What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

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August 2007 Archives

August 2, 2007

The conjecture of impotence.

In the debate over a proposed Jihad-sedition law — a law at once designating the threat of sedition on principles of Jihad a threat of highest gravity, and giving legal teeth to that designation — one response commonly heard, though more whispered than shouted, is that, “it will never pass.” I have written about this proposal several times over a period of over a year, but the impermanence of the Web medium makes it as though each proposal is quite novel and shocking — so I have some sense for how this thing strikes readers. A sizeable group, even at a place like Redstate, are inclined react with predictable antagonism to the proposal; some are even thrown into unreason by their shock; but others merely react with what we might call a conjecture of impotence, a preemptive prediction of failure.

Continue reading "The conjecture of impotence." »

Through Russian Eyes

To put into perspective how a great number of Russians regard their first president and his policies, imagine the governor of Illinois striking a deal with the leaders of New Mexico, Texas, and California and offering them support for their independence in order to oust his personal rival, the president, from the White House and take over the rump United States. Imagine, in addition, that he dissolves the US Congress by sending in tanks, resulting in the deaths of over 150 citizens. These patriotic activities then lead to hyperinflation, wiping out the citizens' personal savings. The economy in now in shambles, and high-tech gives way to raw-material extraction. Silicon Valley infogeeks are escaping to China, Europe, and Brazil. Lucrative businesses are "privatized" and handed over to the president's cronies. His reformist economists attempt to fix the economy by not paying wages - for years. Law enforcement virtually disappears, and US cities become the battlefields of endless gang wars. The life expectancy of men falls to 57 years.

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August 5, 2007

Stick a fork in modernity: it is done

In a combox at Mark Shea's blog, one commenter says:

No good can come from deconstruction, playful or not. "Good post-modernists" is an oxymoron.
I agree with this, with one caution. Like any stopped clock postmodernism is right about one thing: positivism is nonsense. And most modern people raised in the scientific age have a tendency to believe unreflectively that positivism is the opposite of postmodernism. In reality they are both wrong: indeed, postmodernism finds its beginning in the realization that positivism is nonsense. It is in that sense and that sense only that, with delicious irony, postmodernism speaks the absolute truth. The rest of the incoherent nonsense in postmodernism is a result of failing to accept that the modern project of making man into God is over.

Betraying the Magic

One week before last Christmas, the US State Department fast-tracked four European Bank for Reconstruction and Development projects in Serbia, which consisted of a loan to HVB Banka Serbia; an equity investment in Syntaxis Mezzanine Fund I; an equity investment in South Eastern Energy Capital; and a loan to Danube Group Holding of Serbia, which holds a stake in JKR Natural Resource BV.

The State Department claims that these particular investments "will contribute to a stronger and more integrated economy in the Balkans." Therefore, Section 561 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act was suspended. Section 561 would have prevented US executive directors of the EBRD from voting in favor of these initiatives because of the Serbian government's noncompliance with the Hague Tribunal.

Why is the United States so eager to fund these projects?

Continue reading "Betraying the Magic" »

Mysteries of Conservatism, Item 794

In an otherwise excellent review of the latest installment of the Bourne franchise, Peter Suderman, amidst discussions of character development and depth, and the mirroring of content in cinematic form, throws out this baffler concerning the politics of the flick:

Greengrass tries to supplant Bourne’s emotional blankness with some fairly obvious and simplistic liberal politics at the end. Most of these bits, though, seem thin, even desperate, groping for something the series hasn’t earned rather than letting its cool, detached brutality speak for itself. And really, is there any need to spell it all out? It’s always been plain to see that Bourne was what Nathan Lee smartly calls “action hero as blowback.”

The mystery in this concerns what, specifically, is supposed to be liberal - understood as antipodal from conservatism - in the "blowback" thesis. Professed liberals may discuss the thesis and instances thereof, and may even write books on it; conservatives may discuss various theories of interventionism, and may even pen tomes on it, but this does not make interventionism any more conservative than it has been liberal and progressive. In fact, the blowback thesis is really nothing more than a particular formulation of the law of unintended consequences: America, or any other power, does X in order to achieve Y, where doing X has consequence (whether foreseeable or not) Z (regardless of whether Y is attained), and Z returns upon America (or other power) in way B. Now, liberals, or those identified as liberals because they have dissented from recent American foreign policy decisions, may argue that American involvement in this or that nation of Western Asia has resulted in blowback, but this is properly a matter of historical fact. Unless the facts themselves are liberal (which might explain recent conservative aversions to them), it is difficult to perceive how an argument about an alleged case of blowback is liberal.

