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Monthly Archives: September 2006

America and its Discontents

September 29th, 2006 - 1:24 pm

Clintonian Neuroses

In the last post I suggested that Clinton needed a thorough psychiatric analysis—and then was apprised that a PJ Media contributor, Gagdad Bob, had offered a fine portrait of his narcissist tendencies. Clinton’s furious outburst illustrated a fundamental Democratic fear: even when events favor popular unease—an unpopular war, rising gas prices—contemporary Democrats are not sure that they can still capture 51% of the electorate.

Democratic Paranoia

And why, if not a deep unease with who they are, do Democrats wheel out an Ike Skelton, John Murtha, or Robert Byrd? Is it for no other reason than these supposedly middle-of-the-road crusty types offer a veneer for the ‘real’ Democratic party that drove out Joe Lieberman, and is best represented by Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy, and Barbara Boxer?

I can’t imagine the Republican party showcasing John McCain to broadcast its liberal tendencies as a fig-leaf for Bush, Cheney, etc. At least with the Republicans, what you see, is what you get. Almost anyone of them can get up on stage and more or less represent their conservative message.

On any given Sunday…

But with the present-day Democrats, they apparently must be careful that at any given second a Democratic Senator might go off and compare our troops to terrorists (Kerry), Pol Pot (Durbin), or Saddam’s jailers (Kennedy), or perhaps suggest Iraq was better off under the Husseins (Rockefeller). The result is an addiction to dissimulation, a constant paranoia that without warning someone will say what they feel, and thereby reveal to the American people just how far this bunch has strayed from Harry Truman, Henry Jackson, and JFK—and how radically they have become enthralled with the various victim industries, academia, Hollywood, and the fringe of Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, and the Daily Kos.

Such a sad fellow, this Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter, the subject of the last blog, almost immediately was back in the news claiming that the United States was one of the world’s great abusers of civil rights (I wonder how our internecine body count in Plains, Georgia stacks up with that in Rwanda, Kosovo, or Dafur?). He adds that all Presidents—except the current one—have been supporters of human rights.

In his dotage, Carter is proving once again that he is as malicious and mean-spirited a public figure as he is historically ignorant. And for all his sanctimonious Christian veneer, and fly-fishing, ‘aw shucks blue-jeans image, he can’t hide an essentially ungracious and unkind soul.

Does he have any idea of Lincoln and Andrew Johnson suspending habeas corpus and shutting down newspapers, Woodrow Wilson jailing political dissidents, FDR interning American citizens and executing German agents in secret military tribunals? Do we have currently a Nixon’s enemies list? And can Carter point to just one aspect of current American life where civil liberties are materially curtailed, in which an American can’t do what he wants? Getting on a plane without shampoo doesn’t count–or not having your family at the gate when you land either: all thanks to al Qaeda, not George Bush.

We are not free?

We are in a war at a time when Alfred A. Knopf freely published a novel exploring the idea of killing the Commander-in-Chief. A movie wins accolades for filming the same leftist dream of shooting George Bush. Bush as a “Nazi” is standard stuff these days in the media.

All such venom is voiced freely and without restrictions. Contrast our enemies: the pope, an opera, a novel, a cartoon, a film—all either muzzled or intimidated by the mere fear of Islamic violence. Carter should reread Aristotle’s Ethics and learn what true morality is: action to combat evil, not sermonizing from the Carter Center or campaigning for a Nobel Prize at a time of war by trashing his own government.

If he can’t name an example of federal overreach, I surely can: the current political indictment of Scooter Libby, who, we know now, was not the leaker of the supposedly “classified” status of the much public Ms. Plame. That hit job seems to be a very dangerous abuse of federal prosecutorial power, especially when we learn that it was long recognized that Richard Armitage was the font of the “leak”.

The Golden Years: 1976-1980?

There is another disturbing element to Cartesian maliciousness. He asks us to forget all the dilemmas of being President, the necessity of making bad choices when the alternative is usually worse. And, of course, he seems to have amnesia about his own failings that put this country in grave jeopardy. He sanctimoniously lectured us on our Cold War fixation on communism—and got a murderous Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He talked of a post-Vietnam reappraisal in the midst of the Cambodian Holocaust. “Human Rights” was an admirable banner, but did not include any such audit of Sandinista Communists.

He wept for the middle class, but adopted policies that led to double-digit interest rates and inflation, ensuring that only the upscale could borrow for a house or ensure their salaries would keep up with the cost of living. No need to mention his energy policy or gas lines.

Remember the genesis of the Great Satan?

Carter’s Waterloo, of course was the Iranian hostage crisis. It was not just that his gutting of the military helped to explain the rescue disaster. Far more importantly, we can chart the rise of radical political Islam with the storming of the American embassy in Teheran and the impotent response of Jimmy Carter.

