Daniel Larison

Making Soldiers’ Deaths Meaningless

Bush said that Presidents Roosevelt and Truman “understood that the sacrifices of Allied forces would mean nothing unless we used our victory to help the Japanese people transform their nation from tyranny to freedom.”

“There were many doubters,” Bush said. “American and Japanese experts claimed that the Japanese weren’t ready for democracy.” ~The Los Angeles Times

There may very well have been those who doubted that the Japanese were “ready for democracy,” but these were probably the poorly educated ancestors of the same ignoramuses who now believe that Iraq is Japan redux. Anyone familiar with pre-war Japanese politics in the 1940s and anyone today familiar with Japanese history would know that the Japanese had a moderately successful experience with constitutional monarchy combined with significant representative government starting from the adoption of the Meiji Constitution in 1890 until at least the mid 1920s when the army effectively took much of the real power in the early Showa period (the Diet remained in existence, however, even if its influence was much reduced). That is over thirty years more of experience than any Iraqi has ever had.

Those only familiar with History Channel replays of the same ten film reels of Hirohito in uniform riding on his horse might make the mistake of thinking that there was only authoritarianism in Japanese political history. This is not to pretend that the Japanese experience with representative government was ideal or necessarily even very well adapted to Japanese society, but the Japanese did have ongoing practical experience with it for over a generation (much as the Germans had enjoyed for even longer) before wartime measures reduced the Diet to a rubber-stamp assembly. When the war ended and the Japanese (probably one of the most ethnically and culturally homogenous nations in the history of the world) were keen to rebuild their country and did not have some deep abiding cultural resistance to the forms of government we were demanding of them–they had seen them all before and had used them in some form.

Obviously, nothing remotely comparable happened in Iraq’s eighty years as a highly artificial, heterogenous, fractured state. Everything that made the Japanese post-war government a success (though one might ask whether there has been anything like real representative democracy in a country where the same party has ruled almost uninterruptedly for 60 years) is lacking in Iraq. All signs point to failure. When will Bush get it?

By implication, if Bush believes that our soldiers’ deaths in WWII would have been “meaningless” had democracy not taken root in Japan he also believes that our soldiers’ deaths in Iraq are meaningless if the political system does not succeed there. If we can be reasonably sure of the failure of the political project, as I believe we can, can we then admit that it has all been a colossal, horrific waste of life and bring our soldiers home?

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Blood for Oil? Well, Now That You Mention It…

President Bush answered growing antiwar protests yesterday with a fresh reason for US troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country’s vast oil fields, which he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists.

The president, standing against a backdrop of the USS Ronald Reagan, the newest aircraft carrier in the Navy’s fleet, said terrorists would be denied their goal of making Iraq a base from which to recruit followers, train them, and finance attacks. ~The Boston Globe

This has to take first prize for the most pathetic excuse-making Mr. Bush has thrown at us yet. Let us suppose that we were out of Iraq tomorrow–what then? Does any serious person believe that the oil fields, deep in secular Kurdish and Shi’ite-controlled territories, will fall into the hands of fanatical Sunnis? Is Zarqawi likely to get into the oil business when Sunni insurgents are more concerned to blow up pipelines, as the oil fields are firmly in the hands of non-Sunnis? Will Bin Laden somehow magically receive revenues from Iraqi oil when Sunni politicians in Iraq today are unable to gain sufficient control over the proceeds from the oil fields, because the other communities control them, such that they are hostile to the new constitutional settlement? Will Sistani start funneling cash to al-Qaeda? Does Bush take the public for complete fools?

None of these things listed above will substantially change if we leave. The bogey of al-Qaeda controlling Iraqi oil is as bogus and absurd as the earlier bogey of Hussein aiding al-Qaeda–Bush has no trouble spinning whatever yarn will suit the moment! The exclusion of the Sunnis from control of the oil will likely be exacerbated once we leave, as the people in control of the oil fields will feel little pressure and have no incentive to share those revenues. In fact, ironically, our continued presence affords the best chance the Sunnis have to gain any concessions, as the Sunnis have no leverage with the Kurdish-Shi’ite coalition arrayed against them. Mr. Bush’s latest excuse is beyond pathetic, in fact, and reveals a new level of desperation in the administration that only confirms that we should stop wasting our soldiers in this fruitless war and bring them home.