August 8, 2007

The Wages of Unbelief

Lawrence Auster, the prolific blogger over at View From the Right, has posted an enlightening letter from a reader, who has summarized the atheism-inspired philosophical declension of John Derbyshire, National Reviews' resident curmudgeon.

I should state, for the record, that neither "peak oil" nor "global warming" impress me as being inherently "liberal", though certain policy responses to either would assuredly be "liberal". And while I'm more in the "how you take your Darwin" camp than the "whether you take your Darwin" camp, the role of untethered Darwinian speculation in the Derb's evolution merits reflection. Were we a people given to myth and legend, Darwinian thought would surely figure in myth as one of those benefactions that can destroy, or as a basis of civilization that also alienates us from ourselves. But enough of my thoughts. Read the letter.

August 9, 2007

Willful Disregard of Reality

Presidential candidate George W. Bush, following a Republican playbook scripted in the mid-nineties as the party lurched from defeat to defeat, its ambitious agenda for the housebreaking of the Federal Leviathan stymied by Clinton's deft triangulations, said little about Social Security. As President, he proposed an audacious (within the narrow consensus of American politics) partial privatization of the gargantuan entitlement program, whose unfunded liabilities foretell all manner of political and economic upheavals, scheduled to begin once the pig-in-the-snake of the Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age.

For his admittedly desultory effort, he was rewarded with a political rebuke: failure, and falling poll results. Americans cherish all manner of illusions about the nature and stability of the program, and probably even believe in the unbelievable myth of the Social Security Trust Fund; when presented with the dire facts about the future of the program - which become still more sombre when Medicare is incorporated in the calculations - they make quick resort to magical thinking: it cannot happen; things will work out fine; all things will continue as they have since FDR brought salvation to America.

Curiously, financial markets also appear to indulge in magical thought.

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August 10, 2007

What "Fighting Them Over There" Really Means

Via Rod Dreher:

Islamic extremists embedded in the United States — posing as Hispanic nationals — are partnering with violent Mexican drug gangs to finance terror networks in the Middle East, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration report.

"Since drug traffickers and terrorists operate in a clandestine environment, both groups utilize similar methodologies to function ... all lend themselves to facilitation and are among the essential elements that may contribute to the successful conclusion of a catastrophic event by terrorists," said the confidential report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.

The 2005 report outlines an ongoing scheme in which multiple Middle Eastern drug-trafficking and terrorist cells operating in the U.S. fund terror networks overseas, aided by established Mexican cartels with highly sophisticated trafficking routes.

These terrorist groups, or sleeper cells, include people who speak Arabic, Spanish and Hebrew and, for the most part, arouse no suspicion in their communities. (Sara Carter, Washington Times for August 8, 2007)

Now, some of us who have taken the measure of the jihad, perceiving in it the nature of an existential threat to the very substance of our civilization, albeit one which will require time to ripen, have contemplated this very possibility for some time. In fact, we might even asseverate that this possibility suggests itself upon consideration of the entities involved: it is in the nature of clandestine organizations, even those that, like some Islamic groups, observe a decentralized, "leaderless resistance" style of organization, that they not concern themselves overmuch with the objectives of partners. Provided that there is sufficient overlap at the point of meeting, and provided, further, that there exist no immediate and overt conflicts of aim, collaboration can occur. That some nationals of Islamic nations may easily pass themselves off as Latin Americans only adds to the synergy.

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August 11, 2007

Conservatism and the Integrity of the Professions

When I encountered post-modernism, critical theory, and all the rest of the nonsense back in graduate school, it soon emerged that anybody who resisted these trends was dubbed "conservative," and that, with the clear implication that this was an insult.

Being politically conservative myself on many issues, I found this strange. I knew for a fact that Professors X and Y were not politically conservative. They were politically liberal, though you found that out only in passing. They were professionals who were interested in their subject matter, taught it well, and did not bring political issues into the academic discussion gratuitously.

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August 12, 2007

The Rise and Fall of Middle-Class Virtue

If you Google the phrase "root causes of poverty," you will come up with almost a hundred thousand hits. But if you Google the phrase "root causes of wealth," you will come up with exactly...three. And of those three, two are part of the phrase "root causes of wealth and poverty," and the third is part of the phrase "root causes of wealth or poverty."

