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Understanding Russia’s Role in Afghanistan

The United States can make a strong and persuasive case to the Russians that they should cease their ongoing support for the Taliban.

Recently, I argued the United States should use India as leverage to pressure Pakistan into abandoning its support of the Taliban (and other jihadist groups) in Afghanistan. In so doing, I believe, the United States finally would be able to formulate a political solution that would allow a majority of American forces to return home with a victory under their belts. Naturally, however, there is a major potential complication to this plan: Russia. What else is new, comrades?

Yes, Russia is, yet again, inserting itself into a wholly American affair. Since 2008, the Russians have been ratcheting up their support of the Taliban. Consequently, a concert of powers now back the Taliban, even as American troops continue to fight and die the jihadist army that had controlled large swaths of Afghanistan prior to the U.S. invasion in 2001. Understand that while Pakistan is the largest (as well as the closest) foreign power supporting the Taliban, both China and Russia have interests in seeing the Taliban prosper in its ongoing war with the United States. Iran does, too.

With Russia supporting the Taliban, the United States will have a higher degree of difficulty coaxing the Pakistanis to assist us in defeating the Taliban. Russia has been a vital component to the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Since 2001, Russia has provided the United States with diplomatic assistance in opening and maintaining the vital supply lines running into and out of Afghanistan.

After all, Afghanistan is in Russia’s neighborhood. With the exception of Pakistan, most of the surrounding Central Asian states are beholden to Russia in some way. Still, it remains shocking that the Russians are assisting the Taliban in any way. Remember, that the Taliban are the heirs to the Mujahadeen who roundly defeated Soviet forces during the Soviet-Afghan War.

While Russian support for the Taliban is an unwanted complication, it is not an insurmountable obstacle. The Trump Administration should use Russia to its advantage in seeking to extricate the United States from this costly and lengthy war.

The first thing America must do is to recognize what Russia wants. For starters, ISIS presents a grave danger to Russia’s national security. President Putin has little faith in the Afghan government’s ability to counter the rise of ISIS in the country. Putin is also concerned that the United States is so busy trying to extricate itself from Afghanistan that it is not taking the ISIS threat seriously. Therefore, the Russians are using any means to prevent the small ISIS presence in Afghanistan from growing beyond where it is today.

After all, Russia has a large and growing Muslim population. Afghanistan is right on Russia’s southern border. With Russia so closely aligned with Assad in Syria, the last thing that Vladimir Putin wants is to have ISIS operating right next door. The United States should signal to Russia that it will take seriously the threat that ISIS poses in Afghanistan and work to destroy them there, so long as the Russians assist the United States in its larger goal of defeating the Taliban.

It is also likely that Vladimir Putin wants to embarrass the United States in much the same way that he believes the United States embarrassed Russia during the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan. Even so, that is but an ancillary benefit for the Russians. What is more likely is that, from a geopolitical perspective, the Russians are looking to push American forces out of what it perceives as its sphere of influence. In this, there are complementary American and Russian interests.

I think it’s safe to say that a majority of Americans want a successful end to the War in Afghanistan. And, while I believe that a small contingent of U.S. counter-terrorism forces will have to remain in Afghanistan for decades to come, leaving a massive military force permanently engaged in combat operations against the Taliban is simply untenable. President Trump being a populist who has routinely questioned the strategy in both Iraq and Afghanistan, likely shares this interest in ending the War in Afghanistan soon. As you can see, then, the Russian and American leadership have mutual interests in this area of the world.

The Trump Administration must communicate to the Russians that it will not abide the perpetuation of the Taliban. Pakistan has been relentless in its support for Taliban, in large part because they view Afghanistan as offering them strategic depth in Pakistan’s ongoing conflict with India. This is why I believe that the United States getting closer to India would persuade the Pakistanis to abandon the Taliban. Ultimately, an Indo-American alliance would empower Pakistan’s mortal enemy of India and isolate Pakistan. Thus, the Pakistanis would have a vested interest in seeing America leave as quickly as possible. Yet, the presence of Russia means that Pakistan may try to get closer with Russia—in order to protect their Taliban allies, to check India’s growing power on the subcontinent, and to rebuff American influence in the region.

President Trump’s national security team will have to communicate to the Russians that if they want America mostly out of their part of the world, then, the Russians must not fall for the Pakistani trap. They must not allow their desire to humiliate the United States by empowering the Pakistani-Taliban alliance to get the better of Russian grand strategy.

Moreover, the Russians should realize that, if they are serious about destroying the Islamic State in Afghanistan, they should not align with the leading jihadist-supporting state (Pakistan) in the region. Further, the Russians should understand that the Taliban may not be as serious about fighting the small ISIS presence in the country as the Russians assume. Indeed, a Taliban spokesman recently reiterated that the Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan have formed an informal alliance against the West. Thus, any support that Russia is rendering to Taliban may, in fact, be inadvertently helping ISIS.

Not long ago, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General John Nicholson, gave an impassioned testimony to Congress elaborating his belief that America was in an endless stalemate with the Taliban. Therefore, he called for another troop surge into Afghanistan, in order to break the stalemate. The Trump team should embrace this strategy—so long as it is serious about pushing Pakistan to abandon the Taliban by empowering India. As the troop surge commences (alongside an intensification of Indo-American relations), the U.S. must bluntly tell the Russians that American forces will not leave Afghanistan until we are assured that the Taliban are neutralized.

The increase in U.S. forces will signal to Russia that any attempt at supporting Pakistan against the United States will further distance Russia from its ultimate goal of getting America out of Russia’s sphere of interest. America must recognize that President Putin’s desire to prolong American suffering is strong. The temptation to bring an old U.S. partner like Pakistan closer to Russia’s orbit would be an enchanting opportunity for Putin as well (just look at what Putin is doing in Egypt). Yet, Putin’s big dream of firmly rehabilitating Russian influence in the former Soviet space will only be complicated by increased Russian presence in Afghanistan. Simply put, America will not leave until it knows the Taliban is dead-and-gone.

President Trump must enter Afghanistan with his eyes wide open: Pakistan is disinterested in resolving the War in Afghanistan. They will do whatever they have to in order to keep the Taliban open for business. Since India is the strategic linchpin in this scenario, the Pakistanis will be looking for new allies. Russia is an obvious choice for them. Therefore, the Trump Administration must move swiftly to seriously diminish the attractiveness of Pakistan to Russia.

Indeed, this wouldn’t be the first time that Pakistan attempted to play a rival great power off of the United States. During the historic Bin Laden raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011, one of the two covert stealth helicopters that the Navy SEALs used crashed over Bin Laden’s compound. While the SEALs attempted to destroy the helicopter wreckage, a section of the tail survived. The Pakistanis collected this component and handed it off to the Chinese. In fact, since 2009, Sino-Pakistani relations have reached a crescendo as U.S.-Pakistani relations have soured. This is no accident. The Pakistani leadership is keenly aware that the United States is growing disenchanted with them and is looking for ways at prompting the Pakistanis to serve American interests. Such interests, the Pakistanis believe, are inimical to their national interests.

