The View From 1776
Thursday, May 31, 2007
True Conservatism, Clearly Stated
George Will’s column in the Washington Post puts conservatism and liberalism into perspective.
The Case for Conservatism
By George F. Will?Thursday, May 31, 2007; A19
Conservatism’s recovery of its intellectual equilibrium requires a confident explanation of why America has two parties and why the conservative one is preferable. Today’s political argument involves perennial themes that give it more seriousness than many participants understand. The argument, like Western political philosophy generally, is about the meaning of, and the proper adjustment of the tension between, two important political goals—freedom and equality.
Today conservatives tend to favor freedom, and consequently are inclined to be somewhat sanguine about inequalities of outcomes. Liberals are more concerned with equality, understood, they insist, primarily as equality of opportunity, not of outcome.
Liberals tend, however, to infer unequal opportunities from the fact of unequal outcomes. Hence liberalism’s goal of achieving greater equality of condition leads to a larger scope for interventionist government to circumscribe the market’s role in allocating wealth and opportunity. Liberalism increasingly seeks to deliver equality in the form of equal dependence of more and more people for more and more things on government.
Hence liberals’ hostility to school choice programs that challenge public education’s semimonopoly. Hence hostility to private accounts funded by a portion of each individual’s Social Security taxes. Hence their fear of health savings accounts (individuals who buy high-deductible health insurance become eligible for tax-preferred savings accounts from which they pay their routine medical expenses—just as car owners do not buy insurance to cover oil changes). Hence liberals’ advocacy of government responsibility for—and, inevitably, rationing of—health care, which is 16 percent of the economy and rising.
Steadily enlarging dependence on government accords with liberalism’s ethic of common provision, and with the liberal party’s interest in pleasing its most powerful faction—public employees and their unions. Conservatism’s rejoinder should be that the argument about whether there ought to be a welfare state is over. Today’s proper debate is about the modalities by which entitlements are delivered. Modalities matter, because some encourage and others discourage attributes and attitudes—a future orientation, self-reliance, individual responsibility for healthy living—that are essential for dignified living in an economically vibrant society that a welfare state, ravenous for revenue in an aging society, requires.
This reasoning is congruent with conservatism’s argument that excessively benevolent government is not a benefactor, and that capitalism does not merely make people better off, it makes them better. Liberalism once argued that large corporate entities of industrial capitalism degraded individuals by breeding dependence, passivity and servility. Conservatism challenges liberalism’s blindness about the comparable dangers from the biggest social entity, government.
Conservatism argues, as did the Founders, that self-interestedness is universal among individuals, but the dignity of individuals is bound up with the exercise of self-reliance and personal responsibility in pursuing one’s interests. Liberalism argues that equal dependence on government minimizes social conflicts. Conservatism’s rejoinder is that the entitlement culture subverts social peace by the proliferation of rival dependencies.
The entitlement mentality encouraged by the welfare state exacerbates social conflicts—between generations (the welfare state transfers wealth to the elderly), between racial and ethnic groups (through group preferences) and between all organized interests (from farmers to labor unions to recipients of corporate welfare) as government, not impersonal market forces, distributes scarce resources. This, conservatism insists, explains why as government has grown, so has cynicism about it.
Racial preferences are the distilled essence of liberalism, for two reasons. First, preferences involve identifying groups supposedly disabled by society—victims who, because of their diminished competence, must be treated as wards of government. Second, preferences vividly demonstrate liberalism’s core conviction that government’s duty is not to allow social change but to drive change in the direction the government chooses. Conservatism argues that the essence of constitutional government involves constraining the state in order to allow society ample scope to spontaneously take unplanned paths.
Conservatism embraces President Kennedy’s exhortation to “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,” and adds: You serve your country by embracing a spacious and expanding sphere of life for which your country is not responsible.
Here is the core of a conservative appeal, without dwelling on “social issues” that should be, as much as possible, left to “moral federalism”—debates within the states. On foreign policy, conservatism begins, and very nearly ends, by eschewing abroad the fatal conceit that has been liberalism’s undoing domestically—hubris about controlling what cannot, and should not, be controlled.
Conservatism is realism, about human nature and government’s competence. Is conservatism politically realistic, meaning persuasive? That is the kind of question presidential campaigns answer.
