The Use of Power

You remember last month we talked here about how a couple hundred Russian mercenaries got handled very roughly when they attacked a camp that contained American advisors. It seems we put on quite the air show for them beyond the artillery response. Everything from Apaches all the way to B-52s. Seems people noticed

From Business Insider via Warsclerotic comes the story.

Since the US-led effort against the Islamic State has reclaimed almost all of the terrorist group’s territory in Syria, 2,000 or so US forces remain in control of the country’s rich oil fields.

And though Russia, Syria’s government forces, and Iran’s militias all oppose that remaining US presence, there’s little they can do about it.

A small US presence in an eastern town called Deir Ezzor has maintained an iron grip on the oil fields and even repelled an advance of hundreds of pro-Syrian government forces— including some Russian nationals believed to be mercenaries — in a massive battle that became a lopsided win for the US.

Russia has advanced weapons systems in Syria, pro-Syrian government militias have capable Russian equipment, and Iran has about 70,000 troops in the country. On paper, these forces could defeat or oust the US and the Syrian rebels it backs, but in reality it would likely be a losing battle, according to an expert.

“They have the ability to hurt US soldiers — it’s possible,” Tony Badran, a Syria expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. But “if they do that,” he said, “they’ll absolutely be destroyed.”

In Badran’s view, even if Russia wanted a direct fight against the US military in Syria, something he and other experts seriously doubt, the forces aligned with Syria’s government don’t stand much of a chance.

The real saving grace is that nobody, not Russia, not Syria, not even Iran really wants to fight the US. That expert is correct, they could kill some American soldiers, and from what I’ve seen of Trump as Commander in Chief, they won’t like what happens next.

We talked about how America makes war, long ago, here. It’s a devastating combination when given enough latitude to fight the war, not make reporters and other such riff-raff happy. It looks like the President understands that.

Some of the British have their priorities straight. Also from Warsclerotic comes a report that a British woman was killed recently in Syria. She was Anna Campbell and she was a volunteer with the Kurds.

Anna Campbell, from Lewes, East Sussex, was volunteering with the US-backed Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) – the all-female affiliate army of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – in the besieged city of Afrin when the convoy she was travelling in was struck by a Turkish missile on 16 March.

A very brave woman. I think Teresa May should be contemplating why that woman wasn’t in the British army, and maybe asking Turkey just what the hell they think they are doing rather than worrying full time about some Russian spy that got almost killed.

Stacy McCain makes the point very clearly, why the hell do we care what Europe does?

If you’re old enough to remember the debates that preceded the Iraq War, a key point was the posture of our so-called “allies” in Europe. Many liberals argued that if European countries didn’t support the U.S., we couldn’t go to war against Saddam Hussein. In effect, liberals wanted to give Europe a veto over U.S. foreign policy. Americans had to endure the humiliating spectacle of our leaders basically begging France to join the anti-Saddam coalition, only to be rebuffed in the end.

Without regard to the specific issue of Iraq, however, that debate called attention to the general uselessness of our so-called “allies.” How many armored divisions can France put in the field? How many brigades of combat infantry can Belgium or Portugal deploy? How many attack helicopters and fighter aircraft do Spain and Italy have? If you scrutinize Europe’s military preparedness, you realize that even if they had wanted to join the U.S.-led coalition in smashing Saddam, they didn’t have very much operational equipment and manpower to contribute to the effort.

Consider the current condition of the German military:

Germany has come up short once more in meeting its military obligations to NATO. Leaked readiness data indicates that a key component of the NATO rapid reaction force, which Germany is to supply in 2019, is nowhere near ready to perform duties German said it could handle. The German armored brigade that was promised for 2019 is not able to fulfill its duties. Only about 20 percent of the armored vehicles (Leopard 2 tanks and Marder infantry vehicles) are fit for service. German military aircraft continue to have the lowest readiness rates in NATO and Germany continues, as it has for over twenty year, to promise the situation would be fixed but it never is. When the Americans press Germany to meet its NATO obligations (which includes spending at least two percent of GDP on defense) there are promises but no performance.

(Hat-tip: Austin Bay at Instapundit.)

Can’t even keep an armored brigade working, so much for the vaunted German army, once rated the best army in the Warsaw Pact and in NATO. They have become the joke that Italy was in the twentieth century, simply a drain on their allies. Willing to fight to the last Briton (and American). There’s an army ISIS could probably take on, even in their current depleted state, particularly since undoubtedly their 5th (and probably 6th, 7th, and 8th) column is already in place.

