Politics, et Cetera

A publication from The Political Forum, LLC

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

They Said It:

The chief reason warfare is still with us is neither a secret death-wish of the human species, nor an irrepressible instinct of aggression, nor, finally and more plausibly, the serious economic and social dangers inherent in disarmament, but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene.

Hannah Arendt, Crises of the Republic, 1969.



You have to hand it to Barack Obama.  For all trouble he’s in, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor or his impeccable comedic timing.

You see, last week he and his crack team of toadies came to the shrewd realization that the American people were feeling a little restless; that his critics were taking on a lean and hungry look; that even his supporters were becoming nervous about his “cool hand Luke” approach to the three-headed scandal that was plaguing his administration.

Simultaneously, the investor class was beginning to wonder what will happen when Helicopter Ben is either defenestrated from the Federal Reserve chopper or runs out of bags of money to drop, while the rest of the country was still stewing over the fact that employment remains painfully low and that the “Summer of Recovery, Part IV” looks to be as preposterous and illusory as were the first three installments of that storyline.

So Obama did what any good comedian would do when the audience begins to boo.  He dug deep into his kitbag of old saws, focused his attention on the most antagonistic portion of the crowd, and fired back at them with his best material.  They could laugh or boo, but surely his fans would appreciate the chutzpah.

The audience was the National Defense University at Fort McNair.  And, among other things, Obama told them that he would urge the Congress of the United States to reconsider the now-12-year-old Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) that was passed in the days after 9/1l, arguing that it is high time to bring the “war on terror” to an end, to close America’s open-ended fight against radical Islam.  Specifically he said:

The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old.  The Afghan War is coming to an end.  Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self.  Groups like AQAP must be dealt with (sic), but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States.  Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.  So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.  And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further.  Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue.  But this war, like all wars, must end.  That’s what history advises.  That’s what our democracy demands.

The audience didn’t laugh.  But it must have appreciated the inside nature of the joke.  Because, you see, Barack isn’t in a position stop the war.  Only the other side can stop the war.  Obama had moved on to impressions and was doing his best rendition of Chief Joseph:  “I will fight no more forever.”  Surely the military guys would get it.  Right?

As always, Obama’s timing was excellent.  The audience had to appreciate that.   Balls.  The kid has balls.  Indeed, he gave the speech just a few short weeks after a pair Islamist killers from the Russian Caucuses blew up a handful of runners at the Boston Marathon, murdering three totally innocent people, including an eight-year-old boy who was waiting to congratulate his father as he crossed the finish line.  More to the point, he spoke only one day after a British soldier, Lee Rigby, was accosted on the streets of South London, not more than 200 yards from his ARMY BARRACKS, by two more Islamist nutcases, who proceeded to hack him death, while trying to decapitate him.

The two Islamist butchers, of course, stuck around a while, blood dripping form their hands, preaching to anyone and everyone with a cell-phone camera about the supremacy of Islam and about their plans to continue their fight until all infidels leave “our lands.”  The funny thing is that they spoke these words – “our lands” – with your standard London accents, thereby highlighting two key aspects of their slaughter: first, that they are home-grown terrorists; and second, that they consider the entire world – including the West – “their” lands.

Good stuff, dontcha think?  As the terrorists are gathering steam, like Mordor in the “Land of the Shadow,” boldly restating their intention to wage endless war against the West and IN the West, Barack Obama, comic genius that he is, insists that it’s time for the West to quit obsessing about “every collection of thugs” it encounters.  Gallows humor at its best.

On a more serious note, a great many observers fear that Obama wasn’t really joking, that he wasn’t simply trying to cheer up his sullen base, that he actually meant what he said.  They fear that the “most powerful man on earth” has, through a combination of ignorance and fecklessness, done his best to ensure that the side that will win this war is not the side that should win this war.  They worry  that he has forgotten, or never really understood, that the United States of America is the only nation on earth still capable of fighting and winning an epic, long-term, existential struggle against the forces of evil, forces with no conscience, no respect for human life, homicidal religious fanatics who are close to having atomic weapons in their arsenal.

Perhaps the most notable and most oft repeated critique is, as noted above, that the President does not seem to grasp that Islam is at war with the West, not the other way around, which is to say that simply declaring an end to hostilities will not make it so.  Andrew McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor of the first World Trade Center bombings, put it this way.  [emphasis in original]:

The president’s main point was that the war is nearing an end because . . . he wants it to be over . . .

