Thursday, February 26, 2009

Just a thought:

Can you be truly “post racial” without rejecting identity politics?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Unpopularity is Worse than Terrorism

This is why terrorism works: because although specifically targeting civilians in free societies should making moral distinctions between the perpetrators of these crimes, on the one hand, and the victims of these crimes, on the other, exceedingly easy for anyone with even a modicum of decency and sense, acts of terror force free societies to take actions to defend themselves that make them unpopular with Western European left-wing intellectuals.

This is what has happened to Israel since Arafat began his terror campaign against the Jewish State; this is what has happened to the US since 9/11.

And the American and Israeli left-wing intellectuals’ need to be loved by Western European left-wing intellectuals, is, apparently, greater than their desire to not be blown to bits, or have their fellow citizens blown to bits, by Islamic terrorists.

Israel will never be popular with Western European left-wing intellectuals (until, perhaps, it is destroyed). The US is now more popular with Western European left-wing intellectuals than it has been since 9/11, but the Obama Administration will, no doubt, soon be forced to make a choice between sacrificing this popularity and sacrificing Israel.

And it will have to make a similar choice with respect to America’s security.

What good, really, is popularity, if you are dead, or radioactive?


Does anyone else remember this movie?

Horrifyingly prescient...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Prediction is Difficult

Prediction is difficult, especially the future.
— Niels Bohr

I very rarely attempt to predict anything, but I am prepared to make one exception: Obama’s plan to cut the deficit in half by raising taxes will fail. The very act of raising taxes will shrink the tax base, and there will either be a vast shortfall, or taxes will have to be raised even more, leading to further shrinkage, leading to… Well, you get the picture.

Tax raisers are either zero-summers, in which case they are simply wrong; or else they are ideologues, in which case they don’t care that raising taxes may actually shrink revenues. Their goal is redistribution.

Either way, we are in for a mess. And seeing as neither major American political party seems to care much about deficits anymore, it may be a very long time before we ever see a balanced budget.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Muslim Moderates

There is no question of the existence of Muslim moderates; what percentage of the total umma (the world-wide Muslim community) they may represent is a much debated, and, in my opinion, almost entirely pointless question.

I am all in favor of moderation and there is no doubt that many, if not most, Muslims are moderates.

Unfortunately, in the current climate, moderates simply don’t matter much.

The lacuna within the umma is not the absence of Muslim moderates, but rather the absence of anti-Salafist radicals: Muslims who are radically anti-Jihadi, anti-Islamofascist, and who are willing to fight: morally, verbally and even physically, to save their religion from dangerous and murderous fanatics who kill innocents in their name and in the name of their faith.

Simple indifference or equivocation is not enough. A lack of murderous intent is not enough. Given a choice between Osama bin Ladin and Hazrat Inayat Khan (an ecumenical and irenic Sufi sage whom I much admire), a lack of preference does not amount to moderation.

And even if a majority does prefer Khan to bin Ladin, if this majority does not contain a subset that is willing to actively combat the Salafists, it does not constitute a barrier to violence.

Saying that ‘Only a small minority among group X is radical’ is generally a truism, and also, almost entirely meaningless. Revolutions are led by radicals, and a violent and organized minority can easily overcome a majority that is factious, disorganized and disinclined to fight.

Consider: Hitler came to power with a minority of the vote and the percentage of the German public who were active Nazi Party members was never terribly large: less than three percent at the time of Hitler’s ascension and slightly more than ten percent at its peak. But the vast majority of the German people went along, or sat by quietly as the Nazis destroyed liberties, unleashed the Blitzkrieg on their neighbors and sent the Jews (and other ‘undesirables’) to the gas chambers.

Before 1917, membership in the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party was minuscule and, in spite of their name, the Bolshekivi were a minority within that party.

The pattern is similar for the Communist Parties in China, North Korea, and North Vietnam before they came to power. The radicals were a tiny minority but once they seized control, the entire population was mobilized for war.

