Thursday, March 17, 2005

Same Tired Old Talking Points

If you've listened to a talk show of any kind today, you've heard the clips from the MoveOn Rally yesterday. Since I haven't found full transcripts yet, I'll just sum up the argument made:
Bush isn't satisfied with 95% of his nominees: he wants 100% and a rubber stamp Congress. He wants to turn the U.S. into a Banana Republic.
I think Bush would be satisfied with a vote on his nominees. What the Democrats are doing is preventing a vote on some of Bush's nominees. How stupid does Diane Feinstein think we are?
These judges are far right wing whacko Nazi KKK dictators and want to destroy the universe. We can't let that happen.
Leftists wouldn't admit it, but they do have a system of morality. It means literally everything to them. They are no different from the silly Christian Reconstructionists they love to hate.

Progressives' "enlightened" moral philosophy is supported by two pillars: (1) human progress is possible; and (2) human progress is only available by way of Leftist ideology. This requires a strong judicial system that can impose its will on legislative powers, executive powers, and the people. Without it, they are lost.

The safest thing we can do is preserve Constitutional government, even though it does not always stop Bad Things (TM) from happening in the short term. Bush's nominees want to preserve (and in many cases, restore) Constitutional government. This removes the Leftist's primary means of implementing his philosophy in society and is the real reason for stopping Bush nominees at all costs.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Freedom: From, Of, or To? (Part Two)

The second half of Martin Kramer's analysis focuses on what we mean when we say that all men desire freedom. He contrasts the modern Western view of "freedom of" with the Arab-Muslim desire for "freedom from." By "freedom of," Kramer refers to our individual freedoms: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and so on. By "freedom from," he refers to a desire for freedom from oppression for the tribal or religious sect.

He is correct but there are several more things to be said.

As Kramer readily admits, our "freedom of" developed initially from "freedom from." After all, the ideological forebears of our Constitutional authors were English Puritans fleeing the oppression they received as a group. Upon coming to this country, of course, they promptly turned around and starting pushing around those who didn't agree with them. This is not a new problem and it is not insurrmountable.

I think the dichotomy of "freedom of" and "freedom from" is incorrect. The more proper dichotomy would be "freedom to" versus "freedom from." Man has two chief desires: (1) to dominate others; and (2) not to be dominated by others. These are two sides of the same coin: man wants to be God. It is the chief lesson of the Garden of Eden. It is woven throughout the history of the world.

The great development of the West was the realization that these inseparable desires could not both be satisfied. Freedom from outside restraint is the freedom to bully others. Unbounded freedom to please yourself is freedom to be dominated sooner or later.

This realization is the natural result of being forced to participate in government. It doesn't come immediately. It has taken us 500 years to get to our current state. By carefully guiding the Middle East into popular government, we can begin to give the people experience with government. I believe they are intelligent and will come to these same realizations on their own, given the chance.

But here Kramer might object: they cannot learn these things because they are hedged in by Islam. This is true. But Europe was restricted by a very similar ideology in the form of a bastardized Christianity. The Emperor Constantine decided to use Christianity as a political tool and made it the official state religion. The Church was flooded with corruption from all sides. Ultimately, the "spiritual kingdom" of the New Testament morphed into the temporal kingdom of the Papacy. The Christian belief in a coming Judgement Day was replaced by the Papal dictate that every day was Judgement Day and that fallible men sat on the judgement seat instead of God. Europe was plunged into the Dark Ages and the Divine Right of Kings became the justification for everything.

It took time, but this view was eventually dismantled when the Reformation tipped the balance of power away from Rome. Men as diverse as Samuel Rutherford and John Locke sparred with the likes of Charles II over where the authority of God truly rested.

A strong United States can play the same role of an unbalancing wildcard that the Reformers played in the 16th and 17th centuries. Strategically placed projections of military power, the free flow of information, and close contact with the people of the Middle East can change the dynamic and offer the people of that region with the opportunity to begin working their way toward a better balance between "freedom from" and "freedom to."

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Freedom: From, Of, or To? (Part One)

I'm coming to this late--but it's been a while since I've posted and this is a good topic. Apparently, AllahPundit still posts occasionally; and his Feb. 25th post is a link to this article by Martin Kramer.

Kramer, through a series of questions, cautiously critiques Natan Sharansky's optimism for freedom in the Middle East. But Kramer is not a member of the Michael Moore contingent. He is a specialist in the history and culture of the region and his criticism is thoughtful and worth consideration.

Kramer's first question is whether the continual tyranny of the region originates in the West or in the people who inhabit the region itself. He soundly rejects the idea that the West is primarily responsible for the turmoil and oppression--an answer with which I agree. I also find his affirmative reasons for the situation reasonable: tribalism, obsession with authority, corruption of the oil industry, past failures, and fear of foreigners and chaos. And he is certainly correct that the people of these nations are in some sense responsible for their predicament, having failed to gather the critical mass necessary to overthrow their corrupt leaders.

But this does not mean that movement to more Western-style governments and societies are not possible. Europe languished long in a similar situation. Both the Germans and the Japanese at the end of WWII faced many of the same difficulties. The difference for some in the Middle East is that they still have not been totally disillusioned and disappointed by their own worldview.

The Japanese were dismayed to find that their Emperor-God was not powerful enough to save them. The Germans were likewise devastated by the collapse of their 1900 year old mythology of the all-conquering Teutonic warriors who embarrassed the Roman Empire. Their fantastic hopes were permanently wiped away by Berlin, Remagen, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. They were not the Gods of Olympus and Americans were not stupid losers.

But Arabs are also beginning to realize the truth: they have been building their hopes on centuries-old puffery. When it was finally revealed that Americans had little trouble blowing through Iraq, Arabs in neighboring states were shocked to find that al Jazeera had deceived them. They had been assured that the Americans were helpless and hopeless.

The Iraqis were reportedly surprised that our military forces included many black men and women. They had been told over and over of our hatred for and oppression of blacks. We were supposed to be the backward and inferior fools who would not accept the superior way of Islam. Things were not as they appeared.

Like the pathological fear of Jews, the assurance that the West is weaker than the house of Islam (whether militarily, ideologically, morally, or socially) can only be shed with forced familiarity and close contact. The truth about the West is the best weapon in changing the East.

Tomorrow, I’ll investigate the rest of Kramer’s argument. Stay tuned!