Politics, et Cetera

A publication from The Political Forum, LLC

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

They Said It:

[A]nti-Americanism is the religion for people who hate religion. It comes complete with a devil (the United States); sacred texts (I, Rigoberta Menchu, The Communist Manifesto, etc.); saints (Noam Chomsky, Mumia Abu-Jamal); zeal (in putting together my book I was attacked, subjected to a book burning, and ejected from a conference for dissent); and many of the other characteristics that we find in various faiths.

Anti-Americanism, however, provides none of the social good that most religions provide, and it is of course a false faith as well. Why is America hated even within the West? America is hated because its existence contradicts the mistaken theories so passionately held by a significant portion of Western intellectuals. Is capitalism a failure? Theorists say so, but American reality proves otherwise. Is Christianity an intolerant religion? The Left answers affirmatively. Yet, the American experience proves otherwise. People of any faith can practice their religion in America–the Western nation where churchgoing is most popular. Go to countries run by men of other faiths, and the same tolerance is not reciprocated.

Is racism a peculiarly American problem? The Left believes this. America, however, is where most immigrants of color choose to go. Were the Haitian boat people that arrived in Miami in late October a gang of masochists? Listen to the Left’s rhetoric about America and that is a conclusion you might draw. What the Left touts in theory, the American experience refutes in practice.

Dan Flynn, the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia, in “Anti-Americanism,” by Jamie Glazov, FrontPageMagazine.com, November 11, 2002.

 

EBOLA AND GETTING IT GOOD AND HARD.

Several weeks ago, you may recall, we addressed the growing international crisis posed by the massive outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa.  And in the roughly six weeks since we discussed the matter, the crisis has metastasized dramatically, prompting calls from countless international health organizations for a global effort to prevent an extraordinary mass casualty event.

As it turns out, the fact that this outbreak is already a humanitarian disaster and could become a much, much wider one is America’s fault.  Seriously.  If only the Americans, selfish and disconnected as they are, had paid even slightest bit of attention to Africa, the problem could have been nipped in the proverbial bud, and everyone could have gone on to live nice, normal, happy lives.

Now, we know what you’re thinking.  It might make more sense, you figure, to blame this outbreak on the essential primitiveness of African society.  No clean water, no clean streets, no clean linens, no basic knowledge of hygiene, etc.  Likewise one could just as easily blame the disaster on the economic corruption and backwardness of the members of the African governing class, who have done everything in their power over the last several decades to ensure that they and their ilk accrue the bulk of the meager economic benefits their countries produce while their fellow countrymen remain so poor as to need to eat bats and monkeys and thus to ingest the virus in the first place.  Heck, one could even blame the whole thing on God, or fate, or . . . whatever.  Sometimes, bad things happen to good people and there’s nothing that anyone can do to stop it.

But, of course, in this messed-up world of ours, that which makes the most sense is almost always the last account to be identified.  It is far easier and far more satisfying to identify a culprit and then to insist that he or she be held responsible, particularly if said culprit is the evil old United States.

As the headline atop a Business Insider article written by one Lauren Friedman put it, “We Screwed up on Ebola, And Now the Crisis is Getting Much Worse.”  As proof of this damning negligence, she quoted Ken Isaacs of the Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse who, she said, sounded “outraged as he castigated the United States for mostly not paying attention until two American Samaritan’s Purse workers fell sick in late July.”  To wit:  “The Ebola crisis was not a surprise to us — we saw it coming back in April.”

Of course, Isaacs wasn’t alone.  Nicholas Kristof, this generation’s resident “oh my!” at the New York Times, put it this way last week:

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is a tragedy.  But, more than that, the response to it has been a gross failure.

It’s a classic case where early action could have saved lives and money.  Yet the world dithered, and with Ebola cases in Liberia now doubling every two to three weeks, the latest worst-case estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is that there could be 1.4 million cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone by late January.

We would never tolerate such shortsightedness in private behavior. . . .

We know how to confront the Ebola virus.  In Uganda, an excellent American-backed prevention initiative trained local health workers to recognize the virus and stop it from spreading, so, in 2011, an Ebola outbreak there stopped after just a single case.

