Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, September 19, 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.
SIXTEEN YEARS GONE.
As you may or may not have noticed, we didn’t write at all last week about the anniversary of 9/11. We didn’t even mention it.
This was unusual for us. We don’t like to dwell on the events of that day, but we are among the “never again” crowd. Indeed, on various anniversaries, we have written about the events, about the wars they spawned, and about the political dynamics they created. We wouldn’t go so far any longer as to say that that day “changed everything,” but we will say that it changed a great deal in American life and American politics. And everything that happened since has, in part, been influenced by those terrible, bone-chilling few hours. How could they not be?
Well, the reason we didn’t write about 9/11 is pretty simple. The fecklessness of our political class and the policies they have adopted even in the face of a determined and vicious enemy have left us disheartened. We expected better. We deserved better. Six years ago, on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, we expressed our sadness and frustration with our so-called leaders as follows:
Over the long-term, we continue to believe in American exceptionalism and believe that the cultural, religious, and intellectual inheritance willed to the nation by its forebears, in concert with a great deal of luck, has produced a polity uniquely positioned to weather the storms of the current moment and to dominate the current century much the same as it did the last.
In the near-term, though, we cannot help but see that this inheritance is not being merely ignored by the nation’s intellectual and political elites, but openly despised, dismissed, and derided. The American polity may be exceptionally well positioned to take advantage of its civilizational inheritance, but its ruling class is hostile to that inheritance and is therefore inclined to mitigate – if not negate entirely – any benefits it might otherwise be expected to provide.
Or to put this another way: one thing was clear from the 9/11 memorial services, namely that this nation’s governing class is unable or unwilling to muster the civilizational confidence necessary to win the war against this nation’s enemies, which is to say that we, as a country, are doomed unless things change and unless they change quickly and significantly.
9/11 is no longer an “atrocity,” or an act of “barbarism” or of “war.” It is no longer the incarnation of “evil.” It is, rather, a “tragedy,” or a “disaster,” or some other non-descript denotation of “misfortune,” no different than a hurricane or an earthquake or any other act of God. Except that this was no act of God. It was an act inspired by God – or rather by a specific interpretation about a specific set of beliefs about a specific understanding of God. And to mention God at all, to mention religion at all, to include religion in the ceremony in any way, shape, or form would undoubtedly compel the mention of the role that this specific God and specific religion played in the events of that day. And to America’s ruling class, nothing could be more traumatic, even, apparently, the slaughter of 3,000 innocents. And so they happily and gratefully kept their mouths shut on the matter of God.
For many, if not most in the American ruling class – and a great many more in the rest of the Western world – the events of 9/11 are not quite as simple as we have just made them out to be. Yes, or course, they will admit that Muslim radicals were responsible for the attacks. But from that point on, their narrative takes on a surreal quality. In their dream-world, these murderers weren’t really acting in the name of their religion or, if they were, they were only doing so because they were provoked by the West or by the Americans or by Israel or some such, which is to say that their actions were justified. Or as President Obama’s erstwhile minister and personal spiritual guide Jeremiah Wright put it, 9/11 was simply America’s “chickens coming home to roost.”
And if the attacks were justified, then how can we blame anyone for them, really? And how can we justify a war – or TWO wars – to displace the religio-ideology that motivated them? And how, on earth, can we possibly sit in judgment of them when we have our own sins against humanity to worry about, sins like global warming? Just who do we think we are?
In the six years since we wrote those words, they’ve only grown truer, which is to say that the civilizational ennui has grown more debilitating, the political class has grown more ineffectual and aimless, and the potential for eventual civilizational ruin has grown more realistic. At present, we are still fighting the wars triggered by 9/11 on two fronts – over here and over there. And we are losing badly on both.
Three weeks ago, we wrote about the ongoing war in Afghanistan and its ongoing pointlessness. President Trump has promised to “get tough” with Pakistan regarding its support for the Taliban, and good for him. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that most of Afghanistan remains lawless, and the law that rules in the part that isn’t is Sharia. We’ve expended countless billions of dollars and some 7000-plus lives over the past sixteen years to create two new nations, both of which officially subscribe to the version of Islam that led to the attacks of 9/11 in the first place. If this is the “American way of war” in the 21st century, you can keep it.