Long before George Bush was elected to anything, crowds in Teheran gave us the genesis of the Great Satan and “Death to Carter”. Does he remember that so great was the Iranian Islamist hatred of him, that Iran deliberately delayed the brokered release of the hostages until he was out of office—a lesson that appeasement wins contempt as the additional wage of its failure.

He’s Back—Oliver Stone Unmuzzled and “Ashamed”

After his recent string of movie flops—highlighted by the disastrous Alexander the Great fiasco—Oliver Stone seemed an unlikely director to entrust with a retelling of 9/11. Had we forgotten his praise of Hamas, his odd comparison of the Israeli encirclement of Ramallah to Auschwitz, or his cynical dismissal of the 3,000 dead on September 11 as “a revolt”.

So when Paramount released World Trade Center, and it went tamely into the night, what happened? I know little of Hollywood protocol, but I imagine somewhere in the multimillion-dollar negotiations, either expressed or implied, there was surely the understanding that a recently problematic (and no doubt cash-strapped) Stone could not deviate from his assigned script—and for a prescribed period of time, probably could not comment publicly on 9/11 or world events in general. When millions were involved, there was probably something agreed on like the following, ‘Stay with the party line, shut up, we both make money—and then, and only then, you’re’ on your own.’ Had Stone sounded off about the United States (see below) on the eve of World Trade Center’s release, he would probably have lost millions.

I think that period of grace is now over, as the movie heads for the rental business. So now we get, “Terrorism is a manageable action. It can be lived with.” I guess that depends on whether Stone himself was in the World Trade Center on September 11 or whether his offspring were vaporized when the “revolt” broke out.

And how does he recently characterize the war, one debated over and voted for by a majority of Democratic Congressmen and Senators? “The far greater conspiracy occurred after 9/11 when basically a neo-cabal inside our government hijacked policy and went to war. That was as broad a conspiracy as we can get and it was about 20, 30 people. That’s all, they took over and all these books are coming out and they are pointing it out.”

And how, like Jimmy Carter, has poor Stone suffered, perhaps especially when he heads for Europe: “This war on Iraq is a disaster. I’m disgraced. I’m ashamed for my country. I’m also ashamed that America has attacked itself with its constitutional breakdowns. I’m deeply ashamed.”

These remarks will win him applause, not a FBI wiretap, in his shameful country of “constitutional breakdowns.” What a strange man: had he made one of his mendacious movies criticizing Islam, he’d be dead; had he lived in Europe and expressed sympathy with radical Islam, long ago he’d be on a British or French watch list, his phone bugged. Had he worked in China, Russia, or anywhere but the U.S. he’d long ago been muzzled.

So what is Oliver Stone? A creature par excellence of capitalism, an elitist who makes millions and spends them, pandering to popular culture—and shuts up when told to, and opens back up when the check is cut. How sad.

Clintonian and Cartesian Angst

I just arrived back to California after a wonderful five-week teaching stint at Hillsdale College in Michigan—to blue skies, raisins safely in the roll, the farm in good shape thanks to the renter and my son, and constant televised clips from Bill Clinton’s embarrassing, but staged rant.

Why when leaving office did we hear little, if any, second guessing—much less criticism of their successors—from Gerry Ford, Ronald Reagan, or George Bush, Sr.—but lots of self-serving revisionism from Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton? Ford and the elder Bush, after all, were both defeated at the polls and might have voiced hurt at their fates?

In contrast, Carter and Clinton, as self-appointed moral censors, have a bad habit of campaigning for international approval (remember Carter’s embarrassing lobbying for the Nobel Prize) by ankle-biting current American Presidents, and by extension their very alma mater. It was forgotten in the repulsion over Carter’s smug 2003 wartime criticism of George W. Bush, that after 9/11 Clinton lectured the world on American sins dating back to William Tecumseh Sherman, praised Iranian democracy, and from time to time went off on “right wingers.”

Three explanations explain this postpartum ex-presidential depression: one, the country has moved steadily rightward—Congress, the Presidency, the Supreme Court, and state governments. So much of the whining is from the out-of-power, know-it-all and self-anointed, who, like precious wounded fawns, resent deeply their perceived wounds and lick publicly their scrapes.

Second, there is a lot of acclaim and money to be made by jetting around the globe, finger-pointing about right-wing insensitivity, the environment (so much for the ecological consequences of flying on private planes), third-world poverty, and American hubris.

Third, we are nearing an election, and a blow-up by Clinton can be passed off as yelling out “truth to power” as an out-of-office, unapologetic Democrat takes on “Fox News,” thereby galvanizing the true believers. Clinton as either truthful or without resources is, of course, laughable; but then so were his other roles as serious historian, global humanitarian, lip-biting empath, professorial wonk, and sensual, caring alpha-male. He is what he is—a half-grown-up, but canny chameleon, blessed with considerable skills at the impromptu rant and instant repartee, with a sharp mind and little real knowledge that ensure he has a veneer of impressive knowledge about an inch thick.