??2007?The Washington Post Company
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Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Anti-Christian Politics is Ahistorical
We have never had an atheistic President, though Franklin Roosevelt’s secular, socialist leanings took him perilously close to atheism.
People younger than 60, assaulted by the propaganda barrage from print media, TV, and movies, may find it hard to believe. But our nation at every step in history has been under political leaders who sought to perceive the will of God to guide their policies.
Gradual permeation of society in the early 20th century by socialism, through such movements as the Social Gospel, led Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton mistakenly to equate Christianity with socialism’s faith that only material factors operating through the secular political state can help people. However laudable their motives, they implemented policies that lead to authoritarian government, not to Christian charity.
The secularity of socialism and John Dewey’s self-centered philosophy of pragmatism (see Why Clinton Got a Pass: John Dewey and the Baby-Boomers) gave us the Baby Boomer generation’s anarchistic rampage against the nation’s founding traditions. Their legacy is today’s young students who believe that being cool requires one to be an atheist.
Historian Michael Beschloss, in a posting on the Washington Post, tells us that, in contrast to the popular image, American Presidents have been profoundly affected by and guided by religion.
Finding Faith in the Oval Office
By Michael Beschloss
While writing ?Presidential Courage,? I discovered that one of the biggest hidden influences on the nine Presidents in my book was religious faith ? a faith that most of them concealed.
One story I tell is of Harry Truman deciding whether or not to recognize Israel in 1948. He had the power to decide whether the new Jewish state would survive. Truman’s Secretary of State, George Marshall, was threatening to quit. I discovered that Truman’s wife Bess was privately so bigoted that she would not even let Jewish people into her house in Missouri. On the other side, Truman’s old Jewish haberdashery partner, Eddie Jacobson, tearfully begged him to help his people resist another Adolf Hitler.
Truman never wore religion on his sleeve. His grandfather had warned him that if someone prayed too ostentatiously, ?you better go home and lock up your smokehouse.? But as a quiet Baptist and Bible-reader, Truman was much affected by his favorite Psalm, Number 137: ?By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.?
Another of my stories reveals Ronald Reagan showing the guts to turn his back on some of his oldest hardline supporters to try to end the Cold War. Few people knew how much Reagan was moved by the memory of his cherished mother Nelle, a saintly lay preacher, who had insisted to young Ronnie that Soviet Communism would one day be swept away by religion. Reagan?s daughter Maureen recalled that Nelle ?had the gift for making you believe that you could change the world.?
Reagan feared that Armageddon was near. When the President told a Korean visitor that the Messiah?s second coming would be preceded by ?armies invading the Holy Land? and a plague in which ?the eyes are burned from the head,? aides begged him to keep his views to himself: he was scaring people!
When Reagan survived his near-fatal shooting in 1981, he felt God had spared him so that he could abolish the world?s arsenal of ?immoral? nuclear weapons ? which he and the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev almost achieved in their 1986 Iceland summit.
Although Nelle died in 1962, Reagan?s mother was always on his mind. This is clear from a heretofore-unknown conversation I discovered between Reagan and Gorbachev in Moscow during their next-to-last summit in 1988. Reagan said that now that he and Mikhail were ?friends,? he wanted to tell him something in secret. If it ever leaked, he said, he?d deny he had ever said it.
Reagan told Gorbachev it was his ?kind of personal dream” that Gorbachev would let all Soviet citizens attend ?the church of their choice.?
Disgruntled, Gorbachev insisted that the Soviets had ?evolved? beyond such primitive practices as religion. Taking the offensive, he asked Reagan why Americans did not give full rights to nonbelievers.
Reagan retorted, ?They do.? He said his own son Ron was ?an atheist, although he calls himself an agnostic.?
Gorbachev tried to change the subject by proposing a joint mission to Mars.
Smiling, Reagan changed it back, saying that Mars was ?in the direction of heaven,? but not as close as what he had mentioned. He told Gorbachev he?d always yearned to serve his atheist son ?a perfect gourmet dinner, have him enjoy the meal, then ask him if he believed there was a cook.?
Tired of arguing, Gorbachev said, ?The only possible answer is yes.?
Of my nine courageous Presidents, the one whose private religion I found the most captivating was Abraham Lincoln?s. Through his 30s, Lincoln was a religious skeptic and had to assure voters that he was not ?an open scoffer at Christianity.? The trauma of the Civil War and the deaths of his sons Eddie and Willie pushed him toward reading the Bible as President. He told an old friend, ?Take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.?
