THE PASSION OF GEERT WILDERS

January 30, 2009

We have now all read the disturbing reports of the intention of the Dutch Court of Appeals to prosecute Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament, for inciting hatred and discrimination.

The prosecution will be based on comments by Wilders in various media on Muslims and their beliefs following the production of his 15 minute documentary Fitna last March.

The court’s ruling reverses a decision last year by the Dutch public prosecutor’s office, which stated that Mr Wilders’ comments had been made outside parliament as a contribution to the debate on Islam in Dutch society and that no criminal offence had been committed. The Court of Appeals found, however, that it considers appropriate a criminal prosecution of Wilders for having insulted Muslim worshippers because of Wilders’ comparison of Islam with Nazism.

Wilders’ case is rightly called a watershed in Western history. For while many other European celebrities have suffered for their views on the Muslim threat to the West( Brigitte Bardot , Oriana Fallaci and Ayaan Hirsi Ali among them) none has been a European politician of such high visibility and stature.

Holland, lest we forget, is the place where Pik Fortuyn, another Dutch legislator and a man who warned consistently about the encroaching Islamization of his country, was brutally murdered. It is the same country where filmmaker Theo van Gogh was shot, stabbed and virtually gutted in broad daylight by a Muslim who had vowed vengeance for what he regarded as Van Gogh’s anti-Muslim film Submisison.

So in the person Geert Wilders we have united the memory of two of the most prominent martyrs to the cause of free speech in Europe – one a politician and one a filmmaker. Wilders is both and like his predecessors he is about to risk his fortune, his career and perhaps even his life for saying exactly what he thinks.

We have every right to ask what kind of logic produces such a skewed legal decision? The right of free speech, enshrined in every constitution of every democratic country without exception, traditionally also includes the right to offend. In an open society, there are many avenues of redress by aggrieved parties who feel they have been unjustly defamed. But for the State itself to interfere in a defamation suit and to bring charges against an individual on behalf of a minority, is an action without parallel in any democracy today.

So we should be clear: The Dutch Court of Appeals has drawn a line down the middle of European society. On one side now stand those defenders of liberal western democracy and the freedoms it supposedly protects; on the other are the adherents of a remorseless multicultural ethic, unable and unwilling to recognize the threats that face them and impelled to crush those who toll the bell of an approaching catastrophe.

None of us should stand idly by as Wilders is paraded as a sacrifice to European political correctness. We must be assertive in defending Wilders’ right to say exactly what he wants without fear of prosecution or detention.

At the American Freedom Alliance we are taking this to another level and I am pleased to announce that Geert Wilders will be the AFA’s 2009 Hero of Conscience at our annual dinner to be held May 17, 2009 in Los Angeles.

We encourage all our subscribers to write letters of support to Geert Wilders’ office and letters of protest to the Dutch Court of Appeals. We will be providing details of how this can be done within the next few days. We will be following his case closely and bring you regular updates in its development.

And we hope you will join us at the dinner.

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OBAMA REVISITS THE MISTAKES OF THE PAST

January 30, 2009

Whenever a President of the United States begins to talk effusively about cutting through the Gordian knot of the Middle East conflict it is time to start worrying about a renewed outbreak of hostilities.

That’s because for decades American Middle East policy has aimed at the unachievable only to end in encouraging further violence and despair.

How many successive administrations have had their plans for Middle East peace wrecked on the reef of hard reality? That reef today is littered with the rusting hulks of successive plans and missions – from the Rogers Plan of 1969 to Kissinger’s haunted shuttle diplomacy of the mid 70s to the Oslo Accords of 1993 to the Zinni Mission of 2003 to the ill-fated Road Map of 2004. These hapless initiatives and plans have shared one commonality – a staunch belief that Palestinians and their Arab sponsors only wish for the dignity of Palestinian self-determination. Given the reality of self rule, so the creed goes, Palestinians would cease their relentless assault upon the Jewish state.

Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Palestinian nationalism, from its very beginnings, has never had as its focus the creation of an independent state or self rule. On the contrary, Palestinian nationalism is erected, not on giving self-respect to a dispossessed citizenry but on the elimination of another people. In fact, anti-Zionism is and always was the one overarching principle which unites the notoriously fractious Palestinian groups and their Arab state sponsors. It remains to this day a central article of both the Fatah and Hamas charters. Without it, the various Palestinian chieftans would be tearing each other apart, much as their great-grandfathers did in the not so distant Palestinian tribal past. Nation building, at least as it is understood in the West, has never been an essential element in that struggle.

