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Monthly Archives: March 2010

I cannot remember the last time a paragraph in a news story so upset my digestive tract as this one (spotted and noted by Seith Leibsohn in The Corner), in today’s Washington Post:

As Obama met with Netanyahu, news leaked in Israel that approval had been given to construct 20 additional housing units in East Jerusalem, in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The United States had previously objected to the project, which would be built on the site of the Shepherd Hotel, the former home of the late Haj Amin Husseini, a former mufti, or Islamic law scholar, of Jerusalem…

The author of those lines is a good reporter, Glenn Kessler.  I assume the facts are correct.  What turns my stomach is the description of the Mufti.  For Haj Amin Husseini was hardly an “Islamic law scholar.”   He was one of the Nazis’ favorite Arabs, a man who spent much of the war in Berlin working with high officials of the Third Reich (including Hitler and Eichmann), encouraging them to extend the “Final Solution” (that is, the extermination of the Jews, of which Husseini was a great enthusiast) to the Middle East.

No doubt the description of this evil man was given to Glenn Kessler by a government official who was explaining why “the United States had previously objected” to the replacement of the hotel with apartment flats.  The explanation shows that “the United States” thought it was entirely improper to tear down the former residence of a Jew hater who did everything possible to kill the Jews of the Middle East.   “The United States” evidently believes that such an action would be, shall we say, a desecration of the memory of a noted Islamic scholar.

If I knew who said that to Kessler, I’d ask Hillary Clinton to fire him.  Hell, I’ll do it anyway:  that person should be identified and removed at once.  We don’t want apologists for the Holocaust in our government.

Do we?

The Death Spiral of the Iranian Regime

March 24th, 2010 - 9:05 pm

Monday night in the city of Karaj, a car blew up.  It was carrying several members of the Revolutionary Guards’ “foreign legion,” non-Iranian Arabs being trained for operations against Americans and our friends and allies in the region.  The explosion was enormous.  “They used too much explosives,” an Iranian friend commented.  Neither he nor I knows who carried out the attack, but it is only one of many.  I haven’t seen a report about it in the press, but then there is no press these days in Iran; the papers — those that hadn’t already been shut down by the censors — have been silenced during the Norooz holiday.

But the Iranian people have not been silenced. In addition to assassinations such as the spectacular explosion in Karaj, there have been more joyful confrontations with security forces across the country. There may not be newspapers, but there are videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxlaH9wDMPY&feature=channel (from Kermanshah)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohv8GhrEbNw&feature=channel (from Khoram Abad)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2i0ri-pV7Q&feature=player_embedded# (from Abadan)

http://homylafayette.blogspot.com/2010/03/tears-determination-and-joy-greet-new.html (from Shiraz and Tehran)

There are others, but you get the picture.  It’s an ongoing revolt.

I’m often asked whether the Iranian people can actually defeat the evil regime that has oppressed them for more than three decades. When I say “hell yes,” they usually act surprised. Which, in turn, surprises me, until I remember that hardly any of our institutions of higher (or lower) learning study such things seriously any more. Along with military history, it’s pretty much vanished from university curricula. There are political reasons for this lack of understanding.

Even though we are living through one of the most revolutionary periods in human history, one is hard pressed to find thoughtful analyses of the explosive events in Iran coming from the misnamed “progressives.”  This is doubly scandalous, both because they should have more sensitive antennae for such things, and because nobody should be surprised to find Iranians rebelling against their rulers; there were three revolutions there in the twentieth century alone.  Iranians can rightly claim to be revolutionaries par excellence.

What’s wrong with these people?

The Left lost its revolutionary vocation when it became the blind supporter of Communism.  The Leftists were unwilling to acknowledge that others had taken up the revolutionary cause.  To admit that was to confess that they were no longer a vanguard movement, that they no longer fought for the freedoms that had defined them for two hundred years, and that they in practice had become defenders of the status quo. Unable to admit the truth, they set about distorting the language lest the truth become obvious.

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American Tyranny

March 22nd, 2010 - 5:51 pm

More than a year ago, less than a month after the Obama Inauguration, I wrote about the threat of an emerging American tyranny, quoting Tocqueville’s nightmare scenario of a slow seduction of the American people who would willingly abandon freedom to a soft dictatorship that would appear to be democratic.  I was right about Obama’s intentions, but wrong about the reaction of the American people, which is central to the battle in which we are engaged.

