Francis Fukuyama says he’s not a neoconservative any more.
Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.
I can see why he doesn’t want the label, given the opprobrium that has been heaped on it from all sides. Of course, he doesn’t help matters by oversimplifying the "neoconservative" presecription and identifying it simply with military intervention in the name of democratization. How can anyone not recognize that there are limits to the extent that the U.S. can democratize a country by military means? Even if military intervention is from time to time necessary (he’ll grant Afghanistan, but not Iraq), it was never intended to be the only device of which "neoconservatives" availed themselves.
Consider this passage from Fukuyama’s article:
Now that the neoconservative moment appears to have passed, the United States needs to reconceptualize its foreign policy in several fundamental ways. In the first instance, we need to demilitarize what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other types of policy instruments. We are fighting hot counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the international jihadist movement, wars in which we need to prevail. But "war" is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle, since wars are fought at full intensity and have clear beginnings and endings. Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a "long, twilight struggle" whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world. As recent events in France and Denmark suggest, Europe will be a central battleground in this fight.
He must have forgotten that neoconservatives in the Reagan Administration helped establish the National Endowment for Democracy. What’s more, there is a long-standing neo-conservative interest in "public diplomacy," articulated in articles by Carnes Lord in Commentary and Orbis (neither available online, unfortunately).
So it’s not neo-conservatism properly understood that Fukuyama rejects, just its caricature. But he’s not interested in spending time correcting the misimpression; he’d rather get on with doing what can be done with a dangerous world. I can’t complain about that, especially when he’s willing to retain almost every policy originally advocated by neo-conservatives, from occasional military intervention to various more subtle forms of democracy promotion:
If we are serious about the good governance agenda, we have to shift our focus to the reform, reorganization and proper financing of those institutions of the United States government that actually promote democracy, development and the rule of law around the world, organizations like the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy and the like. The United States has played an often decisive role in helping along many recent democratic transitions, including in the Philippines in 1986; South Korea and Taiwan in 1987; Chile in 1988; Poland and Hungary in 1989; Serbia in 2000; Georgia in 2003; and Ukraine in 2004-5. But the overarching lesson that emerges from these cases is that the United States does not get to decide when and where democracy comes about. By definition, outsiders can’t "impose" democracy on a country that doesn’t want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective.
This strikes me as neoconservatism properly understood, balancing its realism with its commitment to universal liberal principles.
One last point, before I finish: perhaps I’m wrong about this, but Fukuyama seems to mischaracterize his own argument in The End of History and the Last Man. Here’s what he says:
Many people have also interpreted my book "The End of History and the Last Man" (1992) as a neoconservative tract, one that argued in favor of the view that there is a universal hunger for liberty in all people that will inevitably lead them to liberal democracy, and that we are living in the midst of an accelerating, transnational movement in favor of that liberal democracy. This is a misreading of the argument. "The End of History" is in the end an argument about modernization. What is initially universal is not the desire for liberal democracy but rather the desire to live in a modern — that is, technologically advanced and prosperous — society, which, if satisfied, tends to drive demands for political participation. Liberal democracy is one of the byproducts of this modernization process, something that becomes a universal aspiration only in the course of historical time.
"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will.
My recollection is that the engine of history for FF is the battle for recognition (see Kojeve’s Hegel), which can only be brought to an end, not by the victory of the "master" over the "slave," but by an arrangement in which each mutually respects the other (that is, liberal democracy). History "ends" when this conflict is in principle resolved, when we have an arrangement that in principle satisfies everyone. That doesn’t mean that the bare presence of the arrangement in one place or another will make it immediately universally available. Fukuyama now seems to be taking a much more materialist view of his own argument: what we really want is not recognition and respect, but flat screen televisions and blackberries, along with 2,000 calories a day. Perhaps I’m misremembering (it’s been a while since I read the book; I wrote about it
here). But it seems to me that this version of the argument serves largely to weaken the psychological and spiritual element of "democracy promotion" that has always been part of neoconservative (and President Bush’s) thinking.
