less interesting and ambitious proposals.  It is not really that much in doubt that Bayrou himself and the people likely to have supported him are going to fall in line behind Sarkozy.  Given that Royal is fairly batty by anyone’s standards and evidently not very knowledgeable about the rest of the world, the election is Sarko’s to lose and he is not going to lose, as I said last week.  Sarkozy will extend the Gaullist/UMP control of the presidency at least through 2012.   

For failing to destroy U.S.-Russian bilateral relations all together by throwing the diplomatic equivalent of a temper tantrum, Secretary Gates is getting hammered by some at The Corner

Allow me to explain why Gates’ non-response response to Putin was the appropriate and smart one, and why it could be a very healthy sign.  For the first time that I can recall in the last eight years, a major U.S. official had the opportunity to take an easy pot shot at Russia for some perceived offense (in this case, Putin’s sharply critical speech about the U.S.) and refused to do so.  This is potentially a huge step forward. 

In an upcoming article at Taki’s Top Drawer, which should be up later this week, I will be talking about the depressing pattern of anti-Russian reporting, propaganda and commentary that have spun the events of the last eight years in such a way as to try to foment a new wave of Russophobia for the sake of certain interested parties in the West and the advance of their preferred policies. 

If Secretary Gates is moving away from this exploitative, confrontational mode of engaging Russia, it is all to the good.  However, I suspect that this is not a substantial change, but was only done out of a consideration for avoiding an open breach with the Russians.  Meddlesome, confrontational and unwise policy, whether it involves NATO expansion, the Near East or internal Russian affairs, will unfortunately remain the order of the day under this administration and under the next one as well.

Mr. McCarthy is especially distraught that Secretary Gates dismissed the ridiculous and damaging Old Europe/New Europe idea first offered by Mr. Rumsfeld when American-European relations were at a generational nadir in 2002 and early ‘03.  On this, I have to applaud Secretary Gates.  He is doing some of the necessary repair work in European relations that has been left undone until now.  Mr. Rumsfeld said many silly and obnoxious things in his time at the Pentagon, but few did more to worsen relations with western European allies, specifically France and Germany, than the Old Europe/New Europe crack. 

As a failure of diplomacy, it was magnificent to behold in all its brusque stupidity.  As an actual description of political realities in Europe, it was the most transparent fraud.  Actual anti-Americanism was higher in many of the central and eastern European states whose heads of government signed the Aznar/Blair letter, and opposition to the Iraq war was as high in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, for instance, as it was in Britain or Germany.  New Europe, to the extent it existed, consisted of the smaller, poorer, formerly communist states.  Some were terrified and intimidated into supporting the superpower’s foolish gamble, while others saw it as a first-rate opportunity to suck up to Washington.  Many had also joined NATO in the last round of foolish expansion in 2002 and felt obliged to pitch in, despite the fact that they saw no threat from Iraq to their countries and despite serious opposition at home.  Spain and Britain joined in because they were led by two great egomaniacs who dismissed the objections of overwhelming majorities of their countrymen, and both countries have paid significant prices for following them. 

There was nothing new about New Europe–in fact, most of the people who signed that letter or otherwise backed the invasion were reformed or not-so-reformed communists who had successfully adapted themselves to the rhetoric of “liberal democracy” like the good lackeys that they always were.  Medgyessy, the Hungarian PM who supported the war and committed a few dozen unfortunate Hungarians to drive trucks in Iraq over the strenuous objections of the Fidesz opposition, had even been a member of the communist Hungarian intelligence service in the old days! 

In 2002 and 2003 a new foreign master was calling the tune, and they were dancing appropriately.  Not for nothing did a Russian-American friend of mine refer to these people as the “bootlicking eastern Europeans.”  That embarrassing collection of greying commies and opportunists was strangely what Rumsfeld chose to call the “new” part of Europe, when most represented nothing at all new.  These leaders did not even represent their own nations, whose good names were turned into jokes because of their governments’ positions, much less did they represent some significant trend in European politics.  Repudiating the Old Europe/New Europe nonsense is just about the first thing Secretary Gates has done in an official capacity that really separates him from Rumsfeld and the man’s poisoned legacy.  That seems to me to be obviously good for America. 