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Disaster for New Orleans

Ray Nagin, the mayor of devastated New Orleans, said Wednesday he fears thousands of residents may have been killed by Hurricane Katrina. ~USA Today

Kathleen Blanco, governor of Louisianna, called on the city of New Orleans to evacuate as waters continued to rise. “We absolutely must evacuate the people in the dome and other shelters in the city,” said on CNN. “It’s a logistical nightmare.”

The US military on Wednesday added Navy ships, including two helicopter assault vessels and the hospital ship Comfort, and search troops to a relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. ~MSN Money

What can one say when such natural devastation so utterly wrecks a region? James Kushner on the Touchstone Mere Comments site has a very thoughtful response to the disaster, recalling those most needful things for all of us: prayer and repentance. We may recall the words of St. Isaac: “This life is given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits.” May the Lord deliver His servants from all wrath, tribulation, danger and necessity. May He grant rest to the souls of His servants who have fallen asleep.

Though I imagine this appeal will be redundant, I would strongly encourage everyone to lend support to the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in whatever way possible. Beyond the appeal of basic charity, and even if it is not your region or locale, it is still our country and those are our people suffering from these floods and the hurricane damage. We cannot pretend to share in the suffering of people thousands of miles away, and we should not really try, but we can lend some practical and much-needed aid. For finanical donations, I can recommend Mercy Corps as a reputable and reputedly very efficient charitable organisation.

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Getting Weary…of the Pompous Warmongers

In further comparison to the wars of the past, our casualties in the Iraq war seem even smaller still. In a single day during a single batter (the battle of the Bulge) in World War II, it is estimated that over 5,000 U. S. soldiers died. Throughout the course of World War II, the greatest generation watched as hundreds of thousands of the best and brightest were forcibly drafted into a war to stop a madman who was terrorizing a far away continent, and further as over a hundred thousand of them died over a four year period. Even the widely disparaged Vietnam generation tolerated several years of forced enlistment, and much higher casualty rates without the benefit of an alternative media before becoming utterly war weary.

Our generation, on the other hand, in becoming weary of a war not yet three years old, fought by an army composed entirely of volunteers, in which we are suffering an average of two deaths per day, has demonstrated itself to be the most spineless and weak-kneed generation in recent American history. It is expected, given the way that post-invasion events have unfolded, to find a number of Americans disagreeing with our entrance in the war in the first place. It is unexcusable, on the other hand, to find the growing number of Americans who are now advocating immediate withdrawal, regardless of the future consequences upon the strength of our bargaining posture. This is nothing more than war weariness, and we have not yet earned the right as a generation to be weary of this war.

Part of the issue here, regrettably comes down to our President. It is true we should not have to be handheld through this conflict. However, it is equally true that we have demonstrated that we must have our hands held, if we are willing to stay the course. I have a sense that our generation is ready for more greatness and resolve that it has currently shown. However, we must be dragged, kicking and screaming, if we are to achieve it. The President should realize this. It is not difficult to perceive how many have forgotten the importance of this war, the other reasons besides WMDs that we fought it, and the disastrous consequences of demonstrating to your enemy that you can be defeated by constant irritation. These fears can be allayed by a constant and determined communicator. It is not that this President cannot be that communicator. It is rather that he will not. ~Macho Nachos (no, really, that is the name)

Hat tip to Michael Dougherty.

War supporters have an impressive knack for whining about what they regard as other people’s whining. Chief among the favourite things to whine about is the “lack of resolve” motif: why are Americans getting so pitifully spineless and weak over Iraq? After all, most of the completely unnecessary and unjustifiable violent deaths have been non-American, and there have been relatively few American deaths in a completely futile war! So lighten up, America. Many of your sons have died for nothing, but not all that many.