I don’t think post-Brexit Britain has too much to worry about from the continent. You’ll notice that Stacy doesn’t mention Britain in that story, I’d bet his reason is the same as mine. Whatever the faults of the British government, and it has many, it is one of the two most reliable allies we have and has been for many years. Yes, the other is Israel. It is also the only other power that can reliably project power around the world, in much the same manner as we do.

I also think it is time to case the NATO standard, and ally ourselves who believe the same things we do and let the rest fend for themselves, we’ve rescued Europe three times in a hundred years and that is enough.


Peter Hitchens in Copenhagen

Peter Hitchens recently spoke to the Danish Free Speech Society. His message, while quite downbeat, is also quite (I fear) true. Perhaps, more so for Europe and Britain than for the United States, but perhaps we are all in this boat together. Sadly you young people will see. Listening to him put me in mind of King Arthur, to wit: The Once and Future King, the dream we share with the Roman Britons, that thing will be once again put right, but unexplained in that thought is exactly who will put them right.

In any case, a powerful and moving speech.


There is also a fairly long question and answer session that followed. To be honest, I haven’t made it all the way through it, but what I have, it is quite illuminating, so here it is.

Scamming the Citizen

Well, I don’t like to say, “I told you so,” but I told you this would happen. From PowerLine.

It’s been a tedious chore to track the slow motion train wreck of Germany’s energiewende, or “energy revolution.” Climatistas here have long touted Germany as the model we should follow. Think of it a renewable energy uber alles.

Well there’s a problem, and you don’t even need to know German to get this headline from two days ago:

Benny Peiser (a German native) at the Global Warming Policy Foundation to translates.

Irregular and unpredictable wind and solar power is increasingly becoming a problem for Germany’s power grid. Utility company Tennet TSO spent almost a billion euros last year on emergency interventions to stabilize the national grid.

That’s what the company announced earlier this week. The costs were thus about 50% higher than in 2016 (660 million euros) and around forty percent higher than in 2015 (710 million). Tennet is responsible for the electricity supply in an area that extends from Schleswig-Holstein in the north to Bavaria in the south of Germany and accounts for around forty percent of Germany’s total area. In particular, Tennet is responsible for important north-south transmission routes.

The reason for the increase in emergency interventions is the rising number of solar projects and wind turbines in Germany. The share of renewable energy increased from 29 to 33 percent of the electricity supply last year. Wind and solar power are irregular and often unpredictable. This makes the network increasingly unstable.

But hey, anything to save the world, amirite? Well, perhaps, not so much.

German parties agree to scrap 2020 climate target – sources

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s would-be coalition partners have agreed to drop an ambitious plan to lower carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, two sources told Reuters on Monday — a potential embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Negotiators for her conservative bloc and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) told Reuters the parties had agreed in exploratory talks on forming a government that the targeted cut in emissions could no longer be achieved by 2020.

As usual, it turns out to be “Anything to keep the cronies in power, so the gravy train doesn’t stop.” Business as usual, in other words, and the average citizen (German in this case) take the hindmost. Such lovely elites. As Steve asks, “How does one say epic fail in German?” His suggestion is Alles kaput. That works for me.

And that is exactly what offends me with the whole scam that climate change has become. There may have been some actual evidence back at the beginning that we do have an effect on the climate, but we’ll never know.

The whole thing has become a scam for statist government, universities more worried about a buck than intellectual rigor, and capitalists without the drive to deal with competition looking for corporate welfare. Who is the loser in this scheme? As always the mark, the sucker of the con, is the citizen, the fool who pays for all the private jets going to the conferences in Swiss ski resorts, who pays for building stupid windmills all over the place, and eventually sits shivering in dark, because the electricity is off (ask a Brit who remembers the seventies!). Likely to starve too since transportation costs will rise as well.

Welcome to their Brave New World.

Week in Pictures: Christmas Leftovers

Well, a lot of stuff has accumulated for week in pictures, that doesn’t really fit a category, so here are some leftovers.

In the X Ring – as always

From all over the place this week and I lost track. Have a good weekend and a Happy New Year.

The Reformation at 500

So, five hundred years ago today, a young monk nailed 95 points of contention on the door of a church in Germany. Or maybe he didn’t. Current research indicates that he (yes, his name was indeed Martin Luther) actually mailed two copies, both with personal cover letters to Albrecht the archbishop of Mainz and to Jerome [Scultetus] the Bishop of Brandenburg. Both were in his line of command.

The main complaint was indeed Johann Tetzel, the overzealous seller of indulgences (and Grand Inquisitor of Heresy to Poland). That he didn’t detonate this bomb with a hammer on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, doesn’t change the fact that it was a bomb.

Tetzell left us a memorable phrase, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul out of purgatory springs“. Although, again, he may never have said it. But somebody did in early 16th century Germany. In Theses 27, Luther wrote,

27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory. 28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone (LW 31:27).