I’m also not convinced that Fukuyama was in the late 80s and early 90s (or is now) so much of an historical determinist that he regarded all action to promote "the end of history"--or, more modestly, to cooperate in its direction--as folly. To criticize Kristol and Kagan for believing that "history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will" is either to attribute to them a position far beyond what they hold or to deny that applications of power can from time to time be effective. We can choose to intervene or not when opportunities present themselves. If we don’t intervene, the bad guys may be more likely to prevail. If we do, the good guys may be more likely to prevail. This isn’t "Leninism," but rather a realistic consideration of how power may be strategically and effectively applied. To refuse to consider that such interventions may be helpful isn’t realism, it’s fatalism. That surely isn’t Fukuyama’s position, just as "Leninism" isn’t that of Kristol and Kagan.
Update: Courtesy of RCP, a couple of comments. Andrew Sullivan thinks FF gets everything about right. Jack Balkin is glad that FF has finally wholeheartedly joined the company of Bush’s critics. I’d like to see a somewhat chastened and principled neoconservatism survive the all-too-easy and popular criticism now being offered. To that end, I think Fukuyama could be a relatively useful guide, were he not so willing to run away from a complex of ideas that remains preferable--by far--to the leading alternatives (isolationism, narrow-minded realism, and progressive internationalism, aka Kerryism).
Update #2: Jon Schaff has plenty of time in that long Dakota winter to think deep thoughts about Francis Fukuyama.
Leon Wieseltier writes a brilliant review of Daniel Dennetts attempt to reduce religion to biology. There are so many good zingers that I dont know which to single out.
O.K., heres one:
So all of Dennetts splashy allegiance to evidence and experiment and "generating further testable hypotheses" notwithstanding, what he has written is just an extravagant speculation based upon his hope for what is the case, a pious account of his own atheistic longing.
Wieseltier himself is a rationalist, but one who recognizes that its self-grounding character might be problematical. Dennett. on the other hand, is, by Wieseltiers lights, no rationalist at all:
It will be plain that Dennetts approach to religion is contrived to evade religions substance. He thinks that an inquiry into belief is made superfluous by an inquiry into the belief in belief. This is a very revealing mistake. You cannot disprove a belief unless you disprove its content. If you believe that you can disprove it any other way, by describing its origins or by describing its consequences, then you do not believe in reason. In this profound sense, Dennett does not believe in reason.
Bernard-Henry Levy lambasts the American Left for being in a "semi-comatose" state. While not hiding his own lefty opinions, he is shocked, simply shocked, that there is a "cosmic ideological void" on the Left. Worth a quick read.
Basing his argument in part on the past successes of the marketplace in assimilating and "Americanizing" immigrants, Joel Kotkin is sanguine about our multicultural future. Im encouraged, but wish that he had addressed the big difference between 19th and 20th century immigration, on the one hand, and the 21st century version, on the other. What happens when its easy to move back and forth between the old country and the new one. When my dad moved to California from the Netherlands in 1950, he knew that getting back home would be a rare event (though, thanks to the U.S. Army, it happened sooner than he anticipated). Now, theres much more travel and communication, which makes for a somewhat weaker incentive to give oneself wholly to ones new home.
This story revisits the debate over the faith-based initiative in the context of the impressive religious response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
My colleges womens basketball coach. Starting four freshmen and picked to finish close to the bottom of the league, the team is 19-5 going into their last regular season game. Theyre fun as all get out to watch, pressing constantly and putting up threes. Id love to see them add a biggish (this is NCAA D3, after all) inside player next year. Heres why they call him Santa.
Cleveland Plain Dealer runs a story on how Paul Hackett was pushed out of the Senate primary campaign by the Democratic Party elite (both state and national). Rumors of his involvement in atrocities in Iraq were spread... plus he has a difficult personality. Mother Jones says essentially the same thing. This is an ignoble end to a very brief but promising career for this Marine Major. Sharrod Brown will end up running against DeWine.
