Get PJ Media on your Apple

Spengler

Why China Won’t Fall Apart

November 13th, 2014 - 6:38 am

The default Western strategy towards China’s rise as an economic and military superpower appears to be to sit back and wait for it to fall apart. That isn’t going to happen, as the dean of Beijing’s foreign press corps, Francesco Sisci, observes in this short essay entitled, “The Great Resilience of the Communist State:”

As a modest chronicler of events in China for over a quarter of a century, I witnessed at least four events that might have caused the government to crumble, and yet nothing of the sort happened. These include the protest in Tiananmen in 1989, the demonstrations of the Falun Gong in 1999, the SARS epidemic in 2003, and the political attempt of Bo Xilai in 2012. Except for SARS, the other three were caused by deep rifts in the top leadership and efforts of one faction to eliminate another. They were violent internal power struggles causing more damage to Chinese politics than any foreign interference, and yet nothing happened to society.

The deep-seated reasons for this can be found in an essay I wrote a decade ago. True to that analysis, ten years later, and despite many predictions to the contrary, there still has been no revolution in China. The fact remains that while democratic protests have been raging for a month in Hong Kong, adjacent Shenzhen, whose people receive uncensored news from the territory, has shown no sign of contagion.

In a nutshell, now is no time for revolution for the Chinese people, who are experiencing a golden age in their history and have had no past experience with democracy to pine for.

China will need to reform at some point, Sisci argues:

This does not mean that revolutions or democratic demands are impossible in China. A mix of internal forces and international constraints could change the situation in the next decade. There are two elements which could drive change. The Chinese economy will be roughly as large as that of the US, and this will draw increased attention and fear from other countries because China does not share the political framework of the countries that have dominated the world over the past two centuries – the UK and US. Additionally, a large portion of the Chinese population will enjoy Western middle-class purchasing power, and private enterprises will be required to pay a larger portion of taxes as they will represent a large share of the GDP but as a whole they mighthave limited control over how their tax money is spent.

Dr. Sisci, the first foreigner to complete a Chinese-language doctorate at China’s Academy of Social Science, has been my colleague at Asia Times Online almost since its founding. He was right about China ten years ago and he’s right now.

For background on China’s economic resilience, see the presentation “China’s Two Economies” prepared by my colleagues and me at Reorient Group.

A word of advice to my conservative friends: don’t hold your breath. China’s economy and political system aren’t going to collapse. China will continue to gain power. We need to worry about our own sorry state of affairs: we couldn’t replicate the 1968 moon shot today. Investment in R&D and basic science is a shadow of what it used to be, and our shrunken military budget is biased towards white elephants like the F-35.  Our “Common Core” curriculum stops with algebra, while 90% of Chinese have a high school degree including at least one course in calculus.

There is a myth in the West that the Chinese only copy but don’t create. The past generation, to be sure, found it more cost-effective to adopt than to reinvent the wheel. That was then. A new generation of young Chinese with first-rate scientific qualifications is entering the market with ambitions to found the next Alibaba.

This is real competition, and we can’t make it go away by closing our eyes and wishing for revolution. We should be having a Sputnik moment right about now–I refer to the national mobilization after Russia beat us into space in 1957. Instead, we crank up the volume and listen to the theme from “Rocky.”

More: 

Climate Deal with China: U.S. Makes Cuts, PRC Can Increase Emissions for 16 Years

The Sino-American comedy of errors

November 11th, 2014 - 8:54 am

The Sino-American comedy of errors
By Spengler
(Cross-posted from Asia Times Online)
BEIJING – Everything in tragedy happens for a reason, and the result always is sad; most things in comedy happen by accident and the outcome typically is happy. Sino-American relations are not destined for conflict, although that is possible. The misunderstandings that bedevil relations between the world’s two most powerful countries remain comedic rather than tragic. That probably is as good as it gets, for no amount of explanation will enable Chinese and Americans to make sense of each other.