As for the home front, things there are not much better. The only saving grace we can find at all is the fact that most of the jihadis are too preoccupied killing a handful of Europeans here and there, every other day, to worry either about the United States or about another “big” attack on the scale of 9/11. They are making terror an everyday fact of life in Europe, and the Europeans seem to be adapting well to their new circumstances. What’s a few dead Englishmen, or dead Frenchmen, or acid-splashed tourists, after all, when compared with hurting some feelings or sounding politically incorrect by suggesting that Islamic terrorism is a malignancy on society that must be excised if said society is to survive?
With respect to the battle for the home front, we don’t suppose, even if we tried really hard, that we could say it as well as Mark Steyn did last week in his own, “I didn’t write a 9/11 column this year” column. To wit:
In any war, you have to be able to prioritize: You can’t win everything, so where would you rather win? Raqqa or Rotterdam? Kandahar or Cannes? Yet, whenever some guy goes Allahu Akbar on the streets of a western city, the telly pundits generally fall into one of two groups: The left say it’s no big deal, and the right say this is why we need more boots on the ground in Syria or Afghanistan. Yesterday President Trump said he was committed to ensuring that terrorists “never again have a safe haven to launch attacks against our country”.
By that he means “safe havens” in Afghanistan. But the reason the west’s enemies are able to pile up a continuous corpse count in Paris, Nice, Berlin, Brussels, London, Manchester, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Orlando, San Bernadino, Ottawa, Sydney, Barcelona, [Your Town Here] is because they have “safe havens” in France, Germany, Britain, Scandinavia, North America, etc. Which “safe havens” are likely to prove more consequential for the developed world in the years ahead?
Who’s winning what turf? After 16 years of western military occupation, the Taliban control more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since the first US troops went in. On the other hand, after 16 years of accelerating Islamic immigration, Europe has more no-go zones, more sharia courts, more refugees, more covered women, more Muslim-dominated schoolhouses, more radical mosques, more female genital mutilation, more grooming and gang rape, more Muslim Brotherhood front groups, more Muslim mayors and legislators, more Muslim-funded Middle East Studies programs at universities . . . and fewer churches, fewer Jews in Toulouse, fewer gays in Amsterdam, fewer unaccompanied women out after dark in German and Swedish cities, fewer historical representations of Mohammed in Continental museums, art galleries and scholarly books, fewer mixed bathing sessions at municipal swimming pools, fewer lessons on the Crusades and the Holocaust in European schools . . . and less and less free speech in some of the oldest democracies on earth.
In Afghanistan, we’re fighting for something not worth winning, and we’re losing. In Europe, Islam is fighting for something very much worth winning, and they’re advancing. And, according to all the official strategists in Washington and elsewhere, these two things are nothing to do with each other.
The basic problem – as Steyn says and as we said six years ago – is a profound lack of civilizational confidence mixed with an ample supply of civilizational self-loathing. Half of the Western ruling classes believe, deep in their hearts, that Western civilization is a hateful culture, built on savagery, colonial rapaciousness, and revoltingly murderous self-absorption. The other half are afraid to say otherwise, lest they be labeled haters/racists/apologists/white supremacists/neo-Nazis and so on. And they are afraid for very good reason.
Roughly six weeks ago, Amy Wax and Larry Alexander, law professors at the University of Pennsylvania and San Diego University respectively, penned an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, in which they argued, among other things, that “All cultures are not equal.” Now, for the record, this wasn’t a diatribe about how the West is awesome and the poor little Africans are hopelessly backward. Rather, it was a common sense observation pointing out that the “bourgeois” culture of post-war America tended to foster fewer societal pathologies than contemporary American culture. One can hardly deny the observation, and indeed, countless others have written at length on the subject, for decades.
And yet, in response, Professor Wax was targeted by her school’s chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild, which called her a “segregationist,” a bigot, a cultural elitist, and an advocate of a “textbook example of white supremacy.” The charges are, of course, absurd. But that’s mostly beside the point. Everything about this “debate” is absurd. And while Professor Wax might not be intimidated by the post-modern cultural bullies, she wasn’t really their target anyway. Everyone else in the academy – and especially those without tenure – were warned: step out of line, and we will destroy you. To borrow our own metaphor: she is supposed to be the lady in the cement shoes at the bottom of the lake.
For much of the last sixty years or more, Western Civilization has persisted, in spite of its intellectually and morally corrupted ruling classes, because its institutions were strong enough and were occasionally (and mercifully) led by men and women of courage and strength. One can’t help but think, for example, of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Pope John Paul II, who, in concert, united and galvanized enough of Western Civilization to facilitate the defeat of the great Marxist menace.
One can’t help but wonder, however, if the West still produces leaders such as they and, in the absence of leadership, whether the institutions of the West will be able to withstand the internal and external assaults on it and on its political and spiritual authority.
