Why Westerners Make Inviting Targets for Terrorists

tributeNational Review, by Victor Davis Hanson — March 31, 2016:

China has a long record of persecuting its Muslim minorities. Russia has brutally suppressed the separatist movement of the predominantly Muslim Chechens with bombing and shelling. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered airstrikes against Syrian Muslims without much worry over collateral damage. India has zero tolerance for Islamic radicalism and hits back hard any time Muslim terrorists attack.

Given such severe backlash elsewhere, why do radical Islamists prefer to strike Europeans and Americans — from Paris and Brussels to Boston and San Bernardino?

No place has been more open to Muslim refugees than the United States and the European Union. Together they have accepted several million emigrants from the Middle East since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The EU and the U.S. lavish foreign-aid money on the Palestinians. America has offered a half-century of support to Jordan and Egypt. It is much easier to be a Muslim in Europe than a Christian in the Middle East.

Barack Obama started his presidency eager to win over the Muslim world. In a 2009 interview with Dubai-based TV news channel Al Arabiya, he emphasized that he has Muslim family members. Obama’s NASA director redefined the space agency’s “foremost” mission as Muslim outreach.

Obama has sought a closer relationship with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan despite Erdogan’s Islamization of Turkey’s shaky democracy. In contrast, Obama alienated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, the most steadfast friend America has in the Middle East.

Obama has publicly deferred to Muslim interests while abroad. He apologized to the Turkish parliament for a host of supposed past American sins — “some of our own darker periods in our history.” In symbolic fashion, Obama bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The president’s Cairo speech mythologized Islamic contributions throughout history and downplayed Western achievement.

The Obama administration has in effect banned the use of the terms “jihadism” and “Islamic terrorism.” It prefers a host of euphemisms for Islamic terrorist acts, from “workplace violence” to “man-caused disasters.” CIA director John Brennan redefined jihad as a “holy struggle” of Islamic self-purification rather than a Koran-sanctioned campaign against infidels.

Obama granted theocratic Iran plenty of concessions in the agreement to restrict Iranian nuclear proliferation.

Despite all of that extraordinary presidential outreach, the West remains under constant terrorist threats and episodic attacks, often from Muslim youths who were offered sanctuary in places such as Belgium, France, Massachusetts, and California.

There are a number of reasons why jihadists prefer to target Westerners.

The West is wealthy, sensual, and liberal, and it offers the chance of global publicity to killers.

Muslim immigrants from the Middle East prefer the higher standard of living in Paris than the abject poverty at home. But they also hate how such affluence insidiously tempts their own religious fundamentalism. They do not praise Europe for its generosity, but rather blame it for its decadence.

The West is obsessed with mandated equality. The Muslim immigrant — who often arrives without education, language facility, or money — easily learns how to blame his relative poverty on his hosts. He is rarely reminded that not being relatively well off in Frankfurt or Boston is still far better than being unsafe and poor in Yemen or Chechnya.

America asks little of its immigrants. U.S. policies allow illegal entry en masse. America does not insist that newcomers learn English, and it largely prefers the trendy multicultural salad bowl to the time-tested assimilationist melting pot. As a result, there are entire communities where recent immigrants and their families prefer to guilt-trip, rather than show affinity toward, their adopted countries.

The West is also lax. A jihadist knows that he has a good chance of reentering the U.S. or Europe from the Middle East without detection. If he’s caught, the penalties are far less severe than they would be if he tried to start a terrorist cell in China or Russia. Extenuating claims of multicultural victimhood would not work in either autocracy.

Many Westerners are more scared of being labeled as illiberal or nativist than they are of being unsafe.

Islamic terrorists sense that Westerners are increasingly materialist rather than spiritual. Europeans in particular are becoming more secular. Their birthrates are declining. And they seem to believe more in satisfying their appetites than in finding transcendence through children and religion.

As a result, jihadists trust that they can cull a handful of Westerners every few weeks from an otherwise indifferent herd. Their only challenge is to keep the harvest of Westerners down to a few dozen and not to get greedy in their bloodlust.

Terrorists seem to believe that as long as they avoid another 9/11-like massacre, they can continue to take lives and insidiously weaken the West without awakening it from its morally indifferent slumber.

And they may be right.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com. © 2016 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Iraq: The Real Story

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National Review, by Victor Davis Hanson, February 23, 2016:

Donald Trump constantly brings up Iraq to remind voters that Jeb Bush supported his brother’s war, while Trump, alone of the Republican candidates, supposedly opposed it well before it started.

