Sunday, March 30, 2003
Unless something huge happens, I anticipate a blogging pause for the next two weeks. There are two reason for this:
1. I need to do our taxes. and
2. We are buying a house -- just entered into a contract.
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
The Second Front
1000 Paratroopers have landed in Northern Iraq. They have seized an airfield which will now be used to deploy (I think) a division (looks like the First Infantry). This is the opening of the second front. Saddam has commited most of his troops to the battle in the south and the north is lightly guarded. The units in the south will not be able to reinforce the north without being decimated. The northern approach should be clear for entry into Baghdad!
Other thoughts about units not yet commited to combat:
The independent 173 Airborne Brigade was used in the North -- where is the 82nd Airborne Division? It can also be commited quickly.
Where is the 101st Airmobile Division. We have heard very few reports about them.
Where is the 4th Infantry Division? Yes, some are on ships, but I suspect not the whole Division.
Remember, we seized the H2 and H3 airfields in western Iraq a few days ago. Partly to shut down Skuds, but once you control an airfield (an done of them was large) why not start to deploy some troops. Recall how quickly we were able to deploy entire divisions in in Afghanistan.
Conclusion: It is possible that the southern advance was a "diversionary" tactic used to lure out Saddam's best while the real hit comes from the north and west. Stay tuned....
Who is culticidal?
Following my first posts (here and here) about the cultural war, I received many comments and letters that had a common theme. Readers wanted me to further define those whom I refer to as the “opposition” in the cultural war and to know what side of the cultural war they were on. It is an issue that I deliberately avoided discussing in the original article, because it is a complex issue that I did not want to explore in one post. However, it is impossible to ignore the issue, so I will elaborate on the definition of “opposition”. The “opposition” are the people who I call “culticidal” – those seeking the suicide of American society.
A culticidal American is someone, who despite receiving the benefits of living in our society, despises it and wants to destroy it. Such an attitude is common in prosperous societies (please see my series on hate here, here and here) These tendencies are dangerous and have historically led to violence, weakening of the home state and tyranny. The key to remember about culticidal citizens is that they hate without reason and the ideologies they spout are acquired in order to justify their hate.
I will limit this discussion to the domestic culticidal only and ignore, for the time being, the foreign angle. The local culticidal comes in two forms – the overt hater and the covert hater. The former are identified by definition, the latter needs to be identified and confronted ideologically. While there are others who constitute the “opposition”, the culticidal group is the largest and the most dangerous and thus will constitute the bulk of this discussion.
How to diagnose culticidal tendencies
To diagnose the culticidal behavior we must bear in mind that these feelings need not be consciously formed. A person may say and believe that they are not culticidal, but in every respect act as if they were. I am constantly surprised that even in our culture of psychological sophistication, many still believe that when it comes to politics people say exactly what they believe. The complex psychology we ascribe to our interpersonal relationships (see Oprah) for some reason stops short of politics. In fact, a person’s political convictions are probably even more complicated psychologically and use such mental techniques as projection, rationalization, and denial. Socialism, for example, was especially adept in allowing adherents to rationalize their quest for power in terms of helping the poor.
As I’ve written many times, one’s static statements of positions are irrelevant. What we want to know is where do these positions lead. One way to judge positions is historical precedent, another, the focus of this post, is to try to judge the intent of the speaker. We can all enunciate reasonable sounding solutions – most advocates understand that radical solutions turn Americans off. It is more important to get into the mind of the advocate – are the positions sought the final goals of the speaker or are they just illusory and lead to more demands? The debate about the war in Iraq shows how this process works. The initial arguments concerned the necessity of the war itself. This argument was quickly lost in the court of American public opinion, so new criticisms were marshaled. There were those that seem legitimate: concerns about the future of Iraq after the war, the effect of the war on terrorism and the domestic economy. While each one of them is legitimate on their face, one cannot help thinking that after this question is answered, there will be other “reasonable” questions ad infinitum. For example, the next argument may concern universal health care and a 35-hour workweek for the Iraqis. There have also been illegitimate arguments claiming that a cabal of Jews is running the war. Again, due to the complex nature of human psychology, these intentions need not be conscious. I would wager that this is more common than not, with the culticidal instincts covered up by thick layers of rationalization. Nevertheless, they are still dangerous and must be identified.
