The View From 1776
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Democrats Lost on the Path to Truth
It doesn’t really matter if you stray from the truth in the liberal-socialist and pragmatic world of atheistic rationalism.
Liberals now are in the driver’s seat for the Democratic party, and, for them, all that counts is winning at any cost. In the philosophy of pragmatism, the end (final supplanting of the Constitution with an all-embracing socialist welfare state) justifies any mendacity.
TORTURING THE TRUTH
by Nathan Tabor
Winston Churchill once observed that ?A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.? As part of the left-wing arsenal of distorted arguments as to why Bush is so wrong in his proclaimed ?War on Terrorism,? another lie has presented itself, wrapped around the President?s stance on the Geneva Convention and its vague prescriptions for the interrogation and treatment of prisoners of war.
The central argument by those opposed to any alteration or clarification of the last of four succeeding agreements, with a history beginning in 1864, is that any change deemed detrimental in a revised version of the Geneva Convention might ultimately be used against our troops. The use of torture is bantered about as an example, with critics claiming that the U.S. Commander-in-Chief is looking for a legal loop hole that goes beyond the intent of the Fourth Geneva Convention, last revised in 1949. The President claims that different times and different circumstances call for one more overhaul of a multi-nation agreement that has already accepted revisions in 1949 and amendment protocols in 1977 and 2005. In other words, the current concepts of proper treatment for prisoners of war, civilians in wartime, and even the outlawing of the use of certain types of weapons in warfare, has been the result of a number of needed revisions, reflecting the changing nature of war.
In an attempt to belittle the administration?s efforts, magazine reporters Michael Isikoff, John Barry, and Michael Hirsh of Newsweek used a quote from the 2002 memo from Attorney General Gonzales concerning the application of the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war to the conflict with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and truncated a key quote from Gonzales in his memo in their co-authored story. The Newsweek story quotes the Attorney General as saying, ?In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.?
Now compare Newsweek?s quote with this one from the original memo; ?In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva?s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, scrip (i.e., advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms, and scientific instruments.?
The result of this obvious effort to change the true intent of Gonzales? memo and his legal opinion of the current tenets of the Geneva Convention was swift. In no time, the word ?quaint? was being used to describe the Attorney General?s haughty ?opinion? of the agreement in general. To add to this transgression, other reporters like the New York Times? Maureen Dowd continued this fable while left-wing blogs and websites repeated the Newsweek distortion. Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) seems to do this sort of thing to the liberal press.
Take a look at the links and you can form your own opinion. Maybe this time, truth will finally have a chance to get its pants on.
Nathan Tabor’s website is The Conservative Voice
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A Really Inconvenient Truth
Democrats, eager to destroy the President at any cost, are rallying behind liberals on both sides of the political aisle, under the banner of failure-in-Iraq.
The truth is, as President Bush states and Al Queda admits, we are fighting Islamic jihad in Iraq, rather than reacting, in the Clinton fashion, after the fact to repetitions of 9/11 here on the home front.
As observed in Democratic Party Strategy: Forget the Truth, Democrats, dominated by their liberal-socialist wing, have swallowed whole the socialistic and pragmatist philosophy doctrine that truth is simply whatever opinion wins in the media marketplace.? Whether it is right or wrong is immaterial.
Melanie Morgan’s article, posted in WorldNetDaily, nicely illustrates liberals’ moral relativism and willingness to undercut our troops in battle in order to win an election.
YES, LEFTIES, IRAQ IS THE CENTER OF TERROR WAR
By Melanie Morgan
A new report from the head of al-Qaida in Iraq indicates that more than 4,000 foreign fighters belonging to or allied with al-Qaida have been killed as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The blood has been spilled in Iraq of more than 4,000 foreigners who came to fight,” said Abu Ayyub al-Masri in an audio clip posted online.
But what does al-Masri know? He’s only the head of al-Qaida in Iraq. Abu Ayyub al-Masri got his job stepping over the cold corpse of his predecessor, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who assumed room temperature thanks to the United States military.
This report is just the latest evidence that the war in Iraq is not only justified, but is a critical front in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
Iraq: Land of peaceful kite fliers
The anti-war crowd just won’t admit the obvious. They have completed their rewrite of history, deceitfully asserting that the war in Iraq is an illegitimate war, not at all related to the war on terrorism.
Luckily for the anti-war folks, the liberal journalists of the mainstream media agree with them and happily advance their revisionist propaganda. Just consider the following citations, which are examples of thousands of similar news accounts. I’ve added the emphasis on the appropriate phrases below.
This week the Washington Post insisted that new intelligence documents served “? as validation of their [Democrats’] long-standing position that the Iraq war has been a distraction from the broader war against terrorists.”
A Sept. 12 Reuters report echoed that premise. “Democrats counter that the Iraq war is a distraction from the war on terrorism rather than a part of it,” reported Reuters.
Tim Grieve of the liberal e-journal, Salon.com, writes similarly, “After all, Iraq is a distraction from the war on terrorism. ?”
Pay no attention to the man behind the terrorist curtain
So I ask you ? why would 4,000 Islamic terrorists aligned with al-Qaida rush to Iraq and be killed if these terrorists didn’t think that the war in Iraq was the frontline in the war on terrorism?
Maybe these terrorists know something more about their murderous jihad than all the liberal, anti-war second-guessers here in the United States who consistently have tried to undermine the war effort.
Don’t for a moment think that this latest report from al-Qaida in Iraq will change the rhetoric or the tenor of either the anti-war zealots or their allies in the news media. These are, after all, the same people who keep telling us there is no connection between Iraq and al-Qaida in the same news stories that they quote the leader of “al-Qaida in Iraq.”
It’s as if we’ve flashed back to the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” where the great and powerful wizard is exposed from behind the curtain, but who nevertheless tries to deceive Dorothy and her entourage.