War supporters should feel very lucky that their boondoggle has not seen many more Americans get killed, or they might find themselves being chased through the streets by enraged mobs. But, happily, I doubt Americans would respond in that way, because unlike M. Nachos I don’t have contempt for the character of the people the moment they begin to disagree with me. I have little or no confidence in the competence of “the people” to govern themselves now, or probably at any other time, but this has been and will be true regardless of their judgements about particular issues. I do question the ability of most of “the people” to make informed, rational decisions with concern for consequences beyond next week, but I do not believe that Americans, even of this exceedingly spoiled, self-involved and fatuous generation, are the sort to fall apart only because a couple thousand soldiers are killed in a war overseas to which they have to contribute nothing.

Americans became disillusioned with our other recent deceitful war of aggression, namely Kosovo, even faster, and no Americans died in combat there. They were disillusioned with it because it seemed, even to the official purveyors of the pro-KLA propaganda in the news media, that intervention had made things worse and had wasted military resources for no good reason. (The public might have been more disgusted had it understood the depth of the deceit, double-dealing and enabling of Islamists involved in that particular intervention.) Many Americans rapidly became disgusted with the fruits of the Spanish War, especially the particularly dirty counterinsurgency in the Philippines, to which our present war in Iraq has some clear resemblance.

The counterinsurgency in the Philippines took many more American and Filipino lives all together than have been lost between March 2003 and now in Iraq, but by comparison with the recent American experience in the War of Secession these losses were miniscule. It was not the casualties that drove people to become Anti-Imperialists and war critics, just as it is not casualties as such that are driving down Bush’s poll numbers and the support for the war. It is the growing awareness that Bush has no clue what he is doing and that our soldiers are dying for nothing. For most normal Americans, that realisation will ruin all enthusiasm for any war. Disgust with crushing the Filipinos was a product of Americans rejecting the transformation of what had been a war of retaliation for the supposed Spanish destruction of the Maine into first a war of liberation and then a war of annexation and colonialism. Today Americans probably feel that our “liberation” work is done, and we couldn’t leave soon enough. That is not the weakness of this generation, corrupt as our generation may be in many other ways, but a common sense recognition that, whatever the merits or flaws of the war in the first place, there is no point to it any longer.
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Illiteracy, Historical and Otherwise

A fastidious editor of other people’s copy as well as his own, Roberts began with the words “Until about the time of the Civil War.” Then, the Indiana native scratched out the words “Civil War” and replaced them with “War Between the States.”

The handwritten document is one of tens of thousands of pages of Roberts files released over the past several weeks from his 1982-1986 tenure as an associate counsel to the president.

While it is true that the Civil War is also known as the War Between the States, the Encyclopedia Americana notes that the term is used mainly by southerners. Sam McSeveney, a history professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University who specialized in the Civil War, said that Roberts’s choice of words was significant.

“Many people who are sympathetic to the Confederate position are more comfortable with the idea of a ‘War Between the States,’ ” McSeveney explained. “People opposed to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s would undoubtedly be more comfortable with the words he chose.” ~The Washington Post

If this truly lame eleventh-hour attack is any indication of the how little the leftists have to use against him, John Roberts can rest assured that his confirmation will go very smoothly. Two things to take away from this non-controversy: Roberts is at least remotely historically literate and the editors and reporters at the Post are not (no surprise about the latter). Those who “prefer” to call the war of 1861-65 the War Between the States are at least a bit closer to the truth of the matter than those who call it the Civil War, but even the former phrase is something of a fudge of the historical issue. But it need not say anything about one’s political alignment or views of historical events–the usage of one name or another is simply a measure of minimal literacy or the lack thereof. Those who refer it to it as the War Between the States grasp, however vaguely, the federal nature of the original Union and the meaning of words, while those who insist on Civil War are either politically motivated or illiterate and ignorant or all of the above.

As many of us already know and have heard repeated ad nauseam, a civil war is, properly speaking, a war for control of a state or government: the wars between Marius and Sulla or among the triumvirs that ultimately ended the Republic were civil wars. The stasis in the Greek polis was a civil war. Wars of secession (which the American wars of 1861-65 and 1775-83 were) are wars with the objective of separating one or more polities from an existing polity. It is as close to being the opposite of a civil war as a war can be. The Dutch wars with the Spanish would fall into this category. The French, God bless them, are more accurate in their description of our own War of Secession, which they call precisely that. Perhaps they are still somewhat concerned to use language accurately.

