Monday, January 30, 2006

Absurdities Du Jour

“And I just don't think you can support democracy and then say, well, we have to do this because of the outcome.” – C. Rice, Jan 29, 2006
Why not? The election of Hamas reveals the values of the Palestinian majority. We should judge the people appropriately and act accordingly. To do anything else is to betray one’s own values. To view the will of the majority as always respectable—indeed, as defining what is right and wrong—is moral subjectivism in its collectivist variant. Thus, if the Palestinian people accept the hate-filled violence-soaked values of Hamas, then these are their authentic values, according to this line of reasoning. This, of course, is multi-cultural relativism at its worse.

"They’ll have to behave responsibly now that they are the government” – various writers.

Need I comment? This reminds us of the women who marries an alcoholic that promises to but never reforms. One day she says, “Now that I’m pregnant he’ll have to become responsible and support the family.” But a pattern of undeserved forgiveness only solidifies bad habits. This, too, has been the case with Palestinians. Since two thirds of Palestinian wealth is from foreign aid, given to them despite their decent into depravity, don’t expect more aid to encourage positive change.

“We have to support Hamas because if we don’t, Iran will” – leftist media pundits like Juan Williams
The rationale is that we’ll have control if we fund Hamas. We could threaten them by withholding funds … wait, that’s just what Williams says we can’t do! This line of moral depravity would have us funding terrorists before more unsavory characters do. Would it really have been better if the State Department funded 9/11 so that they didn’t get their money from bin Laden?

“We do understand that the Palestinian people may have some humanitarian needs” – C. Rice, Jan 29, 2006
There is an idea, circulating in the media, that you can separate the nation from the people who just elected a terrorist regime. We can’t support terrorist nations but we have to help the people, we are told, who are poor and unemployed. This means funding terrorists. There’s no one else there. They are filled with hate for the Jews, they vigorously support targeting and killing civilians, they idolized suicide bombers, and they cheered on 9/11. Why do we help them?

“They must renounce their platform for a destruction of Israel …” – the President and others
Why ask them to lie? This is the core of their being. This is what makes them get up in the morning. From childhood they are taught to hate Jews. It is drummed into them. They aspire to become suicide bombers. Their religious leaders extol the virtues of Jihad. Our leaders' superficial focus on rhetoric amounts to saying “bad, Arabs, now wash you mouth out before we can talk again!”

“And the Palestinian people have an aspiration for peace. We know that.” – C. Rice
How do you know this, Madam Secretary? Ouija boards don’t count.


Our leaders are symptoms of deeper problems in our culture. The first is the philosophy of Pragmatism which holds that there is no firm reality, expediency (not principles) is the effective means to success, “winging it” is preferable to having a plan, and human beings have no identity—they can act differently regardless of their character, history, and core beliefs.

The second failure is a philosophy of altruism—not generosity but a fundamentalist-socialist belief holding that ethics means putting the values and interests of others first. With all the people suffering in the world, an altruist helps their enemies first while asking friends to continue to suffer. “It’s our duty to suffer and endure so that we may serve those whose values come before ours.” The altruist perverts the regard for others, which is an integral part of ethical principles, into the total focus and object of ethical concern. Thus, to the altruist, helping one’s enemies is the ultimate proof of being moral, i.e. of placing others above self.

We are not responsible for feeding the children of our enemies. By electing Hamas they have declared themselves an enemy of civilization and should be shunned by all. Two thirds of their sustenance comes from foreign sources, mostly Western. Without foreign support the Palestinian threat to Israel could be over in short order—perhaps months.

The Solution

Repudiate the past policies of appeasing terrorists like Arafat. Face the threat of Islam which Hamas is a prime example. Expose, with full brutal honestly, the barbarian culture of the Palestinian Arabs that now exists in the West Bank. Cut all aid—every penny—to the nation and people who abhor our values and embrace a culture of death.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand. This is it! While others demand our President appease Hamas if they make superficial changes, we should demand tougher policies unconditionally, unilaterally, completely, and irrevocably. Write to the President, Senators, and Congressmen. You’ll be proud you did.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Majority Supports Terrorists

Should we be shocked?