To determine who is culticidal based solely on domestic issues is not very difficult, but as we shall see later, there are far easier methods. After all, when we speak of domestic issues it is possible to argue that the essential conflict is between groups of Americans and as a result some part of American society will be strengthened. This is not necessarily true, since things like prolonged application welfare tend to weaken society as a whole. But, at least you can argue that your goal is the strengthening America. Hence diagnosing culticidal tendencies on the domestic front is slightly more difficult, but not impossible. The same cannot be said on the international arena.
In international disputes, America takes sides against other countries. As a result of many of these issues, America will be weakened to the benefit of smaller or weaker nations. As we shall see, the response of a person to issues in an international arena may determine whether they are culticidal or not based on their reactions to identical issues one involving America and the other not.
The main hallmark of culticidal behavior is judging America by a different set of standards than other countries. If other countries can do well enough, America must be perfect.
There are two ways to judge the conduct of nations-- the perfection standard and the relative standard. In the perfection standard, the nation under inquiry is judged against standards of perfection. There is no nation, not even America that can reach these ideals. The other standard is the relative standard. In this case, a nation is judged on its ability to adhere to a set of given moral standards. It is compared to others in order to ascertain whether it is better or worse with respect to that set of moral standards.
The culticidal judge America by the perfection standard and all others by the relative standard. Alternatively, a relative standard is used in both cases, but America has a much higher hurdle to meet than the nation it’s being compared to. For example, I wish I had a nickel every time someone brought up Chile in the context of American foreign policy. Supposedly the events that transpired there disqualify the U.S. from ever becoming as moral player on the world stage. While the events in question were tragic, even the staunchest advocates only claim that 10,000 lives were lost. At the same time, millions were dying in the gulags, in re-education camps, and the torture chambers of the Soviet Union, Red China and their various subsidiaries. If you are a humanitarium and your concern is how many lives were lost, you should rightfully spend most of your time on the tragedies of socialism, assuming a real relative standard is used.
On the contrary, in these cases America is typically judged by a perfection standard -- her mistakes being immortal sins, while the slaughter of millions is explained away or rationalized. If the same perfection standard were to be consistently applied, then no nation in this world could pass muster. As Jesus said, “Let those of you without sin cast the first stone.”
The Test for Culticidal Behavior
We can say that someone is culticidal if he:
1. Advocates a strong domestic position critical of American society; and
2. Advocates an international position that is contrary to the domestic position held; and
3. The international position is to the detriment of America or anti-American.
The rationale for the test is as follows. Being opposed to any U.S. policy or being critical of the government do not prove culticidal tendencies. A person can have strong convictions and, as a nation, we should encourage that person to speak up. It is not okay, however, when those same convictions disappear in the international arena. Even worse, is when a person supports an international position that is contrary to the one advocated at home when that position is held by a person that is anti-American. When these three elements are present, we can only conclude that part one is not a true conviction, but merely a tool used to undermine American society. A person with strong convictions would apply them consistently anywhere in the world.
Here are some tests that determine whether the speaker is culticidal.
If you support democracy, why do you support the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, or, say, Yasser Arafat?
Do you think that the use of force by America is always illegitimate, but support the various anti-American “freedom fighters” whose violence is aimed only at civilians?
If you are a strong supporter of gay rights, do you support anti-American regimes where homosexuality is illegal or even punished by death?
If you are a strong supporter of minority rights, do you support anti-American regimes where minorities are regularly discriminated against or killed? Do you look favorable upon the French policy of de facto apartheid?
If you are a strong supporter of women’s rights, do you support anti-American regimes that treat women as second class citizens or even property?
If you support the freedom of religion, do you support regimes that forbid the practice of non-majority religions? Do you support Europeans states that persecute all religion like with the ferocity of the Inquisition?
If you decry the American use of the death penalty, do you support anti-American regimes that execute and torture thousands of their citizens?
If you are an environmentalist, why are you so concerned with Kyoto, but have no problems with the severe environmental impact of the release of weapons of mass destruction?
If you treat every pronouncement of the American government with cynicism, do you unquestionably believe the leaders of anti-American dictatorial or semi-dictatorial regimes? Do you nod with approval the statements of Jacques Chirac, someone who Christopher Hitches called “a man who would pay for the pleasure of selling himself?”
Finally, do you believe that the US is required by law to avoid any and all violence to the civilians, while other s have the right to target them at will?
This list can go on and on. The key elements are always the same – a domestic position critical of the US is quickly dropped on the international arena. It is not wrong to have a position critical of American society, but if you believe that something is wrong when done by Americans, it surely must also be wrong when done by others.
