Friday, July 30, 2004

Yielding Home Field Advantage

Some of us have often wondered why it is that when Jerry Falwell urges his flock to vote Republican he is engaging in an unconstitutional breach of Church/State separation, but when Jesse Jackson urges black parishioners to vote Democrat he's standing in the best tradition of African American preachers. Creationists are accused of illicitly trying to impose a religious point of view on students by suggesting that metaphysical naturalism may not be true, but Darwinians who tacitly advocate metaphysical naturalism are not. It seems that religion in the public square is just fine as long as it's used to reinforce the liberal side in the culture war, but not if it is invoked by conservatives. Thus Bill Clinton's religious affirmations were never seen as a threat to the health of American politics, but George Bush's are.

Even granting that religion should have a legitimate place in our public life, however, there is a right way and a wrong way to express it. Steve Waldman has some interesting thoughts on this at National Review Online He writes:

The Left and Right have both followed the advice of the Founding Fathers at different points in history. Abolitionism and the civil-rights movement - two moral highpoints of our history - were driven by people attempting to impose their religious views on others. So is the right-to-life movement.

There is, however, a problem with the way some religious conservatives approach the political sphere. The problem is not dogmatism, but laziness. Someone who rests the argument for a certain position entirely on the fact that his religion told him to is not really attempting to persuade. Even if one is motivated by faith, one still has to convince others using secular, or at least broad-gauge, moral arguments. It is fine for someone to oppose gay marriage because Leviticus frowns on homosexuality. It's neither appropriate nor smart to say Leviticus calls homosexuality an abomination and so you should too. That is demanding that other people accept your religion. Some religious conservatives forget to persuade because they live in a political cloister, speaking mostly with others who agree with them, and for whom Leviticus is an effective shorthand. One of the reasons the Founding Fathers thought religion important to a functioning democracy is that it would tamp down passions and ensure that people would listen to each other. Religious conservatives need to understand that part of the Founding Fathers' wisdom, too.

Waldman is right. Unless people can argue from mutually shared assumptions they'll just be talking past each other. Thus Christians may hold to a particular belief primarily for religious reasons, but unless they can find non-religious premises from which to advocate their beliefs they'll be unpersuasive to people who don't share their religious worldview. If Christians wish to be effective players in the public arena they have to learn to meet those with whom they disagree on their opponent's turf.

In other words, every big game for the Christian has to be an away game. The only time they can play at home is when they debate each other. If they insist on engaging non-Christians on their own field by quoting Scripture, etc. they're going to find that nobody is going to show up for the game.

Kerry's Acceptance Speech

Usually when John Kerry speaks he reminds me of the history teacher played by Ben Stein in Ferris Buehler's Day Off, but last night he was pretty good, style-wise.

The actual content of his speech, however, was bizarre. It was as if he'd undergone a political sex-change operation.

Like the old football star who brings his game films to the 30th class reunion, Kerry wanted to remind us, and keep reminding us, that he had been a soldier, but he seemed to go right from the Mekong Delta to the campaign trail for president. I almost expected to see thousands of Special Forces troops rappelling down out of the Fleet Center ceiling instead of a balloon drop. Where was there any insight into his nineteen years as a U.S. senator? What did he accomplish during his three terms in the senate? Most importantly, how does his record in the senate support the guarantees he made in his speech?

From the emphasis that was placed on his military service by himself and others it's clear that he considers this his chief qualification to serve as president, but it all seemed surreal, as did the reaction to it in the arena. These people are not big fans of military service, much less of service in Vietnam, and if they really believed that military sacrifice makes Kerry more fit to be president than Mr. Bush they would have all voted for Bob Dole in 1996.

Kerry proudly proclaimed, as if to distinguish himself from George Bush, that he defended his country as a young man, but almost no one over fifty in that arena would agree with him that, his combat heroics notwithstanding, whatever he was doing in Vietnam, it was not defending his country. By 1975 that war was seen by almost everyone as completely unwarranted and unrelated to any conceivable threat to the United States. Kerry knows this. He said as much in his war protest years, so why insist now that he was indeed defending his country?

Aside from the mass hypocrisy of the left-wing of the Democrat party masquerading as pro-military hawks for the rubes out in the heartland there were a number of things about Kerry's speech which were plainly cheapshots.

For example, Kerry slapped Bush for preaching family values but, he said, you don't value families if you force them to take up a collection to buy body armor for a son or daughter serving in Iraq. Well, true enough. What you do is ask the senate to approve an 87 billion dollar appropriation to provide those kinds of things and hope that Senator Kerry and his left-wing companions will not vote against it. Your hopes are disappointed, of course, because, despite his grand rhetoric last night Kerry has voted against every single appropriation that has come before him in his 19 year tenure in the senate that would better prepare our military for the battles they must face.

After having clearly implied that Bush lied to us about getting into Iraq, after having stated flatly that Bush only went to war because he wanted to, he called on the president to agree with him to conduct an honorable campaign. This is the Democrats' idea of an honorable campaign: They get to call the president a liar and a betrayer of his country, they get to allege that the president was AWOL from his National Guard service during time of war, they get to accuse the president of sending thousands of people to their deaths just because he wanted to, and they get to allege that the president's talk of values is hypocritical. The president, however, for his part, must refrain from citing the total disconnect between Kerry's votes on the senate floor and the promises he made on the convention floor because that would be a below-the-belt slander. In the democrats' vision of an honorable campaign the president may not even defend himself against the accusations against him for that would be to imply that those making the charges are liars which would be mudslinging of the worst kind.

Senator Kerry claimed that he would restore trust, credibility, and respect to the White House. If he did he would be the first Democrat since Truman to do so, but, the sorry record of his predecessors aside, how can we expect a man who so willingly distorts his opponent's record and motives to be honest with us when things get tough?

Why did Kerry imply that the Bush people have ever said that our economy can do no better than it's doing? When did any high ranking White House spokesperson ever say such a thing? Is this how we restore credibility to the White House?

Kerry observed that we need to bring our allies to our side and assured us that he's just the man to do this, but it's wrongheaded to think that our allies are not at our side because the wrong man is in the White House. As I wrote yesterday, there is a bitter hostility toward the United States percolating throughout Western Europe based primarily upon jealousy over our success and resentment that our success has shown up their own inadequacies. Europe (i.e. France and Germany) are disinclined to follow America's lead in any venture unless, and until, America subordinate itself to their wishes. Thus the only way Kerry will succeed in his arrogant claim to be the right man to bring France and Germany to our side is by diminishing our national sovereignty and weakening our economic, military, and cultural influence. We must, to appease them, repudiate capitalism in favor of the same socialism that has made them such economic juggernauts. In other words, no matter who is in the White House, the French, Germans, and even the Canadians will remain cold and aloof until we become as weak as they are. Like our own domestic politics, it's not about personalities it's about power.

Ultimately, though, neither convention speeches nor debate performances should matter much to a voter. Good speeches are not necessarily good indicators of whether a person would be a good president nor is a good debate performance. These events are media shows, and they do very little to help us determine how fit a man is for office. A man should be judged not on his style, nor his appearance, nor anything else but his record. It's insulting to the electorate to have political managers conducting focus groups and micromanaging a candidate's image, seeking to package a candidate to make him appealing to the least well-informed segment of the voting population, and tacitly telling us that they believe that all that matters to us are the most superficial qualities of the man. Both of the contenders in this campaign have an extensive record, and anyone who doesn't know by now what George Bush stands for or what sort of president John Kerry would be hasn't been paying attention and probably shouldn't vote in November anyway.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Stem Cells

On night two of the Democrat Convention Ronald Reagan, Jr. delivered what he promised would be a non-partisan speech which he concluded by, in effect, urging people to vote for John Kerry. If Americans want to realize the miraculous cures latent in embryonic stem cell research, Reagan averred, then George Bush must be turned out of office. The casual viewer was given the impression by Reagan that the Bush administration had prohibited all stem cell research, but of course this isn't true. Michael Fumento explains why in an essay at National Review Online.

Fumento also points out that adult stem cells are available from many tissues in the human body, all of which are morally unproblematic, and that these cells are showing a great deal of promise in the treatment of some diseases. An excerpt:

Far from blocking federal embryonic-stem-cell research funding, Bush specifically authorized it so long as it used existing lines of embryonic cells. But more remarkably, Ron Reagan made absolutely no reference to an alternative to embryonic stem cells that is decades more advanced and carries absolutely no moral baggage. "Adult stem cells" can be extracted from various places in the human body as well as blood in umbilical cords and placentas. They were first used to treat human illness in 1957.

By the 1980s, adult stem cells were literally curing a variety of cancers and other diseases; embryonic stem cells have never been tested on a human. Adult stem cells now treat about 80 different diseases; again embryonic stem cells have treated no one. Adult stem cells obviously aren't rejected when taken from a patient's own body, though they may be from an unmatched donor; embryonic stem cells have surface proteins that often cause rejection. Implanted embryonic stem cells also have a nasty tendency to multiply uncontrollably, a process called "cancer." Oops.

What goes mostly unmentioned in the criticism of Bush's decision to deny federal funding to the development of new lines of embryonic stem cells is his chief reason for doing so. The President believes, not unreasonably, that it is morally wrong to create human embryos which will be deliberately destroyed in order to harvest their cells.

