Atheism and freedom 25

The right theory of individual freedom came from an understanding of the spontaneous evolution of civil institutions and traditions. A free society no more needed an intelligent designer than did the human species.  

The similarity of process in the development of social and biological life is brilliantly explained by one of the great defenders of freedom:

Though freedom is not a state of nature but an artifact of civilization, it did not arise from design. …

[The] development of a theory of liberty took place mainly in the eighteenth century. It began in two countries, England and Fance. The first of these knew liberty, the second did not. As a result, we have had to the present day two different traditions in the theory of liberty … the first based on an interpretation of traditions and institutions which had spontaneously grown up … the second aiming at the construction of a utopia, which has often been tried but never successfully. …

What we have called the “British tradition” was made explicit mainly by a group of Scottish moral philosophers led by David Hume, Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson, seconded by their English contemporaries Josiah Tucker, Edmund Burke, and William Paley … drawing largely on a tradition rooted in the jurisprudence of the common law. Opposed to them was the tradition of the French Enlightenment … : the Encyclopedists and Rousseau, the Physiocrats and Condorcet, are their best known representatives. …

[T]here is hardly a greater contrast imaginable between their respective conceptions of the evolution and functioning of a social order and the role played in it by liberty. …

[T]he British philosophers laid the foundations of a profound and essentially valid theory, while the [French] school was simply and completely wrong. …

Those British philosophers have given us an interpretation of of the growth of civilization that is still the indispensable foundation of the argument for liberty. They find the origin of institutions, not in contrivance or design, but in the survival of the successful. …

This demonstration … represented in some ways an even greater challenge to all design theories than even the later theory of biological evolution. For the first time it was shown that that an evident order which was not the product of a designing human intelligence need not therefore be ascribed to the design of a higher, supernatural intelligence, but that there was a third possibility – the emergence of order as the result of adaptive evolution.

-From The Constitution of Liberty by F. A. Hayek , Chapter Four: Freedom, Reason, and Tradition.

Why bear with this artist? 7

Abraham Poincheval is an artist.

His is the art of living inside a small hole, a metal cylinder, a bear’s carcass, or the French Alps for a week or more.

This is from the Washington Post:

As you read this, Poincheval is inhabiting a bear. A hollowed-out, sterilized bear carcass, to be exact. He’s been there since yesterday [April 2, 2014], and he won’t leave until April 13. That means he’ll eat, sleep, drink and — yes — “go to the bathroom” inside the bear.

He talks nonsense.

Poincheval, according to the exhibition’s press release, has long had a “need to become one with such an animal.” During a previous performance, which involved him living in the French Alps, he “repeatedly encountered animal carcasses.” That got the French artist’s wheels turning. What would it be like to live inside one?

His thoughts on the matter got pretty deep.

“The transcendence between man and bear endures since the dawn of time,” the press release says. “A profound symbolism has existed since the prehistory, a symbolism that is still gripping the Western world’s imagination today.”

Transcendence cannot be between two things. For one to transcend the other he or it must go beyond it or him.

And neither man nor bear have existed since “the dawn of time”.

And there cannot have been any symbolism “since the prehistory” [presumably of mankind] as only human beings can create symbols. But what symbolism does he mean? What is being symbolized? However did he discover that the symbolism of whatever it may be is gripping the Western world’s imagination? (It’s not gripping ours.)

Poincheval wanted to make imagination into reality.

Meaning presumably that he wanted to make real something that he imagined.

Though such a feat — especially when it involves residing inside a giant bear carcass for a fortnight — isn’t necessarily an easy task. It takes patience. It takes calculation. It takes a very comfortable pillow.

The piece [of performance art], which he’s filming with two cameras, is being held at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Hunting and Wildlife Museum).

“Thought as being the intermediary between the world of men and the world of animals, for a long time the bear was believed to be man’s ancestor,” [his] press release tells people …  “Becoming [a] bear and the wearing of [its] skin is to bring about a liberating choice between human nature and animal nature. … Right from the start, this communion between Abraham Poincheval and the bear will inevitably bring him to a state of profound meditation.”

Will it? Inevitably?

A boon for the Western world’s imagination.

Posted under Art, Commentary, France by Jillian Becker on Thursday, April 3, 2014

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Obama’s shattering success 3

In just five years, Barack Obama has succeeded in crippling the American economy and shattering the world order under the Pax Americana.

Americans feel the grave economic effects of his domestic policies more immediately and urgently, but it is the shattering of the world order that will ultimately change their lives for the worse.

President Vladimir Putin found that “he could  annex Crimea without firing a single bullet”. He has good reason to think that “he will later be able to do the same with the rest of Ukraine”. But he will probably “wait until the situation worsens and the impotence of the United States and Europe becomes even more obvious”.

That is part of the picture of the crumbling world order, described here by Professor Guy Millière (of the University of Paris), at Gatestone.

[Putin] apparently considers that he has in front of him a weak and declining America. And the general demeanor of the present U.S. administration tends to prove him right. The United States seem in full retreat. U.S. military budgets continue to fall. For the last five years, Barack Obama spoke of “ending” the wars in which the U.S. was involved, and he depends on Russia’s cooperation for further negotiations with Iran, for dismantling chemical weapons in Syria, and for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Putin doubtless thinks that Obama will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. Sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States are insignificant, and Putin has every reason to think they will not increase. …

[He] evidently considers Europe even weaker than America. The way European leaders speak and act shows that he is not wrong. For decades, Western European countries relied on the U.S. defense umbrella; none of them today has an army capable of doing more than extremely limited operations. Their foreign policy positions converge with the Obama administration positions. They all have deep economic and financial links with Russia and cannot break these links. The UK needs the Russian capital invested in the City of London. France cannot cancel its Russian warship contract without having to close its shipyards in Saint Nazaire, and without being confronted with major social conflicts. Germany could not survive long without Russian oil and natural gas. Overall, Russia provides thirty percent of the natural gas consumed in Western Europe. Putin apparently thinks that Europe will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. …

Either the West will stand up to Putin, and it will have to do it fast, or Putin will win. Obviously, Europe will not stand up. Polls indicate that Americans are turning sharply toward isolationism.

Showing his view of the situation, Obama recently said that Russia is nothing but a “regional power”, acting “out of weakness”.

What is Russia’s “region”?

Russia covers ten time zones and has borders with Europe, the Muslim Middle East, China, North Korea, and Alaska.

Yes, Russia has a common border with the United States. The US is in its region.  

If massing troops on the borders of Ukraine and annexing Crimea are signs of “weakness,” by its evident impotence, America appears even weaker.

Will Putin be content with annexing Crimea, or even the whole of Ukraine?

Several plebiscites have been held since 2006 in Transnistria, a strip of land between Ukraine and Moldova, and each of them has indicated a willingness to join Russia. Estonia includes a large Russian minority, and Russian leaders in Moscow speak of the need to “protect” the Russian population of Estonia.

Estonia is a member of NATO. If Russia were to attack it, NATO, according to Article 5 of its charter, should defend it with prompt military action. But would it?  NATO’s military power is America’s military power. Under Obama,what chance is there that America would go to war in Europe?