Through out the mainstream media, there is complete shock that Muslims, if given the chance, would vote for a terrorist organization but that’s exactly what has happened with the Hamas victory. We've been inundated with the lie that “it’s only a few” who support terror and “Islam means peace.” The kind of peace they have in mind is outlined by Robert Spencer and reduces to: we Muslims rule—others surrender and submit. It's four years after 9/11, and people are still ignorant about Islam. That’s the real shock!

After shock comes denial.

Politicians of all stripes are suggesting that members of Hamas can act contrary to their identity. It is as if their thoughts, feelings, tradition, religion, disposition and habits can just be jettisoned. President Bush asks for a change in Hamas' rhetoric on the issue of Israel’s destruction. Jimmy Carter hopes that they will now act responsibly. An editorial in the Times suggests that if Arafat can change …

Culture, like character, has to be cultivated over an extended period of time. Just as a person cannot be someone different tomorrow, so too a society cannot suddenly change the identity of its distinctive manner of viewing the world and behaving accordingly. One can, at times, act out of character but to do so on a sustained basis cannot be expected within reason. Redemption and transformation take years for an individual and generations for a culture.

During Arafat’s rule, PA-controlled areas were turned into terrorist training camps where children were groomed for jihad. The level of barbarity and savagery is now part of the character of the Palestinian culture. It’s a fact that one can’t wish away regardless of the reasons for its existence. It is what it is. The idea that Israel should join together with Islamists in the hope that they may change is less intelligible than an individual who marries an ax-murderer in the hopes of reforming them afterwards.

After denial comes appeasement.

“Those who harbor terrorists …” were the words of resolution that put the terrorist supporters on notice. Or at least we thought. Has the world changed? Sadly, no. The election is a logical consequence of decades of Western appeasement. The fact that Arafat, “the father of modern terrorism,” was rewarded with control of a territory and billions of dollars sent a clear message: terrorism works. After 9/11, despite the rhetoric of resolution, one of the first acts of our President was to unilaterally change our policy and endorse a state for Palestinians on the West Bank. Terrorism works. The Intifada, paused for a short period after 9/11, resumed with greater vigor. Immediately after the London bombing of 7/7, the G8 leaders meeting in Scotland at the time, pledged billions for Palestinian terrorists. Terrorism works!

The American government now has to choose: continue to fund the terrorists in the West Bank or end the appeasement. Is Bush to replace Saddam as the source of funds for Hamas? The road of denial and appeasement leads to such absurdities. The administration should not only change course but it should repudiate past actions and past administrations. The policy should be clear: no to appeasement! We were wrong in the past, let’s admit it. Let’s face the harsh reality: Jihad is a core part of the Islamic Revival. We will not be shocked in the future if we face reality today.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Simple Truth

Ali Sina, an Islamic apostate, has waged an intellectual war to expose Islam via his website Faith Freedom. In this brief letter to the world, he powerfully describes the ominous threat we face. (Hat tip: Mark.) If you are not familiar with Ali Sina, this is a good introduction to one of the most important writers on Islam.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bloggers: The Pamphleteers of Today

The spontaneous uprising of Internet bloggers shows a discontent with the orthodoxy of the leftward-leaning mainstream media (MSM.) Blogging today has its precedent in yesteryear’s pamphleteering and often driven by a similar dissatisfaction. George Orwell’s, in an introduction to the British Pamphleteer, was motivated “by his belief that in Twentieth-century society the press does not adequately represent all shades of opinion.” [p2] Orwell wrote,
“The pamphlet is a one-man show. One has complete freedom of expression, including, if one chooses, the freedom to be scurrilous, abusive, and seditious; or, on the other hand, to be more detailed, serious and ‘high-brow’ than is ever possible in a newspaper or I most kinds of periodicals. At the same time, since the pamphlet is always short and unbound, it can be produced much more quickly than a book, and in principle, at any rate, can reach a bigger public. Above all, the pamphlet does not have to follow any prescribed pattern. It can be in prose or in verse, it can consist largely of maps or statistics or quotations, it can take the form of a story, a fable, a letter, an essay, a dialogue, or a piece of ‘reportage.’ All that is required of it is that it shall be topical, polemical, and short.”
Substitute blog for pamphlet and the same can be said today. Far more striking is the role the pamphleteer played in the American Revolution. Bernard Bailyn, in his path-breaking book, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, explains the phenomena leading up to the Revolution (all quotes from the 1967 edition.)
“It was in this form—as pamphlets—that much of the most important and characteristic writing of the American Revolution appeared. For the Revolutionary generation … the pamphlet had peculiar virtues as a medium of communication. … The pamphlet’s greatest asset was perhaps its flexibility in size, for while it could contain only a very few pages and hence be used for publishing short squibs and sharp, quick rebuttals, it could also accommodate much longer, more serious and permanent writing as well. … It was spacious enough to allow for the full development of an argument—to investigate premises, explore logic, and consider conclusions …” [p3]