Over the past several weeks, we have read several articles that have shaken our personal faith in the institutions of the West and their ability to overcome the feebleness of their present leadership. It’s not that we are now convinced that the West will collapse immediately and become unrecognizable. And it’s not that we believe that the West will be overrun by Islamists, who will take over various countries and either kill or convert the native Western populations. Those who postulate either of these scenarios are wildly imaginative and dreadfully alarmist.
Nevertheless, the current state of cultural attitudes among the Western ruling classes is dangerous and willfully blind. As Steyn alluded to above, the culture of parts of the West have already changed and will continue to change – for the worse – the longer the civilizational cowardice of the elites persists. The most obvious and treacherous blind spot for the West continues to be mass immigration from parts of the world in which anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic fires are spread by religious leaders.
We have long argued that the United States is truly fortunate and that most of its immigration hard-liners miss this fine point: the majority of immigrants to the United States over the last several decades are, in clash-of-civilizations terms, Western or, at worst, Western-ish. They are descendant from Western European stock. They are Christian in their faith and their culture. And they are, given these facts, willing to intermarry, to assimilate, and, in time, to define themselves as “Americans.” Moreover, they do all of these things in spite of the urging by the intellectual and political Left not to do so.
Europe does not have this luxury. It is already paying a price for its irresponsibility with respect to immigration and will pay a far steeper price in the very near future, we’d guess. What makes all of this worse is that nearly the entirety of this mass, culturally hostile, immigration is undertaken based on lies or on naiveté and ignorance.
An example of the first – the fraudulence underlying the official explanations for mass Muslim immigration to Europe in the context of the “migrant crisis” – can be found in a new book titled Hello Refugees! written by the Israeli author Tuvia Tenenbom. We have not read the book – as it appears not to have a major English-language publisher – and we know about it only because of a review written by David P. Goldman (aka “Spengeler”) for PJ Media. Goldman wrote as follows:
In Tenenbom’s account, bored refugees eat bad food and contract skin rashes in the overcrowded, unsanitary facilities where the German government has dumped them. They are happy to complain to an Arabic-speaking journalist and spill their hopes and dreams — to marry a German blonde, to get rich, to get back to Syria or Afghanistan or Pakistan where they can find edible food. Most are just bored; a few are suicidal, but there is a one-year waiting list to see a German psychiatrist.
Pretending to be a German with a Jordanian mother, Tenenbom talks his way in Arabic into an airplane hangar at Berlin’s Tegel airport, divided into boxes filled with bunk beds. The heat is stifling and sanitary facilities are disgusting. He talks with a Syrian Christian who pretends to be Muslim to avoid beatings from his hangar-mates. He drives to a small town where a hotel for dogs has been converted into a refugee shelter, and the water runs a sickly yellow out of the faucet. He interviews a Syrian Palestinian who begs him, “Get me out of here.” He hates Germany and wants to go back to his wife and children in Syria. He meets disgruntled locals. One says, “They should go back home . . . They don’t integrate, they just walk here and steal things. They stole the bicycle of my friend. My girlfriend was raped.” When was this? “Ten years ago.” Were the refugees here then? “I don’t know.” . . .
The story the refugees tell is silly, touching, absurd and distasteful by turns . . . .
Gradually, it dawns on the reader that the German body politic wants to show that Germany really has changed, and that the Germans have become responsible world-citizens rather than nasty nationalists — but without the trouble and expense of caring for a million and a half new dependents. Many of the refugees came to abuse what they imagined was German generosity, and instead found overcrowded camps, awful food, scary sanitation and, worst of all, nothing at all to do. It is a grand burlesque of mutual deception in which neither side appears particularly good or evil, but rather confused and feckless.
In the end, what we learn from Tenebom (as told by Goldman) is that the entire “migrant resettlement” operation is a fraud. There are no jobs – Daimler-Benz has one refugee in its vaunted refugee program, and he screws the hood ornaments into new cars. There are no places to live. There is no hope. There is nothing. Nothing, that is, except grace on the cheap.
As the most powerful woman – and perhaps the most powerful person – in Europe, Angela Merkel is, in many ways, the successor to the late Margaret Thatcher. But instead of doing what is right, even when it is difficult and unpopular, Merkel betrays the Thatcher legacy – and Western civilization altogether – by perpetrating a con on both the global community and the refugees who desperately seek asylum.