Revisiting the mistakes of the past is evident in the selection of George Mitchell as Middle East envoy and Dennis Ross as a key advisor. Mitchell, although perhaps well meaning, has consistently used moral equivalence as his prevailing tool of analysis in determining a path to peace in the conflict. Dennis Ross, on the other hand, is a diplomat with such a staggering record of failure and misunderstanding of key personalities and events in the Middle East, that his selection as a central figure in the Middle East policy circle almost has a ring of mockery to it.

Mitchell’s inability to appreciate that Palestinian hatred of Israel transcends issues of borders and territory and goes to the very heart of Israel’s existence is evident in almost every comment he makes on the conflict, while Ross’ penchant for believing that propping up dictators and tyrants is the surest way to bring stability to the region ( ie: his consistent embrace of Yasser Arafat) made a joke of his role as Middle East envoy in the 1990s. This incompetent duo is as likely to steer the Middle East towards peace as Batman and Robin.

While we have yet to hear the full details of an Obama plan for Middle East peace, a certain misty outline is already forming. The first element, articulated in Obama’s interview on Muslim television station al Arabiya last Tuesday is the fundamental belief that the West and the East need to converse under an umbrella of mutual respect and mutual interest. This is a subtle recalibration of Clintonian “ I feel your pain” politics, a way of bespeaking the ragged old axiom that the West has somehow been negligent in its awareness of Arab sensitivities.

This is ludicrous. When Palestinians stop burning American flags in the streets of their cities; when democratic elections bring true democrats rather than murderers and human rights abusers to power; when the Palestinian educational system is gutted of incitement, antisemitism and anti-Americanism, then perhaps we can talk about a basis for mutual respect and interest.

Until then, the Obama Administration should understand, as the Bush Administration did to a certain degree, that there is no George Washington-styled nation builder among the corrupt and brutish leaders of would-be Palestine. Thugs and kleptocrats are the central figures of the Palestinian national movement and they are no more capable nor willing to urge moderation on their people than any other tyrant or dictator in the region.

The second element that is becoming clear is the Obama Administration’s willful determination to see a Palestinian state come into being. While George Bush became the first U.S. president to offer that state, for Obama and his team Palestinian statehood is likely to become an unassailable creed.

But what kind of guarantee of peace does this offer? If , in the likely event the West Bank becomes as radicalized as Gaza and major Israeli cities come under threat of daily rocket attacks, how does Israel respond? As everyone knows, there is a significant difference between raiding a territory and invading a sovereign nation. Intelligence and surveillance, the key elements in the current maintenance of Israeli security, would be drastically compromised and the minimal diplomatic leverage the Jewish state presently maintains as a sovereign nation exercising its basic defensive rights, would be lost.

The creation of another terrorist sponsoring state on Israel’s door step is a guarantee for war, not peace – and a war, to boot, of deep attrition that threatens to extend far into the future.

So lets get real. A major thrust by the Obama Administration into the Middle East quagmire requires a truly fresh approach and not warmed over Clinton obeisance or Carter gullibility. It needs to reflect the fact that there are powerful interests in the Middle East for whom keeping the fires in the Middle East conflict burning constitutes a vital political or psychological need. It must come to grips with the fact that the drive for Palestinian statehood does not issue from the Palestinian street but from distinctly American and Israeli sources. In the absence of an effective leadership, capable of leading the Palestinians to peaceful coexistence, and for the want of popular acceptance of Israel’s right to exist, there is no hope for true peace in the near future or even in our lifetime.

Americans are typically gung-ho problem solvers who assume that all conflicts can ultimately be settled between well meaning people. But when one side is emphatically and irreversibly committed to the others’ destruction, what room is little room left for negotiation? Ultimately, U.S. policy needs to shift from an insistence that the conflict can be definitively resolved to an acceptance that it can only really be managed. Until the Palestinians find the will to edit their children’s text books to reflect amity and friendship towards Jews or begin to read them stories that do not involve the murder of Israelis, they should be put on notice that any hope of accommodating their national aspirations will be dashed.

These should now form the bedrock preconditions for any discussion of Palestinian statehood. Sadly, it appears that Barack Obama will not have the prudent advisors he needs around him, capable of informing him of this uncomfortable reality.


