Saturday, April 08, 2006

The weird turn pro

A beautiful irony: Condi Rice, once hated for being black, more recently hated for being Republican, is now hated for being ... American!

"Condoleezza Rice should be sent to Iraq, tried as a war criminal and executed," an unidentified Muslim protester from Blackburn, England, said March 31 during a demonstration protesting the U.S. Secretary of State's visit to a local school.

This remark, reported on the news, prompted an American journalist living in England to observe:
Whatever liberals and Democrats may think of her, the angry protests and the surly children at the [Blackburn] school she visited simply left observers with an impression of a miserably rude and churlish British populace behaving like a medieval mob. One Muslim representative called for her execution. Small children shouting mean epithets and carrying confrontational placards, and youngsters inside the school hanging their heads and refusing to talk to Dr Rice were shameful moments in Anglo-American relations.
Let’s face it: as Dr Rice commented recently there are no Western governments who can boast of having had people of colour in their senior cabinet and Joint Chiefs for years, as has the United States. Find me a British woman who is an accomplished classical pianist, a linguist, a scholar and diplomat who also adores sport; instead of sending their little girls out to screech abuse at Condi Rice, the people of Blackburn might have considered exposing their children to this remarkable woman as a role model. ...
Exactly right. This comes from an article by Carol Gould, which was sent to me by Phyllis Chesler, a very remarkable New York feminist writer who in recent years has begun sounding the alarm about:
  • The ugly revival of anti-Semitism among the anti-war Left, in the Muslim world and, perhaps most shockingly, in certain quarters of academia. (The New Anti-Semitism)
  • The way in which political correctness has crippled the feminist movement; since 9/11, the leftist allegiance of academic feminists have put them in a de facto alliance with al-Qaeda sympathizers. (The Death of Feminism).
Dr. Chesler is one of several unlikely allies who've more or less flocked toward Republicans in recent years, especially since 9/11. Christopher Hitchens (whose brother Peter is an anti-war Tory whom I interviewed a few years ago) has increasingly turned his brilliant, boozy fury toward those who refuse to support the fight against Islamic terrorism. Tammy Bruce, the ex-NOW leader and unapologetic lesbian who nevertheless sides with Dr. Laura on social issues and with Condi Rice on foreign policy (and whom I also interviewed a few years ago).

Blair and Balint

Of course, the greatest example of this trend is Tony Blair, who came into office as a triangulating "New Labour" advocate, a trans-Atlantic carbon copy of Clinton. (Except that Blair seemed genuinely interested Mrs. Blair, in the most normal and admirable way.) Perhaps it was the influence of the historian Paul Johnson (whom I also interviewed a few years ago, but don't have that one online). But for whatever reason, after 9/11, Blair sprang to the colors manfully, and has since stood steadfast with America despite bitter criticism both from with his own party and the Tories.

This all puts me in mind of the late, great Balint Vazsonyi (yes, I interviewed him, too, though that's another one I haven't put online). On Oct. 22, 2002, at the Heritage Foundation, Vazsonyi -- a classical pianist turned pundit -- gave a remarkable lecture in which he accurately predicted that the Anglo-American alliance would hold firm. He traced this to the Magna Carta and the distinctly British idea of the rule of law, which is America's patrimony. There was, at that time, much talk of "the international community," which Balint wittily dismissed as a polite fiction:
The United Nations, as you know, has 191 members--unless you accept the other count, which is 192 members, because there is the Taiwan question. ...
What are these countries that make up the United Nations? ... Indeed, maps cannot be made quickly enough to accommodate all those countries that the
World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and Kofi Annan have declared a
country.
So my question is, when we worry about the opinion of the international community, which of these countries is going to decide for the President of the United States what he should do? I think we can start narrowing the field when we are looking for allies or expecting people to stand by us. We are not expecting Chad, I think, to stand by us, or Belize.
Balint then went on to explain one of his favorite ideas, namely that Western political thought can be bifurcated into roughly two schools, the Franco-German and the Anglo-American. A good point. Whether one is reading Rousseau or Marx or Nietzsche, one finds in most of the famous French and German intellectuals a deep passion for abstractions and ideals -- Rousseau's "social contract," Marx's dialectics, Nietzsche's "superman." Whereas British-influenced political theorists (Smith, Hume, Jefferson, Madison, Burke, Adams, etc.) are more practical and mundane, showing more concern for securing the safety, property and freedom of the ordinary citizen.

