Lacking conviction?

code pink on Iran

Neo and I have sometimes quoted Yeats’ lines from The Second Coming:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.
This is because they seem as relevant to our times as they did to the 1930s. T.S. Eliot expressed it less pithily but with more exposition in his Idea of a Christian Society which was written around the time of the Munich Crisis of 1938. He, like many, was shaken by what had happened, and penitent and critical. But as he explained:

It was not…a criticism of the government, but a doubt of the validity of a civilization. We could not match conviction with conviction, we had no ideas with which we could either meet or oppose the ideas opposed to us. Was our society, which had always been so assured of its superiority and rectitude, so confident of its unexamined premises, assembled round anything more permanent than a congeries of banks, insurance companies and industries, and had it any beliefs more essential than a belief in compound interest and the maintenance of dividends?

Those words are I think even more relevant now than they were then. Back in the 1930s our civilization retained many of its Christian characteristics, and its morality and standards were those of our Judeo-Christian heritage – we did, in short, as we found in 1940, have some ideas to pitch against those of the Nazis, as we would, for the long Cold War, against the Communists. But what have we now?

I’m struck and penitential about the way in which so many feminists are quiet about what has happened in Cologne and elsewhere – it is clear that for them fear of being called ‘racist’ outweighs the principles they claim to stand for. Their ideas are not held with as much conviction as those of ISIS sympathisers. But they are hardly alone. Our governments do, indeed, seem to care only for banks and profit and not for anything higher. It leaves us, literally, vulnerable against those who hate our civilization and all it stands, or stood for. The reason I singled out feminists a moment ago was that they at least know, passionately I thought, what they stand for, but it is easy to be passionate when faced with an ‘enemy’ which isn’t really that. Western men can be misogynistic, but that fades when compared to the attitude of many Muslims – but best not cross them because unlike Western men, they will turn round and harm you. Is it cowardice? Or is it just that they are not that passionate?

It sometimes seems as though the effort of staying alert for so long against the enemy of Communism has sapped us of our energy. Was it too much for too long? No doubt it would be nice if the world was a better place where we did not face real enemies, but those liberal pieties are not true, they are a delusion. Perhaps Eliot was right, and we do not have values which will stand when the wind blows? But so it seemed in the 30s – and when the moment came, so too did the man – Churchill. We shall have to hope there’s one in the wings.

East of Eden

146968_600In 1949, the Truman administration withdrew the American forces occupying South Korea and in January 1950 the Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, delivered his famous ‘Perimeter Speech’ which pointedly placed Korea outside our perimeter. It was a major blunder. In June 1950, North Korea attacked, causing the Korean War. The war was fought gallantly by amongst others, the very US forces that had been withdrawn. It was a costly mistake, in both treasure and blood. The war ended mostly because the newly elected General Eisenhower would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons to end it.

Why are we rehashing this now? Because a similar scenario faced Obama in 2009. In Iraq, we had defeated everybody who cared to play. Yes, the initial war (and especially its aftermath) had its problems, mostly caused by not enough troops there to do the job of pacification. But again, when Bush bit the bullet and committed to the surge, eventually the country was pretty much pacified.

In his rush to leave Iraq, Obama made the same sort of blunder. Unlike Truman, he didn’t immediately institute repairs, however costly. Going all the way back to World War II, we had been a counterweight to any and all the extremist groups in the area. Jess said a few day ago, that Britain never had all that much force east of Eden, but British forces were feared. The same was true, except occasionally for the United States. The Middle East never required huge forces over time. Although, at times, it did require large forces, as during the gulf wars. What they did require was the absolute support of Israel, and some small forces, in theater, and the fact of large forces available. That was enough to hold the balance, and keep the fanatics, mostly quiet. That was really not all that much strain for America. Simply having a few thousand troops in Iraq seemed to intimidate all the nutters into keeping the peace. And, in fact, it was safer than Chicago is now.

