Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Saudi Problem

Saudi Arabia spearheads the worldwide Islamist movement by the establishment of educational institutions around the globe dedicated to reawakening the jihadist ideology. A vast recruiting and training network produces hate-filled warriors eager to kill anyone in their path for the glory of Islam. Saudi powerbrokers finance global terror groups from Hamas to Al Qaeda. (See our review.) The time has come to reconsider our repugnant association with these duplicitous international criminals. What should we do in the face of this threat? Let’s start by severing all ties with Saudi Arabia – military, trade, travel, and diplomatic.

Impossible, you say? Given that 15% of our oil imports originate in Saudi Arabia, the idea of ending our Saudi trade relationship is deemed unimaginable or only possible in the distant future after the development of alternative sources of energy. Neither political party dares suggest such a move in the current context. Unfortunately, the economics is poorly understood but far worse, moral leadership is next to non-existent. First the economics:

Oil is a commodity. Like any commodity its price is determined by the market and it can be sold and resold any number of times. Oil isn’t made-to-order for a particular buyer like a custom suit from one’s personal tailor. The production, purchase, resale, and consumption of oil in today’s modern global economy are determined by market forces – not personal relationships. The path from producer to consumer is spontaneously rearranging.

The production of oil is driven by producers’ needs – not our needs – and will continue even if we refused to buy another ounce. Over 90% of Saudi export revenue comes from oil – 40% of their GDP. They have to sell oil to eat; they are not doing us a favor. Given the drop in the standard of living of the average Saudi – more than half since the early 80s – the Saudi capacity for withholding oil on a sustained basis is severely limited by political considerations.

The modern international oil market is governed by a vast trading network. I’m told by Energy traders that a barrel of oil will change ownership more than a dozen times before it reaches your car’s gas tank. Trying to mark a barrel of oil and control its final destination is an exercise in futility. Even if the Saudis sold only to non-American companies, not much changes. These companies either sell to us or they must reduce purchases from their previous suppliers – who, in turn, would have supply available for our companies.

But what are “our” companies? Oil companies are owned by the individual stockholders who live all over the world. Some companies have headquarters based in America; others, like British Petroleum (BP) or Royal Dutch Petroleum Company (Shell) have their headquarters in Europe. Does it matter to us where the CEO has his desk? Multi-national corporations are only nominally associated with a particular flag.

Let’s assume the initial Saudi reaction is to reduce production and delve into savings. That, of course, will raise market prices and hurt all consumers worldwide. And it could not last – sand just doesn’t fill the stomach. Consider, also, the removal of American personal; this will have a devastating affect on Saudi production – but only until French and Germans take their places. After a transient effect, the economics of oil remains unchanged.

Now, forget everything I just said about economics. Most people don’t understand economics and their fears will not subside. What is needed is moral leadership to maintain resolve in the face of uncertainties and to maintain strength of character during near term periods of want. In life one makes choices – moral choices – without knowing how to insure one’s goals or satisfy one’s desires. Maintaining moral discipline is both the honorable and prudent path in the long run.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, we have sent dedicated men and women into war to fight a vicious and loathsome enemy. As our brave fighters risk their lives or, in many cases, die in combat, it is surely appropriate to expect those of us in the comfort of our homes to tighten our belts and go without for the duration. If some believe our actions against Saudi Arabia will cause higher oil prices, we should be ashamed to complain about such hardships at a time like this.

As the Saudi enemy is sending suicide bombers across the borders to kill our troops, we cannot be hesitant in responding to these acts of war. If trained jihadists from the worldwide network of Saudi-funded Islamic schools turn up in Iraq, we cannot continue business as usual with these religious despots. From Afghanistan to Algeria to the Philippines to Nigeria and to a church in Bethlehem, Saudi money, teachings, and trainings bring endless jihadist terror. When will we take a moral stand? When will we identify the enemy? If not now when?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Hatred's Kingdom

Dore Gold’s Hatred’s Kingdom is the definitive book on Saudi Arabia’s support for Islamist terrorism and their role in furthering the jihadist ideology that creates suicide bombers. If, like me, you thought Dore Gold was just a diplomat, let me reassure you that this is a book by a scholar – one who originally researched the subject for his doctoral dissertation. He has mastered the history and uncovered the incriminating facts. Saudi Arabia is no friend—but the locus of funding and propaganda behind the enemy we face.

The Saudis back the Wahhabi movement. Wahhabism, founded in the 17th century, seeks a return to the practice of original (i.e. salafi) Islam of Mohammad’s days. This is a jihadist movement against all non-Muslims (they supported jihad against the Sikhs in the 1820s, for example) and against the Shiites (Wahhab, himself, attacked Shiites in, what is today, Iraq).