Playing Russia off of America in Afghanistan would be yet another extension of this Pakistani stratagem.

The only way to diminish Pakistan in Putin’s eyes is to rapidly increase the size of U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan and to give them expanded mission parameters. Putin will quickly back away from supporting Pakistan. He might even back Trump’s play in the region. If he doesn’t, then the Trump Administration will continue America’s policy of war against the jihadist networks operating in Afghanistan. We will empower the Indians, and the U.S. diplomatic strategy should then be able to look for ways at undermining Russian influence in the region.

One way or the other, the United States under President Trump will win the War in Afghanistan. It’s just a question of how much both the Taliban and Pakistan want it to hurt. What’s more, it’s also a question of how much Russia wants to risk in the interregnum between now and America’s ultimate victory in Afghanistan. America is never going to remove Russian influence from Central Asia. Geography prevents this from happening.

So, the real calculation for Putin would be how badly he wants supreme influence over this region in the near term. He can get it quite cheaply if he ignores Pakistani attempts at pulling Russia into its orbit (and maybe even helps the United States force Pakistan into abandoning the Taliban). Or he can get it with far more damage to Russian diplomatic capital and prestige if he forces the United States to remain engaged indefinitely in Afghanistan.

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Trump and that Nuisance of a Judge

Judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

By far the most controversial of President Trump’s many official actions so far is his executive order temporarily suspending entry into the United States of travelers from seven specified Muslim-majority countries. So much fake news is swirling around this order that clarification is necessary.

Critics of President Trump will have to swallow this: constitutionally and statutorily, it is up to the American people to decide who enters the United States—either permanently or temporarily. Legally speaking, there is no legitimate “First Amendment” or “equal protection” guarantee of entry into the United States for anyone who is not already legally “in” the United States. The Constitution simply does not protect the whole world. It protects Americans, primarily, and also persons permitted to live in the United States. The question of who is allowed in—and therefore granted the benefit of constitutional protections—is consummately a political or prudential one.

Further, Congress has already explicitly delegated authority to the president to make determinations limiting the admissibility of people whose entry would be detrimental to the security of the United States.

Again, this is a prudential judgment. Trump’s order specifies countries with dysfunctional governments and/or governments that have shown particular hostility toward the United States. But it’s worth emphasizing that the American people could bar entry of Canadians if they chose to do so. Our plenary sovereign authority over borders would extend to rejecting those whose mores we cannot countenance, even if those mores amount to nothing more than wearing hockey jerseys and polyester leisure shorts at Disney World. A fortiori, we can certainly choose not to admit those whom we have good reason to believe cannot be reliably vetted on national security grounds—and this would be true even if our belief is mistaken.

On the other hand, those sympathetic to the administration’s efforts will have to swallow this:  any attempt by executive order to go beyond existing law and remove or bar reentry to those who already enjoy an established legal status is far more problematic. In fact, barring entry of legal permanent residents—“green card” holders—is doomed to fail on genuine due process grounds, i.e., “procedural” due process, as opposed to phony “substantive” due process. This is in accordance with longstanding constitutional and common law principles. And Trump’s order did initially bar legal immigrants—which points to the fact that its rollout was clumsy, at best.

Anyone with a green card has already undergone vetting—usually years of it—and often has years of residence in the United States under his belt to boot. Further, green card holders must be able to rely on  the word of Uncle Sam: specifically, they must be able to assume that they are on the road to citizenship, and that they are legally entitled to live and work in the United States subject only to exclusion for specified crimes or behaviors.

Anyone who has a green card probably has a job or a business, a house, and often a family in the United States, and doesn’t have anywhere else in the world to go. A green card, therefore, isn’t anything like a temporary or tourist visa, much less an illegal entry. What’s more, green card holders enjoy—and bear the burden of—many of the incidents of citizenship, including the right to keep and bear arms and the duty to register for the draft and pay taxes. In addition to all that, they are expected to live in the United States or face consequences. Applying a new exclusionary standard to them would therefore be a Catch-22, the capriciousness of which boggles the mind. It would also be the very definition of an ex post facto decree, and an obvious injustice in the absence of specific findings justifying exclusion.

An argument could also be made—though maybe not as strong as the case for green card holders—for refugees or others who had already obtained their visas before the executive order was issued. In many cases, those people would have reached the end of a long, cumbersome, highly bureaucratic process spread out not over days or months, but years. To deal with them reasonably, the executive order should have been drafted with the input of someone who understands the nitty-gritty details of the U.S. visa granting process, and who could have picked a logical cut-off point for future admissions. Acting prospectively rather than retrospectively would have avoided unnecessary legal and political problems for the administration. Dismissing the complaints of people who, in some instances, have spent well more than a decade in bureaucratic purgatory seems not only cruel, but also imprudent from the point of view of solidifying public opinion behind a policy of secure borders.

Perhaps realizing the inevitable legal challenges that would be launched by sympathetic petitioners, the administration quickly altered course on the admissibility of green card holders, as Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly granted a blanket waiver to them. This is a good sign: the administration shouldn’t pick battles it can’t win, and which would prove to be a distraction from its important agenda.

Unforced errors can be attributed to the youthful exuberance of the administration, but they shouldn’t be repeated. There are many dragons to slay in Washington, and if President Trump is to be the knight in shining armor that his supporters pray for, he needs to keep public opinion decisively on his side.

In general, the president will need to surround himself with people who have an equal grip on the legal, constitutional, and political landscapes. Striking such a balance need not mean weakness.

The president will—if not now, then soon—need to push back against an imperial judiciary. The Ninth Circuit is currently considering an appeal from the order of U.S. district judge James Robart that halted enforcement of President Trump’s executive order in its entirety. Should the appeals court go beyond legitimate due process concerns by sustaining Robart’s order, President Trump will, with justice, be able to point to more “so-called” judges. And that will be the beginning of a fight worth having.

America • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Israel • Middle East • Religion of Peace • Terrorism • The ME Agenda • Trump White House

The Arab Narrative vs. President Trump

President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

While liberal governments across Europe and liberal citizens across the United States were reacting angrily to President Trump’s travel ban for immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority had a more urgent concern: António Guterres.

Guterres, the newly installed secretary general of the United Nations, dared to acknowledge that Jerusalem “is holy to three religions today,” and even that “the temple that the Romans destroyed in Jerusalem was a Jewish temple.”

The common thread between these two events? Both are a threat to the efforts by many within the Arab world to invert fact and fiction.

