Thursday, April 12, 2007

Off his meds ... again

Is sort of my reaction to Mark's post-Lenten and increasingly unbalanced ravings. What exactly his point in all of this is supposed to be, I am increasingly uncertain, but I think that if you view the following statements as the product of a single mind it is clear to me that Mark is descending into an ever-increasing amount of irrationality.

For starters, he favorably cites Michael Novak concerning the growth of the Church in China at 10:35 am. Yet when it comes to Mark's white whale of the Iraq war at 5:36 pm, Novak is a an evil secular messianist for whom (apparently like "most Americans"):
simply does not exist for most Americans. If they face death, persecution or deportation on a massive scale, well then they should be glad to undertake this martyrdom since they are suffering for us and we are the Good Guys in the great civilizational struggle to establish ... Peace and Safety Through DemocracyWhiskeySexy on Earth. You gotta break some eggs to get the omelette, you know.

Actually, a cynical person might note that for Mark Shea the Church in Iraq (or Palestine for that matter) does not appear to exist except when it serves his purposes to use as a convenient rhetorical punching bag against the war in Iraq or Israel. I would be extremely interested to know how Mark believes that the Church in Iraq or Israel is likely to be served by US withdrawl in the former and the creation of a Palestinian state in the latter. Indeed, if the protection of Christian communities in the Middle East is to be favored above all else regarding American foreign policy in the Middle East as Mark has sometimes articulated (to the point where Saddam was free to slaughter his own people in the hundreds of thousands so long as he kept a few Chaldeans around as museum props), I fail to see any reason whatsoever as to why he would support any change whatsoever in the Palestinian status quo.

But back to Michael Novak. The idea that he cares nothing for the Church's persecutions is belied by the fact that he places so much emphasis on the Church's growth in places of intense persecution like China. As juan notes in the comments:
Wait, I though Novak was a secular messianist who only sees religion as crowd control?

It might be okay to cite contradictory opinions in a legal brief, but it makes for an increasingly disjointed polemic.

As for the substance of Pope Benedict's remarks on Easter, what I think you have to understand is the context within which they were made:
How many wounds, how much suffering there is in the world! Natural calamities and human tragedies that cause innumerable victims and enormous material destruction are not lacking. My thoughts go to recent events in Madagascar, in the Solomon Islands, in Latin America and in other regions of the world. I am thinking of the scourge of hunger, of incurable diseases, of terrorism and kidnapping of people, of the thousand faces of violence which some people attempt to justify in the name of religion, of contempt for life, of the violation of human rights and the exploitation of persons. I look with apprehension at the conditions prevailing in several regions of Africa. In Darfur and in the neighbouring countries there is a catastrophic, and sadly to say underestimated, humanitarian situation. In Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the violence and looting of the past weeks raises fears for the future of the Congolese democratic process and the reconstruction of the country. In Somalia the renewed fighting has driven away the prospect of peace and worsened a regional crisis, especially with regard to the displacement of populations and the traffic of arms. Zimbabwe is in the grip of a grievous crisis and for this reason the Bishops of that country in a recent document indicated prayer and a shared commitment for the common good as the only way forward.

Likewise the population of East Timor stands in need of reconciliation and peace as it prepares to hold important elections. Elsewhere too, peace is sorely needed: in Sri Lanka only a negotiated solution can put an end to the conflict that causes so much bloodshed; Afghanistan is marked by growing unrest and instability; In the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees. In Lebanon the paralysis of the country's political institutions threatens the role that the country is called to play in the Middle East and puts its future seriously in jeopardy. Finally, I cannot forget the difficulties faced daily by the Christian communities and the exodus of Christians from that blessed Land which is the cradle of our faith. I affectionately renew to these populations the expression of my spiritual closeness.

I see this as more of a general lament for the continuing violence internationally than as a specific set of policy prescriptions. Indeed, the only place where he mentioned the latter was in the case of Zimbabwe. One might also note that of the conflicts whose violence was referenced by Pope Benedict, those occurring in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories are the work of Islamist radicals. And for those like Mark who might be tempted to regard the Holy Father as a kind of fellow traveler for paleocon isolationism, they apparently missed the fact that he endorsed the overthrow of the al-Qaeda puppet regime in Somalia by US and Ethiopian forces as bringing about the prospects for peace and lamented the renewed violence that has resulted in al-Qaeda's resurgence in the country.

Mark also now sees signs telling people to report suspicious activity as being the harbringer of some kind of totalitarian police state (no doubt foreshadowed by the "Take A Bite Out of Crime" campaign in the 1980s) and makes one of the most bigoted remarks about Evangelicals that I've heard in awhile:
... its just another capitalistic entity doing what capitalist entities do: making a buck and being run by rich people who have not the slightest interest in Evangelical confusions of the American Way with the Kingdom of Heaven.

I'm not really sure why Evangelicals aren't allowed to be annoyed when a company that actively promotes itself as family-friendly proceeded to shift towards the exact opposite. I also don't think that being a capitalist, or even a successful capitalist is at all at odds with being family-friendly. Maybe Mark does with his increasingly conspiratorial bent, but as I think the continued success of family-friendly films show, there is a definite market for such things.

