Frontpage, by Bruce Thornton, September 11, 2015:

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 should have been a rude awakening from the dogmatic slumbers of the previous decade. Instead, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the West went on a vacation from history. The seeming triumph of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism convinced many that all we had left to do was to oversee the inevitable triumph of the Western paradigm throughout the world. Unfortunately, the “world,” especially the Islamic ummah, had other plans, ones that our own bad ideas and cultural dogmas have advanced.

Most broadly, the centuries-long belief that all peoples everywhere are embryonic Westerners should have been shattered by the slaughter in Manhattan and at the Pentagon. The attacks were a horrifically graphic reminder that our core ideals––human rights, sex equality, tolerance of difference, peaceful coexistence, personal and political freedom, material prosperity, the separation of church and state, free speech, and consensual government founded on law––were historical anomalies rather than the destiny of all humanity.

The 19 murderers were acting on a radically different set of ideals and principles––the doctrines of Islam that had destroyed the mighty Byzantine and Persian Empires, and that had invaded, plundered, and occupied southern Europe for 1000 years. We should have learned that nearly a quarter of the world’s people still take seriously what we have reduced to a life-style choice––faith in a transcendent power for whose commands the believer will kill and die, and whose spiritual imperatives trump freedom, human rights, and all the other goods we desire.

At the same time we indulged this universalism, we incoherently endorsed multiculturalism, a doctrine of cultural relativism­­––the idea that all cultures and their differences are equally good and admirable, that no basis exists for judging a culture or saying one is better than another, and that to say one is better is insensitive ethnocentrism or even racism. September 11 should have exposed this superstition as a dangerous lie, and reminded us that all cultures and social practices are not equal. Islamic sharia law, which codifies beliefs founded on fossilized tradition, intolerance, sex apartheid, and justified violence against infidels, are not just “different,” but inferior, for they limit human potential and flourishing by restricting individual freedom.

The next lesson of September 11 should have been the dangerous consequences of the anti-Americanism rife not just in the Middle East and Third World, but among many Europeans and Americans themselves. In the months after the attack numerous American and European intellectuals opined that America had in one way or another “deserved” the attacks. As Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright put it, the attacks were “chickens coming home to roost,” and America was paying for its numerous imperialist and racist crimes. This fashionable superstition, whose ultimate origins lie in communist propaganda, had hardened into stale clichés and an unthinking reflex triggered by international envy and resentment of America’s success, and by self-loathing and guilt on the part of Americans who enjoy biting the hand that fattens them.

In fact, there has never been a great power with the cultural, economic, and military resources of America that has been as restrained in using that power. Muslims in particular have benefited from America’s dominance, which saved hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the Balkans and Iraq, and even after 9/11, liberated millions more from the psychopathic Saddam Hussein and the vicious Taliban. Contrary to anti-American propaganda, the U.S. wasn’t targeted by al Qaeda for its alleged “crimes” against Islam, a specious pretext bin Laden cooked up to appeal to self-hating Westerners and rally disaffected Muslims, but for being the world hegemon that wields the power and influence the faithful believe Allah has destined for his believers. We should have learned on 9/11 that as a great power, we will be hated, envied, and resented merely for our existence, and that there is no number of good deeds we can perform to make like us those whose culture and traditions teach that they must hate us.

We also should have learned that our abysmal ignorance of history lies behind the demonization of the United States and our blindness to the reality of Islam. Too many of us endorse the lie that the U.S. has been a racist colonial and imperial power, oppressing and exploiting people across the globe, even as we gush over myths about Islamic “tolerance” and cultural achievements, and ignore the 1000-year record of Imperial Islam’s invasion, conquest, colonization, slaving, slaughter, raiding, and plundering of Christian lands. No better example of this ignorance has been the President, who has decried the Crusades––an attempt to liberate lands that had been Christian for over six centuries from their Muslim conquerors and overlords––and the Spanish Inquisition, whose toll of dead in its whole existence is about the same as the 5000 Jews slaughtered over a few days in Muslim Granada in 1066. Without history to provide the context for evaluating human behavior, we are vulnerable to the propaganda and duplicitous pretexts of the jihadists.

Finally, we should have connected the ignorance of history to the delusional utopianism that infects the West. The carnage on 9/11 should have restored the tragic vision of human existence, the recognition that humans flawed by destructive passions in a brutal indifferent world of chance, change, and death will never create heaven on earth. We should have relearned what our fathers and grandfather knew in World War II: that good men sometimes have to do things they’d rather not in order to keep bad men from prevailing; that the question is not whether people live or die, but whether some people die today so more people don’t die later; that hard, brutal choices have to be made in order to protect our civilization and its cherished goods like freedom and human rights. The simple fact is, if we had fought World War II the way we are fighting the war against jihadists and the states that nourish them, we would have lost.