Lincoln did not cite God as authority for his policies. Quite the opposite. He felt his moral duty was to discover what God wanted him to do. In a handwritten, undated note found in his desk after his assassination, Lincoln gave us the best clue to his religious faith.
Lincoln scrawled that while ?the will of God prevails,? he was struggling to understand His attitude toward the Civil War. The Almight ?could have either saved or destroyed the Union? without a civil war: ?And, having begun, he could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.?
Lincoln observed that it was ?quite possible? that God?s purpose is something different? from either North or South. Thus as Commander-in-Chief he must keep on trying to discover what it was.
Throughout American history we have never had a more eloquent expression of how religious faith can empower and guide a moral and courageous President.
Michael Beschloss is a presidential historian and author of several books, including “Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789-1989” (Simon and Schuster).
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Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Good Fences, Good Neighbors?
How can we expect illegals to obey complicated registration and naturalization provisions in the proposed immigration bill when we fail to enforce the most fundamental provisions of the law?
In New York City, Mayor Giuliani’s policies dramatically reduced crime. One fundamental proposition was that police must deal with all crime, even small things like spraying graffiti and breaking windows. When the police ignore the law, at any level, it breeds general disrespect for the law.
Jeff Lukens deals with one thing that we surely can do to enforce the law.
Build the Fence Now
By Jeff Lukens
There is an old saying that a good fence makes for good neighbors. This truism has never been more applicable than with our Southern neighbor of Mexico. A good fence makes good immigration policy too.
Unfortunately, the current Senate Immigration Bill’s focus is not on the fence. It is on making people who’ve broken the law legal. Unless we want to be dealing with this issue again in five or 10 years, after millions more illegals have entered our country, the fence must become the focus of any solution.
In 2005, the House approved the $1 billion “Secure Fence Act” to build a 700-mile border wall. So far, however, they have built just two miles. This should be the priority, but instead, it is an afterthought.
A fence would lower incentives to illegal immigration. With the emergence of human-smuggling organizations, crossing the border has never been easier. The fence would raise the costs of the illegal option, and make coming here legally a more attractive alternative.
Most Americans clearly want the federal government to get tougher on illegal immigration. While politicians pander for cheap labor and cheap votes, we the taxpayers pick up the tab for increased health-care, education, and other social services. As far as monetary cost and the social fabric of our nation, cheap labor may not be so cheap after all.
While almost everyone welcomes legal immigrants to America, we know we can assimilate only so many newcomers at one time. The solution to our illegal immigration problem begins with controlling the border, and controlling the border means building a fence.
The income gap between the U.S. and Mexico is the largest between any two neighboring countries in the world. The Mexican economy does not provide living wages for its growing population, and their solution is to export their poor to our country.
No previous group of immigrants has had such a large inflow or access to their home country that this latest group has today. That’s because no previous wave of immigrants could walk across our border. Earlier groups crossed oceans to come here and were assimilated into the culture in a gradual and measured way. This latest wave quite literally has only to walk right in.
Most illegals do not conduct themselves like immigrants of the past. Granted, many of them work hard, but they are here against our laws and have little or no interest in learning English or the ways of our culture. Illegals generally come here merely to find a job, not necessarily to become citizens. And now, they are protesting our generosity in the streets of our cities.
These behaviors and attitudes are offensive to Americans, and are the reason why most folks want the border controlled. This is not about racism. It is about an abuse of our laws and social norms that appalls everyone including African, Asian and other ethnic groups who are legally waiting in line to become citizens.
Once in the U.S., sending illegals back has become nearly impossible. With legal restrictions and limited enforcement resources, even when we catch them they are often released back on U.S. soil as if nothing happened. If we don’t address this problem properly, in 20 years we may have an exponential number; say 20 or 30 million more illegals, to deal with.
We cannot allow Mexico to export their poverty as a way to avoid economic and social reform. Ultimately, this problem will not go away until Mexicans can live prosperously in their own country. And that will not happen until their corrupt and government, and inefficient economy, are reformed.
The Senate Immigration bill isn’t about citizenship that some would have you believe. It is about millions becoming legal immediately with a stroke of the pen, and becoming future constituents. They instantly get rights to American health, education and welfare benefits. How this all gets paid for, who knows? And for Sen. Kennedy and his esteemed colleagues, who cares?
