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December 31, 2019

A Conservative Explains the Virtue of America

During the 20th century, as we faced the ravages of totalitarianism – wars, concentration camps, enslavement and death on a vast scale – we re-examined the principles and practices that kept our country from a similar fate. For many, this led to a reaffirmation of the tradition of individual rights. The concept of individual liberty, born in the soil of Hellenic rationalism and Roman law, reached its maturation in the rigorous and clear exposition of the Anglo-American Enlightenment – and climaxed with the founding of the United States of America. We, or at least many of our fellow citizens, came to appreciate these principles at work in stable civilized countries, primarily English speaking, where reason and rhetoric were the main tools of social discourse; and we saw the diametrically opposite principles leading vast parts of the world down “the road to serfdom” where coercion led to an impoverished existence on every level.

The confrontation with Islam should lead to similar soul-searching. What makes the West superior? What distinguishing principle underlies our successes – particularly in the Anglosphere where we find a long uninterrupted tradition of civility? What makes life flourish in abundance for ourselves and our families while Islamic societies wallow in poverty, irrational hatred, and cynicism? The old Cold War conservative paradigm – religion vs. secular materialist atheism – fails miserably in the current context. Indeed, the revival of Islam, like the revival of Christianity in America, is also a reaction to the failures of socialism. Conservatives, having adopted an easy but incorrect analysis of what they called Godless-communism, were caught unprepared as God-filled Islam reared its ugly head. How will traditionalist conservatives handle this challenge? Let’s consider one of the more reasonable conservative writers.

Dinesh D’Souza is a moderate sounding conservative who has written many respectable commentaries on politics and culture. They tend to be level-headed, calm, and comforting. Overall, he favors individualism and the liberal economy. His conservatism is selective but he generally favors the more libertarian parts of our country’s history. While he isn’t strict about the restoration of rights he can be friendly towards attempts to preserve and revive the core of our tradition. You can get a sense of his worldview from his book, “Letters to a Young Conservative.” Recently D’Souza has written a letter giving advice to young Muslims. Its importance lies in what it says about traditionalist conservatives and their view of America.

D’Souza begins by considering the complaints of devout Muslims starting with bin Laden’s spiritual father, Sayyid Qutb. Among the charges against America are “materialism,” “sexual promiscuity,” “rejection of divine authority,” man-made laws, a lack of prohibitions against vice, etc. Summing up Qutb’s critique, D’Souza says, “In his view, this is because Western society is based on freedom whereas Islamic society is based on virtue.” If all this sounds familiar, it is because these complaints are also standard on the religious right. Not too surprisingly, D’Souza addresses the Muslim critic as a kindred spirit. “Given the warped timber of humanity, freedom becomes the forum for the expression of human flaws and weaknesses. On this point Qutb and his fundamentalist followers are quite correct.”

What, then, does D’Souza have to offer the young devout Muslim? “Even amid the temptations that a rich and free society offers, they [most Americans] have remained on the straight path. Their virtue has special luster because it is freely chosen.” Of course, we all want our virtue to have that extra special shine. However, let’s pause for a moment and think how often conservatives talk about temptations in just this manner.

How often do conservatives respond to something of an objectionable sexual nature with “that’s great, resistance to temptation enhances my virtue?” It wasn’t conservatives who championed the repeal of laws against homosexuality, welcomed the legalization of abortion, or readily accepted the freedom to publish sexually explicit material. And when such changes did occur, I don’t remember their response being “great, now my choice is more meaningful because it isn’t the only allowed.” Look at the special luster heterosexual marriages will acquire when gay marriages are possible! That’s not exactly an argument we hear very often.

Fortunately, as D’Souza continues, he provides a more compelling argument well worth our attention. “Compulsion cannot produce virtue; it can only produce the outward semblance of virtue.” It’s unusual today to come across this Classical argument – that the cultivation of a virtuous disposition and a virtuous character requires freedom. He continues, “the theocratic and authoritarian society that Islamic fundamentalists advocate undermines the possibility of virtue. … [O]nce the reins of coercion are released … the worst impulses of human nature break loose.”

To appreciate D’Souza’s point consider the weaker argument, common among conservative commentators, that moral acts must be chosen for the individual to receive credit. While valid, this argument has never been a force for the advancement of liberty; avoiding immortal sin and eternal damnation were often seen as too important to allow failure. Thus, earthly freedom seemed so besides the point in the history of religion. George H. Nash summarizes the viewpoint of L. Brent Bozell, Jr., a prominent conservative writer for National Reivew, as follows: “What, after all, was virtue? If as Bozell argued, it meant conformity with human nature and the divine pattern of order, then Freedom was not necessary to virtue per se. An act could be virtuous even if it were instinctive or coerced. The quest was less important than the achievement.” Of course, the left feels that way about altruism.

Can D’Souza convince fundamentalist Muslims to seek their religious virtue in a free society? It’s doubtful that he can even convince his fellow conservatives. When he turns Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell into crusaders to abolish laws against victimless crimes, we might, at that point, consider sending D’Souza to Al Azhar University in Cairo, the oldest and most authoritative school in the Islamic world, and let his powerful critique reform Islam.