The world order built after the Second World War was shaped by America. For almost five decades, its goal was to contain Soviet expansion. In the late 1980s, the Soviet empire collapsed, and another phase began: an arrangement in which America would keep the peace and assure the survival of liberty.

America has apparently abrogated that responsibility.

And if Russia is not deterred, other powers will be encouraged to advance their interests abroad by force.

Rogue leaders around the world are watching and drawing their own conclusions.

[The Iranian Ayatollah] Khamenei sees no reason to stop saying that America is the “Great Satan” and that Israel has to be wiped off the map. China sees no reason to hide its intention to occupy the Senkaku/Diyaoyu Islands. Last week, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un fired six missiles into the sea of Japan. [President] Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela reaffirmed its alliance with Russia and positioned Russian missiles in Caracas.

Guy Millière predicts that the chaos will increase and speed up. He sees disaster coming fast.

If we do not see the Ukraine as a warning signal, we could quickly discover that life could now easily enter the state of nature in Hobbes’s Leviathan: [solitary, poor,] nasty, brutish and short.

How will it be? 23

Contrary to Marxian dogma, no historical development is inevitable. And all actions have unintended consequences. So prophecy is a risky enterprise.

But we have to calculate the probable outcomes of what we do.

Daniel Greenfield has prophesied - plausibly, we think – what will happen when America ceases to be the predominant power in the world.

International organizations will be good for little except sucking up the last drops of wealth and prestige of the United States. It will be a chaotic place with everyone out for themselves. …

There will be three post-ideological powers, no longer global in scope, and one worldwide ideological alliance.

The United States, Russia and China are post-ideological states. Russia and China have abandoned Communism. The United States is even abandoning nationalism; to say nothing of capitalism, democracy or freedom. Its rulers cling to scraps of global leftist ideology that isolate them from their own people.

Russia and China are run by powerful corrupt elites who emerged from the old Communist order to build economic oligarchies enforced by the ruthless use of force. The United States is increasingly run by an oligarchy of ideological bureaucrats, corrupt technocrats and leftist academics that has a distant resemblance to the USSR and the PRC; but its long march through the institutions hasn’t turned fully totalitarian yet. That may be less than a generation away.

Russia, China and the United States are all demographically unstable. Russia and the United States are both on track to become majority-minority countries. China’s demographic disaster will be the outcome of its one child policies, gender abortion and its war on the countryside. The United States will probably weather its demographic problems better than Russia or China, because the former faces a fatal Muslim demographic takeover and the latter a conflict that will tear its society apart, but like Russia and China, the demographic crisis in the United States will be exacerbated by the lack of common bonds to see it through a period of social stress.

Russia and China will fall back into their own history, collapse and isolationism for China, barbarian rule for Russia. The United States has no such history to fall back on and its elites have abandoned any meaningful national identity that doesn’t rely on pop culture and liberal pieties.

There is little to unify Russia or China … The KGB oligarchs of Russia and the Communist princes of China are as globalist as any Eurocrat. They have few national commitments. Their goals are wealth and power for their families and associates.

Unfortunately there is even less to unify the United States after the left embraced multiculturalism at the expense of exceptionalism. The erosion of everything from free speech to the free market has reduced the American Dream from individual opportunity to vulgar exhibitionism. Uncontrolled immigration has imported masses of hostile populations everywhere from Nashville to Minneapolis radically changing quintessentially American cultures and replacing them with balkanized minority coalitions who have little in common except a mutual hostility against the United States.

In contrast to the cultural vulnerabilities of the three powers, Islam, the defining global ideological alliance, lacks a superstate as the center of its empire, though it has many state bases, but enjoys the allegiance of a worldwide population larger than any of the three powers. Demographic projections continue to favor the growth of Islam over China, Russia and the United States.

It would be a mistake however to think that China, Russia and the United States are in a conflict with Islam. While Islam is in a conflict with them, each of the three powers divides Muslims into three groups; those Muslims that are within the “empire”, part of China, Russia’s Eurasian Union or the United States, those that are outside the “empire” but allied to it, e.g. Syria for Russia, Saudi Arabia for the United States and Pakistan for China, and those that are its separatist or terrorist enemies.

Instead of coming to terms with a global struggle with Islam, each power largely concentrates on fighting Muslim separatist or terrorist groups that destabilize its sphere of influence while arming, funding and supporting those Muslim separatist and terrorist groups that destabilize rival powers.

It is therefore simplistic to act as if America, Russia and China have a common interest in fighting Islam. While that may be true, that is not how the leaders of the three powers see it. Putin fights some Islamists while incorporating others into his allied clergy and helping still others go nuclear. The United States bombs the Taliban, but would never consider bombing their paymasters in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

Muslim terrorists operate in all three powers, but are dismissed as unrepresentative aberrations. That is wishful thinking, but empires are shaped to fight their own kind. Islam, like Communism, is something different. It is an ideology and post-ideological powers … are poorly adapted to fighting it. Instead many of their elites secretly admire its dedication. …

Like a hyena trotting after prey, Islam is a cultural carrion eater consuming the skills and knowledge of superior civilizations to sustain its warlordism …

The collapse of the Pax Americana under Obama has freed up Russia and China to begin their campaigns of territorial expansionism. Obama’s failure to deter Russia in Ukraine will encourage China to use force as a solution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea. These events will wake the world from the dream of the Pax Americana in which American power kept the peace in much of the developed world.

The end of the Pax Americana also means the end of international law. Instead of a post-American world ushering in a stable multilateral order … no single power will predominate, but … any country or militia that can seize a piece of land or a natural resource will go ahead and do so. …

The First World may wake up to discover that it is once again living under Third World rules.

Those most immediately affected by the decline of the United States will be the Asian and European countries that outsourced their defense to the United States after WW2. Japan has a limited time in which to turn around its economy, demographics and military to be able to face down China.

Europe was able to turn inward without having to make the hard choices and its elites were even able to drag the United States into implementing their vision internationally. But that is coming to an end. …

The European Union may implode in the coming years, but whether it does or does not, Western Europe will continue to be defined by the quarrels between the UK, France and Germany. The various other players have never been anything other than places to put factories, launder money or import cheap labor from. …

Europe, unlike the United States, has not been known for its altruism, and its nations face a crippling combination of problems. Europe suffers from Japanese birth rates, Russian demographics, Chinese corruption and American economics (though it would be more accurate to say that America suffers from EU economics.) Despite its size and population, Europe does not have an optimistic future. …

Russia will not stop with Ukraine and NATO will dissolve, officially or unofficially. It may stay around and limit itself to providing humanitarian aid internationally while expelling Poland and any countries that Russia is likely to want to add to its collection. …

The budding Russian empire will find that fighting a new wave of Muslim insurgencies in formerly peaceful republics will consume too much of its time and energy. The soldiers who will march on the scattered pieces of the old red empire will be Muslims and the Eurasian Union will become a Muslim empire with a handful of churches. Like Rome, its fall will come at the hands of its own barbarians.

Iraq and Afghanistan will not prove to be as psychologically devastating to Americans as Vietnam, but they will help discourage further deployments overseas. Severe military budget cuts and a campaign against the warrior culture will leave the military in no shape for anything except peacekeeping missions.