Early in the 20th century, the British supported the Saudi family, who gained control of Mecca from the Hashemite family. Under Saudi control strict Islam was enforced through out Arabia. In 1963, the educational system came under Wahhabi control. But, more importantly, the 1960s saw the influx of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood originated the Islamic Revival in response to Ataturk’s abolition of the caliphate. Sayyid Qutb, a key force in the Brotherhood (also see Paul Berman’s
Terror and Liberalism) was executed by Nasser in 1966. The Brotherhood sought and found refuge in Saudi Arabia. Members of the Brotherhood assumed university positions in the newly created Islamic University of Medina and King Abdul Aziz University. It was at the latter that Muhammad Qutb, brother of Sayyid, taught a young Osama bin Laden true Islam.

Gold notes (as does Berman) that Sayyid Qutb lived briefly in America and was repulsed by modern culture. A feeling widely shared by devout Muslims. In “1957, Wilfred Cantwell Smith of McGill University wrote, ‘Most westerners have simply no inkling of how deep and fierce is the hate of the West that has gripped the modernizing Arab.’” (Gold p93-4).

At Aziz University was Abdullah Azzam, who taught the centrality of jihad to Islam. He hoped for a replay of Islam’s glory – when Muslims defeated the Byzantine and Persian empires and appeared to conquer the world. “Azzam saw his new jihad crushing the Soviet Union and the United States.” (Gold p98) At the Islamic University of Medina two influential faculty members (Jarishan and al-Zubayq) condemn Western secularism: “In the economic field that means the flag of capitalism, in the political field that means the principles of democracy, and in the social field it waves the principles of freedom.” And they damned “secularism in education and the mass media as ‘aggression against Islamic legitimacy.’” (Gold p101)

In the 1970s, with Saudi oil wealth, King Faisel’s Muslim World League spread the Wahhabi virus worldwide. “Saudi Arabia … embarked on a massive campaign to bring Wahhabi Islam to the world. Between 1982 and 2002, 1,500 mosques, 210 Islamic centers, and 20,000 schools to educate Muslim children were established in non-Muslims countries alone.” (Gold p126) Saudis funded Hamas, an out growth of the Muslim Brotherhood. They funded and co-opted Cairo’s oldest and most authoritative university, al-Azhar. They funded the Madrassahs in Pakistan and the Afghan fighters against the USSR.

“In fact, Osama bin Laden and Prince Turki al-Faisal, a son of King Faisal, knew each other during bin Laden’s university days. Turki would make use of his relationship with bin Laden after the prince became the Saudi intelligence chief in September 1977. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he put bin Laden in charge of moving Arab volunteers who wanted to fight the Soviets from Saudi Arabia to Peshawar, Pakistan.” (Gold p129-130)

The Taliban were not originally Wahhabi but that changed with Saudi influence. Dore Gold shows the ease in which Saudi-style Wahhabi Islam is welcomed and accepted worldwide. Islam doesn’t differ as much as various sects of Christianity. For example, 70-80% of American mosques are Saudi funded and staffed even thought the vast majority of Muslims in America don’t come from a country like Saudi Arabia. Imagine going to England and finding that 80% of the priests in the Church of England were ordained by the Roman Catholic Church. It’s unimaginable! The ease with which Wahhabi influence spreads shows the lack of doctrinal variations among various branches of Islam. (This is not a point Gold makes, however.)

Gold continue to document the Saudi influence and aid to the terrorists throughout the 1990s and even after 9/11. The Saudi family (and thus the Saudi government) funds the violence and the spread of propaganda. Our government completely ignores the spread of Wahhabi Islam. Gold notes: “But unless the ideological motivation for terrorism is addressed and, indeed, extinguished, then the war on terror will not be won. Saudi Arabia is the breeding ground for Wahhabi extremism and consequently the source of the hatred that impels international terrorist organizations.” (Gold p225)

I’ve just scratched the surface on Saudi complicity in the terror of the last 20 years. Read the book for the full details. This is a book that should be in every library.

Here is a biography of Dore Gold. His 2003 WSJ article argues that we must do more than fight military battles in Iraq – we must address the source of the jihad, Saudi Arabia. Daniel Pipes suggests there is one place to start if one wants to learn about Saudi Arabia. The Middle East Form sums up Dr. Gold’s thesis succinctly.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Islam's Threat to Freedom of Speech

Oriana Fallaci, an outspoken critic of Islam, has been indicted in Italy for “vilification” of a religion. We all know the cost of a legal defense is a punishment itself that few can endure. Others without the means will be silent in the face of the Islamic threat. The threat to freedom of speech is severe. Three years ago the eccentric French author (pardon the redundancy), faced similar charges but was eventually acquitted. A recent article notes:

Houellebecq’s acquittal was treated in the press as a victory for freedom of speech, particularly since the author himself did not back down. (“I have never shown the slightest contempt for Muslims,” he stated to the panel of judges, “but I have as much contempt as ever for Islam.”) Nonetheless, I suggested to Houellebecq, the fact that there was a trial at all was surely a much greater victory for the power of Muslim intimidation.