Not only is this absurd, but Mr. D’Souza is addressing the wrong Muslims. The promise for change in the Islamic world is not with the devout, but with the everyday Muslim who only pays lip-service to Islam; he looks to the West for the hope of living well and enjoying life. One does not win them over by holding out the prospect of a voluntary life of self-denial, suffering, and devout submission. Nor does one ask them to return to their religion – essentially an imperialist warrior religion that is collectivist in nature. One wished conservatives would actually read about this religion and not assume it is similar to Christianity.

Now for the main problem with the conservative approach! Virtue, for D’Souza, is not tied to a vital function of human life. One continuously gets the impression that virtue is an extracurricular activity of living – unrelated to the central focus of survival. Why does one cultivate virtue? What is virtue for? One wonders if these questions are even intelligible to D’Souza. His sympathy with the devout life-hating materialist-bashing paradise-seeking Muslims doesn’t give one hope that conservatives understand what is at stake.

What does D’Souza fail to understand about the virtuous life? The most important part: acquiring virtue is attaining the capacity and power to live, prosper, and be justifiably proud. It’s not about getting Brownie points or approaching the Pearly Gates with a high score card. It’s about living this life to the fullest. The central virtue, rationality, is man’s essential power to know and conquer nature. Cultivating virtue creates a character appropriate to the challenges of a flourishing life – to be lived among civilized people in a just and prosperous society. The moral is practical – it is powerful!

Muslims see the power of the freedom in the West. What they don’t hear is the moral case for our success. Conservatives give short shrift to the virtues of rationality, productiveness, sexual fulfillment, and the rest that attracts immigrants to our shores from around the world. You can avoid practicing vices of promiscuity, gluttonous indulgence, lying, and blasphemy in any hellhole on earth. What you can’t do is be free to actualize your potential and live well.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why conservatism is floundering today. They just don’t understand that America is a moral achievement – one that goes to the core of the needs and rights of a rational being – i.e. individual liberty. This is a prerequisite to the cultivation of the character and skills that enable one to tackle the challenges of life. And the result of a dedication to this ethos has been the development of industry, commerce, medicine, and knowledge on a vast scale unparalleled in history.

Our best conservative writers have so little to offer as an explanation of our greatness. Our achievement is trivialized as materialistic in the face of intellectual attacks from savage tribal mystics. They concede the moral aspirations of the most backwards, violent, and unreformed religion with superficial slogans that amount to “things go better with freedom.”

We need new intellectual leadership. We are treading water, neither going down that old road to serfdom nor reviving the culture of liberty our founders desired. It is often in times of war that one often takes stock of one’s assets. This can be an opportunity to address the important question: what makes us great?

Originally published hereDuring the 20th century, as we faced the ravages of totalitarianism – wars, concentration camps, enslavement and death on a vast scale – we re-examined the principles and practices that kept our country from a similar fate. For many, this led to a reaffirmation of the tradition of individual rights. The concept of individual liberty, born in the soil of Hellenic rationalism and Roman law, reached its maturation in the rigorous and clear exposition of the Anglo-American Enlightenment – and climaxed with the founding of the United States of America. We, or at least many of our fellow citizens, came to appreciate these principles at work in stable civilized countries, primarily English speaking, where reason and rhetoric were the main tools of social discourse; and we saw the diametrically opposite principles leading vast parts of the world down “the road to serfdom” where coercion led to an impoverished existence on every level.

The confrontation with Islam should lead to similar soul-searching. What makes the West superior? What distinguishing principle underlies our successes – particularly in the Anglosphere where we find a long uninterrupted tradition of civility? What makes life flourish in abundance for ourselves and our families while Islamic societies wallow in poverty, irrational hatred, and cynicism? The old Cold War conservative paradigm – religion vs. secular materialist atheism – fails miserably in the current context. Indeed, the revival of Islam, like the revival of Christianity in America, is also a reaction to the failures of socialism. Conservatives, having adopted an easy but incorrect analysis of what they called Godless-communism, were caught unprepared as God-filled Islam reared its ugly head. How will traditionalist conservatives handle this challenge? Let’s consider one of the more reasonable conservative writers.

Dinesh D’Souza is a moderate sounding conservative who has written many respectable commentaries on politics and culture. They tend to be level-headed, calm, and comforting. Overall, he favors individualism and the liberal economy. His conservatism is selective but he generally favors the more libertarian parts of our country’s history. While he isn’t strict about the restoration of rights he can be friendly towards attempts to preserve and revive the core of our tradition. You can get a sense of his worldview from his book, “Letters to a Young Conservative.” Recently D’Souza has written a letter giving advice to young Muslims. Its importance lies in what it says about traditionalist conservatives and their view of America.

D’Souza begins by considering the complaints of devout Muslims starting with bin Laden’s spiritual father, Sayyid Qutb. Among the charges against America are “materialism,” “sexual promiscuity,” “rejection of divine authority,” man-made laws, a lack of prohibitions against vice, etc. Summing up Qutb’s critique, D’Souza says, “In his view, this is because Western society is based on freedom whereas Islamic society is based on virtue.” If all this sounds familiar, it is because these complaints are also standard on the religious right. Not too surprisingly, D’Souza addresses the Muslim critic as a kindred spirit. “Given the warped timber of humanity, freedom becomes the forum for the expression of human flaws and weaknesses. On this point Qutb and his fundamentalist followers are quite correct.”