A couple of stories out of Harvard are worth noting. First, there are rumors that President Summers might leave, and then Harvard will end up with another "namby-pamby" president. Interesting comments from Pinsker, Mansfield, et al. And the conservative student paper, The Harvard Salient, is reprinting the Danish cartoons and, no doubt, the pitchforked hoi polloi are gathering.
Mansoor Ijaz in the Los Angeles Times: "In fact, the most glaring truth is that Islams mobsters fear the West has it right: that we have perfected the very system Islams holy scriptures urged them to learn and practice. And having failed in their mission to lead their masses, they seek any excuse to demonize those of us in the West and to try to bring us down. They know they are losing the ideological struggle for hearts and minds, for life in all its different dimensions, and so they prepare themselves, and us, for Armageddon by starting fires everywhere in a display of Islamic unity intended to galvanize the masses they cannot feed, clothe, educate or house.
This is not Islam. And the faster its truest believers stand up and demonstrate its values and principles by actions, not words, the sooner a great religion will return to its rightful role as guide for nearly a quarter of humanity."
For those who pay attention to such things, this is old news. For commentary more interesting than anything in the NYT article, go here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Note that while the NYT article purports to be abou religious universities generally, aside from a reference to Mercer University, its really about Catholic universities and mostly about Notre Dame.
I cant really improve upon the commentary offered by NDs friends and lovers, but I will note the following. Theres a difference between activism and advocacy, on the one hand, and teaching and inquiry, on the other. It is, or ought to be, possible to engage with the "message" of The Vagina Monologues, to hear the voices it expresses, without seconding or supporting its activism and advocacy. Defending the academic study of this play is one thing; endorsing its message and providing an arena or audience for its advocacy and activism is another.
The headline in most places is that the Secretary doesn’t think we’re competing effectively in the information war with al Qaeda. No one, however, quoted this example:
In this environment the old adage that: “A lie can be half way around the world before the truth has its boots on” becomes doubly true with today’s technologies.
We saw this with the false allegations of the desecration of a Koran last year. Once it was published in a weekly news magazine, it was posted on websites, sent in e-mails, and repeated on satellite television and radio stations for days, before the facts could be discovered.
And, in those first days, the false story incited anti-American riots in Pakistan and elsewhere, and human beings were killed in the ensuing riots.
Once aware of the story, the U.S. Military, appropriately, and of necessity, took the time needed to ensure that it had the facts before responding -- having to conduct interviews and pore though countless documents, investigations and log books. It was finally determined that the charge was false.
But in the meantime the lives had been lost and great damage had been done.
What complicates the ability to respond quickly is that, unlike our enemies, which propagate lies with impunity -- with no penalty whatsoever -- our government does not have the luxury of relying on other sources for information -- anonymous or otherwise. Our government has to be the source. And we tell the truth.
Rumsfeld mentioned other failures of the press, as well as the 24/7 rapid-fire news cycle that lays the foundation for them. But he rightly doesn’t connect the dots, so I will. Rushing to screen or print with inflammatory, inaccurate, and insufficiently vetted information, playing the adversarial role to the hilt, offers an opening to our adversaries that they’re only too willing to exploit. No one’s asking the press to do the government’s job for it, and no one expects the press to roll over and play dead, but we can ask news organizations to be more careful in their reporting, to check and double-check their stories, and to be aware of how our enemies are going to use them. If, as you often claim to be, you’re an essential part of our system of checks and balances, you should remember that the system is meant to enhance the functioning of all its elements, not to mention that all the elements that check and balance are themselves susceptible to being checked and balanced.
Update: Not surprisingly, while almost all the MSM reports Ive seen mention Rumsfelds discussion of U.S. shortcomings, none remark on his plans for the future:
[G]overnment public affairs and public diplomacy efforts must reorient staffing, schedules and culture to engage the full range of media that are having such an impact today.