We also know from our catastrophic mishandling of AIDS a generation ago — or the mishandling of cholera in Haiti more recently — that it’s imperative to stop infectious diseases early.  Yet the reaction to the Ebola outbreak after it began in December in Guinea was a global shrug. . . .

We invest vast sums to address national security risks that have a military dimension, hence President Obama’s decision to renovate the American nuclear arsenal at a cost that could reach $1 trillion over three decades.  So let’s remember that infectious diseases can also constitute a national security threat.

Our shortsightedness afflicts so many areas of public policy.  We spend billions of dollars fighting extremists today, but don’t invest tiny sums educating children or empowering women, even though that’s the strategy with a solid record of success at reducing extremism in the medium term — and even though we can finance at least 20 schools for the cost of deploying one soldier abroad for one year.

Our usual reaction to rants such as this is simply to dismiss them as the work of anti-American cranks – you know, the kind of people who would become “journalists” for the New York Times.  As the late, great Jeane Kirkpatrick noted, whatever the problem, “they always blame America first.”  This may be especially the case with Kristof, who doesn’t seem to think that there’s a problem in the world that can’t be solved if Americans would just get off their lazy butts and do something about it – whatever “it” is.  Of course the Ebola outbreak is America’s fault.  What isn’t?

In this case, though, we didn’t reject the criticism offered by Kristof and others as quickly as we might otherwise have.  In this case, after all, they weren’t just complaining that America didn’t do enough.  They were complaining that the American military didn’t do enough; griping that the American military wasn’t employed quickly enough to stop the problem.  This is a slightly different complaint, we think, which means that it requires a somewhat different response.

On the off chance you didn’t know, the United States military, at the direction of President Barack Obama, will deploy some 3,000 troops to West Africa to battle the deadly Ebola outbreak.  That’s right.  The President insists that there will be no “boots on the ground” in Iraq.  But Liberia?  Why not!  At least four American DOCTORS have contracted the disease while aiding the West Africans’ struggle, but that’s no reason not to drop in a bunch of 18, 19, and 20 year-old kids and hope that they do well and remain safe.  American troops began arriving this past weekend and will, as the Wall Street Journal reported, play a critical role in addressing the epidemic:

The American military effort against history’s deadliest Ebola outbreak is taking shape in West Africa, but concerns are mounting that the pace isn’t fast enough to check a virus that is spreading at a terrifying clip.  On Saturday, a handful of troops from the Navy’s 133rd Mobile Construction Battalion led a bulldozer through thigh-high grass outside Liberia’s main airport, bottles of hand sanitizer dangling from their belt loops.

They had been digging a parking lot in the East African nation of Djibouti this month when they received a call to build the first of a dozen or more tent hospitals the U.S intends to construct in this region.  The soldiers started by giving the land a downward slope for water runoff—”to keep out any unwanted reptiles,” said Petty Officer Second Class Justin Holsinger.  While this team levels the earth, superiors hash out the still-uncertain details of the American intervention here….

In a speech at the United Nations on Thursday, Mr. Obama criticized the international response thus far and said other donors — governments and organizations — need to step up quickly with aid.  “Right now, everybody has the best of intentions, but people are not putting in the kinds of resources that are necessary to put a stop to this epidemic,” he said.  More nations urgently need to contribute goods and services like health-care workers, equipment and air transport, he said.

On the one hand, we generally detest the idea of American troops being used in non-military operations.  On the other hand, the Ebola outbreak does appear to have national security implications, which means that the United States military may, indeed, be well within its mission here.

On the third hand – and more to the point – the American military is the only organization in the world capable of completing such a mission.  That’s not to say that we’re thrilled that such a mission has been undertaken or would like to see it repeated.  It’s just that if the American military doesn’t do it, no one will.  Barack Obama can sit up in Turtle Bay and scold the rest of the world for sitting on its hands, if he wants to, but that’s not going to change the facts on the ground.  And the most important fact is that no organization anywhere else in the world is capable of this type of force and resource projection.