What, then, does D’Souza have to offer the young devout Muslim? “Even amid the temptations that a rich and free society offers, they [most Americans] have remained on the straight path. Their virtue has special luster because it is freely chosen.” Of course, we all want our virtue to have that extra special shine. However, let’s pause for a moment and think how often conservatives talk about temptations in just this manner.

How often do conservatives respond to something of an objectionable sexual nature with “that’s great, resistance to temptation enhances my virtue?” It wasn’t conservatives who championed the repeal of laws against homosexuality, welcomed the legalization of abortion, or readily accepted the freedom to publish sexually explicit material. And when such changes did occur, I don’t remember their response being “great, now my choice is more meaningful because it isn’t the only allowed.” Look at the special luster heterosexual marriages will acquire when gay marriages are possible! That’s not exactly an argument we hear very often.

Fortunately, as D’Souza continues, he provides a more compelling argument well worth our attention. “Compulsion cannot produce virtue; it can only produce the outward semblance of virtue.” It’s unusual today to come across this Classical argument – that the cultivation of a virtuous disposition and a virtuous character requires freedom. He continues, “the theocratic and authoritarian society that Islamic fundamentalists advocate undermines the possibility of virtue. … [O]nce the reins of coercion are released … the worst impulses of human nature break loose.”

To appreciate D’Souza’s point consider the weaker argument, common among conservative commentators, that moral acts must be chosen for the individual to receive credit. While valid, this argument has never been a force for the advancement of liberty; avoiding immortal sin and eternal damnation were often seen as too important to allow failure. Thus, earthly freedom seemed so besides the point in the history of religion. George H. Nash summarizes the viewpoint of L. Brent Bozell, Jr., a prominent conservative writer for National Reivew, as follows: “What, after all, was virtue? If as Bozell argued, it meant conformity with human nature and the divine pattern of order, then Freedom was not necessary to virtue per se. An act could be virtuous even if it were instinctive or coerced. The quest was less important than the achievement.” Of course, the left feels that way about altruism.

Can D’Souza convince fundamentalist Muslims to seek their religious virtue in a free society? It’s doubtful that he can even convince his fellow conservatives. When he turns Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell into crusaders to abolish laws against victimless crimes, we might, at that point, consider sending D’Souza to Al Azhar University in Cairo, the oldest and most authoritative school in the Islamic world, and let his powerful critique reform Islam.

Not only is this absurd, but Mr. D’Souza is addressing the wrong Muslims. The promise for change in the Islamic world is not with the devout, but with the everyday Muslim who only pays lip-service to Islam; he looks to the West for the hope of living well and enjoying life. One does not win them over by holding out the prospect of a voluntary life of self-denial, suffering, and devout submission. Nor does one ask them to return to their religion – essentially an imperialist warrior religion that is collectivist in nature. One wished conservatives would actually read about this religion and not assume it is similar to Christianity.

Now for the main problem with the conservative approach! Virtue, for D’Souza, is not tied to a vital function of human life. One continuously gets the impression that virtue is an extracurricular activity of living – unrelated to the central focus of survival. Why does one cultivate virtue? What is virtue for? One wonders if these questions are even intelligible to D’Souza. His sympathy with the devout life-hating materialist-bashing paradise-seeking Muslims doesn’t give one hope that conservatives understand what is at stake.

What does D’Souza fail to understand about the virtuous life? The most important part: acquiring virtue is attaining the capacity and power to live, prosper, and be justifiably proud. It’s not about getting Brownie points or approaching the Pearly Gates with a high score card. It’s about living this life to the fullest. The central virtue, rationality, is man’s essential power to know and conquer nature. Cultivating virtue creates a character appropriate to the challenges of a flourishing life – to be lived among civilized people in a just and prosperous society. The moral is practical – it is powerful!

Muslims see the power of the freedom in the West. What they don’t hear is the moral case for our success. Conservatives give short shrift to the virtues of rationality, productiveness, sexual fulfillment, and the rest that attracts immigrants to our shores from around the world. You can avoid practicing vices of promiscuity, gluttonous indulgence, lying, and blasphemy in any hellhole on earth. What you can’t do is be free to actualize your potential and live well.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why conservatism is floundering today. They just don’t understand that America is a moral achievement – one that goes to the core of the needs and rights of a rational being – i.e. individual liberty. This is a prerequisite to the cultivation of the character and skills that enable one to tackle the challenges of life. And the result of a dedication to this ethos has been the development of industry, commerce, medicine, and knowledge on a vast scale unparalleled in history.

Our best conservative writers have so little to offer as an explanation of our greatness. Our achievement is trivialized as materialistic in the face of intellectual attacks from savage tribal mystics. They concede the moral aspirations of the most backwards, violent, and unreformed religion with superficial slogans that amount to “things go better with freedom.”

We need new intellectual leadership. We are treading water, neither going down that old road to serfdom nor reviving the culture of liberty our founders desired. It is often in times of war that one often takes stock of one’s assets. This can be an opportunity to address the important question: what makes us great?