It's true that the embryos that would be used, at least at first, would be excess products of in vitro fertilizations of ova done to produce embryos for couples that cannot otherwise have children. The concern among many ethicists, however, is that this would put us on a slippery slope where eventually embryos would be produced exclusively for the purpose of harvesting their cells, and, given current law regarding abortion, there would be no legal basis for stopping at the use of mere embryos and their cells.

It would be only a matter of time before fetuses and their tissues would be harvested as well, and it would not be much longer after that until there would be a legal trade in body parts extracted from unborn children. It's not hard to imagine women getting pregnant for the sole purpose of selling the tissues and organs of their unborn offspring. Given that abortion is currently legal for any reason the mother wishes, there's no non-arbitrary reason the courts could site for prohibiting such a grisly business. It would, of course, be justified by its advocates on the most humanitarian of grounds: ending the suffering of millions of people who are afflicted with terrible diseases and other maladies that might prove amenable to treatment with harvested tissue.

This is not the sort of activity Bush feels the federal government should be subsidizing with taxpayer dollars, and he's right.

Deconstructing Edwards

Those who listened to John Edwards speech at last night's session of the Democrat National convention might be forgiven for getting the impression that Kerry/Edwards are about to usher in the Millenial reign of Christ. If it is true that the American voter is too sophisticated and too cynical to swallow the "chicken in every pot" rhetoric of politicians who promise everything and anything, word has not yet reached John Edwards. I was waiting for him to promise that when he and Kerry are elected every American would receive a free trip to Disney World.

Certain of his claims, of course, generated a bigger spike on the baloney meter than others. For instance, he averred:

"We hear a lot of talk about values. Where I come from, you don't judge someone's values based on how they use that word in a political ad. You judge their values based upon what they've spent their life doing."

Is this an invitation to examine John Kerry's record? What has Kerry spent his adult life doing? He did four months in Vietnam, was sent home after receiving a dubious third purple heart for a wound that was treated with a band aid, and proceeded to confess that he and thousands of other Americans were guilty of war crimes. The grisly deeds he admits to committing make the offenses of the soldiers at Abu Ghraib wane into insignificance by comparison. After his stint in the anti-war movement he began a political career notable only for two things. As a senator he amassed, over nineteen years, the most left-wing voting record in the senate and at the same time accomplished absolutely nothing of any legislative significance. He was a senatorial non-entity. His most noteworthy accomplishment, since leaving Vietnam, that has come to light is having persuaded two very wealthy women to marry him to save him the trouble of ever having to actually do any real work.

"But we've seen relentless negative attacks against John. So in the weeks ahead, we know what's coming - don't we - more negative attacks. Aren't you sick of it?"

The "attacks" against Kerry have focused on his political record. They have examined his votes and his positions on issues. If Democrats think that scrutinizing someone's record and quoting their words is foul play then why do they relentlessly attack Bush's record? Speaking of attacks, Bush has been called a liar, a Nazi, a bigot, and a simpleton. He has been accused of betraying the nation, and deliberately taking us to war, with its attendant grief and loss of life, just to help his corporate friends. Aren't you sick of it?

"I have spent my life fighting for the kind of people I grew up with. For two decades, I stood with families and children against big HMOs and big insurance companies. And as a Senator, I fought those same fights against the Washington lobbyists and for causes like the Patients' Bill of Rights."

John Edwards' legal career is, in fact, an example of why medical malpractice insurance is so high and consequently why medical costs are daunting. He won huge claims for clients whose children were born with cerebral palsy, because, he convinced juries, the mothers of these children should have been advised by their obstetricians to have Caesarean sections. Such procedures have since increased unnecessarily with no discernable effect on the incidence of CP, but plenty of impact on medical costs and doctors' insurance premiums. See here for a more detailed account of exactly what Edwards has "spent his life fighting" on behalf of.

"We shouldn't have two public school systems in this country: one for the most affluent communities, and one for everybody else. None of us believe that the quality of a child's education should be controlled by where they live or the affluence of their community. We can build one public school system that works for all our children. Our plan will reform our schools and raise our standards. We can give our schools the resources they need. We can provide incentives to put quality teachers in the places and the subjects where we need them the most. And we can ensure that three million kids have a safe place to go after school. This is what we can do together."

These assertions reveal an incredible misunderstanding of why some schools are better than others. New York City's Schools spend more money per student than do many suburban schools, but the suburban schools are often more successful. Schools which are failing are not failing for lack of money, they're failing because of the quality of family life in the school district. Communities populated by healthy families will have better schools than those in which family life is chaotic regardless of how grandiose the buildings, how highly paid the staff, and where the school is located. If the Democrats want to improve education they can work to strengthen families but they would have to repudiate many of their philosophical principles and much of their legislative history to do that.

"So now you ask how are we going to pay for this? Well, here's how we're going to pay for it. Let me be very clear, for 98 percent of Americans, you will keep your tax cut-that's 98 percent. But we'll roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, close corporate loopholes, and cut government contractors and wasteful spending. We can move our country forward without passing the bill and the burden on to our children and grandchildren."

Has anyone run the numbers on this? What loopholes would they close? How much revenue will they produce by rolling back the tax cuts for the top 2% of taxpayers? How, exactly, are they going to cut wasteful spending? Haven't these same promises been made ever since the Great Depression? How many times will candidates be able to snooker their listeners with vague, meaningless promises before we catch on that this is all political legerdemain. Show us the numbers or forfeit your credibility.

"I mean the very idea that in a country of our wealth and our prosperity, we have children going to bed hungry. We have children who don't have the clothes to keep them warm. We have millions of Americans who work full-time every day for minimum wage to support their family and still live in poverty - it's wrong."

That children are poorly clothed or go to bed hungry is no doubt true. The question is whether this is because there is no alternative for them or because they are in families which do not avail themselves, for whatever reason, of the assistance which their fellow citizens provide for them through government programs or charitable organizations. For Edwards to make it sound as if government is somehow failing these children is disingenuous. Likewise his claim that there are millions who work full-time and who still live in poverty is hard to credit. Few adults who work full-time earn only minimum wage. Most workers at the minimum wage are teenagers and others who are not the chief wage-earners in their family. If Edwards wants to do more than just rouse the masses of faithful at the Fleet Center, if he actually wants to demonstrate the truth of his claims, he's going to have to show that heads of households in significant numbers, despite working full-time, nevertheless have total household income, including government benefits, under the poverty line (about $22,000 for a family of four).

"With a new president who strengthens and leads our alliances, we can get NATO to help secure Iraq. We can ensure that Iraq's neighbors like Syria and Iran, don't stand in the way of a democratic Iraq. We can help Iraq's economy by getting other countries to forgive their enormous debt and participate in the reconstruction. We can do this for the Iraqi people and our soldiers. And we will get this done right."

This reveals a disturbing naivete on Edwards' part as to why we are unable to get some of our erstwhile allies to follow our lead in world affairs. It's not because Bush is abrasive or because he lacks diplomatic skills. That's just a rationalization. It is rather because many of our supposed "allies" resent and even despise us for our hyperpower status. The United States is an economic, military, and cultural colossus, and much of the rest of the world resents the dominant role we play around the globe, a role they believe, in some cases, is rightly and historically theirs. This is especially true of France and Germany. Russia is reluctant to follow us because they resent their defeat in the ideological struggle of the Cold war. Nobody likes to feel inferior, everybody experiences shadenfreude when the top guy stumbles. As these nations see things, it is in their national interest for the U.S. to fail and it would take more than John Kerry to persuade them to act against that interest. John Edwards, and every other American for that matter, would do well to read Jean Francois Revel's book Anti-Americanism. It would perhaps cure him of the na�ve idea that American "unilateralism" is a result of inept American diplomacy and that a more agreeable face in the White House is all we need to mollify the Europeans and others.

"What we believe - what John Kerry and I believe - is that you should never look down on anybody, that we should lift people up. We don't believe in tearing people apart. We believe in bringing people together."

Bush gets a lot of criticism for dividing people, but the criticism is silly. People in this country are divided because of the multiculturalist emphasis on celebrating our differences. We are divided because of the practice of special interest politics, the appeals to people on the basis of their race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. These are not Republican phenomena. This is the basic weaponry of the Democrat party and has been ever since the sixties. Democrats who accuse Bush of being divisive are projecting their own habits onto their opponent. Their definition of "divisive" is any condition in which you don't agree with them.

If, for example, you think it's immoral to kill children as they're being born then you're being divisive. If you think we should have judges who will rule according to what the law and the constitution say rather than according to the political whim of the day then you're being divisive, if you think that marriage is important and that we should preserve the understanding of marriage that has prevailed for two thousand years then you're being divisive. If you think the first amendment is being wrongly interpreted as it touches upon matters of religious expression then you're being divisive. They're trying hard in this convention to moderate their rhetoric, but all one need do is compare the words of Democrat leaders like Kennedy, Carter, Dean, Gore, Jackson, and Kerry during the primary months to those of Republican leaders to see who has been a force for division and who has been a force for national unity.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Dukakis Redux

If you haven't seen the NASA photos that have the Kerry folks steamed but would like to, you can see them here. I can understand why the Dems are so upset about the release of these pictures. They make Kerry look like a gopher.