“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” he commands, desperate to believe that he can somehow continue his campaign of deception in spite of the obvious facts.
If Saddam isn’t a terrorist, who is?
A recent poll found that 50 percent of Americans believed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, despite the media’s insistence that this was not true. When this poll was released, journalists and anti-war activists were baffled.
How could the American people not believe us?
Well, it’s really simple. People have witnessed the anti-war crowd’s use of the most despicable and unforgivable means to undermine the war against terrorism. The public knows better than to now be told to ignore everything they’ve known, seen and heard before.
The American people watched for year after year as the United Nations ignored their own resolutions to stop Saddam’s development of WMDs. They then saw that the nations and individuals most opposed to Operation Iraqi Freedom were complicit in the U.N. Oil for Food scam.
The American people know about the chemical weapons used against Saddam’s own people. They know of the reports ? corroborated with gruesome video footage ? of horrific torture and executions of Saddam’s prisoners, as millions of Iraqis were slaughtered.
They know that Saddam paid the families of Palestinian terrorist bombers $25,000 for each terrorist attack they unleashed against a restaurant, bus or other civilian target beyond the borders of Iraq.
They know that Saddam Hussein used Islamic law to justify many of these awful and terrifying actions. To the American public, all of these actions precisely constitute what terrorism is.
And so, if Saddam Hussein is not a terrorist leader, then who is?
The jig is up
There will be other fronts in the war on terrorism that must be addressed ? Iran and Syria are at the top of anybody’s list. But does anyone believe we have a snowball’s chance in hell of crushing the terrorist threats from those nations if we pull out of Iraq in defeat?
That new audio message from al-Qaida in Iraq has no doubt brought a sense of panic to the offices of MoveOn.org, Democratic Underground and the other bastions of the “Blame America First” network. Another lie from this contingent of the anti-war movement, a big fat whopper of a lie to boot, has been exposed. Even the professional propagandists in the anti-war crowd, must be starting to recognize that the jig is up.
Melanie Morgan is chairman of the conservative, pro-troop non-profit organization Move America Forward and is co-host of the “Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Show” on KSFO 560 AM in San Francisco. Morgan is co-author of “American Mourning,” which reveals shocking new revelations about anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.
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Friday, September 29, 2006
Democratic Party Strategy: Forget the Truth
Democrats, dominated by their liberal-socialist wing, have swallowed whole the socialistic and pragmatist philosophy doctrine that truth is simply whatever opinion wins in the media marketplace. Whether it is right or wrong is immaterial.
Daniel Henninger’s editorial page article in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, “Can the Democrats Beat Bush’s Beliefs With Poll Politics?” captures the unreality that has become the Democrat’s policy position on foreign affairs.
Mr. Henninger writes: “Democrats want voters to view the November election through the fogged and bloody prism of the war in Iraq…. It is difficult to imagine that the U.S. soldiers in Iraq would regard the political debate back home as measuring up to the seriousness of what they do every day. How would you like to roll out of your bunk in al Anbar province, Mosul or Baghdad on a Sunday morning and read across the top of the local U.S. paper that everything you’ve done in Iraq for three years has merely made the terrorism threat worse? You just might lose heart a notch, a dangerous thing when fighting a war.
“But at this late stage of the campaign, Iraq-as-failure has become the central narrative in the Democrats’ strategy. A memo sent out to Democrats last week by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a strategy group led by former Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg, discusses Mr. Bush’s ‘failure in Iraq, which energized Democrats and dispirited Republicans.’ It urges Democrats: ‘On Iraq, stress Bush/GOP ‘mismanagement’ and need for a ‘new direction.’ “
Advertisers of consumer products often structure advertisements to associate their products with a mood or a sense of pleasure, often without providing specifics about the product. Advertisers appear to believe that image, at least in the Baby Boomer world, is everything.
Basing their campaign strategy on the sort of focus-group polling employed by consumer-goods advertisers, Democrats just want voters to associate their party with peace and opposition to anything that might require our military forces to enter dangerous combat. The declared intent of Islamic jihadists to subjugate or destroy all non-Muslim societies must be ignored, as it would conflict with the nebulous image that fighting back is the root cause of terrorism. Appeasement, aka “negotiating” via the UN, is the Democrat’s Ned-Lamont socialist answer.
Such was the fantasy of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938 when he met with Adolph Hitler in Munich to sanction National Socialist Germany’s seizure of Czechslovakia’s Sudetenland. Mr. Chamberlain happily returned to England, on the eve of World War II, proclaiming, “Peace in our time.”
Democrats have convinced themselves that dealing with terrorists is the same as stopping ordinary criminals, with arrests after the fact, public trials, and rehabilitation programs.
This follows from another liberal-socialist doctrine: crime and war are the result of unequal distribution of income, which creates aggressive behavior among those deprived of their “constitutional rights” to the same level of income as everyone else.
The Democrats, the party of John Dewey’s socialistic pragmatism, resolutely oppose the data of real-life experience and cling to the Darwinian doctrine that the world is a matter of chance, producing a process of social evolution. Yesterday’s “truth” (of course, with the exception of socialism and pragmatism) will not be today’s or tomorrow’s “truth.” With everything in a continuous state of flux, according to that theory, there is no truth, merely valid or invalid propositions. If an action works to your advantage, regardless of what happens to others, it is “valid.”
If their campaign to destroy President Bush succeeds, no matter what happens to our troops around the world or to our nation in the future, the necessary actions are, by Democrats’ pragmatic lights, “valid.”
Given liberal-socialist control of most of the opinion-forming media ? newspapers, magazines, TV, movies ? Democrats may win on image without substance. After three quarters of a century of educational indoctrination in the religion of socialism, too few Americans have been given the historical knowledge necessary to distinguish fact from fiction.
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Sensitive PC is Alive and Kicking on College Campuses
Professor Ellis Sandoz, director of the Eric Voegelin Institute at Louisiana State University, alerted me to the following piece.