Update: Am I dreaming, or has Max Boot written something that might almost be mistaken for responsible comments on foreign policy?  At Commentary’s blog (everybody has one now), Contentions, he wrote:

Thus Gates avoided making news—a trick Rumsfeld never mastered—and kept the focus where it belonged, on Putin’s remarks, which alarmed many of the Europeans in the room. The Secretary of Defense also showed an unexpected flair for humor, joking, for example, about how he had given up his old habit of “blunt speaking” because as president of Texas A&M he had been sent to “reeducation camp” in order to learn how to deal with the faculty. 

The unfortunate thing here is that Boot, as neo-imperialist and anti-Russian as they come, has more reason to be pleased with Gates’ move than I do.  Gates did not escalate the public row with Russia, which was obviously smart and was the reason why I approve of what he both did and did not say, but by saying nothing at all about Putin’s speech he has allowed Putin’s speech to be used as an excuse for Europeans to pull away even more from Russia.  In this sense, it actually furthers the goals of people like Boot who want nothing more than a continued harrassment and isolation of Russia, even though Gates did not work to push Russia into a corner more than it already is.

And for that matter, why on earth does the Orthodox Patriarch believe gaining more legal liberty for the few Orthodox remaining in the former Constantinople is worth Europe’s opening the gates to massive legal Muslim immigration — especially with Western Europe so spiritually and culturally weak, and failing to reproduce itself?

What am I missing here? ~Rod Dreher

With respect to his support for Turkish EU entry, Patriarch Bartholomew is in a fairly difficult situation and presumably feels compelled by the intense political pressure on the Phanar to support what the Turkish government wants.  That does not make his position any better, but it makes it more understandable.  I don’t know whether he believes that this will really contribute to greater religious freedom for Christians.  If he does, I’m afraid this is a mistaken judgement, as the winds are blowing in a very different direction under the AK government. 

Pope Benedict’s apparent endorsement of Turkish entry is somewhat more troubling, though both are very unfortunate, because he has a certain real political independence that should allow him to continue to speak forthrightly against Turkish entry if he believes, as he once held, that Turkey is alien to the culture and faith of Europe and consequently does not belong in the EU. 

If allowed, Turkish entry will, of course, hasten the Islamicisation of Europe as Turkish migrant workers move across the Continent and begin to take up permanent residence and Turkey becomes the second largest member state with significant clout in all future decision-making.  If the Turks were admitted, you could stop worrying about Eurabia and say hello to Euturkiye.  The good news, such as it is, is that as the Vatican has become more friendly to Turkish membership a lot of the secular politicians in western Europe have become more hostile.  The only old EU-12 governments daft or short-sighted enough to support it openly seem to be the British and the Greek (the latter in stunning defiance of all public opinion).  New member states who have entered in the last dozen years or so seem to me to have always been more skeptical of the proposed entry of Turkey, but I may be misinformed on that point.

That also reminds me that, unlike all the respectable voices, I’ve always been even more upset by the murder of Pym Fortuyn, a potential Prime Minister of the Netherlands, in 2002 than by the murder of Theo van Gogh in 2004. The van Gogh murder was the obvious result of letting a whole bunch of Muslims into the country, a problem that can be solved (granted, at vast expense) by paying them to leave and other sensible reforms. The only solution to the West’s Muslim problem is to disconnect.

But Fortuyn’s assassination was carried out by a well-educated Dutch-born white leftist the day after the climax of the “Two-Week Hate” against immigration-restrictionists that swept Europe when Le Pen won a spot in the French Presidential final. When Fortuyn was murdered, respectable voices across Europe opined that Fortuyn more or less had it coming. The European Establishment excused themselves from any responsibility by blaming it all on animal rights craziness.

For example, the Dutch-born Ian Buruma asserted in The New Yorker in 2005 that Fortuyn was “assassinated in 2002 by a deranged animal-rights activist.” Nothing to look at here, folks, just move along. Just a random lunatic. Didn’t have nuthin’ to do with immigration.

Yet, more than year before Buruma wrote that, the murderer had made clear at his trial that Fortuyn had to die because of his anti-Muslim immigration restrictionist views. ~Steve Sailer

I completely agree with Steve Sailer on this one.  The hatemongering carried out by then-PM Wim Kok and the other leading representatives of Dutch “consensus” politics was as hideous a display of multiculti fanaticism as any I have ever seen.  The express desire to erect a cordon sanitaire around Fortuyn’s political appeal and the condemnation of him as a kind of neo-Nazi directly contributed to his murder, and the appalling extent to which some Europeans were willing to go suppress dissident speech on questions of immigration was revealed for all to see. 

