Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
They Said It:
This is the situation that Christians have to face. The great danger we have to meet is not the danger of violent persecution but rather that of the crushing out of religion from modern life by the sheer weight of a State-inspired public opinion and by the mass organization of society on a purely secular basis. Such a state of existence has never occurred before because the State has never been powerful enough to control every side of social life . . . in the past, public opinion recognized the validity of the religious category and the autonomy of the religious life, even when it opposed and persecuted particular forms of religion. To-day the conflict is a deep and wider one. It goes to the very roots of life and affects every aspect of human thought and action. One might even say that the very existence of religion itself is at stake, were it not that there are some who hold that religion is no longer to be identified with Christianity and the other historic religions but is finding a new social expression in the movements that are creating the new state: Communism, National Socialism and Liberal Humanitarianism. If this is the case, we must alter our terminology and say, as Professor Julian Huxley said the other day, that the coming conflict is not one between religion and secular civilization but rather “between the God-religious and the social-religious” – in other words between the worship of God and the cult of the state or of the race or of humanity.
Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Modern State, 1935.
Back in the late ‘90s, we played around with the theory that many of the institutions created in the wake of World War II were doomed. These bodies had been integral to the Western alliance for a half-century, but they had grown stale and, to be blunt, pointless. We figured they would die right along with the Soviet Union and the rest of the Cold War relics.
The United Nations was an obvious candidate for the dust bin of history. It was manifestly corrupt, financially draining, and utterly useless. NATO too had outlived its efficacy. After all, with the Warsaw Pact dissolved and most of its former members clamoring for greater integration with the West, why would such an organization be relevant any longer? Then there was the European Union. Originally conceived as a possible postwar antidote to the extreme nationalism that had infected the continent for so long, it had become a bureaucratic nightmare that stood in the way of the development of Europe’s most powerful economic engines.
Last but not least was Israel. It was a child of the post-war deliberations, and it had served honorably and courageously as America’s principal ally in the volatile Middle East. But in the post-Cold War period it had also become a stumbling block for peace with the Arab oil producers, which frustrated both the Arabist/“realist” Right and post-modern Left. This was, we should note, right about the time of modern Israel’s 50th birthday – May, 1998. We sensed that the timid leaders of the West had tired of defending the Jewish state – figuratively, of course, since Israel did just fine defending itself literally – and since it was no longer needed as leverage against the Soviet Union, it too could be consigned to the proverbial dustbin.
Fortunately for us, we did not put this theory into print. We talked about it a great deal. And we thought about it even more. But we couldn’t quite figure out the details. We knew that the end of the Cold War marked the beginning of a new era, and so it stood to reason that it marked the end of the old one. Still, we had the mechanics of the theory all wrong.
Our error stemmed from the fact that we misjudged the post-war institutions. They had played a major part in the Cold War and were, indeed, symbols of Cold War diplomacy, but they weren’t of the Cold War specifically. Rather, they were the manifestation of a liberal American dream that preceded the Cold War by many decades, Woodrow Wilson’s dream of a permanent peace on earth overseen by one world government.
The oh, so sophisticated liberal elites in this country have long mocked the poor, stupid, conspiracy-mongering conservatives for their unwarranted and inane fears of “one world government.” And yet the truth of the matter is that these fears are not and never were “unwarranted.” And nor were they inane. As the Second World War ended, and as America stood alone as the unchallenged global Super Power, Roosevelt and his similarly deluded accomplices earnestly and determinedly sought to implement Wilson’s vision and thus to shape the future of the planet. Their plan to do so rested heavily on the leadership of enlightened global guardians, whose sole purpose was to oversee the formation of uniform and uniformly progressive geopolitical governance.
The United Nations, for example, was created by Roosevelt and his Communist-heavy State Department when they still believed that “Uncle Joe” Stalin could be talked into joining them in establishing a soft-socialist syndicate designed to allow the United States and the Soviet Union to rule the world together, benign hegemons fostering global harmony. Or . . . well . . . something. Recall that Roosevelt said that he believed that there was “something else in [Stalin] besides this revolutionist Bolshevist thing,” and that the greatest mass-murderer of all time had something in his “nature of the way in which a Christian gentleman should behave.”