Where the Chinese are defensive and cautious, the Americans tend to perceive them as aggressive; where the Chinese are expansive ambitious, the Americans ignore them altogether. The United States is a Pacific power accustomed to maritime dominance. To the extent that Americans focus on China’s foreign policy, it is to express alarm at China’s territorial claims on small uninhabited islands also claimed by Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Apart from some overheated and self-serving rhetoric from a few Chinese military leaders, though, the contested islands are of negligible importance in China’s scale of priorities.
The issue may be moot by this writing: last week, China and Japan released a “Principled Agreement on Handling and Improving Bilateral Relations”, following meetings between Japan’s national security adviser, Shotaro Yachi, and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi. The document promises to “establish crisis management mechanisms to avoid contingencies” and to employ “dialogue and consultation”.

Neither Japan nor China had any interest in a military confrontation in the Pacific, although both sides employed the island disputes to play to their own nationalist constituencies. The Principled Agreement sends a signal that the Kabuki show had gone far enough.

A common American meme in response to supposed Chinese expansionism in the Pacific projected an Indian-Japanese military alliance to contain Chinese ambitions under US sponsorship. Although a few Indian nationalists enthused over the idea, it was an empty gesture from the outside. If India got into a scrap with China over disputed borders, for example, just what would Japan do to help?

The newly-elected Indian government under Narendra Modi never took the idea seriously. On the contrary, after President Xi Jinping’s recent state visit to India, Modi envisions Chinese investment in urgently needed infrastructure. Economics trumps petty concerns over borders in the mountainous wasteland that separates the world’s two most populous nations.

There also is a strategic dimension to the growing sense of agreement between China and India. From India’s vantage point, China’s support for Pakistan’s army is a concern, but it cuts both ways. Pakistan remains at perpetual risk of tipping over towards militant Islam, and the main guarantor of its stability is the army. China wants to strengthen the army as a bulwark against the Islamic radicals, who threaten China’s Xinjiang province as much as they do India, and that probably serves India’s interests as well as any Chinese policy might.

Chinese analysts are dumbfounded about the US response to what they view as a sideshow in the South China Sea and only tangentially concerned about India. They struggle to understand why a vastly improved relationship with Russia has emerged in response to US blundering in Ukraine.

As a matter of diplomatic principle, China does not like separatists because it has its own separatists to contend with, starting with the Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. Washington thought that the Maidan Revolution in Kiev last year would take Crimea out of Russian control, and Russia responded by annexing the peninsula containing its main warm-water naval base.

When the West imposed sanctions on Russia in retaliation, Moscow moved eastwards – an obvious response, and one that strongly impacts Western power. Not only has Russia opened its gas reserve to China, but it has agreed to supply China with its most sophisticated military technology, including the formidable S-400 air defense system. Russia was reluctant to do so in the past given Chinese efforts to reverse-engineer Russian systems, but the Ukraine crisis changed that.

Western analysts, to be sure, now observe that the new Russian-Chinese rapprochement might be a challenge for the West. The New York Times devoted a front-page feature to the opinions of the usual suspects among Soviet watchers in its November 9 edition.

This was obvious months ago, and should have been obvious before the fact: the West merely threw B’rer Putin into the briar patch to his east. Of all the miscalculations in Western policy since World War II, this was perhaps the stupidest. The Chinese are left to scratch their heads about their unanticipated good luck.

It is wrong to speak of a Russian-Chinese alliance, to be sure, but there is a developing Sino-Russian condominium in Asia. The energy and defense deals between Moscow and Beijing are important in their own right, but they take on all the more importance in the context of what might be the most ambitious economic project in history: the New Silk Road. The Pacific holds little promise for China. Japan and South Korea are mature economies, customers as well as competitors of China.

Expansion in the Pacific simply has nothing to offer China’s economy. What China wants is to be impregnable within its own borders: it will spend generously to develop surface-to-ship missiles that can take out US aircraft carriers, hunter-killer submarines, and air defense systems.

China’s prospects are to the west and south: energy and minerals in Central Asia, food in Southeast Asia, warm-water ports on the Indian Ocean, a vast market, and access to world markets beyond. The network of rail, pipelines and telecommunications that China is building through the former Soviet republics and through Russia itself will terminate at the Mediterranean and provide a springboard for Chinese trade with Europe.

