Is the West Slip, Slip, Slipping Away?

George Washington statueNational Review, By Victor Davis Hanson — October 26, 2015:

Sometimes a culture disappears with a whimper, not a bang. Institutions age and are ignored, and the complacent public insidiously lowers its expectations of state performance.

Infrastructure, the rule of law, and civility erode — and yet people are not sure why and how their own changing (and pathological) individual behavior is leading to the collective deterioration that they deplore.

There is still a “West” in the sense of the physical entities of North America, Europe, many of the former British dominions, and parts of Westernized Asia. The infrastructure of our cities and states looks about as it did in the recent past. But is it the West as we once knew it — a unique civilization predicated on free expression, human rights, self-criticism, vibrant free markets, and the rule of law?

Or, instead, is the West reduced to a wealthy but unfree leisure zone, driven on autopilot by computerized affluence, technological determinism, and a growing equality-of-result, omnipotent state?

Tens of thousands of migrants — reminiscent of the great southward and westward treks of Germanic tribes in the late fifth century, at the end of the Roman Empire — are overwhelming the borders of Europe. Such an influx should be a reminder that the West attracts people, while the non-West drives them out, and thus should spark inquiries about why that is so. But that discussion would be not only impolite, but beyond the comprehension of most present-day Westerners, who take for granted — though they cannot define, much less defend — their own institutions.

RELATED: Is the West Dead Yet?

No one claims that such mass immigration into Europe is legal. No one wonders what happened to the fossilized idea of legal immigration, much less the legal immigrant who went through what has now been rendered the pretense of bureaucratic application for legal entry into Europe. Germany, which lectures others on law, is lawless.

In theory, Westerners have the power to stop the mostly young males from the Middle East from swarming their borders, but in fact they apparently lack the will. Or is it worse than that? Without confidence in their own values, much less pride in their accomplishments, are they assuaging the guilt over their privilege by symbolic acts of undermining the foundations of their own culture? Certainly, Germany, which insists on European Union laws of finance applying to its fellow European nation Greece, has no compunction about destroying, for its own particular purposes, the Union’s immigration statutes as they apply to Middle Easterners.

The same is true in the United States. Millions of foreign nationals from Latin America, and Mexico in particular, simply have crossed the border without even the pretense of legality. They assume Americans not only won’t enforce their own laws, but also will find ways to demonize any who suggest that they should. If there is now no such thing as an “illegal alien,” what in theory prevents anyone from arriving from anywhere at any time and making claims on the American state?

Again, the irony is not just that millions of Mexican nationals want into the U.S., but that, ostensibly, no one in Mexico or even the United States knows why that is so (certainly not the National Council of La Raza [“the Race”]) — much less wonders whether Mexico might learn from the U.S. about ways to make a nation’s own people become content enough to stay in their homeland. Only in the West does a migrant fault his host for insufficient hospitality while exempting his homeland, which drove him out.

RELATED: The Strange Case of Modern Immigration

Sanctuary cities illustrate how progressive doctrine can by itself nullify the rule of law. In the new West, breaking statutes is backed or ignored by the state if it is branded with race, class, or gender advocacy. By that I mean that if a solitary U.S. citizen seeks to leave and then reenter America without a passport, he will likely be either arrested or turned back, whereas if an illegal alien manages to cross our border, he is unlikely to be sent back as long as he has claims on victimhood of the type that are sanctioned by the Western liberal state.

Do we really enjoy free speech in the West any more? If you think we do, try to use vocabulary that is precise and not pejorative, but does not serve the current engine of social advocacy — terms such as “Islamic terrorist,” “illegal alien,” or “transvestite.” I doubt that a writer for a major newspaper or a politician could use those terms, which were common currency just four or five years ago, without incurring, privately or publicly, the sort of censure that we might associate with the thought police of the former Soviet Union.

RELATED: Are Sanctuary Cities the New Confederates?

It is becoming almost impossible in the West to navigate the contours of totalitarian mind control. Satirists can create cartoons mocking Christ, but not Mohammed. If a teen brings a suspicious-looking device of wires and gadgetry to school, he will be suspended — unless he can advance by his religious or ethnic background some claim on victimization.

In major news accounts, the identification of race and ethnic background of a criminal suspect is often predicated on liberal notions of social engineering. Recent graduates of journalism schools must have learned during their time there that identification by race of a white criminal suspect, but not commensurately of a suspect of color, is a social obligation, a way of avoiding a “micro-aggression,” the latest Orwellian exercise in creating a new word in hopes of inventing a new reality. Marchers with Black Lives Matter banners chant, “Dead Cops!” and also call for them to be roasted, even as to quote what they are saying is deemed racist. As the president of the United States lends his support to Black Lives Matter, a violent crime wave hits his upscale Capitol Hill neighbors, as young inner-city predators go on a rampage against the yuppie liberals living there. Liberal residents call it a “reign of terror,” yet they win as much attention from the president as does the slaughter each weekend in Chicago.

RELATED: We Have Officially Reached Peak Leftism

In a San Francisco middle school, recent democratic elections for student officers were massaged into nothingness, since the outcome did not result in the preferred architecture of diversity. Note that the female white principal who nullified the election should not, by her own logic and the theory of proportional representation, be principal of a school where her own race is in the minority. Bureaucratic apparatchiks, apparently aware that careers are enhanced or destroyed by the degree of adherence to diversity and political correctness, have become genteel fascists, somewhere in between those of the Soviet Union and those whom Orwell described in 1984.

When Hollywood puts out a movie called Truth, we know, also in good 1984 fashion, that it should be called Lies — a story of how the supposed noble end of electing a liberal president justifies all the sordid means necessary to achieve it, including amateurish forgery. The probable Democratic nominee for president of the United States just hours after the Benghazi attack announced in private to concerned parties that it was an al-Qaeda terrorist operation, while she was telling the world that it was a spontaneous riot in reaction to an illiberal video, confirming the Obama campaign’s old talking point that al-Qaeda was “on the run” and thus incapable of doing what it had just done. Truth? Lies? There are no such things — just operative and inoperative narratives. Ask the video maker who went to jail for his short movie, or the families of the dead Americans who were assured that it was not al-Qaeda that had killed their loved ones.