“The Civil War” as a phrase describing our Iliad, as it is sometimes melodramatically called, makes an implicitly Unionist (and historically false) claim about the nature of the Republic and the war, as if “the Union” was really imperiled by the free exercise of state sovereignty, when, of course, a Union of that sort only existed because of the free alliance of several states in common cause. As someone very wise once noted (I believe it was probably Thomas DiLorenzo), the incorrectly-named Unionists did not save the Union, but ensured that the political arrangement of a union of states was no longer possible, North or South.

Calling the war a War Between the States rather muddles the issue, since neither Northern nor Southern states as such initially started the war (Northern politicians and Northern interests, yes, but we can hardly pin it on, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania), and “the states” were organised into two very clear and coherent sides representing dueling visions of American politics. War Between the States is a diplomatic way that Southerners could continue to express a basic truth about the war (the central, overriding and essential part played by states’ rights and self-determination in the Confederate cause) without having to utter the false name Civil War. In truth, the only resemblance between our experience and that of Rome after her civil wars was the onset of autocracy and the death of the Republic, so there is little reason why any literate person with a minimal knowledge of American history should refer to the war in this way, except perhaps as conventional shorthand for uninformed audiences whom the speaker is seeking to educate in the erroneous nature of that label. If we should not more properly call it the War of Secession or the War of Southern Independence (or, as real old Southerners used to call it rather appropriately, the War of Northern Aggression), we might call it the War of Consolidation or, as Dr. Wilson recently put it in the September issue of Chronicles, the War Against Southern Independence.

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Unintelligent Intelligent Design

President Bush’s remark the other day that the theory of ‘intelligent design’ should be taught alongside the theory of evolution brought howls of derision from his detractors in Europe and the United States. It was, they said, one more piece of evidence that America is populated by fundamentalist zombies who are potentially as dangerous as bin Laden’s boys. Intelligent design, it goes without saying, is a boneheaded piece of pseudo-science, almost as simplistic as the naive materialism that Darwinists teach. But neither side of the argument cares about logic, much less truth. The important thing is to declare which side you are on: religious fanaticism or cosmopolitan anti-religious fanaticism. ~Thomas Fleming, The Spectator (registration required)

As near as I have been able to discern, the idea of intelligent design is a half-hearted attempt to oppose materialist evolutionists’ claim that life develops randomly. The notion, which I imagine is less scientific and more popular, that life evolves by a sort of ‘trial and error’ also offends ID folks, as this does not seem to account for the complexity of biological structures. The eye is a favourite example of a structure too complex to have developed by random mutation. It is this randomness, and the lack of purpose implied in that, that seems to motivate people to espouse ID and claim that it is science. I can understand the impatience biologists might be having with this claim, which does not purport to say anything new about evolution except that it is not random (ultimately as speculative as saying that it is random until demonstrated) and must be able to take account of the complex structures in nature. ID does not help the theory of evolution take account of this complexity–it just says that there is complexity and biologists ought to acknowledge that (incidentally, I think they already have). What ID will never be, in spite of what I imagine some religious people hope that it will be, is some way to discredit biological evolution as a concept, since ID is little else than the acceptance of the theory of evolution with some philosophical icing on top.

These debates are not fundamentally about biological or physical theories, which is what they would have to be for them to be scientific debates–they are about the philosophical significance materialists and anti-materialists attach to empirical observations. Many people are offended by evolutionists because they insist that the theory of evolution somehow demonstrates that man is simply material, mutable and therefore possesses both no inherent nature and no particular purpose; some other evolutionists would tell us that it shows we are not created beings. But the theory does not even purport to claim this, because these are claims that are no more scientifically verifiable than ID claims about the Designer; obviously, natural sciences cannot answer metaphysical questions. Theories of evolution need not trump any claims about human dignity or the createdness of man and the universe, because they can no more demonstrate for or against these things than ID supporters can actually ‘prove’ God’s existence (scientific proof of such a thing not necessarily being desirable in the first place), unless we make the mistake of allowing philosophical materialist claims about biological development to define our understanding of evolution. Were we all better educated, we would see the problem with calling this science immediately and ID would cease to exist as a “movement” and return to what it is: a commonplace in patristic thought that is fundamentally a philosophical claim that the universe is well-ordered (an idea reflected in our word cosmos).