The last decade and a half, especially the presidency of Barack Obama, has confirmed that many Americans, most on the left, did not learn those lessons. They still think the Middle East can be fixed by more democracy or economic development, since those peoples just want what we want, freedom, peace, and prosperity. Perhaps some do, but millions want more to live in obedience to Allah and restore the dominance Muslims enjoyed for 1000 years.

These Americans still practice a morally idiotic multiculturalism that idealizes the enemy, rationalizes or ignores Islam’s illiberal beliefs and sanctified violence, and proscribes as “hate speech” anybody who speaks the truth about Islam based on its 14 centuries of doctrine and practice. Even the terms “Islamic” and “jihadist” have been erased from our government’s discourse, and jihadist attacks described as “workplace violence” or their perpetrators called vague “extremists.”

These willfully ignorant Americans still indulge a self-loathing that reflexively blames America for all the world’s ills, and as such emboldens our enemies to persevere in the face of our civilizational failure of nerve. They still know nothing of history, refusing to put America’s actions in the context of what other great powers have done, and remaining oblivious to the bloodstained history of Islamic aggression. There is no better example of this cultural neurosis than Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, in which he apologized for “colonialism” and flattered the mythic achievements of Muslim Cordoba for the benefit of the jihadist Muslim Brothers sitting in the front row.

Finally, the unschooled pursue utopian ideals that claim civilizational order and peace can be maintained without brutal violence, that wars can be fought without all the permanent horrible consequences of mass violence, that conflict with inveterate enemies can be resolved with talk or material rewards, and that economic development and esteem-boosting flattery of an illiberal religion and culture can transform the faith-based identity of the jihadist into something more like us––all delusions evident in Obama’s disastrous deal with Iran.

Three thousand dead and a multi-billion dollar hit to our economy on 9/11 were not enough to school those still clinging to their delusions. But as the Romans said, experience is the teacher of fools. The implosion of the Middle East and the probability of a nuclear-armed Iran suggest that class is still in session, and more hard lessons are on the way.

Jihad on the Offensive — on The Glazov Gang

ISISty-450x253By On March 13, 2015:

This week’s Glazov Gang was joined by scholars Bruce Thornton (Freedom Center Shillman Fellow), Raymond Ibrahim (Freedom Center Shillman Fellow) and Robert Spencer (Director,

The three titans joined the Gang at the Freedom Center’s 2015 West Coast Retreat, held March 6-8 in Palos Verdes, CA.

The discussion focused on Jihad on the Offensive, a topic in which the three scholars unveiled the evil the free world is up against. TRANSCRIPT

“How Can Any Man With Good Sense” Overlook the Koran’s Violence?


By Raymond Ibrahim, Jan. 12, 2015:

Bruce Thornton writes another great article today titled “Western Sleepwalkers and the Paris Massacre.” He points out the utter lack of common sense in Western responses to repeated jihadi attacks, which are repeatedly portrayed as aberrations by Western media and leaders.  Towards the end he writes, “Our ancestors for centuries acknowledged the true nature of Islam, a simple fact proven by 1000 years of Muslim aggression.” He then quotes Alexis de Tocqueville, “one of our most brilliant political philosophers,” who wrote the following in 1838:

Jihad, Holy war, is an obligation for all believers. … The state of war is the natural state with regard to infidels … [T]hese doctrines of which the practical outcome is obvious are found on every page and in almost every word of the Koran … The violent tendencies of the Koran are so striking that I cannot understand how any man with good sense could miss them (emphasis added).

Even Egypt’s Muslim president recently said that the Islamic “corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries” are terrorizing the entire world.

The fact is, centuries before the current excuses used to rationalize away Islamic violence ever even existed — colonialism, Israel, cartoons, “Orientalism” — Islam was behaving violently toward the “infidel.”  Concludes Thornton:

Our leaders today have slipped into delusional dreams, in which people like Tocqueville or Winston Churchill––who in 1897 said, “Civilization is face to face with militant Mohammedanism”––are dismissed as ignorant bigots and racists who lack our superior knowledge and morality. Meanwhile, the bodies of jihadism’s victims continue to pile up, and Iran’s genocidal theocracy closes in on a nuclear weapon. And many in the West continue to sleepwalk through it all.

What the Obama Scandals Reveal About Progressive Ideology

gty_barack_obama_irs_mad_speech_thg_130515_wblogBy Bruce Thornton:

The three scandals dominating the news this week all reveal the moral and intellectual corruption at the heart of progressive ideology. Whether are not these revelations gain enough traction to halt the country’s downward spiral is the more important question.