The whole Eurasian landmass is likely to become a Chinese economic zone, especially now that Russia is more amenable to Chinese terms. That the Americans would have helped bring this to fruition by tilting at windmills in Ukraine baffles the Chinese, but they are enjoying the result.

The economic impact of this is hard to fathom, but it is likely to extend Chinese influence westwards on a scale that the West simply hasn’t begun to imagine. It is not at all clear whether China has a clear idea of what the implications of the New Silk Road might be. The implosion of America’s geopolitical position has placed risks and opportunities at Beijing’s doorstep, to Beijing’s great surprise.

A year ago, Chinese officials privately reassured visitors that their country would “follow the lead of the dominant superpower” in matters relating to Middle East security, including Iran’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. For the past several decades, China has allowed the US to look out for the Persian Gulf while it increased its dependency on Persian Gulf oil. By 2020, China expects to import 70% of its oil, and most of that will come from the Gulf.

The Chinese view has changed radically during the past few months, in part due to the collapse of the Syrian and Iraqi states and the rise of Islamic State. It is hard to find a Chinese specialist who still thinks that the US can stand surely for Persian Gulf security. Opinion is divided between those who think that America is merely incompetent and those who think that America deliberately wants to destabilize the Persian Gulf.

Now that the US is approaching self-sufficiency in energy resources, some senior Chinese analysts believe it wants to push the region into chaos in order to hurt China. One prominent Chinese analyst pointed out that Islamic State is led by Sunni officers trained by the United States during the 2007-2008 “surge” as well as elements of Saddam Hussein’s old army, and that this explains why IS has displayed such military and organizational competence.

The complaint is justified, to be sure: General David Petraeus helped train the 100,000-strong “Sunni Awakening” to create a balance of power against the Shi’ite majority regime that the US helped bring to power in 2006. How, the Chinese ask, could the Bush administration and Petraeus have been so stupid? To persuade the Chinese that they were indeed that stupid is a daunting task.

China’s attitude towards Washington has turned towards open contempt. Writing of the mid-term elections, the official daily newspaper Global Times intoned: “The lame-duck president will be further crippled ? he has done an insipid job, offering nearly nothing to his supporters. US society has grown tired of his banality.”

But the decline of American influence in the region from which China obtains most of its oil is not a happy event for Beijing.

China did not anticipate the end of the free ride from the Americans, and it isn’t sure what to do next. It has tried to maintain a balance among countries with whom it trades and who are hostile to each other. It has sold a great deal of conventional weapons to Iran, for example, and some older, less-sophisticated ballistic missiles.

But China has sold Saudi Arabia its top-of-the-line intermediate range missiles, giving the Saudis a “formidable deterrent capability” against Iran and other prospective adversaries. China obtains more oil from Saudi Arabia than any other country, although its imports from Iraq and Oman are growing faster. Because the latter two countries are closer to Iran, China wants to strike a balance.

Chinese opinion is divided about the implications of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons: some strategists believe that the balance of nuclear power in the region will suffice to prevent the use of such weapons, while others fear that a nuclear exchange in the Gulf might stop the flow of oil and bring down China’s economy. China has joined the P-5 plus 1 negotiations (involving the UN Security Council permanent five members plus Germany) on Iran’s nuclear status, but has not offered a policy independent of President Barack Obama’s.

Meanwhile the rise of Islamist extremism worries Beijing, as well it should. At least a hundred Uyghurs reportedly are fighting with Islamic State, presumably in order to acquire terrorist skills to bring back home to China. Chinese analysts have a very low opinion of the Obama administration’s approach to dealing with IS, but do not have an alternative policy. This is an issue of growing importance. Instability threatens the Silk Road project at several key notes.

China has no sympathy whatever for what analysts there like to call “political Islam”. America’s flirtation with the Muslim Brotherhood – both from the Obama administration and from mainstream Republicans such as Senator John McCain – strikes the Chinese as incompetence, or worse. But China has no capability to go after the Islamists, except for a very limited deployment of marines off the coast of Somalia.

China’s policy-making is careful, conservative and consensus-driven. Its overriding concern is its own economy. The pace of transformation of the Middle East has surprised it, and it is trying to decide what to do next.