Leftwing politics and hyper-privilege are a bad mix, winning hypocrisy as an additional wage to self-righteous impracticality—as we see from the likes of a John and Mrs. Kerry, George Soros, and Ted Turner.

The truth? Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are both small-minded men, with a wide mean streak. And for all the smiles and deference to folksy Protestant religion, they display an un-Christian vindictiveness that makes us happy they are not in office. A psychiatrist would diagnose all sorts of neuroses of compensation and projection, their psyches finding overt ways of balancing (and hiding) some very dark emotions. When Clinton leaned over to Chris Wallace and ranted about his smirk, I was reminded of the deified Carter promising to kick Ted Kennedy’s ass and telling the world in 1988 that George Bush, Sr. was effeminate.

Will Latin American Politics Follow Illegal Aliens?

Hugo Chavez’s primordial rant, the antics of Evo Morales, the likelihood of a Sandinista victory, along with noises from the recent Mexican election and near insurrection in Oaxaca, should remind us that Latin America, for all its natural riches and hard-won democracies, is still dysfunctional.

Its poverty, as in the Arab world, is too often blamed on Yanquis, gringos, and foreigners, rather than the lack of property rights, transparent government, personal freedom, the rule of law, and open markets.

And this anger frames the entire ongoing debate over illegal immigration in new and disturbing ways. Does the United States really wish to allow in over a million illegal aliens per year, who flee the chaos south of the border, but not necessarily the endemic anger that someone else is responsible for their misery rather than their culture at large? In concrete fact, of course, aliens know that something north of the border results in a system of wealth, security, and freedom, but in romance they often cling to the notion that an oppressive foreign way of doing things owes them what they cannot obtain—as we see not just voiced in marches of illegal aliens, but in the antics of the open borders lobbyists and politicians here in the United States.

Move the UN?

Is there any reason for the United Nations to stay in New York? The combination of its affluence and celebrity-driven culture draws in an odious international cadre, one that hates the United States (witness the applause for Chavez) as much as it enjoys living here. Surely it could move to Nigeria, Dafur, Cuba, or Venezuela, where its sensitive membership would be closer to real problems, well away from the television studios and five-star restaurants? Once again, privilege and left-wing piety are a bad combo.

When Not Enough is Too Much

One of the most disturbing facets of the current war is the sinking realization that we are not fully mobilized against Islamic fascism, that we underplay its dangers—even as we are damned for being Islamophobes.

The Pope incident is a prime example of how the world should be outraged that Muslims are issuing threats and promises of retribution against someone who in academese referred to age-old Islamic propensities for violence. Instead, Europe scrambled to apologize.

What to do about such a syndrome? We saw it in the 1930s when Europe tried to appease Hitler when it should have been building far more tanks. It is indeed an entirely human phenomenon that when we confront a reality too awful to contemplate—that a large part of the world hates Western liberality for what it is rather than anything it has done, and has the wealth and thus soon the means to act on that venom—we construct mental escapes of denial, appeasement, and obsequiousness, turning on each other for insensitivity rather than on the perpetrators for their hate.

Let us hope that there is not another 9/11 which would shatter such a glass edifice rather quickly, but instead pray that the public can be educated about the danger and the unique exceptionalism of its culture of the West, which after all, is really humankind’s last and only hope.

The Benevolence of the West

Throughout these last crazy weeks, I have been struck by Western tolerance and benevolence. Can you imagine, as Pakistan’s Musharref does, a President Bush publishing his book in Pakistan and then touring the Hindu Kush, hawking its message of criticism of his host to local tribes?

Or can you imagine, thousands in the street in the US or Europe, chanting ‘Death to Islam’ over the latest theocratic rant from Iran or Saudi Arabia?

Or better yet, imagine how 15,000 American Christian students would be treated in Saudi Arabia, had 15 Americans blown up 3,000 Saudis.

Or contemplate enormous Christian Churches being built by expatriate Americans in Riyadh?

Or what if the Pope thought the Islamic exclusion of infidels from Mecca was a good idea worth emulating, and thus no non-Christians could enter either Rome or the Vatican?

The West really is the world’s life raft, and that is why immigration—civilization’s precious barometer of men’s innermost thoughts—always flows from East to West, never vice versa.

Wars, then and now

September 22nd, 2006 - 10:32 am

The Hate-America Industry

When bin Laden praised William Blum’s Rogue State, it soared to the top of Amazon’s sales charts. So too now has Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival—as soon as the semi-literate Hugo Chavez held it up at the United Nations. The Left sees it as McCarthy-like to even suggest that our own are the ideological godheads of the enemy. But it is true.

