Herbert London

Herbert London

Herbert London is president of the London Center for Policy Research and is co-author with Jed Babbin of The BDS War Against Israel.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015 13:21

A Word from London

A Word from London

Herbert London

Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.

Competing for the Future

[This essay was given as a speech at our annual meeting at which we celebrated the 40th year of publication of the St. Croix Review.]

Surely one of the most provocative questions of the 21st century is whether the United States can maintain its competitive advantage. At an earlier time, this question would not have been addressed since U.S. advantages were obvious, indeed palpable. But these advantages are no longer so obvious with a gigantic current account deficit, a declining share of science and engineering students, and a technology lead that is narrowing on the world stage.

The key to the future, to economic success here and abroad, is innovation. Those who create, possess and apply knowledge, are the drivers in the economy. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology concludes that:

. . . the big winners in the increasingly fierce global scramble for supremacy will not be those who simply make commodities faster and cheaper than the competition. They will be those who develop talent, techniques and tools so advanced that there is no competition.

Well, if true, where does the United States stand? Are we developing the talent, techniques, and tools that reinforce our economic advantage? The answer is mixed.

The U.S. still has the world's cutting edge research universities and a tradition of collaboration with businesses. There is a legal framework for the protection of intellectual property and an incentive system for entrepreneurs. Investments in the U.S. continue to be robust and are complemented by research and development in other parts of the world. Most important, the U.S. maintains an open environment where liberty translates into opportunity.

That said, there are new and emerging concerns that cloud a picture of the future. For several decades the nation has been living off its feed capital that has put a greater emphasis on development rather than basic research. As I see it, we need investment in basic research in order to create the foundation for new technologies that can be brought to the market.

Science and engineering education is undergoing a dramatic loss of interest among American students at the very time this subject is critical for the economy. China, for example, is producing three times the number of engineers as the United States. In almost every area of science education the U.S. is lagging behind foreign competitors. Since this picture is unlikely to change in the short-term, and since most American students are ill-equipped to be full participants in an innovation-based economy, we will have to attract the best and the brightest from other countries. It should be noted that the need to match the talent flow with national security demands in an age of terrorism will be a formidable challenge for future generations.

It is also the case that in an environment of fierce competition America's adherence to trade protocols and intellectual property rules can sometimes be a disadvantage, since the U.S. loses billions of dollars each year from the theft of patents and intellectual property by nations that do not accept our legal regimen.

Last, cultural degradation in the form of perverse amusement is having its effect on the morale and seriousness of American workers, even if this matter isn't easily measured. It explains why Asian leaders often say we want your technological advances, but we aren't interested in your popular culture.

Even some of the nation's most prestigious universities have lost their edge. A recent ISI (Intercollegiate Studies Institute) study indicated students at some of the nation's best known institutions of higher learning know very little about civics and the history of the nation. Similar studies indicate a rapid decline in math and science proficiency.

What this means, of course, is that while there is much to admire in the American economy, there is much to worry about as well. There aren't any guarantees about the future. If the U.S. loses its research advantage, the economy will suffer and the lead the U.S. has had in competitiveness will rapidly evaporate.

We know what has to be done. Every report on the subject limns the road ahead. The question that remains is whether we can marshal the will and resources to redress the deficiencies in the present system.

Challenging Gore's View of Global Warming

On September 24th Vaclav Klaus, the president of Czech Republic, addressed the UN General Assembly on global warming. This was a speech Al Gore probably received with alarm if he heard it at all. For Klaus maintains that the essence of global warming is not understood, and the campaign Gore has promoted is wildly inconsistent with the evidence.

President Klaus is not alone in his assessment. According to Fred Singer, professor emeritus of Climatology at University of Virginia, there are 500 scientists who agree in one way or another with Klaus, notwithstanding the fact that one 60 Minutes reporter claimed that denying the reality of global warming is comparable to "Holocaust denial."

Since science is subject to hypothesis, testing, and evaluation, there are facts that can be analyzed and, even if disagreements emerge, debate and discussion should be possible. When it comes to global warming this is simply not the case.

The Heartland Institute ran ads in the major national newspapers inviting Al Gore to debate Lord Moncton, Lady Thatcher's science adviser, Dennis Avery, co-author of Unstoppable Global Warming, and the previously mentioned Vaclav Klaus. But Mr. Gore is nowhere to be found.

Despite Gore's contention that scientific evidence for global warming is incontrovertible, there are many who believe the science for this claim is unsettled.

The question is whether proponents of global warming have an agenda or whether they are merely dispassionate purveyors of scientific evidence. Presumably discussion, debate, and open dialogue might help to address this issue. But Gore is not rising for the bait.

One detractor, Dennis Avery, argues that recent weather history is consistent with 600 previous warming periods in the last million years. He contends that the earth has gone through many warming and cooling cycles based on the sun's temperature variation and its influence on our planet.

Lord Moncton, who did exchange views with Gore on the pages of the Sunday Telegraph in 2006, contends Gore has rather "half-baked, jumbled, and prodigiously exaggerated notions." Moncton, with several other well-known analysts, maintains that taking Gore's position seriously would lead inexorably to a severe misallocation of resources and would ultimately have a catastrophic effect.

But the Gore campaign has an ineluctable momentum about it fueled in large part by Hollywood adherents eager to posture themselves as global saviors and media panjandrums who believe (rightly I might add) that global warming has entered the national consciousness as a problem that must be addressed.

However, lurching to address a problem without sufficient understanding of it can have deleterious consequences. Moreover, the two most populous nations in the world, India and China, that account for at least a third of the earth's population, will not consider carbon limits which inhibit their extraordinary industrial and technical growth.

Then what might be done? First and foremost, it seems to me, all the theories and known evidence should be made transparent. UN statistics often employed as the standard for global warming proponents should be put under the glare of careful examination. Competing positions should be aired.

Last, Mr. Gore, who has been canonized by Hollywood, should attempt to defend "An Inconvenient Truth," his film about global warming, in front of a panel of disinterested scientists. The Heartland Institute set down the challenge; if Gore feels so strongly about his position, he should be able to defend it in front of critics. If he is reluctant to do so, one cannot help but wonder whether any of his claims are valid.

The Madness Aired on C-SPAN

For a portion of the American public conspiracies abound. If you listen to those with a conspiracy mind set, there isn't any way to avoid the conclusion that a cabal of secret agencies and the president are responsible for all the terrible things that happen in the world.

This is all the more remarkable when you consider that the CIA (the central nerve center for the cabal) can't seem to provide intelligence on any matter of national significance, or I should say almost any matter, notwithstanding the efficiency attributed to this organization in films such as "Syriana," a contemporary version of the "China Syndrome."

Yet remarkably C-SPAN, a partially taxpayer-funded enterprise, has taken it upon itself to offer legitimacy for the conspirators on two occasions in 2006, covering one event in Berkeley and one in Los Angeles. You might have thought one such televised event would be sufficient, but not for the decision makers at C-SPAN.

In June and September 2006, rabble rousers from different parts of the country and from several foreign, countries gathered to share their findings and insight about the 9/11 tragedy. The evidence presented at these gatherings was greeted as incontrovertible, more of a rally for the faithful who worship at the shrine of anti-Americanism.

As one might surmise the "real" culprit on 9/11 was the CIA that actually hijacked 747s and through remote control flew them into the World Trade Center. The presumptive motive was the justification for a war against radical Islam and the protection of oil interests in the Middle East.

Alan Jones, a California radio personality, made it clear in what he called "Operation Northwoods" that this CIA-contrived event on 9/11 was not really different from the staged Gulf of Tonkin engagement, or the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

In the second of these circus events Roy McGovern, a soi disant intelligence expert, contrasted expert opinion of the kind that participated in his event with misguided and dangerous people like Vice President Richard Cheney. I didn't know until I heard Mr. McGovern that Cheney "sicced the FBI on members of Congress through his 'step sons' Porter Goss and John Ashcroft." The ostensible purpose was to keep Congress from a genuine investigation of 9/11.

If I didn't know better, I could easily assume that C-SPAN was managed by Rosie O'Donnell. Imagine a fringe group, like those at these two events, that had a conference on the "Pearl Harbor Conspiracy" suggesting that F.D.R. ordered naval intelligence officers to sink the Arizona while U.S. planes disguised as Zeros engaged in an attack on the Hawaiian Islands.

This isn't simply fiction masquerading as truth; it is a suspension of truth. It is a belief system cast in steel that assumes the United States is malevolent, and its leaders are plotting for self-interested goals. Every clue, every detail that doesn't quite fit the conspiratorial scenario, is treated with disdain, a mere aberration.

That crackpots exist in this great country is hardly surprising. What is surprising is that publicly funded television takes them seriously, not once but twice. Would C-SPAN view a conference of flat-earth adherents? Come to think of it, it might. The new existentialists that undoubtedly occupy positions at the station probably believe that all ideas should be considered for viewing. I can hear them now: "We don't make value judgments about what is acceptable viewing, nor do we censor those who express unpopular views."

But what if the views are pernicious? What if the views are seditious and designed to undermine confidence in the government? What if the ideas are lies presented as fact-based notions? What then?

Of course this is madness, an open invitation for revolutionary action as the real enemies watch T.V. from their caves, mildly bemused by the strange dupes who are now allied to their cause, and appearing on a tax-supported television channel across the American nation. They have to believe the United States is a strange place indeed.

The Threats to European Sovereignty

It has been argued for some time that Europe is imperiled by a demographic meltdown, Muslim influence, economic doldrums, and cultural despair. There isn't any need to rehearse these themes, which have been discussed in books, articles, and colloquia. But there is an issue that goes right to the heart of the European problem and is largely overlooked: the breakdown of the sovereign state.

Since the Treaty of Westphalia the sovereign state has stood as the linchpin of European politics, notwithstanding the turbulence from regional warfare and world wars in subsequent centuries. However, now Europe finds that sovereignty itself is under assault from two quarters: one, the rise of subcultures removed from the affairs of state, and two, a union that is transnational and ultimately resistant to nationalistic impulses.

The rise and growth of Islam in Europe would not be regarded as a threat if Muslims assimilated and embraced the national cultures in their adopted countries. In fact, with the low birthrate of native Europeans, and the unfunded liability for pensioners, Muslims might be seen as having a salutary economic influence on Western Europe were it not for the fact that they generally do not integrate.

A commitment to Sharia, laws and customs alien to European practices, often accounts for the separation, a separation that has led to distinct community divisions. Imams often tell the faithful that their first and overriding loyalty is to Islam, not the state in which they find themselves. In an effort to maintain stability, many local officials from Malmo to Amsterdam have insisted that an accommodation with Sharia must be made. Invariably this results in acceptance, if not approval, of distinctly non-European practices.

For example, the mayor of Amsterdam said recently that in an effort to maintain peace with the growing Muslim community, he does not think the abuse of women in this subculture should lead to prosecution as it might for the larger Dutch society. By any standard, this is a remarkable concession.

As I see it, these gestures of "good will" (or cowardice) only lead to insulation. The likely effect is that Muslims believe they are not obliged to embrace Dutch culture.

The net effect of these de facto decisions is a lack of regard for the lineaments of state control and a loss of national allegiance. State authority is merely a pretense as real authority devolves to local subdivisions, in this Dutch case, Islamic leaders.

On the other side of this political equation is the effort to unify Europe under the banner of the E.U., a political and economic entity that seemingly defies centuries of national histories. This ambitious project to unite Europeans suggests that national states are neither welcome nor desirable. Moreover, the European parliament, putatively a representative body, doesn't represent the constituents it claims as its own. To make matters even more complicated, bureaucrats working feverishly in Brussels are attempting to harmonize every aspect of economic life without regard to national idiosyncrasies.

As a consequence, a powerful ideological force has been let loose on the continent that's proto-democratic and ostensibly post-modern. The Union appears democratic, but it is not representative. Its design is a Procrustean bed that forces compliance for all member nations until national sentiments are eviscerated. And precisely because it is transnational, local subcultures are indirectly enhanced through the emerging weakness of national authority.

Europe is in a vise of its own making. On the one hand, a subgroup wishes and often gets separation and, on the other hand, the continent is engaged in a vast experiment to destroy the past and create a new entity that will not recognize individual states. These two phenomena are mutually self-enhancing and when they reach full flowering will, in my opinion, effectively undermine sovereignty in Europe.

Orwellian Logic at the UN

In George Orwell's novel 1984, the protagonists in the totalitarian society employed "newspeak," the inversion of words to create false meaning. "War is peace," "good is bad," "moral is immoral" are merely a few of the possible inversions.

While Orwell passed this mortal coil years ago, his notion of false meaning is alive and well, and residing in the United Nations.

In fact, there is scarcely a sentence uttered at this institution that isn't Orwellian. Human rights, for example, the hallmark of UN efforts does nothing to promote these rights. The commission organized to promote this goal is composed of the most serious violators of freedom.

The fifty-seven Muslim nations invariably condemn Israel as an autocratic nation occupying and dominating Arab territory in the West Bank. Yet this condemnation overlooks the fact that Arabs comprise twenty percent of Israel's population, are accorded the citizenship and rights of every Israeli, and even have representation in the Knesset. By contrast, Jews are oppressed in every Arab Muslim state, are denied their right to worship and, in most instances, have been forced to emigrate.

UN pronouncements have indicated "Zionism is racism" while, the racism or the denunciation of infidels -- non-believers -- is embraced wherever Wahhabism prevails.

At this late date, after 9/11, 7/7, the Madrid bombings and a host of terrorist attacks all over the world, the UN cannot come up with a definition of terrorism, relying, instead, on the empty cliche that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Tell that to innocent women and children maimed by suicide bombers.

Terror at the UN is a relative term: if it leads to Jewish blood being shed or Western lives being lost, it is acceptable or, at the very least, not worthy of condemnation.

If Ahmadinejad violates the nonproliferation treaty endorsed by the UN, he is welcome to speak in its chambers as a conquering hero. Arafat brandishing a weapon as he spoke to the General Assembly was heralded as well.

Although the UN charter states specifically that nations can engage in "anticipatory self-defense" when threatened, Israel is invariably rebuked for defending itself against attack with the absurd claim that Israel's retaliation is "disproportionate." If this standard were applied universally (of course, it isn't) would that mean the U.S. should have responded to the 2800 deaths at Pearl Harbor with an attack on Japan that killed 2800?

As I see it, those who follow UN activity have an obligation to point out Orwellian newspeak. When UN officials ignore this critique -- as they do -- it should still be made public. Shame will not enter this UN equation, but the sources that provide funding should want to know why this multilateral organization has turned meaning on its head.

Those who cover the UN understand full well that a body housing democracies and dictatorships cannot long prevail as long as the good and bad are treated in the same manner. When Zimbabwe and the Sudan are considered the equals of the United States and the United Kingdom, relativistic standards must be imposed. Even a debating society must realize at some point that some views are more valid than others.

Hence word inversion is a useful, alas, a necessary tactic in an organization that refuses to consider a universal standard of justice, freedom, fair play, representative government, and human rights. Orwellianism is the guide for nations that cannot justify their actions in the context of morality, but nonetheless want political recognition in this world body.

Moreover, the more one uses the languages of dissimulation, the more it is believed and accepted. It is a Gresham's Law of communication in which the bad, or in this case the lie, drives the good or the truth out of circulation. That is the UN methodology derived directly from newspeak. Whoever said this isn't 1984 hasn't been to the temple of lies at First Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan.

UNCLOS and America's National Interest

According to Senator Joseph Biden the Law of the Sea Convention (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) -- UNCLOS -- codifies navigational rights and freedom on the oceans. Presumably this international law will strengthen our hand in dealing with foreign nations that challenge our application of recognized navigational rules.

Senator Biden is also convinced -- as are many of his colleagues -- that UNCLOS protects the commercial interests of the United States and sovereign rights over resources 200 nautical miles from our coast lines.

What Senator Biden, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, neglects to point out is that with this law the UN becomes the effective executor of all disputes on the high seas.

It is instructive that while a steamroller on this matter is moving inexorably through the Congress, Russia recently sent an expedition to the North Pole to stake a claim, notwithstanding the fact the U.S. was there first in 1908. Will the UN now be asked to adjudicate rival claims under UNCLOS? And if so, which nation or nations gets to extract Arctic resources?

Assuming America's national interests can be protected by the United Nations is analogous to a belief that eunuchs can impose their will on titans.

At this time the UN is the embodiment of anti-American sentiment. There isn't any U.S. initiative from Iraq to a confrontation with radical Islam that is embraced by the UN, even though the American delegation has consistently sought UN approval for every action.

Curiously the N.Y. Times, among other media organs, claimed that we must ratify UNCLOS in order to protect our interests. Surely someone at the Times must know that U.S. interests are protected by the "Doctrine of Discovery"; we were at the North Pole first. And if this legal principle does not apply, why do editorial writers assume UNCLOS will be dispositive?

Moreover, since the body created by UNCLOS has 21 members, many hostile to American positions, what will happen when U.S. interests collide with decisions by the UNCLOS adjudication body? If we ignore a negative judgment, world opinion will be arrayed against the United States. If we agree with a negative judgment, we may be obliged to retreat from a position that is consistent with national interests.

Standing behind the UNCLOS debate is an assumption that the oceans are the metaphorical equivalent of the "commons," a property available to all and a feature of mankind's heritage. Of course this position evolves directly from Marxian analysis.

The problem with this view is that which belongs to everyone, belongs to those who have the means to defend their claims.

In the end UNCLOS applies only to those who believe in the commons. Those who choose to ignore the regimen cannot be punished since the UN does not have an enforcement mechanism. It is very much like the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) that attempts to prohibit additional nuclear-armed nations. However, even when a signatory to the NPT chooses to ignore the prohibition, e.g., Pakistan, punishment isn't available, other than moral posturing.

What Senator Biden does not seem to appreciate is that freedom of the sea exists only when a nation or nations choose to enforce it. All of the legalisms -- especially those written by the UN -- do not amount to a hill of beans without enforcement. In fact, this kind of international law has a subtle, pernicious effect since it creates the illusion that empty platitudes can influence international behavior.

As I see it UNCLOS is inconsistent with American interests and should be rejected by our Congress. Unfortunately multilateralism is in the ascendancy and many of our legislators have lost touch with the meaning of national interest. *

"The broad mass of a nation . . . will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one." --Adolf Hitler

Wednesday, 18 November 2015 13:10

A Word from London

A Word from London

Herbert London

Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.

Victory in Iraq?

For detractors of the war in Iraq the telling question, the winning argument, is "How do you define victory?" Presumably, if you cannot define it, you cannot achieve it. From Murta to Obama, from the fever swamps of radicals to the thoughtful liberal, this question haunts the debate about the war.

So let me try to address this question that has even eluded most defenders of the war. Victory in a conventional sense with land ceded and documents signed hasn't any application to Iraq. Hence conventional notions don't work.

What does work is a reduction in hostility so that the normal functions of life may go on largely undisturbed. As an analogue, consider the FBI war against the Mafia. The underworld has not been eliminated, but the FBI's "victory" has translated into business activity mainly without extortion and a reduction of Mafia involvement with commercial areas it once controlled, e.g., the Fulton Fish Market, the Garment Center.