Obama comes maddeningly close the bull’s eye.  Our enemies’ ideology, Islamic supremacism, is not, as the president contends, merely “a belief by some extremists”; it is a mainstream interpretation of Islam — indeed, it is the dynamic Islam of the modern Middle East.  But he is quite correct that it is the “larger cause” pursued by the “extremists.”

Significantly, he is also right in saying that the extremists’ ideology induces them to believe “Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West.”  But then comes two plus two equals five: According to Obama, that ideology must “of course” be a “lie” because “the United States is not at war with Islam.”

If I am an aggressor and I punch you in the nose, we are in a fight, even if you weren’t looking for a fight.  The fight does not end just because you insist you’re not in a fight.  The fight ends because you lose.  Your ostentatious display of not having a quarrel with me does not convince me to stop hitting you — although it may convince me to keep hitting you.

This much is true, of course.  The war with Islam will not end simply because Barack Obama says he wants it to end – even if his middle name is Hussein.  That’s  a joke, whether or not it is formally recognized as such.   It’s a little like saying that the war against communism ended on the day that the post-Watergate Congress decided to abandon the South Vietnamese.  Never mind the resultant slaughter and “re-education” in that country, the hundreds of thousands boat people and other refugees, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the invasion of Afghanistan, the Sandanistas, etc. etc., ad infinitum.

The immediate worry is that Europe, with its far larger and far more timid and browbeaten native population, will give in and give up.  And that in turn, will not only destroy “the West” as a coherent concept, but will also give the radicals far more operating room and far greater opportunity to launch successful strikes against American interests.

This fear makes a great deal of sense, especially given the events of last week.  Not only did two men slaughter a British soldier on the streets while dozens of onlookers did nothing; but to make matters worse, the British ruling class leapt immediately into the fray, denouncing anyone who would have the gall even to try to associate the murderers’ shouts of “Allahu Akbar” with Islam.  David Cameron, Britain’s allegedly “conservative” Prime Minister, denounced the slaughter as “not just an attack on Britain and the British way of life . . .[but] also a betrayal of Islam,” as if the murder of infidels is something completely and utterly foreign to the “religion of peace.”

Perhaps most disturbingly, it appears that while Rigby was butchered, London police stood by and watched, afraid to confront the terrorists, to protect and serve Lee Rigby, if you will.  They were unarmed, you see.  Wouldn’t want to carry a gun, old chap.  Might hurt someone.

Just days after the attack, however, in an effort to right this wrong and to prove that they do stand for something and can arrest someone, British law enforcement mustered up all its courage and went after the real bad guys.  The Daily Mail of London has the details:

A 22-year-old man has been charged on suspicion of making malicious comments on Facebook following the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby.

Benjamin Flatters, from Lincoln, was arrested last night after complaints were made to Lincolnshire Police about comments made on Facebook, which were allegedly of a racist or anti-religious nature.

He was charged with an offence of malicious communications this afternoon in relation to the comments, a Lincolnshire Police spokesman said.

A second man was visited by officers and warned about his activity on social media, the spokesman added.

It comes after 25-year-old Drummer Rigby was brutally murdered on a street in Woolwich, south east London, on Wednesday . . .

Flatters has been remanded in police custody and will appear before magistrates in Lincoln tomorrow.

The charge comes after two men were earlier released on bail following their arrest for making alleged offensive comments on Twitter about the murder.

Sadly, you can’t make this stuff up.

Meanwhile, further north, in the workers’ paradise of Sweden, the omnipresent but perpetually unidentified “youths” have been rioting in Stockholm for the better part of a week, burning cars, terrifying law enforcement, and engaging in general “hooliganism,” to borrow the phrase used by the Swedish Prime Minister.  These “youths,” of course, have a great deal in common with the young butchers from the streets of London.

Of course, we don’t want to get too specific about this charge because, you know, it might be off-putting to the Lincolnshire constabulary.  But we think it should suffice to say that both groups of “youth” think the same Allahu is an “akbar” guy.  And certainly, the Swedish authorities wouldn’t agree.  According to NPR, it is, in fact, quite possible that the problem in Sweden is the Swedish police and their legendary tyrannical ways:

[Swedish] Justice Minister Beatrice Ask has reportedly acknowledged “social exclusion” as “a very serious cause of many problems.”  She’s promising that Stockholm’s police will forge closer ties to troubled local communities.

Did we mention that you can’t make this stuff up?

In any case, it’s easy to see why many observers are so deeply concerned about the future of the West.  The West is at war.  And it’s not a joking matter.  Nor is America’s political class making things any better by refusing to name the enemy; or by simply giving up the fight, shielding their eyes, pretending that what is happening isn’t.

