Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Peace, peace, when there is no peace . . .

Camille Paglia on President Obama’s speech in Cairo:

Barack Obama was elected to do exactly what he did last week at Cairo University -- to open a dialogue with the Muslim world. Or at least that was why I, for one, voted for him, contributed to his campaign, and continue to support him. There is no more crucial issue for the future of the West, . . .

The Cairo speech is well-organized, ticking off central thorny issues region by region. But there is an unsettling slackness and even sentimentality in its view of history. . . . Obama’s lack of fervor may be one reason he rejects and perhaps cannot comprehend the religious passions that perennially erupt around the globe and that will never be waved away by mere words. By approaching religion with the cool, neutral voice of the American professional elite, Obama was sometimes simplistic and even inadvertently condescending. . . .

But before he can sway hearts and minds, the president will need to show that he understands the ultimate divergence and perhaps incompatibility of major creeds. At the finale, his recitation of soft-focus quotes from the Koran, Talmud and Bible came perilously close to a fuzzy New Age syncretism of "all religions are the same" -- which they unequivocally are not. The problem facing international security is that people who believe something will always be stronger and more committed than people who believe nothing -- which unfortunately describes the complacent passivity of most Western intellectuals these days.

I wonder whether that last bit hits the nail on the head with regard to the President’s view of the world. Are there any irrepressible conflicts in the world?

Ann Althouse posted that last bit on her blog, and one reaction to it:

[Paglia] is conflating fervor with belief and frenzied excitement with persistent character. Most fundamentalists aren’t acting out of real fervor for their chosen god, most are acting out of insecure egos who are attempting to manipulate the seen world so as to secure their own identity as dominating and secure their meager faith in some kind of obvious sign of their supposed devotion.

The religious passions of so many are not really religious at all, but are expressions of a deep-seated insecurity in the face of a rather dismissive world.

That’s the debate. Are the world’s great conflicts reduceable to such material or psychological causes, or do many of them grow from things of the spirit? Is conflict sewn into the human condition?

John Adams answered that question this way:


Wars are the natural and unavoidable effects of the constitution of human nature and the fabric of the globe it is destined to inhabit and rule. I believe further that wars, at times, are as necessary for the preservation and perfection, the prosperity, liberty, happiness, virtue, and independence of nations as gales of wind to the salubrity of the atmosphere, or the agitations of the ocean to prevent its stagnation and putrefacation. As I believe this to be the constitution of God Almighty and the constant order of his Providence, I must esteem all the speculations of divines and philosophers about universal and perpetual peace as shortsighted, frivolous romances.

Discussions - 8 Comments

I've been waiting for somebody to note the latent syncretism of Obama's approach. I'm surprised that no major Catholic cleric has raised his voice against Obama's heretical propositions.

As for the motivations of the enemy, whether they're insecure or true believers, why does it have to be one or the other. Why can't it be a bit of both, sometimes perhaps more insecurity, more an attempt at control of a world slipping beyond them, perhaps other times flowing from an emotional fervor. Why the haste to categorize? Could that insistence upon categorization be itself evidence of insecurity?

What if scores and scores of millions of muslims truly believe in the teachings, the tenets and the history of islam/jihad? If they do, and if they're eager to act on the obligations of jihad, that means war. That means global conflagration. That means religious war, that means that the feeble efforts thrown forward to answer the problem aren't remotely equal to the challenge at hand.

Some questions aren't being asked because there exists a strong suspicion what the answer is going to be, and that answer is wholly unacceptable, entirely horrific, something that modern education has left Westerners poorly equipped to handle, to handle morally, intellectually or culturally.

From Alfred Adler:

"One thing can save us: the mistrust of any form of predominance. Our strength lies in conviction, in organizing strength, in a world view, not in the violence of armament and not in emergency laws. With such means other strong forces before us have fought in vain for their existence."

"War is not the continuation of politics with other means, but the greatest mass crime against man's belonging together. What sum of lies and artificial arousal of low passions, what thousandfold violence was necessary to suppress the indignant outcry of the voice of humanity!"

"The typical ideal of our time is still the isolated hero for whom fellow men are objects. It is this psychological structure which has made the World War palatable to people, lets them shudder in admiration before the unstable greatness of a victorious military leader."

"We need the conscious preparation and advancement of a mighty social interest and the complete demolition of greed and power in the individual and in peoples. What we all lack and for which we struggle relentlessly are new methods to raise the social sense..."

(From "Psychology of Power", written by Alfred Adler in 1928, published in the Journal of Individual Psychology, Vol. 22, pp. 166-172, 1966.)

Dan has me thinking. I mean really thinking. Whenever I am puzzled and plagued with doubt, like Richard Adams I quote a founder. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims."

Good thing Jesus didn't bless the Treaty of Tripoli with the exceptionalist universalism inherent in the Declaration of Independence.

If my research is correct, Adams signed a treaty in 1797 that said: "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

Well, we all can see how well that treaty worked out.

And Ren, the query isn't whether the United States has got probs with islam, it's whether the devotees of islam have got probs with the United States. And all the evidence available indicates that islam has significant probs with the West, with Christianity and of course with the United States, {and that's leaving out Jews, and we all know, or should know, the role of Jews in islamic cosmology}.

But apart from my private speculation, we're all going to see how this pans out because Europe bet the farm. Szarkozy admitted as much in a private discussion the other day, he said Europe was going islam. So we're all going to find out whether or not islam can consist with Western civilization.

Fung, one question. If you were in charge of the Byzantine Empire back in the day, and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of muslims are attacking you in Assyria, in Anatolia, on the seas, all the while muslim forces are conducting raids that see thousands and thousands of the women of your empire ripped away to be sold on the slave markets of Arabia, --------- would your response and the response of the people of your empire be "Adleresque?"

Sentiments such as Adler's were common in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Then Japan, Germany, and Italy started embarking on campaigns of aggression, which caused many a pacifist to sober up. I wouldn't be at all surprised if that was the case with Adler.

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