Libertarianism the wave of the future? 9

The Left likes to believe – as Obama and Harry Reid often iterate – that it is “on the side of history”.

Is history then stuck with those stale and failed ideas of a Marxian stamp propagated by the likes of Kenneth Galbraith, John Maynard Keynes, or the bone-headed strategies of Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Priven?

Or tending back to the Dark Ages with a resurgence of Islam?

Surely not. A civilization that has put a man on the moon; has invented the computer, the internet, the driverless car; that watches the expansion of the universe; that can replace a faulty human heart with a new one; that has used liberty to become rich, knowledgable, and ever more inventive, is not going to go back to communism or the law of the seventh century desert?

Quo vadis then?

The maliciously lefty and deeply nasty New York Times notices a rise in libertarian opinion in America.

Libertarianism has been touted as the wave of America’s political future for many years, generally with more enthusiasm than evidence. But there are some tangible signs that Americans’ attitudes are in fact moving in that direction.

The NYT goes on to substantiate its claim with figures and a chart.

It defines a libertarian, fairly enough, as “someone who believes that the government is best when it governs least”.

There have been visible shifts in public opinion on a number of issues, ranging from increasing tolerance for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization on the one hand, to the skepticism over stimulus packages and the health-care overhaul on the other hand, that can be interpreted as a move toward more libertarian views.

The Tea Party movement also has some lineage in libertarian thinking. Although polls suggest that many people who participate in the Tea Party movement have quite socially conservative views, the movement spends little time emphasizing those positions, as compared with economic issues.

The perception that the Tea Party – whose chief issue is the need for fiscal responsibility – has “some lineage in libertarian thinking” is remarkable for that newspaper. It seldom removes its red blindfold long enough to replace it for a short time with blinders. For it to see something that is actually there but not obvious is a lucky moment of illumination worth a cheer or two. The author of the article is Nate Silver. Perhaps he found some cunning way to let that uncongenial revelation slip past editorial oversight.

Or perhaps he and his editors think that libertarian thinking is bad anyway. If we didn’t know that to be the case already, there’s a hint of it in what comes later.

The libertarian opinions, revealed by a CNN poll and quoted in the article, are these:

Some 63 percent of respondents said government was doing too much — up from 61 percent in 2010 and 52 percent in 2008 — while 50 percent said government should not favor any particular set of values, up from 44 percent in 2010 and 41 percent in 2008.

The author, apparently not happy to accept what the poll reveals, comments:

Whether people are as libertarian-minded in practice as they might believe themselves to be when they answer survey questions is another matter. Still, there have been visible shifts in public opinion on a number of issues, ranging from increasing tolerance for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization on the one hand …”

So a tolerance with which he has sympathy …

 … to the skepticism over stimulus packages and the health-care overhaul on the other hand …

So a skepticism he condemns  …

 … that can be interpreted as a move toward more libertarian views.

How confusing for Nate Silver! Libertarians like some of the things he likes. But they also dislike things that he holds dear.

Well, actually, that is the case with us too.

We welcome the spread of libertarian sentiment.

We too see no reason why marijuana should be illegal.

As for same-sex marriage, we think it is an hilarious farce, but would on no account oppose it. A 12-year old boy once defined marriage for us as “a legal union between two or more things”.  Why not  more than two? Why not things or beasts as well as humans?  If – as the argument goes – they love each other? (Well, we said it’s a farce.)

Where we are strongly with libertarians is on the issue of economic freedom. As our contributing commenter Don L often recommends: accept that the Austrian School is right and allow no government interference whatsoever in economic activity – and abolish the Fed. We also advocate keeping taxes (flat-rated) very low. So low that they cannot sustain a government that does much more than it absolutely has to do – protect the liberty of the people, from outside enemies, and domestic criminals. And enforce the law of contract.

But we too have some quarrels with libertarians.

There are those among them who outrageously condone the corruption of children, even the use of them for pornography “as long as they are willing and are paid for their services”!*

Quite a large number of libertarians are historical revisionists, and some who ridiculously and with evil intent deny that the Holocaust ever happened.**

And most libertarians want America to take no notice of what’s going on in the world beyond its borders, except for trade and vacations. As if ignorance is a protection from a world full of expansionist tyrannies and ideologies.

No. None of that.

But a libertarianism that holds individual freedom as the highest value, and knows that it is only possible under the rule of law; and at the same time is committed to preserving the best of everything America has achieved in the past, is a libertarianism that we can – and do – embrace.

 

NOTES:

* We cannot link to articles that discuss this. Access to them is “forbidden”.

**Although the article we link to here does endorse what we say that some libertarians deny  the Holocaust, it goes too far in criticizing Reason and its sponsors.

McCain, Kissinger, and low-life scum 5

Now for a little light relief.

Senator John McCain, a genuine hero, made a lousy presidential candidate in 2008. We seldom like anything he says.

But today we applaud him for what he said to a despicable bunch of feeble-minded Islam-supporting terrorist-encouraging pacifist Communist feminists – silly women of both sexes.

The Daily Mail reports:

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain uncorked a scathing attack on anti-war protesters who interrupted an Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday …

Activists with the far-left pacifist group CodePink stood with banners when former secretary of state Henry Kissinger entered the room, accusing him of committing war crimes during his tenure as America’s top diplomat and as the national security adviser.

They shook handcuffs in his face and chanted “Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes” while McCain, who chaired the hearing about global threats to the U.S., sat dumbfounded and embarrassed … visibly angry on Thursday when police weren’t on the scene immediately to remove the protesters from the hearing chamber. …

“You know,” he told the group of pink-clad agitators, “you’re going to have to shut up, or I’m going to have you arrested.”

The Capitol Police tardily appeared.

One man, being escorted from the room by a uniformed cop, shouted something back at the senator.

Get out of here, you low-life scum,” McCain replied.

The audience “erupted in applause”.

Emily Zanotti at The American Spectator writes:

Since it’s rare to feel proud of the work John McCain does in Congress, it’s probably worth keeping this little nugget somewhere deep in your files, so that you can pull it out and remember that somewhere, deep down inside that slowly-melting Maverick, there’s still a passionate heart that burns with an unquenchable desire to smack a hippie back into the last century where she belongs.

This morning, John McCain’s inner beast reared it’s ugly head at Code Pink’s.

Posted under Commentary, communism, Feminism, Leftism, Pacifism, United States by Jillian Becker on Thursday, January 29, 2015

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End of the last best hope? 10

Today we dare to go further than we ventured a few days ago when we wrote about the systematic weakening of America by its elected leader. (The taking down of America, December 1, 2014.)

We declare that Obama and his gang, and the greater part of the political party that put him in power, and the international Left, in alliance with Islam, are deliberately destroying America. That is to say, destroying America as the embodiment in a free republic of the idea of liberty under the rule of law. And are close to succeeding.

It is dumbfounding, gobsmacking, how blatant they are about it. How large their plan is writ across their term in power. How openly they do their dirty deeds. They hardly take any pains to disguise their ugly intentions. And yet how the people of America and the world beyond it have managed not to notice, or fully comprehend, what is happening!

David Solway, writing at PJ Media, assembles the evidence that the general public seems unable or unwilling to see, and ponders the horrible work in progress towards the destruction of America.

In [his book] Marked for Death, Geert Wilders argues that Islam has marked not only him but ultimately every freedom-loving individual and so-called “Islamophobe” for death because of the supremacist nature of its doctrines. What outrages Wilders, in addition to the Islamic threat and the demographic inroads the religion of war is carving into the European urban landscape, is the scandalous complicity of Europe’s governing elites, leading to the eventual subversion of the continent.  Although Wilders does not address American vulnerability in any detailed way, what must surely strike a disinterested observer is the equal complicity with which the commander in chief of the United States is pursuing a program of American decline. On the domestic, economic, military, and foreign policy fronts, Obama is energetically and probably irretrievably weakening the country he has sworn to defend, with surprisingly little concerted opposition, or even awareness, from many politicians or from the still-infatuated members of his constituency.

We think the infatuated members of his constituency, or most of them, are aware – and applaud him for it. They want what he wants.

To start with Islam, it is mind-boggling to observe an American president vigorously facilitating the Islamic imperial agenda in a number of different but equally effective ways. He could not do better — or worse — if he were a transplanted Qatari sheikh. One notes the infamous Cairo address with its bloat of lies and factoids. The UN speeches, such as “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” The elevation of Muslim Brotherhood operatives into sensitive posts in his administration. Islamic outreach through official institutions such as NASA, once designed for space exploration, now, apparently, for Muslim apologetics. Iftar dinners at the White House. Congratulatory letters to mosques and his designation of terror attacks as “workplace violence”, “man-caused disasters” and “traffic incidents”. His concessionary engaging in a secret correspondence with Iran’s anti-American and anti-Semitic Ayatollah Khamenei. The withdrawing of troops from Iraq, thus opening the way for the establishment of the Islamic State. The purging of FBI training manuals of all reference to jihad. And the interviews in which Obama claims that the U.S. is “one of the biggest Muslim nations”. (In actuality, professing Muslims count for 1.5% of the American people, in comparison, for example, to Muslims amounting to 13% of India’s census.)