Is it any wonder that the inimitable Mark Steyn, perhaps the best known of conservative doomsayers, went in less than a decade from writing a book titled America Alone (as in “America alone” fighting the good fight against Islamism) to writing one called After America?  Likewise, is it any wonder that Steyn ended his column this weekend on an unbearably pessimistic note?

One in ten Britons under 25 is now Muslim.  That number will increase, through immigration, disparate birth rates, and conversions like those of the Woolwich killers, British-born and -bred.  Metternich liked to say the Balkans began in the Landstrasse, in southeast Vienna.  Today, the Dar al-Islam begins in Wellington Street, in southeast London.  That’s a “betrayal” all right, but not of Islam.

Now, on a slightly more positive note, we must say that we are not as pessimistic as Steyn.  Yes, it is true that the Western political classes appear intent on surrender, and the sooner the better.  But they are generally a comfy lot, surrounded by police, WITH GUNS mind you.  “After all, not all of the bloody Muslims are bad people.  Why our maid is a Muslim . . . and my driver.”

But we’re not convinced that the great unwashed masses of the West are quite as excited to sacrifice their cultural inheritance to a heretical band of religious fanatics whose answer to their discomfort with the present is to return to the 13th century, or whenever.  Indeed, as we have mentioned before in these pages, we would be surprised if the native people of Europe don’t fight back at some point.  The question we have is to what extent and to what end.

To clarify what we mean, it might be helpful to return briefly to one of our all-time favorite books, and, in our opinion, one of the most valuable English-language texts published in the 20th century, namely Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium.

Cohn’s book, for those who may be unfamiliar with it, is a study of medieval millenarian/eschatological movements and their impact on Europe’s religious, social, and political development.  Cohn notes both the changing inspirations of the movements, as well as their changing nature over time, concluding eventually that these movements that began as purely religious heresies followed the progression of Western civilization more broadly and became less overtly religious and more secular-minded and more quasi-religious over the course of several centuries.  Indeed, in Cohn’s concluding chapter, which is likely the best known part of his book, he draws his rather famous and provocative parallels between the religious millenarianism of the Middle Ages and the quasi-religious mass movements of the 20th century, Nazism and Communism.  And then there’s this:

Revolutionary millenarianism drew its strength from a population living on the margins of society – peasants without land or with too little land even for subsistence; journeymen and unskilled workers living under the continuous threat of unemployment; beggars and vagabonds – in fact from the amorphous mass of people who were not simply poor but who could find no assured and recognized place in society at all.  These people lacked the material and emotional support afforded by traditional social groups; their kinship-groups had disintegrated and they were not effectively organized in village communities or in guilds; for them there existed no regular, institutionalized  methods of voicing their grievances or pressing their claims . . .

Because these people found themselves in such an exposed and defenceless position, they were liable to react very sharply to any disruption of the normal, familiar pattern of life.  Again and again, one finds that a particular outbreak of revolutionary millenarianism took place against a background of disaster; . . .

But the rootless poor were not only shaken by those specific calamities or upheavals that directly affected their material lot – they were also peculiarly sensitive to the less dramatic but equally relentless processes which, generation after generation gradually disrupted the framework of authority within which medieval life had for a time been contained . . .

Those who are fascinated by such ideas are, on the one hand, the populations of certain technologically backward societies which are not only overpopulated and desperately poor but also involved in a problematic transition to the modern world, and are correspondingly dislocated and disoriented; and on the other hand, certain politically marginal elements in technologically advanced societies – chiefly young or unemployed workers and a small minority of intellectuals and students.

Against this backdrop, we offer the following from The Independent of London:

Rocketing unemployment and poverty in some areas of Europe could lead to rising civil unrest, unless governments take measures to address the humanitarian consequences of austerity measures, the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned . . .

 As Europe continues to grapple with the financial crisis, the situation for many young people is dire.  More than half of under-25s are out of work in Greece and Spain.  In some areas of Greece, that figure has hit 75 per cent, while in Portugal youth unemployment soared from around 30 per cent two years ago to 43 per cent now . . .

Europe is experiencing its biggest depression since the end of the Second World War, with the number of people receiving food aid from the IFRC nearly doubling from 2.3 million in 2009 to 4.1 million today.  Twelve per cent of Europe’s workforce is out of a job, while EU figures show that 120 million people – nearly a quarter of the bloc’s population – are at risk of poverty and social exclusion . . .

In Greece, deep cuts to healthcare and social budgets have led to a resurgence of diseases such as malaria, while the number of suicides increased 26 per cent between 2011 and 2012.  Homelessness in Spain is soaring, while in Bulgaria six people have self-immolated to protest against economic hardship.