The United States will face escalating domestic unrest, less from militias than from gangs, terrorism and the economic collapse of entire cities. It will no longer be in a position to act abroad.

None of this has to happen, but it will if the same bad decisions continue to be made.

If eight years of Obama are topped by eight years of Hillary, this is where we will end up.

The writer points out that if the civilized world fails to resolve its “economic, demographic and military crises … the civilization in which we have grown up and which we have known all our lives will die and a long interregnum of darkness will follow in its wake”.

Yes, that’s all too probable, and profoundly horrible.

But it may be that an entirely different kind of civilization will emerge. That technologies – already in the womb of time – will set the individual freer than he could ever possibly have been before. That governments will lose power. That social elites without technological skills will lose credibility. That law-making will be done by new procedures, and the nature of law and the manner of its enforcement will change to fit new ideas of how liberty may be protected. That religion – so outworn and squalid a thing, a mere relic of an ignorant past – will wither away, perceived at last to be worse than useless.

There now, we ourselves have ventured beyond speculation and touched on prophecy. And because prophecy cannot be accurate, we are not likely to be right. But by the same token, we may not be entirely wrong.

None so blind 1

What a rotten job the official representatives of Jewish communities in Western countries are doing!

British Jews are still so grateful to Oliver Cromwell for letting them into the country some 350 years ago, that they’d rather put up with anything – slander, humiliation, threats, even physical attack – than complain. Their official representatives play along with the phony “interfaith” racket in the stubborn (but forlorn) hope that it will soften Islamic hatred of them, although that hatred is ineradicably doctrinal as well as political. If it wasn’t for the excellent institution Stand For Peace under the inspired directorship of  Sam Westrop exposing the racket for what it is, there would hardly be any resistance at all to the intensifying anti-Semitism and advancing stealth-jihad in the United Kingdom.

And it’s far worse in France and Sweden.

How well are “official Jews” doing to earn their salaries in Canada and the US?

Abraham Foxman recently announced after 27 years steering the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) he will retire next year. How well has he done?

Andrew Bostom, writing at American Thinker, said of Foxman in 2011 that he is -

… the most blindly agenda-driven organizational Jewish “leader.” The Anti-Defamation League (ADL)’s Foxman sprays defamatory charges – rooted in willful ignorance – against all those legitimately concerned with the ceaseless efforts of mainstream institutional American Islam to insinuate Sharia mores and jurisdiction into US society.

Today Mark Steyn says what needs to be said about this self-blinkered Official Jew:

Canada’s “official Jews” [are] among the most useless people on the planet. Under Bernie Farber, for example, the Canadian Jewish Congress was obsessive about the last three neo-Nazi losers living in their mum’s basement and contributing unread blog posts to obscure “white supremacist” websites. But it had nothing to say about the broad-daylight mass Jew-hatred and, indeed, brazen incitement to murder of large groups of people parading through downtown Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Farber & Co were cardboard warriors, capable only of fighting the battles others had already won long ago.

And so it goes for America’s “official Jews”:

Anti-Defamation League chief Abe Foxman believes that anti-Semitism is at its height since the Holocaust, and threatens the lives of Jews all around the world.

He got that right. He got everything else wrong:

Europe is where the Jewish people have paid the highest price for anti-Semitism, and it’s sort of an old-new phenomenon,” he said, defining it as “nationalists, anti-government people, neo-fascists, neo-Nazis of anti-immigration and anti-government coming together with a glue and cement of anti-Semitism. I think it’s a serious threat to Jewish life.

Is it really possible in 2014 even for the capo di tutti capi of official Jews to be so blind? Foxman is either the most wicked dissembler or, to be more charitable, he reflects merely the blinkered parochialism of America’s liberal Jewish elites. Unlike the head of the ADL, I have no special interest in or responsibility for the welfare of the Jewish people, but I have been to Toulouse, Antwerp, Malmö and the old Jewish East End of London, and I know what I have seen there.

I would like Foxman to go to Toulouse, a city the size of Jacksonville, Florida, where in recent years one synagogue has been firebombed, another set alight when two burning cars were driven into it, a third burgled and “Dirty Jews” scrawled on the ark housing the Torah, where a kosher butcher’s was strafed with gunfire, and a Jewish sports association attacked with Molotov cocktails, and three Jewish children murdered outside their grade school, I would like Foxman to go to Toulouse and tell any Jew he finds there (they are advised by their rabbis not to wear identifying marks of their faith) that it’s all the work of “anti-government people”.

I would like him to go to Malmö – once the first Christian city in Norway and soon to be the first Muslim city in Sweden – and tell such Jews as he can find (they are abandoning the city) that the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and the ugly reinforced steel doors at the Jewish kindergarten and the rocket-proof glass in the windows of the synagogue are all the fault of “neo-Nazis”. Sweden is renowned for its neo-Nazis, isn’t it? Doubtless they were the reason why a year or two back at the Davis Cup the Israeli tennis players had to play their match behind closed doors, in a Baltiska Hallen stadium without a single spectator. For had they opened the doors, the seats would have filled up with Swedish “nationalists” and Swedish “neo-fascists” and all hell would have broken loose.

I would like Abe Foxman to go to Tower Hamlets in London’s East End, where on Holocaust Memorial Day a couple of years ago a visiting New Yorker had to be taken to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel after a Jewish tour group was pelted with stones by a group jeering “If you go any further, you’ll die.” I would like Foxman to tell those Jews that their attackers were an “anti-immigration” group.

I would like him to go to Villiers-le-Bel, where a Jewish girl was brutally attacked by a gang shouting “Jews must die!”, or to Odense, where the headmaster says his school can no longer take Jewish pupils for security reasons, and tell them it’s the fault of Danish “nationalists” and French “neo-Nazis”.

But I don’t suppose Abe Foxman will go anywhere outside his bubble, will he? Is it really too much to expect him somewhere in that long laundry list of antiquated irrelevances to utter the “M” word? As Laura Rosen Cohen writes of this contemptible nothing of a man:

Shame on you, Abraham Foxman. Shame on you.

These Jews are a danger to the Jewish people.

Their denial is so thick and so amoral that it is difficult sometimes to find the words to express my utter disgust and contempt.

By fighting the last war against the German Nazis over and over in their heads, they endanger living Jews. But they will never learn.

It’s so cozy to be a professional Jew, fighting the ghosts of WW2 over and over and never facing the real threats to the Jewish people.

Though the Holocaust must never be forgotten, it must not so obsess generation after generation that they fail to see what is happening all about them. 

Jewish groups missed the threat 80 years ago, too. But why wouldn’t they? There’d always been anti-Semitism in Europe: You can’t buy property here, you can’t stand for parliament there, and everywhere always a certain sliver of people who just don’t want to be around Jews. But it didn’t turn genocidal until the 1930s, and, after a millennium of low-level Jew hate, you can understand why nobody saw it coming.