In the same mode, today’s campus is a cross between premodern Victorianism and something postmodern out of Clockwork Orange. Never have so many undergraduates hooked up for impersonal, crass, and callous sex, often fueled by alcohol and drugs, and never have the rules of such ad hoc intercourse been so formalized.

If universities really believe that they have and should have the power of stopping males from engaging in improper sexual congress that results in post-coitus unhappy parties, it would be much simpler to go back to the 1950s paradigm of segregating dorms by gender, banning alcohol from campus, viewing possession of illegal drugs as grounds for expulsion, and formulating new rules of treating women during sexual unions according to past formality and manners. A sober and drug-free male who picks up the tab, opens doors for women, watches his language around the opposite sex, and allows a woman some privilege in entering a building might be more receptive to asking formal (written?) consent at each ascending step of love-making, the apparent objective of the new campus sexual codes.

The one constant in the more recent manifestations of the slipping away of the West is the emergence of a new privileged, mostly white progressive class of plutocrat. A Google exec, an Al Gore, a university president, a diversity czar, a Goldman Sachs progressive, a Clinton Initiative apparatchik, a pajama-boy techie — none of them ever expects the ramifications of his ideology to hit home. They assume that they have the power and influence not only to change the mentalities of the caricatured middle class, but in the process to enjoy their own privilege without either guilt or risk. Opposing charter schools usually means your children are in private schools, just as championing open borders reflects one’s own gated community, just as promoting affirmative action in the abstract suggests recourse to a countervailing old-boy network to gain admissions, internships, and jobs for one’s own offspring. Our progressive elites resemble the opportunists of the French Revolution, who rode the crest of popular revolt — hoping that their calls for enforced egalitarianism and fraternity by any means necessary allowed their ample privilege to be exempt from the disorder they had incited.

The Obama administration did not create an anti-Western Western world (indeed, if Obama didn’t exist we would have to invent him), it simply summarized the recent pathologies of late Western life, codified them, and made them institutional, as in “workplace violence,” “white Hispanic,” “micro-aggression,” “sanctuary city,” and the rest of the lexicon of misrepresentation.

In the new West, freedom is inequality, liberty selfishness, and tribalism unity.

That is all ye need to know.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.


Also see:

Moral Equivalence in the Middle East


The West has developed a dangerous concern for ‘proportionality.’

National Review, by Victor Davis Hanson — October 20, 2015:

In the current epidemic of Palestinian violence, scores of Arab youths are attacking, supposedly spontaneously, Israeli citizens with knives. Apparently, edged weapons have more Koranic authority, and, in the sense of media spectacle, they provide greater splashes of blood. Thus the attacker is regularly described as “unarmed” and a victim when he is “disproportionately” stopped by bullets.

The Obama State Department has condemned the use of “excessive” Israeli force in response to Palestinian terrorism. John Kirby, the hapless State Department spokesman, blamed “both” sides for terrorism, and the president himself called on attackers and their victims to “tamp down the violence.”

In short, the present U.S. government — which is subsidizing the Palestinians to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year — is incapable of distinguishing those who employ terrorist violence from the victims against whom the terrorism is directed. But why is the Obama administration — which can apparently distinguish those who send out drones from those who are blown up by them on the suspicion of employing terrorist violence — morally incapable of calling out Palestinian violence? After all, in the American case, we blow away suspects whom we think are likely terrorists; in the Israeli instance, they shoot or arrest those who have clearly just committed a terrorist act.

RELATED: The One-State Solution, Ctd.

Two reasons stand out.

One, Obama’s Middle East policies are in shambles. Phony red lines, faux deadlines, reset with Putin, surrendering all the original bargaining chips in the Iranian deal, snubbing Israel, cozying up to the Muslim Brotherhood, dismissing the threat of ISIS, allowing Iraq to collapse by abruptly pulling out all American troops, giving way to serial indecision in Afghanistan, ostracizing the moderate Sunni regimes, wrecking Libya, and setting the stage for Benghazi — all of these were the result of administration choices, not fated events. One of the results of this collapse of American power and presence in the Middle East is an emboldened Palestinian movement that has recently renounced the Oslo Accords and encouraged the offensive of edged weapons.

RELATED: The Obama Intifada

Mahmoud Abbas, the subsidized president of the self-proclaimed Palestinian State, and his subordinates have sanctioned the violence. Any time Palestinians sense distance between the U.S. and Israel, they seek to widen the breach. When the Obama team deliberately and often gratuitously signals its displeasure with Israel, then the Palestinians seek to harden that abstract pique into concrete estrangement.

Amid such a collapse of American power, Abbas has scanned the Middle East, surveyed the Obama pronouncements — from his initial Al Arabiya interview and Cairo speech to his current contextualizations and not-so private slapdowns of Netanyahu — and has wagered that Obama likes Israel even less than his public statements might suggest. Accordingly, Abbas assumes that there might be few consequences from America if he incites another “cycle of violence.”

RELATED: Palestinian Reasoning: Yield to Our Crazy Religious Intolerance or We’ll Kill You

The more chaos there is, the more CNN videos of Palestinian terrorists being killed by Israeli civilians or security forces, the more NBC clips of knife-wielding terrorists who are described as unarmed, and the more MSNBC faux maps of Israeli absorption of Palestine, so all the more the Abbas regime and Hamas expect the “international community” to force further Israeli concessions. The Palestinians hope that they are entering yet another stage in their endless war against Israel. But this time, given the American recessional, they have new hopes that the emerging Iran–Russia–Syria–Iraq–Hezbollah axis could offer ample power in support of the violence and could help to turn the current asymmetrical war more advantageously conventional. The Palestinians believe, whether accurately or not, that their renewed violence might be a more brutal method of aiding the administration’s own efforts to pressure the Israelis to become more socially just, without which there supposedly cannot be peace in the Middle East.