I guess most people are just much more interested in the causal preconditions that lead to poverty than they are in the causal preconditions that lead to wealth. Which strikes me as odd, since, so far as I can tell, there is nothing even slightly puzzling about poverty. All you have to do to be poor is...well, nothing. So it strikes me as hardly surprising that poverty is the default condition of mankind. Wealth, on the other hand...now that's a puzzle to me — especially at the social level. And it's a rarity: only in the last couple of hundred years have some human societies escaped from the Malthusian trap where the number of mouths multiplied as fast or faster than the productive capacity to feed them. And even today, only a minority of societies have fully made that escape. So how did they do it?

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August 14, 2007

Chesterton on nonsense.

This website needs a new post to go up. Now whenever I have trouble thinking of what to write, I do the only reliable thing — I read some Chesterton. Fortunately much of his work is available for free on the Web — a fact which alone outweighs all the pornography out there, and let no one doubt my detestation of porn. So let’s go take a dip in the wide, clear, cool sea of Chesterton, shall we?

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Augustine on Infancy

I have recently begun a rereading of Augustine's Confessions, a fine work when considered purely as literature, but finer still when read as high theology, and yes, even as philosophy. Theologically, the work is structured in accordance with one of the great motifs of Patristic thought - man as microcosmos, a recapitulation in miniature of the cosmic drama of redemption.

But one must begin at the beginning:

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Andrew Sullivan's Incomprehension, Chapter MMXVI

Daniel Larison on Sullivan's ridiculous Christianist conspiracy theory:

If they existed, Christianists would be interesting people. They would have to believe at one and the same time that they must make God’s will into the law of the land and enforce Christian doctrine throughout society and be convinced that the best instrument for this goal was the utterly secular, Mammon-serving Republican Party. They would have to be completely fanatical and at the same time completely indifferent that their chosen vehicle of political power was basically hostile to everything they sought to achieve (which is one of the reasons why, despite decades of trying, they have achieved next to nothing). They would have to be able to turn their fanaticism on and off with a readily available switch, which makes them rather less worrisome as the founders of the future theocratic nightmare to come.

Growing up, the harder sort of Protestant fundamentalists were wont to argue that the alliance of the Religious Right with the GOP would end in failure, futility having been its lot. Setting aside the question of what, precisely, Christians should have done when the nation slipped into the cultural centrifuge in the Sixties and Seventies, it is remarkable that what began with a mixture of noble aims and low, political farce should now end in tragedy, as the Christian right fragments, and finds itself increasingly marginalized (or perhaps this marginality is being revealed). The only play left is that of refusal - of the role of GOP 'automatics'. This, at least, would be a beginning.

August 15, 2007

Metanarrative and Enemy Combatants

James Poulos, who blogs at Postmodern Conservative and The American Scene, has, in his own words, taken part-time employment as a critic of "our general cultural retreat into the therapeutic meta-ethics of feeling, emotion, and sense - and away from the ethics of fact, act, and responsibility". Critiquing a NYT article on US-Saudi relations which stated that the American officials had consented to interviews in advance of a diplomatic junket in order to "send a pointed signal of deep frustration", Poulos wrote:

No, ladies and gentlemen. The officials were clearly intent on actually expressing deep frustration that more private American appeals to the Saudis had failed to produce a change in course. (snip) We must cease this constant retreat into meta-narrative. We must insist upon discussing the world where actual actions take place. We must resist the half-conscious urge to make feelings and feints, interpretations and intimations, more important than the behaviors that call them into 'being.' We must stop reading entrails and issuing oracles.

In other words, the US did not send a signal of frustration; they simply expressed it, period. The metanarrative of signals and signs adds nothing but a layer of opaque, baroque ritual, obfuscating what actually transpired.

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August 16, 2007

The Coalition.

I want you to consider what it would mean to you, if you learned that a Jim Crow Party were potent and fashionable, and perhaps even ready to shake the political science of our country. Consider that before us stood the menace of a political movement organized upon a principle of subjugation and humiliation of an inferior or benighted class. How would you greet this? How would it strike your sensibility? Or consider what might be your reaction to the appearance of renewed apparatus of subversion, in certain ways analogous to the Communist infiltration of the early 20th century.