1. The holders of these positions will surely have lengthy rationalizations justifying these paradoxes. They will claim that another set over moral is more important in that
specific case. But if you explore the new more important moral position, the paradox will repeat itself. At the end of this line of rationalizations will be one last tat for some reason (too strong; too rich; too white; too religious; too male) America must be discriminated against. But it is irrelevant how this self-hatred is justified – this belief is culticidal on its face.
2. There is no litmus test. No one test is dispositive – we must consider the locus of answers to diagnose culticidal behavior.
3. "Support" is equivalent to "leave in place" for our purposes if, on the domestic front, the person advocates active change in American society.
4. This test puts the lie to the claims of anti-war protestors that they are patriots. Disagreement with US policy (part 1) does not make you unpatriotic so long as you apply the same standard of judgement to all other nations in the world. But if part 1 appears with 2 and 3 then the person cannot be patriot by definition of culticidal behavior.
5. Culticidal beliefs in the international arena cannot be unique only to international issues. Self-hatred is not selective – if you are seeking to weaken your country internationally, it is not likely that you are seeking to strengthen it domestically. People with culticidal tendencies should not be trusted to do what’s best for America on domestic issues as well.
September 11th was a key date in gauging culticidal attitudes. Prior to that date, I also believed that most “liberal” positions were meant to strengthen the country. The events of that day and the aftermath that followed showed me that I was wrong. I was shocked to see how many people quickly threw away the morality they purported to apply at home and used the opportunity to throw scorn at America. I quickly began to understand that “liberals” could not possibly strengthen the country because I no longer believed that they wanted what is best for the country.
UPDATE: I worded my conclusion poorly. I did not mean to imply that all people who call themselves liberal are culticidal. That is not the case. For example, I have been impressed with Christopher Hitchens.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
First shots in the Cultural War
Kudos to Michael Moynihan of the Politburo for this montage of photos. This is precisely what we need in the coming cultural battle. We need more of these, perhaps superimposed with quotes. If there are more of these montages, please pass them along to me. Thanks.
PS I'm off for the weekend and will try to fininsh the "Who is culticidal?" piece (finally!). Have a good weekend and God bless the USA and our armed services.
Friday, March 21, 2003
Since the war is going well, and "what will happen next in Iraq?" attacks against America are falling the short, the media has come up with a new line of assault. Starting with this Washington Post poll which showed that 70% of Americans backed the President. But for some reason the pollsters also asked:
6. Do you think (the United States has to kill or capture Saddam Hussein for the war in Iraq to be a success), or do you think (the war in Iraq can be a success if Saddam Hussein is removed from power, but not killed or captured)?
US must capture/ War can succeed No
kill Hussein without Hussein opinion
3/20/03 49 43 7
Make no mistake, this is the next line of ideological attack. I just heard several similar questions at the White House news conference. It's just another political hurdle for the opposition to be able to claim that despite any victory that we score on the ground. Ther will be no end to it -- if we get Saddam, they will soon demand universal health care and a 35-hour workweek.
The answer to this specific attack is history. As I've written before, with regard to Osama bin Laden, we never "got" Hitler either. He just disappeared. Nevertheless, we managed to get almost 60 years of peace out of the Germans (until recently).
Thursday, March 20, 2003
Was it really Saddam?
Maybe I'm being hopeful, but I don't think so. His moustache was off-color (light brown), his shoulders slumped and those glasses were very un-Saddam like.
UPDATE: Al Barger comments.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
And so it begins...
The war has begun.
God bless our brave fighting men and women.
Seem to be dissapearing. Have no idea what's going on....
More Double Standards
Yesterday, on NRO Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former General in Romanian Intelligence wrote about the origins of the peace movement.
Over the March 15-16 weekend there were simultaneous anti-American and pro-peace demonstrations around the world, with the largest in Athens and Moscow. It is significant that the headquarters of the Soviet-created World Peace Council (WPC) is now in Athens, and that its honorary chairman is still the same KGB asset, Romesh Chandra, who chaired this Cold War organization during the years when I was a Communist general. This current bashing of the U.S. makes me believe I am watching a revival of an old stage drama, the lines of which I know by heart. Back in the 1970Ss the drama featured that same Ramesh Chandra and consisted of the WPC's virulent offensive to counteract American efforts aimed at protecting the world against Communist expansion.