But it doesn’t stop there. Obama is not only manifestly pro-Islam; he is demonstrably anti-American. His policies across the board are all of a piece. Domestically, his economic projects have been calamitous. Obama has pied-pipered the nation to the brink of fiscal ruin … His racial interventions have set race relations back a generation or more — most recently his urging the Ferguson rioters to “stay on course“.  His attack on the Constitution is systematically undermining the republican nature of the US. Former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey cites the president for violating the Constitution 24 times with regard to Obamacare alone. …

Obama’s refusal to secure the permeable southwestern border is an open invitation to a veritable invasion of illegals and jihadists. His executive order to issue a temporary reprieve on the grounds of prosecutorial discretion, to delay deportation, and to provide work permits for millions of illegals is certain to create dismay, resentment and confrontation on a national scale … His mishandling of the Ebola crisis is only another example of anti-colonial politicking, placing American citizens at risk by allowing flights from infected West African countries into the U.S. The list goes on.

In terms of foreign policy, all of Obama’s actions seem dedicated to weakening American strength and resolve in a hostile world. His innumerable blunders — if that is what they are — whether the result of incompetence or, more likely, intention, …

Intention – we see no reason seriously to doubt it.

… have been scrupulously and abundantly documented in scores of books and hundreds of articles. (As an audience member at a recent Freedom Center symposium joked, Obama is “the most competent president we’ve ever had” — most competent, that is, as a malevolent and destructive force whose blunders are not accidents.) It might almost seem as if Obama’s “crimes and misdemeanors” are acquiring encyclopedic dimensions. Here we need only mention his clear bias against international allies, in particular Israel, his funding of the terrorist organization Hamas, his inability or unwillingness to deal effectively with ISIS, which he notoriously regarded as a jayvee outfit, and, most worrisomely, his pampering of the Iranian mullocracy in its determined march toward nuclear status.

His campaign against the American military is perhaps the most telling if under-the-radar sign of his animus toward his own country. His aim to reduce the military to pre-WWII levels and his sacking of ranking military personnel are especially troubling instances of a malign agenda. As retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, an original member of Delta Force and currently executive vice president of the Family Research Council, has argued, “our military is being devastated at the same time that all of our enemies, all of our potential adversaries are ramping up.” It is time, he insists on Twitter, that “top military MUST stand up to President + reckless policies.” It is hard to understand how a powerful military establishment could allow itself to be serially gutted, unless it is helmed by hand-picked Obama supporters.

For there is no evident, top-brass pushback against a president who has signaled to the enemy a timetable for withdrawal; who has shackled his forces in Afghanistan with so-called “rules of engagement,” putting their lives in jeopardy; whose concept of military propriety is a latte salute and whose concept of diplomatic propriety is chewing gum in the face of a prestigious welcoming delegation of a formidable power. This is a president under whose watch veterans were neglected and abused; who has exchanged an alleged deserter for five mid-to-high tier Taliban terrorists; and who has blithely abandoned servicemen under fire or held in captivity. The American armed forces find themselves in a position analogous to the Turkish military, once the guarantor of the country’s Kemalist experiment, now decimated under the authoritarian stewardship of Obama’s good friend, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose example Obama appears to be emulating.

As a result of Erdogan’s actions, a secular Muslim state has been transformed into an Islamic theopolitical nightmare. What the future augurs for America under Obama’s cataclysmic leadership is equally distressing.

Equally? While we agree with Solway’s argument, and value the useful list of proofs that he has gathered, at this point we murmur a respectful correction: What happens to America is immeasurably more important than what happens to Turkey.

And is he too pessimistic in this next passage? Is America “no longer the world’s only superpower” – or even not a superpower at all any more?

In the conclusion of his seminal book, Geert Wilders warned that the Islamic incursion into the body politic and social matrix of the U.S. is well underway; in the course of time, the nation will have lost itself in the Wilderness. But the gradual emirization of the U.S. is merely one among a host of premonitory indices. The nation’s spirit appears increasingly stagnant. It is drowning in a Noah’s flood of debt, it is coming apart at the racial seams, it is riven by a red/blue ideological conflict that appears unbridgeable, it is no longer the world’s only superpower — indeed, it is moot whether it is still a superpower, and it is considered either a hindrance or an irrelevance on the global proscenium. It is debatable whether the rot has gone too deep to be scoured, or if the recent change in party representation in Congress or a future Republican presidency would amount to anything more than a temporary hiatus. … The rot is not only political but has eaten deep into the culture as well, with growing levels of violence, welfare dependence, historical ignorance and general cynicism. In any event, once a nation has forfeited its pre-eminence, history shows it unlikely to reclaim its former position of authority and grandeur.

Finally he gives more reasons to be pessimistic, and they are all cogent:

Many have pointed out, as has Dinesh D’Souza to persuasive effect in America: Imagine a World without Her, that Obama’s main endeavor is to promote national enfeeblement, an enterprise which the American left, via its political, media, intellectual and academic elites, has been advancing for the last fifty years. When the fundraiser-in-chief is pastured out to the golf course or the United Nations and should the Democrats be returned to power, someone else will replace him to carry on his work. Certainly, should Alinsky-friendly Hillary Clinton or populist fraud and gentrified socialist Elizabeth Warren succeed to the presidency, one could write an early finis to the great American adventure in republican governance.

The question remains partially open. Can the country slip out from under the withering curse laid upon it by a runaway president, his subversive administration and the radically corrupt Democratic Party? Can the Augean Stables of a decaying political, intellectual and media culture be cleansed and fumigated? Can the Republicans connect with their staunchly conservative base to eventually form a credible, unified and revitalized governing party?

In the meantime, with the help of his compliant accomplices, Obama has, both as effect and cause, probably done more damage to American interests, security and patriotic fervor than any single president before him. Indeed, he has done more than any of his predecessors to ensure that America as we once knew her is marked for death.

Beyond hope? Not quite:

One can only hope against hope that the American spirit is still at least subliminally resilient.

The taking down of America 11

President Obama believes that America is arrogant.* If his foreign policy can be explained by anything, it would be his intention to bring America down a peg or ten. Looked at like that, the disasters we see happening in many parts of the world are testimony not to  Obama’s failure, but to his success.

Not that President Obama can have any objection to arrogance as such. He is an arrogant man. He just doesn’t want America to be proud of its superiority. He hates the very idea that it is superior. But while he would not even acknowledge its political-moral superiority as a republic constituted for liberty, he cannot deny that it is economically and militarily stronger than any other country. So he’s been working to change that for the last six years.

The whole world is the worse for his efforts.

This is from Front Page, by Bruce Thornton:

The 6 years of Barack Obama’s foreign policy have seen American influence and power decline across the globe. Traditional rivals like China and Russia are emboldened and on the march in the South China Sea and Ukraine. Iran, branded as the world’s deadliest state sponsor of terrorism, is arrogantly negotiating its way to a nuclear bomb. Bloody autocrats and jihadist gangs in the Middle East scorn our president’s threats and behead our citizens. Countries in which Americans have shed their blood in service to our interests and ideals are in the process of being abandoned to our enemies. And allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia are bullied or ignored. All over the world, a vacuum of power has been created by a foreign policy sacrificed to domestic partisan advantage, and characterized by criminal incompetence.

Incompetence is what it looks like. But if failure is the aim, then either the incompetence is only an appearance, or it is a means to the end.

How we have arrived at this point, the dangers to our security and interests if we don’t change course, and what must be done to recover our international prestige and effectiveness are the themes of Bret Stephens’ America in Retreat. The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder. …

A clear sign of American retreat is the precipitous decline in military spending. “In the name of budgetary savings,” Stephens writes, “the Army is returning to its June 1940 size,” and “the Navy put fewer ships at sea at any time since 1916.” The Air Force is scheduled to retire 25,000 airmen and mothball 550 planes. Our nuclear forces are being cut to meet the terms of the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia, even as its nuclear arsenal has been increasing. Meanwhile Obama … issues empty threats, blustering diktats, and sheer lies that convince world leaders he is a “self-infatuated weakling”.

Unfortunately, 52% of the American people agree that the U.S. “should mind its own business internationally”,  and 65% want to “reduce overseas military commitments”, including a majority of Republicans. This broad consensus that America should retreat from global affairs reflects our age’s bipartisan isolationism, the centerpiece of Stephens’ analysis. This national mood is not a sign of decline, according to Stephens, who documents the enormous advantages America still enjoys globally, from its superiority in research and entrepreneurial vigor, to its healthy demographics and spirit of innovation. But it does bespeak a dangerous withdrawal from the policies that created the postwar Pax Americana – even though this global order policed by the U.S. defeated the murderous, nuclear-armed ideology of Soviet communism, and made possible the astonishing economic expansion that has lifted millions from poverty all over the world. …

For Stephens, isolationism has not been the only danger to American foreign policy success. What he calls “the overdose of ideals”, specifically the “freedom agenda” of the sort George W. Bush tried in Iraq and Afghanistan, has misdirected our efforts and squandered our resources in the pursuit of impossible goals. The success of the Cold War and the subsequent spread of democracy and free-market economies suggested that the world could be not just protected from an evil ideology, but “redeemed” by actively fostering liberal democracy even in countries and regions lacking the necessary network of social mores and political virtues upon which genuine liberal democracy rests. But in attempting to redeem the world, Stephens notes, policy makers “neglected a more prosaic responsibility: to police it”.