That is a flat-out lie. There is no evidence that Trump opposed the war before the March 20, 2003 invasion. Like most Americans, he supported the invasion and said just that very clearly in interviews. And like most Americans, Trump quickly turned on a once popular intervention — but only when the postwar occupation was beginning to cost too much in blood and treasure. Trump’s serial invocations of the war are good reminders of just how mythical Iraq has now become.

We need to recall a few facts. Bill Clinton bombed Iraq (Operation Desert Fox) on December 16 to 19, 1998, without prior congressional or U.N. approval. As Clinton put it at the time, our armed forces wanted “to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors. Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world. Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas, or biological weapons.” At the time of Clinton’s warning about Iraq’s WMD capability, George W. Bush was a relatively obscure Texas governor.

Just weeks earlier, Clinton had signed the Iraq Liberation Act into law, after the legislation passed Congress on a House vote of 360 to 38 and the Senate unanimously. The act formally called for the removal of Saddam Hussein, a transition to democracy for Iraq, and a forced end to Saddam’s WMD program. As President Clinton had also warned when signing the act — long before the left-wing construction of neo-con bogeymen and “Bush lied, thousands died” sloganeering — without such an act, Saddam Hussein “will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you he’ll use the arsenal.” Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, often voiced warnings about Saddam’s aggression and his possession of deadly stocks of WMD (e.g., “Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face”). Indeed, most felt that the U.S. had been too lax in allowing Saddam to gas the Kurds when it might have prevented such mass murdering.

In October 2002, President Bush asked for the consent of Congress — unlike the Clinton resort to force in the Balkans and the later Obama bombing in Libya, both by executive action — before using arms to reify existing American policy. Both the Senate (with a majority of Democrats voting in favor) and the House overwhelmingly approved 23 writs calling for Saddam’s forced removal. The causes of action included Iraq’s violation of well over a dozen U.N. resolutions, Saddam’s harboring of international terrorists (including those who had tried and failed to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993), his plot to murder former president George H. W. Bush, his violations of no-fly zones, his bounties to suicide bombers on the West Bank, his genocidal policies against the Kurds and Marsh Arabs, and a host of other transgressions. Only a few of the causes of action were directly related to weapons of mass destruction.

Go back and review speeches on the floor of Congress in support of the Bush administration’s using force. Some of the most muscular were the arguments of Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Harry Reid, and Chuck Schumer. Pundits as diverse as Al Franken, Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof, David Remnick, Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, and Fareed Zakaria all wrote or spoke passionately about the need to remove the genocidal Saddam Hussein. All voiced their humanitarian concerns about finally stopping Saddam’s genocidal wars against the helpless. The New York Times estimated that 1 million had died violently because of Saddam’s governance. And all would soon damn those with whom they once agreed.

No liberal supporters of the war ever alleged that the Bush administration had concocted WMD evidence ex nihilo in Iraq — and for four understandable reasons: one, the Clinton administration and the United Nations had already made the case about Saddam Hussein’s dangerous possession of WMD stockpiles; two, the CIA had briefed congressional leaders in September and October 2002 on WMD independently and autonomously from its White House briefings (a “slam-dunk case”), as CIA Director George Tenet, a Clinton appointee, later reiterated; three, WMD were only a small concern, at least in the congressional authorization for war, which for the most part dealt with Iraq’s support for terrorism in the post–9/11 climate, violation of the U.N. mandates, and serial genocidal violence directed at Iraq’s own people and neighboring countries; and, four, the invasion was initially successful and its results seemed to have justified it.

The WMD issue was largely a postbellum mechanism of blaming conspiracies rather than anyone’s own judgment when violence flared. Did the disappearance of WMD stocks really nullify all 23 congressional writs?

Support for the invasion reached its apex not before the war but directly at its conclusion, when polls in April 2003 revealed approval ratings between 70 and 90 percent, owing to Saddam’s sudden downfall, the relatively rapid end to the fighting, and the avoidance of catastrophic American casualties.

In late April 2003, initial worry about the absence of WMD stockpiles was soon noted — after all, the 2004 presidential primaries were less than a year away — but largely dismissed, given that Congress had sanctioned the war on a variety of grounds that had nothing to do with WMD, and it was not clear where or how known stockpiles had mysteriously disappeared, after their prior demonstrable use by Saddam. (Did Clinton get them all in his 1998 Desert Fox campaign? Did Saddam himself stealthily destroy them? Did he send out false intelligence about them to create deterrence? Or were they moved to Syria — where WMD turned up later during the Obama “red-line” controversy?)

