View 851 Monday, November 17, 2014
“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”
President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009
If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.
Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983
I have been working on fiction. I paid the bills and deposited checks, and I have just a little more in the bank this month than I did last month. As Mister Micawber tells David Copperfield:
"My other piece of advice, Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, "you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and — and in short you are for ever floored. As I am!"
Fortunately I am not floored, even though I have slowed down a lot. Authors don’t get pensions, but backlist sales are pretty good thanks to the eBook revolution, and I add to the list as I can. The Sixth Grade Reader has a small but steady monthly sale as parents realize its value to children from fourth to tenth grade, and Starswarm does well with young adults. And thanks to the subscription drive this place brings in an income. My thanks to all of you.
I need to do a more complete coverage of the alternatives and possible disasters in the Middle East. So far the potential for disaster grows as the President is unable to choose feasible goals and move toward achieving them. “Get out and adopt John Quincy Adams foreign policy
Whenever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.
She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.
Fourth of July, 1821
Would not be optimum, but at least it is a goal; it is probably what the President really wants, but there is too much pressure from others to allow him to achieve it. But without a discussion of goals that include that one, and choosing an objective and sticking to it, we face increasing possibilities of disaster.
Some preliminary thoughts:
The Caliphate has beheaded another American, in public, in an attempt to provoke blind retaliation. They invite retaliation. We have the means to do it without taking significant numbers of casualties. They want us to come break things and kill people. Every bomb that falls out of the sky killing people below has an effect.
What might they be thinking?
Suppose you were a young Sunni Moslem whose family has lived in Mesopotamia since a wandering herder named Abraham left for the West.
Might you think like this?
“Who are these Americans and what do they want? They came in and removed Saddam, who was a tyrant, but he was not intolerant of Sunni, even though his war was with Shia Iran. Iran fought like barbarians against us. We fought back. My grandfather was killed in that war, fighting with ancient weapons. We were triumphing, when the Americans intervened the first time. Then someone we do not know killed several thousand Americans and brought down their tallest buildings. Sunni men, willing to die for the Prophet, PBUH. America for no reason blamed us.
America came in with bombs and tanks and overwhelming force. They beheaded Saddam. They killed 100,000 of us, most Sunni, then set up a government of Shiites who proceeded to burn our mosques, turn our people out of office, destroy our economy, and drive Sunni into the desert as Shia took over their homes and lands. The Americans armed the Shia, trained their soldiers, and fought on their side – and then left, leaving all those weapons with the Shia.
Whereupon the Caliphate came in and invited us to join them. They came and fought like men. The Shia ran away abandoning all those weapons left by the United States. The Caliph has those weapons now, and we are invited to join his forces, may Allah grant him wisdom. The Caliphate is recognized as a government by Sweden. The Caliph tells us that he is restoring the law of the Prophet, PBUH.
What do these Americans want? They do not tell us. Why do they bomb us? We do not know. Then send spies, and drones with bombs and rockets. What do they want, and why should we prefer it to the Law of the Prophet?”
I have long felt that our nasty national habit of interfering in everybody else’s business, whether or not we were invited to or even know what’s going on, is going to reap us a doubly-nasty payback. It’s like getting stuck in in someone else’s domestic dispute—all too often, the quarreling sides hate the interferer, even when the interferer is taking their own part against their opponent.
We got into this habit during the Cold War, and it’s time we stopped. ISIS is none of our business. It’s hard luck on the religious minorities in that part of the world, but it so happens that conformity to the majority sect is part-and-parcel of patriotism there, just as speaking the national language was during the upsurge of nationalism in Europe between 1848 and 1945. And no amount of revenge will revive the dead of 9-11 or rebuild the Towers, so why keep throwing American lives and money away to no purpose?
I was opposed to the first invasion of Iraq in the Kuwaiti incident, and even more so to the conquest of Baghdad; but once we had done that, totally interfering with the correlation of forces in the Middle East, it was incumbent on us to do something useful. The problem was that we hadn’t had any notion of what to do before we went in, and we never came up with an objective beyond wringing Saddam Hussein’s neck. Actually we pulled his head off. But with him gone the “nation” of Iraq vanished, only apparently no one understood that. We also watch Turkey change from a secular state to an Islamic state, just as Mustapha Kemal Ataturk feared. We did nothing about that. It is as if no one in Washington took the Sunni/Shiite division seriously. The Thirty Years War which ended with the Peace of Westphalia. Pope Innocent X condemned the Peace of Westphalia as “null, void, invalid, unjust, damnable, reprobate, insane, empty of meaning and effect for all time,” but it was a peace of exhaustion, and its effects lasted. It was the start of all international law. There have been religious conflicts but no major religious war (other than against Turkey) since 1648.
There has been nothing like the Peace of Westphalia among Muslims, although the West has often acted as if there had been. The destruction of the Turkish Empire and the drastic change of Turkey from a Caliphate to a secular republic made it possible for the West to believe that the religious differences among Muslims were no longer of vital importance. ISIL is making it clear to all that this was a false conclusion.
We need a careful and objective analysis of US interests in the Middle East. It is not likely that this Administration can do that. It is not clear who can.
Victor Davis Hanson’s daughter has passed away.
I have been an admirer of Professor Hanson for decades.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.