The WPC was created by Moscow in the 1950s and had only one task: to portray the United States as being run by a "war-mongering government." To make it look like a Western organization, Moscow headquartered it in Paris, but in 1954 the French government accused the WPC of being a Soviet puppet and kicked it out of France. Therefore, its headquarters were moved to Soviet-occupied Vienna, and then to Prague when Austria became neutral. It is remarkable that, after the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States remained the only superpower, Romesh Chandra moved his WPC to Athens and focused its operations toward "waging a struggle against the New World Order." According to its current charter, adopted during a 1996 Peace Congress in Mexico, the WPC has now "broadened into a worldwide mass movement" whose task is to support "those people and liberation movements" fighting "against [American] imperialism."
Last month, Amir Taheri
) wrote a similar piece about the Stalinist origins of the "peace" movement. Personally, it was always fascinating to me that the "peace" activists and the Left in the West used exactly the same words and images that I had seen in the Soviet Union as a child.
OK, what's my point? Does it matter what the origin of the peace movement was? Yes! Imagine if it was pointed out to an average American that his slogans were originally written by the Nazi regime or an organization that he was marching with was founded by the Klan? That person would rightfully question the sincerity or veracity of the position they were taking. Questioning the violent Right is acceptable. What about the violent Left? Why are we not more suspicious of the slogans and images first crafted by Stalin's murderous KGB? Why do they get a moral pass?
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
An editorial in the Times of London by Ann Clwyd, a Labour MP has a few choice descriptions of the Saddam regime.
“There was a machine designed for shredding plastic. Men were dropped into it and we were again made to watch. Sometimes they went in head first and died quickly. Sometimes they went in feet first and died screaming. It was horrible. I saw 30 people die like this. Their remains would be placed in plastic bags and we were told they would be used as fish food . . . on one occasion, I saw Qusay [President Saddam Hussein’s youngest son] personally supervise these murders.” [Emphasis in the original]
Another witness told us about practices of the security services towards women: “Women were suspended by their hair as their families watched; men were forced to watch as their wives were raped . . . women were suspended by their legs while they were menstruating until their periods were over, a procedure designed to cause humiliation.”
For more than 20 years, senior Iraqi officials have committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This list includes far more than the gassing of 5,000 in Halabja and other villages in 1988. It includes serial war crimes during the Iran-Iraq war; the genocidal Anfal campaign against the Iraqi Kurds in 1987-88; the invasion of Kuwait and the killing of more than 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians; the violent suppression, which I witnessed, of the 1991 Kurdish uprising that led to 30,000 or more civilian deaths; the draining of the Southern Marshes during the 1990s, which ethnically cleansed thousands of Shias; and the summary executions of thousands of political opponents.
I do not have a monopoly on wisdom or morality. But I know one thing. This evil, fascist regime must come to an end. With or without the help of the Security Council, and with or without the backing of the Labour Party in the House of Commons tonight.
Here is my point: how can anyone who is actively trying to stop the liberation of the Iraqi people have any shred of humanity left?
When these anti-war types speak about the morals of any other issue, how is it possible to take them seriously if they fail this basic test of humanity?
Monday, March 17, 2003
Too busy to blog (work, family, etc.). Half finished with the "Who is culticidal?" piece I promised.
Speach was great.
The thing that made me blog in the first place -- The stories about living in NYC and being pro-war (starting from the New York Magazine article, ranging to Jane Galt, Andrew Sullivan and Instapundit).
I say stand up for what you believe in! So, you lose a few friends -- it is better than losing your soul! If you can't stan up for issues of life and death in a free society, where you r life is not at stake, then what can you stand up for? I shoot my mouth off all the time. Read Cultural Counterattack again for strategy.
Go for the jugular:
Often, when I speak about Saddam's murders -- people respond with something like "it's an internal matter" or "he's not the only one" -- tell then how immoral and inhumane they are. Don't let them forget it -- once they show any lack of consideration for the people of Iraq don't let them make any humanitarian arguments. "How can I believe you care about the women and children after what you just said?"
Also, use an old Lefty trick. We all know that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Well using that logic, one man's anti-war protestor is another man's (mine) Saddam sympathizer.
Let them know how you feel. You can't have a debate if one side refuses to speak.
UPDATE: BTW, there is a reason to use these tactics -- its not just spite. A great majority of people, especially in a conformist city like NYC, don't really feel passionately about these issues. But they are very passionate about being on the Correct Side -- the side with the Correct Thoughts and Correct Actions. Being seen as a humanitarian is very important to them. If you challenge their self image, they will begin to question their stances.