The failures to create stability, let alone true democracy, in Iraq and Afghanistan have enabled what Stephens calls the “retreat doctrine”, one to be found in both political parties. Barack Obama is the master of this species of foreign policy, incoherently combining idealistic democracy-promoting rhetoric with actions that further withdraw the U.S. from its responsibility to ensure global order. Under the guise of “nation-building at home,” and in service to traditional leftist doubt about America’s goodness, Obama has retreated in the face of aggression, and encouraged cuts in military spending in order to fund an ever-expanding entitlement state.

But also, equally, in order to make America weaker.

Meanwhile, “Republicans are busy writing their own retreat doctrine in the name of small government, civil liberties, fiscal restraint, ‘realism’,  a creeping sense of Obama-induced national decline, and a deep pessimism about America’s ability to make itself, much less the rest of the world, better.”

The “retreat doctrine” is dangerous because global disorder is a constant contingency. The remainder of Stephens’ book approaches this topic first from the perspective of theory and history, and then from today’s practice. History teaches us that all the substitutes for a liberal dominant global power have failed to prevent the descent into conflict and mass violence. The ideas of a balance of power, collective security, or the presumed peaceful dividend and “harmony of interests” created by global trade did not prevent World War I or its even more devastating sequel. Nor are they any more useful in our own times.

As for today, Stephens identifies several challenges to a global order fragilely held together by the commitment to liberal democracy, open economies, and the free circulation of ideas and trade. The “revisionists” attack this model from various perspectives. Iran sees it as a fomenter of godlessness and hedonism, Russia is moved to oppose it by “revanchism and resentment”,  and China believes that it “is a recipe for bankruptcy and laziness”,  lacking a “sense of purpose, organization, and direction”.  All three see evidence for their various critiques in the failure of the U.S. to exercise its massive power in the face of challenges, and in the willingness of American elites to revel in guilt and self-doubt. These perceptions of national decline invite rivals and enemies to behave as if the U.S. is in fact declining.

The other international players that could worsen disorder are “freelancers” and “free radicals”.  The former include those countries like Israel or Japan who, convinced that America will not act in its own or its allies’ interests, will understandably take action that necessarily entails unforeseen disastrous consequences. Much more dangerous are the “free radicals”, the jihadist gangs rampaging across 3 continents, and the nuclear proliferators like Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan, whose collaboration with each other and rogue regimes like Venezuela endangers the world through provoking even further proliferation on the part of rivals, or by handing off nuclear weapons to terrorist organizations. And then there are “free radicals” like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who have undermined global order by publicizing the necessarily covert tools, practices, and institutions that undergird and protect it.

Finally, there are the structural weaknesses of the globalized economy and its continuing decline in growth, which may create “breaks” in national economic systems that “will be profoundly disruptive, potentially violent, and inherently unpredictable”. Add America’s retreat from world affairs and reductions in military spending, and in the “nearer term”, Stephens warns, “terrorists, insurgents, pirates, hackers, ‘whistleblowers’,  arms smugglers, and second-rate powers armed with weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles will be able to hold the United States inexpensively at risk”,  provoking further American retreat from world affairs and the inevitable increased aggression by our enemies and rivals.

 So what can be done? In his conclusion Stephens applies to foreign affairs the “broken windows” tactics of urban policing that caused rates of violent crimes to plummet over the last few decades. Thus “the immediate goal of U.S. foreign policy should be to arrest the continued slide into a broken-windows world of international disorder”.

This foreign policy would require increasing U.S. military spending to 5% of GDP, with a focus on increasing numbers of troops, planes, and ships rather than on overly sophisticated and expensive new weapons. It would mean stationing U.S. forces near global hotspots to serve as a deterrent and rapid-reaction force to snuff out incipient crises. It would require reciprocity from allies in military spending, who for too long have taken for granted the American defense umbrella. It would focus attention on regions and threats that really matter, particularly the borderlands of free states, in order to protect global good citizens from predators. It means acting quickly and decisively when conflict does arise, rather than wasting time in useless debates and diplomatic gabfests. Finally, it would require that Americans accept that their unprecedented global economic, cultural, and military power confers on us both vulnerability to those who envy and hate us, and responsibility for the global order on which our own security and interests depend.

No matter how understandable our traditional aversion to military and political entanglements abroad, history has made us the global policeman, one committed to human rights, accountability, and political freedom. If we abdicate that position, there is no country powerful, or worthy enough, to take our place.

We agree with that.

And Thornton tantalizes us with this:

Stephens ends with an imagined “scenario” of how a serious global disruption could occur, one grounded in current trends and thus frighteningly believable.

When we’ve found out what that scenario is, which is to say when we’ve read the book, we’ll return to this important subject.

 

*  “In his first nine months in office, President Obama has issued apologies and criticisms of America in speeches in France, England, Turkey, and Cairo; at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the United Nations in New York City. He has apologized for what he deems to be American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, and for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, and for feeding anti-Muslim sentiments; for committing torture, for dragging our feet on global warming and for selectively promoting democracy.” – Mitt Romney, quoted by PolitiFact.com

Libertarian conservatism 4

From time to time visitors to this website or our Facebook page query the idea – even the possibility – of there being such a thing as atheist conservatism. They are – almost always, as far as we can make out – Americans whose understanding is that the word “conservative” denotes Christian conservatism. To them, therefore, to speak of  “atheist conservatism” is to commit a contradiction in terms. Some have called it an oxymoron.

In Europe too, conservatism has a Christian coloration. Conservative political parties usually declare themselves to be Christian –  for example, the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) of Germany. But their support does not come only from Christians. And in Britain the established Church of England has been called “the Conservative Party at prayer”, but the party does not exclude members of other Christian denominations or other religions, or the non-religious.

Yet it is an American conservatism that we embrace. It is faithfulness to the Constitution, to the essential idea that the United States was intended to embody as a nation: the idea of individual liberty protected by the rule of law.

The shortest answer we give to those who accuse us of being self-contradictory is to tell them what our prime principles are:

  • individual freedom
  • a free market economy
  • small government
  • low taxes
  • strong defense

And we point out that those are core principles of American conservatism. The Constitution – southern state critics please be reminded – does not require citizens to be Christian, or religious at all.

Just as often, perhaps even more often, we are told that we cannot be both conservative and libertarian: that the two traditions are separate and even inimical to each other, to the point of being mutually exclusive. Even if that were  true (and we don’t think it is), we consider it unnecessary to take tradition into account. The issue needs to be looked at philosophically, not historically. Our conservatism, holding the firmly conservative principles we have listed, is manifestly a conservatism of liberty.

And we think it is now, more than ever before, that the libertarian view should direct the political agenda of conservatism. A heavy counterweight is needed to bring America back from its tipping over into collectivism by the Left. Individual freedom urgently needs to be saved.

What is stopping conservatives from accepting libertarianism as its future? The libertarians themselves. Frequently, their public statements reveal them to be inexcusably ignorant of world affairs. They often advocate naive isolationism. They seem to lack a sense of what matters. The legalization of drugs could be wise and necessary, but it is not worth making a hullabaloo about  when jihad is being waged against us. A person should arguably be able to marry any other person or persons – or things – that they choose, but it is much more important that America should remain the world’s sole superpower.

John Hinderaker also thinks that this should be “the libertarian moment”. And he too reproaches libertarians with an underdeveloped sense of what matters to the existence, liberty, safety, and prosperity of the nation. 

He writes at PowerLine:

Every major strand of American conservatism includes a strong libertarian streak, because the value of liberty is fundamental to just about all conservative thought. But today, especially, is said to be the libertarians’ moment. What once was a fringe movement, politically speaking, has moved front and center in our political life.

And yet, in my view, libertarians of both the capital L and small l varieties punch below their weight. They have not contributed as much as they should to the conservative movement. This is partly because libertarians tend to founder on foreign policy, where many are merely modern-day isolationists. But it is also because they have tended to focus on secondary, or tertiary, issues of domestic policy.

A couple of years ago I was invited to a gathering on behalf of Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who then was a libertarian candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I was well disposed toward him, but when he started talking, his first subject was legalization of drugs. Now he is the CEO of a marijuana company. Rand Paul is probably the leading libertarian at the moment; he purports to take seriously the threat that someone drinking coffee in an American cafe will be struck by a drone-fired missile.

American liberty is indeed under attack, and a libertarian movement is needed more than ever. But the threat to freedom is not drug laws or drone attacks.