Along these same lines, the US Air Force is currently running a recruiting ad noting a similar situation a few years back.  The commercial begins with an airman talking about how he was called in early in the morning and told to get ready to head off to Haiti.  While he is speaking, computer-generated graphics are used to show buildings crumbling all over the island nation.  The reference, clearly, is to Operation Unified Response, the US military’s response to the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

If you don’t remember, on January 12, 2010, Haiti was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that left much of the country in ruins and countless people in danger.  The Haitian government quickly pled for assistance from the United States, and within hours, two American Coast Guard cutters arrived at Port-Au-Prince.  By January 14, Air Force Special Operations units were in country and the Americans were in charge of rescue operations.  Within hours of arriving, the US Air Force had not only reached the Port-au-Prince airport, but had reopened it, having set up their own air-traffic control operation.  This, in turn, allowed shipments of supplies, food, etc. from other countries to make it to the Haitians.  When all was said and done, a Rand Corp. review of the operation concluded that the American military had saved lives.  “The operation was unquestionably effective,” the Rand authors wrote, “in that many more lives would doubtless have been lost without the assistance.”  In its end-of-year issue on the world’s 100 most influential people of the year, Time magazine wrote the following:

When chief master sergeant Antonio “Tony” Travis arrived at the Port-au-Prince airport shortly after January’s earthquake, there was only one usable runway, the air-traffic-control tower was structurally unsafe, and 42 aircraft were grounded in a space designed for 12.  Time was of the essence: the Haitians were in dire need of supplies that had to be brought in by air, but the damage meant that far fewer planes could be accommodated.

In only 28 minutes, Chief Travis set up a makeshift air-traffic-control operation located midfield.  Working from a card table, often standing on chairs, he and his team deftly took control of the arrivals and departures.  Under his leadership, planes were able to take off and land every five minutes, bringing in 4 million lb. of supplies.  For Haitians unable to get to the capital, his team surveyed and controlled four remote drop zones, providing 150,000 bottles of water and 75,000 packaged meals to people who had no other means of survival.

Again, this is an operation that only one organization in the world could have accomplished, the US military.  It’s not just that no one else did what the American armed forces did in Haiti, it’s that no one else could have done what they did.

What’s most fascinating and ironic about all of this is that the very people who are most upset with the United States for not fixing the Ebola problem when it “should” have been fixed are the very same people who think that the American military is too big, too well funded, too insistent on sticking its big, ugly nose in where it doesn’t belong.  The political Left – in this country and around the world – shrieks endlessly about how the American military budget is too massive and about how it is entirely unnecessary and unproductive for American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, to play the role of “world cop.”  And yet it is the political Left – in this case the likes Nicholas Kristof and Barack Obama – that is the first to jump up and insist that someone needs to do something about Ebola, or the earthquake in Haiti, or the tsunami in Indonesia . . . or whatever.  And it never occurs to them that it is precisely the global cops who are best suited and best situated to do that something, whatever it may be.

The key belief in the Left’s approach to American foreign affairs for decades now is that which posits that American internationalism serves only the purpose of American interests.  And this, in turn, makes that internationalism illegitimate, despite the fact that all the rest of human activity since time immemorial has been self-interested.  And yet, it’s hard to imagine what, exactly, the United States gets from shipping 3,000 of its young men and women into the heart of the Ebola pandemic.  Likewise it’s hard to imagine what it gets from sending its troops to the earthquake, hurricane, tsunami, fire, brimstone, and locust-ravaged areas of the world to save lives.  Sure, it gets the satisfaction of helping people and, hopefully in the West African case, of stopping a crisis before it goes global.  But these are hardly tangible, national-interest related benefits, and, moreover, they are benefits that accrue to everyone in the world, despite the fact that the risks are borne by only a select few.