“Yes, I think so,” he agreed. “I think what I said will never be said again.”

Our laws still protect freedom of speech. However, our universities have established repressive environments where criticism of certain doctrines, demographic ethos, and foreign religions are treated as crimes. There is already a cultural taboo against criticism of Islam. We must exercise our free speech and defend it vigorously. No speech, on any subject, should be subject to prosecution because some deem it odious.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Moderate Islam or Secularization?

There’s a general consensus, across the political spectrum, that Moderate Islam is the only hope for the reform of Islamic societies. With rare exception, this is based on a vast ignorance of Islam – as a religion and historical force – coupled with a projection of Western sentiments onto Islamic societies. In a future article, I’ll argue that moderate Islam is not a tenable long-term solution. For now, let’s focus on, what many consider less likely: the prospects of secularization.

Scholarly journals generally discuss, not fundamentalist Islam, but what they call an Islamic Revival. This suggests that Islam has, to some extent, waned. Indeed, if we go back fifty years, the dominant cultural influences were secular: socialism and nationalism. Islam was disparaged as a force holding back Arab and other nominally-Islamic nations. In each country, the exact relationship of secularism and religion varied. Turkey’s secularization came close to Europe’s (at least officially). Iran was undergoing a similar secularization process under the Shah. In many Arab countries, Islam was accorded perfunctory respect but privately it was disparaged. In Iraq, according to one source, there were one million Communists in the 1950s – not exactly a religious friendly movement. In Afghanistan, 5th column communists actually gained power two years before requesting Soviet military intervention. The failure of the collectivist road to secularism was the motivation for the Islam Revival in the last 30 years.

What was the religious practice before the revival? Islam, like Orthodox Christianity, had stagnated for several centuries. Drained of any intellectual innovation, both became heavily ritualistic and rote with faint memories of past glory. An astute social commentator, 80 years ago, compared the practices of the monotheistic religions and saw vast differences between Western Christianity and the Eastern religions of Islam, Judaism, and Orthodox Christianity. Islam is declared “dead,” “nothing more than a ritual,” “offer[s] nothing to the mind,” “despiritualized,” full of “legal forms and external rule.” (Ludwig von Mises, Socialism, p 370, Liberty Classics) Other authors came to similar conclusions.

The center of Islam was the Caliphate in Turkey. Ataturk, transformed Turkey, by blood and iron, into a secular society. By abolishing the Caliphate on March 3, 1924, he brought an end to this 1300 years old institution. This would have been the equivalent of Mussolini closing the Vatican. The other major example of near-complete religious suppression is the Bolshevik elimination of Orthodox Christianity in Russia. In both cases spiritually-dormant religions were pushed aside and discarded. Compare that to the vibrancy of Catholicism in communist Poland!

The revival of Islam started with the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt and an obscure Arabian family who happened to be sitting on top of the world’s greatest reserve of oil. After the Brotherhood was driven from Egypt, the Saudi family welcomed them with open arms. Many found gainful employment in Saudi universities. The ideological architect of the Islamic Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, was killed by the Egyptian government but his brother, Mohammad Qutb taught in the university at Medina and his star pupil, Osama bin Laden, put his teachings into practice. The Saudi oil wealth enabled the establishment of a world-wide network of educational institutions. Soon, Muslims everywhere were learning about Islam as Mohammad practiced it – Salafi or original Islam.

Our ignorance of the practice of Islam leaves us unprepared and the dream of a moderate Islam causes undue hesitation as we seek to avoid offense. We are easily manipulated. At the start of the Afghan campaign, we were warned about dire consequences if we continued the war during Ramadan and seriously considered postponing combat. One such warning came from our “friend” Musharraf. However, as any student of Middle East history can attest, Arabs call the Yom Kippur War the Ramadan War because they initiated aggression against Israel during Ramadan. Incidentally, it was financed by the ultra religious Saudi government. In another recent example, we are told that our disrespect for the Koran has inflamed Muslim hatred. But Mark Steyn explodes that myth (hat tip: Social Sense). Our apologetics plays right into the hands of the Islamists who boast of Islam’s power to elicit respect from its enemies. The examples of blunders like this are endless.