The Fathers’ writings are littered with arguments about the order and unity of the natural world as a mark of its creation by the One God and, thus, a sort of ‘proof’ that God exists and is one (some later theologians attempted to likewise perceive Trinitarian ‘traces’ in the natural and human worlds, which was perhaps a bit too ingenious by half), and it is obvious that they believe that the world has been crafted by a Mind with a specific purpose (i.e., to bring all things into communion with God). But there is a difference between endorsing what the Fathers wrote when they were making observations about human physiology and relating them to the doctrine of the soul and saying that what the Fathers wrote is an example of hard science. We would not soon expect to see anyone insisting that biology classes teach St. Gregory of Nyssa’s ideas on the relationship between the body’s organs and the soul, because the appropriate place for that would be in a theology class (perhaps what ID activists might do is seek to have schools provide some proper education in theology and philosophy, which is what they are really arguing about, rather than insist on pushing this idea on science classes).

Another side of ID is its cosmological claim of the intelligent design of the universe. That is to say, they might be perfectly willing to accept the ‘Big Bang’, but simply posit that an Agent caused it, which is again a basic logical claim about causality (all effects must have some first Cause to avoid infinite regression) and not a scientific observation, and that the Agent also directed how the ‘Bang’ turned out because, if the Agent had not, things would be different than they are in a most unfortunate way for us (e.g., we would not be here, because the Earth might have ‘randomly’ formed too close to or too far from the Sun, making the planet uninhabitable). The anthropic principle has a certain ring to it, until one realises that it is simply a bit of a rhetorical game: Earth is habitable, if might not be if things were different, ergo because things are not different and we are able to live here, it must be because Someone wanted us to be here. That is again a theological conclusion, not a scientific hypothesis.

Perhaps if physicists engaged in less rhetoric about understanding life, the universe and everything fewer people would be confused into thinking that physics, or any other kind of science, can provide the answers to the serious things of life. Science measures, describes and records the workings of nature–it does not tell us anything about the meaning of those workings. ID is the misguided effort of trying to find meaning in natural processes, which makes it a sort of recycled Pythagorean sect.
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Childish Theories and Short Memories

For instance, and this is a hat tip to Josh, an article at LewRocwell.com calls the neocons theory “childish.” Of course, this is just an insult when one can’t interat with the facts, at least the way the opponent sees them. It only takes three paragraphs for the seething hatred of Bush to emerge. He writes that either the Bush administration knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, or were dumb enough to believe it. This is what we philosophers call a false dichotomy: giving an either/or option when a third option may exist. In this case, the third option does exist: everyone, and I mean everyone, took it for granted that Hussein had WMDs. Remember, he gassed the Kurds. So one wonders who is truly stupid. Hindsight doesn’t make one smarter, but overusing it makes one stupid. ~Michael, Law on Blog

Hat tip Josh at Musings of a Reformed Catholic.

The article to which Michael was referring was from Charley Reese (not that one could have linked to it from Michael’s post). Frankly, I thought Mr. Reese was being rather diplomatic in calling the neocons’ theory childish–this allows that the neocons are simply naive and uninformed, and not nearly so malevolent and fanatical as they might well be. If Mr. Reese occasionally writes dyspeptically, I can hardly blame him, especially when I sometimes fall into the same habit. Mr. Reese is, after all, a patriot and constitutionalist who sees his country being abused and manipulated by a truly mediocre and incompetent administration to engage in a useless and unnecessary (and, yes, unconstitutional) war. Even if the theory were not “childish,” the entire enterprise would have been a colossal waste of time, because even if the “childish” theory succeeds America will likely be worse off. If that does not raise someone’s hackles at least a little, I imagine he hasn’t been paying close enough attention.