Fortuyn’s murder is more worrisome in a way than Van Gogh’s (though both are horrible) because it shows the derangement that Westerners have inflicted on themselves on questions of immigration and tolerance, such that native Westerners will be moved to murder one of their fellow citizens for his alleged “bigotry” sooner than they will lift a finger to protest the violence wrought by immigrants against natives who offend their “values.”  

Fortuyn’s appeal heralded a shift in Dutch politics that did not disappear after his violent death.  Van Gogh’s murder intensified the feeling that something had gone terribly wrong in the pursuit of endless tolerance, but without Fortuyn blazing the trail in talking openly about these problems (and paying for it with his life) Van Gogh’s death would probably not have resonated as much as it did in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the West.  Of course, Fortuyn was able to make his appeal to the extent that he did because he was able to make it in defense of a very liberally defined kind of liberal society; as a Marxist academic and openly homosexual man, he possessed some immunity from the boilerplate accusations of prejudice that would dog conservative and far-right opponents of immigration.  In the end, he did not possess nearly enough immunity.  Fortuyn’s death was far more chilling in its way because it showed the extent to which Westerners were willing to adopt the tactics of religious and ideological fanatics to enforce an unthinking tolerance that has been sapping Europe from within for decades and which makes combating the kind of person who murdered Van Gogh that much more difficult through an unwillingness to confront the violence and drive for domination within Islam. 

Victor Davis Hanson evidently doesn’t like Europeans and some Americans and he’s isn’t afraid to say it.  You see, according to the one article, many Muslims are anti-Semites and the Europeans (along with select Americans) are “indifferent” to Muslim anti-Semitism, even though many if not all EU countries actually criminalise anti-Semitic speech and acts as hate crimes.  One might actually object to such criminalisation of speech on the basis that it infringes on free speech, which has lately become the fashionable idol before which American conservatives throw themselves, but it remains unclear how the Europeans enable rampaging anti-Semitism.  Oh, that’s right–they disagree with Hanson on foreign policy, so ipso facto….There are apparently Americans who are also doing this, because some attempted to have a conversation with Ahmadinejad (how dare they!).  

In the other, we are told that Europeans are “traitors to the Enlightenment.”  Well, maybe, but if they were actually traitors to the Enlightenment why would that necessarily either be a bad thing or reason for an ostensibly conservative person to complain?  Oh, yes, now I remember–they have allegedly lost faith in Reason, which is the other idol to which we on the right are now supposed to bow.  There is good reason to lament cases where Europeans cave in to Muslim intimidation, as happened with the Berlin opera, but it is by no means a universal phenomenon.  When Muslims were rioting and protesting the Danish cartoons, German government officials, among others, expressed support for free speech and several European newspapers republished the cartoons to state their support for free speech.  When Van Gogh was murdered, after Fortuyn had already raised the problem of Muslim immigrants’ assimilation to Dutch norms, such as they are, the Netherlands started taking a hard look at the problem of how or whether such people could be integrated into Dutch society if they are unwilling to accept the norms of that society.  When Muslims were rioting and protesting Pope Benedict’s speech, Aznar came out in support of the Pope and invoked the example of Ferdinand and Isabella–hardly the squeamish whinging of an appeaser.  There is change afoot and attitudes are changing in some places–not that the perpetual Europhobe Hanson would care to notice those things.  Europe’s ”tolerance” regime and its dogmatic multiculturalism are real problems, but they are also problems that Europeans, and European conservatives in particular, are taking on as best they can under the weight of decades of rot.  It is much easier to damn the whole of Europe than to see the potential hopeful signs for sanity and renewal.   

After this deluge of wisdom from old V.D., I am left wondering what on earth this last sentence even means:

And so Europe has done us a great favor in showing us not the way of the future, but the old cowardice of our pre-Enlightenment past.