In a way, it was a less stable counterpart to the Cold War. The forces were held in equilibrium, not so much by what America would do, as by what she could do. But even what she would do was impressive. I doubt many Arab powers were unimpressed by the steady flow of American supplies, flown nonstop from CONUS by the Air Force, during the Yom Kippur war in 1973, in the face of denied overflight rights from all Europe. Who doesn’t want friends like that? You think that maybe had something to do with peace between Israel and Egypt, signed a few years later at Camp David, and which has held (mostly) ever since? Much the same is true for Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, problematic as its religion has always been for the US.

This carefully wrought work of generations, starting possibly with Eisenhower’s intervention, against our two oldest allies, Britain and France, in Suez, in favor of Egypt. This is what Obama has ruined. he has brought it to the point that no one in the region, has any trust in the word of the United States, nor should they. Over the last 8 years, we have proved to be a feckless, toothless allies, almost always willing to support the wrong side.

The post-Pax America  middle east is proving to be a cesspit, that threatens the health of the entire world. Jess’ title was (and is) apt. The tectonic plates are in fact shifting, and where they will end up and the earthquakes they will cause is unknowable but very unlikely to be good for much of anybody.

Lessons? Probably a few. The main one might be that countries driven by the voters are not very reliable over the long term, at least usually. Perhaps living under the existential threat of the Soviet Union forced the people of the United States to buckle down and think long-term, but perhaps instead it was the World War Two generation’s horror at what they had to endure to repair the mistakes of their father’s generation that caused the unusual situation. I think it likely was both. There’s something that sharpens the mind, when in elementary school, you are seriously practicing “duck and cover” that the softer generations that followed mine will never know. or maybe they will, on the streets of home, as the terror attacks mount.

But whatever the cause, Obama has thrown away the carefully crafted perception of power that sustained quasi-peace in the middle east for generations. What will replace it, other than deadly chaos, is unknown. Although the Pakistani guaranty of Saudi territorial integrity may provide a gruesome clue.

I do know this, whatever (if anything) that is to replace that chaos, America will have to lead, and the will to do so has been lacking for ten years. If she doesn’t, and that doesn’t really mean she’ll have to intervene that often, but she must show her inflexible will on behalf of her friends, or chaos will ensue, and likely envelop Europe as well.

The tectonic plates shift?

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I grew up, as most of us did, in a world where the Cold War was a constant. In between the bouts of anxiety at times like Cuba or the deployment of Cruise Missiles, it was almost restful, if that’s not too odd a way of putting it. You knew where you were, who the bad guys were, and that we were the good guys; you could tell because no one much was taking huge risks with life and limb to climb the Berlin Wall to go their way. Sure, there were some leftists who saw it differently, but not even they were knocking at the door of the Soviet Embassy to say ‘let me in’. So, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan (learning nothing from what had happened to the Brits when they did it in the nineteenth century) we rushed to help those fighting them – fellow called bin Laden even got a celebratory write up as a freedom-fighter. But it turned out the world was more complicated, and it turned out that the Cold War was not for ever, and as it receded into history, like a flood when the waters go, it left some odd stuff on the road. But we still assumed one thing, the USA, and NATO, were top dogs, we’d won and the world would be the safer for it. We could disarm a bit, spend less on the military, and concentrate on the stuff that really mattered, climate change. But history had not ended, and the tectonic plates are shifting. Our perceptions have not caught up, and unless they do, there will be hell to pay.

Old perceptions said that the USA could reset it relations with Russia and with the Middle East, but they seem to have blinded US policy makers to the reality we were now in a multi-polar world – and one where American perceptions of what mattered were not the only game in town. In this situation, a background in community organising was not the perfect cv for what was needed.

