Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts

This NYT review of Robert Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts is a pastiche of wisecracks, complaints about Kaplan’s style, and half-made arguments against his worldview. What it isn’t is a helpful portrayal of the substance of the book. We know that it’s Kaplan, we learn that the reviewer doesn’t much like Kaplan, and that the book is about the U.S. military’s role all over the world. But that’s all.

Anyone who wants to learn more about the best that our soldiers can accomplish when largely left to their own devices should read the book.


Michael E. Ruane, writing in the Washington Post: "Although the shattering psychological impact of war is well known, experts have become increasingly interested in those who emerge from combat feeling enhanced. Some psychiatrists and psychologists believe that those soldiers have experienced a phenomenon known as ’post-traumatic growth,’ or ’adversarial’ growth." This recent discovery that men are not made out of porcelain is another indication that we are not in another "Vietnam era."

What Was Lost

I SING what was lost and dread what was won,

I walk in a battle fought over again,

My king a lost king, and lost soldiers my men;

Feet to the Rising and Setting may run,

They always beat on the same small stone.

W.B. Yeats

Alito on church and state again

This is a nice summary of the debate over Judge Alito’s views of the First Amendment religion clauses.

Update: For more interesting commentary, go here, with corrections applied here and here.

The Bush Administration and space aliens

Just when you thought you’d heard everything, there’s this: the Bush Administration is apparently seeking new frontiers for militarization, going out of its way to pick fights with space aliens. Guess they’re finally getting in front of the illegal alien issue.

Religion and American politics

There’s a lot of interest in the subject on the Left. An entire issue of Mother Jones is devoted to examining various aspects of conservative religion. (I’ll comment on some of the articles in the coming days.) Then there are these two websites.

Finally, John Judis has an article in Dissent focusing on religion and U.S. foreign policy. One of the interesting elements in the article is the shift from blaming U.S. foreign policy on (Jewish) neoconservatives to attributing it to Christian millenialism. Turns out that Paul Wolfowitz has drunk deeply from the same well that has refreshed Protestant millenialists through the ages. The conclusion also is interesting:

Americans who want to influence our foreign policy have to recognize the existence of a guiding framework inherited from Protestant millennialism. And that certainly includes critics of George W. Bush. Bush’s belief that America has a “mission” or a “calling” from the “Maker of Heaven” to spread freedom around the world puts him in a mainstream of American foreign policy. Yet the critics who point to the influence of the role of religion in Bush’s foreign policy still have a point. What sets this president off from some of his more illustrious predecessors is that in making foreign policy—a task that requires an empirical assessment of means and ends—he has been guided both by the objectives of Protestant millennialism and by the mentality it has spawned. That has made for some stirring oratory, but it has detracted from a clear understanding of the challenges facing the United States. Indeed, it has laid the basis for the greatest American foreign policy disaster since the war in Vietnam.

Earlier, Judis compares and contrasts American millenial foreign policy with earlier European counterparts, who were chastened by failure and subsequently became realistic in a way that he approves of. Does he wish for similar failures on our part? Indeed, whatever the merits of his historical analysis, it’s very clear that his account of the present situation is marked by a kind of death wish for American policy. Everything is bleak; nothing good has happened. This strikes me as at least as unrealistic as the position he attributes to his adversaries.

Hat tip:
Real Clear Politics.

Thanksgiving thoughts

From an atheist. From a theist. And from a Thomist (at least the appellation fits for present purposes).

The turkey is in the oven (and will soon be away from the computer), the first guests (grandparents from South Carolina) have arrived, with others expected within an hour or so, and the house is tolerably clean, so it’s time for us all to have a Happy Thanksgiving!

The political theology of Thanksgiving

Joe Knippenberg is elegant in reminding us that Thanksgiving is a bit of a complicated holiday, at once civil and religious. While it celebrates human accomplishments, it rightly insists that they are in some way dependent on God’s will. We are called upon to be humble, penitent, and generous. Lovely reminder. Thanks, Joe.

Thanksgiving proclamation quiz

Who issued this one?

Two hundred years ago the frontier colonies of America braced for a long and determined conflict with the strongest military power in the world. The petition of our Founding Fathers for redress of their grievances had been rejected by King and Parliament, and the people of America began the struggle from which emerged this great Nation.

Our Nation is the oldest continuously surviving republic in the world. For 200 years our freedoms have been questioned, challenged, tested and reinforced. These freedoms have shaped our destiny and served as a beacon to other peoples. Our Nation draws its strength from people of every creed, of every color, of every race - native Americans and people from every nation in the world who for two centuries have come to share in the rewards and responsibilities of our American Republic.

