:: Sunday, August 26, 2007 ::
Barbary Pirates: Old and New
Posted by Edward Cline at 5:44 AM
“The Policy of Christendom has made Cowards of all their Sailors before the Standard of Mahomet. It would be heroical and glorious in Us, to restore Courage to ours. I doubt not we could accomplish it, if we should set about it in earnest. But the Difficulty of bringing our People to agree upon it, has ever discouraged me.”*
So wrote John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, ministers of the United States to Britain and France respectively, in 1786, expressing their mutual distaste for having to pay the Barbary pirates to stop seizing American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean and enslaving their crews and/or holding them for ransom. By “Christendom” he meant most of the European powers, which simply paid tribute to the pirates to leave their merchant vessels alone.
Adams himself proposed paying the bribe in order to allow American traders to sail the Mediterranean unmolested, reasoning that, in terms of money, the amount of trade possible there would far outweigh any “Sum of Money” paid to the pirates. He proposed that, not out of pragmatism, but because he doubted that “our People” – meaning Congress – would be willing to approve a navy that would punish the pirates and protect American ships.
For Adams and Jefferson, it was a matter of finding the money to build and sustain such a navy. Even when America had a navy, its merchant vessels remained the prey of not only Islamic pirates, but were harassed or obstructed by British and French navies, as well, a practice that with Britain led to another war, and near-war with France. Adding to their frustrations was an ineffectual Congress hamstrung by war debt and the anemic Articles of Confederation, not to mention civil unrest that culminated in Shay’s Rebellion in Massachusetts.
And Congress had authorized only $80,000 with which to bargain with all the Barbary States, not nearly enough to satiate the looting appetites of a single one of them. And this money could be had only on credit – from loans to the U.S. by principally Dutch bankers. For example, the “Bashaws” of the Barbary States had various “sliding scales” of prisoner ransom values, say, from $300 for a common seaman to $1,000 or more for a ship’s captain.
This would have been in addition to a substantial flat purchase price, the exorbitant commission and expenses demanded by an Islamic “ambassador” or negotiating party for deigning to discuss the matter, and spectacular “presents” to the ruler of a Barbary nation as a gesture of “good will,” all of it in cash. (These amounts were in real money, that is, gold and silver.)
Adams and Jefferson were at the time attempting to conduct negotiations with the Algerian Dey with envoys authorized by Congress for that purpose. But even if they had managed to “treat” successfully with Algiers and paid the tribute, there remained the Deys, Beys and Pashas of Tunis and Tripoli to placate, not to mention the Porte, or the Sultan of Turkey in Constantinople, whose pirates also raided the Mediterranean. A treaty of “peace” with one would not necessarily mean an end to the others’ depredations. (A treaty with Morocco was ratified by Congress in July, 1786.) And there were no guarantees that any of the Barbary “regencies” would not renege on a treaty and resume its raiding. They all knew that the U.S. had no way of enforcing the terms of a treaty or of retaliating if the terms were violated.
In a letter of July 3, 1786, to Jefferson in Paris, Adams outlined his “premises” concerning the dilemma:
1. We may at this Time, have a Peace with them [the Barbary pirates], in spite of all the Intrigues of the English or others to prevent it, for a Sum of Money.
2. We never Shall have Peace, though France, Spain, England, and Holland Should use all their Influence in our favor without a Sum of Money.
3. That neither the Benevolence of France nor the Malevolence of England will be ever able materially to diminish or Increase the Sum.
4. The longer the Negotiation is delayed, the larger will be the Demand.
Jefferson was more adamant concerning the Barbary pirates, preferring to send a squadron of American warships to the Mediterranean to deal permanently with the corsairs. In his reply to Adams of July 11, after conceding the “practical” wisdom of paying tribute, he wrote:
I acknowledge I very early thought it would be best to effect a peace through the medium of war….I should prefer the obtaining [of] it by war.
1. Justice is in favor of this opinion.
2. Honor favors it.
3. It will procure us respect in Europe, and respect is a safeguard to interest.
4. It will arm the federal head with the safest of all the instruments of coercion over their delinquent members and prevent them from using what would be less safe.
5. I think it least expensive.
6. Equally effectual.
But, the conundrum was insoluble for as long as the U.S. government lacked the will and the means to act. It had no “instrument of coercion.” The Continental navy of the Revolution had been disbanded. The only country that offered America any assistance was Portugal, which in 1786 ordered its navy to protect American merchantmen at the Strait of Gibraltar. Jefferson further proposed to Adams the idea of a naval alliance between the U.S., Portugal, and Naples (then capital of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies) to confront the Barbary nations and end their outrages. Nothing came of it. All the European diplomats on speaking terms with Jefferson and Adams advised that the U.S. pay the tribute.
While Jefferson remained in Paris as minister, he made arrangements with the Catholic Order of Mathurins, which had for centuries begged alms with which to buy the freedom of chiefly Frenchmen taken captive by the Barbary pirates. The head of the order agreed to try to redeem as many Americans as he could, especially from the Algerians. Before enough funds could be collected, however, the French Revolution occurred and the new, anti-cleric government dissolved the Mathurins.
Treaties were signed between the U.S. and all the Barbary States in the late 18th century, but these more or less lapsed when the British navy barred American merchantmen from the Mediterranean during the War of 1812. With the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, together with the treaty between the U.S. and Britain the same year, the Barbary States again felt free to raid American vessels.
The United States Navy was created by an act of Congress on April 30, 1798. Between 1805 and 1815, under Jefferson’s and Madison’s administrations, the Navy and its Marines solved the problem, restoring Adams’ “Courage” to the American standard.
The moral of this narrative is that while Americans, particularly Jefferson and Adams, held the rational moral principle regarding the proper way to deal with the Barbary States – with retaliatory force – they lacked the means. But when they had the means, they acted on that principle. The European powers, on the other hand, particularly Britain, France and Spain, possessed the “instruments of coercion” – large and powerful navies – but chose instead to submit to Moslem extortion in policies of craven pragmatism.
It was not until the U.S. took the moral “high ground” that European nations abandoned their “pragmatic sanction.” For example, British admiral Exmouth, commanding an Anglo-Dutch fleet, reduced Algiers in 1816 when it reneged on the treaty it made with American commodore Stephen Decatur the year before, and forced the Dey to sign a second treaty that reaffirmed Decatur’s terms.