George Orwell observed that those who control interpretation of the past are in the best position to control the future.
America’s colleges and universities, dominated by liberal-socialists, are deliberately emulating the Soviet technique of erasing documents about and photographs of persons deemed enemies of the states, making them unpersons. By deleting the truth about our past and especially about the Judeo-Christian ethos of the founding generations from 1620 until 1787, they clear the field for inculcating the religion of socialism.
Military History chair funded by Stephen Ambrose Remains Vacant at Wisconsin (Madison)
Source: John J. Miller at National Review Online (10-9-06)
A decade ago, best-selling author Stephen Ambrose donated $250,000 to the University of Wisconsin, his alma mater, to endow a professorship in American military history. A few months later, he gave another $250,000. Until his death in 2002, he badgered friends and others to contribute additional funds. Today, more than $1 million sits in a special university account for the Ambrose-Heseltine Chair in American History, named after its main benefactor and the long-dead professor who trained him.
The chair remains vacant, however, and Wisconsin is not currently trying to fill it. “We won’t search for a candidate this school year,” says John Cooper, a history professor. “But we’re committed to doing it eventually.” The ostensible reason for the delay is that the university wants to raise even more money, so that it can attract a top-notch senior scholar. There may be another factor as well: Wisconsin doesn’t actually want a military historian on its faculty. It hasn?t had one since 1992, when Edward M. Coffman retired. “His survey course on U.S. military history used to overflow with students,” says Richard Zeitlin, one of Coffman’s former graduate teaching assistants. “It was one of the most popular courses on campus.” Since Coffman left, however, it has been taught only a couple of times, and never by a member of the permanent faculty.
One of these years, perhaps Wisconsin really will get around to hiring a professor for the Ambrose-Heseltine chair. But right now, for all intents and purposes, military history in Madison is dead. It’s dead at many other top colleges and universities as well. Where it isn’t dead and buried, it’s either dying or under siege. Although military history remains incredibly popular among students who fill lecture halls to learn about Saratoga and Iwo Jima and among readers who buy piles of books on Gettysburg and D-Day, on campus it’s making a last stand against the shock troops of political correctness. “Pretty soon, it may become virtually impossible to find military-history professors who study war with the aim of understanding why one side won and the other side lost,” says Frederick Kagan, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who taught at West Point for ten years. That’s bad news not only for those with direct ties to this academic sub-discipline, but also for Americans generally, who may find that their collective understanding of past military operations falls short of what the war-torn present demands. ...
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Socialism Marches On
Socialist political states are all about control, from the top down. This makes them inherently vulnerable to dictatorship, as we saw in Soviet Russia, Fascist Italy, National Socialist Germany, and in Mao’s Red China.
Such states exhibit another worrisome potential: imperialism.
The socialist doctrine tells us that, in order to secure the “freedoms” attendant upon equality of income and access to socialist society’s goods and services, it is necessary to prevent interference by capitalist states.
Nationalistic socialist states, such as Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, move to the extreme of wishing to control, via imperialistic expansion, all the raw materials and farm land needed by their economies for complete independence from capitalist nations exchanging goods and materials in the free marketplace.
The Soviet Union, following that pattern during the Cold War, was driven to surround itself with satellite nations swept up into the Comintern at gun’s point.
As Jeff Lukens alerts us in the following article, China may have changed many aspects of its economic practices since the days of Chairman Mao, but it remains a tightly-controlled socialistic nation bent upon economic expansion on all fronts. The question for American foreign policy over the coming decades is how to forestall China’s incipient drive toward world dominion.
REASSESSING THE GROWING CHINESE THREAT
By Jeff Lukens
At a time when Islamic terrorism captures the headlines, another equally ominous threat to our national security is quietly on the rise. China is undergoing a sustained effort to strengthen its military. So much so, in fact, that their annual defense spending has tripled over the past decade.
China already has the largest standing army in the world. And since no nation threatens them, why are they growing their military so fast? Well, because they can. And secondly, because they intend to become a dominant world power.
By mid-century, China will likely surpass the United States to become the world’s largest economy. Their rapidly expanding economy has enabled them to finance a rapidly expanding military.
They already consume more industrial resources than any other nation, and they are the world’s second-largest user of oil. This enormous thirst for raw materials is changing the direction of their diplomatic and military strategy, and it may be cause for us to change our diplomatic and military strategy as well.
Extensive investment in a Chinese blue-water navy will soon enable the projection of power far beyond their shores. That, and their strategic relationships with countries along their sea-routes from the Middle East to allow passage of ships through choke points suggest concern about protecting their energy supply.
China already breaks copyrights and many other trade protocols. It isn’t difficult to imagine scenarios in which Beijing would offer military hardware to Iran in exchange for favored rights to their oil.
The Chinese leadership see themselves as a power on the rise, and the U.S. as a power on the wane. Many in the military hierarchy, moreover, see the U.S. as their inevitable enemy, and are preparing accordingly.
We once believed Beijing would not attack Taiwan knowing such action would endanger their relationship with America. As their power grows, our relationship may be of lesser importance to them.
For Washington, independence of Taiwan remains vital, but the consequences of China’s ravenous appetite for raw materials and growing military power have become equally important.
What if China’s power grew so dominant that all the other countries in the region began to acquiesce to it? Japan and South Korea are probably already concerned the U.S. might back away if armed trouble with China arises.
Beijing has established an integrated economy with surrounding Asian nations equal in size to that of the U.S. They have the technological and financial advantages of a modern economy, and with their huge population, the cost advantages of a developing one.
What’s more, they sell more than 40 percent of their exports to America, and own more than $200 billion in U.S. debt. While the Chinese save as much as 40 percent of their GDP, our savings rate is less than 2 percent of our GDP.