America’s defensive war against Islamic terrorists has been continuously mischaracterized as an offensive ‘War on Islam’ within the umma. Given that the majority of Muslims in Western Europe consider themselves more Muslim than European, what will be the response of Europe’s Muslim communities if they are called upon by their Imams to engage in a religious war against their host countries? Would they actively resist such a call, or would the majority remain quiescent and allow the radical minority to fight?

Ironically, in the West, the fear (and denial) of this possibility tends to motivate a desire for a policy of appeasement in order to assuage the extremists and forestall a war. But the West’s odd cacoethes to appease the most militant and radical faction within a given group has, historically, had the unintended consequence of disempowering those within that group who may be most inclined to oppose the extremists. Palestinians who spoke out against Arafat and the PLO were eliminated. Legitimating Arafat made their opposition and their sacrifices meaningless. (And, of course, Hamas came to power by following Arafat’s example and killing Palestinians who opposed it (ironically Arafat’s successors in Fatah).)

Similarly, appeasement of the Soviet Union weakened resistance movements behind the Iron Curtain.

Today, equating criticism of Islamofascism with ‘Islamophobia’ undermines intra-Islamic opposition to violent fanaticism.

The West must resist the urge to appease Islamofascism and encourage resistance to it within Islam. We must speak out, not only against the radicals, but also against the so-called ‘moderate’ Muslims who, while disinclined to personally commit terrorist acts, nevertheless aid and abet the terrorists among them, morally equate Islamic terror with Israel’s existence or justify or deny the existence of Islamic terror. Claiming that Islam is a ‘Religion of Peace’ or that terrorism is ‘un-Islamic’ is meaningless if peaceful Muslims are unwilling or unable to prevent, or even oppose, Islamic terror.

The number of Muslims who personally volunteer to carry out suicide missions will always be small, just as the number of Japanese flyers who chose to be kamikaze pilots in World War II was always small. But this must not be construed as evidence that either the West, or the nonviolent subset of the umma, is in any way safe or secure. For the salient question now is not:

“How many among the Muslims are Islamofascists?”

But rather:

“How many among the Muslims are anti-Islamofascists?”

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

With the liberal illuminati set to implement a bold new program based upon the bleeding edge of financial theory, circa 1848, the strategic logic of the 1930s, the cultural aesthetic of the 1960s, and the diplomacy of the 1970s--mixed, masticated and reprocessed into a vast bureaucratic olio of “progressive” policy, we can be sure of one thing:

When these policies fail, when they and crash and burn and the world collapses around us, we will be told by the fawning media and the chattering classes that these failures were the results of “fluke” events: “a perfect storm,” that was entirely “unforeseeable.”

Most important of all we must all always remember that critics of the current administration’s policies will in no way—under no circumstances—in no manner whatsoever, be vindicated by said policies’ failures.

Please remember that truth is no longer determined by such mundane and outmoded concepts as “facts,” and “reality.” And, of course, (it seems gauche to even have to mention) such archaic dichotomies as that between “victory” and “defeat” no longer apply as criteria for measuring the success or failure of American foreign policy. By that embarrassingly unsophisticated logic we might even be said to have achieved “victory” in Iraq.

No, truth is now determined by consensus: at university faculty lounges and by the editorial department of the New York Times. Failure is not an option.

Beware of Saints

When a free nation--governed by the rule of law--is attacked by violent thugs who have achieved power and obtained weapons by killing their own people, that nation not only has the right to defend itself, the leadership of that nation has a moral obligation to defend the people it represents.

This defense may, and usually must, involve violence, destruction, and killing people. It is therefore easy to draw a sort of lazy and intellectually dishonest moral equivalence between the violent acts of the thugs who attack a free society, and the violent acts of the free society that defends itself.

The next step is to extend this fallacy of moral equivalence to the two groups in toto.