One of the staunchest supporters of this belief in Stalin’s goodness was the Soviet Spy Alger Hiss, who, by the way, also composed the U.N.’s founding documents to advance this theory. As the inimitable Eric Voegelin noted, in his classic The New Science of Politics, the United States, under Roosevelt, Hiss, Stettinius, Dulles and the rest of the one-worlders, actively and intentionally compromised its own victory in order to facilitate a fantasy about world government. To wit:
The facts are trite, and yet it is perhaps not sufficiently realized that never before in the history of mankind has a world power used a victory deliberately for the purpose of creating a power vacuum to its own disadvantage. And again, as in previous contexts, it is necessary to warn that phenomena of this magnitude cannot be explained by ignorance and stupidity. These policies were pursued as a matter of principle, on the basis of Gnostic dream assumptions about the nature of man, about a mysterious evolution of mankind toward peace and world order, about the possibility of establishing an international order in the abstract without relation to the structure of the field of existential forces, about armies being the cause of war and not the forces and constellations which build them. and set them in motion, etc. The enumerated series of actions, as well as the dream assumptions on which they are based, seem to show that the contact with reality is at least badly damaged and that the pathological substitution of the dream world is fairly effective.
For whatever reason, Stalin refused to be a part of this utopia. So, Truman decided to go it alone, with an open-ended, unlimited commitment of American blood, treasure, and prestige. He intended to gather the entire “free world” under the wing of America’s wise and benevolent leadership and to lead this coalition-of-the-just into a war against the Godless and now-uncooperative communists. Cold if possible, hot if necessary. The U.N. would become a meeting point for the world’s righteous peace lovers. NATO would watch over Europe. And Israel…well…Israel could go its own way, but hopefully it would become a symbol of democracy in the Middle East.
In short, the post-war institutions established by Roosevelt, Truman, and the rest of the Gnostics were specifically designed to transcend mere nationalism and to accelerate the advent of the one-world utopia. As hokey as that sounds, it’s not half as hokey as the language the one-worlders crafted to describe their ends. Consider, for example, what William Benton, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs said about the creation of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization:
We are at the beginning of a long process of breaking down the walls of national sovereignty. UNESCO must be the pioneer . . . As long as a child breathes the poisoned air of nationalism, education in world-mindedness can produce only precarious results. As we have pointed out, it is frequently the family that infects the child with extreme nationalism. The school should, therefore, combat family attitudes that favor jingoism . . .
Consider as well the following, which comes from a UNESCO document called “In the Classroom with Children Under 13 Years of Age – Toward World Understanding – V,” which was published in 1949 and officially introduced at UNESCO’s “Second Conference of Principals of International Schools” in March, 1951:
Before the child enters school, his mind has already been profoundly marked and often injuriously by earlier influences . . . he has first gained, however dimly, in the home. The kindergarten, or infant school, has a significant part to play in a child’s education. Not only can it correct many of the errors of home training, but it can also prepare the child for membership at about age seven in a group of his own age and habits — the first of many such social identifications that he must achieve on his way to membership in the world society.
As we have pointed out, it is frequently the family that infects the child with extreme nationalism. The school should therefore use the means described earlier to combat family attitudes that favor jingoism.
In our view, history and geography should be taught at this stage as universal history and geography. Of the two, only geography lends itself well to study in the years prescribed at this present survey. The study of history, on the other hand, raises problems of value which are better postponed until the pupil is freed from the nationalist prejudices which, at present, surround the teaching of history.
As we said, the architects of the post-war world actually believed that they were building a new and better civilization; that they had discovered not only the chief cause of mankind’s unhappiness but also the scheme to overcome that unhappiness. By eliminating the debilitating and divisive spirit of nationalism and by encouraging the purportedly converse spirit of “diversity,” the triumphant leftists of the West sought to remake the world anew (again!) and set it on the path toward peace and prosperity.
For a variety of reasons, the end of the Cold War did not actually kill the one-world fantasy. The one-worlders’ post-war institutions did not die but were repurposed and were thus granted new leases on life. With the intransigent Soviets finally gone, the true glorious era could begin. Wilson’s dream would become a reality. Trade would flourish. Prosperity would promote democracy, and vice versa.