I want you to consider them amalgamated: an organized apparatus of subversion ordered toward the subjugation of a class of men.

This, friends, is the Jihad; and it is we who shall be subjugated. For the great honor of Islam is to extend equality to all men; and the great disgrace of the Jihad is to remove it utterly from those who reject the faith.

It is vital to understand the gravity of the situation. Now of course I know that all my friends here understand it perfectly well — else they would not have signed onto a statement of purpose so emphatic as ours. I feel confident, moreover, that even some of our dear right-Liberals, as Zippy long ago described them, are pretty well on-broad with our purpose. I have even discovered, in personal conversation, that indeed a number of flat-out Liberals are in the end sympathetic; in short that though they might bristle at the strictures I would apply to Liberalism, they could still be made to perceive the true threat of the Jihad. In these facts I find great reassurance and even pride. My countrymen, in considerable number and even despite other differences of real depth, are with me in opposition to the Jihad.

There is, in a manner of speaking, a board constituency for a formidable Anti-Jihad Coalition.

And so my question to readers is this: what sort of rhetorical, political, philosophical, even theological principles ought to comprise our strategy against this enemy?

August 17, 2007

Economics as Ideology vs. Economics as Humane Discipline

Via Rod Dreher, quoting Caleb Stegall's review of Bill McKibben's book, Deep Economy:

In 1947, two titans of 20th-century economic theory, Ludwig von Mises and Wilhelm Röpke, met in Röpke’s home of Geneva, Switzerland. During the war, the Genevan fathers coped with shortages by providing citizens with small garden allotments outside the city for growing vegtables. These citizen gardens became so popular with the people of Geneva that the practice was continued even after the war and the return to abundance. Röpke was particularly proud of these citizen farmers, and so he took Mises on a tour of the gardens. “A very inefficient way of producing foodstuffs!” Mises noted disapprovingly. “Perhaps so, but a very efficient way of producing human happiness” was Röpke’s rejoinder.

For the present, I'll restrict myself to observing that the efficient, centralized agricultural production so admired by Mises will be rendered obsolete by the gradual increase of the costs of the petroleum required for fertilization, pesticides, and transportation, and that smaller farms tend to produce greater yields per acre, while larger farms tend to produce greater yields per dollar. Oh, yes, one more thing - I've never yet known a child who thrills to the sight of heavy industry and suburban sprawl; virtually all of them, to the contrary, thrill to the sight of such ordinary features of the natural world as hills, fields, forests, ponds, cows, turtles, and so on. From the mouths of children, thou hast ordained wisdom, O God - or so I am inclined to say.

August 18, 2007

One Nation, One Vote, One Time

Perhaps some readers will be conversant with a controversy, simmering beneath the surface of our mundane political discourse, concerning a hypothetical/proposed/aborning/fantastical North American Union, modeled after the European Economic Community and entailing similar economic, regulatory, administrative, and legal "harmonizations". The ostensible centerpiece of this union, a 'NAFTA superhighway' bisecting the continent, running from Mexican ports on the Pacific Ocean right through the American heartland to Canada, is said to exist in embryonic form in the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor, a colossal white-elephant boondoggle of the age of globalism. Left-wing and progressive political movements in Canada and Mexico perceive the high-level, international conferences, in which representatives of both government and business participate, as a nascent continental corporatocracy; right-wing populists in America, stinging from the obsession of the American establishment with mass immigration and a New Economy which benefits Wall Street, but not Main Street, perceive in these consultations a plutocratic subversion of national sovereignty. Of course, the principals of these proceedings, who often seem to adopt a "whatever it is, which we're not quite going to say, it isn't what you think it is" posture towards their critics, must exist under the clouds of left and right-populist suspicion arising from growing awareness of the profoundly unrepresentative character of the European Union.

Regardless of one's position on this discrete controversy, it would seem logical - yes? - given the manifest logic of globalization, to contemplate the prospects for deepening integration among the three North American nations. If globalization is what its proponents claim for it, then something akin to what the critics allege either is occurring, or will occur, or is likely to occur, with or without those international junkets for bureaucrats, executive branch appointees, and CEOs from richistan.

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August 20, 2007

In a Nutshell..

One can hardly go wrong with a Chesterton quote, so here is one that gets to the point concerning the phenomenon discussed in my previous post:

It is a negation of property that the Duke of Sutherland should have all the farms in one estate; just as it would be a negation of marriage if he had all our wives in one harem.

