Monday, June 8, 2009

Capitulating to Tyranny

The North Koreans, like the Iranians, appear determined to possess nuclear weapons, and the Obama administration appears determined to let them. President Obama has declared his resolve to work toward a world free of such weapons and has committed the U.S. to gradual disarmament, but nothing could be more counterproductive to his plan than to stand by while these two terrorist states develop their own weapons of mass destruction.

The refusal to take more than mere diplomatic measures almost guarantees that the neighbors of these two countries will feel the need to arm themselves to counter the existential threat they'll be facing.

Look for Japan to soon begin rebuilding its military and to seek its own nuclear capacity and the Arab Gulf states, Turkey, and eventually Iraq and South Korea will surely do likewise. Obama's acquiesence to the nuclear ambitions of rogue states all but guarantees that the entire Middle East and Pacific rim will become volatile nuclear tinder boxes.

We might expect, too, that as nuclear weapons proliferate they'll eventually find their way into the hands of Islamic terrorists and start going off in places like Tel Aviv, Seoul, and New York City. Over time they'll spread to South America via Venezuela and Cuba. The president has made it clear that his policy with regard to tyrannies is to speak softly and carry a nerf bat, and the world's thugs have taken gleeful notice.


Stockholm Syndrome

Andy McCarthy at National Review Online links us to a piece that you just have to laugh at even at the risk of being labelled "insensitive." McCarthy calls our attention to an article in The Brussels Journal about a lefty Dutch journalist, Joanie de Rijke, who "went to Afghanistan to conduct a sympathetic interview with Taliban jihadists who had just killed 10 French troops. Naturally, she was abducted and serially raped for six days. And now she is angry ... not at the chief Taliban thug - who showed her "respect," though, regrettably, "he could not control his testosterone" - but at the Dutch and Belgian governments who refused to pay the $2 million ransom the jihadists demanded."

Not only are the governments of Belgium and Netherlands getting heat over their refusal to play along with the Taliban extortion, but minister of Parliament Geert Wilders is the object of European opprobrium for a speech he gave on this incident to the Dutch Parliament. In the speech Wilders said:

"She was raped, but she was not angry. The journalist who went looking for the Taliban in Afghanistan saw her curiosity end in a cruel ordeal of multiple rape. While this would make others angry or sad, this journalist shows understanding. She says: 'They also respected me.' And she was given tea and biscuits."

"This story" Wilders went on to say, "is a perfect illustration of the moral decline of our elites. They are so blinded by their own ideology that they turn a blind eye to the truth. Rape? Well, I would put this into perspective, says the leftist journalist: the Taliban are not monsters. Our elites prefer to deny reality rather than face it. One would expect: a woman is being raped and finds this unbearable. But this journalist is not angry because the Muslim involved also showed respect. Our elites, whether they are politicians, journalists, judges, subsidy gobblers or civil servants, are totally clueless. Plain common sense has been dumped in order to deny reality. It is not just this raped journalist who is suffering from Stockholm syndrome, but the entire Dutch elite. The only moral reference they have is: do not irritate the Muslims - that is the one thing they will condemn."

The Brussels Journal then notes that:

Rather than trying to refute Wilders, the Dutch establishment attacked him, accusing him of "immorally abusing de Rijke's ordeal for his own political goals."

Her reaction confirms precisely what Wilders was trying to say. In reality the Taliban are not monsters because they call themselves Taliban, but because they behave like monsters. People like de Rijke, however, no longer judge people by their behavior and their actions, but condone them for the noble motives which they imagine have driven them to commit their acts. As Wilders said, "They are so blinded by their own ideology that they turn a blind eye to the truth."

Those who have been abducted and suffer from Stockholm syndrome usually have not placed themselves in danger willingly. They had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The phenomenon illustrated by the case of Joanie de Rijke is that of people who for ideological reasons deny the existence of danger and subsequently put themselves in danger. Unlike ordinary Stockholm syndrome sufferers they do not begin to shown signs of loyalty to the criminal while in captivity, but have already surrendered to the criminal before their captivity, and, indeed, have ended up in captivity as a consequence of their ideological blindness.