The United Nations was recycled by the Georges Bush as the means to bring democracy to the Middle East. NATO became a tool for rewarding positive, post-Soviet reconciliation and for keeping an eye on the ever-volatile Vladimir Putin. The European Union and the United States would open its doors to the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, promoting diversity and ending the scourge of nationalism.
But a funny thing happened on the way to utopia. The one-world movement turned into exactly what its critics, going clear back a century, had said it would become: an overbearing, dictatorship of power hungry elites, determined to inflict their noxious ideas on a citizenry that was sick of them and their utopian dreams.
The Cold War, they say, ended without a shot being fired. And this is nominally true. The end was brought about not by conquest, but by slow, gradual rebellion, the plodding but earnest disgust exhibited by the people of Soviet satellites, who chafed under the yoke of Communist austerity and foreign oppression. This rebellion continued even after the Soviet Union fell and even picked up steam. The Baltic States demanded full independence. The Central-Asian republics and even Ukraine distanced themselves from their Russian “masters.” The Serbs, it turned out, still hated the Bosnians. And the Croats. And the Albanians. And the Kosovars. And the Czechs and the Slovaks no longer really needed each other. And so it went.
The attacks of 9/11 briefly united the whole “civilized” world in the fight against the scourge of Islamist terrorism. But, in time, that undertaking too was overwhelmed by the one-world ideology, as the “war on terror” morphed ever so surely into the “war to make them just like us.” In the end, the post 9/11 democratization project, as noble and well-intentioned as it may have been, probably intensified the sentiments of the world’s masses that they had had enough of their “betters” attempting to force them to buy a coke for and live in perfect harmony with people they didn’t especially like and with whom they had very little in common.
Now, we’ve been thinking a great deal about all of this lately, largely because of the British elections last week. As you may know, British Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election because she and her advisors believed – rightly! – that the deeply unpopular Labour Party was in terrible trouble and could be beaten soundly and enduringly. What Ms. May didn’t consider was the fact that she too is deeply unpopular and that the election gambit would therefore backfire on her, leaving her irreparably weakened.
We have read countless explanations for May’s embarrassing reversal, and many of them contain various grains of truth. For our money, though, the simplest and most consistent explanation has to do with her enduring and incredibly mystifying affirmation of the post-war status quo. Yes, we know that May had promised to carry out the will of the people and soldier on with the process of leaving the EU. But she was also a bland, milquetoast of a “conservative,” a sad “moderate” dedicated to the post-modern, multiculti, progressive state, just less of it than her leftist rivals.
Like countless “conservatives” before her – on both sides of the Pond – May tried to take advantage of her opponents’ radicalism by positioning herself as a nice, calm, predictable alternative, an advocate of “business as usual” in the face of radicalism. It didn’t work, obviously. And didn’t world because the British people, like so many others worldwide, have had enough of business as usual. In the wake of recent terrorist attacks, May thought she was projecting composure and judiciousness. Instead, what she was projecting was an air of appeasement, of multiculti acceptance, and of fecklessness. And the British voters punished her accordingly. Just like the American voters punished Hillary Clinton last November.
Many commentators have noted, in the wake of Ms. May’s disastrous pyrrhic victory, that the one bright spot for the UK can be found in the dramatic drubbing handed to the Scottish National Party at the same time. The SNP, which planned a second independence vote, was nearly wiped out – by May’s Tories, nonetheless. This, many observers have suggested, shows that the United Kingdom is safe and will not be dismantled any time soon. That may well be, and certainly it’s consoling that the Scottish Nationalists were beaten soundly by the Conservatives, who had their best Scottish results in some 34 years. At the same time, it’s always worth noting that the SNP had allied itself with Labour in opposing a “hard Brexit,” which is to say that it is opposed – openly and adamantly – to respecting the will of the British people to leave the EU and take greater control of their own political destinies. In other words, the popular media and analyst declaration that the election results were a setback for devolution is not entirely true. Scottish devolution may have suffered, but British devolution – from Europe – may have been the only winner at all last week.
