Victor Davis Hanson persuasively argues that we can better gague the success of our Middle East policy by reading the things that the terror lords are not saying and observing the things that they are not doing. Why, for example, does Hezbollah leader, Nasrallah, call for "war on every level," and complain that Israel is hitting too deep into Lebannon? Hanson also wonders:
"Why do not Iran and Syria — or for that matter other Arab states — now attack Israel to join the terrorists that they have armed? Surely the two-front attack by Hamas and Hezbollah could be helped by at least one conventional Islamic military. After promising us all year that he was going to “wipe out” Israel , is not this the moment for Mr. Ahmadinejad to strike?"
Read the whole thing. It is thoughtful and worth pondering. And, whats more, if hes right we have something to smile about.
Peter Lawler wonders why we havent been discussing Damon Linkers review of two recent books on Leo Strauss. My excuse is that Im in South Carolina--home of E.J. Dionne, Jr.s favorite Republican--retrieving my children from the clutches of their grandparents.
Having now read Linkers piece, I think its subtly but interestingly wrong about Strausss philosophy, and wildly and implausibly wrong about his politics. On the former, I think he underestimates the force of the claim that there are permanent questions and overstates the significance of the "Reason and Revelation" lecture (at least if the extracts he presents are telling). On the latter, theres much that Strauss says about democracy and gentlemen that Linker doesnt acknowledge and take into account. Indeed, Platos philosopher doesnt want to rule and hence doesnt want to sit at the top of a political order, preferring, perhaps to read books and raise rabbits (or rabbis?). Ill have more later after I return to Atlanta.
Apparently an organization calling itself the New Economics Foundation has done a study concluding that the happiest place on earth is (wait for it)....Vanuatu. You know, that place featured on Survivor a couple of years ago? Anyway, according to the study, "People can live long, happy lives without using more than their fair share of the earth’s resources."
Oh, okay. Turns out that the New Economics Foundation "is a research group that organizes campaigns on environmental and economic issues such as debt relief. It was set up in 1986 to question the agenda of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations." Hmmm, not much of a chance that they’re going to identify any Western nation as particularly happy.
Over at Cato my old friend Will Wilkinson had something to say about this:
There is simply no non-crazy sense in which Vanuatu is the world’s happiest country. And there is no credible empirical reason for docking countries on any kind of index of human well-being for producing a lot of wealth. The evidence says that the happiness of poor populations like Vanuatu’s would skyrocket with swift economic growth. But growth is exactly what NEF is trying to limit. Their pseudo-study encourages us to be complacent about the poverty of Vanuatu, which is, after all, the “happiest” place on our “happy planet,” on the basis of the fact that they use almost no energy. If you really care about the well-being and happiness of the world’s poor, then agressively misleading publicity stunt studies like this one, and the people who author them, deserve nothing but our scorn.
UPDATE:Here is a link to the actual study. Curious what some of the other happy places are? Well, also in the top twenty are Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. So thats why all those people are emigrating from America to those places!
John and I rode Isabell to Philadelphia for the start of the
Presidential Academy for American History and Civics. Fine teachers, fine program. The classroom was so set that a hundred yards from us was the visible cause of the country, as Flannery and Lloyd, and Lucas Morel, who is in charge of it all, explained our purpose to the fifty teachers, one from each state.
I did a Podcast with Chris Burkett about the program, how it came about, and so on. They are all now in Gettysburg with Guelzo and McPherson, and then in Washington with Kesler and Williams. Check out the schedule, the readings, the faculty. Good stuff.
Of course, Isabella was a delight. The best distance between two points on a motorcycle is never the shortest, so we rolled for over 1,100 good miles. Heat was everywhere, but so was our pleasure. She behaved perfectly through the whole thing, easy and gentle, safe and comfortable; her kindness is palpable. Took many nice roads, only necessity forced us on to the Pennsylvania turnpike. Went through some odd towns, including Accident, Maryland, and met many who admired Isabells form and her throaty sound.
Naomi Schaefer Riley writes about a conference on the subject. As far as she can tell, there was no deep thinking there, and very little about the core of whats supposed to happen on campus (an object of eros, but probably not the one they talked about, if they got so far as to talk about that). I only wish that Riley had written about permanent things that included some of the questions addressed in a good liberal education.
Something like this. There have been lots of reports of organ harvesting in China and other places around the globe. Here is another--more disturbing one. Peter Lawler warned in his recent podcast with Peter (Schramm) that one possibile and probable outcome of allowing the sale of organs would be the harvesting of the Third World by more industrialized countries for the wealthy. Apparently, in China, it is just another way to deal with political opposition--real or perceived. Whats next? If someone looks at you cross-eyed do you punch him in the nose or take his liver?