Today, the U.S., in addition to the West, is being raided and plundered and held hostage by a new gang of Barbary States – Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, and even our “ally” Pakistan, not to mention all the oligarchical/feudal Gulf States now thriving on seized Western oil assets. No nation, not even the U.S., can agree on the proper action to take against them, or whether any action would be proper. This is because they lack, not the “instruments of coercion,” but rather the moral courage to assert their selfish existence.
Jefferson almost had it right when he nearly said, in reply to Adams in 1786, that the rationally moral is the practical.
*The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959). Ed. Lester J. Cappon. All of the quotations and most of the information in this commentary come from this work. Also, complete texts of all the treaties with the Barbary States are available at Yale Law School’s Avalon Project site.
1 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, August 22, 2007 ::
Messages from Bizarro World
Posted by Edward Cline at 12:55 PM
It is not often that two mortal enemies agree on the same policy and, by design or coincidence, issue fundamentally similar statements on the goal of that policy. The enemies in question here are Iran and Saudi Arabia, Shiite and Sunni dominated regimes respectively. Their goal is world conquest.
On August 14, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, visiting Kabul, Afghanistan to meet with President Hamid Karzai and to deliver a kind of “pep” talk to a gathering of Sunni and Shiite clerics, stated, according to IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency):
“There is no truth on earth but monotheism and following tenets of Islam and there is no way for salvation of mankind but rule of Islam over mankind.” (sic)
The IRNA story went on:
“President Ahmadinejad said nations are today distancing themselves from culture of materialism and selfishness and look for a new way for their prosperity, that is the path of Islam. (sic)…He said that the world is on verge of a great upheaval and ulama at this juncture shoulder a heavy responsibility that is introducing Islam as it is.
“’Nations today have no haven but religion….All of us have the duty to resist the enemy by closing our ranks.’
“The president said Islam belongs to all generations and Muslims should get ready for global mission of Islam.” (sic)
Translation: Sunnis, Shiites, and other Islamic sects should put aside their doctrinal differences and unite to conquer the world, specifically the West. They can resume butchering each other and recalcitrant infidels, too, once that goal is accomplished and the globe has been claimed in Allah’s name.
Ahmadinejad probably watched Saudi cleric Sheik Muhammad Al-Munajid on Saudi television on July 26 and decided to adapt that other mystic’s “sermon” to his own purposes. Very likely he resolved that this heretical Sunni was not going to upstage him on the matter of world conquest. Ahmadinejad is, after all, the next “Mahdi.” He switched a few of the heretic’s words around but the message is the same.
“This is a nation of monotheism, and this is the Islam that Allah wants to spread throughout the world, and to rule the land in its entirety. Allah wants this. He sent down the Koran and the Hadith for that purpose.
“Humanity can have no happiness without Islam. Humanity can enjoy no goodness, unless the sun of monotheism, the Koran, and the Sunna shines (sic) upon it. The world without the sun of the divine revelation is a place of eternal darkness, as we can see today – a world of frustration, collapse, injustice, arbitrariness, and wrongdoing. The world today is a jungle – a world of barbarism of all kinds. People in many parts of the world are not happy, because they do not walk in the path of Allah.”
Well, it seems that Western civilization has two monotheistic nemeses: Islam and Christianity. But, the only monotheism that Ahmadinejad recognizes is Islam’s. He made an oblique reference to the role of environmentalism in most Western nations’ policies (“nations are today distancing themsleves from [the] culture of materialism and selfishness”) – Snake Eyes is nothing if not an astute measurer of his enemy’s weaknesses, and he has certainly taken the measure of especially the United States – but this was a point that apparently was over Al-Munajid’s head. He had other things on his mind.
One of the barbaric practices the cleric dwelt on was the colored underwear worn by Westerners. He said in the course of his sermon:
“There are rules of Sharia in everything. We have counted almost 70 rules about how to urinate and defecate. In contrast, how do those beasts in the West answer the call of nature? They stand in front of other people, in toilets in airports and other public places….Even their underwear is colored and not white, so it can conceal all that filth.”
If the reader is laughing, he can be forgiven. But this kind of Islamic lunacy cannot be made up. Al-Munajid can be seen delivering this sermon on Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch, complete with English subtitles by MEMRITV, at this link: (http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/017819.php). The reader will be forgiven, too, if he at first seems to recognize a reincarnated John Belushi in a white Holy Mary ensemble, sporting a bib-length beard and perhaps rehearsing a variation of his Samurai character from the old Saturday Night Live comedy. Or, he could be taken for a disguised Michael Moore trying on a new slob persona through which to attack the West.
Further, it might tempt the curious to root through the Koran and Hadith and Sunna to see where exactly Allah or Mohammed establishes the rule that white undergarments are de rigueur. (It won’t be found.) However, we may be certain that Al-Munajid wears Fruit of the Loon.
But the dictator’s and the cleric’s mutual message to man is clear: that to “save” him, he must be enslaved, by sword, by guile, or by conversion. These Islamists are as serious about conquest as American religious conservatives are serious about putting God back into government – not that He was ever there to begin with. They would agree with Ahmadinejad and Munajid that nations have “no haven but religion.”
In the meantime, in another quarter of Bizarro World, The New York Times of August 15, under the headline, “U.S. Weighing Terrorist Label for Iran Guards,” reported that President Bush “is preparing to declare that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is a foreign terrorist organization.”
That might seem six years too late.
“President Bush seemed to signal a tougher approach to Iran last week when he called attention to what American officials have said was an active role by the Revolutionary Guard in providing munitions, training and other support to Shiite militants who have been attacking American troops in Iraq. ‘When we catch you playing a nonconstructive role, there will be a price to pay,’ Mr. Bush said of Iran during a news conference on Thursday.”
It is doubtful that this “tough talk” left Ahmadinejad shaking in his boots. To employ the World War II analogy again, declaring the Revolutionary Guard a “foreign terrorist organization” is the equivalent of Roosevelt hypothetically having declared the Japanese air force or the German Luftwaffe “foreign terrorist organizations,” but not the Japanese or Nazi government, which, by a pragmatic, multi-political policy, would have been exempt from moral judgment. The military of any nation is the means of force of its government; it is not some autonomous entity segregated from politics and that acts independently.
What “price” is Iran paying for continuing to field Iranians to fight Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan? More opportunities to talk about it and to cock a snook at the U.S. over its uranium enrichment program.