But not to outdo himself, Mark then post this bizzare claim:
Howard Dean is, like most politicians and, in particular like most liberal politicians, a biblical illiterate who exploit biblical language only to score political points. In this, he joins virtually every American political figure since before the founding of the Republic. I cringe when he opens his mouth to talk about his "Christian beliefs" just as I cringe when Dubya expostulates on the "power, power, wonder working power" of the American people and Bill Clinton announces his New Covenant with the American people and declares that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard what we can build". Such blasphemies are commonplaces of American secular messianic chatter with a genotype that be traced directly to the Pilgrim's City on a Hill.

... If Dean is to be singled out for his all-too-typical American Civil Religion Blather, then conservative Christians in thrall to the GOP had better look to their glass house before casting the first stone.

Using religious language or rhetoric to support public policies goes a lot further back than the Pilgrims, as anyone who is familiar with the Guelph-Ghibelline dispute should be aware. I'm also not terribly certain why the mere use of such rhetoric or allusions are to be regarded as beyond the pale unless it conveys with it erroneous theological views. In such a context, I really don't see what Bush or Clinton said that was all that objectional. Moreover, the Pilgrims' City on a Hill was about the furthest thing from a secular messianist project as it would be possible to get. Mark's ever-increasing use of the term (which, lest we forget, the Catechism associates with the coming of the Antichrist) brings to mind the line by the character Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride in response to Vinzzini's constant cries of "Inconceivable!" - "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Mark also continues to view NRO as though it is the equivalent of some kind of conservative magisterium and its statements are the final word on what is and is not conservative. The idea that there could ever be a genuine difference of opinion on such issues depending on the contributor appears to simply be beyond his comprehension - to him NRO is apparently as monolithic as the Borg. And incidentally, Mark's revival of the David Frum article seems as good a place as any to use Frum's words to explain why I disagree with Mark on prudential matters.
... These [anti-war] conservatives are relatively few in number, but their ambitions are large. They aspire to reinvent conservative ideology: to junk the 50-year-old conservative commitment to defend American interests and values throughout the world — the commitment that inspired the founding of this magazine — in favor of a fearful policy of ignoring threats and appeasing enemies.

... The antiwar conservatives aren't satisfied merely to question the wisdom of an Iraq war. Questions are perfectly reasonable, indeed valuable. There is more than one way to wage the war on terror, and thoughtful people will naturally disagree about how best to do it, whether to focus on terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah or on states like Iraq and Iran; and if states, then which state first?

But the antiwar conservatives have gone far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative strategies. They have made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation's enemies.


... But even Robert Taft and Charles Lindbergh ceased accommodating Axis aggression after Pearl Harbor. Since 9/11, by contrast, the paleoconservatives have collapsed into a mood of despairing surrender unparalleled since the Vichy republic went out of business. James Burnham famously defined liberalism as "the ideology of Western suicide." What are we to make of self-described conservatives who see it as their role to make excuses for suicide bombers?

... IN August 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded and annexed Kuwait. Iraq plus Kuwait and prospectively Saudi Arabia would possess the world's biggest reservoir of oil. With this vast new oil wealth, Saddam could at last acquire the nuclear weapons he coveted — and thus dominate the entire Middle East. President George H. W. Bush quickly decided that the conquest of Kuwait "will not stand" and assembled a global coalition against Saddam. The paleoconservative repudiation of the Gulf War would be their first major independent ideological adventure.

Three weeks after the invasion, Pat Buchanan declared his opposition to war in one of his regular appearances on The McLaughlin Group: "There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East — the Israeli defense ministry and its amen corner in the United States."

It would be hard to come up with a more improbable idea than that of George H. W. Bush of Kennebunkport as warmaking servant of the interests of International Jewry. Yet over the next six months, Buchanan and the Chronicles writers would repeatedly argue that America was being dragged to war in the Gulf by a neoconservative coterie indifferent to true American interests: the "neoconservatives," as Buchanan said, "the ex-liberals, socialists, and Trotskyists who signed on in the name of anti-Communism and now control our foundations and set the limits of permissible dissent."

... The accusations culminated in a March 2003 article by Buchanan in The American Conservative that fixed responsibility for the entire Iraq war on a "cabal" of neoconservative office-holders and writers: "We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seeks to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo Accords. We charge them with deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian people's right to a homeland of their own. We charge that they have alienated friends and allies all over the Islamic and Western world through their arrogance, hubris, and bellicosity."

Who were these war-mongering "neoconservatives"? At a June 2002 conference sponsored by the Institute for Historical Review, the leading Holocaust-denial group, Joe Sobran defined "neoconservatism" as "kosher conservatism." And in his March cover story, Buchanan seasoned Sobran's definition with his own flavorful malice. "Cui Bono? For whose benefit these endless wars in a region that holds nothing vital to America save oil, which the Arabs must sell us to survive? Who would benefit from a war of civilizations between the West and Islam? Answer: one nation, one leader, one party. Israel, Sharon, Likud."