But the violent, murderous phase of the new Jew-hatred is already here – in the emergency ward of the Royal London Hospital; in the corpse-strewn schoolyard of Toulouse; in the synagogue in Brussels set alight by Molotov cocktails; in a pleasant Jewish home in Antwerp, where burning rags were pushed through the mail flap; at the RER train station in Auber, where a commuter was savagely assaulted by a mob taunting, “Palestine will kill the Jews”; in the suburban home where a young Frenchman was tortured to death over three weeks while his family listened via phone to his howls of agony as his captors chanted from the Koran; in the stairwell of the apartment house where a Paris disc-jockey had his throat slit, his eyes gouged out, and his face ripped off by a neighbor who crowed, “I have killed my Jew!” 

Those “anti-government people” get around, don’t they? The groups who perpetrate this violence come from a minority community – larger than the Jews but not yet larger than everyone else. They are telling you what they will do when they have the numbers to do it. …

Abe Foxman has not had his eyes gouged out, but he is blind, utterly blind.

Obama – horrifying failure or terrifying success? 12

On June 7, 2008, we faced with horror the possibility that Barack Obama could become president of the United States with a post titled Obama can only fumble and fail:

We would say to him: ‘Come on, Barry, face the fact that you cannot lead this nation.’

Barack Obama makes flabbergastingly naive statements of intent. He seems to be stuck with adolescent ideals, a view of what is desirable and possible that few sane people over the age of 21 can normally continue to hold. He manifests no knowledge of history, or of political or economic theory. His ideas have the quality of sticky-sentiment greetings cards, but are delivered with the grandiloquence of extreme narcissism. His manner of dropping his voice at the end of every sentence gives everything he says a certainty; an inarguable ‘I say so, so that’s how it is’ finality; an apodictic quality. This manner, combined with the lift of his chin to one side like Mussolini, enchants gullible listeners: makes them think, ‘Ah yes, he is so sure, he must be right, he should lead us!’ Only when he has to answer a question he has not prepared himself for, do we hear him fumbling, stammering, losing the eloquence of the well-rehearsed demagogue.

To elect him to the presidency of the United States at this point in history would be a mistake so devastating that it’s hard to believe sensible voters could even contemplate doing so. Now, just as Europe has learnt too late that socialism does not work, he would bring socialism to America. For make no mistake about it, Obama is a socialist …  Just for starters he wants a national health service – a wholly socialist notion – though every example of such a thing everywhere in the world is failing.

Has he brought socialism to America? Yes. Or very much more of it to add to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s start.

Has he imposed a national health service on the nation? Yes. He has begun to do it with a health care act that taxes every citizen and resident of America just for existing, and is proving to be so unmanageable that the only way out of its mess is either to repeal it as Republicans want to do, or go to a full “one-payer system” – the one payer being of course the state – as Obama’s faithful Democrats want to do.

His foreign policy ideas are even more disastrous. He wants to disarm the US in a world of spreading nuclear know-how and capability along with hostile intention.

Is he doing so? Yes. He is defunding the US military and turning servicemen into social workers.

Is the country called ‘the last best hope’ of humanity about to follow the European example and become weak, demoralized, decadent, and slowly subjugated by aliens whose ideas derive from the seventh century?

Yes. In addition to following the European model of socialism, Obama has brought the Muslim Brotherhood into his administration. 

What of his world leadership as US president? He has just proved himself incapable of exercising it. Worse, he has broken the Pax Americana on which the world relied – as Caroline Glick explicates: 

What happened in Geneva last week was the most significant international event since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The collapse of the Soviet Union signaled the rise of the United States as the sole global superpower. The developments in the six-party nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva last week signaled the end of American world leadership.

Global leadership is based on two things – power and credibility. The United States remains the most powerful actor in the world. But last week, American credibility was shattered.

Secretary of State John Kerry spent the first part of last week lying to Israeli and Gulf Arab leaders and threatening the Israeli people. He lied to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Saudis about the content of the deal US and European negotiators had achieved with the Iranians.

Kerry told them that in exchange for Iran temporarily freezing its nuclear weapons development program, the US and its allies would free up no more than $5 billion in Iranian funds seized and frozen in foreign banks.

Kerry threatened the Israeli people with terrorism and murder – and so invited both – if Israel fails to accept his demands for territorial surrender to PLO terrorists that reject Israel’s right to exist. …

It is hard to separate the rise in terrorist activity since Kerry’s remarks last week from his remarks.

What greater carte blanche for murder could the Palestinians have received than the legitimization of their crimes by the chief diplomat of Israel’s closest ally? Certainly, Kerry’s negotiating partner Catherine Ashton couldn’t have received a clearer signal to ratchet up her economic boycott of Jewish Israeli businesses than Kerry’s blackmail message …

Kerry’s threats were so obscene and unprecedented that Israeli officials broke with tradition and disagreed with him openly and directly, while he was still in the country. Normally supportive leftist commentators have begun reporting Kerry’s history of anti-Israel advocacy, including his 2009 letter of support for pro-Hamas activists organizing flotillas to Gaza in breach of international and American law.

As for Kerry’s lies to the US’s chief Middle Eastern allies, it was the British and the French who informed the Israelis and the Saudis that far from limiting sanctions relief to a few billion dollars in frozen funds, the draft agreement involved ending sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas sector, and on other industries.

In other words, the draft agreement exposed Washington’s willingness to effectively end economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran’s agreement to cosmetic concessions that will not slow down its nuclear weapons program.

Both the US’s position, and the fact that Kerry lied about that position to the US’s chief allies, ended what was left of American credibility in the Middle East. That credibility was already tattered by US fecklessness in Syria and support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

True, in the end, Kerry was unable to close the deal he rushed off to Geneva to sign last Friday. [But] it wasn’t Iran that rejected the American surrender. And it wasn’t America that scuttled the proposal. It was France. Unable to hide behind American power and recognizing its national interest in preventing Iran from emerging as a nuclear armed power in the Middle East, France vetoed a deal that paved the way a nuclear Iran.

Kerry’s failure to reach the hoped-for deal represented a huge blow to America, and a double victory for Iran. The simple fact that Washington was willing to sign the deal – and lie about it to its closest allies – caused the US to lose its credibility in the Middle East. Even without the deal, the US paid the price of appeasing Iran and surrendering leadership of the free world [in this instance] to France and Israel. …

Thus, Iran ended Pax Americana in the Middle East, removing the greatest obstacle in its path to regional hegemony. And it did so without having to make the slightest concession to the Great Satan. …

It was fear of losing Pax Americana that made all previous US administrations balk at reaching an accord with Iran. …

The Obama administration just paid that unsustainably high price, and didn’t even get a different relationship with Iran.

Most analyses of what happened in Geneva last week have centered on what the failure of the talks means for the future of Obama’s foreign policy.

Certainly Obama, now universally reviled by America’s allies in the Middle East, will be diplomatically weakened. This diplomatic weakness may not make much difference to Obama’s foreign policy, because appeasement and retreat do not require diplomatic strength.

But the real story of what happened last week is far more significant than the future of Obama’s foreign policy. Last week it was America that lost credibility, not Obama. It was America that squandered the essential component of global leadership.

And that is the watershed event of this young century.