“It was in this form, consequently, that ‘the best thought of the day expressed itself’; … it was in this form that ‘the basic elements of American political thought of the Revolutionary period appeared first.’ And yet pamphlets of this length were seldom ponderous; whatever the gravity of their themes or the spaciousness of their contents they were always essentially polemical, and aimed at immediate and rapidly shifting targets: at suddenly developing problems, unanticipated arguments, and swiftly rising, controversial figures. The best of the writing that appeared in this form, consequently, had a rare combination of spontaneity and solidity, of dash and detail, of casualness and care.” [p4]
Of course, even in the printed media of pamphlets, some of the personal dynamics of the Internet were evidenced early on.
"They resulted also, and to a considerable extent, from what might be called chain-reacting personal polemics: strings of individual exchanges—arguments, replies rebuttals, and counter-rebuttals—in which may be found heated personifications of the larger conflict. A bold statement on a sensitive issue was often sufficient to start such a series, which characteristically proceeded with increasing shrillness until it ended in bitter personal vituperation."
One wonders if they had trolls who, perhaps, went from pub to pub to irritate the writers.
"Important above all else as expressions of the ideas, attitudes, and motivations that lay at the heart of the Revolution, the pamphlets published in the two decades before Independence are primarily political, not literary, documents. But form and substance are never wholly separate.” [p8]
Still, despite the humble nature of the pamphlet, Bailyn notes the Revolutionary writings are part of a larger tradition “to which the greatest men of letters contributed. Milton, Halifax, Locke, Swift, Defoe, Bolingbroke, Addison were all pamphleteers at least to the extent that Bland, Otis, Dickinson, the Adamses, Wilson, and Jefferson were.” [p8]

Style also varied:
“In addition to satire there is an abundance of other devices: elusive irony and flat parody; extended allegory and direct vituperation; sarcasm, calculated and naive. All the standard tropes and a variety of unusual figurations may be found in the pamphlet literature.”
The Revolutionary pamphleteers were not professional writers but common citizens engaged in the debate of ideas; they created a sense of democracy to the intellectual struggle that preceded the call to arms. In stark contrast was the French Revolution—debate was among the elites who often looked down on the general population as hopelessly retrograde. If the French Revolution started in salons, the American started in saloons … and town squares, churches, etc. One ended with a stable republic; the other with Napoleon and what was basically a world war.

With the advent of radio and television, particularly the days where networks dominated, the professional writer was separated from the man in the street. With the rise of the Internet the writer-citizen has re-established a healthy balance not seen since great days when our republic was founded. Perhaps two hundred years from now, some graduate student will be writing a dissertation on The Role of Blogs on the Restoration of the Principles of the American Revolution.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What's Happened to the Left?

In the face of the Islamic attack of 9/11, the left has retreated from its historic antipathy towards religion. At least this is true in the case of Islam, despite the fact that Islam is a primitive religious fundamentalist ideology that sees no separation of church and state, that currently underwrites the most oppressive treatment of women and gays, and that is opposed to pluralism yet alone the multi-cultural so cherished on the left. If not supportive of Islam, the left has adopted a policy of anti-anti-Islam, attacking the critics of Islam, just as it became anti-anti-communism as the reality of communism became too absurd to defend outright. The rare exception is Christopher Hitchens, who was invigorated by the events of 9/11 to fight what he sees as a fascist and religious foe. But his singular example reminds us of the gulf between the contemporary left and what might have been.