Saturday, March 15, 2003
More Bit Wisdom
Why is Turkey being so uncooperative in dealing with Iraq?
The standard answer is that the ruling party is an Islamic one and is hesitant to attack a fellow Muslim country. The Kurdish situation is also sometimes cited. But there may be more to it. The ruling party is also a pro-European one.
One of the unstated reasons for Turkey's constant failure to gain entry to the EU is that it was too pro-American (the other unsaid reason was that it was Muslim). All the other EU nations have thriving socialist or nationalist movements who kept the fire of anti-Americanism, but Turkey did not. The EU, and especially France and Germany, are extremely concerned about cultural orthodoxy. The admission of such a pro-American member was unthinkable (remember that the UK had a very hard time entering the Union, for the same reasons).
Turkey's recent actions may be a sign that Turkey has worked out a deal with France and Germany -- rejection of America in return for admission to the EU. I would not be surprised if Turkish resistance persists that in the coming months the EU will finally announce an accelerated admission schedule for the Muslim nation.
Update: Kamil Zogby comments.
Thursday, March 13, 2003
Who is destroying the international system, the US or France?
The answer depends on what you believe the aims of the international system ought to be. If you believe that the international system exists to control the US hegemon, then the US is destroying the system by refusing to be controlled.
On the other hand, if you believe that the international system is designed to protect humanity from cruel dictators, then France is at fault for actively supporting the worst contemporary example of a tyrant.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Donald Rumsfeld announced that the United States will go it alone if political problems keep the UK out of the battle.
This is actually good -- it will put an end to the UN charade, since Blair is one of main reasons we are there. It means we can finally get the liberation of Iraq underway. It is unfortunate that we spent all these months for Tony's sake, so we shouldn't waste a day more.
In any case, thanks Tony for the support -- given the predicament that you are in. But now it's time to get to work....
PS in the comment below I promised a post, unfortunately it's not ready yet. It's getting larger and my work more hectic, so please wait a few more days. Many apologies.
Monday, March 10, 2003
Notes on the Coming Cultural War
There was more discussion of the coming cultural war over the weekend. Andrew Sullivan had a post on which the Instapundit commented. As far as I'm concerned the domestic cultural war is underway already, even if we refuse to acknowledge it. To me the stakes are clear: those who believe that America, while imperfect, is the best system in the world and those who wish to commit cultural suicide. The longer we keep pretending that nothing is going on, the more entrenched and powerful the culticiders will be.
Here's thought about the theme of the cultural war -- it is a war of style versus substance. That is, the thesis of the culticiders is that how people and institutions describe themselves is more important than how they have behaved. This notion must the fault line of the coming ideological battle.
As I described before, socialist appeals rest primarily on the notion that the socialists wish to do "good" deeds. Actual past (bloody) performance does not matter.
Journalists are "objective" because they claim to be objective and claims of bias are just the ranting of right-wing nuts who could never reach the Nirvana of "objectivity" like professional journalists can.
The UN is vital and good because it's founders had good intentions for it. The simple fact the institution has done little to minimize human misery, legitimized many a dictator and has, in general, been a hindrance to the cause of humanity are irrelevant. Only the image counts.
On the other hand, the US, which has done more than any other nation in the history of the world to free humanity, is derided as imperial and totalitarian.
Victory over the culticiders will come only if we demand that people, ideas and institutions are judged only on the basis of their deeds.
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
Today is the 50th anniversary fo Stalin's death. Sadly, as I stated in Cultural Counterattack, the West has made no progress in the moral judgement of Stalin and socialism in general. The Telegraph reports:
Posterity has been kind to Stalin. His crimes are already sinking into oblivion, whereas his great rival, Hitler, has rightly become uniquely synonymous with radical evil. We recall the Holocaust or Shoah in countless ways, and all the nations that fought or were occupied by the Nazis commemorate their dead. Where are the memorials to Stalin's nameless victims? Historians do not even agree about their numbers; more are constantly discovered as new evidence comes to light. At a conservative estimate, Stalin was directly responsible for the deaths of some 20 million. Indirectly, the totalitarian communism of which Stalin was the chief architect has so far killed up to 100 million around the world. By comparison, the Nazis' victims numbered about 25 million.