Originally published here
December 30, 2019

Islam and its Denial - Part VI

Andrew Sullivan describes the Republican Party as divided between two types of conservatives: “conservatives of doubt and conservatives of faith.” While his terms may not get the divide right – liberty isn’t based on skepticism - his extensive description does raise a number of important points.

In passing, however, I was surprised to read that he believes the conservatives of faith understand the threat of fundamentalist Islam. He notes: “Both groups were passionately anti-communist, even if there were some disagreements on strategy and tactics. Today, both groups are just as hostile to Islamist terrorism and fundamentalism.”

I’ve pointed out that two big name conservatives are anything but hostile to Islamic fundamentalism: Dinesh D’Souza and Andrew ApostolouDaniel Pipes points out that the current administration hopes Hezbollah becomes part of the next Lebanese election and government. Recent election results in Saudi Arabia shows the fundamentalists have won. My bet is that this will not worry conservatives close to the administration. Indeed, I argue they’ll praise the election. In that post I express my concern:

Apparently, some people believe that parliamentary institutions will change the way people think. This, of course, reverses cause and effect. History shows that a liberal democracy with constitutional protections for individual rights was a result of powerful ideas and cultural changes over a period of centuries. Now, we are told, the reverse is true. There is a “parliamentary dialectic” that holds that these institutions will create the acceptance of the ideas liberty and tolerance. The classic counter example is the Weimar Republic – which voted Hitler into power.

But why do conservatives believe this “parliamentary dialectic”? Marxists used to believe in “dialectical materialism” that holds that your relationship relative to the means of production determines your consciousness. Workers would have a revolutionary consciousness resulting in the overthrow the capitalist parasites, or something ridiculous as that. Closer to home, moderate leftists used to believe in the “housing dialectic” which holds that poor housing … causes poverty and crime. They built housing projects. Need I explain the morale of the story?

Conservatives have entered the fray with the latest version: hold elections and people will become humane and tolerant! If this policy was in place a decade ago, we’d have an Islamist government in Algeria …. We’d have criticized the military in Turkey for its role in that country’s “guided democracy” with the result of an Islamist regime years sooner. We’d have criticized Mubarack for cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood who, we’d say, should be running for office if not running the country.

Why are our conservative friends acting like utopian leftists of years past?
December 29, 2019

J’Accuse Kofi Annan

During the last half year, Kofi Annan has revived an old U.N. policy under a new label: Islamophobia. This is an absurd attempt to pre-empt the sudden criticism of radical Islam both in the United States and Europe by labeling it bigotry and dismissing it from the outset. Despite the President’s expression of admiration for Islam and the Europeans’ super-tolerant societies, Kofi Annan laments that Muslims are the victims of a racist-like prejudice. Despite the hundreds of our fine men and women killed trying to bring a civilized society to the Muslims of Iraq and Afghanistan, despite entering the Balkan conflict on the side of Muslims, Annan has the unmitigated gall to vilify our country for bigotry.

However, the reality is that America is the object of irrational hate and vicious vilification – no, not since the Iraq War – but for decades. For example, Jean-Francois Revel, in his recent book, “Anti-Americanism,” documents the pathological anti-American hatred among French intellectuals. And he’s been writing on this topic for over three decades! Or consider what is happening in Arab and Islamic countries. The government-regulated Egyptian press continually pounds-out irrational hatred as it scapegoats America and Zionists for Egypt’s oppressive living conditions (as we give them $2 billion a year in aid).

But it is not the intellectual error of the anti-concept of Islamophobia. Others have easily dispensed this fraudulent idea. There is something much worse. It is a revival of a U.N. policy decades old: the orchestrated vilification of America and Israel as racist nations. It has been said so often – that we are the world’s leading racist nation – that no one in the U.N. even considers it debatable.

Just 10 days before the 9/11 attacks, the U.N. was holding a “World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.” Among the speakers for tolerance were Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, and assorted representatives from some of the most repressive regimes. The conference degeneration into an orgy of Israel-bashing and America-hating that was so intense that both Colin Powell and Shimon Peres condemned the conference and withdrew delegates. It is this policy that Kofi Annan is reviving; this is the policy of the U.N. for the last several decades. It’s a policy that's designed to inflame irrational hatred of America and Israel.

A climate of hate enables and encourages actual violence as it always has through out history, and should not be dismissed because it is directed against people of achievement. Indeed, envy may be the worse form of hatred as it is directed against the virtues of those who are hated. It is pure nihilism that demands nothing more that the destruction of achievement. It was against this background of anti-American hatred that Islamic terrorists flew a modern jet into our tallest buildings. It was this hatred that was behind support, in a large part of the world, for the atrocity of 9/11. (See this for further details.)