No one expects fines and other requirements of the bill to be enforced. They rarely enforce existing law already. And no matter how you dress it up, 12+ million illegals will have their amnesty, and the incentive for millions more to sneak across will be on the table. With family unity provisions, there really is no limit on the number of foreigners that will flood into our county. The America we once knew will be gone.
So far, all efforts to secure the border have failed. Patrols alone will not do the job. Whatever funding is provided this year may be cut next year, and we could be right back where we started. We need something tangible. In plain English, that means build the fence that Congress authorized two years ago.
A fence may not stop illegal aliens from coming, but it may reduce their flow to a manageable level. Once it is in place and we restore order, our ability to handle guest worker programs and related issues becomes possible. We really cannot address any other issue related to immigration until the fence is built.
We have a proud history of accepting the world’s poor in a system designed to provide gradual assimilation of new citizens into our language and culture. We need to control our border and allow that process to happen properly.
Jeff Lukens’s website is http://www.jefflukens.com/
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Monday, May 28, 2007
Spend to the End
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Unexpected Benefits of Adversity
What seems to be a disaster may be God’s way of prodding us into action to accomplish larger goals.
Sunday’s sermon at the Black Rock-Long Ridge Congregational Church (North Stamford, Connecticut) was delivered by Rev. Kevin Butterfield. His message was the need to let go, to move out of our comfort zones and become witnesses to the unchurched, secular members of society.
It is not enough to hear and understand the Gospel; we must act upon it. We must lead kind, respectful, loving lives, and we must seek opportunities to serve those in need. People, particularly the young, must see us walk the talk. Hypocritical lip service will poison evangelical progress.
After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Christianity made rapid gains in Jerusalem. Then disaster struck. Stephen was stoned to death. Christians were scattered to Judea and Samaria. Rather than the end of the church, however, this proved to be its great beginning.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:55-60)
And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. (Acts 8:1-3)
In Shakespeare’s phrase, “Sweet are the uses of adversity.” Persecution proved to be the spur for performance of Jesus’s Great Commission:
Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. (Mark 16:14-15)
Prophetically, Jesus had told the disciples that they would preach the Gospel, first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, finally to the whole world.
So when they met together, [the disciples] asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:6-8)
Thus, persecution by religious authorities in Jerusalem, with Saul among the most zealous, jolted the apostles out of their comfort zone and sent them out to witness in Judea and Samaria. It was God’s way of fulfilling Jesus’s prophesy.
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. (Acts 8:4-6)
In the crowning irony, the arch persecutor Saul, on the road to Damascus, had his dramatic encounter with Jesus, and, becoming the Apostle Paul, established Christian churches around the Middle East and the Greek and Roman worlds.
Setting the stage for what he knew was to follow, Jesus earlier had told the disciples to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit to know what they should do and to empower them to do it.
After his suffering, [Jesus] showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Acts1:3-5)
We too, today, can witness effectively to the atheistic, materialistic, socialistic world and convince them of the falsity of their doctrine, if we prayerfully seek the power of the Holy Spirit.
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Exporting Inflation to China
Our failure to maintain a sound currency guarantees a trade imbalance with China and threatens a repetition of the stagflation of the 1970s.
Republican and Democratic politicians, through ignorance of economics or sheer perversity, have for three quarters of a century pursued Federal spending programs that foment inflation, which makes domestic goods uncompetitive with foreign products. As long as foreign goods are cheaper than domestic manufactures, imports will continue to take a big share of the market.
Reacting to job losses, rising costs of living, and other economic dislocations, liberals (and too many conservatives) hypocritically blame China and other countries for exporting too much to us.
Liberal socialist Senator Charles Schumer and RINO Senator Lindsay Graham have led the growing parade of protectionists who cudgel Treasury Secretary Paulson for his failure to impose more trade restrictions on China and to obtain Beijing’s agreement to allow the yuan to float against the dollar.
The culprit, however, is not China, but our failure to maintain a sound dollar.
To finance endless expansion of Federal spending, the Federal Reserve uses bookkeeping entries to create dollars faster than the growth in real output of goods and services. The inevitable result is, by definition, inflation.
Internationally this is a “beggar thy neighbor” policy.
Other countries must either convert dollars from exports into their own currencies, creating inflation there, or convert the dollars into some other, non-inflationary asset. China has recently begun to redeploy some of its dollar exchange reserves.