The most important reason for Stalin's relative impunity, however, is the intellectual double standard that was applied to Communism and Nazism throughout the 20th century, the influence of which has survived the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. Hitler's atrocities taught the Right a salutary lesson, but Stalin's crimes have not served the same purpose on the Left.
Robert Conquest, the man who exposed Stalin in the West writes in the Guardian
It is lucky for many - for the world - that Stalin did not live as long as Mao. His death in Moscow 50 years ago, in circumstances that are still dubious, proved a direct and immediate benefit to large numbers of people.
In the prisons, for example, the large group of physicians arrested in the "doctors' plot" and charged with conspiring to assassinate the Soviet leadership had confessed and faced execution. Their "trial" was due in a couple of weeks. The men were freed almost immediately after Stalin's death.
Jonathan Hari writes in the Independent
Still we do not take Stalin's crimes seriously in this country. While Le Monde publishes a pull-out supplement and the anniversary features on the front pages of most Eastern European papers, here there is a distracted silence save for a BBC documentary. Or, to give another, trivial but revealing example: Gordon Brown's former spin doctor, Charlie Whelan, used to keep the collected writings of Stalin prominently on his bookshelf, "for a laugh". Obviously Whelan is far from being a Stalinist; but can you imagine if, say, Amanda Platell, William Hague's spin-doctor, had kept Mein Kampf prominently on display in her office?
One anecdote will have to suffice to give some sense of Stalin's contempt for human life. His wife Nadezhda began in the early 1930s to teach courses in textile production in an attempt to escape the misery of life in the Kremlin. She and her students carried out assignments in the Russian countryside, where she witnessed the degeneration of the peasantry because of Stalin's policy of forced seizures. According to the historian Robert Conquest, 3.5 million people starved to death, and cannibalism became rife. Nadezhda's students were so shocked that they insisted on reporting back to the great leader Stalin. They did, and Stalin had them all arrested for "sedition". Nadezhda killed herself not long afterwards.
In the Washington Post, two articles, one by Anne Applebaum
and one by Masha Lipman:
It was the end of a reign under which every man and woman knew that he or she could at any time of the day or night be arrested, tortured and killed or sent to a concentration camp. Swept by deadly fear, Soviet people worshiped their ruler. They sacrificed neighbors, wives, husbands, mothers and fathers to Stalin. Denouncing your colleagues and relatives to the authorities in the hope of extending your own life a little longer became routine practice. "You die today, so I will live till tomorrow" was the motto of Stalin's subjects.
On the other hand, the newspaper that won a Pulizer Prize
for helping to hide Stalin's artificial famines
, is running a story which seems to be truly concerned that "Uncle Joe
" did not die of natural causes! Think of the tragedy of that!
MORE: On Stalin and Peace -- Amir Taheri
writes in the NY post:
The Soviet dictator was the father of the first "peace movement," which for years served as an instrument of the Kremlin's global policy.
Stalin's "peace movement" was launched in 1946 at a time when he had not yet developed a nuclear arsenal and was thus vulnerable to a U.S. nuclear attack. Stalin also needed time to consolidate his hold on his newly conquered empire in eastern and central Europe while snatching chunks of territory in Iran.
Pablo Picasso, a "fellow traveler" with the French Communist Party, designed the famous dove of peace as the emblem of the movement. French poet Paul Eluard, another fellow traveler, composed an ode inspired by Stalin. The "peaceniks" were told to wear white shirts, release white doves during their demonstrations and shake their clenched fists against "imperialists and revanchistes."
Soon it became clear that the "peace movement" was not opposed to all wars, but only to those that threatened the U.S.S.R., its allies and its satellites.
Stalin, Saddam -- hey, they even look alike...
Sunday, March 02, 2003
Recently Andrew Sullivan wrote about the burgeoning cultural war being fought in our country. I've also worried about this war for some time. While Iraq is the nominal reason for the internal conflict, the real ideological clash is over America. There are many people, internationally as well as domestically, who believe that America is the real threat to them. America in this confrontation represents the superiority of Western liberalism over the hate-sustained and tyrannical ideologies of socialism, fascism and Islamism. Unfortunately, the practical advantages that American liberalism holds over those systems has not translated into a similar ideological advantage. The reasons for this are numerous, but include the self-destructiveness of prosperous individuals and, as this essay will make clear, a poor strategy for debate.