Tocqueville foresaw a slow death of freedom.  He feared that the power of the central government would gradually expand, meddling in every area of our lives, and he was afraid that we would welcome it, and even convince ourselves that we controlled it.

Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately.  It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will.  Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated…

The tyranny he foresaw for us does not have much in common with the vicious dictatorships of the last century, or with contemporary North Korea, Iran, or Saudi Arabia.  “The nature of despotic power in democratic ages is not to be fierce or cruel, but minute and meddling.”  The vision and even the language anticipated Orwell’s 1984, or Huxley’s Brave New World. Tocqueville described the new tyranny as “an immense and tutelary power,” and its task is to regulate every aspect of our lives.

It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.

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A long time ago I decided not to “do” the Middle East, and although I’ve been afflicted with Iranian matters over the years, I have generally stayed away from the Arab-Israeli thing.  There is no shortage of smart people who deal with it;  I don’t really know the history of the region;  and I don’t speak or read any of the languages. My one insight into Israeli matters has to do with bridge (the card game).  Back in the seventies I coached their national team for a year (with splendid results, so I retired before I could screw up).

But I do know about Iran, and I know that the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah have a lot to say about the Palestinian groups.  Both Hamas and Fatah are funded, armed, and trained by the mullahs and their creatures.  On many occasions Iran has exercised a veto, most recently–according to Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas–wrecking a “unity” plan for a single Palestinian position in talks with Israel.  Abbas said that

“Iran doesn’t want Hamas to sign the Cairo reconciliation document…”  Abbas said Hamas objected to signing an Egyptian-brokered deal with Fatah because of opposition from Teheran, and argued that the Palestinians should be “free from Iranian tutelage.”

I draw a simple conclusion from this sort of thing:  it’s impossible to “solve” the Arab-Israeli thing so long as the mullahs rule in Tehran.  They have too much control over the Palestinians, and they don’t want peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Ergo, the endless kabuki dances, the quartets, the international conferences, the endless schemes, the perpetual negotiations, all that and more,  are totally beside the point.  You have to “do” Iran first.  And the only happy way to do that is to support the Iranian people against the evil regime, and get a government in Tehran that wants to live in peace with its neighbors.

You want to make progress in the “peace process?”  Work for a free Iran.

The Iranian regime has always dreaded fun.  Western music is banned.  Unchaperoned boys & girls together is banned.  Women showing an ankle or some hair is banned, as is rental of bicycles to the ladies.  The color green is banned, whether it’s the green in the flag behind Ahmadinejad on national tv, or, even though Flynt Leverett denies it, the green stripes on street curbs in Tehran.  And even Rafsanjani’s face is banned.  The news editor of the official news agency IRNA has forbidden publication of Rafsanjani’s photo, and the publishing of any images of programs that include the head of the Expediency Council is also prohibited.”

That will be very bad news to the former president, who loves to see his name and face in lights.  But there is no shortage of such photos, and IRNA has only made itself look ridiculous.  But then again, looking ridiculous is all the rage at the highest levels of the Islamic Republic.

Now comes Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with his latest joyless fatwa to forbid celebration of the fire ritual that Persians have celebrated for thousands of years.  It’s scheduled for Tuesday (Planet-Iran will liveblog it), and Khamenei is nervous.  For one thing, it isn’t Islamic, so it doesn’t pass religious muster (although the Islamic Republic not only does not prohibit, but actually requires celebration of secular events that bolster its nationalistic chest-thumping, such as “Jerusalem Day” or the anniversary of the 1979 revolution).  But what really matters to Khamenei and his ilk is that it would permit large numbers of Iranians to demonstrate their contempt for the Islamic Republic.  Green leader Mir Hossein Mousavi says so explicitly, and his nervy wife piles on, calling the regime “illegitimate,” and saying that victory is at hand.

Khamenei’s forces continue their campaign of random terror, alternating executions and arrests with releases and paroles.  Perhaps they are looking for just the right quantum of evil, in order to silence the opposition.  Perhaps the internal debate among Khamenei and his comrades swings back and forth.  Perhaps it is a reflection of internal confusion and the leader’s inability to make basic decisions.  I incline toward the last but who knows?