I accuse Kofi Annan and the U.N. of being moral accomplices in the atrocity of 9/11. For creating the climate, giving legitimacy to this hate, and orchestrating the world-wide hate movement, Annan and the U.N. bear moral responsibility for the culmination of events that led to 9/11. It’s time – indeed, it’s long over due – to leave the U.N. and kick this foul institution out of America. No matter what the cost, our dignity and safety requires this moral imperative. We must stand up and demand this change. We must start acting with honor, pride, and righteousness. Spread the word! Tell others we must stand up tall and take action.
December 28, 2019

Three Card Mohammad


During the last decade Muslims have been involved in violence in virtually every corner of the world: Manhattan, Madrid, Israel, India, Russia, Holland, Nigeria, Sudan, Cyprus, Kosovo, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, East Timor, and the Philippines – just to name a few off the top of my head. Islam plays a role in this violence in almost all cases. Yet, the level of discourse remains on the superficial level with an absurd banality that makes it more than obscene. “You can’t blame that on Islam because it’s only a few bad apples.” “Not all Muslims are terrorists.” “What about the violent people who aren’t Muslims?”

These kinds of remarks roll off people’s tongue as if they were profound self-evident truths known by even the simplest-minded everyday Joe. But what if someone said the following: “Sixty years ago, not all Nazis killed Jews, don’t over generalize.” “A hundred years ago, not all southern racists lynched blacks – it’s only a few bad applies.” That’s different, you say? “Nazism preaches such things. Racists harbor vicious hate that makes possible the atmosphere of lynching.” And, of course, it would be right to point that out.

But to point to Islam’s nature – its doctrines and history – leaves most people uncomfortable. Most would rather recede to the level of superficial blather. You’ll hear that Islam is just like Christianity, by people who’ve never read a book on Islam. You’ll be told that poverty, psychology, imperialism, male dominance, arid climate and a host of other standard factors are the real or “root causes” - religion being only a cover. Religious ideas – or any ideas – don’t really matter; this principle we are assured is the right … idea on the matter.

One tires of explaining the obvious. However, there is one subtle trick that traps many who try to discuss Islam’s inherent problems. This is a bait-and-switch game. One that moves the focus from the ideology of Islam to the demographic group: Muslims. Islam is understood by analyzing the belief system and asking what would that mean in practice? Muslims, as a nominal demographic group, includes those who practice the religion but it also includes those who merely label themselves “Muslim” out of tradition, respect for family, or fear of being killed as an apostate. Those who are lax or lapsed don’t embody the jihadist practice. And that’s good, of course.

Thus, when you point out that the life of Mohammad – a man who slaughtered, plundered, terrorized, conquered and oppressed – is a harmful example that inspires some Muslims to violence and viciousness, beware of the bait-and-switch: “But not all Muslims are like that.” Now we are focused on the nominal group – not the ideology and its effect when practiced.

If you read about the irrational hate taught in Saudi schools, spewed by religious authorities in Egypt’s mosques, or shouted by religious fanatics in Iran, be ready for the bait-and-switch: “I had an Arab taxi driver the other day who was very helpful.” Don’t laugh. I get this all the time. People mention individual Muslims, who they’ve met, and of course they find they’re normal everyday human beings. By the way, the majority of Arab-Americans are Christian.

The bait-and-switch is an attempt to make you look silly by turning your attention from vicious ideologies to innocuous members of a nominal demographic group. If you remain in the attack mode, you’ll just look stupid. And that’s the hope! By singling out harmless people unfairly, you’ll discredit your analysis. “You can’t say that about 1.2 billion people,” you’ll be told. Of course, there’s virtually nothing you can say about a billion people that goes beyond the superficial.

This game is not new. It was done with communism. “Oh, don’t judge by Stalin; he’s just one bad apple that’s hijacked communism.” After Mao, Brezhnev, Pol Pot, and others, this line wore thin. Over 100 million people died because of communism and a billion more enslaved. It wasn’t an accident. It goes to the very core of the collectivist philosophy that individuals can be disposed of for the greater good of the whole; the ends justify the means.

During the days when intellectuals were in denial about communism you could read the apologetics in magazines like The New Republic (Jan 1940) that denied that Stalin was a reflection of communism. It was “absurd to identify 170,000,000 people with one man,” referring to the people within Russia living under communism and the vicious dictator who ruled over them. But such a demographic observation doesn’t address the failures of communism. Indeed, the editors remained respectful of what they believed were economic progress and positive changes under communism’s first 23 years.

During the 1950s, it was the communists and their fellow travelers who wanted the focus to turn from the ideology and its practice to the individuals – some who were naïve. The idea was to make accusations of “communist” look stupid. Thus, when it turned out that Lucy Ball, as a young woman, enrolled in the Communist Party to please her grandmother (or aunt), the notion that this beloved women could be harmful made it seem silly to even raise questions about communism. Hollywood still uses this tactic to this very day.

However, communism has turned out to be the most destructive social movement in human history. Looking at individuals who may not embody the evil doesn’t change the nature of the horrors of the twentieth century under communist rule.

We need to do two things. We must face the threat of Islam but we must not allow ourselves to demonize a nominal demographic group. Justice requires that we give what is due: to expose what is vicious and praise what is benevolent. Moral integrity requires that we speak out to warn of the dangers that are and respect those who are harmless.