I am going through the rough draft of a new Al-Qaeda reader this morning, translated and edited by Raymond Ibrahim, soon to be released by Doubleday. What do Dr. Zawahri and bin Laden complain about from their caves in Pakistan? Why, of course, the American failure to sign Kyoto, our desecration of the environment, George Bush reading a goat story on the morning of 9/11, Halliburton, and—that critically-important concern of radical Islam— the lack of campaign finance reform in the United States. Much of their rants are simply jottings and notes taken from watching Fahrenheit 9/11 and killing time in hideouts by listening to talking heads on CNN.

This is all fine and good in a free society, but there are two concerns—other than the abject hypocrisy of these comfortable prenatal Americans kicking at their own embryo. A tenured Chomsky—who thrives in pleasant, secure surrounds, makes a living through secure air travel, and is paid by a university rich in Pentagon contracts—can rant only on the surety that what he sees in the abstract as evil and so must end won’t quite fall apart in the concrete. William Blum said he was pleased by bin Laden’s endorsement, but wouldn’t want the terrorist to call him. But why wouldn’t he, since both agree on the central evil of our times—and the need to address it?

And that’s the point: there is a hot-house plant feel to this shrillness, in which authors sell books, and filmmakers rake in profits, but their invective supposedly doesn’t really weaken the system enough to imperil them and their children. But for a terrorist to read from these American intellectuals that the United States is the greatest source of terror in the world is not to begin a “conversation,” but to embolden them even further to try ending American altogether.

Second, the hysteria of the hate Bush’s America industry has moved the entire critique of the United States far to the left—and now over the edge. Hugo Chavez’s performance trumped Khrushchev’s shoe-thumping, and was right up there with Hitler at Nuremberg. The Council on Foreign Relations welcomed in Ahmadinejad, who once again denied the Holocaust to their faces: would they have invited Pinochet to lecture them about the “lies” that any Chileans were killed, or a P.W. Botha to assure them apartheid was a vast exaggeration? We live in an age not merely of award-winning films and mainstream novels depicting the assassination of President Bush, but of Venezuelan, Cuban, Iranian, and North Korean thugs relying on just this domestic industry of self-hate for their very message.

The End of Wars

Today I finish the last class of a five-week course I taught this late summer at Hillsdale College on World War II. What is striking is the abrupt end of the war, whose last months nevertheless saw the worst American casualties in Europe of the entire struggle. 10,677 of our soldiers died in April 1945 alone, just a few days before the collapse of the Nazi regime— about the same number lost a year earlier during the month of June in the 1944 landings at Normandy and the slogging in the Hedgerows. Okinawa saw our worst casualties on the ground in the Pacific—and was declared secure only 6 weeks before the Japanese surrender. 1945 was far bloodier than 1939, a reminder that in the midst of a war daily losses are not necessarily a barometer of how close or far away is the end of the carnage. Ask the Red Army for whom the final siege of Berlin—361, 367 Russian and Polish soldiers lost—may have been their worst single battle of their entire war, itself characterized by killing on a scale unimaginable in the West.

I don’t know how close or far away we are in Iraq from securing a chance for Iraqi democracy to stabilize, but I do know–despite the recent spate of doom and gloom journalistic accounts–that, as in all wars, it is almost impossible to tell from the 24-hour pulse of the battlefield.

September 19th, 2006 - 1:31 pm

Drawing the Line?

It has been a parlor game of sorts to guess when—but even more so if—the Europeans (Britain included) will sigh, “Enough is enough,” and so get tough with both their own unassimilated angry Muslim minorities and the radical Islamic world at large. There will never be liberal values in the Middle East, no change, no future—as there would not have been in Hitler’s Germany, as there is not today in Cuba or North Korea—without the defeat of Islamic fascism, in its latest Islamic incarnation, as an ideological force.

The latter always proves more frightening than any caricature, the proverbial wild teenager who starts throwing things when told that his room is a bit messy. The riots in France, murders in Holland, cartoon fiasco in Denmark, bombings in London and Madrid, foiled plots in Germany and Spain, and now the Pope threats—will Europe insidiously bleed from a thousand nicks or take action and call fascists fascists?

And yet what would such spine-strengthening look like?

Closer, albeit still stealthy, ties with the U.S effort? More defense spending? Demands for assimilation or else? More moderate and right-center governments? An end to the EU politically-correct maternalism? An honest foreign policy with the Middle East? A new appreciation for Israel’s woes? Who knows?

But one thing is rather frightening: the political pendulum in Europe always swings much more widely and quickly than here. Unless these legitimate worries about radical Islam are addressed by EU politicians, a frustrated public—note the recent elections in Germany—will address them on their own in ways that are historically scary in their own right. When I go to Europe, I am always struck how at odds the average European’s talk is from what one reads in the newspaper or hears on the television. That degree of frustration and cynicism will only get worse unless there is some honest talk about the dangers Europe faces.

An Acknowledgement—and thanks to the American Street!