The principal threat is the administrative state, which increasingly hems in everything we do and depends hardly at all on the will of voters. …

Calvin Coolidge, who knew the Progressives well and understood how antithetical their vision of government is to America’s founding principles [said]:

It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter [the Constitution]. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Today we labor under an administrative state that has metastasized far beyond anything Coolidge could have imagined. It constrains our freedoms, it lays waste to our economy, it has largely rendered Congress irrelevant, and it threatens to make just about anyone a criminal, since no one can possibly keep track of all of the myriad regulations with which we are encumbered. And let’s not forget that the administrative state is run by liberals, for liberals.

Despite the fact that it is antithetical to the Constitution and to American traditions, there is little opposition to the administrative state as such. Conventional politicians suggest that regulations can be made less irrational and less burdensome – a good idea, certainly – but hardly anyone questions the fundamental concept of Congress delegating its powers to unelected and mostly unaccountable agencies that are charged with managing just about every aspect of our lives. Nearly everyone considers the administrative state, as such, to be inevitable.

Why don’t libertarians stake out a “radical” position on domestic policy? Why not argue, not just for a moderation in the inevitable drift toward a more and more powerful administrative state, but for a return to the Constitution’s central principle – the very first words of Article I – that “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…”, a Congress that is accountable to the people.

A battle is being fought for the liberties of the American people and, frankly, it isn’t going well. The fight has little or nothing to do with drugs and drones. If libertarians are serious about preserving and expanding liberty, they should join the fight that matters. A libertarian movement that focuses on a rollback of the administrative state would be “radical,” but it also would put libertarians in the vanguard, not on the fringe, of American conservatism.

Ending the pax Americana 2

We are in principle against intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. But we are not for isolationism or pacifism – we regard either philosophy as a formula for national suicide. If other countries become belligerent, build up their armed strength, send their warships towards our shores, establish bases in countries on our borders, and declare their aggressive intentions towards us, the politics of those countries become our business. That is happening now. We are under threat – because Obama is deliberately weakening America. And his reaction to the result is to weaken America even more.

The conditions for major war develop much more easily when the U.S. is too weak. They are developing as we speak. 

To a meaningful extent, the significant increase we’ve seen in unrest around the globe since 2010 has been made possible, and inevitable, by the retraction of American power. Even where we still have power in place, it has become increasingly obvious that we aren’t going to use it. 

We quote from a website interestingly named Liberty Unyielding. The article on the extreme folly of the Obama administration’s moves to weaken America is by Commander Jennifer Dyer, now retired from the US navy. (Her own blog is at Theoptimisticconservative.wordpress.com):

The collapse of order in the Arab nations in 2011 was the first significant stage of the process. The perception that the United States would do nothing about a Hezbollah coup in Lebanon was tested in January of that year. The perception proved to be true, and when protests erupted in Tunisia and Egypt, for causes both natural and manufactured, a set of radical Islamist actors – the “establishment” Muslim Brotherhood, Sunni jihadists, Iran – saw an opportunity. The establishment Muslim Brotherhood has largely won out in Tunisia, but the battle still rages among these radical actors for Egypt, Syria, and now Iraq. Lebanon is being incrementally sucked into the maelstrom as well.

In multiple venues, Russia has watched the U.S. and the West effectively back Islamists in Russia’s “near abroad”: in Turkey (with support for the now struggling Erdogan government); in the Balkans, especially Bosnia and Kosovo; and in Syria. …

There was a time when the implicit determination of the U.S. to enforce the “Pax Americana” order – the post-World War II alignments of the region – held Russia in check. The Russians still derived some security benefit from that order, after all … It appears to me, however, that 2014 will be the year in which it becomes clear that, according to Russians’ perception, they no longer benefit from the old order. If we’re not going to enforce it, Russia will do what she thinks she has to.

In fact, Moscow’s pushback against the plan for Ukraine to affiliate with the EU constitutes just such a blow for perceived Russian interests. It is of supreme importance for Westerners to not misread the recent developments. The EU and the U.S. did back down when Russia pushed hard last fall. The only ones who didn’t back down were the Ukrainian opposition. I predict Vladimir Putin will try to handle the opposition factions cleverly, as much as he can, and avoid a pitched battle with them if possible. He respects what they are willing to do. But he has no reason to respect Brussels or Washington.

And that means he has more latitude, not less, for going after the regional props to the old order, one by one. As always, Russia’s inevitable competition with China is a major driver, along with Russia’s concern about Islamism on her southern border. The whole Great Crossroads – Southwest Asia, Southeast Europe, Northeast Africa, the waterways that snake through the region – is, if not up for grabs, at least in ferment. Look wherever you like: there are almost no nations where there is not a very present menace from radicalism, or where governments and even borders are not gravely imperiled by internal dissent.

Israel is the chief standout for politically sustainable stability and continuity. Romania and Turkey seem likely to at least retain their constitutional order in the foreseeable future, but Turkey’s geopolitical orientation, in particular, is less certain. Greece and Kosovo – even Bosnia – have serious internal problems. Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia all remain in crisis at various levels. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are relatively stable, and the Arab Persian Gulf states relatively so as well. But their neighborhood is going downhill fast. Iran is riding a wave of radical confidence, and the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan.

In this tumultuous region, it’s actually a little funny that Pakistan looks stable and staid compared to Iran, Afghanistan, and neighbors west. We can hope that Islamabad’s perceived need to maintain a symmetrical stance against India will keep Pakistan’s loose federation of intransigents federated, and the nukes under central control. But as we move across South Asia, we near another boiling pot. Thailand – long an American ally and pillar of stability in the region – has been rocked in recent months by national unrest of a kind not seen in Southeast Asia for decades. Islamist radicalism is a growing threat in Indonesia, and an unpacified one in the Philippines, after more than a decade of U.S.-Philippines collaboration in fighting it.

And, of course, China is making real, transformative moves against regional security with her proclamations about air space and maritime rights off her southeast coast.

This disruptive process, like the battles for many of the Arab nations, is already underway. We’re not waiting for something to happen; it’s started.

China assumes, quite correctly, that there will be no effective pushback from the United States. But two other nations with power and means will regard it as intolerable for China to dictate conditions in Southeast Asia: Japan and Russia. The dance of realignment among these nations has implications for everyone in Central Asia and the Far East. The day may be on the horizon sooner than we think when maintaining a divided Korea no longer makes sense to at least one of the major players. The day is already here when Chinese activities in Central Asia are alarming the whole neighborhood, just as Chinese actions are in the South China Sea. …

Russia and Iran are advancing on the US through Central America:

It’s no accident that as radical leftism creeps across Central America (falsely laying claim to a noble “Bolivarian” political mantle), the maritime dispute between Nicaragua and American ally Colombia heats up – and Russia shows up to back Nicaragua and Venezuela – and so does Iran – and unrest turns into shooting and government brutality and violence in Venezuela – and Hezbollah shows up there to openly support the radical, repressive Maduro government.

Now Iran has a naval supply ship headed for Central America, very possibly with a cargo of arms that are not only prohibited by UN sanction, but capable of reaching the United States if launched from a Central American nation or Cuba.

We’re not still waiting for the shocks to start to the old order. They’ve already started. I haven’t surveyed even the half of what there is to talk about …

She looks at the latest defense cuts with dismay and considers what the consequences will be:

This is the world in which the United States plans to reduce our army to its lowest level since before World War II, and eliminate or put in storage much of its capabilities for heavy operations abroad (e.g., getting rid of the A-10 Warthogs, moving Blackhawk helicopters into the National Guard). It’s in this world that DOD proposes to cease operating half of our Navy cruisers, while delaying delivery of the carrier-based F-35 strike-fighter to the Navy and Marine Corps. These cutbacks come on top of cuts already made to training and maintenance expenditures in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force that will affect unit readiness for years to come. …

Then comes what should be a shocking observation:

By cutting back on defense so drastically, America is deciding, in essence, to “fight fair”: to give whatever opponents emerge more of a chance to kill our soldiers, damage our interests, and drag out conflicts.

That would be hard to believe of any American leadership – until now. It is ludicrous. Worse, it is lunatic. But Obama has never concealed or disguised his wish to weaken America’s military capacity.

The decision “to further limit our capabilities to use power in politically relevant ways” will result in “even more global unrest: more conflict, more shooting, more blood, more extortion and political thuggery menacing civil life in the world’s poorer and more vulnerable nations”, and that cannot be good for America. The point is that -

These unpleasant trends will spill over into civil life in the wealthier nations soon enough

As it has, she points out, in Ukraine, Thailand, and Venezuela, “whether directly or through second-order consequences”.

Peace and freedom have to be tended constantly; they are not the natural state of geopolitical indiscipline, but its antithesis. …

We’re extraordinarily unprepared for the world that is shaping up around us. …

[And] a world that doesn’t want quiescent trade conditions, tolerance of dissent, the open flow of ideas, and mutual agreements, peacefully arrived at, will not have them.