Islam is the root cause of the Jihadist’s war against America (and against all non-Muslims). Not only do we fail to understand this motivation but we mistakenly praise the religion. In an attempt to encourage a “moderate” Islam we have embarked on a “self-esteem” inducing regimen where we continually praise the “true” Islam that’s been “hijacked” by the “evil ones.” Similar to the failed “make them feel good first” educational techniques ubiquitous in primary education, our policy is to make them feel good about Islam first in the hopes that they’ll invent and practice a “good” Islam later. As we soothingly say “good Muslims,” they act out in violent fits. Our co-dependent-like response – i.e. reassurance that they don’t really support those extremists (and here’s some more foreign aid) – only encourages more bad behavior. This is part of the “Oslo Syndrome.”

While we’ve imagined a vigorous and deep-rooted practice far in excess of the reality, the left errs in the opposite direction. Quick to deny the power of religion and to look for economic “root causes,” the left has been taken by surprise. Edward Said, Columbia University professor and Palestinian terrorist, wrote the book that changed Middle East Studies in 1978: Orientalism. The eminent scholar, Martin Kramer, explains how Said embarrassingly dismissed, in his usual sarcastic manner, Western writers that see Islam as a potent social force. I say embarrassingly because in 1979, Khomeini rose to power in Iran. However wrong Said and other leftists were, they could deny Islam’s power precisely because the revival was building steam under the surface. The secular-nationalist-socialist forces were taken for granted even if they were rotten at the core.

Can Islamic countries become open to a more rational liberal secularism? Yes, I believe so but more importantly, what would it take? Before we consider that we should examine the case for a moderate Islam for comparison as it is the current default in the minds of our policy makers. That will be left for a future article.

Friday, June 17, 2005

It's the Religion, Stupid

Victor Davis Hanson says what few people have the guts to say: (a) the terrorists are motivated by their religious ideology, (b) funded by the Saudis, (c) willing to collaborate with secular Arab-fascists, (d) hate Jews and non-Muslims regardless of “grievances,” and (e) systematically feign being offended to manipulate over-sensitive politically-correct Westerners.

We’ve talked about all of these issues.

“It’s the religion, stupid.”

Islamic militancy represents a return to Islam which is not a response to our foreign policy, but a quest to re-establish original Islam as found in the Koran and Hadith. The attack of 9/11 was a purely religious act that was cheered throughout the Islamic world for just that reason.

They are the problem.

Jihadists enter our country with ease. They are funded by Saudi Arabia who we refuse to treat as the enemy. The Saudi reach is worldwide - including Europe. We continue to stigmatize anyone who even suggests Islam may be part of the problem. Hollywood casts Muslims as victims of our prejudice while we are demonized as having created Gulags. As they burn our flag, we are expected to show respect for their war manual … I mean holy book. Their irrational hate is never mentioned (unless to hint that we are worthy of that hate). Instead, we are damned as having pathological hate for the “other.”

Both left and right are in denial.

The left belittles the Islamic threat and sees Bush as the villain in today’s world. One has little hope for the left but even conservatives fail to face the threat over and over and over. The conservatives’ superficial approach fails to understand the roll of ideology and the deep cultural change that’s required for any lasting and stable democracy. But some conservatives are OK with an elected Islamic-theocracy.

We fail to acknowledge our moral superiority.

In past wars we were clear about our moral standing in the struggle. We called barbarity evil when we faced it – but can't even raise the question now. Apparently, there is a taboo against our taking pride in our country’s achievements and finding fault with their failures. Moral relativism is undercutting our efforts to rally our nation and sustain our spirit. The gratuitous respect given our savage enemy is becoming such a farce that the public is silently becoming disgusted. And that disgust grows in proportion to the exhortations that we bow down to this pathetic warrior religion.

Well, perhaps Victor didn't go quite this far ... yet.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Proud

This is a story I missed until now:
” Marine Capt. Brian R. Chontosh received the Navy Cross Medal from the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, during an awards ceremony Thursday at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Training Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.”
I left the best for you to read. It’s a “must read” if you want to appreciate the quality of men and women fighting for our great country.

I thank Rancher for posting this story on his blog and summing it up with: “We're going to turn out all right. As long as men like Brian Chontosh wear our uniform. If you are as proud of this Marine as I am, then send this to EVERYONE YOU KNOW !!” I couldn’t agree more and I’m doing just that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Left’s Gulag of the Mind

Perhaps we’ve become immune to the inflammatory rhetoric of the loony left to such an extent that we’ve come to expect outrageous comparisons. Amnesty International has joined the ranks of the absurd by likening Gitmo to the Gulag. But, no matter how common these tactics have become, such slander has to be resoundingly condemned. R.J.Rummel, on his website, brings us back to the real Gulag. We all should review this material to get the full impact the Soviet horror even if you’ve read about the Gulag before. Everyone should keep in mind what the Gulag really means.

Gitmo, by all historical wartime standards, is PC paradise for terrorists. In WWII, non-uniformed combatants would have been shot on the spot. Now, Senator Biden and Amnesty International want terrorists to have to full procedural rights of an American citizen. What’s next? Will we have to read them Miranda rights on the battle fields of Iraq? Will we have to get search warrants to enter each cave in Afghanistan?