And so, in a way Joanie de Rijke is right. She did not develop Stockholm syndrome while in captivity. She had the syndrome even before she left for Afghanistan. It is natural that she should resent her state of mind being described as Stockholm syndrome, because she considers it to be the state of mind of a righteous and intelligent modern intellectual. It is the state of mind which she shares with almost the entire political and intellectual class of Europe today, that of the hostage to political correctness.

The Brussels Journal article is worth reading in its entirety. It contains further details about Ms de Rijke and her experience, some of them funny and none of them flattering.


The Canaanite Genocide

A reader writes to ask my thoughts on the stories in the Biblical Old Testament that recount God's commands to the Israelites to slay every man, woman, child, and animal of the Canaanites (e.g. see Deut. 20:16: "[I]n the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave anything alive that breathes."). Nothing could be more unChristian, more contrary to the God that Jesus reveals in the Gospels, than the behavior God commands in this passage. How, a lot of people wonder, can we reconcile this savagery with the Christian view of God?

This is the toughest question, in my opinion, with which a skeptic can challenge a Christian. I don't know that there's any satisfactory reply, and every answer of which I'm aware has serious shortcomings and/or implications. Consequently, the tendency is to simply push the problem out of one's mind. Few preachers discuss it in their sermons, and, I suppose, many laypersons simply ignore those parts of the Bible which describe the horrific killing that God ostensibly commanded of His people as they prepared to occupy the Promised Land.

I don't have an answer, at least not a good one, to the question of how to reconcile the Old Testament Yahweh with the God revealed in Jesus, but for those who are interested here are some of the explanations on offer from theologians. Perhaps one of them is correct:

1) The Old Testament record is, in this respect at least, inaccurate. The Israelites claimed to be acting on the command of God as a way of rationalizing their atrocities, but they were either mistaken about God's will in this matter or they were deceitful. God did not, in fact, ordain this behavior.

The problem with this approach is that it entails that the Old Testament, or at least parts of it, are not inspired and inerrant in the sense that Christians have traditionally believed.

2) God is sovereign and can do whatever He wants.

This is certainly true, but it doesn't address the problem. The question that cries out for an answer is why a good God, the God revealed in Jesus Christ, would want to do something so cruel and why He would have human beings participate in the brutality.

3) The Canaanites were so wicked that they deserved death and the Israelites, God's chosen people, were simply the agents of His judgment.

But what could be just about slaughtering terrified women, children, the aged, and the infirm? Did they "deserve" death? John Wesley declared that to attribute such atrocities to God is an outrage against His character and makes Him "more false, more cruel, and more unjust than the devil."

And why would God use human beings to execute such cruelties? What effect did it have on Israelite soldiers to put children to the sword? Why did He not simply handle the chore Himself or send plagues as He did against the Egyptians just a few decades earlier?

Moreover, if anything is absolutely wrong, i.e. wrong regardless of circumstances, it's genocide, but if God authorized the complete elimination of a race of people then all moral and ethical absolutes are relativized and all distinctions between good and evil become meaningless.

4) We only know part of the story. If we knew all of the details God's reasons would be more comprehensible.

This is an attractive option and it may be the truth, but it carries at least the scent of a cop-out about it. We are given no reason to think that there's more to the story than what we're told, at least no more that would change the moral complexion of it.

Moreover, its hard to imagine what additional facts there could be that would make God's command more comprehensible and more compatible with the God of justice, love and mercy that the New Testament portrays.

5) There's no answer. It's an inscrutable mystery. Just trust God and don't worry about it.

This is an appeal to fideism, or blind faith. No matter what the difficulties might be we're urged to ignore them and refuse to allow them to crowd into our noetic structure. I find this suggestion difficult to heed. I don't think God gave us minds merely to have us disengage them whenever we encounter tough questions.