If we fail to face evil, we will suffer. If we exceed our mark and attack the innocent, we become fools and discredit our cause. Don’t fall for the bait-and-switch. Focus on the ideology and its meaning and those that actually put evil idea in practice. There’s much to discuss and learn and we must prepare ourselves to fight this war effectively.
December 27, 2019

Islam and its Denial – Part II

A conservative gives up on liberal democracy

After a heartening show of bravery by Iraqis voters, in the face of continuous terrorist attacks, some of our conservative friends are ready to surrender Iraq to Islamic theocrats. As I say again and again that democracy is not enough. However, one notable conservative, Andrew Apostolou of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, has this to say about a prospective Islamic theocracy:

“But to bewail the victory of the UIA as a triumph for Islamic fundamentalism and Iranian influence, to eulogize an Iraqi liberalism that never was, is to misunderstand the US role in Iraqi domestic politics. By removing the strategic threat of Saddam Hussein, the US gave Iraqis the right of self-determination that the dictator and his Ba'ath Party had denied them. That right means allowing Iraqis to elect Shi'a Islamists, not the US picking winners.” link

This sounds oddly familiar. Flash back to the 1960s, it’s the Vietnam War, and Lyndon Baines Johnson is President. His left-liberal supporters said something very similar: we are fighting for the self-determination of the South Vietnamese; if they vote in the communists – so be it. This is what Ayn Rand said at the time:

“They tell us that we must defend South Vietnam’s right to hold a ‘democratic’ election, and to vote itself into communism, if it wishes, provided it does so by vote – which means that we are not fighting for any political ideal or any principle of justice, but only for unlimited majority rule, and that the goal for which American soldiers are dying is to be determined by somebody else’s vote.” from Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal”

As Rand continues she eloquently blasts the altruistic notion that we serve without judgment for whatever values the others wish to pursue. She notes that the idea that we should be concerned with our defense, first and foremost, was smeared as nationalist, isolationist, and dictatorial. Now, we have conservatives who will declare victory even if the most virulent supremacist ideology – Islam – assumes power. Islam is the antithesis of everything we stand for and an imperialist ideology bent on our destruction. And in the process, women, secularists, and other opponents in Iraq, will be dispensed with in a manner we’ve seen before. Mr. Apostolou apparently doesn’t realize that conservatives are supposed to stand for individual rights – not mob rule. Perhaps he might re-read Tocqueville and discover what “tyranny of the majority” means.

During the heyday of communism, apologists and fellow travelers used to say that communism was a different kind of democracy – not a multi-party bourgeois democracy – put a proletarian democracy. Now we have Mr. Apostolou telling us that “Democracy, unlike dictatorship, has no single mold.” So what might we expect, Mr. Apostolou? It “is unlikely to resemble anything out of the Federalist Papers. Rather, a federal Iraq will have a strong ethnic and religious flavor.”

But maybe Mr. Apostolou isn’t really sad at this prospect. He says, “We have no right to ask Iraqis to cast off the very ethnic and religious heritage that Iraqis want participatory politics to preserve for no other reason than that it does not fit our paradigm of democracy. Intellectuals may wish to live in a pure republic where ethnicity and religion do not matter, but most Iraqis do not.”

So individual rights and constitutional protection of these rights are just “our paradigm of democracy?” And we apparently value them “for no other reason” save a subjective “wish to live in a pure republic where ethnicity and religion do not matter?” A multi-cultural conservative! Or perhaps he’s the kind of conservative that believes religion should be the law of the land. And, of course, Islam is just their religion.

Some conservatives are just in denial about Islam as many left-liberals were in denial about communism. Or perhaps they aren’t.
December 26, 2019

Blame the Russian Mob

A few weeks back my wife noticed an odd pattern. Three of the weekly crime shows on prime time TV found the criminals to be members of Russian immigrant crime families. Apparently, this is now the fashion; the Mafia is passé. I asked her if the criminals were ever Muslims. “Oh, no, sometimes they start the show with Muslims as suspects only to show how unfair it is to think such things,” she informed me.

In the aftermath of 9/11, in a North Carolina college – a public university – freshmen were given an abridged version of the Koran to read. The selected passages where from Mohammad’s early Meccan period when he was preaching tolerance – a tolerance he needed as an outsider trying to get acceptance. Left out were the harsh Medinan warrior passages showing Mohammed's mature ideology. To the student, Mohammad resembled Jesus. If this was the Bible, the ACLU would be on the case.

Recently, a widely used high school text propagandizes for Islam. “Across the Centuries,” put out by a major textbook publisher, presents a “Sunday School” or perhaps we should say “Friday School” version of Islam. In general, students are taught to be sympathetic to the teachings of Islam.

Why is Islam given such respect? Why are people teaching lies about Islam? Why is there a taboo against being critical of Islam?
December 25, 2019

Fatwa issued against bin Laden

It is possible that this is good news. However, let’s consider the other possibilities.

1. This cleric is in Spain (or occupied Andalusia as Islamists think of it). The rules of a Muslim living in a non-Muslim-ruled land are very different. Mohammad’s life illustrates how to behave. In the first half of his religious career, he was in Mecca trying to preach his religion in a hostile setting. During this period he talked about tolerance. During his second period, in Medina, he became repressive, bellicose, and strident as time progressed. Dissenters were silenced by death. Medina, a town originally founded by Jews, had an agricultural economy. Unwilling to do honest work, he plundered the caravans traveling to Mecca even the in holy month (if it’s for Islam, exceptions are allowed). He ethnically cleansed Medina of Jews and established a totalitarian type rule with imperialist aims. In less that a century, his follows conquered most of what was believed to be the world.