It’s clear that the left is trying to return to the pre-9/11 days when our intelligence and military were hamstrung and unable to do their job. Sixth Column has further thoughts to keep your blood boiling.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Why Do We Apologize?

Jack Wheeler asks the right question. It’s right from a moral perspective and there’s no greater believer in the power of the moral to ultimately triumph as Jack – but we’ll get to that in a moment. There seems to be an inordinate about of apologetics from our political leaders … of both parties. Isn’t it odd that the one country that’s done most to save civilization from the ravages of totalitarianism – by our example of a just society and our military might – should be the one country always apologizing? Even today, while our enemy displays levels of viciousness and barbarity, we are the one expected to apologize for a slight to the enemy’s book of war propaganda ("Fight the Infidel ...")! Jack reminds us of a wonderful line of wisdom from an American movie when they made ‘em like they used to:
“Never apologize, son. It’s a sign of weakness.”
Dr. Wheeler (we’ll get to that), who has known and advised past Presidents (trust me, we’ll get to that) suggests an appropriate response:
“I want to make it very clear that neither this Administration nor the American military nor the American people owe an apology whatsoever to the religion of Islam and its believers. The American people have every right to take enormous pride in the respect which our military treats believers in Islam, and in the fact that the American military is not just the most powerful but the most humanitarian fighting force in the history of humankind. It is the Islamic terrorists and their followers who owe us an apology for making war on us, and owe an apology to their fellow believers in Islam for making war on them.”
Dr. Wheeler has a long history as a friend and supporter of Ronald Reagan going back to the 1960s. Jack has maintained a moral opposition to communism and urged others to do so – even while “compromise” was considered the practical road to dealing with a foe that was deemed invincible. Reagan embodied the spirit of “never apologize” – instead, he proclaimed and demanded respect for our exceptionalism. Dr. Wheeler, who has a PhD in philosophy, combines a moral analysis with a practical “here’s what needs to get done” spirit in a style that’s unique and optimistic. Hmmm. That reminds me of a past President. In any case, check out his writings on his website.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Our Own Gullibility

After the attack of 9/11, many believed there would be drastic changes in our culture and government. The changes have been far short of my expectations. In many ways we are still blind to the threat. I tend to focus on our cultural limitations that hinder our ability to face the threat of Islam. A recent article, Our Own Gullibility , describes in greater detail the enemy in our mists, their mode of operation, and our continued unwillingness to face the problem. How are we failing? Do we have to wait for another 9/11 before we face the facts? Read the article.

Many of us believe the government will protect us. But the government is just composed of our fellow Americans. If we can’t face the threat, talk about it, and act as if it mattered, why do we think the government – Americans who think just like we do – will act any differently? We, the people, are the government. The government reflects our views and our priorities. Let’s act as responsible citizens and educate our friends and neighbors. Change starts with each individual, one at a time.

Bloomberg's Moment of Truth

Remember Prince Al-Walid bin Talal? If the name doesn’t sound familiar, let me remind you. One month after 9/11, bin Talal offered Rudy Giuliani $10 million in aid while commenting that we brought the attack on ourselves. Giuliani took a moral stand. He refused the check and condemned the vicious blame-the-victim attitude. In doing so, he also refused to play the role of dhimmis by accepting the humiliation that non-Muslims are expected to endure after being victimized. Of course, the slimy prince (who owns the Savoy hotel in London) blamed the mayor’s actions on the Jews.

Now it is Bloomberg’s turn. This issue is the planned desecration of ground zero by hate-America leftists. Again insult is added to injury. Can Bloomberg take a moral stand? As mayor of New York City, Bloomberg has the attention of the world. He can use the bully pulpit to lead a campaign to right this injustice. As a self-proclaimed heir to the Giuliani legacy, one expects nothing less.

There are times when the mayor speaks on moral issues – even those beyond his power. For example, the mayor is using moral suasion to pressure the landlords not to board-up their property during ethnic-day parades down Fifth Avenue. He says this is offensive and unnecessary. What a sensitive guy! But how about being sensitive to American patriots who are offended at the planned desecration of group zero? How about using some of that moral suasion to demand the creation of a new committee as I suggest in yesterday’s piece?

We are waiting, Mayor Bloomberg!

Friday, June 10, 2005

News & Views

Outrage Of The Week – Time To Act
The most urgent piece of news is the horrible desecration planned for the WTC memorial. In case you haven’t heard about it try this, this, this, this, this, and this. I already wrote Mayor Bloomberg. We must act to stop this memorial as planned. To do that we should suggest a new committee composed of patriots to pick a proper memorial. William Bennett, Ed Meese, Tommy Franks, Thomas Sowell, Ralph Peters, … who else?