If we are just as guilty as the thugs who attack us, then we must drop our swords and reach out in a spirit of friendship. We must "unclench our fists."

The belief that “reaching out” to and legitimating the most violent and brutal members of a group of people will bring peace and prosperity to those people is a fallacy. This approach has failed over and over again. Reaching out to Arafat did not help the Palestinians; it hurt them. Appeasing Hamas will make things worse. Appeasing Iran's Mullahs will hurt the Iranian people, and may lead to nuclear war.

And yet the supporters of this belief will never hesitate to tell you how confident they are of their strategy and how peace-loving and compassionate they are.

The problem, perhaps, is that in the real world, defending free societies requires people at times to behave violently and hence to compromise their own moral perfection.

Those who desire saintliness, who take great pride in their peace-loving and compassion, will not deign to engage in the ugly, but necessary business of defending free societies from thuggish violence.

It is far easier to proclaim, from the lofty heights of self-satisfied perfection, that all violence is unjust, than to engage in the far more difficult task of determining how far a free society may go in defending itself against violent thugs, without compromising its values.

Allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good, when “the good” is the security of free societies, is stupid, and self-defeating.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Narcissism is Fatal

“Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”

-From the Hamas Charter 18 August 1988

Facing real evil is not only frightening; it is humbling. For evil imparts limits on our ability to shape the world according to our hopes and desires and compels us to do more than lecture or condemn. Evil does not respond to lofty rhetoric or to negotiations or to “soft power.” It cannot be bought off or neutralized by apologies or promises.

The defeat of fascism at the end of World War II, by a collation that included both free nations and the Soviet Union, followed, almost fifty years later, by the eventual victory of the free world in the Cold War, led many in the West to assume, explicitly or implicitly, that free societies were not only morally superior to totalitarian states, but also inherently stronger, more resilient: destined to prevail in any prolonged clash.

This view is not necessarily supported by pre-twentieth century history, nor does it seem so obvious in the twenty-first.

We must now ask ourselves whether free societies can prevail against religiously driven totalitarians who will stop at nothing, who long for death—ours and even their own—in pursuit of their goals and who can be neither reasoned with nor appeased.

Currently, free societies seem to be incapable of grasping the nature of this existential threat, and the West’s instinct for self-preservation is paralyzed by a culture of arrogant self-deception.

The Intellectual class that is now dominant in academia, the media, and in most governments in the West, is happy to lecture endlessly about its own moral superiority, its infinite “tolerance” and respect for “human rights,” and yet it is incapable of speaking out against an Islamofacist ideology that advocated and practices: clitoridectomies, suicide/homicide bombing of civilians, beheadings, stoning of adulterers and homosexuals, honor killings, killings of apostates, and Jihad against the West.

Simply mention one of the magic words: “colonialism,” “racism,” “imperialism,” and any given intellectual is liable to lecture ad nauseam on the moral turpitude of the West and the “root causes” of terrorism.

That Islamofacists are imperialistic, racist, and even genocidal cannot be stated by these intellectuals: for to say so would be judgmental and “Islamophobic.” And nothing must tarnish the Western intellectual’s perfect tolerance for anyone who wishes to destroy Western civilization.

And so Western intellectuals, and islamofascist intellectuals, always agree on at least one thing: it’s all the fault of the West.

For intellectuals in free societies this is simply the path-of-least-resistance; the easiest way to achieve tenure, or status, or a phony sense of “rebelliousness” without paying any real price, or angering anyone who might want to blow you up, or cut your head off. It is much more convenient to have enemies who respect the rule of law, and who can be peacefully voted out of office, than to have enemies who will kill you for insulting them or drawing a cartoon of their prophet.

It is a point of pride among Western intellectuals that they are “self critical.”

But this is a false form of self-criticism, for the present set of Western intellectuals do not see themselves as the inheritors of a great and precious tradition; rather, they see themselves as revolutionaries overturning that tradition.