As it transpired it was not Obama’s old bogey – old white men – who held on to their religion and guns, about whom he really should have been worrying; nor was Islam quite what he’d been taught it was. It was the Shiite Muslims, who had collected quite a lot of our guns in Iraq, and who took their religion with lethal seriousness, we should have been worrying about. We read the “Arab spring” through the lenses of our secular preoccupations – liberal democracy was on its way we thought; the Islamists knew that ‘one man one vote’ might well give them a chance of power and took it in places like Egypt, and tried to in Syria. The Iranians, always happy to help their fellow Shiites, were happy to stir up trouble. The Russians, always happy to stir up trouble, added their bit too. Anything to distract us from the fact they’d just seized the Crimea and part of the Ukraine.

All this was clearly bewildering for our policy-making elites. This was not what they had trained for, this was not in their text-books or games. It looked as though the US was no longer the most powerful actor. That was because the tectonic plates were shifting. Power is often a matter of perception. In reality the British presence east of Suez was never very great in terms of armed forces. but the Powers of the region were frightened of British power, so they didn’t test that. When the Japanese did in 1941/2 the whole edifice collapsed at once – and not even Churchill thought it could be reconstructed. Obama has given the impression that America isn’t much interested in the rest of the world except as far as climate change is concerned, so the Chinese, the Russians and the Iranians have taken the cue. There’s no point having lethal power on the scale America has it if you are thought never likely to use it. No one thinks Obama will use it, and no one would believe him if he said otherwise.

Those in Europe – and America – who did not want the USA to be the world’s sheriff have gotten their wish. Hope they’re happy with it – many of us aren’t and want our sheriff back. But whether he comes back or not, if he does, he’s going to find the change in the tectonic plates hard to deal with. The landscape has changed, and unless our policy-makers come to terms with this, it is only going to get worse.

Leading From Behind

I want you to compare and contrast our current so-called leadership with that of the past, say FDR, JFK, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan. If this is who we are now, China will soon rule the world, in combination with Putin. That is not a recipe for the advancement of humankind, but that is what is happening. From America Rising.

Hattip: Leading From Behind | Power Line

Of Tar and Feathers, and Smoothbore Muskets

Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was out in San Bernadino the other day, and he has some things to say.

He’ll get no argument from me on any of that since it’s simple common sense. But since he’s being Nebraska nice, there’s more to it than that. Because the Islamic Jihadis aren’t the only ones who dislike our freedom. Kevin D. Williamson writing at the National Review had this to say.

There are many popular demons in American public life: Barack Obama and his monarchical pretensions, Valerie Jarrett and her two-bit Svengali act, or, if your tastes run in the other direction, the Koch brothers, the NRA, the scheming behind-the-scenes influences of Big Whatever. But take a moment to doff your hat to the long, energetic, and wide-ranging careers of three of our most enduring bad guys: laziness, corruption, and stupidity, which deserve special recognition for their role in the recent debates over gun control, terrorism, and crime. The Democratic party’s dramatic slide into naked authoritarianism — voting in the Senate to repeal the First Amendment, trying to lock up governors for vetoing legislation, and seeking to jail political opponents for holding unpopular views on global warming, etc. — has been both worrisome and dramatic. The Democrats even have a new position on the ancient civil-rights issue of due process, and that position is: “F— you.” The Bill of Rights guarantees Americans (like it or not) the right to keep and bear arms; it also reiterates the legal doctrine of some centuries standing that government may not deprive citizens of their rights without due process. In the case of gun rights, that generally means one of two things: the legal process by which one is convicted of a felony or the legal process by which one is declared mentally incompetent, usually as a prelude to involuntary commitment into a mental facility. The no-fly list and the terrorism watch list contain no such due process. Some bureaucrat somewhere in the executive branch puts a name onto a list, and that’s that. The ACLU has rightly called this “Kafkaesque.” […]

Why do we put all the T. Kennedys on the list instead of the actual sack of it we’re interested in? Because running that information down and systematizing it is hard work. Reviewing that information is a lot of work, too, which is why our friend Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard and Fox News ended up on the terrorist watch list. (Amusingly, he found himself being subjected to heightened scrutiny by a dedicated cable-news viewer who instantly recognized him.) That’s all the stuff of good stories for a Stephen Hayes or a Ted Kennedy, but if you’re a bodega operator in the Bronx without connections and resources, you’re pretty well hosed. […]