The moment it came into office the Obama administration bought into the delusional narrative that Islamic jihadist terror is a response to Western historical crimes against Muslims, rather than an expression of Islamic theology. The Israeli “occupation” of Palestine, the depredations of colonialism and imperialism, the resulting dysfunctional economies and oppressive governments in Muslim countries, the arrogant xenophobia and intolerance of American culture, the invasions of Muslim countries after 9/11––all were identified as the “root causes” of terrorism.

Obama’s foreign policy, based on the assumptions of American guilt and the malign consequences of George Bush’s arrogant, unilateralist foreign policy, thus was an attempt to correct the bad policies and behaviors that instigated terror. Thus Obama apologized in his Cairo speech, eagerly extended a diplomatic “hand” to the genocidal mullahs in Iraq, rushed for the exits in Iraq and Afghanistan, supported the dubious “Arab Spring” uprisings and their Islamist prime movers like the Muslim Brothers, and distanced America from Israel.

The intervention in Libya seemed to be an easy way to validate these beliefs, at the same time avoiding the charge of retreat and withdrawal from America’s global responsibilities to advance human rights and protect the victims of tyranny. The overthrow of Gaddafi was sanctioned by the U.N. and engineered by NATO, thus confirming the progressive belief that unilaterally pursuing national interests was, like nationalism itself, immoral, and that only transnational collective action sanctioned by international institutions was legitimate.

For a while the optics were good. A creepy psychopath was eliminated, no casualties were suffered, and a seemingly secular democracy was aborning. The idealism of democracy promotion, one bungled by the unilateral, trigger-happy George Bush, was indulged at little political cost, while the “legitimate” war, against al Qaeda, was being pursued just as cheaply with out-of-sight, out-of-mind drone killings, proving that Obama was no crypto-pacifist squish. Hence the foreign policy narrative peddled during the presidential campaign that al Qaeda was on the ropes and democracy was on the march.

The attack on Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11, eight weeks before the election, exploded that narrative. Al Qaeda and its affiliates were not on the ropes, but were growing and expanding, and could swiftly organize the sack of an embassy office and the murder of four Americans, including an ambassador, humiliating the infidel superpower. Libya was not a democracy-in-the-making, but a Darwinian tribal and sectarian jungle dominated by jihadists armed with the weapons we put in their hands when we destroyed the Gaddafi regime. The refusal to beef up security in Benghazi, which would have been an admission that things weren’t so rosy in the fledgling democracy, now looked like a political calculation that cost American lives. Worse yet, once more the idea that terrorism is a response to our bad behavior was exploded, as many of those Libyans we had liberated turned against us, just as thousands of Afghans and Iraqis have.

So of course the attack had to be spun into something closer to Obama’s foreign policy narrative: the attack was caused by a “spontaneous” protest against an Internet video insulting Mohammed. The administration knew this was a lie the day of the attack, but could not admit this repudiation of Obama’s foreign policy claims so close to the election, and so kept repeating the lie for two weeks, trusting the media spaniels to spin the attack and collude in the still on-going cover-up.

IRS Political Harassment

The IRS’s targeting of groups associated with conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status is a predictable consequence of the progressive narrative that conservatism is a form of neurosis, the lashing out of ignorant, violent “bitter clingers” against a changing world that challenges their racial privilege, economic power, and religious superstitions. The fondness of groups like the Tea Party for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution reflects this psychopathology, the desire to “turn back the clock” and restore their once exalted social and political position. As such, they are dangerous––and armed to boot––and so require monitoring by all right-thinking people who are progressing towards the utopia of “social justice.”

So it’s no surprise that IRS functionaries would create investigative rubrics like “Tea Party” or “patriot” that reflect these assumptions in order to guide them in their scrutiny of groups seeking tax-exempt status. These bureaucrats have absorbed the narrative from the mainstream media and popular culture, both of which are steeped in the two-bit pop psychologizing that passes for wisdom among those who fancy themselves the enlightened “anointed,” as Thomas Sowell calls them. Nor are they troubled at using the coercive power of the state to pursue these political agendas, for one of the most important progressive principles is that righteous ends can justify a whole range of brutal means.

Whether or not someone in the Obama administration directly ordered the IRS to pursue this partisan harassment is irrelevant. Like the Corleone family, the administration has a lot of “buffers.” No one had to be told, just as the progressives don’t have to tell anyone in Hollywood to make yet another movie or television show denigrating and demonizing corporations, conservatives, Christians, or the CIA. That is what’s so insidious about this ideology: it has permeated the minds of people to the point that unsavory actions advancing the cause are never questioned or doubted. In the progressive mind, dogma rules, not principle. Hence the righteous act to advance ideologically sanctioned political ends without bothering about coherent or consistent principle.