By stating that Jerusalem was the site of the Jews’ Holy Temple, and a holy city to Christians as well, Guterres contradicted the rewriting of history well underway at the United Nations. As the Palestinian Authority’s minister for Jerusalem affairs Adnan Al-Husseini told China’s Xinhua news agency, UNESCO resolutions over the past year have stated that Al-Aqsa mosque is “purely an Islamic heritage.” Thus another Abbas adviser called Guterres’s acknowledgement of this true history “a strike to the credibility of the U.N. as a global organization,” while Al-Husseini termed the secretary general’s remarks “a violation to all human, diplomatic and legal rules” and even demanded that Guterres apologize to the “Palestinian people.”

George Orwell would beam with pride.

Speaking of the “Palestinian people,” why are the Arab states not addressing the Syrian refugee crisis in the same way they dealt with the Palestinian refugee crisis? Why are they not building refugee camps in safe areas, both inside Syria and in neighboring states, so these refugees might return to their homeland? Both Jordan and Lebanon have, after all, hosted Palestinian Arabs in similar camps for nearly 70 years.

There is no consistent logic to the different treatment of the two groups of refugees—or, at least, none that accords with the Arab narrative of a “Palestinian homeland.” This is not to say that there is no logical explanation, merely that the explanation entirely contradicts the things which the Arab states want liberal Americans to believe.

A Tale of Two ‘Refugees’

The reason why Syrian refugees are not awaiting a return to their erstwhile homes is quite simple: Syria is not, and has never been, the Arab homeland. Arabs stem from the Arabian Peninsula—an area of 1.2 million square miles, roughly four times the size of Texas, and twice the size of Alaska. Today, the Arabian Peninsula is home to the countries of Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and, of course, Saudi Arabia.

Yet those comprise but a minority of the Arab states; the majority came under Arab control during a period of military conquest following the death of Mohammed. While some countries, such as Iran, Turkey and Somalia, adopted Islam separately from Arab control, they proved but the exception to the rule. Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya are referred to collectively as the “Maghreb,” the Arabic word for sunset, the western edge of the Arab caliphate. Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan were similarly acquired through violent military conquest—as was Palestine, until it was taken by the Ottoman Turks in 1516, and then the British in 1917. Contrary to the narrative of the “indigenous Palestinian,” Arabs came to Palestine to subjugate it in the name of Islam, and it has not been under Arab rule, save for a brief period in the 1830s, for more than 500 years.

“Palestine” is also merely the Roman name for Judea, the homeland of the Jews. While ethnically cleansing the natives from this desirable piece of real estate joining Europe, Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula, the Romans renamed the territory in order to divorce the land from its historic owners.

In 1945, Palestine was the target of the Arab boycott. The idea of an Arab Palestinian followed the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964; the PLO’s goal, of course, was the destruction of the state of Israel. Zahir Muhsein, a PLO leader, told a Dutch newspaper in 1977 that the notion of a ”Palestinian people” was devised for the sole purpose of separating Judea from the Jews. Abbas himself, in a speech to the Jordanian Football Association, referred to Palestinian and Jordanian Arabs as “one people living in two states.”

So the idea of a “Palestinian refugee” awaiting a return to Palestine is no more real than the idea of a Syrian refugee awaiting a return to Syria. Both groups exist as political pawns, because the dream of a global Islamic caliphate has never died.

Arab Expansion, Jewish Expulsion

The Arab states expelled more than 90 percent of their Jewish inhabitants over the past century. Today we don’t call these persecuted Jews refugees—for the most part, we call them Israelis. It is not as if the Arab states lack the wherewithal to absorb their Arab brethren similarly, and enable them to build new homes and pursue careers in the large and oil-wealthy countries of their homeland. But that would not serve the goal of Muslim expansion.

The claim that a Palestinian state will afford Arabs living in the West Bank “self-determination” has a similarly tenuous tie to reality. Mahmoud Abbas is now in the 13th year of his four-year term, unwilling to call a new democratic election his party is certain to lose. Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, of course, meant the average citizen merely traded one military government for another. But while Israeli control brought vast improvements to infrastructure, the introduction of institutions of higher learning, and access to the best medical care available in that part of the world, the Hamas rulers divert needed resources to the construction of an extensive network of underground tunnels and the purchase of missiles and other weapons, all in order to murder the citizens of the previous, far more beneficent government.

The only Arab in that section of the world consistently able to vote in free and fair elections is a citizen of Israel. It is thus unsurprising that Israeli citizens of Arab-majority cities near the border of the 1949 armistice line overwhelmingly reject proposals that their homes be transferred to Palestinian territory in a proposed “land swap,” in exchange for Jewish-majority cities (called “settlements” in international parlance) on the other side of the line.

Thus President Donald Trump is correct in his dealings with both Israel and the “countries of concern” first identified by the Department of Homeland Security nearly one year ago under Obama. Far from being an “occupation” of the land of others, Jewish life in Judea corrects an historic wrong and reverses centuries of deliberate ethnic cleansing. And those of us living in the United States deserve to know that new immigrants are coming here, as our own ancestors did, seeking a life of liberty and the pursuit of mutual progress—rather than to hasten the expansion of the Muslim caliphate onto new territory.

Defense of the West • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • Terrorism • The ME Agenda • Trump White House

Secretary Mattis Hits The Ground Running

Demonstrating to the world there is ‘No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy’ than a U.S. Marine

Since last Friday when Congress granted the waiver to retired General Jim Mattis to assume the role as defense secretary there has been an uptick in the deaths of Islamist militants.

Coordinated attacks like the ones that have been taking out Al Qaeda and ISIS fighters take time to plan, and no, Secretary Mattis wasn’t there for the planning. Still, one gets the sense that just by Team Obama handing off the baton to Team Trump the U.S. has gotten more serious—and lethal.

For instance, last Friday, according to Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, U.S. airstrikes took out more than 100 Al-Qaeda fighters in a Syrian training camp. Additionally, U.S. airstrikes took out more than 10 boats on the Tigris River used by ISIS to flee Mosul.

When Mattis, at long last, arrived at the Pentagon on Saturday, the U.S.-led coalition Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve bombed the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq 31 times. Raqqa, ISIS’s capital, was especially hammered, taking 22 of the hits.

While this certainly seems like an impressively successful weekend in the war against Islamist militants, it is merely a glimpse of the much larger campaign that is to come with Mattis in the Pentagon. Mattis, who was the head of Central Command from 2010 to 2013, once called President Obama’s war on ISIS “unguided by a sustained policy or sound strategy [and is] replete with half-measures.”

The world will soon be afforded the opportunity to see what a sustained strategy carried out by full measures looks like.

Worth noting, coalition nations besides the United States that have conducted strikes in Iraq include the Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In Syria, coalition nations that have conducted strikes besides the United States, are Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

But will those nations play a larger role in the fight? Early indications are that at least some understand they are going to need to.

Aside from presiding over the flurry of military operations, Mattis also conducted some diplomacy. He reportedly called British Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who have expressed concerns over President Trump’s tough talk about NATO’s contributions to the fight against ISIS and the individual NATO member states’ failing to meet their obligation to commit at least two percent of their respective GDPs to collective security.