In the 1960s and 70s, France justifiably retaliated against our exporting of American inflation by exchanging its rapidly devaluing dollar foreign exchange reserves for gold at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. To stem the exodus of our gold reserves, President Nixon closed the gold window permanently, leaving other nations with huge, inflationary floods of Eurodollars. The slowing and eventual decline of Western European economic growth dates from that time.
When the dollar declines against the Deutsche Mark or the French Franc, our exports become cheaper in those currencies. In the short run (until inflation again pushes production cots up), this tends to boost exports and production here. But Beijing’s tying the yuan to the dollar means that the inflationary devaluation of the dollar confers no exporting advantage upon our exports.
Hardly ever mentioned is the fact that China’s tying its currency to the U. S. dollar means that ongoing inflation here is automatically imported into the Chinese economy. That process is what led to the collapse of the Bretton Woods international monetary system under Presidents Johnson and Nixon.
An exporting country like China will accumulate growing surpluses of dollars received in payment for its goods. China has elected to link the yuan to the dollar, which means that, when Chinese exporters receive payment in dollars, the Chinese money supply has to be expanded to match conversion of export-generated dollars into domestic currency. This causes general price inflation within China.
Since 1990, the rate of inflation in China has more than doubled.
An Associated Press article of April 20, 2007, reported,
The signs of a surging economy are everywhere: flashy luxury cars, glitzy shopping malls, expensive restaurants and construction cranes in many neighborhoods.
For most Chinese, this is a good thing. It means more jobs, higher incomes and rising affluence. But China’s leaders, fearful of accelerating inflation and the risk that all this investment could collapse in a debt crisis if borrowers go bankrupt, are trying to apply the brakes.
As the U. S. dollar declines in foreign exchange value against other currencies not tied to the dollar, the real, inflation-adjusted value of China’s exports declines.
This is precisely what happened in the 1970s, when OPEC abruptly began jacking up the price of oil to offset the inflationary devaluation of the dollar. To compensate, the Fed made matters worse by pumping out more dollars, while Congress imposed new taxes and American workers were pushed upward into higher tax brackets by rising nominal incomes. Disposable personal incomes and business profits throughout the 1970s, after adjustment for inflation, actually fell.
The result was stagflation: rising unemployment, falling economic activity, higher taxes, and catastrophic inflation.
A repetition of this disaster is precisely the scenario that liberals in Congress and Democratic presidential candidates are promising us beginning in 2008.
Despite what Keynesian (i.e., socialist) economists tell us, there is no necessary linkage between inflation and rapid economic growth. From our own history we know that the expansion of the American economy was extraordinarily rapid during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Yet prices, apart from war periods, were remarkably stable, while we were on one version or another of the gold standard.
The key variable is maintaining a sound currency, which we have signally failed to do except during the brief tenure of Fed Chairman Paul Volcker in the early days of the Reagan administration. Only by reducing Federal spending can we avoid the same stagnation and financial ruin now confronting France and Germany.
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Friday, May 25, 2007
NYC Cares Enough to Make You Do Right
See Maggie’s Farm for a tongue-in-cheek posting that captures the true spirit of liberal-Progressive-socialism.
To paraphrase the old American Express card advertising slogan, “Don’t leave home without consulting your socialist intellectual council.”
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Common Sense From a Liberal
Read former Senator Bob Kerry’s op-ed piece on the Iraq war in the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Kerry is now president of Manhattan’s New School for Social Research, and institution founded by the country’s major socialist theorists to inculcate the secular religion of atheistic socialism.
The Left’s Iraq Muddle
By BOB KERREY
May 22, 2007;?Page?A15
At this year’s graduation celebration at The New School in New York, Iranian lawyer, human-rights activist and Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi delivered our commencement address. This brave woman, who has been imprisoned for her criticism of the Iranian government, had many good and wise things to say to our graduates, which earned their applause.
But one applause line troubled me. Ms. Ebadi said: “democracy cannot be imposed with military force.”
What troubled me about this statement—a commonly heard criticism of U.S. involvement in Iraq—is that those who say such things seem to forget the good U.S. arms have done in imposing democracy on countries like Japan and Germany, or Bosnia more recently.