Domestic U.S. manufacturing companies, moreover, must deal with labor rates, health care and retirement plans, and environmental and regulatory burdens that are not found in China. In ever more sectors, consequently, competing against them has become a losing proposition.
Perhaps we have been a bit na?ve to believe we can hasten democratic reform in China by opening to our markets to them. Over time, we have developed huge trade deficits with them, and have become ever more dependent on their capital to finance our federal debt.
We have also assumed that greater access to information technology and free markets would move them toward democracy. Instead, they have used the internet and other technologies to expand surveillance over their people.
Individual autonomy and elective government must go along with free markets, and in the case of Mainland China, that just isn’t happening. Our economic interaction cannot be a substitute for their political inaction.
How we respond to the Chinese challenge will be difficult to formulate. We can always hope that our past strategy will eventually come to fruition. We must be open, however, to the possibility that present policy is not working and only strengthening a regime that represses their people and threatens other nations.
We need to develop a strategic response that addresses our economic competitiveness in terms of debt-based growth and domestic manufacturing. And we will also need to strengthen our relationships with Japan, India, and even Russia to ensure a balance of power in the region.
We cannot assume Chinese and American interests are the same. No one knows when some chance incident might trigger a showdown over control of Taiwan, or another Tiananmen Square type bloodbath.
With every passing day, China’s economic and military power continues to grow. It may become an unmanageable problem. Now is the time for American policy-makers to plan accordingly.
Jeff Lukens writes engaging opinion columns from a fresh, conservative point of view. He is also a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets. He can be contacted through his website at http://www.jefflukens.com
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Giving Terrorist Rights Not Enjoyed by Captured American Military Personnel
Amid all the hullabaloo over methods for questioning incarcerated terrorists and the supposed horrors of Guantanamo, Scrapple Face (motto: News fairly unbalanced. We report. You decipher) steps up to give us a distinctly different perspective.
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Thursday, September 28, 2006
Hope for Relations with Islam?
The latest edition of Imprimis on the Hillsdale College website features an address by Bernard Lewis. Professor Lewis provides a useful historical perspective, as well as a glimmer of hope that a path may exist on which the Islamic world can find its way back to civilization.
?FREEDOM AND JUSTICE IN ISLAM?
?Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University
Bernard Lewis, born and raised in London, studied at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, where he earned a Ph.D. in the history of Islam. After military and other war service in World War II, he taught at the University of London until 1974 and at Princeton University until 1986. He is currently Princeton’s Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies. For many years he was one of the very few European scholars permitted access to the archives of the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul. In addition to his historical studies, he has published translations of classical Arabic, Turkish, Persian and Hebrew poetry. Professor Lewis has drawn on primary sources to produce more than two dozen books, including The Arabs in History, What Went Wrong? and The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror.
The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on July 16, 2006, on board the Crystal Serenity, during a Hillsdale College cruise in the British Isles.
By common consent among historians, the modern history of the Middle East begins in the year 1798, when the French Revolution arrived in Egypt in the form of a small expeditionary force led by a young general called Napoleon Bonaparte?who conquered and then ruled it for a while with appalling ease. General Bonaparte?he wasn’t yet Emperor?proclaimed to the Egyptians that he had come to them on behalf of a French Republic built on the principles of liberty and equality. We know something about the reactions to this proclamation from the extensive literature of the Middle Eastern Arab world. The idea of equality posed no great problem. Equality is very basic in Islamic belief: All true believers are equal. Of course, that still leaves three ?inferior? categories of people?slaves, unbelievers and women. But in general, the concept of equality was understood. Islam never developed anything like the caste system of India to the east or the privileged aristocracies of Christian Europe to the west. Equality was something they knew, respected, and in large measure practiced. But liberty was something else.
As used in Arabic at that time, liberty was not a political but a legal term: You were free if you were not a slave. The word liberty was not used as we use it in the Western world, as a metaphor for good government. So the idea of a republic founded on principles of freedom caused some puzzlement. Some years later an Egyptian sheikh?Sheikh Rifa’a Rafi’ al-Tahtawi, who went to Paris as chaplain to the first group of Egyptian students sent to Europe?wrote a book about his adventures and explained his discovery of the meaning of freedom. He wrote that when the French talk about freedom they mean what Muslims mean when they talk about justice. By equating freedom with justice, he opened a whole new phase in the political and public discourse of the Arab world, and then, more broadly, the Islamic world.
Is Western-Style Freedom Transferable?
What is the possibility of freedom in the Islamic world, in the Western sense of the word? If you look at the current literature, you will find two views common in the United States and Europe. One of them holds that Islamic peoples are incapable of decent, civilized government. Whatever the West does, Muslims will be ruled by corrupt tyrants. Therefore the aim of our foreign policy should be to insure that they are our tyrants rather than someone else’s?friendly rather than hostile tyrants. This point of view is very much favored in departments of state and foreign offices and is generally known, rather surprisingly, as the ?pro-Arab? view. It is, of course, in no sense pro-Arab. It shows ignorance of the Arab past, contempt for the Arab present, and unconcern for the Arab future. The second common view is that Arab ways are different from our ways. They must be allowed to develop in accordance with their cultural principles, but it is possible for them?as for anyone else, anywhere in the world, with discreet help from outside and most specifically from the United States?to develop democratic institutions of a kind. This view is known as the ?imperialist? view and has been vigorously denounced and condemned as such.