But there is a second, more general explanation for the moral equivalence and anemic response from the White House. The Obama “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” administration is the first postmodern government in American history, and it has adopted almost all the general culture’s flawed relativist assumptions about human nature.

Affluent and leisured Western culture in the 21st century assumes that it has reached a stage of psychological nirvana, in which the Westernized world is no longer threatened in any existential fashion as it often was in the past. That allows Westerners to believe that they no longer have limbic brains, and so are no longer bound by Neanderthal ideas like deterrence, balance of power, military alliances, and the use of force to settle disagreements. Their wealth and technology assure them that they are free, then, to enter a brave new world of zero culpability, zero competition, and zero hostility that will ensure perpetual tranquility and thus perpetual enjoyment of our present material bounty.

RELATED: There Is No God But Hephaestus — And Fire Is His Messenger

Our children today play tee-ball, where there are no winners and losers — and thus they are schooled that competition is not just detrimental but also can, by such training, be eliminated entirely. Our adolescents are treated according to the philosophy of “zero tolerance,” in which the hero who stops the punk from bullying a weaker victim is likewise suspended from school. Under the pretense of such smug moral superiority, our schools have abdicated the hard and ancient task of distinguishing bad behavior from good and then proceeding with the necessary rewards and punishments. Our universities have junked military history, which schooled generations on how wars start, proceed, and end. Instead, “conflict resolution and peace studies” programs proliferate, in which empathy and dialogue are supposed to contextualize the aggressor and thus persuade him to desist and seek help — as if aggression, greed, and the desire for intimidation were treatable syndromes rather than ancient evils that have remained dangerous throughout history.

Human nature is not so easily transcended, just because a new therapeutic generation has confused its iPhone apps and Priuses with commensurate moral and ethical advancement. Under the canons of the last 2,500 years of Western warfare, disproportionality was the method by which aggressors were either deterred or stopped. Deterrence — which alone prevented wars — was predicated on the shared assumption that starting a conflict would bring more violence down upon the aggressor than he could ever inflict on his victim. Once lost, deterrence was restored usually by disproportionate responses that led to victory over and humiliation of the aggressive party.

The wreckage of Berlin trumped anything inflicted by the Luftwaffe on London. The Japanese killed fewer than 3,000 Americans at Pearl Harbor; the Americans killed 30 times that number of Japanese in a single March 10, 1945, incendiary raid on Tokyo. “They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” was the standard philosophy by which aggressive powers were taught never again to start hostilities. Defeat and humiliation led to peace and reconciliation.

The tragic but necessary resort to disproportionate force by the attacked not only taught an aggressor that he could not win the fight he had started, but also reminded him that his targeted enemy might not be completely sane, and thus could be capable of any and all retaliation.

Unpredictability and the fear sown by the unknown also help to restore deterrence, and with it calm and peace. In contrast, predictable, proportionate responses can reassure the aggressor that he is in control of the tempo of the war that he in fact started. And worse still, the doctrine of proportionality suggests that the victim does not seek victory and resolution, but will do almost anything to return to the status quo antebellum — which, of course, was disadvantageous and shaped by the constant threat of unexpected attack by its enemies.

Applying this to the Middle East, the Palestinians believe that the new American indifference to the region and Washington’s slapdowns of Netanyahu have reshuffled relative power. They now hope that there is no deterrent to violence and that, if it should break out, there will be only a proportionate and modest response from predictable Westerners.

Under the related doctrine of moral equivalence, Westerners are either unwilling or unable to distinguish the more culpable from the more innocent. Instead, because the world more often divides by 55 to 45 percent rather than 99 to 1 percent certainty, Westerners lack the confidence to make moral judgments — afraid that too many critics might question their liberal sensitivities, a charge that in the absence of dearth, hunger, and disease is considered the worst catastrophe facing an affluent Western elite.

The question is not only whether the Obama administration, in private, favors the cause of the radical Palestinians over a Western ally like Israel, but also whether it is even intellectually and morally capable of distinguishing a democratic state that protects human rights from a non-democratic, authoritarian, and terrorist regime that historically has hated the West, and the United States in particular — and is currently engaged in clear-cut aggression.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.

The Strange Case of Modern Immigration

migrantsThe West is too cowed by guilt to look honestly at immigration.

NRO, by VICTOR DAVIS HANSON April 28, 2015:

Is immigrating from less-developed countries to the West a good or a bad thing, for host and guest? Is the immigrant angry at, or nostalgic for, the country he left? Is he thankful to or resentful of the country he has come to? Does the Westerner know why the other seeks him out or why he himself chooses not to emigrate to the non-West? These questions and dozens like them are not so much never answered as never even asked. The result is chaos. Thousands of refugees from the mess in North and East Africa are hiring smugglers to ship them across the Mediterranean into the southern ports of Europe — often with tragic results, as boats sink and passengers drown. Any visitor to Athens quickly notices that tens of thousands of Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Albanians have arrived illegally in Greece in hopes of reaching more prosperous Western European countries. In fact, the downtown of almost any European city is full of impoverished non-Western immigrants. Yet in ten years, some of those same Middle Eastern immigrants will demand space for new mosques, while they would never have allowed a church to be built in their homeland, and many newcomers will have complaints against their hosts about their own lack of parity with the established citizenry. Such is the strange effect of contemporary Westernism upon immigrants.