Until Obama became president, the consensus view of the US foreign policy establishment and of both major parties was that the US had a permanent interest in being the hegemonic power in the Middle East. US hegemony ensured three permanent US national security interests: preventing enemy regimes and terror groups from acquiring the means to cause catastrophic harm; ensuring the smooth flow of petroleum products through the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal; and demonstrating the credibility of American power by ensuring the security of US allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. The third interest was an essential foundation of US deterrence of the Soviets during the Cold War, and of the Chinese over the past decade.

Obama departed from this foreign policy consensus in an irrevocable manner last week. In so doing, he destroyed US credibility.

[Even] if  a conservative internationalist in the mold of Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan is elected in 2016, Obama’s legacy will make it impossible for him to rebuild the US alliance structure. US allies … will not be willing to make any longterm commitments based on US security guarantees.

Obama has taught the world that the same US that elected Truman and formed NATO, and elected George H.W. Bush and threw Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, can elect a man who betrays US allies and US interests to advance a radical ideology predicated on a rejection of the morality of American power. Any US ally is now on notice that US promises – even if based on US interests – are not reliable. American commitments can expire the next time America elects a radical to the White House. …

America’s appalling betrayal of Jerusalem under Obama …  is the straw that has broken the back of American strategic credibility from Taipei to Santiago. …

The twice-elected president of the United States has dispatched his secretary of state to threaten and deceive US allies while surrendering to US foes. It is now an indisputable fact that the US government may use its power to undermine its own interests and friends worldwide.

Could a president fail more catastrophically than Obama has? The list of his failures is too long for this space. Enough to say he has had no successes. America under his leadership is more in debt, its government is more corrupt, its position in the world is weaker, its Constitution is voided, its citizens are less free, its enemies are triumphant, its allies are enraged …

And yet … an awful question arises. What if all this represents not failure but success? What if the wrecking of the economy, the collectivization of the people, the weakening of America as the dominant world power, the voiding of the Constitution, the advancement of Islam, the existential crisis of Israel, are precisely what Obama set out to achieve?

Then he would have to be assessed as the most successful president since George Washington. The failure is colossal, but it is not his. It is America’s.

Anger at last – but too late? 0

The Antagonists

(Picture via PowerLine)

At last Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu seems fully to have grasped that President Barack Obama is his enemy.

We quote from DebkaFile (not always an entirely reliable source, but this report is in broad agreement with many others, only more detailed):

The interim nuclear accord negotiated directly between Washington and Tehran was already secretly in the bag before the two-day talks between Iran and the Six World powers took place in Geneva Thursday and Friday. The plan was for a ceremonial signing to take place Friday, Nov. 8, after US Secretary of State John Kerry flew in from Jerusalem and the Iranian Foreign Minister confirmed “the general outline of an agreement.”

Half a dozen foreign ministers from across the globe flew into Geneva to add their signatures to the interim accord.

But the signing did not take place and the event dragged on into Saturday, Nov. 9.

France refused to sign.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius remarked: “There is an initial draft that we do not accept … I have no certainty that we can finish up.” He also referred to the concerns of Iran’s neighbors in the Middle East. …

The US president’s phone conversation with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (“This is a very, very bad deal!”) early Saturday was a lot more heated. It took place after a three-day visit by John Kerry, which DEBKAfile’s sources reported Wednesday hardly touched on the Palestinian question: Most of the time he was on the phone to the US delegation in Geneva, the White House and the Iranian Foreign Minister.

From those conversations, Netanyahu learned to his dismay that the version of the accord he had received from Kerry in the first of their three conversations differed substantially from the outline prepared for signing in Geneva – especially in the key clause of sanctions relief.

Considerable relief – chiefly the release of Iranian funds frozen in in the West* – was being offered by Obama before the Iranians have done a thing to halt its nuclear program. He is prepared – even eager – to throw away the West’s most potent negotiating advantage, the very sanction that brought Iran to negotiate. We think this is one of the strongest indications that Obama positively wants Iran to become a nuclear-armed power.

This discovery precipitated the most furious row Friday ever heard by any US or Israeli official between an Israeli leader and an American official.

Netanyahu angrily confronted Kerry with the charge that the Obama administration had deceived Israel every step of the way by letting Iran continue to clandestinely develop the prohibited military elements of its nuclear program, including the underground enrichment plan in Fordo; the heavy water plant for plutonium production in construction in Arak; uranium enrichment up to 20 percent purity; and now, the last straw, sanctions.

As usual, Obama lied.

While Obama and Kerry have admitted only to lifting “a few minor reversible sanctions” and “modest’ sanctions relief as part of the deal, Israel discovered a far more generous package of concessions was on offer. The Europeans would lead the way in easing sanctions to allow Washington to show clean hands – especially to Congress.

By Friday, the Iranians understood that the Obama administration was so hell-bent on signing the first ever international accord on their nuclear program, that they could afford without much risk to up the price for their signature and extort more last-minute concessions.

So will Israel now take action against Iran?

The Times of Israel conjectures: “Agitated Netanyahu wonders if he left it too late” - to stop Iran becoming a nuclear power by bombing its nuclear facilities.

It goes on:

The prime minister’s very public horror at the deal taking shape in Geneva reflects his concern that he is failing in what he sees as his central mission. …

Thwarting Iran’s nuclear weapons drive has been the central mission of Netanyahu’s prime ministership. And he has been deeply worried these past few months — since the election of Hassan Rouhani in June gave Iran a smiling new public face, and since US President Barack Obama’s public volte face on a punitive strike against Syria’s President Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons against two months later — that the West was going to cut a lousy deal with Tehran that would leave at least part of the Islamic Republic’s enrichment capabilities intact.

Evidently unimpressed by Obama’s reassurance to him at the White House in late September that the United States would be negotiating “clear-eyed” with Iran, the prime minister headed straight to the United Nations General Assembly in New York to declare that, even if everybody else was fooled by the Rouhani charm offensive, and was ready to take Iran’s “we don’t want the bomb” claims at face value, Israel would “stand alone” against the Iranians’ bid for nuclear weapons.

But this weekend, his concern has been elevated to new heights. … Friday night’s Israeli TV news programs suggested that the prime minister feels he has been misled by the Obama administration, and that the offer put on the table to the Iranians in Geneva — which would allow them to continue to enrich uranium to 3.5% and thus, in Israel’s assessment, to establish themselves as a “breakout” state capable of racing to the bomb at a time of their choosing — is far more dangerous than anything he had anticipated. As he declared Friday in [a]  highly agitated Ben Gurion Airport appearance, Iran, under the deal on the table, “gets everything that it wanted at this stage and pays nothing.”

Ensconcing himself as the prime public face of international opposition to the deal taking shape in Geneva, Netanyahu openly acknowledged that he had pleaded with Kerry “not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider, to get a good deal… This is a bad deal, a very, very bad deal. It’s the deal of a century for Iran; it’s a very dangerous and bad deal for peace and the international community.”

Underpinning the prime minister’s undisguised horror at the direction of the Geneva talks was his worry that he has mishandled the crisis. Nobody could credibly assert that Netanyahu has failed to sound the international alarm. He has been warning the world relentlessly about Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, and his constant highlighting of the danger played a central role in pushing the international community into the sanctions that finally brought Tehran to the negotiating table.

