Thursday, November 16, 2006

America Alone: Within and Without

In his recent book, America Alone: the end of the world as we know it, Steyn argues that "Europe is almost certainly a goner. The future, if the West has one, belongs to America Alone."

Unfortunately, America is also alone, einsam or lonely within. This loneliness is a product of its abandonment of God and his Moral Law. America was nurtured in this Moral Law. This was its anchor during its spectacular rise into an unrivaled - now and in antiquity - superpower. It has abandoned It. It has abandoned America.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn prophesied this in a lecture at Harvard in the late 1970s:

This debilitating dream [of the West] of a status quo is the symptom of a society which has come to the end of its development. But one must be blind in order not to see that oceans no longer belong to the West, while land under its domination keeps shrinking. The two so-called world wars (they were by far not on a world scale, not yet) have meant internal self-destruction of the small, progressive West which has thus prepared its own end. The next war (which does not have to be an atomic one and I do not believe it will) may well bury Western civilization forever.

Facing such a danger, with such historical values in your past, at such a high level of realization of freedom and apparently of devotion to freedom, how is it possible to lose to such an extent the will to defend oneself?

How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about? How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present sickness? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing socially in accordance with its proclaimed intentions, with the help of brilliant technological progress. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.

This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.

Just over a year later, the US was attacked, it appeased, and its lack of moral fortitude revealed, its hollow anthropologic centre bared for all to see.

Skipping forward to the present....

In an article discussing reasons for the GOP's shock defeat in Election 06, John McIntyre points to an precipitous decline in the belief of Americans that they are in a War with a stubborn and crafty enemy:

A final, underappreciated dynamic of this year's midterms is what I have called "the fading 9/11 effect." The country's focus and concern over terrorism was a crucial factor that powered Republican gains in '02 and '04 as well as President Bush's own reelection. But five years of success in preventing terrorist attacks have bred complacency among the American public. The country simply doesn't take the threat as seriously when Bush pounds the table and insists we are at war with an enemy that is coming after us relentlessly. That is why the carefully orchestrated votes on detainee rights and NSA wire-tapping did not have the same electoral success they would have had 2-4 years ago.

In a similar vein and context, Thomas Sowell laments the passing of American will:

No amount of security precautions can protect us from all the thousands of ways in which terrorists can strike at times and places of their own choosing -- and eventually strike with nuclear weapons. Our only hope is to get advance information from those we capture as to where other terrorists are and how they operate.

Squeamishness about how this is done is not a sign of higher morality but of irresponsibility in the face of mortal dangers.

Mark Steyn quotes Niall Ferguson as saying that America is "...the world's first superpower with ADHD.

He is of course referring to the tendency of the United States short attention spans and snappish impatience for results:

...America can't muster the will to take on pipsqueak enemies. We think we can just call off the game early, and go back home and watch TV. It doesn't work like that. Whatever it started out as, Iraq is a test of American seriousness. And, if the Great Satan can't win in Vietnam or Iraq, where can it win? That's how China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Venezuela and a whole lot of others look at it. "These Colors Don't Run" is a fine T-shirt slogan, but in reality these colors have spent 40 years running from the jungles of Southeast Asia, the helicopters in the Persian desert, the streets of Mogadishu. ... To add the sands of Mesopotamia to the list will be an act of weakness from which America will never recover.

He reinforces this idea in America Alone in a section called "Fighting Vainly the Old Ennui" by quoting Niall Ferguson as saying that the US is the "...clay feet of the colossus..." . Steyn continues with the following worrying sequence of thoughts:

In Vietnam, it took 50,000 deaths to drive the giant away; maybe in the Middle East, it will only take 5,000. And maybe in the next war the giant will give up after 500, or 50, or not bother at all. Our enemies have made a bet - that the West in general and the United States in particular are soft and decadent and have no attention span.

War historian and scholar, Victor Davis Hanson, in only September 2006, posited that the leadership of the USA is in the capable hands of the President and that he would not succumb to a bout of majority sympathy:

The truth is that war is a constant ying and yang, of challenge and response, the side winning that reacts the more quickly to change and commits the fewer mistakes—and keeps its head. So far, by any historical standard of casualties lost, the ambition of the mission (Iraq is 7,000 miles and the home of the ancient caliphate), and success gained, this war is hardly a debacle and surely can be won. But it would have been lost years ago, had George Bush once, just once, listened to his litany of critics (pull out, postpone the elections, post a timetable, go to the UN, more troops still, invade Iran or Syria, trisect the country) watched the polls, or in depression at the venom, given in. We need to take a breath and remember that.

However, this certainty has recently waned with his consideration of Bush's constitution of the "Baker Commission":

For all the present gloom, if Bush hangs tough and gets Iraq stabilized, does not appease North Korea and Iran, and sees movement in the Middle East toward more reform, then in 10 years he will be seen as a rarely successful American President.

Fortunately, President Bush is looking elsewhere for strategic advice:

The Bush administration is conducting its own review of strategy and tactics in Iraq in parallel with an examination of U.S. policy by an independent panel, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said.

The work, involving the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department and the White House National Security Council, has been going on ``fairly discretely'' for weeks, Hadley said aboard Air Force One as President George W. Bush traveled to an economic conference in Asia.

The Brontosaurus is being kept on life support by a President who is himself ill.

Update: The WaPo has reliably published a leak of the results of the President's alternate advice mechanism:

The Pentagon's closely guarded review of how to improve the situation in Iraq has outlined three basic options: Send in more troops, shrink the force but stay longer, or pull out, according to senior defense officials.