In the most recent post, I praised some brave writers, military personnel, the President and a very few others. But, of course, there are millions of Americans that have no tolerance for appeasement. Each day just as candidly they speak out, write, or blog in defense of our old customs and values—in between long hours on the job keeping this country and much of the world running.

I shouldn’t have slighted them by not making explicit reference to their critical role, because in truth I try to read their thoughts in the letters sections of the papers, comments on the web (including every posting in response to this column that prompted this acknowledgment of the error of omission of my part), and emails.

Whom To Fear?

There is an American Street that is a far more powerful, and a more responsible force than any such populace in the Arab world. Like many of you, I tire of hearing “Death to America” from the mobs in Teheran or Jericho, and am sick of the usual coffee-house Middle Eastern hack intellectual that CNN drags out from London, who, during the past 5 years, in his condescension and pompous diction, and in the safety of a host Western humane society, starts listing various perceived grievances against the West, and then issues warnings (!) about the furor of the temperamental “Arab Street.”

I respect and fear the American version far more, because its anger is fueled by reason and is slow and steady and furious when released. The world should not worry when the half-educated, fueled by zealotry and nursed on conspiracy theory, starts chanting; but it should when a rational and patient American slowly fumes and decides he has had it with the Iranian “President”, Hezbollah’s fascism, the various thugs on the West Bank, the Sunni Triangle’s murderers, the primordial of the Hindu Kush, or some subsidized dictator in Pakistan or Egypt lecturing us.

So A Note to the Middle East

To all thinkers of good will and moderation of the Middle East, in exile or in accommodation with a particular awful regime (they are all awful in the most part except in Afghanistan and Iraq): for years you have damned the U.S. for not supporting your “democratic aspirations.” Well, here is the chance. You may not like the “force” involved in, or “the imposition” of, reform, and have dozens of qualifiers why you have abandoned the cause of freedom and the American pressure for consensual government. But this is about as good as you are going to get. If Iraq and Afghanistan don’t work, expect from Washington the reemergence of the old realpolitik of ‘pump oil and keep out commies and run your tribe as you want” school of thought, with the understanding “more rubble, less trouble” will be the new way of dealing from the air with terrorist-sponsoring regimes.

Indeed, nothing has been stranger to see Bush, Rice, and company be ridiculed by both the Left and the Right here at home for the hard task of pressuring Cairo, Damascus, and the Gulf, while spending billions in treasure and thousands of lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, to offer an alternative other than strongmen or mullahs—and get absolutely no support from the Arab “reformers,” either because of fear, or utopian perfectionism about the nature of foreign intervention, or the old religion of anti-Americanism.

Perpetual Victimhood

This was the one recent chance when the United States backed its lofty rhetoric with real sacrifice in the Middle East—but so far the moment is passing and will be replaced by something far worse if it fails. Just remember, should democratization falter, none of us will ever worry much about the cries for reform and democracy from a then truly whiny Arab dissident population, who flees to the West to damn the West for not doing what they themselves, in the manner of our own Founding Fathers, should have done long ago on their own. Nothing to the American character is more grating than perpetual scapegoating for self-induced pathologies, along with constant whining and victimization—and nowhere is that syndrome more common than in the radical Islamic Middle East.

Depressing Times

September 16th, 2006 - 6:37 pm

Oriana Fallaci, RIP, the Pope, and a Sad Age

Rarely has the death of a public intellectual affected me as much as the passing of Oriana Fallaci. I never met her, and only received a brief note once from her accompanying a copy of The Rage and the Pride. The story of her career is well known, but her death, at this pivotal time, was full of paradoxes and yet instruction as well.

Radical Islam is, among other things, a patriarchal movement, embedded particularly in the cult of the Middle-Eastern male, who occupies a privileged position in a society that can be fairly described as one of abject gender apartheid. Islamism is also at war with the religious infidel, not just the atheist—and, in its envy and victimhood, fueled by a renewal of the age-old hatred of the Christian.

But so far, with very few exceptions other than the lion, Christopher Hitchens, the courageous William Shawcross, and a few others, the Left has either been neutral or anti-American in this struggle. And few Christians in positions of influence and respect have publicly defended their faith and the civilization that birthed it.

Candor, after all, can get one killed, exiled, or ostracized—whether a Danish cartoonist, a Dutch filmmaker, a Wall Street Journal reporter, or a British-Indian novelist. So here, ill and in her seventies, returned Ms. Fallaci one last time to take up the hammer and tongs against radical Islam—a diminutive woman of the Left and self-proclaimed atheist who wrote more bravely on behalf of her civilization than have most who are hale, males, conservatives, or Christians.

Her fiery message was as timely as it was caricatured and slandered: Muslims who leave the Middle East to live under the free aegis of the West have a moral duty to support and protect the civilization that has welcomed them, rather than romanticize about what they have forsaken; Christianity is more than a religion, but also a powerful emblem of the force of reason, in that it seeks to spread belief by rational thought as well as faith; and that affluent and leisured Westerners, bargaining away their honor and traditions out of fear and for illusory security, have only emboldened radical Islam that seeks to liquidate them.