That’s the world we are sentencing ourselves, for now, to live in. Perhaps we will learn from the consequences how to think again: about what it takes to guard freedom, and indeed, about what freedom actually is. 

It is Obama who needs to think again, but there is no reason to hope that he will. It could hardly be more obvious that he does not care for freedom.

Quaker terrorists 10

To most people “Quaker terrorists” may seem a contradiction in terms. So we must explain.

To excuse or defend terrorism is to encourage it; to encourage it is to co-author it.

And what is terrorism? It is not an ideology. It is a method, a tactic. It is the systematic use of violence to create public fear. By the targeting of  the innocent the fear is spread. Everyone in a certain place, or of a certain race or calling, or in a certain position, must be given reason by the terrorist to fear that he or she, or his or her spouse or child or parent, can be blown into pieces, or be knifed or beaten or shot to death, by complete strangers at any moment. Terrorism is morally indefensible. Arguably the most morally indefensible form of violence that can be imagined. Nothing can justify it. No cause. Nothing.

For centuries the Quakers were a widely respected sect. They were pacifists on moral grounds.  Pacifism was one of their founding religious principles. Their name was synonymous with non-violence. In wars, they would serve their country as doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, stretcher-bearers …  They eschewed violence even in self-defense. As a sect, they lived up to their principles. That was what they were respected for.

(For the record – in our view a pacifist upholding his principle of non-violence when the aggressors are Nazis or Communists say, while others risk their lives to save him from them, is not admirable. But our task here is to explain the Quaker view, which many hold in high esteem: that it’s wrong to use violence at all. Ever.)

But now the Quakers are terrorists. They are terrorists in that they excuse, defend, and actively encourage terrorism.

Here is the story of how the change, the reversal of their values, came about. We have taken it from the The Tower, condensing the full account given by Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander H. Joffe:

The Quakers — thus named because they tremble or “quake” before God — [is] a Protestant sect founded in England during the mid-17th century. … As part of their beliefs, Quakers oppose violence in all its forms and reject any compulsion in religion. …

The Quakers are  also called The Friends. So unthreatening. So simple. So trustworthy. So good.

On April 30, 1917, the Quakers formed The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) “in response to America’s entrance into World War I”.

Challenged by public hostility and government disapproval due to their refusal to be drafted, the Quakers formed the AFSC in order to organize alternative forms of service for its members, such as providing medical aid and other non-violent participation in the war effort.

The AFSC slowly expanded over the years, and by the late 1940s it was an established Christian organization with global experience, recognized by national and international establishments as a major provider of international relief, charity, and aid. …

The dawn of the Cold War, however, proved a turning point in the history of the organization. In April 1947 …

Just thirty years after its founding …

… a faction within the AFSC’s leadership convened a meeting at which the head of the organization, Clarence Pickett, and others argued that tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union had become so intense, and the threat of atomic war so grave, that the AFSC should abandon its long-standing tradition of political neutrality.

The argument was absurd. How by taking one side against the other would they be lessening the tension and preventing atomic war?

It is true that one side of the Cold War was working through agents of influence to get the other side disarmed by public opinion. It paid its agents to organize “Peace” movements. Not because it was for peace, though it pretended to be. Far from being peaceful, it was arming, aiding and abetting proxy wars of “liberation” on five continents. That lying, hypocritical, relentlessly belligerent side was the Soviet Union. And that is the side the AFSC took.

Can there be much doubt that Clarence Pickett, whether personally paid or not, was one of its agents?

Such a stance [of neutrality], Pickett said, could no longer be an article of faith but a crime. The radical nature of this [new] stance was reflected in the words of another participant, who said, “Evolution is too slow. We need revolution in the Society of Friends.”

Hear in that the vocabulary, the phraseology of Marxism.

The organization, Pickett and his supporters felt, should actively spearhead a peace movement that would directly challenge America’s Cold War policies.

Not for a moment did they apparently consider that the American Cold War policies were  a direct challenge to the Soviet Union’s hot war ambitions.

This began the AFSC’s transformation from a religious group to, as one Quaker scholar later put it, “just one more pressure group within the secular political community”.

Or in other words, it changed not only from a pacifist to a revolutionary movement, it also changed, effectively, from a Christian sect into a Communist sect.

The AFSC’s newly radical stance took aim at American policies throughout the 1950s and paid little or no heed to repression and terror in Communist countries. This hit its stride during the Vietnam War. The organization bitterly and actively opposed the war throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Its attacks on American policy in Vietnam were furious and wide-ranging, opposing everything from the escalation of military operations to all forms of aid to South Vietnam to the conduct of the war itself. In addition, the AFSC directly violated American embargoes and sent medical aid directly to North Vietnam. These actions proved to be extremely controversial. In one case, the AFSC was accused of revealing to the North Vietnamese that a prominent Buddhist activist was a CIA agent, prompting one prominent Quaker to hold a sit-in at AFSC headquarters in protest.

So some individual Quakers – many, according to the authors – were still true to their founding principles, or perhaps were American patriots.

The AFSC’s activism placed it unquestionably on the side of the American far-Left, where it remains to this day.

The Quakers’ [erstwhile] beliefs in nonviolence have not prevented them from supporting bloody despotic regimes.

And the hypocrisy was – and remains – blatant:

While still voicing support for pacifism, the organization increasingly aligned itself with violent Left-wing governments and movements, some of which used terrorism to advance their goals.

Many rank-and-file Quakers were appalled at the AFSC’s overt support for such regimes and movements, as well as its double standards …  But their protests proved fruitless. The AFSC rejected all criticism as fundamentally illegitimate “red-baiting and McCarthyism”.

“Red-baiting”. Again, the vocabulary of the Communists. Or rather of the Comintern – the Soviets’ ideological club for foreign fans of its appalling system.

…  The AFSC’s policy towards Iran is [to demand] the removal of sanctions and [dismiss] concerns about Iranian nuclear weapons.

It is openly, shamelessly supportive of the most terrible regime on earth:

Today the group operates collective farms in North Korea …

And is intimately supportive of at least one of the most savage terrorist groups on earth – Hamas. 

Romirowsky and Joffe trace the history of the Quakers relationship to the “Holy Land”, the Palestinians, and Zionism, giving them credit for aiding the refugees more rationally than most other  organizations working among them. But …

 … after the 1967 Six Day War, the AFSC began to take a more explicit and fervent pro-Palestinian stance, applying its growing radicalism and willingness to accommodate the use of violence to the Middle East conflict.

As the 1970s saw the rise of Palestinian terrorism as a major source of global violence, the AFSC began to take a disturbingly understanding approach to the issue. A 1972 AFSC pamphlet, Nonviolence: Not First For Export told its readers:

… before we deplore terrorism it is essential for us to recognize fully and clearly whose “terrorism” came first, so that we can assess what is cause and what is effect.

It was clear enough that, in regard to Israel the AFSC had no doubts about whose “terrorism” came first. The pamphlet expressed, for example, deep understanding toward the Palestinian Fedayeen — “those who sacrifice themselves” — terrorists whose main purpose was to infiltrate Israel and kill civilians. …

In 1973, the AFSC called for a U.S. embargo on arms and other aid to Israel, and in 1975 adopted “a formal decision to make the Middle East its major issue.” It quickly opened an office in Israel, installed specialized staff members at regional offices in the U.S., and began advocating for the Palestinians in Israeli and international courts. Israeli officials quickly discovered, however, that the new AFSC representative in Jerusalem was attempting to organize on behalf of the PLO. …

The AFSC has moved ever closer to the Palestinian cause since the 1970s. Today, this is expressed through fieldwork, lobbying, and activism, in particular through the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement [against Israel] …

In regard to Hamas’ indiscriminate use of rockets against Israeli civilians, the AFSC simply notes that “it is important to look at the firing of rockets by Palestinian armed groups in context”, since this is “intertwined” with “ongoing Israeli military actions in Gaza”.

Military actions which are rare, targeted, and defensive only. While the rockets are constant, indiscriminate, and aggressive.

The authors suggest that the Quaker movement now clings to its anti-Zionism as a cause to keep it alive.

It may be that a movement like the Quakers, which has seen its numbers dwindle along with other liberal Protestant denominations, sees anti-Zionism as a last resort; a movement with powerful emotional appeal on which it can draw in order to maximize its power. If so, then it has undone a great deal of the good it once did, and substituted hypocrisy and bad faith instead.

Once a byword for humanitarianism …  it has now become, in effect, a brand — one on which the AFSC can trade as it exploits the putative neutrality and pacifism it stands for in order to advance hostility toward Israel and, with its promotion of the “right of return”, an end to Israel itself.

In the end, the AFSC’s story reflects the tensions between pacifism and politics, between aid work and political activism … It demonstrates that small religious movements are susceptible to hijacking by radicals, and suggests that pacifism may inevitably engender its opposite. The organization’s slide has been a long one, and at the moment it shows no sign of or interest in reversing it.

To turn, turn ’twill be our delight 2

“Gentlemen, these are my principles. And if you don’t like them, I’ve got others.”