This word, “devolution” is one that you should probably get used to reading in these pages over the next several years (assuming that these pages survive the next several years). It is one that we think defines the era in geopolitics and that will certainly play an enormous role in Western politics in particular going forward. Wittingly or not, it is the name we have given the rebellion against the one-world, can’t we all just get along, ideology. It is the demand, once again, to throw off the shackles of alien domination and to control one’s own destiny, in the company of those who share both one’s history and contemporary values.
As best we can tell, this current stage of the rebellion began in earnest during the summer of 2015, when Europe allowed itself to become entangled in the now-infamous “Migrant Crisis.” In 2015, nearly 2 million migrants – some refugees, but most economic migrants – entered Europe illegally, ten times as many as had crossed the year before. Nearly all of those migrants crossed to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East, which is to say that most came from unsettled and often Muslim parts of the world. Europe and its leaders knew that they were ill prepared to handle such an influx, to provide decent living arrangements and food, much less actual integration. And yet they insisted that they and their citizens had a moral obligation to accept as many as possible and simply to grin and bear it. To do otherwise would be “illiberal.”
This massive crush of humanity followed, by about a year, a similar, if notably smaller influx of immigrants across the American southern border. Then-President Barack Obama had signaled a desire to do whatever was necessary to grant legal status to immigrants in the country illegally – be it legislatively or administratively. And as is always the case with incentives, once offered, they produced results. In this case, a greater number of people sought refuge in the United States in anticipation of an amnesty. Concurrently, a greater number of parents also sent their children the American border alone, knowing full well that the American government would never send these unaccompanied minors back to their nations of origin. The Obama administration wrapped itself in a cloak of righteousness, insisting that its actions were not merely practical, but compassionate and, indeed, irrefutably moral. Anyone who opposed the policies for any reason was termed heartless, cruel, and, of course, racist. America’s long-festering border problem reemerged as a potent political issue.
Together, these two border crises reignited the spirit of “devolution,” which is to say the spirit of revolution against the globalist status quo. The Bureaucrats in Brussels weren’t concerned about the effects that so many migrants might have on the culture of various European cities. They were concerned, rather, about the pieties of diversity and global governance. Likewise, the Democrats and establishment Republicans weren’t especially concerned about a few more illegal immigrants here or there. They too believed in the pieties of diversity and, moreover, believed (and still believe) that unfettered immigration is an economic necessity.
Needless to say these positions did not sit especially well with the people who have to bear their consequences in everyday life. It is highly unlikely that Jean-Claude Junker, for example, will ever have his safety or personal well-being threatened by an angry Islamist mob of migrants. And it is equally unlikely that either Chuck Schumer or Paul Ryan will ever lose his job to an illegal immigrant. In all cases, however, many of their constituents cannot say the same, which explains their unhappiness with the elites’ notion of “globalization.” It also explains, in turn, the rise of the Far Right in Europe, the Brexit vote, and the election of Donald Trump. In each case, the people said “enough! We have had it with distant elites telling us not only how to live our lives but how to think about people of other cultures.” And in each case, the rebellion against the post-war status quo won a victory – two of which were quite stunning.
By way of clarification, we should note that this phenomenon – this ongoing rebellion – is not especially ideologically driven. Although the impetus for the current battle is considered “conservative,” given the politicians who have embraced and advanced the cause, the Left is every bit as involved as the Right, sometimes on the same matters. Note that we mentioned above that the British Right is in favor of devolution from Brussels but not devolution from London. And the precise opposite is true (more or less) of the British Left. And there is a similar phenomenon in the United States.
This past February, in piece titled “The New, New Paradigm,” we suggested that “federalism” would likely be a huge story during the Trump presidency. We put it this way:
For more than 150 years now, the idea that states have rights and that the federal government has infringed too far on those rights has been associated with racism and slavery. That’s understandable, but it’s also unfortunate. To this day, the Left insists that Ronald Reagan was a closet racist who blew “dog whistles” for the white supremacists, based solely on the fact that he ran for president advocating “states’ rights” and urging that the federal government be restrained in its powers. The irony is that Reagan had served as governor of California and had seen firsthand how important it was for a state that unique, that important, and that creative to have some autonomy both from Washington and from the rest of the country. Today, Reagan’s ideas are coming round full circle, only at the urging of the political Left.