Tomorrow’s celebrations–or their absence–will give us yet another snapshot of what the Soviets loved to call “the correlation of forces,” the order of battle in the ongoing war between tyranny and freedom inside Iran.  We will also see the extent of the West’s fecklessness.  But there’s really no doubt of that, is there?  No doubt Obama et al think of the Iranian people the same way they think about the Israelis:  annoying ingrates who pigheadedly insist on being independent instead of nicely getting in line with the marching orders from White House HQ.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Instapundit and Planet-Iran for linking.

UPDATE 2:  Big demonstrations all over the country, including something that undoubtedly sent chills down the spine of Khamenei:  dancing in the streets.  Banafsheh has lots of videos.  So does Homylafayette.

David Brooks, Report for Reeducation

March 12th, 2010 - 8:54 pm

David Brooks would have us believe that the Tea Partiers are much like the New Leftists of the sixties.

…the core commonality is this:  Members of both movements believe in what you might call mass innocence. Both movements are built on the assumption that the people are pure and virtuous and that evil is introduced into society by corrupt elites and rotten authority structures. “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains,” is how Rousseau put it.

I think he misunderstands the Tea Party movement, and he’s surprisingly uninformed about the New Left, which was anything but a bunch of Rousseauan romantics.  In 1962, when I was at the University of Wisconsin in 1962, the Port Huron Statement, the formal origin of SDS, Students for a Democratic Society, was drafted. I knew several of the drafters (the main author was Tom Hayden, at the University of Michigan).  They would gather in the Rathskellar of the Student Union, where I spent a lot of time playing bridge, and we’d talk.

The Port Huron guys fancied themselves serious intellectuals, not street theater people.  And they didn’t think that “the people are pure and virtuous;” they thought most people were alienated, apathetic, and manipulated. They were Marxists and Marcusians, students of the Frankfurt School, and the like. And they saw the university as the logical headquarters for a movement that could transform society.  Just read the first paragraph of their definition of a new left:

Any new left in America must be, in large measure, a left with real intellectual skills, committed to deliberativeness, honesty, reflection as working tools. The university permits the political life to be an adjunct to the academic one, and action to be informed by reason.

Brooks seems to believe that the New Left wanted greater individual freedom — as the Tea Partiers surely do — but in fact the Port Huron Statement calls for more centralized control.  Lots more: “not only solutions to our present social needs but our future expansion rests upon our willingness to enlarge the ‘public sector’ greatly.” Some of the language has become very familiar to us (and rejected by the Tea Partiers). For example:

.…medical care must become recognized as a lifetime human right just as vital as food, shelter and clothing — the Federal government should guarantee health insurance as a basic social service turning medical treatment into a social habit, not just an occasion of crisis, fighting sickness among the aged, not just by making medical care financially feasible but by reducing sickness among children and younger people.

Brooks confuses the New Left with the Yippies, which is a pretty  serious confusion and it’s confirmed by his comparison of Glenn Beck with Abbie Hoffman.  Hoffman couldn’t pass the entrance exam to the New Left.

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Iranian Clocks, Tick Tock, Tick Tock

March 7th, 2010 - 12:32 pm

The failed Israeli ex-PM, Ehud Barak, gives us the benefit of his deep thinking about Iran.  It’s an Einsteinian metaphor about relative rates of the passage of time:

The clock for the Iranian regime’s downfall is ticking, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a lecture at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Friday. However, “it’s clear to me that the clock toward the collapse of this regime works much slower than the clock which ticks toward Iran becoming a nuclear military power,” Barak said.

How does he know that? — we  (or at least some of us) wonder.  I can imagine that the Israelis think they know the timetable for the Iranian atomic bomb, but I don’t think anyone has the schedule for the regime’s final days.  And anyway, this is a case where static analysis is totally inappropriate.  Any scenario has to include the likelihood of new variables being introduced.  There’s probably a big sabotage operation going on against the atomic project, and some day somebody in the so-called Western world might decide to help the Iranian opposition speed up the “downfall clock.”