I wish she were still alive to scoff at the politically correct, the appeaser, and the triangulator, but alas she is gone, defiant to the last.

Bene dictum?

And what are we to make of poor Benedict XVI, the scholastic, who, in a disastrous display of public sensitivity, makes the telling point, that Christianity, in its long evolution to the present, has learned to forsake violence, and to defend its faith through appeals to reason—and thus can offer its own experience in the current crisis of Islam. And by quoting from the emperor rhetorician Manuel Paleologus—whose desperate efforts at strengthening the Morea and the Isthmus at Corinth a generation before that awful Tuesday, May 29, 1453 all came to naught—the Pope failed to grasp that under the tenets of radical Islam of the modern age, context means little, intent nothing, learning less than zero. If a sentence, indeed a mere phrase can be taken out of context, twisted, manipulated to show an absence of deference to Islam, furor ensues, death threats follow, assassins load their belts—even as the New York Times or the Guardian issues its sanctimonious apologies in the hope that the crocodile will eat them last.

We learned the now familiar rage with the Danish cartoons, Theo Van Gogh, the false flushed Koran story, the forced change of “Operation Infinite Justice” to “Enduring Freedom”, the constant charges of “Islamaphobia”, and a horde of other false grievances that so shook the West, traumatized in fear of having its skyscrapers, planes, trains, buses, nightclubs, and synagogues blown apart or its oil cut off.

So, yes, we know the asymmetrical rules: a state run-paper in Cairo or the West Bank, a lunatic Iranian mullah, a grand mufti from this or that mosque, can all rail about infidels, “pigs and apes”, in language reminiscent of the Third Reich—and meet with approval in the Middle East and silence in the West. But for a Westerner, a Tony Blair, George Bush, or Pope Benedict to even hint that something has gone terribly wrong with modern Islam, is to endure immediate furor and worse. In short, no modern ideology, no religious sect of the present age demands so much of others, so little of itself.

In matters of the present war, I have given up on most of the neoconservatives, many of whom, following the perceived pulse of the battlefield, have either renounced their decade-long, pre-September11 rants to remove Saddam (despite the 140,000 brave souls still on the field of battle who took them at their word), or turned on the President on grounds that he is not waging the perfect fight and thus is not pursuing the good war. The Paleo-right is as frightening as is the lunatic Left. My old Democratic party is long dead, their jackals trying to tear apart the solitary and stumbling noble stag Joe Liebermann, the old center taken over by the Kerry and Soros billionaires, and the guilt-ridden academic, celebrity and media cadres.

So we really are left with very little in these pivotal times—the will of George Bush, of course, the Old Breed unchanged since Okinawa and the Bulge that still anchors the US military, the courage and skill of a very few brave writers like a Hitchens, Krauthammer, and the tireless and brilliant Mark Steyn, but very, very few others. No, this is an age in which we in the West make smug snuff movies about killing an American President, while the Taliban and the Islamists boast of assassinating the Pope.

So long may you run, Ms. Fallaci, you who by now have learned that, yes, there is a soul, and, yes, yours was indeed saved for eternity if only for its singular courage and honesty alone. And dear Pope: clarify, contextualize, express sorrow over the wrong interpretation of your remarks, but please don’t apologize for the Truth—not now, not ever.

Wars, Books, and Democrats

September 13th, 2006 - 10:13 am

Good and bad wars?

The death toll of allied and American soldiers in Afghanistan these last few months is nearing those of coalition losses in Iraq, and may well rise at a greater rate. For now, this has not affected too much the argument of the Left that Afghanistan is the “good” war, and Iraq the “bad”.

In the former we went after the base where the 9/11 attacks were planned, involved a coalition of NATO allies, and saw the emergence of some sort of consensual government follow the wreckage of the Taliban fairly quickly—and at only about 60 American combat death per year in the first three-years of postbellum occupation.

In contrast, our coalition of the willing in Iraq was supposedly a sham; the Europeans were furious as was the UN; and the country at home was torn apart as a once 70+% approval rate nose-dived, as combat fatalities now approach 2200. All that made the Democrats sort of support Afghanistan and oppose Iraq.

But if we put aside for the moment the reasons to have gone into each country, the two now look remarkably the same. Both have fragile democratic governments. Radical Islamists—using similar tactics of suicide bombing and improvised explosive devices—are pouring in from sanctuaries across the border, whether Pakistan or Syria and Iran. Bin Laden and Dr. Zawahiri themselves have boasted that Iraq, at the heart of the ancient caliphate, is now the frontline theater for the jihadists.