Let me restate the case for this Iraq war from the U.S. point of view. The U.S. led an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein because Iraq was rightly seen as a threat following Sept. 11, 2001. For two decades we had suffered attacks by radical Islamic groups but were lulled into a false sense of complacency because all previous attacks were “over there.” It was our nation and our people who had been identified by Osama bin Laden as the “head of the snake.” But suddenly Middle Eastern radicals had demonstrated extraordinary capacity to reach our shores.
As for Saddam, he had refused to comply with numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions outlining specific requirements related to disclosure of his weapons programs. He could have complied with the Security Council resolutions with the greatest of ease. He chose not to because he was stealing and extorting billions of dollars from the U.N. Oil for Food program.
No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before. And no matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.
Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.
The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.
Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn’t you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.
American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq’s middle class has fled the country in fear.
With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.
The key question for Congress is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the U.S. in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically, “yes.”
This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified—though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.
Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn’t have lasted a week.
Finally, Jim Webb said something during his campaign for the Senate that should be emblazoned on the desks of all 535 members of Congress: You do not have to occupy a country in order to fight the terrorists who are inside it. Upon that truth I believe it is possible to build what doesn’t exist today in Washington: a bipartisan strategy to deal with the long-term threat of terrorism.
The American people will need that consensus regardless of when, and under what circumstances, we withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. We must not allow terrorist sanctuaries to develop any place on earth. Whether these fighters are finding refuge in Syria, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere, we cannot afford diplomatic or political excuses to prevent us from using military force to eliminate them.
Mr. Kerrey, a former Democratic senator from Nebraska and member of the 9/11 Commission, is president of The New School.
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Liberals behave like a pyromaniac who sets fire to his own house, then is angered because the rest of the family try to salvage their possessions and escape from the blaze.
Like the pyromaniac, liberals feed the destructive flames of inflation with deficit spending on new welfare programs and the mandated monsters, Social Security and Medicare. Then they become indignant when rational investors take steps to hedge against liberal-created inflation.
A example of this irrationality is Representative Barney Frank’s current committee hearings. In the May 20th edition of the New York Times (Sound and Fury Over Private Equity) reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin observes, Despite all the recent hand-wringing over the perils of the boom in private equity, the hearing, titled ?Private Equity?s Effects on Workers and Firms,? demonstrated just how little lawmakers understand the buyout business.
The worldwide wave of corporate takeovers and consolidations would not be possible without the massive and continuous debasement of the dollar. It is driven, not by greed, but by fear of catastrophic loss of dollar purchasing power.
Unending Federal deficit spending, funded by the Fed’s creation of dollars to purchase Treasury debt, has left the world awash in excess dollars and created an expectation of major dollar devaluation.
A significant straw in the wind is Kuwait’s announcement that it will decouple its currency from the dollar, because keeping it on parity with the dollar means importing our inflation into Kuwait. A second is China’s announcement that it will begin deploying its huge dollar-denominated foreign exchange reserves out of U. S. Treasury debt. Interestingly, China’s initial move in that direction is to invest in the private-equity firm Blackstone Group.
Ongoing debasement of our currency reflects the liberal-Progressive-socialistic economic paradigm to which, unfortunately, both political parties have subscribed.
A primary element in the paradigm is the doctrine that an inflating dollar stimulates economic activity and fosters increased employment (see How FDR Destroyed the Dollar). A second element is liberal support for welfare-state spending programs and industrial labor unions that created the original cost-of-living wage adjustment clauses. Unionized industrial workers could ignore inflation, while the rest of us bore the whole brunt of lost purchasing power.
Before the New Deal, Congress was, in the main, restrained from deficit spending programs by the gold standard. Before 1933, whenever the Federal Reserve created excessive amounts of money, foreign businesses and central banks demanded gold from the Fed in exchange for dollars of depreciating value. That was the signal for the Fed to reduce the money supply, and it was that which kept the dollar’s purchasing power steady and prevented inflation.
Proving the point by exception, excess money creation by the Fed to finance rebuilding of Europe after World War I led to an inflation-bubble expansion, followed by the business downturn in 1928 and the stock market crash in 1929.
Before the New Deal, if the money supply were to increase without inflation, it had to come from increased production of useful goods and services and from personal and corporate savings out of income generated by increased production.
Businesses produced, employees and suppliers were paid, and businesses and workers saved some of the resulting income. Those savings supported non-inflationary increased demand for goods and services, prompting businesses to invest in increased production and to hire additional workers.