In thinking about these two views, it is helpful to step back and consider what Arab and Islamic society was like once and how it has been transformed in the modern age. The idea that how that society is now is how it has always been is totally false. The dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq or the Assad family in Syria or the more friendly dictatorship of Mubarak in Egypt?all of these have no roots whatsoever in the Arab or in the Islamic past. Let me quote to you from a letter written in 1786?three years before the French Revolution?by Mssr. Count de Choiseul-Gouffier, the French ambassador in Istanbul, in which he is trying to explain why he is making rather slow progress with the tasks entrusted to him by his government in dealing with the Ottoman government. ?Here,? he says, ?things are not as in France where the king is sole master and does as he pleases.? ?Here,? he says, ?the sultan has to consult.? He has to consult with the former holders of high offices, with the leaders of various groups and so on. And this is a slow process. This scenario is something radically different than the common image of Middle Eastern government today. And it is a description that ceased to be true because of a number of changes that occurred.
Modernization and Nazi and Soviet Influence
The first of these changes is what one might call modernization. This was undertaken not by imperialists, for the most part, but by Middle Eastern rulers who had become painfully aware that their societies were undeveloped compared with the advanced Western world. These rulers decided that what they had to do was to modernize or Westernize. Their intentions were good, but the consequences were often disastrous. What they did was to increase the power of the state and the ruler enormously by placing at his disposal the whole modern apparatus of control, repression and indoctrination. At the same time, which was even worse, they limited or destroyed those forces in the traditional society that had previously limited the autocracy of the ruler. In the traditional society there were established orders-the bazaar merchants, the scribes, the guilds, the country gentry, the military establishment, the religious establishment, and so on. These were powerful groups in society, whose heads were not appointed by the ruler but arose from within the groups. And no sultan, however powerful, could do much without maintaining some relationship with these different orders in society. This is not democracy as we currently use that word, but it is certainly limited, responsible government. And the system worked. Modernization ended that. A new ruling class emerged, ruling from the center and using the apparatus of the state for its purposes.
That was the first stage in the destruction of the old order. The second stage we can date with precision. In the year 1940, the government of France surrendered to the Axis and formed a collaborationist government in a place called Vichy. The French colonial empire was, for the most part, beyond the reach of the Nazis, which meant that the governors of the French colonies had a free choice: To stay with Vichy or to join Charles de Gaulle, who had set up a Free French Committee in London. The overwhelming majority chose Vichy, which meant that Syria-Lebanon?a French-mandated territory in the heart of the Arab East?was now wide open to the Nazis. The governor and his high officials in the administration in Syria-Lebanon took their orders from Vichy, which in turn took orders from Berlin. The Nazis moved in, made a tremendous propaganda effort, and were even able to move from Syria eastwards into Iraq and for a while set up a pro-Nazi, fascist regime. It was in this period that political parties were formed that were the nucleus of what later became the Baath Party. The Western Allies eventually drove the Nazis out of the Middle East and suppressed these organizations. But the war ended in 1945, and the Allies left. A few years later the Soviets moved in, established an immensely powerful presence in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and various other countries, and introduced Soviet-style political practice. The adaptation from the Nazi model to the communist model was very simple and easy, requiring only a few minor adjustments, and it proceeded pretty well. That is the origin of the Baath Party and of the kind of governments that we have been confronting in the Middle East in recent years. That, as I would again repeat and emphasize, has nothing whatever to do with the traditional Arab or Islamic past.
Wahhabism and Oil
That there has been a break with the past is a fact of which Arabs and Muslims themselves are keenly and painfully aware, and they have tried to do something about it. It is in this context that we observe a series of movements that could be described as an Islamic revival or reawakening. The first of these?founded by a theologian called Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who lived in a remote area of Najd in desert Arabia?is known as Wahhabi. Its argument is that the root of Arab-Islamic troubles lies in following the ways of the infidel. The Islamic world, it holds, has abandoned the true faith that God gave it through His prophet and His holy book, and the remedy is a return to pure, original Islam. This pure, original Islam is, of course?as is usual in such situations?a new invention with little connection to Islam as it existed in its earlier stages.
Wahhabism was dealt with fairly easily in its early years, but it acquired a new importance in the mid-1920s when two things happened: The local tribal chiefs of the House of Saud?who had been converted since the 18th century to the Wahhabi version of Islam?conquered the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. This was of immense importance, giving them huge prestige and influence in the whole Islamic world. It also gave them control of the pilgrimage, which brings millions of Muslims from the Islamic world together to the same place at the same time every year.
The other important thing that happened?also in the mid-20s?was the discovery of oil. With that, this extremist sect found itself not only in possession of Mecca and Medina, but also of wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. As a result, what would otherwise have been a lunatic fringe in a marginal country became a major force in the world of Islam. And it has continued as a major force to the present day, operating through the Saudi government and through a whole series of non-governmental organizations. What is worse, its influence spreads far beyond the region. When Muslims living in Chicago or Los Angeles or Birmingham or Hamburg want to give their children some grounding in their faith and culture?a very natural, very normal thing?they turn to the traditional resources for such purposes: evening classes, weekend schools, holiday camps and the like. The problem is that these are now overwhelmingly funded and therefore controlled by the Wahhabis, and the version of Islam that they teach is the Wahhabi version, which has thus become a major force in Muslim immigrant communities.
Let me illustrate the significance of this with one example: Germany has constitutional separation of church and state, but in the German school system they provide time for religious instruction. The state, however, does not provide teachers or textbooks. They allow time in the school curriculum for the various churches and other religious communities?if they wish?to provide religious instruction to their children, which is entirely optional. The Muslims in Germany are mostly Turks. When they reached sufficient numbers, they applied to the German government for permission to teach Islam in German schools. The German authorities agreed, but said they?the Muslims?had to provide the teachers and the textbooks. The Turks said that they had excellent textbooks, which are used in Turkey and Turkish schools, but the German authorities said no, those are government-produced textbooks; under the principle of separation of church and state, these Muslims had to produce their own. As a result, whereas in Turkish schools in Turkey, students get a modern, moderate version of Islam, in German schools, in general, they get the full Wahhabi blast. The last time I looked, twelve Turks have been arrested as members of Al-Qaeda?all twelve of them born and educated in Germany.