As we have noted several times in these pages, before the US armed forces served as the world’s policeman, that role was filled by the British navy.  Like the Americans, the Brits have long been disparaged for taking on this burden.  The “empire” was self-serving.  It was racist.  It was unfair and dismissive of native populations and customs.  It was the white man’s conceit crystalized.  And yet, the British navy routed the Barbary pirates, led the successful campaign against Napoleon, destroyed the caliphates of North Africa, crushed the imperial Ottoman navy, ended the Atlantic slave trade, and helped civilize much of the world.  Without the British global police, in short, the world would have been a much darker and uglier place.  Still, the Left – and Barack Obama personally – despises the Brits for their sacrifice.

This past January, in our foreign-policy forecast piece, we noted that this would be the year in which the American non-interventionists finally got their wish and the US armed forces stopped being the designated cop on the global beat.  The results, we wrote, would be bad news for everyone – except, of course, the Americans themselves.  Specifically, we wrote:

The American far Left and far Right, along with much of the rest of world, have long talked about how they want the United States to mind its own business and to quit trying to play global policeman.  To paraphrase Mencken: They know what they want, and in 2014, they’re going to get it good and hard.

As it turns out, leaving the job is proving far more difficult than anyone imagined.  And yet, it should be obvious to anyone who has been paying even the slightest attention that the American retreat has been at least somewhat successful, if that’s the right term.  While the Yazidi and the Christians in Iraq were slaughtered; while American journalists in Syria were decapitated; while many thousands of men, women, and children were dying needlessly from Ebola in West Africa, the more taciturn and withdrawn Americans sat idly by and watched – at least until the respective crises grew too raucous to ignore.

The world, of course, complained.  The endangered people of the world cried out for help and none came or came too late.  Still, this is the way they wanted it.  This is the way the American president wanted it.  This is the way everyone said it should be.

And so shall it be.

We have to admit that we are of two minds on this matter.  On the one hand, we think that there is something of a “just desserts” phenomenon in all of this.  Get out of my country, Nouri al-Maliki insisted, only to find his country overwhelmed and in need of help once again.  Mind your own damn business, the United Nations told the United States several times, only to find that only the United States could deliver the kind of support necessary to stem the spiraling Ebola crisis.  Stop parading around the world like conquering emperors and start behaving with more circumspection, the editorial page of the New York Times scolded, only to see the world crumble when precisely that was done.  I’m going to end the wars abroad and begin “nation-building at home,” Barack Obama declared, only to find that he could do no such thing, or at least that he could no such thing and still sleep at night.  (And lo, if he were serious, and actually tried to “nation build” at home, he would eventually have to turn to the U.S. military to lead the effort.) The world, in short, is only beginning to learn what post-Pax-Americana looks like.  And this is what the world deserves.

On the other hand, none of the people who are suffering for the sins of the anti-Americans are themselves anti-American.  The Yazidi were immensely grateful for the help that came, even as they were bitter that it took so long in coming.  The people of West Africa are likewise thrilled to see American soldiers in their midst, bringing supplies, water, and most of all, hope.  None of these people asked for the Americans to go home.  And none of them deserve to suffer because others, better educated, more powerful, and yet woefully more ignorant than they, have created conditions that make life worse for everyone.

It’s truly tragic, if you think about it.  Because of the willful conceit of an ideology-addled elite, many more of the world’s people will suffer and die unnecessarily.  This elite wanted the Americans to step back, and once one of its own was in a power, step back he did.

Going forward, we expect that tragedies like the one unfolding in West Africa today are going to be more and more common.  While the leaders of the erstwhile free world prattle on about the “climate change,” issues that might once have been handled quickly and effectively by more attentive leadership will spiral quickly out of control.

In this light, it is, we think, worth recalling a story from roughly six months ago that has been all but forgotten in the interim, a story that suggests how well the “global community” will be able to handle crises such as ISIS and Ebola in the near term future.  We turn once again to the nation’s paper of record, the employer of Nicholas Kristof, for the details:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to shrink the United States Army to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets in a new spending proposal that officials describe as the first Pentagon budget to aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001.

The proposal, released on Monday, takes into account the fiscal reality of government austerity and the political reality of a president who pledged to end two costly and exhausting land wars.  A result, the officials argue, will be a military capable of defeating any adversary, but too small for protracted foreign occupations.