Federalism may well have been the Founders’ most brilliant idea for maintaining peace between the states while restraining the power of a potential tyrant and protecting the rights of the people. It was designed to ensure that a diverse people with diverse values could nevertheless coexist under one overarching worldview. Or, as President Reagan’s Domestic Policy Council Working Group on Federalism states: it is a “constitutionally based, structural theory of government designed to ensure political freedom and responsive, democratic government in a large and diverse society.”
We have long believed and have long written that the inevitable outcome of the clash between moral codes would be an ongoing and perhaps disastrous bifurcation of the nation, with “red” and “blue” distancing themselves from one another. We continue to believe that the bifurcation is inevitable, but we are no longer convinced that it will be disastrous. What we didn’t foresee – what NO ONE could have foreseen – is the effect that Donald Trump would have on the blue states, the rebirth of federalist sentiments as an antidote to a right-wing populist.
In the months since we wrote those words, the general idea has proven pretty spot-on. Republicans in Congress decided to return decisions for funding Planned Parenthood to the states, where they belong. Republican-style health care reform permits much greater leeway for states to run their own Medicaid programs, thus taking advantage of local conditions, customs, values, etc. And most recently, of course, several states have taken exception to President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement and have decided, in response, to meet the conditions of the accord on their own. As CBS NEWS reported just last week:
At least 10 states and a slew of U.S. cities have signaled that they are committing to the Paris climate accord despite President Trump’s decision last week to withdraw the U.S. from the pact.
The 10 states that have signed onto the alliance include California, New York, Washington, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, Oregon and Hawaii . . . .
Nine other states and Washington, D.C. have also reportedly said that they plan to abide by the guidelines of the Paris agreement. Major cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia have also indicated that they will also do so as well.
Think about that for just a moment. When Donald Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the climate accord, he struck a blow against the global status quo and against the post-war political ethos. And when the states, in turn, agreed to comply with the accord, Trump’s federal position notwithstanding, they too struck a blow against the global status quo. This is federalism in action. It is devolution in action. It is the rebellion in action.
The conservative essayist and one of our favorite writers these days, Rod Dreher, recently published a new book. It’s called The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, and it is named for the deservedly famous last paragraph of Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue:
If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St. Benedict.
In essence, Dreher advocates doing just what MacIntyre advised: going underground; conservatives and Christians keeping to themselves; preserving their culture, their values, and their institutions, in the midst of a broader culture that detests those values and seeks to destroy the institutions by any means. It is an interesting and tempting, if a little too desperate, a solution to the current state of the culture wars. But it also the product of the same process driving everything else noted above. It is the product of devolution from the post-war status quo. It is the product of a desire to be left alone and to leave others alone as well.
For most of the last two centuries, the powers that be in the Western world have pushed greater and greater integration on people who are not especially interested in integrating. Indeed, almost since the inception of the nation-state itself, the Western elites have been pushing beyond nationalism and toward something greater, something global, something fully centralized.
Marx insisted that his revolution be universal, that the “workers of the world unite.” And he was bitterly disappointed that the workers of the world instead chose to maintain their national identities and their national sympathies. Likewise, Woodrow Wilson sought to make the world safe for democracy, which meant spreading the Pietist gospel across the globe.
FDR succeeded where his leftist brethren had failed, but his success was short-lived. His plans to divide the world between Stalin’s brand of socialism and his own died not long after he did. The people of the world are still trying to climb out from under the burden Roosevelt left them. But they continue to struggle, bit by bit.
Oh, and as for Israel and our concern about her ability to maintain its place in the face of collapsing post-war realities, we were wrong about that too. Back then, we thought that Israel was a creation of the post-war globalist bureaucracy, a guilty gesture to the world’s Jewish people, whom the West had earlier abandoned to a terrible fate. Turns out, though, that the globalists didn’t create Israel, they merely acknowledged the reality created by Jewish people themselves. They headed back to their ancestral homeland, to live amongst one another and to be free from the persecution they had suffered over the course of the nineteen centuries since the Romans destroyed Judea and burned the Temple. In a sense, then, we had Israel entirely backward. It wasn’t an institution of the new globalist regime. It was the first sign that this Gnostic globalism couldn’t help but fail.
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