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Manny Is Here: America Alone: Within and Without

Thursday, November 16, 2006

America Alone: Within and Without

In his recent book, America Alone: the end of the world as we know it, Steyn argues that "Europe is almost certainly a goner. The future, if the West has one, belongs to America Alone."

Unfortunately, America is also alone, einsam or lonely within. This loneliness is a product of its abandonment of God and his Moral Law. America was nurtured in this Moral Law. This was its anchor during its spectacular rise into an unrivaled - now and in antiquity - superpower. It has abandoned It. It has abandoned America.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn prophesied this in a lecture at Harvard in the late 1970s:

This debilitating dream [of the West] of a status quo is the symptom of a society which has come to the end of its development. But one must be blind in order not to see that oceans no longer belong to the West, while land under its domination keeps shrinking. The two so-called world wars (they were by far not on a world scale, not yet) have meant internal self-destruction of the small, progressive West which has thus prepared its own end. The next war (which does not have to be an atomic one and I do not believe it will) may well bury Western civilization forever.

Facing such a danger, with such historical values in your past, at such a high level of realization of freedom and apparently of devotion to freedom, how is it possible to lose to such an extent the will to defend oneself?

How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about? How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present sickness? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing socially in accordance with its proclaimed intentions, with the help of brilliant technological progress. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.

This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.

Just over a year later, the US was attacked, it appeased, and its lack of moral fortitude revealed, its hollow anthropologic centre bared for all to see.

Skipping forward to the present....

In an article discussing reasons for the GOP's shock defeat in Election 06, John McIntyre points to an precipitous decline in the belief of Americans that they are in a War with a stubborn and crafty enemy:

A final, underappreciated dynamic of this year's midterms is what I have called "the fading 9/11 effect." The country's focus and concern over terrorism was a crucial factor that powered Republican gains in '02 and '04 as well as President Bush's own reelection. But five years of success in preventing terrorist attacks have bred complacency among the American public. The country simply doesn't take the threat as seriously when Bush pounds the table and insists we are at war with an enemy that is coming after us relentlessly. That is why the carefully orchestrated votes on detainee rights and NSA wire-tapping did not have the same electoral success they would have had 2-4 years ago.

In a similar vein and context, Thomas Sowell laments the passing of American will:

No amount of security precautions can protect us from all the thousands of ways in which terrorists can strike at times and places of their own choosing -- and eventually strike with nuclear weapons. Our only hope is to get advance information from those we capture as to where other terrorists are and how they operate.

Squeamishness about how this is done is not a sign of higher morality but of irresponsibility in the face of mortal dangers.

Mark Steyn quotes Niall Ferguson as saying that America is "...the world's first superpower with ADHD.

He is of course referring to the tendency of the United States short attention spans and snappish impatience for results:

...America can't muster the will to take on pipsqueak enemies. We think we can just call off the game early, and go back home and watch TV. It doesn't work like that. Whatever it started out as, Iraq is a test of American seriousness. And, if the Great Satan can't win in Vietnam or Iraq, where can it win? That's how China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Venezuela and a whole lot of others look at it. "These Colors Don't Run" is a fine T-shirt slogan, but in reality these colors have spent 40 years running from the jungles of Southeast Asia, the helicopters in the Persian desert, the streets of Mogadishu. ... To add the sands of Mesopotamia to the list will be an act of weakness from which America will never recover.

He reinforces this idea in America Alone in a section called "Fighting Vainly the Old Ennui" by quoting Niall Ferguson as saying that the US is the "...clay feet of the colossus..." . Steyn continues with the following worrying sequence of thoughts:

In Vietnam, it took 50,000 deaths to drive the giant away; maybe in the Middle East, it will only take 5,000. And maybe in the next war the giant will give up after 500, or 50, or not bother at all. Our enemies have made a bet - that the West in general and the United States in particular are soft and decadent and have no attention span.

War historian and scholar, Victor Davis Hanson, in only September 2006, posited that the leadership of the USA is in the capable hands of the President and that he would not succumb to a bout of majority sympathy:

The truth is that war is a constant ying and yang, of challenge and response, the side winning that reacts the more quickly to change and commits the fewer mistakes—and keeps its head. So far, by any historical standard of casualties lost, the ambition of the mission (Iraq is 7,000 miles and the home of the ancient caliphate), and success gained, this war is hardly a debacle and surely can be won. But it would have been lost years ago, had George Bush once, just once, listened to his litany of critics (pull out, postpone the elections, post a timetable, go to the UN, more troops still, invade Iran or Syria, trisect the country) watched the polls, or in depression at the venom, given in. We need to take a breath and remember that.

However, this certainty has recently waned with his consideration of Bush's constitution of the "Baker Commission":

For all the present gloom, if Bush hangs tough and gets Iraq stabilized, does not appease North Korea and Iran, and sees movement in the Middle East toward more reform, then in 10 years he will be seen as a rarely successful American President.

Fortunately, President Bush is looking elsewhere for strategic advice:

The Bush administration is conducting its own review of strategy and tactics in Iraq in parallel with an examination of U.S. policy by an independent panel, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said.

The work, involving the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department and the White House National Security Council, has been going on ``fairly discretely'' for weeks, Hadley said aboard Air Force One as President George W. Bush traveled to an economic conference in Asia.

The Brontosaurus is being kept on life support by a President who is himself ill.

Update: The WaPo has reliably published a leak of the results of the President's alternate advice mechanism:

The Pentagon's closely guarded review of how to improve the situation in Iraq has outlined three basic options: Send in more troops, shrink the force but stay longer, or pull out, according to senior defense officials.

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