Ignore, for a moment, the Red Cross/Red Crescent’s confused and conventional economic complaints about the gruesome impact of the continent’s largely imaginary austerity.  There is real hardship in Europe.  The post-war social welfare state is, slowly but surely, collapsing, as was inevitable.  Some countries – Greece most notably – are rather quickly becoming Third World backwaters in the very heart of Europe.  Social dislocation and economic displacement were inevitable.  That they are accompanied by massive losses in wealth and status turns this foreseeable difficulty into a virtually unavoidable human tragedy.  And all of this is taking place not just in the languid European south, as the Economist notes:

The euro-zone economy has just endured a sixth successive quarter of shrinking GDP.  The malaise is spreading to core countries including Finland and the Netherlands, which both contracted in the first quarter.  Retail sales are falling.  Unemployment, above 12%, is a record—with more than one in four Spaniards out of work (see article).  In spite of savage spending cuts, government deficits are persistent and high.  The sum of government, household and company debt is still excessive.  Banks are undercapitalised and international lenders worry about their as-yet-unrecognised losses.  Although official interest rates are low, firms in southern Europe are suffering a cruel credit crunch.  All this is causing economic hardship today and eating away at the prospects for growth tomorrow.  The euro zone may not be about to collapse, but the calm in Brussels is not so much a sign of convalescence as of decay.

George Friedman, the erstwhile professor of international conflict and the founder and CEO of the private intelligence corporation STRATFOR, recently spent some time in Spain.  And what he saw there was disconcerting at a minimum and potentially downright ominous.  On a drive from Granada to Madrid, he observed the following:

It was not the paucity of cars that struck me; it was the almost complete absence of trucks.  This was, after all, the road from the coast to the capital, not the only road but still a significant one.  It was early afternoon on a weekday.  The oddest moment came when we reached a tollbooth not too far from Madrid.  There was only one booth open and when we pulled up there was no one in it and no coin or credit card slot.  We waited, then we left.  Perhaps the attendant was in the bathroom.  Perhaps the revenue didn’t justify paying a toll taker.  Perhaps this was one of the austerity measures they had taken.

 I will never know.  What I do know is that the drive had a sort of post-apocalyptic feel, except that it was very clean.  We marveled at it and then realized that there was nothing that ought to have surprised us about it.  The unemployment rate in Spain is more than 27 percent.  Gasoline costs 1.4 euros a liter (more than $6.50 a gallon).  At that price, a drive is no longer a casual undertaking; it has to justify itself.  As for trucks, when that many people are out of work — and have been for many months — the demand for goods declines to the point that trucks will be rare on the road.

There is an argument that says Spanish unemployment is not as bad as it seems because a huge amount of it is youth unemployment.  It is implied that youth unemployment has less social consequence.  Certainly, it is more immediately destabilizing to have the head of a household with children out of work, but when — as some say — 57 percent of those under the age of 25 are unemployed, it also has consequences.  Older people get bitter, despair and tend to be fatalistic with what life dealt them — or at least a lot of them do.

A 22-year-old becomes desperate.  When a young man is unemployed because he is a musician or an artist awaiting discovery or because he has lived carelessly, that’s one thing.  But this is different unemployment.  It is a generation whose dreams are shattered.  They may have hoped to be a businessman or a craftsman, but that’s not going to happen now.  Unemployment of this sort doesn’t go away in a few months or years.  This is the level of unemployment the United States experienced in the Great Depression, the kind of unemployment that scars an entire generation . . .

I think the reason things are so calm — occasional riots hardly count — is that no one really believes that they won’t awake from the nightmare.  There is a firm belief that this period will end.  The denial of what has happened is not confined to Spain.  In speaking to a German, he declared my view that the European system is broken as “scandalous.”  A moderate official in the European Union, he became choleric at my assertion that countries such as Spain are being plunged into the kind of hell that creates political monstrosities in Europe.  For him, the critical thing was that the banks were no more stable than ever . . .

Of course, to our 22-year-old in Spain, the debate has become irrelevant.  He is broke, scared and bored — not something you want a mass of young men to be.  That is the point at which history turns.

It is worth noting here, we think, that Spain – the Mediterranean jewel of the EU – was, up until 1975, under the control of Francisco Franco’s nationalist/fascist government.  It is also worth noting that we, like Friedman, think this is a problem that will not be resolved in the near future or under the auspices of the current European governing apparatus.  This problem – the problem of massive economic dislocation and social disorder – will, we fear, only be resolved through violence and a change in the ruling order.  It was not for nothing, we remind you, that we wrote of the Euro, some 15 years ago, that it would be “to 21st century Europe what the killing of the Archduke Ferdinand was to 20th century Europe; i.e., that point in time when history will record that the unraveling began in earnest.”