What the prime minister is likely asking himself this weekend, however, is whether he should have moved from warnings to action — whether the moment for his threatened resort to force has already come and gone.

Persistent reports have suggested that Netanyahu did want to intervene militarily in the past, most particularly in the summer of 2012, and that he was deterred by opposition from the United States and from Israel’s own security chiefs, past and present. Others close to him, however, insist that had Netanyahu truly believed that it was a case of now or never for a military strike, he would have ordered one. “If he had thought that military action was crucial at the time, he would have acted,” Tzachi Hanegbi, the Likud MK, and former minister for nuclear affairs, who is closer than most others in the party to the prime minister, told this writer just a few days ago.

Hanegbi added that Netanyahu “most likely decided not to [resort to force in the past] because there are great advantages to waiting until Israel comes as close as possible to the limits of its tolerance. Because when that point is reached, we can use all of the previous restraint as a very powerful tool for strengthening the legitimacy of our actions.”

For Netanyahu now, though, the question [is] whether he has waited too long. As he made crystal clear in that UN address, he is certain that “Iran is developing nuclear weapons” and he believes that ”when a radical regime with global ambitions gets awesome power, sooner or later its appetite for aggression knows no bounds.”

He vowed in that speech that Israel would “not allow” Tehran to get the bomb. But now the entire international community is publicly lined up in search of an accord with the ostensibly newly moderate Iran. If a deal — however “bad” and “dangerous” — is being done by diplomats led by the United States, can Israel seriously contemplate defying the world and taking on Iran militarily?

The French refusal to sign the outline of agreement must have somewhat mitigated Israel’s fear of being up against “the entire international community” if it decides to take action.

But Israel should have destroyed as much as it could of Iran’s nuclear installations in 2012. Now it might really be too late. Netanyahu was misled, and he made the wrong judgment, so both anger and self-reproach are appropriate.

If France wants to seize an opportunity it has created for itself to take the lead on this most important international issue (and France has long resented US hegemony, so it might), it will encourage Israel to take the only action that can really stop Iran carrying out its evil designs – raining destruction on the Iranian factories of death.

 

* From today’s Debkafile: Western sources with access to the closed-door deliberations held in Geneva from Thursday to Saturday reveal that for the sake of a deal, Washington was ready to offer Iran a sanctions relief package worth nearly $20bn, to save the Iranian economy from bankruptcy. Secretary of State John Kerry told Iran’s foreign minister the US was ready to advance at once $3 billion of the estimated $50 billion of Iranian assets frozen in Western banks, and also end restrictions on Iranian’s gold, petrochemical and car industries. This would have netted the Iranian treasury another $16.5 billion. Zarif asked the package to also include restoring SWIFT foreign transfer services to Iranian banks. Both Washington and Tehran counted on a deal being clinched at the Geneva conference. Following its disappointing outcome, the Iranian regime is gripped with rising concern that the country’s further plunge into economic crisis may touch off violent protests and street demonstrations that could spill over into a popular uprising.

A brief colorful history of the modern state of Syria (and its neighbors) 2

Until the end of World War I, the states of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan did not exist. The territory they now cover had been part of the Empire of the Ottoman Turks for some 400 years. The names Syria and Mesopotamia designated Middle Eastern regions of the Ottoman Empire, roughly where Syria and Iraq are now.

In World War I the Turks were allies of Germany. The Arabs were loyal to their Ottoman overlords, and were also on Germany’s side.

But the British incited sedition among some of them, bribing a man in high religious office to head a rebellion. The inducement they offered him was power and glory: rule of an Arab independency of undefined dimensions.

The man was Hussein Ibn Ali, of the clan of the Hashemites and the tribe of the Quraish, Sharif of the Holy City of Mecca, putatively a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

The British gave him arms, supplies, subsidies and advisers. When he asked also for a firm definition of his dream-kingdom, the British High Commissioner in Cairo, Sir Henry McMahon, sent him a “clarification” in a letter dated 24 October 1915, in which he made it clear that he could not make it clear. The British, he explained, could not promise territory to Hussein which the French might claim, and they did not know what the French might claim.

In 1916 the British and French agreed, in a secret document known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement, on how they would divide up the territory between them once they had conquered it from the Turks. It was against the spirit of the times, when high principles were asserted against the old ideas of empire; principles which President Wilson of the United States set out in 14 points and became enshrined on the Covenant of the League of Nations. The new ideal was that never again would great powers impose their will on smaller nations.

In 1918, the British made another promise to the Arabs. It is known as The Declaration to the Seven. The “Seven” were from the Syrian region. They went to Cairo to ask the British what their intentions were in the Middle East. They were given a pledge that Britain would recognize “the complete and sovereign independence of any Arab area emancipated from Turkish control by the Arabs themselves”. It was an uncharacteristically precise promise.

It prompted the self-dramatizing Englishman, Colonel T.E.Lawrence, who had a highly romantic view of the Arabs (a view that has polluted the atmosphere of the  British Foreign Office ever since), to exert himself to lead Hussein’s forces to a decisive victory. He marched them to Damascus, but the Australian Light Horse Brigade got there first, and took the city from the Turks. Lawrence persuaded the British to pretend that his Arabs had conquered the city. So the British ordered the Australians to drift out and let the Arabs march in. This set a really bad precedent by which the Arabs expected always to have a fictional version of reality replace any facts on the ground which inconvenienced them. It also gave the Arabs as a whole a false understanding of their own military power and achievements. (If they had beaten the mighty Turks at Damascus, how could they not be victorious against the new little Jewish state of Israel in 1948?)

When the British, French, and Americans won the Second World War, the British set about fulfilling – more or less –  their promise to Hussein.

Hussein himself already ruled the Hejaz. His son Ali was his heir to that kingdom. (They were, however, to lose it in 1924,when Abdul Aziz al Saud conquered it. Saud was to join the Hejaz and the Nejd together and found a new state, Saudi Arabia, named after himself, in 1932.) But new kingdoms were created by the British for Hussein’s other sons, Abdullah and Faisal. They were to be called Syria and Iraq.

They made Faisal King of of the new state of Syria, and proposed to put Abdullah on the throne of a new state of Iraq. 

Faisal ruled Syria only from March to April, 1920. The French knocked him off his throne and threw him out of the country, whose destiny they claimed was rightfully in their hands. (The French were granted mandates over Syria and Lebanon.)

The British had to find another throne for Faisal, so they made him King of Iraq instead of his brother, and then considered what they could for Abdullah.

What remained in their power to give away – or so they made out – was an area of the Ottoman Empire to which the ancient Romans had given the name Palestine when it was still part of their empire. In July 1922, the League of Nations granted Britain a mandate (also agreed on at the San Remo peace conference in 1920) over the Palestine region. The British pleaded that they needed it in order to carry out a promise they had made, in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, to let the region become a National Home for the Jews. According to the terms of the Mandate they were  to “settle Jews closely on the land”. But when they were confronted by the problem of Abdullah being kingdom-less, they found that there was no need to let Jews settle closely on all the land. So they presented three-quarters of it, stretching eastward from the River Jordan to a chosen line in the desert, to Abdullah and called it the Emirate of Transjordan.