John Mark Reynolds reminds us that July 17 was the 88th anniversary of Lenin ordering the killing of the Romanov family. He argues that, ironically, the godless terror Lenin advocated as part of the Bolshevik revolution is what now drives the advocates of Islamofascist terror.
Money quote: They should realize that they cannot hope to win in this manner. Their very evil will stain their cause. Every child in Israel they kill with their bombs and rockets. . . intentionally targeted at civilian areas. . . creates an image in the mind of the thoughtful that will doom their cause. Well said, indeed.
Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt
As a tour of domestic policy, the speech contains references to a number of programs African-Americans ought to like, although I wish he had omitted the adjective in front of "school choice." (I know that it’s late in the day and that he doesn’t have the surfeit of political capital required to make it happen in a big way. I also know that education ought largely to be a state and local responsibility.) I am glad that he emphasized ownership, opportunity, and the faith-based initiative, which have been his constant themes in speeches to organizations like the Urban League (whose national meetings he has addressed three times: see here, here, and here).
I do find myself wishing he had been a little bolder, going beyond self-deprecating humor in adverting to his differences with the NAACP’s agenda, which is apparently permanently statist, where his is--and I know some conservatives will disagree with me here--only temporarily so. As it was, all the differences were implicit, and GWB never explicitly said that there will come a time when the playing field is genuinely level, when, for example, the Voting Rights Act (and affirmative action, not mentioned at all in the speech) will no longer be necessary. Imagine the reaction if he had said that he hoped that this would be the last time that it was necessary to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act! What a powerful demand for accountability and results, not to mention a claim that this is not to be the permanent state of things in America! But the audience would likely have booed him out of the house. Too bad.
Update: Given that his administration is proposing this, Id say he missed an opportunity to tout a program.
Over the last week, pundits have made a strong case that the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon was intentionally instigated by Iran. The Iranian government hopes to win big political advantages from the current conflict, which it views not just in regional terms, but as part of its larger political war against the United States and its allies. By playing its own allies (Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria) like pawns in a chess game, Iran hopes to avoid direct involvement, and at the same time enhance its reputation as the dominant power in the Middle-East, and counter continuing pressure from the U.S. against its nuclear ambitions (notice that within a week debates at the UN shifted from the question of imposing sanctions against Iran to imposing sanctions against Israel). As Heritage Foundation’s James Phillips noted after Hezbollah militia crossed the border and kidnapped two more Israeli soldiers last week:
With this provocative attack, Hezbollah in one stroke has enhanced its prestige in the Arab world, diverted the world’s attention from a growing crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, and escalated pressure on Israel...The attack also highlights the role that Hezbollah’s patron Iran plays in escalating Middle East violence, and it strengthens the case for sanctions against Iran.
And as former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out in an interview earlier this week, Iran’s willingness to supply Hezbollah with funds, guns and long-range missiles ought to heighten concerns about an Iran with nuclear weapons capabilities.
For more on the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria connection in the current conflict, see this longer article from Newsweek about “How Iran is wielding its influence to wage a stealthy war against Israel and America.”
Heres an interesting bit:
My hope is that we can let faith play a big role in the public arena and in our politics, but without the bitter divisions that we saw two years ago. For my part, Im wholly comfortable with the clergy guiding parishioners and politicians on issues of morality. That is very different than religious authorities dictating what elected officials and, indeed, voters should do under threat of religious sanction. I was alarmed when some bishops stated that the sacraments should be withheld from certain Catholic legislators because of their votes on public issues. That conflicts with my fundamental beliefs about the role of Democratic representatives in a pluralistic America. It clashes with freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution, and those in the hierarchy who cast the stone, I think, put at risk something that was very precious.
Senator Kennedy answered the skeptics who worried about his Catholicism. In his famous speech on September 12, 1960, to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association he said, "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote…I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant or Jewish — where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source."
His election affirmed the principle that our public life is enriched by the diversity of views that are nurtured in a civil society and are arbitrated in politics to a national conclusion. To be honest with you, I didnt get elected to public office to undo John Kennedys accomplishments. Im not willing to qualify his commitment not just to Catholics, but to Americans of all faiths whom I represent in this job. And Im not conflicted on the issue; Im comfortable with John Kennedys vision and with my oath of office. Whatever the issue: immigration, abortion, death penalty; the church should seek to guide us on the right path. But we can not go back on what John Kennedy achieved and have religious authorities dictate what elected officials and, indeed, voters should and should not do under the threat of religious sanction.
Am I right in detecting a tension here?