THE 21st CENTURY’S LAPSE OF MEMORY

January 23, 2009

If you had spoken in the year 1899 to a 20-year-old man and told him that the coming century would wreak more damage and take more human life than all the European wars until that time combined, he might have laughed at you.   It would have seemed unthinkable to an enlightened mind at the end of the 19th Century that peaceful Europe could be convulsed by a mechanized horror on a level mankind had never before witnessed.  How could he, or others, conceive of an international conflict which would consume the lives of 45 million people, eradicate hundreds of ancient villages and cities and sweep away some of  the most powerful monarchies on earth?  Perhaps in Africa or Asia.  But surely not in civilized Europe.

 

Now, if you told a man in 1920 that twenty years later the world would be visited by a renewed horror, but this time on a far broader and more desperate scale, he might have taken you a little more seriously.  That’s because the experiences of the First World War left a deep scar on the consciousness of the post war generation, awakening it to the perils of high technology and the devastation that human beings could now wreak upon one another.  It strengthened its leaders’ resolve to prevent war of any such kind in the future. 

 

Most of us living in the comfortable early years of the 21st Century have no real memory of true hardship or of cataclysmic conflicts which once gripped the world and transformed it forever.   Our last great existential crisis, the Cold War, stretched for 43 years, but ironically had only a marginal impact on the pace and enjoyment of life in the West.   Except for small intervals, the economic success of the post-war years has largely inoculated us against the kind of despair our forefathers experienced during the first half of the 20th Century.  The Great Depression, with its searing images of  bread lines, 15 % unemployment and dust bowl poverty, is now a very distant memory, fading into meaninglessness when viewed through the prism of modern life. 

 

Memory in “live for the moment’ western society does not tend to stretch beyond a  generation or two.  Yet if there is one thing that the recent economic collapse has reminded us it is that good times do not and cannot go on forever. Wars, natural disasters and economic landslides are part of the natural progression of history and every generation should expect to be visited by them.   Seen in this light, the major catastrophes which punctuated the Bush years – the attacks of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the economic crisis of 2008, were part of the historical continuum, not outliers.  Our lack of physical and psychological preparedness for them and the panic they spread was far more  a function of the absence of historical memory than a dearth of good intelligence, accurate weather forecasting or effective market regulation.

 

So if we cast our minds back to that Gilded Age man and think for a  moment about his  world view, we might find it fairly easy to identify with his skeptical outlook.  While it may be true that the past eight years have produced events that have deeply shaken us, they have not been  quite so cataclysmic as to strip us of hope for the future or faith in our political system and way of life.  Yes, the United States mainland was attacked for the first time in 189 years and 3,000 innocents lost their lives.  But  there are very few, even in the highest echelons of government, who believe that another attack, even if it is  a localized nuclear attack, would wipe out our civilization.

 

That is an enormous miscalculation. 

 

Today the United States is completely unprepared for the event of an electromagnetic pulse attack.  Such an attack, known to the United States military since 1963, occurs when an enemy vessel outside U.S. territorial waters launches a ballistic missile carrying a nuclear warhead which detonates some 100 miles in the atmosphere above the continental United States.  If plotted correctly, the electro magnetic current from this explosion, while perhaps causing no fatalities on the ground , would generate such a voluminous shockwave that it  would effectively short circuit the country’s electrical grid.   The devastating impact can barely be imagined:  No communications; no transportation; no refrigeration; no water supply; no heat nor air conditioning and no possibility of immediate repair. 

 

 Within a short time most families, who are provisioned with  an average three days worth of food, would be reduced to desperate measures.   Looting, riots, murder and destruction would grip most cities.  Within a few a months, parts of  the United States of America would to begin to resemble the landscape portrayed in Cormac McCarthy’s post apocalyptic novel The Road – a devastated populace with mass starvation and roaming gangs who have no compunction about killing for food.

 

Who is capable of carrying out such an attack?   According to a report presented to Congress in 2004, Russia and China already have the capacity for such a strike and North Korea could acquire the technology by 2015.  Iranian technicians have apparently known for years that an EMP attack on the United States is by far the most effective means of eliminating a U.S. military threat to Iran.   