Under that classical economic regimen the supply of goods and services remained in balance with the money supply, forestalling inflation and maintaining a sound dollar. Under it the United States grew to become the greatest economic power on earth.
Fast forward to post-New Deal conditions. President Roosevelt deliberately increased the money supply on the fallacious theory that employment can be increased only by Federal spending programs. Ever since, liberals have believed that every economic dislocation, every business recession, requires new Federal regulatory and spending programs.
Two major consequences have ensued.
First, inflation has continued at unacceptable levels and the dollar has steadily lost purchasing power. The Consumer Price Index today is nearly 12 times higher than the price index in 1929, at the height of the pre-New Deal boom.
Second, the world is awash in excess dollars. Hedge funds and other money managers are paid to make money and to protect the value of their investors’ funds. Just as in the leveraged buyout (LBO) days of the 1970s and 80s, those money managers see opportunities in acquiring the productive assets of businesses by taking over entire companies. Value is then created by discharging excess employees and shutting down marginal product divisions.
Without the liberal paradigm of Federal inflationary spending, none of that would feasible, because the excess supply of dollars would not be flooding the coffers of private-equity managers.
Liberals have set fire to the economy with spending programs that vastly exceed tax revenues. Having figuratively struck the match and applied the flame to the kindling, liberals then blame the resulting inflationary fire on rational responses by money managers.
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Monday, May 21, 2007
Iraq - A Current Reassessment
Jeff Lukens summarizes General Barry McCaffrey’s analysis.
The Way Ahead in Iraq
By Jeff Lukens
Recently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid bluntly stated that he believes the war in Iraq is lost. His party gained control of Congress last fall on the voter?s belief that a new approach toward the war was needed, but not simply to cut and run. Sen. Reid and his party have never been honest about their intentions regarding the war, but now they are in the open.
We can be sure that Democratic opposition to the war will become ever more brazen in the time ahead. Even ardent supporters of the war must concede that the time for a major US presence in Iraq is growing short.
So, what do we do about bringing a successful conclusion to our involvement in Iraq? Many reports from Iraq discuss the current conditions, but few address comprehensively what to do about resolving the war.
The search for a realistic assessment and comprehensive plan for the future of Iraq brings us to retired US Army General and Adjunct Professor at West Point, Barry McCaffrey. He recently returned from Iraq after meetings with military and political leaders, and has reported his findings.
McCaffrey has been generally independent in his evaluations of the war effort, and has no political ax to grind. His frank and analytical appraisal is illuminating on what must be done now to achieve some measure of victory. The following is a summary of his report.
Iraq is embroiled in a low intensity civil war that is slowly worsening. As many as 3000 of its citizens are murdered every month. Although we have killed and arrested and huge numbers of insurgents they continue to regenerate their numbers. Their sophistication and lethality increase even while incurring staggering losses.
Meanwhile, US domestic support for the war has dissipated, and many Americans now think the war was a mistake. Congress now is fixated on constraining the Administration in Iraq. US casualties in Iraq now exceed 27,000 killed and wounded, and the war is costing us $9 Billion per month.
Stateside troop readiness is deteriorating and equipment is wearing out. Many units have served multiple deployments, and we are now extending those deployments for longer time periods. At this rate, the continued deployment rate is simply not sustainable with the troops we have available.
This year, we will need to call up many National Guard units for involuntary second tours this year. Some believe another round of call-ups could destroy the National Guard structure and endanger domestic security.
Iraq’s neighbors (except Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) provide little political or economic cooperation to the Maliki government. Our allies, including the UK, are leaving, and we will soon be largely on our own. Moreover, the war in Iraq could spillover into a larger Middle East struggle, and could produce another generation of Americans who lack confidence in our politicians, media, and military leadership.
The Current Situation
Since the arrival of General David Petraeus in Iraq our circumstances have measurably improved.
The Maliki government has authorized the elimination of elements of Sadr organization. Sadr and many of his leaders have fled. The Madi army has grounded their weapons, taken down checkpoints, stopped the intimidation of Sunnis, and ended resistance to coalition forces.
Violence has dramatically dropped. The Iraqis themselves are now stepping up with more volunteers for Police and Army units. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are showing greater determination to pursue insurgents. The Iraqi people are encouraged, and Baghdad has sprung back to life.