The origin of those immortal words is disputed, but it’s the motto inscribed on the heart of every political turncoat.

We take the following extracts from that valuable resource, Discover the Networks.

They are about John Kerry, who married the widow of Republican Senator H. John Heinz III. (She spends his colossal fortune lavishly on far Left causes – one of them being John Kerry.)

On August 30 [2013],  Obama dispatched Secretary of State Kerry to make a passionate speech in support of a swift U.S. response to Syria’s “moral obscenity”. In that speech, Kerry called Assad “a thug and a murderer” and held him accountable for the 1,429 people who allegedly had died from the recent chemical attack. “My friends,” Kerry added, “it matters here if nothing is done. It matters if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens.”

A passionate speech indeed on the moral necessity of this foreign intervention.

Just hours after Kerry’s speech, however, Obama …  decided to reverse course. The following day, the President announced that he would seek congressional approval before taking any military action. Kerry, for his part, praised this decision.

Praised it, praised it. He had been made to look the fool he is, but he was unaware of that it seems. He has a long history of turning with the political winds of the Left.

Forty years ago he made passionate speeches on the immorality of foreign interventions.

In a 1971 interview with William F. Buckley, Kerry delivered this broadside against American arrogance and “moralism”:

I don’t think that the United States, and I think this is the biggest problem about Vietnam, can necessarily apply moral, moralisms to its commitments around the world.And I think this is one of the great fallacies of our foreign policy at the present moment. Interventionism as well as globalism both stem from the same kind of moralism. And in a certain sense I think that moralism can be very defeating for the United States in its undertakings. It gets us into a sort of messianic enterprise, whereby we have this impression that somehow we can go out  and touch these other countries and change them. …

Okay, that was years and years ago. A man can change his mind as he grows older. It’s only natural that he should. Mature thoughts are better than those of callow youth.

So let’s set aside for the moment what he said about America’s “immoral” engagement in the Vietnam war.

Let’s come on to recent history, current events, Syria in particular. It is important to remember that Syria under the Ba’athist dictators, Bashar and his father Hafez Assad, has always been a harsh dictatorship. This is from another source.*

In November 1976, [Yasser] Arafat supplied  arms to the Muslim Brotherhood in the Syrian city of Hama. They rose in rebellion in February 1982. … President Assad … put down the Hama rebellion with the utmost ruthlessness. [His brother] Rif’at Assad’s storm troopers massacred the people of the town in vast numbers.  … A report issued by Amnesty International, in September 1983, reckoned that the number of of citizens killed may have been as high as 25,000: investigators received unverified information that cyanide gas had been piped into the buildings through rubber hoses to kill all inhabaitants indiscriminately. Other reports tell of people being lined up in the streets and shot … Part of the city, the fourth biggest in Syria, was razed by tanks and artillery.

Now to return to Discover the Networks:

Since the early 2000s, Kerry has been the federal government’s highest-ranking apologist for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Indeed it was Kerry who made numerous efforts to undermine the Bush administration’s attempt to isolate the Syrian dictator after its courtship of him ended in failure in 2003; after Bush repeatedly accused Syria of supporting terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere; and after the United States withdrew its ambassador to Syria following the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former premier Rafiq Hariri in a car bombing most likely orchestrated by the Assad regime.

In February 2009, just days after Barack Obama’s inauguration, Kerry was sent to Syria as part of a policy review by an Obama administration looking to establish new relationships with countries the Bush administration had considered hostile. (This was the first of five trips Kerry would make to Syria between 2009 and 2011.)

During the February 2009 trip, Kerry listened to Bashar Assad advise him that Washington must “move away from a policy based on dictating decisions,” and that future relations between the U.S. and Syria should be based on a “proper understanding” by Washington of Middle East issues and interests. In return, Kerry used the occasion to bash the former administration. “Unlike the Bush administration that believed you could simply tell people what to do and walk away and wait for them to do it, we believe you have to engage in a discussion,” he said. “I believe very deeply [haha- ed.] that this is an important moment of change, a moment of potential transformation, not just in the relationship between the United States and Syria but in the relationship of the region.” Emphasizing his belief that Assad would aid the so-called peace process in the Middle East, Kerry stated that “Syria could be, in fact, very helpful in helping to bring about a unity government” between Fatah and Hamas.

A year later, Kerry, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sat down once again with Assad. “Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region,” said the senator in April 2010. “Both the United States and Syria have a very deep interest … in having a very frank exchange on any differences [and] agreements that we have about the possibilities of peace in this region.” Kerry added that the Obama administration’s effort to appoint the first U.S. ambassador to Damascus in five years was “evidence that engagement with Syria is a priority at the highest levels of our government.” …

In November 2010, disclosures of diplomatic cables by the WikiLeaks website revealed that Kerry had been busy undermining Israel as well: He had told leaders in Qatar that the Golan Heights should be returned to Syria, and that the capital of a Palestinian state should be established in East Jerusalem, as part of the “peace process.”

Some honest broker he in the endless pointless “peace process”!

By March 2011, as the anti-government protests in the Middle East begin to include Syria, France and the U.S. nixed another trip by Kerry to Damascus, concerned that it would signal “Western weakness”.  That decision may have been precipitated by an appearance Kerry had made before a think tank audience twelve days earlier, where he:

• contended that the United States had a crucial role to play in facilitating the “democratic transitions” in the Middle East, including Egypt;

• asserted that “the people of Egypt liberated themselves in eighteen days without a single IED or suicide bomb”;

praised President Assad for having been “very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had”; and

• predicted that “Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West and economic opportunity that comes with it and the participation that comes with it.”

Oh, what a man of peace he was. For a while. And so convinced that Bashar Assad was too. That is, until the “moral obscenity” Assad committed – according to Obama and Kerry – in August 2013. What a shock it must have been to poor John! However could he have been so mistaken in his judgment? Not once, not twice, but always.

 

* From The PLO: The Rise and Fall of the Palestine Liberation Organization by Jillian Becker, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1984, p.224

The darkness of this world (3) 2

Continuing our series on contemporary Gnosticism, here is the third essay under the title The Darkness of This World. The first two can be found here and here.

*

The Darkness of This World

essays on

Our Gnostic Age

3

New Age religion is – according to taste and judgment – a rich diversity of “spiritualities”, or a junk-heap of irrationalities.

It arose in the West as an unplanned rejection movement against reason, science, capitalism, Western political institutions and cultural norms, often to the point of antinomianism. It started as a counter-culture, but many of its beliefs and practices have come to be accepted as normal. Most obviously it impacts the lives of almost everyone in developed countries through Environmentalism, one of the most successful of its superstitions.

New Age includes mythical, mystical, and simply fantastical cult ingredients. Its theorists draw on the occult and witchcraft; on religions of the Far East [1]; on the modern mystic faith of psycho-analysis (in particular the theories of C. G. Jung); on Richard Wagner’s mythology and mysticism [2]; on UFO legends; on “alternative” Western religious cults and systems – Scientology, Mormonism, Hare Krishna, Shamanism, pop-Kabala, Environmentalism. Among its assorted mysticisms and occultisms are: astrology [3]; fortune telling by tarot cards, I Ching, Ouija boards; spirit guides; processes of faith healing or imaginary empowerment through the use of crystals and pyramids; chanting, dancing, meditation, Yoga exercises. It was partly inspired by the hundred-plus years old, Orient-derived, Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky, and its offshoots, including the Anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner with their theories of education, art, agriculture, and health.

As a religion rather than a life-style movement – which it has primarily become – New Age is loosely likened to the Gnostic sects of the 2nd century and the Middle Ages because it is mystical, esoteric, and challenging to the “revealed” religions. There are also specific similarities.

First, like the Gnostics of old, New Age acolytes revile the “God of the bible” (whatever they conceive him to be – Jehovah, “God the Father”, or the Trinity), and they “know” the “true God” by innate knowledge.

Second, as in the Gnostic cults, there is a hierarchy of classes in New Age doctrine. The divisions are according to “spiritual” ability. The highest class is that of the adepts, the Masters, who have attained “cosmic consciousness”. They know they possess the innate knowledge (gnosis) of the real God. Below them are Disciples, whose minds are open to New Age teaching but have yet to master it. At the bottom are the rest, “animal men”, unenlightened by the faith.

Third, those who have the gift – the Masters – can release, or bring to consciousness, or make effective, or bring into being (all of those effects are stated or implied at different times), the “divinity” they “know” is within them by achieving a state of ecstasy. And like the Gnostics of old, they do this by taking drugs and indulging in sexual libertinism. Each New Age participant’s “divine blood” asserts itself as the right guide to human thought and action. In a New Age orgy, “group-consciousness” reveals itself and exerts its will.

Fourth, in New Age as in old Gnosticism, believers rebel against ethical norms by reversing conventional values: what is generally accepted as good is held to be bad, and vice versa.