Considering the sectarian hostilities in Iraq and attempts by insurgents to cause disruption, a period of irenic tranquility is not over the horizon. However, one dimension of victory would be sufficient stability for the normal public functions of life to proceed unabated, i.e., shopping, education, socializing.

The tocsin in the Iraqi air will not soon disappear, but an environment in which insurgents are hard-pressed to engage in violence and cannot dictate to the government or force the hand of American troops represents a form of victory. In other words, when the initiative in this war is ours, when we take the battle to the enemy, when the average Iraqi is fearful of assisting al Qaeda, then stability is achievable.

Second, victory can be declared when the Iraqi government is sufficiently ensconced that it has support from the three major constituencies: Sunni, Shia, and Kurds. While Maliki's leadership has not elicited widespread confidence, it is possible to envision a time when group loyalty is subordinate to national loyalty. This condition has not yet evolved fully but progress on this front has been made, notwithstanding the many claims to the contrary.

Third, victory is at hand when the trouble makers in the region, i.e., Syria and Iran, consider the cost of spreading chaos not worth the potential benefit. Despite suicide bombers seeking their role as martyrs, there is a point at which pain exceeds rewards. That point has not been reached, but it is not a stretch to imagine this scenario, particularly if there is regime change in Iran.

Fourth, although President Bush may have made premature claims about the fighting capability of Iraqi forces, they are getting better each day, as every analyst on the scene has noted and, in several instances, have acted decisively without U.S. intervention. An Iraq that can attend to its military needs with minimal U.S. involvement, will most definitely be an independent nation.

Last, a stable Iraq in a neighborhood that has only known chaos could be an example, a kind of reverse domino in which democratic institutions might gain traction in time and influence other national movements.

As I see it, victory is possible if one of these several conditions emerge. At the risk of seeming pollyannish, I believe that is possible. Hence withdrawal at this time would be counterproductive. Victory may not be complete and may not be as apparent as we might like, but the signs of it are evident, even as the naysayers engage in denial.

Iraq is a watershed in the war against radical Islam. If we stabilize this nation, we will have dealt a significant blow to the forces of radicalism. Victory in this war is not unequivocal, but Americans will recognize it nonetheless. Our expectations are becoming realistic at the very moment opponents of the war escalate the rhetoric of unrealistic total victory or retreat. If the constraints of realism prevail, the war in Iraq can be won and the forces of light will have plunged a sword into the heart of darkness.

The Entangling Relationship with China

While trade sanctions against China are being discussed on Capitol Hill, the Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States in a game called "Who will blink first?"

Several leading Chinese Communist officials have warned that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter Congressional plans for trade sanctions. Some have called this China's "nuclear option," since dumping U.S. bonds could trigger a dollar crash at a moment when the currency is already breaking down through historic support levels.

Such a move could cause a spike in U.S. bond yields, hammer the already vulnerable housing market and perhaps tip the economy into recession. Therefore these threats cannot be taken lightly.

It is estimated that China holds over $900 billion in a mix of U.S. bonds, clearly the bulk of its foreign reserves. Xia Bin, chief at the Development Research Center, indicated that Beijing's foreign reserves should be used to influence U.S. trade policy in what is an unambiguous threat. "Of course," he added "China doesn't want any undesirable phenomenon in the global financial order."

He Fan, an official at the Chinese Academy of Social Science, said China has the power to set off a "dollar collapse if it chooses to do so." He noted:

China has accumulated a large sum of U.S. dollars. Such a big sum, of which a considerable portion . . . contributes . . . to maintaining the position of the dollar as a reserve currency.

Clearly China is unlikely to follow this scenario as long as the yuan's exchange rate is stable against the dollar. Moreover, the U.S. has some leverage in this arrangement, since a recession would diminish U.S. buying and importing power, thereby adversely affecting Chinese markets.

But there is little doubt the Chinese intend to play the blackmail card and contend the U.S. is hostage to economic decisions made in Beijing. China's having control of over 44 percent of the U.S. national debt undoubtedly leaves America acutely vulnerable.

The timing of these threats is particularly troubling. They come at a time when credit markets are already fearful of contagion from subprime mortgage troubles. That may explain why Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson said any trade sanctions would undermine America's authority to promote free trade and open markets.

While some compromise with China is likely to be worked out, as it has been in the recent past, the backdrop for decision making is colored by the large sum of U.S. dollars sitting in Chinese hands. The Chinese government has allowed the yuan to appreciate 9 percent against the dollar over the last two years under a crawling peg, but it has not diminished the current account imbalance and the growing Chinese trade surplus.

From a strategic perspective the Chinese have a nuclear arsenal to thwart American interests in Asia and now have a financial nuclear option to influence U.S. political judgments as well.

Where this will lead is hard to say. But on the central issue no guess is needed: American options are circumscribed by the real threats China may impose.

China is not an enemy of the U.S., but neither is it a friend. Recognizing the potential collision of interests in the Taiwan Straits and elsewhere, it is best to keep in mind the dangers that could result from an entangling relationship. Unfortunately this has already occurred and it is not possible to see how the U.S. can easily extricate itself from the entanglement.

The Subprime Mortgage Market in Perspective

The subprime mortgage market has caused a convulsion on Wall Street with several analysts insisting it foreshadows a deep recession. There is little question that a sharp increase in delinquent mortgage payments has been due to loans made to borrowers with weak credit.

The combination of an accommodative Federal Reserve, political pressure to assist poor home owners and a belief that property appreciation would offset debt resulted in a perfect market storm.

The subprime market caters to borrowers with impaired credit histories. Of the $7.8 trillion in residential mortgage debt outstanding in the United States, subprime debt accounts for $824 billion, or about 10 percent of the total. Although subprime represents only a small proportion of the debt, a rapid rise in early payment defaults has strained lenders and caused heightened concern over the quality of loan originations.

Further problems could occur as adjustable rate mortgages are reset at much higher interest rates resulting in payment spikes. Financially strapped borrowers are experiencing difficulty refinancing or selling properties while lenders, sensitive to roiling property markets, are tightening their underwriting standards and reducing the availability of credit.

As is often the case when a benign economic environment turns volatile, the magnitude of risk taking is coming into focus. The environment of abundant liquidity may have had its roots in an extended period of easy monetary policy, but the driving influence in the past few years has been rampant credit expansion in the financial sector.

While the working class homeowner may face foreclosure -- a matter that goes right to the heart of American culture (cite "It's A Wonderful life") -- the odds of a systematic financial crisis, notwithstanding "the sky is falling" economists, are slim. Credit problems are likely to spread across a number of investors and lenders rather than be concentrated in banks, as often occurred in previous credit stress.

Recognizing the impending crisis, the Fed, largely uninterested in bailing out investors from bad decisions and having taken the view investors have been far too aggressive in pricing risk, will nonetheless move to deal with the threat to the intermediation of credit. My guess is the Fed will ease rates and the Congress, bent out of shape by the political fallout of foreclosures, will call for measures that distinguish between sound and loose credit features.

Scarcely a soul will recall that political pressure over red-lining was partially responsible for the subprime failures in the first place. It is reminiscent of John Edwards' lamentation about the subprime mess while at the same time investing in a mortgage company that benefits from the foreclosures.

Although the mortgage problem will adversely affect the poor and those areas such as Florida that engaged in wildcat real estate speculation, the global economy has displayed remarkable resilience. Inflation is low, the equity bull market is in its fifth year, valuations are reasonable in most regions, and employment numbers and consumer spending are robust. That is the backdrop for the subprime mortgage problem.

Should the housing market stress persist, there is little doubt equities will struggle and the bears will rouse from a long slumber. But rather than wager on a recession, I would contend the current problem will introduce a degree of sobriety into credit markets and, in the long term (five years?), the supply side effect of globalization, technological innovation, and market reform will shift the markets into a positive stance.

In the short term, however, there will be social detritus. The subprime borrower may face bankruptcy and foreclosure, a prospect that even the most hard-hearted will lament. Typically these borrowers take out equity in their homes to pay off outstanding consumer debts. With the on-going tightening in the credit market, those days are past and with it will come economic gloom for many and credit reverberations through the economic system. As noted, this won't be a recession, but for many it won't be a pretty picture either.

A Republic vs. a Liberal State

Ben Franklin, when asked to describe the goal of the Constitutional Convention, said, "A Republic, if you can keep it." The last five words are critical. For in the succeeding two hundred years the Republic has undergone shifts and dramatic changes. Surely the limited government envisioned by the Founders does not resemble the government of today that by happenstance, pandering, or addressing real and perceived needs, is elephantine.

But perhaps the most significant challenge to a republican form of government is the liberal state that emphasizes rights as its critical feature. Rights tend to be inviolable; moreover, a privilege vouchsafed over several months morphs easily into a right.

Rent control in New York City, for example, proffered as a temporary measure to assist G.I.s returning from World War II, was transmogrified into a right that doesn't make economic sense and certainly has little application to the city 60 years after its introduction.

The liberal state is fond of finding and then defending rights the Founders could not possibly have imagined. Reproductive rights, the right to healthcare, the right to marry a member of the same sex, are clearly contemporary rights that come to mind.

The problem with newly created rights is that they take on a status like those in the Bill of Rights; they must be defended and applied as if they were the First Amendment. And there isn't any end to their invention and metamorphosis from idea to privilege to right.

Rights are also universal; they apply to those who pay taxes and those who don't; they apply to new immigrants and the old; they may even be applied to those who arrive on our shores illegally. Hence rights can fundamentally alter the character of a nation, even as we take pride in many rights (individual rights, property rights) as being essential for the continued qualities in our nation.

Republicanism is summarized in three words, "we, the people." Our Constitution does not refer to "we, the states" or to "a polity." The government presumably serves the will of the people and acts on the consent of the governed. Therefore, rights must be seen against a backdrop of consent. If the people are willing to abjure some rights in order to enhance security, that is their privilege.

Liberalism has so encroached on the essence of the republic that the courts have arrogated to themselves the right to make laws the Constitution earmarked for Congress. And this has occurred without much of an outcry from the public.

In my judgment the reason for the failure of the recent Immigration bill is that the proposed legislation represented liberal overreaching. By suggesting people who violated American sovereignty should be rewarded with the rights of citizens struck those with a republican orientation as absurd. This was seen, rightly or wrongly, as the frivolous dissemination of rights.

The proliferation of rights is not accompanied by a devotion to duties. People assume rights are manufactured -- as indeed they often are -- and are served to the American people cost free. As a consequence, there is a natural constituency for rights proliferation and not one for a traditional republican form of government.

Yet there are many areas of public life where the consent of the governed should prevail. If the public is wary of radical Islam and its penchant for violence, must we say rights should be applied to radical Muslims and Muslims alike? If the people are unwilling to embrace guest workers who do not have any interest in being American -- speaking our language, learning our customs and history and sacrificing for the nation -- does it make sense to extend the rights of American citizens to these workers?

Clearly the tension between the liberalism of John Stuart Mill and the republicanism of Jefferson is embedded in our history. This moment, in a sense, is not different from others. But I would contend we have tilted so far in a liberal direction, we have lost our way. It's time to rebalance philosophical assumptions and restore consent of the governed into the national debate on public policy issues.

The Limits of Economics

At a recent conference on the trade deficit a distinguished economist noted that the issue of oil imports will in time rectify itself as the market adjusts to high prices by instituting energy alternatives. It is a sensible argument buoyed by economic theory. But in this case economic theory has its limits.

As long as the United States relies on imported oil from Arab nations to meet its energy needs, dollars are used to fuel terrorism. It is not importation per se that is the problem, but the attitude and venue of the importers.

Of course, over time our markets will adjust because of the price of oil. The key phrase is "over time." Over time we may be dead; over time, we may have many attacks on our soil; over time hatred may metastasize.

While I recognize the veracity of free markets and, in theory, see the trade deficit as an accounting measure, in my opinion, national security trumps all other judgments. Since Saudi Arabia uses its outsized capital to promote Wahhabism, an extreme version of Islam, through madrassas worldwide, we have an obligation to stem the flow of capital to the region.

Browbeating the Saudi government has not worked because the underwriting for extremists is, in fact, an extortion payment to protect the existing regime. The Saudi princes pay so they can stay.

Our position must be a government-directed program to move as quickly as possible away from dependence on Middle Eastern oil. And we must do so without necessarily picking the "energy winner," e.g., ethanol.

The free market model may get the country to the same place, but the timeliness is unpredictable. Moreover, the price of oil can be manipulated by the OPEC cartel thereby influencing the pace of change.

As a conservative I am reflexively suspicious of government-directed programs; in this case, however, I don't see an alternative. Only the government has the ability to mitigate the effect of manipulated oil prices. Presumably OPEC can charge less for oil when alternatives are being introduced into the market at the same price. Does anyone remember the abortive syn-fuels project?

This time decisions must be insulated from price, since what is at stake is nothing less than national security. If terror mechanisms are starved, they cannot function.

Some will argue, indeed have argued, that if we buy less oil China and India will buy more. But surely these nations do not want to be reliant on insecure oil sources if an alternative is available. China would have to protect its sea lanes now patrolled by American vessels. In this scenario, transactional costs would escalate putting China and India in the market to secure energy alternatives.

The issue, as I see it, is timing. This nation should consider moving to hybrid automobile engines as quickly as possible. Getting 125 miles to the gallon will change the energy calculus dramatically. Similarly, nuclear plants should produce almost all of the nation's electricity needs. At the moment nuclear plants account for 16.5 percent, albeit oil accounts for about 2.5 percent of electrical production. The source carrying the load for the grid is coal, available within the nation in abundance. Yet every step away from oil dependence, however small, is desirable.

Winning the war against the radical Islamic terrorists means preventing them from buying the bombs, weapons, and personnel that promote destruction. The way to win, alas, the way to wage the war, is to divest the United States from its reliance on foreign oil. We must win this war on foreign battlefields and we must win this war at home by weaning ourselves from "black gold" and an unholy alliance with Arab nations.

Corrupting Sports

For me sports represented the last best hope for accomplishment. I have long been a cynic about politics and I have decried the degradation in popular culture. But until recently, sports were a refuge. I would commit baseball statistics to memory because I believed that the numbers embodied achievement. But all of that is now lost. Sports have sunk into the sink hole of corruption.

A gambling scandal involving referee Tim Donaghy has challenged the integrity of NBA games. In a sense Commissioner David Stern cannot possibly fathom, the NBA has come to resemble WWF (World Wrestling Federation) where there cannot be any trust in the outcome of a match. Who knows how many games were ultimately determined by the corrupt ref's call? The nobility of basketball has been thoroughly compromised.

Of course professional basketball is not alone. With Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron's career home run record, the claim of steroid use will forever serve to blemish his accomplishment. The most acclaimed statistic in sports will now have an asterisk on it -- "the juiced era" and the prejuiced era.

In fact, baseball was a game dependent on numbers. I was a member of a generation that went to the bathroom with the baseball encyclopedia. But what can the numbers mean for contemporary players of the Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds variety?

Allegations of doping have also affected the bicyclists in the much-heralded Tour de France with a number of the front runners this year disqualified because they failed drug tests.

And it is certainly suspicious when 250-pound college linemen report to professional teams at 320 pounds a year after college. Try gaining 70 pounds of muscle through weight lifting alone. Such contentions defy reality.

Some argue that illegal substances should be legalized. Presumably if everyone uses them, there isn't any obvious advantage for the abusers. What this claim overlooks is the history of the games, a time when some didn't have an edge.

Others maintain that since corruption afflicts every aspect of society from business to Hollywood, why should sports be immune? Well, for kids who look up to athletes, the accomplishment on the field of play seemed pure, an arena different from the rest of life. Sports were not merely entertainment; they possessed life lessons. That explains why fans can rationalize the bad behavior of players off the field.

Babe Ruth was known for his transgression with women, booze and hot dogs. But this behavior could be rationalized or excused because his 714 homers were real. At a time of the "dead ball" Ruth hit more homers than most teams in the American League.

In my judgment the legitimacy of competition has been called into question. It appears as though all professional sport is moving in the direction of pro wrestling, a faux sport designed to entertain, but having nothing at all to do with an unchoreographed outcome.

A public inured to athletic events might forget and forgive as it did the cocaine scandal in baseball during the 1980s, the NFL gambling problems of the 1960s, and Pete Roses' imbroglio with gamblers when he was managing the Philadelphia Phillies.

I would like to forgive as well, but my distrust is difficult to overcome. I have to deny my level of disbelief. I have to ask myself whether what I see and read is true. I have to regain faith in the numbers that once gave sports their texture. And I have to have faith that the fix isn't in.

This is a lot to ask for. Yet without the legitimacy these alterations could bring about, sports are today's youthful audience.

I remember, with great fondness, the Chip Hilton books written by Claire Bee I read as an adolescent. These books molded my character. Like Chip I wanted to achieve great feats on the playing field, but not by cheating and not by breaking the rules. If one relies on ref Donaghy and Barry Bonds, it appears that Chip Hilton is dead and with him all the standards about sports that really matter. *

"The shortest and surest way to live with honor in the world is to be in reality what we would appear to be." --Socrates

Friday, 23 October 2015 16:25

A Word from London

A Word from London

Herbert London

Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.

Democracy's Romantic Alternative

From Pharaoh's oppression of the Jews to today's dictators, each generation is obliged to fight for freedom and, in our case, understand the relationship between democracy and freedom.

At the moment democracy has enthusiastic advocates, those I call positivists, who embrace democratization as a universal policy and skeptics, who contend democratization is an unrealistic policy goal since so many across the globe do not understand its underlying principles or have the civil institutions for its realization.

My own position is somewhere between the two archetypes; I guess I'm a "positive skeptic."

There is no question in my mind that in a platonic sense culture trumps politics. As a consequence, some nations because of their culture are not predisposed to embrace democracy. For example, is there a cultural deposition for democracy among jihadists intent on violent acts? And are there times when non-democratic regimes, even military governments, are to be preferred to religiously dominated democracies?

Suppose, in arguendo, that a party of jihadists intent on using democracy to create theocracy is opposed by a military junta with no interest in democratic institutions. Which one is to be preferred? Moreover, as conditions in the developing world evolve, this theoretical case has practical implications. This scenario is far more likely to emerge than democratic parties opposing totalitarians.

The problem associated with democracy's appeal or lack thereof in the Middle East and perhaps elsewhere, is that it is often confused with elections that are only one dimension of democracy. And in this region, as the election in the Palestinian territory indicated, the ballot box has become a tool of authoritarian leaders to claim legitimacy. As a consequence, democracy has lost some of its luster. Rather than serve as a barometer of progress, many now regard it as a "technique for misleading people." One scholar at the University of Algiers, Abdel Nasser Djabi, said, "There is a real danger this may lead to the rejection of concepts of democracy."

Electoral politics does get to the nub of an important issue. The technical machinery of democracy such as elections is not enough. As I see it, neither are democracy's critical institutions -- important as they are. The rule of law, a respect for private property, individual rights and free markets are a necessary, but insufficient justification for democracy.