Officials who saw an early draft of the announcement acknowledge that budget cuts will impose greater risk on the armed forces if they are again ordered to carry out two large-scale military actions at the same time: Success would take longer, they say, and there would be a larger number of casualties. Officials also say that a smaller military could invite adventurism by adversaries.

C’est la vie, we suppose.  Or is it c’est la guerre?

 

THE SCOTS AND “STUFF.”

We neither know nor care much about Scotland and its present nationalist spirits.  Nevertheless, we wanted to make a few brief comments about the failed Scottish independence vote of two weeks ago, if for no other reason than the vote typified much of what is wrong with Western civilization today.  The Scots, who are purportedly fiercely independent, nevertheless voted against independence.  We were not surprised by the results, despite the global fears that the Scots would indeed end their alliance with England and thus end that which is known as “Great Britain.”  Indeed, we thought the results all too typical and in a way disheartening.

Now, please don’t get us wrong.  We don’t favor the dissolution of Great Britain.  Indeed, we tend to think that the devolution of power from London to Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish realms was one of Tony Blair’s battiest ideas.  We think that the end of Great Britain would have been a tragedy for everyone involved and that the whole idea of an independent Scotland was stupid from the start.

That said, we can’t help but think that the “no” vote was something less than a triumph for Western civilization.  Rather, we think it was a sad and dispiriting portent of things to come throughout the Western world.

Once upon a time, Western politics was characterized by class conflict, capital vs. labor, rich vs. poor, the aristocracy vs. the meritocracy, and all of that.  No longer is this the case.  Instead, class conflict has largely been replaced by pure crass materialism.  Ideology has been supplanted by pure and undiluted greed.

The “poor” are no longer fighting for their way of life and for the right to make a living and for class solidarity.  The rich are no longer fighting for the most productive use of resources and for the fruits of their own investment or for the moral truths embodied in the right to own and accumulate private property.  Everyone is just fighting for stuff.  The poor, as a rule, don’t care about the innate value of work or the effect of idleness on the human spirit.  The rich, as a rule, don’t care about opportunity or fairness or their moral obligations to their fellow man.  They all, both rich and poor, care about getting as much of the proverbial pie as is possible.  It’s all about what’s in it for them, personally.

In a very real way, the Scottish “no” vote confirms the rise of crass materialism as the driving force in Western politics.

Great Britain, as a whole, is a rather massive and sterile welfare state.  And of the constituent parts, all save England are far worse off than the whole – which is to say that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are even more massive and more sterile welfare states than the UK.  Scotland in particular has become a symbol in Great Britain of a province that takes more than it pays and thus provides its people a high degree of comfort with the expectation of almost nothing in return.

Under the current welfare and pensions regime in Great Britain, the Scots tend to do very well, recipients of more in welfare than they pay in taxes and also beneficiaries in greater amount and fashion than their English counterparts.  In a Daily Mail piece five years ago, the conservative activist Harry Phibbs noted the following:

In 1978 the then Labour Government brought in as a ‘temporary measure’ the Barnett Formula, devised by the Chief Secretary of the Treasury – at the time Joel Barnett.  Essentially for every pound the UK government distributes for spending around the country, 85 pence goes to England, 10 pence goes to Scotland and five pence to Wales.

With five million people, Scotland now has 8.3 per cent of the UK population.  It results in Scotland getting £1,600 more per head than England.  The funding gap has sharply widened in recent years – it was £1,100 per head in 2002.

The Scots rub it in by using the spare Government spending to provide free prescription charges, to scrap tuition fees, and to provide extra funding for local councils to enable a Council Tax freeze.  So the English are paying for the Scots to have things they can not afford for themselves.

Even Joel Barnett himself is now against the Barnett formula, recognising it to be unfair.  But the Scots MPs in charge of the British Government dare not scrap it – they have their constituents to keep sweet.