In his call with Fallon, Mattis “emphasized the United States’ unshakeable commitment to NATO” and thanked him for Britain’s willingness to meet and go beyond the 2 percent GDP commitment. Secretary General Stoltenberg just weeks ago applauded Britain’s example and urged other NATO countries to keep increasing defense spending. He said of Britain’s increased spending, “By doing so you lead by example. It’s good to see that other allies are now following you and they are starting to increase defence spending. They still have a long way to go but are starting to move in the right direction. More defence spending in Europe is important for the transatlantic bond, for fair burden-sharing between Europe and the United States.”

I think it’s pretty safe to assume at this point that in the months and years to come Secretary Mattis will be issuing more death sentences to Islamists and more thank-yous to allies for increased help.

And that is a very good thing for American security.

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Make America Victorious Again

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Reposted with permission from the Claremont Review of Books.

At the 2016 elections our bipartisan foreign policy class is near-unanimous, not so much behind Hillary Clinton nor even against Donald Trump. Rather, it circles its wagons around its own identities, ideas, practices, and, yes, livelihoods. Clinton represents the ruling class’s people and priorities in foreign affairs as in domestic ones, though she seems to care even less about the former’s substance. Trump, a stranger to most of the foreign policy class (though not to its current epitome, Henry Kissinger) has voiced views on foreign affairs that are within the establishment’s variances in substance if not in tone. Chastise and threaten NATO for its lack of contributions? Senate majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT) offered an amendment to that effect in 1970. Cozy up to Putin? Hillary Clinton brought him a bright red “reset” button in 2009.

Nevertheless, the foreign policy class does not merely reject Trump; it detests him. Why? Because Trump, in tone even more than substance, expresses the subversive thought that U.S. foreign policy has failed to “put America first,” causing the nation to suffer defeat after defeat. Hence, the entire foreign policy class—in the bureaucracies, think tanks, academe, and the media—are a bunch of losers. Millions of Americans consider these two thoughts to be common sense. But the above-mentioned class takes the first as the root of heresies, and the second as a demagogic insult. Consequently, the 2016 election is not so much about any particular plank in any foreign policy platform. It is about who defines and what constitutes common sense.

Who and what

Why the fuss? Obviously, foreign policy’s formulators and executors are their country’s fiduciaries. Though it follows logically that they should mind no interest before their country’s, nevertheless our foreign policy class’s defining characteristic for a hundred years has been to subsume America’s interest into considerations they deem worthier. The following is our foreign policy class’s common sense, which it hopes the 2016 elections will affirm.

Since Woodrow Wilson, Progressive Democratic and Republican statesmen have confused America’s interest with mankind’s. In practice, they have taken upon themselves the role of mankind’s stewards (or sheriffs, leaders, pillars of order, or whatever) and acted as if, in Wilson’s words, America has “no reason for being” except to “stand for the right of men,” to be “champions of humanity.” Accordingly, a series of statesmen has forsaken war and diplomacy for strictly American ends and with means adequate to achieve them, and adopted foredoomed schemes pursued halfheartedly—Charles Evans Hughes (commitment to China’s integrity and renunciation of the means to uphold it), Franklin Roosevelt (seeking world co-domination with Stalin and the U.N. to banish “ancient evils, ancient ills”), Harry Truman (pursuing peace through no-win war in Korea), Nixon/Kissinger (scuttling Vietnam to help entice the Soviets into a grand detente), George W. Bush (democratizing the Middle East because America can’t be free unless and until the whole world is free).

Instead of Theodore Roosevelt’s maxim “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” these Progressives’ maxim seems to have been: speak grandly while brandishing twigs. The pattern has been consistent: Think global order, make political-military commitments if not in secret then certainly without the American people’s affirmative consent, commit military forces while avoiding declarations of war or specifying how success is to be achieved, and refuse to calibrate American military commitments to what opponents might do to thwart our forces. Then, when the enterprise falls apart, seek scapegoats.

For most of a century, persons of both parties but the same basic proclivities have handed to one another the conduct of America’s international relations. Elihu Root, secretary of state from 1905 to 1909 and Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 1912, begat Henry L. Stimson, secretary of war from 1911 to 1913, secretary of state from 1929 to 1933, and secretary of war in 1945. Stimson begat McGeorge Bundy, national security adviser from 1961 to 1965, who begat Anthony Lake, national security adviser from 1993 to 1997, and foreign policy adviser to the campaign of President Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 2009. Beginning in the mid-1960s Henry Kissinger, national security adviser and secretary of state from 1969 to 1977 and Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 1973, was adopted into this family and shared Anthony Lake’s paternity. His progeny, Brent Scowcroft and then Condoleezza Rice, practiced what one might call the same common sense. Want to know what America’s interest is? Ask what kind of world order such statesmen prefer, and then work backward. Hence, U.S. foreign policy’s bipartisan consistency for the past hundred years: grandiose commitments, then war, followed by no peace, prizes and honors for all.

Only President Ronald Reagan and, to a lesser extent, Dwight Eisenhower appointed a few people who looked at foreign affairs from a very different perspective, the common sense that had dominated American statecraft from George Washington’s time to the 20th century. The founders recognized that no other people had ever organized themselves around the proposition that “all men are created equal,” making the Republic’s moral and political character unique. Because maintaining such a Republic would be difficult, it is and should be the American people’s paramount occupation. As students of history, they knew that international affairs hold out temptations to meddle in others’ affairs, to invite others to meddle in ours, and to foster strife among ourselves. And so the common sense of the men on Mount Rushmore—Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt—was as John Quincy Adams synthesized it: America first. Interfere in nobody’s affairs and suffer no interference in ours. Don’t go looking for monsters to destroy, but make war on whomever troubles our peace.

This is what the American people want and have always wanted. From earliest times to our own, people have come to America to live in peace as Americans, shedding ancestral interests, allegiances, and quarrels. (Recent immigrants from the Middle East excepted, many of whom nurse ancestral identities to the point of enmity to America.) Because America’s 19th-century statesmen shared the people’s peaceful America First perspective, they built this country into the world’s mightiest. George Kennan’s history of American diplomacy begins with the observation that by 1905 Americans could not imagine any harm coming to them from abroad.

Kennan writes that by 1950, however, Americans could hardly think of anything except the prospect of disaster being inflicted from abroad, despite an enormous increase in America’s military power and diplomatic reach. This turnabout happened because what had been a surplus of power over commitments had been replaced by an even greater surplus of commitments over power. That, in turn, happened because Woodrow Wilson and his successors committed the United States to unachievable objectives, sought in concert with peoples either indifferent to them or outright enemies of America. Having sought to mind others’ business, America’s statesmen forgot to mind America’s.