And it would be a negation of self-government if all decisions of moment were rendered at some far remove from a community affected by them. Centralization, particularly the dreary admixture of political and economic concentration that we now witness, would leave to the little platoons of society the relatively trivial questions of who shall collar the stray dogs, and who shall pretend to maintain the roads, while reserving the momentous questions for powers as distant from the community as an emperor is from a slave.

August 21, 2007

An old and necessary debate.

A subject that has provoked regular discussion, at various venues, among WWwtW contributors is the ethical character of the atomic strikes against Japanese cities at the end of the Second World War. Were they justifiable, or were they indelible stains on our national honor?

The month of August witnesses this old debate renewed virtually every year. Often it is a tiresome recitation of old arguments and older outrage: but it must be done. The day the Republic ceases to debate whether her war leaders, in the midst of the greatest crisis of the modern age, should have employed the most destructive weapons ever produced by man, is the day she abandons her solemn duty of self-government.

Our own Bill Luse, now (alas) Contributor emeritus, once wrote one of the finer assays of this terrible subject that I have ever had the honor to read. I recommend a careful and even-tempered perusal. Next, go and read the debate at The New Criterion from several weeks ago (it begins here, and continues here and here). Finally, read Larry Auster’s recent discovery of a new piece of information — one which many of us never knew, and one which, while perhaps not definitive, is not trivial either

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Anticommunism and American Decadence

The autumn of 1994 I spent at Messiah College, in Grantham, PA. My family were moving at the time, both the business and the residence, and it seemed better for me to be near to home at such a time. One of my three roommates that semester was a Korean who had been adopted by a Texas family, spoke with a bit of an accent, wore cowboy boots, and chewed tobacco. He was also greatly enamored of the foreign policy writings of George Kennan, considered one of the architects of the policy of containment. This fondness provided fodder for the occasional conversation, and my expression of reservations concerning the judgment of a man who came to perceive in the specific character of American opposition to communism and the Soviet Union a greater threat to the commonweal than the often dissembling anti-anticommunism. Kennan feared the release of the simplifying, reductive passions of a nationalism that would, far from grasping the profounder, historical, geopolitical, and yes, spiritual dimensions of the standoff, construe it as a confrontation of rival ideologies. The Cold War was not merely a matter of geopolitical wrangling and foreign policy; it was a test of national character.

This, in my youth - I was but twenty years old at the time - I did not perceive. I had not yet learned to discriminate between the various tendencies and strands of the American character, to winnow the noble from the base, the prescient from the purblind, the prudent from the foolhardy. And so I thought that anticommunism was anticommunism, and that the imperative thing was that one have opposed communism, that specter of a godless, totalitarian collectivism, stamping on a human face in the name of the future.

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August 22, 2007

Consent as Heresy

Consider the statement: "a government's just powers derive from the consent of the governed".

Is this statement true? It seems not, on first brush. After all, it is the very nature of government to assert coercive authority. And yet it seems true at least in the sense that a government cannot function unless enough people go along: it seems true that a government's powers derive from the consent of enough of the governed to make it stick.

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White Horse upon the Blue Ridge.

Blue_Ridge_Mountains.jpg Back in June I took the family to the fair city of Denver, Colorado, where my ancestors were the first Italian arrivals, for the wedding of a dear cousin and a variety of visits with friends and family. While there, an old friend — indeed my oldest friend — and I conceived a plan to meet somewhere on the Blue Ridge for a weekend of camping, camaraderie, argumentation and of course, golf. He, a radiologist in his residency, was scheduled to spend a month in Washington, DC, for physician-related business. The northern parts of the Blue Ridge rise, gently but magnificently, at a distance of about five or six hours (driving time) from both DC and Atlanta; and that range being perhaps the most beautiful land in all this wide country, the trip was set. Colin had not seen the Southern mountains, and I felt a certain obligation to disabuse him of that haughty Colorado disdain for these eastern hills (a disdain I once, to my shame, exhibited in abundance).

Colin, though brilliant and generous, is not a man given to great forethought in things such as this: it became clear very quickly that the major burden of planning would fall on me. Fair enough, as I am the Colorado-born Southerner. I chose for our site, based on some research into tent-camping in Virginia, a secluded and highly-recommended campground in the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, a park about 25 miles across the North Carolina border. The campground overlooked Cripple Creek, its waters relieving the awful drought that plagues the Southeast this summer (indeed, driving through the Carolinas along Interstates 85 and 77 reminded me of nothing so much as the arid West, for nearly all the grass is dead or dying).