Ten Economic Truths

One of the hammers that the Democrats have used, and will continue to use, to beat the Bush administration over the head is the matter of job flight beyond our borders. As Senator Kerry has alleged, "Benedict Arnold CEOs" are outsourcing work to third world countries and depriving Americans of job opportunities. Bush's general commitment to free trade and globalization, the Democrats have argued, is resulting in tens of thousands of people being added to the unemployment rolls as their employers export their jobs offshore. The conventional wisdom among many is that job outsourcing is enormously harmful to the American worker and economy and Bush should be punished for it at the polls.

The conventional wisdom, however, is quite mistaken according to Brink Lindsey in a Reason article entitled Ten Truths About Trade. The article is clear, concise and very helpful in answering the main arguments raised by the left against free trade. An excerpt:

Is globalization sending the best American jobs overseas? If you get your news from CNN's Lou Dobbs, the answer is "of course" and the only real issue is how many trade restrictions should be applied to stem the bleeding. But the recent scare about "offshoring" is just the latest twist on an inaccurate, decades-old complaint that global trade is stealing jobs and causing a "race to the bottom" in which corporations relentlessly scour the world for the lowest wages and most squalid working conditions. China and India have replaced 1980s Japan and 1990s Mexico as the most feared foreign threats to U.S. employment, and the old fallacy of job scarcity has once again reared its distracting head.

The truth is cheerier. Trade is only one element in a much bigger picture of incessant turnover in the American labor market. Furthermore, the overall trend is toward more and better jobs for American workers. While job losses are real and sometimes very painful, it is important -- indeed, for the formulation of sound public policy, it is vital - to distinguish between the painful aspects of progress and outright decline.

Lindsey then goes on to discuss ten reasons why free trade is beneficial to the country and, in the long run, to our workers.

Thanks to Dan Drezner for the tip. Drezner himself has a much lengthier, more scholarly piece on the same topic in Foreign Affairs for those who are interested in a deeper economic analysis of the effect of outsourcing on American workers.

Goldberg, P.S.

Jonah's latest. It's masterful. An excerpt:

[T]his is not a party weighed down by the ballast of facts. Indeed, you have to carry a light pack when racing against the clock. For more than a year, Democrats have been fueled by a violent, irrational hatred of George W. Bush. These feelings were almost never based upon facts, so much as on an almost glandular paranoia.

Librarians set fire to their records, lest Attorney General John Ashcroft's Gestapo find out who borrowed The Catcher in the Rye. They insisted that Bush was some sort of criminal mastermind and buffoon who could orchestrate a war for oil while not being smart enough to work as a spellchecker at an M&M factory. Countless anti-Bush canards contradicted each other, but consistency was a luxury the Democrats could not afford.

The problem for them is that not even the now decidedly anti-Bush press can conceal the fact that virtually none of these allegations were true. The Senate Intelligence Committee report, the British Butler Report and the 9/11 Commission report undermine every key allegation of the anti-Bush flat-earthers. The 9/11 Commission, which was being hailed as an oracular council of truth and light when it made Bush look bad, has essentially said the Patriot Act does not go far enough (and Ashcroft, by the way, never even poked his nose in a library); that Bush never lied and that several of Bush's more famous accusers did - including those who, knowing otherwise, insisted that Bush's "16 words" about Saddam Hussein's pursuit of uranium were lies.

He does a fine job in this piece of deconstructing the hypocrisies of both Clinton and Carter. It makes one eager for his critique of Teresa Heinz Kerry's speech last night which seemed like it was being delivered on valium.

It may seem picky, but I thought it just a little bit odd that the Democrats appealed last night to their African American base by touting two speakers who lay claim to the coveted identity but who are African-American in only the most technical sense. Obama Barak had a Kenyan father whom he never really knew, but he shares almost nothing else in common with the heritage of American blacks. Teresa Kerry immigrated from Mozambique, but very few blacks would regard this white multi-millionaire heiress as a racial "sister." It's a small point, but one can imagine the hooting that would ensue if the African-Americans featured at the Republican convention included a white South African and a man whose maternal ancestors were white and whose paternal ancestors were never enslaved, nor ever experienced Jim Crow or the civil rights movement.

I guess that for people who consider Bill Clinton to be the first black president, almost anybody counts as an African-American, except Clarence Thomas, Condaleeza Rice, Rod Paige, Colin Powell, and J.C. Watts.

Masquerade Ball at the Fleet Center

USA Today fired Ann Coulter for being too, well, too much like herself. They replaced her with Jonah Goldberg who also has the distinction of having fired AC a couple of years ago from National Review for saying something like we should kill all the terrorists and convert the rest of the Muslim world to Christianity, or something like that. Anyway, Jonah's column on the Democrat Convention is here.

He makes the point that the fractious Democrats have constructed a Potemkin Village to fool the rest of the country into thinking that they're really all lovey-dovey with each other and with John Kerry when, in fact, the glue that's holding this convention together is not John Kerry, but a deep and irrational contempt for George Bush. The Democrat Party has for the last four years, been a roiling, seething cauldron of hate, but they know that even though venting their animus makes them feel good, they can't let the American voters see this. So the convention Democrats remind the viewer of Dennis the Menace all dressed up, sitting in church looking angelic, when in fact he's bursting inside to get out and roll in the mud.

Goldberg writes:

It was only when Howard Dean's head exploded like one of those dudes in Scanners that they suddenly switched to Kerry because he was the most "electable," according to all of the exit polls. In other words, Democrats voted for Kerry not because they liked him, but because they thought other people would.

This is the logic of hate. It lets convention delegates who by every measure are far to the left of the mainstream of the Democratic Party, let alone the American public, cheer a candidate who has spent the past few months holding something of a fire sale on Democratic principles. According to a New York Times survey of delegates, 9 out of 10 say they think Iraq was a mistake and 5 out of 6 say the war on terrorism and national security aren't that important; yet Kerry is surrounding himself with soldiers to the point where it wouldn't be shocking if delegates were required to wear camo fatigues. Even Ted Kennedy would be hard-pressed to play a drinking game in which players had to swig every time the words "Vietnam" or "war hero" come up in Democratic speeches.

Goldberg is always good. Read the whole piece.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Beat Goes On

The list of endorsements of Senator Kerry continues to grow, which would be good news for the senator were it not for the fact that many of those who find him deserving of their support are people or groups who for one reason or another do nothing to raise Mr. Kerry's stature. Indeed, quite the opposite is true (See here for a recent discussion of this phenomenon on Viewpoint). The latest such endorsement that Viewpoint is aware of is that of the Communist Party U.S.A.

The good folks whose ideological soulmates, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Kim Jong Il, brought you over 100 million dead in the twentieth century and the most repressive regimes in the non-Arab world - these folks who would abolish your right to own property, as well as the entire Bill of Rights - have this to say about Senator Kerry:

Kerry reflects a liberal agenda... he is the vehicle by which George W. Bush, representing the most extreme reaction, can be defeated. A Kerry presidency by itself will not bring the changes, it will undoubtedly require huge mass pressure to bring the changes. In this regard ... a Kerry election presents the possibility for greater struggles to undo damage and move forward.

Reassuring words coming from people who doubtless have the best interests of America and Americans at heart.

According to The Washington Times the CPUSA has also endorsed Democrat keynote speaker Barack Obama, senate candidate from Illinois, Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, and Inez Tenenbaum in South Carolina.

Viewpoint asks the question again. What is it about John Kerry that makes such people as these think that he's the man they want as president?

Prisoner Abuse

One of the many critcisms President bush has had to endure since the onset of the Iraq war is that he is presiding over terrible human rights abuses carried out by the United States military. Abu Ghraib, we've been told, was just the tip of the iceberg and that torture and other forms of abuse proscribed by the Geneva Conventions were widespread.

Last week the army issued its report on prisoner abuse and demonstrated that yet again the president's war critics have been wrong. Powerline features an excellent commentary on the report by Dafydd ab Hugh. Dafydd writes:

The Army has released the findings of its report on all confirmed or alleged cases of prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the war on terror in general. The "shock" headline (for the mathematically challenged) is "U.S. Reports 94 Cases of Prisoner Abuse" But in fact, the report is stunning as an example of the dog that did not bark - and it's another vindication for Bush and Rumsfeld.

First of all, headline aside, the body of the AP story makes clear that the number ninety-four refers not just to confirmed cases but to all allegations of abuse as well: if a prisoner says "I was beaten," it's counted as part of those ninety-four, even if there is no corroboration whatsoever for it, or even if it's disputed by a dozen eye witnesses.

Second, and bearing the above in mind, the real shocker is at the bottom of the article: The Army inspector general report found that since the fall of 2001, overall the United States had held more than 50,000 prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, a number never before made public.

I blinked in surprise at this: out of 50,000 arrests and detentions during a war, a grand total of only ninety-four allegations of abuse were made? That's astonishingly low -- and it's a wonderful testament to the professionalism and calm devotion to duty among our soldiers, led by Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush.

When you actually break the numbers down, it gets even better. Fully 45 of the 94 allegations refer to the moment of arrest or detention: 20 are claims of "physical abuse" (which means a prisoner got roughed up during capture, which is hardly surprising, considering how many resisted such capture), the rest claims of "theft or other crimes;" both such types of claim are routinely made in a huge percentage of arrests by civilian cops of ordinary criminals, and without some evidence of extraordinary abuse (not just some prisoner saying "he shoved me!"), these are not to be taken seriously. Unless you want to make it illegal for police officers to arrest anyone, anywhere, for anything.

Finally, here is the part that truly vindicates Bush and Rumsfeld. The most serious charges - and the most despicable behavior by the Democrats, as such charges were routinely made without any evidence and without any consideration of how such reckless charges would affect the war effort - were that we routinely "tortured" prisoners during interrogations in order to gain intelligence. The word "torture" was explicitly used scores of times, as a simple Lexis/Nexus search would show.

Yet the total number of ALLEGATIONS of abuse during or related to interrogations was... eight. Eight total cases where there was even an allegation of prisoner abuse related to interrogation. And certainly Abu Ghraib would account for all or nearly all of these allegations.

This lays to rest the only serious charge in the entire scandal: clearly, we were NOT using torture or even abuse, either routinely or even commonly, to extract intel from prisoners. All but eight allegations of abuse (out of 50,000 prisoners, 0.016%) were, in fact, soldiers using more force to arrest a prisoner than the prisoner himself thought was necessary, or a prisoner claiming that the thousand-dollar wad of bills that he had in his back pocket was missing when he got to prison (yeah, right).

...Bush is on very solid ground on this one if he just stands up for his guys. I don't think too many Americans will be upset that some al-Qaeda killer in Iraq got a black eye during his capture.

One wonders how many more defeats of their credibility the left can suffer before they become a complete laughingstock.

Kerry's Religion Problem

This analysis by Steve Waldman of Kerry's "religion problem" says some interesting things, but it misses the root, I think, of the senator's difficulty. Waldman writes, for example, that:

[T]he Kerry campaign suffers from the fact that while most Democrats are religious, many liberal Democratic activists are not. Perhaps the real problem with the paucity of African-Americans at senior levels of the Kerry campaign is not that he doesn't understand racial language but that-forgive the gross stereotyping-the white aides tend to be more tone deaf about religion than the black ones.

In other words, religion is as important to the general population of Democrats as it is to Republicans, it's just that the Democrats to whom it's important are not in the leadership. So Democrats, including Kerry, tend to "act like the Party of Secularists even if they aren't."

Waldman thinks Kerry is making a mistake by not talking about religion more because, if he does, he'll have a very receptive audience among most members of his party. This is where I think Waldman misses Kerry's underlying difficulty.

Kerry's predicament is not simply that he's shy about his faith, it's that when he has talked about it he's given the impression of being only a nominal Catholic whose religious pilings are not driven very deep. He does not project the image of a man who is comfortable talking about religion quite possibly because it truly is terra incognita to him. For a person who has given little thought to matters of faith over the last several decades to suddenly assume the role of a man of piety is very difficult, not to mention extraordinarily hypocritical.

To suggest, as some of his supporters are, that Kerry talk about religion in order to reassure a voting public which looks for such convictions in a president is to ask him to adopt a persona to which he may well be philosophically and psychologically allergic. It's to ask him to be someone he's not. The gambit, if not sincere, can only make him appear phony, which, of course, he would be.

Kerry would be better off, if he has to say anything at all, to simply tell the truth about his religious beliefs, or lack thereof, and let religious voters decide for themselves if the honesty of his response is sufficient in itself to give him a pass on the matter.

Ben Stein

The following piece by Ben Stein, who writes for The American Spectator and who appeared on Win Ben Stein's Money and in small roles in numerous movies, sums up the feelings of so many of us that I thought I'd share it with Viewpoint readers today.

Note: The restaurant Stein refers to, Morton's, is a high end eatery in L.A. For many years he has written a biweekly column for the online website called "Monday Night At Morton's", but he's now terminating the column to move on to other things:

How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World? As I begin to write this, I "slug" it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is "eonline FINAL," and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started.

I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end. It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton's, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.

Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to. How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer.

A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world. A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him. A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists. We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject. There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament, the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive, The orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery, the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children, the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards. Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse.

Now you have my idea of a real hero. We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important. God is real, not a fiction, and when we turn over our lives to Him, he takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves. In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters.

This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin or Martin Mull or Fred Willard-or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them. But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

Ben Stein

To which the only thing left to be said is "Amen."

Monday, July 26, 2004

Real Reform

Joanne Jacobs at Joanne specializes in education news. Her site has this intriguing report on the relationship between immigrants and their academic performance. An excerpt:

According to the National Foundation for American Policy, which backs employment-related visas, 60 percent of the finalists of the Intel Science Talent Search, 65 percent of the U.S. Math Olympiad's top scorers and 46 percent of U.S. Physics Team members are the children of immigrants. "Seven of the top 10 award winners at the 2004 Intel Science Talent Search were immigrants or their children. In 2003, three of the top four awardees were foreign-born."

It often astonishes educators that children who have to overcome serious linguistic and other cultural hurdles to learn frequently outperform those who face no such impediments. It is also worth pointing out that these children often succeed in the same schools that are said to be failing so many children of our native-born population.

One would think that ascertaining the reasons for this would be a top priority in the Department of Education since it would be crucial to improving education in this country. I suspect, however, that it's not a priority for a simple reason.

Children of immigrants don't always do well. Generally, it is the children of Asian and Hindu parents who excel most frequently. And when they do, it is because their families are usually tightly-knit and very religious, they value education, respect, and self-discipline. The parents themselves are often professionally successful, they're oriented toward the future, not the present, and they often have not yet bought into the more dysgenic elements of American culture. These are, of course, the same reasons why children of non-immigrants also do well in school, when they do. Parents, whether immigrants or not, who lack any single one of these qualities may well produce high achieving children, but the more of these qualities they lack the less likely it is that their children will excel in the academic sphere of their schooling.

There's little interest in political circles in stressing this because if it is true, the key to school improvement lies in reversing the deterioration of the family, and this is an area where the only role government is willing to play is negative. For close to two generations government policies have been undermining the bedrock supports of family structure that many immigrants bring to this country. No fault divorce, promiscuous welfare benefits, abortion on demand, increased secularization of the public square, and now gay marriage rights, all have a corrosive effect on the values many immigrants cherish.

Moreover, improving our childrens' educational performance would take a conscious repudiation of the entrenched cultural relativism that many in government embrace. The view that different societies have different ways of doing things and hold different values, but that no one's values are any better or more corect than anyone else's is philosophically inane, but is, for all that, still part of the psychological furniture of many public servants today.

Add to the structural exacerbations of government policies a highly seductive pop culture which celebrates sexual infidelity, drugs, rebellion, and other expressions of short-term hedonism, the very opposites of the values which make for academic success, and it is not difficult to understand why the "immigrant effect" wears off after a generation or two.

It's also not difficult to see why government is not interested in focussing on these factors. It's much easier to blame failing schools than to muster the political will, courage, and consensus necessary to do something meaningful to reverse the academic trendlines. So politicians and other bureaucrats content themselves with attacking the symptoms rather than the problem. The decline of American education is a concomitant of the deterioration of faith, family, and pop culture, and there's no inclination in government, particularly not on the political left, to do anything at all about that.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

God and Evil

In an earlier post entitled God and Time I mentioned that despite the serious liabilities entailed by the idea that God does not have complete knowledge of the future, that is, he doesn't know what choices free beings will make in their future, it is nevertheless an attractive idea because it provides the theist with an answer to a difficult apologetic question. That question arises in the course of attempts to give a reply to the problem of evil. Let's look at that problem first and then the problematic question that it raises.

No doubt the most troubling objection to the existence of a God as traditionally construed by theists is the existence of evil in the world. Whether people are persuaded by the presence of evil that the existence of a God is unlikely or whether they employ evil as an a posteriori rationalization for the disbelief they've already embraced, it is a difficult challenge for theists and has been since at least the time of the ancient Greeks.

One thing that needs to be said about the problem is that despite its power to instill and sustain doubt, the reality of evil does not constitute a proof against God's existence. Its philosophical strength, its advocates argue, is that it makes is that it makes the existence of God unlikely.

The traditional argument takes the form of a dilemma:

1.If God is perfectly good he would want to prevent evil.
2.If God is all-powerful he would be able to prevent evil.
3.However, evil exists.
4.Therefore, either God is not perfectly good or God is not all-powerful.

In either case, God is not the God of traditional theism.

This is not a proof that God doesn't exist or that he's not all-powerful or good because it's possible to slip between the horns of the dilemma and reply that God could be both able to prevent evil and wanting to prevent evil but for some reason he chooses to permit it to occur.

Most anti-theists grant this as a theoretical possibility but, they ask, what kind of God would allow evil to exist if he could prevent it? What loving father would stand by and do nothing as his child suffers, if he could do something to stop it? No reason the theist can come up with, the skeptic argues, can justify the suffering of an innocent child. Thus it is unlikely that the world is the product of the kind of God the theists believe in.

Before we consider the classical theistic response to this challenge we should lay a bit more groundwork. First, we need to understand that to say that God is omnipotent is not to say that he can do anything at all. Rather, it is to say that God can do anything that it is logically possible to do. This means that it is beyond God's power to do anything which entails a contradiction of some sort. For example, it is not within God's power to create a world in which it would be true to say that he did not create it, or, it is not within his power to bring it about that you and I, or God himself, never existed. These are contradictory states of affairs and therefore logical impossibilities.