Our U.S. Central Command, for example, has launched an online communications effort that includes electronic news updates and a links campaign, that has resulted in several hundred blogs receiving and publishing CENTCOM content.
The U.S. government will have to develop the institutional capability to anticipate and act within the same news cycle. That will require instituting 24-hour press operation centers, elevating Internet operations and other channels of communications to the equal status of traditional 20th Century press relations. It will result in much less reliance on the traditional print press, just as the publics of the U.S. and the world are relying less on newspapers as their principal source of information.
And it will require attracting more experts in these areas from the private sector to government service.
This also will likely mean embracing new institutions to engage people across the world. During the Cold War, institutions such as the U.S. Information Agency and Radio Free Europe proved to be valuable instruments for the United States of America.
We need to consider the possibility of new organizations and programs that can serve a similarly valuable role in the War on Terror in this new century.
What, for example, should a U.S. Information Agency, or a Radio Free Europe for the 21st Century look like? These are tough questions.
Rumsfeld gets it. If the MSM doesnt report your story, there are plenty of other ways of getting the word out, at least to a domestic audience and increasingly to foreign audiences:
Throughout the world, advances in technology are forcing a massive information flow that dictatorships and extremists ultimately will not be able to control. Blogs are rapidly appearing even in countries where the press is still government-controlled.
Pro-democracy forces are communicating and organizing by e-mail, pagers and blackberries.
Today, in Iraq, an energetic media has emerged from the rubble of Saddam’s police state, with nearly 300 newspapers, over 90 radio stations and more than 40 television stations. Iraqis are now accessing the Web in their homes, as well as in Internet cafes that have sprung up in towns and cities across their country.
We are fighting a battle where the survival of our free way of life is at stake. And the center of gravity of that struggle is not just on the battlefield. It is a test of wills and it will be won or lost with our public and the publics of free nations across the globe. We will need to do all we can to attract supporters to our efforts, to correct the lies being told which so damage our country, and shatter the appeal of the enemy.
Here, again, is the text of Rumsfelds speech. Read the whole thing.
"In 1806, several years after leaving the Senate and while remaining one of Tennessees most famous citizens, Jackson agreed to a duel with Charles Dickinson to settle a matter of honor that had arisen out of a horse racing dispute. Many observers felt that Jacksons willingness to duel Dickinson was intemperate; most Tennesseans regarded Dickinson as the finest shot in the state. Additionally, dueling was already considered a crude way for gentlemen to settle their differences.
On his way out to the duel site, Dickinson amused his traveling party with his shooting skill, sometimes cutting a string with a bullet from 24 feet, the distance that would separate the two duelists.
For his part, Jackson spent the time traveling to the duel site settling on his strategy. Realizing that Dickinson was the better shot, Jackson figured he should let Dickinson shoot first and absorb the hit. If he tried to rush a shot before Dickinson fired, Jackson feared that his aim would suffer and he would miss the target. So his plan was to take a shot from Tennessees best marksman. If he survived the blow, he would then take his time and kill Dickinson.
At the duel, Jackson stuck to his plan. Dickinson fired first and grievously wounded Jackson; his bullet broke two of Jacksons ribs and lodged close to Jacksons heart. But it did not kill him.
Indeed, Jackson hardly flinched. Dickinson stared in astonishment and screamed, "Great God, have I missed him?" Jackson took deliberate aim and squeezed his trigger. Nothing happened. He re-cocked his pistol, again carefully aimed, and fired. This time the gun functioned properly, killing its mark. Jackson required over a month to recuperate from his wound."
That Jackson is fascinating is beyond doubt. That he is, in some measure, an entirely American man, is also beyond doubt. That he was a brave, tough, intemperate sob is true enough. The father of democracy? Maybe all those Jefferson-Jackson dinners would like us to believe that, but dog my cats, I dont reckon thats so. Although this superficial note on Jackson doesnt deserve serious response, the idea that Jackson has somehow come to represent democracy does (see this, and this, never mind this). But that will have to be done another day.