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Derbyshire on Spencer

Robert Spencer has just published an interesting new book entitled Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't, and John Derbyshire has just published an interesting review of it over at Pajamas Media.

Unfortunately, Derbyshire puts the wrong foot forward: all one really gathers from the first half of the review is that he just doesn't know or care enough about theological differences to say anything useful about them.

But then things start to pick up. Herewith my favorite bits:

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Globalist Family Values

It has been my wont to comment cynically, as one who has been disabused of a malign illusion, upon the reality of the GOP's genuine "What's the Matter with Kansas?" electoral strategy: promises for the social conservatives, deliveries for the plutocrats. It does occur to me, nevertheless, that this band of machiavellians and running dogs does, in fact, espouse a notion of "family values", and they should receive all of the credit they deserve for this affirmation.

Contemplate, for a moment, the following pair of quotations:

First, Karl Rove, explaining the imperative of an amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants:

"I don't want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas."

Second, an emigre Wall $treet Journal editorial writer, quoted by John Zmirak in his masterful essay, America the Abstraction, one of the decade's finest pieces of political writing:

“They’re not real Americans,” he said in a thick Slavic accent. The people who show up wanting to work, who aren’t afraid of 12 hour days, who set up shops in Chinatown and put their whole families to work from childhood on—people who put their faith in capitalism, those were the real Americans. “Not those resentful parasites. Just because they happen to live here, that doesn’t make them Americans.”

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August 24, 2007

How Not To Construct A Sequitur

That’s not to say that a patriotic American couldn’t oppose the Hiroshima bombing, but I wonder if Zippy’s ethics leave any place for a human being to fairly treat others unequally. His opposition to Islam seems toothless, making his allegiance even to Christendom strong only in theory. His allegiance to America must logically be even weaker.

That is quite a lot to deduce from the premise "it is always evil to kill the innocent". After all, I have monarchist tendencies (though I don't see how one could legitimately come about in America within the next few generations) and in the same thread being criticized I expressed my moral sanguinuity about the institution of slavery, at least properly understood. Savage may be right though that my patriotism for America isn't rooted in anything ideological or logical or (dare I say it) positivist, but consists of a love of my particular people with its own concrete history and tradition, much like the love I have for family and clan.

More of the same.

Let’s try to recapitulate, in concise terms, the lineaments of the atomic bombing debate that has roiled this website and several others over the past few days. Like Mr. Auster, I am weary of the whole thing — I said in my original post that the debate tends to issue in “a tiresome recitation of old arguments and older outrage” — but I hold out hope that at least some success can be achieved in clarifying the disagreement. Therefore:

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Ectopic Airliners

Much ado has been made about my position on the morality of shooting down civilian airliners. Some commentators seem to think that because I am a priori wrong about shooting down airliners (they suppose), therefore the Hiroshima bombing was morally licit. Some others seem to think that because I am a priori wrong about airliners I am unpatriotic. In either case I think the nonsequitur is so obvious that commenting on it makes me embarrassed for my interlocutors.

I've already written a lot of comments on the matter in other peoples' posts, but I thought it might be useful to relate more succinctly (he hopes, as he begins writing the post) my position on shooting down airliners, despite the rather obvious fact that neither my patriotism nor the moral status of the Hiroshima bombing depends upon it.

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August 25, 2007

How Not To Construct A Sequitur, Redux

Apparently, in the minds of today's hawkish situational ethicists, if one isn't a situational ethicist one is necessarily at least functionally a pacifist.

Additional comment:

Our traditionalist situational ethicist (TSE) friends seem to be under the impression that if you aren't a situational ethicist you are obsessed with preserving physical life rather than saving souls. That is an extremely odd claim.

In all of the archetypical cases under dispute, the TSE's are arguing that more physical lives can be saved if we ignore absolute moral norms. I agree with them. Sometimes the price of being a good man is paid in blood. If we cannot save some lives without doing evil, we don't save those lives. So who exactly is obsessed with the preservation of physical life above all other concerns here?