Read more at Front Page


American Foreign Policy and the Tyranny of Old Ideas

aap_3281_MAR04_egyptker2_800x600-450x337By :

The French call it “professional deformation,”  the way institutions filter and shape information and events to fit institutional orthodoxy, interests, and ideology. Professional knowledge then becomes a stencil applied to reality, hiding information that doesn’t fit the institution’s received wisdom, and leaving a neat pattern that is then taken for the whole of reality. In foreign policy, this bad habit abets the failure of imagination that leads to disaster.

Our decades-long bungling in the Middle East is a good example of this phenomenon. For years our foreign-policy establishment has looked on disorder and conflict in this region through a Western paradigm that has downplayed or ignored other motives and beliefs, and failed to imagine worldviews radically alien from our own. Thus this paradigm is based on questionable assumptions, such as economic development, anti-colonialism, and nationalist self-determination as the prime movers of social and political unrest. Western colonial empires and then post-colonial interference, so the story goes, had brutally suppressed nationalist aspirations for autonomy and freedom. Economic development had likewise been thwarted to serve the colonizers’ own interests, leading to poverty and lack of opportunity that feed despair and drive the oppressed to violence. Get the neo-imperialists out, create democratic institutions, aid economic development, and all will be well. Peace, prosperity, international cooperation, and global order will follow.

Read more at Front Page


The Absurdity of Treating a Terrorist Gang Like a State

By Bruce Thornton

The currently suspended missile duel between Israel and Hamas exposes yet again the surreal absurdity of the way the international community handles this conflict between a democratic state and a terrorist gang. Yesterday’s cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas is another example of the folly of treating a bunch of murderers like a legitimate government.

Consider, for example, the way a terrorist outfit like Hamas, self-defined in its charter by its genocidal goals, is treated as if it were a legitimate state. But Hamas is not a government that rules over a sovereign territory defined by international borders. If you want a recent graphic illustration of Hamas’ true nature, peruse this video of the aftermath of the summary execution of 6 accused “collaborators.” Or consider Hamas’ official television coverage of this week’s terrorist bombing of a bus in Israel. Or contemplate the barbarity of using its own “citizens” as human shields for its munitions dumps and rocket launchers. Calling Hamas honcho Ismail Haniyeh a “Prime Minister,” as virtually every world government and news organization does, doesn’t mean he is actually a prime minister, no matter how many elections are held. These titles and voting procedures do not constitute a legitimate government that should be recognized as such by the world community as though it respects international laws and treaties like the Geneva Conventions. Let alone should this façade of political legitimacy rationalize the millions of dollars Western governments give to Hamas under the guise of U.N. aid for social services, freeing up funds for purchasing weapons and munitions.

The same pretence of state legitimacy is equally absurd in the case of Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas, the holocaust-denying head of the Palestinian Authority, which is recognized as the sole representative of the Palestinians instead of the terrorist Palestinian Liberation Organization ever since the cosmetic makeover brought about by the 1993 Oslo Accords. The PA is still just another terrorist gang, as demonstrated by its frequent honoring of terrorist murderers by naming streets and parks after them, and its clinging to the goal of destroying Israel through demands for territorial concessions and the “right of return” for an endlessly growing number of “refugees.” As such, the PA’s main functions include peddling to the international community the “two-state” and “nationalist aspirations” canard in order to delegitimize Israel and obtain money, and to distribute to its people whatever international financial aid is left over after PA fatcats have skimmed their take. Yet today as in the past, the U.S. is intervening in the current conflict to ensure that Abbas rather than Hamas is the “primary interlocutor with the international community,” as the Wall Street Journal reported, because it allegedly is more “legitimate” and “moderate”––the only sign of its moderation being that it believes Israel should be destroyed later rather than sooner.

Of course, totalitarian regimes for decades have appropriated the government titles and offices of legitimate governments, but at least a state like the laughably named Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea actually controls a recognized territory defined by international borders (except for the armistice line in the south). That hypocrisy is bad enough, but extending it to terrorists whose sole foundation for existence is the destruction of a neighboring legitimate nation compounds hypocrisy with delusion. It demands that superficial nomenclature substitute for reality. After all, as Plato pointed out, a gang of thieves behaves “democratically” when it divvies up the loot. But that machinery does not signify the presence of the principles and beliefs that constitute legitimate government.

Read more at Front Page