Moderate Islam ... where, when?
I’m currently engaged in a debate over the feasibility of moderate Islam. My interlocutors are Ed Hudgins, of the Objectivist Center and formerly of the Cato Institute, and Robert Bidinotto, of the Objectivist Center and longtime writer for Reader’s Digest. Can Islam change like Christianity? How different are the religions and their ability to come to grips with secular rational philosophy and a liberal democratic order?

Freedomist vs. Libertarian. In this corner we have …
R.J.Rummel has challenged isolationist libertarians to a debate to which Thomas L. Knapp has responded. Mr. Knapp publishes his online magazine, Rational Review and is active in the Libertarian Party. Having once debated Mr. Knapp, I can safely say that Prof. Rummel will have his work cut out for him. But he is clearly up to that challenge. Round I: Rummel!

Reports from around the world.
As always, kajando reminds us of the valiant freedom fighters in Iran. Fjordman tells us of the cultural problems in Scandinavia. Michael Yon reports from Iraq. Stephania reports from Italy.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

There’s dissent and there’s dissent.

Here’s my problem. I don’t always agree with my fellow citizens – who does? But sometimes even when I disagree with my countrymen on a particular course of action, I find dissenters more appalling. For example, in Gulf War I, given what I knew then, I wasn’t in favor of our going to war. But I had no sympathy for our critics – who vilified our involvement. I believed we were being too generous; they believed we were evil. Once we were committed, I was behind our guys and gals 100% and cheered their triumph.

I remember attending a concert at Carnegie Hall one January eve, right before the start of Desert Storm. Samuel Ramey, the bass-baritone, had programmed a mixture of opera, show tunes, and American folk classics. Carnegie Hall determines the program well over a year in advance. But it was with great pleasure that Mr. Ramey was able to introduce a rousing patriotic song already on the program by dedicating it to our troops in the Gulf. I was proud to be in the presence of this patriot so simple and unself-conscious in his respect for our great country.

Perhaps that would not be so odd elsewhere in America but I found it memorable because you rarely see anything like that in the city of the New York Times. We Americans are a diverse lot - we don’t always agree on goals or means. But when we are at war with a vicious dictator there is no moral ambiguity: America is honorable and worthy of every citizen’s respect. It is just common sense and common decency. Or it should be!

It was clear to me that while I preferred a different course of action I could never align myself with those opposing the war. This continually surprises people. “But you consider this wrong, why don’t you oppose it?” It seems so simple to the critics: oppose and demonstrate – the war must be stopped! Using Utilitarian logic, they argue if stopping the war is desirable, doing whatever it takes is right. Taking a cue from Pragmatism, they form ad hoc groups for the sole purpose of obstructing American efforts. "If it works now and we stop the war, nothing else matters," they argue.

What was wrong with this anti-war movement? Very simple – the values it reaffirms: America is a shameful country doing evil things. Their opposition to our involvement was meant to demoralize and demonize our country so that we would not have the spiritual strength to fight in the future. And this is the essence of the opposition today. Forget all the details that are offered – it isn’t about the practical advantage of having a few more troops from France. Forget all the arm-chair generals – it isn’t about effective post-war management. Forget all the conspiracy theorists – it isn’t some hidden motive of a secretive neo-con cabal. The driving force of the opposition is a deep moral antipathy to our country’s values and a desire to harm our ability to rally our people to fight for those values now and in the future.

In the Gulf War, as in today’s war on terror, even if I hold that a course of action isn’t prudent, I cannot join forces with those who would re-affirm such hateful notions about our country. Even if they gained a more prudent action today – which is not their purpose – it would leave us unarmed, unwilling, and enervated. The reason one proposes actions is more important in the long-run that what one proposes. Why? Because the principles and character one reaffirms determines one’s ability to weather the storms of the future time and time again.

Many Americans find this hard to understand. There is a narrow consequentalist mindset – be it Utilitarianism, Pragmatism, or other variant – that deals with problems on a case by case basis at the cost of establishing and reaffirming long-term principles, traditions, and practices. Cultivating character, maintaining a discipline, adhering to a tradition, all seem foreign to this “ends justify the means” mentality. And don’t even mention the word honor.

However, such movements are driven instinctually by a long-term agenda they refuse to explicate; their narrow consequentalist focus is meant to obscure the meaning of their program. It is not a prudential objection that drives the far left; it is a moral objection that cuts to the core of America’s identity. Prudential dissent is thoughtful; but dissent driven by a fundamental antipathy to our values deserves our contempt.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

What's new?

