'In God We Trust'—Are You Serious?

Michael Ledeen notices something curious.  Regimes which have long shrugged off the best efforts to overthrow them are reeling on their foundations. What’s going on?


The headlines are grim, the pictures from Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine are blood-chilling, executions and demonstrations are mounting in Iran, and Obama doesn’t know what to do about anything. So he doesn’t do anything; he and his strategists just dither. And yet…

And yet, our enemies may be on the verge of losing. Big time. …

The global alliance consists primarily of jihadis and radical leftists, the two principal forces committed to the destruction of what is sometimes known as the Western world.

That alliance is cracking, because many millions of people are fighting the anti-Western tyrants. They aren’t pundits, and they haven’t calculated the odds on success. They just fight. Almost none of the major events of the past few years was foreseen by the deep thinkers, most all of whom thought that Egypt was lost to the jihadists, Assad was firmly in control of Syria, and Chavismo was destined to rule in Venezuela for years to come.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to two distinguished historical personalities. Professor Arithmetic and his able assistant Engineer Murphy. These two gentlemen, though often unnoticed, exert a powerful — some would say a decisive — influence on events. Megan McArdle describes their exploits in Venezuela:

It seems to me that this was always the inevitable end game to the disastrous policies of the late President Hugo Chavez. Diverting funds from capital investment into the nation’s oil fields was politically popular. But it was also disastrous: Venezuela’s oil is sludgy stuff, hard to get at and hard to refine, and it requires a high level of capital expenditure just to keep production level. Predictably, production is now well below pre-Chavez levels. That wasn’t so much of a problem as long as oil prices kept rising, because they offset lost production. But the price of Venezuela’s crude is no longer rising.


With minor variations this narrative can be used to explain all the implosions we are currently witnessing. Incompetence has a quality all of its own. Even when unnoticed it works to bring down down error, tirelessly, relentlessly and completely, like a colony of termites gnawing on some seemingly invincible pillar of wood.  In late 2013 I suggested that president Obama had “single-handedly trashed the Arab world”, commenting on how many of his policies had the exact opposite effect of his stated intentions.

They had that effect because they were wrong policies, whatever he intended them to achieve.  Wrong gets marked “wrong” no matter what the student thought.

The Obamacare debacle may yet hand the Senate back to an astonished Republican Party. They will be as surprised as anyone else, with the possible exception of Obama.  Francis Fukuyama, who once wrote on the end of history, is now Tweeting about a possible new cold war. How did this reversal happen? Well,  Ladies and Gentleman, I bring you Professor Arithmetic and Engineer Murphy.

Screw up and stuff happens. America has been screwing up and therefore Q.E.D. Of course none of these turnabouts should surprise us. The Soviet Union (remember them?) were going to take over the world all the way up to the moment it collapsed. How could they have collapsed when they had the KGB, the Red Army and half the papers in their pocket? Well they were overmatched. Dr. Evil however powerful he imagines himself to be, always loses to God, Reality, Professor Arithmetic, Engineer Murphy — whatever you want to call them, because that’s the way things work.


But before anyone breaks out the champagne, remember this doesn’t mean that “we” will always win. We are not always on the side of reality.   The disaster visited on Chavez might just as soon overtake anyone who thinks he can print and inflate his way out of economic destruction. We will share their fate should we imitate their corruption, because reality doesn’t understand “too big to fail”.

The world is partial to competence; as mathematics is partial to correctness; as natural selection favors the survival of the fittest. People knew that once. The phrase “In God We Trust” was once a shorthand for “get it right”. It appears to have originated in “The Star-Spangled Banner”, written during the War of 1812. The fourth stanza includes the phrase, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our Trust.'”

The context of the fourth stanza suggests that we can only trust in God “when our cause it is just” — when things add up. In every other case it doesn’t apply.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Yahoo Answers‘ highest voted response to the meaning of “In God We Trust” is given as “It means that people would rather trust in a myth instead of trusting in humanity and our ability to overcome problems on our own.” But it probably means something completely different: to trust in the reality of facts rather than in the myth of human spin.


Recently Cain TV posted video of the Venezuelan police shooting civilians in the street. He writes, “there is a scandal in the United States, and this one is not about anything the government has done. This one is squarely on the media, which is virtually ignoring what’s going on in Venezuela. There, the population is rising up en masse against the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro – the successor to the late anti-American strongman Hugo Chavez.”

But the more important point is whether media manipulation ultimately matters. Maybe it does in the short term,  but whatever the editors do or don’t do, Murphy rules. The facts prevail or as the old time Americans quaintly put it, God rules the world. The Kings and Queens forget what calls the shots but the poor and the downtrodden never do.

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.” …

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.


The only thing anyone really has to fear are evil and error, because remember, nobody ever beat Arithmetic.

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Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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