According to IRNA, the same day that Ahmadinejad spoke of monotheism, he said,
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has kindly received their Afghan brothers and will continue to do so in future. Minor issues will cannot affect Iran’s policies on Afghanistan.” (sic)
The fact that President Karzai of Afghanistan hosted Ahmadinejad in Kabul should cast grave doubt on Karzai’s status as a loyal and grateful “ally” of the U.S. Is he covertly “closing ranks” with his Iranian “brothers”? It is certain that he and Ahmadinejad did not limit their talks to local cuisine and the comparative merits of Persian and Afghani rugs.
What price is our “moderate ally” Saudi Arabia paying for enabling Sunni “insurgents” in Iraq to kill Americans, and for permitting one of its “holy men” to call Bush, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and all Americans “beasts”? A $20 billion arms package of advanced weaponry with which to perpetuate a Dark Age, feudal monarchy.
This Bizarro World can only be sustained and nurtured, and grow even more bizarre and dangerous, by the continued U.S. policy of concession, conciliation and judgment-suspending tolerance (another name for that policy, Ahmadinejad and Munajid would agree, is submission). Not to mention the policy of altruism and/or moral cowardice, which requires our policymakers to deny reality and repeatedly turn the other cheek.
Ahmadinejad and Munajid, among many other Islamists, keep telegraphing their punches, past, present and future. But one half of our Western policymakers have their heads in the sand, and the other half's minds are floating in the ethereal realms of Platonic forms. Neither stance facilitates communication.
1 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, August 15, 2007 ::
Public Bible Schools
Posted by Edward Cline at 8:53 AM
A troubling development in my booksignings lately at Colonial Williamsburg is the growing frequency that visitors ask me if my Sparrowhawk novels reflect the alleged religious origins of the United States. I usually answer that the novels focus on the secular political ideas that were responsible for the founding.
If visitors press for a more concrete answer, I will answer that most of the Founders were professed deists who nevertheless were adamant in their conviction that God and Government should be separate, that religious beliefs were a private matter not to be suppressed, prescribed or regulated by the state, as they were in Britain, and that one of the things they feared both Parliament and king longed to import to the colonies was a state, tax-supported church.
I will then expand on one aspect of British-American tension, that two British organizations, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (founded 1698) and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (founded 1701), both with Crown approval and encouragement, lobbied continuously both in London and in the colonies for the establishment of an Anglican episcopate or bishopric in the American colonies. This would have meant that all colonists, regardless of their particular faith, would have been taxed to support the Crown church. This idea was abhorrent to all but colonial Anglicans, and contributed to the swelling dissatisfaction with British rule.
I will offer them a historical tidbit: that the American Episcopal Church (root term, episcopate) is the direct descendent of the Anglican Church, which was disestablished in the United States in 1789.
If necessary, and if my visitors still look doubtful after this free lecture on the political origins of America, I will dwell on the fact that religious freedom, for the Founders, was subsumed under the broader concept of political freedom. Then I refer them to the First Amendment of the Constitution, which on this point is unambiguous in wording and meaning.
If my visitors persist and ask whether men of the cloth have any role at all in Sparrowhawk, I will say that the role is entirely incidental and subsidiary. There is only one benign minister in the whole epic; the other clerics do not appear in a very flattering light, since they all wish to impose tyranny over the minds of my heroes. I freely paraphrase Thomas Jefferson in such instances; if my auditors cannot abide the sentiment, it is not my problem.
That usually convinces many such visitors that Sparrowhawk is not for them. I do not volunteer the information without a query, and if no one asks about the role of religion or priests in the series, my policy is one of caveat lector; readers will discover my overall regard for religion and clerics as they progress through the series. Facts do not matter to them, nor the record. Their minds are impervious to reason, proof against rational persuasion. They are of the same mentality as Muslims. As far as they are concerned, God dictated the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to apostles sporting frock coats and wigs.
Often such visitors are parents who are home schooling their children. Some of these people are home schooling with a general, secularized course of instruction. Others are home schooling because, they say, public schools are “Godless.” Religious parents make up most of the people who want assurances from me that Sparrowhawk credits religion with the founding of the country. I give them no such assurances. In these instances, it means a loss of sales.
So, it was with great interest and with not a little surprise that I opened the Sunday, August 12th Newport News, Virginia Daily Press and on page 3 found an article reprinted from the Los Angeles Times under this headline: “How do you teach the Bible without preaching?”
My snap mental answer was: Well, you don’t – unless you are Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, and then you are not so much teaching the Bible as exposing it as pure balderdash and bunkum.
It was a long article about the controversy of Bible studies in public schools.
In public schools?? Bible studies? Apparently, public schools are not as "Godless" as many parents assume.
“Exact numbers are unavailable, but experts agree that the number of Bible classes in public schools is growing because of new state mandates, increased attention to religion in public life, and the growing prominence of two national Bible curricula.”
Earlier, the article states:
“There’s broad agreement across the social, political and religious spectrum – and most important, the Supreme Court – that the Bible can be taught in public schools and that knowledge of the Bible is vital to students’ understanding of literature and art, including Moby Dick, Michelangelo, and The Matrix.
“But battles are raging in statehouses, schools and courtrooms over how to teach – but not to preach.”
Several questions occurred to me as I read further into the article. How many politically correct, multiculturally skewed, diversity-laden public schools are still introducing their students to Shakespeare, or even to Herman Melville? And, given the appalling level of semi-literacy which public schools are notorious for imbuing in their law-mandated charges, is it too cynical to assume that most of these students are too intellectually stunted or undeveloped to apprehend and appreciate the subtleties of textual distinctions?
Isn’t “Bible studies” more appropriate for an accomplished graduate student planning a career in literary studies that would, for example, require him to conceive of a purpose or theme to tackle the 1,300 biblical references in Shakespeare’s plays or study the Old Testament in conjunction with Milton’s Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes?
The Los Angeles Times article states:
“In 1963, a landmark Supreme Court decision declared school-led Bible readings and prayer unconstitutional. But Justice Tom Clark emphasized in the ruling that the court didn’t intend to discourage academic study of religion.”
Justice Clark wrote in his opinion:
“It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”
On the premise that public school Bible studies truly do not try or intend to “preach” religion, I maintain there is no justification in intellectually arrested or otherwise lobotomized students studying the texts of the Great Grumpy Gremlin as related by a group of ancient true believers and whose words and tales and morality the living are expected to take on faith. They may as well study the magical world of Harry Potter novels or the electronic intricacies of The Matrix or the blathering language of a James Joyce novel.
But I do not think these courses are merely “academic” or that the motive behind them is so innocent or blameless. And I had to laugh when I read this sentence in the article:
“High school English teachers and university professors say this lack of exposure to Bible tales has led to an education gap.”
It is an education gap evident in the Western canon being discarded in favor of Third World literature and the scribblings of “minority” writers, in students who think that George Washington helped found the United Nations, or that the Triple Entente is either an ice cream flavor or a video game, and in math and science test scores that are among the lowest in the world. These teachers and professors imply that such a “gap” can be compensated or corrected by a study of the Bible (or the Koran, or Buddhism, or American Indian mythology). Which is as absurd a notion as claiming that one can master calculus by a close study of numerology.
The “gap” in American education can be ascribed to the complete absence of the advocacy of reason in public school philosophy – except when reason is being attacked by nihilists or sabotaged by multicultural subjectivists.
Biblical allusions and references doubtless occur in much Western literature; they even appear in Ayn Rand’s novels. Some day, if the world does not descend into another Dark Age, the Bible and its companion texts from other faiths will exert as little influence on men’s minds and on the culture as Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Nostradamus’s Centuries do today. For the time being, however, children and adolescents should not be made to study the Bible. They are already assaulted in their education by criminally irrational pedagogical policies; Bible studies simply underscore the arbitrary eclecticism. No individual should attempt to study the Bible unless he is a full-grown, mature, rational adult. Then he will have a chance to grasp its utter irrationality.
And, taxpayers who are forced to pay for public schools, whether or not they have children in them, should oppose Bible studies, regardless of their “objective, nonsectarian” intent. Promoters of Bible studies can claim that since God and religion are ubiquitous values in our society, they deserve serious academic examination. Not refutation or rebuttal, mind you. That is “preaching.”
The question remains: Why is the Bible appearing in public schools? Why not teach Shakespeare or Melville or Victor Hugo without making Scripture the primary literary referent? Is there an organization behind it, or is it a general cultural phenomenon? I do not think there is an overall, conscious conspiracy to bypass the First Amendment, although I would not discount the influence of the religious right, which is pushing for the acceptance of “intelligent design” as a legitimate course of study, as well.
As a cultural phenomenon, the growing number of Bible studies in public schools can be likened to water leaching out of cracks in an asphalt parking lot. If the lot were properly paved, no leaching would occur at all.
I suppose that with diligence and enough time, one could ferret out the culprits ultimately responsible for the growth of Bible studies in public schools (not to mention the growth of teen Bible study groups, and of Bible camps for teens). The places to start would be the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools and the Bible Literacy Project, competing organizations cited in the Los Angeles Times report.
But philosophically, and historically, the ultimate culprit is Immanuel Kant. At this year’s OCON conference at Telluride, Leonard Peikoff warned that, thanks to Kant’s influence, Western culture is headed for total disintegration, and that if trends are not corrected and reversed soon, the United States could indeed become a theocracy inside of forty years. The growth of Bible studies in public schools is simply one premonitory manifestation of the trend that substantiates his prediction.
Objectivists, Peikoff said, are in the same historical circumstance as the Spartans at Thermopylæ. We are the only ones who advocate reason. Or perhaps we could see ourselves as Athenians and aim for a Marathon. Either way one looks at our dilemma, however, we should not let the enemy pass without a fight.
12 Comments ::
:: Friday, August 10, 2007 ::
Hillary Clinton’s Uncle Ellsworth: A Correction and a Postscript
Posted by Edward Cline at 7:48 AM
In my August 8th commentary, I wrote:
“When Keating abandons her to marry Dominique Francon – an action encouraged by Toohey for his own malign ends – Catherine collapses spiritually. That is the last we see of her until much later in the novel (Part 4: Howard Roark, Chapter 10, pp. 621-628)”
This actually is not the last we see of Catherine Halsey. She reappears briefly on p. 398 (in the Centennial Edition of The Fountainhead). Through Ellsworth Toohey’s influence, she is given a position in charge of occupational therapy in the Hopton Stoddard Home for Subnormal Children – Roark’s vandalized Stoddard Temple. She is depicted as being ecstatic when “the least promising” of the children exhibits signs of intelligence or an awareness of reality.
Ayn Rand may have implied that Toohey meant the “occupational therapy” to be for Catherine herself, as a kind of finishing touch to his malevolent handiwork – finishing in the sense that such a job would complete the destruction of her identity and even corrupt her measure of “normalcy,” in herself and in others. What she says about the “art” produced by the genderless Jackie is, ironically, what she never heard from her uncle Ellsworth or anyone else when she attempted to apprehend reality.
That whole section on the Home, on pages 395 to 398, also underscores Toohey’s value-destroying methodology, in this instance the conversion of a temple to the human spirit into a clinic for the contemplation of the irrational and the diseased.
Also, I neglected to mention another thing that Hillary Clinton fears and which she would wish to bypass in Americans through statist legislation (or force): the element of volition. The volition (implied in the concept of independence) of individuals would confound any of her well-laid plans to impose mandatory compliance with her wishes (or the wishes of virtually any politician, for that matter). Further, she would want all Americans to become public service drudges in spirit, if not in fact.
0 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, August 08, 2007 ::
Hillary Clinton’s Uncle Ellsworth
Posted by Edward Cline at 10:07 AM
While truth can be stranger than fiction, the one can complement the other.
This thought occurred to me when I began to read Hillary Rodham Clinton's 1969 political science thesis, written in "partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degree under the Special Honors Program, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts." Its title is: "'There Is Only the Fight...': An Analysis of the Alinsky Model."
Four or five pages into this paper, I was struck by the similarities between the relationships of Ellsworth Toohey and Catherine Halsey in Ayn Rand's novel, The Fountainhead, and of Saul D. Alinsky and young Hillary D. Rodham, college student. Copies of this 91-page typewritten paper, interspersed here and there with handwritten corrections, are now circulating all over the Internet, accompanied by commentary that is largely critical and often deprecatory in nature.
Ellsworth Toohey, as readers probably know, is the power-seeking arch villain in Rand's novel, and Catherine Halsey his niece, whose self-esteem he mercilessly attacks at every opportunity and succeeds in destroying, reducing her to a selfless, public service drudge.
Saul David Alinsky (1909-1972) was a real-life "radical" who specialized in organizing "communities" for local political agitation rather than attempting the broader political machinations of Toohey. He was a second-rank power luster - certainly less charismatic than Toohey, to judge by his biography - but his fundamental methodology of acquiring power - not for himself, he always said, but for whomever he deemed the "dispossessed" - is essentially the same as Toohey's, which Rand so brilliantly dramatized in Toohey's character.
This commentary will focus on the parallels between the pairs - Toohey and Catherine, Alinsky and Clinton - though not to the exclusion of the political aspects of the relationships.
First, here is a description of Catherine Halsey when she is introduced in The Fountainhead, and, incidentally, into Ellsworth Toohey's life:
"Toohey had not intended to keep her in his own home. But when she stepped off the train in New York, her plain little face looked beautiful for a moment, as if the future were opening before her and its glow were already upon her forehead, as if she were eager and proud and ready to meet it. It was one of those rare moments when the humblest person knows suddenly what it means to feel as the center of the universe, and is made beautiful by the knowledge, and the world - in the eyes of witnesses - looks like a better place for having such a center. Ellsworth Toohey saw this - and decided that Catherine would remain with him." (The Fountainhead, pp. 310-311, Centennial Edition).In subsequent scenes that feature Catherine Halsey, she is depicted as having a self that struggles to understand the world and her uncle, a self that progressively loses the struggle under her uncle's malicious guidance. She is intellectually unarmed to defend herself against Toohey's attacks, which are aimed at disarming her mind by denigrating it and her values. Her sole consolation or value in this period is Peter Keating and her love for him.
When Keating abandons her to marry Dominique Francon - an action encouraged by Toohey for his own malign ends - Catherine collapses spiritually. That is the last we see of her until much later in the novel (Part 4: Howard Roark, Chapter 10, pp. 621-628). Here is how Peter Keating, who once wanted to marry her, sees her after years of being out of contact:
"...But when he lifted his eyes to Catherine, he knew that no caution was necessary; she did not react to his scrutiny; her expression remained the same, whether he studied her face or that of the woman at the next table; she seemed to have no consciousness of her own person.When Keating asks her what she felt when he failed to elope with her and when she learned that he was married to Dominique, that is, if she suffered, Catherine answers:
"It was her mouth that had changed most, he thought; the lips were drawn in, with only a pale edge of flesh left around the imperious line of their opening; a mouth to issue orders, he thought, but not big orders or cruel orders; just mean little ones - about plumbing and disinfectants. He saw the fine wrinkles at the corners of her eyes - a skin like paper that had been crumpled and then smoothed out."
"Yes, of course I suffered. All young people do in such situations. It seems foolish afterward. I cried, and I screamed some dreadful things at Uncle Ellsworth, and he had to call a doctor to give me a sedative, and then weeks afterward I fainted on the street one day without any reason, which was really disgraceful. All the conventional things, I suppose, everybody goes through them, like measles. Why should I have expected to be exempt? - as Uncle Ellsworth said."At this point, even Keating, who himself has not only betrayed her and everything else he might have valued, is appalled by the dead, utter selflessness of Catherine. She has become what Toohey intended her to be, an interchangeable manqué, in her own eyes no better or no worse than anyone else, a person who finds "self worth" only in serving others, or the public good. She has become a humorless, miniature clone of Toohey. Instead of aiming for control of the country's political life and directing it to collectivism, Catherine is satisfied with overseeing "plumbing and disinfectants" as a government social worker.
And the world was no longer a better place for the glow on her forehead. That glow had been methodically extinguished by Toohey.
"Plumbing and disinfectants" best describes Saul Alinsky's brand of Toohey-ism. His whole political philosophy was definably collectivist. It was Marxism wearing a plastic Halloween mask. For all her adulation of him, Hillary was not satisfied with the range of Alinsky's achievements in the political realm. They were, to her, not ambitious enough. He advocated merely "activism" on the part of the poor and ethnic to achieve "social justice," and organizing "communities" or neighborhoods to engage the "establishment" in direct conflict. However, he thought in terms of groups.
Lessons were to be learned from Alinsky by young Hillary.
The ultimate goal of such groups, he wrote, was to acquire power. He had the hubris to rank himself as "radical" as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Patrick Henry, overlooking the fact that these men advocated liberty and individualism in their political philosophy. Alinsky advocated rule by chain gangs and mobs via "democracy" - which in the Left's lexicon is a euphemism for socialism or collectivism.
Hillary quotes Alinsky from his book, Reveille for Radicals, published in 1946:
"What does the Radical want? He wants a world in which the worth of the individual is recognized...a world based on the morality of mankind...The Radical believes that all peoples should have a high standard of food, housing, and health....The Radical places human rights far above property rights. He is for universal, free public education and recognizes this as fundamental to the democratic way of life...."But, all this was government policy by the time Hillary wrote her thesis. She even acknowledges it in the paragraph immediately following the quotation:
"Much of what Alinsky professes does not sound 'radical.' His are the words used in our schools and churches, by our parents and their friends, by our peers. The difference is that Alinsky really believes in them and recognizes the necessity of changing the present structures of our lives in order to realize them."Alinsky's means for attaining "social justice" is for groups to mobilize to achieve power, for power can "compel negotiations." Only by "organizing" can otherwise powerless and voiceless groups win concessions from the "establishment." In an article cited by Hillary, Alinsky asserted that,
"We have become involved in bypaths of confusion or semantics...The word 'power' has through time acquired overtones of sinister corrupt evil, unhealthy immoral Machiavellianism, and a general phantasmagoria of the nether regions." Hillary comments, with implict approval, "For Alinsky, power is the 'very essence of life, the dynamic of life' and is found in '...active citizen participation pulsing upward providing a unified strength for a common purpose of organization...either changing circumstances or opposing change."
The speech that reflects the spirit and contains the germs of everything that Alinsky advocated is on page 103 of The Fountainhead, when, during a building-trades union strike in New York, Toohey addresses a hall of strike supporters:
"...The lesson to be learned from our tragic struggle is the lesson of unity. We shall unite or we shall be defeated. Our will - the will of the disinherited, the forgotten, the oppressed - shall weld us into a solid bulwark, with a common faith and a common goal. This is the time for every man to renounce the thoughts of his petty little problems, of gain, of comfort, of self-gratification. This is the time to merge his self in a great current, in the rising tide which is approaching to sweep us all, willing or unwilling, into the future. History, my friends, does not ask questions or acquiescence. It is irrevocable, as the voice of the masses that determine it. Let us listen to the call. Let us organize, my brothers. Let us organize. Let us organize. Let us organize." This was Alinsky's credo in a nutshell, a perfect encapsulation of his means and ends. It is doubtful that Ayn Rand had even heard of Alinsky while she was writing The Fountainhead - his first book, Reveille for Radicals , did not appear until three years after publication of The Fountainhead - but Hillary certainly had read her novels while in college (as a passing "phase," as has been reported elsewhere). If she was lost in the "bypaths of confusion and semantics" - searching for a "cause" that would sanction her own life and give it direction - one can imagine that she would reject the notion that Toohey was a villain. She would have been as impressed with Toohey's ideology and methodology as she was with Alinsky's, but with fewer reservations.
The important point here is that Alinsky remains one of her primary ideological mentors, her denials and those of her defenders to the contrary notwithstanding. Her career after leaving Yale Law School was a frantic scramble to find a way to enter politics. Carl Bernstein, who wrote a biography of Hillary, A Woman in Charge, in a July 20th interview with Jon Wiener on the Truthdig site, claims that she is not an ideologue of the collectivist or any other stripe. "One of the real problems Hillary has had is a difficult relationship with the truth....One of the things she's been most truthful about is that she's not easy to compartmentalize in terms of ideology."
But the power hungry do subscribe to an ideology of sorts, one of opportunism, of snatching at every issue or chance that would boost one's place in the political power grid. Hillary found that opportunity in Bill Clinton, himself a consummate opportunist, whom she met at Yale. She rode on his political coattails all the way to the White House. She miscalculated when, as the power behind the Oval Office, she attempted to maneuver Congress into adopting full-scale socialized health care.
Whether she was slavishly working to apply Alinsky's rules of thumb, to work both from "within" and "without" the system," to effect change by organized confrontation, or adhering to some other leftist ideologue's formula for acquiring power, is a moot issue. It is interesting to note that during Bill Clinton's two administrations, Hillary's Wellesley thesis was kept locked up by the school at the request of the White House, doubtless to prevent the public from getting the "wrong" ideas concerning her ideological leanings. But her actions before and since have tipped everyone off to her true leanings. The school did not need to keep her thesis a secret.
The London Daily Telegraph of August 7 reported Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani as saying that Hillary "wouldn't admit she's a liberal." He made the remark when Hillary recently "disavowed the label and said she was a 'modern progressive.'" One wonders what distinction there is between an old and a "modern" progressive. The labels "liberal" and "progressive" are virtually synonymous, and simply stand for the incremental creep towards a total welfare state.
In her thesis, Hillary seems to have mastered the sociological jargon necessary for anyone thinking of dedicating his life to "public service." In one paragraph, she writes:
"Societal comparisons raise again questions about the meaning of 'radical' and even 'revolutionary' within a mass production/consumption state, particularly the United States. Must definitions perhaps be as fluid as the actions they purport to describe?....Alinsky would answer affirmatively."
So would Hillary. It presages her future husband's retort of what the meaning of "is" is. Bill and Hillary were and would remain soul-mates.
On July 29, the New York Times ran an article about Hillary's college year letters to a high school classmate, John Peavoy ("In the '60s, a Future Candidate Poured Her Heart Out in Letters"). What is most interesting about the letters the article discusses is that they reveal how emotion-driven she was in choosing her ultimate politics. Upon entering Wellesley, she morphed from being a Goldwater Republican and a member of the Young Republicans to a volunteer for Eugene McCarthy's antiwar presidential campaign. No doubt her intellectual and moral rudderlessness made her susceptible to the antiwar rhetoric and activism of the period. This was also the period in which she discovered Saul Alinsky and his brand of activism.
I don't think a glow of the future ever graced Hillary's forehead. Catherine Halsey had a more adult and advanced sense of herself and what was possible to her than Hillary evidently had at the same age. No eagerness or pride is evident in Hillary's letters or her thesis, just a kind of inverse narcissism, or a concern for what she thinks of herself through others' eyes. In one of her letters to Peavoy, she remarks that she has "not yet reconciled myself to the fate of not being the star."
By page 375 of The Fountainhead, Catherine is experiencing a personal crisis over her social work and turns to her uncle for guidance. "I have no selfish desire left, I have nothing of my own - and I'm miserable." She tells Toohey that she has grown to hate the poor who depend on her.
Toohey tells her that her problem is that she expected to feel virtuous and personally happy for "doing right," and that this was vicious and egotistical.
She replies, "But if you have no...no self-respect, how can you be anything?"
Toohey tells her that she must stop wanting anything. "You must forget how important Miss Catherine Halsey is. Because, you see, she isn't. Men are important only in relation to other men, in their usefulness, in the service they render....You must be willing to suffer, to be cruel, to be dishonest, to be unclean - anything, my dear, anything to kill the most stubborn of roots, the ego. And only when it is dead, when you care no longer, when you have lost your identity and forgotten the name of your soul - only then will you know the kind of happiness I spoke about, and the gates of spiritual grandeur will fall open before you."
"But, Uncle Ellsworth," she whispered, "when the gates fall open, who is it that's going to enter?"
Toohey, momentarily surprised by the perceptiveness of her question - he knows it was an important rebuttal, but she does not - replies with a put-down about her having made a "smart crack." Catherine, intimidated by his "wisdom" and utterly ignorant of its nature, concedes. Alinsky and Toohey agreed that "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon." (Alinsky enunciated it in his Rules for Radicals ; Toohey expounded on it to Peter Keating in Part 4, Chapter 16, p. 665.)
Compare that with Hillary's quest for the meaning of her life in her letters to Peavoy. One letter to him she signs "Me," parenthetically adding "the world's saddest word." That one brief signature can stand to represent the self-deprecatory remarks in all her other letters discussed by the Times. I do not think Hillary suffered from a crisis of self-respect, as Catherine Halsey did; I do not think she ever had a self to respect. She would have agreed with everything Toohey told Catherine, without Toohey having to exert much effort to convince her or having to resort to vicious put-downs.
It takes a village, or a Toohey, or an Alinsky, to fill such a void. This is a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Hillary has progressed from doubting the effectiveness of massive government programs to help the poor to seeing them as the only answer, in the name of "social justice." Like Alinsky, like Toohey, she wishes to crush the individualist independence of Americans and replace it with dependence on the state - and she would be the state - chiefly because she has grown to fear and hate independence in anyone.
No matter how slickly "human" she presents her made-over self to the public in debates or during interviews, one can still detect in her the desire to kill in every American his integrity, self-respect, sense of values, the heroic, and happiness. When she left Wellesley, she decided to become the "star," someone whom uncounted others would come to depend on and thank for that dependence.
This is a would-be dictator, and dictators, as I have noted in other commentaries, are only as real to themselves as the number of people they need to rule and command.
6 Comments ::
:: Saturday, August 04, 2007 ::
America was not Gilead
Posted by Edward Cline at 6:59 AM
A reader queried CAC wanting sources that would substantiate the assertion in my letter to the Wall Street Journal (“State Department’s Faith-Based Initiatives,” July 31) that the U.S. was not founded on Christian principles, but secular ones. Here is my reply, and the instances cited below do not begin to exhaust the amount of proof:
From Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia (1782):
"The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me . . ."
Jefferson endorsed individual freedom; he argued that any form of government control, not only of religion, but of individual mercantilism, was tyranny. He maintained that our rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, that is, that individual rights do not derive from religious dogma or belief, but from observable nature. Whether or not a “God” was responsible for that nature, was to him and to most of his fellow Founders, utterly irrelevant.
“Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.” – Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787.
From James Madison, fourth president of the U.S.:
“Every new & successful example of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance.” – Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822.
“And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed.” – Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822, in Saul K. Padover, ed., The Complete Madison: His Basic Writings (1953).
“The civil government…functions with complete success…by the total separation of the Church from the State.” – Madison, Writings Volume 8, p. 432, quote from Gene Garman, “Essays in Addition to America’s Real Religion.”
From Benjamin Franklin:
"I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies."
"Lighthouses are more helpful then churches."
From John Adams:
“The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?” – Letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 20, 1815.
“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.” – Adams, “A Defence of the Constitution of Government of the United States of America” (1787-88), from Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society (1965), p. 258, quoted from Ed and Michael Buckner, “Quotations that Support Separation of State and Church.”
“Thirteen governments [of the original thirteen states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.” – Adams, “A Defence of the Constitution of Government of the United States of America” (1787-88), from Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society (1965), p. 258, quoted from Ed and Michael Buckner, “Quotations that Support Separation of State and Church.”
“We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions ... shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power ... we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.” – Letter to Dr. Price, April 8, 1785, quoted from Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom (1991).
“As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?” – Letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, December 27, 1816.
Regarding the 1797 Treaty with Tripoli, cited in my letter/article, here is the wording from it regarding the query:
In 1797, six years after the adoption of the Bill of Rights, the United States government signed a treaty with the Muslim nation of Tripoli that contained the following statement (numbered Article 11 in the treaty):
“As the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the law, religion or tranquility of Musselmen; and as the states never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mohometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever produce an interruption of harmony existing between the two countries.” (Italics original)
The treaty was approved by President John Adams and his Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, and was then ratified by the Senate without objection. Of course, today, the U.S., as a secular nation, should harbor a natural enmity “against the law, religion and tranquility of Islam,” since Islamist jihadists and states that sponsor terrorism have declared war on America, and it should bear hostility against any Muslim nation that seeks to harm America.
The historical instances are legion that support the contention that the Founders did not intend America to be a Judeo-Christian state. The Founders may have been deists, but their position was that if God existed, he played no role in human affairs; it was left to men to find the means to achieve happiness on earth through reason, especially in their political arrangements. The Founders were reality oriented; they asserted repeatedly that religious beliefs or fantasies were the purview of individuals, not to be regulated or commanded by the state.
To claim otherwise is to reveal a sorry ignorance of the philosophical and political origins of America; or a patent dishonesty passing for “revealed” truth and masking a frightening political agenda.
The fundamental problem is that our President believes – and I stress believes – that America is indeed a nation governed by Christian principles. It is the altruistic, self-sacrificing tenets of the Christian morality that have enmeshed the U.S. in a no-win war in Iraq and Afghanistan against belligerent “Musselmen.”
It was clergymen of Bush’s ilk who accused Jefferson of wanting to declare war on religion. But it was their “schemes” to impose religion by force that he opposed. It is noteworthy that even in Jefferson’s time, while the majority of Americans were nominally Christian, very few of them would likely have disagreed with him (or with Madison or Adams) that the nation was founded on a secular, natural rights philosophy, not a religious one.
Presidential candidates should also take note of it, as well, especially those who in the past evinced no particular religious bent, but who are now jumping on the Gideonite bandwagon. An Associated Press article of July 30th, “Religion Looms Large over 2008 Race,” reported:
“…All the Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls have been grilled on their religious beliefs. Most seem eager to talk publicly about their faith as they actively court religious voters.”
Further into the article, it says:
“The links between religion and governance intensified with the presidency of George W. Bush, said Joan Konner, former dean of the Columbia Journalism School. ‘He brought it up when he ran for office and he said his favorite philosopher, in answer to a question in a debate, was Jesus….And then he followed up on that by faith-based public funding and various other actions that started to erode what Americans took for granted as the separation between church and state,’ said Konner….”
One of the Associated Press article’s examples of a candidate exploiting the religion angle is Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who “emphasizes her Methodist upbringing and says her faith helped her repair her marriage.”
So she might claim. It is a more credible likelihood that it was her faith in Bill Clinton’s political guidance and savvy and arm-twisting skills that “repaired” her marriage than her belief in the literal truth of the Bible’s chapter and verse. Why sacrifice a political career and a chance to satisfy one’s power-lust over such a petty thing as a cuckolding spouse? That she is willing to “forgive” her husband’s sexual escapades to facilitate her quest for political power is a measure of this ambitious harridan’s selflessness and consequent need to “serve society.”
However, all the presidential candidates are of the left – name me one Republican who is advocating, for example, repeal of the 16th Amendment, or unregulated laissez faire capitalism, or the absolute right of Americans to be secure in their property – and all of them want to serve “society.”
But, as Jamie Whyte writes with sardonic wit in an excellent article in the Financial Times of London (“Thatcher was right about society, David,” August 2), “Society is for the left what God is for Christians. Its mere existence creates moral obligations, with no need for contracts and with no need for tiresome debate about the merits of making these obligations law. Those who deny the existence of society are simply trying to evade their responsibilities.”
Whyte agrees with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that “there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women….”
Another way of saying it is that “society” is as much a phantasm as God, and those who believe in it also claim that being a member of it entails duties, responsibilities and debts to it, just as one must obey God’s commandments, if one is a conscientious Christian. But if “society” is only the people one encounters in one’s lifetime, or sees on television, where is that entity called “society”? And if such a thing does not exist, what is the source of all those duties, obligations and debts? That amorphous mass of strangers sociologists call “society”?
As Ayn Rand would put it: Blank out.
Both Republicans and Democrats are attempting to wed God and Society in their venal campaigns to win first, the primaries, and then the national election, by appealing to the delusional worst in the electorate: Christian collectivists.
If the left and conservative right combine to create a political force, we may today be witnessing the beginnings of the establishment of a nation the Founders would have abhorred: a theocracy – but with a socialist base.
47 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, August 01, 2007 ::
Posted by Edward Cline at 10:42 AM
Broadcast news coverage is becoming as chummy and surfacy as “Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood.” Driven by “personality” and photogenics, the kidding banter and annoying silliness of the morning and evening anchors for ABC, CBS and NBC almost makes one pine for the serious, dour days of Walter Cronkite.
Listening to the current political debates between the presidential candidates – or perhaps they should be called “personality” debates, for their political content is virtually nil – has become, to date, as deafening as a forest full of croaking tree frogs at midnight. These human tree frogs may be communicating something to each other, but not to the public’s ears.
And reading about the U.S.’s efforts to bring “peace” and “stability” to the Mideast and to Iraq is akin to being sentenced to read the entire dismal oeuvre of Franz Kafka, a special edition illustrated with etchings by Edvard Munch.
Instead of acknowledging our enemies – after first identifying them – and taking the proper military actions to neutralize or destroy them to ensure this country’s safety, our policy is has been to treat them all as potential or imagined allies, to deem them “forces of moderation” in the pursuit of peace and stability in the region, and to reward them with military hardware.
The most recent instance of this foolishness is the Bush administration’s proposed $20 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia and its neighboring feudal kingdoms, tyrannies, and regimes, every one of them hostile to the U.S. and to its only regional ally, Israel.
To “balance” this the U.S. is also proposing to sell about $30 billion in slightly more advanced military hardware to Israel, a country every one of our Arab “allies” would prefer to erase from existence in the name of the same Mideast “peace” and “security.”
The New York Times of July 28 reports, under the headline “U.S. Set to Offer Huge Arms Deal to Saudi Arabia”:
“The proposed package of advanced weaponry for Saudi Arabia, which includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels, has made Israel and some of its supporters in Congress nervous. Senior officials who described the package on Friday said they believed that the administration had resolved those concerns, in part by promising Israel $30.4 billion in military aid over the next decade, a significant increase over what Israel has received in the past 10 years.
“Along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are likely to receive equipment and weaponry from the arms sales under consideration, officials said. In general, the U.S. is interested in upgrading the countries’ air and missile defense systems, improving their navies and making modest improvements in their air forces.”
Ostensibly, all this aid is meant to “protect” these fiefdoms from Iranian military designs. And every one of those fiefdoms holds the U.S. hostage via their expropriated oil production. This would not be a problem, if the U.S. were not held hostage by environmentalists, who refuse to allow the development of known offshore oil reserves and the construction of new refineries.
The U.S. will “insist” that that the weaponry not be used against Israel. In the meantime, Iran is not acknowledged by the Bush administration as an enemy, either. Consider the contrast: When Nazi Germany invaded Poland and France, we did not send envoys to Berlin to plead for “peace” and “stability” in Europe. When we secured a defeated Germany and Italy, Britain did not accuse the U.S. of an “illegal occupation,” as Saudi Arabia has publicly charged the U.S.
Perhaps the most revealing sentence in this report is:
“In talks about the package, the administration has not sought specific assurances from Saudi Arabia that it would be more supportive of the American effort in Iraq as a condition of receiving the arms package, the officials said.”
That is, the U.S. will not demand that Saudi Arabia stop sending Sunni “insurgents” into Iraq to kill American troops. Also, the U.S. is “certain” that Saudi Arabia is not only financially supporting Sunni groups in Iraq, but that it is working to bring down the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government. Another Times article from July 27, “Saudis’ Role in Iraq Frustrates U.S. Officials,” reports:
“…Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian [or Shiite] agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups….Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.”
Elsewhere in the article, the Times related:
“The American officials in Iraq also say that the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia and that about 40 percent of all foreign fighters are Saudi. Officials said that while most of the foreign fighters came to Iraq to become suicide bombers, others arrived as bomb makers, snipers, logisticians and financiers.”
But the U.S. continues to regard Saudi Arabia as an “ally” and a “force for moderation.” Franz Kafka could not have conceived of a more existentially obscene and futile a policy.
Literary lights consider Kafka’s short story, “The Metamorphosis,” in which a man overnight turns into an insect, as his pièce de résistance. “Insects” properly characterizes the formulators and purveyors of current U.S. foreign policy, and they have been insects for at least the last half-century.
Pragmatism, after all, in the name of practicality in pursuit of a “Platonic” peace, eschews making moral judgments and taking actions based on those judgments. In the run-up to the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, pragmatism will prove to be not so “practical” after all. The current Iraqi government, created and propped up by the U.S. at the expense of American lives and treasure, on the transparent fiction that such a “stable” government will ensure America’s security, will either eventually fall from Saudi efforts, or be “co-opted” by Iran (and there is evidence that this is already the case) to threaten Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iranian “fighters” are already competing with Saudi “fighters” on many American lives they can take.
In the 19th century, Western powers, including the U.S., applied a policy of “gunboat diplomacy” to protect American and Western lives and commercial interests in countries whose governments would not protect them from killers and looters. A warship need only appear in the waters outside such a country, and the crisis would be over.
Today, we are proposing to give those renegade governments the weapons with which to threaten or destroy American lives, not only in those countries, but in the U.S. itself.
Philosopher Harry Binswanger remarked recently:
“America’s security does not require that a proper government be installed in Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc. Our security requires only that the various fanatical bands in the region know full well that the moment they raise a hint of a threat to Americans, they will be crushed. We should let Baathists, Shiites, Hamas, the PLO, Al Qada, and Hezbollah all fight each other – as long as they all know they must keep clear of America….If the Arab/Muslim populations are not culturally advanced enough to embrace the institutions of a free society, that is their problem, not ours….”
I endorse that thinking one hundred percent. We should adopt Rhett Butler’s attitude towards Scarlett O’Hara at the end of Gone with the Wind: Frankly, we shouldn’t give a damn whether or not they discover those institutions or continue to butcher each other in the name of a ghost. Just don’t point your guns on our direction – or else.
4 Comments ::
Inappropriate headline of the day
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:42 AM
You have to savor this Washington Post headline for an article on News Corporation's purchase of Dow & Jones & Co., for it beautifully encapsulates how voluntary trade in the free market is equated with bare-knuckled coercion. According to the Post, "Murdoch Seizes Wall St. Journal In $5 Billion Coup," but there's no word if he's had anybody lined up and shot.
0 Comments ::