This would presumably be the “pre-Enlightenment past” when Europeans fought the Muslims in the field, summoned Crusades, prayed for deliverance from the Hagarene foe and viewed them simply and plainly as the Saracen and the infidel.  Not exactly a friendly attitude, but rather more like the kind of combative one Hanson seems to want to see in our European cousins.  In the “pre-Enlightenment past,” Christians did not insult their own intelligence with myths about the Golden Age of Islamic civilisation and the tolerance of Islam.  Before Voltaire and his ilk, people did not typically romanticise the Sultan and the Ottomans and admire the alleged moral superiority of foreign civilisations as a way of subverting and destroying Christian civilisation.  The lumieres were in many respects the first great Western enablers of Islam, and so naturally it is to their example that a neocon would look.  Before the Enlightenment, all of the pathetic, servile habits that Hanson finds offensive in Europeans were rare.  Those who sided with the Turk were considered renegades to the Faith and to Europe.  Now the modern renegades over here plead with the cowardly Europeans to let the Turks into Europe again, while the Europeans have enough sense to say no.  Each time a choice had to be made between aiding a Christian people or a non-Christian one, Hanson and friends reliably have chosen the latter–and for equally cynical reasons of Machtpolitik (Azeri oil is more important than justice for and solidarity with Armenians, for example) that they try to pin on the Europeans when Europeans don’t march in lockstep on questions relating to Israel or the Middle East in general.

And more and more, the report concludes, Germans are disappointed with democracy within the country. This is especially true for those living in eastern Germany.


Last year, only 38 percent of eastern Germans thought democracy was a good form of government, the study said. In 2000, it was 49 percent. ~Deutsche Welle


Put yourself in the shoes of the average German from the old DDR.  Those who grew up under the old system probably find the transition under the unified Germany rather unpleasant and jarring (arguably, the hit success of Goodbye, Lenin! with its nostalgic DDR kitsch tapped into some sentiment that could view the DDR with both fondness and contempt); the roughly 20% unemployment in the east (the rate is higher in some of the eastern Laender) can hardly encourage a lot of enthusiasm for the status quo; there have probably been a lot of unreasonable expectations of the “why doesn’t Rostock look like Frankfurt-am-Main by now?” variety that assume there is some magic connection between having elective government and having an economic engine that generates massive wealth and that this wealth will be widely distributed to everyone by dint of being a member of the same country.  People who talk about democratic capitalism can only exacerbate this problem, as they imply that there is some necessary connection. 


These expectations of fortune and success under democracy are silly expectations, but if you grew up associating the wealthy Wessis with democracy and freedom, you might be forgiven for thinking that the acquisition of democracy and freedom (of some sort) should lead to greater economic success.  When that doesn’t happen, you assume something must be wrong with the democratic system rather than with, um, you. 


Fundamentally, the reason why most people in the West say they like democracy is because they think it is a means to get them the stuff they could not have under another system, and in this case they quite literally mean “stuff,” as in material things and wealth.  Indeed, one of the main selling points of the superiority of ”democratic capitalism” over communism during the Cold War was the former’s ability to get people lots of stuff; the austerity of communism was held up as if it were some kind of insult, when it was the oppression, not the lack of material things, that mattered.   


When the people expecting it do not get the stuff, they believe that the system has failed them.  In other cases, the democracy may be nominal or it may become the property of the plutocrats–as in Panama–and disillusionment with the promises of democracy follows swiftly.  Panama in particular has shown high levels of disapproval of democracy and strong potential for preferring authoritarianism because of the deeply corrupt nature of Panamanian democracy, alluded to so well in The Tailor of Panama (one of the best anti-interventionist films of the last 30 years), which is not at all surprising.  Democracy does not guarantee either eunomia or prosperity, and quite frequently results in neither, and expectations of either are misplaced and will inevitably lead to disappointment.  The question is not why so many people in eastern Germany are losing faith in democracy, but why so many in Germany or anywhere else still have faith in it.   


Of course, there is a good argument that it is irrational to blame the political system for your region’s economic failure, but popular preferences are very often a mix of rational interests mixed with a lot of irrational, muddled thinking.  It is generally easier to write off an entire system.  That does not mean that you are wrong to write it off, but it does suggest that you may never find anything satisfactory if you assume that the fault is in the system and not in yourself.  Democracy itself contributes to this error because it encourages people to project their own failures onto the collective of “the people” and thus avoid responsibility by attributing the problem to “all of us” and saying that this is a problem that “we” need to solve.  It is, of course, the priorities and values of the people in the system (in theory) that will dictate the people’s relative success or failure.  One of the problems with democracy is that it gives people all of the wrong priorities and many of the worst values, starting with ingratitude and laziness and working down from there. 


This is perhaps a crude portrait and possibly unfair to many Germans in the east who have not soured on German democracy (which is, incidentally, a system far more constrained and limited in its political options than even our own, if such a thing were possible), but I think it must explain part of the reason for the disenchantment.  Germans in the west have much greater confidence in democracy as a good form of government, which makes sense since their material conditions are remarkably better than those in the east:


That percentage for Germans in the western part of the country was higher, with 80 percent in 2000 and 71 percent in 2005 believing it was a positive form of government.