The failed Arab Spring, the Balkan unrest, and the Islamic wars in the Middle East have created a sort of chaos in which millions of people have no desire to stay home and face violence and death. What the non-Westerners see on cable television and the Internet are scenes of a carefree, wealthy West where things seem to work in a way they do not at home — and without any editorializing on why that is so. RELATED: The Migrants’ Tragedy, and How Europe Must Cope with the Influx In other areas, recent war and revolution are just the latest chapters in an old book of endemic poverty, high birthrates, and failed governments that incite their poor to seek entrance by any means necessary into Europe. The migrants’ assumption is that being a poor visitor inside Europe is preferable to what they had at home. Someone with a menial job in Paris or on public assistance in the United Kingdom feels lucky because of what he knows housing, medical care, public safety, and nutrition are reduced to in India, Pakistan, Libya, the Philippines, or Syria. The most zealous Muslim often chooses to live among Christians, agnostics, and atheists rather than under an Islamic theocracy at home — even as he sometimes damns his host and praises the country he will never return to.

Processing illegal immigrants in Lampedusa, Italy. (Tullio M. Puglia/Getty)

Processing illegal immigrants in Lampedusa, Italy. (Tullio M. Puglia/Getty)

Something similar is snowballing on the southern border of the United States. Illegal immigration from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America has been a challenge for the United States for over a half-century. Many of the symptoms are similar to Europe’s experience with unlawful immigration — as we saw last summer, with busloads of children heading northward across the border. Government has abjectly failed in Latin America. These governments are at most indifferent to their people’s departure, and often encourage them to leave. Elites callously see multiple advantages in losing their own people, especially when remittances arrive in the billions of dollars and provide sustenance for those whom the government cannot or will not assist.

The exodus is sometimes seen as a safety valve: Potential dissidents and revolutionaries head northward rather than going to Mexico City to demand social justice and reform. Within the United States, communities of poor immigrants can serve as powerful lobbying groups for even more immigration — as they do now in Europe as well. Amnesties and blanket naturalizations eventually create bloc voters. In the United States, anchor children draw in more immigrants. The home government is never blamed for forcing out its own; the new host is always faulted for not being more welcoming.

Rallying for amnesty, May 2013 (Getty Images)

Rallying for amnesty, May 2013 (Getty Images)

Under Western democratic government, the demand for social services for recent indigent arrivals alters political realities. Tired parties of the Left, especially in Britain and the United States, find new political opportunities in allowing in huge influxes of poor non-Westerners, whether legally or illegally. Demands for near-instant parity energize ossified calls for larger government, higher taxes, and more regulation — always a good thing for a leftist redistributionist.

Given the role of high tech and massive government aid in redefining Western poverty, the endless argument for ever more massive expansions of social services becomes more difficult without new populations of desperate Asian, African, and Latin American poor. Indigent immigrants ensure statistical imbalances and lead to charges of Western failures in fairness and equality. To take one example, without constant illegal immigration, the diverse Latino population in the U.S. would soon reach parity with the majority population — in the pattern of the past Italian-American immigration experience. But somehow, if an Oaxacan immigrant has inadequate access to health care, education, and legal representation in his first year of unlawful residence in the United States, he then can become fodder for a blanket indictment of Western nativism, racism, and xenophobia — and he and his advocates are acutely aware of that anomaly.

The phenomenon of population transfers from an impoverished south and east to a richer north and west has gone on for more than a century. Static population growth in an aging and shrinking West has created a demand for cheap imported labor. Demographers have long studied the ironies of population growth and culture — specifically, how rich societies, which can afford more people, shrink, while poorer ones that cannot in fact grow. Indeed, the more affluent and more leisured a society becomes, the more likely people are to defer marriage and children. Family size shrinks, and Western populations as a whole gradually diminish without immigration.

The opposite seems to be true as well. The poorer the non-Western society, the more likely women will be to stay in traditional roles as wives, mothers, and housekeepers, and the population will grow larger, stay younger — and remain poorer. All that is old news. Affluent societies have more capital for fewer people; their poorer counterparts have less for more.

Rallying for benefits for illegal immigrants in Washington, D.C., July 2014 (Win McNamee/Getty)

Rallying for benefits for illegal immigrants in Washington, D.C., July 2014 (Win McNamee/Getty)

But something apart from its mostly illegal nature is disturbing and new about immigration to the West today — largely ideology, and attitudes about assimilation and integration. Western societies have altered their traditional strength of introspection and self-criticism into a banal sort of nihilistic self-hatred. The richer and more leisured Western societies have become, the less confident they are about the values and history of their own culture, which has so blessed them. Only the bounties of capitalism allow one the leeway to damn it. The schizophrenia has reached such an absurd level that Americans are unable or unwilling to recognize why they do not wish to live in Mexico, or why millions of Mexicans wish to live in their country, and the British do not recognize why they do not emigrate to Pakistan, while millions of Pakistanis wish to live in Britain.

Westerners accept that these one-way correspondences are true. Nonetheless, they are incapable of articulating the social, economic, and political causes for the imbalances, namely the singular customs and heritage that make the West attractive: free-market capitalism, property rights, consensual government, human rights, freedom of expression and religion, separation of church and state, and a secular tradition of rational inquiry. Much less are they able to remind immigrants from the non-West that they are taking the drastic step of forsaking their homelands, often rich in natural resources, because of endemic statism and corruption, the lack of the rule of law, religious intolerance, misogyny, tribalism, and racism — the stuff that does not lead to prosperous, safe, and happy lives.

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Our Dangerous Historical Moment

Photo via NRO

Photo via NRO

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online, Feb. 19, 2015:

World War II was the most destructive war in history. What caused it?

The panic from the ongoing and worldwide Depression in the 1930s had empowered extremist movements the world over. Like-minded, violent dictators of otherwise quite different Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan, and the Communist Soviet Union all wanted to attack their neighbors.

Yet World War II could have been prevented had Western Europe united to deter Germany. Instead, France, Britain, and the smaller European democracies appeased Hitler.

The United States turned isolationist. The Soviet Union collaborated with the Third Reich. And Italy and Japan eventually joined it.

The 1930s saw rampant anti-Semitism. Jews were blamed in fascist countries for the economic downturn. They were scapegoated in democracies for stirring up the fascists. The only safe havens for Jews from Europe were Jewish-settled Palestine and the United States.

Does all this sound depressingly familiar?