Is democracy enough?
I’ve asked that before. R.J.Rummel argues persuasively that stable full-functioning democracies are the key to worldwide peace. Retired from the Univ. of Hawaii, Rummel is anything but retired in fact – he’s going full force over on his blog. In a response to his piece on self-determination, I raise some dissenting points. Perhaps it is more rhetorical than substantial. In any case, his reply is cogent (scroll half way down). Isn’t the blogosphere great?

Moderate what?
Where are the moderate Muslims? A well publicized rally for Muslims against Islamic terrorism drew only a hundred and was condemned by large and older Islamic groups. Still, the myth of moderate Islam continues. Why do people need this myth? It reminds me of those on the left who cling to the myth of socialism. Through out the 20th century as nation after nation tried socialism and failed, some just can’t give up the myth.

Pssst, hey you on 43rd St.
From New York Times article via Jihad Watch: religion plays a role in the killings in Iraq. I’m shocked, shocked!

Libertarians come in two flavors
There are two types of libertarians: utopian and reality-based. 9/11 has separated these two camps like no other event. The Libertarian Party and now the Cato Institute has joined the Independent Institute, Lew Rockwell, Von Mises Institute in the utopian side of the street. The utopians believe we can stay within our borders and no one will hurt us. To keep this religious belief intact, they have to blame the victims for jihadist violence. Like the left they chant: we brought it on ourselves.

On the Reality-based side are The Objectivist Center, The Ayn Rand Institute, To The Point and now the newly formed Neo-Libertarians. These groups hold a “peace through strength” philosophy and 9/11 was a call to arms. The Neo-libertarians are an interesting addition and worth keeping an eye on.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Ledeen: Bush not tough!

Michael Ledeen says Bush is soft and failing to fight the war with appropriate vigor. He notes:
“In short, as the President’s critics are rightly reminding him, more time has passed since 9/11 than transpired between Pearl Harbor and the surrender of the Japanese empire, and our most lethal enemies are still in power and still killing our people and our friends.”
Ledeen is right! The President has yet to name the enemy, applauds the enemy’s ideology, rationalizes our friendship with a regime that’s the chief source of hatred (Saudi Arabia), funds faux allies (Egypt), provides weaponry to hostile populations (F-16s to Pakistan), fails to secure our border, fails to cutoff entry from Islamic countries, … need I go on?

Ledeen doesn’t go that far but he notes that “military officers … lament … that war has yet to be defined.” He rightfully praises our men and women in the military but decries the weak leadership. He applauds the “that dramatic strides toward self-government” in many quarters but says that is dwarfed by failing “to seriously challenge the legitimacy of the terror masters in Tehran and Damascus.” He worries that the President is “drifting” and stalling - hoping that we’ve done enough for history to take its course. He spells out specific failures – either materially or morally – to support oppressed freedom fighters in Iran and Syria.

Personally, I believe Mr. Bush is an honorable well-meaning human being. His advisors are mixed but on the whole respectable. But they are not up to the task of implementing a war-time regime. I do have some nagging questions. Did the close call last fall – with the specter of John Kerry on Bush’s tail – make us willing to imagine Bush is as tough as FDR or TR? Are we so focused on how worse it could have been that we can no longer imagine a tough Commander-In-Chief?

I, too, hesitate before being critical of the President. Too many critics seize any complaint and twist it to demoralize the war effort. Their purpose is to cause doubt and paralysis. But I’m not being critical of past actions – they are respectable as far as they go. The problem is they don’t go far enough. The hate-America leftist propaganda says we are too tough and create problems. In truth it is our hesitancy that emboldens the Islamist enemy. If the image of Bush as tough guy isn’t challenged, the left’s propaganda will succeed and toughness will be blamed when things get worse.

Ledeen believes Bush has strayed in the past but has gotten back on track. I think our President needs a helpful, but respectful, push. Or kick in the butt! At least, let us admit that he’s not being tough enough. We just have to face reality.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Et Tu Cato?

The Cato Institute’s work in the area of economics is invaluable but their reputation is undercut by their dabbling in foreign policy. Recently Jim Powell blames America for every ill of the 20th century from the rise of communism and Nazism to the belligerent acts of every two-bit dictator!

According to this line of reasoning, the rise of a dictator like Hitler is but an unintended consequence of our helping the Allies achieve a greater victory over the Germans in WWI. That’s odd, the Italians, who were on the winning side and not subject to an “unfair” punishment became fascist a decade earlier than Germany. Indeed, they invented fascism!

The rise of fascism and Nazism was not the result of some accident or byproduct or an otherwise noble effort (even if I wish we would have avoided or limited our involvement in WWI). There were cultural factors involved in Germany’s disintegration in the 20s and 30s. In the two or three years before Hitler gained political power he was already popular among students and faculty in German universities. Hitler was no fluke – but a creation of the German culture.