As the threat of Islam became more and more apparent, the left has become dogmatically relativistic; they have ignored the vast distinctions between contemporary Christianity and an unreformed atavistic political ideology wrapped in religious garb by a vicious 7th century warrior/tyrant. To equate the two religions, they have minimized the faults of Islam and maximized the limitations of Christianity. In practice, this means the left has to come to the defense of Islam.

Let’s consider a counterfactual reality where the left had taken a very different path. Suppose they acknowledged Islam’s far greater faults but stressed that this was a difference of degree, not a difference in kind. For example, they might have put forth the thesis that Christianity has evolved by becoming tolerant, worldly, and accepting of secular knowledge, but Islam remains primitive, anti-life, irrational, un-reflective, dogmatic, and bellicose. They might even suggest that Islam is a reductio absurdum example showing what happens when faith, dogma, and religious authority are taken to extremes.

The Christian retort might be to acknowledge that there is a vast difference but it is a difference in kind. The example of Jesus and Mohammad are in stark contrast; Islam is inherently political by design; and the original focus of Christianity is the good news for the salvation of the individual soul. Both the secular left and Christian right could agree that Islam is a barbaric practice that needs to be scrapped if Muslims are to enter the modern civilized world. Both could agree that Islam has little room for reason while Christianity has welcomed reason into human affairs. And both could agree that in Islam, Mohammad’s harsh warrior-like tyrannical model is an antiquated Old Testament paradigm and that Jesus provides an alternative model.

That did not happen. The left couldn’t break free of its multi-cultural relativism nor turn-off its hatred of America long enough to get a reasonable perspective and a sense of proportion.

Let’s compare this to another time when we fought another enemy: Nazism.

In our fight against fascism, Nazism, and Japanese imperialism, we were keenly aware of our moral superiority and proud to be fighting on the side of liberty. There was no question about the vast difference between them and us; but we each had our differences in emphasis on how best to express the essence of our values. Even if one reached for the words democracy and liberty, there was disagreement on the meaning of those words. But we knew there was a profound difference between the enemies we faced and our great nation; and we never lost sight of that fact.

There was one writer who believed that the difference wasn’t fundamental but one of degree; we too were heading down the path previously taken by our European foes. In “The Road to Serfdom,” Friedrich von Hayek described how England started down that path three decades ahead of America and Germany preceded England by another three decades. He described in detail the steps to tyranny and the degree each nation had traveled down that road. Hayek understood the importance of not only isolating the principle but also respecting difference of magnitude. At no time was there an insinuation of moral equivalence. If he had title his book “Churchill is Hitler and Roosevelt is Stalin,” no one would have ever heard of him, England would still have a welfare state, and America would have a Canadian health system … or worse.

Social democrats dissented from his conclusion that it is only a difference of degree—seeing totalitarianism as a difference in kind from the welfare state. But that what makes for a reasonable debate between people who can respect each other. Today’s left has removed themselves from reasonable debate by failing to single-out the barbarity of our foes and the commonality on the right, center, and moderate left. Islam is a threat to all of us. We can argue about our differences but they are dwarfed by the nature of the threat created by Islam.

My explanation of our greatness emphasizes the importance of our Classical heritage, which since Aquinas championed Aristotle, has laid the foundation for the progress we’ve seen in the last 700 years. I’d argue that Christianity deserves praise for being flexible enough to absorb this heritage. Obviously, some of my Christian friends would put the emphasis more on religion. But in our disagreement, which in both cases reflects a lifetime of reflection, we are well aware of the odd man out: Islam. Why can’t the left get that?