Its pro forma policy is to join the Iran talks, and offer to join the Quartet (the UN, the US, the European Union, and Russia) talks on the Israel-Palestine issue, but neither of these initiatives has much to do with its actual concerns.

What China will do in the future cannot be predicted. But it seems inevitable that China’s basic interests will lead it to far greater involvement in the region, all the more so as the US withdraws.

There are now nearly 18 million refugees and internally displaced persons in seven Muslim countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen), up from slightly over 7 million in 2011, according to the UN.  That doesn’t count more than 2.5 million Afghani refugees from the continuing war in their country. Much of the population of Syria has left their homes, including 3 million who have left the country due to the civil war and an additional 8 million internally displaced.

That is cause for desperation: unprecedented numbers of people have been torn from traditional society and driven from their homes, many with little but the clothes on their backs. There are millions of young men in the Muslim world sitting in refugee camps with nothing to do, nowhere to go back to, and nothing to look forward to. And there are tens of millions more watching their misery with outrage. Never has an extremist movement had so many frustrated and footloose young men in its prospective recruitment pool.

Israel has nothing whatever to do with any of this suffering. It is all the result of social and political disintegration in the Muslim world itself. To blame ISIS’ recruitment of young Muslims on the refugee problem of 1948, as Secretary of State John Kerry did last week, boggles the imagination. It is one thing to ignore the elephant in the parlor, and another to pretend it is not there when it is standing on one’s toe.

To be fair, the secretary of State did not assert as a matter of fact or analysis that the Israeli-Palestinian issue was the cause of rising extremism. What he said was this: ”As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the [anti-Islamic State] coalition … there wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt they had to respond to.”

It is quite possible to imagine that some leaders in the region cited the Israel-Palestine issue. They face social unraveling on a scale not seen in the region since the Mongol invasion. They are submerged by a human tsunami, and might as well blame the Jews. Or the bicycle riders.

 

refugees

 

Refugees + Internally Displaced Persons by Country

Country 2011 2012 2013 2014
Afghanistan 450,556 502,485 648,147 648,147
Iraq 1,367,571 1,230,632 1,200,422 1,800,000
Libya 103,695 66,490 79,135 79,135
Pakistan 2,155,632 2,396,452 2,363,993 2,363,993
Somalia 1,358,944 1,135,272 1,135,416 1,135,416
Syrian Arab Republic 755,445 2,493,006 6,670,066 11,000,000
Yemen 562,035 622,502 547,890 547,890
Total 6,753,878 8,446,839 12,645,069 17,574,581

Why Europe Is Irrational About Israel

October 14th, 2014 - 5:14 pm

Coming soon after Sweden’s recognition of a non-existent state of Palestine, the British Parliament’s 274-to-12 resolution to recognize “Palestine” flags a sea-change in European sentiment towards Israel. France is thinking of following suit. The European Community bureaucracy, meanwhile, has readied sanctions against Israel. One remonstrates in vain. The Gaza War should have taught the world that Israel cannot cede territory to Mahmoud Abbas, now in the 10th year of a 4-year term. Hamas has the support of 55% of West Bank Palestinians vs. just 38% for Abbas, and Hamas openly brags that it could destroy Israel more easily from firing positions in the West Bank. Only the Israeli military keeps Abbas in power; without the Israelis Hamas would displace Abbas in the West Bank as easily as it did in Gaza; and a Hamas government in the West Bank would make war on Israel, with horrifying consequences.

To propose immediate Palestinian statehood under these circumstances is psychotic, to call the matter by its right name. The Europeans, along with the United Nations and the Obama administration on most working days, refuse to take reality into account. When someone tells you that Martians are transmitting radio waves into his brain, or that Elvis Presley really is the pope rather than an Argentine Jesuit, one doesn’t enquire into the merits of the argument. Rather, one considers the cause of the insanity.