Perhaps there are other possible explanations that readers could come up with for Deuteronomy 20 and passages like it. If so, please feel free to send them along via our Feedback page.


The Cairo Speech

A worshipful media, or at least large segments of it, have been cooing over the Obama trip to the Middle East in general and his "historic" Cairo speech in particular. Not all journalists, however, are bending the knee. Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post has an excellent analysis of what the President said and some fascinating thoughts on what she fears his intentions are vis a vis Israel and Iran.

Ms Glick sounds a little bit too angry in the column for my taste, but then, if she's correct, perhaps she has reason to be. Here's an excerpt from her essay:

[President Obama] spoke of the need to grant equality to women without making mention of common Islamic practices like so-called honor killings, and female genital mutilation. He ignored the fact that throughout the lands of Islam women are denied basic legal and human rights. And then he qualified his statement by mendaciously claiming that women in the US similarly suffer from an equality deficit. In so discussing this issue, Obama sent the message that he couldn't care less about the plight of women in the Islamic world.

So, too, Obama spoke about the need for religious freedom but ignored Saudi Arabian religious apartheid. He talked about the blessings of democracy but ignored the problems of tyranny.

In short, Obama's "straight talk" to the Arab world, which began with his disingenuous claim that like America, Islam is committed to "justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings," was consciously and fundamentally fraudulent. And this fraud was advanced to facilitate his goal of placing the Islamic world on equal moral footing with the free world.

In a like manner, Obama's tough "truths" about Israel were marked by factual and moral dishonesty in the service of political ends.

On the surface, Obama seemed to scold the Muslim world for its all-pervasive Holocaust denial and craven Jew hatred. By asserting that Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism are wrong, he seemed to be upholding his earlier claim that America's ties to Israel are "unbreakable."

Unfortunately, a careful study of his statements shows that Obama was actually accepting the Arab view that Israel is a foreign - and therefore unjustifiable - intruder in the Arab world. Indeed, far from attacking their rejection of Israel, Obama legitimized it.

The basic Arab argument against Israel is that the only reason Israel was established was to soothe the guilty consciences of Europeans who were embarrassed about the Holocaust. By their telling, the Jews have no legal, historic or moral rights to the Land of Israel.

This argument is completely false. The international community recognized the legal, historic and moral rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel long before anyone had ever heard of Adolf Hitler. In 1922, the League of Nations mandated the "reconstitution" - not the creation - of the Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel in its historic borders on both sides of the Jordan River.

But in his self-described exercise in truth telling, Obama ignored this basic truth in favor of the Arab lie. He gave credence to this lie by stating wrongly that "the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history."

He then explicitly tied Israel's establishment to the Holocaust by moving to a self-serving history lesson about the genocide of European Jewry.

Even worse than his willful blindness to the historic, legal and moral justifications for Israel's rebirth, was Obama's characterization of Israel itself. Obama blithely, falsely and obnoxiously compared Israel's treatment of Palestinians to white American slave owners' treatment of their black slaves. He similarly cast Palestinian terrorists in the same morally pure category as slaves. Perhaps most repulsively, Obama elevated Palestinian terrorism to the moral heights of slave rebellions and the US civil rights movement by referring to it by its Arab euphemism, "resistance."

Be sure to read the rest. It's very insightful.

My biggest problem with the President's approach to the Arab world is that he seems to be all too eager to apologize for America's conduct vis a vis Muslims when in fact the United States has been the best friend Muslims have ever had.

It's only America's restraining hand on Israel's shoulder that has kept Israel from utterly destroying its Muslim enemies in Gaza and Lebanon. In the early 90s we rescued Kuwait from the rape and pillage of Sadaam Hussein's troops and intervened to save Muslims in Bosnia and Croatia from what would have surely been a genocidal holocaust. In the current decade we sent hundreds of millions of dollars to help Muslims devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami. We've spent millions more to bring relief to African Muslims suffering the ravages of incompetent and corrupt government. More recently we liberated 50 million Muslims from oppression and tyranny in Afghanistan and Iraq.