The echo in that previous paragraph of the Nazi slogan "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein F├╝hrer" is unlikely to have been unintentional. Yes, it was indeed time to "be frank about Jews."

Having quickly decided that the War on Terror was a Jewish war, the paleos equally swiftly concluded that they wanted no part of it. It's odd: 9/11 actually vindicated some of the things that the paleos had been arguing, particularly about immigration and national cohesion. But the paleos were in no mood to press their case. Instead, they plunged into apologetics for the enemy and wishful defeatism.

On September 16, 2001, Samuel Francis suggested that America deserved what it got on 9/11: "Some day it might actually dawn on someone in this country that the grown-up but unwelcome answer is that the terrorists attacked us because they were paying us back for what we had started. Let us hear no more about how the 'terrorists' have 'declared war on America.' Any nation that allows a criminal chief executive to use its military power to slaughter civilians in unprovoked and legally unauthorized attacks for his own personal political purposes" — Francis is referring here both to Operation Desert Fox in 1998 and to the Kosovo war — "can expect whatever the 'terrorists' dish out to it."

It seems incredible, but there is actually more. "If, as President Bush told us this week, we should make no distinction between those who harbor terrorists and those who commit terrorist acts, neither can any distinction be made between those who tolerate the murderous policies of a criminal in power and the criminal himself."

... There is, however, a fringe attached to the conservative world that cannot overcome its despair and alienation. The resentments are too intense, the bitterness too unappeasable. Only the boldest of them as yet explicitly acknowledge their wish to see the United States defeated in the War on Terror. But they are thinking about defeat, and wishing for it, and they will take pleasure in it if it should happen.

They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.

War is a great clarifier. It forces people to take sides. The paleoconservatives have chosen — and the rest of us must choose too. In a time of danger, they have turned their backs on their country. Now we turn our backs on them.

While I don't think that this is all directly applicable to Mark Shea, an awful lot of it unfortunately is and it is becoming more so every day. Now granted, a lot of the people that David Frum was talking about have said stuff a lot more inflammatory than anything that Mark has to date (they also have a far better thought out ideology, but that is neither here nor there) and I have always found it amusing that people like Mark find it to be the height of outrage that Frum would write his "excommunication" of paleoconservatism (to the extent that it was one) given that at the same time the American Conservative and its fellow travelers were accusing him (and still are) of being a traitor to the United States and an agent of a foreign power. What is good for the goose is good for the gander, you might say.

Now concerning Mark's rather disjointed outrage and condemnation that Bush wants to appoint a war czar ("another completely superfluous expansion of the state"), he might do well to read Reihan's post on the topic over at American Scene where he writes:
... But as Ross and I quickly concluded, this is really all about getting Bush, who is currently "all up in our grill," out of our collective "grill," thus making the surge strategy more palatable. Indeed, I suspect that if an enormous Dr. Moreau-style Manimal were made "Lord of War," support for the surge would sharply increase.

... In all seriousness, I think we can all agree that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the most crucially important issues facing the Executive Branch. Given the manifest incompetence of our current leadership, is it really such a bad idea to outsource management to someone, almost anyone, else? Let's not dismiss this idea out of hand. It strikes me as a welcome sign of humility. The war president is embracing a hands-off approach to ... the war. So all we're left with is his sterling wisdom on domestic social policy, I presume.

This cuts directly into Mark's previous condemnation of the administration as being incompetent. If he believes that this is the case, shouldn't he want someone else to handle these issues?

I actually think that General Petraeus would be the most qualified individual for that kind of position, though I think our wonderful elected officials should thank God every day that we live in a nation that has civilian control of the military. Were we living in Rome, Revolutionary France, or Latin America I would strongly suspect that the politicos would be far more accommodating to general with Petraeus's level of popular support among the military. By even the most hostile accounts, he has achieved in weeks what his predecessors have failed to do in years. In less than two months, he has:

- Broken the Mahdi Army and attacked those elements that have refused to surrender
- Forced Muqtada al-Sadr to flee the country
- Substantially reduced the level of death squad violence in Baghdad
- Moved against Sunni insurgent supporters in the Iraqi parliament
- Supported the unification of Sunni tribes in Anbar against al-Qaeda
- Helped to pass a viable oil-sharing law
- Begun capturing and killing Iranian agents in Iraq
- Prevented the outbreak of ethnic violence in Kirkuk and Mosul

Any one of those accomplishments would be impressive on their own merit. To have achieved all of them at the same time is nothing short of unprecedented. Time will tell whether or not Petraeus has the resources to succeed, but someone who can do all that in less than two months is nothing short of extraordinary.

1 comment:

Roger H. said...

Good stuff Torq. Mark does seem to be going into overdrive in his unhinged rants against the Bush Administration. I suppose in the same manner that Mark says you should deduct 50 IQ points whenever the MSM talks about religion, people should deduct several IQ points whenever Mark talks about politics, foreign policy or civil law.