Only as the postwar violence spiked in June and July 2003 did the fallback position arise of having been cajoled by “bogus” intelligence and thus having been “misled” into going along with the “Bush and Cheney” agenda. Had the occupation gone as well as the initial war, missing WMD would have been noted in the context of there having been roughly 20 other writs for going into Iraq.

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The Families and Friends of the Terrorists Know about Their Radicalization

malik and farookNational Review, by Victor Davis Hanson, Dec. 17, 2015:

Amid all the furor over Islamic terrorism in the United States, a few themes are ignored: the role of friends and family of terrorists, and how well the U.S had treated many of those who went on to kill Americans.

Take, for example, the family members of Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook, who recently murdered 14 people and wounded 21 in San Bernardino before being killed by police. The New York Times recently contacted Malik’s sister in Pakistan, Fehda Malik, who insisted that her sister was not an extremist, “She knew what was right and wrong,” Fehda Malik said.

The Times then noted of Fehda herself: “In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, she posted a remark on Facebook beside a photo of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center that could be interpreted as anti-American.”

Farook’s father gave an interview to the Italian newspaper La Stampa shortly after his son’s murderous rampage. He matter-of-factly remarked, “My son said that he shared [Islamic State leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi’s ideology and supported the creation of the Islamic State. He was also obsessed with Israel.”

If true, the elder Farook, who was welcomed into the United States as an immigrant from Pakistan, knew before the killings that his son was an advocate of the Islamic State. He apparently kept quiet about it.

For that matter, what are we to make of Farook’s mother, who lived in the same rented townhouse with the two killers? She claimed that she knew nothing of her family’s bomb-making and stockpiling of weapons inside the small home. Farook, it should be noted, enjoyed a comfortable job with the state of California.

The parents of the Boston Marathon bombers are Dagestan natives and former Chechnya residents who applied for asylum to the United States after spending time here on a tourist visa. They claimed the family was in danger back in Chechnya.

The Tsarnaev family was welcomed in Boston and at times enjoyed liberal public assistance — at least until the two sons, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, one a recipient of a college scholarship, murdered three and wounded more than 260 during the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Before the bombing, Russian intelligence had warned U.S. authorities about the radicalization of Tamerlan and, reportedly, his mother. Shortly after the bombings, Mr. and Mrs. Tsarnaev moved back to Chechnya, apparently without facing the dangers that they claimed had forced them to move to America in the first place.

The bombers’ mother, Zubeidat, had lots to say about her once-adopted United States after her surviving son, Dzhokhar, was convicted of 17 capital charges. The Tsarnaevs, Zubeidat exclaimed in a social-media message to friends, would be “the ones who will rejoice when Allah grants us the chance to behold the U.S. in the flames of an eternal and terrifying fire, an otherworldly flame.”

Perhaps no terrorist has done more damage to the United States after 9/11 than the late Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaida propagandist and U.S. citizen whose father emigrated from Yemen after being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study in America.

Before al-Awlaki was killed by a drone in Yemen in 2011, he had been the spiritual advisor to three of the 9/11 hijackers; to Army Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 of his fellow Fort Hood soldiers; and to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane on Christmas Day 2009.

Al-Awlaki’s father, Nasser, frequently defended his son, denying that he had any ties to radical Islamic terrorism.

In almost all of these cases there is a monotonous narrative. Muslims arrive from abroad, often citing dangers at home and new opportunities in America. They are treated well, frequently being offered public assistance, university admittance, scholarships, or government jobs. Their children become “radicalized.” (Note that this is a passive term rather than an active one — as if mysterious forces rather than free will turn someone into a killer.) After the murders, relatives claim that they knew little of such transformations. On occasion, they contextualize the violence.

It seems inconceivable that family members could be oblivious to the radicalization of a loved one when it transpires right under their noses — particularly in the cases where a parent’s U.S.-born children visit the Middle East and come back radicalized, with the change noted by friends but supposedly not by immediate family. The idea that close relatives do not know about the Islamic extremism of their kin is as absurd as it is dangerous to the security of the United States.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com. © 2015 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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.

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Moral Equivalence in the Middle East

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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.

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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.

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