So far the international approval of Afghanistan and its smaller costs have ensured support from the Left. But note, as casualties begin to mount, and the nature of the counter-insurgency fighting increasingly begins to resemble Iraq—as it must in this particular front of a global war—and as the magic multilateral solution proves a mirage, the NATO coalition being no more effective than the coalition of the willing in Iraq, expect to see the Democratic leadership begin to bail on Afghanistan as well.

First, as true of Iraq, will come the recriminations how Bush ruined their perfect war with his botched peace. Then, there will be the whine that we have too few troops—always presented in hindsight as a missed opportunity, never as a call to drastically commit more resources. Then will come stories of principled European soldiers—remember the British officers of Basra who swore off Ray-Bans and Kevlar helmets to foot patrol in berets among the Mahdi army—who are aghast at our brutal tactics. So just as we went into Afghanistan about 17 months before Iraq, expect in about 17 more months, the Democrats and the media will do to that war what they have done to Iraq: ensure the violence dominates the narrative and pushes down support for continuance to below 40%.

Books

I am currently reviews a wide variety of books on recent developments in the war by Max Boot, Fred Kagan, Robert Kagan, Michael Lind, Mark Steyn, and Thomas Ricks, and should have them wrapped up within 2 weeks. Just a passing note of general observance: why is it that those who support the current policy of democratization in Iraq seem dispassionate, and consider counter-arguments, while those who write off Iraq are furious, angry, and in near apoplexy discount any who disagree?

Why the Democratic Hysteria?

In that regard, the wild Right of the 1950s, whether characterized by Joe McCarthy, the John Birch Society, or, worse, the Ku Klux Klan, has been entirely isolated from the mainstream conservative party. But is the same true of the Democrats, when Cindy Sheehan (Bush is the “world’s greatest terrorist”), Michael Moore (the terrorists in Iraq are “Minutemen), and Al Sharpton (still no apologies for his race-baiting violence of the 1990s) are welcomed into the fold, whose spokesmen compare Abu Ghraib to Saddam’s gulag (Sen. Kennedy), Guantanamo to Hitler and Pol Pot (Sen. Durbin), and think things were better under Saddam (Sen. Rockefeller), while Sen. Kerry and former Vice President Gore have either characterized our own troops as terrorists or “indiscriminately” rounding up poor Arab Americans at home?

Why this exaggeration and shrillness? It is frustration from having lost the Congress, the Presidency, the Supreme Court and the majority of the state legislatures and governorships. Frustrations follow from learning that a cobbled together coalition of gay marriage advocates, radical feminists, abortion on demand supporters, the old race industry emblemized by Jesse Jackson, as well as the radical pacifism of the leftwing blogs—all that only garners 45% of the popular vote—unless there is a Republican scandal, a losing war, a recession, or a Democrat running for President with enough of a southern accent to fool voters that he is a true conservative.

So I think this anger arises over acceptance that the country does not wish what Democrats have to offer, and thus drives them to scream and scare the country into thinking we are in a 1930s Depression, Vietnam redux, a Watergate of illegal wiring tapping—almost anything to get back over that 50% hump—without having to reform and adopt more moderate policies—and to do to Michael Moore & Co. what the Republicans once did to the Birch die-hards and Neo-Confederates.

Five Years and Running

September 11th, 2006 - 6:10 am

More Whining From Osama

I watched bin Laden’s commemorative tape released shortly before the fifth anniversary of the attack today. All the usual stuff was there: mention of lost honor, the same pathological lying about taking credit for mass murder that he once denied, more gripes about Kosovo, Chechnya, etc.

Do any Americans finally see through these killers? On Monday they are mad about East Timor, on Tuesday Kosovo. Wednesday they wake up and shout about Israel, while on Thursday it’s American troops once in Saudi Arabia. Does anyone see a pattern here, especially when they talk of lost “honor” and “humiliation”? War-torn Rwandans are humiliated. There is no honor in Serbia. But what in God’s name is the complaint of radical Islam, when billions of windfall profits accrue to the Middle East, to countries like Iran or Syria or the Gulf States, who pump oil someone else found at $5 and sell it at $60, and can’t make or mend on their own any of the apparatus needed to profit?

“The Path to 9/11”

What was the furor about, when the ABC docudrama last night ran captions of “docu-drama” almost constantly? This was not a faux-documentary of the type Michael Moore foisted as truth on a naïve public at election time, purporting to show reality through actual film clips, its corrupt director to be greeted with a prize seat at the Democratic convention.

I heard no Democrat ever complain about Oliver Stone’s numerous mythodramas. And Bob Woodward writes docu-books all the time, with the inner most thoughts of his characters expressed when there is no way a reporter could ascertain their thoughts—and wins a Pulitzer. Look at the recent Cobra II and discover pseudo-footnotes like “unnamed senior official” or “Pentagon staff.”