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat and one of the measures sponsors, said Bush was setting himself up as a ``moral ayatollah.
The veto is not based on constitutional or legal objections, Harkin said. ``He is vetoing it because he says he believes it is immoral, Harkin said. ``Mr. President, you are not our moral ayatollah, maybe the president nothing more.
Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, called the Houses vote to sustain the veto "a Luddite moment in American history, where fear triumphed over hope and ideology triumphed over science."
Other Democrats accused Mr. Bush of politicizing science.
"I dont know who decided they were God and that Congress could not fund this research because their religious thinking trumps the national consensus," said Rep. Diana DeGette, Colorado Democrat and a chief sponsor of the bill.
“This is not some wedge issue; this is the soul of America,’’ said Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, who sponsored the bill Mr. Bush vetoed. “And this is a colossal mistake on the part of the president.’’
Jim Wallis and all those (including Hillary Rodham Clinton) who claim that "the budget is a moral document" need to have a "come to Jesus" meeting with Senator Harkin, who clearly hasnt gotten the memo about reaching out to religious folks. Whats more, he cant really mean that theres no room for morality in politics. Republicans need to put him on the hook to explain himself. And Rep. DeGette, who voted against supporting alternative stem cell research, must think that destroying embryos is the "soul of America." The Party of Death indeed!
This seminar for young Progressive activists detailed in Frontpage Magazine is interesting to note. While in college my fellow conservative students and I attended many similar seminars for students on the right with groups like ISI and others. You get a variety of people at these types of meetings. Some are serious, others not so much. In recent years (e.g., the last 20 or so) conservatives certainly have had a leg up when it came to organization on the campuses. It has been necessary given the bent of most college faculty and administrators. Now it looks like the left is trying to catch up. Judging from this article, however, attempts to organize progressive students may face some stiff competition. Left wing faculty members have enjoyed so much power on the campuses that groups like this have not really been necessary to get students motivated to support their views. It does not appear that alot of these faculty are going to take kindly to the efforts. But this protestantization of the left’s message has led to much radicalization and a lack of unity.
In order to engage in a truly serious discussion you must have a strong point of agreement. The best debates are always between people who, basically, agree. That’s why the intramural sparring among conservatives can be so interesting. Granted, it is sometimes maddening and self-defeating, but it is always interesting and usually important. But the fighting between liberals almost always seems unhinged. They are always searching for their "core." When you have to look for it, you don’t have one. When everything goes it seems nothing makes any sense. It doesn’t seem serious, focused, or relevant. The description of this meeting does not make efforts at organizing progressive students sound promising. Perhaps they’ll kill each other before they get a chance to kill us. I think that’s likely and, of course, it’s good. (And for the record, "kill" is not meant in the literal sense--unlike Paul Begala’s use of it last year at this convention when he claimed that Republicans “want to kill me and my children”!)
President Bush has threatened to veto, as early as today, a bill said essentially to overturn his stem cell policy. The Senate also passed two other bills (both sponsored by Rick Santorum), one intended to prevent the use of embryos generated specifically for research and the other intended to encourage research into alternative sources of pluripotent stem cells.
The House passed two of the three bills, failing however to assemble the 2/3 majority necessary under the expedited suspension of rules calendar to pass the alternative sources bill.
The Democrats seem to think that this will be an issue in the fall elections, and that the alternative bill is simply political cover. Their hackneyed line will be: "Republicans are anti-science." While this is easier to understand than the more nuanced conservative position, discussed here and here, Im not convinced that it will produce the political advantage Democrats expect.
This piece makes an interesting point about House Democratic opposition to Santorum’s bill:
This latest attack on other ways to pursue stem-cell research reveals a new and more intolerant side to the ideology of the embryonic-stem-cell campaign. Now it is not enough to include embryo destruction in the category of acceptable biomedical research — one must wed oneself to embryo destruction, forsaking all other avenues. One must insist that stem-cell research must not move forward to advance knowledge or treat diseases unless it involves destroying human life. This is a dark and narrow vision of science that sets it directly at odds with morality and common sense. In the end, it is as anti-science as it is anti-life. Reps. Castle and DeGette may have won a temporary procedural victory in the stem-cell debate. But they have revealed a very dark and narrow side to the pro-embryo-research campaign that should not please patients wanting cures, concerned Americans wanting ethical restraint on science, or constituents seeking common sense on contentious issues.
This result makes me wish that the Republican-dominated state legislature hadn’t drawn my little enclave out of Cynthia McKinney’s congressional district. You’ll have to scroll down a little to find the results for the Georgia 4th, and perhaps refresh to see the latest results. Let it be noted that Hank Johnson, her challenger, is not at all well-funded.