This should serve as a warning: support for democracy can often be very broad but also very shallow.  It receives as much widespread enthusiasm as it does because there is a common, but mistaken impression that it has some connection to prosperity, and when that prosperity falters or disappears there can be a large loss of confidence that paves the way for other kinds of radical mass movements. 


Democracy is unusually vulnerable to this disillusionment in the modern age, because it has tied its identity in the West to social welfarism and the competence (ha!) of the managerial state, which perversely makes the performance of government managers and the conditions of society measurements of the worth of democracy.  By making management of the economy a central preoccupation of government, economic failure redounds to the discredit of democratic government, even if the government has no direct role in economic problems.  When the managers fail to run things well, and democracy fails to provide “the safety net,” the many will seek alternative solutions.  Countries with people suffering from unreasonably high expectations, Eurosclerosis and a broken social democratic model (we suffer from two out of three of these, by the way) are at risk of losing confidence in democracy, or at least in the particular system of democratic government that currently exists as that government increasingly fails to meet those unreasonable expectations and cannot “provide the goods” that it has no role even trying to provide.  The flaw is not that democracy fails to deliver the goods, but that it very often promises to do things for people through government that they ought to be doing for themselves.  In its inculcation of dependency and apathy, it is the perfect breeding ground for future despotism.    

Mr. Bush frequently states, “Democracies are peaceful.”  This is hardly always true (there are many exceptions, including wars between democracies), but isn’t it interesting that when many of the democracies of Europe prove to be insufficiently warlike and fail to come up with the troops needed for the NATO mission in Afghanistan, thus possibly offering some proof for the central thesis of Mr. Bush’s Pax Democratica idea, they are savaged as traitors and weaklings who lack the mettle to fight like men?  The idea seems to be: democracies should be peaceful, but we don’t want anyone becoming a bunch of sissy pacifists!  Which reminds me, apropos of nothing, of a memorable exchange from The Big Lebowski:

The Dude: And, you know, he’s got emotional problems, man.

Walter: You mean, beyond pacifism?

Of course pacifism is a ridiculous position to take, but it is one that some nations–protected by our security guarantees–now believe they can take without real risk.  But berating Europeans for being too pacific, when such sublime pacificity is one of the supposed goals of the “freedom agenda,” is too much.  It makes about as much sense as drilling pacifism, war-guilt and the idea that aggression was the chief Nazi war crime into the Germans’ heads for 50 years and then being shocked (shocked!) when they opted out of a war of aggression (Iraq).  (Once again, I think if we had somehow made this into a war “against genocide”–regardless of the facts–many more of the Europeans would probably be rushing to help.) 

Seriously, if democracies are naturally inclined to pacific instincts, the Norwegians’ refusal to be deployed in combat zones should stand as a shining example of Mr. Bush’s ideals, should it not?  But then I am forgetting the global democratic revolution loophole–being peaceful is only desirable so long as you are not fighting to wipe fascism and tyranny from the face of the earth.

But it is right to use the concept—the traditional language is clerical fascism—about movements like the Romanian one. ~Michael Ledeen

This is one of the more remarkable errors that Michael “Scholar of Fascism” Ledeen makes in his efforts to show his alleged superior understanding of fascism in defense of the abhorrent neologism Islamofascism and the phrase ”Islamic fascist.”  As those familiar with the Legion of the Archangel Michael’s history and the career of Codreanu, the founder of this genuinely very odd Romanian political movement, will know, the Legion was in no sense “clerical,” because it was a predominantly and overwhelmingly lay movement that had no official church support nor did it have widespread clerical involvement because of the Church’s hostility to it. 

It did claim to be an Orthodox Christian political movement, made Orthodoxy an important aspect of the Romanian national identity, and modeled its ideals and rhetoric on extreme asceticism and martyrdom, which included a willingness to die–but not therefore necessarily to kill–for Romania.  Its general lack of violence and hooliganism (which is not to say that its members did not sometimes engage in political violence) marks it out as as more of a peculiar Christian nationalist group that was not very fascistic except for the uniforms the salutes.  Stanley Payne has argued convincingly that of movements typically associated with fascism in interwar Europe it has one of the weakest claims to the name.  Payne certainly never used the name clerical fascism for the Legion, and tends to avoid using that name for any of what he more accurately described as conservative authoritarian regimes.  Before it was associated with the Antonescu government, the Legion was known mostly for how many of its members suffered death at the hands of the Romanian government and others, since Codreanu maintained a very bizarre attitude towards violence for someone conventionally associated with fascism: be killed for Romania, but don’t kill.  You may be able to guess why the movement did not catch on everywhere. 