Many Sunnis now understand that they made a mistake by not participating in the elections. Sunnis are now joining the ranks of the Iraqi Police, and many are now battling Al Qaeda terrorists. Sunnis have also become concerned about the tenuous presence of coalition forces, and that those forces are all that stand between them and an overwhelming Shia-Kurdish majority who were barbarically treated by Saddam.
McCaffrey acknowledges that time is limited, but we can still establish a stable and lawful Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors, and that governs in a consensus among Shia, Sunni, and Kurds.
Reconciliation of the internal warring elements in Iraq will be how we eventually win the war in Iraq—- if it happens. There is a very sophisticated and carefully integrated approach by the Iraqi government and Coalition actors to defuse the armed violence from internal enemies and bring people into the political process. There are encouraging signs that the peace and participation message does resonate with many of the more moderate Sunni and Shia warring factions.
The Way Ahead
No one doubts that opponents of the war will badger President Bush for the remainder of his term. Yet Democratic control of Congress may inadvertently provide a useful backdrop that Ambassador Ryan Crocker could use to stress upon the Maliki administration that they must act quickly.
While it is unlikely that Democrats can constitutionally force President Bush to withdraw, the next President will likely have 12 months or less to “get Iraq straight” before he or she will be forced to depart. Therefore, our ?planning horizons? should assume that a substantial US presence in Iraq will not last beyond 2009. Considering that some form of insurgency could last a decade, our withdrawal from Iraq presents a ?fundamental dilemma for US policymakers.?
The primary war winning strategy for the United States in the coming 12 months must be for Ambassador Ryan and General Petraeus to focus their considerable personal leadership skills on getting the top 100 Shia and Sunni leaders to walk back from the edge of all-out civil war. Reconciliation is the way out. There will be no imposed military solution with the current non-sustainable US force levels. Military power cannot alone defeat an insurgency ? the political and economic struggle for power is the actual field of battle.
McCaffrey believes the current surge is necessary to provide to US leaders on the ground the political backing and resources they need to achieve their goals. Gen. Petraeus has said, we must “achieve an outcome sustainable by the Iraqis.”
The surge must be accompanied by a corresponding surge in Iraqi troops, but that effort is staining the limits of their forces as well. The Iraqi government must continue to increase the size of ISF forces to replace US forces while we draw down. The increased US presence during the surge will give them time to do so.
A sufficient but not necessary condition of success is adequate resources to build an Iraqi Army, National Police, local Police, and Border Patrol. We are still in the wrong ballpark. The Iraqis need to capacity to jail 150,000 criminals and terrorists. They must have an air force with 150 US helicopters. (The US Armed Forces have 100+ medevac helicopters and 700 lift or attack aircraft in-country.) They need 5000 light armored vehicles for their ten divisions. They need enough precision, radar-assisted counter-battery artillery to suppress the constant mortar and rocket attacks on civilian and military targets. They should have 24 C130?s—-and perhaps three squadrons of light ground attack aircraft. I mention these numbers not to be precise ? but to give an order of magnitude estimation that refutes our current anemic effort. The ISF have taken horrendous casualties. We must give them the leverage to replace us as our combat formations withdraw in the coming 36 months.
Finally, we must focus on the creation of a regional dialog led by the Iraqis with US active participation. The diplomatic process in the short run is unlikely to produce useful results. However, in the coming five years—- it will be a prerequisite to a successful US military withdrawal—- that we open a neutral and permanent political forum (perhaps in Saudi Arabia) in which Iraq?s neighbors are drawn into continuing cooperative engagement. A regional war would be a disaster for 25 years in the Mid-East. A continuing peace discussion forum may give us the diplomatic leverage to neutralize these malignant forces that surround and menace Iraq.
McCaffrey also stresses that US Armed Forces cannot sustain the current deployment rate. The United States will be at risk to the many other threats around the world if we do not strengthen ?our undersized and under-resourced? ground forces. The rebuilding process could go on years after we draw down from Iraq.
Last November, voters said they wanted a new approach to the war, and President Bush has given it to them with Petraeus and his counterinsurgency strategy. Domestic opinion is not calling for sudden withdrawal, but we cannot expect their patience for a large US presence in Iraq to last beyond 2009.
The surge has improved our situation, as well as our chances for ultimate success, in Iraq. It would be the height of folly to not see the surge through just as we are beginning to see signs of success.
Jeff Lukens can be contacted at http://www.jefflukens.com