The Iranian Revolution and Al-Qaeda
In addition to the rising spread of Wahhabism, I would draw your attention to the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The word ?revolution? is much misused in the Middle East; it is used for virtually every change of government. But the Iranian Revolution was a real revolution, in the sense that the French and Russian revolutions were real revolutions. It was a massive change in the country, a massive shift of power?socially, economically, and ideologically. And like the French and Russian revolutions in their prime, it also had a tremendous impact in the world with which the Iranians shared a common universe of discourse?the world of Islam. I remember not long after the Iranian Revolution I was visiting Indonesia and for some mysterious reason I had been invited to lecture in religious universities. I noticed in the student dorms they had pictures of Khomeini all over the place, although Khomeini?like the Iranians in general?is a Shiite, and the Indonesians are Sunnis. Indonesians generally showed little interest in what was happening in the Middle East. But this was something important. And the Iranian Revolution has gone through various familiar phases?familiar from the French and Russian revolutions?such as the conflicts between the moderates and the extremists. I would say that the Iranian Revolution is now entering the Stalinist phase, and its impact all over the Islamic world has been enormous.
The third and most recent phase of the Islamic revival is that associated with the name Al-Qaeda?the organization headed by Osama bin Laden. Here I would remind you of the events toward the end of the 20th century: the defeat of the Russians in Afghanistan, the withdrawal of the defeated armies into Russia, the collapse and breakdown of the Soviet Union. We are accustomed to regard that as a Western, or more specifically, an American, victory in the Cold War. In the Islamic world, it was nothing of the kind. It was Muslim victory in a Jihad. And, if we are fair about it, we must admit that this interpretation of what happened does not lack plausibility. In the mountains of Afghanistan, which the Soviets had conquered and had been trying to rule, the Taliban were able to inflict one defeat after another on the Soviet forces, eventually driving the Red Army out of the country to defeat and collapse.
Thanks to modern communications and the modern media, we are quite well informed about how Al-Qaeda perceives things. Osama bin Laden is very articulate, very lucid, and I think on the whole very honest in the way he explains things. As he sees it, and as his followers see it, there has been an ongoing struggle between the two world religions?Christianity and Islam?which began with the advent of Islam in the 7th century and has been going on ever since. The Crusades were one aspect, but there were many others. It is an ongoing struggle of attack and counter-attack, conquest and reconquest, Jihad and Crusade, ending so it seems in a final victory of the West with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire?the last of the great Muslim states?and the partition of most of the Muslim world between the Western powers. As Osama bin Laden puts it: ?In this final phase of the ongoing struggle, the world of the infidels was divided between two superpowers?the United States and the Soviet Union. Now we have defeated and destroyed the more difficult and the more dangerous of the two. Dealing with the pampered and effeminate Americans will be easy.? And then followed what has become the familiar description of the Americans and the usual litany and recitation of American defeats and retreats: Vietnam, Beirut, Somalia, one after another. The general theme was: They can’t take it. Hit them and they’ll run. All you have to do is hit harder. This seemed to receive final confirmation during the 1990s when one attack after another on embassies, warships, and barracks brought no response beyond angry words and expensive missiles misdirected to remote and uninhabited places, and in some places?as in Beirut and Somalia?prompt retreats.
What happened on 9/11 was seen by its perpetrators and sponsors as the culmination of the previous phase and the inauguration of the next phase?taking the war into the enemy camp to achieve final victory. The response to 9/11 came as a nasty surprise. They were expecting more of the same?bleating and apologies?instead of which they got a vigorous reaction, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. And as they used to say in Moscow: It is no accident, comrades, that there has been no successful attack in the United States since then. But if one follows the discourse, one can see that the debate in this country since then has caused many of the perpetrators and sponsors to return to their previous diagnosis. Because remember, they have no experience, and therefore no understanding, of the free debate of an open society. What we see as free debate, they see as weakness, fear and division. Thus they prepare for the final victory, the final triumph and the final Jihad.
Let’s spend a moment or two defining what we mean by freedom and democracy. There is a view sometimes expressed that ?democracy? means the system of government evolved by the English-speaking peoples. Any departure from that is either a crime to be punished or a disease to be cured. I beg to differ from that point of view. Different societies develop different ways of conducting their affairs, and they do not need to resemble ours. And let us remember, after all, that American democracy after the War of Independence was compatible with slavery for three-quarters of a century and with the disenfranchisement of women for longer than that. Democracy is not born like the Phoenix. It comes in stages, and the stages and processes of development will differ from country to country, from society to society. The French cherish the curious illusion that they invented democracy, but since the great revolution of 1789, they have had two monarchies, two empires, two dictatorships, and at the last count, five republics. And I’m not sure that they’ve got it right yet.
There are, as I’ve tried to point out, elements in Islamic society which could well be conducive to democracy. And there are encouraging signs at the present moment?what happened in Iraq, for example, with millions of Iraqis willing to stand in line to vote, knowing that they were risking their lives, is a quite extraordinary achievement. It shows great courage, great resolution. Don’t be misled by what you read in the media about Iraq. The situation is certainly not good, but there are redeeming features in it. The battle isn’t over. It’s still very difficult. There are still many major problems to overcome. There is a bitter anti-Western feeling which derives partly and increasingly from our support for what they see as tyrannies ruling over them. It’s interesting that pro-American feeling is strongest in countries with anti-American governments. I’ve been told repeatedly by Iranians that there is no country in the world where pro-American feeling is stronger, deeper and more widespread than Iran. I’ve heard this from so many different Iranians?including some still living in Iran?that I believe it. When the American planes were flying over Afghanistan, the story was that many Iranians put signs on their roofs in English reading, ?This way, please.?