The reasons why Codreanu has been associated with fascism are because the Legion was a mass “shirt” nationalist movement (I believe green was their preferred colour) that had a peculiar obsession with death for the nation, and even went so far as to say, “You must love Romania more than your own soul.”  Even granting some license for exaggeration, this was a bizarre statement for an expressly Christian movement to make. 

It is noteworthy that in all of this the Romanian Orthodox Church had virtually nothing to do with Codreanu and condemned his movement in support of government repression of the movement.  If there were individual priests who had anything to do with the movement, they did not have the official support of the hierarchy and would have suffered penalties for associating with the movement.  Mircea Eliade, the famous Romanian writer, who fled Romania around the time of the rise of the Antonescu government, came here to Chicago and later wrote how strange he found it that the Church had persecuted the only modern political movement even remotely related to Orthodox Christianity.  Under Antonescu, Legionaries did become willing tools of the collaborationist government and took on a very different character with respect to the general use of violence than they had had when Codreanu was still alive.  But even if in this later period they might be aligned with the Nazis in their collaboration and usually anti-Jewish violence, at no point were they “clerical fascist” in any meaningful sense. 

But being a Christian movement is not the same as being clericalist, much less clerical fascist (a bogus category, in my view, primarily invented to conjure up hatred for Catholic accommodations with Mussolini, the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg Catholic corporatist and anti-Nazi regime in Austria from 1934-38 and for Franco’s regime).  The entire category clerical fascist was one invented by the sorts of people who don’t like conservative authoritarianism or Catholicism, and really don’t like them when they are combined (as they were, to some degree, in Austria and Spain)–in harping on it, Ledeen shows not so much his scholarly accomplishments (which his description of the Legion makes ever more suspect) but his own obsessions in militating against conservative authoritarian and religious regimes. 

Indeed, it is only when clerics are prominent in a political movement that it is really correct to call it clericalist, and then the system they usually hope to set up falls under a much more generic category of theocracy.  It is perfectly reasonable to describe Iran as a theocratic republic; it would be reasonable to call it clericalist, if one so desired.  But fascist? In what sense? 

There are, it is true, authoritarian, revolutionary and republican elements in the Iranian regime, but these seem to be markers not of fascism but of what might broadly be called an Islamic version of conservative authoritarianism.  If there are a few people in the entire Near East who are Muslims and also find themselves in sympathy with fascism, that’s all very interesting, but it tells us nothing about the people whom the adminsitration is labeling Islamic fascist–namely, members of Al Qaeda or Hizbullah or the government in Tehran, which are very clearly not claiming any kind of affinities or sympathies with fascism.  There may be Muslims (probably more secular than religious) who are political fascists, but if a Muslim is an Islamist he is almost by definition not a fascist, and that is what we’re arguing about. 

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.

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.


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.

Fortunately, this is a line of inquiry that has answers. Human Rights Watch reported in February, 2000 that “About five hundred civilians died in ninety separate incidents as a result of NATO bombing in Yugoslavia last year.” HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth, who was generally supportive of the enterprise, found this result worth criticizing: “Once it made the decision to attack Yugoslavia, NATO should have done more to protect civilians. All too often, NATO targeting subjected the civilian population to unacceptable risks.” Obviously, 500 is a lot less than 10,000.

What’s more, I don’t really see the point in trying to compare the two wars which simply don’t seem very similar to me. ~Matt Yglesias

Well, I don’t know what to tell Mr. Yglesias, except that his numbers–and those of Human Rights Watch–are mistaken.  The dead in Yugoslavia were in the thousands.  The figure of 500, according to the Serbian government, had already been reached by mid-April, approximately one month after the war began.  I have normally seen numbers around 5,000 civilians killed during the bombing campaign.  It may have been lower than that, but I feel fairly confident that it was significantly higher than 500.  There were also several thousand Yugoslavian soldiers killed, which is not a light thing considering the aggressive and illegal nature of the war.  Of course, the number killed in a completely unjustifiable war does not somehow make the crime any less heinous or inexcusable–when you launch wars of aggression, any deaths, particularly those of civilians, have no justification.    