A theist might say here that God is not constrained by the laws of logic, that God really can make a square circle if he wishes, but if one wants to argue this way he has to recuse himself from arguing at all and retreat into a private mysticism where nothing much can be said about God. To abandon the constraints of logic is to put God beyond the ability of men to reason about him, or to know anything about him, because anything that one could say about God could be both true and false at the same time, which is incoherent.

The second thing we should mention is that there are two basic kinds of evil. There is evil that emerges from human volition, and there is evil which results from natural causes like disasters, disease, famine, etc. The first we may call moral evil and the latter we'll call natural evil.

Having said this, let's look at why God might allow moral evil to exist, given that it is within his power to prevent it. We'll take up the question of natural evil in a future post.

The argument that many Christian theologians have put forward goes something like this:

Part of God's essence is that he is perfect love. Love desires an object, something to lavish itself upon, something to live in a relationship with. He could have made man so that man would have no choice but to love God, but this would be about as satisfying as programming the screen saver of your computer to say "I Love You." The most satisfying relationships are those between persons who are free to both receive and give love. Thus God created persons to live in a love relationship with him, and he endowed them with the quality of freedom so that they could genuinely choose to requite his love or to reject it. This freedom is what makes us human, it makes us more than brutes, it gives us dignity. Without freedom we're little more than sophisticated robots and there's no dignity in that. Freedom is part of the imago Dei. God gives us the freedom to choose as a marvelous gift, and to the extent that we misuse that gift, to the extent we use our freedom wrongly, moral evil enters the world.

So God could prevent moral evil and wants to eliminate it, but doing so would entail depriving us of the very thing that makes us human, our free will. This would not only reduce us to automatons and destroy our humanity, it would nullify the whole purpose for which we were created in the first place, which is to live in a freely chosen love relationship with God.

Some might deride the idea that this love between God and man is worth allowing men to inflict such terrible misery upon his fellows. Whether this is so is difficult to ascertain from our vantage. We have to look at the matter sub specie aeternitatis, or from the standpoint of eternity. Surely, if this life is all there is then all human suffering is meaningless and existence is a cruel hoax for hundreds of millions of people whose lives have been filled with it. On the other hand, if this life is a relatively brief interlude between nothingness and eternity, then our temporal suffering may ultimately seem a very small price to pay for having lived it.

So, the suggestion that moral evil exists because God gave man free-will as a means of enhancing and elevating our relationship to him strikes me as very plausible. It also seems plausible that the reason God does not prevent evil is because he considers it an even greater evil to strip us of our freedom and thus of our humanity.

However, this brings us to the difficulty we mentioned at the beginning. Let us assume that it is possible to know the future. Let's assume, therefore, that God knows the future and thus knows what would happen in any world, not just this one, that he could create. Among the worlds God could have created are worlds in which people are free to choose, but in which they always choose to do right.

Imagine God before the creation. He has an image of every world he could possibly make in his mind. Because he knows everything it is possible to know (assuming that it is possible for God to know the future) he knows every choice that every being would make in every one of those worlds if that world were to actually be created. At least one of those worlds, it would seem, would contain free beings who always chose to do the right thing. They could have chosen to do wrong, but they don't. Such a world is certainly possible, after all, since Christians believe that heaven will be such a world. So the question is, would not a perfectly good and loving God have created that world instead of the world he did create where people are free but choose to do evil far too often.

Why, in other words, didn't God create the best world he possibly could? For God to have done less is to have deliberately created a world in which some people would suffer terribly, and then, if the Christian view of hell is true, spend eternity in further torment, when he could have created a world in which no one would suffer from moral evil and no one would choose hell. People would be free to choose in this world and would always choose to love God and each other. So, if that world is a possible world, one which God could have created, why didn't he create that world instead of this one? The fact that he didn't, it is alleged, is powerful reason to conclude that God is not perfectly good.

Faced with this question the theist is put in a difficult spot. He can plead that at this point our ability to understand God's ways simply fades out, or he can resort to something like Alvin Plantinga's concept of trans-world depravity, a flaw that afflicts every human in any possible world in which humans exist, and thus makes it impossible for God to create a world in which free people always choose to do right, or he can say that perhaps one of the things that is beyond God's power is to know what free beings will choose in a future which does not yet exist.

In this latter view, the world God fashioned may well be the best possible world he could have created, consonant with the existence of human freedom. Given that God desired to create a world in which humans were free, he had to accept that although he knew all possible outcomes, he didn't know for sure how man would choose to use his gift of choice. Would man use it to love or to hate? In order to have creatures to love, God took a tremendous risk. He knew the stakes and deemed them worth it.

As was said earlier, despite the advantage of providing an answer to the question why God didn't create some other world than the one he did create, there are serious difficulties with this theory and for that reason many theologians and philosophers think it to be on balance not worth the cost of what has to be given up in order to embrace it. Some have even called proponents of the "Open Future" idea heretics. I myself am open to the argument but am sympathetic to the objections of the traditionalists. Perhaps, readers can shed some light here. I invite anyone who's interested in pursuing it to contact us through our Feedback option.

The argument that evil is a consequence of human freedom, to the extent that it is persuasive, only accounts for why there is moral evil. It doesn't explain the existence of natural evils such as accidents, famines, disease, etc. These will be discussed in another post.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Dr. Strangelove

Here's interesting news. Apparently deployment of our missile defense shield has begun. Perhaps this will cause the chuckleheads in Pyongyang and Beijing to think twice before they decide to launch offensive nuclear missiles.

Of course, there are those who are skeptical about whether the missile defense system can actually perform as it's supposed to, and for all I know their doubts may be warranted, but this particular argument strikes me as silly:

The interceptors have not proven their reliability, hitting targets only five times in eight tests, said Philip Coyle, former assistant secretary of operational test and evaluation at the Pentagon. He said they failed even when using advanced information "an enemy would never give us," including when they were launched.

Coyle's objection seems to be that since this first generation of missiles can only succeed against 60% of incoming ICBMs that therefore the system is useless. I don't think he would say that if North Korea launched a ten missile attack against the West Coast and Coyle happened to be living in one of the six target cities that was spared because of the deployment of a less than perfect defense system.

In fact, though, the system doesn't have to work perfectly to be useful. Merely the uncertainty it creates in the minds of the war planners on the other side is itself a deterrent, a deterrent that one cannot put a price tag upon.

Coyle goes on to pile another strange argument atop his previous effort:

"It's not something you want to depend on in real battle," said Coyle, now a senior adviser at the Center for Defense Information, a Washington, D.C., think tank. "It's also misleading to say we don't have any defense now." If U.S. troops saw a "country building a missile, they would blow it up on the ground. They would never wait to see if it was launched."

Is Coyle saying that we're better off depending solely upon a preemptive strike than we are by having a backup option? Furthermore, haven't North Korea and China already built several dozen missiles? Did Coyle call for us to bomb them when they were being built? Should we do it now?

Moreover, these missiles are not usually constructed out in the open with bullseyes painted on them. To preemptively destroy them, assuming that were politically feasible, would require inserting ground troops, which would doubtless precipitate an all-out war. Nice alternative. What think tank is this guy with?

Thanks to No Left Turns for the tip on the story.

Sharing the News

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost has some interesting thoughts on Christian evangelism. Reading it, I wondered how many people accept the Gospel because someone just walked up to them and invited them to give their life to Christ? I suppose it happens and I suppose some of those commitments are enduring, but I still wonder even so if, on balance, that approach is more often seen by the "target" as insulting and simple-minded.

I think Carter is exactly right when he says that:

Our evangelistic mission, therefore, is simply to share with others the "good news" that they too can know what we know. Sometimes this will require us "sharing our faith" by telling others about our own experiences. Other times it can mean removing the "worldview underbrush" that prevents them from seeing clearly what they, by disposition, can and should know. Most times, though, it will simply mean living as if we really believed that the gospel truly is good news for believers right here, right now, and not just in the hereafter.

His tongue-in-cheek conclusion also resonates:

While I believe some forms of evangelism are ineffective if not downright counterproductive, I don't want to presume to say how God can or cannot spread the "good news." It is quite possible that He could use such methods as prayer cards or religious tracts to bring the lost to salvation and redemption. In fact, I believe that it's even possible that he might be able to use evangelical Christians to further the work of his Kingdom. Not likely, perhaps, but possible. The Lord can, after all, work miracles.

Good stuff.

Rule Britannia

While the big mucky mucks of the rest of the world's countries sit in their air conditioned offices sipping dry martinis and lamenting the abominable behavior of the hated Anglo-Saxons in Iraq, tens of thousands of people are being systematically slaughtered, starved, and tortured to death in the Sudan.

Which of the self-righteous nations so happy to scorn the despicable rube George Bush and his lacky Tony Blair is taking the lead to do something about it? Is it a Muslim nation? The French, perhaps? The Russians? The Chinese?

Has the United Nations done much more than wring their collective hands over the African unpleasantness? Has Kofi Annan given the Sudanese government an ultimatum to stop the killing or face the terrible swift sword of U.N. intervention?