We are familiar with the “childish” theory: a successful democracy in Iraq will cause similar developments to blossom forth across the “Middle East” like a thousand flowers. The assumption of the theory was that it would be very simple and straightforward, because we had done it before in Germany and Japan. Here historical ignorance and neocon fatuity were strongly represented, since they should have known that the two “precedents” they were citing were in no way comparable or apt. There is a sense in which the theory was not “childish,” as the word childish suggests either innocence or mischief, and this theory was far too dangerous to be described so gently. The theory was very simply ignorant and based on a raft of faulty assumptions, not least of which was that any invading force can remake the politics of a country on a model that has no precedent in the history of that country.
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The Not Very Christian “Christian Country”

Conservative evangelicals, on the other hand, insist that the founders of the republic were all pious Christians. In fact, few of the men who led the revolution or drafted the constitution could be described as pious or even orthodox. Washington was an ordinary Anglican, which even in the 18th century meant very little, while John Adams was a Unitarian, Jefferson a mildly anti-Christian deist, and Ben Franklin a sceptical freemason as well as a rake. America —alas, it is all too true — has been swept periodically by revivals and cult crazes. Many of the cultists went west and ended up in California, the last stop of the rootless and disaffected before falling into the Pacific.

I have lived 60 years in the United States, the first 25 of them as an atheist, the last 35 as an increasingly reactionary Christian. I have never witnessed the great piety and deep spirituality which I have heard described in 4 July addresses and in semi-scholarly tomes on American religion. We are a practical people, above all else, and, as I have heard repeatedly from business and political leaders, religion makes good sense: the man who goes to church also goes to work, takes care of his family, pays his taxes. This is religiosity, not Christianity.

For American Christians, what they say they believe does not always translate into concrete actions or even into support for Christian moral positions. They complain, occasionally, about the prohibition of prayer in school and resent media attacks on religion, but they seem unaffected by the pervasive blasphemy of television commercials and by the barbaric post-Christian morality of everyday life in these United States.

The United States was never a ‘Christian country’ in a confessional sense, though it was once a nation of mostly Christians. Today, it is a nation with a weak-kneed Christian majority that elects, year after year, an actively anti-Christian political class that encourages divorce, protects abortion and pornography, and banishes prayer and Christian symbols from public places. Republican leaders, it is true, pander to their Christian constituents, but they have never and will never lift a finger to advance the cause of Christian morality, much less Christian faith.

Most Americans say they ‘believe in God’, and Americans do attend religious services more frequently than Europeans, or at least they tell pollsters they do, though when the numbers of an ABC poll are broken down, weekly churchgoers tend to be women, Southern, Republican, and old. In western Europe, far fewer people go to church or profess any religious faith, but, from what I have seen, observant Catholics in Italy and France are a good deal more serious than their counterparts here in the land of ‘In God We Trust’.

To compare apples with apples, the most prominent conservative Catholics in the United States are the so-called neoconservatives. They are indifferent or hostile to the traditional liturgy, defend the discovery of democratic capitalism as an event of ‘incarnational significance’ (Michael Novak), and have routinely defended US foreign policy against explicit statements of John Paul II. Catholic neoconservatives represent the triumph of ‘Americanism’ in the Church. They are more Republican than Catholic, more loyal to George Bush than to any Pope. In secular, anti-Catholic France, a Catholic has to be resolute, even courageous; in America, he just goes with the flow. ~Thomas Fleming, The Spectator (registration required)

Dr. Fleming should be congratulated on this incisive and unflinching demystification of the idea of the “Christian country” that continues to blind Christians in America to the errors to which they acquiesce on account of their priorities as Americans. In fact, the sooner Christians learn to discern and keep distinct the different kinds of participation and loyalty that they owe to the Church on the one hand and their country on the other the better it will be for the quality of their religious life and perhaps for the quality of our civic life. Recognising that the Enlightenment and Christianity do not really happily coexist side-by-side in this country, pace First Things, Christians might learn to throw overboard a host of liberal notions that they have embraced since childhood to the general confusion of their religious understanding.