For young, largely uneducated people in much of the developing world jihadism offers romance, adventure and a challenge to the status-quo. It is not unlike the misguided dupes who assumed Che Guevara and Castro could provide a secular nirvana.

What democracy can offer is precisely what many seek. Unfortunately what tends to be emphasized are democracy's instrumentalities and processes shorn of its spirit and messianism.

Democracy is in large part a political religion. Abraham Lincoln intentionally employed biblical allusions in drafting the Gettysberg Address. As I see it, we should recall the mystical side of democracy that positivists usually overlook. Democracy is, after all, the "shining city on the hill" or the "new Jerusalem" or the "birthplace of freedom" or "a rendezvous with destiny." President Reagan referred to a "divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage."

While democracy is filled with romantic allusions, its advocates intentionally avoid this sentiment fearing -- I think -- the romanticism that inspired totalitarian impulses such as Nazism. But in overlooking the spiritual side of democracy, one negates its essential appeal.

As I see it, the human heart yearns for meaning in an often chaotic world, meaning that provides some clarity for the formlessness of life and the vicissitudes of quotidian struggles. Surely totalistic movements such as radical expression of Islam can also provide meaning, but that is the life of violence, sanguinity and destruction that ultimately devours its followers.

Hence I contend that democracy should attempt to capture emotions by being a civic religion of hope, liberation, and human fulfillment, conditions that accompany the spiritual side of democracy. What should be emphasized, to the extent public diplomacy organs can do so, is a culture of democracy-based romance and the spiritual dimensions of this form of government.

The hope for mankind, the bright light of freedom which democracy offers, is ultimately far more compelling than the arguments for free elections or parliamentary procedures. A "shining city on the hill" is a vision that grasps human desire and aspiration and, in time, might entice those who assume totalistic options are the only ones that provide romantic experience.

Friday, 23 October 2015 16:25

A Word from London

A Word from London

Herbert London

Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.

A Europe That Cannot Listen

Europeans invariably challenge President Bush by saying reflexively the president doesn't listen. According to the European critique, the United States should not have gone into Iraq, should not remain in Iraq, should use diplomatic instruments rather than military strength, should concern itself with "real" problems like global warming rather than the fixation on terrorism and should repair its alliance with European nations by listening instead of brow-beating.

While Europeans usually say "We love Americans" that comment is quickly modified by the assertion "We hate President Bush." It doesn't occur to them that George Bush was elected by the American people. Yet one European observer after another noted in recent conversations that we would be cheering in the streets if a Democrat is elected president in 2008.

Remarkably the European charge against President Bush appears to me as a classic case of projection. It is the Europeans who do not listen; all they hear is their own echo.

Whatever one believes, the United States went into Iraq because it is a nation that exhibited imperial ambitions, is located in a region that spawns terrorists, had terrorist camps on its soil, and Saddam Hussein had every intention of acquiring nuclear weapons. These matters are indisputable, despite European claims to the contrary.

A precipitous departure from Iraq, according to almost every commentator on the issue, would foster a regional war and embolden jihadists who would regard this American departure as a victory.

Notwithstanding understandable reluctance, the United States is engaged in direct negotiations with Iran that insists the U.S. leave Iraq and call its invasion a failure. While Europeans claim this negotiation is the right move, they also declare it came "too late."

At the recent G-8 meeting in Germany, President Bush called global warming a problem and insisted on voluntary national steps to control the warming trend. Yet almost every European editorial criticized him for not adopting the Merkel plan, which insists on national carbon limits and a required global cooling condition, even though India and China, the two most populous nations, reject the imposition of limits.

If the president's global warming speech is any indication, he is listening to the Europeans but they aren't listening to Bush. They have dug in their heels and refuse to consider the American position.

One German analyst said, "the American preoccupation with terrorism is perplexing." Perplexing? Apparently the Madrid railroad bombing, Theo van Gogh's, assassination and the 7/7 attack in the United Kingdom did not leave a lasting impression. This German went on to note "that there is nothing you can do about terrorism since we (Europeans) reside in open and therefore vulnerable societies." Nothing you can do? These four words represent the significant difference between the U.S. and the E.U.

Europe has seemingly resigned itself to a future fate of subjugation. It knows how to enjoy freedom, but not how to defend it. It resents the United States, that despite ideological divisions, is intent on fighting back, on using its intelligence apparatus to apprehend jihadists and creating fronts in the regions where terrorism thrives.

The spirit of Neville Chamberlain lives in European capitals as capitulation and appeasement now dominate intellectual circles. Even if the Europeans were to change course and adopt a posture President Bush has proposed, they have neither the budgetary requirements nor the military strength to deal with the challenge.

What they do have is the ability to criticize the resister. From an arrogant perch, they condemn the actions of President Bush. However, the Europeans may be surprised when they get what they now desire: a Democratic president. For whether it is Hillary or Obama, the American public is mobilized to fight back. Our national impulse demands it; 9/11 was merely a reminder of the threats that exist on the world stage.

The question that Americans rightly ask is "Who is listening to whom?" We saved Europe from destruction several times in the twentieth century. Must we do it again in the 21st century? Perhaps it's time the Europeans listened to us.

The American Courts as Allies of the Terrorists

Ali al-Marri was trained in an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in the 1990s, met and was counseled by Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, volunteered for a "martyr mission," and came to the United States as a "sleeper agent" to hack into banks and disrupt the nation's financial system. By any measure, he is a terrorist who should be restrained. But not so fast.

The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, rejected the Bush administration's desire for "extraordinary powers" to control international terrorism by ordering the release of al-Marri. According to Judge Diana Gribbon Motz "in the United States, the military cannot seize and imprison civilians -- let alone imprison them indefinitely."

Al-Marri was a legal resident on a student visa, a graduate student in Peoria, when he was arrested in 2001 as a "material witness" in the 9/11 investigation. Upon further examination of his background, President Bush declared him an "enemy combatant" and placed him in military custody.

The administration argued the president acted under the "implicit powers" suggested in the authority given the commander in chief, and the congressional resolution authorizing a response to 9/11, and could detain enemy combatants indefinitely. Judge Motz maintains that even those who endanger our security can only be held for "a limited period." Her decision comes days after military judges ruled that there are limits on presidential authority to classify "unlawful enemy combatants" at Guantanamo.

The question that must be asked is whether there are unlimited legal measures that can be employed when terrorists are intent on killing Americans and destroying our society.

So litigious and obsessed with civil liberties have we become that the Constitution has been globalized with application for enemies who are trying to kill us.

Imagine if you can the application of present court precedents to the apprehension of Adolf Hitler on American soil. Needless to say, the ACLU would argue that since he was in the United States he should face justice in civilian courts. Even if FDR argued he was a threat to national security, he could not be detained indefinitely.

What our contemporary jurists don't seem to understand is the nature of the threat we face. Mr. Al-Marri wasn't arrested for parking violations or speeding tickets.

The president insists this is a war we cannot lose. In fact, the battlefront isn't in another continent, but right here in the United States where "sleepers" or Manchurian Candidates motivated by religious fanaticism have obsessive sanguinic goals. Yet, remarkably, there are attorneys in the United States far more interested in protecting the alleged rights of enemy combatants rather than the security of Americans. For some, winning or losing the war is irrelevant.

Six years after 9/11 the legal system has lost patience with government claims that it must dispense with traditional legal protections to guard against another devastating attack. In fact, one gets the impression 9/11 is a distant memory with almost no application to the conduct of legal proceedings.

How do we win this war when our courts do not understand the tactics of the enemy? How do we fight when democratic procedures are employed as a device by the enemy to undermine democracy? And can we prevail in this conflict when some of the best legal minds in the country are concerned with the rights of enemy combatants?

These questions beg response, but the replies are as obvious as the intentions of the terrorists.

Democracy's Romantic Alternative

From Pharaoh's oppression of the Jews to today's dictators, each generation is obliged to fight for freedom and, in our case, understand the relationship between democracy and freedom.

At the moment democracy has enthusiastic advocates, those I call positivists, who embrace democratization as a universal policy and skeptics, who contend democratization is an unrealistic policy goal since so many across the globe do not understand its underlying principles or have the civil institutions for its realization.

My own position is somewhere between the two archetypes; I guess I'm a "positive skeptic."

There is no question in my mind that in a platonic sense culture trumps politics. As a consequence, some nations because of their culture are not predisposed to embrace democracy. For example, is there a cultural deposition for democracy among jihadists intent on violent acts? And are there times when non-democratic regimes, even military governments, are to be preferred to religiously dominated democracies?

Suppose, in arguendo, that a party of jihadists intent on using democracy to create theocracy is opposed by a military junta with no interest in democratic institutions. Which one is to be preferred? Moreover, as conditions in the developing world evolve, this theoretical case has practical implications. This scenario is far more likely to emerge than democratic parties opposing totalitarians.

The problem associated with democracy's appeal or lack thereof in the Middle East and perhaps elsewhere, is that it is often confused with elections that are only one dimension of democracy. And in this region, as the election in the Palestinian territory indicated, the ballot box has become a tool of authoritarian leaders to claim legitimacy. As a consequence, democracy has lost some of its luster. Rather than serve as a barometer of progress, many now regard it as a "technique for misleading people." One scholar at the University of Algiers, Abdel Nasser Djabi, said, "There is a real danger this may lead to the rejection of concepts of democracy."

Electoral politics does get to the nub of an important issue. The technical machinery of democracy, such as elections, is not enough. As I see it, neither are democracy's critical institutions -- important as they are. The rule of law, a respect for private property, individual rights, and free markets are a necessary, but insufficient, justification for democracy.

For young, largely uneducated people in much of the developing world jihadism offers romance, adventure, and a challenge to the status-quo. It is not unlike the misguided dupes who assumed Che Guevara and Castro could provide a secular nirvana.

What democracy can offer is precisely what many seek. Unfortunately what tends to be emphasized are democracy's instrumentalities and processes shorn of its spirit and messianism.

Democracy is in large part a political religion. Abraham Lincoln intentionally employed biblical allusions in drafting the Gettysburg Address. As I see it, we should recall the mystical side of democracy that positivists usually overlook. Democracy is, after all, the "shining city on the hill" or the "new Jerusalem" or the "birthplace of freedom" or "a rendezvous with destiny." President Reagan referred to a "divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage."

While democracy is filled with romantic allusions, its advocates intentionally avoid this sentiment fearing -- I think -- the romanticism that inspired totalitarian impulses such as Nazism. But in overlooking the spiritual side of democracy, one negates its essential appeal.

As I see it, the human heart yearns for meaning in an often chaotic world, meaning that provides some clarity for the formlessness of life and the vicissitudes of quotidian struggles. Surely totalistic movements such as radical expression of Islam can also provide meaning, but that is the life of violence, sanguinity and destruction that ultimately devours its followers.

Hence I contend that democracy should attempt to capture emotions by being a civic religion of hope, liberation, and human fulfillment, conditions that accompany the spiritual side of democracy. What should be emphasized, to the extent public diplomacy organs can do so, is a culture of democracy-based romance and the spiritual dimensions of this form of government.

The hope for mankind, the bright light of freedom that democracy offers, is ultimately far more compelling than the arguments for free elections or parliamentary procedures. A "shining city on the hill" is a vision that grasps human desire and aspiration and, in time, might entice those who assume totalistic options are the only ones that provide romantic experience.

A New Prague Spring

They came to Prague from around the world to share a vision of democracy and freedom. In this city of so much history and inspiration, an unprecedented conference was organized by Jose Maria Aznar, Vaclav Havel, and Natan Sharansky entitled "Democracy and Security." But its principal purpose, notwithstanding the stated title, was uniting dissidents who have committed themselves to a defense of freedom without the slightest regard for their personal safety.

In most instances these were ordinary people driven by historical events into extraordinary circumstances. Trapped by indifference and fear, they spoke out until the world finally listened.

Mudawi Ibrahim Adam is the founder and chairman of the Sudan Social Development Organization. For exposing the Sudanese government's role in violations of human rights in Darfur, Dr. Mudawi was detained for seven months in 2004 and again in January 2005. During imprisonment, he went on a hunger strike to protest being held in solitary confinement without being charged or provided access to a lawyer, his family, or medical attention.

Amir Abbas Fakhravar is an Iranian writer and student leader. He was arrested at 17 during a student demonstration against the Islamic dictatorship and suffered years of torture in jail, including the torture described by Amnesty International as "white torture."

Saad Eddin Ibrahim is a professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo. In 2000 he was arrested after speaking out against autocratic government actions and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. In 2003 Egypt's highest appeals court declared his trial improper and cleared him of all charges. Mr. Ibrahim has been one of the Arab world's most vociferous defenders of democracy and human rights.

Gari Kasparov was the youngest world chess champion in history at the age of 22. Since 1989 he has been prominent in the nascent democratic opposition to the post-Soviet autocracy. His organization, the United Civil Front, has staged marches of dissent against the policies of President Putin. Despite threats, he has remained firmly committed to genuine democratic reform in Russia.

Eli Khory, an advertising executive in Beirut, put his life on the line by planning and promoting the Cedar Revolution, which drove Syrian troops from Lebanon.

Irina Krasovskaya is a Belarusian political activist. In 1999 she lost her husband who is still missing after he opposed the brutal totalitarian practices of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Mrs. Krasovskaya has lobbied governments relentlessly in order to have her husband's case investigated.

Mohsen Sazegara is a teacher, writer, and leading reformer against the current Iranian theocracy. In 2003 he was arrested by officers in the Ministry of Intelligence for his campaign against the ruling mullahs. During his imprisonment he endured two hunger strikes that totaled 79 days. In 2004, due to the deterioration of his health, he was released.

Natan Sharansky, the foremost proponent of democracy and arguably the most important human rights proponent on the globe, wrote his memoir Fear No Evil that serves as the bible for human rights advocates everywhere. Mr. Sharansky was born in the Ukraine, was arrested for Zionistic and human rights activities and, served nine years in a Soviet prison.

Vaclav Havel, the father of the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and the first president of the Czech Republic, was arrested and sent to prison by Soviet officials because of his opposition to the totalitarian practices of Soviet invaders.

Eugeniusz Smolar is president of the Center for International Relations in Warsaw. In 1968 he was arrested for organizing pro-democracy protests and against the invasion of Warsaw Pact armies in Czechoslovakia. He was released from prison in 1970.

These are merely a few of the dissidents who came together to assert and, in most instances reassert, the power of human rights and freedom. They speak from experience. Moreover, their passion and desire to destroy totalitarian architectures was on display at every meeting.

On June 5th President Bush addressed this group. He spoke of freedom's march with power and eloquence recognizing as well that dictatorships are also on the march. After his address, he met separately with dissidents offering encouragement and a helping hand. After all, the Bush Doctrine to spread democracy as a force for freedom is dependent on the role of freedom fighters in dictatorial and theocratic regimes.

At the end of this moving and exultant conference each of us signed the Prague Document that among other things recognizes the profound moral difference between free societies and fear societies and calls on governments to release nonviolent political prisoners and on all democratic states to isolate and ostracize governments that threaten people with genocide and annihilation.

In a world that I sometimes believe is in a state of entropy, this conference restored my faith in human nature. Solzhenitsyn once said that even if the totalitarians covered the globe in cement a crack would emerge and from it a plant would grow. That plant has emerged full-blown as a Prague forest offering the path to a free and democratic future.

Fake Sentimentality

If there is one condition that afflicts America at the moment it is fake sentimentality, a false emotion that manifests itself whenever a negative news story appears.

Take the events at Virginia Tech for example. At every one of the candle light vigils in which violence was decried, spokesmen referred to the "tragedy" of 32 murdered victims. But the tragedy that eluted the hand wringing wasn't a tragedy at all. A tragedy is related to an inevitable event, for example, those who are in a hurricane or a tornado.

The murders at Virginia Tech could have been prevented had the administration at the university, the courts and everyone else who had contact with Mr. Cho acted appropriately. This wasn't a tragedy; it was simply bloody, gruesome murder. All of the lamentations about guns and violence won't change a thing since they do not deal with the essence of this crime. Of course, the lamentation isn't designed to deal with the crime, but to make observers feel better about themselves, a self-righteous display of good intentions.

Similarly, the reaction to Imus' stupid comment about "nappy-headed ho's" on the Rutgers women's basketball team was patently false. It strains credibility to believe the women on this team never heard a rap "artist" use this language. When the team appeared on Oprah, players expressed their shock (!) that such language could be leveled against them. I am certainly not defending Imus' rant, but it is hard to believe the women on this team could be so offended by the use of the word "ho" when it is commonly employed by rappers all the time and, as notable, can be heard on the streets of every urban ghetto in the nation.

Then there is the new "hip" embrace of a limited carbon footprint or what some call the carbon diet. Now celebrities rush to embrace the environmental friendly agenda of Al Gore among others. A carbon cutting business has sprung up overnight that discusses -- in minute detail -- emissions. Of course, the proponents of this position ignore what is going on in India and China, the two most populous nations on the globe. Nor do they consider the actual result of the carbon cutting campaign in the United States.

In actuality, if carbon cutting does anything, it makes its proponents feel good. After all, they are doing something to save us from ourselves, or so they think. As Andrew Revkin writing in the New York Times (4/29/07) noted, "the carbon-neutral campaign is a sign of the times -- easy on the sacrifice and big on the consumerism."

Despite this campaign, it is unlikely greenhouse gases will decrease. Nor is the science on this matter as incontrovertible as Al Gore suggests. But if one realizes that the campaign is less about an environmental effect then the psychological affirmation signing on gives its adherents, it makes eminent sense.

Faux reactions, of course, aren't new. The nation is often caught up in them as the Alar scare and the hysteria over DDT would indicate. But I would contend the nation is reaching for new extremes, new levels of fake sentimentality.

In the end, whatever the full efflorescence of this phenomenon may be, it will be hard to get an appropriate (read: realistic) response to any condition. Will political correctness -- now observed as a national creed -- trump self-preservation? Will hand wringing serve as a purging ritual for the nation rather than action?

As I see it, fake sentiment isn't benign. It beguiles its intended audience into a sense that something has been accomplished. It has that feel good dimension to it which in the end is about as satisfying as chewing gum on an empty stomach.

Years ago some educators introduced the "self-esteem campaign" for students that suggested that if only students would feel good about themselves academic performance would improve. Needless to say, that didn't happen, and needless to say as well, all of the fake sentiment that surrounds current cultural movements won't improve our lot in life either.

The Good Life?

Having just returned from a sojourn to Hawaii, I can testify that America is dripping in affluence. The luxury hotels where thousands are spent each day are filled to capacity. Occupants range from the very young to octogenarians, but all are there to luxuriate in the sun and sand without any apparent regard for the cost.

Of course this isn't all of America, but it is a representative sample. A disproportionate number have tattoos and piercings. Obesity is ubiquitous. The conversations are mostly about sports or the weather. Alfred E. Newman of the "what, me worry?" fame is alive and well and residing in Hawaii.