But in one important respect there is a difference between old Gnosticism and New Age. To almost all the old Gnostics, this earth and everything on it (except their inner spark of Knowledge) was evil, the creation of an evil God, so they were defying evil by doing what the ignorant masses called sinning; defiling their bodies to express scorn for the dirt they were made of [4]. But New Age holds the earth sacred, and sensual experience is a sacrament in itself, often the supreme sacrament.

The old Gnostics, to defy the Creator God, would destroy his earth to save man – or at least themselves. The new Gnostics claim to be God, at least potentially, and would destroy man – or at least a lot of other people – to save the earth [5].

Being a hotch-potch of beliefs – belief in almost anything that reason rejects – New Age religion inevitably contains contradictions. For instance, while some of its authoritative theorists hold that the divine dwells within the human species (even in the “animal men”, the general theory implies) [6], the earth is an external and separate goddess, “Mother Earth”, identical to her whom the ancient Greeks called Gaia. She has suffered “ecological wounds” through human industrial activity (thus the specie-sin of “anthropogenic global warming”), and she needs to be “healed”.

These different attitudes to nature between the ancient and the new cults entail different attitudes to sex. To the ancient Gnostics, everything material, including the human body, was evil, so they indulged in sacramental orgies of conventionally forbidden sex in order to defy the Creator God of this world and his commandments. But New Age orgies – similarly considered to be sacraments – are performed as acts of Earth worship. They celebrate the physical, not scorn it. [7] Sensual pleasure is a good in itself. The performance of communal rituals – chanting, dancing, sado-masochistic sex, all-gender-inclusive sex (with male homosexuality particularly stressed by Matthew Fox [8]) – advances the coming into being of a new synthesized God: “I” become God; “we” become God; Man, God, and Nature become One, and the one is the universal God, the “Cosmic Christ”.

New Age writing is full of vapid declarations expressed with stirring passion rather than semantic sense. It is verbal impressionism. Matthew Fox, for instance – one of the most widely read New Age writers, blends “the Cosmic Christ” with “Mother Earth”. The Cosmic Christ is an eternal Being who became incarnate in Jesus – so far in tune with at least some long-established Christianities – but is also (if not exactly “incarnate” by the actual meaning of the word, “made flesh”), one with Mother Earth. She is crucified like Jesus; and as such she is a symbol of the incarnated Cosmic Christ, or of the Cosmic Christ as Jesus crucified; or Jesus crucified is a symbol of Mother Earth crucified:

The appropriate symbol of the Cosmic Christ who became incarnate in Jesus is that of Jesus as Mother Earth crucified yet rising daily … like Jesus, she rises from her tomb every day [so not quite like Jesus] … wounded, yet rising, Mother Earth blesses us each day. [9]

New Age has had an effect on conventional religious institutions. Some of the established churches, Catholic and Protestant, have picked out bits from New Age to add flavor to their own offerings [10] – which may indicate how weary, stale, flat and washed out they must feel their own faiths to be. As for social and political effects, New Age cults contribute cumulatively to the character of the times, but most of them have had little or no effect on major events.

There are two exceptions. One is Liberation Theology (an emulsion of two opiates of the people, Marxism and Catholicism), which has had an historical effect in South America as an ideological cause of the rise of terrorist organizations.

Marxism comes into our purview. New Age harmonizes with Marxism easily, both being collectivist ideologies. In almost all its manifestations, New Age requires group practice. Its ultimate vision is of a single shared human consciousness (rather like the imaginary alien species called the Borg in Star Trek, whose every individual is one with the “hive mind”). The Catholic writer Teilhard de Chardin had a strong influence on New Age theory. In his book The Future of Man, he foresees “the end of a ‘thinking species’; not disintegration and death, but a new breakthrough and a rebirth, this time outside Time and Space. Man would at some future time ‘form a single consciousness’.” [11] ). New Age goes further yet: humanity will share its communal consciousness with the Earth. [12]

Marxism and magic (and pacifism and feminism), came together in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), starting in Britain in 1958 and continuing through the next three decades. Most of the CND protestors did not know that their leaders received funding from the USSR; they were simply the “useful idiots” of Lenin’s famous phrase. In the early 1980s a Women’s Peace Camp was set up on Greenham Common in Berkshire to protest against NATO cruise missiles being deployed at the RAF base situated there. The women would hold up mirrors to “reflect the evil” of the weapons back over the fence.

The other exception is Environmentalism, which has entranced half the population of the First World and pesters the whole human race.

Other than these, New Age cults, though numerous, are for the most part comparatively harmless and few will be mentioned in these essays. Most New Age leaders and followers don’t think of themselves as doing evil, only redefining what good is. Homosexuality was bad until the 1960s; so to New Age devotees it was super-good. Alternative medical practices were bad; so to New Age devotees they were super-good. One of the most egregious examples of New Age success, of how it has penetrated even some institutions that by their nature should be impregnable to cults of unreason, is that practitioners of “alternative medicine” are working alongside physicians and surgeons in Western hospitals. They may do harm, but they probably do not intend to.

What these essays are concerned with is the deliberate choosing of evil. They are not about common crime, nor the immoral things everybody does from time to time. They are about evil intended as such, and the intended evil is the willful harming of human beings. The doing of it is advocated by a self-elected elite – intellectuals who claim to have a vision beyond the understanding of the rest of us – with verbal violence to scandalize the conventional. They often rationalize it with sophisticated philosophical excuses, arguing for instance that it is necessary for the attainment of a “higher good” for the whole human race, including the uncomprehending masses. The “higher good” is different now, the excuses more sophisticated, more subtle and complicated than they were for the Gnostics of old. The sins are less ingenuous, the evil more profound and more extensive. In sum, the new Gnostics are far more dangerous and destructive than the old.

Not only is evil preached, simulated in theatre or performance art, solemnly celebrated in religious or quasi-religious ceremonies, it is also done in reality. While most of its priests and shamans confine themselves to gestures and make-believe, others do it.

 

Jillian Becker   September 5, 2013

NOTES

1. The re-interpreted oriental religions are chiefly Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and Hinduism, and in particular the doctrine of reincarnation. The re-interpretations were brought to the West by Indian gurus (such the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, popularized by The Beatles). Some Westerners took themselves to the East to garner its wisdoms and returned home with a new name and guru status (such as Richard Alpert, a Bostonian psychologist who journeyed to India and returned as Guru Ram Dass – see Understanding the New Age by Russell Chandler, Word Inc., Dallas, Texas, 1988, p 63).

2. Wagner’s myths – Lohengrin, Siegfried, Parsifal – were superficially Christian and his heroes Christ-like redeemers. But he dilates at length in his massive prose writings on what is wrong with Christianity and Judaism, especially Judaism and even more especially Jews. He was of the opinion that Jews could only be redeemed by annihilating themselves. The Germans, he declared, needed to be “emancipated from the Jews”; “redeemed” from them by a real-life Parsifal. He praised pre-Christian polytheism. He praised the ancient Greeks for being “intuitive” – which means he loved the savage rites of their Dionysus worship, but ignored their fertile use of reason, their invention of logic and science. Reason, he opined, was a Jewish thing. He drew mostly on Nordic legends, which he considered quintessentially German. Among the ideas he passionately promoted were these: German heroes act out of feeling, not reason, being moved by “the god within”; the only god dwells within us and within nature; there is a “world spirit”, the quintessence of Being, which is within both Man (Germans, that is) and nature; “We are God” and “to become God we need only instinctive Knowledge of the Self” – the indwelling divinity; the taking of hashish releases the feeling of being divine. As poet-priest and prophet, he looked to the coming of a German leader – a Führer – who would mount a “destructive revolution to destroy our civilization”, a civilization which he despised as weak, unheroic, built by Jews. He died before his prophesied Führer was born, but Hitler was intensely inspired by Wagner’s operas from the age of twelve, when he saw one for the first time. It was Lohengrin. And there is a portrait of Hitler as Lohengrin, not (disappointingly) mounted ludicrously on a swan as the knight is in the opera, but on a black horse, in white Medieval armor, carrying the Nazi flag, his head in profile, scowling, unmistakable with his little brushy mustache.) The echoes of Wagner’s ideas in New Age are loud and clear. To hear a full discussion of them, go to a YouTube video titled: Wagner’s Musical Religion: Art, Politics, Genocide, in which two authorities on Wagner, Margaret Brearley and Robert Wistrich, lecture on his life and works and quote his words.

3. Astrology and the signs of the zodiac feature large among New Age superstitions. The New Age is also called “The Age of Aquarius”.