Participation in the Great War for the purpose of ending war forever left 117,000 Americans dead, thousands more wounded, and millions bitterly disillusioned. Then Democrats and Republicans competed in making moral commitments against war while cutting America’s armed forces. When war came, they blamed it on the unenlightened people’s isolationism and, once again, used the commitment to remaking the world to evade responsibility for matching Americans’ sacrifices to America’s interests in postwar peace. That, compounded by blind faith in Stalin and Mao, resulted in more than half of the globe under Soviet and Chinese communist tyrants intent on finishing off America. The American people were angry, and had every right to be angrier.

Pons Asinorum

Ah, but after all, didn’t today’s bipartisan foreign policy class prove its worth by winning the Cold War? Nothing could be further from the truth. The Soviet collapse resulted from Mikhail Gorbachev’s politically disastrous decisions—fatal errors, forced neither by external events nor economic circumstances. Conservatives wrongly credit Reagan for the collapse, but the foreign policy establishmentarians who believe their steady application of “containment” or their own artful negotiations ended the Cold War, know that the opposite is true.

In fact, the foreign policy class had evolved rather quickly away from the objective of ending, or even diminishing, the Communist empires. By the mid 1950s, America’s Progressives effectively reduced foreign policy to avoiding war with Russia and China. They did this by limiting U.S. resistance to Communist advances and by seeking unenforceable arms control agreements that were, in fact, unilateral limitations on U.S. military power. By the Kennedy/Johnson Administrations, and flowering fully in the Nixon/Kissinger/Ford ones, the foreign policy class’s “strategic” objective had come around to the very opposite of “Containment”—namely to integrate first the Soviets and then the Chinese into the world community. The foreign policy class considered these empires eternal and deemed it madness to suggest otherwise.

That, of course, is precisely what Ronald Reagan was about. But when, in 1983, Reagan said that the Soviet Union was a “sad chapter in mankind’s history whose last pages are even now being written,” Strobe Talbot (later Clinton’s deputy secretary of state) wrote in Time magazine that this was only Reagan’s personal view, and contrary to U.S. policy. Talbot was correct.

The U.S. government and the rest of the foreign policy class was on autopilot. On the basis of its own common sense and agenda, it counted Reagan an interloper and thwarted his proposals at almost every turn. Notably, it prevented his main departure from settled national security policy—Reagan, unlike the presidents who came before him and after him, wanted to defend America against ballistic missiles—from bearing fruit. The Soviets feared this most, and the U.S foreign policy class worked hand in glove with them to thwart Reagan. Moreover, by the end of the Reagan Administration the U.S. government was extending and facilitating untied loans to the Soviet government to keep it alive, a policy accelerated under George H.W. Bush. None should forget that, on August 1, 1991, as the Soviet monster was croaking, Bush read to an incredulous crowd in Kiev a speech drafted by Condoleezza Rice advising Ukrainians to be content as Soviet citizens. The foreign policy class and Ronald Reagan were from different planets.

The language of “policy-speak” obscures the fundamental differences. Since Reagan took a big hand in the word’s affairs he was “an internationalist,” wasn’t he? He supported anti-communist forces around the world, did he not? In this way, was he not in the grand Wilsonian tradition? To the contrary: speaking this way confuses means with ends, which Reagan never did. His primordial objective in foreign policy was to safeguard America from Communists. To this end he deployed every means at his command. Yes, he liked the Poles. What’s not to like? But he supported their push for independence, to which previous administrations had been deaf, because doing so weakened the Soviet empire. He supported democratic rebels in Nicaragua. Whatever benefits he expected democracy to bring that country, the reason for his support was the need to excise the Communist cancer from central America.

Ronald Reagan reveled in 600 U.S. Navy ships dominating the world’s oceans, and in military bases around the globe. But his heart and mind, like those of his Washingtonian predecessors, was in the peaceful, decent, American domesticity that all this power was defending. That defense aimed at defeating the Soviet Union. His common sense about the Cold War was, “we win, they lose.”

The reality of war

By the 1980s, the U.S. foreign policy class, having adopted the opposite common sense, was comfortable waging no-win wars. At the same time, its members were jetting between five-star conferences and enjoying deference as if exercising some sort of hegemony, dispensing billions of dollars in aid money plus various forms of access to America. Imperial Pashas in all but name, they identified with a process that was rewarding in and of itself and which they imagined could last indefinitely. But the reality of war has shown the unreality of what they have been about.

The bipartisan 1945 campaign to convince Americans that the U.N. was indispensable to protecting the American republic’s way of life had followed from the Progressive premise that there exists an “international community” of nations who want essentially the same things and adhere to the same standards of behavior. By organizing this community for action, Americans would sacrifice nothing while gaining allies to safeguard their peace. By 1950 things had turned out differently, and shown that “international community” is a hallucinogenic pipe dream.

In June of that year one of the U.N.’s leading members, the Soviet Union, sponsored North Korea’s invasion of the South, which killed American soldiers as it attacked the very basis of U.S. containment policy. By December, after the U.S. armed forces under General Douglas MacArthur had established military dominance over the Korean peninsula, the U.S. foreign policy class concluded that, because using that dominance to win the war would jeopardize America’s standing with its allies and might provoke the Soviets to fight us elsewhere, the U.S. armed forces should kill and die there without trying to win until such time as the Soviets and their clients decided to stop. They stopped after having killed some 50,000 Americans, and only after President Eisenhower seemed ready to use the atom bombs that his predecessor had denied to MacArthur.

The Korean War is essential to understanding how our foreign policy class has handled conflict ever since. Containment’s premise was that since any gain from the communist empires’ attempts at expansion would be incentives for them to aggress again, the United States and allies could secure peace and foreclose their expansion by making any aggression’s costs greater than its benefits. Korea reversed that premise. To this day, China celebrates what it justly calls its victory over America in Korea as an affirmation of its ruling class’s wisdom. With help from the Soviet Union and U.S. allies, it proved able convince the U.S. foreign policy class to accept losses in unsustainable no-win wars. Since then, America’s acceptance of loss after loss has torn at our domestic fiber and international standing.

The Soviet-Chinese axis quickly adapted the Korea pattern to Vietnam, with even more profound results. As the U.S. foreign policy class fought Communist aggression there, it never even considered the option of destroying North Vietnam’s regime. Openly mocking the very notion of victory and accusing those Americans who advocated victory of being enemies of peace, our establishmentarians placed forlorn hope in the notion of “nation building,” as if anyone possessed the secret for organizing any small country’s citizens for self-defense against a military attack endlessly supplied by major powers. Consequently, for a dozen years, another 50,000 Americans died in Vietnam in planned military futility as the republic was roiled by a socio-political revolution that undermined all manner of authority, shifted the ruling class’s composition, and has not yet run its course.