It is proper for a Muslim to use lies and deception in the cause of advancing Islam (taqqiya). Can we believe this fatwa or is it tactical? If this fatwa was issued by leading clerics in Islamic countries it would be far more significant – especially if issued simultaneously by religious leaders in several countries. The doctrine of ijma holds that a consensus of learned leaders of the community (ummah) will never be wrong.

2. Bin Laden is no Mohammad. After 9/11 there were street rallies for bin Laden in several Islamic countries. However, after he and his cronies were routed from Afghanistan in weeks, these rallies ceased. His actions have caused the loss of two major territories to American hegemony. He has since to regain power or execute another major terrorist attack against America.

Let’s remember, Mohammad wasn’t the guy who died on a cross but a warrior who conquered Arabia and left a military to conquer what seemed like the world. Muslims don’t like losers. Jesus never ruled and his followers lived in persecution during the 1st three hundred years of Christianity. During Islam’s 1400 years Christians lived in oppression as second class citizens groveling for favors from Muslims. Now bin Laden is on the run living in caves like the early Christians. What could more humiliating by Muslim standards?

Thus, maybe the fatwa is real – not because of a change of heart or moderation among Muslims – but because bin Laden is a loser.

I give just two possibilities for your consideration. I could give many more. We won’t know until there is a pattern of such rulings – in Islamic countries.
December 24, 2019

Islam and its Denial – Part III

Are we making progress in this war? Despite many achievements the main problem is not being addressed. Here’s the score card.

We are reforming two countries by changing their governments. We have decimated the ranks of one terrorist organization. One Arab dictator has revealed his nuclear program and ended it. Crowds in several Arab countries are demanding democratic rights. These are all signs of progress and hope for many living under Islamic oppression or fascist rule.

The problem, however, are a minority of jihadists whose aim is the destruction of the West. Do the above achievements have any bearing on this movement? We can certainly say that what we’ve done is disheartening for the jihadists and the rounding-up of Al Qaeda members is a great setback for one particular jihadist organization. The movement, however, is ideological. The actions taken so far do not address the reasons this movement exists and continue to attrack new members.

This is hard for many people to understand particularly Americans. Our culture is stridently anti-ideological. This is true across the political spectrum. The left looks for material causes (ex. poverty, military intervention, economic trade, etc.). Ideas, philosophy, ideology and religion are dismissed as epiphenomena – side effects of the “root causes.” The right believes that ideology leads to “isms” like communism. Instead they favor traditional sentiment embodied in century-old practices and proven institutions. Today, Republicans believe if you change the institutions, like government, you will remove the cause of terrorism.

Neither of these approaches deals with the reality. The 9/11 terrorists came from well-to-do families and studied in the democratic West. It is in the UK, USA, and Germany that many terrorists are learning their hate philosophy. Neither wealth nor liberty stopped these terrorists from learning jihadist hate or planning attacks like 9/11 and Madrid. In Holland the hope was that tolerance would win Muslims over to the ethos of Europe’s most open and accepting society. It hasn’t worked. The Europeans have tried this approach and it has failed miserably. Jihadist movements are on the rise in some of the most democratic and materially prosperous countries in history.

Thus, while I cheer the gains that are made, we still aren’t addressing the real problem.
December 23, 2019

Suggested reading

Yesterday’s article on the growth of Islamism in Germany was originally published in the Middle East Quarterly. The same issue also has an expose of Tablighi Jamaat, a Islamist sect that promotes violent jihad against the West. This movement originated in India and Pakistan, but with Saudi financing, it has spread worldwide including America. Indeed you’ll notice names of familiar Islamic terrorists and jihadists.

Dale C. Eikmeier’s article, “How to Beat the Global Islamist Insurgency,” has much to recommend. Here’s a few quotes:
“From a military perspective, … planners have not based their strategy on a detailed threat analysis of the enemy, its objectives, and its strategies. A coherent approach is not only necessary to achieve military goals but also to rally the public support needed for a sustainable long-term struggle in the defense of freedom.”

“Any effort that lacks an ideological component will fall short.” … “In the military struggle against Islamism, winning the war of ideas is crucial. This is nothing new. The Cold War was a struggle of ideologies. The United States did not rely on military action alone to counter the Soviet threat.”
December 22, 2019

"It’s the result of foreign policy"

The blame-America first crowd claims that Islamic terrorism is the result of America’s foreign policy. However, the jihadists have been waging a religious war around the world and they have for some time. It’s with good reason that Samuel Huntington says that Islam has “bloody borders.” This website documents the daily killings motivated and underwritten by Islam. Is this the “blowback” of a foreign policy? Whose? Are Muslims the aggrieved victims of the foreign policy of Indians, Filipinos, Siamese, Nigerians, Jews, Americans, Spanish, Australians, Buddhists, Dutch, Greeks, Russians, etc?

Actually, foreign policy is the problem – it’s the foreign policy of Islam that seeks to conquer and oppress others. This has been the founding ethos of this political religious ideology. Islam is a worldly religion, imperialist in nature, and warrior-like. It is simply a supremacist movement. Once again, I suggest everyone should read about this ideology. It’s a religion but it’s not like contemporary Christianity or Judaism. It's very different from religions familiar to people in the West.
December 21, 2019

Hope: Real or Mirage?