Sitting back and waiting for people to see the light, as I believe Andrew suggests, will not yield the desired results. We face three obstacles: we keep fighting the wrong battles, we fight them on their terms and, most importantly, our methods are defensive not offensive. We must recognize that to win this cultural war, expending more effort or waiting for a miracle will not advance our cause. We must shift our tactics – take the offensive and fight the battle on our terms.
To understand the stakes and the tactics, we must first define the opposing sides of the cultural war. On the one hand, there are those who believe in freedom, the sanctity of the individual and democracy. On the other, are hordes of revolutionaries, mostly well-off Westerners who seek to smash the liberal society in which they live in the name of the latest “glorious” cause, like socialism, nationalism, anti-globalization or anti-Americanism. To understand the relationship between wealthy but static societies and the drive for violence please read here, here and here.
The first mistake that the defenders of liberty make is the belief that it is desirable to defend each issue that the opposition brings up. This is a noble sentiment and is particularly attractive because the arguments made by the opposition seem so easy to address. Their arguments are inconsistent, their values inconsistently applied and they ignore facts which do not fit their agenda (this, of course is a common debate tactic and not indigenous to the opposition). We keep the faith that answering each argument (and the next argument) will finally make the opposition see the light. This is never the case.
In the case of Iraq, the specific issues that we continue to debate are mere diversions for their current main thrust – America. That’s the reason for their apparent inconsistencies – they want to blame America, yet they must seem (even to themselves) to be making an argument on the basis of some set of moral values. Yet, this set of values is applied in only so much as required to attack America, and then discarded when its application becomes inconvenient. So, pinning down the opposition to a set of arguments is a fruitless task – while you debate one, numerous others will crop up. It is easy to find fault in others, especially if you don’t have to stand by an objective set of values and no one holds you to your past statements.
The conclusion we must come to is that this is a losing battle. It may feel good, but it takes time and effort, which detracts us from defending the country that embodies the values we hold dear. Even if they are easy to win, these diversionary debates must be ignored.
Fighting on Their Terms.
“Conservatives” deride the opposition as “fools”. For example in a recent editorial, George Will said, “In Europe, anti-Semitism has been called the socialism of fools, which is confusing, because socialism is the socialism of fools.” How many more millions must be killed to transform socialism from a philosophy of fools to a philosophy of murderers? Between the Soviet Union, China and many small socialist tyrannies (Cambodia comes to mind) tens of millions have died as a result of the ideology. Yet we continue to refer to socialists as “misguided” and fail to question their belief that all those slaughters were mistakes and “real” socialism has not been tried. Have we not reached the point when we can call all these deaths a function of socialism’s’ design and not a string of unrelated accidents.
This is a failure to challenge the opposition’s terms of debate. The main concession we make is that we allow a moral pass to those who claim that their cause is for good. So, socialists are thought of as fools, not as supporters of bloody tyrannies that they are, and “peace” marchers are thought of as supporting a worthy goal, even after the lessons of 1930s appeasement.
A very close friend of mine hypothetically stated that he would categorically never march with self-styled Hitlerites, but he would be open to marching with Stalinists, depending on the cause. This shows the belief that the former is, correctly, inherently evil while the latter, while evil, may have some redeeming features. In my eyes, both are evil and should be treated equivalently.
It is not surprising that conventional (even “conservative”) wisdom treats socialists and anti-Americans with a moral pass. After all, their fellow travelers have controlled the means of information distribution (media and entertainment) in the West for some time. Don’t get me wrong this is not some conscious, conspiratorial effort at mind control. But each individual brings their beliefs to their work and Hollywood and the press have unconsciously been softening the edges of socialism and anti-Americanism.
In 1984, George Orwell’s main character worked for the Ministry of Truth whose job was to alter the facts of the past: “'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'” It is important to understand that this process need not be conspiratorial, organized or forced. All you need is a group of people who think alike and who agree on the similar interpretation of past events. What cannot be achieved by tyranny, can just as easily be accomplished by simple repetition.
This lengthy aside leads to the conclusion that a winning strategy must not concede the basic tenents of the opponent’s ideology. The operative one being the inherent morality of its adherents. History has shown that tens of millions have died in the name of “peace” and socialism and we must stop conceding that this was OK simply because the proponents meant well. In terms of the cultural debate, we are conceding to the opposition our very strongest argument and their biggest weakness.
Taking the Offensive
The above two failures naturally fold into the final mistake. We are fighting diversionary battles on the terms of the opponents’ choosing. They pick the arguments and the time for debate. Every opportunity to take the offense, e.g. the end of the Cold War, has been squandered. Time has been spent debating issues brought up by the opposition and not initiating the debate ourselves. In short, we are fighting a defensive battle.