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Future of Freedom of Speech

Diana West wrote an excellent editorial on the lack of free speech in Afghanistan and, what's worse, is the lack of an outcry from freedom-minded people around the world. I agree but I'm more worried about the erosion of free speech in the West. On Dhimmi Watch, I wrote:

For those who believed introducing democracy into Islamic nations would lead to liberty and pave the way via open discussion to a reform of Islam, please take note of what is happening in Afghanistan and soon to happen in Iraq. Back in October, when this hit the news … if being published in Radio Free Europe is “hitting the news” … the threat was obvious. Without the protections of the individual’s freedom of speech and freedom of conscience, democracy is worse than worthless. I wrote at the time, it “is little more than a murdering mob trampling others in their path. Without these freedoms, the spirit of democracy turns into the nightmare of totalitarianism.”

Our founding fathers knew about the dangers of unlimited democracy, many conservatives and liberals used to know this. Now people look away because it is agreed by both sides of the aisle that Afghanistan is the “legitimate war.” Neither wants to face the limitations of Islam but instead focus on the details of individual battles and the threat of specific terrorist organizations. Few see the forest.

What is far more serious is that we are seeing our freedoms disappear. In France, Italy and Australia, there are laws against “vilification of a religion” and Tony Blair, if he had his way, would introduce similar laws into the UK. Diana West asks “who … will speak up for free speech?” Indeed, who? Houellebecq, who was narrowly acquitted of “vilification” in France, believes what he said in France will never be said again. He may have won the legal battle but lost the war. Whether by laws, social pressure, or physical intimidation, free speech will come to an end unless good people do something. Even if by means of provocative speech, as was common in the past, the limits of free speech need to be tested. And it has to be done here at home.

If nations-building there means liberty-destroying here, we will see liberty nowhere.

I've been told by some that the prohibitions against criticism of Islam are necessary to win their hearts and minds; and win the current battles. There are some costs one does not pay for victory, let alone the modest gains in Afghanistan or Iraq. Freedom of speech and conscience must never be surrendered.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Liberty and Culture

What defines a culture? Certainly the most important components are the fundamental beliefs that are operative in the way people see the world, live their lives, and handle the challenges that put one’s character to the test. Often a crisis exposes the current state of our culture and prompts reflection.

During the Cold War it was communism that demanded we take stock of our resources both material and spiritual. Now civilization faces the Islamic threat. What is this ideology, how is it different than our way of viewing the world, what challenges does it pose for our country? This has been a major focus on this venue during the last year. I have summarized Islam’s essential nature in a previous post. Below I summarize our response to the Islamic threat.

Islam and our Denial

Islam’s threat and our denial.

There is widespread denial, across the political spectrum, of Islam’s threat to our civilization. The far left has become so consumed by its hatred of our culture that it has abandoned its traditional hostility towards religion in the face of the revival of one of the most barbaric and oppressive religious ideologies in history. Having assumed a policy of anti-anti-Islam, the left has made what Horowitz calls an Unholy Alliance with our enemy, defending it at every opportunity. The anti-rational nihilistic post-modern left is a heavy weight on the whole left side of the spectrum, drowning out any sane voice of moderation. Such fashionable academic nonsense has already corrupted popular politics.

The problem, however, isn’t confined to the left. The right is split, with some having great difficulty facing the fact that a long-standing religious tradition, such as Islam, can be fundamentally inimical to our civilization to such a degree that it rivals the dangers of the last century. The ecumenical right can be as relativistic, at times, as the left by treating any religious-based ideology as just another path to God.

Denial: comparisons to the past.

Our inability to face the current threat is similar to our past difficulties facing the threat of secular totalitarianism. The left, in particular, denied or downplayed the threat of communism during the Red Decade of the 1930s and again during the 1970s and 80s. Most people failed to see the full gravity of Hitler’s rise. Firsthand accounts describe how good people blinded themselves to Hitler’s evil ideology. Some have drawn parallels between then and now.

Not everything has changed.

Today there is an eerie complacency. Most people go about their lives as if the problem has disappeared. New York housing prices sore despite any real effort to secure the city against nuclear attack. Several planned attacks of a conventional nature have been prevented but the unreality of the danger continues. Like a surreal dream, New York editorialists make urgent appeals to hamstring our intelligence agencies as they were before 9/11. Los Angles film producers see the terrorists as sympathetic and America as over-reacting if not the real villain. Good books and documentaries explain the threat, of course. But the press is obsessively focused on slight or imagined problems in military management that makes the unreality even more bizarre.