What is missing from all the apparent self-criticism in the West is any sense of responsibility or accountability. This, no doubt, is one reason why blaming everything on George Bush is so popular; it is a variation on the theme of blaming all your problems on your parents.

Indeed, true self-criticism, humility, and respect for one’s own limitations, are all aspects of the vilified Western tradition, happily jettisoned by contemporary intellectuals who have replaced it with a suicidal narcissism.

The word “narcissism” is defined in the dictionary that came with my Mac as:

• excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one's physical appearance.

• Psychology extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

This seems to be in accordance with the current usage of the term. What is missing from this usage, however, is the profound wisdom imparted by the myth from which the word was derived, that Narcissus’ self-love was ultimately fatal.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Soft Power

What the hell is “soft power”? This phrase has slipped into the au courant logosphere in association with Barack Obama.

The intelligentsia confidently assure us that Obama’s administration will either utilize, or improve, or magically call into existence America’s “soft power.”

Does “soft power” mean: negotiating while threatening force; negotiating while not threatening force; appeasing, begging, cajoling, importuning, surrendering, hoping for the best?

My guess is that it means all of these things and none of them; it is a flaccid and vapid neologism tossed about smugly by those who seek to demonstrate their moral and intellectual superiority without committing to actually trying to make any sense or saying anything in danger of being contradicted by actual facts.

An internet search reveals that the term was coined by Harvard professor Joseph Nye who defines it thus:

“Soft power is the ability to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than using the carrots and sticks of payment or coercion.”

Which, I believe, proves my assertion above. QED.

What, one wonders, might “attract” Ahmadinejad, or Haniyeh, or Assad, or Osama bin Laden, or Raul Castro, or Hugo Chavez, or Kim Jung Ill, to give one the “outcomes one wants”?

I Agree with Barack Obama

I just watched Barack Obama’s interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s pre-superbowl show, and once again Obama addressed the need for a play-off system in college football. I agree. The interview also re-enforced the impression I got during the campaign that Obama is a decent and likable guy. I would happily watch a football game with him and buy him a beer. I certainly wish him well.

His family seems charming and should be entirely off limits. Unlike Bill Clinton, who promised “buy one get one free” and then hypocritically claimed the mantle of chivalrous uxorial protector when Jerry Brown legitimately criticized Hillary’s professional ethics, Obama has not indicated that Michelle will have any responsibility for policy in his administration.

Obama’s family members have just entered a pressure-cooker (sorry for the cliché, but how else to say it?). They deserve our support and respect for their privacy.

I sincerely hope that those of us who did not vote for Obama, and who will, no doubt, have many opportunities to criticize his policies and decisions in the next four or eight years, will never slip into the cesspool of vitriolic ad hominen attacks that critics of Bush wallowed in and canalized and befouled, with increasing hysteria, for eight screech-filled years.

Barack is my president—he is every American’s president.

Now let’s get to work setting up that play-off system.

Strict Constructionist Democrats

During George W. Bush’s two terms in office, the Democrats rediscovered the constitution. Democrats' frequent claims that the tactics utilized by the Bush administration in prosecuting its “War on Terror” were unconstitutional, and hence illegal, were predicated on the assumption that the constitution is a fixed and inviolable document: a proscriptive text that recognizes individual's rights that the government must not infringe upon, and not a “living document,” subject to the whims of fashion or caprice, nor a vile conspiracy against the poor and oppressed perpetrated by a cadre of greedy racist dead white western males, nor a mere assemblage of meaningless words to be “deconstructed” via turgid exegesis by tenured academics, nor, apparently, is the constitution merely, as Barack Obama has stated, an “impediment” to the redistribution of wealth.

In other words, under Bush, the Democrats were transformed—mirabile dictu--into strict constructionists. Now that Barack Obama is president, and Eric Holder is Attorney General, we shall see how long this new-found dedication to the constitution lasts.