 

 Wouldn’t most of these countries fear U.S. retaliation?  Well, yes.  But  the beauty of  an EMP attack for the aggressor is that  the victim never quite knows who has launched the strike.   Terror sponsoring states could easily unload responsibility for it onto the backs of one of the many terrorist organizations salivating to deliver such a  blow.  The identity of the perpetrating group could remain hidden for years, leaving no real target for retaliation.

 

What can be done to prevent such an attack?  An effective missile defense system, for one thing, designed specifically to interdict such ballistic weapons at launch phase.     Another important measure is to mandate that all electrical generators throughout the country be sufficiently ‘hardened’ against such an attack – an operation that is relatively cost effective.  According to the 2004 Congressional report, depending on the power level involved, points of entry into electrical generators can sometimes be protected from an electromagnetic pulse by using specially designed surge protectors, special wire termination procedures, screened isolated transformers, spark gaps, or other types of specially-designed electrical filters. Critical systems may also be protected by increasing the number of backup units, and by keeping these units dispersed and out of range of the electromagnetic pulse source.

 

So, then, what is being done to address EMP threats? In a word,  nothing.  Although the Congressional Report made clear that an EMP is the most lethal threat the United States currently faces, no one at the senior level of the Department of Defense seems to have read the report and  top government leaders, including  former President Bush, seem blissfully unaware of the magnitude of the threat.

 

A normal reaction to such a scenario as the one presented here is that it is too wild a prospect, too beyond believability. And that is indeed what our leaders probably think.    But return now to the Gilded Age man.  Think of his incredulity to the prospect of an absolute destruction of his civilization.  Think about the risks of doing nothing in preparation.  And consider that if it happens,  there may not be many of us left to recall how arrogant we were, or how shallow was our memory, in accepting that it could never really happen to us.


THE FALL AND RISE OF GEORGE W. BUSH

January 16, 2009

Do any of these descriptions of recent presidents ring a bell?

 

“ I  never did see so weak or imbecilic a man. The weakest man I ever knew in high place.”

 

“ The craftiest and most dishonest politician that ever disgraced an office in America

 

“ An intellectual pygmy who disgraces the office occupied so grandly by men such as Washington and Jefferson.”

 

These snide denunciations could all well have been found in almost any of the nations’ newspapers or magazines over the past eight years.   But they do not refer to George W. Bush.   The first two were written contemporarily about Abraham Lincoln.  The third about  Harry S.Truman.

 

Attacks on the character, ability, integrity and performance of a President is a tradition as  old as the nation itself.  No chief executive ever escapes them.   Even George Washington, in his attempt to keep the United States neutral at the beginning of the Revolutionary Wars in the 1790s, suffered ridicule and the contempt of editorialists and opinion makers. 

 

But the point of presenting these quotes to you is to demonstrate the political truism that history is the final arbiter of a President’s legacy – and no amount of  contemporary vilification will alter its final judgment.  The presidencies of Lincoln and Truman certainly offer proof.   In William Riding and Stuart McIver’s book Rating the Presidents ( Citadel Press, 1997) both Lincoln and Truman, viciously excoriated  in their  time as imbeciles and incompetents, are hoisted into the highest  echelons of the ranking, with Lincoln occupying the first place and Truman the seventh.

 

This is the week, of course, when editorials gleefully indulge in the necromantic pleasure of dissecting the cadavers of dead presidencies. In that spirit,  both Time and Newsweek have published pieces declaring Bush the worst president  in U.S history.   Commentators on MSNBC , CNN  and ABC  have mercilessly savaged the Bush Administration for its failures, listing the invasion of Iraq, the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina,  the abuse of human rights at Guantanomo and the NSA wire tapping operation as evidence of  not just incompetence, but mala fides.   The Administration is widely regarded in the media, academia and among the intellectual elites of this country  as having abused constitutional safeguards, exercised arbitrary executive power, used manipulative tactics and fabricated evidence to goad the American into an unnecessary military confrontation.

 

Contrary views are mocked.   The press has laughed off the Administration’s own defense of its record as another farrago of lies and fabrications and even conservatives mouth resigned platitudes about a failed presidency. 

 

But Bush’s many achievements are documented and cannot be dismissed as the mere posturing of a defeated administration.