Yet in a sense this remarkable condition is a national disadvantage. Struthious-like these Americans are not prepared to sacrifice. Their vision of the future is the next meal. Despite the turmoil on the world stage, these Americans have their head in the sand. Is it any wonder public opinion polls show a disinclination to continue the nation's commitment to the war in Iraq?

After all, Iraq is far away. Can the Shia militants or al Qaeda attack Hawaii? Well, the fanatics did attack us on 9/11, but that is "ancient history," already a faded memory. Paradise seems to be insulated from world affairs.

In New York the great god Aerobic is worshipped; in Hawaii, it is Ra, the sun god. People rise to see him rise, and gaze in wonderment as he sets. In between, they sit or sleep in rapture as he makes them red or brown.

On a distant shore people are dying. Some are willing to kill themselves as long as they kill others in the process. But these are, after all, newspaper accounts in what appears to be a far-away world.

Can Mr. and Mrs. Tourist rouse themselves to fight, to defend the freedoms they obviously enjoy? As I see it, the picture isn't promising. They haven't yet come to realize what is at stake in this war against jihadism. They sleep under the hot sun oblivious to a world gone mad.

When they read, it is escapist novels and when they speak, it is about escapist language, such as "where is the next destination?" After hours under Ra, they often seek another favorite pastime: shopping. Even President Bush noted immediately after 9/11 that America should return to normalcy by going back to the malls. Here was the signal that this war declared against the United States was not a war that involves you.

President Bush was caught on the horns of a dilemma. If he emphasized what was truly at stake, he invited hysteria; if he suggested doing nothing differently, as he did, he invited complacency. In Hawaii that complacency translates into somnolence.

The islands are asleep. Yet even in paradise, danger lurks. It is not the danger of terrorism about which there is scarcely a word uttered: it is the potential for volcanic eruption. Below the surface, below the tranquility, there is explosive activity. In a way, this is a metaphor for the nation. One sleeps at one's own risk.

Rousing America from this state of affairs is, to some degree, the responsibility of government. On this matter, the government has failed. The nation is unprepared for battle.

The tourists come to paradise to frolic. War is the furthest thing from their minds. I pray they will not have to fight. I pray that life remains a bowl of cherries. I pray, as well, that the real God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.

But what if my prayers aren't realized? What if paradise is an illusion? What if the jihadists seek to bring bloodshed to our shores again making it clear that our insouciance is their advantage?

The Hawaiian sun shines each and every day. Ra speaks to tourists. There does not appear to be an end to the relaxation regimen until, of course, that day of dread emerges. Prayer helps; in the end, an ability to fight is even more important. I only hope that spirit can be summoned when and if the time to defend our nation comes. *

"Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure that there is one less scoundrel in the world." --Thomas Carlyle

Friday, 23 October 2015 16:20

A Word from London

A Word from London

Herbert London

Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.

Rancor and Policy Decisions

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is insisting on a date for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. In fact, the Democratic leadership has embraced this position.

The New York Times has advocated a withdrawal plan and if its campaign to sanitize the Muslim Brotherhood can be seriously entertained, the Times seems to be arguing there isn't that much to worry about in the Muslim world. Tariq Ramadan, a clever spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, was featured in the April 1st Times Magazine with the claim Islam and democracy are not incompatible.

What the Democratic leaders and their acolytes at the Times seem to be arguing is that stabilizing Iraq cannot be achieved and the United States is suffering from hysteria over the Muslim threat that has resulted in a misguided foreign policy.

It is noteworthy that since "the Surge," conditions in Iraq have improved dramatically. However, you wouldn't know that from reading "the paper of record," nor would you get that impression from congressional testimony. As one well-known Iranian journalist noted "the success of the Democratic party is dependent on the American failure in Iraq." As a consequence, good news in Iraq is bad news for the fortunes of the Democratic party.

If true, this is a sad moment in American history when the lives of servicemen and women are mere pawns for political gain. It wasn't that long ago when foreign policy united the parties; when Republicans would cross the aisle to stand with their Democratic counterparts on matters of national security. Those days are gone, a faded memory.

Lest my detractors believe this is a diatribe against Democrats, they would be wrong. In my opinion the president has not used his bully pulpit effectively. He should have put the Democratic-led Congress on notice by going directly to the American people and addressing concerns about the war. He should mobilize the Republican party for political warfare in the national media. And he should create a War Information Office to make the arguments he doesn't.

What may be at stake in World War IV is not evident to most Americans. The people haven't been asked to sacrifice and they haven't been asked to evaluate the costs and benefits in this war. In fact, many Americans don't realize we are at war, despite tocsin in the Muslim world.

Emerging in American politics is a great divide: on one side are Democrats who do not see any value in the Iraq war, and on the other side are Republicans, by no means all, who see a great danger in a cut-and-run strategy. The two views are mutually incompatible. Complicating this stance is a general perception of the threat imposed by Islam.

Some contend Islam is basically benign, notwithstanding fringe groups that have a militant attitude. And others maintain Islam is inherently violent and has imperial goals that threaten the West. Either Islam is a threat or it isn't. Either the West must protect itself from the onslaught or it shouldn't over-react.

It is clear where Ms. Pelosi stands and where she is taking the Democratic party. What is not clear is whether this is in the best interest of the United States. If she is mistaken, there are civilizational consequences that cause even inveterate optimists to shudder.

So hostile to President Bush are Democratic leaders that Zbigniew Brzezinski, a normally reliable analyst of foreign policy, has had sobriety desert him in his new book Second Chance, a book in which he engages in a no-holds-barred attack on the present administration.

The gloves are off and so too is bipartisanship. It seems to me disagreements are useful, but hateful attacks on one another only produce ammunition for the enemy. As I see it, the time has come for Democrats and Republicans to leave politics in the outhouse and consider what is best for the national house in which we all reside.

Making the World More Dangerous

There are times in the course of Washington events when bureaucratic decision making puts the nation at risk. The State Department deal with North Korea is one such event.

In return for the cessation of uranium enrichment at one facility, the U.S. government has pledged oil, food, and equipment for the Kim Jung Il government. Sound familiar? This is a replay of the Clinton administration plan that was abrogated by Kim soon after he obtained assets from the United States and Japan.

In this case, no mention has been made of the nuclear weapons that already exist in North Korea. That issue isn't on the table. In these talks, Kim sets the agenda and the U.S. acquiesces. So hoary are the seemingly ambiguous discussion items that Robert Joseph, senior State Department official, has resigned, and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton has been openly critical of the administration.

The reason for concern is not merely restricted to North Korea. Ahmadinejad and the mullahs in Iran are undoubtedly thinking that they should cash in like their North Korean allies. Talk yields gifts, and, in fact, you don't have to give up any nuclear weapons. All you have to do is make empty promises.

Diplomacy--which appears to have bipartisan support--has its downside. For one thing it legitimizes an illegal act (Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty) and two, it allows this rogue government the time to pursue its weapons agenda under the guise of "serious negotiation." Does anyone believe the Iranians can be talked out of their weapons pursuit or that we can offer blandishments that would dissuade them from their goals? If that were true, Ahmadinejad would have embraced all of the gifts European governments have offered over the last few years in return for a non-nuclear Iran.

Yet the clarion call for discussion is deafening. Recognizing what has emerged in the six-party talks in China, Ahmadinejad will most likely ask for a similar arrangement. It would not be inappropriate, in my judgment, to call it an extortion payment. This is likely to be a one-way deal. He wants what the West will offer, but he will give virtually nothing in return.

The question that remains unresolved is why the Bush administration has acceded to this deal with North Korea. As I see it, the Bush presidency is in free-fall. It is searching for some achievement that it can shove in the face of the Democratically controlled Congress.

It is also true that the pressure from the Iraq Study Group and Democratic-led spokesmen have influenced Condoleezza Rice and her associates. Jaw, jaw is seen as a replacement for war, war. But what the State Department doesn't seem to appreciate is that talk without results only accelerates the momentum for conflict.

If Ahmadinejad can be believed--and why shouldn't he be believed?--nuclear weapons possessed by his government could be used to wipe Israel off the map. After all, a great conflagration is the prelude for the return of the twelfth imam.

The Bush State Department is now signaling that it has moved 180 degrees from its past position. Not only is the military option on the table, but the extortion option is there as well. For the fanatics in North Korea and Iran, this is a moment to behold. For those of us concerned about international stability, these are decisions to lament. The world will be less safe and, alas, more fragile the longer we talk and the more we refuse to act.

The Death of Europe?

Ralph Peters, writing in the New York Post, contends that the Islamization of Europe is a fantasy that will not occur because the Europeans will undoubtedly rouse themselves and resist what many analysts, including Bernard Lewis and Bat Yor, argue is a virtual fait accompli.

What Peters has suggested is that at some point people will fight to retain their democratic values against the inroads of Sharia. But suppose the will to resist has been destroyed. Suppose as well that Europe suffers from psychological fatigue. Suppose it cannot rouse itself from acquiescence.

Job Cohen, the mayor of Amsterdam and one of the mainstays of the Dutch nation, demands that one accept "the conscious discrimination of women by certain groups of orthodox Muslims" since Holland needs a "new glue" to hold society together. In the name of social cohesion, the Dutch are invited to approve a practice most consider execrable.

Reading the tea leaves of demography that infer the Islamic population is growing at a rate double that of native Europeans, many Europeans have decided to leave the continent. The number of emigrants leaving Germany and the Netherlands has surpassed the number of immigrants moving in. Today Mohammed is the most popular name for newborn boys in Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and several other major European cities.

So deep goes the sentiment of preemptive surrender that German author Henryk Broder tells of a German woman who said sometimes it is better to let yourself be raped than to risk serious injury resisting. Here in unalloyed form is the metaphor for Europe.

Paul Belien, a journalist in Belgium, reports that many Europeans have not learned how to fight for their freedom. A whole generation merely took it for granted. It is a generation that is good at enjoying its freedom, but ignorant about its defense. In a sense rarely acknowledged, these people have already submitted to the dictates of Islam.

Belien notes that those unwilling to fight hate those who do resist. As a consequence, America becomes a symbol for resistance to Islam, the bastion of resisters and the catalyst for anti-Americanism. This is a situation analogous to better red than dead, except now it is better green than dead.

Needless to say, war is horrendous. Yet there are conditions worse than war. When moral sentiment decays, when people will not defend their own interests, the soul of mankind erodes.

At the moment Europe is at the precipice. A philosophical flirtation with relativism and nihilism has made Europe vulnerable to the ideology of jihadism. If there aren't core values worthy of a defense, then there isn't any reason for new immigrants to embrace them. If democracy, the rule of law, and human rights haven't any specific qualities that make them superior to Sharia, there is no need to oppose the assault by the instructors of hate and theocratic dictatorship.

The aggressive secularization in Europe, expunging Christian morality from law and the new continental constitution, goes hand and glove with the tacit acceptance of Islamic law. A vacuum has been created in Europe and it is being filled by an ideology and religion that uses Europe's liberal views to promote an illiberal and intolerant belief system.

It is instructive that if Europe wants to inject any life into this continental corpse, it hasn't any choice but to follow the lead of its avowed target--the United States. The hopes and fears of the Unites States regarding Islam will either be the hopes and fears of Europe or we will see in our lifetime a Europe Islamicized and returned to the dark ages.

The San Francisco University Kangaroo Court

San Francisco University is investigating its College Republicans for hosting an anti-terrorism rally on campus in which participants stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags. Several Muslim students filed a complaint arguing they were offended because the flags bore the word "Allah" and the actions were intended to incite and create a hostile environment.

Yet desecrating a flag--even burning an American flag, however distasteful this act may be--is an expression protected by the First Amendment as recent court cases have suggested and cannot be punished at a public university.

Robert Shibley, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) said, "The right to protest is at the very heart of the First Amendment, and means nothing if only inoffensive expression is permitted."

San Francisco University officials replied, noting that the university will "give all parties the confidence that they will be heard and fairly treated by a panel that includes representatives of all the University's key constituencies." Yet this reply implies legitimacy to the complaint rather than a baseless charge.

Presumably in a free society neither a public university nor any government agency has the power to investigate an organization simply for disrespecting a religious symbol. By continuing the investigation, the university has come into direct conflict with the Constitution.

What makes the case stand out is not merely official defiance of the law, but the willingness to accede to political correctness. Suppose, for example, a group of Muslim students at the university decided to step on and burn an American flag. My guess is it would hardly generate a ripple on campus. The administration would probably say "the act is reprehensible, but they have every right to express their opinion."

What this matter suggests is the preemptive surrender of American principles to the forces of protest. Since there are designated victim groups that cannot be offended, free speech is a sacrificial lamb on many campuses. Now it is a punishable offense to challenge Muslims or even contend that many are prone to violence and terror. Such allegations comprise a "hostile environment" or worse, "incivility."

That evangelicals may be called "fanatics" is accepted because this group is not in the "protected" category. In the era of multiculturalism only certain cultures (read: religions) are legitimate. If a Jewish organization were to argue about a hostile campus environment after an Israeli flag were defiled, the Middle East Studies department would most likely file an amicus brief in behalf of the defilers.

That this attitude is now undermining essential liberties has been lost in the effort to be "sensitive" to minority concerns. It also denies reality: whether Muslim students like it or not, Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations. The students who stepped on the flag did not intend to blaspheme "Allah" which was written in Arabic script. They were merely protesting the actions of these Middle East political organizations.

Of course neither reality nor liberty can easily stand up to the fierce wind of political correctness. And universities, which should know better, have become hothouses promoting carefully selected sensitivities rather than defending American virtues and Constitutional principles.

Yale Then and Now

Early April is a nail-biting period for high school seniors eager to learn where they have been accepted to pursue a college education. Parents scour mailboxes and e-mails for the anxiety-laden teens.

In the end, of course, everyone will gain admission somewhere since, as America advertises, we have a college for everyone.

What we don't have is a space for all the applicants to elite institutions, those ivy colleges dripping with tradition and influence.

Arguably the most influential is Yale, former home to Clinton and the Bushes, among other notables. According to Newsweek, Yale may receive more applications for available spots than any other college in the nation.

With that in mind, I recently had the occasion to compare the 1894 Yale College prospectus of elective courses with the 2006-7 Yale College program of study. In doing so, one can't help but be struck by the dramatic change that has occurred in 113 years. Moreover, if evolution infers progress, there is something fundamentally wrong with this comparison.

The 1894 catalogue was 50 pages long. Each course was described succinctly, e.g., "The History of Europe since 1789" or "The Phaedo of Plato." Literature courses are simply named after a playwright, author, or poet such as "Shakespeare" and "Browning."

The introduction merely indicates how many courses must be selected. A statement of aims doesn't appear. Course descriptions when they exist are brief and very much to the point. For example, in "Latin Philology" "such features of the language are studied as its historical development and decay, relations to other languages, forms and syntax, pronunciation, adaptation to literature, etc."

Courses associated with biblical literature are prominently mentioned, but all of what we now call, the liberal arts and science are included.

By contrast the present catalogue is 620 pages. Some of that additional content can be attributed to relatively recent developments in the sciences such as neuroliguistics and computer science. While many traditional courses are retained, the college has clearly embraced the concerns of the zeitgeist. For example, in the women's gender and sexuality program, one can find courses such as "U.S. Lesbian and Gay History," "White Masculinity and Sexuality in U.S. Popular Culture," "Queer Ethnographics," and "Introduction to Queer Cinema."

At the beginning of the catalogue Yale officials state their purpose:

Yale College offers a liberal arts education, one that aims to train a broadly-based, highly-disciplined intellect without specifying in advance how that intellect will be used.

The goal is "exploration," stimulating curiosity, and discovering new interests.

These platitudinous claims stand in stark contrast to the simple educational goals implied in the 1894 catalogue. Presumably the 620 pages in the modern catalogue, twelve times the size of the 1894 document, are needed to enhance the exploration. The good, the bad, and the ugly must be explored along with the trivial, the fashionable and the puerile.

In a real sense the college education of fewer course offerings had a more solid foundation than its modern counterpart. After all, 620 pages of courses can only confuse the teenage mind. How does one separate the wheat from the chaff? The modern catalogue also suggests that the faculty has either lost a sense of what a liberal education ought to be or it has been coerced into the "Chinese menu" of educational selection, i.e., so many from column A and column B.

For me, less is more. A course simply devoted to Plato has more to offer than one called "Plato's Philosophical Psychology." In an effort to satisfy the yearning of professors who seek courses in areas narrowly defined, e.g., "Music, Law and Sexual Desire in Medieval Europe," the administration has lost control of the curriculum.

Rather than promote a vision of the academy, professors have abdicated responsibility through choices of every variety, a veritable bouquet of experiences. If you cannot find what you are looking for in the extraordinary course list, you can always engage in that old stand-by independent study. Now you can determine what you want to learn without paying much attention to the guidance of an instructor.

Six hundred and twenty pages of courses reduce to fatuity the notion of a central "core" or what it is a student ought to know. At the moment, a student decides what he should know from a vast reservoir of courses.

Is this any way to manage a university? My guess is Cardinal Newman wouldn't countenance the present curriculum nor, for that matter, would those who attended Yale University more than a hundred years ago. *

"Corruption is no stranger to Washington; it is a famous resident." --Walter Goodman

Friday, 23 October 2015 16:17

A Word from London

A Word from London

Herbert London

Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.

The Great Divide and the Bush Doctrine

At a recent debate over the battle for Islamic ideals in England, a British-born Muslim stood before the assembled crowd and said Prophet Mohammed's message to nonbelievers is: "I come to slaughter all of you." "We are the Muslims" said Omar Brooks, also known as Abu Izzadeen. "We drink the blood of the enemy, and we can face them anywhere. That is Islam and that is jihad."

Winston Churchill, writing in The River War based on his experience fighting in the Sudan in 1898, noted:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.

He went on to suggest that while individual Muslims may show splendid qualities,

. . . the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.

With this as a backdrop President Bush developed a strategic vision after 9/11 that has attempted to neutralize the naturally destructive impulses in Islam. Despite the daily drumbeat of criticism from the press and the chorus of Congressional critics, Bush, it seems to me, has orchestrated a plan to transform Islam in much the way President Truman and his successors attempted to transform Communism.

The chink in Communism's armor was its ideological inconsistencies and the chink in Islam is the conflict--both ideological and political--between Shia and Sunni.

For six hundred years Shia and Sunni maintained a modus vivendi. The differences that existed were overlooked in an effort to promote Islamic goals. In fact, in some areas of international relations, such as antipathy to Israel and the United States, Islamic factions remain united.

But since American intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq a fundamental change has occurred, so fundamental that it may shift the lot of 1.3 billion Muslims across the globe. If, as Churchill implied and imams now infer, Islam is a religion based on frenzied fanaticism, a strategy must be adopted to transform Islam, i.e., to alter its focus and neutralize its violent impulses.

That strategy--largely ignored by myrmidons in the media world--is to turn Islam against itself. The saber rattling by Ahmadinejad and his desire for a Shia Crescent have mobilized Sunnis from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.