The sooner they can acknowledge the admirable qualities of, say, the Framers in terms of their constitutionalism and political theory, while recognising that such a political compromise has little connection to the creeds those men confessed (or did not confess), and that any state and its principles, even in medieval times, did not embody Christian truth, though it might have endorsed Christianity in an official capacity, the more clearly will they see that any genuine establishment of Christian doctrines and norms in this country will not occur through anything that takes place in government but will be realised in the church and in the home, and only then, if at all, gradually moving outwards to affect the wider society.

I suspect that this particular imaginaire of the “Christian country” put forward by many Christians is a sort of belated defense mechanism, a half-hearted attempt to claim that Christians such as they can belong to the nation in the wake of concerted efforts to exclude expressions of Christianity. Never having been intense or perhaps all that profound in many instances, these expressions perhaps meant more to Christians after they had been denied. If immigrant Catholics adopted Americanism for the purposes of integrating into American society and eliding the differences between themselves and their Protestant fellow citizens, evangelicals have created their Christianised Americanism to reconcile their continued enthusiasm for an increasingly abstracted, non-historical sense of American identity with their putative religious enthusiasm.

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Bush and “the Will to Power”

Does anyone remember April and May of 2005? And the months preceeding them? The Orange Revolution? The Arab Springtime? The Cedar Revolution of Lebanon – all of them seeming to have a fire lit under them, a wonderful fire of liberty. Remember Revolution Babes?

All around the globe, there was a spirit of something that felt a lot like the Will to Power – something that was building in momentum…like we were on the brink of something truly remarkable and historic and new.

Then, suddenly – poof! – it all stopped? It all just seemed to go away. It was like a big giant foot just came down and stomped out all of those wonderful fires…and the White House seems to have just…blink! Forgotten about it. ~The Anchoress

Hat tip to Prof. Stephen Bainbridge.

Checking to see if Prof. Bainbridge had any other epiphanies about the incompetence of the administration, I discovered a post linking to this curious blog. As I do not usually tour the blogs and online sites of the true believers, I was astonished to find that there are people who are actually this devoted to Bush the man (political loyalties to the president of one’s party might be excused, but this cult of personality business is creepy). That is what makes the plaintive, disappointed voice of this devotee so much more striking. Then again, idolising someone as mediocre as Mr. Bush is bound to result in the painful realisation of his considerable limitations.

It is, of course, very amusing that the Anchoress, as she calls herself, believes that the various “revolutions” were anything other than one set of oligarchs being switched out for another (usually with overt or covert U.S. support), but what was more striking was her description of the momentum she now finds woefully lacking today: it “felt a lot like the Will to Power…like we were on the brink of something truly remarkable and historic and new.” How Viktor Yushchenko heralds the dawn of a new age is beyond me, but that was not what struck me.

Will to Power? I don’t know how ostensibly conservative people begin using watered-down, quasi-Nietzschean rhetoric like this, much less why they think we should want anything like the Will to Power, whatever they might mean by it. If one means something like what I believe Nietzsche meant by it, it is a more or less uninteresting endorsement of a particular kind of self-indulgence verging on vitalist nonsense. One need not impute the worst possibilities to the idea of a Will to Power (what we might call the Raskolnikov model, i.e., transgressing all boundaries to prove one’s superior worth or to prove that one can, in fact, transgress those boundaries) to find it extremely distasteful, misguided and even demonic. But perhaps this idea wasn’t simply invoked ignorantly or incorrectly, but reflects something of what a Bush follower understands when Bush prattles on about freedom.
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Iraqi Constitution Will Be Delayed…Again

Iraqi factional leaders struggled again to reach a consensus on a new constitution before a self-imposed target of midnight Thursday, but parliament did not meet and officials said there was no plan for a future session on the charter.

The negotiators tried to reach an agreement on a draft by the close of a 72-hour extension announced Monday night by the parliament speaker after Sunni Arabs refused to accept a charter approved by Shiites and Kurds.

The National Assembly’s top spokesman, Bishro Ibrahim, had said the parliament had no plans for a session Thursday. ~Yahoo News

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