 

 Included are the President’s Malarial Initiative ( PMI)  which is on track to reduce malarial deaths in Africa in half in 15  selected countries;  the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, ( PEDFAR) –  the single most important AIDS initiative in history which has provided life saving treatment  for more than 2.1 people on the African continent and has cared for 10.1 million more worldwide. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)  which has invested $6.7 billion in 35 countries to fight corruption, govern justly, and focus on in the health and education of their people..  Since 2001 the United States has provided 10.1 billion in disaster relief and was by far the lead international contributor after the 2005 Tsunami in South East Asia, the earthquakes in Turkey  and the cyclone in Burma.

 

The Bush Administration has also been  the greatest promoter of free trade in U.S. history.  In 2001 the United States had negotiated free trade agreements with only three countries. Recognizing that free trade is the true key to global peace and security, the Administration ensured that today the United States  has agreements in place with 14 countries with Congress recently approving another three.

 

In education reform , the results have also been impressive.  The No Child Left Behind Act , a law which demands that the states hold schools accountable for ensuring that every child learns to read and perform math at grade level has been a signal success.   According to the Nation’s Report Card, by 2007 fourth-grade students had achieved their highest reading and math scores on record, and eighth-grade students achieved their highest math scores. African-American and Hispanic students posted all-time highs in reading and math, narrowing the achievement gap.

 

Faith-Based and Community Initiatives also brought important changes to volunteerism in this country.   More than 515,000 children received after-school tutoring through supplemental educational services, many from faith-based and community providers. Critics might well have virulently attacked the Bush Administration response to Hurricane Katrina,  but  this same program’s national service plan encouraged more than 5.4 million hours of service, directing 405,000 volunteers in recovery efforts.

 

The “anti-environment President”, also seems to have transformed into something of an environmentalist.  In terms of sheer land mass protected, the Bush Administration is without peer.   The Healthy Forest Initiative extended protection to more than 27 million acres of federal forests and grasslands and helped protect more communities from catastrophic fires than at any other time in history. The Wetlands Initiative extended protection to 11 million acres. With the Oceanic Action Plan, the Administration worked to end over fishing, advance marine science, and educate the public about the need for preservation. Bush also designated nearly 140,000 square miles of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a Marine National Monument making history as the largest allocation of  the world’s surface for conservation purposes. The new  Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument  designated just last week, now protects more than 7,000 endangered species. And the President’s National Parks Centennial Initiative has provided record funding for the repair and improvement of the nation’s national parks.

 

And yet in the popular imagination, George W. Bush’s diplomatic and military failures far outweigh any of these achievements.

 

That is largely because of the Administration’s response to the events of September 11. 2001. The canard is that Bush lied to the American people about the justifications for the Iraq War, that he executed that invasion incompetently and then used imaginary  threats to American security to justify torture, tightened security and spying on Americans.

 

But lets get some facts straight.   The CIA evidence of Saddam’s Hussein’s  WMD threat to the United States  presented by the Administration and put on display by Colin Powell at the United Nations, was widely  accepted by everyone – from Nancy Pelosi to Harry Reid to  the viciously anti-Bush State Department– as true and unimpeachable. 

 

Here is Nancy Pelosi:

 

“ Saddam Hussein has engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology and is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.”

 

And Harry Reid:

 

“Saddam Hussein in effect thumbed his nose at the world community and I think the President is approaching this in the right fashion.”

 

And Al Gore:

 

“ We know that Saddam has stored throughout his country secret supplies of chemical an biological weapons. Iraq’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction has proved impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.” 

 

Hussein himself had done much to reinforce their opinions.   He was not only in violation of innumerable U.N. resolutions.  In the previous 15 years he had instigated military campaigns which had accounted for a greater loss of human life than any other political leader since the Second World War.  He had butchered his own people, using chemical agents (for the first time since the First World War), arbitrary executions and mass slaughter to  further enforce his rule. He had fought one war with United States and made known his desire for vengeance in a second.  He was indubitably, incontrovertibly a menace to both his own people, his neighbors and to world peace. His control of and proximity to great oil resources  threatened global stability.   His removal from power was regarded almost universally as a necessity

 

The war that followed was a protracted affair and the occupation that followed it was, admittedly, bungled.  But here are the results: Hussein is dead. Iraq is a fledgling democracy.  The United States’ casualty list  stands at a tiny fraction of what it had been in other engagements of a similar nature and duration and this country now  has a base in the Middle East from which it can apply pressure to other terror sponsoring states. 