The aftershocks of the global financial meltdown of 2008 still paralyze the European Union while prompting all sorts of popular extremist movements and opportunistic terrorists.

After the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, America has turned inward. The Depression and the lingering unhappiness over World War I did the same to Americans in the 1930s.

Premodern monsters are on the move. The Islamic State is carving up Syria and Iraq to fashion a fascist caliphate.

Vladimir Putin gobbles up his neighbors in Ossetia, Crimea, and eastern Ukraine, in crude imitation of the way Germany once swallowed Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

Theocratic Iran is turning Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon into a new Iranian version of Japan’s old Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The Western response to all this? Likewise, similar to the 1930s.

The NATO allies are terrified that Putin will next attack the NATO-member Baltic states — and that their own paralysis will mean the embarrassing end of the once-noble alliance.

The United States has now fled from four Middle Eastern countries. It forfeited its post-surge victory in Iraq. It was chased out of Libya after the killings of Americans in Benghazi. American red lines quickly turned pink in Syria. U.S. Marines just laid down their weapons and flew out of the closed American embassy in Yemen.

America has convinced its European partners to drop tough sanctions against Iran. In the manner of the Allies in 1938 at Munich, they prefer instead to charm Iran, in hopes it will stop making a nuclear bomb.

The Islamic State has used almost a year of unchallenged aggression to remake the map of the Middle East. President Obama had variously dismissed it as a jayvee team or merely akin to the problems that big-city mayors face.

Europeans pay out millions to ransom their citizens from radical Islamic hostage-beheaders. Americans handed over terrorist kingpins to get back a likely Army deserter.

Then we come to the return of the Jewish question. Seventy years after the end of the Holocaust, Jews are once again leaving France. They have learned that weak governments either will not or cannot protect them from Islamic terrorists.

In France, radical Islamists recently targeted a kosher market. In Denmark, they went after a synagogue. In South Africa, students demanded the expulsion of Jewish students from a university. A Jewish prosecutor who was investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina was found mysteriously murdered.

Meanwhile, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being blamed for stoking Middle Eastern tensions. Who cares that he resides over the region’s only true democracy, one that is stable and protects human rights? Obama-administration aides have called him a coward and worse. President Obama has dismissed the radical Islamists’ targeting of Jews in France merely as “randomly shoot[ing] a bunch of folks in a deli.”

Putin, the Islamic State, and Iran at first glance have as little in common as did Germany, Italy, and Japan. But like the old Axis, they are all authoritarians that share a desire to attack their neighbors. And they all hate the West.

The grandchildren of those who appeased the dictators of the 1930s once again prefer in the short term to turn a blind eye to the current fascists. And the grandchildren of the survivors of the Holocaust once again get blamed.

The 1930s should have taught us that aggressive autocrats do not have to like each other to share hatred of the West.

The 1930s should have demonstrated to us that old-time American isolationism and the same old European appeasement will not prevent but only guarantee a war.

And the 1930s should have reminded us that Jews are usually among the first — but not the last — to be targeted by terrorists, thugs, and autocrats.

Also see:

Obama Does Have a Strategy

pic_giant2_020315_SM_Barack-Obama-GNational Review, By Victor Davis Hanson, Feb. 3, 2015:

The Wise People of American foreign policy — Madeleine Albright, General Jack Keane, Henry Kissinger, General James Mattis, George Shultz, and others — recently testified before Congress. Their candid and insightful collective message dovetailed with the worries of many former Obama-administration officials, such as one-time defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, as well as a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Their consensus is that the U.S. is drifting, and with it the world at large: The Obama administration has not formulated a consistent strategy to cope with the advance of second-generation Islamic terrorism. It is confused by the state upheavals in the Middle East. It is surprised by the aggression of Putin’s Russia and the ascendance of an autocratic China. Our allies in Europe, much of democratic Asia, and Israel all worry that the U.S. is rudderless, as it slashes its military budget and withdraws from prior commitments.

While I think the symptomology of an ailing, herky-jerky United States is correct, the cause of such malaise is left unspoken. The Obama team — with its foreign policy formulated by President Obama himself, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, White House consigliere Valerie Jarrett, Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and present Secretary of State John Kerry — is not in fact befuddled by the existing world. Instead, it is intent on changing it into something quite different from what it is.

So far from being chaotic, current U.S. foreign policy is consistent, logical, and based on four pillars of belief.

1. Readjustments in the global order are long overdue.

The exceptional postwar influence of the United States did not result in a fair and just world and is thus in need of major recalibration. The use of military force abroad in recent decades has almost always been mistaken, proving a waste of lives and money, as it either has promoted the status quo rather than aiding the deserving and needy, or has promoted only the interests of those who mouth U.S. platitudes and falsely claim they are legitimate. The role of an all-powerful United States is not always beneficial, as it sets global norms according to our privileged tastes. For America to quietly recede and give other nations a chance to direct their own affairs and become global actors would be far more equitable, leading to a world that far better represents heretofore unrepresented billions of people. Such transformation is always messy; occasional violence and unrest are the price of equitable readjustments. Change is always misinterpreted and mischaracterized by reactionaries whose interests abroad are imperiled by any progress that leads to greater equality and fairness and to the end of unwarranted hierarchy and privilege.

2. All nations and interests act rationally — if given a chance.

Human nature is not tragic but is better understood from a therapeutic perspective. Most nations, in fact, interpret outreach as magnanimity leading to reciprocity, not as weakness deserving of contempt. Evil is not inherent in the world because of human failings such as timeless envy, jealousy, narcissism, greed, and vanity. Rather, to the degree that evil is absolute and not a relative construct, it is a transient condition and a curable symptom of poverty and absence of education. Leaders caricatured and demonized as a Cuban Stalinist, an Iranian theocrat, a Russian former KGB agent, and a plutocratic Chinese apparatchik in fact think no differently from us. But they have too often not been accorded a voice because the U.S. sought to bully them rather than reason with them. Polarizing and out-of-date labeling such as calling ISIS or the Taliban “terrorists” or “Islamists,” or reducing Bowe Bergdahl to a “traitor,” serve no purpose other than to simplify complex issues in ways that caricature those with whom we differ.