Let it also be noted that I didn’t vote for Ralph Reed, who has conceded defeat in his bid for the Republican nomination for the Lieutenant Governorship.
Update: Here’s a more complete AJC article, which reports the presence of Cindy Sheehan at McKinney’s party. Yeesh!
Update #2: Jim Wooten thinks McKinney is finished, if not this year then in 2008, as her district, already heavily African-American, becomes increasingly middle-class. Shes got the organization to survive a run-off, but dont be surprised if Johnson gets a lot of money and a lot of help between now and August 8th. Her association with Sheehan ought to be used against her in the run-off, not to mention in the general election, if she survives. I wouldnt have thought that her Republican opponent stood a chance, but Im less convinced now.
Michael Perry raises some interesting questions, though they are not, of course, new questions.
We are locked in a war of ideas. We cannot hide our young away to protect them from this conflict, because that, as Adams would agree, is not life. However, through the stories that we tell our young, we can arm them with imagination, wisdom, and truth, and with those tools they can create a stronger community and a better life.
Hes convinced me to read the novel to or with my kids. But first, we have to work our way through
This is one of the more sophisticated versions of the "Leo Strauss is a Jewish fascist" arguments I’ve seen. It’s based largely on a letter Strauss wrote to Karl Loewith in 1933, of which this is the most relevant part:
Of course I can’t opt for just any other country - one doesn’t choose a homeland and, above all, a mother tongue, and in any event I will never be able to write other than in German, even if I must write in another language. On the other hand, I see no acceptable possibility of living under the swastika, i.e., under a symbol that says nothing more to me than: you and your ilk, you are physei(3) subhumans and therefore justly pariahs. There is in this case just one solution. We must repeat: we, “men of science,” - as our predecessors in the Arab Middle Ages called themselves - non habemus locum manentem, sed quaerimus…(4) And, what concerns this matter: the fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us says nothing against the principles of the right.To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness, that is, without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l’homme(5) to protest against the shabby abomination.(6) I am reading Caesar’s Commentaries with deep understanding, and I think of Virgil’s Tu regere imperio… parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.(7) There is no reason to crawl to the cross, neither to the cross of liberalism, as long as somewhere in the world there is a glimmer of the spark of the Roman thought. And even then: rather than any cross, I’ll take the ghetto.[My emphasis.]
Here’s part of the poster’s commentary on this:
It seems fair to say that fascist thought was appealing to Strauss, otherwise why would he be willing to toy with the label? At the same time, the aspect of fascism that most appealed to Strauss is also evident from the letter: it is the reliance on thoughts of classical antiquity, particularly of the early imperial era of Rome, as they were distorted in the political mirror of the thirties - most effectively by the Italian fascists.
I think that it would be fairer to say that to the extent that "classical antiquity" appealed to Strauss, it was the straight stuff, not as mediated by buffoons like Mussolini. Rob Howse, who has visited NLT from time to time, offers some of the best commentary on the site:
I believe that Strauss’s reading of the political situation in Germany at that time was largely correct (even though I am no expert on Weimar I have read a lot and talked to Weimar scholars extensively in connection with my Strauss research). That is, things had gone so far in an antiliberal direction by the time of that letter that to appeal to liberal principles against Nazism was ridiculous (at least as a matter of political effectiveness). Strauss was probably correct that the only hope--still a hope--was that old style conservativism, even fascism, might displace Hitler (and, yes, he assumed implicitly that even fascism/right wing imperialism would be better than Hitler). I do not believe that Strauss was responding to Lowith not with respect to what was true in principle, the true political morality, but concerning what might be possible in the dark situation in Germany.
Strauss was not an enemy of liberal democracy; as he emphasized, liberal democracy, even in its most permissive egalitarian forms, and perhaps especially in those forms, is favourable to the life of the mind; in letting everyone do and think what they want, at least in principle, liberal democracy is good for philosophy. The questions that seems to have haunted Strausss ever since his Weimar experience were whether a permissive egalitarian liberal democracy would have the backbone to stand up to its enemies and thus defend itself adequately and whether the relativist and positivist strands in liberal theory don’t undermine the moral centre and high aspirations of liberalism itself.
Rob and I might disagree about the status of the last two claims, but I think he comes pretty close to getting Strauss’s practical judgments about the situation in Germany and the situation of "the philosopher" in liberal democracy right.