Mark Oppenheimer considers a radical alternative to the high cost of higher education. While hes onto something about the essence of education at any level, and about how matters peripheral to it are driving costs upward, there are more problems with his not-altogether-unserious suggestion than I have time to mention.
These articles suggest that Democrats will not get their way--splashy hearings to expose the alleged misdeeds of the Bush Administration. On the other hand, it looks like the Administration will be a little more forthcoming in its briefings and like there may be some legislative action, perhaps on Senator DeWines proposal to authorize the warrantless wiretapping, subject to formal Congressional oversight.
I have to confess to a little crunchiness, by Drehers standards. We buy organic milk and eggs; we homeschool; my wife owns a pair of Birkenstocks; we occasionally consort with what I have in the past called "Calvinist hippies"; my wife has a pretty wide green streak (mine is narrower); were not free market absolutists or dogmatic rationalists.
Torrance raises the following question:
But conservatives and libertarians may wonder, at times, why Dreher thinks he has so much in common with them. Crunchy Cons is mostly an inspiring guidebook to living your life with more meaning. Dreher realizes that it’s easier to change ourselves than to change society. He counsels infusing the political into your personal choices, which sometimes can be empowering, sometimes “spirit-killing,” to use the word Dreher says his detractors throw at him.
There are some policy prescriptions, however, and most of them involve bigger government. His frequent rants against modern agriculture ignore how many people those methods have fed. He also advises, “Use government, within limits, to look after the poor and the weak without creating a culture of dependency.” Politicians and social scientists have been trying to devise such programs—without success—for decades now. Dreher’s earnestness sometimes gets the better of him. Perhaps his happy medium between a free market and a cohesive but overpowering society tilts too much in one direction at times. He’s learned a lot from Russell Kirk. But he may have forgotten some of the lessons of Milton Friedman.
Earlier in the essay, she makes reference to Drehers conservative Catholicism, which strikes me as the correct point of departure for examining this issue. It isnt particularly original to observe that theres a gap between religious and non-religious conservatives, or between "traditionalists" and "free marketeers." Torrance rightly points out that religious conservatives dont or neednt abandon their reason and could learn from their secular counterparts. Prudence, even informed by a religious vision, requires worldly knowledge. But it seems to me that the "information should flow in both directions. Secular, rationalist, and free market conservatives (I realize that these adjectives describe different, but overlapping categories) have something to learn from their religious brethren, especially about the limits of their knowledge and their solidarity with others.
So? Any crunchies out there?
Another busy day today, but this is irresistable. Bryant Gumbel, according to the Columbus Dispatch: "Try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the games look like a GOP convention." Newsbusters has more. Ohio’s next governor was in town yesterday.
Here, listening to a discussion of "faith and progressive politics in America" featuring the likes of Mark Lilla, E.J. Dionne, Jr., Todd Gitlin, Seyla Benhabib, and Bill McClay (not one of them consarned progressives, to be sure), among others. Theres one NY Sun article, available only to subscribers, and this comment from Richard John Neuhaus. If I can dig up anything else on the web, Ill post links.
This WaPo article summarizes this report, which provides grist for any number of mills. On the one hand, there are those who argue that what the Bush Administrations "faith-based initiative is really all about is de-funding social programs and dumping responsibility for the poor on the charitable sector." The study shows that some categories of social spending declined from 2002 to 2004. Hence while the faith-based share of the pie remained the same (roughly 18%), the pie got some $230 million smaller over those three fiscal years.
Others could point to evidence that more groups shared in the federal largesse, indicating the increasing vitality of the grassroots and a salutary movement away from the usual suspects to smaller, perhaps more innovative groups closer to the people they help.
Stanley Carlson-Thies observes that the relatively constant faith-based share
"gives the lie to alarmists" who think the administration is funneling vast sums to churches.