The Democrats and their intellectually corrupt apologists at the New York Times and elsewhere are willing to strip Americans of their constitutional rights, to micturate from a great height upon the entire concept of due process, and to treat all of us like criminals — while doing precisely nothing to prevent school shootings, terrorism, or ordinary crime — because they don’t have the guts to tell their political clients in the schools, the mental-health bureaucracies, and the criminal-justice system that eventually they are going to have to do their goddamned jobs in exchange for the hundreds of billions of dollars we lavish upon them.

Do read it all at: Gun-control-debate-government-laziness-stupidity-corruption.

Charles C. W. Cooke adds this, and, boy howdy, do I agree with him.

Traditionally, we have used an old-fashioned tool to sort out who deserves to be punished and who does not: It’s called “the justice system.” If, as the watch list’s proponents insist, there are people among us who are too dangerous to remain at liberty, then those people must be arrested, charged, and tried tout de suite. Until that happens, they must be left the hell alone, lest the pitchforks and smoothbores that subdued the last set of usurpers start to twitch and grow restless in their retirement..

Source: Terrorism-gun-control-advocates-use-fear.


Frankly, it didn’t work out well for the lobsterbacks, and I see no reason to think the leftists are any more capable than say, Lord Cornwallis.

But for plain common sense on the subject, where it matters, let’s go back to Senator Sasse

 

Mother of Parliaments

Hilary-BennYesterday, I spent a good part of the day watching the British debate on air strikes in Syria, it was a fascinating exercise. We get so used to the petty squabbling and personal attacks in Congress that we tend to say, “That’s as good as it gets.”

But it’s not, the debate yesterday was intelligent, heartfelt, passionate, reasonable, thoughtful, and persuasive. Even Alex Salmond of SNP had some good points. But there was one highlight that really stuck out. Hillary Benn, the Shadow foreign Secretary in the Labor party, gave an extraordinary speech in favor of the Tory government’s proposal to go into Syria, and being seemingly a plain-spoken man, he called ISIS what they are, Fascists, as he reiterated Labor’s record of opposing fascism, Our Democrats could use that lesson. Here it is

Best speech I’ve heard in years, most likely since either Reagan or Thatcher, just extraordinary.

That doesn’t mean that he, they, or us, don’t need a better plan than simply air strikes, it simply means that it is a start.


Meantime a bit about San Bernadino. Given that the one name was Syed Farook, most of us are going to assume what is was, and likely we’re right. But it’s a strange one as John Hinderaker of PowerLine noted

But it is a strange incident: why the Inland Regional Center? And the terrorist group, two men and a woman, may be consistent with a Muslim terror ring, but until now, haven’t female terrorists–suicide bombers or knife attackers, pretty much always–acted alone? Is there precedent for mixed gender Islamic terrorist teams? Maybe there is, but I can’t think of one.

* This case reportedly was broken because of a “tip.” That tip sent police officers to an address in Redlands where, shortly thereafter, the SUV that was being sought turned up. That led to the chase that culminated in the shootout between police and terrorists. Where did the tip come from? Maybe it was just a concerned citizen. Or else–this is pure speculation–maybe one or more of the perpetrators was already under some sort of surveillance as a potential terrorist. Maybe the tip came from the FBI or another law enforcement agency. Maybe there were actually a number of tips–the addresses of suspected terror sympathizers in the area–and this is the one that panned out.

More at the source, here: Thoughts on the San Bernardino Murders

I’d guess the tip did come from the FBI or similar, this has what I think are the characteristics of a blown operation, if so, wherever they were going was spared a much worse experience than this was, bad as it was.

Well, we started this post with an exceptional speech, relevant to the matter at hand, we’ll end it by noting that Obama before he could possibly know jack about it was cantering about on his favorite hobbyhorse, gun control. Too bad Hillary Benn isn’t president.

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