What are we to make of Bill Clinton raging that he only wished the truth were to be told, Sandy Berger screaming about violated protocols, or Madeline Albright fuming about partisanship? And where is the ACLU or the Harvard Law Faculty coming to the rescue of film producers threatened with censorship and coerced changes? Saddest was the input of a “worried” history profession, whose big-guns expressed concern. Again, this comes from a discipline that nearly wrecked itself over postmodernism and the banality that all truth is relative and constructed, and predicated on questions of race, class, and gender. Objecting to docu-dramatic, fictionalized account on grounds that dialogue either didn’t happen as it appeared on screen or was enlarged and expanded is like complaining that Gates of Fire is not Herodotus or that Mary Renault deviated from Arrian.

The portions of the film I watched last night were well-scripted, the actors good and often bearing eerie resemblances to their real-life counterparts. So what was the hysteria about?

More political “preemption” perhaps, but once again also evidence of Democratic confusion. If this shrillness keeps up they just might shout and whine themselves out of another “sure” election.

The Will of the President

September 7th, 2006 - 9:07 am

When Winston Churchill was ushered in as Prime Minister after the invasion of France in May 1940, the consensus was that he alone had correctly seen the real Hitler, and that he alone would stand fast in the face of calls for negotiations for a peace offering the status quo, and that he would rally the nation for the horrors ahead–and they were plenty from Dunkirk and Tobruk to the fall of the Singapore and catastrophe in the Asia.

So too it was with Lincoln earlier–who alone withstood the calls for either armistice or surrender after Antietam and the terrible summer of 1864–and Truman later in Korea who left office with about 25% approval rating. And from 1938-1941 only the will of Franklin Roosevelt withstood the isolationists and worse (remember the pressures for neutrality between August 1939 to June 1941 from the opportunistic American Left after the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression Pact.), and supplied England with Lend-Lease, rebuilt the US Navy, began conscription, and tried to restore defense spending.

In all these cases, it is hard to see without a Lincoln, Churchill, FDR, or Truman, how civilization would have withstood the forces of chattel slavery, fascism, or communism. So too in our own time. Whatever one says about George W. Bush, it is not at all clear that an Al Gore would have gone to Afghanistan after 9/11. And despite the acrimony over Iraq (a war sanctioned in October 2002 by a majority of Democratic Senators, and supported by 75% of the populace when Saddam’s statue fell), almost any other politician would long ago have bailed on the enterprise—given the unprecedented level of slurs. Each day another low point is reached–to kill George Bush by now has been the subject of a Broadway Play, late-night comedy, an Alfred Knopf Novel, and recently a new British docu-drama.

And yet here we are, 5 years after 9/11 without another attack, and struggling democracies fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I have no confidence that Mr. Bush’s approval ratings will return to 50%, but a great deal that history will look kindly on his resolve. And while I can fathom the hysterical Left’s hatred of him, and perhaps even the crazy attacks from the paleo-right, what is inexplicable and unpardonable is the venom from the neocon erstwhile supporters of Iraq.

Truly shameful are those who have abandoned the President, and yet who once called, as early as 1998, for the removal of Saddam Hussein. No other President would have granted their wishes, and yet, once casualties climbed, we were told there were too few troops, or that Mr. Rumsfeld must go, or that we should go on to Iran or Syria, or that the army was wrongly disbanded, or some such pretext that justified their disdain at Iraq, either overtly or implicitly–all while some 130,000 troops fought in the field. The point is not whether errors were committed, and needed to be addressed, but only whether they were of such an unprecedented magnitude, or were so willfully ignored, as to justify renunciation of previous support in the midst of a shooting war.

Total all the mistakes in Iraq–and they are legion– and they do not match a month’s folly in WWII (cf. the daylight B-17 missions of 1943, the early torpedo scandal of US submarines, the shortcomings of the Sherman Tank, the Kasserine Pass, the lit-up cities along the Eastern seaboard that facilitated U-boat carnage, the surprise at the Bulge, the intelligence failures about the hedgerows, and on and on) or Korea (the surprise at the Yalu, the lack of winter gear in the retreat, the surprise at the efficacy of the Mig-15, the Korean- prisoner fiasco, or the ossification at the 38th parallel when momentum was once again with us, etc.). Who made such blunders and more? Men like Arnold, Bradley, Eisenhower, Halsey, MacArthur, Marshall, and more in the pantheon of now deified generals.

The truth is that war is a constant ying and yang, of challenge and response, the side winning that reacts the more quickly to change and commits the fewer mistakes–and keeps its head. So far, by any historical standard of casualties lost, the ambition of the mission (Iraq is 7,000 miles and the home of the ancient caliphate), and success gained, this war is hardly a debacle and surely can be won. But it would have been lost years ago, had George Bush once, just once, listened to his litany of critics (pull out, postpone the elections, post a timetable, go to the UN, more troops still, invade Iran or Syria, trisect the country) watched the polls, or in depression at the venom, given in. We need to take a breath and remember that.