Perhaps the disaster’s most remarkable feature is that it empowered precisely the Progressives who had been most responsible for the war’s prosecution and dishonorable conclusion. This meant, on the level of operations, the Vietnam syndrome’s canonization throughout the foreign policy class, including the military. All but one of the U.S. government’s military ventures ever since have more or less copied the Vietnam paradigm, complete with “nation building” and “rules of engagement” that protect enemy “sanctuaries”—but above all without plans for victory. One will search fruitlessly for differences between the contemporary U.S. manual of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the work of General David Petraeus, and the Vietnam era’s manuals. But on the level of conception, our Progressive foreign policy class has strengthened its hold on the bureaucracies, academe, think tanks, and press during the 40 years since Vietnam, as if that disaster had been a rousing success.

Third world, terror, and default

Our Progressive foreign policy class has continued to prosper because its unanimity about fundamental assumptions has throttled critiques from within and scorned any from outside. The prevailing view that the foreign policy class consists of three competing intellectual currents—Liberal Internationalists, Realists, and Neoconservatives—neglects the fact that all proceed from Progressivism’s assumptions that all nations want for themselves what each of these American factions wants for them. As a result, the differences end up having little practical meaning. Liberal Internationalists, regarding themselves as harbingers of secular, technocratic progress, see foreigners as interested in the same things, thereby willing to modify their behavior to attain America’s help. Realists, seeing themselves as dispassionate technicians of power for the sake of international order, think foreigners are similarly amenable to the steps needed to achieve peaceful international equilibria. Neoconservatives, believing that foreigners are eager for democracy’s blessings, are eager to help foreigners to attain them.

In sum, today’s foreign policy class, no less than its forbears of a century ago, see themselves as mankind’s seniors, teachers, and benefactors. They expect to be treated as such. But as they have dealt with the world, they have sown disrespect for themselves and for our America.

Americans are genetically opposed to empires and favorable to republics. But the Men On Mount Rushmore knew that their right and duty in regard to popular government stops at the U.S. borders, that the rest of the world’s many peoples have an equal, inalienable right to govern themselves as they may, and that U.S. foreign policy’s duty is to deal with each and all as best serves the American people. Progressives, by contrast, have pursued anti-imperialism to the point of practicing something like an imperialism of their own. Beginning in the Wilson administration, they ran a foreign policy actively hostile to the empires of Britain, France, Holland, Portugal, etc. They promoted their colonies’ independence and expected to reap the newly independent nations’ gratitude. While rejecting the suggestion that they were substituting American for European imperialism, they worked hard to increase all manner of influence in what came to be known as the “Third World.”

As U.S. diplomats, and especially the CIA, competed with Communists for influence within the European colonies’ independence movements after WWII, many identified with those movements politically and ideologically. They also sponsored and raised up many of their leaders, imagining that these leaders reciprocated the affection. So close have been these patron-client relationships that, when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles spoke to the director of central intelligence, his brother Allen, he referred to Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser as “your colonel.” So much American money and influence went into the politics of Asia, Africa, and Latin America that a good case can be made that American progressives invented the Third World. They were surprised when their creation turned on America.

Whether because our foreign policy class has chosen clients badly, or simply because it neglected the inherent difference between others’ interests and America’s, it helped bring to power persons who made careers by making major trouble for America. Sukarno, the Ba’ath Party (Saddam Hussein and Hafez Assad), Yasser Arafat, Fidel Castro, are just the most recognizable. Trying to curry favor with such, but also out of ideological solidarity, the U.S. government supported, among others, Franz Fanon, author of Wretched of The Earth, and the inspiration for countless anti-American terrorists. But our foreign policy class also made trouble for America by turning on compliant clients, such as the Shah of Iran, who were succeeded by outright enemies of America, or by overthrowing recalcitrant but effective clients like South Vietnam’s President Ngo Dihn Diem, who were then replaced by incompetent puppets. Consequently, as our experts tried to remedy the consequences of their choices, they resembled nothing so much as sorcerers’ apprentices chasing after the products of their incompetent concoctions.

“It is no coincidence,” as the Soviets used to say, that as America’s no-win policy in Vietnam was becoming undeniable and America’s third world creatures were reverting to type, growing disrespect for America burst into terrorism in the mid-1960s—tentatively at first, but growing in self-assurance and quantity as the U.S. reaction encouraged it. In December 1965 the Soviet Union gathered terrorist groups small and large in Havana for the Tricontinental Conference, whose symbol was a globe resting on crossed submachine guns and whose working groups examined techniques for terrorizing Americans. Terrorists from around the world exchanged best practices through World Marxist Review, published in Prague. Castro was the first to encourage would be revolutionaries to hijack airplanes to Cuba. Our foreign policy class refused to countenance responding forcefully to this act of war. Instead, it persuaded President Nixon to ban guns on commercial aircraft. The FAA also required passengers not to resist hijackers, a regulation that made 9/11 possible.

By the time the Soviet Union passed away, the U.S. government had accepted all manner of terrorism against America with such equanimity that terrorists no longer required a powerful patron. Consider Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In 1973 it assassinated U.S. ambassador Cleo Noel. In 1985, having hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro, it rolled overboard a wheelchair bound American Jew, Leon Klinghoffer. And much more. Nevertheless, the CIA continued to fund the PLO and was instrumental in giving it near-state status. In 1979 the Ayatollah Khomeini, having overthrown Iran’s Shah with U.S. help, seized the U.S. embassy and held its diplomats hostage for over a year, a textbook casus belli not answered in kind. In 1985 the Ayatollah’s Hezbollah agents hijacked TWA flight 847 and murdered U.S sailor Robert Stethem. But the U.S. government did not crush terrorist organizations or their sponsors.

By the 1990s, respect for America had fallen so low in the minds of so many that any and all reasons sufficed to accelerate anti-American terrorism. Following Iran’s unpunished capture of American diplomats in the name of Islam, all manner of Muslim radicals conducted anti-American terrorism. Terrorists who had served the Soviets, such as the PLO, started operating under Islamic pretenses. Terrorists who had been practicing their craft in the service of such regimes as Saddam Hussein and Hafez Assad’s, also flew the Islamic flag. The U.S. government, which had rationalized treating terrorism as mere criminality in order to avoid confronting the Soviet Union, started rationalizing that same reticence by citing reluctance to wage a war of religion against Islam.

Consequently, whereas once upon a time the only people who would slaughter Americans were ones deeply in ideology’s grip, whether Communist or Islamic, in our time a superficial conversion is enough for the world’s restless and resentful, Americans included, to spill American blood. “No people was so small or weak that it could not do them harm,” Montesquieu wrote of what befell third-century Romans. By the 21st century, the failure of American foreign policy had thus come home to the average American.

Clinton or Trump?

By 2016, America’s foreign policy class looked out from its privileged places and saw citizens whose long simmering dissatisfaction with their works had boiled over into disrespect. Correctly, this class sees the election as the validation or rejection of what they are all about. But whether electing Clinton would or could confirm their hold on the machinery of policy, or how long a respite from their detractors might endure, is by no means clear. That is because Clinton’s election would perpetuate and strengthen the foreign policy trends that have led both the establishment and the government to lose credit at home and abroad. Electing Clinton would neither restore lost respect nor induce the foreign policy class to seriously consider what they have been doing wrong all these years. Because this class’s contempt for its domestic opponents continues to push the current course of action to its logical conclusions, it virtually ensures grave unintended consequences.

