Herbert London is president of the London Center for Policy Research and is co-author with Jed Babbin of The BDS War Against Israel.
Appeasement Here and Abroad
After years of inaction, NATO is now attempting to develop a strategy to cope with Russian aggression. A U.S. State Department report indicates that Iran has not reduced its global terrorist activity despite the accommodative stances of the P5 + 1 on Iranian nuclear weapons acquisition. The elimination of "stop and frisk" preventive policing action has resulted in an increase of gun violence in New York City and in other major cities where previously enforced police measures have been caused to lapse.
What do these events have in common? Despite all of the effort to refute them by cultural constructivists, the laws of nature are inevitable. If there is not an inner compulsion to comply with the law or accepted forms of behavior, external compulsion is necessary. When there is neglect to apply external compulsion in the form of policing or resistance to aggression, anarchy will prevail. Aggressors sense when rules can be violated.
This isn't a radical or ethnic question; it is a matter of natural law, a condition so obvious that most people recognize it intuitively.
Why then are we obliged to reacquaint ourselves with the obvious? First, there are those, who for political reasons rationalize the behavior of miscreants. Russia has a historical sphere of influence over Eastern Europe, argue the apologists. Or you might hear the words of inner city rabble rousers who contend that strict police action has a "disparate impact" on certain racial and ethnic groups, despite the fact these are the people who disproportionately violate the law. Second, many do not believe laws are natural, notwithstanding empirical evidence to the contrary. These are the well intentioned who believe if we establish an example of peace and tranquility aggressors will follow suit. Third, there are nave true believers who cannot be convinced by reasonable argument and may even accept the chains that tether them as a game played by aggressors.
No matter what Putin says about his intention to restore the pride of mother Russia damaged in the Cold War, European and American leaders refuse to accept his words as genuine. To do so would force actions most national leaders consider unacceptable. Similarly, the Supreme Leader of Iran doesn't conceal his ambitions to establish an empire in the Middle East. But President Obama is so keen on a nuclear weapons deal, he remains deaf to the comments. Thugs, carrying weapons, know the police are handcuffed. Some have stated as much. Yet the politicians responsible for the lax policies contend the uptick in crime is statistical aberration.
There is an unwillingness to recognize the fact that evil hasn't yet been eliminated. In the interest of self-preservation, it would be advisable to recognize this reality. Yet, and this is the point, so many are willing to march to their demise. They accept the willful destruction of property claiming that a portion of the city can be set-aside for this purpose.
In almost the same manner President Obama has turned a blind eye to terrorism fomented by Iran, terrorism that has claimed at least 1,500 American lives. It appears as if any call to halt terrorist activity will jeopardize a nuclear weapons treaty he regards as the hallmark of his administration.
Here is a case where domestic policy collides with foreign policy. An unwillingness to stand up to the defiled in Ferguson and Baltimore is analogous in my judgment, to the acceptance of aggression by the mullahs in Iran and by Putin. Losing the will to call evil by its name, and by avoiding the use of police and military assets to oppose it, was once regarded as ignoring common sense. "Peace through strength" was not an expression invented by President Reagan; it goes back to Jerusalem and Athens. In fact, it is in the Western DNA.
Something happened. Is it battle fatigue? Perhaps a lack of leadership? Or is it something else, a profound belief in appeasement as a questing and religious ideal? One thing is certain: aggressors smell weakness. The slide to slavery may not be inevitable, but the path we are on could lead to that result.
Human Wants and Desires and Prospects for the West
Alfred Marshall, in his foundational 1890 book, Principles of Economics, argued that "Human wants and desires are countless in number and very various in kind." Alas, Western civilization is in a spiral pursuing a number of wants and desires without regard to law, constitutionality, or common sense. The goal of unfettered freedom has captured the imagination of many on both sides of the Atlantic transfixed by the belief that human beings do not have to be constrained by biology, laws, or conflict.
By virtue of technological miracles people in the West can live as they wish. "The future," as Paul Valery noted, "is not what it used to be." The ad that once stated "if you have one life to live, live it as a blond" has opened a Pandora's box of opportunities from hair color to sex change, from belief in the defense of the country to global coexistence, from a Constitution or a set of laws to post-structural ideas that rely on perceptions. The rich traditions of moral thought that guide human relationships have been interred. In fact, there does not appear to be an innate drive to avoid ethical transgressions on any level.
It was once believed that if informed citizens acting rationally could express free will, their individual choices would yield the best outcome for the civilization as a whole. An assumption was made in this belief that people would have access to information and the power to exercise choice. But suppose you are confronted with information overload so that distinguishing dross from pearls of wisdom is impossible. Suppose as well that choice is withheld through judicial action that supersedes individual preferences, when prosaic near term action is determined by a few and imposed on an unwary populace.
The evolution of social lives and technology are affecting the way policy is derived. Lines of demarcation between buyers and sellers, employer and employee, rich and poor, weak and strong are not clear. If you can sell things on-line the likelihood is you are both the buyer and the seller; if you rely on technological innovation to earn a living, you are likely to be both employer and employee; if you call yourself middle class, you are rich by the standards of three decades ago but poor by the buying power of the super-rich; if you can obtain a nuclear weapon and have the means to deploy it, you are a de facto power even if you have weak conventional defense assets.
In a century defined by accelerated change, norms that once served as pillars of security cannot be relied on. Uneasiness is in the air we breathe. The average person cannot be sure the job he has today will be there tomorrow. Policy analysts cannot assert the defense erected at the moment can serve as a barrier to the offensive development of the future. A universal desire for the "good" in the form of clean air or treaty alignments very often results in the opposite of intention. By assuming public responsibility for the mitigation of risk through healthcare and welfare programs, personal responsibility has languished. When the clarion call for remediation of any perceived problems occurs, state activism of various kinds is the answer.
Free education, universal healthcare, and mercenary armies turn out to be very expensive. There aren't any free lunches in the West or anywhere else for that matter. But the appetite for "more," for the realization of the dream, for the world we want rather than the word we have, increases daily. It is inspired by an improved standard of living and the acceptance of stability engendered by the end of the Cold War. History has not ended as Francis Fukuyama once proposed, but the elements of historical judgment are in suspension. The West does not want to confront the reality that it is in a war with radical Islam. It does not want to fight, so it wills the enemy away.
Post-structuralists simply define what they believe is true, facts being a distraction from the embrace of a desired reality. Hence Islamic radicalism is not Islamic, a tax is not really a tax, legislative wording is unrelated to intent, and the enrichment of uranium is not related to the creation of a nuclear weapon. As Humpty Dumpty said to Alice, words are whatever I want them to mean. This is a convenient way to satisfy the best of "wants," but can never be entirely satisfying. A decline in the West will be ushered in through the appearance of illusory solutions, treaties to ban weapons, and a harvest of new technologies, new economies, new ways of thinking. The cult of the "new" commands attention because of desire, an insatiable guest for Utopia. Unfortunately Utopia is just beyond our reach. What does come into focus is the dystopian consequence of reaching for the unreachable.
The regeneration power in the West still exists, but it appears to be in desuetude. It is as if a relearning process is necessary starting with the delay of gratification, confidence in the institutions that made the West unique, belief in God or a belief in power beyond oneself and the startling realization that there is evil in the world against which defense is needed. This seems rather elementary, but as George Orwell noted in a time of peril:
We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.
For a variety of reasons, including the expanding vistas of wants and desires, the obvious has been forgotten. *