Worse still, she does so for no good reason other than to soothe her own and her nation’s guilty conscience. And the price the West pays in return is deadly. As you may have heard, the second man arrested in connection with last week’s London Tube bombing was a refugee who came to Europe at the height of its migrant crisis. He becomes the latest in a long line of such refugees who have repaid the generosity of their hosts by trying to kill as many of them as possible. Frighteningly, one can only imagine the ultimate radicalization of this migrant population, particularly in Germany, after the more than one million migrants to that country have marinated for a few years in the Palestine on the Rhine described by Tenenbom and Spengler. Life as a permanent refugee, exploited for political purposes, and forced to live indefinitely in foul and insalubrious conditions can only breed resentment, anger, and, sadly, more violence.
Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If Angela Merkel is a sad and risible successor to Margaret Thatcher, she is still, startlingly, a more fitting heir to the legacy of the “great three” than her European accomplice, the ever-meddlesome Pope Francis.
As you may have noticed, over the past several years, our references to the guidance provided by the Catholic Church have grown rare in these pages. That’s not a coincidence. Throughout the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the Church and its pontiff served not only as spiritual guides for the world’s more than 1 billion Catholics, but also as the guardians of the great Judeo-Christian traditions that built the West and made human rights a universal concept. The current pope, sadly, does not see the latter as part of his job description and, as a result, has done little to guard the precious cultural aspects of the Christian institutions. Pope Francis is, we believe, an extremely holy and honorable man. His kindness and grace are renowned. And his concern for the lambs of his flock is genuine and boundless. Nevertheless, the man’s ignorance and stubbornness have fostered conditions that exacerbate, rather than alleviate the risks to the Church and the civilization it helped spawn.
For much of his papacy, Francis has made immigration one of the centerpieces of his temporal work. He has repeatedly called on the nations of the West to everything they can for immigrants – economic migrants as well as refugees – and then, once they’ve done all they can, to do a little more. He has chided those who insist that nations can and should define and protect their own borders. And, perhaps most damagingly, he has largely ignored or dismissed concerns that mass migration can and will change the nature of the civilizations to which the migrants travel.
We understand why he does so and why he believes that this message is a necessary one. But we doubt that he fully grasps what it is he asks of the West and what it all might mean over the long run. The following excerpts come from a piece published by The National Interest, one of the most respected foreign affairs magazines around. The magazine was, of course, founded by Irving Kristol. And our late colleague at Lehman Brothers, Secretary – of Defense and then Energy – James Schlesinger chaired its advisory council for many, many years. The story this article tells is frightening, damning, and probably only one small piece in a much larger, much more frightening, and much more damning picture. The article’s author, Cheryl Benard, is the wife of Zalmay Khalizad, whom you may know is the native Afghani who went on to become the highest-ranking Muslim official on the George W. Bush administration, serving as the American ambassador to the United Nations, to Afghanistan, and to Iraq. Ms. Benard writes:
In 2014, when waves of refugees began flooding into western Europe, citizens and officials alike responded with generosity and openness. Exhausted refugees spilled out of trains and buses to be met by crowds bearing gifts of clothing and food, and holding up placards that read “Welcome Refugees.”
This was a honeymoon that could not last. Some of the upcoming difficulties had been anticipated: that the newcomers did not speak the local languages, might be traumatized, would probably take a long time to find their footing, and had brought their ethnic, religious and sectarian conflicts with them, causing them to get into battles with each other. All of these things happened but — as Angela Merkel promised — were manageable. “Wir schaffen das.”
But there was one development that had not been expected, and was not tolerable: the large and growing incidence of sexual assaults committed by refugees against local women. These were not of the cultural-misunderstanding-date-rape sort, but were vicious, no-preamble attacks on random girls and women, often committed by gangs or packs of young men. At first, the incidents were downplayed or hushed up — no one wanted to provide the right wing with fodder for nationalist agitation, and the hope was that these were isolated instances caused by a small problem group of outliers. As the incidents increased, and because many of them took place in public or because the public became involved either in stopping the attack or in aiding the victim afterwards, and because the courts began issuing sentences as the cases came to trial, the matter could no longer be swept under the carpet of political correctness. And with the official acknowledgment and public reporting, a weird and puzzling footnote emerged. Most of the assaults were being committed by refugees of one particular nationality: by Afghans.