All the newly created Arab states fell short of Arab dreams. One was to flourish fairly well as a monarchy: the Emirate of Transjordan renamed itself the Kingdom of Jordan in 1949, when the Arab armies had failed to crush the new state of Israel, but the Transjordanian forces – known as the Arab Legion, under the able command of a British officer, John Bagot Glubb, better known as Glubb Pasha - had advanced across the River Jordan and taken control of what has ever since been called the “West Bank”. (Israel conquered it in its defensive war of 1968.)

The French held a mandate over Syria until July 1941. In September 1936,  a treaty of independence was  negotiated, but the French Legislature would not ratify it. Only when the British and Free French beat the forces of Vichy France in Syria and Lebanon in the Second World War, did Syria become an independent republic. But coups and attempted coups followed hot on each other, and the state was extremely unstable.

The Kingdom of Iraq also had a history of instability with numerous uprisings, massacres and assassinations. In 1958 the monarchy came to an end. The king, Faisal II, was eleven years old. His uncle, Abd al-Ilah, was  regent. He was an ambitious man. He had plans to dominate an Arab unity embracing Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Kuwait. In February 1958 he achieved a union between Iraq and Jordan, the two remaining Hashemite kingdoms. This was intolerable to the president of Egypt, Jamal Abd al-Nasser, who had just created a union of Egypt and Syria in the same  month. The union of Egypt and Syria under Nasser’s domination was intolerable to Abd al-Ilah.

Nasser had nationalized the Suez canal. Britain and France, who were joint shareholders in the Canal, lost their ownership of it. Nasser closed it to Israeli shipping. Israel saw this as a cause for war. Britain and France arranged with Israel that Israeli forces would strike into the Sinai on 29 October 1956, and they would invade Egypt on the pretext of restoring peace between the belligerents. President Eisenhower – unwisely – put a stop to the invasion when it had only just begun. America’s intervention allowed Nasser to pretend that he had won a victory, and felt encouraged to pursue his pan-Arab dream.

On February 1 1958, the union of Egypt and Syria as the United Arab Republic (UAR) came into being, with Cairo as its capital and Nasser as its president. Yemen was added a month later to form a confederation called the United Arab States.

Nasser’s agents and sympathizers went to work throughout the Middle East to spread his national socialist ideology. In Baghdad officers sympathetic to “Nasserism”  plotted the destruction of the Iraqi monarchy. In 1958, under pro-Nasserite leadership, a contingent of Iraqi troops despatched by the Regent  to quell a pro-Nasser uprising and civil war in Lebanon (actually put down by US forces) turned instead on their own ruling house. At dawn on 14 July 1958, the boy-king Faisal was murdered, along with his grandmother, his aunt, and others in the palace, including a helpless harmless orphan boy who lived with them.

Abd al-Ilah was dragged through the streets of Baghdad tied with ropes to the back of a truck, then – whether still alive or not when the tuck stopped – his body was dismembered with axes and his limbs and head tossed about by the hysterical mob. His trunk was hung from a balcony and chunks of its flesh were sliced off and thrown to the crowd below. The Prime Minister, Nuri al-Said, disguised himself as a woman and tried to escape, but he was caught and killed, and his body flung down on a busy street to be driven over, squashed and broken by the cars full of exulting motorists. His successor too was murdered after five years in power, and his body was fed to dogs.

In 1961, Syria revolted against Egypt’s domination and reasserted its independence. So the UAE was dissolved, and Yemen released. Hafez Assad became president of Syria in 1971. Under his dictatorship, and after him the dictatorship of his son Bashar Assad, rebellion has been put down with ruthless massacres.

Or not put down, as is the case now that civil war rages; or war waged by numerous militias and terrorist groups against the forces of the state. There is no reason to expect a peaceful or stable Syria to emerge out of the chaos, whether Great Powers intervene or not. The Syrians have no precedent for peace and stability in their young unhappy country. 

 

Jillian Becker  September 9, 2013

Those dying generations 16

In a Townhall article today, David Stokes comments on a Time magazine cover story titled  “The Child Free Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Children.”  The theme is interesting to us – the scarcity of children in most of the First World, particularly in Europe.

The author recalls a speech President Theodore Roosevelt gave in France:

Finally, even more important than ability to work, even more important than ability to fight at need, is it to remember that chief of blessings for any nations is that it shall leave its seed to inherit the land. It was the crown of blessings in Biblical times and it is the crown of blessings now. The greatest of all curses is the curse of sterility, and the severest of all condemnations should be that visited upon willful sterility. The first essential in any civilization is that the man and women shall be father and mother of healthy children so that the [human] race shall increase and not decrease. If that is not so, if through no fault of the society there is failure to increase, it is a great misfortune. If the failure is due to the deliberate and willful fault, then it is not merely a misfortune, it is one of those crimes of ease and self-indulgence, of shrinking from pain and effort and risk, which in the long run Nature punishes more heavily than any other. If we of the great republics, if we, the free people who claim to have emancipated ourselves from the thralldom of wrong and error, bring down on our heads the curse that comes upon the willfully barren, then it will be an idle waste of breath to prattle of our achievements, to boast of all that we have done.

That’s right. Theodore Roosevelt told the French that they needed to keep having babies.

At the time of Roosevelt’s speech, France was a major world power. Today—not so much.

And he ascribes a reason for the numerical decline of the French nation:

There is enough blame for such decline in global influence to go around, but the increased secularism of Europe, with its penchant for socialized everything, has certainly played a role.

By “secularism” David Stokes clearly means the increasing absence of religious belief in states that have long – if not always – been secular. It  is the absence or fading of religious belief that he blames (at least in part) for the dying out of Western nations.

Now more than 100 years later, there is an even greater threat to their cherished way of life. If only the French today would rediscover Teddy’s advice and reverse the birthrate trend—they might have a fighting chance. But such is the mindset of secularism, it is all about self and “fulfillment.” Issues of family, not to mention progeny are secondary, if thought about at all. Marriage is deferred—even eschewed. Children are planned—or better, planned around. And over time the birth rate in Europe has fallen far short of what is needed to keep up with the various demands of the future. In other words, the nations are aging. There are fewer children, yet more grandparents—a trend that will continue and accelerate.

All he says about the trend is true, but is he right about the cause?

He goes on, factually correct:

It takes a fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman to keep a nation’s population stable. The United States is drifting away from that. Canada has a rate of 1.48 and Europe as a whole weighs in at 1.38. What this means is that the money will run out, with not enough wage-earners at the bottom to support an older generation’s “entitlements.”

But even beyond that, the situation in France also reminds us of the opportunistic threat of Islamism. It is just a matter of time before critical mass is reached and formerly great bastions of democratic republicanism morph into caliphates. In the United Kingdom the Muslim population is growing 10 times faster than the rest of society. In fact, all across Western Europe it’s the same. The cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam are on track to have Muslim majority populations in a decade or two. A T-shirt that can be seen on occasion in Stockholm reads: “2030—Then We Take Over.”

And he concludes:

A few years ago, Britain’s chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, decried Europe’s falling birthrate, blaming it on “a culture of consumerism and instant gratification”. 