4. One exception among the old Gnostics was Epiphanes. He contradicted the usual Gnostic belief that this world is evil. All creation, he taught, belongs to all mankind. In his rituals, sexual intercourse was performed publicly as a sacred rite and called a love-feast. Drugs, especially aphrodisiacs, were routinely used. When he died at the age of 17, the islanders of Cephalonia, where his mother came from, built a temple to him and proclaimed him a god. His memory was also honored there with a museum which housed the many books he had found time to write in his short life. We have been protected from them by the Christian Church; but the Church Father, Clement of Alexandria, who was allowed to read them before they were destroyed, has left us brief summaries of their contents. Clement’s account shows Epiphanes to have been full of “back to nature” idealism; a lover of animals; an aesthete moved by the beauty of the earth and the starry skies, rather than one who condemned this world as a place of darkness. God lets the light of the sun and the stars, Epiphanes said, fall equally on all human beings. Even the beasts are blessed by the light. Each man and beast takes his enjoyment of it without depleting it for any other. The sun causes the earth to be fruitful and the fruits of the earth are for all. Beasts are exemplars of communitarian life, and being so they are righteous. Together they graze, equal, harmonious, and innocent. And so would we be had not the Law made transgression possible. The Law “nibbled away” the fellowship of nature. Righteousness lies in fellowship and equality, in sharing and caring, which is to say in mutual and general love. Into every male God put vigorous and impetuous desire for the sake of the continuance of the human race. No law can take that away. It is right and good for a man to enjoy sexually every woman he desires. That a law should say ‘Thou shalt not covet’ is laughable. And the very idea of marriage is absurd since all women naturally belong to all men. (For more see Erotic religion, The Atheist Conservative, January 24 2010.)

5. The anti-human campaign among Environmentalists will be the subject of a later essay.

6. In some texts it is “within everything”.

7. “All worship leaders need to be instructed … in body awareness and awakening’.” The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance by Matthew Fox, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1988, pp 216f – quoted in Matthew Fox and the Cosmic Christ, an essay by Margaret Brearley in Anvil, Vol. 9, No 1, 1992, p 44. I have relied on Dr Brearley’s meticulous scholarship, and with her permission taken my examples from her papers on New Age – and Matthew Fox in particular – so avoiding the punitive labor of reading more than a very few New Age texts myself. Most of the words and phrases marked as quotations come from this source.

8. “In practice Fox demands: worship in circles, ‘preferably on the soil of Mother Earth’ (Fox p 217); the centrality of Eros; and the breaking of divisions between body and mind using ‘rituals of the native peoples’. These would include sweat lodges in every church and synagogue, Sun dances with drumming, moon rituals, drinking the ‘blood of the cosmos’ and radically replacing the existing liturgical calendar. Fox seriously suggests, for example, that each Sunday could be devoted to celebrating a different organ of the body.” (Brearley, p 46]. “Fox cites the Hindu god Shiva, the creator and destroyer [as saying]: ‘The phallos is identical with me …. The phallos is … the symbol of the god’, and adds: ‘This is Cosmic Christ language …. There alone will men recover active respect and reverence for their own amazing powers’ (p 176). Fox teaches that one must ‘recover the sense of sacred phallos … by way of drumming, dancing and entering into the irrational processes … puberty rites … celebrating one’s chthonic wholeness in the company of male adults’ (p 177). ‘Love beds are altars’ (p 177) and the sense of lust should be recovered as power and therefore as virtue: ‘it takes courage to be lustful.’ (p 178) Mystical sexuality is an ‘important base for cultural renewal and personal spiritual grounding’ (p 179). … ‘[G]ay people need to lead straight people.’” (Brearley p 45)

9. Fox p 145 (Brearley p 44)

10. Although Matthew Fox writes such predictions as this: “Christianity as we know it now will not survive …. The issue is the survival … of Mother Earth” (Fox p 149) [Brearley  54], New Age doctrine has made “inroads into the Protestant and Catholic Church worldwide” and “creation liturgies inspired by creation spirituality are increasingly being used in cathedrals and churches”. (Brearley p 53)

11. Teilhard de Chardin, trs. N. Denny, The Future of Man, Collins, London 1969 p 302 (Brearley p 46).

12. Another leading New Age writer and spirit medium, David Spangler, also visualizes a “planetary spirituality” which “will be holistic, affirming interconnectedness and Gaia; it will be androgynous, mystical, global – with ‘world communion’ -, and will seek synthesis of person and planet. Above all, the New Age is a spirit, a ‘presence made up of the collective spirit of humanity, and the spirit of our world, of Gaia’.” [D. Spangler, Reflections on the Christ, Findhorn Publications, Findhorn 1981, p.84. [Brearley p 52]

Those dying generations (2) 8

Yesterday we discussed the dying out of the indigenous European peoples as their numbers halve with each generation. We asked why they are letting this happen, why fewer and fewer children are being born. We argued that it is hard to make a case that Socialism as an economic system is responsible for the death of Europe, or that materialism is responsible for it, or that the lost influence of the old-time religions account for it. But today we argue that Socialism as an ideology may have a lot to do with it.

*

As far as we can discover, the idea that a person should care less for himself than for anybody and everybody else, was introduced into history by the author of Christianity, St Paul.* It is not an injunction of Judaism, which does require its followers to “love [respect?] your neighbor as yourself” but not more than yourself. It has no precedent in Greek philosophy, nor in any of the Far Eastern religions which are intensely concerned with personal benefit. None of them are moral religions. True, Buddhism teaches tolerance, but in order to do yourself good, to help you personally on your way to bliss.

Christianity might seem to do that when it promises heaven to those who do good works. But “redemption” by good works was not St Paul’s idea. It was introduced into the Catholic faith later. St Paul taught that only the grace of Christ Jesus could save you. (And that was Luther’s and Calvin’s doctrine too.) So you must do good works, put others before and above yourself without expecting any reward on earth or in heaven. You must  accept that your life is to be hard, and that your afterlife may be even worse. But at least for the afterlife there is hope. Heaven is the aim. If you attain it, whether by grace or good works, there – only there – you as an individual being will find joy. This life is not to be valued.

It is a ruinous idea. It can mean, if taken to heart, that you should not strive for happiness, or even survival. It can mean that every time you supply a want of your own, however basic and essential – food, clothing, protection, information, healing – you will feel self-reproach. As total selflessness is impossible, it’s a recipe for failure and consequent shame, guilt, self-contempt, even self- hatred. It is against not just human but animal nature, since if  you do not eat and protect yourself you will not survive. If human beings were not innately selfish the race would have died out long ago. Indeed, it would never have arisen.

Christians might say that it’s okay, of course, to see to your own survival needs. Some might even grant you the moral right to supply them amply – just so long as you are also attentive to the needs of others. You only have to consider them more than yourself – liberal Christians might tell you – when that choice inescapably presents itself.

No doubt, in the everyday life of Christians, the injunction to care more for others than for yourself is honored more in the breach than the observance. But the principle remains. It is the essence of Christian morality.

Over some centuries it became the ideal of multitudes and persisted for generations. What follows logically from it? Nobody is judged according to his individual merits. Everyone is more important than you are not because of what he is or does, but simply because he is part of the mass.

To think like that is to think sociologically. And from the notion that the individual is of less account than the mass arises another: that the individual is of no account at all, and only the mass, the “community”, matters.

But the mass, the community, has no identity. It has no personhood. It has no aspirations. Where only the many matter, nobody matters.

The spread of Christianity had a lot to do with the fall of the Christianized Roman Empire. Just how much is voluminously debated. At the very least, the Christian doctrines of universal love and not resisting evil mitigated against vigorous defense when enemies struck. And for a thousand years, from the time Rome fell in the late fifth century, Christianity with its impossible injunctions and its terrors of Hell lay heavy on the peoples of Europe.

As the dominant ideology, Christianity faded with the fading power of the Church. The Renaissance and then the Enlightenment shifted the center of human concern from heaven back to earth. Once again, as in pre-Christian times, the proper business of men was with men. This life mattered again. The individual mattered again.

But the Idea – that terrible, misery-making, destructive idea that you must sacrifice yourself for the rest - did not completely fade away. It changed its host. It became the central idea of Socialism.

Socialism is the child of Christianity. Yes: the secular religion of Socialism, though it has no God, no heaven, is – in its DNA so to speak – Christian. As an ideology it received its central Idea from Christianity: the Idea that only the mass, the many, the community matters, not the individual and his personal life.

Christians may deny it – do deny it – but the Christian Idea is the Socialist Idea. We frequently read Christian apologetics claiming that Christianity created “the individual”, and by doing so made Europe great. Europe’s greatness, however, only began – for the second time since the fall of the Roman Empire – with the dispersal of the darkness that Christianity had spread over it. But then Socialism was born, and came into its inheritance. In its turn it became the dominant ideology of Europe.

Because the mass has no identity, no personhood, no aims or aspirations, Socialism is as anti-human as its mother. While its  goal is not beyond and above the earth, it is in the equally abstract, equally unknown, equally phantasmagorical Future.

Now the Europeans are dying out. Multitudes of them care nothing for their national culture and history. Some positively hate all that, and are happy to let Muslims take over their countries and govern them under a different, ancient, cruel law.

Can their death as a mass, as communities, be the end result of Christianity-Socialism? If they are no longer deceived that paradise awaits them either on or above this earth, for what should they live? Are the nations dying out simply because people can see no reason why they should go on existing?

 

* For the many substantiating quotations from the letters of St Paul, and the source references, see our post Tread on me: the making of Christian morality, December 22, 2011.

 

Jillian Becker   August 12, 2013

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