Moral deontologists (quite unlike the TSE's) specifically are not taking the preservation of life as above all other considerations. It is the souls of the persons who perform actual acts which are at issue; it is for precisely this reason that the "greatest number of lives saved justifies the act" calculus of the situational ethicists must be rejected.

UPDATE: Two quick points on this:

1) When I describe the moral reasoning I oppose as situational ethics, that isn't a "smear" unless the charge of "absolute pacifism" against me is also a smear. I don't think either is though. Lawrence Auster really thinks that my position is tantamount to absolute pacifism. I know he does, because I know him as a man of honor who says what he really thinks. The charge of "absolute pacifism" is utterly wrong, but it isn't a "smear".

I think his expressed position on morality in warfare is in fact a situational ethics. I don't know why this is controversial, since what he accuses me of is ignoring the situation. Ignoring the situation is what you do when you've encountered a moral absolute which forbids you to act in a certain way. "Situational ethics" isn't a smear, it is what I really think his expressed position amounts to. I appreciate his candor. I would hope he might also appreciate mine.

2) I mostly agree with this characterization: "The only thing that matters morally is that the decision-maker not himself commit an immoral act." It isn't the only thing that matters, but it is a consideration which trumps any and all other considerations. In fact the opposite contention is self-contradictory, because it proposes that an actor is morally required to do something immoral.


Continue reading "How Not To Construct A Sequitur, Redux" »

Not Of This World, And Certainly Not Globalist

In the course of giving his devastating reply to Derbyshire's review of his book Religion of Peace?, Robert Spencer reminds us once again of a crucial point regarding Christianity and immigration:

In reality, Christianity has no inherent connection at all with open-borders insanity and globalization. No less prominent a Christian than St. Thomas Aquinas expressed the mainstream Christian view when he said that “after his duties towards God, man owes most to his parents and his country. One’s duties towards one’s parents include one’s obligations towards one’s relatives, because these latter have sprung from [or are connected by ties of blood with] one’s parents…and the services due to one’s country have for their object all one’s fellow-countrymen and all the friends of one’s fatherland.” An open-borders globalist? Not quite.

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August 26, 2007

Some more heads for the moat

Zippy Catholic's declaration that if he were king, there are some behaviors that would rate beheading, with the perpetrators' headless bodies to be found floating in his moat, is now famous in its own small way here at WWWtW.

I hereby propose the following persons as candidates for the moat in the happy event that Zippy is king: Wye Hale-Rowe and Frank Langsner.

Via Secondhand Smoke (Wesley J. Smith's blog), comes the story: Hale-Rowe and Langsner are "guides" working for an openly advertising Final Exit Network. The organization specifically advertises that it is the only group in America that will help you kill yourself even if you are not terminally ill. Isn't that nice? Recently in Phoenix, these two helpful folk gave step-by-step directions, including a dry run, coaching, and stand-by at the time of the event itself, to a mentally disturbed woman for her suicide. When I say that Jana Van Voorhis was "mentally disturbed," I don't only mean because she wanted to commit suicide, either. Details are in the story. Not that it makes a decisive moral difference. It's also wrong for people who are fully compos mentis to commit suicide. More wrong, for the person himself. I point out Jana's mental problems both because there is something peculiarly obscene about inducing and helping a mentally confused person to commit suicide and also to emphasize the hypocrisy of the advocates of "rational suicide." This isn't about rationality. It's about death.

The two guides gave Jana details on what substance to purchase (helium) and how to get tanks, on the right kind of airtight hood to buy to concentrate the helium and where to get the hood, on how to put the hood on. They gave her tips at the dry run, the morning of her death, when it was discovered that her hair got in the way of the hood. (They suggested pulling it back for the real thing.) Hale-Rowe says Jana "responded to very, very short imperative statements that I had for her." Wonder what those were? They assured her that the process would be painless. On the night itself, they looked on while she did for herself everything they'd discussed. They apparently did not touch the apparatus while she was committing suicide, but when she was dead, they took away the helium tank and other evidence.

The story says that state officials aren't sure whether they will prosecute them under an Arizona law against giving a person "aid" in suicide. No one has ever been prosecuted under it before, and they are afraid that "aid" will be regarded as too vague. If all of this is not "aid," I don't know what is.

Meanwhile, if I were queen, I'd just go with the moat.

August 27, 2007

Soldiers indeed.