To win the cultural war – we must go on the offense. I believe that I have a plan for such an offensive. It involves targeting the opposition’s weakest point during a window of ideological opportunity.
The opposition’s entire house of ideological cards rests on one simple assumption that has been accepted by both the adherent and the disbeliever. Yet, it is flimsy and easily challenged by historical reference. It is their Achilles’ heel, but one that has not been subject to any serious challenge.
The assumption is this, if you claim that your cause is humane then all your arguments and subsequent actions are excusable. People are to be judged by their claims of humanity and not by their actions. This is how socialist tyrannies (whose aims were/are considered humane and progressive) escape moral judgement in the West. When Stalin uttered that it you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, he was admired, because the goal of the “omelet” was considered far more important than the unfortunate eggs that got broken (all 30 million of them). Castro is still fawned over by the Europeans and the Left in this country despite his bloody record. Instead we hear lectures about Castro’s hospitals (Hitler’s supporters used to like to say that he built the autobahn).
As a result, appeals for the restoration of Nazism, whose evil is correctly considered inseparable from its philosophy, are rare and come from the margin. But appeals for the return of socialism, whose massacres are wrongly thought to be unfortunate side effects of poor but noble efforts, are common and frequent.
The aim of our cultural counterattack must be to break this perverse asymmetry. We must insist that people and ideologies are judged by the results of their actions, not on the lofty ideals they claim to uphold. Without the reliance on the façade of humanity socialism, and it’s modern derivatives anti-Americanism and anti-globalism, are reduced to hate ideologies no different from fascism or Islamism. Fortunately, on our side of the Atlantic, these hate ideologies have never held mass appeal.
The Right Time
The strength of the assumption varies in proportion to the visible evidence of inhumanity. Thus when a tyrant hides his brutality in a closed society, it is easier for his supporters in the West to claim humanitarian goals. It is only after his cruelty is exposed when it becomes difficult for people to stomach the piety of those who once supported the tyrant.
Such piety can today be seen among the Western supporters of Iraq who claim that it would be best to keep the people of Iraq in lives of fear, torture and suffering. Their hate-filled speeches and appeals (made in the name of peace, of course) completely ignore the pleas and opinions of the Iraqis themselves (here and here). Their real motives are a cornucopia of pettiness and selfishness, such as jealousy of America or the frustration of an over-fed middle class. But instead, we are supposed to believe that it is more humanitarian to abandon the Iraqis to their lives of suffering.
The liberation of Iraq can provide a window of opportunity for cultural counterattack. The images of liberated Iraqis, of torture chambers, and stories of cruelty can be superimposed with the words of the “anti-war” activists. We will be able to show, again, that there is no relationship between those who claim to be humanitarian and the people and causes they support. We must not shrink form this confrontation and be lulled into a false sense of ideological victory. We must not stop until the opposition’s ideology is marginalized.
The ideological mistake we made at the end of the Cold War is identical to the military mistake we made at the end of the first Gulf War. In the latter altercation we failed to push to Baghdad because we felt certain that the weakened Saddam would fall on his own accord. We were wrong, instead he became stronger and threatens us today. Similarly, at the end of the Cold War we failed to push the ideological battle to show the true evil of socialism. The tired West decided that it was better to let bygones be bygones and that socialism would disappear because its biggest backer had imploded. In this we were also wrong – the middle class frustration that gave rise to socialist leaning has found expression in anti-Americanism.
We must use the occasion of Saddam’s ouster to press the ideological battle. We must marginalize the hate ideologies that wrap themselves in the cloak of humanity. My first step in questioning morality of the opposition came in the aftermath of September 11th. For many others in America, this was also the turning point. But we are still fighting a defensive battle on the opposition’s terms. Let’s use the occasion of the liberation of Iraq to press the ideological confrontation and to de-Marxify this nation once and for all.
The methods to be used in the cultural counterattack must be ideological, the only appropriate weapons are words. The freedom of speech that is guaranteed by this nation’s Constitution must remain unmolested. There is no room for organs of government in this struggle, no laws passed, or congressional inquiries. However, the First Amendment does not ensure that the speaker is beyond moral judgement. We have morally marginalized the hate speech of the Nazis and racists. We must do the same thing to the hate speech from the Left.