If you thought that any of these answers had even a chance of being correct you suffer from terminal naivete.

The only world leaders who appear prepared to do what's necessary to save the poor wretches in Darfur are, well, guess.

Rule Britannia

While the big mucky mucks of the rest of the world's countries sit in their air conditioned offices sipping dry martinis and lamenting the abominable behavior of the hated Anglo-Saxons in Iraq, tens of thousands of people are being systematically slaughtered, starved, and tortured to death in the Sudan.

Which of the self-righteous nations so happy to scorn the despicable rube George Bush and his lacky Tony Blair is taking the lead to do something about it? Is it a Muslim nation? The French, perhaps? The Russians? The Chinese?

Has the United Nations done much more than wring their collective hands over the African unpleasantness? Has Kofi Annan given the Sudanese government an ultimatum to stop the killing or face the terrible swift sword of U.N. intervention?

If you thought that any of these answers had even a chance of being correct you suffer from terminal naivete.

The only world leaders who appear prepared to do what's necessary to save the poor wretches in Darfur are, well...guess.

The Media as Wil E. Coyote

Despite a heavy barrage of media criticism of President Bush's claim that there were connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaida, the president and Vice-President Cheney have remained adamant in their defense of their claims. The president seemed to back off a little but not much and the vice-president has insisted that the media criticism has been unfair on this as well as other matters.

When the preliminary 9/11 Comission staff report was released last month the media jumped all over the statement that there had been no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Iraq and al Qaida and accused the president of misleading the nation into thinking there was. Bush, however had only claimed that there were ties between the two, not that Iraq was directly involved in 9/11 or any other terrorist act against the U.S. Now the full report is out and the media has egg on their faces yet again. Like the coyote trying to snare the road runner, every stratagem they employ to discredit Bush simply backfires.

Byron York has done the pick and shovel work, digging through the voluminous product of the Commission's efforts to bring us their findings regarding Iraq's links to al Qaida. A couple of excerpts:

Now, with the release of the commission's final report, it is clear what Hamilton and Cheney were talking about. The final report details a much more extensive set of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda than the earlier staff statement. It also modifies the original "no collaborative relationship" description, now saying there was "no collaborative operational relationship" (emphasis added) between Iraq and Al Qaeda. And it suggests a significant amount of contact and communication between the regime of Saddam Hussein and the terrorist organization headed by Osama bin Laden.

The details found in the report - which in footnotes are attributed to a variety of secret U.S government intelligence documents - suggest a new way of thinking about Iraq and al Qaeda. Bin Laden had been forced out of Sudan and into Afghanistan. When it appeared he might have trouble with the Taliban, he looked to Iraq as a possible source of assistance. Iraq, at the time interested in closer ties with the Saudis, said no. Later, as his troubles with the United States grew, Saddam reconsidered, and offered bin Laden a safe haven in Iraq. This time, bin Laden turned Saddam down, not because of any conflicts with Iraq but because he thought he had a better deal in Afghanistan.

With that background in mind, the reasoning employed by American policymakers in early 2002 as they planned the next step in the war on terrorism, comes into clearer focus. The U.S. had toppled the Taliban but had not caught bin Laden and some of his top aides. Without a friendly regime in Afghanistan to protect al Qaeda, where might bin Laden and his band of terrorists go next? One possibility - a quite reasonable possibility - would be a place that had offered them haven in the past: Iraq.

For the details behind this summary, and the evidence of the connection between bin Laden and Hussein, read the whole column. No one interested in Bush's justifications for OIF should miss it.

Viewpoint is thinking of taking up a pool, the proceeds to go to the reader who correctly guesses how long it will take for the media to apologize for treating the president as if he had the integrity of a Kerry foreign policy advisor.

The Company We Keep

Go here for an outstanding piece in the New York Sun on Sandy Berger's role in the Clinton White House and national security. Some excerpts:

In other words, according to the commission report, Mr. Berger was presented with plans to take action against the threat of Al Qaeda four separate times - Spring 1998, June 1999, December 1999, and August 2000. Each time, Mr. Berger was an obstacle to action. Had he been a little less reluctant to act, a little more open to taking pre-emptive action, maybe the 2,973 killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks would be alive today.

That Senator Kerry had Mr. Berger as a campaign foreign policy adviser even before the archives scandal is enough to raise doubts about the senator's judgment.

Neither Mr.Berger nor any other American is to blame for the deaths of Americans on September 11, 2001. The moral fault lies only with the terrorists, not with the victims.With the war still on, one can't help but to ponder who might best defend the country going forward, and how.

The last sentence reminds me of Machiavelli's caution that a Prince should be judged by the quality of the people with which he surrounds himself. Three of John Kerry's foreign policy advisors, Joe Wilson, Richard Clarke, and Sandy Berger have all been shown in recent weeks to be either dishonest or lacking sound judgment, or both. As the Sun asks, what does that tell us about Kerry?

Friday, July 23, 2004

Nuclear Iran

Charles Krauthammer gives us a glimpse into what will almost certainly be one of the first matters the Bush administration will have to address if it is reelected in November: What to do about Iran.

A question Viewpoint wishes someone would ask John Kerry is what, exactly, he proposes be done about a state which supports terrorism, is exceptionally hostile to the United States and Israel, and which is, by its own admission, soon to be in possession of nuclear weapons. Kerry can't fall back on some vague mumblings about a multilateral approach and involving the U.N. since that's what the Bush administration is trying now with notable lack of success.

Kerry's realistic choices seem limited to attempting to ignite a revolution, military preemption against Iran's nuclear facilities, or doing nothing. The first doesn't seem as likely to succeed as we had hoped last spring, the second is pretty much what Kerry has been criticizing Bush for over the past two years, and the third puts the world at a risk that we simply can't accept.

Krauthammer's analysis of the problem is very good. Some excerpts:

The fact is that the war critics have nothing to offer on the single most urgent issue of our time - rogue states in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Iran instead of Iraq? The Iraq critics would have done nothing about either country. There would today be two major Islamic countries sitting on an ocean of oil, supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction - instead of one.

Two years ago there were five countries supporting terror and pursuing WMDs -- two junior-leaguers, Libya and Syria, and the axis-of-evil varsity: Iraq, Iran and North Korea. The Bush administration has just eliminated two: Iraq, by direct military means, and Libya, by example and intimidation.

There may be no deus ex machina. If nothing is done, a fanatical terrorist regime openly dedicated to the destruction of the ``Great Satan'' will have both nuclear weapons and the terrorists and missiles to deliver them. All that stands between us and that is either revolution or pre-emptive strike. Both of which, by the way, are far more likely to succeed with 146,000 American troops and highly sophisticated aircraft standing by just a few miles away - in Iraq.

Iran cannot be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. If people like John Kerry had had their way in the spring of 2003 we would be in a far weaker position today to do whatever it is that needs to be done to prevent it, and if John Kerry has his way in November what needs to be done probably won't be.

God and Time

One of the questions that arises among people who enjoy talking about the philosophy of religion concerns the relationship between God and time. Does God exist in our time? If not, is He outside time altogether or does He exist in his own, supernatural, temporality? I thought of this as I read an excerpt from a book by Kitty Ferguson entitled The Fire In The Equations: Science, Religion and the Search For God. at Belief Net.

Since our time is part of the creation and coterminous with it, and since God transcends the creation, it seems likely that although God may enter our time, He is not restricted to it or constrained by it. We may deduce that our time, cosmic time, is part of creation, i.e. the cosmos, by asking this: If there were no motion and no matter to move, if there were no thing at all, could cosmic time exist? If so, what, exactly, would it be that is existing? How would its existence be discerned? Since it's difficult to imagine time apart from matter in motion, or some sort of change, it seems reasonable to suppose, although it can't be proven, that our time came into being when space, matter, and energy did. Thus scientists talk about the "space-time" universe.

If we assume, then, that God is outside our time then we might ask further whether God is cognizant of our past, present, and most intriguingly, our future. Many theists hold that the concept of omniscience imputed to God entails that God must know the future, but if so, can humans have free will if God knows what they will choose?

We can frame the question in the form of an argument:

1.God knows today that I will do X tomorrow.
2.God is omniscient and therefore cannot be mistaken.
3.Therefore, I must do X tomorrow. I am not free to do Y.

When put this way it certainly seems as if God's knowledge of the future determines my choice, since I cannot be free to do Y if God knows I am going to do X. But there is something odd about this. Certainly, if God knows I will do X then I will do X , but it doesn't follow that God's knowledge determines my choice. Might it not be that my choice determines God's knowledge?

Consider the following propositions:

1. I am free to choose X or Y tomorrow.
2. God knows today which choice I will make tomorrow.

Let's stipulate that I freely choose X tomorrow.

This set of propositions is logically coherent, that is none of them is logically incompatible with any of the others, as far as I can tell. The conclusion which follows from them is simply that:

3. God knew today that I would freely choose X tomorrow.

Put this way there's no contradiction between my free choice and God's foreknowledge. In fact, God's foreknowledge may be seen as a consequence of my choice rather than my choice being an inevitable consequence of God's foreknowledge. Since it's possible to frame the argument this way it's at least possible that there is no contradiction between God's omniscience and human free will.