 

More important than this is the psychological impact the Iraqi success has had on the terrorist networks and their masterminds.   Improved intelligence, surveillance and security are not the only reasons the United States has not suffered a devastating attack on the level of 9/11 in the past seven years.  American resolve to defend the country no longer took the shape of mere words and ineffectual action.  The image of weakness projected by the Carter and Clinton Administrations, which  had given the Iranians the temerity to hold American diplomats hostage for 435 days and terrorists the gall to launch their  9/11 strike,  was finally  reversed. Under the presidency of George W. Bush, the United States would no longer tolerate provocations from terrorists or rogue states.

 

But what to make of the other charges regarding the abuse of individual and constitutional rights?    The trouble with successful pre-emptive measures taken domestically to protect citizens, is that their need can never be fully demonstrated since the event they sought to deter does not take place.  Hence the Patriot Act, the NSA Wire Tapping operation and the water boarding of Guantanomo prisoners are all open to criticism as needless measures designed to increase executive power rather than reinforce American security.  

 

The discussion is fairly useless.  What is necessary to recall, and  what many liberal commentators have chosen to forget, is that an act of war was carried out against the American hinterland in September, 2001.   No other President since 1812 had been confronted with as bold a challenge to American security.  The Bush Administration’s legislative and executive responses to the threat illustrated an axiom that may well come to define our world:  that during a time of war or threatened war, individual liberties must some times give way to the exigencies of national security.  Any democracy, seeking to preserve its institutions and its security must be prepared, at times, to assert control over modes of communication, transportation and the vehicles of self expression and cannot be squeamish about  using means that might elicit information necessary to save the lives of millions of its people.  Strong democratic leaders, recognizing their responsibilities to the security of their citizenries, must be prepared to take the heat when they enforce measures which on their face may seem to fly in the face of individual liberty but do much to actually protect and strengthen it.   George W. Bush was such a leader and may yet set the modern standard for political courage in a time of military crisis.

 

And there is one further aspect of  the Bush presidency for which future historians will not fail to applaud.   On September 20, 2001, Bush delivered one of the most powerful presidential addresses in American political history, articulating a philosophy that would come to dominate the seven remaining years of his Administration. Declaring the Islamic fundamentalist menace the heir to 20th Century fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism, Bush drew a thread from George Washington, sewed it through Woodrow Wilson, looped in the presidency of Harry Truman and connected it to our own time: 

 

“The advance of human freedom, the great achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depends on us. Our nation, this generation, will lift the dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.”

 

He further elaborated on what would become known as the Bush Doctrine before the Air Force Academy on June 2, 2004:

 

“ For decades, free nations tolerated oppression in the Middle East for the sake of stability. In practice, this approach brought little stability and much oppression, so I have changed this policy.   Some who call themselves realists question whether the spread of democracy in the Middle East should be any concern of ours. But the realists in this case have lost contact with a fundamental reality: America has always been less secure when freedom is in retreat; America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.” 

 

Here was an American president forcefully expressing the concept of American execptionalism;  Here was an American political leader disavowing the moral relativism of our age and declaring unashamedly that the American experiment in democracy has a purpose which is not simply to provide comfort and contentment to its citizens but to deliver freedom and liberty to all humanity. Savagely attacked as simplistic and hubristic, Bush nonetheless gave voice to the strongest emotional undercurrent of American life:  that the American people stand for something beyond themselves and that this is a cause they will die to defend and live to advance.

 

Say what you want about George Bush’s skills as an orator or his level or his powers of communication, these speeches and the philosophy they outlined, were defining moments in his presidency and may come to be regarded eventually as two of the most important presidential addresses in U.S. history.  They define a moment in time when the American people were reawakened to the perils of living in a world where evil is tolerated and to the reality that only assertive action against such evil can ensure security, stability and national cohesion.

 

Abraham Lincoln understood this.  As did Harry Truman.    Both knew that hard truths are not so easily swallowed and that a democratic leader must sometimes be prepared to endure unparalleled dissatisfaction and personal vilification in advancing a cause vital to the country’s security and future.  They stand today in the pantheon of great presidents because they withstood the rancor of their critics and hewed to their beliefs and convictions without waver.