The Europeans hate Israel with the passion of derangement. Why? Well, one might argue that the Europeans always have hated Jews; they were sorry they hated Jews for a while after the Holocaust, but they have gotten over that and hate us again. Some analysts used to cite Arab commercial influence in European capitals, but today Egypt and implicitly Saudi Arabia are closer to Jerusalem’s point of view than Ramallah’s. Large Muslim populations in Europe constitute a pressure group for anti-Israel policies, but that does not explain the utter incapacity of the European elite to absorb the most elementary facts of the situation.

Europe’s derangement has deeper roots. Post-nationalist Europeans, to be sure, distrust and despise all forms of nationalism. But Israeli nationalism does not offend Europe merely because it is one more kind of nationalism. From its founding, Europe has been haunted by the idea of Israel. Its first states emerged as an attempt to appropriate the election of Israel. As I wrote in my 2011 book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too):

The unquiet urge of each nation to be chosen in its own skin began with the first conversion of Europe’s pagans; it was embedded in European Christendom at its founding. Christian chroniclers cast the newly-baptized European monarchs in the role of biblical kings, and their nations in the role of the biblical Israel. The first claims to national election came at the crest of the early Dark Ages, from the sixth-century chronicler St Gregory of Tours (538-594), and the seventh-century Iberian churchman St Isidore of Seville.

As I observed on the First World War anniversary, Saints Isidore of Seville and Gregory of Tours were in the Bialystock and Bloom of the Dark Ages, the Producers of the European founding: they sold each petty monarch 100% of the show. Europe’s nationalisms were not simply an expansion of tribal impulses, but a nationalism refined and shaped by Christianity into a ghastly caricature of Israel’s Chosenness. In turn, each European country asserted its status as God’s new people: France under Richelieu during the 17th century, England under the Tudors, Russia (“The Third Rome”) from the time of Ivan the Terrible, and ultimately the Germans, who substituted the concept of “master race” for the Chosen People.

Pages: 1 2 | 164 Comments»

Angelo Codevilla’s Tour de Force

October 8th, 2014 - 7:54 am

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 7.38.19 AM

Tuesday night I had the honor of sharing the podium with Prof. Angelo Codevilla under the auspices of the Claremont Institute at New York’s Yale Club. He is one of the wisest and sharpest strategic thinkers to come out of the Reagan Revolution, and his new book, To Make and Keep Peace is a must read: if you read only one book about politics (and especially foreign policy) this year, this should be the one.

I reviewed the work in the Claremont Review of Books, and my review has been posted at the Federalist website. It is excerpted below.

“To Make and Keep Peace: Among Ourselves and with All Nations,” by Angelo M. Codevilla. Hoover Institution Press, 248 pages, $24.95.

To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune, Lady Bracknell observed in “The Importance of Being Earnest,” but to lose both looks like carelessness. To have lost the peace three times in the past century suggests something worse than carelessness in American foreign policy. Woodrow Wilson set the stage for World War II by making the best the enemy of the good when negotiating the resolution of World War I. Franklin Roosevelt’s naïveté about the Soviet Union set the world adrift into the Cold War. And now a succession of mistakes following the fall of Communism has left America flailing. The overwhelming American majority that favored foreign interventions after 9/11 has melted, yielding isolationism unseen since the 1930s. How did it come to this?

One political party or the other may blunder, but disasters on this scale can be achieved only by consensus. Angelo Codevilla contends that a self-perpetuating foreign policy elite, incapable of taking in abundant evidence about all the things it neither knows nor does well, has steered American foreign policy in the wrong direction for the past century. The shrill partisan debates, he argues, obscure an underlying commonality of outlook among the “liberal progressive,” “realist,” and “neo-conservative” currents in foreign policy. All three schools of thinking derive from “turn-of-the-twentieth-century progressivism.”

All regard foreigners as yearning for American leadership. Their proponents regard foreigners as mirror images of themselves, at least potentially. Liberal internationalists see yearners for secular, technocratic development. Neoconservatives see budding democrats, while realists imagine peoples inclined to moderation…. Different emphases notwithstanding, there is solid consensus among our ruling-class factions that America’s great power requires exercising responsibility for acting as the globe’s ‘policeman,’ ‘sheriff,’ ‘umpire,’ ‘guardian of international standards,’ ‘stabilizer,’ or ‘leader’—whatever one may call it.