"Look at the huge percentage of money that continues to go to secular organizations," said Carlson-Thies, who formerly worked in the White House faith-based office. "The image that theres this Bush push thats going to turn the government into a religious apparatus -- if people think that thats whats happening, theyre wrong."
Jim Towey, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, doesnt like the study at all:
The study did not count grant-making programs that were created after 2002 and ignored such programs as Head Start, which he said was the second-largest source of federal funds for religious organizations, after the Department of Housing and Urban Developments Section 202 housing program for the elderly poor.
"They have picked rotten cherries and come up with a rotten pie," Towey said. "They took a very small sample of programs and grants and are drawing conclusions that are completely inaccurate."
Towey said the White House has been collecting growing amounts of data on grants each year, beginning with two federal agencies in 2002, five in 2003, seven in 2004 and 10 in 2005. When it issues its report for 2005 in March, he said, "well look at 25,000 grants in just one year" and "will show theres been an increase every year in the category of competitive, nonformula grants for social services."
Ill reserve final judgment until I see the White House report, though I would take issue with those who measure the character of a governments "compassion" (as if a government can have compassion) simply by the amount of money it spends.
And while Im at it, heres a commentary on the state of the faith-based initiative that doesnt just look at money.
Hat tip: Get Religion.
We have put out several new episodes on our various podcasts. For my "You Americans" podcast this week, I spoke to former Senator Alan Simpson who is in Ashland today to provide us with a luncheon lecture. The good senator did several interviews last night on Dick Cheney’s hunting accident. I spoke to him about it as well and I think you will enjoy the conversation. Get the MP3 here or subscribe to the podcast.
My wife has joined the blogosphere. Pretty soon she’ll start taking shots at me too.
Update: I guess I should be more careful about my language around here. To be clear, the shots are metaphorical. We may both be descended from hillbilly stock (Scottish and Appalachian on my wifes side, Austrian on mine), but we dont do guns. Also, you will note, if you visit her blog, that she goes for quality while I go for quantity.
The NSA wiretap debate is complicated, raising questions about FISA law and the Authorization to Use Military Force, as well as constitutional issues of separation of powers and the Fourth Amendment. Sometimes, even members of Congress need help interpreting these issues. When House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner needed insight on the law, he contacted Ashbrook’s own Robert Alt and John Eastman for their legal opinions. Robert’s letter to the chairman can be found on the Judiciary Committee’s web site here, and John’s letter can be found here. Robert tackles the statutory questions, showing why it is that Congress’s Authorization to Use Military Force passed in the aftermath of 9/11 gave the President all the statutory authority he needed to conduct the NSA program, and John addresses the separation of powers issues, demonstrating that the President has extensive authority in conducting intelligence operations in wartime.
Both letters are important to the current debate. In fact, Chairman Sensenbrenner wrote to the Congressional Research Service, which had previously written a memo suggesting the wiretap program was unlawful, asking them to respond to critiques of the memo made by Alt and Eastman. Interesting stuff this. Who would think that lawyers might be capable of insight?
Here is one interesting finding:
[T]he most robust correlations of all those described in this report are health, income, church attendance, being married and, yes, being a Republican. Indeed, being a Republican is associated not only with happiness, it is also associated with every other trait in this cluster. Even so, the factor that makes the most difference in predicting happiness is neither being a Republican nor being wealthy - its being in good health.
There seems to be no data on the relationship between wisdom and happiness, though if education is a proxy (dubious, to be sure), education and happiness are positively correlated.
This article on grade inflation at Harvard brings out all the apologists and reminds us of one persistent critic.
Mac Owens on Jim Webb, Reagans Secretary of the Navy, running in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate from Virginia. If he wins he would give George Allen the race of his life, Mac thinks. Some interesting insights from Mac, and a warning to the GOP. Note that Webb is also a fine novelist and author.
I’m not a hunter, but I live in a red state with lots of them. The hysteria over Saturday’s hunting accident strikes me as resulting from a mixture of press self-importance and the demands of the news cycle on an otherwise slow news day.