Thus, Progressives have touted disarmament, arms control, or reduction of armaments, as a matter of principle for a hundred years. Progressives have seen military weakness as an enabler of peace, an enhancement of “soft power,” and yet as no barrier at all to involvement in the word’s quarrels. In the nuclear age, they have been the primary proponents of what used to be called “minimum deterrence”—the theory that possessing a small, invulnerable stock of nuclear weapons designed to devastate cities is enough to deter attack even from governments whose nuclear forces are designed to fight, survive, and win nuclear war. It is an article of faith for this class that, because those invulnerable “second strike” weapons would avenge America’s defeat, the attacker would never inflict it. But one can find few members of that class who, themselves, would be willing to commit such senseless vengeance.

The foreign policy class has also recognized that supporting allies with some degree of credibility against nuclear powers requires the capacity and willingness to use nuclear weapons militarily. Nevertheless, over the years, the foreign policy class’s resistance to enacting the militarily senseless theory of Minimum Deterrence has weakened. President Obama’s plans for U.S. nuclear forces now put them on course to minimum deterrence. A recent article by William Perry, Bill Clinton’s former secretary of defense and a close adviser to Hillary, advocates it explicitly. As that change in America’s nuclear status takes hold, members of the foreign policy class should not be surprised to find their foreign hosts less accommodating to them and more to whomever wants to hurt America. Power, like water and much else, flows downhill.

The foreign policy class’s objection to the very notion of “America First” is that it deprives America of allies. This neglects the truth that allies, like bank loans, are available in inverse proportion to the need for them. To have allies one must first have the power to achieve one’s own objectives, and enough left over to help the allies along. The most prominent and authoritative book on Progressive foreign policy, Restraint (2014) by Barry Posen, director of the Security Studies Program at MIT, prescribes just the opposite. Progressive “multilateral” foreign policy consists of asking potential allies to sign on to schemes that the U.S. foreign policy class is considering, but whose adoption is conditional on the allies signing on. Any alliance formed on that basis is as fraudulent as the offer of alliance itself—today’s NATO being a good example. By the same token, Ukrainians would more likely put faith in an America that was pursuing policy toward Russia that was clear and forceful because it put America first than an alliance that supports its armed forces with American Meals Ready to Eat. Similarly, Japan, Indonesia, and Australia would be more reassured by knowing what America is going to do in its own interest about China’s appropriation of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, than by a “pivot” of U.S. forces that combines reassertion of U.S. commitments with a steadily decreasing inventory of ships and airplanes. Where does anyone think that such policies will lead America over the next decade?

Inexorably, Progressive foreign policy is gravitating in the direction of foreign Progressive forces. For Progressives, the benevolence of “the Arab Street” and even of organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood is an article of faith. From government, the media, and the universities, Progressives indict as racists anyone who imputes responsibility for terrorism to Arabs, Muslims, or Islam. America’s Muslims vote Democrat. Any Progressive president would find it hard to depart from this part of his tribal identity, least of all Hillary Clinton, whose top aide, Huma Abedin, is deeply connected to the Muslim world. The Democratic Party, along with its bench in academe, has identified increasingly with Israel’s enemies as fellow Progressives. Surely and not so slowly, our foreign policy class has acted more and more as if Israel’s refusal to accede to Arab demands were the chief cause of the Middle East’s troubles.

Imagine, then, what effects the intensification of U.S. foreign policy’s trends would produce in the not so distant future. Then, considering how these effects would manifest themselves on America’s streets, ask how the American people are likely to react.

The 2016 election is about whether that pattern should change. How much, if at all, it would change under Trump matters much less than the mere possibility it might change. Trump’s virtue in foreign policy lies in having voiced this simple, vital thought: U.S. foreign policy must put America first, and deliver victories rather than defeats. Whether Trump really believes that, whether he would act on it, or even whether he understands past mistakes, is secondary.

 

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Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Democrats • Foreign Policy • Immigration • Religion of Peace • September 11 • Terrorism • The Left • The ME Agenda • Uncategorized

The 9/11 Awakening That Still Needs to Happen

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Five years ago, on what was the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on our country, I offered this reflection as I recalled the horror of that day.

The confidence that assures the vulnerable and makes them forget their condition was shaken. We were all vulnerable now. In truth, however, this was not a new state of things. It was just that a generation of Americans unaccustomed to acknowledging it except in abstractions, was rudely awakened to a fundamental truth of human existence: the good things in life are fragile. We had taken our security and prosperity for granted and, even more, we had assumed that our liberty was a given and a permanent fact. Coming to know what to do with this realization would be the hard (and often thankless) work of the next decade (or more). Remembering that realization—though it then seemed impossible that we could forget—will be the work of the decades to follow this anniversary.

Five years ago, I was worried (and I still worry) about the way we teach our children about that day. I worry because I know what comes of failing to be frank with ourselves and with the kids. My generation, the one that history forgot and simply deemed “X”, may be the best example of that kind of failure. The events of September 11, 2001 marked for me, as they should have marked for all Americans, the end of comfortable assumption regarding the sanguine fate of our people. The assumption that life will continue to go on in more or less the same way it always has is toxic to a free people. We love to say “Never Forget!” Yet forgetting is our specialty.

It is now a cliche to say that “9/11 changed the way I looked at the world,” but for many people of my generation—people who grew up in the waning days of the existential threat of Soviet Communism—this is wholly true. In a way, we Reagan babies suffer from an embarrassment of riches. We have some vague memories of being seriously afraid of the Soviet Union and nuclear holocaust during the Carter years, but once Reagan was elected those fears began to dissipate and confidence grew. At the time and through a child’s eyes, our certain victory in the a Cold War seemed of a piece with the plot of Rocky IV or with the outcome of that famous Miracle on Ice hockey match in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. We were sure that freedom was the urging of every human heart and that it would ring just as sure for Eastern Europe as it was for us once history caught up to them and they figured it out.

America represented freedom in the world, not only for ourselves but against all others and all objections. My generation was proud and confident but, above all, we were ignorant of what our victory in the Cold War had cost and of how hard fought it had been. Our parents’ generation had fought in (and over) Vietnam, but they didn’t really talk meaningfully to us about it. We may read about it but we don’t remember it. Conservatives of my generation were free to assume that opposition to that war was an anomaly and mainly the work of some dirty hippies and commie holdouts. I don’t think we internalized just how deep were fissures in our society, mostly because we didn’t remember a time without them. Naturally, we thought, we won the Cold War in spite of them. Winning was just what Americans do because we were on “the right side of history” while the bad guys were always destined to its “ash heap.”