This is not an article that has been fun for me to write. I have worked on issues related to refugees for much of my professional life, from the Pakistani camps during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan to Yemen, Sudan, Thailand, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Lebanon, Bosnia, Nicaragua and Iraq, and have deep sympathy for their plight. But nowhere had I encountered a phenomenon like this one. I had seen refugees trapped in circumstances that made them vulnerable to rape, by camp guards or soldiers. But for refugees to become perpetrators of this crime in the place that had given them asylum? That was something new. Further, my personal and professional life has endowed me with many Afghan and Afghan American friends, and there is nothing collectively psychopathic about them. They are doctors, shopkeepers, owners of Japanese restaurants, airport sedan drivers, entrepreneurs, IT experts, salesladies at Macy’s — they’re like everyone else. The parent generation tends to be a bit stiff, formal and etiquette conscious. It is impossible to imagine any of them engaging in the sort of outlandish, bizarre and primitive sexual aggression their young compatriots are becoming infamous for. Yet here we are . . . .
Ms. Benard continues in this vein for many, many pages, outlining the nature of threat, the theories postulated to explain it, and the shock and outrage that she and many others connected to Afghanistan feel at the whole unfolding mess. We cannot reproduce her case in its entirety here, but we can say that she makes is slowly, methodically, painstakingly, and devastatingly. Finally, she concludes:
Complicated problems, to be sure, but why should they concern us here in the United States, beyond mere anthropological curiosity? Well, first of all, these young men are “ours.” They grew up during the years in which we were the dominant influence and paymaster in Afghan society. Since 2001, we have spent billions on an Afghan school system that we like to cite as one of our greatest accomplishments. These young men either attended these schools, in which case the investment in their education has been worse than useless, or did not have access to a school, in which case the money must have been fraudulently diverted. We have also invested many, many millions of dollars on gender programs and rule-of-law programs to convey notions of female equality and human value, and regard for law and order. We have funded radio programs and entire TV stations devoted to this goal, launched poster campaigns and sponsored at enormous cost a large number of civil-society groups purporting to disseminate these values. And here, now, are our “graduates,” rampaging across Europe like the worst sort of feral beasts.
Secondly, the relevance to U.S. refugee policy is sadly obvious. It will require rigorous vetting indeed to weed out such deeply disturbed, degenerate young males whose willingness to be deceptive is so pronounced and whose motives are so irrational.
Which brings me to a final theory being vented in Austria: that these destructive, crazed young men are being intentionally infiltrated into western Europe to wreak havoc: to take away the freedom and security of women; change patterns of behavior; deepen the rifts between liberals, who continue to defend and find excuses, and a right wing that calls for harsh measures and violent responses; to inflict high costs and aggravation on courts and judicial systems and generally make a mess of things.
For the record, I am not convinced that there is a deliberate plan behind this, but I do agree that angry and unstable young men are susceptible to destructive paths.
We will grant that this is, as Ms. Benard writes, just “a theory.” Further, we will grant that this theory, even if true, applies only in Europe at present. Nevertheless, all of this, taken in sum, paints a disturbing picture. Opponents of mass migration have long argued that controls are necessary, if for no other reason than to ensure that the countries to which migrants flee remain the kind of countries to which migrants can flee. Even among those who take such arguments seriously, the presumption has always been that any alteration of the host country’s culture would be destructive but would be incidental, an inadvertent side effect of trying to accommodate a massive, young, and growing population, among an aging and demographically stagnant one. Very few imagined that such destruction could or would be sown intentionally. And yet, to borrow Ms. Benard’s phrase, here we are.
Pope Benedict XVI made it one of the priorities of his papacy to restore the Church in its historical homeland, Europe. He had seen the ravages of secularism and wanted desperately to restore both the spiritual and cultural heritage that defined “Christendom” for most of the last two millennia. Sadly, his age and infirmity precluded the accomplishment of his goals.
Even sadder, his successor seems both ambivalent about the goal of recapturing Christian Europe from its secular exile and intractably unaware that an even greater threat may well lurk in the migration policies he righteously insists are the responsibility of good men and women everywhere.
Frankly, we could stand losing in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and throughout the Islamic world. It would feed the Islamists’ egos, we suppose, and possibly encourage a “strong horse” rationality for attacking the West. But, at least, we would know that the world’s greatest source of freedom, liberty, economic well-being, and human dignity – i.e. Western Civilization – would survive. But that’s not where we are. We are losing over there AND over here, which is to say that Western Civilization itself is at risk.
Needless to say, this is not where we expected to be sixteen years ago. This is not how we expected the post-attack West to respond.
Is it any wonder, therefore, that we were reluctant to write about it?
Copyright 2017. The Political Forum. 3350 Longview Ct., Lincoln NE 68506, 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.