From there, Balint then narrowed the candidates for dependable U.S. allies in the world, until concluding:
That leaves us with the one ally that has been proved and tested for a long time, and that is, of course, Great Britain because the thinking not only is compatible, but it came from there. It functioned very well in World War II, and I think, whatever trials are ahead of us, it will continue to function even if England has its own problems and even if Tony Blair is not always what we imagine to be the leadership. But England is England, and England and America together represents perhaps more power than ever existed on the face of this Earth.
We should think about this for a moment. There has never been this much power concentrated, but never before was such immense power threatening to none--threatening to none but the rogue, the insidious, and indeed the truly evil.
Balint was a native of Hungary who lived through the conquest of his homeland by both the Nazis and Soviets. He was an admirer of the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek, and like Hayek was a great admirer of the English common law system of government, which of course is the basis of the American political and legal order. And Balint, like Hayek, saw clearly that this ancient Anglo-American system -- which has brought prosperity, security and freedom to millions not only at home, but abroad -- is incompatible with political ideologies whose raison d'etre is the pursuit of "social justice" or some other such lofty abstraction.

What, then, does any of this have to do with Condi Rice or Phyllis Chesler? It is this: Both understand that, whatever their own experiences as women or minorities in America, whatever their particular political beliefs, it is nonetheless inarguable that America has offered more opportunity and hope to more people of every race, creed and color than any other nation that ever existed since the dawn of time.

This same understanding is shared by Tony Blair who, like any truly patriotic Brit, takes a certain familial pride in what has been accomplished by England's American cousins in a little less than four centuries. Carol Gould beholds the amazing phenomenon of a black woman U.S. secretary of state -- and is aghast that some Brits don't seem to appreciate that her rise to international eminence is a triumph of what was established at Runnymede seven centuries ago. Instead, we are told, little children were shouting "mean epithets" at Miss Rice!

The going gets weird ...

We live in a weird age, when politics seems to be caught in a bizarre flux. Some of my paleoconservative and libertarian friends have adopted a Chomsky-like stance against the war; some of the neocons who were the Iraq war's strongest advocates are now sounding like croakers and defeatists; and a certain number of decidely unconservative people have rallied to the colors, insisting on complete victory over the despicable monsters who drive car-bombs into mosques.

And then there's me. Contrary to Monsieur Kerry, I was against the war before I was for it (just like in 1991). I can produce reliable witnesses to testify that in the weeks leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, I argued that the WMD rationale for the war was weak. Why, I repeatedly asked, were we preparing to invade Iraq, and not North Korea or Cuba?

Why not Cuba? I mean, if our policy is to topple evil dictators with weapons of mass destruction -- hey, are we sure Castro got rid of all those Soviet missiles? Let's send some U.N. inspectors to check, and if Castro refuses -- welcome to the Axis of Evil, Fidel! "You're with us, or you're with the terrorists," you see? It wouldn't be a quagmire, either. Three carrier groups and a Marine division or two -- it would be over in less than a week. Cuba's an island, and Castro could neither escape nor hide for long. Our occupation forces would be stationed in a tropical paradise, and they could take their R&R in Miami discos or at Disneyworld. (Can you imagine the fun a buff and tough 20-year-old Marine lance corporal would have on R&R in Ft. Lauderdale during Spring Break?)

Cursed with Cassandra's fate! Nobody ever listens to me, of course, so instead of Caribbean breezes, quality cigars, rum cocktails and smiling senoritas, our troops are in blistering, backward Mesopotamia. But we can't undo the war, and it is unthinkable for the U.S. military to cut and run because of a relative handful of so-called "insurgents" (who are actually in large part foreign terrorists sponsored by al-Qaeda, Syria and Iran). Therefore, the only way out is complete victory. If I might use a Civil War analogy -- and a Yankee analogy, at that -- it's time to stop fighting like Hallecks and McClellans, and start fighting like Grants and Shermans.

Welcome to Rev. 20:9

But where was I? Ah, yes, the weirdness. When Phyllis Chesler recently sent me her book, The Death of Feminism, I was shocked to see that she referred in a quite flattering way to Jean Raspail's The Camp of the Saints -- a prophetic 1973 book that no bien-pensant is supposed to admit having read. (I got my copy as a gift from novelist Tito Perdue, who's always getting me into trouble.)

Chesler got Raspail's ironic point: At some point liberal tolerance becomes its own worst enemy, without the means of self-preservation. As applied to Chesler's own perspective, Raspail's insight suggests that, if you are a Jewish feminist intellectual, radical Islam is your worst nightmare: anti-Semitic, anti-intellectual, and anti-feminist. But for too many leftists, their particular causes -- environmentalism, gay rights, etc. -- are really only a political excuse for hating America.

This, then, is the providential point of intersection between Chesler's thought and Patrick J. Buchanan's thought in The Death of the West (pp. 99-100). Both the Jewish feminist and the Irish Catholic paleocon see their own distinctly different American dreams under siege; both cite Raspail's notorious novel (the title is derived from Rev. 20:9). If such divergent thinkers can find common ground in such an unlikely place, does it not seem plain that we are at a uniquely weird place in history?

In his political classic, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, Hunter S. Thompson -- who in 1968 actually shared a car ride with Pat Buchanan, while talking football with Richard Nixon (p. 59) -- coined the famous phrase, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." And what a providential time to be turning pro.

-- McCAIN

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