On the eve of our 200th year, Thanksgiving Day should be a day of special reflection upon the qualities of heart, mind and character of the men and women who founded and built our great Nation. Let us join in giving thanks for our cultural pluralism. Let us celebrate our diversity and the great strengths that have come from sharing our traditions, our ideas, our resources, our hopes and our dreams. Let us be grateful that for 200 years our people have been dedicated to fulfilling the democratic ideal - dedicated to securing "liberty and justice for all."


Let each of us, in his own way, join in expressing personal gratitude for the blessings of liberty and peace we enjoy today. In so doing, let us reaffirm our belief in a dynamic spirit that will continue to nurture and guide us as we prepare to meet the challenge of our third century.

I call upon all Americans on this day to gather with family and friends in homes and places of worship and join in offering gratitude for this Nation’s countless blessings. I ask that we share with our senior citizens and with those less fortunate than ourselves this special day that brings us all closer together.

Put your answers or guesses in the comments. I’ll let you know once someone has gotten it right.

Thanksgiving thoughts

As I promised, I’ve been reading and thinking about presidential Thanksgiving proclamations. The first fruit of this reflection--a little essay entitled "Thanksgiving and Our Civic Religion"--is up at The American Enterprise Online. More later, including a little quiz.

Hillary and Iraq and 2008

Hillary Clinton rejects an immediate pullout from Iraq. This reminds me of a joke:

A busload of politicians were driving down a country road when, all of a sudden, the bus ran off the road, and crashed into a tree in an old farmer’s field.

The old farmer, after seeing what had happened, went over to investigate.

He then proceeded to dig a hole to bury the politicians.

A few days later the local sheriff came out, saw the crashed bus, and asked the old farmer where all the politicians had gone.

The old farmer said he had buried them.

The sheriff asked the old farmer, "Were they all dead?"

The old farmer replied, "Well, some of them said they weren’t, but you know how them politicians lie."


Mark Steyn’s latest is both true and amusing. He notes the huge demonstrations against Zarqawi in Jordan (let’s listen to the Arab streets, shall we, and why isn’t the BBC covering this?), even though the Bad Guy apologized for having killed Muslims; he also said that King Abdullah should be decapitated. Oh, well, almost a nice guy, this Zarqawi. Steyns also mentions Murtha, Vietnam, and Europe. A good reading for the early morning.

Ramirez Cartoon


You have to read this, this, this, and this.

Hat tip: Power Line.

Iran and the Twelfth Imam

John von Heyking is concerned about Iran, and not only because of their nuclear ambitions. He thinks that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s words and actions are very much worth watching, especially regarding the return of the Twelfth Imam, which is very important to Shi’ites.
While the issue is complicated, von Heyking’s piece is very clear (also good links). His last paragraph:

"Western observers need to be able to understand the ideological and religious overtones of the current situation in Iran. Ahmadinejad’s peculiar references to the Twelfth Imam are no mere eccentricity to be taken lightly. Nor do they seem to be the rhetorical ploy of a politician manipulating the excitable masses (as some have interpreted Saddam Hussein’s embrace of Islamism in the later part of his rule). Minimally, Ahmadinejad’s speeches and actions portend a constitutional crisis for the Iranian regime. Maximally, there are times when one should take bombastic statements not as double-talk, but for what they are."

Israeli politics

Sharon is going to form a new centrist party, and there will be elections circa March. Clearly, this is significant. Sharon couldn’t control a relatively small minority of the Likud, now the new party will end up (probably) taking most of the current Likud with it. Also see this.


This is ABC News account of Bush’s stop in Mongolia. This is the BBC’s version. All the jokes about Mongolia (fierce warriors, statute of Ghengis Khan, etc) aside, I think it is significant that Bush would be the first U.S. president to visit the country.
It’s location makes it important to us. Here is the CIA Factbook on Mongolia.

Presidential Thanksgiving proclamations

This site seems to have them all, from George Washington’s first in 1789 to GWB’s latest. I’m cogitating on the significance of all this for our civil religion and public discourse.

Small arms

These are some opinions on the usefulness of the small arms used in Iraq (M16, M240, etc). Sounds legit.

National Atlas

The Department of the Interior has something called National Atlas on line. You should take a look at it. It seems pretty good. For example, you can view and print any Congressional district (109th Congress), or Presidential elections, territorial acquisitions. There is a lot more.

Mark Warner

Mark Warner, governor, Southerner, moderate Democrat, wine grower; therefore another Jefferson. Silly stuff. Democratic contender in 2008? Not silly.