The Sudanese government recently expelled Shia proselytizers from a book fair. Egyptian leaders talk openly about their distrust of Iranian motives. And King Abdullah of Jordan closed a Shia shrine because he doesn't want "trouble makers" visiting his nation.

It is plausible that a regional war could be fought in the Middle East in which Egypt and Saudi Arabia fight against Iran. It is equally plausible that the Sunni majority around the globe is potentially mobilized to contain the ambitions of Shia militia in Iraq and Ahmadinejad's military force.

While the only reformation Islam has known is Wahabbism, another reformation may be on the horizon that is a manifestation of Shia-Sunni hostility. That reformation could call for the repudiation of violence and result in a complete and utter transformation of Islam.

The Bush Doctrine, based on the containment and ultimately the elimination of jihadism in the neighborhood that spawns it, is a direct descendent of the Truman Doctrine that attempted to contain and undermine Communism. Iraq is merely one front in World War IV--to borrow a phrase from Norman Podhoretz (the Cold War being World War III). There will be many fronts and perhaps setbacks as well, but it is the impetus behind the Bush position to expose and defeat the jihadist and imperial ambitions of Islam and to convert it into the religion of peace the president has often cited.

Despite all of the criticism of the president, there is an apparent understanding of the threat that many Democrats and most media panjandrums do not comprehend. To state the matter starkly, either Islam is transformed or the West is doomed. Either the Bush Doctrine is successful in building a wedge between Shia and Sunni or the two major religious strains unite to undermine our civilization as we know it.

This "great divide" could be our salvation. What is unfolding in our time is Act I in a three-act drama. Bush may be the progenitor of the drama, but he will not be on stage when the victory occurs. That will be another time and another actor who I am confident will look back and pay proper heed to the much-abused Bush presidency and the implacable stand he adopted.

Anti-Americanism on American T.V.

Watching American television programs, specifically CNN, in Japan is a truly illuminating experience. While television producers will applaud the self-criticism that characterizes programming with reflexive references to the First Amendment, I am convinced that the steady dose of criticism aimed at the United States is nothing less than self-abasement.

While the United States does not yet have a culture as debased as the European where self-defense is now considered a form of undesirable discrimination, CNN is in the throes of attempting to undermine any American virtue. Day after day, hour after hour, CNN tells a Japanese audience that America is a land of wholesale racism and class discrimination.

Almost any decision from the location of a garbage dump to the selection of a football coach enters the realm of racial politics. In fact, Paula Zahn seemingly has only this one issue to discus usually in terms appropriate for adolescents. But it isn't the simplistic utterances she and her carefully selected guests express that bothers me as much as the continual drum beat of criticism.

Admittedly the United States is an imperfect nation fraught with problems. It is also the most tolerant, open, liberal, experimental, and generous nation the world has ever had. Whatever negative remark one can make about this nation is easily offset by something positive. But one will not know that by watching CNN. In fact, there isn't a scintilla of difference between CNN and al Jazeera. Is it any wonder anti-Americanism is widespread?

If I didn't know any better and watched CNN continually, I could easily adopt the opinion that the world would be a better place if the United States didn't exist.

Of course, it is not only the culture that is derided. The Bush administration is characterized as the worst in our national history; the president is either naive or a knave. He lies to promote his policies, but on the other hand, is too stupid to know anything or to have the wherewithal to do anything clever.

If one accepts this judgment, the American people must be very stupid to elect such a fool or they themselves must be easily fooled. Either way, it is hard to find positive sentiment about the American people.

Once again it is hardly surprising that Japanese visitors to the U.S. contend the American people are so different from their expectations. What kind of expectations can you have after watching CNN?

Thank goodness I do not watch the same television fare at home. But even if I did, I am accustomed to seeing America torn down and ripped apart by critics who are paid enormous sums to criticize freely. What I find difficult to appreciate, however, is how the Japanese viewer responds to this television fare.

Most of those I asked said America is not the place it once was. When asked to produce evidence to support this claim, most respondents say T.V. programs convinced them. Alas, without a contrary view, T.V. could convince me as well.

Lest detractors contend I am an unthinking patriot, I would hastily note I am a patriot apposed to censorship and in favor of criticizing our government and leaders when appropriate. At the same time, I am sensitize to the fact that television is an international medium which has a responsibility to tell the truth to its viewers even if that means an occasionally positive story should be aired. Surely there must be something positive about this land of liberty, technical advancement and prosperity.

While criticism of Japan is evident on local programs, it is moderated by a sense of fair play and national loyalty. At times, Japanese obedience can be cloying. Nevertheless, I prefer it to the television talking heads in the U.S. who believe it is their God-given duty to tear America down in front of international audiences.

Anti-Americanism thy name is CNN.

When Good Intentions Lead to Bad Results

It is often astonishing to consider how those with good intentions often do dangerous things. For example, the UCS (Union of Concerned Scientists), the soi disant speakers for scientific morality, issued the following statement:

The development and use of ASAT [anti-satellite] weapons threatens to undermine relationships and fuel military tension between space faring nations.

The group urged the U.S. "to enter international discussions to develop rules guiding the use of space and to ban the testing and use of destructive ASAT weapons."

The presumption in these comments, like the presumptions made about anti-missile defenses two decades ago, is that if the U.S. engages in restraint other nations including putative or prospective enemies will do so as well.

In 1985, due to the efforts of the UCS the Congress prohibited a test of a missile that could disable a satellite several hundreds miles in space. Our anti-satellite program was effectively neutered.

Unfortunately for us, China does not have a UCS and, even if it did have one, the government would ignore it. At the end of January 2007 China destroyed an aging weather satellite with a missile 530 miles from earth.

While we give lip service to the demilitarization of space, the Chinese--using technology we sold or they confiscated--have raised the ante in the military technology race.

What this means, on a practical level, is the U.S. could be deprived of space as an intelligence platform in warfare. The military's reliance on surveillance and positioning could be compromised. More important, the network of satellites needed to create an antiballistic defense shield is also in jeopardy.

Of course, a test--no matter how impressive--does not mean China is prepared to use this military asset against the United States. However, it does mean that a battle carrier group sent to the Taiwan Straits could easily be neutralized by an anti-satellite missile that renders it blind and exposed.

Now the question must be asked: what is the effect of America's good intentions? We are concerned about the militarization of space and have sponsored legal conventions to avoid this result. But the vacuum has been filled. Just as Hitler ignored the Kellogg Briand Pact that outlawed war "as an instrument of national policy," the Chinese have ignored conventions and America's leadership in outlawing the militarization of space.

For all practical purposes, space is now militarized. The onus is on the U.S. to address this Chinese technical advance or be a helpless behemoth on the globe's oceans. It is instructive that the UCS has not issued a statement about the Chinese technical achievement, nor have alarms gone off in the nation's scientific community.

Yet this is an ominous development that clearly challenges U.S. military superiority. If Max Boot is correct in asserting that technical military advances influence the course of history, it may well be that history is not on America's side.

And if there is blame to level, one must start with organizations such as the UCS, which in its effort to do good ignores the fact that America's sense of fair play is not always shared by other nations. In this case, China has a military doctrine of asymmetrical warfare that posits a need to destroy the military assets of a potential foe before war actually begins.

I hope the U.S. takes heed of this message. I hope we study Chinese military doctrine. And I hope, most of all, that we ignore the admonitions of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Almighty Dollar Less Mighty

Having recently spent some time in Europe, I can personally attest to the claim the "almighty dollar" is in descent. An only four-year-old euro is gaining dramatically in the competition of the two currencies.

In the past year the dollar fell ten percent in value vis-a-vis the euro. Now one is obliged to pay $1.32 for each euro, an exchange rate that evokes cries of frustration from American tourists in the European Union.

What this portends is a weakening U.S. economy at a time when business conditions in Europe are improving. In this scenario, one might assume the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates, while borrowing costs in the euro region are rising.

But scenarios often run headlong into political and economic realities. Rising rates in Europe will attract foreign capital that might have gravitated to the United States. As a consequence, the Fed will probably refuse to cut interest rates, suggesting instead that there is a need to keep inflationary pressures in check. Of course, the prime motivation for this Fed decision is the dollar's weakness.

In the past, foreign investments flowed to the U.S., despite meager returns, because America offers a safe harbor for assets. Low returns are merely an insurance premium for security.

But Europe is looking very secure as well. Moreover, foreign investors are understandably worried about currency losses when they repatriate U.S. dollars.

Should employment growth stall or corporate profits weaken, there will be pressure on the Fed to lower interest rates, cuts that will put inexorable pressure on the dollar.

My vision, however, is limited. The state of the bullish euro may be quite temporary. If one considers the demographic conditions in Europe, the unfunded liability for pensioners and the generally uncompetitive industrial base, the future of the euro does not seem secure. The rise and fall of a currency are related to specific events over a limited period. Bold assertions about the future of the euro are certainly misplaced.

Surely some of the conditions predicted for Europe apply to the U.S. as well. An unfunded entitlement liability looms large in the nation's future as does our relatively uncompetitive industrial base. It is not coincidental that Toyota will overtake G.M. as the world's leading car manufacturer this year. Nonetheless, the U.S. appears to be a more resilient economy than Europe and, as a consequence, less affected by shocks to the system.

If I were to wager, my bet is the U.S. dollar will strengthen in the next few years, despite a rocky short-term scenario. I would argue as well that persistent discussion of potential inflation will characterize economic debate. While some of this pressure exists due to relatively high oil prices, among other factors, the real reason for the discussion is the use of inflation as the pretext for high interest rates that bolster the dollar.

If the U.S. wants to be the harbor for foreign capital, capital on which the government is increasingly dependent, the Fed cannot allow interest rates to falter. This is the new and real economic predicament of the moment, albeit what we experience today may be very different several years from now. In economics it is wise to keep predicting; at some point, you may be right.

Conyers and House Corruption

Here we go again. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, said plaintively that ethics indiscretions would not be tolerated on her watch, a comment quite similar to the one made by former President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Yet remarkably, several weeks after her comment, the House Ethics Committee revealed that John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had "accepted responsibility" (admitted guilt?) for a series of violations involving members of his staff.

What was perhaps most notable is that the report was issued on the Friday before the New Year holiday weekend in an obvious attempt to avoid publicity. No matter what Democratic leaders said about Jack Abramoff and his ties to Republican elected officials, corruption in Washington is bipartisan.

According to reports, Conyers used several staffers as personal servants requiring them to baby-sit, chauffeur him to events, and help around the house. Sound familiar? New York's state comptroller Alan Hevesi, lost his job and pleaded guilty to a felony for doing pretty much the same thing with taxpayer-funded employees.

What is Conyers losing? According to Ms. Pelosi, nothing. He will be the chairman of the powerful Judiciary committee, notwithstanding his transgressions. In fact, Conyers did not admit to any wrongdoing, just a "lack of clarity." He now promises to follow "new procedures" with his staff. Presumably Conyers didn't know the House rules, despite having been a member for 42 years.

This, of course, is a very interesting way for Ms. Pelosi to dispose of the evidence of "unethical" behavior, even when one of Conyers' key aides resigned, saying she "could not tolerate it any longer."

In this case the Republicans, already burned by their own scandals, averted their gaze. The New York Times, accustomed to partisanship, didn't even give the story a glancing blow. And Ms. Pelosi reiterated her support for Conyers even with his tarnished reputation.

Of course, this isn't the first time and, most likely, won't be the last time a Congressional ethics committee offered a whitewash for one of its own. It was certainly done for Senator Al D'Amato and Representative Gary Studds among others.

If there were truth in advertising, it would be noted that a Congressional Ethics investigation is to ethics what rap is to music. It appears to be related or at least offers the pretense of a relationship, but is really nothing of the kind. Now one assumes "responsibility" and moves on. I've long wondered what assuming responsibility in the present context means. Today those culpable of transgressions merely say, "Yes I did it" and then contend--rightly it turns out--that all is forgiven or ignored. In a cosmology of ethical relativism, it is understandable that firm standards do not exist.

However, what is the message being delivered to the American people? Presumably if you are in power, you can get away with almost anything. Instead of a system based on the consent of the governed, we have reverted to a system of the descent of the governors. Power brokers in DC have gone from being servants of the people to their masters as corruption saps legitimacy from this democratic polity. *

"These politicians, when they can't make politics pay, can always fall back on---the honorable practice of law." --Will Rogers

Friday, 23 October 2015 16:14

A Word from London

A Word from London

Herbert London

Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.

A 2007 Economic Forecast

With dark clouds on the horizon, economists--inclined to pessimism--have talked about the coming economic storm. A slowdown in the housing market and concern about weak growth have awakened fear the American economy is in for a hard landing.

At the risk of seeming Pollyannaish, there is, in my judgment, little evidence to support a recession scenario. The U.S. economy remains in transition to a slower pace of growth than we've known over the last few years. Consumer spending may slow down, but at a barely discernible pace. And even with mortgage rates higher than four years ago, a large inventory of affordable homes allows for some activity in this market. Average gasoline prices are 20 percent below August peak. Employment is still rising, albeit at a slower rate than before, and unemployment is at a record low level (4.5 percent). Real income growth should increase reflecting continued wage gains and a temporary decline in the inflation rate.

On the downside, overall wealth may decline as housing values decrease and overall spending is set for sub-par levels over the next few quarters. Corporate profit will probably slow down in the year ahead along with a deceleration in capital spending. With consumer spending and residential investment accounting for about three-quarters of gross domestic product, the overall economy will undoubtedly face tepid growth.

A U.S. slowdown and the possibility Chinese authorities will try to curb the growth of investment spending from its previously rapid pace, suggest the world economy may slow down as well, in what will be a pause in the international development trend.

U.S. investors have grown appropriately realistic about returns on investment after having been seduced by the vertiginous returns in the 1995 to 2000 period. In fact, what one observes in the market is investor skepticism about an equity rally. Over the last quarter there were net redemptions in the mutual fund industry.

While it is a given that long-term commodity prices will increase due to growing demand for resources, commodities in the short term will be affected by a global slowdown. Moreover, the dollar's relative interest rate advantage will continue to erode as well as its strength vis-a-vis the pound and the yen.

In general, this is neither a very bleak nor an exceedingly hopeful picture. But it surely does not infer recessionary pressure. The Fed may be prepared to lower rates again with attention given to weak corporate profits, but in my opinion this is a temporary move offset by inexorable inflationary pressure. Equities may be vulnerable because of earnings concerns, but they should trend higher if there is an end to Fed tightening.

As is always the case, there are risks to this outlook. A spike in inflation could alter the picture. Oil disruptions could dramatically affect the scenario. The housing downturn might prove to be more influential than anyone now anticipates. And there are always international events that could affect my economic profile. The geopolitical picture is an ongoing source of risk and uncertainly with a plenitude of imponderables.

Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the U.S. economy has shown itself to be highly resilient and adaptable to shock in recent years and there isn't any reason to believe things will be different in 2007.

Policy Conundrums

When it comes to public policy it is wise to remember the ancient Chinese maxim: "Be careful of what you wish for; you might get it."

There are several major issues facing the nation that defy consistent and rational explanation, hence the conundrum attribution.

It is asserted by the Bush administration that a reduction of imported foreign oil should be a feature of national energy policy. The argument is made that Americans are propagating terrorism through this reliance on Middle East oil, an argument--I should hastily note--with which I heartily agree.

On the other hand, there is a strong desire on the part of the American consumer for lower gas prices at the pump. In fact, this price issue will prove critical in the next election.

But here is the conundrum: In order to wean ourselves from foreign oil, the nation needs oil between $60 to $70 a barrel in order to make alternatives economically attractive. If one were to rely on the market for rational choice, high oil prices represent the incentive for energy innovation. Low oil prices--that can be manipulated by the OPEC oil cartel--suggest a continued reliance on foreign oil.

Politically you're damned if you want the price for a barrel of oil high and damned if you want it low.

For years I have heard the mantra in the academy that diversity has a desirable educational effect. The presumption is that people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds offer "spice" to the academic setting. As a consequence, decades ago affirmative action programs were instituted that mandated diversity. The plaintive cry for more Blacks or Hispanics was heard across the collegiate landscapes and recruitment efforts for designated minorities moved into third gear.

Now that there has been virtually universal compliance, diversity has been converted into homogeneity. Every campus looks the same; in fact, what would truly be different is a lily-white campus, albeit that isn't a position I am advocating.

What I am suggesting is that mandated efforts at diversity will inexorably become homogeneous. In fact, since they are mandated, no other result is possible.

The nation is also involved in a heated debate on illegal immigration. One side argues that the 12 million illegal immigrants are needed to sustain the economy. The other side contends that illegals have violated our sovereignty and should be deported. Leave aside the veracity of either position for the moment. If the illegals are necessary for the prosperity America enjoys, then there is an argument for porous borders. But it could also be maintained that offering privilege to those illegals who work in the United States suggests there are advantages for breaking the law.

In this conundrum economic motives run headlong into legal and national sovereignty concerns. Either Americans want illegals for menial jobs or they don't want illegals because they violate our laws. You simply cannot have it both ways.

Last, with the war in the Middle East causing death and devastation, many people argue a ceasefire is necessary, i.e., peace will come when the shooting stops. But in this case, peace can only come when Hezbollah, the initiators of violence, are destroyed by the Israeli Defense Force. Hence peace, or stability, is a function of war. If you want peace in the Middle East, a decisive war is necessary; if you want a ceasefire, that is merely a prelude to the next war.

When it comes to public policy, it is worth recalling Emerson's caustic comment that "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. . ."

The Iraq Study Group Report and the Munich Accord

If the Iraq Study Group Report reveals anything it is that the Guns of August have succumbed to the Munich Accord. This report reveals fatigue, a national fatigue, with war, terrorism and sectarian differences. We want to get off this merry-go-round, but simply don't know how. And the Report--in my opinion--offers hope, but hope without satisfactory answers.

For example, the Executive Summary notes that "the United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability." Assuming for a moment the Palestinian cause is just, what Israel can offer in order to maintain its security is not what the Arab world considers appropriate. Second, even if some understanding were achieved with Israel giving up Golan and the West Bank, regional instability would still exist since Ahmadinejad is intent on establishing a Shia crescent across the Middle East.

A new diplomatic initiative is called for in which all the parties in the area including Iran and Syria are asked to participate. I haven't any objection to talking, but what do we say? Is the price of Iranian involvement in establishing stability in Iraq averting our gaze to the enrichment of uranium program and development of nuclear weapons?

The Report argues that one incentive for Iranian and Syrian participation is that "Iraq . . . does not disintegrate and destabilize its neighbors and the region." Yet it is precisely this destabilization that Iran and Syria have engendered and their strategic vision is based on the installation of a puppet government in Iraq, not unlike the present effort with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Report also called for "political and economic reforms instead of advocating regime change." This is an artfully crafted diplomatic statement that means we will halt all efforts to displace Ahmadinejad through support of unions and student groups dissatisfied with the existing regime. In this one sentence, the Bush Doctrine of promoting democracy in the area is facing expiration.

Moreover, the Report calls on the United Nations to play a more active role, notwithstanding the fact that the oil-for-food scandal permitted by the UN allowed Saddam Hussein to rearm after his defeat in 1991, and the UN has displayed an unalloyed bias against Israel and, to a major degree, United States' interests.