What’s disappointing about Jim is that he’s the author of a wonderful book, “The Triumph of Liberty” that shows how the concept and tradition of liberty slowly evolved over 2500 years. Jim shows both the limits of the context of cultural development at points in the past and the power of those cultures – like that of our founding fathers – that have furthered liberty by quantum leaps. The problem with paleo-libertarians like Jim is that when it comes to wars, there are two cultures involved – and, like the left, he just doesn’t understand the dynamics and limitations of the our enemies.

There’s a reason why this blog is named liberty and culture. Culture counts.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"I'm A Victim"

I’m a victim, I’m told. I don’t feel like a victim. At age 50 I live in a wonderful apartment in a great neighborhood of the greatest city of the world. I’m fortunate to be married to someone special and I have a decent job working with reasonable people. But, I’ve discovered that I’m a victim. It’s not that something has happened to me. It’s something I’ve been all along – or so I was recently informed. More precisely, I’m part of a victim group: Greek-Americans. You didn’t know we were victims, either? Let me explain.

Our history goes back to … well, the invention of history itself by the Greek historian Herodotus and even before. Only back then we didn’t call ourselves Greek – that’s our Roman “slave-name” – but Hellenic. Greece (i.e. Hellas) consisted of city-states on both shores of the Aegean Sea and the Aegean islands. Greek philosophy and high culture first flourished on the eastern shore (i.e. Asia Minor) in the city of Miletus starting with the philosopher-scientist Thales. And being of the Aegean, it is not surprising that water is the essence of Thales’ hydro-centric cosmology.

The eastern shore of the Aegean was a part of Greece for over 2000 years during periods of Greek independence and as part of the Roman Empire. Turks are not indigenous to Asia Minor; they’re Steppe people – savage invaders from the east that converted to Islam. In Acts 19:10 it says that Paul preached until “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” No Turks! And the word Asia, which Plato also uses in two dialogues, refers to the land of my ancestors. Apparently even our label has been usurped by those influenced by the Palestinian terrorist and Columbia University Professor, Edward Said, who has convinced people that oriental is a bad bad word. Victimized again!

After centuries of fighting the barbarians at the gates, Greeks, running low on Greek Fire, lost the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Constantinople, in 1453 bringing to an end two millennia of Greek dominance. For the next 400 years Greeks lived in oppression and servitude. Indeed, this period of Greek servitude is roughly the same time period as black slavery in America. Should I be asking for reparations from the Turks? And after all that time, can anyone expect us, with our shackles newly removed, to compete in a level playing field?

Of course, Greek-Americans like Italian-Americans (actually Sicilians are really Greeks, right Chris?) are too proud to ask for affirmative action. For example, twenty years ago, the City University of New York deciding that Italian-Americans were “underrepresented”, contemplated a policy of affirmative action. When I told this to a tenured left-leaning Italian-American, he was insulted and outraged. But, what then does it mean when he vociferously advocates and defends affirmative action for blacks?

Besides, it is blatantly absurd to treat individuals on the basis of demographic similarities to people dead for hundreds of years. After all, today Turkey is the poster child of a modern and secular Islamic democracy that fully respects the rights of minorities. Wait a second! Where are the minorities? Fifty years ago Constantinople was 25% Greek and one hundred years ago both Greeks and Armenians were major sub-populations of Asia Minor.

The Greeks of Asia Minor suffered the same fate as the Jews in Arab countries. In the 1950s Muslims ethnically cleansed Jews from Arab lands and Greeks from Asia Minor. While Israel has consistently maintained a population of 20% Arabs, no Arab country could tolerate the existence of Jews and Turkey could no longer tolerate the presence of Greeks in what was for 2500 years Asian Greece.

Should we ask for the “right of return” to “occupied Greece?” After all, it was less than fifty years since Greeks were driven from their land. And what should Greeks do about the continued occupation of the Holiest location in Orthodox Christianity: the Church of Hagia Sofia? This would be the equivalent of our occupation of Mecca. This church is still desecrated with Arabic graffiti from the Koran. This is worse than showing disrespect to a holy book! Time to riot and indiscriminately kill?

I’m not the only oppressed Greek whose family hails from “occupied Greece.” There was the film director and anti-Communist Elia Kazan and the shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Hey, if the Oil Sheiks of Arabia can be oppressed by colonialism and Oprah is oppressed, who says you have to be poor? Victimization can afflict people of all stations in life. Right?

In any case, I’ve applied for my federal certificate of victimization as a Native Anatolian. Now I can pack my belongings, setup a refugee camp on the Turkish border, and suffer until the world loves me … or I can live my life well, laugh at the ethnic “cheeseburger jokes” on SNL and forget this whole victimization nonsense. Greek-Americans prefer the latter – and so do most people. There’s an old saying: “living well is the best revenge.” Yes, you guessed it – I’m American – and we all see ourselves as unique individuals.