Instead, if we reduce our military profile and show other nations that what we are really interested in is fundamentally transforming U.S. society into a more equitable and fair place, our erstwhile enemies will begin to appreciate that we too are human and thus share their common aspirations. Ideals, persuasion, feelings, and intent are now the stuff of foreign policy, not archaic and polarizing rules of deterrence, balance of power, military readiness, and alliances.

3. Do abroad as we try to do at home.

The legacy of Barack Obama will be found mostly in foreign policy and especially in his forging of new ties with formerly ostracized regimes. Obamacare, the doubling of U.S. debt, the anemic recovery over the last six years, the near destruction of the Democratic Party at the state level and in Congress, the alphabet soup of scandals — GSA, IRS, NSA, VA — are not the stuff of a successful presidency, whatever the efforts of the solicitous media. Accordingly, Nobel Laureate Obama logically sees that history’s positive verdict on his tenure must come from abroad. He will normalize relations with Castro’s Cuba and let others worry whether there is any reciprocity on issues of longstanding disagreement. History will record the fact of normalization, not transient details concerning human rights. Obama will bring Iran into the fold of nations — its nuclear-weapons program soon accorded the status of Pakistan’s. He will work with Islamic radical groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, acknowledging their legitimate grievances and helping them to forge a new generation of Middle Eastern leaders. He has not given up on Erdogan’s Turkey as a logical bridge between Islamic and Western nations. He has tried to reset relations with Putin and will try again, as he stealthily promised President Medvedev before the 2012 elections. Israel will be accorded the status of Switzerland or Belgium, a minor entity deserving of normal U.S. relations, but not of extraordinary American commitments.

There are two pragmatic foreign-policy themes here: First, there is nothing newsworthy in working with our same old, same old allies like the Europeans, Israel, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, and Canada, and reassuring them through our tired advocacy of the boring mantras of free-market capitalism, constitutional government, and a global order characterized by Western notions of rule of law and freedom of the seas, trade, and communications. In contrast, assuaging rogue regimes earns legacy headlines in the fashion of Kissingerian détente or Nixon’s going to China. Second, the world at large and the Left in particular will acknowledge and appreciate that Obama sought to flip the U.S. from being the bulwark of the established global order to being a protester with the masses at the barricades. If the power and influence of the United States is put on the side of global hope and change, we will see fundamental transformation in the world abroad as we have seen it at home. Contrary to popular opinion, the Obama legacy will not be found at home but abroad, in reordering the global role of the U.S. from an establishment power to a revolutionary force for change.

4. Don’t sweat the details.

Obama himself is a prophet, not a bureaucrat. The details of his grand vision will be left to younger, fresher functionaries who can sort out the confusions of implementation — why terrorism and Islamism are taboo words, or why trading terrorists for the deserter Bowe Bergdahl was a wise idea, or why nothing really happened at Benghazi, or why pulling all our troops out of Iraq had no effect on the creation of ISIS, or why setting timetables for withdrawal from Afghanistan does not encourage the Taliban, which is not a terrorist organization, and so on. Sometimes these inexperienced idealists will fumble and will be embarrassed publicly, but Obama himself will not intervene to correct the minutiae of inconsistencies in the implementation of his vision. Once-in-a-lifetime emissaries of change do not stoop to that. Who would have asked Mandela what was his position on NATO? Who wonders about Gandhi’s attitude toward Israel? Prophets are not like us and have no responsibility to articulate details or insist on logical consistency, much less to worry about how others of less talent implement their grand visions.

*      *      *

Keep these themes in mind, and the last six years will make better sense. The Middle East is not a mess, but a place in a needed stage of transition as it frees itself from Western domination and a new order slowly emerges. To the degree that we need a large military, it is preferable to envision it as an executive agency for enacting social change without the clumsy impediment of Congress, especially in terms of race, women’s issues, and gender preferences. It can do the best work for stability abroad by shrinking itself. Terrorism is in the eye of the beholder and always a relative concept that Westerners pathologically insist is absolute. As far as the world abroad goes, China is a more authentic enterprise than Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, which are the products of U.S. Cold War nation-building in our own image, not of indigenous revolutionary self-creation. U.S. Cold War culpability — in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, South America, Cuba — is a burden that must be addressed through various means. The rules of nuclear proliferation are a Western construct. Israel is an abnormality, a Western outpost of capitalism and privilege where it has never really belonged, an irritant that should be treated like any other country as much as politically possible. Latin American grass-roots socialism is not Stalinism, but rather an extension of what Obama is trying to do at home.

I think the world now seems a chaotic place only if you assume that the Obama administration wished to be like its predecessors.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.

Multicultural Suicide


By Victor Davis Hanson:

Fueling the Western paralysis in dealing with radical Islam is the late 20th century doctrine of multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism is one of those buzzwords that does not mean what it should. The ancient and generic Western study of many cultures is not multiculturalism. Rather, the trendy term promotes non-Western cultures to a status equal with or superior to Western culture largely to fulfill contemporary political agendas.

On college campuses, multiculturalism not so much manifests itself in the worthy interest in Chinese literature, Persian history, or hieroglyphics, but rather has become more a therapeutic exercise of exaggerating Western sins while ignoring non-Western pathologies to attract those who see themselves in some way as not part of the dominant culture.

It is a deductive ideology that starts with a premise of Western fault and then makes evidence fit the paradigm. It is ironic that only Western culture is self-critical and since antiquity far more interested than other civilizations in empirically investigating the culture of the other.  It is no accident that Europeans and Americans take on their own racism, sexism, and tribalism in a way that is not true of China, Nigeria or Mexico. Parody, satire, and caricature are not Chinese, African, or Arab words.