Part of the reason it became so heated is that the money from the sale of indulgences was being used to build St Peters Basilica in Rome, as Luther put it, on the backs of poor German peasants. There were other things as well.

Luther also departed radically from medieval perceptions of human righteousness, single-faceted as they were. Righteousness meant for the spectrum of theological voices from Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas to Ockham and Biel that human beings in some way met the demands for perfect performance of God’s law in one way or another. That might be possible, as Augustine taught, only through the aid of God’s grace and with his gracious forgiveness. Aquinas, too, taught the prevenient grace had to come before good works but that good works constituted that which makes God take pleasure in his human creatures.

Despite the admission that God’s grace is necessary for becoming righteous, this one-dimensional understanding of human identity or righteousness placed Luther continuously under God’s judgment until he discovered that human righteousness in God’s sight comes alone from God and that there are two facets to human identity. […]

A simple theological parable may clarify the distinction. Although by the definition of his own theology Thomas Aquinas had sufficient merit to proceed directly to heaven, without having to work off temporal punishment in purgatory, the Dominican saint dallied along the way, visiting old friends and doing research among those who still had purgatorial satisfactions to discharge there. He arrived at Saint Peter’s gate some 272 years after his death, on February 18, 1546. After ascertaining his name, Saint Peter asked Thomas, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” “Because of the grace of God,” Thomas answered, ready to explain the concept of prevenient grace should it be necessary. Peter asked instead, “How do I know you have God’s grace?” Thomas, who had brought a sack of his good deeds with him, was ready with the proof. “Here are the good works of a lifetime,” he explained. “I could have done none of them without God’s grace, but in my worship and observation of monastic rules, in my obedience to parents, governors, and superiors, in my concern for the physical well-being and property of others, in my chastity and continence, you can see my righteousness – grace-assisted as it may be.” Since a line was forming behind Thomas, Peter waved him in, certain that Thomas would soon receive a clearer understanding of his own righteousness. The next person in line stepped up. “Name?” “Martin Luther.” “Why should I let you into my heaven?” “Because of the grace of God.” Peter was in a playful mood, so he went on, “How do I know you have God’s grace? Thomas had his works to prove his righteousness, but I don’t see that you have brought any proof along that you are righteous.” “Works?” Luther exclaimed. “Works? I didn’t know I was supposed to bring my works with me! I thought they belonged on earth, with my neighbors. I left them down there.” “Well,” said Gatekeeper Peter, “how then am I supposed to know that you really have God’s grace?” Luther pulled a little, well-worn, oft-read scrap of paper out of his pocket and showed it to Peter. On it were the words, “Martin Luther, baptized, November 11, in the year of our Lord 1483.” “You check with Jesus,” Luther said. “He will tell you that I have been born again as a member of the family. He will tell you that he has given me the gift of righteousness through his own blood and his own resurrection.”

This is a superb article if one wants to understand what the Reformation was about. You can find it here, Luther’s Truths, Then and Now. Mind, it is long.

But I want to highlight four things which are different in how we Lutherans view the Reformation, even from other Protestants, according to Gene Veith, whom many of you know I have found a reliable guide to Lutheran thought. They are very truncated from what Dr Veith wrote, do follow the link.

I.  Reforming the church is not the same as starting a new church.  There is a difference between fixing up a house that has fallen into disrepair and tearing down the house and building a new one.  […]

Thus, Lutheran worship took the liturgy and removed prayers to the saints, references to Purgatory, and other elements that pointed away from Christ.  But most of the liturgy remained.

II.  Luther didn’t split the church.  The pope did.  Luther is credited or blamed for splitting what was once a unified Christian church.  When Luther posted his 95 theses, he was drawing attention to clear abuses, financial corruption, and theological confusion.  That his complaints were valid is demonstrated by the Roman Catholic church eventually changing the specific practices to which Luther was originally objecting.

III.  The Bible wasn’t translated so that individuals could interpret it for themselves.  I once heard the Lutheran theologian David Jay Webber comment that “Lutherans resist interpretation.”  You don’t read the Bible so that you can make up your own theology.  You read the Bible for a confrontation with God.

IV.  The Reformation did not replace Sacramental Christianity.  Luther’s Reformation was about strengthening sacramental Christianity.  Baptism does not just wash away original sin and the sins committed before Baptism, after which you must resort to the rite of penitence ; rather, in the words of George Herbert, Baptism “measures all my time.”  Lutherans retained confession and absolution, not as a separate sacrament, but as a function of Baptism, since sins are forgiven using the Baptismal formula, “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  Furthermore, sins that have been forgiven do not require “temporal punishment” in Purgatory.  To Lutheran Reformers, Holy Communion is not a new sacrifice of Christ, to be received only by those who have been shriven of their sins and are in a state of purity; rather, it is Christ giving His Body and His blood “for you,” to the sinner, for remission of sins.