From Hyperpower to Hyperventilator

It isn’t just that the emperor has no clothes: the empire has no tailors. In the decade since President George W. Bush’s 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech, America has gone from hyperpower to hyperventilater. The Obama administration and Republican leadership quibble about the modalities of an illusory two-state solution in Israel, or the best means to make democracy bloom in the Middle East’s deserts, or how vehemently to denounce Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, everything that could go wrong, has. Europe’s frontiers are in play for the first time since the fall of Communism; Russia and China have a new rapprochement; American enemies like Iran have a free hand while traditional American allies in the Sunni world feel betrayed; and China has all but neutralized American sea power within hundreds of miles of its coast.

America’s credibility around the world is weaker than at any time since the Carter administration. American policy evokes contempt overseas, and even more at home, where the mere suggestion of intervention is ballot box poison, while the Republicans’ isolationist fringe wins straw polls among the party’s core constituents. In 2013 the Pew Survey found 53 percent of U.S. respondents considered America less important and powerful than a decade earlier, the first time a majority held that view since 1974, just before the fall of Saigon. And four-fifths of respondents told Pew that the United States should not think so much in international terms but concentrate on its own problems, the highest proportion to agree with that proposition since the survey began posing it in 1964.

How War Is Like Pregnancy

Codevilla offers a bracing antidote to stale, wishful thinking. A professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, he is one of our last sages, an actor in the great events that brought down the Soviet empire during the 1980s, as well as a distinguished scholar of political thought. Among the modern-day classics he’s authored—including “War: Ends and Means” (1988, with Paul Seabury) and “The Character of Nations” (2000)—“To Make and Keep Peace” is his “Summa,” a tour d’horizon of American and world history crammed with succinct case studies of success and failure in war and peace.

Read the whole review here.

Why Are the Bushies Attacking Ted Cruz?

October 7th, 2014 - 9:18 am
YouTube Preview Image

The Republican Party has played Marley’s Ghost for the past half-dozen years, dragging behind it the sins of the foreign-policy utopians who persuaded George W. Bush to bet the farm on nation-building in the Middle East. Bush’s 2004 Second Inaugural, written with the help of the Weekly Standard‘s Bill Kristol and the Washington Post‘s Charles Krauthammer, was the high-water mark of foreign-policy overreach and the cusp of Republican fortunes. By the 2006 congressional elections, the electorate had had enough, and the public’s disgust with the pointless sacrifice of blood and treasure helped propel the junior senator from Illinois into the White House. The Bushies who blundered so badly–occupying Iraq, pushing for the West Bank elections won by Hamas, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt against the Egyptian military–are still fighting for what is left of their reputations. And their greatest fear is that a Republican leader will come along untainted by their mistakes, and able to admit what we Republicans should have admitted years ago: the Bush administration made some big mistakes.

That leader is Sen. Ted Cruz, who said Sept. 24,

I think we stayed too long, and we got far too involved in nation-building…. We should not be trying to turn Iraq into Switzerland.

Cruz is a foreign policy hard-liner, not an isolationist, but he is a tough-minded realist in a party contaminated by the ideological impulse to export America’s political system to the Middle East. His way of looking at things is close to that of the original Reagan foreign policy team, for example, Prof. Angelo Codevilla, whose new book I reviewed recently. Codevilla argued that  “U.S. viceroys spent most of a decade fruitlessly trying to negate the Shias’, Sunnis’, and Kurds’ democratically expressed mutual antagonism.” The much-lauded “surge” “consisted of turning over to Sunni insurgents the tribal areas into which the Shia were pushing them. Rather than defeating them, the U.S. government began arming them.” And the result: “After a  bloody decade, Iraq ended up divided along ancient ethno-religious fault lines but more mutually bitter.”

Pages: 1 2 3 4 | 116 Comments»

Horror as an Instrument of War

September 28th, 2014 - 6:35 am

A young Orthodox rabbi of my acquaintance denounced Jews who exult in the mutual slaughter of Muslims from the pulpit on the Jewish New Year. He is of course correct: no-one should take pleasure in the death of noncombatants. One can, of course, be glad that one’s enemies are fighting each other; former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir famously quipped about the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, “I want them both to win.”