A multicultural approach to the conquest of Mexico usually does not investigate the tragedy of the collision between 16th-century imperial Spain and the Aztec Empire. More often it renders the conquest as melodrama between a mostly noble indigenous people slaughtered by a mostly toxic European Christian culture, acting true to its imperialistic and colonialist traditions and values.

In other words, there is little attention given to Aztec imperialism, colonialism, slavery, human sacrifice, and cannibalism, but rather a great deal of emphasis on Aztec sophisticated time-reckoning, monumental building skills, and social stratification. To explain the miraculous defeat of the huge Mexican empire by a few rag-tag, greedy conquistadors, discussion would not entail the innate savagery of the Aztecs that drove neighboring indigenous tribes to ally themselves with Cortés. Much less would multiculturalism dare ask why the Aztecs did not deploy an expeditionary force to Barcelona, or outfit their soldiers with metal breastplates, harquebuses [1], and steel swords, or at least equip their defenders with artillery, crossbows, and mines.

For the multiculturalist, the sins of the non-West are mostly ignored or attributed to Western influence, while those of the West are peculiar to Western civilization. In terms of the challenge of radical Islam, multiculturalism manifests itself in the abstract with the notion that Islamists are simply the fundamentalist counterparts to any other religion. Islamic extremists are no different from Christian extremists, as the isolated examples of David Koresh or the Rev. Jim Jones are cited ad nauseam as the morally and numerically equivalent bookends to thousands of radical Islamic terrorist acts that plague the world each month. We are not to assess other religions by any absolute standard, given that such judgmentalism would inevitably be prejudiced by endemic Western privilege. There is nothing in the Sermon on the Mount that differs much from what is found in the Koran. And on and on and on.

In the concrete, multiculturalism seeks to use language and politics to mask reality. The slaughter at Ford Hood becomes “workplace violence,” not a case of a radical Islamist, Major Nidal Hasan, screaming “Allahu Akbar” as he butchered the innocent. After the Paris violence, the administration envisions a“Summit on Countering Violent Extremism,” [2] apparently in reaction to Buddhists who are filming beheadings, skinheads storming Paris media offices, and lone-wolf anti-abortionists who slaughtered the innocent in Australia, Canada, and France.

The likes of James Clapper and John Brennan assure us of absurdities such as the Muslim Brotherhood being a largely secular organization [3] or jihad as little more than a personal religious journey [4]. Terrorism is reduced to man-caused violence and the effort to combat it is little more than an “overseas contingency operation.” The head of NASA in surreal fashion boasts that one of his primary missions for the hallowed agency is to promote appreciation of Muslim science and accomplishments through outreach to Islam. The president blames an obscure film-maker for causing the deaths of Americans in Benghazi (when in reality, it was a preplanned Al-Qaeda affiliate hit) — and then Obama makes it a two-fer: he can both ignore the politically incorrect task of faulting radical Islam and score politically correct points by chastising a supposedly right-wing bigot for a crime he did not foster.

What is the ultimate political purpose of multiculturalism? It certainly has contemporary utility, in bolstering the spirits of minority groups at home and the aggrieved abroad by stating that their own unhappiness, or failure to achieve what they think they deservedly should have, was due to some deep-seated Western racism, class bias, homophobia, or sexism otherwise not found in their own particular superior cultural pedigree that was unduly smothered by the West.

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Our Old Grand Fantasies About Radical Islam


"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last" Winston Churchill

“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last” Winston Churchill

By Victor Davis Hanson

Most things that we read in the popular media about radical Islam are fantasies. They are promulgated in the mistaken belief that such dogmas will appease terrorists, or at least direct their ire elsewhere. But given the recent news — murdering in Algeria, war in Mali, the Syrian mess, and Libyan chaos — let us reexamine some of these more common heresies. Such a review is especially timely, given that Mr. Brennan believed [1] that jihad is largely a personal quest for spiritual perfection; Mr. Kerry believed [2] that Bashar Assad was a potentially moderating reformer; and Mr. Hagel believed [3] that Iran was not worthy of sanctions, Hezbollah was not deserving of ostracism, and Israel is equally culpable for the Middle East mess.

1. Contact with the West Moderates Radical Muslims

In theory, residence in the West could instruct young Muslim immigrants on the advantages of free markets, constitutional government, and legally protected freedoms. But as we saw with many of the 9/11 hijackers, for a large subset of Muslim expatriates, a strange schizophrenia ensues: they enjoy — indeed, seek out — the material bounty of the West. But in the abstract, far too many either despise what wealth and affluence do to the citizenry (e.g., gay marriage, feminism, religious tolerance, secularism, etc.) or try to dream up conspiracy theories to explain why their adopted home is better off than the native one that they abandoned.

Finally, foreign students, journalists, and religious expatriates tend to congregate around American campuses and in liberal big cities. There, they are more often nursed on [4] American race/class/gender critiques of America, and so apparently believe that their own anti-Americanism must naturally be shared by millions of Americans from Bakersfield to Nashville. Take Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s new theocratic president. He should appreciate the U.S. It gave him refuge from persecution in Egypt. It allowed unfettered expression of his radical anti-American views. It schooled him in meritocratic fashion and offered him secure employment at the CSU system, despite his foreign national status. It gave citizenship to two of his daughters (apparently retained). But the result is that Mr. Morsi is an abject anti-Semite (“apes and pigs” [5]) and anti-American. He does not believe [6] terrorists caused 9/11. He wants the imprisoned, murderous blind sheik, who was the architect of the first World Trade Center bombing, sent home to Egypt. And he is pushing Egypt into a Sunni version of Iran.

2. The West Must Atone for Its Past Behavior

I have noted elsewhere [7] both the fantasies found in Barack Obama’s Cairo speech [8] and their general irrelevance to the Muslim world. Polls from Pakistan to Palestine — both recipients of massive U.S. aid — show that the U.S. is as unpopular under Obama as it was under Bush. All small nations have writs against large ones, especially the globally ubiquitous U.S. But America must be seen in comparison to … what? Russia’s artillery and missile barrage that leveled Muslim Grozny (which the UN declared the most destroyed city in the world)? China, which outlaws free expression of Islam and persecutes Muslim minorities? Both are largely left alone by al-Qaeda, due to their unapologetic attitudes, possible unpredictable response, and inability to offer attackers a globalized media forum.