But the bigger problem is that Mr. Yglesias sees no parallels between the two campaigns, when the parallels are many and rather obvious.  The first is that both seem to have been campaigns in search of a pretext.  The rejection of the Rambouillet negotiations was Mr. Clinton’s pretext for attacking Serbia, which had returned to Mr. Clinton’s agenda by at least the year before when Washington ceased calling the KLA terrorists and began agitating over Kosovo; the myth of Racak helped lend moral credibility to his dubious enterprise.  In the case of Lebanon, the provocation and attack by Hizbullah provided the immediate pretext to launch a plan that had been prepared for some time.  In both cases, air wars aimed at punishing an entire for the crimes of a relative few were waged with limited success in degrading the military capabilities of the very people whose operations the campaign was supposedly aimed at, while the civilian populations suffered the brunt of the damage.  In both cases, the world allowed the terrorisation of a civilian population for allegedly justifiable ends (stopping “genocide”/fighting terrorism) by the militarily superior forces of one side.  In both cases, the bombings produced floods of refugees numbering in the hundreds of thousands.  The difference was that in Kosovo the government was able to circulate the lie that the Serbs had been the ones to drive the refugees out of Kosovo, when it was NATO’s campaign that had done it.  In Lebanon, no one could be deceived that the refugee crisis had been created by anyone but Israel.  The attack on Yugoslavia was criminal, immoral aggression; the war on Lebanon, particularly considering the way it has been carried out, is only marginally better. 


Your Friendly Neighbourhood Liberals 


     UNA-UNSO’s Charming Emblem

For our friends who are under the impression that Pora! and other Orange Revolutionaries are admirable people fighting for freedom, I cite this and John Laughland’s revealing article from the 6 November 2004 issue of The Spectator:

It is in the west of Ukraine that support is strongest for the man who is being vigorously promoted by America as the country’s next president: the former prime minister Viktor Yushchenko. On a rainy Monday morning in Kiev, I met some young Yushchenko supporters, druggy skinheads from Lvov. They belonged both to a Western-backed youth organisation, Pora, and also to Ukrainian National Self-Defence (Unso), a semi-paramilitary movement whose members enjoy posing for the cameras carrying rifles and wearing fatigues and balaclava helmets. Were nutters like this to be politically active in any country other than Ukraine or the Baltic states, there would be instant outcry in the US and British media; but in former Soviet republics, such bogus nationalism is considered anti-Russian and therefore democratic.  

Update: I mentioned the similarity between Hutu anti-Tutsi rhetoric (”cockroaches”) and the depiction of Pora’s enemies as a “beetle,” which is how I had always seen the insect from the poster described.  Once I saw the picture of the poster itself, I realised that said “beetle” looks an awful lot like a cockroach, so the parallels are even closer than I originally believed.  Nice people, great values.  Here is a little item about how Pora lads handle disagreements. 

If Ukraine were a Latin American country like, say, Bolivia of a couple years ago, constantly beset by mass protests and political instability, most American observers would view the scene with dismay and say that the country is falling to pieces.  If Ukraine were Bolivia, the chattering and typing classes would grimace at the rise of wacky Indio-nationalist socialism and scratch their heads at the rise of the mystical racists and communist-educated foreign ministers.  Because Ukraine is Ukraine, because the loopy foreign minister Choquehuanca had his equal in socialist Yulia Tymoshenko, who was briefly prime minister under Yushchenko, and the wacky nationalists and socialists are our pawns and hirelings, rather than some bizarre indigenous movement that we barely understand (as in Bolivia), our chattering and typing classes speak of the “Orange Revolution” as if it actually represented something benevolent and desirable and view its leaders’ compromises with the bad, old, pro-Russian order as betrayals of noble principle.  What, after all, would Yushchenko’s Jew-hating nationalist friends say about his recent sell-out?  We wouldn’t want to disappoint such fine folks.

Seeing Yushchenko bringing Yanukovych in as prime minister, the Oranges are unhappy and may go back out into the streets to protest.  Jesse Walker at Hit and Run seems to be under the impression that this would be a good thing for Ukraine:

But I’m glad to see the tents going up again. Here’s hoping they can recover the momentum of ‘04.