With regard to the atomic clock, I am told that the Iranian regime intends to announce two more hitherto-secret enrichment sites in early April.  One is near Mashad, over by the Afghan border.  The other is in the mountains east of Tehran.  In keeping with the regime’s constant use of deception and misdirection, you can be pretty sure that there are other secret sites as well.

Does this mean that the mullahs are close to putting a nuclear warhead on an accurate missile?  Beats me.  But while various “analysts” give us their theories about just when Bomb Day will arrive, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps continue to kill Americans, and nobody seems to care about that.

I made this point in last week’s debate with Flynt Leverett at the Atlantic Council in Washington, and to confirm my claim, neither Leverett, nor the moderator, the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius, nor any of the sizeable audience, responded to it.  This drives me crazy;  it’s why I wrote Accomplice to Evil.  We refuse to see our evil enemies for what they are, and we refuse to act in time to prevent massive catastrophe.

No doubt Barak knows this, and also knows that, unless things change (hard to imagine), Israel will eventually have to do something on its own.  What’s harder to understand is why Israel is doing nothing to help the opposition, which is the only policy that holds out a chance of real success, and would avoid the terrible train wreck we can all see arriving in slow motion.

As for the other clock, the one ticking off the lifespan of the Islamic Republic, the mullahs continue their murderous and sadistic campaign against the citizens of Iran, and the citizens search for new ways to show their contempt.  The regime relentlessly arrests dissidents and accuses them of actions that only a fanatical regime in crisis could concoct.  For example, they went after Mohammed Maliki, 76 yrs old, the first chancellor of Tehran U after the Revolution, and arrested him during treatment for prostate cancer.  Maliki said to his captors, “I was afraid you would let me die in my bed,” and has refused to “repent” or confess.  He’s accused of being a Mohareb, one who fights against God.  They execute such men in Iran nowadays for criticizing the regime.  I honor them, and wish my leaders would do the same, instead of pretending to have a serious Iran policy.

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Whose Death Matters More?

March 2nd, 2010 - 8:10 pm

I think the first time I grappled with this question was in an undergraduate philosophy course.  The professor was a Yalie, very very smart, and loved to provoke us.  His job, after all.  So one day, when a famous person had died, he said in his flippant way, “obviously this man was much more important than Joe Schmoe down the block, and the society should value him more, and try harder to protect him and tend to him if he’s sick, etc etc.”

And so we debated, in the way of young students.  Who is to say that one man’s life is worth more than another’s?  Maybe Mr Schmoe was a better husband/father than Einstein, where does that go in the balance scales of life?  Yes, we will long remember Einstein, and no one remembers Schmoe except maybe his dear ones, but still…

In a way, there’s nothing to debate, because Einstein had a far greater effect on far more people than Schmoe did.  But one of the great achievements of Western civilization is our conviction that every human life is precious, and that belief underlies the entire Judeo-Christian enterprise.  So, while Einstein will live forever, as they say, Schmoe was endowed with the same fundamental rights, and in that sense Schmoe was as important as Einstein.

So what to do with those who laugh at us, and who despise our love of life?  What of Nazis who murder millions who they judge unworthy or inferior?  What of the Muslim terrorists who tell us that they will destroy Western civilization precisely because we value life while they embrace death, ours and their own?  Do we ignore their threats, and treat them the same way as we treat one another?

I watched “Independence Day” over the weekend, which raises this issue very dramatically.  The aliens arrive and target mankind for annihilation.  We approach them in peace, with an outstretched hand;  they blow us up.  In the end, we have to fight, and a suitably diverse group from around the world defeats the aliens.  But the stars are American:  a black man and a white Jew.  If not for their heroism, all the efforts of all the world’s citizens would have failed.  Keep that thought for a few paragraphs.

It’s easy when the enemies aren’t even human, but in cases of human conflict we invariably take sides.  Mostly we see conflicts as “us vs. them.”  If Schmoe and Einstein were fighting to the death, we’d pick one and root for him.  Right?

Well, not always.  It’s not so simple. Lots of us didn’t take sides in the Iran-Iraq war, for example.  I, for one, rooted for the war.  And what about the cases where terrorists are fighting against a civilized country (even when its degree of “civilization” may be in doubt)?  Do you root for the Chechens or the Russians?  And how do you feel about ethnic terrorism against the Islamic Republic of Iran?

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