As we watched Communist dictatorships crumble in quick succession in the early 90s, our confidence grew. This was easy! The first Gulf War? Easy! All we had to do was to be tough like Reagan. If we stood up, the bad guys would have to stand down. It was all just a matter of time. Peace through strength was a mantra that in our constant and clue less reliable-telling took on the properties of political alchemy. We had missed too many steps along the way. We didn’t remember the struggle. And since experience is the best teacher, we did not really understand the many other conditions of freedom.

For some, but not for enough,  9/11 changed all of that. History, we discovered, does not have sides. There is no certain trajectory of things toward the right and the good. Liberty is precious precisely because it is always so precariously held. After an all too brief moment of heartfelt but also heartsick national unity, the deep fissures in our society made themselves felt again and felt hard. We seemed confused about what our next step should be. Victory did not come easy. History did not cooperate and reveal itself to all of the human hearts that were supposed to be longing for freedom. In fact, they seemed pretty clearly to be rejecting and spitting upon it. As clear victory did not come, there was much debate about what, precisely, victory should look like. If freedom was not wanted, maybe we could encourage it by forcing the spring. Then it would have to grow. Maybe that was the ticket.

Except it wasn’t. The Arab Spring was also a disaster. People cannot be given freedom and then expected to cherish and cultivate it. People have to want it and to earn it; maybe even including Americans who have counted it as their birthright inheritance. Maybe freedom isn’t the kind of thing that can be safely passed along to the next generation without some hard conversations and even harder lessons.

My generation and, now, also the Millennials, remain in the discovery phase of the many hard lessons about maintaining liberty.  In the months after the September 11 attacks—as our false unity inspired by fear began to wane—one of our AG contributors, Mackubin Thomas Owens, wrote about how America’s mindless commitment to “diversity” was going to kill us and that we needed to reject it soon so we could remember the true source of American unity.

“Diversity” is the poisonous fruit of that toxic doctrine, “multiculturalism.” The latter—the discredited idea that race defines destiny and that blood determines who we are—would appeal to Hitler. Multiculturalists reject the principles of the Declaration because they see them as, at best, “cultural imperialism” and at worst, racism.

In America, ethnicity is an indicator of whence we have come, not whither we are going. It is precisely by rejecting ethnic politics and embracing politics based on individuality and equality of natural rights that have created the conditions of civility and domestic tranquility upon which American strength and prosperity rest. The increasing hyphenation of America bodes ill for these conditions.

Owens gave us some  good advice when he encouraged us to reject the cult of “diversity” and instead counseled us to hearken back to what Lincoln called “the mystic chords of memory” which, by appealing to “the better angels of our nature,” remind all Americans of every ethnic background that to be essentially American one must believe in and uphold the principles of our Declaration. It is only in this way that one truly can be “blood of the blood and flesh of the flesh” of our founders. It is this core that should unite us. We can be born American, naturally. But there’s much more to becoming American than birth or birthright. In America, after all, it’s only fitting that birthrights have to be earned to be claimed.

It is to weep that this advice was not heeded. Instead, what we’ve seen as we continue to muddle along in the Middle East is a loss of American confidence abroad and an ever increasing Balkanization at home. The terrorists are winning because we are becoming more and more like them as we engage in petty tribal wars over questions like wedding cakes and bathrooms and take ghoulish delight in incessant scab picking about grievances related to race, religion, our history, and our national heritage. America’s first black President, the one who so many hoped would heal divisions and take us into the promised land of a post-racial society, has instead stoked all of these divisions in the service of a cynical political agenda. Divisions like these turn out to serve Democrat political interests. E Pluribus Unum?  Eh, not so much. Diversity may not be America’s real strength. But it definitely accounts for the political strength of Democrats.

In the same essay, Owens mentioned in passing that:

Of course, the Founders did not believe, as do some of today’s liberals, that there is an absolute “right” to immigration and US citizenship. They held that since America is a polity based on consent as well as equality, citizens have certain rights against foreigners, one of which is the right to exclude immigrants based on a judgment regarding the character of those to be admitted. For instance, members of a particular religious sect might be rejected if that religion’s beliefs are fundamentally at odds with the principles that lie at the foundation of republican government.

It is almost as if he was peering into the future anticipating the ways in which we would botch this chance at national unity. Today, as we have become increasingly divided we seek also to be increasingly open to the world and its people—inviting ever more “diversity” and foolishly thinking it will make us strong. In our ignorance, we think this makes us good and generous and noble. In truth, we are inviting more and more division as we demand almost nothing from them. We have dropped the ball in asking people to earn their freedom. We do not even demand it of our own children.  If native born Americans can no longer muster the energy or mobilize those “mystic chords” who can believe that all of these newcomers, with no one to teach them and no real incentive to learn, will?

The Culture • The Left • The ME Agenda

What Happened To Safe, Legal, & Rare? DNC Crowds Cheers Speaker’s Abortion

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Democrats let the mask slip last night in Philadelphia when the crowd erupted with congratulatory cheers after one of the speakers, Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL, told them of the time she got an abortion because well, it just wasn’t a convenient time to have a baby.  If any good came of her tale and the crowd’s ghoulish response it’s that it provided a moment of clarity.

For all the talk of the tough cases – rape, incest, and the life of the mother – the abortion movement is motivated by the same thing that motivates the Left more generally – the radical emancipation of the uninhibited self from objective moral standards.  It is barbarism on stilts, dressed up with fancy language but last night they couldn’t hide it – and didn’t even try.

Hogue told the crowd, “To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path. I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time. I made the decision that was best for me—to have an abortion and get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community.  Now years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.” [Emphasis Added]

The emphasis, of course, is on Hogue, what she wants, her success, the chance to chart her own path.  In her vision, children become a bauble, just another means of self-gratification.  And when Hogue talks about “compassionate care” it is for her and only her, no mention of her child.  The compassion isn’t compassion as most people know it – it’s not sympathy or concern for another’s misfortunes.  No, what she’s talking about is a vendor willing not only to perform the horrific act, but then to affirm her choice, to tell her she was right when every ounce of her humanity must have been screaming that she was wrong.

This is a common theme on the Left – it’s not enough that they be permitted to perform some act, they demand that the act itself be declared a positive good and “celebrated” by everyone else.  (Pro Tip: If someone is asking you to celebrate something other than a birthday, anniversary, or national holiday, its probably cover for their political agenda.)   It’s like Murder On The Orient Express – if everyone is complicit in the crime, the theory goes, no one is really guilty.

 

 

James Madison wrote in Federalist 55 that “there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.” He goes on to explain that free government of the kind envisioned by the U.S. Constitution “presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.”  In other words, self-government requires a virtuous people.

Hogue’s speech and the crowd’s reaction highlight too well the vicious depths being plumbed by the Left in their hapless quest to free mankind from the burdens of the natural moral order and in so doing illustrates the challenges of maintaining a republican form of government.