So there is a good deal of pro-Western and even specifically pro-American feeling. But the anti-American feeling is strongest in those countries that are ruled by what we are pleased to call ?friendly governments.? And it is those, of course, that are the most tyrannical and the most resented by their own people. The outlook at the moment is, I would say, very mixed. I think that the cause of developing free institutions?along their lines, not ours?is possible. One can see signs of its beginning in some countries. At the same time, the forces working against it are very powerful and well entrenched. And one of the greatest dangers is that on their side, they are firm and convinced and resolute. Whereas on our side, we are weak and undecided and irresolute. And in such a combat, it is not difficult to see which side will prevail.
I think that the effort is difficult and the outcome uncertain, but I think the effort must be made. Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us.
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Monday, September 25, 2006
Learning How to Think
Progressive educators today proudly declare that they don’t warp students’ minds by teaching specific bodies of knowledge, by teaching to the test; they teach students how to think. That concept is a meaningless and dangerous abstraction.
Commenting upon a recent posting, a reader wrote:
“.... Now, if you go to college, you learn how to analyze information critically as opposed to reeling with whatever gut, emotional response you get.? You learn not ?What to think,? but ?How to think.? The only way that education will ever succeed in our times is if it raises a generation of children who can not only read, but read between the lines.”
No one would disagree with the sentiment that children should be able to understand the context of what they read and have a sufficient breadth of knowledge to bring critical judgment to what they read.
But the concept of learning how to think, as a stand-alone pedagogy, is meaningless. One has to think about something, and, in order to understand what one is thinking about, is is necessary to learn a great many facts about that something. In many cases understanding comes only with much practice and drill.
One might as well hand an oboe to an untutored music student and lecture him on how to think about playing the oboe, without benefit of being able to read music and without practice to master the mechanics of producing correct notes from the instrument.
This is particularly true, for example, in mathematics. When a teacher presents a concept with a blackboard demonstration, keener students may be able to follow each step of the process. But only later, working alone at home on assignments, will the student discover what he doesn’t know and in the process learn the concept sufficiently well to solve similar problems in the future.
When students are allowed to use electronic calculators to solve problems, their minds are not engaged in any meaningful way with mathematics itself. They might as well be playing a video game.
But they are learning how to think about mathematical problems. They just don’t really understand what they are thinking about.
Even teachers’ unions dominated by progressive liberalism have begun to admit that the various genres of new math fail to teach mathematics to students. When it doesn’t matter whether students can solve problems and get correct answers, when it is believed sufficient for students to have some conceptual idea about a problem, we have a nation of students falling each year farther behind Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian students in real scientific accomplishment.
The problem lies with the qualification that students have a breadth of knowledge. A good analogy is the story of seven blind men on all sides of an elephant, each feeling one part of the elephant and describing what he takes to be its nature. Only a sighted person, walking all around the elephant and studying its habits and moods over time can know how to think about an elephant.
What learning how to think has come to mean is something quite different, and it applies primarily to the so-called social sciences: history, political science, anthropology, psychology, etc.
In practice, teaching students how to think means appealing to the normal rebelliousness of youth by telling them that they should ignore what their parents and their churches teach them, that the only standards that matter are the opinions of their peers. Students should, for example, experiment with homosexual and heterosexual congress.
Learning how to think, even at the college level, is reduced to equipping students with the Marxian socialist critique of individual responsibility and free markets and with the faith that the mechanical apparatus of atheistic government working upon the materialistic factors of human existence can reshape human nature and create permanent human happiness. Students are simply inculcated with one-sided denigration of American history and of the Judeo-Christian principles that were the essential ethos of the society that wrote the Declaration of Independence and crafted the Constitution.
If you think this is an exaggeration, ask yourself why so many young people come out of college believing that Professors like Ward Churchill and Noam Chomsky are speaking the truth. Ask yourself why most college students today identify themselves with liberalism, the American sect of socialism.
If students don’t know the facts of American history and don’t understand the complex political, philosophical, and religious issues that produced that history, it is absolutely impossible for them to form meaningful judgments about the politically-correct, multi-cultural doctrine they are given in the classroom.
This issue - what to include in the core curriculum of college students - was covered by James Atlas in his “Battle of the Books.” Mr. Atlas is a self-identified liberal who worked as an editor at the New York Times Magazine and wrote for iconic liberal publications such as the New York Review of Books, Atlantic Monthly, and Partisan Review (founded by New York City Trotskyites). He wrote:
“Again, put simply: Has the United States become too diverse a society to embrace one idea of itself?..... Who gets to decide what books - even what languages - are taught in our schools? Is the canon an instrument of oppression - ‘the property of a small and powerful caste that is linguistically and ethnically unified,’ to quote Stanford professor Mary Louise Pratt? Or is it an instrument of liberty that will enable minorities to achieve self-esteem and - ultimately - political and economic power? .... Every effort to inculcate a body of knowledge that reflects our common history is seen as an effort to oppress.”
“.... The question, as Lionel Trilling [one of the leading lights among the New York socialist intellectuals in the 1950s and 60s] framed it in a prophetic lecture, ‘The Uncertain Future of the Humanistic Educational Ideal,’ was a practical one: ‘What is best for young minds to be engaged by, how they may best be shaped through what they read - or look at or listen to - and think about.’ At Columbia, where Trilling studied and where he taught for a half-century, the Great Books Program, as it came to be known there, was firmly enshrined. The study of the ‘whole man’ - that is to say, history, ethics, and philosophy, as well as literature - was standard procedure. .......By the 1960s, the whole-man idea had been scaled down considerably. It was possible to earn a bachelor of arts without a lot of sweat.”
Mr. Atlas continues, “Our demands (as we defined student protest at Harvard) were explicitly political. They focused on the draft, ROTC, the Vietnam War, the ethics of military research and the universities’ investment policies, the grievances of the (usually poor and black) communities on the perimeter.”
