Thursday, July 1, 2010

Looking for Violence in All the Wrong Places

A number of articles have appeared in the media expressing fear that Tea-Party protests will turn violent and that some TPers may be on the brink of doing something, well, Nazi-like. Meanwhile, there's been real fascism afoot - people being beaten, property being destroyed - and not much is being said about it on the port side of our media ship. Guess why:

Police say the incident began Wednesday morning when non-union construction workers attempted to gain access to the new Toys R Us site, but were blocked by protesting union workers.

When the victims were unable to gain access to the construction site, they drove to the area of the Transportation Center in the King of Prussia Plaza lot to wait for police assistance.

Authorities say while waiting for police to arrive, a black sedan pulled up and several white males exited with baseball bats and shattered both rear windows of the two work trucks. As the victims exited the trucks in fear, police say at least two were physically assaulted with the baseball bats. One of the victims was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for treatment.

Then, of course, there are the rioters at the G20 conference in Toronto:

Black-clad demonstrators broke off from a peaceful protest and torched a police cruiser in the financial district and smashed windows in a shopping district after veering off from the planned protest route.

A group, dressed all in black, smashed the windows of a bank, a coffee shop and some stores before heading to an area where Canada's largest banks are headquartered, smashing restaurant windows there.

Parenthetically, here's video of one Toronto citizen doing the job the police should have been doing:

Anyway, even when the liberal media reports these outrages but they do so almost sotto voce. There's very little commentary on the threat such behavior poses to our polity. Nor is it easy to find liberal commentators expressing revulsion at the penchant by the left for employing violence as a political tool. Why is that?

Perhaps if our journalistic wise men spent less time scrutinizing every protest sign carried by the grannies at Tea Party protests, seeking evidence of the smoldering bigotry and potential terrorism that they just know infects the movement, and spent more time focusing on union thugs and radical leftists who are actually hurting people and property, we'd all be a bit safer.

Exit question: The Toronto Blue Jays out of fear of left-wing violence, actually moved a home series with the Philadelphia Phillies to Philadelphia this past weekend. Can you imagine the Blue Jays moving a set of games out of town for fear of a Tea-Party demonstration?


Books That Changed Lives

Patheos has an interesting piece in which they invite various contributors to give an annotated list of the books that changed their lives. In the course of his selection Tim Dalrymple mentions a book whose thesis it is that atheism got started when Christians undertook to respond to challenges to present a philosophical argument for the existence of God. The book is Michael Buckley's At the Origins of Modern Atheism. Here's Dalrymple:

Buckley, a Jesuit scholar and professor, has the kind of fine-grained vision of the whole canopy of western theological and philosophical traditions that has all but vanished from the universities today. The path toward atheism began, he argues, when Christians suggested -- in order to defeat skeptics at their own game -- that they could, and must, provide a philosophical demonstration of the existence of God and the revelatory status of scripture before there could be any consideration of the God who reveals Himself within scripture.

Descartes, among others, proposed that the essential elements of Christian thought could be reconstructed essentially without the aid of the Holy Spirit, the witness of the church, and God's self-revelation in Christ; all that is required to demonstrate the truth of Christianity, he argued, is objective rationality reflecting upon its conditions and experience. Proving this proposition became the (hubristic) great task of modern philosophers, and the inability to find any such unassailable proof, when it was made to appear that this was the lynchpin upon which responsible assent to Christian faith must rest, has proven devastating beyond measure to western Christianity. If responsible rationality means believing only that which cannot be doubted, and it is not possible to construct an indubitable series of proofs for the whole of Christian belief, then our faith is an abdication of our responsibilities as rational beings.

I haven't yet read Buckley's book, but I have to say that I'm dubious about laying such enormous blame at the feet of those who desire to demonstrate God's existence. It's true that none of the "proofs" are airtight, but what of that? Suppose Christians had never made the effort to construct such arguments, many of which are compelling even if they do fall short of providing total certainty, would they not still be vulnerable to the charge that their faith is irrational because they refuse to argue for it?

It seems to me that the fault is not with trying to construct logical arguments but with the belief that unless one can prove apodictically that God exists one's faith that He does is irrational.

Anyone who would understand the rise of skepticism, agnosticism, and atheism in the modern west -- and every Christian who seeks to comprehend contemporary western culture should desire to understand these things -- should purchase Michael Buckley's book today and read it as soon as it arrives upon the doorstep. Christians were wrong to attempt to answer philosophically what were essentially theological questions, and wrong to abandon the witness and revelation that are intrinsic to its own tradition in the face of life's most fundamental problems.

Well, perhaps, but this is like saying that it's wrong to speak to others in a language they can understand. The attempt to persuade others requires that we talk to them in their own idiom and vocabulary, much as Paul did on Mars Hill. Throughout much of the last millennium this has meant talking to the very well-educated in the language of philosophical discourse.

It doesn't follow that because someone argues philosophically for the existence of God that that person bases his own faith on the success of his argument. It simply means that skeptics should be helped to see that even on the principle of rational thought which they accept reason is not necessarily their friend.

Maybe I just need to read the book.


Hunting Down the IED Makers

Strategy Page updates us on what's going on in Afghanistan with regard to the IED war and why Afghanistan IEDs are not the Iraqi IEDs:

June 28, 2010: The successful technique of concentrating on the leaders and technicians, to disrupt terrorist activities, is having an impact on the Taliban IED (improvised explosive device) campaign. More IEDs are duds (the exact number, and why, is kept secret so the enemy cannot fix their mistakes.) More IEDs are going off while being built. Afghanistan always had fewer bomb makers than the Islamic terrorists in Iraq. There, Saddam had trained thousands of his Sunni Iraqi loyalists to handle explosives and build bombs.

The Iraqi population is more literate than the Afghans, and thus easier to train in technical matters, like bomb building. Not surprisingly, much of the IED building in Afghanistan is being done by foreigners, especially Iraqi Sunnis who got out when their movement collapsed in 2008. It's easier to find these foreigners. Afghans have a thing about foreigners, especially Arabs (who tend to be particularly disdainful of these "Afghan hillbillies.") The Taliban leadership is almost all Afghan, and those running the IED operation (which involves thousands of people) have to communicate and move around to instruct, discipline and encourage the troops. This makes them easier to track and catch.

This tactic of going after the bomb builder techs and their leaders was pioneered a decade ago, when the Palestinians began their latest terror campaign against Israel. Within a few years, the Israelis had perfected their techniques, and crippled the Palestinian terror efforts. The U.S. adopted these tactics in Iraq shortly thereafter, and it played a large role in reducing the terrorist violence 90 percent by 2008. Now the tactic is arriving in Afghanistan, and having the same impact it did in Israel and Iraq.

There's more on military tactics in Afghanistan at the link.