The poster--Scott Horton--has an extremely simplistic view of the relationship between theory and practice or, if you will, principle and prudence. As other commenters note, "Straussians" (who may or may not agree theoretically) are all over the map in regard to their practical judgments about what our current situation requires. Thus I can speak only for myself here. I agree with Winston Churchill, surely no fascist and as surely a man Strauss admired, largely for "Roman" reasons: liberal democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. Its great strength in its Anglo-American varieties is precisely its openness to personalities who are at odds with its fundamental egalitarianism, whether it be "philosophers" or "great-souled men," like Lincoln, who understand and can supplement or overcome its weaknesses. I think I learned from Strauss and his students the "sub-ideal" nature of all actually existing politics and political orders. (One can, of course, learn the same thing from Saint Augustine, albeit from an entirely different perspective.) Horton strikes me as a liberal idealist who has a hard time imagining how a qualified and ironic friend can be something other than an enemy and who--unlike good liberals like John Locke--imagines that the rule of law is adequate to all situations.
Hat tip: Jonah Goldberg, who gets it from Matthew Yglesias, who is, needless to say, quite willing to assume that Strauss is fascist-friendly, as, by extension, are all the so-called Straussians in the Bush Administration.
Jesse Jackson is not impressed with the Democrats working toward a more pious image. His argument against what the Dems are doing to appear more religious is full of the usual muck about Bush stealing Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. In other words, he thinks the Dems dont need to appear more religious because lack of piety is not their real problem--theyre working on a false diagnosis. He says that what the Dems truly lack is will. And, in a certain respect, that argument makes sense when you believe (as todays Democrats at their heart do) that all politics is just a matter of will. It makes even greater sense when you read on and Jackson makes it plain what he means by "piety."
He is right to say that insincere demonstrations of piety--like simply going to Church and advertising your faith--are not going to impress anyone if they are not supported by substance. But the substance of what Jackson thinks is piety (i.e., ever greater expansion of government spending on social ills--did you know that the "nations budget is a moral document"?) is not something that the Democrats need particular help in making known to the public either. Theyve been at that for 70 plus years.
The time is ripe then for an open and fair discussion both of the meaning of piety and the purpose of politics. Democrats are vocal and insistent about the need for the separation of church and state when it comes to imposing standards on public behavior but their objection to expressions of piety dont ring as loud when those expressions involve spending other peoples money and getting more votes for themselves. Funny how that works.
This sobering post from Wretchard over at the Belmont Club is worth much contemplation by many and better minds than mine. Is a West committed to precision strikes and everything that implies along with it really ready to face up to an enemy like the one were facing? It may be that devotion to such things is a luxury born of our strength and out of our noble principles. But how long can we sustain that devotion without risking (at great cost) our ability to sustain ourselves?
It is not an easy question to answer and, I think, technology is not the only--or even the main-- reason were asking it. After all, Hezbollah and the rest of the terrorist thugs around the world are not exactly living in the dark ages of technology. And while they lack our resources, we underestimate their resourcefulness at our peril.
Heres an interesting piece from last weeks LA Times. Apparently if you want to buy something fake, Russia is now the place to go. And were not talking just about phony Rolexes here--Russia has become perhaps the worlds leading source of counterfeit just about anything, including diplomas, pharmaceuticals (as many as 12% of which in Russia are estimated to be phony), paintings, and doctoral dissertations (Putins own was heavily plagiarized, it turns out).
The most interesting, though, are the fake vacations being offered by one Moscow travel agency. For $500 this firm will provide you with "ersatz ticket stubs, hotel receipts, photos with clients images superimposed on famous landmarks, a few souvenirs for living room shelves"--making it appear to all the world that you really visited some exotic locale.
This transcript confirms my view of Bill Galstons intelligence and political savvy. (I will, however, make an exception for his apparent tilt in the direction of one John B. Anderson many years ago.) There are all sorts of interesting nuggets here, of which this is only one:
Has the Democratic Party learned nothing from the political debacle that followed the military debacle in Vietnam? Have we not learned the difference between questioning a policy and questioning the legitimacy of institutions, or even questioning the country? The Michael Moore Democrats certainly haven’t learned those distinctions.
Is there energy there? Yes. But I have a prediction that national politics is a game for very high stakes, and powerlessness, like power, corrupts. Absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely. But it also is a formula for sobriety. After a very bitter defeat — it’s hard to know whether it was defeat or victory — I think that the center of gravity of the Democratic Party in 2008 will be in a mode of high political seriousness and not inclined to throw away a chance for victory in order to exorcise some ideological demons. I can’t prove that. In the worst possible case — and this goes back to a portion of my answer to Adrian’s questions — if the context for the debate exacerbates the extremes, if we have not begun to move beyond the issue that is so roiling American politics right now, then inside the Democratic Party it’s not inconceivable that it could be 1972 all over again. It isn’t. I doubt it.