This does not satisfy some who can't shake the notion that if God knows X will happen, then X has to happen. It is certainly true that if God knows X will happen then, of course, X will happen, but confusion settles in because we tend to think of God as existing within our temporal frame of reference, but because God is outside our time it could be, as I've said above, that the event X causes God's knowledge, not the other way around.

If this is difficult to grasp think about it this way: Each of us knows what other people did yesterday, but we don't think our knowledge determined their behavior. Their behavior was chosen by them yesterday and the choice was unaffected by the fact that we know about it today. So knowledge of a choice doesn't necessarily determine the choice. The problem is that knowledge of a choice prior to its occurrence is different in kind than knowledge of a choice after it has occurred. This is true of us, embedded as we are in cosmic time, but if God is outside of cosmic time, it may not be true of Him.

If God is outside of our time, past and future are all in His present. Our past and future may well be temporally the same to God. Whether He is looking "back" at the past or "forward" into the future, it's all "present" to Him. Thus, if looking "back" doesn't determine what people chose in the past, looking "forward" may not determine choices either. In other words, It's possible that the choices God sees us make determine the content of His knowledge, His knowledge doesn't determine our choices.

For some theologians, however, the whole question of God's foreknowledge is moot. They argue that to say that God is omnipotent is to say that God can do everything that it is logically possible to do, but one thing that may not be logically possible is to know with certainty today what a free agent will do tomorrow.

This view is not very popular among orthodox theists, especially evangelical Christians, among which group I count myself, because it seems to diminish to too great an extent the sovereignty of God, and it is also difficult to reconcile with Scriptural passages which manifestly foretell choices which people will make centuries later. Few Christian thinkers, particularly evangelical thinkers, wish to sacrifice their belief in the Divine inspiration of the Bible on the altar of a philosophical speculation.

Advocates of the "Open Future" hypothesis reply to these concerns by asking how God can possibly know what someone will choose to do in the future unless their behavior is somehow determined? How can God know an indeterminate future that has yet to occur? If God knows the future doesn't that imply that the future somehow exists? If so, where, exactly, does it exist?

I confess I have read no fully satisfying answer to these questions. I also confess that, although I tend to hope that God does know the future, I find a certain allure in the notion that He does not. The reason for the attractiveness of this view for me is that it offers a possible answer to one of the most vexing of apologetic questions. The troubling question arises out of attempts to reconcile God's goodness and power with the existence of evil in the world, but a discussion of that topic will have to wait a couple of days.

Kofi Fiddles, Sudanese Burn

How many have to die before the U.N. acts? The Sudan is Rwanda all over again and, as then, Kofi Annan dithers. Meanwhile the U.S. is trying to do something to stop the killing of African Christians by a Muslim militia called Janjaweed, but the usual suspects are thwarting our efforts once more. From the article:

One problem is strong lobbying by the Arab League and others against any kind of sanctions or military intervention. The United States has had difficulty getting a resolution adopted that would threaten a travel and arms ban within a month if Sudan did not comply.

Of course, the United States could act "unilaterally", but the domestic secular left, which cares little about the suffering of black Christians in Africa but cares enormously about rendering America militarily impotent in the world, would doubtless make this very difficult politically. Add to the political difficulties the U.N.'s hurt feelings over Iraq which evidently trump the moral imperative to do something to bring relief to the suffering in the Sudan, and you have a recipe for inaction.

"We are still dealing with Iraq. We are not out of Iraq yet," Annan said.

So there the delegates sit, arms folded, a scowl on their faces, adamantly refusing to protect tens of thousands, even millions, of starving, disease-ridden women and children because the United States grew weary of their failure to do something about the horrors occurring in Iraq (and Bosnia and Kosovo and Rwanda) and finally did it ourselves.

"Any discussion of intervention in Sudan would be looked at very carefully by governments and I am not sure how quickly and how enthusiastically one would get support for that initiative. We have to be very clear on that," Annan said.

In other words, not enough Christians have died yet for the secularists and Muslims in the General Assembly to regard this as worth getting serious about. In a response to a question about the possibility of military intervention to stop the butchery of thousands of African Christians by a Muslim militia called Janjaweed, Annan displays in a single sentence the complete irrelevance of the United Nations, the absurdity of the Democrat criticism that George Bush failed to get U.N. permission to depose Saddam Hussein, and his own nincompoopery:

Annan said Sudan had been warned not to [use Janjaweed members as policemen]. "It is a 'no-no' for them to induct Janjaweed into the police force,"

A "no-no"?! I guess that will make the thugs in Khartoum think twice about helping the militias commit their genocide. Next Kofi will make them sit in a corner for a time-out. No wonder Saddam was so contemptuous of U.N. resolutions. And this is the body to which the Democrats want the United States to subordinate its national sovereignty and interests?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Intelligent Design

Joe Carter over at Evangelical Outpost has an interesting debate going about Intelligent Design and Methodological Naturalism for those Viewpoint readers with a philosophical turn of mind who are interested in the question of how life arose. Warning: Some of the comments are pretty technical but Joe's arguments are relatively brief and easy enough to understand by a non-specialist who has read a little bit on the topic.

A Force For Evil?

According to this Fox News report 40% of Canadian youth think the U.S. is a force for evil in the world. Youth can be forgiven their stupidity, but the Canadian media and educators who instill this nonsense into callow minds cannot.

If Canada's youth wish to see real evil in action they might simply read this news report. The United Nations, determined to show the U.S. why it should withdraw from this tawdry organization forthwith, voted 156 to 6 with ten abstentions to approve a resolution calling upon Israel to heed an International Court of Justice ruling that called upon them to tear down the barrier that has reduced terrorist attacks by 90% and saved the lives of countless Israeli women and children.

Unfortunately, the spared lives are evidently of no moment to the august delegates in Manhatten, who voted, in effect, to have the murders resume. Their rationale was that the wall is working a hardship on Palestinian landowners in some regions, but one would think that if that were really their concern the U.N. could bring other resources to bear to mitigate the hardship. Instead, the U.N. prefers to salve the suffering of the Palestinians by adopting measures that can only insure that more Israelis will die.

Only Israel, the U.S., Australia, Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands voted against this odious resolution. Where was Canada? Canada was too busy teaching its youth that the U.S. is a force for evil in the world to vote against a resolution which would deprive Israel of any means of protecting its citizens from the savages who wish to blow them to bits. In a display of moral courage they abstained.

Isn't it past time that the United States washed its hands of this absurd institution? America should join together with those nations which pledge themselves to the values of equality under the law, freedom of religion, press, and speech, representative government, free and open elections, and establish an alternative to the United Nations. The U.N. is little more than a bunch of thugs masquerading as statesmen and we should no longer be party to the charade.

Wilson, Berger, and Chirac

Marty Peretz, editor-in-chief at The New Republic has some thoughts on a variety of matters including the Joe Wilson and Sandy Berger affairs as well as the attitude of the French toward their own Jewish population. About the Wilson episode he says this:

[I]n a lot of dining rooms where I am a guest here, there is outrage that someone in the vice president's office "outed" Ms. Plame, as though everybody in Georgetown hadn't already known she was under cover, so to speak. Under cover, but not really. One guest even asserted that someone in the vice president's office is surely guilty of treason, no less--an offense this person certainly wouldn't have attributed to the Rosenbergs or Alger Hiss, Daniel Ellsberg or Philip Agee. But for the person who confirmed for Robert Novak what he already knew, nothing but high crimes would do.

Regarding Sandy Berger he asks:

So my question is: Did Berger, who knew that he was under scrutiny since last fall, alert Kerry to the combustible fact that he was the subject of a criminal probe by the Justice Department and the FBI? My guess is not. Kerry is far too smart, too responsible to have kept him around had he known. But if Kerry didn't know, it tells you a lot about Berger, too much, really.

Perhaps another question Mr. Kerry might wonder about is this: Evidently Bill Clinton knew that Berger, an important advisor to Kerry, was under investigation, so why didn't he tell Kerry about it?

On the French, Peretz notes this troubling anecdote:

[Chirac} demonstrated in an off-hand remark that, for him, neither Jews nor Muslims, for that matter, are really genuinely French: "we are witnessing racial events involving our Jewish and Muslim compatriots. ... Sometimes just simple Frenchmen are attacked." This is an ugly dichotomy. But it is not new. After the terrorist bombing of the rue Copernic synagogue on October 3, 1980, Raymond Barre, the French prime minister, alluded to this "odious act which intended to strike Jews [and] struck innocent Frenchmen." Of course, Chirac and Barre are from the center-right and right where anti-Semitism has always nested. But such views are now a staple of the oh, so enlightened left, as well. French hatred of Jews now goes wall-to-wall. And French hatred of Israel, too. A few days ago, France went into a frenzy to mobilize the countries of the European Union at the UN to vote "yes" on the General Assembly resolution calling on Israel to take down the security barrier it is building against Palestinian terror. Many fatuous reasons were mustered to support this demand. But the real reason that France and some others oppose the fence is that it works.

There's more at TNR Online.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Nukes Found in Iraq?

I don't know if this UPI story is true, but if it is it could change the entire course of the presidential campaign. It'll be interesting to see how the Democrats and the media handle this report if it is confirmed.

Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves

Several weeks ago Viewpoint suggested that the array of individuals supporting John Kerry should give others leaning in his direction pause. We wrote that:

Undecided voters who might be considering a vote for John Kerry in November should ask themselves what it is about the Massachusetts senator that has won him the support of pornographers like Howard Stern and Larry Flynt, Hollywood ditzes like Barbra Streisand and Michael Moore, raving wild men like Al Gore and Howard Dean, the Communist Chinese, North Korea, Vietnam (Hanoi), and the French. What do they all know that maybe the rest of us should?

Now we can add to this list of disreputable characters the names of Joe Wilson, a Kerry advisor, and arrant slanderer, Whoopi Goldberg, whose sleazy put downs of the president were so offensive and vile that her corporate sponsor, Slim-Fast, dropped her from its celebrity endorser list, and most recently Sandy Berger, former National Security Advisor under President Clinton and, until last night, current advisor to Senator Kerry, who purloined documents dealing with matters of national security by concealing them in his pants and socks.

Berger calls his behavior an honest mistake. He inadvertently left the archives, he claims, with documents stuffed in his socks and down his drawers. The Dems want to laugh all this off, but they would be howling in outrage had it been a Bush administration official who stole the papers. Not only does their reaction to this incident, or rather their lack of reaction, evince a deep hypocrisy in the Democrat party, it also suggests that we may infer that this sort of behavior falls within the bounds of the Democrat standards for honesty. Berger is like a shoplifter with merchandise stuffed in his socks, trying to convince the police that he inadvertently left the store with the items, that he certainly didn't intend to steal them, and the Democrats seem to be okay with that.

Rather than expressing dismay that so many of their friends and political allies seem grossly deficient in either taste or integrity, they respond to this last incident by fretting instead about the "timing" of the revelation about Berger's conduct, as if that somehow is more nefarious than the conduct itself. It's no wonder the Democrats insist that character doesn't matter for public servants. If it did, a sizable number of them would be rendered ineligible.

George Bush can take comfort that people like these hate and oppose him, because people have always despised those who are morally superior to themselves. He can take comfort that so many feel impelled to lie about him, to utter the most mean-spirited and vile slanders about him. People do this because they know that they can't merely tell the truth about the man since the truth is not going to alienate voters from him.

People often feel indicted by another man's strength of character, by his integrity. His virtue is a mirror that constantly reminds them of their own inferiority, and they detest not themselves for being less, but they detest him for being better. Their jealousy doesn't motivate them to rise to his level, but rather it motivates them to drag him down, to discredit him, ruin him.

Destroying a man is one way to exert power over him and the exercise of power is the only way some people know to compensate for the character they themselves lack. If a man is better than they, they wish to destroy him. They can't tolerate a man whose very existence condemns them. They will project their own pathologies onto him in an attempt to prove that he's not really as virtuous as he seems. Thus they accuse Bush of lying to the world about Iraq when, in fact, the only evidence that people have lied points back to them. This is a sickness, a depravity which seems to reside deep in the human heart, and it's the root of so many of our social and political ills.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Terror and Liberalism

One of the silver linings of vacationing in a Central American country during the rainy season is that there is ample time to read. Having spent the last ten days in Costa Rica where it rained fairly often I had the good fortune to have along a copy of Paul Berman's best-seller Terror and Liberalism which does an outstanding job of helping the reader understand the nature of the battle with the forces of radical Islamism in which we are currently engaged. Berman's book is interesting, easy to read, and all the more compelling because Berman himself is a man of the left who is dismayed by the reaction of most leftists, both here and in Europe, to the war against terror. He notes in his preface the irony of millions of leftists marching in the largest mass demonstrations in history two years ago in an effort to prevent the overthrow of one of the worst tyrannies of the modern age. Even more incongruous, he adds, is that deterring the U.S. from deposing Saddam Hussein was seen as "the correct stance for every true friend of the downtrodden."

Berman himself is, in his words, one of maybe fifteen or twenty people in the country who are both pro-war and left-wing, and much of his book is given to explaining how the bulk of the ideological left, which began as a champion of the poor and oppressed, came to so passionately defend the most brutal of tyrannies, not just in Iraq, but in earlier times, also in the Soviet Union and even in Nazi Germany.

Berman's argument is complex and I will scarcely be able to do it justice, but it distills to this: There is in the human heart an impulse to rebel, to rebel against God, to rebel against authority. That impulse led millions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries into mass movements of rebellion, such as communism and fascism, which evolved into totalitarian tyrannies and ultimately into cults of death. He argues that this sociopathological pattern is universal and expresses itself in cultures other than the European. What we're seeing in the Muslim world is an Islamic version of the European model.

Berman traces the evolution of the Baathi and the radical Islamists, two separate but parallel expressions of the totalitarian impulse, to the writings of Muslim scholars like Sayyed Qutb in the 1950s. He shows how both of these versions of Muslim totalitarianism have followed the logic of Qutb's thinking to become mindless, irrational mass movements drenched in blood and terror, and implacably hostile to the liberal values of the West. Following the trajectory of the earlier European movements, contemporary Islam, or at least a major portion of it, has become obsessed with killing and death.

In a chapter titled Wishful Thinking Berman explains why liberalism has been so blind to the threat these murderous totalitarianisms have posed in both the past and the present. He suggests several reasons. One is that liberals simply cannot believe that millions of people could possibly choose such an irrational path. Perhaps, they convinced themselves in the 1930s, the media was lying about Hitler, or the Bolsheviks. Perhaps today the media is being duped by corporate interests, and the jihadis are really not the threat that they are being made out to be. Perhaps if we could talk with them, understand their grievances, aid them in overcoming their suffering instead of threatening them, they would gladly lay down their arms. Surely, these people don't really despise the values we cherish: individual freedom, equality under the law, tolerance, separation of church and state. Surely they are not so unreasonable as to wish to kill us just for the pleasure of killing us. And so on.

In other words, although Berman doesn't put it quite this way, the left is convinced of the truth of the secularist assumption that man does indeed live by bread alone and that if only material conditions were optimal people would behave rationally. Put another way, the left has for at least eighty years been in denial about the low appeal for most of the world's peoples of the liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and rationality. They have been in denial about the true nature of the human heart and the power of the non-rational compulsions, convictions, and obsessions which drive men all over the globe to commit genocide. Liberals, having long ago abandoned religion, cannot bring themselves to believe that evil actually exists, except perhaps in the Republican party, and cannot understand the hold that religious beliefs and motivations have on millions of Muslims.

What is worse, in my view, is that liberals tend to see the real enemy as anyone who possesses a realistic understanding of the nature of those who wish to do us harm and who are willing to fight to prevent it. This behavior horrifies the left because they are like the fellow in school who lives in fear of the tougher kids and who resents, even hates, any of his peers whom he thinks might provoke the bullies to start throwing their weight around. Like herd animals resigned to having the wolves now and then take a few of their number from the margins of the flock, they hope that by making themselves inconspicuous the predators will leave them alone.

If that doesn't work perhaps the wolves can be appeased somehow. Maybe if we disarmed and showed them we mean them no harm their hatred for us would be mollified. The left, in its naivet�, is completely oblivious to the utter contempt this response engenders in the mind of the wolf. The wolf simply sees all of it for what it is, an acknowledgement of weakness and a confirmation of the rightness of their cause and their strategy.

Bush and Blair have refused to go along with this politics of fear, instead they have swatted the Islamist hornets' nest with a stick, and the left at home and abroad loathes them for it. "Look what you've done!" they protest, "Now the wolves will really hate us!" In a strange, neurotic twist of an old aphorism, the left declares the enemy of my enemy to be my enemy. Thus it despises anyone who actively opposes the Islamist cult of death. It despises anyone who would seek to liberate millions of people from savage oppression if by doing so we risk offending those whose sole ambition in this life is to destroy America.

The Jews, the Americans, and anyone else they think the Islamists hate, the left also hates in the hope of ingratiating themselves with those who are eager to slaughter them. The left, Berman writes, has undergone a strange transformation. "They had begun [In the 19th century] as defenders of liberal values and human rights and they evolved into defenders of bigotry, tyranny, superstition and mass murder." They started as liberal democrats and themselves became allies and de facto sympathizers with fascists.

Berman gives many examples of this phenomenon, but one in particular stands out. He describes an episode at the 2002 Socialist Scholars Conference in New York where a substantial crowd listened to an Egyptian novelist defend a female Palestinian suicide bomber who had recently committed mass murder by blowing herself up in a crowd. When the novelist was finished praising the young woman the audience burst into applause. Applause for such a horrible crime is a symptom of a deep-seated sickness of the soul, but as Berman, citing Camus, points out, the left has always had a strange fascination with, and attraction for, violence, at least as long as it is not directed at them.

Berman's book is a powerful indictment of the modern left's hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy as well as a lucid presentation of the historical evolution of radical Islam. I urge anyone who is interested in trying to gain a better grasp of either of these to read the book in its entirety. Every page is enlightening, although his gratuitous plinking at George Bush at the end of the book is an unfortunate and transparent attempt to reaffirm his leftist bona fides. Nevertheless, both conservatives and liberals will profit from reading this work. You can obtain a copy of Terror and Liberalism by contacting our good friends at Hearts and Minds Bookstore here.