The unraveling is well underway, in case you hadn’t noticed.

And that brings us back to the murderers on the streets of London, the rioters on the streets of Stockholm, and the conservatives like Mark Steyn who believe that Europe will inevitably become “Eurabia.”  As we wrote above, we’re not so sure.

Throughout Britain this past weekend, various groups marched in support of the slain soldier, Lee Rigby.  Among the organizations involved was the English Defence League (EDL), a “patriotic” faction that strongly opposes the Muslim presence in Britain.  According to National Review’s David Pryce-Jones, the EDL has seen its membership almost quadruple (to 80,000) since the murder of Drummer Rigby.  Pryce-Jones speculates that the EDL “could easily develop into a quasi-patriotic, quasi-fascist movement.”

Also over the weekend, the right-wing Swedish magazine, Fria Tider reported that residents of Stockholm have also begun to fight back as well:

Faced by another night of terror at the hands of predominantly immigrant rioters, Swedes grown tired of the police’s inability to put an end to the unrest took to the streets Friday night to defend their neighborhoods.

The vigilantes were described as a motley crew of homeowners and concerned citizens, as well as neo-Nazi activists and football hooligans.

In our opinion, this is both unsurprising and a portent of things to come.  The entirety of the EU –including non-euro countries like Great Britain – is in the midst of major social and economic upheaval.  The ruling class throughout the continent is in denial about the causes, the nature, and the likely remedy for this upheaval.  Moreover, the ruling class remains insufferably wedded to the multi-culti ideology that has not only exacerbated the upheaval, but has also blamed national cultures and native populations for refusing to forfeit their cultural identity and adopt the deferential pose of a naughty child.

In Stockholm, like London, law enforcement officers stood idly by, watching the Islamist elements wreak havoc, while, at the same time, punishing those who would defend themselves and their property.  As Fria Tider noted, Stockholm police chose to arrest the “vigilantes” even while “doing as little as possible” to impede the rioters.  Needless to say, this is hardly a promising long-term strategy for dealing with the problem.

In her classic opus, The Origins of Totalitarianism, the remarkable Hannah Arendt explained in great detail how seemingly benevolent liberal stability can be transformed almost overnight into the chaos of anarchy and then into the murderous constancy of tyranny and despotism.  Arendt described the rise of both Hitlerian National Socialism and Stalinist Communism, arguing that the ideological differences between the two pale in comparison to the practical, foundational, and methodological similarities that define them and that distinguish them from almost anything that the world has ever known.

Arendt detailed the advantage taken by the 20th century totalitarians of the disintegration of traditional society.  As Norman Cohn demonstrated (and as we relate above), mass social and economic displacements have always provided fertile ground for revolutionary ideologies.  Arendt described in astonishing detail the social and religious dislocations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the incredible effect to which the totalitarians put them to use.  Arendt also described in some great detail the methods by which the insecurities and fears of the displaced masses were exacerbated by the social and political elites and forged into instruments of manipulation designed to provide a false yet reassuring sense of shared ethos and of consequent security.

As Arendt documented, both the Nazis and the Stalinists played upon and manipulated the longstanding anti-Semitism in Europe to advance their causes and to achieve solidarity.  It is not inconceivable that other, similarly ambitious men could likewise harness the confusion engendered by and the violence perpetrated by Europe’s Islamist radicals to consolidate power and promote solidarity.  It is therefore also not inconceivable that a bloody civil war, between neo-fascists and Islamo-fascsists, is part of Europe’s not-too-distant future.

Make no mistake, this situation is entirely the fault of the Islamists and their feckless and unwitting abettors in the West’s political classes.  Whether it’s the Brits arresting Facebookers while coddling terrorists; the Swedes arresting “vigilantes” while indulging unhappy “youths”; or the President of the United States declaring that he no longer has the energy or the will to continue fighting the war that was declared against his nation, the leaders of the West appear wholly unworthy of their inheritance and their people.  Indeed, in their feebleness, these alleged “leaders” are likely encouraging more Islamist terrorism and building and exacerbating the magnitude of the inevitable backlash.

We wish this were a joke, one of Barack famed knee-slappers.  But it’s not.  There will be men and women who will seek to take advantage of the current situation, which combines social dislocation, economic collapse, and loss of political legitimacy.  Whether they succeed is largely immaterial at this point.  Either way, there will be blood.  And a great deal of it.

And that’s not funny.


Copyright 2013. 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.