For some of the liberal blog commentary, go here and here. For Power Line’s commentary, go here and here. For what it’s worth, one of my students observed in class that he and his brothers had more than once accidentally peppered one another with birdshot. I have no reason either to doubt his veracity or to suspect that he’s more reckless than most. It’s news because the VP did it, but it’s time to move on (coining a phrase).
Update: NRO has good advice for Dick Cheney.
Update #2: At the risk of further inciting the commenters, I note this Power Line post, regarding the frequency of "peppering" in South Dakota (regarding which I await Jon Schaffs further commentary) and this column by Charles Krauthammer.
As with many of David Horowitzs projects, I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, those who politicize their classrooms, or who think that everything is political, should neither be surprised nor indignant if there is a political response. On the other hand, Im no more eager to see higher education politicized from the right than from the left. At the moment, I cant improve upon these thoughts, but I will reserve judgment on Horowitzs new book until Ive actually read it.
David Warren is probably the best journalist writing regularly in Canada today. Almost everything he writes, especially on contemporary Canada and on the war against Islamic terrorism, is fresh, thoughtful, and full of good sense. One of the few times I’ve found myself disagreeing with him is in the most recent essayin his “Essays on our Times” series. After laying out how Muslims should be culturally assimilated in Canada and very nicely describing some of the ways in which Islam differs fundamentally from our Western notions, he concludes as follows:
“This is a different worldview, from our Western one. It is not less rational – it works from different premises about man and God. We cannot dismiss it, on its own terms. We can say, however, that our premises are incompatible, and insist that in Canada, ours will prevail.”
Although Warren is discussing Canada, this conclusion appears to be widely believed in many Western countries. Unless I misunderstand something, it is very dangerous. It is true that Islam works from very different premises than we in the West do; and it may be true that we cannot dismiss Islam on its own terms – how many Westerners know Islam well enough to say whether or not it has important internal contradictions? But can we really expect to prevail in our struggle with radical Islam if we admit that its worldview is “not less rational” than our own and so believe that all we can do is “insist” that in our backyard Muslims must adopt our worldview?
If that is all we have say to the radical Muslim, why should he give up his views and adapt to our ways? We tell him that his view is just as rational as ours, but in addition to that, he believes he is following the commands of God: neither reason, then, nor faith tells him he should adapt to us. What then is to make him do it?
Even more fundamentally, perhaps, why should we cling to our own ways, believing them to be no more rational than those of the radical Muslim’s? It seems that one of the West’s fundamental claims is precisely that its worldview is more rational than the alternatives, many of which are founded on some form of revelation. It is true that Christians still survive in the West, but the public articulation of our primary ideas and principles, while not perhaps incompatible with Christianity, are also not specifically Christian. We claim that the West is hospitable to all sorts of people, good Hindus, for example. If we abandon that claim to superior rationality and concede to our enemies an equal right to possess the compelling character that belongs to reason, we have already lost the war.
When Warren says that Islam is no less rational than the Western worldview, he means that once you accept certain premises, Islam is a consistently worked out system. Our worldview is equally rational in this sense, only we start from different premises. The real difference, then, lies in the premises; and Warren appears to suggest that our premises are no more defensible than the Islamic ones; this is why all we can do is insist on our premises. What we really need, however, is not so much an act of insistence, that is, of pure will, as it is a real defense of our premises – a defense that shows why our premises are truer or better than the Islamic ones.
Today is Lincolns birthday. It seems odd that it is not a national holiday, and also odd that we dont have a toast, as we do on Churchills birthday. We read and listen. You might like Allan C. Guelzos lecture on the Emancipation Proclamation that he gave just as his book on the same was being published (2004). Good talk. I listened to it yesterday on my two walks. Here is my review of the book. And here are a couple of fragments from Lincoln; and another. For dessert, you might taste (but aloud) the Second Inaugural.