“Europe is dying,” he said, “we are undergoing the moral equivalent of climate change and no one is talking about it.”

The Rabbi was right, and so was Teddy.

Was the Rabbi right?

Why are the indigenous peoples of Europe and other parts of the First World dying out?

Why are the Europeans willing to let the Muslims take over their countries?

Is it because of socialism? 

On the one hand it can be argued that socialism discourages you from having children because the state – you believe  - will look after you in your old age. It will care for you if you fall ill. It will make it easy for you to house and feed yourself because, if you don’t want to work, it will give you money. No need for more wage-earners in the family.

And there is a strong streak of anti-human life in the ideology of the far left. Among environmentalists in particular. They say that there are too many people on the planet  - and angrily deny that the numbers are declining. Some even want there to be no people on the earth at all. They maintain that the absence of human beings would be better for shrimps and reptiles.

On the other hand, the socialist welfare state pays people to have children. In America, for instance, millions of women can have children without having a husband or wage-earner to help keep them because with every baby they get more money from the state. And the state also pays for the children’s education.

But then again, socialist economics don’t work. Sooner or later socialism brings an economy to disaster. Is it anticipation of dire poverty that keeps people from breeding? About half the voters in most western countries regularly vote for socialism, so that can’t be a compelling reason.

All this considered, the argument that socialism is to blame for the suicide of the West is not convincing. It may account for an eventual death by inanition, but not for the slow suicide.

Is it because of “consumerism”?

Perhaps. But what proof is there? Do anecdotes about individuals and couples saying they prefer to use their money for a high standard of living – cars, travel and so on – rather than on raising children, prove the case? Not unless they reflect the decisions of a majority, and who has collected and counted them?

By “consumerism” (the preferred term now for what they used to call “materialism” or “conspicuous consumption”) its critics mean comfortable living, good cars, travel and so on. In other words, they ascribe the fall in the birth-rate to prosperity.

Did prosperous people in past times not have children, or choose to have only a few? Not as far as we know. In Victorian times most families, rich as well as poor, were large. And since those who owned much had much to pass on and keep in the family, wealth may have positively stimulated reproduction.

But of course in the days when wealthy families were large, parents had servants to look after their children. Most people now, even if they can afford live-in servants, do not have them. So perhaps it’s not so much the desire for more luxurious living but the desire not to be “tied down” by children. Having to stay in with them at night. Not being able to go on holiday when you choose because of their school schedule. Not being able easily to part from their other parent when you’re sick of him or her.

Implied by the word “consumerism”  is another word: “capitalism”. Though not all who condemn consumerism may be aware that the one word is haunted by the other. As David Stokes’s column appears at Townhall, we may reasonably assume that he’s a conservative. American conservatives are not consciously against capitalism; they are against socialism, as we are. But too many of them are religious. Too many of them are Christians. It is Christian puritanism that inspires the strange prejudice  - if  not against prosperity as such, against the signs of it: high living standards, costly cars, expensive travel and so on. Only in theory, we observe. We confidently expect that most religious critics of “consumerism” have – or aspire to have – a high standard of living for themselves, own costly cars, and jet to their summer vacation on a cruise-ship or a multi-starred hotel. They are seldom in fact less materialistic or less self-indulgent than the “secularists” they scorn. And they are not against having children. The American fertility-rate – which is the measure of population stability, or increase, or decrease – has until very recently been stable while Europe’s declined.

But what of religion? Is its absence the cause we are looking for?

Is it because of “secularism”?

By “secularism” David Stokes clearly means the fading of religious belief in states that have long – if not always – been secular. And it is the absence or fading of religious belief that he blames for the dying out of Western nations.

Such is the mindset of secularism, it is all about self and “fulfillment.” 

Is there no self-fulfillment in having children? Don’t many feel that having a child is more self-fulfilling than anything else?

It does seem to be the case that fewer people are religious, or most people are less religious in Europe now. How did religion formerly keep the birth-rate up?

The mainly Catholic countries used to have  bigger families because birth control was forbidden by their Church. So perhaps now that the Roman Church has lost much of its power, more Catholics use contraception. But that explanation doesn’t affect the traditionally Protestant countries of northern Europe, and there too the indigenous  populations are shrinking. (And one thing Christians who bemoan the dearth of children seem to forget is that St Paul recommended celibacy. Marry if you must, he taught, but it is better to remain unmarried and chaste like him and Jesus Christ. Not a formula for re-populating Europe.)

The bible states that Jehovah enjoins the Jews to be fruitful, to multiply. And  Israel is one of the few Western countries where the population is increasing – although Israel is a secular state. Perhaps the old religious injunction continues to have a subliminal effect.

So if socialism is not the reason why the people of the West are ever more unwilling to have children, nor “consumerism”, nor “secularism” – what is?

We don’t know. Nobody does.

But if the suicide of the West means the loss of our civilization – which it very well may – it will be a great tragedy. One of the greatest tragedies of history.

 

Jillian Becker   August 11, 2013

The darkness of this world 3

 The Darkness of This World

essays on

Our Gnostic Age

1

French philosophers in the last century advocated the deliberate doing of evil. Why? Maybe they were helpless instruments of the Zeitgeist. Maybe they were insane.

There was a time long ago when dozens of philosophers, or mystics, or religious teachers, did the same: they taught that this world is evil, and the moral thing to do in an evil world is disobey its moral laws.

Their cults arose and flourished in the 1st and (mostly) the 2nd century C.E., and their doctrine came to be called “Gnosticism” by post-Renaissance historians. [1] It may not be the best name for it. It is derived from their belief that some human beings are capable of escaping this evil world and entering an eternal sphere of pure goodness by being blessed with an inner knowledge of the otherwise unknowable Godhead who dwells there. This intuitive knowledge they called, in Greek, the Gnosis.

The reversing of conventional values so characterized the old Gnostics that they might be called “reversalists”. It was their reversal of values, not their doctrine of intuitive knowledge, that made them dangerous in the ancient world. And as certain recent thinkers propound just such a reversal of values, the word Gnostic is applied to them. Modern Gnostics (or “post-modern” as many of them prefer to call themselves) have had a significant and baneful influence on our age.

In this series of essays we will be looking with a hard and critical – not to say merciless – eye at a selection of influential Gnostics, including French philosophers, Austrian actionist artists, Teutonic terrorists, English entertainers, and American academics.

 

Jillian Becker   June 23, 2013

NOTES

1. See our posts on some of these Gnostic cults:

The father of all heresy, February 23, 2010 (on Simon Magus, and Menander)

How a rich shipowner affected Christianity, January 2, 2010 (on Marcion)

Erotic religion, January 24, 2010 (on Carpocrates and Epiphanes)

Mani and Manicheism, May 9, 2010

Valentinus, February 14, 2011

Holy snakes, March 24, 2013 (on the Ophites)

The sinning Jesus, the laughing Christ, and the Big Bang of Basilides, April 6, 2013

Also see:

Gnosticism: what is it?, March 3, 2013

Posted under Articles, Ethics, Europe, France, Gnosticism, Philosophy, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, June 23, 2013

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