Yes, the happy momentum of 2004, when fraud and deception were the order of the day and Western audiences were willing dupes for pro-Yushchenko propaganda.  Eunomia came into existence around the time of the fraudulent “Orange Revolution,” and many of my early posts were dedicated to highlighting the evils of electing the criminal Yushchenko, who enjoyed the support of such luminaries as the unreformed socialist Tymoshenko and the borderline fascist, U.S.-sponsored ”democratic” group Pora that employed the charming symbolism of a jackboot crushing a beetle to express their benevolent desire for freedom.  If you like that, you’ll love these guys (the graphic of the growing red tide engulfing all of Europe is nice and subtle), UNA-UNSO, the radical nationalists who backed the “Revolution.”  Even the umbrella Our Ukraine party works uses a slogan that, in any other context, would probably evoke worry and warnings of danger: “There is only one Ukraine for all of us!” (Ukraina u nas odna!)  If Tymoshenko and Pora, a group that Mr. Walker described simply as the “central resistance group” in his 2004 article, oppose Yanukovych’s appointment and want to return to the streets, we should recognise them as adversaries of any kind of economic and political reform in Ukraine.  We certainly shouldn’t be cheering them on, if we value the well-being, economic stability and independence of Ukraine.  

Of Pora and other old-line Yushchenko supporters from 2004, John Laughland wrote at the time:

The blindness extends even to the posters which the “pro-democracy” group, Pora, has plastered all over Ukraine, depicting a jackboot crushing a beetle, an allegory of what Pora wants to do to its opponents.

[DL: As an aside, depicting their enemies as beetles reminds me more than a little of Hutu descriptions of the Tutsis as cockroaches prior to and during the genocide.  This is the sort of thing U.S. tax dollars went to support.  Keep that in mind the next time someone talks about “spreading democracy.”] 

Such dehumanisation of enemies has well-known antecedents - not least in Nazi-occupied Ukraine itself, when pre-emptive war was waged against the Red Plague emanating from Moscow - yet these posters have passed without comment. Pora continues to be presented as an innocent band of students having fun in spite of the fact that - like its sister organisations in Serbia and Georgia, Otpor and Kmara - Pora is an organisation created and financed by Washington.

It gets worse. Plunging into the crowd of Yushchenko supporters in Independence Square after the first round of the election, I met two members of Una-Unso, a neo-Nazi party whose emblem is a swastika. They were unembarrassed about their allegiance, perhaps because last year Yushchenko and his allies stood up for the Socialist party newspaper, Silski Visti, after it ran an anti-semitic article claiming that Jews had invaded Ukraine alongside the Wehrmacht in 1941. On September 19 2004, Yushchenko’s ally, Alexander Moroz, told JTA-Global Jewish News: “I have defended Silski Visti and will continue to do so. I personally think the argument … citing 400,000 Jews in the SS is incorrect, but I am not in a position to know all the facts.” Yushchenko, Moroz and their oligarch ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, meanwhile, cited a court order closing the paper as evidence of the government’s desire to muzzle the media. In any other country, support for anti-semites would be shocking; in this case, our media do not even mention it.

Those are the people behind the “Orange Revolution.”  Furthermore, if the U.S.-backed “democrats” of Pora are prepared to go out into the streets, it means that Washington is probably pulling strings to destabilise the future Yanukovych ministry.  This is not desirable, it is not to welcomed, and it should be an embarrassment for libertarians that Reason keeps embracing ludicrous “democratic” movements that have been and continue to be little more than fronts for American influence and control.  To the extent that any of the Orange groups are genuinely “democratic” or representative of the fetid Ukrainian nationalism of the western regions of that country, there is nothing much to recommend them, either.

“Thanks to the Spanish Army and Franco the Communist attack on Catholic Spain was thwarted,” Prof. Giertych told the European Parliament. “The presence of such people in European politics as Franco guaranteed the maintenance of traditional values in Europe and we lack such statesmen today. Christian Europe is losing against atheistic socialists today and this has to change.”

“I thought it was necessary to remind listeners in the EU Parliament,” the Professor said later, “that this was not an anti-democratic movement, but a movement that was in defense of certain values that are inherent in the Catholic way of seeing things pertinent to government to run civil society. The uprising was a defense of Catholic Spain, so the civil war in Spain was a conflict between Catholic Spain and communist Spain.” The Professor also used his speech to praise António de Oliveira Salazar, Portugal’s Catholic dictator who, like Franco, managed to keep his country free from the devastation of the Second World War. (Salazar was also a very close friend of Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith, who claimed in his memoirs that if Salazar had lasted a few more years, Rhodesia would still exist today). ~Andrew Cusack