It is important to appreciate the recent events in the Middle East starting with the Iraqi election. It doesn’t matter if you are for or against military action, if you believe this will solve the religion’s problems or believe it will make no difference in the long run. The hopeful spirit, while embryonic and uncertain, still deserves our respect. Let’s examine why.

Since the toppling of Saddam’s regime, terrorist attacks occurred on a daily basis with Iraqis as the primary target. The aim is simple: terrorize the Iraqi people into submission. Both Baathist fascists and jihadists seek power to establish the traditional repressive government that is typical of the region. From the day Saddam was removed, Iraqis were fearful of stepping forward and winding on the wrong side of the next dictatorship. Any flicker of hope for a civil society required confidence in their fellow Arabs that was non-existent. Resignation and cynicism suggested waiting for a clear victor before aligning one’s interest with the new regime.

If you remember, prior to the Iraqi election there were doubts that holding the elections as scheduled could produce a meaningful result given chaos and threats of violence. The result, however, was quite meaningful … to the “Arab Street”. What was shocking to the Arab world was seeing their fellow Arabs braving terrorist attacks to vote! How often have you wondered about the value of voting? Imagine having to vote when your life is threatened! Why did they do it? Could one vote matter that much?

Most explanations seek either a compelling concrete payback or chalk it up to some innate drive. Let me propose another explanation. The act of voting itself is a transformational act. It says that one wants to be worthy of living in a civilized society. By voting one acts like a member of a community where arguments are settled at the ballot box and under the protection of the rule of law. When Arabs saw that their fellow Arabs could act in such a manner they gained a confidence in a new future. And it sparked a sympathetic surge for democratic change in other Arab nations.

Of course, this is an aspiration that is emotional in nature. This isn’t an explicit understanding of what liberty is, what makes it important and how to secure it. However, there is a sense that the liberal societal model provides hope; there is, on some level, an awareness that living in a free society brings the good life. Despite all the propaganda and ethnic pride, the West still inspires hope.

But an emotional sense is not an articulated principle, program, or ideology. By itself, it cannot lead to clear and certain progress. At most, by mimicking the success of advanced societies a modicum of progress is possible. By osmosis, trial and error, feeling one’s way in the dark, one can take a few steps toward modernity. However, fear and cynicism are competing emotions. One ultimately needs explicit principles to secure that which is implicitly sensed, to guide specific actions and to defend against the enemies of liberty.

Standing in the wings are the devout Islamists, they have declared the liberal Arabs the enemy and their moral claims – backed by 1400 years of Islam – remains unchallenged. A liberal society will never be secure, if by some accident it is established, as long as these ideas are given respect.

I recently read a poignant example the captures the dilemma in the lives of today’s Muslims. An Iraqi father sent his son to live with relatives in Saudi Arabia in anticipation of the war. During that time he was taught about the Islamic tradition, became devout and adopted a strict puritan lifestyle. When he returned home, the father was saddened to see his joyous boy had become an angry dogmatic stern young man. There was nothing the father could say. His son knew the religion thoroughly and could refute his father’s notions of how a young Muslim should live his life. The only thing the father could do was hope that his son would wake-up from this horrible nightmare. The boy’s childhood friends were called in the hope that he would recall his more joyous days. With temptations and examples, slowly the boy started to soften. One only hopes he makes it back.

How far can emotion overcome dogma? Not for long. Sooner or later Arabs will have to explicitly attack and reject Islamic doctrine. The Islamists aren’t going away of their own free will; they will attack secularized Arabs (or any opponents of theocracy) as Infidels and that is exactly what they have been doing in Iraq. Eventually, if Iraqis ever hope to secure a free and modern society, they will have to aim for the heart of Islam and slay this vicious beast. Unless they do, they will not be able to maintain the joyous optimism of this post-election period. It will have been a fleeting moment – lost to the cynicism and fatalism so familiar in Arab and Islamic culture.
December 20, 2019

Fighting for reason and liberty.

Ed Hudgins points to the importance of speaking out critically in the face of the horrors of foreign cultures, especially as these cultures are imported to America. “[I]t is imperative to discuss openly and without concern for political correctness of irrational sensitivities that obscure the truth, the moral and cultural foundations of a free society.”

Ed is right. Free Speech is a powerful tool but we must use it! We cannot remain silent about the savagery of foreign religious practices; we cannot lie and pretend there is a moral equivalence between our culture and others; we cannot silently sanction the irrational – primitive or post-modern – in our culture or in the world. We must speak out and make moral judgments.

Speaking of the primitive and post-modern threats to our Enlightenment heritage, David Kelley, has an excellent introduction to the subject and the false alternative between pre-modern faith-based philosophy and secular irrational post-modernism. Most importantly, he defends modernity – reason, science, individualism, liberty, and capitalism. “Who speaks for those values? Who provides the intellectual defense? Who carries the banner of modernity in the culture wars? Among popular writers, Ayn Rand was far and away the most articulate advocate. At the center of her Objectivist philosophy, which she explicitly aligned with the Enlightenment, was a morality of rational individualism.