 

The 43rd president was also such a man.  And history will remember him for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 


FAILURE IN GAZA HAS A U.S. PRICE

January 16, 2009

The invasion has begun.  The President has been assured by his military advisors that the long planned operation involving close allies, will end in a significant victory over local forces.  Those local forces, who launched a coup of their own only 12 months earlier, are commonly believed to be no more than a rag tag guerrilla army, unused to open warfare and without resources to counter a sophisticated military operation.    But as the day wears on, it becomes increasingly clear that the invading force is in trouble.  The U.S.’ allies are being outgunned and ambushed by combatants who have been expertly trained by foreign advisors and are heavily armed with weapons which are easily a match for the invading force.   Within 72 hours, what had begun as an assertive military operation has turned into a rout of embarrassing proportions.   The U.S. Administration is revealed to have placed its trust in  a highly suspect military plan which has been even more woefully executed.   The consequences prove telling.   Over the course of the next year and a half,  the United States is brought closer to a global military crisis than at any time since end of the Second World War.

 

A scenario in Gaza for the incoming President?  No.  This a description of the military situation which confronted the young administration of John F. Kennedy in April, 1961, less than three months after he had assumed office.  The Bay of Pigs fiasco, an abortive CIA- planned and Cuban émigré -led invasion of Fidel Castro’s island fiefdom, was a momentous failure of U.S. military planning and intelligence and an event which had deep repercussions for U.S. foreign policy over the next several years.   After the collapse of the invasion and a less than impressive performance by Kennedy at a face to face meeting with Soviet leader Nikolai Khruschev in June of the same year, Soviet resolve to confront the United States hardened.  This lead to aggressive Soviet action in other theaters around the world ( including West Berlin where a wall was soon constructed ) and the beginnings of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. 

 

If there is one important lesson the Bay of Pigs has left us, it is that the failure of relatively small operations in seemingly insignificant locations, can have important psychological consequences in other places.  Today, while there might be no obvious connection between the Israelis’ operations in Gaza and American operations elsewhere, the crumbling of the Jewish state’s assault or an ambivalent U.S. commitment to its success, may have dire implications for the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.

 

That is because Israel, the United States and the Western aligned countries are together not only locked in a military confrontation with Muslim terrorists and their state sponsors, but in a psychological struggle as well.  In this regard, manipulation of the media and control of communications can enable a terrorist group to steal a victory from even the most crushing of defeats.   The Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah ably demonstrated this in 2006.  After suffering a bruising reversal in southern Lebanon, victory was nevertheless claimed by the simple fact of having survived an Israeli assault.  Hezbollah’s resilience– and its ability to communicate it as strength – has given Hamas and other terrorist operations in other parts of the world the tenacity to continue their own assaults and provocations.

 

Understanding this, it is a mistake to view the United States’ engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan as isolated from the events in Gaza.   Gaza should be regarded as a front line engagement in a global war against Muslim fanaticism which has its military and psychological flash points in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, the Sudan, the Philippines, Lebanon, Russia and Iran.  An apparent victory, yet without removal of the terrorist menace in one theater, can bolster terrorism in another.   It is only with the complete elimination of the terrorist infrastructure – with the eradication or imprisonment of its leadership and the silencing of its means of communication – that both military and psychological victories can be assured.

 

The new president would do well to pay attention.  Ceasefires, negotiated truces and even peace agreements should receive no encouragement if they mean that the terrorist group in question remains viable and committed in any way to its former course of action. 

Failure has its price. Che Gueverra, the Latin American revolutionary, proved it in August 1961 when he managed to get a letter to President John F. Kennedy.  It read: “Thanks for Playa Girón( Bay of Pigs). Before the invasion, the revolution was weak. Now it’s stronger than ever.”

Fifty years later, those words resonate with deadly meaning.


SAMUEL P. HUNTINGTON AND THE BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF AMERICA

January 2, 2009

In the world of political science, books come and go, make their mark for a week or two then disappear into the University stacks, rarely to be seen again.

Then there is the kind of book whose influence cannot be denied and whose intellectual resonance long outlives its shelf life.    The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington, who died this week at the age of 81, was such a work.  Published in 1996, Huntington offered a riveting analysis of  the shape of the post-Cold War world and the conflicts likely to consume the West in the future. His work has effectively framed the discussion of  the West’s continuance as a unified civilization since then.   The book began its life as an article in Foreign Affairs attacking Francis Fukuyama’s equally influential  piece The End of History?    The latter article argued, in the Hegelian spirit, that in the wake of the Cold War, the struggles of the world would no longer be ideological but largely economic. Huntington’s stinging riposte to this was that the primary axis of conflict in the future would be neither ideological nor economic but along cultural and religious lines:

“The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future   The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations.”