The hot button, the truly significant recommendation in this report, is that "there must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts." This effort, the Report notes, should include the unconditional calling and holding of meetings, under the auspices of the United States or the Quartet (i.e., U.S., Russia, European Union and the UN) between Israel and Lebanon and Syria on the one hand, and Israel and Palestinians on the other. Yet the Report utters not a word on how "peace" can be achieved when violence promoted by the Arab and Persian protagonists has brought the region to the place where Israeli concessions are now being demanded. For Iranians, Hamas, Hezbollah and Syrians violence pays dividends.

Last, in a paragraph dealing with "a final peace settlement" one finds the words "the right of return." If there is a dagger placed right at the heart of Israel, it can be found in these four words. What they mean, if decoded, is that Israel should not exist as a Jewish state; i.e., Arabs displaced voluntarily or involuntarily in 1948 when Israel was recognized as a nation should have the right to return, swamping the tiny nation of Israel with those who would transform it into an Arab state.

As I see it, this report places Israel in the position of the Sudetenland of 2007, a pawn in the larger calculation of great powers. In 1938 the Munich Accord was heralded as the opening of "peace in our time." Of course, history shows it merely whetted Hitler's appetite for further conquest. Will the Iraq Study Group Report have the same affect on Iran and Syria? I find the answer quite obvious and equally frightening.

It May Be Too Late for Europe

European leaders are once again asking their citizens to vote on E.U. membership. Apparently you keep voting until you get it right. What was once rejected in France and Sweden will soon be on the ballot again.

Politically, Western Europe, notwithstanding the popularity of Sarkozy and Merkle, is poised to lurch to the left with the European Union standing as a symbol of the socialist embrace. For decades Europeans have been seduced by the cradle-to-grave welfare system that provides six-week vacations and retirement at 55. Some American analysts such as Jeremy Rifkin have argued this is the wave of the future.

Alas, they may be right. What these analysts and Western Europeans do not seem to appreciate is that the well has gone dry. The economies that grew at a double-digit rate after World War II are now limping along with an unfunded liability that staggers the imagination. All of these states look to the E.U. as the answer to their economic problems. If there were truth in expression, they would call this policy "beggar thy neighbor."

Adding to European woes is a welfare system that served as a magnet for Muslims from Morocco to Turkey. They are in Western Europe to stay and despite well-meaning efforts at integration, remain separate from the societies in which they find themselves. Their birthrate is twice that of the Europeans and, if demography is destiny, may soon become a third of the European population. This scenario of Eurabia described by Bernard Lewis and Bat Ye'or has gained prominence across the continent, but no one has the slightest idea of what to do about it.

Any adjustment, even minor adjustments, in the welfare system is considered an act of betrayal. Europeans want the easy life and are unwilling to consider retrenchment even when conditions call for it. As a consequence, liberals and conservatives speak the same dirigiste language. Serious Europeans realize welfare reform is needed, but no one will risk a political career by saying so.

Some Americans observing political attitudes believe that Europeans deserve the disaster that lurks over the horizon. Yet this view is also short sighted. A Europe in disarray will have a direct and negative influence on the United States.

The nexus between generous welfare provisions and the so-called Muslim problem has by and large been ignored. In part, this is due to incrementalism. Muslims didn't swarm into Europe all at once; they came gradually until the numbers startled politicians. Cities like Marseille, Malmo and the periphery of Paris are ostensibly Muslim cities cut off from the rest of society through voluntary separation and a tolerance for Sharia.

But these separate enclaves have the same claims on the public purse as everyone else. They know it and European leaders know it. In fact, whenever there are riots, as there were in France last year, the government responds with a new housing program or a job creation project or health facilities, as if those tangible signs of government intervention will make a difference.

Why do I say it may be too late? I contend that is the case because a constituency for genuine reform doesn't exist. The tax base cannot expand rapidly enough for the demands placed on government. And the politicians cannot get elected unless they promise to maintain the present system. Muslims are in Europe because they too want the benefits a welfare state provides. Where then are the reformers?

Some might say they are on the right. But a Europe that swings in that direction has been seen before; its sanguinic legacy is etched into the history books as fascism. It is instructive, of course, that while contemporary fascists want to deport Muslims wholesale, they too share the command economy infatuation.

There is a certain inexorability to historical movement. A Europe that was once the inspiration for the world desperately needs inspiring today. The axis of power and vitality has moved from west to east. Unfortunately Europeans live with the illusion that their extended vacations on the Cote d'tzur will go on indefinitely. But the day of reckoning is coming and it won't be a pretty sight.

Complacency on Both Sides of the Atlantic

A Yeats observing the human condition today might well ask, "Can the center hold?" If one considers the assassination of Pierre Gamyel in Lebanon, the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the massive slaughter of innocent lives in Baghdad, it is easy to arrive at the conclusion that entropy is inexorable.

One might also note that complacency is ubiquitous. Shoppers on Oxford Street in London are largely oblivious to the crime that was probably committed by Russian officials against a citizen of the United Kingdom. Is this a lack of concern, apathy, or events too grim to contemplate?

The answer may be a combination of "all of the above." Whether it is Tony Blair or George W. Bush, Western leaders are reluctant to talk seriously about malaise on the world stage. Jimmy Carter did it once and paid a heavy political price for it. Instead leaders say, go about your daily business, visit a mall, and consider gifts for the Christmas holiday.

A volunteer army makes it easy to ignore national duty. That is merely someone else's responsibility. Most Americans cannot locate Iraq on a map and the typical Englishman is more likely to know the name of a prominent footballer than the general leading British forces in the Middle East.

Popular culture seemingly dulls the capacity for serious thought. British talk show hosts are obsessed with the sexual exploits of their guests. And their American counterparts find humor in the most perverse aspects of cultural life. "Borat," the film, is a classic example of defining culture down to a level where one doesn't know whether to laugh or flee. Nothing is out of bounds, with the possible exception of suggesting global warming is grossly exaggerated. On both sides of the Atlantic the general public has been desensitized.

Every night maimed bodies are on camera revealing the deplorable state of dehumanization. At some point the real and unreal converge, making truth a casualty of television commentary.

With so much bloodletting, it is understandable many people prefer to wear metaphorical blinders. It is hard to imagine the worldview of a suicide bomber who is eager to kill himself and others. It is impossible for those in the West to contemplate the extent to which nihilism has gained traction in the Middle East.

We amuse ourselves to a level of false consciousness. By contrast our global enemies encourage youthful martyrs to blow themselves up willingly as long as they take the lives of "infidels" with them.

The question that remains is whether the West can recover from constant amusement and find the mind set for battle. That is the question that haunts us. The Islamic world is convinced the West has grown soft and malleable. Any random selection of Western television fare would confirm that judgment. The hope, however, is that any such conclusion is premature.

Presumably another 9/11 or worse would mobilize Western will. But that is a scenario any sensible person would hope to avoid. It seems that we are consumers of immediacy, taking each day as it comes, hoping for the best, but reacting ostrich-like to the parade of current events.

One may believe history is on our side. But history is a fickle master relying on handmaidens of destiny, those willing to shape their future. Are we the prospective victors or the progenitors of a fate shaped by complacency? The question begs a response. *

"'Trust but verify,' Reagan discovered, applied not only to the Soviets but also to the Democrats in Congress." ---Lyn Nofziger

Friday, 23 October 2015 15:58

A Word from London

A Word from London

Herbert London

Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.

The Futility of the Third Way in the War Against Islamic Terror

Based on the violent Islamic reaction to Pope Benedict's Regensberg speech, it should be apparent that despite dozens of analyses claiming that some form of negotiation with al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the mullahs in Iran, and radical Islamists generally is possible, actions reveal a different story. "If only Israel were more accommodating;" "if only the United States would withdraw its troops from the Middle East," these negotiate first types contend. After all, isn't "jaw jaw" better than "war war"?

What this position conspicuously overlooks is that there isn't a third way in the emerging global conflict. There are two stark choices: appease the terrorists or fight them. In fact, Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, admitted the utter futility of negotiation when he said,

The Jews love life so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win because they love life and we love death.

If, as appears transparently clear, the goal of terrorist organizations is to destroy liberal, tolerant societies and replace them with a rigid theocratic dictatorship that enforces Islamic law, there isn't anything to discuss. There isn't any common ground between their vision and ours. As one mullah noted along the lines of Nasrallah's statement: "We are not trying to exact concessions from you. We are trying to eliminate you."

It is understandable that Western governments seek to avoid conflict. They want to persuade the electorate that war can be offset by reasonable exchanges. Yet it is abundantly clear that any effort at negotiation is one-sided. There is nothing the terrorist wants except complete and unconditional submission by "the infidels."

Since it is hard to come to grips with this intolerance in basically tolerant societies, leaders in the West engage in a verbal minuet. They assert religious freedom for all, or freedom of expression, even when preachers of hate encourage murder and provide succor for terrorism.

For example, the British government introduced the Terrorist Act of 2006 in direct response to the 7/7 rail and bus attacks. Yet the provisions of this act, which were intended to prosecute those who would glorify acts of terror, has not been applied to Islamist preachers who stated that the murders on July 7, 2005 "raised the banner [for] jihad in the UK, which means it is allowed for suicide bombers to attack" and non-Muslims should be converted or killed: "Capture them and besiege them and prepare for an ambush from every angle." One mullah insisted that those murdered in the grisly attack were as "kuffar" or non-Muslims, "animals and cowards."

By failing to act against those who make these outlandish comments, governments perpetuate and encourage the vitriol. It was the failure to act decisively in the first place that allowed Islamic terrorism to gain a foothold in the West. The continued reluctance to prosecute only exacerbates the mortal danger we face.

I am reminded of Yeats' words in "The Second Coming:" "The best lack of conviction, while the worst/are full of passionate intensity." Those who slumber in the procedural nuances of democratic chambers must marshal the requisite fire to oppose and defeat ruthless, uncompromising spiritual fanatics. As long as the legal apparatus in the West allows jihadists to flourish, we are planting the seeds of our own destruction.

Can we revive the moral fiber necessary to defeat this implacable enemy? Will the public arise as one indignantly arguing that leaders must do whatever is necessary to thwart home-grown fanatics? Can we pursue the war on terror with the same conviction and robustness of World War II?

The answer to the questions lies in the future and the future of our civilization lies in the answer.

Why the U.S. Is Silent

According to Noah Feldman, professor of law at NYU, writing in the New York Times 10/1/06, there is a rational case to be made for the United States to negotiate with its enemies ("Why Not Talk?"). After all, he notes, our allies are already engaged in negotiations, despite the absence of the United States.

"What's the point of not talking, especially when others are talking for us?" he asks. It is instructive that Professor Feldman answers this question quite effectively even though he doesn't adjust his conclusion for his own logic. He writes,

. . . some enemies--a Hitler or a Pol Pot--may be so repugnant that the mere prospect of reaching a compromise with them would violate our deepest moral principles. The only time it would be right to hear them out is when they are proposing to surrender.

Alas, that is precisely why negotiations with the present assemblage of enemies isn't possible. Given their intractable position and hatred of the United States, compromise is impossible, as is rational discourse. Sheik Nasrallah stated the enemy's stance blatantly when he said,

Death to America is not a slogan. Death to America is a policy, a strategy and a vision.

If this is the starting point, on what basis is negotiation possible?

And yet, says Feldman, "even intractable interlocutors may be worth engaging." Here is the diplomat's calling card--better to jaw, jaw than war, war. While diplomacy has its place, it is also true that negotiations offer legitimacy to tyrants; formal talk provides a basis for the status-quo.

In Iran, for example, it is probably true that most people resent Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. Pro-democracy movements are at a delicate stage of development. What they need is assurance that the United States stands behind their effort at regime change.

Feldman contends that diplomacy led incrementally to the integration of Western Europe, a dubious contention, but one that reinforces the validity of diplomacy. The analogy of Western Europe and Iran, however, is absurd since the mullahs are driven by a religious impulse to imperialize the region, destroy Israel ("wipe it off the map") and then consider war against the infidels. As Ahmadinejad has noted, Israel is the appetizer; the U.S. is the main course.

Our refusal to speak to the enemy may have its negative side but, on balance, silence in the face of a morally repugnant tyranny is much to be preferred, in my judgment. The problem the U.S. has at the moment is that many Americans either do not recognize the moral repugnance of the enemy or they believe--having been brainwashed by Hollywood inspired anti-Americanism--that the U.S. is the immoral actor on the world stage.

Feldman contends we need a diplomatic "breakthrough," a point with which I agree. But in the case of Iran, the Europeans have offered every "carrot" the mind can conjure from Airbus planes and money to nuclear energy plants if only the Iranian government will cease its enrichment of uranium as a first step for nuclear weapons development. Is there more we could offer?

Moreover, this scenario is beginning to resemble the Munich Accord of 1936 with European diplomats sounding eerily like Neville Chamberlain. Will Israel serve as the Sudetenland of 2006? The West bends over backwards to avoid conflict--an understandable stance--but in the end respect and flexibility will emerge in Iran when the things the government values are put at risk.

Diplomacy does involve a carrot and a stick. So far European diplomacy is all carrots and no sticks. Perhaps that is a good reason for American silence. We should, as T. R. once said, "speak softly, but carry a big stick." I would argue silence on our part is justified until the European diplomatic initiative runs its course and stalemate is the result, which I'm confident will be the case.

Feldman ends his piece by noting, "In an ideological age, diplomacy may seem weak and prosaic. But sometimes it is all we have." I suspect Churchill, among others, would strongly disagree.

Intimidation and Preemptive Surrender in the West

Some might call it preemptive surrender, others describe it as appeasement, and still others refer to this condition as falling prey to intimidation. However one describes this phenomenon, it is clear the West is fast becoming overwhelmed by the force of Islam.

Two recent events reinforce this conclusion.

The Media Research Center issued a September 2006 report entitled: "The Media vs. The War on Terror," in which it is pointed out that in general the media leaders are far more interested in exposing tactics that may undermine American civil liberties than in addressing tactics for defeating Islamic radicals.

For example, most of the network coverage of Guantanamo focused on the rights of captured terrorists or allegations that they were mistreated or abused. Network reporters portrayed the inmates as "victims," yet not one report about Guantanamo prisoners included commentary from the genuine victims of 9/11, family members who lost a loved one.

Most network stories cast the NSA's terrorist surveillance program as either legally dubious or illegal. ABC, CBS, and NBC were five times more likely to showcase experts who criticize the NSA's surveillance program than supporters.

At the end of September Berlin's Deutsche Opera removed the staging of a Mozart opera from its schedule for fear of enraging Muslims, opera house officials said.

Hans Neuenfel's production of "Idomeneo," a 1781 drama set in ancient Crete, was cancelled because opera authorities felt it presented an "incalculable security risk." In the staging King Idomeneo presents the lopped-off heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha, and the Prophet Mohammed and displays them on chairs.

Some critics viewed the show as a radical attack on religion, all religions. But music director Kirsten Harms decided that the staging would be regarded as an insult to Muslims which could result in "danger to the audience or staff," since Islam considers images of the prophet as blasphemous.

Consider the following conditions. Suppose al Jazeera ran programs that described violent tactics employed by Jihadists. Suppose as well that the music director at the Egyptian Opera House chose to promote a production with a pro-American and pro-Israeli theme. So farfetched are these possibilities that they cannot be seriously entertained.

Yet here is the issue. What is good for the goose is not good for the gander. Intimidation has changed the cultural calculus in the West. As notable, there isn't any sense of reciprocity.

We accept this form of intimidation and appeasement. It is now a cultural given. By contrast, we also expect intolerance from the Islamic world.

It was instructive that Pope Benedict's speech, which quoted from a medieval text that said the teaching of the Prophet Mohammed was "evil and inhuman," sparked Muslim anger. What Jihadists were saying in effect is if you say we're intolerant, we will intimidate you with intolerant tactics.

But where is the West's resolve? Why should we stand by or be complicit in this form of intimidation?

The debate in the future is not over a decision to cancel a performance or whether one has the right to challenge a president. Of course, both should be possible. The real question is do we have what it takes to stand up to the intimidators and assert a defense of our way of life. Recent events give one pause.

Former President Carter and His Middle East Views

It is one thing when Lebanon's prime minister Fouad Siniora calls Israel "a savage war machine." After all, he's now in the grip of Hezbollah domination. It is hardly surprising when Human Rights Watch, increasingly anti-Zionist, releases a study in which Israel's bombing "cannot be dismissed as mere accidents and cannot be blamed on wrongful Hezbollah practices." But when former President Carter told a German newspaper that Israel was not justified in bombing and invading Lebanon and Gaza, the mind boggles.

"I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their (sic) massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon," Carter told Der Spiegel. "What happened," noted Carter,

. . . is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza. I do not think that's justified.

That isn't all. Carter also criticized President Bush for not having attempted "in the last six years" to negotiate a peace settlement between the Israelis and their neighbors.

One might excuse these contentious comments or attribute them to the inexorable aging process were they not so morally obtuse and historically inaccurate.

Let's start with the prisoner question. Those held captive in Israel are terrorists who tried to subvert the Israeli government or engage in the murder of Israeli citizens. How can they be compared in any way to IDF soldiers who would never even contemplate intentionally killing innocent civilians and would be court marshaled if there was evidence to support such acts?

Second, Israel bombed civilian areas in Lebanon because these were areas from which missiles were fired. In fact, notwithstanding Human Rights Watch claims to the contrary, Israel did everything in its power to restrict collateral damage. By contrast, Hezbollah fired rockets and missiles into the center of Haifa without regard for the lives that were put in jeopardy.

Third, President Carter conspicuously avoids any mention of the Hezbollah rocket attacks that preceded and precipitated the war. In reading his remarks, one could easily arrive at the conclusion he believes Israel started the bombing for its own strategic advantage.

Fourth, it is astounding that Carter is unaware of the relentless efforts of the Bush administration to fashion a Palestinian-Israeli settlement. For years, the Bush team has enunciated a "two state" solution for the area and in 2002 the president unfurled a road map--embraced by both Abu Mazen and Ariel Sharon for the resolution of differences. Was Carter simply asleep during this period or is he so filled with partisan venom, he cannot recognize President Bush's desire?

Fifth, Mr. Carter overlooks the obvious fact that Israel unilaterally withdrew from southern Lebanon and Gaza. However, the former president chooses to characterize these moves, they were painstaking for Israel and had the unintended effect of emboldening terrorists.

This is not the first time the Nobel Peace Prize recipient has made foolish and myopic statements, nor is this likely to be the last such occasion. But when Carter describes events in the Middle East, his reaction is invariably anti-Israel. In fact, in a series of self-deprecating comments at last year's Herzilya conference, Carter seemed to admit to his bias, albeit the remarks were aimed at "territorial balance."

In Carter's mind balance is equating Israel's right to exist with the terrorists' "right" to destroy.

Fortunately for the United States, Carter is no longer president. That, however, does not stop journalists from giving him a platform and taking his misguided views seriously. Surely the blind man cannot see; but as long as he has a tongue, he can still speak.