Both political parties have adopted the policy of lying about Islam and Saudi Arabia, as a tactical maneuver to deal with then enemy; however, a sustained lie only destroys the liar’s confidence in his insight and weakens his resolve. It is that lie which underwrites the unreality of the threat. Speaking the truth is the first requirement of rallying the nation to the cause. Speaking in silent hushed tones betrays the intellectual and moral uncertainty of a cause headed for defeat. Our hesitancy is apparent as we return to the 9/10 mindset.

Islam, the enemy’s ideology, is the only taboo subject, today. Radio talk-show host Michael Graham was fired for being critical of Islam. Instead, America is vilified and put on the defensive. Just one week prior to 9/11, the U.N. sponsored a hate-fest directed at America and Israel and it continues to disparage America rather than the Islamic world for the irrational hate in the world today. The left joins this chorus and instead of its usual antipathy towards religion, it uses the Islamic threat as a springboard to vilify America.

Our intellectual surrender, in the face of a conceptual confusion, is the greatest threat to winning the war. Moral appeasement and the continual rationalizations, that have exempted Islamic savagery from unequivocal condemnation, have weaken our resolve and emboldened the enemy. Intellectual cowardice prevents us from considering the truth as we maintain a positive disposition to see Islam in a way that won’t offend.

A prerequisite to an appropriate response that is neither an under-reaction nor an over-reaction is an honest and open discussion. Laws that prohibit free speech, such as those against the “vilification of a religion,” only hinder a proper response and as a result may become a self-fulfilling prophesy. To surrender freedom of speech to avoid hurting the enemy’s feelings is a sign of the surreal state of affairs.

Conservatives who don’t get it.

There is a broad strain of conservatism that defined its posture against the secular ideology of communism; these conservatives have difficulty seeing a religious ideology as a serious threat. They have misidentified the problem in the past as the lack of God instead of the lack of reason; and are not able to deal with the current threat. Even staunch Cold Warriors are soft on the Islamic threat. National Review, founded during the Cold War, often gives Islam undue respect and is otherwise silent with a few exceptions.

The inability to understand that we are dealing with a political ideology has severe repercussions. Often today’s conservatives advocate a utopian transformation that can be achieved by a simple structural change in the process of selecting government leaders. But democracy isn’t enough. Establishing Islamic theocracy via the ballot box is not the solution but just another manifestation of the problem. Indeed, Jihadists thrive in Western democracies. Europe, in particular Germany, has incubated a generation of jihadists including those of 9/11 infamy. The recent problems in France prove how tolerance of intolerance only begets more intolerance, just as England recently discovered that appeasement doesn’t help.

Dogmatically anti-ideological, some conservatives believe that beliefs don’t matter. They expect Muslims in Iraq and those in the West Bank to just behave sensibly once they can vote. The depth of the vast difference in values, tradition, and culture just doesn’t register on the Pragmatists of the right. This doesn’t mean there isn’t progress as the winds of democracy kindle a flicker of hope in Muslim countries. But without a fundamental change from a dogmatic supremacist ideology to a liberal disposition that welcomes debate, evidence and rational consideration, the flame of liberty will blow out with the slightest draft. Until Islam is challenged, liberty will be a fragile implant in a patient perpetually in critical care. One must address the ideology of Islam.

Finally, some conservatives are actually sympathetic to fundamentalist Islamic concerns! They see the Islamic Revival as kindred spirit in its opposition to atheistic materialism. Others see no problem with the concept of an Islamic democracy.

But some conservatives do!

I’ve addressed the conservative failure in detail because I believe those on the right have the greatest chance of coming to grips with the Islamic threat. Let me now point out, via links to my past posts, those whom I’ve praised: Victor Davis Hanson, Bruce Thornton, Jack Wheeler, Michael Ledeen, Ralph Peters, and Paul Sperry. Those who’ve specifically focus on Islam are Bat Ye’or, Robert Spencer, and Ibn Warraq.
(This is part II of my blog summary. Part I focused on Islam.)