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