In contrast, no single nation lets in more Muslim immigrants than does the U.S. No non-Muslim nation gives more foreign aid than does the U.S. to the Muslim world — Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine. No nation has so sought to save Muslims from dictatorial violence — whether bombing European Christians to save Muslims in the Balkans; jawboning Kuwaitis to spare Palestinian turncoats in 1991; trying to feed starving Somalis; aiding Muslims fighting Russians in Afghanistan; freeing Kuwaitis from Saddam; rebuilding Iraq; rebuilding Afghanistan from Taliban terror; trying to free Libyans from Gadhafi; and on and on.

The sources of radical Islam rage are thus not past U.S. actions. Read The Al Qaeda Reader [9] to chart all the bizarre excuses that bin Laden and Dr. Zawahiri alleged were the roots of their anger at the U.S. So why exactly does radical Islam hate us? Mostly because of the age-old wages [10] of insecurity, envy, and a sense of inferiority — and the hunch that such gripes win apologies, attention, and sometimes money. In a globalized world, Muslims see daily that everyone from South Koreans to North Americans are better off. Why? In their view, not because of market economies, meritocracies, gender equality, religious pluralism, consensual government, and the Western menu of personal freedom. To draw that conclusion would mean to reject tribalism, gender apartheid, religious intolerance, anti-Semitism, statism, authoritarianism, and conspiracy theory — and to admit indigenous rather than foreign causation. Instead, it is far easier to blame “them” for turning the majestic Islamic empire of old into the chaos of modern Islam — as well as to fault Arab secularists whose lack of religious zealotry allowed the West to move ahead. All antidotes to these deductive beliefs — foreign aid, democratization, outreach, better communications — have so far proved ambiguous at best.

3. Israel Is the Source of Muslim Rage

Note two facts about the current mass killing in the Muslim world, in Afghanistan, Algeria, Libya, Mali, Syria, and Yemen. First, it has nothing to do with Israel. Second, the Muslim world is largely silent about the carnage that dwarfs the toll of an Israeli response to missiles from Gaza. The Muslim world cannot do anything about Muslim-on-Muslim violence, but apparently thinks others can do a great deal about Israeli-on-Muslim violence, which is sporadic at best.

Why, then, do Westerners so often scapegoat Israel? A number of very human considerations, apart from the most obvious of anti-Semitism, the Arab world’s oil wealth, and the vast demographic fact of 1 billion persons versus 7 million. We have influence with Westernized and liberal Israel, none with Mr. Morsi or the Libyan assassins or the Algerian hostage-killers. Symbolic pressure is a psychological mechanism to excuse factual impotence. The Arab world is so complex and so torn by tribalism, religious schisms, and embedded pathologies that the Western mind seeks a simple sword stroke to Israel to cut such a complex Gordian knot. For now the problem is supposed to be Mr. Netanyahu, who in appearance and speech seems like an easily demonized American neocon. Yet every writ against Israel is elsewhere in the world commonplace and mostly ignored: our drone killings trump their targeted assassinations; a divided Nicosia trumps Jerusalem; occupied islands off Japan or Tibet trump the West Bank; a million ethnically cleansed Jews from Arab capitals or 13 million Germans cleansed from Eastern Europe trump the Arab flight from Palestine. For a displaced German now to speak of a right of return to “Danzig” is creepy; for a Palestinian to demand residence in Haifa after a similar seven decades of absence is appropriate.

4. The U.S. Can Solve the Muslim World’s Problems.

I supported the war in Iraq as a way of getting rid of a long-term enemy of the U.S., Saddam Hussein, in accordance with the 23 writs of action approved by the U.S. Congress. We did that, ended the 12-year containment and no-fly-zones, and defeated a huge Islamist coalition that flocked to Iraq to wage jihad. That said, Iraq is more stable than Syria or Libya largely because a U.S. presence baby-sat democratic change. To the degree that Iraq will revert to the usual Arab paradigm is probably contingent on the fact that the U.S. refused to leave even a small garrison and simply pulled out lock, stock, and barrel.

Elsewhere, I don’t think the Western intervention in Libya led to much of an improvement over Gadhafi’s nightmarish dictatorship. Morsi may make the kleptocratic Mubarak look good in another year. Take your pick in Syria: the murderous security of the Assad secret police or the murderous chaos of Islamist gangs. I am sure that there are Google execs among all the dissidents, but I am also sure that none will come to power — and most will soon flee their respective countries. No one now is pressuring 8th century Saudi Arabia to become a 21st century “democratic” Egypt. Eastern Europe — warped by a half-century of Soviet-imposed communism, torn by past wars between Russia and Europe, with a baleful legacy of Ottoman occupation in the southeast, and distant from the Renaissance, Reformation, and New World exploration — was saved by its Western heritage and its incorporation into Europe, at least for now. As far as the Muslim world, I see no such heritage or possible likeminded interventions from the West. Perhaps some day globalization or Westernized oil-fed elites in the manner of a Dubai may make a difference — or perhaps not.

In this regard, the Obama administration’s therapeutic approach [11] — jihad is a personal journey; Major Hasan committed workplace violence and endangered the Army’s diversity program; terrorism is a man-caused disaster; anti-terrorism is an overseas contingency operation; there is no war on Islamic terror; trying KSM in a civilian court; loud talk of shutting down Guantanamo; reading Miranda rights to terrorist suspects; loudly inventing underappreciated Islamic discoveries and inventions — is not just silly and embarrassing, but dangerous. The therapeutic approach sends the message to the young terrorist that we are in some way culpable for the violence that he intends to commit, that there may not be dangerous repercussions to his terrorist acts, or that we do not believe in the values of our culture as much as he does in his own.

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