Monday, December 1, 2008

Fish in a Barrel

News reports tell us that officials in our major cities are looking at how they would respond to a Mumbai-style terror attack. One hopes they realize that whatever measures they take to prevent such an attack their measures may fail, and they need to ask themselves, what then? One lesson to take from Mumbai is this: The carnage was high because the victims were completely defenseless. Had at least some of the guests in those hotels had access to firearms the casualty toll may have been limited to dozens instead of hundreds.

An unarmed population is a gift-wrapped present to terrorists. An armed citizenry, licensed and trained, presents a much more difficult challenge for those bent on mass murder. If terrorist planners knew that they would be likely to encounter armed resistance in Mumbai they may have considered the chance of success too low to be worth the effort. As it was they knew that, once they attacked the police station, killing civilians would be like shooting fish in a barrel. And it was.

Here's video of the capture of the one terrorist who was taken alive. Good thing they don't have an ACLU in India. Some of these guys would be in a spot of trouble. Also watch the Sky News segment on the "Snapper who captured the carnage on film". As you watch imagine that someone in those crowds of victims had been in a position to return fire:

One wonders how many of these horrors it will take before "moderate" Muslims, if such there be, become so embarrassed at what's being done in the name of their religion that they start screaming from the top of their lungs for their co-religionists to stop besmirching Islam. It's hard to imagine that these terrorists can undergo months or years of training without other Muslims catching wind of what's going on. Their silence makes them complicit even more than those German citizens who stood silent during the holocaust were complicit. The average German citizen had no recourse to authorities who would stop the genocide. There was nothing the citizens could do to stop the killing. That's not the case with Muslims who overhear talk in the mosques of preparations for a terrorist attack by people they know.


The Loss of Transcendence

Perhaps there's a tragic symbolism in Friday's trampling death of a Wal-Mart employee by a mob of Christmas shoppers. The mob broke down the doors, knocking the employee to the ground where he was kicked and stomped by the crowd as they rushed headlong into the store to lay their hands on some trinket.

When the holiday becomes a celebration of consumption, an orgy of spending, rather than the birth of the Son of God people no longer think much about good will and all that pious nonsense. All they want is the latest technological googaw to put a little significance in their otherwise empty lives, and heaven help whoever gets in their way.

Paramedics try to save the life of the Wal-Mart employee who was trampeled by shoppers last Friday.

The votaries of secularism have largely succeeded in draining the public observance of Christmas of any real meaning. They've emptied it of transcendence, mystery, and awe and every reason it once gave us to feel warmth and love toward our fellow human beings. They've left us instead with a day the meaning of which is to join the desperate throng stampeding like cattle to grab the latest gadget. The malls, our post-Christian cathedrals, do their part by supplanting the timeless, sublime beauty of Silent Night with tawdry assaults on the spirit of Christmas like Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer - a tragically apposite piece of inane seasonal flotsam.

We've been told for so long that, just as there's nothing transcendent about Christmas, there's nothing transcendent about us. We have no soul. There's no imago Dei. We're just naked apes, the accidental product of chance, chemistry and physics, so no one should be shocked when we act like the herds of dumb brutes that our intelligentsia insists we are.

Once upon a time the symbol of Christmas was a child, our Redeemer, lying peacefully in a manger, shrouded in peace, wonder and gentleness. After last Friday the symbol may well be a frenzied mass of mindless people crushing a man to death in their meaningless lust for material junk.


The Bush Legacy (Pt. I)

There are three spheres of life and politics in which the differences between conservatives and liberals are often expressed. These are social and domestic matters, fiscal management, and foreign policy. Socially, conservatives generally support traditional values, especially as they relate to the cluster of issues concerning family and sexual behavior, and they also favor localized control and decision making with regard to schools, etc. They tend to feel strongly, moreover, that judges should rule according to the original intent of the constitution and should leave law-making to legislators.

Fiscally, conservatives endorse low taxes, balanced budgets, low debt loads, and free markets.

On matters of foreign policy, conservatives are loath to embark on overseas adventures unless our national interest is clearly at stake, but once we are committed to an endeavor beyond our shores conservatives believe we should do all we can to prevail. They believe that a strong national defense is the best deterrent to war and that no negotiation with foreign powers will ever bring a resolution to disputes unless there lies behind those talks the credible threat of decisive force.

Liberalism pretty much holds the opposite views. Liberals tend to be progressive with respect to social issues. They're not reluctant to supplant traditional values with innovation, nor do they feel constrained by the original intent of the framers of the constitution, preferring to view that document as a "living guide" which must be interpreted in light of current social and philosophical fashion.

Fiscally liberals are fond of the idea of omni-competent government as the solution to all our most pressing national problems and they accordingly favor high tax rates, high spending, and centralized control of education and the marketplace.

In the arena of foreign policy liberals are, as a rule, much more inclined than conservatives to plunge us into conflict abroad. The progressive Woodrow Wilson took us to war in 1917, and, even without Pearl Harbor, FDR probably would have gotten us into war with Germany a quarter century later. The wars in Korea and Vietnam were both initiated by liberal Democratic presidents (Truman and JFK/LBJ) and it was another liberal president (Clinton) who got us involved in the Bosnian conflict.

So given this overview of the distinctions between the two ideological camps how might we evaluate the legacy of George W. Bush now that his presidency is coming to a close?

Observers of Mr. Bush's presidency are pretty much in agreement that he was neither a conservative nor a liberal, and Jeffrey Kuhner at the Washington Times gives us an excellent explanation why this is so. Kuhner writes:

For the past eight years, liberal conventional wisdom has held that Mr. Bush is a rigid right-winger, a Christian cowboy obsessed with an anti-government ideology and imposing an American world empire. Mr. Bush, however, is not a conservative imperialist; rather, he is a big-government nationalist, who has presided over the greatest expansion of the state since the Great Society.

Conservatives made a mistake in believing Mr. Bush was one of their own. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he erected a domestic bureaucratic monstrosity, the Homeland Security Department. He implemented the Medicare prescription drug plan - a massive, new entitlement program. He pushed for the No Child Left Behind Act, carving out an unprecedented role for the federal government in education. He refused to take on the big spending, corrupt, pork-laden ways of the congressional Republicans. Under Mr. Bush's watch, domestic spending exploded. Budget deficits have soared. The GOP is no longer the party of fiscal restraint and competence. The result: The party has become relegated to political minority status.

So, if we add to Kuhner's litany the huge financial bailouts being undertaken by the Bush administration it seems pretty clear that President Bush is clearly as fiscally liberal as any president we've ever had, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It's only his tax cuts that offer conservatives any solace in the realm of domestic economic policy.

We'll consider the rest of Mr. Bush's legacy tomorrow.