I would urge those who hear the former president's words to not take them that seriously. As Edward Teller once said about a colleague's fatuous claims, "since he is an intelligent man, I can only assume that he's kibitzing."

Flags of Our Fathers

"Flags of Our Fathers," a film directed and produced by Clint Eastwood has already been proclaimed "an American masterpiece" and "a monumental film." If my guess is correct it will be a film that receives several Oscar nominations and will once again place Mr. Eastwood in the pantheon of Hollywood heroes.

But as I see it "Flags of Our Fathers" is yet another cynical attempt to demythologize American glory and achievement. Yet, the battlefield scenes have the quality of verisimilitude. The grisly deaths and suffering have the touch of reality evoking moments of disgust. Iwo Jima is clutched from the pages of history and made unbelievably real.

That said, there is much else in this film that paints a different picture. The placement of the flag on Mount Suribachi is a moment that reflects American success in the war against Japan. What screen writers William Broyles and Paul Haggis contend is that it was staged. Since the first flag was taken down so that a government official could have it, the scene of several soldiers lifting the flag, a scene etched in the pages of the war, was an artifice, a false event. Moreover, since the faces of these men weren't shown, it wasn't clear who was actually in the photograph.

And so like Washington cutting down the cherry tree, the flag raising at Mount Suribachi becomes a debunked myth. But Eastwood isn't satisfied with that goal. He is eager to contrast the suffering of men on the battlefield with the exploitive behavior of hucksters on the home front. The innocent young men are pawns used to elicit public sympathy for the war effort. Once again Hollywood surrenders to the belief that America will sacrifice any principle for that bitch goddess Mammon. How ironic that this has become a Hollywood staple.

The tortured, guilt-ridden soldiers become national heroes transplanted from a ditch in a volcanic island to the heights of national admiration. But they recognize what the insensitive brass and a sheltered Harry Truman does not: the real heroes lie as corpses buried in ash and debris.

Eastwood makes the claim that these men didn't die for country; they died for their mates; comradeship brings a more compelling virtue than patriotism. Whether this clich is true is in some sense beside the point. Those men who shed their blood for America saved this nation from totalitarian fascism. Not once is that point made in the film.

The Japanese force on Iwo Jima fought bravely, perhaps fanatically, but what these troops represented was a threat to American democracy. My guess is the U.S. forces didn't express their fighting spirit by relying on patriotism, but in their guts they knew what they were fighting for. Of course, public relations types were enlisted to sell the war. These are the people who are the target of Eastwood's invective. The war, however, was just and necessary and preserved American society with all its flaws.

It has been said that Clint Eastwood took to heart a line from a John Ford Western: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." But Eastwood has actually done the opposite; he destroys the legend. He muddies flag waving sentiment and, in the process, attempts to undermine the need for heroes and models of emulation. The movie's emotional heart is the Ira Hayes character, a Pima Indian from Arizona who suffers from racist comments at the same time he was hailed as a hero. He eventually drank himself to death anonymously on an Indian reservation.

In the key scene in the film, the three unlikely heroes are asked to climb a papier mch model of Mount Suribachi in Soldier Field Chicago and raise an American flag. They know this exercise is a ruse. Riddled with guilt, they do so reluctantly waving wanly to a cheering crowd as fireworks fill the sky. Eastwood clobbers his viewer over the head with this faux moment, an embarrassing scene compared to the reality of blood-soaked Iwo Jima. Yet it was a necessary step in generating support for the war, notwithstanding the director's cynicism.

Wars are won because young men sacrifice their lives, but wars are also won because the public supports them. For the public, legends count. Those who puncture legends as if they are soap bubbles, don't understand how destructive this process can be.

More Financial Legerdemain at the UN

Revelations about financial abuse seem to haunt the United Nations. From misuse of funds to the gigantic draw down of the Oil for Food program, corruption grips the international organization from the Secretariat's office to the General Assembly.

Emerging full blown as yet another potential scandal is the plan to renovate and expand the UN. The plan under consideration calls for the renovation of 2.5 million square feet of the UN facility, which real estate moguls say consists of 60 percent office space that may be in need of renovation and 40 percent for the space representing garages, storage facilities, basements and sub-basements, etc. If one removes the 40 percent non-office space and assumes a high end $200 a square foot for renovation costs, the total expense for renovation should be about $300 million.

New space for expansion is estimated to be 900,000 square feet. Assume $300 a square foot for new construction, which I am informed by those in the know, to be a high end cost estimate, the total for expansion construction would be $270 million. Allowing for an additional respectable sum of say, $30 million for the existing non-office space deferred maintenance and cost contingencies on the new construction, the total cost for both the renovation and the new construction using high end estimates would total $600 million.

Now let's examine United Nations renovation and new construction estimates. The newly announced UN plan calls for $1.9 billion for renovation and $900 million for new construction for a total of $2.8 billion, a sum Senator Schumer says is "essential" for the UN building in distress.

If you deduct the $600 million from the UN estimate--which is a lavish sum by any reasonable real estate standard--you are left with $2.2 billion of "wasteful expense." Someone of course will benefit from these unnecessarily expended billions.

Since the United States taxpayers pay 22 percent of UN bills, that means that in this financial scenario the United States is being bilked to the tune of $484 million. This roughly half a billion dollar taxpayer overcharge to Americans would increase dramatically as the UN, predictably, will encounter cost overruns.

Is it any wonder that Donald Trump said he would do the entire project for $700 million? Even if he employed the lavish cost structure I outlined, he would still walk away from the completed project with $100 million.

Questions abound. Who came up with these estimates? Were they reviewed by UN officials? Who gets the vigorish in this deal? Who are the builders and how were they chosen? Did anyone in Congress look carefully at the UN plan? Where is Condi Rice? Who has Kofi Annan been talking to in the New York real estate world? Why doesn't someone take Donald Trump up on his challenge?

School children from all over the country make a pilgrimage to the United Nations. Well meaning teachers tell their students this enterprise was built to bring about world peace. Of course the words are a deception.

The UN has become a scam, a place where anti-American sentiment is promoted at the major expense of the American taxpayer. With renovation and expansion plans unfolding at a rapid pace, the scam gets even more bold and daring. UN officials will now waste billions on their mind-numbing plan.

Surely it is time for Americans to wake up and say, "we won't take it any more." If expansion or renovation is needed, then use the construction cost estimates based on the elite high rises on the upper east side of Manhattan. What is good enough for New York millionaires should be good enough for UN officials.

When Mark Mallock Brown, Deputy Secretary of the UN, said recently Middle America doesn't understand the UN, he has a point. Most Americans cannot afford office space at UN prices, nor are they easily taken for a real estate ride. In fact, most Americans are simply not in a position to spend other peoples' money on unnecessary expenditures.

Corruption, thy name is the United Nations. *

"Public affairs go on pretty much as usual: perpetual chicanery and rather more personal abuse than there used to be. . . . Our American Chivalry is the worst in the world. It has no Laws, no bounds, no definitions; it seems to be all a Caprice." --John Adams

Friday, 23 October 2015 15:40

A Word from London

A Word from London

Herbert London

Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.

Remembering 9/11

From the building I reside in I can see the World Trade Center (WTC) site, where a hole in the ground is a constant reminder of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. But in the area surrounding the WTC site, what we local residents call "our hole," there is extraordinary development.

The Goldman Sachs building is going up across the street. A supermarket is being built two blocks away. High-rise buildings seem to rise magically, as if defying construction requirements. Battery Park, where there are sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, has been refurbished with a magnificent fountain and new gardens. A dramatic tunnel is under construction connecting the subway system to the Staten Island ferry terminal.

Despite "our hole," downtown New York is alive, prospering and electric with possibilities. In many essential ways this description is a metaphor for the United States five years after the 9/11 attacks.

Our country has been scarred but remains resilient. The attack has clearly affected American attitudes. People are wary about unidentified packages in the subway system, and September 11 continues to be a day of remembrance and sadness. However, the dynamism that characterizes the United States is undiminished.

As I stood on Church Street staring at the WTC site last September 11, five tourists asked if I would join them for a spontaneous rendition of "God Bless America." My wife and I sang as tears rolled down our cheeks. We were united with strangers who wished to recall what America stands for. We were sad but steadfast, united in our appreciation of America and determined to resist those who would destroy our way of life.

To some degree 9/11 has faded from our collective memory. Patriotic sentiment is recalled, as my experience would suggest, but it has lost its immediacy. What is most noteworthy is that the spirit of America remains intact.

William Tyler Page wrote in American Creed:

I . . . believe it is my duty to my country to love it, support its Constitution, to obey its law, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.

Surely there are many in this land of the free who have the constitutional right to disagree, but, in my opinion, the overwhelming majority of Americans embrace this sentiment.

Pegged into this position are words such as love, honor, loyalty, pride, devotion, and sacrifice, words that suggest an emotional attachment. But patriotism for most Americans is not only reflexive emotion; it is also reasoned argument.

Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy In America claimed that customs, traditions, and a reverence for the past are emphasized, but that patriotism for Americans is a state of mind in which "citizens . . . grapple with the various aspects of America which are not so rose colored."

As I see, it 9/11 has brought to the fore liberal patriots who believe that they must work for political change consistent with their interpretation of the national creed, and conservative patriots who maintain an allegiance to the nation based on what the Founding Fathers intended. The differences are textured, representing perspective, rather than the basic concepts, which remain largely undisturbed.

September 11, 2001, was a fateful day for the nation, yet remarkably the notion of "my country, right or wrong" has not gained a foothold. Americans may be justifiably angry about those who would attack our land and people, but we are perpetually self-critical as any viewing of television news would suggest. We also have a well-ensconced memory of the good and a faith in our ability to change when that is necessary.

Hence my recollection of the horror of five years ago evokes a belief in human possibility and the stirring example of Americans who pick themselves up, dust themselves off and look to shape the days ahead.

Jacques Maritain once noted that what set the United States apart from other nations is that it is in "a continual state of becoming." The destruction the nation endured has forced Americans to look in the mirror to see strengths and warts, to regard the remarkable achievements and the challenges over the horizon.

There are, of course, those who embody the "historical grievance" position. What they see are only flaws. In each overheated claim they make, there is an incremental decline in the spirit that sustains patriotism. After all, why should anyone care about a nation of colonizers and imperialists, words that have been transmogrified into crimes?

Five years of reflection after the 9/11 attacks have refurbished Americans' belief in their country. In the end, even reasoned patriots who carefully weigh errors, mistakes, tragedy, and accomplishment, will find something positive on which to hang patriotic sentiment.

That hole in the ground sits as a reminder of human frailty and imperfectability, but it has not sapped a belief in ourselves or the will for regeneration.

There is a park soon to be completed where the World Trade Center once stood majestically. Several days ago I walked on this newly-constructed path, and in the shadow of the Twin Towers that remains embedded in my mind, I noticed a row of seedlings about to blossom.

Five years ago there was only dust on that ground; now flowers are about to bloom. Here is the America five years after 9/11: in the midst of despoliation, life appears doggedly fighting for a place in the sun.

Weighing the Scales of Justice in the Israeli-Hezbollah War

One of my many detractors wrote recently chastising me for my unequivocal support of Israel in this latest round of Middle East fighting.

He pointed to the devastation in Beirut and the 500 plus Lebanese deaths at the hands of Israeli bombing. His evocative e-mail deserves a reply; in fact, it deserves an expansive reply.

For several months hundreds of Hamas rockets were fired into Israeli towns not far from the Gaza border. Each day sirens went off and families went scurrying for underground shelters. The international press virtually ignored these attacks.

When a mile-long tunnel was dug across the Gaza border by Hamas terrorists and an Israeli soldier was kidnapped and several killed, very few newspapers noted that this was a planned provocation.

And when Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and rained missiles over the Lebanese border into northern Israel, many European news accounts called for Israeli restraint.

After these assaults, which can only be described as a casus belli, Israel took the gloves off by launching retributive air bombardment. At long last the world press took notice. Now it was argued--as my detractor noted--that Israel engaged in "disproportionate" devastation. It was noted as well that part of Beirut lay in waste and approximately 500 Lebanese residents were killed (at least 150 of these Hezbollah forces) as opposed to about 50 Israelis. Israel is now committed to the cessation of bombing after the horrible destruction of a school in which approximately 60 were killed.

But these numbers do not tell much of a story. That Israeli casualties are fewer than Lebanese is not for lack of Hezbollah efforts. Their Katyushas missiles are aimed at housing projects in Haifa. While there certainly has been collateral damage resulting from Israeli bombs, which is certainly lamentable, the IDF has done everything possible to avoid targeting civilians, even through Hezbollah intentionally deployed missile launchers in housing developments, particularly areas populated by Coptics, and even in the school that prompted the cease fire.

One recently overlooked event is instructive. Satellite surveillance picked up a missile launcher on the roof of a south Lebanese high school. Dozens of missiles were fired from this location, but fearing the death of hundreds of teenagers Israel did not eliminate the site. Finally an Israeli commander called the headmaster of the school beseeching him to evacuate the premises. Only then did Israeli mortars take out the school.

Consider the contrast. Hezbollah hasn't any regard for life and limb. Its missiles are fired into population centers without any regard for who is killed or maimed. Moreover, its forces are intentionally positioned in civilian centers. If Israel strikes them, it is guilty of war crimes. If it doesn't, the enemy is free to fire and is emboldened by Israeli reticence. Damned if you do; damned if you don't.

Israel is being asked to navigate the straits of Scylla and Charybdis. On the one shore are the sharks of Hezbollah--bloodthirsty and terroristic; on the other shore, is the hostile European press eager to torment Israel with accounts of atrocities. Israel is being asked to fight a war that is antiseptic, while Hezbollah is given a virtual free pass.

I don't blame my detractors for their critique of my views. How could they know any better when each night on the hourly news you get a body count of the dead and pictures of Beirut wreckage?

But even if the naive are blameless, the arguments are tiresome, tiresome because there is one standard for Israel and quite another for other nations. Every humane Israeli gesture is ignored and every Israeli imperfection exaggerated.

Even the Middle East hosts of terror, Iran and Syria, are treated with more respect than Israel. Israel is supposed to turn the other cheek when attacked. Spilled Israeli blood doesn't seem to have the same value as casualties from other lands. It is truly a wonder that these plucky people survive at all. Maybe that should be a matter my detractors consider as they watch CNN news that emphasizes Israeli-wrought devastation. So much for seeing is believing.

Predicting a Middle East Future

For those who rely on a crystal ball to predict the future, their diet as well as their predictions usually end up as crushed glass. Nonetheless, I will take my chance by offering my crystal ball analysis of the Middle East.

The much discussed peace treaty and ceasefire plan for Israel will have, in my opinion, the following outcomes.

Even if there is a period of relative quiescence with Lebanese and UN forces manning southern Lebanon, a Hezbollah military arm that is not completely crushed will reemerge at some point in the future and attack again. There isn't a substitute for victory, a lesson that must be learned and learned again.

Second, there will be Israeli political recriminations over prosecution of the war. The intelligence failures, the inadequate preparation of the military and the strategic plan to win the war on the cheap through a reliance on air power will lead to political upheavals with Kadima probably losing control of the government and Labor leader and Defense Minister Peretz forced into an ignominious resignation.

Third, Israel's border questions in Gaza, the West Bank and Golan will all be addressed by United Nations' pressure. The naive view that the Middle East can be stabilized with a Palestinian state will reemerge with new virulence.

Fourth, recognizing a psychological victory, since Hezbollah will not be ousted from Lebanon, Arab Muslim nations and Iran will be even more intransigent in resisting any peace with Israel. My guess is that Saudi Arabia and Egypt, nations that opposed Hezbollah, will revert to their anti-Israel stance in the future. Since Hezbollah has challenged Israel's seeming invincibility, the Arab dream of a Palestine from the Jordan to the Mediterranean has been restored.

What then can Israel do?

Perhaps the first and overarching issue is a reassessment of military strength and an examination of tactics and strategy, recognizing the deficiencies in the current battles and the steps necessary for remediation.

Second, Israel's vaulted intelligence assets must be restored. It is remarkable that Mossad did not know about all the tunnels and hidden fortifications Hezbollah built in southern Lebanon during the last five years.

Third, the Israeli government must confiscate all illegal weapons in Palestinian possession. The only way to prevent an attack launched from Gaza and the West Bank is to act now in order to forestall attacks later.

Fourth, just as Israel must punish the enemies intent on its destruction, it should also reward peace-seeking Palestinians and Arabs of other nations that approve of Israel's existence.

Fifth, any vision of a Palestinian state must, for the time being, be put in abeyance. As events have unfolded, a Palestinian state would be little more than a springboard for Iran,

Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah to destroy the sovereign state of Israel and establish a pan-Muslim Middle East free of the Jewish and American "virus."

Sixth, although there is understandable resistance to the idea of a wide regional war, Israel must prepare itself for a conflict with Syria and Iran. All the forensics from Hezbollah missile attacks indicate the origin of the violence resides in Damascus and Tehran. Unless conditions undergo miraculous alteration, Israel is likely to find itself battling these two nations in addition to its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas at some point in the future.

Seventh, a robust Arrow anti-missile system must be deployed everywhere in Israel, despite the fact it is ineffective against short-range missiles. As horrible as it may seem, Israel can no longer rule out or discount a missile attack from Iran that includes nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. Traditional deterrence may not forestall this horror since there is every indication religious fanaticism might trump survival.

If the war against Hezbollah has demonstrated anything, it is that peace, even stability, is unlikely against jihad-inspired forces of terror. Only military strength can save Israel, a lesson somehow forgotten or overlooked in this remarkable nation of survivors.

Orwellian Word Games in the Middle East

In the Orwellian media world we now live in, words mean whatever you want them to mean. Since the war between Israel and Hezbollah started, Sheikh Nasrallah has used the word "resistance" repeatedly in all his public comments. As might be expected, the press has followed suit.

Yet it is interesting to explore what Hezbollah is resisting. Israel voluntarily and unilaterally left southern Lebanon in conjunction with a UN accord. Israel did not respond in force to literally hundreds of rocket attacks against its northern territory until its soldiers were wantonly killed and three were kidnapped. And Israel did not challenge the UN when it didn't enforce Resolution 1559 which specifically called for the disarmament of Hezbollah.

What Hezbollah appears to be resisting is the very existence of Israel. There are two theoretical observations that make this case. If tomorrow Hezbollah gave up its weapons, peace in Lebanon would follow. Even detractors of Israel would admit this result. If tomorrow Israel gave up its weapons, Israel would cease to exist. That too is indisputable. Therefore who is resisting whom?

When Sakharov and Scharansky were dissidents opposed to the tyranny of the Soviet leadership, it was clear whom they were resisting. When Jews fought Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto, it was clear whom they were resisting. Who precisely is Hezbollah resisting?

If I were to ask, "who is Lebanon resisting?" the answer is apparent--Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria. Lebanon is an occupied country that no longer represents the will of its five million residents. It is and has been a client state of Syria for years and, the Cedar revolution notwithstanding, either Syrian secret police, Hezbollah forces or Iranian Revolutionary Guard pull the political strings. To argue, as our State Department does, that the Lebanese government must be propped up is an exercise in self-delusion.