All of this has cost Americans in blood and treasure. No nation in the world, certainly no Muslim nation, has done as much for other Muslims as has the United States and yet President Obama mentions none of this. Like most on the left, Mr. Obama can see only American missteps and faults and seems blind to the many facts which contradict his worldview. No wonder Glick sounds angry.


Contemporary Child Abuse

Mona Charen discusses some disturbing statistics about marriage and child-bearing in America:

The number of babies born to unmarried women in 2007 (over 1.7 million) was 26% higher than it was in 2002.

Forty percent of all births in America are to unwed mothers.

Unwed motherhood is primarily a phenomenon of those who can least afford it. In 2000 less than one mother in ten who had 16 or more years of education was unmarried, but 36% of mothers with between 9 and 14 years of schooling were living without husbands.

By the age of 12, 78% of children living with no live-at-home father have experienced one or more years of poverty. For children living in intact families it's only 18%.

Babies born to unwed mothers are more likely to be premature, suffer low birth weight, and other pathologies. They will have poorer school performance, be in more trouble with the law, suffer more emotional and mental disturbances, more physical and sexual abuse, and more likely to become unwed parents themselves.

I remember reading somewhere that the one thing most men have in common in our prisons is not race, socio-economic background, or level of education. It's that almost uniformly they grew up without a father at home.

A lot of people seem to think that having two biological parents at home with their children is optional, but unwed motherhood is, according to the statistics, a form of child abuse and should be stigmatized. Our cultural elites, however, are so heavily invested in the idea that a diversity of family structures is a proper goal of a progressive society that it'll be a long time before unwed motherhood is treated with the same degree of opprobrium as is, say, exposing a child to second-hand smoke.


Climate Fascists

Our friends on the left sometimes affix bumper stickers to their autos which say things like "Dissent is Patriotic," or "Resist Authority," or they recite (or used to recite) Voltaire's famous maxim about how "I may disagree with what you say, but I'll fight to the death for your right to say it." Noble sentiments, these, and typically American. The problem is that too many on the left don't mean a word of it.

Marc Marano at Climate Depot catalogues the many threats and other forms of intimidation that have been leveled against those who've expressed doubt about one aspect or another of the current global warming enthusiasm. Public figures who harbor reservations about the severity or the cause of climate change have been threatened with death, loss of their jobs, and imprisonment. It's astonishing that anyone, even on the left from whence we've come to expect demands for ideological conformity, can hold free speech and dissent in such low esteem.

Of course these forms of intimidation are exactly the tactics typically employed by Nazi brownshirts and other fascists, past and present. It's yet another example of why the new left are really the new fascisti. This modest proposal, for example, recently appeared on Talking Points Memo, a mainstream left-wing blog:

At what point do we jail or execute global warming deniers

What is so frustrating about these fools is that they are the politicians and greedy bastards who don't want a cut in their profits who use bogus science or the lowest scientists in the gene pool who will distort data for a few bucks. The vast majority of the scientific minds in the World agree and understand it's a very serious problem that can do an untold amount of damage to life on Earth.

So when the right wing f***tards have caused it to be too late to fix the problem, and we start seeing the devastating consequences and we start seeing end of the World type events - how will we punish those responsible. It will be too late. So shouldn't we start punishing them now?

This post has since been taken down, but Morano offers lots of other examples from the last couple of years, including calls for Nuremburg-style trials for those heretics and other deviants who fail to conform to the current orthodoxy. It's frightening to think that in the United States, the home of freedom of speech and the right to dissent, there are people who believe that if you don't go along with the program, if you're skeptical of authority, you should be executed or otherwise punished.

The sound you often hear when you visit these lefty neighborhoods in the blogosphere is the sound of glass breaking.