At the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, in late June of 1862, John B. Hood’s Texas Brigade delivered a ferocious blow against a strong Federal line that provoked from Stonewall Jackson this elegiac tribute, when he came to behold the carnage it required of the victors: “The men who carried this position were soldiers indeed.”

They were soldiers indeed because these men marched across a swamp under savage fire with their weapons unreadied. Their casualties were staggering, yet they never staggered; and the force of their boldness, when finally combined with a great volley of musketry at short range, broke the Union line. It was General Lee’s first victory. They were to distinguish themselves again in battle, many times, not the least of which was the charge they made on the second day at Gettysburg against the Federal far left, down in the Round Tops and the aptly-named Devil’s Den — a charge that, in the end, could not hold the ground gained, but earned its way into memory by way of the courage it demanded of these men.

What is it in men that gives them the power to accomplish such deeds? What is it that grants them the capacity to march calmly across a field of hot flying lead, while their comrades fall with shrieks of agony on either side?

Continue reading "Soldiers indeed." »

August 28, 2007

Middle Class Virtue, cont.d

For those interested: the discussion of Greg Clark's book A Farewell to Alms at Marginal Revolution has been quite interesting. Comments are open, and the author is an active participant.

Click here and here.

There is also an interview with the author to be read at Gene Expression.

August 29, 2007

Baffled by Bafflement

The opposition of yours truly to a phenomenon variously described as 'economic centralization', 'globalization', 'managerial capitalism', and 'concentration' is perhaps a curiousity, a seemingly bizarre and incongruous outlier relative to the mainstream of conservative thought. At a minimum, this is the impression I often receive.

However, suppose I were to reformulate the questions posed by our own Steve Burton in a comment in an earlier thread.

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August 30, 2007

Jihad and democracy.

I have long believed that the goal of bringing democracy to Iraq — a goal that is often confused with bringing freedom to Iraq — may in fact be inimical to the immeasurably more important goal of vanquishing the Jihad. This for the pulverizingly simple reason that the Jihad is popular in the Islamic world, including Iraq. I doubt that it commands majority support — but it certainly commands majority acquiescence, and enormous factional sympathy. That is to say, waging war to subjugate the infidel (however defined), being an ancient and enduring feature of the Islamic religion, perforce is an enduring feature of Islamic society. Emancipate that society from autocracy and suppression — free popular passions from the yoke of Leviathan — and you may well find that the Jihad is not weakened but considerably strengthened.

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Foucault and the Iranian Revolution

Scholars and theorists thrashing about in the waters of postmodernism sooner or later encounter a bizarre and stupefying fact: Michel Foucault had a thing for the Islamic revolution, had, in fact, a rather unnatural affection for it. To what can we attribute this shattering aporia?

David Frum, in a brief blog review of a recent scholarly interrogation of this theme, Foucaut and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism, writes:

...of all the absurd infatuations ever to sweep literary Paris, none has ever matched the absolute incongruity of Michel Foucault’s enthusiasm for the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979. Foucault, a man utterly devoid of religious feeling, a homosexual who reveled in the brutalities of San Francisco’s sado-masochistic bar scene, decided in 1978 that the Khomeini revolution offered mankind’s best hope for personal liberation.

How could Foucault – for all his absurdities, obviously no idiot – have talked himself into believing anything so manifestly absurd?

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August 31, 2007

History as Justifying Sacrament

Since at least the Enlightenment and perhaps before there has been this notion that our current state of affairs requires the justification of history; or else lacking that the present order is nothing and can be discarded. If injustices were perpetrated against the American Indians, the narrative goes, then the entire present order of private property in America is called into question. If the Hiroshima bombing was immoral, the narrative goes, then entering the war in the first place was unjustified, and indeed the American military and American efforts to defend herself from foreign aggressors is morally suspect generally. If the conditions for a just war were not met in Iraq at the outset, then no obligation to use military power in the present context is metaphysically possible.

Most on the political left and many on the political right buy into this narrative, taking it as true and drawing a conclusion about the major premise from a self-serving reverse-engineering of the proposition. The left likes the idea of invalidating the present regime of private property and of castrating American defense, so therefore the major historical premeses above are true. The right (correctly) resists those conclusions, and therefore (incorrectly) concludes that the major premeses are false. Many on the right conclude that simply agreeing to the major premeses above constitutes "liberalism", as if liberalism is inter alia implied by a particular assessment of the justice of specific historical acts.

Continue reading "History as Justifying Sacrament" »