Our problem, though, is quite different: Since 9/11 I have argued that the strategic plan of Islamist terrorism is to poison the Western soul with horror, by setting in motion atrocities too grim for the Western mind to bear. There is very good reason to believe that they are succeeding. Judging by the proliferation of the horror genre in popular entertainment, we are succumbing to horror by stages, as I contended in a 2009 essay for First Things. It is the “Black Breath” from Mordor that Tolkien described in The Lord of the Rings.

This is not simply the brutality of the pagan world employed by the Romans with their mass crucifixions as much as it was by Muslim conquerors of the Middle Ages: it is a refined and exquisite sense of horror learned by modern Muslims from the Nazis, whose example inspired the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the Ba’ath Party. Strictly speaking, the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing more than the Arab-language wing of National Socialism, and movements like ISIS a more radical version of the same thing, something like Ernst Röhm’s Sturmabteilung.

We have seen this throughout, and most recently in Gaza, where Hamas used every means possible to maximize its own civilian casualties in order to horrify the world. Whatever the circumstances, one should not rejoice in the death of civilians, but it is necessary to harden our hearts against an enemy who detects weakness in our delicate sense of humanity. Because we misunderestimated the nature of the enemy we confront, we have no means to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe on a frightful scale. We face an apocalyptic enemy, with a lot to be apocalyptic about.

On the next page are extracts from an essay I published about this in October 2011. The conclusions have not changed, except for one: Evil will oft evil mars, to quote Tolkien again. The Sunni-Shi’ite war could prove to be the grave of radical Islam if the West takes the appropriate measures. We must remember, though, that the target of radical Islam is not territory or power in the conventional sense, but the vulnerable Western soul. In this respect we should be afraid–very afraid.

Pages: 1 2 | 61 Comments»

Erdoğan’s Flying Carpet Unravels

September 24th, 2014 - 5:45 am

Ross Shouldn’t Do That

September 13th, 2014 - 7:09 pm

I had to read the penultimate paragraph of Ross Douthat’s New York Times piece on “friendless Middle East Christians” before the enormity of it sunk in. Douthat wrote:

If Cruz felt that he couldn’t address an audience of persecuted Arab Christians without including a florid, “no greater ally” preamble about Israel, he could have withdrawn from the event. The fact that he preferred to do it this way says a lot–none of it good–about his priorities and instincts.

In so many words: Jew-hatred among Middle Eastern Christians is so rampant that it should be ignored in the interests of saving this oppressed minority. Never mind that it is impossible to conceive of any strategic configuration on the Middle East that might help Middle Eastern Christians without including Israel; never mind that Israel’s supporters in the United States are among the first to urge America to act on their behalf; and, above all, never mind that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians can practice their religion in security and safety, and that Israel is the only country in the Middle East with a growing Christian population.

The statement is outrageous, capping a long list of inaccuracies. The problem is NOT, as Douthat argues, that “the Middle East’s Christians simply don’t  have the kind of influence to matter” in American strategic calculations. The problem is that Middle East Christians threw in with (and some helped invent) a movement directly opposed to American interests in the region, namely the Arab nationalism embodied in the Ba’ath Party. I reviewed this sad history in a 2009 essay reposted on this site.

No-one proposes to blame the afflicted Christians of the Middle East for previous choices under duress: they had no good choices, and hardly can be faulted for bad ones. Unlike some of my conservative friends, moreover, I can’t blame Syrian Christians for supporting the Assad regime, which protects them from murdering Sunni jihadists. It isn’t about blame, but about the future–if there is one. Israel has a prominent role in any possible state of the world in which Christianity continues to exist in the Middle East (outside of Israel itself).

As I observed in the linked essay, the Catholic Church remains in the grip of nostalgia for its past influence in the region, and a great many of its Middle Eastern specialists simply cannot abide the idea that  Israel might be the home to the remnant of Middle Eastern Christianity as well as the protector of Christian minorities elsewhere. But that is how things have worked out. That’s reality, and it’s the job of political leaders like Sen. Cruz to explain reality to their constituents. That’s not “florid.” That’s leadership.