This is what today is called “learning how to think,” represented by the esoteric jumble of deconstruction and critical studies that tell students there are no standards of right or wrong, merely the political power to impose the doctrines of one social class or another on the remainder of the population. “Learning how to think” is adopting the faith that liberal socialism represents the correct power guidon behind which to line up for marching orders.
Even Derek Bok, a vigorous defender of social-justice touchstones such as affirmative action and multi-cultural, PC education, has been compelled to confront the shortcomings of “learning how to think.” Fomerly president of Harvard University, Mr. Bok was called back to that post after Lawrence Summers was forced out recently. Mr. Bok wrote:
“Many seniors graduate without being able to write well enough to satisfy their employers. Many cannot reason clearly or perform competently in analyzing complex, non-technical problems, even though faculties rank critical thinking as the primary goal of a college education. Few undergraduates receiving a degree are able to speak or read a foreign language. Most have never taken a course in quantitative reasoning or acquired the knowledge needed to be a reasonably informed citizen in a democracy. And those are only some of the problems.”
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Sunday, September 24, 2006
Puritanism: List of Related Postings
The following is a list of earlier postings on the subject of Puritanism. Those posting were prompted by liberals’ ever strident attacks on Christians and by the generally scornful dismissal of Puritans as ignorant and bigoted. As the 1920s notorious critic H. L. Mencken put it, “Puritanism was a form of neurosis.”
It seemed worthwhile to take note of the historical truth about the Puritans who founded New England as a counter to the vacuum of ignorance created by John Dewey’s “progressive” education and the swing to outright advocacy of atheistic materialism in public education since the late 1960s.
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Saturday, September 23, 2006
Puritanism: The Origin of Public Education
From the beginning of colonial life in British North America, Puritans insisted that every man, woman, and child be literate enough to read the Bible and to discuss theological questions. From this came America’s first publicly funded elementary schools and our first colleges.
The Puritans who founded New England were among the most highly educated persons in England, the leaders and ministers being mostly Cambridge University graduates. All of the original colonists, men and women, were able to read and write and were students of the Bible.
Even more important than formal training to read and write, however, was the totality of family, church, and political society in the formation of children’s character, which was the original meaning of education. Education was conceived broadly as the transference to its children of a society’s culture, the absolute essentiality for the survival of society, particularly for Puritans in the savage wilds of North America in the early 17th century.
I wrote in How Far Have We Fallen?
“Some scholars have described [John] Locke as the father of modern education in England.? His 1692 ?Some Thoughts Concerning Education? provides us a base line for assessing present-day educational practices.? Harvard at that time was 56 years old.? The Pilgrims had landed at Plymouth 72 years earlier.
“Locke begins with a child?s infancy and lays out an educational path through the child?s coming of age.? Locke also advises that children?s natural curiosity should be used to engage them in learning.? He continually admonishes against the use of punishments in education.?
“He brooks no nonsense or bullying by students, however, seeing that as a flaw in teaching morality and decorum.?
“Several things will surprise today?s students.
“The first surprise is the order of emphasis Locke assigns to the objects of education.? They are virtue, wisdom, breeding (courtesy and decorum), and, last, learning specific subjects.”
Locke, it must be remembered, was the author of the “Second Treatise of Civil Government,” the 1689 philosophical basis for England’s ousting James II, because the king had arbitrarily abrogated the inalienable natural-law rights of his English subjects. Locke’s treatise was specifically and repeatedly cited in the colonies as the justification for the events of 1776. It also provided some of Jefferson’s memorable language in the Declaration of Independence.
Historian Bernard Bailyn, twice the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, wrote in “Education in the Forming of American Society:”
“The modern conception of public education, the very idea of a clean line of separation between “private” and “public,” was unknown before the end of the eighteenth century.”
Speaking of the colonial era, Professor Bailyn wrote, ” The most important agency in the transfer of culture was not formal institutions of instruction or public instruments of communication, but the family; and the character of family life in late sixteenth ? and early seventeenth-century England is critical for understanding the history of education in colonial America.”
“..... [Families and their communities] were, in the first place, the primary agencies in the socialization of the child. Not only did the family introduce him to the basic forms of civilized living, but it shaped his attitudes, formed his patterns of behavior, endowed him with manners and morals.”
“.... More explicit in its educational function than either family or community was the church. .... It furthered the introduction of the child to society by instructing him in the system of thought and imagery which underlay the culture’s values and aims. It provided the highest sanctions for the accepted forms of behavior, and brought the child into close relationship with the intangible loyalties, the ethos and highest principles, of the society in which he lived. In this educational role, organized religion had a powerfully unifying influence.”
Professor Bailyn notes that this English heritage was importantly modified by the harsh conditions in colonial America. The family was critically changed by the hardships of disease, Indian raids, and the necessity for hard work in the fields from daylight to dark. Little time was left for the ordered and leisurely educational pattern of English family life.
Perforce, the educational function of transference of culture became more the responsibility of the communities organized around Congregational churches.
Historian John Fiske in “The Beginnings of New England, or The Puritan Theocracy in its Relation to Civil and Religious Liberty,” wrote:
“This intense interest in doctrinal theology was part and parcel of the whole theory of New England life; because, as I have said, it was taken for granted that each individual must hold his own opinions at his own personal risk in the world to come. Such perpetual discussion, conducted under such a stimulus, afforded in itself no mean school of intellectual training…. According to that theory, it was absolutely essential that everyone should be taught from early childhood how to read and understand the Bible.”
The famous Boston Latin School, still operating, was founded in 1635, only fifteen years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, as one of the first publicly funded schools providing free education.
In 1636 the Massachusetts General Court provided the funds to establish a college at Newtown. To it in 1638 John Harvard bequeathed his library and half of his estate. From the latter came the college’s name and the renaming of Newtown as Cambridge in honor of John Harvard’s alma mater.
Puritanism was thus quintessentially focused upon education of all its citizens, men and women. And it was the fountainhead of public education in America.