The nationalist Scots, for their part, argue that they could survive and even thrive independently from England, using the North Sea oil profits as a foundation for a well-funded government.  This is not an unreasonable notion on the surface, unless of course, one considers the fact that North Sea production has passed its peak and is expected to decline dramatically over the next decade.  More to the point, it doesn’t address the fact that Scotland is, in many ways, an economic basket case.  The resource-driven model of economic development has proved rather dicey and certainly has done nothing to help the populations of the countries in which it has been practiced.  At best it provides temporary material well-being – at the cost of genuine and widespread economic progress.

The failed Scottish independence vote was, undoubtedly, the result of many factors.  With no exit poll data, however, we will never know which of those factors played the most important role.  Nevertheless, we suspect that economic fear, and especially fear of losing the welfare “birthright” played a significant part in the outcome.  The Scots were simply unwilling to give up their “stuff” in return for independence.  So they didn’t.

Frankly, no one should be surprised by this.  The Scottish spirit, once embodied by the likes of Adam Smith, James Watt, and Alexander Graham Bell, has been broken by the post-War welfare state.  The Scots can barely be counted on to reproduce, much less to create a dynamic society rich with opportunity and excitement.  In a piece penned nearly a decade ago, the inimitable Mark Steyn noted the unlikeliness of Scottish independence based solely on the unlikeliness of the Scots being able to rouse themselves to grab their political freedom.  To wit:

Consider the following headline from the Scotsman the other week: “Teaching jobs in doubt as pensioners set to outnumber pupils by 2009.”

This was a story by Peter MacMahon, the paper’s “Scottish Government Editor”, and it begins thus: “Scotland’s demographic time bomb will explode in three years, when the number of pensioners north of the Border overtakes the number of children in school, the Executive has been warned.”

Seems straightforward enough: the country’s demographic death spiral is accelerating faster than expected.  And, as far as the Scotsman is concerned, the alarming thing about this development is that it could put cushy state teaching jobs “in doubt”.

For crying out loud, man, get a grip.  It puts every job “in doubt”.  It puts the continued existence of your country “in doubt”.  And it means the Scottish National Party is going through the motions: nobody needs a Scottish nation if there are no more Scottish nationals.  See you, Jimmeh?  Not for much longer.

Indeed, the remarkable feature of contemporary Scottish nationalism is that it has achieved all the features of a failed nation state without achieving the status of a nation state.  “Teaching jobs” are the least of it.  And doubtless the unions will see to it that, even when there is only one wee scrawny bairn left in the whole of Scotland, platoons of teachers will still be manning abandoned elementary schools across the kingdom.  The jobs-for-life public-sector employee stood on the burning deck whence all the boys had fled. . . .

Scotland is the canary in the United Kingdom’s coal mine, but, given that three of the four component parts of the realm are mired in the same bloated, dead-end dependency culture, it would be foolish for the English to assume they won’t get stuck with the bill for a Celtic fringe decaying into a long-term geriatric hospice.  I doubt any Scot with an eye to electoral viability would want to run on anything that smacked of American conservatism, but surely they could at least learn something from Ireland, where, you will recall, Braveheart was filmed.  They could have shot it in Scotland, but the Scots are too busy shooting themselves.

Two weeks ago, the Scots were presented with a rare and glorious opportunity.  They had the chance to reclaim the independence for which their forefathers fought so hard and so valiantly.  They chose not to take William Wallace’s lead, preferring instead to keep their stuff.

And who, pray tell, can blame them?  No one in the West, certainly.  They feel the Scots’ pain.  They know well that the worst thing in the world would be to trade stuff for no stuff.  They wouldn’t do it.  Why should the Scots?

Materialism rules the day in the West.  The class wars are over.  Now and for the foreseeable future, it’s all about stuff.

Copyright 2014. The Political Forum. 8563 Senedo Road, Mt. Jackson, Virginia 22842, tel. 402-261-3175, fax 402-261-3175. All rights reserved. Information contained herein is based on data obtained from recognized services, issuer reports or communications, or other sources believed to be reliable. However, such information has not been verified by us, and we do not make any representations as to its accuracy or completeness, and we are not responsible for typographical errors. Any statements nonfactual in nature constitute only current opinions which are subject to change without notice.