In the media universe where ignorance prevails, the word "resistance" has meaning as a cause. It reverberates with the echo of freedom fighters and nation builders. Now, of course, the word has been preempted, a casualty of double-speak.

"Resistance" is not alone in this preemption category; it is merely the latest example. In the last few years the word "occupation" was the Orwellian word of choice; it too was used by the PLO and Hamas to argue for their resistance against Israel. In this case the world seemed to buy the line since an entity called Palestine and a people called Palestinians were invented and given legitimacy.

What the West doesn't understand is that the Koran and the Islamic faith countenances "teqiya," or lying, that promotes the religion and is consistent with Allah's will. Since Allah's will cannot be determined and designs on caliphates can be contemplated, teqiya is a useful method for promoting Islamic expansion.

The part that is infuriating about this state of affairs is that American journalists are often persuaded lies are true and truth is lies. How does one know? If you start with the Chomskyan supposition that the American government always lies, you may be inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to the Islamists.

However, there is a simple test for truth detection. Whenever Hezbollah spokesmen use the word "resistance," and whenever Hamas uses the word "occupation," you can be sure lies are forthcoming. Now, if only the American press corps would adopt this simple litmus test.

Human Rights at the UN

The Human Rights Council of the UN General Assembly, prompted by Israel's retaliation in Gaza for attacks against its military forces, requested a report "on the Israeli human rights violations in occupied Palestine." Moreover, this Human Rights Council decided

. . . to undertake substantive consideration of the Human Rights Violations and Implications of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and other Occupied Arab territories at its next session and to incorporate this issue in its following sessions.

This draft resolution is remarkable in several respects.

First, not one word is mentioned about the Israeli soldiers who were killed after a clandestine raid on a military facility and one eighteen-year-old soldier who was kidnapped. After all, the immediate reason for the Israeli invasion into Gaza was to force the release of this kidnapped military soldier.

Second, the use of the word "occupied" speaks volumes about UN approaches. Gaza and the West Bank were territories without a clear designation after the British relinquished control of the region in 1948. Jordan claimed the so-called West Bank by force and held it from 1948 to 1967 when in a defensive war Israel conquered this area in order to secure its borders from hostile neighbors. In the interests of historical accuracy one might call this West Bank region "disputed territory," but certainly not "occupied territory." Unless, of course, you consider California occupied territory in the United States, as some Mexican radicals do.

Third, it is important to consider which states are in the Human Rights Council writing this resolution. Member states include: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cuba, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia. Non-member states include: Egypt, Iran, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Not only are the majority of these states Muslim, but most are sworn enemies of Israel. Most are tyrannical and most consistently violate the human rights of their own citizens. Yet remarkably these nations sit in judgment of Israel, the only truly democratic state in the Middle East. Here is a scenario only a George Orwell could do justice to.

The United Nations has made a mockery of human rights. Presumably the only violator is Israel. Far be it for these tyrannies to look in the mirror.

Even more disgraceful is the fact that this Human Rights Council is the legacy of a reform effort, a presumptive compromise that emerged from a U.S. proposal that was summarily rejected and an even more extreme proposal--if that is possible--that came out of General Assembly committees.

If there is any question about the moral bankruptcy of the United Nations--and there are too many illustrations to enumerate here--the relentless attacks on Israel demonstrate the point very effectively. Human rights at the UN is an oxymoron; it exists only in the minds of tyrannical states. It is a notion of self-selection, a delusional idea.

There is one reform that would make sense: whenever the words "human rights" appear in a UN resolution, it should be struck from the record as if it were an item in the Soviet Encyclopedia. That way the Council would never meet and we would be spared its absurd deliberations.

The Spanish Civil War Redux

Henry Crumpton, the State Department counter-terrorism coordinator said on July 25 that Iran has been financing Hezbollah and supplying many of its weapons, but, he added, "Tehran cannot force Hezbollah to change its policy." This comment seems to defy all logic. If Iran finances and supplies Hezbollah with weapons, it can obviously influence policy by ceasing the money flow and the missiles.

A far more likely scenario is that Iran is using Hezbollah as a proxy for its own ambitions. It is Tehran's way of testing the effectiveness of weapons and strategy. It is a way for Tehran to determine Israeli military weakness and vulnerabilities.

Danny Seaman, an Israeli government spokesman, had it right--I believe--when he said "This is . . . like the Spanish Civil War." He noted, "What we are seeing is a series of conflicts, just as the Spanish Civil War prefigured the Second World War."

Kenneth Timmerman, noted expert on the Middle East, observed that Hitler used Franco to consider strategy and deployment the way Ahmadinejad is using Nasrallah and Hezbollah missiles, except that this time the weapons are more lethal than in the past.

The State Department has its own agenda that, as I see it, is an attempt to split Hezbollah from Iran so that negotiations on the enrichment of uranium can go forward.

However Egypt and Saudi Arabia recognize what the State Department denies. These governments see the visible hand of Iran in all Hezbollah actions and want to avoid a larger regional war in which they will inexorably be sucked in. That explains their condemnation of Hezbollah, despite their reflexive distrust of Israel, and the corresponding scathing criticism of these nations by the Iranian leadership.

This too has echoes of the 1930s when England and France supported the Republican army, and Germany and Italy embraced Franco's Fascisti.

Whatever one may think about the recent hostility, it was not a spontaneous war that erupted over one incident. It was planned and coordinated most likely with Syrian and Iranian concurrence.

My guess is Iran wanted to see whether Israel has the stomach for a battle of attrition rather than a mobile, strike and move strategy. Moreover, it was eager to determine whether a constant barrage of Katyusha missiles could break Israeli will. And last, since Ahmadinejad views Israel as a proxy for the United States, he was eager to see whether he can defeat or at least exhaust an enemy in an attenuated war.

History may not repeat itself exactly, but it appears to be repeating itself in some fashion in our time. In the 1930s, when Germany and its surrogates could have been defeated, the West relaxed, it denied the reality that was just over the horizon.

Iran is betting on the same scenario now. A ceasefire that leaves some Hezbollah fortifications in place would be a victory for Iran. It would signal that Israel and its ally, the United States, does not have the fortitude for an extended war.

Ultimately the will of the West is being tested in the barren soil of southern Lebanon. Iran is watching with keen interest--the wolf ready to strike if he sees weakness in his prey.

The U.S. had better be watching as well, for Islamo-fascism has many parallels with European fascism of the past. As I see it the history of the Spanish Civil War is now being replayed in the Middle East. This time we cannot wait for the enemy to get any stronger, for the next war will not be fought with mortars, but with weapons of mass destruction. *

"[I]f we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known, that we are at all times ready for War." --George Washington

Friday, 23 October 2015 13:43

A Word from London

A Word from London

Herbert London

Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.

The Transatlantic Alliance and Nuclear Stability

Conventional wisdom suggests that Ahmadinejad and his pursuit of nuclear weapons have united both sides of the Atlantic in a manner very different from the war in Iraq.

Europeans fear Washington is still forgoing opportunities to resolve the Iran crisis, but on most diplomatic matters they stand together. E.U. foreign policy czar Javier Solana and NATO Chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer proclaim relations to be "perfect." Senator John McCain said ties between the U.S.A. and the E.U. have "never been better."

Are the good old days of the transatlantic alliance back again?

The bipartisan American view that the only thing worse than military action is a nuclear-armed Iran is the point at which U.S. divergence with Europe emerges. Europeans are with the United States on all diplomatic fronts, but when it comes to a military strike they demur.

When U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, reportedly said that a U.S. military strike could halt or hold back Iran's nuclear program, European diplomats were stunned. Most European diplomats believe that events in Iraq proved their skepticism about military intervention was right.

Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister, fears a military strike would be a "cataclysm" for the Middle East. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed solidarity with President Bush, but so far this solidarity extends only to direct diplomatic talks.

If the U.S. precipitously strikes Iran, it is unlikely any European government, not even the British, would back it. So much for transatlantic reconciliation.

From the European perspective, Iran with nuclear weapons and a refined Shahab missile program is a direct threat to every European capital. But, this condition tends to yield conciliation rather than resistance.

Second, Europeans believe the future of non-proliferation is at stake. A nuclear Iran would mean the end of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). If Iran withdraws from the NPT, after North Korea's withdrawal, the regimen would probably unravel leading to the emergence of several Middle East nuclear powers and possible disequilibrium in the region.

Finally, the credibility of the European Defense and Security Policy and the multilateralism the E.U. claims to promote, would be called into question with a nuclear-armed Iran. What the Europeans are trying to demonstrate is "the power of soft power," or their ability to solve a proliferation crisis by using the economic strength of the European Union. It is widely believed that a military attack jeopardizes regional stability and sets in motion a radical response that has profoundly negative implications for Europe.

From the U.S. perspective, diplomacy is a necessary first step towards reconciliation of the crisis. But what if it isn't sufficient? What should the U.S. do in the face of an adamant Iran?

Across the nuclear front, the current administration confronts challenges as knotty as those faced by any American government since the Cuban Missile Crisis. In cooperation with the Europeans the Bush team has assembled blandishments and determination to combat the threat. What determination finally means, of course, is unclear. A nuclear weapon that explodes in Tel Aviv or Paris is a prospect too grim to entertain. Churchill's counsel to Britain's allies in World War II surely applies. "It is not enough to do one's best. What is required is rather that one do what is necessary for success."

The question that Europeans must answer, and perhaps the Bush administration as well, is will they do what is necessary for success.

At the moment good will reigns. But a day of reckoning may not be far off. If military action is the only recourse, will the Europeans support the United States? Will the Europeans be satisfied that every diplomatic channel has been exhausted? Will they contend even after the last word has been deployed that a policy of deterrence and containment is better than direct military intervention? And last, is there any recognition that Ahmadinejad is a religious radical sui generis, one who cannot be deterred?

The questions are pregnant with possibility. Not only does the transatlantic alliance depend on the answers, but the world's stability rests on them as well.

Delusion v. Reality

The reaction to jihadists worldwide suggests the world is now divided into two classes: those suffering from self-delusion and those capable of facing reality.

While the realists may be in the majority, there is little doubt they are losing ground. Denial is in the air along with its companion, appeasement.

When Ahmadinejad quakes, the West offers blandishments. He realizes that European leaders refuse to confront him and even George W. Bush may be hamstrung to do anything about his nuclear ambitions. By raising the decibels in his speech, he knows efforts at mollifying will intensify.

If Iranian mullahs say they need nuclear energy, the United States responds with a proposal to give them nuclear power plants. The more we offer, the higher the stakes. Where this will end is anyone's guess, but I would wager Iran will not voluntarily abandon its uranium enrichment program however attractive our package.

Recently I met with several European businessmen who engaged in a frank discussion about impediments to economic revitalization on the continent. Omitted from this analysis was the rise of radical Islam and its influence on development. When I pointed this out, I was roundly upbraided. "That's a problem we can manage," it was said. Somewhat surprised, I asked how this would be managed. My question was greeted with a blank stare and a shrug.

For many Europeans there is a fastidious reluctance to face the problem. It is too large and its implications too grim. Moreover, it may mean having to face a religious dilemma and a civil liberties curtailment, issues that go to the very core of European liberalism.

Recently Canadian law enforcement officials infiltrated a reputed Islamic terrorist network arresting dozens of homegrown extremists. But rather than state the obvious, that these were Islamists filled with hate conveyed by mullahs in local mosques, the Toronto police chief asserted that the suspects "were motivated by an ideology based on politics, hatred and terrorism, and not on faith."

Others claim, in what can only be a test of credulity, that there isn't a "common denominator" among the terrorists. Presumably jihad is an insufficient common thread for Canadian law enforcement officers. The terrorists are not that clever: they simply want to annihilate the infidels. They do not prevaricate; the Koran is the governor in their lives and if you can kill in Mohammad's name in order to promote Islam, so be it.

There in unadorned form are the realists and the delusionists. Diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic will continue to engage in "soft power," read: appeasement, even as their gestures are continually rebuffed. Many business leaders will keep their head in the sand, unwilling to consider what is happening all over the continent. And some law enforcement spokesmen will employ any euphemism rather than suggest Islam's radical impetus may be responsible for terrorism.

If there is a theme in these three disparate events it is denial, an unwillingness to confront an ugly reality. A war has been brought to Western societies whether or not they have the will to resist. Should the common response be transmogrified into struthious conditioning, the West will be in serious trouble, if that isn't already the case.

The great ally of radical Islam is a West that remains split between delusion and reality. What it will take to shake appeasers from their reflexive, guilt-obsessed, reaction is beyond my ken. But this is the challenge for realists who, at the very least, know what the enemy wants and what he is prepared to do in order to get it.

Inspiring Europe (?)

The St. Gallen Symposium in St. Gallen, Switzerland brings together university students, global business leaders and scholars in an effort to limn Europe's future. This year's program was entitled "Inspiring Europe." The title has intentional double entendre: Does Europe need inspiration or is Europe a source of inspiration?

Europe today is rich, somewhat complacent, peaceful and, considering its history, remarkably stable. In an historical sense, Europe is an uncontested success.

Yet the Europe that emerged from World War II as a bulwark against Communism and as a model of economic recovery is now in a different stage of development.

European spokesmen at this conference readily admitted that the continental economy is lagging and the unfunded liability for prospective retirees is an enormous potential drag on the economy.

Moreover, affluence has bred complacency. It is widely believed that Europeans deserve six-week vacations each year and retirement at 55. My suggestion that these conditions are not sustainable was greeted with derision.

There was much discussion about reinventing the continental economy. A spokesman for Bayer, for example, mentioned his belief in "a core business strategy," but it was difficult to determine whether this was an idiosyncratic example or a systemic recommendation.

The Japanese president of E-Mobile introduced the constraints of reality by noting "99 percent of the electronic products in Switzerland were produced in China." When asked if there is an alternative, he merely shrugged his shoulders.

Those who assumed the recent Japanese economic recovery has lessons for Europe were also disappointed. Japanese spokesmen noted that social security and employee benefits are not as generous as those in Europe and, as a consequence, do not serve as anticompetitive factors. Moreover, the Japanese put a greater stock in research and development and the resultant innovation than their European counterparts.

Perhaps the most serious oversight at the conference was a seeming unwillingness to consider the rise of radical Islam in European capitals and its chilling effect on economic competitiveness. When I made reference to the totalistic impulses of the jihadists and the rising secularism among Christians, my comment was greeted with blank stares. There appears to be a common belief that this cultural tension will sort itself out with Muslims ultimately integrating into European societies.

This "what, me worry?" attitude is, to some degree, understandable. Looking over the horizon to a time when European prosperity cannot be taken for granted is difficult, if not impossible. Even the demographic nightmare of declining populations all over Western Europe did not evoke alarm.

When a spokesman from the International Monetary Fund pointed out that Europeans work fewer hours per annum than North Americans and Asians, this was viewed as an indication of superior European work habits rather than uncompetitive productivity rates.

Considering relative satisfaction with the cradle-to-grave welfare arrangements and a belief in the natural order of social reconciliation, it is hard to understand what Europeans mean by reinvention. As I see it, European societies need inspiration, a catalyst for social reform. But, after all, they are democracies that depend for change on the will of their people.

Surely there are many Europeans who appreciate the anti-competitive impulse of lassitude. Yet they don't know how to change. Tightly contested elections throughout the continent make it difficult to conceive of consensus for modification in the welfare system. The overhang of social expenditures makes it extremely hard for industries to reduce the price of products or for capital to be raised for innovation.

Is this scenario a dead-end? Is Europe necessarily on the road to marginality?

While the St. Gallen conference didn't offer immediate answers, history does possess surprises. The resiliency Europe displayed after the war may reemerge. A generation of college-educated students is eager to plot a new course for the future and European broadband developments indicate that there are some bright flourishes in a generally gray background.

What we know about Europe today is surely a guide to the next act in continental history, but it isn't an inevitable guide. Realism dictates skepticism; hope suggests possibility. An inspired Europe needs some of both as a compass for the path ahead.

Political Propaganda from the Academy

In a startling new book, The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right, George Michael, the author, disinters Richard Hofstadter's Paranoid Style in American Politics. This time, however, the views are so wildly inaccurate and prejudicial as to appear as caricature.

Professor Michael asserts, for example, that because David Duke, the former Klan leader, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, both condemn the state of Israel, there is some right wing--Islamic nexus. Yes, both figures may be anti-semitic and anti-Zionist, surely both deserve condemnation, but one may have nuclear weapons which can destroy the state of Israel and the other is an appropriately discredited individual without any influence.

Michael also notes that Muslims and right-wingers (a term he doesn't define) have similar critiques of American foreign policy in the Middle East, modernity and globalization. "Both see the U.S. government as hopelessly under the control of Jews or Zionists," he writes.

One could far more comfortably--I believe--make this statement about the left. After all, the left has reflexively embraced the Palestinian cause from Tony Kushner to Ramsey Clark. The argument that the U.S. government is under a hypnotic spell of Zionists was recently made by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, two university professors more aligned with the left than the right. Demonstrations against globalization in Europe were mobilized almost entirely by left wing organizations and when it comes to the challenges to modernity, it is again primarily left wing environmental groups in the forefront.

Clearly Mr. Michael has an axe to grind. Evidence is marshaled to make his case without a glance at the other side of the political spectrum. He is not the first and he certainly won't be the last to employ quasi-scholarship as a propagandistic exercise.

What is truly maddening about the book is its assumption that right wingers and Islamists have much in common. I could easily assert that Stalinists and Islamists have much in common. I can assert as well that ACTUP and NOW have much in common with Muslims. I can further assert that the National Guild of Lawyers, a left wing hothouse, has been a defender of radical Islamic terrorists.

That David Duke appears as a right wing exemplar is revealing. Surely Michael could have selected Pat Robertson. He is a religious leader, supports right wing causes and has made irrational--in my view--comments about homosexuals. But he is conspicuously omitted from the treatise because he is an undeviating supporter of Israel. This comes under the heading of "if it doesn't fit, ignore it."

That anyone would call this book a work of scholarship is laughable. Then again that which satisfies the gods of political correctness will have legitimacy. No enemies on my left is still a theme from Hollywood to Greenwich Village. Only the right can be caricatured.

Facts, however, have a strange way of being persistent. What are the areas of right wing and Islamic cooperation that are inferred in the book? Unless one relies on the author's tortured logic, they are hard to find.

When Paranoid Style was written decades ago Hofstadter also ignored paranoia on the left, which was exemplified with the Weathermen and Black Panthers, but, at least, he made his case with appropriate examples. In Michael's book he begins his analysis with a prejudice and ends with a prejudice sandwiched between ipse dixit.

Yes, there can be paranoia on the right and paranoia on the extreme left. There may be some crackpot who identifies with Ahmadinejad and is a right winger and he may have a counterpart on the left. If political science research is to be more than polemical it should follow the evidence wherever it may lead. *

"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood." --James Madison

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