Redrawing the geographical map along cultural lines, Huntington identified eight distinctive civilizations that would compete against one another: Islamic, Sinic (centered on the “core state” of China), Western (with the United States as its core), Orthodox (with Russia as its core), Islamic, Japanese, Hindu, Latin American, and African..  Geopolitically,  the latter two were of little moment.   Each of the others was likely to have an important role in the forthcoming struggle, but Islam, the Wets and China constituted  a tier apart, with the “most dangerous clashes of the future . . . likely to arise from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance, and Sinic assertiveness.” Or to state it more baldly: “The dominant division is between the West and the rest.”  

Huntington was writing in the days before the rise of Vladimir Putin and threat of a resurgent Russia.   Nevertheless he understood that China, at the time the most significant  economic and cultural threat to the United States and Western dominance, could be accommodated in the recrudescence of a new form of balance of power politics. Russia may well fall into the same category.

However when it came to Islam, Huntington appeared less optimistic. Here the prospects for accommodation, he argued, were not promising. “The twentieth-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism,” he observed at one point, “is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relationship between Islam and Christianity.”

It was only after the events of September 11 that Huntington’s book gained world wide attention and his thesis became hotly contentious.

Although we remember Huntington today for this great masterwork, it is his  21st Century book, Who Are We?  The Challenges to America’s National Identity (Simon and Shuster, 2004) that today has far greater relevance for  the challenges we face at home.   In that book, Huntington persuasively argued that America’s Anglo- Protestant dominant culture has been the key to both a cohesive American identity and national success.  The deconstruction of that identity threatens to undo 300 years of national ambition and progress.

Huntington the isolated the key battlegrounds for the soul of America on which this struggle was being waged: Racial preferences; bilingualism, multiculturalism, immigration, assimilation , national history standards and “Eurocentrism..”   He pointed out the threats to American identity posed by Mexican immigration and Hispanization; the absence of a sense of civic duty and obligation toward the republic; the emergence of the cult of individualism: the growth of atheistic culture and the furious assault by multiculturalists on the education system.

He identified an actual deconstructionist movement which threatened American survival. On one side of the trenches is straddled by  substantial elements of America’s political, intellectual and institutional elites, bonding arm to arm with the leaders, or aspiring leaders, of minority groups whose interests they promote.  In the opposing trenches are Christian Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Conservative politicians, pundits and academics and the neo-conservative movement, all for whom patriotism and the Anglo-Protestant ethic on which the country had been founded were of profound importance to the maintenance of national cohesion.

The ultimate question in Huntington’s mind was whether America would be or should be a nation of individuals with equal rights and a common culture and creed or an association of racial, ethnic and cultural sub-national groups, held together by the hopes for the national gains that can be provided by a healthy economy and a compliant government.

The importance of this work cannot be understated.  In careful, deliberate prose Huntington revealed the portals through which anti-Western ideologies and ways of life inimical to American values and ideals, were penetrating our civilization.  While he did not point out the pernicious impact of the deconstructionists elsewhere, he could easily have offered evidence from Great Britain which is being roiled by an attack on national identity and seemingly losing the battle ( see my piece England’s Multicultural Revolution http://www.avidavis.com/articles/england-multicultural.htm).  The American Freedom Alliance actually held a conference last March in Europe titled Identity Crisis at which Europe was revealed to be already far gone, almost hopelessly so, on this deconstructionist path.   Huntington understood all of this and he warned that without vigilance and a fierce resolution to fight for American identity – framed by Anglo- Protestant tradition and values  – our way of life, with all its freedoms, liberties, tolerance and openness – is imperiled. 

Huntington’s thesis became the foundational principle of the American Freedom Alliance and that of many other organizations, think-tanks and foundations which have arisen over the past twenty years to join in this struggle against the deconstructionists.  Huntington understood that unless we can identify ourselves as a people with central unifying principles –  a common language, a belief in an omnipresent power, a fervent patriotism and recognition of American exceptionalism  – our clash with other civilizations committed to our defeat or destruction will be lost.

That is a message that should be ringing in the halls of power today. Sadly, Huntington will no longer around to provide the powerful intellectual heft that his works generated.   Others will, of course,  rise to take his place.   But he will be deeply missed.


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