So there you go, 500 years ago today, a simple German (or was he?) monk and priest, in fact, a Doctor of the Church, set out to see things that were visibly wrong in the Church of his day. As usual with the things of man, it did not go quite as he planned. but he did succeed in reforming that Church, and established another as a counterweight, which if we pay attention can help both churches to stay on track.

Along the way, he established the way the German language is used to this day, maybe not on Shakespeare’s level, but on Tyndale’s, and he gave us concepts in Christianity that have served us well, all over the world.

Let’s end by going back to Robert Kolb for a bit, shall we? For truly, here lies one of the root stems of the modern world, in all its glory, and in its evil as well.

Luther recognized both the promise and the ambiguity of new technology and new modes of communication. In a world in which God’s material blessings flow richly with gifts that can aid our thinking and our communicating, new modes of communicating can also be hijacked by Satan. Further complicating matters, disciplines always carry ideological baggage and need Christ critique. In such a world, Luther’s ability to marshal technology as well as an array of colleagues and their teaching across the spectrum of the curriculum of the time should serve as a model for us. Luther’s emphasis on literacy endowed us sociologically with a kind of upward social mobility. […]

The Paris Statement

Archbishop Cranmer brings us tidings of a new statement, ‘The Paris Statement’ they call it. One of the writers is no less than Professor Sir Roger Scruton. That makes it worth paying attention to. So does the content. Here is some of his description.

In May 2017, a group of conservative scholars and intellectuals met in Paris…

No, don’t yawn.

They say they were “brought together by their common concern about the current state of European politics, culture, society and, above all, the state of the European mind and imagination. Through delusion and self-deception and ideological distortion, Europe is dissipating her great civilizational inheritance.”

Well, that’s true, isn’t it?

Unless your name is Nick Clegg, AC Grayling, or you happen to be a bishop in the Church of England (not Shrewsbury).

These fine conservative minds, which included our very own Professor Sir Roger Scruton, produced ‘The Paris Statement’, which kind of makes sense as a title because they were in Paris when they issued their tome, which might indeed be viewed as a statement because their words were issued quasi-authoritatively, as conservative scholars and intellectuals are wont to do. And ‘Paris’ gives the statement an aura of continental enlightenment in ways which, say, ‘The Slough Statement’ or ‘The Lewisham Statement’ probably never could.

The preamble continues:

Instead of simply wringing their hands in fruitless anxiety, or adding yet another tome to the ample literature that diagnoses “the decline of the West”, the Paris participants believed it was important to make an affirmation, and to do so publicly. They expressed their attachment to “the true Europe,” and did so with reasons that can be recognized by all. In doing so, it was first necessary to give an account of this true Europe, which lies hidden beneath the fashionable abstractions of our age.

The result is, “A Europe We Can Believe In.” This Paris Statement is a ringing call for a renewed understanding of, and appreciation for, Europe’s true genius. It is an invitation to the peoples of Europe to actively recover what is best in our tradition, and to build a peaceful, hopeful, and noble future together.

The Paris Statement is good, very good, contrasting, as it does, the false Europe of teleological superstition and utopian tyranny with the true Europe of nation-state cooperation based on Christian solidarity and civic loyalty. Consider:

Europe, in all its richness and greatness, is threatened by a false understanding of itself. This false Europe imagines itself as a fulfilment of our civilization, but in truth it will confiscate our home. It appeals to exaggerations and distortions of Europe’s authentic virtues while remaining blind to its own vices. Complacently trading in one-sided caricatures of our history, this false Europe is invincibly prejudiced against the past. Its proponents are orphans by choice, and they presume that to be an orphan—to be homeless—is a noble achievement. In this way, the false Europe praises itself as the forerunner of a universal community that is neither universal nor a community.

Good, that.

Well, you know what? I just read their statement, and aside from a few quibbles, much the same ones as His Grace mentioned in his article it is very good. So good on them. It’s also very good to see that there are conservatives in western Europe, we’re all aware of Sir Roger, but from the rest, it’s a rare (and most welcome) spark of conservatism. The Statement is here, and well worth a read.

I very much fear that Europe is a lost cause, but then again so was the American Revolution, so I wish them luck and Godspeed in their mission. For most of us, Europe is our ultimate homeland, and watching it go down without a fight is disheartening at best. It is time for Europa to again tame the bull, I think.

%d bloggers like this: