Monday, November 28, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Why Can’t We Be More Like China?
Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, ‘No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.’”
NYT’s Thomas Friedman: "I have fantasized–don't get me wrong–but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions.”
Thursday, November 17, 2011
In Arthur Koester's novel Darkness at Noon the character N.S. Rubashov expressed his misgivings about the party he had dedicated his life to. He declared that, "all our principles were right, but our results were wrong." He asserted that, "this is a diseased century," and that, "we diagnosed the disease and its causes with microscopic exactness, but wherever we applied the healing knife a new sore appeared." He continued, "Our will was hard and pure, we should have been loved by the people. But they hate us." He asked himself, "Why are we so odious and detested?" He concluded, "We brought you truth, and in our mouth it sounded a lie. We brought you freedom, and it looks in our hands like a whip. We brought you the living life, and where our voice is heard the trees whither and there is a rustling of dry leaves. We brought you the promise of the future, but our tongue stammered and barked. . .
This was the lament of a compassionate man who believed in an elite's ability to regulate every aspect of human existence for the betterment of mankind. It is also the lament of the current administration. They have only the best interests of the American people at heart. Why are they not loved? Apparently the people do not understand their beneficent proposals. Yet the more they explain their plans the greater the opposition becomes. Perhaps this opposition is the result of the failure of their fundamental beliefs: the failure of Modernism. Rule by expert; this is the essence of modernism. Modernism was defined by Vaclav Havel, the former President of Czechoslovakia, as the belief that the world is "a wholly knowable system governed by a finite number of universal laws that man can grasp and rationally direct for his own benefit." It asserted that, “Man . . . was capable of objectively describing, explaining and controlling everything that exists."
In his speech before the World Economic Forum in Davos, Havel dated the end of the modern age at the fall of the Soviet Empire. Architect Charles Jencks placed it much earlier: at exactly 3:32 P.M. on July 15, 1972. This was the moment that the Pruitt-Igoe housing development in St. Louis, was demolished. Like the East Falls Housing Project is Philadelphia, demolished in 2000, and the Cabrini-Green public housing project in Chicago, the Pruitt-Igoe housing development was an example of the thousands of housing projects constructed throughout the industrial world. Their functional design made them perfect "machines for living in." Unfortunately they shortly became uninhabitable. These housing projects were representative of the failure of the modernist concept that experts could design a system to improve human existence on a massive scale. The physical wreckage of these well intention schemes is easy to observe. The psychological wreckage is more difficult to discern.
These housing projects were inspired by the work of architects like Le Corbusier. Le Corbusier worked for years to promote a plan to demolish a large part of Paris and replace it with a logically designed layout. He was the man with a plan. He wrote that, "The despot is not a man. It is the . . . correct, realistic, exact plan . . . that will provide your solution once the problem has been posed clearly. . . . This plan has been drawn up well away from . . . the cries of the electorate or the laments of society's victims. It has been drawn up by serene and lucid minds." These "serene and lucid minds" are the same people described by Edmund Burke: "Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thorough-bred metaphysician ... It is like that of the principle of evil himself, incorporeal, pure, unmixed, dephlegmated, defecated evil."
Modernist plans always entail sacrifice. "You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs." The novelist Upton Sinclair defended Soviet collectivization by saying, "They drove rich peasants off the land - and sent them wholesale to work in lumber camps and on railroads. Maybe it cost a million lives - maybe it cost five million - but you cannot think intelligently about it unless you ask yourself how many millions it might have cost if the changes had not been made." But as the British philosopher Isaiah Berlin pointed out, "The eggs are broken, and the habit of breaking them grows, but the omelette remains invisible." In the 1980s sociologist Eva Etzione-Halevy pointed out what is becoming increasingly obvious: “the years in which the influence of the social scientists on policy has been growing have also been the years in which policy failures have been rife and in which a variety of formidable social problems have been multiplying." Malcolm Muggeridge sarcastically remarked< As more and more money is spent on education, illiteracy is increasing. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it didn’t end up with virtually the whole revenue of the western countries being spend on education, and a condition of almost total illiteracy resulting therefrom.”
What is the alternative to rule by “serene and lucid minds?” It is a system that has proved successful for over two hundred years. It is rule by practical people untainted by the theories of the metaphysicians. Irving Kristol has pointed out that, “The common people . . .are not uncommonly wise, but their experience tends to make them uncommonly sensible. They learn their economics by taking out a mortgage, they learn their politics by watching the local school board in action, and they learn the impossibility of ‘social engineering’ by trying to raise their children to be decent human beings.” They are busy taking care of their small section of the world. And for the most part, they do it responsibly. As Thomas Hobbes wrote, “A plain husband-man is more Prudent in the affaires of his own house, than a Privy Counselor in the affaires of other men.”
Thursday, November 3, 2011
The Obama administration and its sycophants in the media have declared a stunning victory in the Middle East. The President proclaimed, “After four decades of darkness, they (the Libyan people) can walk the streets, free from a tyrant.” This victory is on a par with that moment in July 2008 when candidate Obama proclaimed, “. . . the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Who, today, does not thrill to the spectacle of freedom in Tripoli.” Fox New’s Geraldo Rivera stated that, “President Obama, whatever his failures are on the domestic side has proven to be one of our most efficient warrior leaders.” This is quite an accomplishment for even a Noble Peace Prize winner. However, can this apparent victory stand the test of time?
The ostensible reason for the overthrow of Qaddafi was that NATO was attempting “to prevent the killing of innocents on a horrific scale.” Obama stated that we, “. . . can take pride in the innocent lives we saved and in helping Libyans reclaim their country.” This motive does not appear to hold water. Obama had an entirely different response to the demonstrations in Iran. If a list of bloodthirsty tyrants were compiled, Qaddafi would not appear near the top. Acts of genocide have been occurring for decades with little media attention, unless there were other factors involved.
Retired Gen. Barno, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan stated, “We rushed into this without a plan. Now we’re out in the middle, going in circles.” As plans were being made to overthrow Qaddafi, his son Khamis was attending a month long visit with meetings at NASA and the Air Force Academy. His scheduled trip to West Point on Feb 21 had to be cancelled when Khamis flew back to Libya to take part in the defense of the regime. According to Andrew McCarthy, “Obama increased military ad to Qaddafi’s regime only a few weeks before the current crisis began.” We may never learn the real reason for Qaddafi’s overthrow. We can only surmise that the decision was made on short notice. There are a number of people who were relieved to learn that Qaddafi had been assassinated. Had he testified at an international tribunal some inconvenient facts might have come to light including details of the deal reached for the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Lockervie bomber.
Qaddafi was a corrupt despot and that was one of his virtues. His primary concern was to provide for Muimar Qaddafi. His family spent lavishly on parties where they paid performers like rapper 50 cent, Beyonce and Cary millions of dollars. His wardrobe appeared to be inspired by Michael Jackson. Qaddafi and Mubarek were essentially secular leaders concerned with their own power and the accumulation of personal wealth. Because of these concerns, they could be easily co opted by Western governments. If they are replaced with devout Muslims the Middle East will have an entirely different complexion that will not conform to the ideal picture that is being promoted in the press.
Prior to Qaddafi’s overthrow, he was considered by the U.S. State Department as “a critical ally in the U.S. counter terrorism efforts. In August 2009 Senators McCain, Lieberman, Graham and Collins visited Qaddafi’s headquarters in Tripoli. The main item on their agenda was to provide military aid to Qaddafi. Lieberman is reported to have said, “We never would have guessed ten years ago that we would be sitting in Tripoli, being welcomed by a son of Muammar al-Qadhfi.” This meeting took place just prior to the release of Abdel al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.
Who will replace these Middle Eastern despots? For this we must rely on our intelligence agencies. Senator John McCain referring to the Libyan rebels stated, “They are my heroes.” President Obama has assured us that, “The people that we’ve met with have been fully vetted. Most of them are professionals, lawyers, doctors, - people who appear to be credible.” The President stated, “As Libyans draw strength from their faith – a religion rooted in peace and tolerance – let their be a rejection of violent extremism.” Yet the ranks of terrorists are filled with lawyers, doctors and even pilots: educated middle and upper class people who are or were credible in their own way. One rebel leader, Abdul Hakim al-Hasidi, fought for five years in Afghanistan. When he was captured the U.S. turned him over to Qaddafi.
The “experts” appear to have an optimistic view of where the “Arab Spring” is going. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper testified before Congress that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was a “largely secular” organization. Former President Carter stated, “I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is not anything to b e afraid of.” This optimism is reflected in the media. NBC’s Matt Lauer asked Michele Bachman, “If there are flickers, as you say, of al Qaeda among the rebels, would it not be a sign to them or showing them that the United States has compassion and we are willing to use our military might to help all people.” Bachman could only respond, “Compassion for al Qaeda?”
How dependable is U.S. intelligence? When the Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, testified before Congress, he stated that there was a “strong likelihood” that Mubarak would step down by the end of the day. When this did not happen it was reported that Panetta had based his statement on reports from the media and not the CIA. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, was asked by Diane Sawyer, “London, how serious is it? Any implications that it was coming here? She raised this question because of a terrorist strike in London earlier that day. Clapper was unable to respond. In Clapper’s defense, Deputy National Security Advisor, John Brennen, stated, “I am glad that Jim Clapper is not sitting in front of the TV 24 hours a day.” Apparently the Director of National Intelligence does not even consult the media on intelligence matters. Events like this prompted Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International Security Affairs in Berlin to state, “Everyone is extremely skeptical about U.S. intelligence revelations.”
President Obama has stated that, “Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one.” Senator McCain stated that it is “a lesson for Bashar al Assad,” who’s regime he was confident would “soon join Qaddafi’s on the ash heap of history.” A North Korean Foreign Ministry official also found the NATO action instructive, stating, “The Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson.” Might one of the lessons to be learned by other despots be that it is dangerous to ally yourself with the U.S.? Perhaps the lesson would be to not abandon a weapons of mass destruction program. Or, if in danger of being overthrown, use any means necessary to maintain power.
If events in the Middle East turn sour the media’s first response will be to ignore them. However, this may eventually become impossible. As the President has said, “the journey ahead may be fraught.” But fraught with what? Islam appears to be experiencing a renaissance while Christianity and the West appear to be in retreat. The victorious Ennahda party of Tunisia is referred to the Renaissance Party. Many people were similarly optimistic about the fall of the despotic Shah of Iran. We can only hope that the optimists are right this time.