An analogy might be useful: Evangelical Christians are among Israel’s strongest supporters in America, yet some Jews–including liberals as well as Christianophobic ultra-Orthodox–reject this support. That is hysteria. Israel’s supporters in America are among the strongest defenders of Middle Eastern Christians, yet some Middle Eastern Christians reject this support. That is also hysteria. Jews who reject Christian support are crazy, and Middle Eastern Christians who reject Jewish support are crazy. It’s the job of leaders to tell them so.

Also read:  

Why Did Middle Eastern Christians Drive Sen. Cruz from the Stage?

 

When Sen. Ted Cruz told an audience of Middle Eastern Christians that they have no better friend than Israel, he stated the literal truth: the Assyrian Christians of Iraq’s north are at greater risk than any Christian population in the world, and their only effective defenders are the Kurdish Peshmerga, which was trained and armed by Israel almost from inception. These facts are widely known. Why, then, did Sen. Cruz’s remarks provoke an eruption of Jew-hatred? A large part of the audience could not control its rage, and drove their keynote speaker from the podium.

There’s a history, and a sad one. I published the essay below in 2009 and reprint it here to help put this event in context. It is a dark day indeed when the government of Egypt can see its way clear to an alliance with Israel against radical Islamists, but many (and perhaps most) Middle Eastern Christians can’t bear the idea of an alliance with Israel. It does not augur well for their survival in the region.

The closing of the Christian womb
By Spengler (crossposted from Asia Times Online)

A century ago, Christians dominated the intellectual and commercial life of the Levant, comprising more than one-fifth of the 13 million people of Turkey, the region’s ruling power, and most of the population of Lebanon. Ancient communities flourished in what is now Iraq and Syria. But starting with the Armenian genocide in 1914 and continuing through the massacre and expulsion of Anatolian Greeks in 1922-1923, the Turks killed three to four million Christians in Turkey and the Ottoman provinces. Thus began a century of Muslim violence that nearly has eradicated Christian communities in the cradle of their religion.

It may seem odd to blame the Jews for the misery of Middle East Christians, but many Christian Arabs do so – less because they are Christians than because they are Arabs. The Christian religion is flourishing inside the Jewish side. Only 50,000 Christian Arabs remain in the West Bank territories, and their numbers continue to erode. Hebrew-speaking Christians, mainly immigrants from Eastern Europe or the Philippines, make up a prospective Christian congregation of perhaps 300,000 in the State of Israel, double the number of a decade ago.

The brief flourishing and slow decline of Christian Arab life is one of the last century’s stranger stories. Until the Turks killed the Armenians and expelled the Greeks, Orthodoxy dominated Levantine. The victorious allies carved out Lebanon in 1926 with a Christian majority, mostly Maronites in communion with Rome. Under the Ottomans, Levantine commerce had been Greek or Jewish, but with the ruin of the Ottomans and the founding of Lebanon, Arab Christians had their moment in the sun. Beirut became the banking center and playground for Arab oil states.

The French designed Lebanon’s constitution on the strength of a 1932 census showing a Christian majority, guaranteeing a slight Christian advantage in political representation. With the Christian population at barely 30% of the total and 23% of the population under 20 – Lebanon’s government refuses to take a census – Lebanon long since has lost its viability. The closing of the Christian womb has ensured eventual Muslim dominance.

Precise data are unobtainable, for demographics is politics in Lebanon, but Lebanon’s Christians became as infertile as their European counterparts. Muslims, particularly the impoverished and marginalized Shi’ites, had more babies. In 1971, the Shi’ite fertility rate was 3.8 babies per female, against only 2 for Maronite Christians, or just below replacement. Precise data are not available, but Christian fertility is well below replacement today.

Even before the 1975 Lebanese Civil War, infertility undermined the position of Lebanon’s Christians . The civil war itself arose from the demographic shift towards Muslims, who saw the Christian-leaning constitution as unfair. Christianity in the Levant ultimately failed for the same reason that it failed in Europe: populations that are nominally Christian did not trouble to reproduce.

Pages: 1 2 3 | 99 Comments»